Fiji Is. or the Cannibal Islands . .


The first European to see what we now call the Fiji Is. was Abel Janszzon Tasman during his 1642/43 voyage. He had already visited Tasmania, New Zealand, and Tonga.

Later Captain Cook passed close to the island during his last voyage in 1774.

The islands had been part of the Tongan empire and the local natives in Fiji referred to their home as Viti, and the Tongan’s referred to the islands as Fisi. Thanks to the mispronunciation the British (Capt. Cook), the islands became the Fiji Islands.


The flag of Fiji – the union flag represents the links between Fiji and the United Kingdom. The coat of arms shows the agriculture of Fiji, cocoa, sugar, bananas and coconut. The British lion at the top is holding a cocoa pod in its paws.

  The natives of Fiji were known to be cannibals and had been for over 2500 years. The last known act of cannibalism took place in 1867 when a Methodist missionary and five local Fijian student teachers were killed and eaten in Viti Levu. If you look at the map Viti Levu is the larger of the two main islands, which is on the left.

WilliamBlighCaptain William Bligh 1754-1817

Captain Bligh was cast adrift by the mutineers of HMS Bounty on the 28th of April (London time), 27th April ship time in 1789.
Bligh and eighteen of his crew were set adrift in a six meter (20 foot) open boat. After stopping for water at Tofua (one of the islands of Tonga) one of his parties was killed so he decided to sail directly to Timor, which at that time was a colony of the Dutch.
Bligh considered that all of the islands in between were dangerous, and he would not risk his men again.
The above map has a red arrow to indicate that Bligh sailed between the two main island of Fiji and was in fact chased by local natives in war canoes. Bligh managed to steer his craft into a rain storm and losing his pursuers. 

After an epic voyage of 3,618 nautical miles (4,164 land miles or 6,701 km) in an open boat he arrived in Timor on the 14th June 1789, with all the men who had been cast adrift with him, save for the man killed in Tonga.
During the voyage Captain Bligh kept a diary and he charted his way through the Fiji islands and his charts were so accurate that they can be used today. He was an excellent navigator.  

There have been several movies (films) made of the mutiny –

1933 -In the wake of the Bounty – Mayne Lynton
The film was an Australian production and Errol Flynn played Fletcher Christian. This was Flynn’s first film roll.

1935 – Mutiny on the Bounty – Charles Laughton  

1962- Mutiny on the Bounty – Trevor Howard

1984 – The Bounty – Antony Hopkins 

and in 1985 Mutiny came out as a musical – Frank Finlay as Bligh. 

Mayne Lynton, Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard, Antony Hopkins all played the part of Captain Bligh.

They all portray William Bligh as the ‘enemy’ but on his return to England he was court martialled for losing his ship and acquitted because the authorities could not find him at fault.
Within a year of arriving back in England he was appointed to command another ship and set sail on another breadfruit voyage.

In the late 1980’s when I visited Fiji and did not have to contend with cannibals, just the friendliness of the locals.

FGH-Historical1I stayed at the Gateway Hotel near Nadi airport. 


It was a friendly hotel and far enough away from the runway that the jets did not disturb my sleep.
The above is a more modern picture of the dining room from their website.

Airport 2


In 1987 the airport was not all that busy – I took the above pictures shortly after arriving. Nothing like it is today.


Our agent was Unispeed, which became part of TNT Express some years later.

Compared to some of the other islands that I had visited Fiji was the ‘Big Smoke’. It had far more courier and freight traffic than any of the other islands, and our agent had offices in each of the three main towns, Nadi, Lautoka and Suva.

Nadi is the main airport, which is about 120 km (70 miles) from Suva the capital of Fiji and had a population of about 20,000 when I visited.

North of Nadi is Lautoka which was, during my visit, the main seaport and located in this town was the island’s largest sugar processing plant and a large brewery. Lautoka was much larger town than Nadi and it was about a twenty- minute drive between each. The population was around 40,000 the map does not show the importance of Lautoka. 

PNAN to SuvaBy bus it would take about five hours or more, and by car about three hours for a journey from Nadi to Suva. The road was too narrow to drive at high speed, plus wandering locals and their animals all playing ‘chicken’ did not help our overall speed.

Once we passed Sigatoka (see map between Nadi & Suva) we had reached the Coral Coast, which even then was the holiday area for international visitors.

The Coral Coast as a holiday destination began in the 1950’s when the Korolevu Beach Hotel was built. Today a visitor has a choice of dozens of hotels from high end international hotels to small family run resorts.


Is it any wonder that this coastline has become very popular?  

During my visit I was fortunate to see quite a lot of the island because I wished to meet the clients of our Australian and New Zealand shippers because I wished to build a two-way link via the company that I represented. 

It was an interesting time particularly when I met the head of customs, and he insisted on a Kava ceremony.

Kava is a Tongan word for ‘bitter’.
In Fiji a formal kava ceremony will often accompany important social, political or a business function similar to a business meeting in Australia where the two parties might have a glass of wine when concluding a friendly business meeting.


The leaves of a Kava plant.

