by Barry Craig. Continued from OAS Journal Vol.21 No.5.
In this issue of the OAS Journal, I provide more details of Harry’s service with the AN&MEF and a sample of his collection in the South Australian Museum.
Harry Lort Spencer
Harry was appointed as Captain when he enlisted with the AN&MEF and was District Officer at Kieta, Bougainville till June 1915, then District Officer Kavieng for a month, then appointed Officer in Charge of Native Affairs in Rabaul (see Plate 392, Gash & Whittaker 1975). He remained based in Rabaul until he terminated his military appointment January 1919. During this period of his service, on the basis of his collection and his photographs in the archives of the South Australian Museum, he went on patrol to the east coast of New Britain.
During his short time at Kavieng, New Ireland, during 1917, he toured the district in company with Reverend Ernst Boettcher, visiting the Tabar Islands.1 Boettcher reports that while they were guests of Charles (Carl) Pettersson on Simberi, Major Ogilvy said:
‘I want to say something. Although I am English and you are German, and what I say will put my country to shame, this land has made a deep impression on me. I have been a government officer in South Africa, India and Fiji2 and a District Officer here already for a year. I must confess that in no English colony are the laws and decrees for the natives as good as here under the Germans, and the way they are implemented. It couldn’t be better, and the whole colony has been developed wonderfully well.’
‘What Major Ogilvy said about the German colony perhaps he would not have said if he had known that later it would be published in a book, but he was a responsible Australian officer and nothing negative could be said of him. When he spoke he was serious…’
It is likely that what Harry approved of was stern discipline for New Guineans. Boettcher wrote that:
Major Ogilvy had an old, very large, brightly shining Turkish sabre which a police boy had to carry among the people for them to see it while the ‘kiap’ told them what it was possible to do with the sabre. It was possible to inflict serious wounds and even to cut off the head of a man with a single blow and if they do not obey, or try to revolt, then they will be beaten.
Hubert Murray, Administrator of Papua, wrote a letter to his brother George in April 1916 referring obliquely to Harry Ogilvy (West 1970:94):
I met a man who is in the service of the British Administration of the late German possessions. He had been in Bougainville (German Solomons) and told me how he had punished a native murder by shooting 9 of the guilty men and cutting their heads off and sticking them on poles near the scene of the murder.
Evidently, Harry was a hard man (Fig. 1).
In a letter dated 4 January 1917, to Edgar Waite, the Director of the South Australian Museum, Harry advises that he is sending ‘a few specimens from various districts of late German New Guinea. All these are apparently genuine native work, and much of it has come from hitherto unexplored portions’.3 In March, the shipment arrived with a list of 54 items, though some, such as spears, arrows and panpipes, were multiples. When Waite went to German New Guinea to collect natural history and ethnographic specimens in 1918,4 he was given several more items by Harry to take back to Adelaide. In total, there are 125 items from Harry Ogilvy, around half of which are currently on display in the Pacific Cultures Gallery of the South Australian Museum.
The most spectacular, rarest and valuable item was the first thing he mentioned in his January letter:
I would draw your attention to No.46, the double-headed hat. I am informed by residents of 30 years experience that this is the only specimen they have ever seen or heard of, and on good authority that the Leipzig Museum (which I understand is the best so far as New Guinea specimens are concerned) has not got one. I have seen several of the single hats, but nothing approaching this one.
This mask is a hemlaut from the Sulka of Wide Bay, East New Britain. Harry sent a photograph of two young men wearing the mask (Fig. 2a). The double-hatted hemlaut was called lopela and was difficult to perform. Paul Anis of Kilalum village in 1993 interpreted the four main motifs on the underside of the lopela as hevotek kalogu (freshwater crayfish claws). The small concentric green and white circles are the fruits of a tree that have fallen into the water and are grasped by the crayfish’s claws.
Hemlaut masks take several months to construct and paint, are danced for just fifteen minutes or so, then later destroyed. They are performed on occasion of initiation of boys, when they are circumcised; also at marriages and funerals. Although women and the uninitiated believe the mask is a spirit, the nature of the spirit is not specified (Issac & Craig 1999).
To be continued.