Biographical entry: Palmer, Norman Kitchener (1928 - 2008)
- 13 November 2008
Norman Kitchener Palmer was born in Kokeqolo village, New Georgia, in 1928, the son of Philip Palmer and Anne Nancy. He was a grandson of planter Norman Wheatley (q.v.) and half-brother of well-known recruiter Ernie Palmer. Norman was baptised Methodist in 1929 by Rev. John Goldie (q.v.). He grew up at Munda and at age five moved to Uepi Island with his mother. His father left and his mother remarried, to Abel Alermae; Norman had five half-brothers from this marriage. He attended school at Kokeqolo until the war came in 1942. The village was occupied by Japanese and the family moved to Rarumana village on the west side of Parara Island. At age fourteen, he accompanied labourers joining the Labour Corps on Guadalcanal, where he was based at Ilu Farm. In 1946, he enrolled at All Hallows' School at Pawa (q.v.) on Ugi, where Alfred T. Hill (q.v.) was Headmaster. The next year, Coleman-Porter, the new Director of Education, came to Pawa and asked if Palmer could transfer to the new Experimental School at Aligegeo near Auki on Malaita. He worked there as a clerk-typist until 1950, when he returned to All Hallows' to complete his education, and then returned to Aligegeo (which later became King George VI School; q.v.).
During 1952 a British Secretary of State visited the Solomons to look into educational needs, and Palmer asked him for a chance for further study. He was told to apply to the Resident Commissioner. He did so and was granted a scholarship to attend Te Aute Maori College in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, where he obtained his School Certificate. In 1956, he began to attend Ardmore Teachers College in Auckland and in 1957 he graduated with a teaching certificate. Palmer worked as a teacher at King George VI School from 1958-1960, and in the latter year he married Elizabeth Lucy. Bishop Hill (his old Headmaster) asked Palmer to attend St. John's Theological College in Auckland, but the Protectorate Government refused to release him. In 1961, he returned to teach at All Hallows' School for a year, before finally leaving for New Zealand in 1962. He graduated with a Licentiate of Theology in 1965 and returned to All Hallows' in 1966, and the next year transferred to St. Barnabas' School at Alangaula (q.v.) on Ugi as Headmaster, a position he held until 1969. Palmer then became Headmaster to St. Nicholas' School in Honiara. He was ordained on 13 March 1966 at the chapel of All Hallows'. In 1967, he accompanied his wife to attend the centenary of the Mothers Union in England.
Palmer was appointed as Dean of St. Barnabas' Cathedral (q.v.) in 1971. In 1975, when Archbishop John Chisholm (q.v.) died, Palmer was nominated to replace him as Archbishop and eventually accepted, even though the circumstances were unusual in that he became a Bishop and Archbishop at the same time. His appointment was announced on 4 June and he was consecrated on 1 November 1975. Palmer followed the plans laid down by Chisholm and felt unprepared for the position of Archbishop; he saw his task as pastoral not administrative. When interviewed in 2003, Palmer nominated as his main problems the logistics of forming the new Province of Melanesia, moral issues relating to finances and the clergy, urbanisation, land disputes and bridewealth payments. On retirement in 1987, he chose to settle on Makira, where he continued to work as a priest and at times assisted the Bishop of Hunuatoo. He died on 13 November 2008, survived by his wife Elizabeth Lucy (née Gorringe) (q.v.) from Isabel, and his children Lorette, Trevor, Michael and John Palmer. (NS Nov. 1958, Mar. 1962; Rev. Caulton Medobu interview, 25 June 2003; Anglican Communion Official Website, Melanesian Messenger online, 13 Nov. 2008, http://www.anglicancommunion.org/provincialnews/melanesia/client/news/client_news_index.cfm [accessed 4 Feb. 2011]; Golden 1993, 320; Craig and Clement 1980, 149)
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