Item 02u - Frederick James Paton correspondence to Rev. Robert R. Paton and Elizabeth Margaret (Bessie) Paton.

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AU PMB MS 1392-02u


Frederick James Paton correspondence to Rev. Robert R. Paton and Elizabeth Margaret (Bessie) Paton.


  • 1940 (Creation)

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Correspondence and manuscripts. Digital copies of originals.

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Frederick James Paton correspondence to Robert Peter Paton and Elizabeth Margaret (Bessie) Paton. (Robert Peter Paton was the eldest son of John G. Paton and his wife Bessie. According to W.F. Paton, Fred Paton of Malekula, Fred was born on Aniwa, in the New Hebrides in 1867 and died 12 Dec 1941 at the Paton Memorial Hospital, Vila. He lost the use of his right arm in infancy. He was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and at the University of Melbourne (Ormonde College) but he did not complete his tertiary degree. In 1892 he returned to the New Hebrides as an ordained missionary of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria and took up his post at Pangkumu on the east coast of Malekula. He left the New Hebrides on furlough on five (?) occasions, the first in 1900, when he visited England and Scotland and married Nellie Roberts, the daughter of another missionary connected with the New Hebrides. The couple had one son, Jack, but Mrs. Paton died when the boy was just three years old. On a second furlough in 1913, Fred visited Australia, Great Britain and Canada. On this trip he met and married a girl called Christina Cameron from Nova Scotia, who was the cousin of his first wife; but within a year the second Mrs. Paton was dead. During World War I, Fred secured a post as an army chaplain despite his physical disabilities [there are some comments on the circumstances of this in Fred’s letter to Mrs. Waddell, dated 26 Nov 1938, in 1392/03], and there are two letters in the collection which appear to date from this period, one of them apparently written when the troop ship on which he was travelling was crossing The Line. It appears that Fred spent some time in France, since the author refers to ‘contacts with the French civilian population’. [See also the photos of Fred in uniform, in 1392/08] He was also in Belgium. After his War service, Fred returned to Malekula, where he remained for seven or eight years. In 1926, he was again on furlough, apparently in Victoria; he was nearly 60 years old when he returned once more to Malekula. In 1931, he injured one of his feet, on a shell or coral; the upshot was that he was sent to Australia, where his leg was amputated just below the knee and he was provided with a prosthesis. According to the author of the book, Fred ‘was a prodigious writer of letters’ (p. 17); indeed the letters in the collection apparently represent only a fraction of his production and there are numerous lacunae, e.g. from 1899 to 1903, 1917 to 1921 and 1921 to 1933. (In letter dated Sep 1938 to Wilfred & Maisie he mentions sending his mail, including 110 letters or at least letters to 110 people!) The earliest letters are mainly addressed to his elder brother Robert, [whose death he mentions in letter to Wilfred & Maisie dated 8 Oct 1938] then to his sister Bessie and his niece Margaret. Presumably, most of the letters he wrote to other correspondents did not survive, but cf. PMB 1392/03, etc.


Rev. Robert R. Paton was christened Robert Peter Robson Paton (a variation on the name Peter Robert Robson Paton, which had been given to the baby born to John G. Paton’s first wife on Tanna) but he apparently did not use the name “Peter”. Rev Robert R. Paton was only 46 when he died in 1911, leaving his widow, Bessie (who survived for another 56 years) and a young family. Letters after 1911 would have been to Bessie only.

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