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Pius: Magical monsters, dealing death & glory


Bubu Pius MY OLD BUBU in Kundiawa (who recently died) was one of the first local people to meet the white men.

His name was Pius (pronounced Pews in the family). He was a teenager when Jim Taylor's expedition first arrived in Simbu in the late thirties.

Because he was one of the first locals to learn Tok Pisin he was employed as an interpreter.

In Pius’s memory, those early settlers were not benevolent. Jim Taylor was like a malign despot who killed many people and treated the locals very badly.

Pius's stories about the early Australian administration were disturbing. His job was to arouse the villagers in the morning to work on the Kundiawa airstrip.

The airstrip was built by forcibly recruiting local villagers to carry big rocks from Wara Simbu to make the foundations - you can see them to this day.

If people did not get up at sunrise and get to the works on time, they were beaten and sometimes killed. They were not paid, other than a bit of food twice a day, which was inadequate.

Some starved, some were beaten to death, some died of cold and overwork. A local anecdote to be sure, but history must see the past from both sides.

According to Bubu Pius, Jim Taylor and the early Australians were magical monsters, dealing death and glory with the same hand.

Photo: Bubu Pius


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Peter Kranz

I have just been talking to Mana trying to unravel the truth of Bubu Pius' recollections.

She agrees with what he said about the building of Kundiawa airstrip. He was her father-in-law after all.

The locals were forcibly recruited to form man-chains to pass up the rocks from Wara Simbu to the airstrip. Some fell.

Her grandfather was one of the workers. His name was Gehrig Gamba Gogl (Phonetic spelling - I think this means red soil).

Jim Taylor is remembered by Mana's family as basically a good man, who brought peace between Catholic and Lutheran missions and respected local traditions.

But he did have three local wives. One each from Kundiawa, (Nigl Denbah or Kuman Gamba - Mana's great Auntie); one from Banz and another from Goroka.

So dealing death and glory is not a bad description. Or perhaps dealing moral compromise and necessary pragmatism.

Ralph Hamilton

Mein Gott, Peter. Wow! Ella Beach has not looked that good for many a year.

:) Maybe the dogs would have looked after it better :)

Peter Kranz

Ralph - check out this picture of Ela Beach in 1968. How many Papua New Guineans can you see?

Ralph Hamilton

Peter - The answer is both, yes, and no. They were men of their time.

The blacks were non-people, therefore how could it be murder. You see it all the time. If you depersonalize people, it is easier to kill them. Call them "abos, gooks, ragheads, noggies," whatever.

About a year ago, outside the Hamilton Pub, (Brissie) there was a group of drunk 20 something Australian males screaming at some migrants "f---ing refos".

I am sometimes very ashamed of my fellow Australians. I am a sixth generation Aussie on my father's side, and thousands of years on my mum's side - part aboriginal (Bunjullung).

I am very proud of my country, and the courage of our ancestors in the various wars. However, being an isolated white nation in the vast Asia Pacific region, has engendered in us, an unhealthy dose of xenophobia. That went with us wherever we went, including PNG.

Like the old sign on Ella Beach, long taim bilong Masta: NO DOGS OR NATIVES ALLOWED Watpo ol dok i itambu? Olgeta dok em i gutpela. Ol dog I mekim pekpek long nambis tasol. Husait kisim save long ol bilack mangi I wokim wanrem long nambis? :D

Ralph Hamilton

Raping young village girls was common amongst expats in the taim bilong masta.

The saying was: "If they are tall enough to see over a 44 (44 gallon drum) they are too old." One could only imagine how the local people felt about this.

If you perceive some of your fellow humans as 'non-people', it leaves you free to do as you wish, without a pang of conscience, or any consideration as to the injury and hardship you inflict upon them.

Ol masta dringim bia, na wokabout long ples na pulim meri.

Peter Kranz

I see no-one has seen fit to contradict Pius' original account.

So were Jim Taylor and his ilk murderers?

