MARRIED LIFE: Malakai and Ailsa Koloi on their wedding day. They're pictured at the Albert Street Methodist Church in Brisbane in 1966.
MARRIED LIFE: Malakai and Ailsa Koloi on their wedding day. They're pictured at the Albert Street Methodist Church in Brisbane in 1966.

Remembering school days, courting in Tongan islands

MALAKAI KOLOI: Now I'm 16 years old - time to head to high school and discover the outside world. Time to leave the nest I was moulded and prepared in, to see if I can survive the temptations and challenges.

In the 1940s there were only five high schools in Tonga, all on Tongatapu. There were four boarding schools, one for Methodist girls, one for Methodist boys, a government school for boys only and a Seventh Day Adventist school for boys and girls. The Catholic high school was a day school strictly for Catholics.

My island is 65 miles from Nukualofa and the only way to get there was by sailing ship. There were many sailing boats but only three that could make this journey and they had to serve all of Ha'apai and Vava'u.

If the weather was good each boat could make three return trips a week, but if the sea was rough, windy or rainy, it could take up to seven days for a one-way trip.

That was one of the challenges. The waves would splash over the deck, causing us all to get soaking wet and we couldn't sleep. We'd have to stop at two or three islands on the way and eat coconuts and sea bird eggs. Sometimes we were lucky and stopped at an inhabited island where we could get solid food that we could cook and enjoy.

We had a fire on board in a 44-gallon drum and had to tie it down so it wouldn't roll into the sea when it got rough. The boat was only 7m long and three wide. In good weather the crew would trail a line and we'd enjoy a good feed of fresh fish - red emperor, cod, trevally and sometimes shark.

My college, Tupou College (the King's title) was about five miles from Nukualofa. There were four senior and four junior dormitories with two prefects in each dorm.

My big brother was head prefect. Each house had a week on duty. They had to do the cooking, ring the bell for roll call morning and afternoon and during school hours and to share out students to each of the day duties.

The head prefect's duty was to make sure every program was run smoothly and properly, especially food. He had to check there was enough; that it was prepared and cooked properly; and chair the prefects' meeting every Sunday after lunch.

The first year students were class 2A or 2B, with two classes in each year level up to fourth year, but there was only one Year 6 class. When I was in 2A the Tongan headmaster sent me as houseboy to the European principal, Mr Newman, which was a great honour. Every teacher had two houseboys to do their cooking and gardening.

My job as houseboy to the European principal started after morning prayer in the dormitory. I walked to the house, lit the wood stove, filled the cast iron kettle, milked the cow and picked vegetables.

I'd like to talk about marriage in the 1930s, especially in the outer island groups of Tonga.

I compare marriage to a game of cricket. When batting, a man can hit one run, two runs and sometimes but not often three runs; four runs are rare and very rarely they hit a six. When a boy and girl get married from the neighbourhood, that is one run. Sometimes one comes from another village. That's two runs. When one comes from another island, that is three runs.

Tonga has three main island groups. Tongatapu is where the capital Nukualofa is. Vava'u is the northern mountainous group and Ha'apai a group of flat coral islands where I lived. When a boy picked a girl from Vava'u or Tongatapu, that was four runs.

When you married someone from overseas, which was very rare in those days, you hit a six.

When I married, I hit a six and I'm still batting, not out.

I've won five trophies and had the opportunity to mould and prepare them for the temptations of the world.