The diary of Reverend David Cargill – Part 4

After spending about four months in Australia, Reverend David Cargill finally got his call to head to Tonga, in preparation for his mission to Fiji.

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 Schutz and published by the Australian National University.

Sunday November 17, 1833

“This morning our lovely infant was baptised in Marquarie St church by the Reverend W Simpson. May the Lord spare her life and grant her grace to be a comfort and blessing to us. She is named Jane Smith out of respect to her grandmother.”

(The birth of the Cargills’ child freed them at last for their long-delayed voyage to Tonga.) The day after the baptism, Orton who by that time had had eight months’ professional and personal contact with Cargill, saw fit to prepare the Tonga Mission for the arrival of its newest member. He wrote to John Thomas, chairman of the Tonga District: “With some degree of diffidence I give my opinion as to the character of Brother Cargill, this I do not from any disposition to dwell upon the imperfections of but from a sense of duty which I owe to you as an official person in the district where he is destined to labour and what I state is in confidence.

“Mr Cargill is a young man of talent particularly that of a fine imagination ? his disposition is also good: But he has had no experience of men and things ? particularly as to Methodism. His talent has acquired for him inconsistent flatterers whose fulsomeness rather than having excited his disgust, has fed his vanity. If I may distinguish between disposition and temper I should say that the former is good, but the latter is far from being so. I am sorry to give my judgement that he has acted most imprudently during his sojourning here. Not by any means in any act of immorality, but by an unjudicious proceeding with his friends. You must be aware, that upon my coming here I have had to contend with many unpleasant occurrences.

“I had succeeded to a considerable extent in allaying a party spirit which circumstances had given rise to. Unhappily for me and the cause here that spirit has revived of late, which I principally attribute to the imprudence of Mr Cargill not I hope designedly, but he has imprudently allowed himself to become a tool in the hands of the disaffected. He has caused me sleepless nights, and great anxiety and almost discourages me as to future efforts. I hope he will conduct himself with more propriety amongst you, he will have no such opportunities of doing harm as he has had here. His great faults are vain notions and total inexperience.

“It grieves me exceedingly to have occasion to speak unfavourably, it is quite in opposition to my disposition. I desire to promote their happiness and will be be silent as to their failings, but in this case I cannot have been perfectly silent, in justice to you under whose charge Brother Cargill will be. My advice is that you study well and decide positively what is your Methodistic line of duty, and with affection unflinchingly abide thereby: not swerving except when the peculiarity of the case, may justify some nonessential deviation from rule. I advise you thus because I am persuaded you will require firmness in this matter. I most sincerely hope that by your judicious management he will become a devoted and useful missionary but I am sure it will never be but by the due exercise of discipline.

“It affords me pleasure to have to inform you that Brother Cross and myself are on the eve of our departure for Tonga. The vessel is small, but our accommodation very comfortable. She will touch at the Bay of Islands – New Zealand. It would have been desirable to obtain a vessel, to take us direct to the place of our destination; but that was impossible, without incurring much additional expense. May we have grace to throw ourselves on the protection of God, and the prayers of his people.”

Cargill made no daily entries in his journal, but described his New Zealand stay in a longer narrative: “On Thursday afternoon we cast anchor in the beautiful and commodious Bay of Islands, and were soon boarded by a great number of natives, whose great volubility of speech was to us an unintelligible jargon. Their extreme filthiness and uncouth appearance made us feel perhaps for the first time that we were away from home.”

January 24 1834- October 71835

Tonga is a collection of over 200 islands clustered in three groups. Vava’u, the main island of the northernmost group, is high and mountainous, Ha’apai and Tongatapu are low-lying coral formations. Tongatapu, at the south, is the largest island of the whole group, with an area just under 100 square miles. Even though the Wesleyan Mission was still meeting with some resistance on Tongatapu, the religious climate that greeted us on this arrival was one of expectancy ? a populace on the verge of a dramatic conversion. Caught up in this mood, and busy in the place of appointed labours, made no journal entries until he settled down at Vava’u. Then he recorded his first impressions of a South Sea island.

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