Rev. George Brown and Sarah Lydia Wallis
Husband Rev. George Brown
Born: 7 Dec 1835 - Barnard Castle, Durham Christened: Died: 7 Apr 1917 - Sydney, Australia Buried:
Father: George Brown (1810-1868) Mother: Elizabeth Dixon (1811-1840)
Marriage: 2 Aug 1860 - Waingaroa (Raglan) Mission Station
Other Spouse: Ann Ferrier ( -1896)
Events in his life were:
• Methodist Chapel, Methodist Chapel - Barnard Castle, Durham
Wife Sarah Lydia Wallis
Born: Christened: Died: Buried:
Father: Rev James Wallis ( - ) Mother:
1 M 2 Boys 3 Girls Brown (details suppressed for this person)
Born: Christened: Died: Buried:
General Notes (Husband)
Robert Brown, son of George Brown, barrister, was born at Barnard Castle, Durham, England, on 7 December 1835. He was educated at a private school and on leaving, became an assistant in a doctors surgery, was afterwards with a chemist, and then in a draper's shop. He was, however, anxious to go to sea, and when 16 years old sailed in a large East Indiaman chartered by the government as a troop-ship. After going to the Mediterranean it went to Quebec. There Brown had an accident and broke his leg, providentially in his case, as the vessel was lost with all hands on her next voyage. After a short stay in Canada Brown returned to England but could not settle down. In March 1855 he sailed for New Zealand, among the other passengers being Bishop Selwyn and the Rev. J. C. Patteson, afterwards bishop of Melanesia. He joined Patteson's bible class, but "could not remember receiving any great spiritual benefit at that time". Landing at Auckland he went to Onehunga where he was kindly received by an uncle and aunt, the Rev. T. and Mrs Buddle. Under their influence he experienced a conversion and became a local preacher. In 1859 he decided to offer himself as a missionary to Fiji, and at the Sydney Methodist conference of 1860 was appointed. On 2 August he was married to Miss S. L. Wallis, daughter of the Rev. James Wallis. They left next month for Sydney where Brown was ordained, and going on to Samoa, arrived on 30 October.
When Brown began his work most of the natives were already professing Christians, and he immediately set to work building churches and mission houses and attending to the education of the children. He quickly learned the language, and every condition seemed favourable, but there was one disturbing feature. Germany was extending her influence in the islands, and some of her traders far from trying to keep the peace were selling arms and ammunition to the natives. One day war broke out between the natives of an adjoining district and those of his own centre, and Brown immediately hastened to place himself between the contending parties, and sat for the remainder of the day in the sun trying to make a truce between them. In this he was not successful and there was much fighting for some time. Brown, however, became a great figure among the Samoans. His varied experiences as a youth in the doctor's surgery and chemist's shop helped him in the simple doctoring of native ills, and his career as a sailor had taught him many things which were useful to him.
His mastery of the language was a great asset, and his human charity helped much in all his relations with both the natives and the white beachcombers living on the islands.
He left Samoa in 1874 with the intention of being transferred to New Britain and New Ireland, and travelled through Australia appealing for funds. In August 1875 Brown went to the New Britain group of islands and began his work there. In the early days he was constantly in danger of losing his life, as he worked among cannibalistic natives who were constantly fighting among themselves. Gradually he succeeded in winning his way among them, and after about a year had passed, the situation was so much better that his wife could join him. He was there a little more than five years and returned to Sydney in the beginning of 1881.
During the next six years he was engaged in deputation and circuit work. He also wrote a series of anonymous articles in the Sydney Morning Herald dealing with the necessity of British control of the island of the Pacific. He was thoroughly familiar with German methods, and was convinced that they constituted a menace both to the natives and the world in general. In 1887 he was appointed secretary of the board of missions of the Methodist Church and held this position for many years. In the following year he was appointed a special commissioner to report on the position in Tonga, where there had been serious trouble for some years during the premiership of S. W. Baker. He was able to speak the language of the natives and gather evidence for himself. He compiled a comprehensive and valuable series of Reports by the Rev. George Brown, Special Commissioner of the Australasian Wesleyan Methodist General Conference to Tonga, printed at Sydney in 1890.
