Kenneth J. Gilchrist, MD

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  • At Fiji School of Medicine 1956-1970; Principal from 1964-1970.
  • Gilchrist was a specialist in surgery brought in by the British after WWII in order to raise the quality of medical care in Fiji.
  • Dr. Gilchrist's will:
    • Probate # 28756. The probate court gives Oct 23, 1992, as the date of death; death records say Oct 24.
    • Death record #39/93.
    • The third article of the will reads: "I give and bequeath ... my remaining collection of fossils including cabinets and books relating to this subject to the University of South Pacific School of Pure and Applied Science for disposal as the University considers suitable."
    • All household employees who were listed as beneficiaries in Dr. Gilchrist's will were deceased by 2003. Specifically: Laveta Inise Waqanivere, Kalaviti Tukutukunabuka and Uniasi Tianai Reave.
  • Anthony Cooper, Trustee Corporation Ltd. Cooper has no personal knowledge of the bones in question. Cooper does not think that Gilchrist was in possession of the bones at the time of his death (1992).
However, Cooper stated that Gilchrist had a collection of sea shells, unique fishing net floats and historical items. Some of the artifacts were stored or displayed on shelves throughout his residence. Cooper remembers one area which was kept out of direct sunlight and used to store sensitive artifacts. Cooper does not know what was in that specific area. Cooper said,"If Ken had the bones they might have been kept in there, but I don't know."
  • Dr. Marcy Schramm, MD--CWMH. Might have been a friend of Gilchrist. We didn't try to contact her.
  • "Intelligent and good" (Ron Gatty). "A delightful man" (Patel).
  • Gilchrist was "eccentric enough" (Fergus Clunie). "He hoarded stuff. He was different, but a very, very nice person."
  • Dr. Murphy visited Gilchrist every day during his last days. Good friends.
  • Cooper contacted possible former students of Gilchrist and Hoodless. He indicated that none of the former students could offer any information which may be of interest to TIGHAR. One student in particular stated, "I've been all through this before" (1999?).
  • Jean Brown does not think Gilchrist ever had the bones. She knew him well. They were neighbors--lived just across the street from him. She liked him.
  • Margaret Shanta Patel:
    • Knew KJ Gilchrist quite well. Someone had stolen his walking stick, so he was using an umbrella. She saw an ebony stick when she was in Wellington and wanted to buy it for him, but when she called home, he was close to death.
    • He was a delightful man. He used to take the local children walking. She went on a fossil and shell hunt with him. He took the shells and had them cleaned and polished for her.
    • Gilchrist told her about his experiences in other parts of the world before coming to Fiji. They were humorous stories.
    • He had hoped that the Fiji Museum would accept his shell and fossil collections. He was quite disappointed that they did not have room for them. She thought he planned to send the fossils to New Zealand. He had swapped fossils with friends elsewhere, so they were not all from Fiji.
  • Nephew's name and address found in 1992. Has anyone tried to interview him?

Materials Donated to the University of the South Pacific

  • Excerpt from receipt, 3 February 1993:
"The school of Pure and Applied Sciences and in particular the Biology Department are very pleased with the shells and fossils provided in the bequest and the Department is intending to use this material in its teaching and research programmes. Staff members in the Biology Department have expressed great pleasure in receiving this gift."
Professor Steve Willat
Head of School of Pure and Applied Sciences
  • There are 70 specimen drawers perhaps 2" high and 8" wide, and probably more than a foot deep, in steel cabinets.
  • Another cabinet held five or six catalogs and a photo album done by Professor John Gibbons showing some of KJG's shells. Gibbons, his wife and two or three of his sons drowned in a sailing accident. The memorial service at USP was very emotional.
  • The catalogs document three donations that KJG made: to the Australian Museum (October, 1988), the Smithsonian (1989; 7000 shells, 760 Fijian species and 1325 from elsewhere), and to USP (1993, 5300 specimens, 1050 species, 90 families). One early catalogue dated June 1977 listed 1918 different species (904 from Fiji) in 101 families.
  • Dr. Gilchrist did not claim to be an expert on classifying shells, contemporary or ancient, but it seems quite clear that he didn't leave any human remains mixed in with the other items that he catalogued. One filing cabinet has not been unlocked, but it's too small to contain a skull and other bones from Gardner.
  • There was a cardboard box on top of the cabinets with the name "Gilchrist" written on it in pen. I took it down with great expectation, only to find another dozen shells in it.


Kenneth James Gilchrist, O.B.E., O.St.J., M.B., B.S., L.R.C.P., F.R.C.S. F.I.M.

Born in London [in 1910], graduated in medicine Guy's hospital, London, 1932. After a number of house appointments he joined the Colonial Medical Service in 1936 as Surgeon and remained in this until his retirement in 1970. He was Civil Surgeon to Gibraltar for ten years through the Spanish Civil War and the 2nd World War (liaison with R.A.M.C., status of Lietenant Colonel). In 1946 was appointed Fiji's first Surgeon Specialist; in 1949 Surgeon Specialist to Northern Nigeria; returned to Fiji in 1952. In 1956 he opted out of Practical Surgery for full-time work in the Fiji School of Medicine (then Central Medical School of the South Pacific), at which he continued (the last six years as Principal) until his retirement in 1970 at age of 60.

Since retirement he lived quietly in Lami. Many young Fijians of Lami, Suvavou and Suva will remember him as "Professor." He built up a well-known extensive collection of seashells, and in recent years personally collected a great number of fossil seashells of old Fiji (Pliocene [sic] and Miocene, back to 7,000,000 years old) which he fully catalogued.

He never took Fiji Citizenship, preferring to retain his British Nationality. He was cremated at his wish very privately at Vatuwaqa on Tuesday the 27th day of October 1992.

["Prepared by Ken himself", says Cooper, except for the last line, I trust.]