David Whippy

Life among the warring tribes of the Fiji Islands during the early days of European settlement was precarious. White settlers in the first few decades tended to do so involuntarily, and most of these ‘beachcombers’ did not survive.  A few, however, made themselves useful to the Fijian chiefs and prospered.

David WhippyDavid Whippy is the most well-known and influential of these early settlers. He was a younger son of a whaling family of Nantucket, Massachusetts.[1] He arrived in Fiji in January 1825 aboard the brig Calder with Captain Peter Dillon, who took what little sandalwood he could find and left Whippy on the island of Bau to organise a shipment of turtle shell and beche-de-mer. Dillon did not return for thirteen years.[2]

Whippy could have escaped Fiji on another ship, but he decided to stay. He became a favourite of the Vunivalu of Bau, and later settled with the Levuka people on Ovalau Island, north of Bau. The European settlement of Levuka was founded with the approval of the chief, the Tui Levuka, and other Europeans settled. Whippy became ‘the principal man in the European settlement’, and was appointed vice-consul for the United States by Commodore Wilkes in 1840.[3] Deeds and other official papers kept in his house were lost whenever his house was burned down in the ongoing conflict between the coastal Levuka people and the Lovoni people in the hills.[4]

Boats were an enormously important part of the economy of Fiji for Europeans and natives alike, as they are today. They were the only means of getting around and transporting goods for trade and men in war. Whippy started a boat-building company known as ‘Whippy, Simpson and Cusick’ with William Simpson and William Cusick (or Cusack). William Simpson was a ship’s carpenter from Poplar who arrived in Fiji in 1829 and settled in Levuka, working as a carpenter and pilot and translator for visiting ships.[5]William Cusick, or Cusack, was an Irish blacksmith who later married Whippy’s daughter Lydia.[6]

Whippy fathered eleven known children by at least four women, the last of whom he married in a Christian ceremony. A number of his children were baptised, all at once, on 2nd and 3rd October 1843, as were those of other settlers.[7]

The white community was expelled from Levuka twice during Whippy’s lifetime; once in August 1844, when Cakobau gave them three days to leave after one of the Europeans, Charlie Pickering from New South Wales, got involved in one of Cakobau’s wars; and again in 1858 when Whippy’s son Samuel eloped with the daughter of a chief of Batiki, earning Cakobau’s anger. They took up residence on Wakaya Island, where Whippy’s old friend and business partner William Simpson died on 24th May 1862.[8]

Whippy bought land around this time at Wainunu on Vanua Levu from the Tui Wainunu for 5 kegs powder, 5 muskets, 3 ½ pigs of lead, 3 dozen axes, 40 canisters and one barrel of gunpowder, 34 knives, 500 balls, 10,200 yards of cloth and 10 iron pots, valued at $398.[9] The Wakaya community dispersed in 1862, with many of the Whippy families settling at Wainunu. Whippy died on 27th October 1871 at his residence at Vakabuta in Wainunu at the age of 69 years and 8 months and was buried in the ‘Old People’s Cemetery’.[10]

An obituary appeared in the Fiji Times: [11]

The oldest settler, a man who for his good qualities was held in high esteem by both the natives and residents of Fiji, has passed from amongst us. Death has taken away Mr. David Whippy, who died at his residence Wainunu, in the seventieth year of his age.

Whippy now has hundreds of descendants in Fiji, and Australia and around the world, all of whom are proud to be descended from him.[12]

Wainunu River


[1] Elder D.J. Joseph, ‘Whippy Genealogy’, FHL Film 1817446, Item 7; Obituary of David Whippy, Fiji Times, 8 Nov 1871, p.3, col.2; S.W. Ritova (President), Descendants of David Whippy Reunion Souvenir Programme, privately published by Descendants of David Whippy Reunion Organising Committee, Suva, 1993, p. 3, photocopy held by the author

[2] W.S. Cary, Wrecked on the Feejees, Fairfield, Washington, 1998, pp. 35-6, 67; J.W. Davidson, ‘Peter Dillon,’ in Pacific Island Portraits, J.W. Davidson and D. Scarr, (ed.), Canberra, 1970), p.15. This is the same Captain Dillon who witnessed the death of Charlie Savage in 1813.

