24. ‘Boots an’ All’

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

Tessa Jones’ wonderful sharing of her mother’s memories (Una Voce No. 4 of 2000), particularly those of Beatrice Grimshaw wearing long black boots when she sat at table for morning tea, and its juxtaposition with an account of the deaths of Reverend Chalmers and Mr Tomkins, brought a surge of memories. The long-time interpreter at the Supreme Court in Moresby was Kabua, a Hanuabadan with a usually immobile and heavily lined face, six (or was it seven?) Long Service stars on his police uniform with its yellow piping, and legs like a thirty year-old Rugby player! He was telling me that he had just joined the Government Service when Chalmers and Tomkins were killed and that he was in the party which went off to Goarabari Island to recover the bodies. And, as he was talking he suddenly started laughing. ‘Poor Goarabaris!,’ he said. ‘They thought they were so clever, inviting people from other areas to come and join the feast! As a means of cementing alliances it was a failure because, try as they might, nobody could eat the legs. They were very uneducated,’ he said, now nearly falling over with uncontrollable mirth. ‘They did not know that in those days – and because of the mosquitoes which always lived under the table – the gentlemen always wore long boots. That is why nobody could eat the legs!’

 

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