Samuel MacFarlane.

Among the Cannibals of New Guinea: being the story of the New Guinea Mission of the London Missionary Society online

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The following pages have been written for the directors of the
London Missionary Society, as the first of a series of manuals
giving an account of the different missions connected with the
Society, which they are intending to publish.

Before their wish to issue such a manual was made known to
me, my dear friend Mr. Abraham Haworth, of Manchester, and
others, had been seriously urging me to write the story of the
New Guinea Mission, being the only one (as they said) who
could, from experience, relate the interesting story of those first
years of pioneer work, when we had to form the acquaintance
and acquire the language of the savage tribes, and establish the
mission, not only " in perils in the sea, and in perils by the hea-
then," but amidst the sickness, suffering, and death of the mem-
bers of the mission.

Although I began the book somewhat reluctantly — ^knowing
that it would have to be written chiefly at odd times, whilst
going about the country attending missionary meetings, — still I
must confess that it has been a pleasing occupation. I have sim-
ply (as in Writing "The Story of the Lifu Mission ") gone back
in thought and lived over again our life in New Guinea.

It leaves my hands with the earnest wish and prayer that it
may be the means of deepening the interest and faith of Chris-
tians of all sections of the Church of Christ in the truest and
greatest of all enterprises — Christian missions to the heathen.


Elmstone Lodge,

Bromham Road, Bedford,




This work was originally published by the London Missionary
Society, and it is now republished, with the consent of that soci-
ety, by the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School
Work, as one of its Missionary Series. The republication was
undertaken on the earnest recommendation of the late venerated
President of the Presbyterian Board, the Rev. William P. Breed,
D. D.

The work is now presented to the Church in the confident
expectation that it will prove not only interesting, but highly
instructive, and also stimulative to missionary labor.

Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of P. and S.-S. IV,


* Pacb

The Home of the Cannibals ..•••• 7

How WE Got at the Cannibals ..... 25

Exploration. The Opening up of the Country, and

the Progress of the Mission 57

The Papuan Institute 81


Manners and Customs of the Cannibals • • . 93

Savagedom versus Christendom ...... 129

Native Agency and Native Churches .... 137

Results: Then and Now . . • • • • • 149


Pioneers of the New Guinea Mission .

Dauan Island

Port Moresby, showing Mission Station
Murray Island Mission Premises .
Murray Island, by Moonlight
Dinner Island (Samarai), China Straits
Port Spicer, on the Fly River











OU are the first boat, remember ! Take
care and make fast ; we will follow and
help to tow in." These words were
uttered by the son of an old cannibal,
at the valedictory meeting held at Lifu,
on the eve of our departure to establish
the New Guinea Mission ; and they
were uttered amidst great enthusiasm
The speaker was describing the process of catching
whales, with which the people were familiar, as the
whaling ships came annually to Lifu, and many of the
young men were employed as boats' crews during the
season. He was one of the seniors in the institution


for the training of pastors and pioneer evangelists, and
he was addressing four of his fellow-students, whom I
had selected, with four of the native pastors, to be the
pioneers of our New Guinea Mission. His father had
been the king's orator in heathen times, whose busi-
ness it was to address the multitude on feast days
and great occasions, and he was a powerful and very-
popular speaker. The son had inherited some of his
father's fire, and was turning it to better account. He
drew a graphic picture of the mode of whale catching
— sighting the whale — the chase — the harpooning,
requiring a steady aim and strong arm in order to
"make fast," then the assembling of the boats to
assist in towing in the monster. " Now," he said,
turning to the pioneers, " New Guinea is the whale.
It is sighted. We are going to chase it. You are the
first boat, remember. Take care and make fast ; and
we will follow and help to tow in. The consequences
of any mismanagement on your part may be very
serious. You may only wound and irritate the whale,
and drive it away." Here he spoke most earnestly
and pointedly about the importance of their living the
Christian life before the natives of New Guinea ; only
by such means could they reasonably hope to make
fast. If their conduct was bad, they would throw the
harpoon (preach) in vain. His speech produced a
great impression. Others followed in the same strain,
until the meeting became one of the longest and most
enthusiastic we ever had at Lifu.