Peter Kranz

Bubu Pius chose not to live in Pastor Moses' house, but preferred the outside kitchen hut, where he always kept the fire burning.

The piglets lived there too, and I well remember sitting in front of the fire listening to his stories, being translated to me by my brother, often interrupted by the piglets squealing.

It was like listening to a recording of a past and completely different time. Outside my experience.

My greatest regret is not having a tape recorder with me.

Peter Kranz

A family story about Jim Taylor. A PNG Cinderella?

I tell this anecdote as it was told to me. A personal memory - I have no objective evidence to back it up, but I strongly believe my Auntie does not lie.

Taylor - a brief biographical note:

"In 1942-45 Taylor served in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU). In March 1942 he was wounded by rebel police at Angoram, but on recovery served behind enemy lines in the Sepik, then in the Highlands.

"Between November 1944 and June 1945, with J V Barry and Ian Hogbin, he planned a war compensation scheme for Papua New Guineans, then moved to Port Moresby as Assistant Director of Labour. As such Taylor ranked as the Territory's second senior kiap, but in September 1946 dropped salary to take charge of the Highlands.

"In January 1948 he was reprimanded for not reporting a shooting of natives by a junior kiap, and resigned in October 1949.

"He married Yerima Manamp, grew vegetables and coffee, and worked gold leases on tribute at Porgera. He settled west of Goroka, and died there of pneumonia on 28 June 1987. His wife, two daughters and an adopted son survived him."

In the early '50's (maybe late '40's) an Auntie of my wife's became Jim Taylor's girlfriend for a short time. She lived in Simbu province, west of Goroka.

The local people were scared of him. He would ride into a village on a horse (which they weren't familiar with) and dispense justice and administrative responsibilities. The local people were in awe and somewhat scared.

Once he saw my Auntie - who was then an attractive young girl. He took a fancy to her as she was good-looking, and later visited her village and asked if she would go out with him.

Well one thing led to another, and after a while he asked her to come to a local dance with him at the administrative headquarters.

Note - this was a dance for expats and colonial administrators, and local 'natives' were not welcome, and even barred from attending.

She said she had no waitpela clothes to wear. So he went to Goroka, bought her an evening dress and presented this to her. She put it on, was swung up on to his horse and off they went to the dance.

Unfortunately on entering, and despite Taylor's protestations, she was banned. In grief and despair, she tore off the dress and ran naked all the way back to her village - humiliated.

She never saw Taylor again.

My Auntie married another Australian man and still lives in far north Queensland.

Bruce Copeland

The Australian nation has a bad record of violence to aborigines going back to early times. The aborigines were described as a race who killed with spears and attacked white settlers.

There have been recorded incidents. School children had long been taught that John Batman arrived in Victoria and said to someone that Port Phillip Bay was the site for a village.

He promptly bought the land from the aborigines who signed a deed and the land as far as could be seen belonged to Batman and his mate Fawkner.

Could you imagine a white man arriving in Papua 200 years ago and saying that Simpson Harbour was the place for a village. He then got a big piece of paper and had a group of Motu people make marks on the paper, giving all the coastal land to him. They were now trespassers.

He did not speak to them in a language they understood. He just pointed at the paper, swept an arm across real estate and grunted. He then made a mark on the paper with a black stick and gave it to the villagers to do the same. Transaction complete.

The worst known massacre of aborigines occurred at Churnside manor near Melbourne. In late 1800s, the owner made friends with the local aboriginal tribes and invited them to a distribution of food. He gave bags of poisoned flour. They never came back. That is recorded history.

The next worst known massacre occurred in the north of Western Australia in 1926, the same year as the Kaisenik massacre on the Edie Creek gold fields.

A tribe of aborigines had committed some offence. The police inspector ordered the police and native police to arrest the men of the tribe. They were taken into the bush, shot and their bodies

Bruce Copeland

What we write is not intended to cause trouble. But it should make us all aware that violence is very much part of colonisation.