He continued for many years to keep in touch with missionary work in Papua, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomons, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. In the islands in the German sphere of influence he had to walk warily, but his knowledge and experience were of the greatest value not only to his own church but to the British government. He resigned his position of general secretary of missions in 1907, and in the following year brought out his autobiography George Brown, D.D., Pioneer-missionary and Explorer.
In 1910 to he published Melanesians and Polynesians: Their Life-histories Described and Compared, a valuable record of the manners, customs and folklore of the islanders written by a man who had spent much of his time among them over a period of 48 years, and who was familiar with the Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and New Britain languages. He died at Sydney on 7 April 1917.
His wife survived him with two sons and three daughters. In addition to the books already mentioned Brown was the author of various pamphlets and articles, and was associated with the Rev. B. Danks in the preparation of a Dictionary of the Duke of York Language New Britain Group.
Brown as a young man belonged to the type that is always seeking adventure. Yet when he offered himself as a missionary it was feared he was too meek and mild, too wanting in spirit to be a suitable candidate. Yet this was the man who in 1875 went to the New Hebrides with his life in his hands, and in 1878 led a punitive expedition against a cannibal chief responsible for the massacre of Christian native teachers. He was essentially brave, honest, broad minded and sympathetic, much loved by his brother missionaries, everywhere respected and trusted by traders, officials and governors. He was a fine linguist and excellent ethnologist, who had a great influence for good throughout the Pacific islands.
George Brown, D.D., Pioneer-missionary and Explorer, an Autobiography; C. Brunsdon Fletcher, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society vol. VII, pp. 1-54; C. Brunsdon Fletcher, The New Pacific; The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April 1917.
THE LATE DR BROWN.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES BY THE EDITOR.
THE PIONEER MISSIONARY
My first sight of George Brown was in Auckland, in 1876, when he returned the first time from New Britain, with the blushing honours of that great adventure thick upon him. He went down alone, and during his absence Mrs Brown stayed with her father, the Rev James Wallis, who lived a few, yards away from the Grafton Road parsonage, which was then my home. So that when George Brown returned to take Mrs. Brown back with him to New Britain, I had the opportunity of hearing from him in private conversation certain details of his experiences which, for various reasons, were not usually dwelt upon on the public platform. He had brought back from that first plunge into rank heathenism sufficient evidence to justify the most orthodox and conservative view of original sin In connection with that visit there lives in my memory one of the most inspiring meetings I ever attended. The Choral Hall was crowded. Sir George Grey was in the chair, and with that silvery eloquence which charmed all who heard it, he descanted on the heroism of pioneer missionary work in the South Pacific. The whole audience rose to give an ovation to George Brown as he stepped forth to tell in a plain, unvarnished fashion the story of what he had seen, heard, thought, felt and determined on in New Britain. It was the first venture in the second era of missionary exploiting in the South Seas. The first great and incomparable triumphs in Tonga, New Zealand, Samoa, and Fiji had passed into history. For many years the Church was content to laud these early triumphs, without any vigorous attempt to add to their number. It was on the soul of George Brown that there fell the apostolic fire that impelled him to make a start to widen the area of missionary conquest. That pioneer visit to New Britain was the inauguration of the era that has seen New Britain, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Indian Mission in Fiji and Continental India brought within the scope of our missionary operations. That night in the Choral Hall George Brown had a tale to unfold such as no one present ever listened to be Heathenism is everywhere earthly, sensual and devilish, but it takes on various patterns in various lands. The New Britain variety had no lack of piquant horrors as presented to us in the story told by George Brown. He had wonderfully interesting things to say about the geographical features of the country, about its rich natural resources and the racial characteristics of the people he found there. We saw them for the first time, those curios in the shape of weapons, which with further additions I have made Dr Brown's collection so widely famous. But the outstanding impression made by what he said that night was that the curtain had been lifted on a land of darkness, so dense, so cruel, so devilish, that it cried aloud for the swift-footed messengers of the gospel of peace.
I was standing on the Auckland wharf when the old SS Hero was leaving for Sydney, bearing away Mr and Mrs Brown to the work that awaited them in New Britain. They had as one of the hard conditions of their lot to leave their children behind them and as I saw them parting from those children with tears to go forth to the toil and hardship that found them in New Britain. I had a lesson in sacrifice for missions that I have often used since in asking people how much sacrifice their gifts represent that find their way into the plate on Missionary Sunday.
