06 Sep 2017

Two boys from Fiji

When we think of the boys who have come to Newington from the islands of the Pacific over our long history, we tend to think of students native to those countries. But members of expatriate European families have also been part of this history. The story of two such boys from the 1880s came to light as the result of an enquiry I received last month from a descendant.

Horace and John Francis (‘Frank’) Hill entered Newington College at the beginning of 1880, Horace being thirteen and a half and Frank a year younger. Their father, Captain John Hill, had emigrated from Northern Ireland to New South Wales around 1860. In 1870, he had purchased the island of Rabi, also known as Rambi, in Fiji, from King George Tupou I of Tonga, and had established a coconut and sugar plantation. His young family moved there from Sydney in 1873.

Our admission register reveals that the boys had been in the charge of a governess on Rabi, but the Head Master, Joseph Coates, appears to have been unimpressed with the results, rating both boys’ knowledge of subjects variously as ‘poor’, ‘none’ and ‘very bad’. They were among the seventy students who made the move from Newington House at Silverwater to the new school at Stanmore in July 1880. They stayed at Newington until June 1882, when they returned to Rabi.

Frank subsequently had a successful career in the Fijian coconut and sugar industries, managing plantations for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other firms. Horace’s life, however, was tragically cut short. In September 1885, The Newingtonian reported that he had been out hunting on Rabi when he suddenly fell, his gun discharging into his leg. Medical help was days away and he died after three days’ suffering, aged just eighteen.

Mr David Roberts
College Archivist