SYDNEY to COLONIAL SUGAR COMPANY, REWA RIVER, SUVA FIJI
Two covers with the blue TWO PENCE stamp of New South Wales were sent from Sydney to the same person in Fiji and they almost certainly were from the same sender in spite of the differences in spelling of the addressee’s name. The first cover had a SYDNEY/ A/ JU 4/ 83/ 1 postmark in the top right corner and it was addressed to Mr Robert Leonard, c/o Colonial Sugar Co, Rewa River, Suva Figi (sic). The stamp placed at the lower left had a duplex SYDNEY/ A/ JU 4/ 83 postmark with the triple oval N.S.W obliterator. There was a partially obscured manuscript ‘urgent’ under this postmark. A very faint POST OFFICE/ SUVA/ FIJI was on the reverse, but a scan of this rare and unrecorded postmark by Proud has not been provided as it does not scan well (Figure 1).
The second example was a mourning cover with the same blue N.S.W. stamp, similarly placed at the lower left, postmarked with a duplex SYDNEY/ SE 17/ 83/ 2 and it was addressed to Mr Robert Lenard, Colonial Sugar C/o, Rewa River, Suva Figi (sic). There was an inverted manuscript ‘Replied/to’ at the left border of the cover, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 2).
A comment should be made about the difference in the two spellings of the surname which almost certainly were the same man, and the fact that a Robert Lenard/ Lennard/ Leonard has not been found in Fiji. The postmark on the first cover may appear to be (18)63, but the Colonial Sugar company had not been opened in Fiji until 17 years later. There are 332 islands of Fiji, of which ca. 110 are inhabited. The two main islands are Viti Levu, the site of the capital, Suva as well as the address for the Company, and the other is Vanua Levu. The total land area is 18,272 sq. metres and the terrain is mostly mountainous of volcanic origin. Whereas sugar cultivation was the largest money earner in the past, this has been replaced by tourism. The position of the Fiji Islands in relation to Australia, the site of Suva and the 2 main Islands, and the location of the Rewa River are shown in Figures 3, 4 and 5.
The Rewa River is the largest river in Fiji and the bridge shown was reputedly constructed by the same engineers who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The settlement along the right hand bank is the Nausorti township and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sugar mills (Figure 6).
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) began operations in Fiji in 1880, and until it ceased operations in 1973 it had a considerable influence on the political and economic life of Fiji. Prior to its expansion to Fiji, the CSR was operating Sugar Refineries in Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand. The decision to enter into the production of raw sugar cane plantation was due to the Company’s desire to shield itself from fluctuations in the price of raw sugar needs, in order to run its sugar refining operations more efficiently.
In May 1880, Fiji’s Colonial Secretary, John Bates Thurston persuaded CSR to enter Fiji by making available to the company 2,000 acres (8 square km) of land to establish its plantations. In 1881 they selected the site at Nausori on the Rewa River where they were able to replicate the transport systems that they had previously developed on the Richmond River in N.S.W.