[3] Derrick, op. cit., pp.67,92.

[4] J. Young, Adventurous Spirits, Australian migrant society in pre-cession Fiji, St. Lucia, QLD, 1984, p. 59.

[5] Certified Copy of the Will of William Simpson, 1860, photocopy held by the author; FRGO, Fiji General Deaths, Death of Eliza Sophia Brown, 1901/140; Young, Adventurous Spirits, pp. 58, 391; Cyclopedia of Fiji 1906, Suva, 1984, p.75. Fijian birth, marriage and death registrations are divided into three series – Fijian, Indian and General. The series must always be given to avoid confusion.

[6] Young, Adventurous Spirits, p.58; Cyclopedia of Fiji 1906, p.75; J.E. Erskine, Journal of a Cruise among the Islands of the Western Pacific, London, 1853, p.173; NAF, Wesleyan-Methodist Church of Fiji: Fiji Wesleyan Register of Baptisms, entry no. 1037. The Wesleyan Register of Baptisms also contains marriages; the heading has been crossed out on the pages containing marriages.

[7] NAF, Wesleyan-Methodist Church of Fiji: ‘Wesleyan Methodist Register of Baptisms 1836-1925’.

[8] Young, Adventurous Spirits, p.65-66; Derrick, A History of Fiji, p.94; Last Will and Testament of William Simpson 7 June 1860, handwritten note on bottom of copy of will.

[9] NAF, Land Claims Commission: Report 588 on lands at Wainunu known as Yadali claimed by Heirs of David Whippy senior, David Whippy junior, and William Simpson.

[10] Obituary of David Whippy, Fiji Times, 8 Nov 1871, p.3; Stanley Brown, Men From Under The Sky, Rutland, Vermont, 1973, p.119.

[11] Obituary of David Whippy, Fiji Times, 8 Nov 1871, p.3.

[12] Organising Committee of the David Whippy Reunion, ‘Souvenir Programme’, 1993. The programme lists over 500 descendants with whom direct contact had been made for the reunion.

My DNA results have arrived!

I have previously written about beginning my DNA adventures with a test with 23andMe, a company that focuses more on the health aspects of genetics than the genealogical aspects. They had an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I didn’t!

When I got up this morning there was an email to say that my genetic profile was ready. I had to go out and so couldn’t give this interesting news the attention that it deserved, until now. I’d like to write down my impressions as I go through the results.

The menu is split into three headings:

  • My Health
  • My Ancestry
  • Sharing and Community

The first thing I did before I left the house this morning was look for my mtDNA haplotype under My Ancestry. This is the one that sorts  you into migration groups from 10-50,000 years ago. Mine is X2b:

According to 23andMe haplogroup X2 is mostly found in southern Europe, Central Asia, and North America, with a few scattered populations in places like the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It is relatively rare in most of the populations in which it is found.

It’s nice to think that my haplogroup is relatively rare. We all like to think of ourselves as a bit special! I can trace my direct female line back five generations to Agnes Allan, who married William Stewart in Paisley, Scotland, in 1827, and died before William remarried and took his family to Auckland, New Zealand in 1842. So perhaps she was descended from the people who ended up in Orkney.

Other headings under My Ancestry are:

  • Relative Finder, which won’t have results for another week or so. Disappointing!
  • Paternal Line which is no good to me since I am not male and the paternal line can only be traced by the Y chromosome, which women do not have.
  • Ancestry Painting, which makes no sense to me at the moment. It has a diagram of some chromosomes and a key that shows different colours meaning different things if the chromosomes show those colours. My chromosomes show no colours, only grey bits, and apparently “Gray segments indicate regions where 23andMe’s genotyping chip has no markers.”
  • Global Similarity shows your similarity to groups of people from around the world. Check it out:

Global similarity map

Global similarity graphI am slightly more similar to the people of Oceania than to any of the Europeans. Apparently Oceania includes the people of Australia (ie, Aboriginals), New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand, but the sample only includes those from New Guinea. The sample dates from January 2008, which is a bit disappointing.

