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The diary of Reverend David Cargill - Part 1

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ever since primary school all that was learnt about Reverend David Cargill was that he was one of the two pioneer missionaries who engineered the spread of Christianity in Fiji converting our forefathers from their cannibalistic ways.

But not much is known about his daily routine.

In the next few weeks, we bring to our readers the daily 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 the early 1830s, linguist Reverend David Cargill, a brilliant young missionary from Scotland, devised for the Fijian language an alphabet embodying linguistic principles nearly a century ahead of their time.

As the only trained linguist in the area — indeed, in the Pacific Islands he wrote the first grammar and dictionary for a Fijian language, works that served as a basis for all the language.

Bon Voyage

Monday October 22, 1832

Parted with our friends in London and sailing down the Thames by the steamer, went on board the Caroline within a few miles of Gravesend. Our feelings were a good deal excited when parting with our friends and leaving our native land. The Caroline is a well-built vessel. Our cabin is small but convenient. The captain seems very agreeable and anxious to make us comfortable. Our party consists of seven persons Mr and Mrs Whiteley from New Zealand, Ms Green to be married to her friend Mr Manton at New South Wales and Mr and Mrs Tucker who are appointed to accompany my dear wife and myself to Tonga. While on the trackless ocean may Jonah's God be our God! And if spared to reach the place of our destination, may we be blessed ourselves, and made a blessing to others. Because of becalmed weather, it was two weeks before the passengers on the Caroline lost sight of Cornwall. When the wind finally changed in their favour, they had the first taste of seasickness that was to plague them throughout the voyage. (Cargill was too ill in the first three weeks of November to write in his journal, and his wife's sufferings were even worse).

Wednesday November 28, 1832

On the 11th, Mrs Cargill from the continuance of the seasickness, and excessive costiveness induced by it, was reduced to such a state of weakness and apparent insensibility, that her recovery was despaired of. During the interval of the paroxysms of her pain, I enquired into the state of her mind. And although her body was severely afflicted, yet her thoughts were composed, and her prospects bright and happy. She expressed a willingness to live or die, and an assurance that her hope was fixed on the atonement of her saviour. But the Lord was pleased to bless the means employed for her relief, and to spare the desire of my eyes. For this great mercy, may I render to him a constant tribute of unfeigned gratitude! With the rough weather came an apparent change in the personality of the captain. The earlier references to "the kindness of the captain" were considerably revised: The captain has disappointed our hopes. Our opinion of him was prematurely formed. His professions of respect for us, and promises to attend to our comfort have had I fear more sound than meaning! He is selfish, vulgar, fickle and easily prejudiced. A few' days ago, he promised to let Mrs Cargill have anything she wished for; and yesterday refused. In some of our own party there is not that openness of heart, nor unity of affection, nor congeniality of spirit which is desirable and necessary for our mutual comfort and happiness. May I, with grace, check and destroy every unhallowed passion. Events of the voyage continued with a certain regularity, three sendees on Sundays, stretches of rough weather, and a persisting conflict with the captain. In March, the Caroline drew near its destination.

Wednesday March 6, 1833

During the last month, we have had to pass through a variety of scenes. Our faith and patience have been tried by storms without and storms within. We have seen wars in the elements of nature, and have been the unwilling witnesses of tumults in the breasts of sinners. We have generally had strong and favourable breezes; and have twice been exposed to very heavy gales of wind. On Sunday 24th February, we were under close-reefed topsails. The waves literally resembled a ridge of mountains rising one above another, in sublime but terrific grandeur. The gale continued about 36 hours, but by the never failing mercy of God, the vessel weathered the storm and not a hair of our heads was injured. On Thursday we had another storm, which began about 12 o'clock the preceding night, and increased in violence 'till about 2 in the morning, when we were obliged to lie allow the vessel to be drifted by the wind and waves. We continued in this condition 'till 4pm. We have abundant cause to thank and praise the Giver of every good and perfect gift for that power and mercy we have been preserved in safety. May our hearts be filled with gratitude and love, fill our hearts and flow from our lips. Even when we are not tossed about by raging seas, our minds are kept in agitation, by day, and our rest is frequently disturbed by night, by the fury of the captain breaking out in abusive and threatening language to the passengers, and in charges of mutinous intention to the crew. When he sleeps he is surrounded by cutlasses and loaded pistols, and often acts like a lunatic, rather than a rational being. But it is a cheering thought, that we have the prospect of soon terminating our voyage. May God grant us a speedy and happy landing.

To be continued…..

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