Walter Lindsay Isaac Verrier, MD

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Dr. Walter Lindsay Isaac formally changed his last name to Verrier in 1942. The sources all call him only by one name or the other. In TIGHAR discussions, he is often called Verrier as a reminder of the name change. This article will refer to him as Verrier throughout.

Biographical details

  • Died of cancer April 19, 1981.
  • Probate #17753.
  • Death record #80/81.

Colonial Service

  • "Dr. Isaac joined the Western Pacific High Commission Medical Service in 1938. He was posted first to Levuka (Fiji) as Medical Officer, then Nadroga; and, later was AMO at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Suva. In September, 1940, he was transferred to Funafuti, G. and E. Colony, as Acting Senior Medical Officer." [1]
    • In 1941, Tarawa was the main port and the location of the Central Medical Authority (namely, Verrier), although the headquarters were on Ocean Island.
    • The people whom he served petitioned to have Verrier permanently stationed in the Ellice Islands.[2]
  • Fall, 1941: Verrier lost three cameras at Tarawa when the staff fled from the Japanese invasion. For Verrier to have acquired the box of bones, they would have to have been sent back to Tarawa from Fiji by the time of the invasion. If he or the Tarawa office had the bones in 1941, they probably got destroyed or became lost in the invasion. It also seems highly unlikely that the return of the bones to Tarawa after the last entry in the bones file (19 August 1941) would have gone unrecorded.
    • After WWII, any files found intact on Tarawa were brought to Suva. Some of them had been buried and had coral sand in them when Tofiga was sorting them out.
  • 20 March 1942: date given in WPHC records for name change from "Isaac" to "Verrier."
  • 24 March 1942: Name change announced in the WPHC Gazette.
  • 1 June 1942: "seconded" to service in Fiji.[3] Being in Fiji gives him the opportunity to learn the whereabouts of the kanawa box and the results of the investigations done by the WPHC.
  • 25 Aug 1942: Verrier is Medical Officer in Rewa (the province of Fiji in which Suva is located).
  • 27 Oct 1942 (?): Verrier objects to Dr. Steenson being ousted from the lab by the appointment of Barnes. But McGusty notes that Verrier and Steenson are both "temporary only."
  • 26 Jan 1944: Steenson and Verrier to Fiji. McGusty wants to observe Verrier, who wants to work in CMS and the laboratory.
  • 8 July 1944 (?): McGusty recommends that the duty should be remitted on Verrier's new camera because it will be used in the interests of science and of the nation.
  • 1 May 1944: Verrier in Taveuni.
  • 3 October 1944: McGustyto Vaskess: Verrier is good with stats. "The memorandum [on 'statistics and vital statistics'] is breezily written and is very interesting."
  • 15 Nov 1945: Memorandum about Verrier's misappropriation of funds. He has been paying an engineer 8/5/-- per month to look after a launch that hasn't yet been returned to the water after being renovated.
  • Sponsored Ratu Mara's medical education in New Zealand.
    • 1945 Ratu Sukuna recognized in Ratu Kamisese Mara Uluilakeba (whom Dr. Lindsay Verrier had taken out from the Suva Medical School with its limited training, for a full medical education in New Zealand) the leadership capacity that Fiji would need when he was dead, and sent him to read Economics at Wadham.[1]
  • Good friends with Dr. Murphy; best man at his wedding. Was not very close with the family, although Verrier did share Mrs. Murphy's interest in orchids.

Delayed shipment of the bones to Fiji

In 1941, Tarawa was the main port and the location of the Central Medical Authority (Verrier), although the headquarters were on Ocean Island. On February 11, 1941, Francis Holland cabled Sir Harry that Dr. Isaac, the Acting Senior Medical Officer on Tarawa, was objecting to the shipment of the bones and was detaining all ships calling at Tarawa until the matter was resolved.[2]

A portion of a draft for a telegram to Verrier from Gallager suggests that perhaps Verrier coveted the box: "Personal[ly] should be delighted if you keep box but matter has been mentioned in private letter to High Commissioner who is interested in timber used and may ask to see it. It would be fun to make you one for yourself or perhaps a little tea table — we have a little seasoned timber left. Please let me know whether you prefer box or table and if former give any particular inside measurements."

This incident is how Verrier became a suspect in the disappearance of the bones after 1941. There is no strong evidence to convict or clear him of the charge. He was unquestionably a "collector." Ron Gatty: Verrier had an attic full of "native stuff; he was quite a collector."

At the time of his death, his large collection of historic or otherwise interesting materials was dispersed by his heir, Trevor Whippy, who had served for a time in the Fijian police force.