There is the opportunity to see the graph for others who have shared their profile with you, and those I can see have predominantly Northern Europeans and very little Oceania. That makes sense. Most of us in Australia, aside from the Aboriginal people, come from Europe.

My father, however, is a part-European Fijian. The Fijians are Melanesian, with some Polynesian where they associated with people from Tonga and other islands. So this result makes some sense.

When I have some time I will delve into these results in more detail to work out how they arrive at the conclusions they have.

Under the heading Sharing and Community are the tools for comparing your genes with those of relatives. So far I have shared my profile with two people, and I have no similarities with either of them. I will look at this category in more detail when it has something to show me.

The first heading, which I have left until last, is My Health. First up is Disease Risk.

The results for Parkinson’s Disease are locked, so that they can explain what the results mean, and don’t mean, before you see them. I think that’s a good idea. I have a scientific background and know that the percentages they are talking about are very small, but others may be unnecessarily concerned.

The other results are displayed in a long list, with the increased risk first, followed by decreased risk and then typical risk. The ones on the top of my list are no more than double the very low average incidence, which is heartening. I can then click on each one to find out more. Here are some of my ‘typical risks':

Health typical risk

Where the results show a red and green arrow there are multiple markers associated with the condition, and I may have one or more of them.

It would be easy, I imagine, to use these results as an excuse to do nothing. If I see a graph that shows my risk of heart attack is greater than average I might resign myself to the fact and keep living on fatty foods and no exercise (which I don’t – it’s hypothetical). Or I could make some changes to counteract the predisposition in my genes.

Each item on the list also gives a ‘confidence rating’, the stars, based on the number of studies that have been done and the number of participants in the studies.

I have a slightly higher risk of developing asthma, based on one of three markers for which studies have been done. The studies are listed and described, with the type of population and numbers of subjects described. I actually do suffer from asthma.

Carrier status to certain conditions has a similar layout. I’ll have a good look at that later.

Drug response will also take some time to digest. I am likely to be a fast metaboliser of caffeine, which I gave up some years ago, and I have typical results for most other items on the list.

Traits looks interesting. I don’t have the muscle performance of a world-class sprinter, nor am I resistant to malaria or HIV/AIDS. I am likely to have brown eyes (correct) and to have straighter hair (correct, despite my father having frizzy black hair).

That’s enough for now. It will take some time to go into this more thoroughly. My initial reaction is positive, and I’m glad I spent the $99.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

A visit to Fiji in 1832

nautical_diary 300x200On the 15th May 1831 the barque Peru from Salem, Massachussetts arrived in the Fiji Islands to look for beche-de-mer, turtle shell, and other trade goods. The Captain, John H. Eagleston, wrote a log which is now in the Essex Institute Library in Salem.

Much of the log contains details of little interest to a historian. The entries for most days begin with a description of the weather and the strength and direction of the breeze. The process and results of the collection, preparation and loading of cargo are also described in detail.

Occasionally, though, Captain Eagleston described local events. Here’s one:

November 1832, Friday 2nd Lowered boat & went on shore, found people all well but nothing to do, no fish coming in. The officer informed me that when the natives returned from the fight they brought up one man & one old woman which they had taken & killed. The next day after they returned the woman was cut up & cooked alongside of the trade house. The man was cooked at the kings house. They kept them 3 days probably to make them tender for eating they cut them up with bamboo sticks. I saw some of their bones scattered round the Beche de mer house.

The log has been microfilmed as part of the collection of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies of the Australian National University in Canberra. The microfilms are available at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, which is where I have been investigating them.

I have been slowly transcribing this log over the last few weeks, and when it’s done I’ll start on another one.