The plant leaves and the root are dried in the sun after which the dried plant is pounded to a fine powder and then mixed with water in a large wooden bowl.
Our agent and I sat on one side of the bowl and the customs officer, and a senior member of his organisation sat on the other side. The customs officer mixed powder and water together.
When he was satisfied, as the honoured guest I was presented with a portion of the kava mixture in a coconut shell. As the coconut shell was offered to me, I clapped my hands three times and then accepted the shell. I then drank the contents in one go – before our meeting I had been ‘educated’ by our agent as to protocol. 

The shell was refilled and given to my companion, and he clapped and drank his share in one go.
My companion was the ‘Matanivanua’ what we would call a Herald. He did most of the talking as in explaining why I was in Fiji and my position as the regional manager for the Pacific Islands.
During the chat the cup had moved around to the chief customs officers and then his companion. 
I accepted a second but much smaller amount of mixture because I was beginning to have an odd feeling.
I was warned that Kava would make me feel relaxed and give a feeling of wellbeing.
I did not have a feeling of wellbeing and I did not feel relaxed, because I could not feel my lips and part of my tongue.
The feeling was like a visit to the dentist after the dentist has injected a painkiller before he starts drilling for oil.

As the painkiller begins to wear off you are unable to drink without dribbling.

Fortunately, my companion realised that something was wrong and brought the meeting to a close.
We all shook hands as I burbled my gratitude to the Chief of Custom’s kindness while wiping my face under the pretence of the heat.
He gave me an odd look because his office was airconditioned . . . .

I have not touched kava since. 

During the next few years, I visited Fiji and number of times, and even experienced a Coral Coast resort because this location was closer to Suva which was my business location on one trip.   


I took the above picture in the Nadi office, and this picture encapsulates for me the friendliness of the Fijian people.

When I stayed at the Coral Coast, I think I stayed at the Ramada Reef Resort, which is now the Resort Palm Cove and is part of the Accor Group.


The above picture is from the current Resort Palm Cove advert. 


Farewell from the Coral Coast. 

Cook Islands


Cook Is. sunset 


Cook Island flag with the union flag which denotes the historical link with the UK, and the fifteen stars represent each of the islands that make up the Cook Islands.


The map will give you an idea of the location of the Cook Island – they are three and a half flying hours from Auckland. You can see a read mark that I have placed on the northern island of New Zealand that indicates the approximate location of Auckland.

The capital of the Cook Island is on the island of Rarotonga and is called Avarua. 
The total land mass of all fifteen islands adds up to 240 square kms (93 sq miles). The ocean economic zone under the Cook Is control is 1.96 million square kms (757 sq miles).

A spot of trivia Captain Cook visited the islands in 1773 and 1777 and he named one of the islands as Hervey Is. and later the whole group was known as the Hervey Is.

The change in name came about because of the Russians in the 1820’s.


Adam Johann von Krusenstern  1777-1846

Adam Johann von Krusenstern was a Baltic German Admiral, born in Estonia from a Swedish aristocratic family, who had remained in Estonia after Estonia became part of Russia in 1787.
He joined the Russian Imperial navy, and even served six years in the Royal Navy, but in 1803 he in command of one ship in company with another Russian ship sailed around the world via Cape Horn, the north Pacific, and Cape of Good Hope. In his report to Tsar Alexandra, he referred to the Hervey Is as the Cook Is. to honour Captain Cook.

His work was translated in to English and later into Dutch, French, Spanish, Danish and Italian. Hervey Is. had become Cook Is.


The above is a picture of the Padua. Launched in 1926 for F. Laeisz of Hamburg and was the last of the P-Line (so name due to all the ships in this line began with ‘P’). The ship sailed under the German flag of the day – 

Flag_of_Germany_(3-2_aspect_ratio).svg the Weimar Republic, and later

1920px-War_Ensign_of_Germany_(1938–1945).svg  under the Nazi flag, and later again

1280px-Merchant_flag_of_Germany_(1946–1949).svg the Merchant navy flag of Germany from 1946 – 1949

images in 1946 she was surrendered to the USSR and became part of the Russian navy. She was renamed Kruzenshtern after Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern. 

188px-Flag_of_Russia.svg her flag today, & if you wish to know more click here.

Back to the Cook Is.

I flew from Sydney direct to Rarotonga in March 1987, the flight time being five hours forty minutes.
I left on a Sunday and arrived at 7.00 pm on Saturday – perhaps a time warp Captain Kirk, which gave me two Sundays in that week.


It had only been three months since the Cook Is had been devastated by Cyclone Sally and the 190 km winds.
From December 1986 through to January 1987 Hurricane Sally swept across Rarotonga and cause a lot of damage.

Our agent was the only IATA agent on the island, which came in handy for Skypak, plus it was one of the few buildings undamaged by the cyclone being brick and steel.

rar The island had one tarmac road that circumnavigated the island, and I was driven the twenty miles (32 km) around the island in forty minutes and saw the rebuilding of life in the Cook Is. The people were all very friendly and as we were not in any rush to complete the journey, I was happy to wave to anyone who waved at me. 
The population of the island at that time was about 9,000 people and I think I waved at most of the islanders. My arm ached by the time we returned to the office.

