July - August 2009

To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the loss of the S S Syria near Fiji in 1884, the Fiji Association, supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand High Commission Suva offered an Essay Competition in Fiji Secondary Schools.

The competition was officially launched in Fiji schools by His Excellency the Acting High Commissioner Mr. Todd Cleaver in invitations dispatched on behalf of the Association. 

School principals were invited to make the contest details available to students and to encourage discussion/research/ideas on the Syria.  The vessel which left India with over 400 indentured workers bound for Fiji’s sugarcane fields, struck the reef near Nasilai, thirty miles from the coast. Sixty men, women and children perished. Many more were saved in efforts led by Dr William McGregor and Fijian villagers who saved the drowning Indians in small canoes. More deaths were recorded in Fiji among those rescued, from complications and injuries sustained.

Cash prizes were be awarded in several categories – F$500 each to two overall winners, F$300 to second category winners in a range as well as F$200 and F$100 prizes and certificates.

Funding for this was secured by the Association from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a generous donation from Union Lines.

Special Certificates were issued to commemorate the occasion and each winner received a cup kindly donated by Lady June Hillary.

Lady June Hillary, QSM and Dr Satendra Singh, ONZM, QSM, JP headed the Judges Panel, supported by several committee members.

Entries from schools were received by the NZ High Commission from 30 July to 20 August 2009.

A list of winners, as announced by the New Zealand High Commission, Fiji is available below.

Since the project was announced, messages of goodwill were received from India, Fiji, Scotland and Australia.

From the City of Brisbane, the Lord Mayor, Mr. Graeme Quirk, who represents the district of McGregor, named after Sir William McGregor ( Governor of Queensland after his assignment in Fiji, where he saved dozens of Indians from the Syria wreck in 1884) – says “ Sir William would have been deeply honored to know his deeds long after his death are still being recognized. Auckland and Brisbane are sister cities and this marks another link for us.”

From a small town in Aberdeen, Scotland the McGregor School, named after the famous hero, also sent a message of delight.

Messages also come from India.

The Association wishes to record its appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the High Commission in Suva. We also appreciate the assistance from Union Lines.

The Association presented a 100 year old ornate bench in 2007 to the Manukau Memorial Garden Crematorium in memory of the SS Syria. The bench is made from a kauri tree trunk, recovered from the sea. A special Plaque relates briefly the SS Syria’s memory. The inscription is in Hindi and English.



(Certificate of Distinction)       F$500 each

SEKAIA NIUMATAIWALU  ( Yat Sen Secondary School, Suva)

ASHWINI NEELIMA PRAKASH  ( Dayanand Anglo Vedic College, Suva)


Certificate of Excellence       F$300 each

JASON WESLEY RAVAI TITIFANUE  ( Yat Sen Secondary School, Suva)

RADILAITE TURAGA  (Indian College, Suva)

MONISH KUMAR  ( Dayanand  Anglo Vedic College, Suva)

SHIVNEEL KUMAR  (Nausori High School, Nausori)


Certificate of Merit              F$200 each

VENIANA SAUSAU  (Swami Vivekananda College, Nadi)

RAVINEET ROHIT DATT  (Bhawani Dayal Arya College, Nakasi)

ARON AVINAY PRAKASH  (Xavier College, Ba)

SHANNON TERESA QUAI-HOI  ( St Joseph’s Secondary School, Suva)

LITIANA WATI  (Sila Central High School, Nausori)

SONAM ARTIKA CHAND  (Baulevu High School, Nausori)

PREMIKA DARSHANI  (Bhawani Dayal Arya College, Nakasi)

LAVENIA WASEIYAROI  (Dudley High School, Suva)

NATHANIEL NAVNEEL CHAND  ( Indian College, Suva)


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