ERNIE EVENNETT 1935 - 2011

Ernie Evennett passed away on the morning of 23rd March 2011.

He died on Samarai Island, his home of 70 years.

 

The Following is a tribute to Ernie Evennett as well as a history of the Evennett family on Samarai and in the Milne Bay District.
It was written by Richard Evennett of Alotau and first appeared on his Facebook page.
It is reproduced here with his permission.

INTRODUCTION

To tell you the truth, death is not an uncommon thing. It comes along every now and then. As they say, “it's a part of life”. Death is the closure and re-entry into of the circle of life, if you can figure that out, let me know.

My favourite Aussie saying is, “I wouldn't be dead for Quids”. I've said it many times. Usually when I'm sitting close to the sea as the sun goes down and I'm in good company, perhaps with a 24 in the Esky. I have certainly said it in the company of Uncle Ernie. A good many times.

“I wouldn't be dead for quids”, It means just that, Life's Good. What if the Korean Electrical goods manufacturer LG adopted it as their Motto?, “LG, you wouldn't be dead for quids.”

Going through life, all of us will ponder the inevitable questions we all ask ourselves about death.

Have we led a good life? Is there really life after death? Is there really a Utopia or Heaven? Am I going to Hell? Will I suffer the never ending flames, twisting in my new found sobriety?

Then we ask ourselves, if we have more pluses than minuses in the big black book. Have we obeyed the Commandments and will we be judged correctly, because we always meant to do the the right thing by all, Right?

We all make jokes about the Pearly Gates, and St Peter, and, yes, the big man himself. Well I do anyway. It's probably a way of preparing your self for the inevitable. Yes the Inevitable, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, that crooked boney finger will “tap” you on the shoulder one day and he'll say, “bro sorry, your number came up, it's your time now”

 

THE E FACTOR

Many moons ago a visiting yachtsman sitting on a log outside the Ebuma house told Ernie that he had heard about the family and that he (Ernie) was referred to as the “E Factor” by a certain individual. Well Ernie's initials were E.E. In America he would have been called Double E.

This revelation from the Yachtie, gave us many hours of laughter and the joke hung around for a good while. He actually wore it like a badge of honour.

Another Yachtie, another time, this one turned out to be a “Plastic Surgeon” of some fame. When this was revealed, Ernie asked him a question about his success rate in turning Beasts into Beauties. The Surgeon replied with a smirk, “Ernie,” he said, “I could fix any face, but with you mate, I'd have a hard time with those bloody eyes of yours”. We had a good many laughs about that one too.

When you set out to reflect on somebody's life, you will quickly realise that you cannot do a quick “Face Job”. You will need to know what made him tick and where that man came from, The circumstances that brought that person to that particular point in time when their path crossed yours or vice-a-versa.

My own father passed away when I was 11 years old and that was in 1970 when our paths crossed. I was a schoolboy on holidays. My father Norm and Ernie were cousins (2nd Cousins to be exact). In later years Ernie became a surrogate father to us. We had lived in Sebulugomwa, not far from Esa Ala. We were at school in Australia when my dad died. Mum sold the plantation, uprooted and moved to Samarai.

I had heard about Uncle Ernie and I had certainly seen him driving his boat the “Sirius”. All the kids on Samarai liked the “Sirius”. She has a rounded stern, a wet exhaust and a powerful engine.

The Sirius was always pulling ropes of the big steamers and zipping around the wharf and the dolphins. Ernie never wore a Captains Cap or have a squawking parrot sitting on his shoulder, but if he did, you would not have battered an eyelid. He had a kind of a “Errol Flynn” flamboyance that was his own.

When I say, paths crossing, I mean the first time we actually talked. It was in Beeps Freezer. Rita Tanaka was working in the freezer. BP's manager was Hans ERNST (but that's where the similarities ended.) Hans Ernst was a very dour, very German, unsmiling and serious type. To a 11 year old schoolboy on holidays, Hans Ernst, was a real Headmaster type of bloke.

I was at the Freezer to buy some Cabanossi Sausage and Ernie breezed in. There was an Air Curtain at the doorway to stop the flies from getting into the showroom. It was also the coolest spot in Samarai. I cant remember his exact words to me were, but he knew I was Norm's Kid. Any way a ship had just called in to Samarai and the freezer was stocked with all the goodies on display.

