In the days before "Colony" became a dirty word, pronounced with embarrassment, young Dick
Horton went to the Solomon Islands as a District Officer and served there until after the second world
In this book "The Happy Isles" published by Heinemann he draws a vivid picture, not only of the
islands and their native inhabitants, but more importantly, of the men of the Colonial Service who
administered these wild, widely scattered and often dangerous islands. Of civilisation as we in England
know it, the comfortable world of electricity, roads, railways, shops, telephones and of course the 'telly',
they had none, but instead they had to face earthquakes and hurricanes, malaria, poor food, and back
breaking work in an enervating and very hot climate together with frequent moments of real danger
from the tribesmen whose lot they were trying to improve.
Mr. Horton describes his life as a D.O. and the habits and queer customs of the people with an
observant and tolerant eye. In spite of all the discomforts and vexations he was quite obviously deeply
interested in every aspect of the life around him; fascinating legends and accounts of the extraordinary
shark calling, black magic and gruesome murder are all part of his daily life, and be it remembered that
in dealing with all the many emergencies and difficulties Mr. Horton was usually the only white man
for miles around.
The quality of these men and the work they performed was clearly shown when the Japanese overran
the Solomans in 1942, and the natives despite torture and persecution remained largely loyal to the
British Administration, and especially to that gallant band of men (of whom Horton was one) who
formed that highly dangerous and most valuable service, the Coast-watchers. It is perhaps a pity that
the book does not cover these adventures of the war years, but that will be covered in his next book: Fire Over the Islands: Coast Watchers of the Solomons
This is an excellent book of its kind and well worth every penny.