Research Document #14
Gallagher’s Eighth Progress Report
July – September, 1940
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As Officer-in-Charge of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, Gerald Gallagher filed quarterly progress reports. This report, his eighth, covers the period just before the bones were found. (See Bones Chronology.) This is a transcription of the report.

 

WESTERN PACIFIC

CONFIDENTIAL (2).

Office of the High Commissioner
for the Western Pacific
Suva, Fiji.

2nd May, 1941.

My Lord,

With reference to the High Commissioner's Confidential (2) despatch of the 11th December, 1940, I have the honour to forward a progress report for the quarter ended 30th September, 1940, on Colonial Development Scheme No. 531 - Phoenix Islands Settlement - submitted by Mr. G.B. Gallagher, the Officer in Charge of the Scheme.

I have the honour to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient,
humble servant,

H. Vaskess
Assistant High Commissioner.

The Right Honourable
The Secretary of State for the Colonies

Enclosure in Western Pacific despatch
Conf. (2) of 2nd May, 1941.

----

PHOENIX ISLANDS SETTLEMENT SCHEME

PROGRESS REPORT

JULY - SEPTEMBER, 1940.

During the first part of the three months period ended on the 30th. September, the Officer-in-charge, Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, was stationed in the Gilbert Islands and practically the entire quarter was taken up, in one way or another, with the selection and transport of settlers and cargo. During this period, a total of seventy-six new settlers and an estimated five hundred tons of cargo were handled. It was hoped that one hundred and ten settlers would be transported but, for some reason which appears to be partly connected with the prospect of obtaining employment in the phosphate mines at Ocean Island, nearly fifty persons who had been allotted passages from the island of Nonouti decided, at the last minute, not to come to the Phoenix Islands; and, without causing very considerable delay and expense, it was not possible, at such short notice, to obtain other settlers to take their places.

2. In carrying out the above work, the m.v. "John Bolton" was on charter for just under forty-five days at a total cost (including rationing of passengers and other expenses) of L1,613 - 3 - 11. This cost exceeds the estimate (thirty-five days at a total cost of L1,149) by approximately L364. Weather was excellent throughout the charter and the only unforeseen delay was one of twelve hours at Sydney Island which, indirectly, caused another delay of twelve hours at Gardner Island, where the vessel arrived at night instead of early in the morning, as planned. If the estimate of five hundred tons of cargo carried is in anyway accurate, however, this (computed at the iniquitous local rate of L3-15-0 per ton) just offsets the extra cost of the charter, but the fact that only 78 passengers were carried, when there was room for 110, makes this charter the most expensive one to date.

3. At the close of the period under review, the total British population of the Phoenix Islands was 797, of which 662 persons are permanent settlers, 32 are working on Gardner Island and have the option of taking up land and thirty-five are Government employees and their families, not permanently resident in the Phoenix Islands. The population is located as follows:

European Population
Canton Island
2
 
Native Population
Canton Island
3
 
European Population
Hull Island
2
 
Native Population
Hull Island
370
 
Native Population
Sydney Island
302
 
European Population
Gardner Island
1
 
Native Population
Gardner Island
69
(See Note)
     
749
 

Note 1. 20 persons (eight labourers and their families) at present working at Gardner Island are residents of Sydney Island and are included in the total native population of that Island - two other persons at Hull Island are similarly residents of Sydney Island. 22 persons, therefore, appear twice


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in the above figures.

2. Six further residents of the Phoenix Islands, who are not included in the above totals, are at the moment in the Gilbert Islands.

Sydney Island.

4. Twenty-eight new settlers, all of them relatives of persons already resident on the island, were landed at Sydney Island at the beginning of August. It has already been reported that the settlement of Sydney Island is virtually completed and the only persons who can now be accomodated [sic] are a few relatives of settlers who are at present working at Ocean or Fanning Islands. There is still a certain amount of unplanted bush land on the island which has not yet been utilised - part of this has been set aside as a timber producing area and, if the remaining land cannot, at the present time, be planted with coconuts, it is suggested that it should not be shared out amongst the present population, as is, of course, the often expressed hope of the people, but reserved by Government against the time when the population has increased a little.