There were dozens of Salamis hanging over the show case. Ernie said “Hey Rita, You got any Salami” and he bent over and sank his fangs into a Polish Salami. The same time Hans Ernst walked in and Ernie hadn't seen him. When Mr Ernst cleared his throat, Ernie looked up wide eyed and quick as a flash, he grabbed the Salami and said, “yeah Rita, I'll take this one”. It was a very silent transaction, I was in total awe of Mr Ernst and I dared not laugh. Ernie actually whistled as he carried his Salami now wrapped in butchers paper out of the door.

THE EVENNETTs

This is a short history of the Evennetts and how we came to be at Samarai. It will probably give you more of an insight of the path that led Ernie to that crossing point of your own path.

When the English started collecting taxes in the late 1700's. They very soon found that they needed to give everybody surnames. How and why our ancestors settled on the name Evennett is unknown. The first reference to the name Evennett comes from a woman, a courtesan to the Swedish court in the 17th century.

The first reference in England is Frederick EVENNETT born 1793 in Essex England. Frederick was an Innkeeper and he had 10 children and from what I understand, 3 brothers took passage to Australia. Frederick Jnr and John landed in Melbourne and their brother Charles got off the boat in Sydney.

Charles (born 1829), ended up in Rockhampton Queensland, and here he married Mary Merriman and established himself as Publican. His pub was called the Cannonna Inn. Charles was 31 when he married but it is unknown at what age he made the voyage from England.

Charles Aka “Flash Charlie”, was caught up in the Gold Fever that swept through Australia and in 1873, he bought a miners ticket from the Gold Commissioner in Rockhampton, gathered his family (Wife, 3 sons and 2 daughters), bought passage on a schooner named “Rose” and set sail for the Palmer River Gold fields. He was 44 years old, his eldest daughter was 12 and his youngest son was 2.

A week into the voyage, Charles died near High Island outside of Cairns and he was buried at sea. An inquest later revealed no foul play and cause of death was listed as Natural Causes.

His widow was 37 years old and had 5 children and no money. She had also just gotten off a ship in a frontier town. She basically had to start again. She married again, (to William Jamiesion) but kept the name Evennett for her 5 children. These children were, Emily, Charles Jnr, Frederick, Florence and Ernest.

Emily later married John Adam CRAIG and was the mother of Thomas CRAIG a trader in the Samarai area.

Charles Jnr, Frederick and Ernest became gold miners for a short while in the palmer river gold diggings, and the 3 brothers soon got into trading and supplying of food, hardware and labour.

Charles was soon making trips to New Guinea on the Schooner, the “Fairy” and later the “Trinity”. The 3 brothers all came to Samarai in 1894 an established themselves as Traders and Planters.

Charles later Married Margaret Lang, their only son was Arthur, who married Florentina de la cruz and their only son was Norman. Charles was buried at Logea Cemetary in 1912. Arthur ,Florentina and Norman were also buried at logea.

Frederick married Annie McGuiggan and their only son Charles died just after the WWI. Frederick was buried at Mapamoiwa, Fergusson Island, Milne Bay in 1941, he was over 60 years old.

Florence stayed in Cooktown and her path is unknown by us in PNG.

Ernest married Annie Edwards, their only son Joseph was the first white baby born in the north Queensland township of Coen in 1902. Both Ernest Snr and Joseph were buried at Logea.

As far as the Evennett boys were concerned, even way back then, SAMARAI was their home. They transported 4 houses from Cooktown to Samarai. They took the “Queenslanders” down panel by panel in Cooktown, loaded them onto the Schooners they owned and sailed them all the way to Samarai. How many trips this took is not known, but it was certainly a feat in itself.

At Samarai they rebuilt them again. 1 on the Island, called the “Bake House” in later years, 1 on the headland at Mwaneuna Point, 1 on the hill at Lei Lei, and one they apparently sold to Mr Munt at Nivani Island near Misima.

The Bake House was for Ernest. Frederick lived at Mwaneuna, Charles at Lei Lei. The bake house had to be rebuilt after the war, but the other two at Mwaneuna and Lei Lei survive to this day. The Nivani house sadly was taken down a few years ago.

Rumour had it that the boys were “Blackbirders”. That is not true, the following story is much closer to the truth.

It started when Charles bought leases at Mwawneuna, Lei Lei, Dawa Dawa, Ito and Bole Bole. He had the leases but not the plantations. What he had was bush that he needed to clear before he could even plant coconut trees.

Fredrick was given the task of finding the labour, and he sailed to Wagifa Island at Goodenough to recruit. He ended up doing this for another 40 years. He was well known in the area an respected as an honest businessman.