NAvaruaTownAvarua was a quiet place in 1987.

The acceptable currency was either New Zealand dollars or Cook Is. dollars. I think there is a saying in the USA, that if anything is not correct it is as bad as a three-dollar bill. The saying has not translated to the Cook Is.

3 dollar

sheet three22102021bill 2

I found the above currency in one of my books that I used as a bookmark – the book was



I stayed in a small resort just outside of Avarua called Cook Is Raro Club, I found the above from their web page – it has changed a lot since 1987. While I was there the reconstruction was in full swing. 


Bedrooms were like a small chalet, very pleasant and the sound of the sea could be heard.


Our agent had arranged for me to be a temporary member of the local fishing club. The idea of the club was not sitting on a riverbank with rod and line but chasing the marlin deep sea.
After studying the photographs around the wall of the club it looked an exciting trip, but due to my limited time I only saw the members in the evening and had to refuse their offers of a fishing trip


In 1987 the club was a much smaller building among overgrown trees and grass and you could not see the sea from the club due to the undergrowth – what a change today.
The Cook Is. has become a holiday island, but thirty-five years ago it was a quiet back water. Few people could afford to visit, unlike now with cheap holiday flights, and not just from New Zealand and Australia. (Pre covid of course) 

Entertainment in the evening was limited and it was a long walk to Avarua from the resort and quite hot even in the evening.


At the harbour I did enjoy a beer or two with our agent at Trader Jacks. It had been damaged by the cyclone, but the beer was cold and conversation with the locals was always interesting. Oddly enough the damage to the place gave it a strange air of history. I believe that it was closed and had to be rebuilt. It was reopened in 1989, and as far as I know still going strong.Trader 1

A cold beer and a cool breeze what more could be better.

The above pictures of Trader Jacks are of the modern buildings, rather than how things were when I visited Rarotonga. Trader Jacks had only been open about six months before Cyclone Sally visited the Cook Is. 


The Cook Islands are well worth a visit if you get the chance to be wandering around the Pacific.

American Samoa


American Samoa is the only area south of the Equator controlled by the USA, not counting the Antarctic.
 The above is the flag of American Samoa and Pag Pago (pro Pango Pango) is the capital, which is located on the island of Tutuila.

The US had been interested in this part of Samoa from as early as 1839 and when Germany & Great Britain were expanding their influence in the Pacific the US  wanted to block Germany who had taken control of W. Samoa in 1899.

In 1871 the US signed a treaty with the local chieftain for an exclusive use of the harbour, which was one of the deepest in the Pacific. The US wanted to create a coaling station for their steamers. It was also in an area of one of the best whaling areas in the world.

In April 1900 the US flag was raised over Tutuila, which is the name of the island, to stop Germany from expanding their influence, because they had already claimed W. Samoa.

My visit to American Samoa was in 1987, which had been arranged by our W. Samoa agent because TNT Skypak wanted an agency in Pago Pago.

Samoa Air

We flew to American Samoa from Western Samoa, at that time Samoa was called Western Samoa, the name did not change until 1997 when the country became just Samoa.

Some of the passengers on our flight were weighed before being allowed to board, and some of us were not.
As you see the aircraft was small, so every kilo was counted and the Western Samoans are known for their size.
The flight from Apia to Pago Pago was not long, about forty-five minutes, but it was still an international flight. Our baggage was stowed behind the last passenger.
We flew at our maximum height, which was 4,500 feet (about 1370 mtrs) above sea level, and there is a lot of sea to be seen in that 45 minutes.

Our Samoan agent and I acted as OBCs (on board couriers) carrying documents from Australia, New Zealand and Samoa. Our new man in Pago Pago was an accountant who already had three businesses as well as being a public accountant, so he now had to learn the international courier industry jargon, because we were carrying his first consignments.

We landed at Tafuna Airport (airline code PPG), which is about seven miles (11 km) from the city.
The road to the city wound round the base of the mountain, which only allowed one lane of traffic in each direction. The road was very crowded and narrow so trying to pass the vehicle in front was not recommended. The journey took us over half an hour and the humidity was off the scale, plus the vehicle was not air-conditioned so within minutes of leaving the airport we were dripping with perspiration.
My first impression of American Samoa was not positive due to the very poor maintenance of such an important road between the airport and the city.
In 1987 the population of Tutuila Island was about 36,000.

2-Rainmaker (2)

The hotel that our Samoan agent had booked looked very inviting, the Rainmaker Hotel, which used to be called the Pacific’s Intercontinental Hotel.


The above is from an early advert for the hotel – it was not as attractive when I visited, but it was the only hotel on the island! 

The hotel began life in 1965 and was refurbished after a US fighter plane crashed into it in 1980. The accident cost the lives of six servicemen and two tourists.

1200px-RAINMAKER_HOTEL,_PAGO_PAGO,_AMERICAN_SAMOA  A shot of the hotel when closed.

