My arrival in Tonga was in February, 1958. The next day was the annual Women’s World Day of Prayer, with a very impressive service held in the Centenary Church, Nuku’alofa. I shared the Queen Salote College house with Miss Glennis Leach and Miss Joan Collins and took some lessons in the College, while Miss D Rowlands was on leave. Liu Tongilava helped me with my first Tongan language lessons.
In April, 1958, I moved to Ha’apai, accompanied by Mrs Evelyn Thomas and Rev. Ron Woodgate, Church President. We were warmly welcomed by ministers and their wives, by many local people, and by the staff of Pilolevu and Taufa’ahau Colleges Mr Woodgate conducted church meetings, and Mrs Thomas and I arranged furniture and furnishings in the minister’s house, and accepted generous gifts of food.
For two years I lived in that long house with verandahs front and back, and the office in the end room. Maukava, of Foa, lived with me, helping with cooking on the fuel stove and with housework.
Rev. Tevita Tu’ipulotu Taumoefolau was College Chaplain, and he and his wife, Kakala, gave considerable assistance to me and to the College staff and students. Tu’ipulotu gave me Tongan language lessons based on the New Testament. Siniva Helu was the Senior Tutor. Later, Ngalo’afe Finau from Queen Salote College was appointed to that position.
I also had oversight of Taufa’ahau College, where Sekona was Head Tutor, and later Sione Kami took his place.
One of the big events after my arrival at Pilolevu was the College Fete. I had been told that the Senior Minister at Pangai would officially open the Fete. He made his speech, during which I thought I heard reference to me. As I sat next to Kalala, I asked her what he had said. Yes! He was introducing me and calling me to speak and open the Fete. That was a lesson for to me to fit into a Tongan community, I had to be prepared to stand and speak on any topic, if asked to do so.
After two years, Rev. John Sutton was appointed to Ha’apai, arriving with his wife, Ruth, and their little daughter whose first birthday was celebrated in Nuku’alofa. They moved into the Minister’s house. The head mistress’ house, nearer the College buildings, was renovated and refurnished for me, with one room used as the College office/store room.
During my second year, there was one time of difficulty. A serious epidemic of influenza swept through the Ha’apai Islands. Several tutors and many students became ill, and we closed the College for a week or so.
I always appreciated the generosity of the people in towns and villages in supplying food for College students and staff. Sometimes I enjoyed a leg of chicken or a lobster. I felt honoured, some Sundays or on special occasions, to be invited to "‘a Fakaafe" in people’s homes.
On a few occasions I was able to visit the nearby islands of ‘Uiha, Foa, and Ha’ano, and once to Mo’unga’one.
I was impressed by the variety of Tongan craft which tutors and students made. This was important for the College Fete. I remember some days when my kitchen was full of busy tutors and students, and mixing bowls. Many sponge cakes were made for a fete.
Some aspects of the College programme which stood out were the weekly Christian Endeavour meetings and the Sunday morning prayer meetings, with so many participating.
Attending morning services at Pangai Church, it was good to have the Governor Hon. ‘Ahome’e, and Heuifanga, present. One special occasion I still remember, was having afternoon tea with Her Majesty, Queen Salote, in the royal house on Lifuka Island.
It was good to have girls from the scattered Ha’apai Islands come into the College and form friendships with each other. It was rewarding to promote some students to continue their education at Queen Salote College.
We praise God for the history of Pilolevu College during half a century. We ask God for His blessings for today, 1996. We look forward to the future with confidence, as the College proceeds in God’s strength and with His guiding hand.