Frederick lost his life at Mud Bay in 1941, but not in the war. He had gone into Mud Bay to pick up some labour. One of the boys called out, “Hey Taubada!!” ...”plenty fish”. There was a huge school of “Kaduna” close to the boat. When Taubada lit the dynamite fuse with his pipe, the fuse curled around and somehow lit itself where it joins the dynamite. He was too late to throw it into the water. His grave is still kept clean by the government workers at Mapamoiwa.

The brothers cleared and planted acres and acres of coconut. In those early days, a lot of copra came from small village groves and gardens, there were only a few established plantations.

You can probably now start to see why Ernest William EVENNETT is as part of Samarai as Samarai is a part of him and his family.

 

EULOGY

 

Ernest William EVENNETT, was the last of his generation to be called to his maker.

He often showed his rebel streak when we discussed our family background. He called our ancestors racists. He was both right and wrong. If anything they were realists living in the times that they did. Times change and when they do, our own perceptions melt, mould and bend with them.

Uncle Ernie was our last link to the English Evennetts. The last of the Dim Dim connection and he was also a realist.

Uncle Ernie or “Taubada” as he was most affectionately called, was born on 6th Feb 1935 at Cairns Base Hospital. He was named after his Grandfather.

He made his first trip to Samarai when he was 4 years old in 1939. But his grandfather had been living here for years.

Ernie was the 4th child of Joseph Charles EVENNETT and Kathleen PURCELL. His siblings were Lionel, Colin & Patricia. His parents had moved to Samarai and operated the Bakery and a small Trading business on Samarai Island in 1939.

Ernie's father Joseph was the first white baby born in the north Queensland township of COEN. It seems like pioneering was in his blood, because as we all know, Ernie Evennett was a pioneer in his own right.

Ernie's grandfather Ernest and his two brothers, Charles and Frederick started coming to Samarai in 1894. Their Sister Emily also married Mr Craig and she was also a pioneer in Samarai.

Only a year after arriving in Samarai, the Japanese bombed Pearl harbour and Ernie Evennett and his brothers and sister made the trip back to Cairns.

Ernies father Joseph was a W.O. In the Allied forces and after his call-up, the whole family was evacuated on 27th Dec 1941 on a Sunderland seaplane named “KURANA”. From Samarai to Cairns.

Samarai was burnt to the ground as the Japanese Forces made their way south toward Australia. The fear was that the Japanese would occupy Samarai and use it as a base from where they could make an attack on the Australian mainland.

Ernie stayed with his parents in Cairns for the war years and in 1945 they returned to Samarai and rebuilt the house we commonly refer to as “The Bake House”.

Many families never came back to Samarai, but the Evennett family had made their life here in trading, plantations and the Bakery and Joseph and his cousin Arthur (my Grandfather), who was with the US forces, came back to SAMARAI.

Ernie continued to go to School in Samarai as a boy and when the time came for Ernie to be sent to Australia to go to high school, he ran away to his uncle's plantation at Mwawaneuna and hid in the plantation for 2 days until the ship left and he returned to Samarai.

Ernie had inadvertently charted his destiny. His father was naturally angry, but what to do? He got Ernie to work in the bakery, carting and loading firewood from the mainland to keep the bakery ovens going. He worked all his teenage years doing this and delivering bread and groceries from Samarai to the nearby communities. It was during this time that Ernie got himself a little launch and called it “Yalasi”. His uncle Arthur used make fun of his boat so he sold it. This story Ernie repeated many times in recent years.

The Launch used to carry the firewood and make the deliveries from Samarai was getting old so his father bought a 32 ft launch in Sydney and shipped it to Samarai on the MV Bulolo. The new launch was called the “Sirius”. Ernie continued working for the bakery and in the early 60's he inherited the “Sirius” and he began his own business doing charters and getting the contract for lineboat and tender services on Samarai Island.

The EVENNETT family had been a pioneering seafaring family and this tradition was kept alive by Ernie and his two brothers Lionel and Colin. Lionel and Colin were both driving Government Trawlers, but Ernie started his sea-time driving his own little boat called the “Yalasi” and then later the “Sirius”. She also did the tender work for the sea plane “The Catalina” which flew between Samarai, other Milne Bay districts and also to Port Moresby.

Ernie was quite a dashing young bachelor in his time and the “Sirius” was a fast and powerful boat. Ernie used to sit on the roof of his boat and drive the “Sirius” with his feet through a hatch. His crew boy was Kaniku from Tube Tube Island.

Ernie soon caught the eye of Lynette Hancock who stayed with her parents on EBUMA ISLAND, and a romance ensued. Lunn Hancock was the HF Radio operator on Samarai, talking to outlying plantations and communities and the various boats and launches.