The crowded and well-dressed assembly, the eight
teachers being consecrated to foreign missionary work,
the spacious and substantial stone chapel, the ani-
mated speakers, and the attentive hearers, presented a


thrilling scene. Not many years before they had wor-
shipped in a house, near the one in which they were
assembled, made of poles, string, and grass. They
had but few articles of European clothing amongst
them, and were a sad, yet interesting, and in some
respects very ludicrous sight. Now they were met
together to send forth missionaries from amongst their
own people to other and distant heathen lands. What
but the gospel could have produced such an astonish-
ing change in twelve years ?

The glory of our South Sea mission has been that
when the natives of an island have received the gospel
and felt its power, they have offered themselves as
missionaries to carry the good news to the heathen
beyond ; thus our Lifu and Mare converts became the
pioneers of the New Guinea Mission, and the meeting
to which I have referred was the beginning of their
foreign mission work. As therefore the New Guinea
Mission is but the extension of our Loyalty Islands
mission, I must take you to Lifu before going to New

The voyage is much pleasanter and quicker now
than it was when I went there thirty years ago. It
took us eight months to reach our station in those
days, but it may be done now in a less number of
weeks. I have a lively recollection of the hard bis-
cuit, pea soup, American dried apples, and cock-
roaches, and the weary tossing in an over-loaded
vessel, with the water sometimes six inches deep in
both cabin and saloon. There were no Plimsoll's
marks in those days ! You must please to imagine
yourselves there without having endured the weari-
some voyage, or hard fare, or any of those peculiar


feelings which sea-going people suffer on their first
voyage, or having found it necessary to pay tribute to

It was a lovely morning in August when we first
landed on one of those charming South Sea islands —
not the August of the northern hemisphere, which is
associated in our minds with fields of waving yellow
corn, trees loaded with apples, pears, plums, and
luscious fruit, purple grapes, and leaves turning
russet brown ; but the August of the southern tropics,
one of the coolest months of the twelve. The August
of lands waving with majestic palm trees and the
graceful, large-leafed banana plants and ferns ; where
the sky-line is broken by the feathery tops of cocoa-
nut trees, and the dense jungle is gaudy with brilliant
flowers and crotons, and where the lovely orchids, in
all their bewildering variety of tint and shape and
size, excite the admiration of the traveller, and the
delight of the scientific collector.

When we came on deck on that memorable morning,
a soft breeze, warm as new milk, was just beginning
to stir the air, but not yet strong enough to lift the
pale mist from the sea, to which it was clinging closely.
In the distance, dim and indistinct, could be heard the
lapping of the waves on the shore, as they rolled up
the broken shells and coral on the beach, as yet in-
visible for the fog. Gradually the blue overhead be-
came more and more distinct, and the gray mist seemed
to melt away as the rising sun began to exert its power.
As the fog rose, we first saw the tops of the adjoining
hills, then the middle heights and knolls, and, lastly,
the white, shimmering sandy beach. The sea had not
a ripple on its surface* ; it was smooth as oil. There


was just a faint heave, in which the reflection of the
land was curved and bent, but not broken.

Our vessel was soon surrounded by canoes filled
with young cocoanuts, bananas, and oranges, coral,
shells, and curios, which the noisy natives were
anxious to exchange for European articles. We lower
our boat and pull in to the beach, where a crowd of
natives are waiting to receive us. It is a strange
scene. Instead of the oak and the elm and the
beech, the majestic yews and chestnuts and poplars,
the apple and pear and plum trees of this beautiful
England, there rise before you the stately palms, the
wide-spreading banyan, the tamarind, with its thick
foliage, and the mango, with its abundant wood and
rich burden of luscious fruit ; orange, banana, and
cocoanut groves, instead of our stately orchards ; and
plantations of yams and sugar-cane, melons and
papao apples, instead of our waving cornfields.
And instead of our stone and brick houses, there
are grass huts surrounded by stockades, in the midst
of rank vegetation, close by stagnant pools and deadly

I must not dwell on those first years of missionary
labour at Lifu. Whilst they were years of disappoint-
ment, danger, toil, and loneliness, they were also years
of great blessing, of most useful experience, and of
encouragement and happiness. I may say that before
I had been six weeks on the island I had travelled
round it a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, visit-
ing the villages and trying to acquire the language.
Three months after our arrival I began to preach to
the people, which I continued regularly afterwards.

