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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 2 (June 1, 1931)

Like a Grand Organ

Like a Grand Organ.

To the South East, as far from Suva as Auckland is from Wellington, we come to the southern portion of the Friendly Islands, landing in Nukualofa, the capital, on a brilliantly fine Sunday morning, and straightaway make for the nearest church. We had heard of the wonderful singing of the Tongans, and as we approach the church there rolls out a splendid sonorous volume of song. It is hard to believe that the singing is not assisted by a grand organ, but in actual fact the deep rich notes which suggest it are those of the Tongan men. Our early pilgrimage to church is prompted by the knowledge that services begin at 5 a.m. and are almost continuous till lunch, and that there are no regular evening services. A page 44 very suitable time-table in a tropical climate.

Enthusiastic missionaries declare that the Tongans are the most religious people in the world. Sunday in Nukualofa is strictly kept, and no good Tongan would venture to play a jazz record on the gramophone on that day. Nor would he pick a flower, so it is said. Sabbath observance is enforced by a strict set of laws.
The fairy-like entrance to Swallows’ Cave, Vavau.

The fairy-like entrance to Swallows’ Cave, Vavau.

With British protection, and an able British Consul exercising powers in regard to finance, Tonga is governed by Queen Salote, with her husband, the Hon. William Tugi, Prime Minister. There are some hundreds of islands in the whole group, but only three are of importance. Tongatabu, the main island, is of low elevation and porous strata. I motored with an English resident to its extreme south, where we looked across the water towards a precipitous island presenting a particularly interesting geological aspect, for we could clearly see evidences of at least four upheavals in the profiles of successive “raised beaches.” But my friend looked at that island with something else in mind.

“There's running water — beautiful streams over there!” he remarked in longing tones. And one realised his feelings when he explained that not in all Tongatabu was there running water. We have to be without this common feature of a New Zealand landscape to understand how much it means in one's life.