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Grimble, Sir Arthur

Category: Writer

Sir Arthur Grimble, K.C.M.G., was born in Hong Kong in 1888 and educated at Chigwell School and Magdalene College, Cambridge.

After taking his degree he pursued postgraduate studies in France and Germany.  In 1914, he joined the Colonial Service in the Pacific as a Cadet and was posted to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, where he remained in various positions until 1933. He was then transferred to St Vincent, Windward Islands, as Administrator and stayed there until 1936 when he became Governor of the Seychelles Islands and was also knighted.  In 1942, he became Governor of the Windward Islands.

While working on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, he became 'an almost perfect Gilbertese scholar' and was said to have been the only white man not married to a native, to have been initiated into some of the Gilbertese societies.

In 1948, Sir Arthur retired from the Colonial Service and not long after his return to England embarked on a new career. In his leisure he began to jot down narratives of some of his more personal experiences in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, took them to the BBC and discovered that he not only possessed a talent for telling a good story, but an admirable broadcasting voice as well.

The result was a series of talks which became extremely popular and achieved equal success in their published form as A Pattern of Islands, from which I have taken the observations.  The book was made into a film in 1956. He later wrote the companion volume, Return to the Islands.

He also contributed a series of distinguished essays to the journals of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland and to the Polynesian Society of New Zealand. Some of these early writings, many before unpublished, have been collected by his daughter, Rosemary Grimble, and published under the title Migrations, Myth and Magic from the Gilbert Islands.

He was married to Olivia and had four children, all girls,  some of whom were born on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.  Further important details relevant to the observations, both those I have grouped under the general heading of the Kahuna and those he experienced himself, were that he was born very premature at only 7 months old, was a rather skinny weakling, prone to dysentery throughout his stays on the islands, but had a wonderful sense of humour and had almost no ego at all, which is presumably why the islanders took him to their hearts.

Sir Arthur died in 1956.



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