This five part series follows Geraldine, my great grandmother, as she begins her life in Fiji. The year is approximately 1872. Behind her in Australia she has left behind three of her sisters and two brothers, each and every one of them attempting at various times to hide their identity by resorting to different surnames. All of her siblings lived controversial lives, but none were as adventurous or as tragic as Geraldine’s life with her two husbands.
This new story recreates the story of her life with William McGowan on the islands of Ovalau and Kadavu.
But transform this bespectacled matron into an adventurous and feisty young 20 year old who together with her numerous brothers and sisters has already sailed the world not once but twice and was about to embark on a voyage to the notorious Fiji Islands. She travels either alone... or with a newborn son who is registered in Ballarat as illegitimate,
Place a smile on this diffident photograph, brush away the years and my great-Grandmother suddenly becomes the attractive half of a ten year love affair.
For the 30 years my great Gran spent in Fiji her only transport was by small sailing vessels, inter island traders skippered by her first husband, William McGowan.
Fiji Times office Levuka – early days..
Levuka - Cakobau and other prominent Fijians -photography Dufty Brothers circa 1875 - 1879
New unelected Fiji government corrupt:
F.J. Hennings, Cakobau’s treasurer prints money at will:
Chief clerk John Campbell McCallum charged with embezzlement:
Ministers and public servants reported drunk:
Two Solomon Islanders jailed in Levuka die of starvation while in custody.
Government Coroner declares ‘death by natural causes.’
Harbour pilot, now Admiral of the fleet...
New Attorney-General Hamilton replaces Alfred Manning who drowned in 1872, and has banned all public meetings at pain of heavy penalties:
Kanakas – Melanesian and Polynesian men forced to work on sugar plantations in Australia and Fiji.
I have no idea the outcome of this missive and its scrawled comments but an arrangement of sorts must have been reached because William continues to captain the Marie Louise for some months until a court case no doubt determines his immediate future as a government employee.
(I should add here that later, much later in my customary sleuthing of archive records I come across an official document signed by Geraldine and soon realise there is no doubt her signature matches the writing of the 1873 letter supposedly written by William.)
However 1874 also produces a legal footnote to the disputed voyage of Marie Louise.
But as events will prove Woods is flogging a dead horse because Mr J.B. Thurston at the very same time was endeavoring to persuade the British Government and Queen Victoria to save the day and the country by first settling the small country's huge debt and then taking over total responsibility for Fiji.
The request to England is a desperate one, King Cakobau's government is on the brink of disaster. In the highlands of Bau the business of blackbirding has resulted in murder and mayhem. A crewman from a labour recruiting boat has been brutally murdered.
Tribes are in open revolt, settlers are in danger and a council of war has been gathered on board the Marie Louise which, supposedly by chance, just happens to be in the town of Ba at the same time, and carrying a large number of armed Fijian troops under the command of Major Fitzgerald.
|Thurston and friend|
Soon, in a splendid ceremony Fiji will become Great Britain’s newest colony. Queen Victoria will become the colonies ruler. Both Cakobau and Maafu will remain in high office and life will continue as before though perhaps on a more peaceful and lawful note…after all mother England has had a great deal of experience governing foreign countries... hasn't she?
Gun Rock today – cannon scars still visible
The following year Goodenough as Commander over the Pacific Region continued on to the Hebrides where he was attacked and killed by a native arrow, He was only 45 years of age and had been apprenticed to the navy since the age of 14.. and to make matters even sadder his wife and young children after a long separation had not long before joined him in Sydney.)
In Part 2 William and Geraldine add to their family with another son and two daughters.. one my darling grandmother Maggie, and ahead too more of Williams voyages with surprising detail...and we meet even more fascinating characters whose lives have become entwined with Fiji...and who lived their at the same time as Geraldine and William.