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"When news of tho recent massacre 5n the Solomon Islands came through it must have stirred strange memories in the mind of Mr. John Hankin, accountant at the Parker, Lamb Timbo: Company, Auckland. To-day he tots up the number of logs cut up, but one ilayforty seven years ago last month he •was keeping another sort of hilly, and good aa ho is at figures he was not quite sure of his total, which happened to be Solomon Island savages. And they were savage. Cannibalism was Tampant. Even round Fiji one could still see the ovens where the "long pig" had been cooked, but at that date the Kai Viti had been induced to give up the horrible practice. At the Solomons the practice was still rife. Mr. Hankin, then a young man in the twenties, had not been long out from Lancashire, Ormskirk being his native town. He was in the employ of the Fiji Government as recruiting agent. There is no doubt a good deal of shady business was done under the name by some of the vessels engaged in recruiting labour for the plantations. "Blackbirding" it was called with the levity people used to look on such subjects. But the recruiting carried on under the Fiji Government was entirely free from the objectionable features that stained the record of some of the business in other parts of the Pacific. Each recruiting vessel that worked under the auspices of the Fijian Government had to carry a Government agent who saw that things were done according to the regulations. In jthose days Solomon Island labour was the main labour for the Fiji plantations. The sum of £10 was given for an adult, and a less sum for youth, the amount being paid in "trade," which means goods. The vessel in which Mr. Hankin had this thrilling experience nearly half a century ago was the brigantine Borealis, which was in charge of Captain Kenneth McKenzie, the father of Captain George McKenzie, of Auckland. The Attack. It was at Malaita, the very island where the recent massacre occurred, that the affair happened. On September 13, 1880, the Borealis was anchored off a little bay on the east coast of Malaita, •n island noted for its truculent natives. The islanders had tried to entice Mr. Hankin and some of the crew ashore, bnt he suspected them and declined. Then when the boat was ordered away to get ten natives it was reported were ready to be recruited, he declined to go ashore until the men were served with firearms. On such expeditions the boat's crew were always armed, as the natives wero very treacherous. When the boat pulled ashore the recruiting was gone on with, and two natives selected had got into the bow of the boat. Just as a third was stepping in there was a fearful shout, and the three of them hopped ashore. It was obvious that something was wrong, so the boat pulled out from, the shore. They could then see that something was wrong on board the Borealis, and they pulled back in her direction. Mr. Hankin got an arrow through his hat, and black heads were seen peeping above the vessel's bulwarks. There were four men in the boat, and they let drive at any head that showed itself. Mr. Hankin was a good shot, and every shot told, but the men with him fired wild, some of the shot being afterwards found high up the masts of the brig. Off For Help. Captain McKenzie was in a terrible •tale as his son Willie was on board. It was clear that there had been a terrible tragedy, but the numjber of r.litives was so great that the four men in the boat conid do nothing in the faee of such odds, so they pulled away for rough water where the islanders' canoes could not follow them. As it was hopeless trying to do anything until reinforced, the boat's crew pulled away for Sua Bay, where other recruiting vessels were known to be lying. After a hard passage they reached Sua, and there found the Auckland schooner Flirt, the Dauntless, and the Stanley. A council of war was held, and some of the advice was against doing anything, but Mr. Hankin insisted on clearing up the tragedy, and eventually the vessels all made for the bay where the Borealis was anchored. By that time she was looted and deserted, and the wonder was that she had not been burned. There was a terrible sight on 'board, blood all over the deck, brains scattered on the windlass, a bit of an arm in the scuppers, and axe-marks all over the bulwarks, most of the killing having fceen done with the tomahawk. Scene of Bloodshed. Young McKenzie, the mate (a Mr. Cremer, of Sydney), and the sailors who had been left aboard were all killed, and their bodies had been taken ashore to be cooked and eaten. The rescuers were astonished to find George Ward, the cook of the Borealis, still alive, but horribly gashed with tomahawk and knife cuts. His escape from the slaughter was a miracle. He told how the natives had come aboard the brigantine, one or two at first, and then .others ostensibly to sell things. No one seemed to suspect them. Then came the attack. Ward was badly wounded, and when fleeipg from some of his pursuers he T*as knocked down the open hatchway. He hid in an empty water-tank for a while, and when the natives went ashore he crawled with much difficulty and got into one of the eabins, of which he bolted the door inside. Armed boats' crews from the vessels were sent ashore, burned down houses, eut down trees, and took other revenge for .the terrible massacre of the men of the Borealis in cold blood. These men of Malaita have always had the reputation of being blood-thirsty, and the massacre the other day of the British commissioner, his cadet and fifteen native policemen shows that the old spirit is still there when roused.

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Bibliographic details

TREACHEROUS SOLOMONS., Auckland Star, Volume LVIII, Issue 255, 28 October 1927

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TREACHEROUS SOLOMONS. Auckland Star, Volume LVIII, Issue 255, 28 October 1927

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