Tuesday, 17 July 2007


I've taken a bit of time to get back to the blog. I've spent some of that time going through the Archives of the Western Pacific High Commission at Auckland University Library.

The collection contains 600 linear metres of documents covering the period 1877-1978.

The WPHC was originally established to control the activities of the European traders and settlers, in particular the more unruly and illegal activities relating to labour, but over time its grew to include general administrative functions in the New Hebrides, Gilbert Is and Solomon Is covering health, taxation, communications, land policy and public works.

Solomon Is records from the WPHC were sent to Honiara, and Gilbert and Ellice Is material to Kiribati and Tuvalu, the remainder - the records of the Western Pacific High Commission, the British Commissioner and Consul to Tonga, and the New Hebrides British Service- were sent to Auckland University.

I knew William Morrison SUTHERLAND was a Tongan government servant, so I was particularly interested in Registers of Service and Personal files, as well as appointments of officials. I looked through quite a few other files and was about to give up before I found Case files Probate Jurisdiction. William Morrison SUTHERLAND's file was the first I came across.

Probate Jurisdictions are interesting documents in that they can tell a lot about the personal affairs of the deceased .

William must have died while he was away from home, because the Probate lists his home as Nukulofa, but he died at Haabai. Financially he was comfortably off. His estate passed to Neomai and contained:

Leasehold land and buildings situated at Nukulofa and Leased from His Majesty the King of Tonga under Lease registered No. 284. value 270 pounds
American Phaeton, Horse and Harness 25 pounds
Piano 20 pounds
Double bedstead and fittings 8 pounds
2 single beds and fittings 8 pounds
Iron cash safe 5 pounds
10 assorted tables 3 pounds 15 sh
2 chests of drawers 3 pounds
3 planters lounge chairs 3 pounds
3 stretcher beds 1.10
2 clocks 1.15
6 austrian bentwood chairs 1.10
1 rocker 1.5
kitchen utensils 15 pounds
Cash 9.7
Salary due from Tongan Govt 6.0
a total value of 382.2.0

I wonder what he was doing in Haabai. He seems to have been with Frank Wall, a trader, who is also a joint executor of his will - and is listed as witness to his burial.

When I started this, I had this romantic notion that my great grandfather had perhaps jumped ship and was making his was as an island trader, travelling around, buying and selling goods. The truth is, I'm afraid, a little more prosaic. But it's quite nice, really, to think of this scottish gentleman living quite comfortably in the pacific with his Tongan wife and six children.

It's also a little sad to think that he died so suddenly at such a young age - 46 - And away from home.

1 comment:

Robbie Latu said...

Hi, I believe we are related as going by what my mother has told me and looking at the names that run in this family tree, my mothers father, my Grandfather, Robert Sutherland was son of William Morrison Sutherland and Naomi Mahe, who married my grandmother Lepeka Uaniva Malafu AKA Uani of whom already had a son (my uncle Paul)[deceased] to a previous marrige that had ended, from what my grandmother said was due to violence. But they went on to have 3 more children, Christina Middlemas Sutherland now Latu (my mum) now 75, my uncle Morrison (deceased) and my aunty Naomi (deceased). My mother is the only remaining offspring of Robert and Univa Sutherland. my aunty Naomi and uncle Morrison never had biological children of their own but on my mothers side there were 5 of us 4 boys and 1 girl. from the oldest Ben, Saia [deseased], Rodney, Robert (me) and our sister Rebacca. Ben, Rodney and myself have offspring, Ben 8 kids Rodney 2 kids and myself 6 kids. if you'd like to get in contact my number is NZ 021 0845 1502. If not no stress just thought I would share some of my knowledge from my side....if you like I have photos of my g-g-dad and g-g-mother...up to you?