Best of our new years: Recollections of a kiap
Best of our new years: Gorton was packin’ heat in Rabaul

Best of our new years: A serologist reminisces

2009 - Dr Peter Booth  first director of PNG blood bank  with assistant  1962
The late Dr Peter Booth,  first director of PNG blood bank with assistant,  1962


CHRISTCHURCH - The old hospital at Saiho, 18 miles and 18 rivers from Popondetta. Bush materials, flat swampy ground, a tropical paradise and absolutely lethal. Infested by mosquitoes all full of talciparum malaria, not chloroquin-resistant in my day.

The lab was much the size of an average garden shed, and, when it contained two burly Melanesians - Edward the technician and his mate - and myself, it seemed like Wembley Stadium on Cup Final Day.

l was even more envious after lunch with the Saiho Medical Officer. He was a single man with a mind well elevated above the humdrum, so he failed to notice that his housekeeping was being deplorably neglected by a handful of slovenly Papuan houseboys, who served up an abominable lunch: slices of bread being fried in pig grease on top of old 40 gallon drums. It smelt delicious.

However, an even worse meal from PNG is on record. It was served in 1888 at Government House, Port Moresby, to the Resident Deputy Commissioner, Hugh Hastings Romilly, who was living alone there, awaiting the arrival of the first Administrator, William MacGregor.

When Romilly came to breakfast on his first day, he was confronted by a table covered with a dirty old blanket on which was arranged a bizarre meal.

Cockroach Cheese, One Dutch
Blue mould sardines, One tin opened
Bitten bread, One hunk
Brandy, One bottle
Whisky, One bottle
Office gum, One pot


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