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New Samoan verse honours Roberta Haynes’ return

A 65-year-old love song to Samoa has been given new life with a Samoan verse written in honour of Hollywood actress Roberta Haynes’ return to paradise this week.

Haynes, who played Maeva in the Gary Cooper classic Return to Paradise (1953), passed away in April and wished to have her ashes interred at the beach she grew to love so much.

So, in honour of her arrival, renowned writer and Pacific language advocate Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin wrote her a loving tribute of his own.

“When I found that [Haynes] could have been buried overseas but she came back because she loved Samoa very much, I thought, this deserves to be remembered in verse,” Galumalemana said.

He and his brother, Henry Hunkin, and Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale performed the song at the interment ceremony held at Return to Paradise, when Haynes’ family brought her ashes home.

Galumalemana’s verse is an addition to an old song that was a gift from another Return to Paradise actor.


Terence (Terry) J Dunleavy, then 27 years old, was cast in the film as Mac, an airman. A New Zealander, Mr Dunleavy had moved to Samoa to become the editor of the Samoa Bulletin, a relatively new weekly publication.

Aspen Productions came to his offices to tell him about their film, and while they were there asked him to not only point out some promising Samoan actors and actresses, but also to help them rehearse.

“I told him to go down to the Bank of New Zealand and ask someone to point out Moira Macdonald,” Mr Dunleavy said, in his speech at the ceremony. “The upshot was Mark [Robson, the director] asking me to help rehearse Moira to read the part of Maeva, which we did a number of times on the back veranda of Aggie’s Hotel.”

Ms Macdonald was eventually cast as Maeva’s daughter, Turia, and Roberta Haynes was, of course, cast as Maeva.

During one of many long afternoons on the beach throughout filming, Mr Dunleavy composed Return to Paradise, a crooning love song to the island he would call home for seven years. 

“I’m going back to Samoa, island of melody/There I met my first love, there she’s waiting for me,” the song goes.

And though he was told the directors would love to use it in the film Mr Dunleavy that "commercial reality" pushed them to instead use a well-known Hollywood composer, Dimitri Tiompkin.

“I know which of the two sings is still sung in Samoa today, and that is reward enough for me," he said. 

In 1999, Mr Dunleavy wanted to give Samoa a gift, when he remembered the song he had written as a younger man. 

So, he had a letter confirming the song’s authenticity and authorship from the Australasian Performing Right Association (A.P.R.A), and gifted it along with the song to the former Head of State, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II in 1999.

For the special occasion of Haynes’ interment ceremony, Tuatagaloa, Mr Hunkin and Galumalemana agreed to perform their rendition for the Samoa Observer audience. And though the wind blew their lyrics off the music stand, the trio never missed a beat.

Return to Paradise

Written and composed by Terence J Dunleavy (1954)
Reconfirmed in Apia, 21 September 1999
Third verse in Samoan, composed for the return of Roberta Haynes' ashes to Samoa, by Galumalemana Afred Hunkin, 17 July 2019.

I lost my heart in Samoa under the swaying palms
Beautiful island maidens with soft welcoming arms
Calling me back to my dreamland ‘neath tropical skies,
I must return to Samoa, return to Paradise

I have wandered o’er the sea, seen such wondrous places.
Now again, I want to see those smiling friendly faces.

I’m going back to Samoa, island of melody.
There I met my first love, there she’s waiting for me.
Calling me back to my dreamland, neath tropical skies
I must return to Samoa, return to Paradise.

'Ua ‘e lagonaina I lou agaga
‘E te toe fo’I mai I Samoana
‘Ua fa’agae’etia o ou manatu
Musumusuina e Samoa o lou fatu
Fa’afetai I lou alofa e lē natia
‘O Samoa lea ua ‘e filifilia
‘Ua e’ sau mamoa lava ‘e te fa’tōfā
E lē muta lou alofa ‘iā Samoā. 

I must return to Samoa, return to Paradise.

Translation of Samoan verse, as written by Galumalemana:

You felt your heart yearning
That you wanted to return to Samoa
Your thoughts were overcome
As Samoa’s call tugged at your heartstrings
We thank you for revealing the depth of your love
And choosing Samoa (as your final resting place)
You have come so far to say your final goodbyes
Your endless love for Samoa is truly so deep.


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