60 Days Notice
On 11 May 1882 Pitt was given 60 days notice to leave the island and to remove his plant. The move was supported, if not instigated, by the mamoose or head-man appointed by a Queensland Government representative. This directive was against Pitt's wishes.
Douglas Pitt's influence on the Murray Islanders was not limited to the 13 years he lived on Mer. As a strong and colourful character ('a real boss', his great grand daughter says), and as an economic force, he was a figure to be taken seriously. Through him and his sons, Meriam men and other Torres Strait Islanders travelled south, cut cane around Daintree in Cape York Peninsula, rubbed shoulders with white workers, and became wage workers themselves. Meriam men like Marou Mimi, later to become strong and outspoken leaders of Murray Islanders, cut their teeth as wage labourers on the Queensland cane fields, and in the watery deeps of Torres Strait, as skippers of their own pearling cutters and luggers. They learnt much from the Pitt family and from Pacific Islanders or 'Southsea men', as they were called locally.
Ten years into the twentieth century the old customary exchange system across the waters of Torres Strait and through the waters off Cape York Peninsula had disappeared. Trade goods were introduced into customary gift exchange and a customs ban was placed on intercourse with people on the PNG coast. These changes combined with the powerful forces integrating the Islanders into a world of transactions involving objects and money. Today the Meriam remain on visiting terms with families on the PNG coasts and continue to respect old shell-friend ties.
Keywords: Mimi, Marou, Murray Island, Papua New Guinea, pearling industry, Pitt, Douglas, Torres Strait Islanders, trade, 1882
Author: Sharp, Nonie