Out of this time of violence of the Masta Mick and Jim Taylor era came the time of the kiaps when law and order was generally the order of the day.


Perhaps we will never get at the truth, but I have a feeling too many waitpela historians have glossed over the awkward evidence and relied on official testimonies.

It is not easy to recall or gather evidence for events that happened 70 or 80 years ago and local people at the time did not have a written language to record the facts.

However the deeply-ingrained memories of the old people and their families must be given credence (with due checks and balances).

The social sciences like anthropology and history may not be exact sciences, relying on folk memories, local languages, beliefs traditions and culture.

I don't wish to be too academic, but an excellent little book which discusses such issues is 'The Idea of a Social Science and It's Relation to Philosophy' by Peter Winch.

He says "the concept of understanding is rooted in a social context." It follows that unless you share a social context with those who have experienced an historical event, you cannot truly understand it.

How many white historians and writers have a "shared social context" with the Simbu people in the 1940's? Or indeed with any PNG communities about which they write?

Bruce Copeland

Peter: I recall a media report several years ago of an unexploded war time bomb found in the Wahgi valley.

I am glad you raised these matters. We white people have a whitewashed understanding of PNG history.

I never forget the TV documentary of the killings the old man claimed were carried out by Master Mick. Long "Dotiwara em i kilim planti. Em i man bilong kilim ol man".

It was shown on Australian TV in the 1980s. Then the next edition had the old man's testimony edited out.

Bruce Copeland

John Fowke - Why do you make such remarks as below? The revelation by Peter on this blog is quite mind blowing.

If true, it makes the Kaisenik massacre seem like a Sunday School picnic. Type 'Kaisenik' into Google.

Bruce Copeland

In the last decade, I have become involved in promoting a number of issues, particularly AIDS awareness and trekking of Kokoda.

I have had deep but sad interest in HIV/AIDS because of the deaths of family members.

I have been amazed that over this time, my knowledge of HIV/AIDS has increased incrementally until the NGO AIDS Holistics has become a world leader in integrating all aspects from nutrition, family, physiology, faith and psychology. Holistics is just that.

I have studied at the University of Queensland gaining degrees in Arts and Education. As a teacher and army officer I moved around and was forced to focus only on those subjects to be studied by correspondence, including education, psychology, ideology, history and government. Physiology was studied as an internal student.

In doing so, I have learned to integrate knowledge so that my degrees of 40 years ago are hopefully as fresh and up-to-date as in the decades when I studied. I learned how to approach knowledge and work at all times to reduce my knowledge to unity with no over-simplification.

Recently I attended a seminar in which the Director of the National AIDS Council spoke on the 9 topics being promoted at present in the national HIV/AIDS response.

He said that within two years he wanted these reduced to 2 topics. He is an educated man who wants to integrate knowledge to unity. Then knowledge becomes easier for ordinary people to understand.

Society always wants to put knowledge into boxes. This makes people think in boxes. It makes some jealous of those who do not.

I have been promoting the physiology of HIV/AIDS for many years and during that time have not known of any mistakes.

So too I have promoted war history of Kokoda within the background of history, ideology, geography and physiology.

There have been critics who accuse me of being a self-appointed expert on all matters. It gets easier as knowledge is reduced to unity.

There can be close links between physiology, sociology, psychology, ideology, economics, government and history. Study of humanity and the animal world is all about needs. The needs not fulfilled can result in war or annihilation.

I am not an expert in all matters. I have no idea of how to preserve fossilized woolly mammoths, refurbish the Sistine chapel frescoes, design gyrocopters, heal by acupuncture, date Egyptian mummies, convince the Japanese not to kill whales, understand the fate of the world with global warming and overpopulation and be a millionaire.

I do know my limitations.

[email protected]


There is much evidence and academic research to corroborate Bub Pius' memories.

On the violence of Jim Taylor's expeditions and the early administration, there are many eyewitness accounts in Paula Brown's excellent book 'Beyond a Mountain Valley'.