Ernie Married Lynn Hancock in SAMARAI in 1960 and they had two Daughters, Gina and Maria. He then moved to Ebuma and built himself a small house on the southern beach front . This house was to become his home for many years to follow.

A couple of years prior to this, Ernie was delivering some cargo to the Wilkinson family at Sewa Bay where he met a young woman and after a brief relationship, Ernie's first son, Jimi Ceddia was born. Ernie and Jimi's mother were never married.

Ernie and Lynn Hancock separated in 1973 and Lynn took Gina and Maria to live in Sydney.

Ernie sold the “Sirius” and after skippering the “Miss Jillian” for a while, bought a boat from the Anglican Mission. The boat was called the “St George” and he changed the name to “Georgina”.

The names “Georgina” and Ernie Evennett were to be sewn together for many years.

1n 1974 Ernie met Marjorie Masiboda from Kitava Island. Marjorie was working for Col Scown when he had a reject copra cleaning business on Ebuma Island.

Abel was born on Kitava Island in Sept 1974 and they moved to Ebuma soon after.

Willie was born on Samarai Island in 1976 exactly a year after independence.

Joe was born on Samarai Island in 1979. He was named for his Grandfather.

Bruce was born on Ebuma Island in 1981. Ernie often said that Bruce was born when Bruce Lee was the Kung Fu King and Ernie said he had run out of names so he asked the kids to name the new baby. Abel and Willie agreed on Bruce.

Melanie was the last and the only girl born on Ebuma Island in 1988. Ernie helped with her delivery in the bathroom at Ebuma House. Ernie often referred to Melanie as the “Brat” but in the most endearing context.

Ernie's love for his children was a thing to be admired. Because of his upbringing, Ernie was often caught between his traditional white upbringing and his new family. It must have been difficult at times. Ernie was born to a Colonial Family which liked to keep races apart and the subsequent years allowed Ernie's family to find their own unique niche in the SAMARAI and Milne Bay society

Ernie became a Papua New Guinea Citizen after independence. This alone reflected Ernies vision of his future.

Ernie's wife Marjorie was a mainstay in Ebuma life. She Supported her husband and made the Island a lovely home

When Marjorie passed away in 2000 a victim of Cancer, Ernie was lonely. Together they had gone through many highs and lows just like any family. Ernie and Marjorie had become an influence to not only her children, but others like myself my brother Richard, Tim Abel and many others.

Staying at Ebuma, Ernie and Marjorie had met so many people from all walks of life. All kinds of people came to visit and stay. Visiting Yachtsmen, Businessmen, Prime Ministers, Governor Generals, Millionaires, Villagers, Doctors, Lawyers, Indians and Chiefs.

They all came to Ebuma and were told to “Pull Up a Rock”. There was no special treatment from Ernie and Marjorie. No special elaborate meals or ceremony. Ernie saw nothing wrong with offering a Governor General or visiting dignitary an enamel plate of Fried Fish and Banana.

This apparent carefree attitude toward all and sundry was just the way it was. Ernie treated everybody as equal. If the pantry was bare, the kids would jump in the “Panama” and a quick spin around the rocks would yield a dinner never to be forgotten.

This lack of “airs and graces” and an honest “Down to earth” approach to life was to become Ernie's signature.

Ernie was loath to wear shoes, a pair of green or blue slippers, had to be sufficient if Ernie was invited out for a meal or drink. He hated riding in aeroplanes and I have never seen him with his shirt tucked in.

The children grew up with boats. Even going to school on Samarai was by boat. The SEALIFE legacy of Ernie EVENNETT was definitely instilled into the children.

Ernie never had any money to speak of. He often said to me when I was broke, “Jeff you are an EVENNETT, you will never be rich.” “We Evennetts are too kind to be rich”.

He was right of course, I have witnessed Ernies generosity many many times.

But even though Ernie was scraping the bottom of the barrel and sewing up the holes in his pocket, so to speak, Ernie never let the children want for anything. He always did his best to ensure that the kids got the best he could offer.

After his wife Marjorie became a victim of cancer, Ernie later re-married RUTH, and became father again to her children.

Ernie had so many stories and he kept a dairy. He was a mountain of information, history and he detested bullshit artists.

There are many things synonymous with the name Ernie Evennett. Boats and the Sea Life is the the foremost of these.

After the “Georgina” sank at Goodenough Island, there were other boats. Ernie Evennett just could not stay ashore too long. There was always another boat.

