Adi Mei – the flower girl

On December 16, 1953, The Fiji Times was happy to cover the Queen’s visit to Fiji, describing the moment the Royal received a flower bouquet from the young Adi Mei Kainona.

The Fiji Times reported that the camera rolled and clicked as Adi Mei, barely four years old, moved with shy dignity towards the Queen to present a bouquet of gorgeous Fijian flowers including the rare Tagimoucia bloom from Taveuni.

“After the Queen had accepted the bouquet with a smile, the small girl stepped and sank to the ground amidst her billowing skirts in the customary gesture of respect,” the report read.

“Her wide, dark eyes looked up at the Queen in grave, wondering admiration.”

A few years later, The Fiji Times had the pleasure to interview the young girl in June, 1977 and ask her about her experience on meeting the Queen.

The article, which was written by Seona Martin, was published on Wednesday, June 8 1977.

“Actually I do not remember much about that day,” the grown-up Adi Mei, a wife and mother said in Suva in 1977.

“What I remembered most is what happened before, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was coaching me for the occasion. “I never did it right until the actual day.”

Adi Mei Ganilau and the Queen. Picture: SUPPLIED

Adi Mei also remembered her traditional dress which her mother, the late Adi Laisa Ganilau, and women of Lau made from delicately cut masi cloth.

Adi Mei, the daughter of the then deputy prime minister Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, was married to bank officer Penisoni Gauna and they had a one-year-old daughter, Salote, when she spoke to this newspaper in 1977.

Ratu Sukuna, who was vested with the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) on that visit, died in May 1958.

Sir Ronald and Ratu Sukuna were on the royal tour organising committee along with the late Sir Maurice Scott, Suva lawyer D M Noel McFarlane, who was then Mayor of Suva, Cr Len Usher who was then government public relations officer and who later become mayor of Suva and editor of The Fiji Times, D A Butler, who was manager of the United Steam Ship Co and owner of the Grand Pacific Hotel, the then Commissioner Western H McAlpine the late A A Ragg, the Police Commissioner E K Law who returned to Britain to become a clergyman and Joseph Sykes, the committee secretary, who was the chairman of the Public Service Commission in 1977 and was in Geneva in June at a United Nations conference.

The first page of the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral visitors book bought by the Ladies Guild for the occasion, which was dated to December 18, listed the names of Christian leaders who met the Queen there that day.

They included Bishop Leonard Kempthorne, who served in Fiji from 1923 to 1962 and died in Fiji in 1965. He was buried at the Cathedral.

The Rev Setareki Tuilovoni, the president of the Methodist Church in Fiji in 1977 was listed there too along with the late Archdeacon Hands, the Rev A R Tippett, who was superintendent of the Davuilevu Methodist Centre in the 1930s and Dr George Hemming who operated a medical practice for Suva’s poorest people at the Bayly Clinic.

Fiji’s leaders including the Governor-General Ratu Sir George Cakobau, appeared in photographs of the 1953 visit as dark-haired and handsome, wearing a traditional outfit.

Others, like the late Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau who was the Queen’s equerry, was slim and smart in his uniform. Ram Prasad of Nine miles, Nasinu remembered how it was when he was an eight-year-old schoolboy.

“The road between Suva and Nausori, which I seem to remember was sealed for the Queen to ride on, was lined three-deep with people,” Mr Prasad said.

“Each little village community got out its own decorations and people put up their own banners with welcome messages.

“We children got medals little tiny metal ones with the Queen’s head on them and strung on red, white and blue
ribbons.

“We got flags too not plastic in those days but cloths ones on a wooden stick.

“Just before the royal procession was due to come past, a Landrover with loudspeakers  drove down the road telling the people that it was all right to wave to the Queen.”