Feast of Charles Fox (September 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of New Zealand and Melanesia, 1958

Image Scanned and Cropped from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1958)



Anglican Missionary in Melanesia

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, lists September 6 as the feast of “Charles Fox, Scholar, Missionary, 1977.”

Charles Fox, an Anglican priest, was a missionary in Melanesia.  He was the longest-serving expatriate missionary in the Solomon Islands, regardless of denominational affiliation.  He served in Oceania for 71 years (1902-1973).

Fox, a native in England, grew up in New Zealand.  Our saint, born in Stalbridge, England, on October 1, 1878, was a son of Canon John Eliot Fox and Emma Phillips.  Fox and his family moved to New Zealand in 1884.  Our saint was physically frail, especially when very young, so home-schooling was initially necessary.  Later he studied at Napier Boys’ High School, Napier, then at the University of New Zealand, Auckland (B.A. in geology then M.A. in theology).

Fox discerned his vocation to missionary work in the 1890s then acted accordingly.  In 1895 our saint, still in school, met a cricket team of Melanesian boys.  He resolved to serve as a missionary to Melanesians.  Years later, after a brief stint as a science teacher in New Zealand, Fox joined the Melanesian Brotherhood at Norfolk Island (east of Australia and north of New Zealand) in 1902.  He took Holy Orders the following year.

Above:  Map Showing Norfolk Island

Fox was initially a teacher at St. Barnabas School, Norfolk Island, the Brotherhood’s main school.

Above:  Map Showing Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, and the New Hebrides

Then Fox spent a few moths on Mota Island, in the New Hebrides.

Above:  Map Showing the Solomon Islands

Next Fox went to Pamua, on Makira Island/San Cristobal Island, in the Solomon Islands.  There he remained until 1905, when he returned to teach on Norfolk Island.  From 1908 to 1918 our saint lived and worked on Makira Island/San Cristobal Island again.  There he opened St. Michael’s School, the first boarding school in the Solomon Islands, in 1911.  The setting was dangerous during the early years; guards were necessary, to protect staff and students from bushmen who beheaded victims.  On the island Fox also became an adopted member of the Arosi tribe and a member of the chief’s household.  Our saint’s exchange name was ‘Takibaina.”  Due to Fox’s short stature, his nickname was “Kakamora.”

Fox earned his Ph.D. in literature from the University of New Zealand in 1922 for his ethnographic study of the Arosi region of Makira Island/San Cristobal Island.

In 1922 the Melanesia Mission closed St. Barnabas School, Norfolk Island, and established its new main school, All Hallows’ School, Pawa, Ugi Island, Solomon Islands.  (Ugi Island is a small isle north of Makira Island/San Cristobal Island.)  From 1924 to 1932 Fox served as the principal of the school.

Fox remained a priest in Melanesia.  In 1932 he declined an opportunity to become the Bishop of Melanesia.  He served at Guadalcanal (1933-1944) then Malaita (1944-1950).  While on Malaita Island Fox served as a coast watcher during World War II.  He also paid pastoral and sacramental visits to villages in the jurisdiction of the anti-colonial Maasina Rule (1944-1952) when his bishop refused to do so.  From 1950 to 1952 Fox was the principal of the diocesan catechists’ school.  He, briefly the chaplain at the headquarters of the Diocese of Melanesia in 1952, went on to serve as the chaplain of the Melanesian Brotherhood at the school at Tabalia in 1952-1954.  Fox, from 1956 the Canon of Melanesia, was again a chaplain, based at Taroaniara, from 1968 to 1970.

Fox retired to New Zealand in 1973.  He, a Member of the Order of the British Empire since 1952, became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1974.  He died in Waipukurau, New Zealand, on October 28, 1977.  He was 99 years old.

Fox’s legacy included not just the usual fruits of missionary work, but also books about the Solomon Islands and dictionaries of several islands.





Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Charles Fox,

whom you called to preach the Gospel in the Solomon Islands.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716


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