Subsequent boats were “Laba” a “K” boat with a detroit diesel engine that could be heard from Mwawneuna Point on a clear day. The Laba was expensive to run and didn't stay long in his possession.

“Alotau” was another boat that Ernie had, it didn't last long, its cargo carrying capacity was too small to make ends meet.

“Vinaritokae” came on the scene. The “Vinari” as it was called was a famous one. Ernie decided in 1985 to take the kids to Australia to visit family. But Ernie hated to fly in a plane so he packed up the family and drove the “Vinaritokae” from Samarai to Port Moresby, then to Thursday Island, Cooktown, and Cairns.

In Cairns, Ernie anchored up the boat, bought an Old Bomb holden Station Wagon for $500 dollars and drove all the way to Sydney with the family and crew.

He then drove all the way back to Cairns, sold the car for $500 and got back on the “Vinaritokae” and came all the way back to SAMARAI.

There are many many stories about this trip, it was a journey that he set out to do and he accomplished his mission.

When the mob arrived in Port Moresby, I was working for Steamships at the Coastal Shipping wharf. I asked for a week off and packed my passport and change and joined them

Half way to Thursday Island we anchored at Stevens Island. It was about 3 pm and there was no sign of life. Willie asked his father, “Dad are we in Australia yet?”. When Ernie said yes, Willie asked, “When am I going to see an aboriginal?” Just then an aluminium dinghy started buzzing across the reef top, the propeller occasionally catching the coral. Ernie just watched and told Willie, “looks like your gonna meet your first aboriginal son”. The Islander parked the dinghy next to the “Vinaritokae”, he had an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He looked up at all of us looking down at him and said, “Any of you blokes got a light?”

I often discussed with him the possibility of sitting down and writing a book about this trip. I guess we left it for too long, the BOOK will not be written now.

After the “Vinari”, the “Arona” came and went, as did the “Morning Star”.

When the “LADUA” came onto the scene, Ernie called it the “Yalla Yalla LOG”.

It was so unlike his previous boats that we all thought that it too would soon pass to another owner. It did eventually but, it went to his eldest son ABEL, and it is still in the family.

In the later years Ernie was given the “Oceanus” to look after, and the lifestyle suited Ernie.

But one of the jobs he had to do was up the Sepik River. He did a trip up the Sepik in 2009, but the Sepik is not the sea and he did not enjoy the trip.

2 moths ago he was asked to do another trip up the Sepik. He told me that he didn't want to go up the Sepik again. He said he was tired and the 3 month trip was the last thing he wanted to do. But Ernie was Ernie, he would not be able to sit around while somebody else took the trip, so he went. When there was a delay in LAE, Ernie didn't want to sit around in LAE, so he came back home.

His last trip was from Alotau to Samarai his beloved home. Tomorrow Ernie will do that trip again for the last time. Truly a fitting farewell voyage for our own, “Old Man of The Sea”.

Ernie EVENNETT has many friends. He leaves us with no debts. No animosity or ill feeling

Everybody in our greater community will agree that this gentleman will be sadly missed by all. Every Island he anchored at there was always somebody who paddled out to the boat to say hello. His knowledge of this province and it's people great and small, was second to none.

Ernest William EVENNETT will be buried at Kumwagea Village on Kitava Island next to his wife of 27 years and mother of his 5 children.

Ernie is survived by his wife RUTH, and his 8 children.

Abel, Willie, Joe, Bruce, and Melanie are a credit to Ernie Evennett. They are all involved in a life at sea and if there was ever a “Handing down of Tradition” , Ernest William EVENNETT can rest proud that he has accomplished exactly that.

Have a good trip TAUBADA, we all love you and we all appreciate very much the small influences that you have bestowed upon us.

 

 

Messages

 

From the WILKINSON Family formally of Sewa Bay.

“Condolences from the Wilkinson Family”

 

From Briget Coleman at Woodlark Island,

“ Pls do pass my sincere condolences to all the family and apologies that I am not available to attend...Kapole Taubada Ernie RIP”

 

From Kathy Ungera Ernies Niece in Cairns.

“Hi Jeff we all have fond memories of uncle when he stayed with us, him and chontell used to fight over food all the time he would pretend to steel her dinner and things it was something they always joked about even only about 2 weeks ago. Also whenever we went for a drive or anywhere he would have to buy ice cream i think he must have tried every sort available mint chip being his favourite, and then complained about all the weight he put on while here!

From ALL his family in Australia, we loved him dearly and will miss him greatly.

Will be thinking of u all make sure u give Uncle a real good old Evennett send off.”

