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Reverend David Cargill's diary Part 18

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVEREND David Cargill continues his work on translation into the Fijian language and putting together a Fijian dictionary. So far he has managed to translate 3000 words.

This is the account of the late Reverend Cargill from the book The Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843 edited by Albert J Schütz and published by the Australian National University in 1977.

Monday, 23 May, 1836

Began to translate St Mark's Gospel.

In June, Cargill's permanent house was completed. Cross considered it the best built in that district21 As the chief was about to begin Cross's house, after a long delay, Cross told him that there would be no need for it as he would be going to another island where the chief should listen better to the word of God. The same month, the Active arrived at Lakeba with supplies and letters for the missionaries. When it left to return to Tonga, it was wrecked on a reef near Moce22 on July 2nd at 7pm. The crew survived and proceeded to Oneata by boat, arriving there on the 3rd, and at Lakeba on the 6th. Cross and Cargill received the captain, the supercargo, and the mate at the mission premises, and Tui Nayau promised to take care of the rest of the crew. Cargill described the events that followed.

A month had not elapsed when four of them, of their own accord and in spite of remonstrance, left Lakeba in a small boat, with the expectation of finding a vessel at one other of the Leeward group of Island. We regret to have to state that before they had been above 30 hours from the IsIand, they were attacked by some Feejeeans in a canoe, and all killed, and report says — eaten. We have not been able to ascertain the particulars of this circumstance23

The loss of the Active was an additional trial to Cargill, since with it sank some long reports to the mission headquarters in London. Later, he wrote:

I had in readiness for you long before the arrival of the Active a long letter, containing a few particulars of our history since we left Vavau, a condensed account (of what I then knew) of the character of the Feejeeans, the genius of their language, the appearance and produce of this isand (Lakeba), and the prospect of the mission. That letter, however, and many others addressed to the secretaries and our relatives have all been lost. This is to me an untoward event, as I kept no duplicates of any of the letters. But if spared next month, I shall endeavour to prepare long letters24.

Cargill made good his promise and sent the general secretary a five-part abridgment of the lost letter. A portion of it shows the progress he had made with the language.

The language of the Feejeeans varies in the different islands of the group. But it is a difference in words, not in principles. The idiom, genius and the construction of the various dialects are the same. So that one grammar and one dictionary compiled as a polyglot will be sufficient for all Feejee. A grammar is in contemplation. A dictionary is in progress: I have inserted in it nearly 3000 words, exclusive of the names of persons and places: the number is being daily increased. The accent, pronunciation, meaning and derivation of the words are attempted.

Cargill's letters show, more than his journal does, how much satisfaction he derived from the study of the language.

I am very happy in my work. My time is wholly given up to the language and duties purely missionary. Although my knowledge of the language is by no means, what I wish it to be and what I hope it shall be, yet I am able to converse in it with some freedom and to make known the love of God to man extemporaneously and without an interpreter. Difficulties arising from the inflection of the verbs, the number of pronouns, and their juxtaposition, cannot be surmounted without close and long application. The articles are frequently the cause of perplexity and doubt. A thorough knowledge of the use of the Greek article would be of invaluable advantage to all who wish to acquire an accurate knowledge of the Feejeean language. A translation of the Bible into the various dialects of Feejee, is a subject with which my mind dwells with ardour and delight and I hope that I shall see such a work accomplished25

At the same time, John Hobbs, the printer for the Tonga Mission, wrote to London that Cargill's skills were badly needed there:

"We could not easily bring our Bro Cargill back from the Feejees; although my personal opinion has been, that he ought, according to the Mind of the Committee, to be near the press, or at least in one of the islands of the Tonga group; that his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew might the sooner be brought to bear on the translations of the Word of God. But having lately heard from the Feejees, that the work is opening before them, I am now somewhat reconciled to his being there, though I still think it will be a long time before Feejees will require the Scriptures translated and printed, in such numbers as are already required here, and into which, I think the best of the strength of the district ought to be thrown. Though I think that no individual ought to stand independent of his brethren in respect to the translations26."

Hobbs's letter seems to be the first indication of a dispute over personnel and supplies that persisted for years between the Tonga and Fiji missions. In spite of the need to apply his special talents to Tonga, Cargill kept at his work on Fijian.

The journal continues:

Friday, August 5, 1836

Spent the most of my time in compiling a dictionary of the language, and in translating.

Monday, August 15, 1836

Spent a part of this day in translating a portion of St Mark's Gospel, and in the afternoon met the leaders (six) — in number to enquire into the state of their experience, and to give them suitable advice and admonition. They all seem anxious to give themselves up without reserve to the service of God.

Tuesday, August 16, 1836

This day I visited another part of the island, and from observations made on this and former occasions, am of opinion that Lakemba is about eight miles in diameter. The land is in many places rich and fertile and the scenery consisting of hill and dale is in many places very beautiful. The natives were very kind to us and provided us very liberally with coconuts and provisions. May they themselves be soon found hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

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