Of Most Serious Offences and £5 Fines

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His Majesty’s Pleasure

Colonial Masculinity, Violence and Desire From a general examination of the accused I am of the opinion that he is probably not sixteen years of age. The examination of the sexual organ shows that only one testicle has descended and the amount of pubic hair is very slight. … I do not think an examination of the teeth would have any particular value in fixing the point as to whether he is under sixteen. I am definitely of the opinion that he is under sixteen. – Edward George Sayers of the Medical Mission Hospital at Bilua gives evidence in the Teri case, April 1930 (1704/30). In 1930 an adolescent named Teri admitted murdering his young lover on the island of Ranonga in the New Georgia group. She may have been pregnant with his child – he certainly believed that she was. Witnesses identified him as compelling her to follow him into the bush from which she never again re-emerged, but at his trial Teri argued that she demanded sex and taunted him when he refused her. In anger he lashed out and struck her, delivering lethal blows to her head. Panicked, he dragged the body into a hole and fled. Villagers discovered her corpse a few days later. They smelt the stench first – in the tropical climate, rot set in quickly (MacQuarrie 1946).

Outrage in the Savage South Seas

Founding Violence 1880-1895 … blood-thirsty savages, whose saturnalia of slaughter has now extended over so long a period … wholesale murder has apparently been looked upon as the normal state of things that should naturally obtain in the South Seas – Fiji Times, February 9th, 1881 (R.568) George Queen, native of Birkinhead, England, age about 40, dark complexion, full dark whiskers, black eyes, height about 5 feet 7 inches, tattooed on both arms with an anchor and supposed figure of a woman – Description of European man believed murdered by natives in 1887 (W.P.H.C. 8 III 16) The above description of George Queen is no eulogy. Queen and his companion Martin Madson reportedly met their deaths at native hands for the plunder of their heads and their ship. But these men were not the white-clad bearers of imperial civilisation. They were fugitives, wanted for the theft of a boat and £200 from docks at Fiji.1 Painting out the boat’s name, they had sailed to the ungoverned Solomons, seeking anonymity and a living trading with natives. They were last sighted by Europeans in August 1887, near Roviana in the New Georgia group, at that time one of the most notorious regions for head-hunting in the islands.

Of Most Serious Offences and £5 Fines

Representing Natives in Adultery Legislation “Now, hear, altogether man! …. Liza he go along another fella man … no good! Nutbauna he do him something no good along mary … no good! Now this something … he tambu … along black fella … he tambu along white man … he tambu along altogether man along altogether world!” – Government Officer’s speech in Collinson (1926:125) He walked straight on till he came to a line of white flowers and stopped in front of them. At once two beautiful arms came out from the nearest plant and began to pull him so strongly that he could not fight against them. From above the flowers came heads – women’s heads – with beautiful faces and dark brown hair – Dictation for Queen Victoria School1 entrance examination, 1932 (614/33). A beautiful South Seas maiden languishes in marriage to a man old, ugly, and deformed. Repellent in his hideousness, this hateful husband subjects her to regular vicious beatings. Her life is to be pitied. Then it happens that she falls in love, with a fine specimen of a young native man. The two lovers run away to seek their happiness together. But the evil husband will not silently suffer desertion, and seeks out justice.

Specimens of Manhood

(And Tropes of White Womanhood) The Island of Guadalcanar… will never become really popular with white women, because there are some gigantic rats there which climb trees. – Clifford Collinson (1926:24). The Empire … occupied an unprecedented place in the masculine imagination … where male comradeship and male hierarchies found their full scope, free from feminine ties. – John Tosh (1991:67-68). At Manning Straits in 1927, plantation overseer John Cameron tried to exert discipline by shouting and swearing at a labourer, Gousie. With Gousie responding aggressively and ‘shaping up for a fight’ (3423/27), Cameron made a hasty retreat. But he evidently took no caution from the incident for, two days later, he angrily objected to the amount of work that Gousie had done: He proceeded to strike Gousie on the back of the neck with a loia-cane he was carrying. He drew blood with the blow … [Gousie then] picked up a stone which he threw at deceased … He missed. Deceased then started to chase Gousie. They both started picking up stones and hurling them at each other … one of Gousie’s stones hit deceased on the chest and knocked him over. Gousie rushed up and took the axe out of his hand. He was in a semi-recumbent position. He said to Gousie “You kill’m me die now.” Gousie proceeded to split his head open with the axe (3423/27).

Contents :

  • Introduction – Enter Tulagi
  • Chapter One – His Majesty’s Pleasure
  • Chapter Two – Outrage in the Savage South Seas
  • Chapter Three – Compelled by Native Custom
  • Chapter Four – Of Most Serious Offences and £5 Fines
  • Chapter Five – Specimens of Manhood
  • Conclusion – My Friend, the Best and Finest I Have Ever Had
  • Appendix One – Maps of the Solomon Islands
  • Appendix Two – Cast of Colonialists
  • Appendix Three – Timeline of the Solomon Islands
  • List of Archival Sources
  • List of References

‘Supposed Figure of a Woman’? Homosociality in the British Solomon Islands 1880-1940

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