Friday, June 12, 2009

Geoff Baskett and the land of ‘Islands and Mountains’

Kristen Redio carved gift
Holding carving are Kristen Redio founder Geofrey Baskett, chairman Len Valu (right), and manager Robin Steven in Lae in 1991
Geoff Baskett singing at Lae celebrations to mark Kristen Redio's 25th aniversary in 1991
Geoff Baskett (left) at the presentation of an MBE at Government House in Sydney in 1990 for 56 years of dedicated service to Paoua New Guinea
Captain Geoff Baskett (third from left) during WW11
Last week, after years of not knowing where or how he was, I finally heard from a great icon of Papua New Guinea, Geoff Baskett.
In a life of achievements, he is most famously known in PNG for being the composer of well-know songs such as ‘Papua New Guinea’ (which might have become our national anthem), ‘Islands and Mountains (known internationally as The Song of Kwaro)’ and ‘We Are Free’.
I basically lost touch with Mr Baskett in 1995 and, after a brief stint with Kristen Redio in Lae, and since then, trying to locate him has been like searching for a needle in a haystack.
I finally hit the jackpot a couple of weeks ago when my good mate, veteran journalist and Post-Courier features writer Newman Cuthbert, asked me if I had a copy of Mr Baskett’s acclaimed autobiography Islands and Mountains.
Indeed I had, and I willingly lent it to Newman, who reciprocated by providing me with Mr Baskett’s contact details.
Receiving an email from this great man, now aged 93, was a very emotional experience for me.
“Now, at the age of 93, my next New Home is based on the Lord’s promise of eternal life with Him,” he wrote.
“Quoting from the Bible: ‘My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’.
“My prayer is that many who read these words will join me in the beauty, joy and peace of a Christian’s life here on earth. May all who claim Him as their Lord and Saviour now, come in the future to live with Him in the place He has prepared for us.”
Baskett was born at Kohat in the high Himalayan Mountains of India and lived a fascinating life, one which every schoolboy dreams of.
As a teenager, he left Sydney for a six-week visit to Kwato, an island off the southeast coast of Papua.
That visit turned into nearly 60 years of service to the nation of PNG.
Baskett first came to PNG in 1933 and worked day and night shifts on tractors and a gold dredge on the Bulolo gold fields, served on the islands and mainland with Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) during World War 11 when he rose through the ranks from private to captain.
He also worked in various capacities on the staff of the well-known Kwato Mission and founded a complex for the production of Christian radio programs for 19 radio stations before his “retirement” to Australia.
“When I finally retired in 1990, I went to live in Australia and at the very kind invitation of retired missionaries from Papua New Guinea, Mr Alan Nutt and his wife Elaine,” Mr Baskett wrote.
“I stayed with them at their home in Castle Hill, Sydney, New South Wales.
“I was able to help Elaine who was teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at the Redeemer Baptist School.
“Elaine looked after the younger Asian children from the kindergarten stage and higher classes while I taught the Asian students from Form 9 to Form 12.
“ This suited me very well as I had found it hard to hear the voices of the younger generation and when I did, I found it even harder to understand what they were saying!
“I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the students as I found them all keen to learn English and very appreciative of the help I was giving them on a voluntary basis.
“The students were from South Korea, Taiwan and China and I understood from them that all Asian students were keen to learn English as it made it possible for them to read books printed in that language.
“It also meant that there were many more opportunities for them to find employment in Australia and in their home countries after leaving school.
“In 1997, Alan and Elaine Nutt decided to leave Castle Hill and live at Port Macquarie, some 390km north of Sydney.
“Once again they very kindly invited me to stay with them and as a result we moved into a double-storied home at Amaroo Parade close to the ocean at Port Macquarie.
“Port Macquarie is a most delightful city.
“It boasts eight beautiful surfing beaches, modern shops and, according to a recent newspaper report, the best climate in the world!
“In July this year Alan and Elaine Nutt and I moved into a new home in an area known as ‘Sanctuary Springs’ in Port Macquarie.
“It’s in a very pleasant open area, close to four lakes surrounded by gum trees and with a wide variety of birds and even the occasional kangaroo!”
Baskett tells of the songs he wrote, and his love for PNG, in his autobiography Islands and Mountains.
“Four songs I have written are now printed in a hymn book that is in wide use in Papua New Guinea, and I have often thought that these songs have contributed more to this nation than any book I could have written,” he writes in the book.
“After all, a book once it has been read is usually put away on a shelf for a very long time before it is read again, whereas a song, usually a hymn, is used time and time again, often long after the death of the composer.
“So, as I said, I think there is more value in composing a song that is known to many thousands of people than in writing a book that is read by relatively few.”

Papua New Guinea

Our land is the island of high mountains,
Of sunlit palms and coral sea,
Where our people sing while the drums are beating,
For our land is strong and free.
Papua……….New Guinea……….
Papua New Guinea our Motherland
Every tribe and race, let us work together,
United we shall stand
There’s a bright new day dawning for our land
As every tribe and race unite
Sons and daughters arise, we’ll advance together
With God to guide us in the right.
Papua……….New Guinea……….
Papua New Guinea our Motherland
Every tribe and race, let us work together
United we shall stand.
Islands and Mountains
Islands and mountains, and sunshine and breeze,
Flowers and moonlight, swaying palm trees,
Jungles and rivers, white coral sand,
This is my country, this is my land.
Dark were the days when men lived in fear,
Fear of the arrow, stone club and spear,
Fighting and hatred filled every land,
That was my country, that was my land
Then came the change that brought peaceful days,
News of our Saviour, learning his ways,
Darkness is fading out of our land,
We know the peace of His guiding hand.
What of the future? Soon we shall be,
Teachers and leaders of our country,
We’ll build our nation as God had planned,
Make this His country, make this His land.
Then shall our country be free and strong,
Homes will be filled with laughter and song,
Peace in our hearts and work for our hands,
Unite our nation with other lands,
Unite our nation with other lands.
We Are Free
Like the birds as they fly over high mountains,
Like the fish as they swim in the sea,
Like the clouds as they float in the clear blue sky,
We are free! We are free! We are free!
Like the songs of a bird at the break of day,
Like the wind in the leaves of a tree,
Like the waves as they break on a coral shore,
We are free! We are free! We are free!
Independence has come, now we all must work
To unite Papua New Guinea,
We shall build our new nation in peace and love,
We are free! We are free! We are free!
We are free! We are free! We are free!

Geoff Baskett can be contacted on email anu16734@bigpond.net.au or write to him at 27 Serene Circuit, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444, Australia.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:45 PM

    hi.
    can you give me the music video or even the mp3 of "Papua New Guinea" by Geoffrey Baskett? i really need it. I am hoping for your reply. thanks! =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am with anonymous above - I have been looking for the music for a long time :)

    ReplyDelete