23 February 2010

The coconut controversy

The photographs below show the so-called seven sisters, palm trees that all grew from the same coconut.

The first was taken this year; the second is from the Cook Islands News Memory Lane archive.The coconut was planted outside the then-administration building (as you will see from the story below) and the trees survived the fire in 1991 that demolished the old wooden colonial-style building and the rebuilding of the courthouse by the Chinese in 2004.Sadly, there are now only six trees, the seventh having lost its head a few years ago.

Controversy over freak coconut palm
(From Cook Islands News 5 Sept 1969)
“With the passing of many years it is inevitable that most mens’ memories become less reliable, as any writer of recent history knows. This fact was proven once again this week when a controversy arose over the planting of the single coconut from which seven palms grew in front of the old Administration Building in Avarua.
In the June 1969 issue of the Cook Islands Review** the following item appeared with a photograph of Capt Andy Thomson standing in front of the cluster of seven coconut palms.
I remember seeing this coconut being planted in 1913: recalls Rarotonga’s most famous old timer Captain Andy Thomson, 83, as he poses in front of this extraordinary plant.
Capt Andy said that the coconut – which consists of seven palms all arising from a single nut, was brought to Rarotonga by the late grandfather of the Minister of Works and Communications, Hon. William Estall, from Manuae Atoll.
Capt Andy said he remembers the scene well. The coconut was brought from the wharf on a horse and buggy and was planted in the prominent site in front of the old Administration Building. The tree, probably 58 years old, watches changes coming.”
A couple of days ago Mr Umutai Greig came into the Press Office and stated that the above version of the coconut planting was incorrect and proceeded to give us his version, as follows: -
The seedlings from which the coconut palms growing together in front of the Court Room were planted in the year 1910. I actually saw the planting as I was in Rarotonga attending the old Tereora School. The seedling was planted in December of that year and it was brought by Howard Greig and Hagai from Takutea. The persons who planted the seedlings were Howard Greig, Hagai Pauinga and Putangi.
I te mataiti 1910 kua tae mai au ki te apii Tereora School. I te au marama openga o taua mataiti i tanu iaai teia akari. Na Howard Greig e Hagai i apaimai mei Takutea. Te aronga i tanu i teia akari : - Howard Greig, Hagai Pauinga e Putangi.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Check the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database website for an article by Gerald McCormack that solves the mystery of who planted the coconut. (Appears in new window)

** The library has thousands of rare Pacific books and also newsletters and magazines published here over the years including many issues of the ‘Cook Islands Review’ between 1954 and 1970.

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