 

From Tim Abel.

“My apologies to all for no being able to make it. My thoughts are with you, Ernie, It's not easy to put these thoughts into words. I am who I am today because of you. In your kind and caring way you took me into your home and looked after me... Okay, you old sea dog! If it wasn't for you I would have a nice desk job and ten kids. Instead I have become a man of the sea. Plying the oceans, following your footsteps Your words inspired me, your family supported me. I will always remember you. Rest in peace taubada, Tim Pwan.”

 

From Jillian Brumley Formally of Samarai, now in USA.

“ I'm so sorry to hear of ernie's passing. What a legend. Was he still living on Ebuma?”

 

From Christine Aule in Switzerland

“ I dont know how to make speeches and all that for eulogys etc..but he (Ernie) was a very humble and good man..always walkin around with a slippers and lived amongst locals and became one of them..Was known popularly for his use of foul slang.he.he..We'll truly miss him..I remember how he'd joke when my mum walked passed, he'd say (Hello Mrs Yayaule) than my mum would go (hello Mr Heaven and Earth)..Just on behalf of da Aule family..Pls do pass on our sincere condolences to the whole family..Samarai wont be da same without one of its legends and I think maybe da last..eauwedo uncle”

 

From Jeanette RENTON.

“ur condolences to the family, thinking of you all at this time.”

Here is a message from us:

We remember Ernie as one of the last icons of Samarai always there with a smile and always a barrel full of laughs, and now that he is gone, we would like to remember Ernie as one of those who lived and worked for Samarai, who has stamped his mark on the island's history. Our sincere condolences go out to his family at this time. He will be missed.

From Dennis Renton & Family

 

From Peter Cope in Western Australia

“ Sorry to hear, our condolences to you and the family.”

 

From Kay Timmins (Cusack)

“my condolences to you and the family, he will be sadly missed”

 

From Jackson Varsilli in Lae.

“ condolences frm my self in lae n the whole of Wesley Clan”

 

 

From Jenny Andrew, Tina and Bela, ( Wallace Andrews Family)

“Our Sincere condolences to all the family”

 

From Sue Timmins

“Ernie was a man you would never forget he left you with a lasting impression.

He always spoke what he thought; he told you how it was as he did with me. If he didn’t I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember many trips to Ebuma with our friends, Ernie and Col would always greet us with open arms many good times where had there. Milne Bay just won’t be the same without him he was part of the land.

Our very sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Ernie you will be missed by all.

Sue & Kay Timmins

Joan Sullivan”

 

From Marjorie Jameson (Mark)

kapore earnie, he used the term HIPU KAIA very loosley in Samarai. I was remembering him with Bob Neate, they were friends all those years ago. Bob used to speak trobriand language fluently having lived in Woodlark. I see and remember Earnie as wearing a singlet with open shirt, shorts and pair of thongs. Simple but happy man. RIP and wishing you all well in Alotau

 

The Funeral

Uncle Ernie lived and died on Samarai. The township of Samarai has no Morgue facility. So his body was brought to ALOTAU for pronouncement and keeping until his children all arrived.

Jimi Ceddia is Ernie's eldest son. Jimi and Ernie never became close and that's understandable in the circumstances, but I take my hat off to Jimi for making the trip from Brisbane. Jimi accompanied his fathers body all the way till he was laid to rest on Kitava Island. Maybe a bit of closure for him.

With all the children in agreement, the program was simple, agreeable and acceptable to all.

ALOTAU Sat 26th Mar 0900 Funeral Service Catholic Church

ALOTAU 1pm Casket leaves on MV ENJOY for Samarai

SAMARAI Sat 26th Mar 5pm Casket arrives Samarai Wharf.

Short prayer

Casket to Memorial Hall

6pm Ceremony and Service Samarai Style

8pm Refreshments and Laying of flowers Bake House

SAMARAI Sat 26th Mar 12 mid night MV ENJOY and MV LADUA leave for KITAVA Island

KITAVA Is Mon 28th Mar Burial Service arranged at Kitava.

 

The family had been busy since Wednesday. The deadline was closing in and many had to work through friday night to keep the schedule. For the first time since anybody could remember, there was an unwritten rule that was observed by all family and friends of Late Uncle Ernie, that this was to be an Alcohol Free Funeral. Well at least till we had laid him to rest and taken care of all the family and friends who had come to pay their last respects.

