Visiting Samarai: The Protestants and the Catholics

I’ve previously posted images of the Catholic church, which is still functioning and the Anglican church which has fallen into disrepair. Perhaps it’s indicative of the influence of those particular religions in Samarai, whereas over the northern coastline from Milne Bay, the Anglicans held sway at Dogura.

The United Church building at Samarai is still in use.

The United Church building at Samarai is still in use.

Today we see the United Church building at Samarai. We’ve always been amused by this because to this day, the Presbyterian-Methodist combination in Australia is still “Uniting” whereas in PNG it’s been “United” since the 1970s. 

The Catholic church, side view, showing the tempting view of the ocean.

The Catholic church, side view, showing the tempting view of the ocean.

I’m also including a side view of the Catholic church which we’ve visited previously. It’s hard to imagine how people kept their concentration on worship with views out to the water: perhaps it was inspirational or perhaps just a distraction to wonder if the fish were biting.

Visiting Samarai: The Memorial Hall

The Memorial Hall was the venue for balls and socials for the small group of people living on the island of Samarai….if those walls could talk.

The Samarai Memorial Hall

The Samarai Memorial Hall

In front of the building you can just see a memorial: this was erected on the 50th anniversary of Gallipoli, 25th April 1965. Peter’s parents were probably there but he was at boarding school.

The gun and Gallipoli memorial.

The gun and Gallipoli memorial.

The Gallipoli memorial.

The Gallipoli memorial: this would have been of significance to my mother-in-law whose uncle died at Gallipoli.

Visiting Samarai: the old school and houses

This photo shows the old primary school at Samarai which has particular significance to my husband’s family: his mother taught in the small, low-level classroom to the left of the two storey building.

The old primary school at Samarai, now out of use.

The old primary school at Samarai, now out of use.

Also in the background are the old houses which used to accommodate the senior staff of Burns Philp and Steamships Trading Company, both businesses of some significance in times past.

Steamies and BPs housing and the concrete remains of the Samarai Club.

Steamies and BPs housing and the concrete remains of the Samarai Club.

The concrete stumps are all that remains of the old Samarai Club and the billiard table. 

Below: the old headmaster’s house.

The old primary school headmaster's house, Samarai.

The old primary school headmaster’s house, Samarai.

Down the street – Samarai, PNG

Well as you can see I’ve lapsed once again with getting my images uploaded. I think the secret is to post every two or three days. I’ve now got three other blogs on the go (family history, books and local history) so they’re keeping me pretty busy.

However I’ve also committed to following the 2013 A to Z Challenge. In 2012 I did this on my Family History Across the Seas blog but this year I’m going to post using this blog, Tropical Territory. My response to the series will be all about places in the Top End of Australia (mainly the NT Top End and sometimes northern WA or central Australia, NT) – a travelogue and photologue of some of Australia’s perhaps less well-known places.

In the meantime I’m going back to posting photos of our recent PNG trip. I’ve still got heaps of NT photos but I for one feel like a change. So join me as we walk down what used to be  the main street of Samarai for many years. It could get quite busy with the arrival of cruise ships, freighters and the Catalina flying boats.

When we visited Europe for the first time in the early 1970s, the only people who had any idea where PNG was, were the Greeks, precisely because their ships had come along that route.

Street Samarai1 copy

As you see the main street now looks rather deserted though in fact there’s still an active community on the island. It’s “just” that many of the services have gone.

The Old Steamships store

The Old Steamships store

Mr Cassmob remembers the day when, as a small boy, he heard voices under their house. On inspection he discovered a couple of women from one of the cruise ships happily searching through his family’s shell collection, blissfully unaware that they were trespassing on his family’s property and garden. They enquired in rather staccato English, as if they were talking to the village idiot, how much the shells cost. He decided to sell them and make a bit of pocket money,but you have to wonder about people, don’t you?!

27 Old BP Store1

Burns Philp (BPs) and Steamships Trading Company both had thriving stores on the island and it was from them that our groceries and hardware were shipped, on order, to Alotau. The buildings remain but are essentially unused. The BP store is now being used like a market to see betel nut (buai) and sweet potato.

Although Mr Cassmob worked at these places during his school holidays he was remarkably sanguine about their current state of inactivity.

All that remains – Samarai PNG

These photos are part of Mr Cassmob’s family heritage: the site where their house was situated when they lived on Samarai. Sadly the house is no more, nor are the others that were their neighbours. Now the new neighbours are the Council offices. There is nothing left of the BBQ or the hibiscus or……just the memories.

The site of Mr Cassmob's family's home for about eight years in the 1960s.

The site of Mr Cassmob’s family’s home for about eight years in the 1960s.

Our family has heard various tales about their life here, one of the more amusing being how their cat would use the crab holes in the sand for his toilet.

81 In front of Cass place

Wouldn’t you like this view, looking out to sea from the house and across to Logeia Island then down to the wharf in the other direction.

All photographs are copyright Pauleen Cass 2012.

Looking to the left of the house, towards Deka Deka, the small island on the left, past Logeia.

Looking to the left of the house, towards Deka Deka, the small island on the left, past Logeia.

Samarai Catholic Church – PNG

Today’s feature is the Catholic Church in Samarai (another church where we surely own one or two bricks).  Mr Cassmob believes there is something slightly different about it compared to when he lived there, but couldn’t quite put his “finger” on it. The missionaries in Papua New Guinea had a significant impact, one which continues to this day…many an urban parish would wish for similar levels of church attendance.


Interior Catholic Church SamaraiThe local symbolism has been incorporated into many churches in Papua New Guinea along with more traditional statues.

All photographs on this blog are © Pauleen Cass.

Cassmob Hibiscus genetics

This poor little blog has been sadly neglected over Christmas etc. When I started it I’d planned to post 365 photos over 2012 with each image as a stand-alone “event”. In the end I posted on 173 days, but uploaded 466 photos, and couldn’t resist adding commentary to most. 3900 viewers read the posts over the course of the year.

Normally I only post photos of the Northern Territory here (and I still have plenty on file to upload in due course), but for a change (for all of us) I’d include some of the photos we took on our recent trip to Papua New Guinea when we mainly visited Alotau and Samarai. After all when we lived in Alotau it was still in the Territory of Papua New Guinea and it is also tropical. Well that’s my justification anyway!


If you want to read more about our experiences on this sentimental return voyage, you can read them on this link to my other blog, Family History Across the Seas.


When growing up on Samarai, Mr Cassmob’s mother used to import hibiscus from all over, including Hawaii. We wondered as we looked at these ones growing in the grounds of the Catholic Church (near where they lived) if they were the horticultural descendants of those imported hibiscus although they’re not all that exotic.

Red Hibiscus at Samarai

Red Hibiscus at Samarai