All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the story of David Whippy is no exception. Nor is the story of my interest in his life, albeit it has yet to end.
Thinking back, I realise that the first time I heard of this man was in 1980 when I was teaching at a school near Sydney, Australia. A new member of staff joined us that year and during the course of a conversation with her, Isobel told me how she had taught in Fiji a few years earlier and had married a Fijian man, whose ancestor was a white man who had come to Fiji in the early days and had fathered a lot of children.
She then told me that her married name was Whippy, but she used her maiden name because she didn’t want the children running after her in the playground singing ‘Greensleeves’!
Years passed and I forgot about this Whippy story until, in 2002, I found a brief account of David Whippy’s life in several Fijian history books. I was intrigued, and, as an historian, felt his story should be more fully told, but left it at that as I pursued other interests.
Unknown to me, in 2010 the descendants of David Whippy erected a memorial to him at the family cemetery in Wainunu, Fiji. The President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was the chief guest on this occasion and in his speech, stated that,”There isn’t enough done to fully commemorate and give this great man the credit that he deserves.” And so the wheels were set in motion.
Imagine my delight when, in September 2013, I received an email asking if I would be willing to undertake this project of researching and writing a book about David Whippy? Would I what??!!
On 4 February 2014, the journey began in earnest as I sat at Brisbane International Airport and watched with mixed emotions as the Fiji Airways plane, in its distinctive livery of brown and white ‘masikesa’ designs, taxied into place, ready to whisk me away to commence my journey, following in David Whippy’s footsteps and researching the book I know I was born to write.
That day in February when I set out on this adventure was possibly even the same date that, 212 years previously, in 1802, a baby boy was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, to David Whippy and his wife Kezia, nee Bunker. Their third child, he was named David. Little could this deeply religious couple, themselves descendants of pioneers, know that destiny had marked this child for a very important role in the history of a group of islands in the remote South Pacific; islands whose peoples were only beginning to have any significant contact with the outside world. Captain James Cook had named the archipelago Feejee and today we know it as Fiji.
To be continued …..