Calvert, James
1813-92; e.m. 1838

Click to enlarge

Pioneer missionary to Fiji. Born in Pickering on 3 January 1813, he was apprenticed to a printer. While training for the ministry at Hoxton, he responded to an urgent call to join John Hunt and others in a mission to Fiji. He and his wife landed at Lakemba in 1838 and remained in Fiji for the next 17 years. They were instrumental in the conversion of Thakombau [Cakobau], the most powerful chief in the island. James used his printing skills in revising and publishing a translation of the Bible. After five years' further work on the translation in Britain, he returned to Fiji as Chairman of the District, followed by eight years (1872-1880) in the Diamond Fields of South Africa. He died at Hastings on 8 March 1892.

His wife Mary Calvert (née Fowler) (1814-1882) was born at Aston Clinton, Bucks and was well known there as a nurse who cared for the sick during a cholera epidemic. She married after a whirlwind courtship and within a few days was on her way with him to Fiji. Her nursing skills saved the lives of many women and even brought her into the chief's court, where Thakombau was greatly influenced by her care. Convinced of the need for more women missionaries, she persuaded the newly formed Ladies' Committee to send a Miss Tookey to Fiji in 1861.

  • G.J. Stevenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-1886), 3 pp.409-20
  • C. Hall, Calvert of Cannibal Fiji (1918)
  • Pauline M. Webb, Women of our Company (1958) pp.13-23
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol. 4 (1988) pp.453-5