After a nice cold shower, I was given a tour of the town by our new agent. It was interesting, but my over whelming memory is the smell of fish. It did not matter where you were I could smell fish. Pago Pago housed the fourth largest tuna processing works in the world. 
The canning of fish and pet food, with the processing of fish bones and skin into fish meal did not help the atmosphere of the island.

Pan Am

In 1946 Pan American Airlines started a service from the US to Sydney via Pago Pago using a DC4.


In 1956 Pan Am updated to a DC7 


In 1959 Polynesian Airlines (Apia based) began a service between W. Samoa and American Samoa using a DC3.

This is how the rich and famous arrived at Aggie Grey’s Hotel in Apia.

Once again, even though the fish smell was strong I still found joy visiting places that I had read about, so of course I had to follow in Somerset Maugham’s footsteps as I had read Rain, which he wrote while in American Samoa.

Somerset Maugham - CopySomerset Maugham 1874 – 1965

Somerset Maugham was visiting the Pacific Islands in 1916. His ship Sonoma arrived in Pago Pago where he left the ship and took up residence in a guesthouse.

1920px-SADIE_THOMPSON_BUILDING This is the guest house were Somerset Maughan and his companion stayed for six weeks while he wrote the outline of a short story called Miss Thompson.

He used some of the passengers on the Sonoma as models for character in his story. There was a single lady travelling on her own, who became Miss Sadie Thompson in Maughan’s book. 

Sometime later when he was finalising his story from notes, while staying at a Hollywood hotel, he met an American playwright who was roaming around the hotel one night because he could not sleep. His name was John Colton and Maugham thought he would offer his new story to Colton to read, and perhaps it would help him to sleep.

The following morning Colton wanted to buy the story and turn it in to a play. Somerset Maugham agreed, but Colton did not have enough money to buy the rights, so Maughan offered his hand and said we split any profits 50 – 50 and John Colton agreed. 

While in America Somerset Maughan was also trying to find someone to buy his story. A magazine called The Smart Set bought the story.


It was published in 1921, which opened a new avenue for Maughan’s work.

Later when Miss Thompson was to be included in a book of Somerset Maughan’s short stories the title was changed to Rain

It was as Rain that the play ran in New York for 608 performances between November 1922 and May 1924.

In 1928 it was made into a silent film with Gloria Swanson in the lead part.


In 1932 it was Joan Crawford who had the lead part in a film called ‘Rain’.

Later it was June HavocJune_Havocwho played Sadie Thompson

and in 1953 Miss Sadie Thompson was played by


Rita Hayworth

Blue Pacific Blues

Click on the link for a little bit of the film and Rita Hayworth singing . . or you might give a round of applause to Jo Ann Geer, who did all of Rita Hayworth’s singing.

RitaThe guesthouse (now renamed) where Somerset Maughan stayed in 1916 has become so famous that they have a sign outside.


On the first picture of the guest house, you will see a yellow sign, I cropped it out for clarity. 

Now back to the Rainmaker Hotel – and the surrounds – the ‘mountain’ that dominates Pag Pago is the cause of the high amount of rain that drenches the town, so even though the mountain is called Mt Pioa it is more commonly known as the Rainmaker Mountain, hence the name of the hotel.
Pago Pago harbour has the highest rainfall of any harbour in the world.

The Rainmaker Hotel had 250 rooms and was THE place to stay, with famous guests such as Marlon Brando, William Holden etc who were on their way to Aggie Grey’s in Apia.


The Rainmaker Hotel fell into disrepair and became derelict, and was demolished in 2015

BUT . . . there is always but . . . 

sadie_thompson_inn.jpg (2)

Sadie Thomason Inn flourished



Sadie’s by the Sea flourishes


I wonder what Somerset Maughan would have thought of Sadie’s today,
but sex sells, because Sadie Thomason was a deported prostitute from Hawaii, which is why she was on the Sonoma.

Tusitala part two


In 1926 Aggie married Charles Grey

When one reads the history of Samoa, particularly through the 1800s to the mid-1900s the list of characters that flowed in and around Apia, the capital of Samoa, would keep a Hollywood producer in work for years.

Aggie grew up across the road from the International Hotel and one day, when she was a child, she saw carpenters dismantling the wooden building very carefully. This strange happening was mentioned to her father who told Aggie and her sisters that a Mr Hetherington had bought the building and planned to rebuild it on the bank of the Vaisigano river.

The International Hotel was rebuilt exactly as it was originally in 1870.

There was a character known locally as ‘Obliging Bob’ for his good manners and how he managed the International Hotel.

Robert Easthope (aka Obliging Bob) was born in England (Cumberland) in 1848.
At an early age he picked life at sea as his career and ended up in Samoa in 1894. By February 1896 he was managing a hotel called Club Hotel followed by The Tivoli and then the International, which was the most popular at that time.


His nick name came about because he was well mannered, and nothing was too much trouble. He would use his own boats to ferry his guests to their ship, which would be moored in the harbour before sailing.

When he died in 1932 at 84 years old, he was the oldest British resident in Samoa.
Billy Hughes, the slave trader used to drink in the International Hotel before it moved to its present location. When I visited this hotel Billy Hughes would have recognised the outside, nothing had changed.