The Catholic Church wasn't exactly bursting at the seams when we all arrived. It was an early start and the program wasn't known to many in Alotau. But many arrived a bit late and in the end, about 200 Alotau friends had attended, and the service I think set the pace for the days and events to follow.
Fr Watisname delivered the service in a very relaxed but suitably formal way, Willie Evennett read the Prayer, Uncle Banian Masiboda did the bible reading, Jeff Evennett read the Eulogy and after a pretty quick communion, it was not long before we were shaking hands with the Father who admitted to not knowing Uncle Ernie either.

By 11am the casket was at the “House Cry” at Bathpedi Andrew's residence and many who came late for the Service, at least had the opportunity to say farewell to their friend Ernie Evennett.

From Bishop Andrews house the casket was on it's way to the MV ENJOY at RFI wharf and those who wanted to attend the burial on Kitava were told the sailing time was 1pm. The 2 vessels, ENJOY and LADUA sailed for Samarai at 1pm.

My brother Richard and his son Norman and Jimi Ceddia had arrived during the Alotau Service. Richard's son Graham was arriving from Port Moresby at 1.30pm, late for the boats, and he had with him 5 Cartons of BIG ROOSTER for the Kai Kai at Samarai.

So Richard, Norman, Graham, another Richard (Brunton), my son Lionel and Nigel the Kid, all piled into the WadX and chased the boats.

It was a bit rough so we crossed the bay and waited for the boats at Eabeuli, where we told Billy Gray of Uncle Ernie's passing.

I met up with the boats at Kanakope and we followed from there. The wind died off as we entered China Straits and the procession was joined by 4 Samarai boats at Konabilubilu point.

It was a Beautiful, Sunny, Calm, Saturday afternoon that we took Uncle Ernie's Casket into China Strait for the last time and only for a brief farewell before he again left for his final voyage.

The MV ENJOY with a 6 boat escort arrived at Samarai Government wharf where the community had been hard at work in the last 3 days preparing for occasion.

School Children lined the Old Swimming Pool Enclosure all the way down to the wharf face.

They were all singing a hymn when we tied up the boat and after a brief devotion the casket was carried by the people of Samarai Island up to the Memorial Hall for the Samarai Island Community Service.

The whole community made a big effort to accord Uncle Ernie a fittingly respectful farewell. Families of those who worked for the Evennetts, Friends made over the many many years in a close community, all came to show their respect for Taubada.

Willie read the Eulogy, but he had to do a running translation from English to Samarai English, and he managed very well.

There was to be no viewing of the body but the casket was taken to the Bake House for laying of flowers and farewells.

We recruited some carriers and the Big Rooster was delivered on time to the Bake House.

Ernie's last gift to Samarai was Big rooster. Everybody was fed and decisions of who was to accompany the immediate family to Kitava were made.

Samarai was in mourning. Many thought that Ernie should be buried at Logea with his father and Grandfather and about 8 others from his family. Sadly the colonial cemetery at Logea has been desecrated and tombstones smashed and scattered. A sad state of affairs when the dead are not respected.

After a good meal some hot tea and a good cold shower at the pipe, we all headed down to the wharf and boarded the MV ENJOY to accompany Ernie Evennett on his last voyage to Kitava.

About 100 people came to the wharf to say goodbye. Many had a small bag with some change just in case they could get a berth on the boat. I was overcome by the pure honesty of the Samarai Community. Over a dozen people shook my hand as I boarded and they all gave me their proxy farewell for Ernie. Many asked me to Look after Ernie and make sure he is laid to rest properly.

These were sentiments from the heart. Ernie had many many true friends who love and respected him for what he was. A real person, a Samarai icon, The last of the Taubadas.

Kitava is good 160 miles from Samarai and at 7 knots, you certainly have a lot of spare time on your hands. The weather remained calm and skies clear.

We had left at 1am, and by midday we were at Esa Ala where we picked up James Walagesi, some betelnut and a couple of pigs for the feast.

James' grandfather Sailosi had worked for Arthur Evennett at Lei Lei many years ago. The Name, Sailosi got shortened to Losi and then DimDim-ised to Roach. He was also called Cockroach. We all called him Roach, and as a kid I had no Idea how he got the name. Roach had a son who was known as “Small Boy” though his name was John. Small Boy would always get into trouble with my grandmother and one day she sent him to Ebuma to Ernie. Small Boy stayed with Ernie for some time before he eventually went back to Dobu. James Walagesi is the son of Small Boy (John). James had also worked for Ernie for some time and he now joined us to go to Kitava.

Every single person on the boat has their own story of how their paths crossed with that of Ernie.