Later life

  • Verrier was part of the Alliance Team, which helped to obtain Fiji's independence from Britain:
"Mr. President, whilst my memory serves me correctly at this time, may I say, Sir, and I wish to use this occasion to pay tribute and give honour and praise to those honourable gentlemen and ladies who, most have gone ahead of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara through the heavenly portals now and who in 1966, were elected and made the first elected Legislative Council Members in British Fiji, prior to our Independence. They all had the distinction of negotiating our Independence from England and Great Britain at Marlborough House in June, 1970. Sir, Lavinia Ah Koy was Secretary of the Fiji Contingent to the Constitutional Conference at Marlborough House, hands on at the time.
"Mr. President, Sir, as Chief Minister at the time, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (who had not been knighted then, like all the other ranking chiefs at that time), led the Alliance-elected honourable Members of the House and they were, I put on record: John Falvey, Robin Yarrow Senior, Sakeasi Waqanivavalagi, Solomone Momoivalu, Ratu Josua Toganivalu, Ratu Willie Toganivalu, William (Bill Yee, as we know him now), Harold Gibson, Peniame Naqasima, K.S. Reddy, Ratu Deve Toganivalu, Loma Livingstone, Adi Losalini Dovi, Abdul Lateef, Dr. Lindsey Verrier, Jone Naisara, Emosi Vuakatagane, Ratu George Cakobau, Charles Stinson, Jonati Mavoa, Ronald Kermode, Ratu Edward Cakobau, Doug Brown, Vijay R Singh and Wesley Barratt. They were the Alliance team."Source.
  • Allegedly hated by some political factions on the island.
  • Did research on history of the native Fijian tribes and communities; donated research to the Native Land Commission that settles land disputes.
  • Verrier was the founder of the Liberal Party. It is said to have had a membership of one.
  • Verrier was a collector (island art? historic materials?). "Had an attic full of native stuff" (Ron Gatty).
  • Margaret Patel had said that Verrier's papers went to the Native Land Commission. I stopped there on the way home from USP. They firmly denied (without checking any records) that there would be any such thing in their care. "We keep nothing but the evidence book in the locked room. It is for natives only." They sent me to the Native Land Trust Board across the street, who said that any old records they would have had have gone to the Archives from which I had just come. I trust Margaret more than the folks I met in the NLC.
  • Verrier's death was huge. Front-page stuff in fact. He had a large state funeral where Fijians treated it as "the death of a great chief" ... and then an American antique dealer is supposed to have dug up Verrier's grave to steal the "great chief's burial shroud" used to wrap his coffin - an honour bestowed on him by Ratu Mara. This was reported in all the papers as it was a huge scandal at the time.

Judgments on his character

  • "Odd in every way" (Nairne). Posed nude with someone's wife for a campaign to "share a shower with your neighbor" during a drought.
  • "A good doctor; intelligent" (Ron Gatty).
  • One person said Verrier was a tyrant. Interesting and amusing, but hell to work for. He never had an important administrative job; if true, that means he probably was not in a position to take the box of bones on his own authority. He was a medical officer in various districts.
  • "I've been going through my correspondence (1999-2000) with Sir Ian ('Mungo') Thomson, Sir Harry Luke's ADC in 1940-41, with whom I'm re-instituting correspondence on the occasion of his 87th birthday next month - and find the following in a letter from him dated 26 June 2000:"
"Because of their excellent memories and meticulous insistence on the recording in files of all actions being taken by public officers, you would undoubtedly have obtained useful information from Vaskess and Macdonald, but they are long since dead. Verrier was meticulous as well, but whereas Vaskess and Macdonald were public servants, Verrier was a law unto himself, highly intelligent, and a maverick at all times. Obeying orders was not for him" (Emphasis in original).

Disposition of his estate

  • Adopted Trevor Whippy as his son (or godson?). The Whippy's are a large family descended from an American whaler and boat builder who was one of the prominent citizens in Levuka, the first capital of Fiji.
  • Trevor Whippy broke the will, sold the house (and the collections?), retired from the police force, and moved to Australia. Roger Kelley may have a bead on his whereabouts. The Chairman of the Fiji Broadcast Corporation (in 2003) was a close relative of Trevor and may know his whereabouts. The house was torn down. "The old guard were rather dismayed by the way that Trevor Whippy sold most of Verrier's collections, especially his extensive library" (Parkinson).

Miscellaneous research

Helped develop a paper

"The data used in this paper were collected between October 1959 and June 1961 in Rotuma and among Rotuman enclaves in Fiji. The field work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to the senior author. Further support has been provided by the Human Ecology Fund, permitting us to systematize the data upon our return from the field. We would also like to thank the Government of Fiji for making their demographic records available to us, and Dr. Lindsay Verrier for introducing us to the research possibilities provided by such information."[4]

Denise Murphy: "His bibliography shows extensive use of Verrier's studies of how power operates within the matagali (extended family) system."

Letter: "Dog Licks Man"

To The Lancet, March 21, 1970 (7647), p. 615.

Sir,--Dozing at home, one day, after gardening, with a small abraded sore on my leg, I woke to find my very small dog licking the place. To my surprise, the operation was painless. The undressed sore healed by first intention. Some time later a second abrasion was offered to the dog, and the same thing happened.
I mentioned this to a Fijian friend, who told me that in the villages, when lads got sores on their legs from fishing, gardening, and so on, the old men advised them to let the dogs lick them, so as to heal them quickly.
I wonder if the surface-healing properties of dog-saliva have been explored?
Lindsay Verrier
Suva, Fiji

Recipe for flour-based adhesive

VERRIER, LINDSAY. A pressure-cooked non-moulding adhesive flour paste. Nature (London), 164 (1949), p. 545.

Lindsay Verrier claims for this recipe that gives a paste of uniform consistency which is not messy to make and is nonpoisonous. RMO[5][6]


  1. Pacific Island Monthly, April, 1942.
  2. M.B.C. 2582/1941 From the people of the Ellice Islands. Isaac, Dr. L. Filed in 2896/37 (WPHC Archives).
  3. Gillespie: "There are no further entries in his WPHC Service History so I would assume that 'seconded to Fiji' means that his subsequent service was to the Colony of Fiji rather than the WPHC."
  5. Abstract from Nature
  6. Broken link.