AG 1989

On my second trip to Apia, I stayed at Aggie Grey’s again and it had changed somewhat. This time I was not shown to the fale as I expected, but taken upstairs to the ‘new’ extension, which was airconditioned and overlooked the sea. It was a pleasant hotel room, but not as ‘Samoan’ as the fale. The above picture is the ‘new’ hotel.

A little bit more about Aggie Grey – when she was a child she watched the International Hotel be rebuilt, but little did she know of her future connection with this hotel. 

Charlie and Aggie were great entertainers, but there was a problem, Charlie was a gambler, and they had three children, plus Aggie’s four children from her first marriage. Her entrepreneur skills showed early because when she was in her early twenties, she opened the Cosmopolitan Club. 

Later in 1933 she borrowed £200 to buy the old British Club, which was renamed ‘Aggies’ through which she sold illegal alcohol because the New Zealand Government, who controlled Western Samoa, declared the island to be ‘dry’.  The ‘dryness’ included Europeans as well as the local islanders. The Europeans were not happy.

The British Club had been the old International Hotel. 

To get around the problem of ‘dryness’ the NZ Government authorised the medical officer in Samoa to issue ‘points’ to the Europeans and depending on your position in society and rank, you were allocated ‘points’ on a monthly basis. Technically the points were for the use of alcohol for medical purposes. This system went on until after 1960!


Today Samoa has its own brewery bought from Germany.

In 1942 the Americans arrived due to the war in the Pacific and Maggie opened a snack bar selling coffee and burgers from a location next to the current hotel, and she also operated a sandwich cart around the streets. Things were picking up – but in 1943 her husband Charlie, died. She was now on her own with children to feed, so had to come up with an income.
She moved the business in to the old British Club, which was now called Aggies, and Aggie Grey’s was born.

From this location besides the food, they also sold ‘bush gin’ which was a palm toddy at $2 a bottle.
The toddy was created from the coconut palm tree and a local would climb thirty feet (nine meters) up the palm tree to tap into the sap, and allow it to drip in to a glass jar.


The tree sap looked like barley water.   

The liquid had a fizzy tang to it . . . 


There was an unfortunate incident due to ‘bush gin.’ The Admiral Wiley Pictured above) was anchored in the harbour and unloading stores. The Captain went ashore for a few glasses of bush gin, which caused him to become unsteady.
It was dark and the only way the captain could return to his ship was via a native boat, but the instructions were that native boats were not allowed near military ships. The watch keeping sailor on the ship could not believe that the person in the native craft was his captain.
After a long argument the sailor allowed the captain to board and the Captain went to his cabin.
The captain still full of bush gin, was as mad as anything at the idea of being refused to board his own ship, so he left his cabin and started firing his pistols at the sailor. The sailor had no choice but to return fire and killed his Captain.

The First Mate was told to take command and to be prepare for sailing. The problem was that the First Mate worked in haberdashery before he had joined the navy and had taken a six week crash course in commanding a merchant ship – he was incapable of taking the ship to sea, so the ship had to wait for a competent merchant seaman officer to arrive and take the ship to sea.

During the time that the Americans were located in Samoa they had to place military police outside Aggie Grey’s premises because officers would arrive in jeeps but when they wished to drive back to their ship or barracks, they would find that the jeep had been stacked on rocks because the wheels were missing, the petrol had been syphoned and parts of the engine were missing.
The local Samoan society believed that everything that they owned was available for anyone to use, so it was not theft but a cultural problem for the Americans.   

The war was over and James A Mitchener a naval historical officer wrote

Tales of the south pacific

This edition was published in 1947

Michener became friendly with Aggie, and I believe that she contributed her ideas during the editing process.
I must admit that reading his book while wandering around the South Pacific added to the experience for me.
One might say that James A. Mitchener became the Tusitala of the 20th Century Pacific Islands.


   James A. Mitchener 1907 -1997

In 1952 ‘Return to Paradise’ a Mitchener story was turned in to a film and Gary Cooper played the lead role. The American crew stayed at Aggies and at the Casino run by Aggie’s sister, there were a total of fifty Americans, but in every other aspect the US film company used local Samoans and the dancing girls (Samoan dancing) were trained under Aggie. 


Roberta Haynes 1927 – 2019

Aggie also directed and trained Roberta Haynes in her dance sequences. 

Roberta Haynes’ ashes were taken back to Samoa by her son and interred at a chapel at the Return to Paradise resort in 2019.

If you wish to see a short piece of the film click below.

Return to Paradise

In addition to Gary Cooper 1901-1961 gary-cooper-2  who was awarded three Academy Awards, a Golden Globe and a number of other awards,

  Aggie Grey’s hotel has been visited by

Dorothy Lamour 1914 – 1996,  dorothy-lamour-6 She received a citation from the US Government for selling $300 million worth of War Bonds during WW2. She was known as the ‘Bond Bombshell’. 


Marlon Brando 1925-2004,  marlon-brando Two Academy Awards, Three BAFTAs, Two Golden Globes.


