The Baker that got baked

My great great uncle was murdered and eaten by cannibals. 1867.

In my recent trip to Fiji I stayed with direct descendants of the Chief who killed

and ate him.

This part of my family history seems to reverberate through time, still holding a

strong presence and power today, especially in Fiji where it occurred.

This story is a dark and highly physical one.

Reverend Thomas Baker was a Methodist Overseas Missionary from NSW, who

after 8 years working in Fiji, ventured into the deep interior of the main island of

Viti Levu. He met his death in Nabutautau along with 7 of his Fijian followers.

There are many versions of this story, most of which agree that a hit was put on

Baker, who posed a political power threat through Christian conversions, but also

that he touched the chief’s head, during an exchange with a comb, dooming him

to the attack.

We’ll never know the true details, but the physicality of this event goes even

beyond his death.

After being clubbed, the body of Thomas Baker still had quite the journey to

experience. He was dragged through the mountains, thrown off a cliff, dragged

alongside a river for kilometres, laid on a rock and hacked into meal sized pieces.

He was cooked, body parts were offered to different communities, and even

recently a bone was found in a tree that is proven to belong to him.

I’m not sure if the old customary dances occurred on this occasion, performed to

mock and jeer the dead bodies of enemies.

A special style of fork was used, long with huge prongs, which enable a human

body to be eaten without the flesh touching the recipient’s lips. God forbid.

A Fijian museum display holds a fork and bowl used to eat his flesh and the soles

of his shoes complete with teeth marks. Not so tasty.

I wonder, how far and wide did his body go?

How much tearing and gnawing occurred to consume him? As a meat eater I can

hardly be offended by the idea of eating flesh, however, there is reason

cannibalism ended – and not because Thomas Baker was too salty, as one coastal resort

tourist was told.

Did he feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck before he was hit?

Was adrenaline pumping through his veins, in a flood of fight or flight that had

no time to eventuate? Most certainly it would have been for the two men who

escaped the massacre. How long did it take for their heart rates to return to

normal? (One travelled 100s of kilometres in a short time to deliver the terrible

news to Baker’s wife and children). Did they wake in panicked dreams after that


Did he have time to use his voice in exclamation?

Did he see the club before it hit? Did he sense the dark shadow of deadly intent


I was standing on a stunning cliff with 360 degrees of mountains surrounding

me, listening to Etu, one of the villagers, describe the moment Thomas’s body

was flung over the edge. He’d been dragged there, along the rough rocky path.

It’s hard to imagine those brutal events in the midst of this heavenly scene. But

the shock of that image was hard to take back. I couldn’t un-imagined it.

However the most visceral moment for me, was in reading Baker’s own words in

his last letter to his wife, written 2 days prior. He asked her to pray for him; to

kiss the children and he thought that even if they rejected Christianity, they

would not venture to kill him.

I can’t imagine this peek into the past is going to leave me any time soon, there’s

much in it. But for now, just contemplating the physicality of it, the body

language and the body experience is a full and dramatic pass time.

What does it bring up for you?



These macro images are all taken in Fiji and show the vibrancy of the botanicals.

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6274

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6297

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6306

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6308

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6309

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6313

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6337

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6344

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6437

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6442

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6453

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6459

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6461

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6550

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6569

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6573

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6723

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6737

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6754

Alison Shirley Macro Fiji 2018-6319

2 thoughts on “The Baker that got baked

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