Biographical entry: Didimang, William


In 1851 William Didi (or Didimang) was the first Solomon Islander to be baptised by the Melanesian Mission. He was born in Lidia (thought to have been a hamlet within Ubuna village) in the Arosi area of northwest Makira, and in 1850 Captain Erskine of the HMS Havannah took him and three other boys, from Erromanga and Efate in the New Hebrides, to Sydney. The sailors made much of the boys and gave Didi the nickname 'Meste'. In Sydney, Erskine met with Bishop George Selwyn (q.v.) who offered to take the boys to St. John's College in Auckland, New Zealand, where Didi spent 1850 and 1851. He was described by an Auckland woman as: 'Didimang … a strong-built thick-set figure, with grave expression; sensible and thoughtful rather than quick'. He had picked up some English on the Havannah, learned quickly at the school, and was soon able to read and write. He sailed north on the Border Maid with Bishop Selwyn in 1851, but they never reached Makira and he returned to the school, not managing to get back to his home until 1853. He was baptised as William, but when Bishop Patteson (q.v.) visited him on Makira in 1856 he had returned to his indigenous religious practice. Next, he and a friend signed as crew on various trading vessels, which took Didi to China, around the Pacific and eventually back to New Zealand. His travelling companion died but Didi returned to St. John's in 1858, where he helped Bishop Selwyn translate the Lord's Prayer into the Arosi language. He returned again to Makira but could not settle there and joined another ship, never to be seen again. ('William Didi, the First Scholar', SCL 15 June 1898, 1-4; Fox 1958, 159)

Published resources


  • Fox, Charles E., Lord of the Southern Isles: Being the Story of the Anglican Mission in Melanesia, 1849-1949, Mowbray, London, 1958. Details


  • Southern Cross Log (SCL). Details