Hugh describes life in ‘not quite paradise’

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RETIRED Pastor and schoolteacher Hugh Neemes took Todmorden and Hebden Bridge members of the University of the Third Age back to the last days of Empire, and thousands of miles away to the South Pacific island of Samoa in an engaging and enthusiastic talk to a large audience about his experiences as a young man.

He called it “Not Quite Paradise”, arriving there in 1955, after a seven-week steamer journey from England. He said this was nothing compared with the travels made by the the original inhabitants of the islands, who navigated thousands of miles by observing the birds, whales and dolphins, and by the waves, currents, and stars.

Hugh himself travelled in Samoan style, sitting in splendour in the place of honour at the back of the boat, rowed seven miles by 12 oarsman, kept in time by the beating of a drum - actually, a biscuit tin.

The only way to get across the coral reefs was to wait for a suitably large wave and ride on it to safety and the shore. Hugh was both a headmaster and a missionary, and was greeted at the chief’s house with much ceremony, and many speeches.

He spoke about Samoan culture: how, although converted to Christianity, they gave it a Samoan flavour: how, although in theory the men are in charge, in fact women play a major role in family and political life; and how, although the chiefs are supposed to be in control, there is class below them who really run things - “a bit like Downton Abbey”, said Hugh.

You can contact U3A on 01706 839176, or find them on the web by searching for u3atod. All meetings are accessible to people with disabilities - and the first visit is free.