During his travels throughout
Oceania, Bully Hayes frequented many of the islands of Kiribati including Ocean
Island (Banaba) although at that time phosphate was undreamt of. Banaba was
described as being inhabited by the same race as Pleasant Island. It was said to
be circular in form, ten to eleven miles in circumference, high in the centre,
and steep all round, with no harbour for anchorage. Its 20 foot cliffs were
scarcely approachable on the north side, however, on the south side there were
level sandy beaches. The island was said to have gained its name from the ship
Ocean which discovered it in 1804.
The white men on Ocean Island, at
that time, were said to be "the same breed o' dog" as those on Pleasant Island.
In 1845, there were seventeen white men living there, ten of whom were runaway
convicts. In spite of rum and sour toddy, there were still sixteen of them alive
in 1850, but only two were left in 1873. One of these was a fierce ex-convict
named Bob Ridley, a man well over seventy years of age, tattooed like a native,
as brown as a berry, and wrinkled like an old monkey. Although he had a number
of wives, children and grandchildren, Bob Ridley was reported to be an
anti-social loner. He spent much of his time sitting silent, solitary and
saturnine, a prey to his terrible memory.
The second white man, Harry Terry,
was vastly different being a jovial, gin-loving sailor who had jumped ship more
than fifty years previous succumbing to the attractions of the island belles. He
was a white-haired father of a large half-caste family. He was said to be a
thoroughly decent old fellow who always did his best to maintain law and order,
and to keep both the white man and the locals from flying at each other during
their mad drinking bouts.
Besides loading oil at Ocean Island,
Bully Hayes did a bit of labour recruiting and succeeded in engaging 27 of the
natives on behalf of a German firm at Ponape (Pohnpei).
The Leonora's next port of
call was Tabiteuea or Drummond Island in the Gilbert Group. This mixture of
islets and reefs was said to be the thickest populated island of the group,
having between 7,000 and 8,000 souls. Like the locals of Pleasant and Ocean
Islands, the Drummond Islanders had gained a name throughout the Pacific for
treachery against visiting ships. This also was probably due to the bad
influence of the white traders.
The worst of these renegade white
men was a ruffian named James Garstang, who had been brought from Ponape and
installed there by Bully Hayes. Garstang used his pistol at the least
provocation and cared nothing for the treacherous reputation possessed by the
The chief of Utiroa, a man named
Tabirau, in exchange for the usual amount of trade, handed over one of his
daughters to the white man for a wife. The girl quickly came running home saying
that Jim had beaten her for spoiling a razor. In the aftermath, Jim Garstang
shot the chief and then used the butt of his rifle to club the girl to death.
This atrocious action set him up in
the dead chief's place and he ruled the fierce Drummond Islanders with a rod of
iron. News, however, reached Bully Hayes that this trader had sold the coconut
oil which had been prepared for the Leonora to a Californian vessel and
Bully Hayes was determined to settle the score with him according to the usual
custom of the South Seas.
The Leonora came to the
island at night time and did not anchor at the usual place but lay off and on
opposite the village of Utiroa until daylight. As soon as the sun came up, Bully
Hayes went ashore in the longboat, well loaded down with trade, consisting
almost entirely of gin, rum, rifles and ammunition.
As he approached the shore, a crowd
of armed locals numbering close to 500 began to assemble. Many of these were
wearing their armour made out of fibre with helmets made from the skin of the
porcupine fish on their heads. The longboat was run up on the beach by her crew,
and Bully Hayes stepped ashore in the face of a line of rifle muzzles. Bully
Hayes continued talking in his suavest manner to those chiefs that he recognized
and gradually the ferocious scowls left the faces in front of him. Presently, he
called for a couple of mustards and a box of tobacco from the longboat as a
present for the two chiefs, who now shook hands. Presently, Hayes was escorted
to the house of Jim Garstang, whereupon Hayes called for the trader to come on
out and show himself.
Jim Garstang approached Hayes who
extended his hand to him. The trader also put out his hand, but before he could
speak, Hayes seized him by the throat, shook him like a rat, spun him around and
flung him head first against the stern of a canoe. Jim Garstang lay where he
dropped, half-stunned. The locals gave out a loud roar and Bully Hayes put up
his hand for silence and told the chiefs how he had been robbed, and that he
intended to take the trade away after giving them some presents.
Garstang came to his senses and
fearing that things were lost, he appealed to the natives for support. At this
time, Bully Hayes offered to fight him to see which was the better man and that
if Jim won, he would let him have his trade back.
A firm level piece of beach was
selected for the fight and it was expected that the man who got in the first
knock-out blow would win the fight. The first knock-out blow was that of Bully
Hayes and Jim went down with a closed eye and his cheek cut open to the bone.
Immediately, the trader's women flung themselves upon him to prevent him from
rising to his feet. Jim Garstang was beside himself with rage and called Bully
Hayes every name he could think of, but then suddenly he stopped, let out a
growl like an angry lion, and turned sullenly away. Hayes sprang upon him,
seized him by the throat and nearly strangled him. As soon as he recovered a
bit, Hayes ordered him to be carried down to the boat.
Inside the house, seven hundred
dollars in United States coin were found which was the money given to Jim by the
skipper of a Californian trader. In addition, twenty casts of oil were rafted
off to the Leonora. Jim Garstang's place was taken by a Rotuma Islander
who was one of the crew of the Leonora. The Rotuma man's name was Willie
and he was provided with a wife as part of the deal. He later married the lady
in Fiji and it was understood that they had a large number of children.
Bully Hayes, was not one of those
men who harboured malice and he speedily made up with the huge North countryman,
Jim Garstang, whom he then set up as a trader on Nukulaelae or Mitchell Island.
Banaba Home Page
Kiribati Home Page
Stories of Bully Hayes And Others
Pacific Islands Radio Stations
Jane Resture's Oceania Page
Jane's Oceania Travel Page