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Solved: The long-standing puzzle of Dal Chambers & Paul Pora


THE late Paul Pora, three times Member of Parliament and founding chairman of Air Niugini, was the son of Australian patrol officer Dal (Dalkeith) Chambers.

Dal Chambers, who was officer-in-charge in Mt Hagen in the Western Highlands, had befriended a local Yamka (Yamuga) woman, Rok, a daughter of a Yamka Pepka man, Marai. Rok became pregnant.

In 1942, because of World War II, the Australian patrol officers including Dal Chambers (and his wife Joan) were ordered to leave Hagen.

According to accounts, the young pregnant Rok and three of her male cousins accompanied Paul Pora’s father on the journey to Goroka, but later turned back. Sometime later, Rok gave birth to a male child.

Dal ChambersIt was said that, after the war, Dal Chambers returned to Hagen to try and find his child. The Yamka people told him that the woman and child had died at childbirth. In fact, Rok had been married into the neighbouring Mokei Komunka tribe.

The child, Paul Pora, was hidden from his father and other Europeans for some years for fear they might take him away.

For a long time, Paul Pora’s children were not aware that Dal Chambers was their grandfather. That Paul Pora also used the name Paul Pora-Schmidt led some people to believe that his father’s name was Schmidt.

He probably used the name in acknowledgement of a Lutheran family named Schmidt who, in his earlier days, assisted him with his education. It was also said, incorrectly, that Paul was the son of Ludwig Schmidt, an Austrian gold prospector who was active around Hagen, Porgera and other parts of PNG in the 1930s and 1940s.

People became aware of the connection between Paul Pora and Dal Chambers because of the resemblance between them and because Paul himself several times drew attention to the name ‘Chambers’.

The name ‘Dembit’ or ‘Dembits’ which appears in some Hagen church records after 1944 may have been an effort at pronouncing ‘Chambers’.  When Paul Pora’s mother was asked by her grandchildren about his father, she uttered a name that sounded like ‘Jemis’ or ‘Chemis’.

Apparently the Leahy family was aware of the connection between Dal Chambers and Paul Pora. In 1995 John Fowke published a book, Kundi Dan, which was mainly about Danny Leahy. In the book was the photo shown here of a group of expatriates on the airstrip at Mt Hagen.

Dal Chambers is in the photograph and there is a strong resemblance to Paul Pora, both in facial expression and stance. The photo was shown to some old Yamka Pepka men from Paul’s mother’s clan and they immediately recognised Dal Chambers as being Paul’s father.

Paul Pora studies politics and economics at the University of Papua New Guinea in the early 1970’s and went on to become the first Chairman of Air Niugini. He was three times member of parliament and spent time as Minister for Finance and Minister for Civil Aviation. He was a gentleman and a peacemaker.

His contemporary at university and publisher of PNG Attitude recalls him as “smart, gentle and a great pleasure to be around”.

At Paul’s funeral in 2010, the relationship to Dalkeith Chambers was mentioned by Garry Roche, who also knew Paul, to John and Dulcie, two of Paul’s children.

With assistance from Garry, Paul’s daughters Dulcie and Pauline later contacted Dal Chambers’ relatives in Australia.

The Chambers’ family had become aware of the possible connection just before being contacted by Garry Roche and Paul’s daughters. It was a situation that had to be handled carefully out of respect for Dal’s wife Joan Chambers (deceased) and her children.

More recently both families have had DNA testing done which proves that Paul Pora was indeed the son of Dal Chambers.

Dal Chambers’ children did tell Paul’s daughters that their father had gone back to New Guinea in the early 1950’s for an unknown reason. In more recent times, members of Paul Pora’s family have had friendly meetings with members of Dal Chambers’ family in Australia.

Klemm monoplane on Mogei airstrip, 1938Group photo: Pilot Willy Schaffhausen a mission pilot died in Fokker aircrash near Alexishafen Madang in 1939. Pilot Charles Raymond (Bob) Gurney of Guinea Airways died in combat during World War II.  Gurney airport is named after him.  The Klemm monoplane may well be the one that was still flying recently (see Pat Studdy-Clift, ‘The Incredible Klemm’).

Authors’ note: Telling the story of Dalkeith Chambers and Paul Pora, is in some ways a sensitive issue.  As John Fowke noted in an earlier comment in PNG Attitude (see below), some missionaries also had relationships with local women and produced offspring, some of these cases are well authenticated. None of us are in a position to be too judgemental about such events.  It seems that Paul Pora’s father made a genuine effort to find him, his mother’s people decided not to help him, but he did try.

Footnote: John Fowke posted this comment in PNG Attitude on 24 March 2013:

I was approached a year or three ago by a lady of the same family who works for Patrick Killoran, Banz Kofi, in his office at Kagamuga. I was able to provide her with a photograph, and memories from my talks with late Dan Leahy of Korgua and Kuta back in around 1990. The Leahys, notably Clem and Joe, both present in Mt Hagen area today, all believe that Dan’s recollection that the Pora/Schmidt family is descended from Dal Chambers is correct. I expect that the present-day descendants of Father Ross would also be able to confirm this – they are present in Mt Hagen today.

