It is with great pride and affection that we notify all citizens of SAMOA of an event that occurred 166 years ago that continues to be felt in SAMOA today. Let me explain.
On 13 November 1850, a bouncing baby boy was born to doting parents in Edinburgh, Scotland.
He was the pride and joy of upper middle-class parents who were both from respectable families – the mother’s father was a well-known man of the cloth and the father was from a family of engineers noted for their civil engineering work on the lighthouses that protected then and now, the North Sea coastline of Scotland.
To the manner born was this little lad. He was extremely bright and precocious and delighted his parents with his language and social skills which were obvious from a very early age.
At the age of 2, his mother made an interesting decision to hire a nursemaid for his daily care since he began to show signs of being a sickly child.
His ‘old maid’ nurse quickly established herself as a major influential force in his life. Her care and love and teachings indelibly molded his attitudes and character.
His doting parents however provided him with every opportunity to stimulate his natural curiosities with expansive trips and exposure to other societies and languages, the best educational opportunities, and with an eye to becoming an important contributor to the family engineering empire.
All of these parenting dynamics and long-range desires for their child had to be managed around the constant threat of serious illnesses and bouts of chronic and frequent lung attacks.
Their care and devotion to his comfort and being careful not to expose him to additional problems consumed them with planning challenges; but, they did a magnificent job in their parenting stewardship
In each successive decade of his life, he dealt with new opportunities and challenges that have been documented for those of us who are interested in following the timeline of his life.
I mentioned at the beginning that on this very day 166 years ago, the effect on the history of SAMOA began.
Little did anyone know that an event signaled the beginning of an interesting relationship that had local impact and significance.
Actually, that was a bit of a stretch. Although our beloved TUSITALA – Robert Louis Stevenson - was born on this day all those years ago, his influence in SAMOA didn’t begin until late into the third decade of his life. You see, he didn’t arrive in SAMOA until he was 39 years old – that was 127 years ago.
The time between his birth in 1850 and the time he landed on our shores represents the time it took for him to become who he was before he became enchanted with SAMOA – and SAMOA wrapped its heart around his. This mutual love affair began late in 1889 and continues to this day.
The rest of the story is history and will not be detailed in this short reminder.
TUSITALA earned the respect of virtually all who knew and loved him his palagi name – even his initials –R.L.S. -are known and loved throughout the world. They have been called the ‘most beloved initials in all of English literature.’
He showcased the name of SAMOA across all boundaries of the English-speaking world. And, his name and reputation continue to play an important part in our exotic history and reputation as one of the remaining vestiges of pure Polynesia in the World.
Here’s the CALL TO ACTION: If you happen to be driving up Vailima Road today or this week and notice the wreaths which adorn the beautiful gates marking the entrance to Villa Vailima, please let your mind and heart think a minute and say out loud to yourself- and to others who might be with you - IA MANUIA LOU ASO FANAU, TUSITALA.