Susie’s love for Rabaul

Weekender

On March 17, 1966 at Nonga Base Hospital, Rabaul, a  beautiful baby girl  with  striking blue eyes and soft brown curls  was born to Gerry  and Joyce McGrade.
They named her Susan Patricia  but many years later, she is now colloquially called “Queen of Rabaul” by  Rabaul residents.
Her maternal grandparents and aunt and uncle lived at Nonga,  antecedents had lived  in Port Moresby, Lae and Daru and a distant relative, the Rev James Chalmers of Scotland, a missionary, was murdered and eaten  on Goaribari Island, Papua, on April 8 April, 1901. Quite a history.
At Court Street Primary School, in Grade six and as school captain, she was awarded the prestigious Fred Archer Award for Citizenship – perhaps even then her indomitable spirit, respect for others and drive to help those in need was evident.
All of these traits were sorely tested in the many  years after the 1994 twin volcanic eruption covered beautiful Rabaul and caused havoc, physically and mentally,  to its people.
Susan, her family and staff and friends, worked tirelessly to overcome the trauma of that disaster.  They committed themselves to Rabaul and together with other  man bilong das ventured down the road to recovery, confronting the challenges of hardship as they went. It has been many years of toil and trouble. Gracious, but determined, Susan has encouraged, cajoled and assisted like-minded Rabaul  citizens to work toward a brighter future for Rabaul – a place which will always be home to many, even though they can no longer live there.
Recognised by a worthy Tolai clan, she has been inducted into their society. This is something she values greatly.
The historic New Guinea Club, restored by loyal members, has become the home of the Rabaul Historical Society – spearheaded by Susan. “Keeping History Alive” is their motto.
The “Queen of Rabaul” and her trusty committee continue to plan new public events for the benefit of the Rabaul community.
They have revived and rejuvenated the Frangipani Festival – with record breaking numbers of float parades, kenu races, marathon bike races – all supported by local companies – many of which stayed in business, even during the worst of the dust storms and eruptions and they rightly deserve high commendation and support.
Susan and her committee have rescued important events such as the solemn Anzac Day service and the commemoration of the Montevideo Memorial Service both of which attract international visitors who travel  along Mango Avenue, which is lit by flaming bamboo torches, for the dawn service.
Susan encourages cultural advancement, assisting with vigour, those worthy individuals renovating St Francis Xavier Church – an enormous undertaking but of great importance to so many in Rabaul, as is the rescue of the Rabaul Bung, being transformed into a craft market. ‘
Susan dignifies the passing of  Rabaul people by managing their last resting place and the lonely traveller has found her to be a friend in time of  need. Health and education are also assisted by Susan.
The first Rabaul Chamber of Commerce meeting, after the initial eruptions of Tavurvur and Vulcan, was held at the Rabaul Hotel.
Now, having been passionately initiated by Susan and her supporters, the Rabaul Business and Community Council has been formally approved.
It will be mandated to provide a clear voice of the  people of Rabaul to speak up, constructively,  on all  the ways that  improvements to their lives can be made. Truly, a great step forward for Rabaul which is the only home Susan has known. Unfortunately the growing Kokopo town is gaining much of government’s attention.
For Susan “Rabaul is punching way above its weight” especially in terms of its port handling large cargo vessels and ocean liners bearing thousands of tourists.
“The port is handling about 1,000 containers a month and you can see that the roads are falling apart because of the movement such volumes of cargo.
“Yet Rabaul is treated like an outstation,” the queen of dust” laments.

Leave a Reply