In John G. Paton's thrilling autobiography he relates his life spent as a missionary among the cannibal peoples of the South Sea Islands, and the education and development he helped bring to those remote isles.
Born in Scotland to a religious family of rural Dumfriesshire, Paton was seemingly destined to live a life amid his traditional culture. However, as a studious young man Paton felt a calling from God and visited the city of Glasgow. He became versed in both theology and medicine and, in 1858 mere weeks after being ordained as a Presbytarian priest, Paton and his first wife Mary Ann Robson set sail for the South Sea Islands.
Christened the New Hebribes, the isles which the missionary Paton settled upon are today part of the nation of Vanuatu. On arrival in early 1859, the primitive conditions of the natives - the fact they were generally naked, lived in simple huts, and would occasionally practice cannibalism - was a shock to Paton and his young wife. Tragically, a tropical fever soon claimed the life of Paton's spouse and his newborn son, Peter.
Undeterred by the misfortune of losing his companions, Paton began what became a decades-long quest in educating the native peoples. He promoted various cottage industries among them, such as printing and hat making. In his three decades in the New Hebrides, Paton took one hiatus in which he met and married his second wife Maggie, who boldly accompanied him back to the isles.
After overcoming the islanders' initial suspicions, Paton became respected as a man of great practical knowledge. He went far beyond his calling as a missionary by teaching the natives the use of various tools, and how to read and write. He would - island by island - convert the natives to Christianity and in 1899 oversee the printing of the Aniwa New Testament. Maggie meanwhile taught the women and girls of the isles, many of whom learned how to sow, sing and read with her help.