Raymond Burr 1917-1993, raymond-burrTwo Emmy awards & and a stamp issue by Canadian Postthumb_raymond-burr-canada-stamp


Robert Morley 1908-1992, Robert Morley  CBE, but he declined a Knighthood


William Holden 1918-1981  WILLIAMHolden Academy award winner

to name a few.

The above were film actors, who became famous due to their ability to entertain, even though they did not have Facebook, Tick Tock, , Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube nor did they Twitter on & on . . . but they were good at their job and entertained us.

When Gary Cooper was seriously ill and close to death amongst the huge number of well-wisher’s cards & letters there was a telegrams from Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, and a phone call from President John F. Kennedy, Gary Cooper was famous, they even used his name in this song. 

Putting on the Ritz

In 1971 Aggie was ‘stamped’ with success (please excuse the pun)



Aggie died in 1988 at 91 years of age.

Her son took over the running of the company and in 2013 Aggie Grey’s hotel was sold to Chinese investors for US$50 million and is now operated by the Sheraton Hotel Group. Aggie Grey’s Hotel is now known as the Sheraton Samoa with a subtitle ‘Aggie Grey’. 

Hotel sold

The hotel was rebuilt after major damage during the cyclone in 2012 when the Vaisigano River (which I have mentioned earlier) flooded the hotel up to the third floor (American) or second floor if you are British.


The hotel re-opened for business in July 2016

Tusitala part one


My next stop was to visit our agent in Apia, Western Samoa.

Western Samoa consists of two main islands and several smaller islands.
The island called Upolu is the main island where the capital Apia is located and Faleolo airport and the airline code for this airport is APW, if you plan to visit.

map_of_samoa (2)

The distance from Faleolo airport to Apia is about 40 km (25 miles) and the trip took about 40 minutes.

Our agent was the Union Maritime Services and the agency generated about six or more courier shipments a day, which for a trading company on a small island was a lot – our agent was also the agent for cruise companies, bus tours and other shipping agencies, so generating outbound courier traffic was not a problem.

Our agent booked me in to Aggie Grey’s Hotel, which was a joy for me having read about this lady.

1986The entrance to Aggie Grey’s Hotel when I arrived.

I was allocated a fale and I knew what a fale was, and wondered how private it would be  . . 


The above is a fale – or house without walls – but I need not have worried because I was shown to a fale near the pool at Aggie Grey’s.


The fale that I was allocated looked something like this, it had a bed that was on a raised area, like a stage, above the rest of the floor and I looked down on the sitting area.


I later found out that because the hotel was located alongside the Vaisigano River, which had a tendance to flood in heavy rain – hence the raised bedded area.

My fale had an air-conditioning unit above the sitting area, a little noisy, but I soon got used to the sound, which was preferable to the humidity at night.   

When I stepped out of my fale I had this to look forward to . . 


The dining room was tropical with a difference compared to other Pacific Islands that I’d visited – in Aggies a huge amount of tropical fruit was available.
Large ceiling fans kept the dining area cool, and I was never bothered with flies or insects.

As I walked along the pathway to the dining room bananas hanging from the support poles were available – I could help myself as I walked – the bananas were not very large just over a mouthful, but they had a very pleasant taste.


From memory they were called apple bananas.

The above picture is how the walkway looks today, but not all that different than in 1987. 

In the evening being a lone travel, I always have a book with me but instead of being shown to a single table I was ushered to a table with four or five others and introduced by the head waiter.
It turned out that we were all lone travellers wondering around the Pacific Islands on behalf of our companies, and later in my trip I did meet some of my dining companions in other locations.

At the end of the meal a bottle of port was placed in the middle of the table with the compliments of Aggie’s Hotel, a nice gesture that helped the chat amongst strangers.

A little about Aggie – her father was an English man, William J. Swann, who was born in England in 1859 and while he was a boy his family moved to New Zealand. At seventeen he was sent back to England to study medicine. He was home sick but bright, and passed his exams to become a chemist, like his father.

The Swann family moved to Fiji in 1867 where William concentrated on tropical diseases and later became a ship’s apothecary that traded around the Pacific islands. After some years he gave up the sea and decided to settle in Apia in Samoa and opened a business as a chemist. 

In 1891 Swann courted and married Pele the daughter of a local chief. The wedding was a great time for feasting and celebration. 

At the wedding was an honoured guest of the bridegroom, Robert Louis Stevenson, who had arrived in Apia in December 1889 and loved the place so much that he bought land just outside Apia, which became Vailima estate.

R L Stev

Robert Louis Stevenson 

R.L Stevenson became known in Samoa as Tusitala, which means ‘writer of stories’ in Samoan. 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s house Vailima in 1890 – he died 3rd December 1894.

Swann and Stevenson became very good friends, and they would often dine at a particular Chinese ‘shanty’ restaurant near the water’s edge. This place was owned by Kai Sue who used to talk about his time with Bully Hayes who was a well-known ‘black birder’ and shady character.
Bully Hayes had Shanghaied Kai Sue because he needed a cook aboard his schooner. Hayes kept Kai Sue on his ship for over two years.   