Here's one quote: "Jim Taylor went to Mt Hagen and came back to Kunabau" [where an axe was stolen but not returned].

"So Jim Taylor was getting very angry this time [and] told his police men to shoot the Siambugla Wauga people. They killed about 2 or 3 hundred people at Kunabau".

In an interview many years later Taylor admitted that the official reports of casualties were "modified" [Connolly and Anderson, 1987]

On the building of the airstrip, Leo Schepsa notes: "At least 4,000 Chimbu civilians were recruited during the Highlands Campaign between May and August 1943.

"Domestic press coverage emphasised the role of stretcher-bearers at Kokoda, deflecting public attention from the widespread use of indigenous labour for road and airstrip building and the carrying of materiel in other parts of PNG.

"A high proportion of Chimbu were recruited forcibly by the Native Constabulary. Witnesses recorded an inadequate diet and harsh conditions for the labourers. Village life was substantially disrupted, both through the absence of young males for traditional tasks and the introduction of dysentery.

"In their absence Christian missionaries were unable to intervene on their behalf. The long-term effects included the introduction of malaria to the PNG Highlands and the desire of labourers to return to their own land, eventually to grow coffee." ['Chimbu participation in the Pacific war', The Journal of Pacific History, vol 30 no 1, June 1995]

Reginald Renagi

An interesting article by Peter. I hope Dame Meg Taylor reads this blog and makes some appropriate comments as her famous father is mentioned here.

Great stuff, Peter, keep the stories coming as I enjoyed reading about a time that time forgot in PNG, when the white man was the masta, boss and sometimes had the power of life and death over the native 'kanakas' as they once referred to my people. But now now. You could get killed for saying that to a PNGean today.

John Fowke

Why don't poor old Peter and poor old Bruce get together and found their own blog, thus providing a focus for those in the community with a goat or two loose in the top paddock, and allowing 'PNG Attitude' to maintain a modicum of objectivity in prosecuting its main aim.



According to Pius, people were roused out of their huts at sunrise and forced to work till sunset, so there was not one left to work in the gardens as the Australians didn't understand the need for this.

That is why people were starving, Pius was quite explicit about this. He saw people sick and starving back in their huts as they were too weak to work. His words.

Effrey Dademo

Interesting account of events, Peter. I just have one question: why were people starving or not eating, when they were in their own villages and living in their own huts?

Were they taken into some kind of camp where food was under the control of someone else? Sorry, but this bit, I just don't get.

Otherwise, I agree that history must see the past from both sides. You've told your bubu's side of the story, so Meg Taylor may want to comment also.


Another anecdote Pius told me which has the ring of truth. In 1941 or 1942 (dates are not accurate in PNG) the Japanese sent some bombers down the Wahgi valley to find Australian bases. Locals saw them fly over.

Maybe they didn't find the bases, but on their way back they flew over Kundiawa/Simbu and dropped bombs, maybe hoping to hit the Australian admin base. One fell on a village house where Pius's girlfriend lived and killed her.

He never married after that. He didn't like the Japanese.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I think it might be a good idea to get Meg Taylor to comment on this one, Keith.


Amazingly his memories of white men were not all bad. He told me of the steel tools they brought, the wite pela justice, of schools and aid posts, of the largely successful attempts to end tribal warfare, and the coming of the missionaries.

His village (Goglme) was rather notorious for killing one of the first ministers to visit the area, who made the mistake of advancing on the village in the company of tribal enemies from a different clan. Rather like a US president coming in peace accompanied by Osama Bin Laden!

Australian colonisation of PNG was not a "black and white" affair. There were doubtless some atrocities and mistakes made by many.

I gave him the hat you can see him wearing. He died with it still on. May you be in peace Bubu Pius!


My Bubu was here until last year, and he told me his memories.

Taylor and the early Australians left an abiding memory of savagery and brutality with the local people which is in their memories to this day.

For example, he alleged that Taylor would regularly rape young village girls.

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