Although there was plenty of work for my sue*


cesser to do after I left to establish the New Guinea
Mission, still a marvellous change had taken place
in those twelve years, from idolatry, cannibalism, and
constant wars, to the worship of the true God, peace-
ful industry, and a growing education. Schools and
churches were established throughout the island, and
the New Testament and Psalms translated into the
language of the people. The Teachers' Seminary
was in good working order, supplying native teachers
and pastors and pioneer evangelists. European stores
were established in different parts of the island on
account of the rapidly growing trade with the natives,
and the people were not only paying for their books
and providing for their pastors, but also making a
very handsome annual subscription to the London
Missionary Society, to help to send the gospel to the
heathen beyond. For many years I had in that mis-
sion, as my devoted colleague. Rev. James Sleigh,
who had been previously settled as a Congregational
minister, both in England and Australia, and who
rendered good service in the Lifu missiofi in the re-
vision of the New Testament and the translation of the
Psalms, besides by his faithful pastoral work. I was
succeeded by my friend. Rev. S. M. Creagh, who left
his station on the neighbouring island of Mare to
take charge of the seminary at Lifu, by appointment.
In 1870 I was informed by the secretary of the
London Missionary Society, that it was the wish of
the directors that I should turn my attention to New
Guinea, and make arrangements for commencing a
mission on this largest, darkest, and most neglected
island in the world. Accordingly 1 began at once
to collect information and mature plans. There waa


very little known about New Guinea in those days,
and that little was far from encouraging. So I deter-
mined to make a prospecting voyage with a few of
our best natives, to spy out the land. 1 laid the matter
before the students, native pastors, and churches of
Lifu, and asked for volunteers, giving them to under-
stand plainly the dangerous character of the work, on
account of the climate and the savages. Every native
pastor on the island and student in the seminary
offered himself for the work. We' selected four ex-
perienced pastors and four of the best students, and
had some glorious meetings in connection with their
appointment and departure.

I chartered the John Knox^ a small vessel that for
many years had been owned by the Presbyterian
mission in the New Hebrides group, where she had
done good work. Although small, she was a good
sea boat ; rather uncomfortable for so long a voyage,
but still quite safe.

My arrangements were all made when the John
Williams arrived at Lifu, with Mr. and Mrs. Murray
on board. They were leaving (on account of health)
the Samoan mission, and had been appointed by the
directors to join that in the Loyalty Islands. As
Mr. Murray had had great experience in the location
of pioneer evangelists in the South Sea islands, I pro-
posed that he should leave his wife with mine at Lifu,
and accompany me on this interesting voyage to New
Guinea, and share the responsibility and the-Jionour
of establishing the new and important mission. I
was delighted to find that he readily consented, al-
though he decidedly objected to going in so small a
vessel as the one I had chartered, which led to some


alteration in my plans and to the commencement of
the mission on a larger scale than I had originally-
intended. The committee in Sydney were authorized
to charter a suitable vessel, and send it to us at Lifu.
The schooner Emma Paterson was engaged, but
never reached us. She was wrecked on the coast of
New Caledonia, on her way to Lifu. The crew aban-
doned her, leaving the captain alone on the wreck,
and taking with them a good supply of provisions
and spirits, declaimed their intention of going to the
then newly discovered goldfield at the north end of
New Caledonia. A boat was found on the coast
about ten days after they had left the wreck, which
was half full of water, and contained a human hand
and foot, and these are supposed to be the remnant of
the crew of the Emma Paterson. I arranged with the
captain of one of the South Sea island traders, who
called at Lifu, and was open to charter, and in July,
1 87 1, we started for New Guinea.

