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15 Nov 2014

South Sea Island cousins

I vaguely knew the 3 Beck boys, or some of them, had left England and gone to Australia, but hadn't followed up, and brief searches in's database hadn't been productive.
I had been reading about a German family settling in the Galapagos islands, and badly wanted some island connection myself!
I turned over the metaphorical page in Google and there was the entry about Charles Percy Beck, from Burton on Trent, below. It told of his evacuation from the Japanese offensive and arrival in Brisbane Australia, 1942. Intriguingly, the article reveals he had left a brother back in the South Sea Islands, specifically the Solomon Islands.
A clue emerges, this time in the British newspapers of 1931, where details are given of Burton boy Harold Beck, revealed as a copra plantation farmer in an island within the Solomons. The paper gives the place as Ganouga, and it takes some gazetteering to reveal the correct name as Ranongga, indeed pronounced with an initial 'g'.
We can now find there were two Beck boys in the late thirties, Bobby and Pete, on this island, at school with Gideon Zoleveke, whose account of wartime Solomons is well worth reading. Peter did well, and one wonders if he is the father of Collin Beck, the islands' ambassador to the US, these last ten years.
Burton Museum may have been split between the brewing experience venue and the county museum at Shugborough. Staffordshire archives confirm that one deposit from Harold survives. Not his 1931 mementoes, whose fate is unknown, but a tortoiseshell comb, apparently made for a lady back home.when he was the only white man on 'his' island.