Friend of Samoa takes trip down memory lane
Familiar smells, colours, environment and the heat.
For Samoans, that is home, but for a man who has helped Samoan through rugby and education over the years, Alan Lord of Rotorua, New Zealand, says being in Samoa this week has brought back so many memories.
The life of the 84-year-old is full of adventures. and he is back in the country – probably for the last time – for one more trip down memory lane where a number of those adventures were.
Dubbed the ‘oldest marathon runner in Rotorua’, Mr. Lord is no stranger to sport. He has made his presence known in all forms of sport, from rugby, softball, basketball and so on. He has done it all.
It is in rugby though where he helped Samoa back in the days when Samoa needed help the most.
He is also a very familiar face at Wesley College, Faleula, where he once taught and led sports teams to greatness.
“I first came to Samoa when I was 17 years old right in the end of 1949,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“I came with my Samoan high school friend, Joe Churchwood, and when we both finished high school I came back to Samoa into the village of Faleasiu.
“I didn’t know at the time but my wife was a member of the family then. I met her when she was 12 but I didn’t realise what would happen in the future because later on she grew up and came to N.Z.
“Coming here has a lot to do with the interest of the country; I was treated very well when I first came here because they looked after me at Faleasiu.We had a lot of picnics here and I grew very much attached.”
Coaching teams in Wesley was one of Mr. Lord’s highlights in Samoa.
“I spent most of my teaching career in Rotorua and in 1985 came to Samoa and taught at Wesley College,” he said.“The principal coached the first XV and I coached the second XV and after the rugby season I coached our soccer team. I also coached the girl’s softball team and we became runner up in the softball competition.”
Looking around Samoa today, Mr. Lord says the place has changed.
“There are a lot of buildings going up in Apia,” he said.“I also read in the paper where a couple came from Germany and there were about 2,000 cars in Samoa when they arrived. Now there’s about 25,000.
“Apparently Samoa can get very good Japanese reconditioned imports here. I am surprised with the number of good cars I see now in Apia.
“It’s great because even if you get out of Apia you still have the village life.
"I have actually walked around Upolu and while I was teaching at Wesley I would go to Savaii and walk through 10-12 villages then the following weekend I would continue from that village, I have walked around Savaii as well.
“I have walked around Savaii as well. In wellington there is a group of people called water front watch; they are trying to prevent high-rise buildings being built on the waterfront blocking the scenery of the harbor.
“I would hope that Samoa doesn’t put many building on the harbor waterfront and spoil the view.”
And believe it or not, there was once a time when traveling did not mean just purchasing a plane ticket for a short few hour flights.
Mr. Lord retained memory of how much it took to get to Samoa from NZ.
“My first trip to Samoa I had to take the overnight train to Auckland and got there seven o’clock in the morning,” he said.
“I then had to wait there until midnight to get the flying boat to Fiji, it took seven hours to Fiji but I had breakfast there.
“I then connected to another plane to Tonga where we had lunch then made our way to Samoa. So I had breakfast in Fiji, lunch in Tonga then dinner in Samoa.
“We took the ship back to NZ and it took eight days. It was very heavily booked and you would be lucky if you could book a ticket two months ahead.”
Another fond memory for Mr. Lord was meeting the great Robert Louis Stevenson… well sort of.
“While I was at Wesley College a film was being made about Robert Louis Stevenson,” he said.
“Long story short I met Robert Louis Stevenson in 1985 in the form of an English actor. The actor looked just like him so they wanted part players and I was a German sailor in the background.”
But the one fact that Mr. Lord has held on for all these years was that Samoans are naturally gifted when it comes to sport.
Even the pride for the sport is something to be marveled, even if sometimes it leads to not so great moments.
“Samoans are naturally good at sports and I saw comments somewhere say that Samoan no longer go to war, they play sports,” he said.
“With regards to the school sports causing fights, I saw maybe two Saturdays ago, a gang of young boys chased by police around Apia.
“Even the police armed defender squad cars joined in, that was a big surprise. I can’t imagine why they would come to Apia for that.Although, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed, back then I went with the principal to Apia park and something happened on the field, about 200 students rushed in to join in.
“It was fascinating because they always had at least two police officers on the side of the field during school games. It’s about the pride for the school.”
Being in Samoa back when Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) was but an infant, Mr. Lord has a few pointers for the present S.R.U.
“Alan Grey helped Rugby development so much in the past,” he said.
“When he was coach he gave so much to bring them up. Right now the rugby the union seems to be very disappointed they didn’t make it to the Olympics.
“You see the NZ sevens team ranked 5th in Rio, so teams can’t win all the time. Now I remember before all this world sevens tournament started, the main one was Hong Kong and all the teams made their way there to compete.
“One year Samoa won the game in the final, 4-0 because it was four points per try. NZ sevens has developed a lot since then.”
Mr. Lord concluded with a word of acknowledgment to the Grey family.
“I want to acknowledge the work and support of the Grey Family,” he said.
“They have helped many people with their kindness. Aggie used to raise funds here for the sister of the poor and they have been helping a lot of organizations like that.
“I was kindly invited to have lunch with Alan and Marina Grey last week with my wife and Marina said she was going to help some nuns the next day for some function.
“Alan would also pick up children on their way home from school and take them home. They are so kind to people. Those people have been very helpful.”