Manuscript extract. 2pp. [With] Two photographs measuring 4-3/8 x 6-1/4 in. 12mo. Photographs mounted on a sheet of archival board. Fine. Item #304057
There was an old Fijian legend of walking unharmed through native oven on hot white stones by the Matagali tribe, on the Island of Beqa. On 1 September 1892, the Governor of Fiji, Sir John Bates Thurston, arranged for the "Fire Ceremony" to be performed before the Vice-Regal Party and native spectators at Rukua
village. Amongst the Europeans in the Governor's party were His Excellency and Lady Thurston, The Hon. Bolton Glanville Corney and his wife, Mr Basil Horne Thomson, and Mr. J.W. Lindt (author of Picturesque Fiji). Essentially a who's who of Europeans in the South Pacific at the time. This was a serious occasion, taking place a full decade before the ceremony became a tourist attraction.
The party all took photographs with the camera (apparently Mr Lindt's proved the most successful). None of those present could in any way account for the ability of the native men of being able to walk unharmed through the fiery oven. The natives who walked through the fire, were examined by Dr Corney, but he could arrive at no conclusion at all as to how the feat was performed.
The extract reads in part: "I send you a photograph which I took the other day on the island opposite Suva (Bega), where I went to see a fire walking performance ... About 16 young fellows file hand-in-hand in column,two abreast, into an oven or pit of red hot stones ... There is no mistake about the stones being hot ... the onlookers get quite enough of the heat in their faces though they are 12 or 15 feet off.
Born in 1851, Bolton Corney (son of the noted antiquarian), studied medicine and promptly joined the Colonial Civil Service. In 1876, he travelled to the new Crown Colony in Fiji and appointed Chief Medical Officer in 1887, based in Suva. As well as serving on councils and delegations, he published a great deal on health matters in the South Pacific. Corney was a major contributor to Basil Thomson's 1908 book The Fijians: the study of the decay of custom. In 1912 he joined the RGS and later served on its council.
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