PNG kids' photos of how they are
Dear Mr Rudd: re 'Montevideo Maru'

The story of Barthes the Chainer

Prague, Monday - I couldn't  make up my mind about whether to categorise the  bizarre episode recorded in the following documents as Sport, Events or Nostalgia, finally opting for the conservative and safe choice of History. If nothing else, it reminds us that Papua New Guinea offered up some strange characters - and peculiar incidents.

29 January 1958. Speaking at the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science in Canberra, PNG Assistant Administrator Dr John Gunther says: “There are some missions, and I regret they are amidst the bigger, who not only seek the soul but demand secular obedience…” [‘Hell Fire Theology’, South Pacific Post]

26 February 1958. ”Administration cooperation with the Missions in the Madang District was vital because the teaching of the Christian faith to natives was a main protection against communism, Mr I Downs MLC, said here recently”. [‘Christianity Main Protection, MLC Says’, South Pacific Post]

28 August 1958. A missionary from Goilala chains children by the neck for running away. At night they are chained under the house. Children who misbehave have their hair cut off and do road work. [‘Children Wear Chains’, South Pacific Post]

15 September, 1958. Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of Port Moresby Right Reverend Andre Sorin quotes from a 1916 Pastoral Letter to the Teachers of the Mission, which says: “Be strict in obtaining from the Children silence and good behaviour… Be firm but be kind… These little people are exceedingly light and giddy brained, easily distracted, very soon tired of keeping quiet and listening. You must bear patiently with them and never be violent or cruel.”

22 October 1958. Universal Children’s Day. GT Roscoe instructs schools to arrange an appropriate celebration.

5 November 1958. Administrator DM Cleland writes to Right Reverend Andre Sorin concerning a priest who chains truant school children under a house for periods of up to a month. Cleland says he could press charges of assault occasioning bodily harm and illegal deprivation of liberty but will not prosecute at this stage. “There can be no excuse for these practices on small children.”

5 November 1958. Cleland to Father J Barthes saying he will not prosecute at this stage as “I am inclined to believe that you acted under mistaken ideas that what you were doing was for the good of the people and as to the powers and authority of a parent or teacher… and unless I receive your undertakings to abandon these, what I can only describe as barbarous, practices forthwith or if I receive a report of their repetition, I should be failing in my duty if the full force of the law were not invoked.”

25 November 1958. Cleland writes to the Secretary, Department of Territories, in a memo entitled Jongai Mission – Chaining of Children by Missionary. He is replying to a radiogram concerning newspaper allegations. “The punishments included cutting off of hair, placing chains around the necks of a number of boys, imprisonment for periods of up to one month in unpleasant circumstances beneath the Mission house, and compulsory garden labour out of school hours. The local people according to their own statements were either not concerned or in agreement with what was done. Legal proceedings postponed at this stage.”

Source: The Blatchford Collection


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