It would be difficult to describe our feelings as we
sailed towards that great land of cannibals, a land
which, viewed from a scientific, political, commercial,
or religious point of view, possesses an interest pecu-
liarly its own. Whilst empires have risen, flourished,
and decayed ; whilst Christianity, science, and philo-
sophy have been transforming nations, and travellers
have been crossing polar seas and African deserts,
and astonishing the world by their discoveries. New
Guinea has remained the same : sitting in the blue,
warm. Southern Ocean, kissing the equator at the
north and shaking hands with Australia in the south,
bearing on her bosom magnificent forests and luxu-
riant tropical vegetation, yet lifting her snow-capped


head into the clear, cold atmosphere 1 7,000 feet above
the level of the sea — steaming hot at the base, where
the natives may be seen in the cocoanut groves mend-
ing their bows and poisoning their arrows, making their
bamboo knives and spears, and revelling in war and
cannibalism as they have been doing for ages, but
freezing cold at the summit, where the foot of man has
never disturbed the eternal snows. It was this terra
incognita that we were approaching, with its primeval
forests and mineral wealth and savage inhabitants.

In these days, when so many have done what not
many years ago was known as the "grand tour"; when
alligator shooting on the Nile, lion hunting in Nubia,
or tiger potting in India can be arranged by contract
with Cook's tickets ; when the Holy Land, Mecca, or
Khiva are all accessible to tourists ; when every
mountain in the Alps has been scaled, and even the
Himalayas made the scene of mountaineering
triumphs ; when shooting buffaloes in the " Rockies "
is almost as common as potting grouse on the moors,
— it comes with a sense of relief to visit a country
really new, about which little is known, a country
of bond fide cannibals and genuine savages, where the
pioneer missionary and explorer truly carries his life
in his hand. A land of gold, yet a land where a string
of beads will buy more than a nugget of the precious
metal, A land of promise, capable of sustaining
millions of people, in which however the natives live
on yams, bananas, and cocoa-nuts. A land of mighty
cedars and giant trees, where notwithstanding the
native huts are made of sticks, and roofed with
palm leaves. A land consisting of millions of acres
of glorious grass, capable of fattening multitudes of


cattle, where however neither flocks nor herds are
known. A land of splendid mountains, magnificent
forests, and mighty rivers, but to us a land of heathen
darkness, cruelty, cannibalism, and death. We were
going to plant the gospel standard on this, the
largest island in the world, and win it for Christ ;
and as the gospel had worked such marvels in other
parts of the world, we felt sure that it would not fail
in this home of the Papuan and cannibal tribes, of
which I must now give some account.

About 370 years ago New Guinea was discovered
by a mere accident. There were in those days a
number of gallant spirits who were immortalising
their names and that of their country by their
" glorious exploits." Among these was Don Jorge
de Meneses, a distinguished Portuguese navigator,
who was proceeding on a voyage from Malacca, to
dislodge the Spaniards from the Moluccas. The
usual route home to which the Portuguese had been
accustomed was by the south of Borneo and of the
Celebes, and by the island of Amboyna. But Don
Jorge thought he would try another course, and so
went round the northern end of Borneo, and being set
to the eastward by currents, and standing afterwards
to the south, made the discovery of New Guinea,
where he landed and remained a month. Two years
later, another Portuguese (Alvarez de Saavedra)
landed on its shores ; and although there is no record
of his having penetrated inland, he called the island
by the high-sounding title of Isla del Oro, from the
idea which he formed of its abounding in gold. In
1545, a Spanish mariner named Ynigo Ortiz de Rez,
also voyaging to the Moluccas, sailed 250 miles along


