Gagl My teaching career lasted three years and it was only in the third that I got out of town and into the bush at Gagl, a Primary T School 15 km west of Kundiawa [see photo]. It was 1966 and it was the first time Gagl had seen a Standard 6 come through. Imbo Mundua, at 23, was the oldest student in the class. I was 21.

Ray Anderson, the senior educator in the Chimbu at the time, decided there should be a district-wide school athletics carnival. There hadn’t been anything like it previously that brought all the primary schools together. 

Assembling the 160 Gagl students before me one crisp sunny morning, with the mist carpeting the valley below, I explained what an athletics carnival was, how Gagl would compete against other schools and how we’d have our own contest first so we could choose a team. 

Then, deciding we needed a uniform, I found a source of cheap yellow tee shirts and a bolt of dark green laplap, adequate to the task of tailoring the logo of a soaring eagle, for which I provided a rudimentary template. And so was born the Gagl Eagles! Amateur seamstresses recruited from adjacent villages manufactured 30 sports uniforms. Ahead of the big day, we hired a truck to pick us up at Mingende Mission, the nearest point on the Highlands Highway, a 5 km walk. 

The athletes assembled in the Gagl playground on the morning of the carnival, surrounded by scores of chattering and cooing villagers. For the first time I saw the whole team in uniform. Not every eagle soared. Not every eagle was even recognisably avian. But the squad looked to me like the most thoroughgoing professional outfit ever gathered in those parts. 

Meg By the way, the carnival was an outstanding success. The Gagl kids, many of whom had never been to town before, were effervescing with excitement. Little Meg [see photo] convincingly put Gagl in front as she ran the final leg of the girls 4 x 100 metres relay. And big Imbo Mundua slew all before him in the boys’ long jump.

[David Keating [ASOPA 1961-62] is seeking your school sports reminscences from Papua New Guinea. Email him here with your contribution.]


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