The above picture is of “Bully” Hayes aka William Henry Hayes and is dated 1863 – it is believed that another ship’s cook in 1877, after being threatened by Bully Hayes, shot him and threw him overboard. Nobody was concerned about his death.
If anyone is interested in ‘Blackbirding’& ‘Bully’ check out a book called ‘Cannibal Cargoes’ by Hector Holthouse.

Back to the Swann’s children – their first child was Maggie, who was born in 1893, their second child was Agnes Genevieve born in October 1897, and their third child, Mary was born 1899. 


In 1917 Aggie married Gordon Hay-Mackenzie, a New Zealander who was the manager for the Union Steam Ship Company in Samoa.

They had three services on their wedding day – a church service at the Protestant church, a service so that they were married under New Zealand law, and finally a service so as to be married under Samoan law.

As you see the church is quite famous and has adorned a stamp for 50 sene, which means 50 cents.
A Samoan Tala (ST) or dollar at today’s rate of ST 1 = about $0.50 AUD 0r $0.36 USD.
In 1918, during the global flu epidemic, Aggie boarded the Talune for the voyage back to Apia after visiting New Zealand.

eight_col_Talune S.S Talune

The passengers onboard feared the disease as did Aggie, but she became ill during the voyage and nearly died.
Once the passengers left the ship in Apia the flu spread far and wide. The Samoans did not have resistance to this disease and thousands died. Fortunately, Aggie survived. 

To put it in perspective, during the flu epidemic in 1918, Europe lost 1.1 % of their population, but in Samoa 90% of the population were affected and 30% of adult men, 22% of adult women, and 10% of children died.


Colonel Robert Logan

Colonel Robert Logan was the New Zealand Administrator for Samoa having held the position since the outbreak of war in 1914.
He did not have enough people to help bury the dead from the epidemic.
Many were cremated, but the Samoan Islanders were not keen on this so the Colonel gathered Solomon Islanders and Germans who were still in Samoa after WWI to dig a large pit to bury the dead.
The Solomon Islanders were then told to find the dead and to place the bodies in the pit.
To sweeten the unpleasantness for the Solomon islanders the Colonel gave each worker two ‘nobblers’ of whisky, which is about 10 fluid ounces or just under a half of today’s standard bottle of whisky!  

They had just about filled one pit and had found a Chinese man in a fale stretched out, so they picked him up and placed him in the pit.
The Solomon Islanders began to scatter lime across the bodies when the Chinese man came back to life (he had been asleep) and ran off.
The islanders chased the man shouting that the doctor had said he was dead, so he must be dead, so stop running so that we can bury you properly.

Thankfully due to the ‘nobblers’ they soon tired of chasing the ‘dead’ Chinese man.   

In 1925 Aggie’s husband Gordon Hay-Mackenzie became ill with tuberculosis and went to New Zealand in the hope of a cure, unfortunately he died soon after arriving in New Zealand.

Age 12 cropAggie in 1912 

In the footsteps of Capt. Cook & Bligh.


1960 reconstruction of HMS Bounty

Being in charge of the our Pacific agent network, I had to visit Tahiti of course . . well, someone had to do this difficult task!

Tahiti was originally called Otaheite, and once again it is thought the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the islands in 1606, but others consider it was the Spanish.
In 1767 the British arrived and in 1768 it was the turn of the French.
In 1769 Captain Cook arrived to observe the transit of Venus, and in 1788 Captain Bligh arrived in the Bounty.
Capt. Bligh’s orders were to take breadfruit from Tahiti to be transplanted in the West Indies to feed the plantation slaves.


Painting by Thomas Gosse of Captain Bligh transplanting breadfruit.



Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward Groupe of islands of the Society Islands and now the citizens of the islands are considered French citizens.

Soc Is

Our agent booked me in to a hotel near the capital, which is called Pape’ete (Papeete ). It was a very nice hotel, and the views were spectacular.



Two views depending on whether you looked right or left or just right ahead. I took the above two from the hotel.

As you see the sand was a different colour than the normal yellow sand, because the island was formed by a volcano. The dark sand had the same consistency as yellow sand, and you did not get any dirtier than you do on a ‘yellow’ beach. 

black sand Tahiti also has black sand beaches.

Woodland SF

View from my room area.


The following morning, I was picked up from my hotel and taken to our agent’s office.
He was also the agent for Blue Star, Nedlloyd Shipping, China Nav. Co, Mitsue OSK Shipping, Nippon Yusen, Holland America Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Crystal Cruises, BHP, American Bureau of Shipping and a few that I cannot make out on the list on the left side of the main door. At least the company that I represented stood out on the right side of the main door.


Downtown Papeete in 1991

Our agent was the perfect host, as soon as business was over, he took me to Le Retro in the heart of Papeete for coffee and a chat about life away from the office. I checked on the restaurant and it is still going strong thirty years later.

Our agent is the gentleman in the centre, near the pillar.