5. It was gratifying to note that considerable work had been carried out at Sydney Island during the absence of a European Officer. This is in marked contrast to what happened a year ago when the Officer-in-Charge was absent for three months and returned to find that some people had not even managed to summon up sufficient energy to complete their own dwelling houses and augers well for the future of the Native Government on the Island who would now appear to be exercising a greater influence on the people.

6. Approximately thirty thousand coconuts were landed on Sydney Island at the beginning of September and distributed amongst the population for planting purposes. In the unlikely event of all these nuts germinating, the total number of coconut trees on the island would be trebled. The existing trees on the island are bearing well and there should now be no difficulty in planting up the whole island.

Hull Island.

7. Forty-two new settlers were landed at Hull Island during the quarter under review and the Ag. Administrative Officer reports that a total of 84 blocks of planted land are still available for settlement. Very large areas of unplanted land are also still available on this island and, although much of this is useless for growing coconuts and therefore for allocation to settlers, there is little doubt that more good unplanted land is available than will ever be needed for the children and relatives of the present population.

8. Work on Hull Island during the quarter consisted principally in the construction of dwelling houses, a Native Court House, a new road and the hospital.


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Gardner Island.

9. Gardner Island, which the Officer-in-Charge of the Settlement Scheme has, up to the present, only been able to visit for a total of thirty-six hours, has now become the main centre of activity in the Phoenix Islands. The labourers stationed on the island have worked well and planted a large number of coconut trees but the island has not been developed in any other way. During the quarter, work was commenced on the construction of the skeleton of the Government Station which has been so laid out as to be suitable for enlargement at a latter date into the headquarters station for the Phoenix Islands. Five houses for the Native Staff and a Government Storeshed - the latter constructed out of materials obtained from the demolition of the old labourers dwelling houses at Hull Island - were completed and occupied before the end of the quarter.

Work was also commenced on the rather formidable task of clearing away the rooks and tree roots which have to be removed before the Station site can be levelled. Before the Foreman of Public Works left the island, a start was also made on the construction of the Rest House which, it is hoped, will be completed before the end of November. This house is considerably more ambitious than that constructed at Sydney Island and, although smaller, is modelled after the Native Lands Commissioner's house on Beru Island. Nearly all the necessary thatch and building materials for this, as well as for all the other houses on the island, have, of course, to be transported from the Gilbert Islands, since practically nothing is available on Gardner and the other islands of the Phoenix Group can only contribute a little coconut thatch. It is hoped to furnish the main living room of the Rest House with furniture constructed entirely from locally grown "kanawa" - a beautifully marked wood which abounds on the island and is being cut to waste as planting proceeds. All other furniture, with the exception of a bed, four chars and sanitary fittings, is also being made locally, although not necessarily from local timber.

General.

10. The health of settlers in the Phoenix Islands has been good throughout the quarter and the Native Medical Practitioner, who is stationed at Hull Island but paid short visits to the other two islands, reports that the general standard of fitness is better than it was nine months ago.

Steps are being taken to endeavour to counteract what appears to be a very heavy infant mortality rate in the District. Four months ago, this appeared to be well over fifty percent and it was reported that this was very largely due to incorrect care of the infants by their mothers. Women on each island were therefore encouraged to meet together and form "Women's Committees" with a view towards helping one another in baby welfare. One hundred copies of a book written by Mrs. G.H. Eastman of the London Missionary Society were purchased and distributed to these Committees, who now meet twice a week to read and discuss the book together. When present on the island, the Native Medical Practitioner attends these meetings and endeavours to make sure that the women really understand the context. In the absence of the


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Native Medical Practitioner, this service is undertaken by the local Hospital Dresser, although it is a matter for regret that these natives do not seem to be much better informed in these matters than the people whom they wish to instruct. The period since the inception of the scheme has only been four months and not, therefore, long enough to discover whether the mothers will continue the good work when the novelty has worn off, but, it has been reported from Sydney Island that not a single child, whose mother has attended these meetings, has died or even been seriously ill during this period and attendance of children at the hospital for immediate treatment of small disorders has increased considerably.

11. It was not found possible, during the quarter, to visit any islands of the District other than Hull, Sydney and Gardner and no communication has been available with Canton Island.

(Sgd) Gerald B. Gallagher

Officer-in-Charge,
Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme.

 
Gardner Island,

18th November, 1940.

 

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