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   Chapter 6 No.6

Three Years in Tristan da Cunha By K. M. Barrow Characters: 8569

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Sunday, April 22.-Wet all day. It has been difficult to keep dry-shod going backwards and forwards to church over the wet common and across little rivulets. We had three services: the Holy Communion at eight o'clock, to which four came; morning prayer at 10.30, when the church was about half full; and a children's service at three. Graham is acting on a suggestion of the Bishop and catechizing the children instead of having Sunday school. As the elders come too, instruction by this means is given to both. With a view to keeping better order an elder was asked to sit on each bench with the children. These sat with folded hands, and their behaviour was very good; by a little encouragement answers were got out of two or three of them. We had no harmonium, as it was too wet to bring it up from the house.

Living as these people do in such an out-of-the-world spot, I am surprised at the level they have reached. There is a quiet dignity about them, and their manners are excellent. No doubt Mr. Dodgson has done much for them, and they have a very warm remembrance of him. I never had so many "Marms" in my life; and the other evening one little boy, on leaving the room, wanting to say something polite, said to me, "Good-night, Mary."

Sunday, April 29.-Yesterday and to-day it was blowing gales. To get to eight o'clock Communion was not easy. A heavy shower came on as we started. Ellen threw a cape over her head, I a Shetland shawl over my hat. In a short space of time we were fairly wet and reached church breathless and panting, for it was up-hill and the wind against us. John Glass, the clerk, came to meet us to offer his help. There were seven or eight present. Returning it was worse; the wind was at our backs, and at different times Ellen and I were blown down like ninepins. I have since been told by the people, "When you hear a puff coming, stand or duck till it is over and then go on." On these windy days the dust and litter that come from the thatch are difficult to cope with.

This afternoon we had a practice after service. There are one or two hymns in which the islanders go quite astray; for example, "There is a green hill" and "Christ who once amongst us." They have gone wrong, I fear, so many years that the task of getting them to go right is almost an impossible one. We tried a chant, but they seemed to think, as it was not the one taught by Mr. Dodgson, it could not be right. They say he was very musical and could sing any part. The men are anxious to sing in parts themselves. After the service we took Rob for a run, then three of the men turned up and did not depart till after six o'clock. We usually have three meals a day: breakfast, dinner and supper, but on Sundays generally allow ourselves afternoon tea.

Monday, April 30.-We were so busy all the past week, and many evenings worked till quite late trying to get straight. It has taken a longer time because there is so little space. Our sitting-room looks quite cosy. We have half partitioned off a portion of it with a green stoep blind which we bought at the Cape, and in the private part thus left have laid down a white matting, and really at night with a lamp and a fire it looks very bright and cheerful.

During the turmoil of the week we have had the usual stream of visitors. Early one afternoon Mrs. Hagan and another mother appeared with their babies and stayed two hours or more. I finally went on with my work of unpacking the storage box. At the same time they are always ready to help; for instance, the other day, when I was doing some washing, Mrs. Lavarello coming in, at once began upon it, and then went to help Rebekah with more at the watering.

Our first attempt at making bread has not been a success. The loaf was as heavy as lead, and uneatable. Rob had most of it. Not dismayed we set to to prepare a sponge-cake for the next day. The result was good. The following day I tried self-raising flour, and the result was even better. The fourth trial, yesterday, was as complete a failure as the first, due to the high wind which prevented the oven getting hot. Flour is so precious we are eating the loaf ourselves this time, and, wonderful to say, have not had indigestion.

It has been arranged for each family in turn to bring us wee

kly supplies. Graham felt the people ought to provide a certain amount, and that anything beyond that we could pay for. So we made out the following list. As there are seventeen families, with one exception the same family will only have to serve us three times in the year. They will not hear of our paying anything.


Meat, 12 lbs.

Fish (three times a week).

Milk, 14 quarts.

Butter, 1 1/2 lbs. (in the summer 2 lbs., fresh).

Eggs, 2 dozen (when in season).

Potatoes, 7 lbs.


Graham busied himself most of yesterday in making a meat-safe. He found some old tin which he perforated and fixed on to a wooden crate.

Tuesday, May 1.-Graham began school today at 9:30. There were thirty-five scholars-eighteen boys and seventeen girls-their ages ranging from twenty-one to three years. I went up at eleven o'clock to teach the infants. It is difficult to get off earlier, as I have a good deal to do in the house. We rise at 6:30 and breakfast at eight. Rob scrambled into school, although told not to come in, and sat under the children's form, which a little discomposed them, and made some of them anxious about their legs. At twelve o'clock the school dispersed.

When we were leaving we heard a gun go off and saw groups of people standing about on high positions. I was told they were shooting a wild bullock. There did not seem much wildness about the poor black creature. I was glad to turn my back on it all.

We have had a little peace lately as regards the rats. At one time I feared there would not be a night without an episode. One night we were just going off to sleep when I heard noises above. Graham was up in a minute, thrust on his clothes, and hastened, lantern in hand, up the ladder into the loft where he found a poor rat caught in a trap. We will leave the rest. This sort of thing is just a little disconcerting as you are getting off to sleep. Another night he was catching the wood-lice creeping over our bedroom walls, and must have caught fifty. I am rather thankful when he is too tired for these raids. The houses are also infested with fleas.

Ellen and I have both had presents of white stockings which we are wearing, and find most warm and comfortable. They look so old-fashioned, but I intend to wear them.

The bread to-day which I had made was burnt almost to a cinder. We still have long visitations from the people, who generally come from five to 6.30; supper in consequence has often to wait. It is wonderful how much there is to do in a small house like this.

[Illustration: THE CEMETERY]

This afternoon we visited the little cemetery. It is surrounded by rough-hewn blocks of stone. These once formed the walls of a church which Mr. Dodgson induced the men to start building, but they took such a long time over it, he felt it would never be finished, and so told them they could use the stones as a wall for the cemetery. Here and there are little wooden crosses, and such quaintly written inscriptions, the letters being picked out in tin nailed to the cross or stone. The tombstone of William Glass is the most imposing. It is of marble, and was sent by his sons in America.

We are not nearly straight yet; the difficulty is where to put everything. There is one small cupboard in the sitting-room, but only bottles can be kept in it as it is so damp. I keep some of the stores in my old school-box in the ante-room.

Graham has been writing for the people to the King, to thank him for the message which he sent them through Lord Crawford.

Monday, May 7.-We do all our writing in the evening. Since we have been here three ships have been sighted. One was four-masted and came in quite close. It was a misty day with a rough sea. This last week the weather has been delightful, sunshine day after day with very little wind.


Last evening after church we went for a walk accompanied by the two bachelors of the island, Tom Rogers and Bill Green. We went westward over a rocky common to get a view of Inaccessible. We could see it most clearly. It was my first view of it. It did not look far off, but is in reality about twenty-five miles away. There was a most beautiful sunset, the sea being quite lit up.

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