Celebrating our Tongan Brothers’ 150th Birthday

November 7, 2016

Our brother school, Tupou College in Tonga celebrated their 150th Anniversary last month, and we, like all good brothers were there to celebrate with them.

Our student touring party included 93 boys from all walks of College life. We had members of the College Choir, Stage Band, Under 15s Rugby players and Service Learning boys.

The boys were accompanied by the Headmaster Dr David Mulford and a big group of staff across various departments including Music, Economics, Sport, ICT and Boarding. A parallel touring party led by the Director of Community and Development, Mr Rod Bosman (ON 1978) also came along for the festivities.

Planning for this particular tour started in 2013 when we celebrated our own Sesquicentenary Anniversary. Tupou College attended our celebrations with a huge touring party of boys and staff who performed at our Sesquicentenary Founders Concert, and this was our opportunity to do the same for them.

From the minute our touring party stepped off the plane in Tonga at 2:00 AM on Tuesday 21 June, they were on the move.

The touring party’s first event after a little sleep was the feast of the 93rd Free Wesleyan Church Conference which was held at Maamaloa Chapel, Nuku’alofa. At the event, the Princess of Tonga, Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita together with the crown Prince, Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala were present.

That night Dr Mulford and Principal, Tupou College, Rev Alifeleti Atiola co-presented a vision for Tupou College as “brothers” of Newington College and we were given the opportunity to hear our music boys share the stage with the Tupou College boys for the first time in Tonga.

The following day we were invited to Tupou College’s 150th Anniversary Chapel Service which included an address from His Majesty King Tupou VI and many other luminaries from Tongan society. 

Day four was all about learning about the history of Tupou College and the touring party spent that day amongst prestigious company. We sat alongside the Tongan Royal Family, three thousand Old Boys, and visitors from other countries to admire the newly renovated facilities at the College. On this day, we saw the official opening of their Sesquicentenary Building which featured a newly completed Newington College e-learning Centre. This was a proud moment for all of us in Black and White. Boys and staff had worked late the previous night to ensure that the Centre was ready and functional- it was both a relief and joy to be at it’s official opening.

There were many speeches delivered on the day, including one by His Majesty, King Tupou VI. We also had the rare privilege of seeing Her Majesty, the Queen dance. A Memorandum of Understanding was co-signed by the Chairman of the Newington College Council, Mr Tony McDonald (ON 1976), and Tupou College’s Chairman, Dr Mulford and his counterpart Rev ‘Alifeleti ‘Atiola. We also witnessed draw-dropping Choir and Brass Band performances from the Tupou College boys. The official ceremony concluded with yet another Tongan Feast  witnessed by the Royal Family. The feast was filled with music and dancing. The festivities were occasionally interrupted by a plane dropping cash on the crowd which excited all of the kids. Our gifts to Tupou College this year were sent via three 20 ft shipping containers that were full of donations from our wider Newington community and included the much appreciated resources to set up the e-learning centre under the stellar leadership, productive hands and caring guidance of the Director of ICT, Mr Myles Carrick and Mr Reza Jalili-Baleh. Our donations included 30 brand new desktop computers, networking switches and enough cabling to be utilised throughout Tupou College’s property, wi-fi access across the campus, sourcing of software licencing agreements to enable Tupou boys access to the same e-learning products, a guarantee of IT support via our own help desk, data projectors and a vision and mission to continue the hard work of Founding Principal Rev Dr James Egan Moulton by supporting and nurturing a long-lasting working friendship between Newington College and Tupou College.

At night after all the festivities, we headed to Vakaloa Beach resort for a reunion with the Tongan Old Boys and their families. We have been hosting these reunions for the last four years and they are always such a success with the local community and our touring party. We were treated to more Tongan performances and our Stage Band as well as a few other boys provided entertainment to our 200 guests. Many speakers took to the stage to share a couple of words including Old Newingtonian Mr Steve Finau (ON 1966). He spoke about the importance of the Tongan Bursary program.

Day four was our first chance to take a breather in the morning. In the afternoon, we played two Rugby fixtures (U15s and U14s) at the national stadium where Newington was victorious in both games 24–12 and 28–7.

Great sportsmanship and camaraderie was on show and our parents seemed to enjoy the live stream through our Tongan connections that Mr Jalili-Baleh faciliated.

That night, we attended the Royal Sesquicentennial Music Festival with the Royal family. We performed, among other pieces,  Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus. The culmination of the night was a joint performance of Zadok the Priest and the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. 

Jack Ryan and James Smith summed up Saturday as good as anyone:

“After a whirlwind week of chapel services, feasts, rugby, rehearsals and concerts, today marked the first day with no formal commitments. With nothing on the agenda, Mr Quince took a moment at breakfast to reflect on our time so far in Tonga. Mr Scott began by applauding our joint performance with the Tupou boys while Mr Egerton spoke about how proud he was of the rugby boys in what was a very physical battle.

An Aussie getaway isn’t complete without a barbecue at the beach, and so after our late breakfast we headed off to the coast not too far from our dorms. The barbecues we used were fundraised by the Lindfield community and will be generously donated to Tupou College. At the beach, the boys were able to kick back and relax after a few days of hard work. We couldn’t venture too far into the water due to the coral near the shoreline, but everyone was able to dunk their feet in.

That night we decided that we would make it our mission on Monday to renovate Tupou College’s Primary School, no easy challenge, but a worthy one”.

Sunday in Tonga is all about reflection and family time. Our touring party embraced both of these opportunities and Rev Geordie Barham delivered the first sermon from the Moulton Chapel’s freshly renovated altar. 

Our final full day at Tupou College was a fabulous one. After breakfast we started work at 7:30 AM in the Primary School. We spent the next 11 hours scraping walls, building bookshelves, sanding back blackboards, painting walls, floors, doors, window frames and ceilings of the four classrooms. All of boys and staff got involved, including Tony and Caroline McDonald and Old Boy Tua’melie Laimani (ON 2014). Throughout the day, Mr Godfrey and Mr Egerton ran Rugby clinics with the Tupou College players while Mr Mee, Mr Mann and Mr Scott ran music clinics.

Our final day was simply a great finish to a tour that left us with memories that will last a lifetime.

2016 is the 7th annual Tonga Tour, Newington boys and staff have been on and this would not have been possible without our tour sponsors, Gulliver’s Sport Travel, whom also continue to sponsor our shipping container on an annual basis.

We are grateful to our family at Tupou College for their selfless hospitality and feel privileged to be invited to be a part of their celebrations and more importantly their community.” 

Full credit goes to our touring staff for their tireless efforts in the lead up and throughout the tour to ensure our boys made the most of their opportunities and experiences whilst in Tonga.

Our students should also be proud of themselves as they not only adjusted remarkably well to differing cultural expectations, but they were great ambassadors, representing Newington College in the Kingdom of Tonga, adding to the fine tapestry of our history.

 

Mr Cameron Quince
Head of Fletcher House