We went for a walk around esa Ala, and the local tradestore owner opened his shop to serve us, so we were able to stock on biscuits and snacks and especially Spear and Beda. Leonard (Bolo) Warren caught up with us at Esa ala. He brought his wife and some friends on his speedboat. He left us after a brief stop over and continued to Losuia and then Kitava.

We left Esa Ala at about 3pm and headed for Yaya, a sheltered anchorage on Fergusson Island.

There were 40 people on board the MV ENJOY and a quick stock count had revealed only 6 plates 6 cups and assorted cutlery. There was gas BBQ oven on the stern, a rice cooker and an electric Jug. The girls led by Alice and Emily, (Bruce and Willie's wives) managed to feed everybody on a utensil rotating system. They did a very good job and nobody went hungry.

The first day at sea was a good chance for everybody to catch up on their sleep. By 5 the next morning (Monday), we were well on our way to Kitava. Somebody had managed to find a couple of Trolling lines and we caught 4 Mackeral, a Barracuda and a good sized Wahoo. These were on the Dinner table in no time at all and were a very welcome change to tinned food. We arrived at Kitava about 1 pm and anchored just off the beach adjacent to Nuratu Island. Again the Trip in was beautiful, a bright Sunny day, a 10 knot breeze and a clear sky.

Papua New Guinea is a land with more than it's fair share of superstitions and beliefs, especially when it comes to funerals. Thus far all arrangements, services, logistics and especially the weather had been perfect. There had been no disagreements, no breakdowns, all logistics had been on time and there was a general feeling that Uncle Ernie was happy with the arrangements, especially the burial at Kitava.

I was surprised to see a new Toyota Land Cruiser Ute parked on The Beach awaiting our arrival. About a hundred men were also at the beach, some from Lalela and some from Kumwagea. They had all come to carry the casket in the traditional way, but a decision to take the casket up by truck was made and although not popular with the men, it was accepted and the mourners filed back up the hill to Kumwagea Village.

Kumwagea Village was in mourning. For 2 hours villagers from all over the island sat in small groups and quietly waited as the family and relatives in the village, wailed and cried and consoled each other.

At 4pm after the last mourner had been escorted away, the Pallbearers picked up the casket and moved to the grave-site. The casket was put over the open grave and the final Service was conducted by the local church pastor in Kitava language. This time Banian Masiboda did the Eulogy and again he did a running translation this time in Kitava language.

The small grave plot was crowded. About 500 people had come to witness the proceedings and most were content to just be in attendance.

After a reading a prayer and two faltering hymns, the attendants lowered the casket into the limestone and loam. Emotions, tentatively kept in check, now broke through and tears and grief were given free reign.

The graveside grieving flowed out as the pallbearers and burial attendants first wrapped the casket in Pandanus mats. Then the limestone and loam mixture was added around the casket. Basket by coconut basket, the soil and limestone continued and the casket was slowly swallowed up by Mother Earth. The grievers remained at their spot as the attendents now started piling the Limestone rocks around the grave. The pile came to a hight of about half a metre before they started smoothing it off. Family and villagers now filed past and offered their last goodbyes and left flowers in a quiet and dignified procession.

It had been a long journey for Ernie Evennett. A journey encompassing many smaller journeys. It is difficult to express the emotions and grasp the right words. The setting, the quiet dignified and orderly fashion in the way he was laid to rest. The genuine acceptance of his right to be here. All rolled up in one word, I would say, “RIGHT.”

Ernie's coffin was huge. It was built big to give him the space that he always longed for. He had 3 funeral services. 3 different interpretations of his Eulogy were given.

If ever there was a perfect funeral, the Funeral of Uncle Ernie Evennett would be very close to being that. No matter which of the services you attended, you came away with a feeling of contentment.

Ernie Evennett came from a white family who had made their home in Samarai. To Ernie, Samarai was his home, not Australia. It is clear that he wanted to spend his last days on Samarai.

He had a way of bridging the gaps that exist in multi racial communities.

Many remember Ernie for his stories, his jokes, and witticisms. Phrases like “Pull up a Log” or “Pull up a Rock”. Milne Bay has more “Morons” per capita than any other place in PNG, thanks to Ernie. Oh yeah I forgot to mention, Ernie brought Big Rooster to Kitava as well.

The memory of Ernie Evennett will take a long time to fade. One door closes for the Evennett family, for the Community of Samarai island, the community and family of Kitava Island for Milne Bay and definitely for Papua New Guinea.

Perhaps another door is opening somewhere and there is someone inside saying, “ G'day Mate, Come in and Pull Up a Rock, I'll see If I can scrounge a cold beer for you”....