its northern coast, and gave it the name of Neuva
Guinea, from some fancied resemblance it bore to
the Guinea coast on the west of Africa.^ In 1616
Schouten visited the country in the Dutch ship Unity,
and discovered one large and several smaller vol-
canoes.^ In 1699, Dampier, in the Roebuck, circum-
navigated the island. On landing, he was met with
considerable resistance, the natives using clubs and
spears and hollow sticks from which they threw fire
at their opponents. In 1768, the French vessels La
Boudeuse and VEtoile, under the command of M. de
Bougainville, sailed along the southern and eastern
coasts. In 1770, Captain Cook sailed along the coast,
and confirmed the statement of its disconnection from
the continent of New Holland. There were several
visitors after this: amongst others. Captain Edwards, in
the Pandora, in 1791 ; Bampton, in 1793 ; and Black-
wood, in 1845 ; but little or no further information
relative to the place was given until Stanley, in
H.M.S. Rattlesnake, ran along the coast and made a
rough survey of a portion of it. Still, although the
island has been visited at various points by Portu-
guese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English navi-
gators, very little was known either of the country or
its inhabitants, until after the establishment of our
mission there in 187 1. And as our mission is divided

^ The name by which it was known in the Moluccas long
before Europeans knew of its existence, and by which it is still
known there, is Tanna Papua, the land of the frizzly-haired
people ; and being the home of the Papuan race, Papua is a
more appropriate name than New Guinea.

- The names given by the early Dutch voyagers to the two
principal rivers they discovered, Moordenaar or Murderer, and
Doodslaager or Slaughter, prove their intercourse to have been
anything but friendly.


into three districts — western, central, and eastern —
I shall observe that order in speaking of that part of
the country which is the portion that now belongs to
Great Britain.

The western district extends from the Baxter
River to Bald Head, comprising nearly the whole of
the Papuan Gulf. All this part of the country is low,
with the exception of a hill at the mouth of the
Mabidauan River, lOO feet high, another about forty
miles inland, and a similar one about twenty miles up
the Fly River. Although the land is generally low, a
large portion of it being under water during the rainy
season, the soil is a rich alluvial, in some places ten
feet deep. Up the Baxter and Fly rivers I found
the banks sometimes twenty feet high, the country
undulating, patches well wooded, others being covered
with merely a thick scrub, all good land ; and for
hundreds of miles up the Fly River there are no
natives to be seen, although they are pretty numerous
for the first hundred miles from the coast. The
country abounds in sago palms, wild nutmeg, betel-
nut, banana, and cocoanut trees. The Papuan Gull
is the most valuable part of the English portion of
the island. Here lie the water-ways into the interior
of this great country, along whose fertile banks the
finest sugar-cane may be cultivated, and on whose
bosom the immense logs of valuable timber from the
magnificent forests, also produce from the interior,
may be floated down to the sea at comparatively little
expense. This is the great delta of the country, and
the easiest way of reaching the interior, and must soon
become the centre of active commercial enterprise.
It was in this district that our mission was com-


menced, and here we made our most valuable geo-
graphical discoveries.

The central district extends from Bald Head to
Orangerie Bay. The east side of the gulf has a bold
and rocky shore, with extensive coral reefs. The
peninsula is exceedingly mountainous. When visiting
the hill tribes about twenty-five or thirty miles inland
from Port Moresby, I was surprised and disappointed
to find, from the summit of a mountain over 2,000 feet
high, the country looking so mountainous. We were
then about twenty miles from Mount Owen Stanley,
and as far as we could see, in every direction, the hills
seemed to rise tier upon tier in the wildest confusion.
The highest mountains on the peninsula are Mount
Owen Stanley, which is 13,205 feet, Mount Suckling,
11,226 feet, and Mount Yule, 10,046 feet. There are
also many others of great altitude. There is a back
range of very lofty mountains running east and west
on the other side of the Owen Stanley range, with a
great deep gorge dividing the two ranges. The Owen
Stanley range runs out about ten miles to the west of
Mount Yule, the back range continuing to the west as
far as the eye can reach, right into the heart of New
Guinea. The Port Moresby district is one of the
healthiest parts of the peninsula, being a dry, barren
locality compared with the country to the east and
west. In the latter districts there is more rain, richer
land, and altogether much finer and more fruitful
country. Probably the finest tracts of land on the
peninsula are to be found in the vicinity of Yule
Island ; and the splendid harbour between that island
and the mainland makes Hall Sound the most valu-

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Online LibrarySamuel MacFarlaneAmong the Cannibals of New Guinea: being the story of the New Guinea Mission of the London Missionary Society → online text (page 1 of 13)