Jim Tedder achieved what all colonial administrators claimed to have wanted.
He remained in district administration throughout his career except for a few brief
months in the secretariat. He did become Director of Broadcasting and Information, but
with districts in mind, he established a reference library, making sure that copies of all
research were deposited and took the lead in setting up a museum. Broadcasting played a
unique communications role in the islands with crucial service messages alongside the
usual fare and Jim being Jim, he toured widely to engage and bring the districts into the
system, recording the rich music of yesteryear to compete with the country and western
popular with urbanites and encouraging the broadcast of custom stories in pidgin,
renewing acquaintance with the districts he knew so well.
He served in them all, Malaita, Eastern, Western and Central, his memoirs concentrating
upon the job he did, with just sufficient about the life he and his family led to set the scene
and remind us of the immensity and occasional ferocity of the Pacihc. He writes warmly
and well so that anyone with district experience, wherever it might have been, will be
reminded of the variety of the tasks, significant, trivial, in between and unexpected
(an amputation using a ship engineer's hacksaw), that had to be performed, the strong
identity with the peoples one served, the difficulty of communications, the frustration with
the secretariat but, above all, with the glow of satisfaction that so many evenings brought as
one sat on the verandah admiring the sunset and enjoying a drink. Jim has no doubt that it
was the best job in the world. I suspect, too, that the people lucky enough to have him as
their DC were aware that he was as good as they come. He was clearly both a very
successful DC and a critical one, a man of ideas, some getting adopted, others cast aside.
Jim tells us the minimum necessary about his Australian upbringing and what led to
his joining the Colonial Service. His chapters then follow his career chronologically from
his Auki apprenticeship to his role as DC Central at a time when constitution making and
politics prior to independence dominated and he was an invaluable guide to those of us
without local district experience. His final chapter, A Useful Life?, is a thoughtful
reflection on those questions we must all have asked ourselves time and time again.
This is followed by eight stories, graphic and nostalgic vignettes of life in the
Solomons, some published in the Overseas Pensioner, and two of his early touring
reports. You breathe the islands again. Jim not only stayed in district administration, he
has written a model memoir about it.