ON THE DEFENSIVE.
The next time I saw George Brown was at the General Conference in Adelaide in 1881. At that conference he was on the defensive. The opening of the mission in New Britain had become an accomplished fact. Nothing but praise could be given for the heroism, the self-denial, shown by Mr. and Mrs. Brown in laying the foundation of Christian work among a people so deeply steeped in barbarism. But the establishment of the mission had been attended by some most unfortunate experiences. There was an outbreak of hostility on the part of some of the New Britain people, who attacked a station occupied by native teachers from Fiji and Tonga, some of whom were killed and eaten. In view of this appalling tragedy what was the missionary in charge to do? The conventional idea of a missionary would suggest that he should work and pray until these savages came to a better mind. Not so thought George Brown. In his opinion the men who killed and ate the teachers committed to his charge needed a sharp lesson in elementary justice. He reported the case to the commander of H.M.S. Blanche, which was then in those waters, with the result that an armed expedition, accompanied by George Brown, tracked the murderers to their lair, and visited them with condign punishment. "The Vagabond," a well-known contributor to the Melbourne "Argus." and a bitter opponent of missions, found a tempting theme for his sarcastic pen in the story of a missionary seeking to convert the heathen at the hot end of a rifle. At the Adelaide Conference George Brown drew upon himself the fire of criticism from certain estimable fathers and brethren, who were shocked beyond measure that one of their own missionaries should be mixed up in such a deplorable occurrence. Those terrible years in New Britain had left their mark upon George Brown, and it was a thin wraith of a man who stood up to reply to his accusers. He wasted no words in apology, but proceeded to lay before the conference the plain facts of the case as presented to him when lie found that the native teachers he had brought from their homes had been consumed in a cannibal feast, and the safety of the whole mission party was threatened by the same ferocious savages. What was he to do? He gave the reasons which induced him, most reluctantly, to take the steps that had laid him open to criticism, and stated what the effect had been on the natives and the mission itself. I don't suppose for a moment that all his critics were satisfied, but the Conference as a whole expressed itself in terms than which nothing more satisfactory on George Brown's part could be desired. As the resolution deals with a stirring and important chapter in the life story of the veteran recently deceased, it is worth quoting in full:
NEW BRITAIN MISSION.
This General Conference, having heard with deepest regret the account of the, Blanche Bay massacre, and the expedition. which followed it, hereby expresses its tenderest sympathy with the Rev G. Brown in his great peril in that massacre, and his embarrassment in having to provide so suddenly and unaided adequate means for the safety of the mission party. From the information supplied it fully appears to us that in the judgment of the natives themselves Mr. Brown has acted justly; and while reaffirming, in reference to the case, the principle which underlies all our missionary operations - that military enterprises cannot be sanctioned in their conduct - it records its judgment that in the present case Mr. Brown acted in defence of the mission teachers and their families, has not violated the regulations which govern our missionary work, and retains the full confidence of this Conference."
"There are two titles among the many that have been given to me that I prize above all others. One was given to me when on a visit in Samoa, It was spoken, of course, in Samoan, and it means in English, "A lover of the heathen." The other was given me years ago by the editor of the N.Z. Methodist, who said that in New Zealand I was spoken of as "Our George.'" Such was the fragment of a conversation I had with Dr Brown during his memorable and delightful last visit to us at the Christchurch Conference of 1915. It was gratifying to know that this recognition of our ownership in so good a man and so splendid a missionary gave him so much pleasure. Australia claimed the largest share of his public life away from the mission field, but he was linked with New Zealand by stronger and more sacred ties than any that bound him to Australia. He was converted in New Zealand. He heard and obeyed the call to the great work of his life in New Zealand. He found in New Zealand the noble woman who for more than fifty years proved his devoted wife, bravely sharing in the sacrifice and suffering that fell to his lot while in peril among the heathen, and to whom in the loneliness of her widowhood thousands in New Zealand, as elsewhere, will extend their deepest sympathy. New Zealand has a noble band of missionaries to its credit, and at the head of them stands George Brown. Who will follow in their train?