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Leah Pratt and her lost daughter

By Hazel Simpkin

Workers in the Methodist archives often come across interesting human stories that have been hidden in boxes and files for years. The story of Evelyn Leah Pratt and her husband and daughters is an example.

Prior to his death in 1990 Rev George Carter was the Methodist archivist in charge at Auckland. After his years as a missionary and later as the Overseas Missions Secretary George had collected a large and valuable amount of Solomon Islands resource material, which he deposited in the archives.

The file about Leah Pratt included the carbon copy of an article George obviously prepared for publication. We discovered a cutting of the article, believed to have been published in Pacific Islands Monthly in 1979.

Leah Pratt was one of the six children of Peter Pratt a trader of French birth, and Beladuri from Roviana. Leah was born in 1892. When she was a young girl she and her sisters Rebecca and Sarah came to live with the missionaries Rev and Mrs Goldie at Kokeqolo, and attended school there. The three Pratt girls and three others, Ruth Imanduri, Grace Naara or Naru and Naomi Nanasambe rowed the dinghy for Mrs Goldie when she was visiting the outlying villages of the district.

When Mrs Goldie went to Australia to visit her father at Mount Morgan, Queensland, she took Leah and some of the girls with her. Though they were there for an extended stay, Leah was not able to meet her father who was in New South Wales at the time. When they returned to Munda, Leah continued at school with Mrs Goldie, possibly until the time of her marriage. Leah made a second marriage later in life.

We can now read George’s published account of the happy reunion of mother and daughter that took place in 1978 or 1979.

‘Family reunion’ by George G. Carter

After 57 years, Leah Pratt had been reunited with her younger daughter! Leah, the daughter of a French father and a Roviana, Western Solomons mother, grew up in the home of Rev J.F. Goldie and his wife, pioneer Methodist missionaries in the Solomons.

In 1911, while still with Rev and Mrs Goldie, Leah met and married a young Tongan missionary, Pastor Timothy Kauvaka. Martha, their first child was born the following year and in 1913 a second daughter was born. She was named Kuria (or as the Tongans say it, Kulia).

After service in various parts of the Western Solomons Mr Tauvaka decided he wanted to go home for a holiday. Leah could not go with him. In was one of those inexplicable lapses into inhumanity, the Mission Board in Australia having ruled that if a Polynesian missionary married a woman of the country in which he had been sent to serve, it would not pay for her to visit her husband’s country on leave. Leah herself said she was not very keen to go, anyway. So Timothy Kauvaka left the Solomons in 1922, taking Kulia with him. He never returned to his wife and older daughter.

Kulia grew up in Tonga, speaking only the Tongan language there, and was only vaguely aware of her Solomons background. Martha married Willie Paia, a clerk in Government service. The Paias called their first daughter Kuria, after the missing sister.

The years slipped by and it was not until 1972 that Kuria, daughter of Martha, with her English husband Tony Hughes, travelled to Tonga to look for her long lost aunt. The meeting was a memorable moment for all, and it was not long before they began talking about the possibility of Aunty Kulia going home to see her mother. Now it has happened!

Though language was at first a problem, the reunion was a tremendous success with Leah hale, happy and hearty and looking much younger than her 86 years, as she welcomed home her long lost daughter.