There are experiences that stick in one’s mind for ever. During my stay in Tahiti, I was taken to a restaurant a short drive from Papeete . It was a fish restaurant called Restaurant Bar du Musee Gauguin – the restaurant is right on the water and outside one can see fish swimming in pens – all raw fish scraps are fed to these fish and they grow quite large before being added to the menu. The restaurant has been in business since 1968.

restaurant The above is the restaurant and you can just see the pens for the live fish – the food was excellent and ambiance just right with a cool breeze flowing through the restaurant creating a perfect tropical lunch. 

On my return to my hotel, I received an invitation from the hotel to attend a beachside evening dinner …. the hotel gave its guests the choice of dinner in the hotel or on the beach with a show.


Three guesses which one I picked . . 


I was impressed with the way the dancers moved, it was if they had ball bearings for Hips . .click for an example of what I mean. The beat of the drums and the warm evening was a real pleasure to watch the skill of the dancers.


Unlike Captain Bligh (Trever Howard) I was not asked to join the dancers. 


The show was not all dancing, they had a fire ‘eater’ as well.


Daylight after the beach show – you can see the stage and the foot lights. 

The following day would be my last day in Tahiti so our agent took me for a sightseeing tour of the island and later asked if I would like to have a look around the Wind Song, because he was the agent for Windstar Cruises and the Wind Song was in port. 

WindSong I jumped at the idea of having a look around MSY Wind Song 
MSY = Motor Sailing Yacht.


She was larger than I expected.


and the controls on the bridge were very impressive. The sails were all computer controlled for hauling and changing the angle to catch the best of the wind.


Perhaps the climbing of a mast would no longer be required.

The Wind Song was launched in 1987, but in 2002 she had a fire in the engine room, which required the passengers to take to the lifeboats at 3.15 one morning.
At 5.00 am they heard an explosion from the forward area of the ship and the captain order all of the crew to the lifeboats.


If you wish to read an eyewitness account of the evacuation (with pictures) click on this link.

The French navy towed the Wind Song to Papeete, but the damage to the ship was so bad that they realised that repairing the ship was greater than the ship’s value, plus the cost of towing her overseas to be scrapped was also too expensive.

In January 2003 on the orders of the President of the Territorial Government of French Polynesia the Wind Song was towed to a spot between Tahiti and the island of Moorea and scuttled, and she is still there today at a depth of 9,843 feet (3,000 mtrs or 1640 fathoms).

The ship was owned by Holland America Cruise Line, which in turn is owned by Carnival Corporation.

The following day I flew back to Sydney with a promise to myself to return one day with Maureen. After all she likes fish restaurants.


My final photograph as I left for the airport.

Coffee Country


Papua New Guinea’s flag.

After my trip to Singapore and the other Asian offices I was asked to visit our next-door neighbour Papua New Guinea, because TNT had offices in this country and we planned to use these inter-company connections as our agent for courier traffic.
This was the start of my Pacific Island-hopping time.


The map shows Australia and Papua New Guinea – the red dot on the Australia is Sydney and the red dot on the yellow area, which is PNG, is the capital Port Moresby.

It is thought that people have lived in PNG for over 60,000 years and it was not until the Portuguese and Spanish arrived in the 16th century that the first Europeans took notice of the area around PNG.

Jorge de Menezes, a Portuguese explorer arrived in about 1526 and is thought to have named the people ‘Papua’, which is a Malay word for frizzy hair of the local people.

Later, about 1545 the Spanish arrived and named the area New Guinea because they considered that the locals reminded them of the natives of West Africa around Guinea.

Over the years various Europeans have navigated around what we now know as PNG and in the 1870’s a Russian Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai arrived and lived with the locals for some years.


Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai

He does not look all that happy, perhaps he is thinking of returning to a Russian winter.

In 1883 the colony of Queensland tried to annex part of PNG, but the British Government did not approve until Germany took an interest and started settlements in the northern areas of PNG, at which time the British, in 1884, declared the southern area of Papua New Guinea a British protectorate.
It was called British New Guinea, which, in 1902 was placed under the control of Australia, and remained so until independent in 1975, except for four years when the northern part was under the control of the Japanese (1941 -45).

At the beginning of WW1 Australian troops took control of German New Guinea until the end of the war.
In 1921 the League of Nations gave Australia a mandate to govern the ex- German territory and Australia did so until independence.

I found PNG to be a fascinating place and the staff at the main TNT office in Port Moresby were very hospitable and full of local knowledge.

I love odd bits of trivia – such as – in PNG until 1933 seashells were used as the local currency.


PNG has the only poisonous bird in the world – the   Hooded Pitohui

Port Moresby_article

and on a brighter note – Port Moresby the capital, I know it has had troubles in the recent past but in the late 1980’s it was peaceful and a friendly place.

I was only in POM (the code for Port Moresby airport) for a couple of days and it was a ‘getting to know’ you trip, rather than a hard business trip of negotiations for maximising profit.

On leaving I was presented with a large carton of Papua New Guinea coffee. In the carton were small solid bricks of vacuumed packed ground coffee, and until I visited Papua New Guinea I had not tried PNG coffee.

From memory I am sure it was Goroka coffee, but the packaging was not as fancy in the late 80’s. Goroka is an area in the Eastern Highlands.


Try this link for Black Coffee if you like

Black coffee

 A blast from the past . .

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