When pigeons flew in news

The pigeon loft at Levuka, from which the pigeon post to Suva was operated. While the Fiji Times was still printed at Levuka, after the capital had moved to Suva, shipping news from Suva came regularly by pigeon post. Picture: FILE

TODAY the site of Levuka’s original Pigeon Post is marked by a nondescript drinking fountain in the centre of the road.

The Old Capital of Fiji is a far cry from those heady days when it was one of the main ports in Fiji.

When The Fiji Times began printing, a pigeon post was erected for messages to be sent via the birds from the old town to Suva.

Messages like shipping news and general messages were often sent across the postal link between the two main centres of Suva and Levuka.

The use of pigeons as carriers of message is old as the ancient Persians who were known to have perfected the art of training the birds. It was said the Romans used pigeon messengers to aid their military over 2000 years ago.

Research further revealed Julius Caesar once used pigeons as messengers in his conquest of Gaul and the Greeks sent the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to their various cities by using the pigeons.

This form of message service carried on down through the centuries and was practised mostly by the Fiji Times proprietors.

On January 22, 1887, The Fiji Times reported on the ease of being able to get news from Levuka using the Pigeon Post and it was greatly welcomed.

“Up to the present, however the birds have only been flown one way and it has not been possible to get messages through from Levuka.

This has been taken in hand from this office and on Sunday last the first bird came safely through in a few minutes under the half hour.

“Unfortunately in the course of its flight, the bird lost its message but the important part of the matter that it came safely through remains and it is satisfactory to know that for the future closer communication can be maintained between the two chief centres of population,” said the article. The Fiji Times was published in Suva from 1887.

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