Open main menu

The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Patteson, Right Rev. John Coleridge

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Patteson, Right Rev. John Coleridge, D.D., first Bishop of Melanesia, was the son of the late Right Hon. Sir John Patteson the judge, by his marriage with Frances Duke, only daughter of Lieut.-Colonel James Coleridge, and sister of the late Right Hon. Sir John Taylor Coleridge. He was born in 1827, and educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, becoming Fellow of Merton in 1850. Having laboured from 1855 under Bishop Selwyn in New Zealand and the neighbouring islands, he was, in 1861, consecrated first Bishop of Melanesia in the South Pacific. He spent the rest of his life cruising about among the islands that composed his diocese, working among the natives, by whom he was much beloved. He vainly endeavoured to put a stop to the kidnapping of Polynesians for the purpose of supplying the labour market of Queensland and other colonies, and lost his life in the attempt. Hearing that a vessel was on her way to the Santa Cruz Islands to recruit labourers, he determined to visit the group himself. He arrived at Nukapu on Sept. 20th, 1871, and, at the request of two savages and in order to show confidence, got out of his own boat and went into one of the native canoes in order to land on the island. As soon as he was out of sight, on his way over the reef to the shore, a volley of arrows was let fly at the English boat, wounding some of the sailors and the Bishop's chaplain, who subsequently died of his wounds. Later on the natives on shore were seen by those on the bishop's vessel to turn a canoe adrift, which was found to contain the dead body of the bishop, rolled up in a mat. A small branch of the cocoa-nut palm, with five knots in it, was stuck to the mat, supposed to signify that the bishop's life had been taken in revenge for five lives of the natives who had most likely been shot by the kidnappers. There were also five wounds on his body. A very voluminous memoir of him has been published by Miss Charlotte Yonge. It was afterwards elicited that the bishop on landing was taken into a hut and there treacherously clubbed to death. The majority of the islanders disapproved of the bishop's murder, and the assassins were banished. The man who struck the first blow fled to a neighbouring island, and thence to Santa Cruz, where the chief had him shot. A cross was erected to Bishop Patteson's memory at Nukapu by Bishop (John) Selwyn in 1884.