Dan and Mick Leahy were in close contact several times with Ludwig Schmidt as he moved thru the Hagen area and on to Wabag and Maramuni and would have known if he had left a child behind him. I also found a reference to Dal Chambers’ war-service which I passed on to the lady mentioned above. I know nothing of his life after the war, or indeed if he survived it. On page 146 of my book Kundi Dan there is a photograph of a group at Mt Hagen on the old Mogei airstrip taken in 1938. Included in the group are both Dal Chambers and Mrs Chambers. The book is available from Patrick’s café at Kagamuga and from the Christian Bookshop in town.


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Noel Pascoe

I don’t know anything about Paul Pora’s father but I do know that Paul was a beaut bloke.

As a reporter for the Post-Courier and roaming the Highlands from my Goroka base, I met Paul when he was the council clerk of the Mt Hagen Council. His title was really what was later called executive officer.

He put me up for a night or two when I didn’t have a hotel booking. He was very helpful with local issues and he was a decent leader. Saddened to hear of his passing.

I can confirm Noel's views about Paul. I shared a small politics honours class with Paul at UPNG in 1976 (and other notables Utula Samana and Rabbie Namaliu, also fine men). Paul was personable, smart and clearly a man of honour - KJ

Pauline Pora Kama

Again, we thank Father Garry Roche for insisting that we do the search and making the first phone call on our behalf. The confusion is over. DNA is a powerful thing.

Interestingly, although Paul Pora never knew his father, they both had been farmers at different stages of their lives. Paul Pora loved the land. Dalkeith Chambers' children told us that their father loved the land.

Both Dalkeith Chambers and Paul Pora, as young men, each with his wife, had established and owned plantations. Dalkeith and his wife Joan once owned Induna Plantation in East New Britain. Paul Pora and his wife Hilan started Dobel Coffee plantation in Mt Hagen.

Both men purchased farm land later on in life, they didn't like city life. They were both honest, hard working men, both had held positions of leadership in Mt Hagen, Dalkeith Chambers during colonial times, Paul Pora after Independence.

Paul Pora's mother, Rok Marai, had worked her own food gardens into her old age. Character traits and interests often flow through generations. DNA, it's a powerful thing! Just a bit more to this amazing story.

Daniel Pora-Schmidt

Confused! Live simple, do not want more than you need... Good food for thought

Timothy Awa

Very interesting piece. Some people say Paul Pora's father originated from Germany. But this finding is convincing given the usage of the the name Chambers as Dembits in Melpa. It resembles Fr Ross name in Melpa as Petros/Petrus.

Garry Roche

Ban Pombra, thank you for your comments. However I must state that here was no reference or information concerning the paternity of Paul Pora in the Rebiamul Church records.

The late Paul Pora was affiliated with the Lutheran Church and the example of ‘Dembits’ appearing in Church records was simply an illustration of how locals were pronouncing ‘Chambers’.

It was not unusual for children to be named after prominent kiaps without in any way implying paternity. Another example would be the name “Dos” which was an effort at pronouncing “George” - George Greathead was another kiap. “Ten” signified “Dan” (Dan Leahy).

There were several clues to the possibility that (Dal) Dalkeith Chambers was the father of Paul Pora.

In conversation with me personally, Paul Pora himself had shown a curious interest in the name ‘Chambers’. There was a strong resemblance between Paul Pora and a photo of Dal Chambers in John Fowke’s book ‘Kundi Dan’.

When shown this photo of Dal Chambers older Yamka tribesmen identified him straightaway. The Leahy Family were aware of the connection between Dal Chambers and Paul Pora, but did not speak much about it. DNA testing later confirmed the relationship.

It is true that Church records if well preserved do have a lot of information regarding births, baptisms, and marriages. In the absence of civil registration, these records were often relied on for information re date of birth etc.

At the same time Church officials would have a duty to treat this information with necessary confidentiality.

Mathias Kin

This is indeed a very interesting story and well told too.

Ban Pombra

Fr Garry Roche is the right person to consult if he says Charles Chambers is the late Paul Pora's father. He is 100% sure of what he had said.

The Catholic Mission as been established in the Highlands since the 1930s. I'm sure all records are kept safe at the archdiocese of Mt Hagen (Rabiamul).

Peter Holm

I am quite sure that is not Bob Gurney in the photograph, it doesn't look like him and in 1938 he was flying for Qantas and in England training on Empire flying boats. I believe he left New Guinea in 1936.

Anita Wahawe

Pauline, wow! This confirms something my old man told me ... that he was a little older than your dad.

He remembers this about your dad, which is confirmed here, that "....they told your dad to run and hide if he sees any white men, that they will steal him.... "

You can confirm this from my dad. This is so amazing. Amazing. Like a jigsaw puzzle.

Roland Tumsok Funmat

Amazing read.

Melannie Pilamp

Wow... What an amazing story of your dad's history Pauline. Interesting piece..

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