The Miller legacy
9 December, 2019, 8:43 am
THE Miller family name has spread throughout Fiji, gaining fame through the various islands settled by the descendants of William Henry Miller and DH Miller.
WH Miller and DH Miller are close relations who arrived into Fiji from Bath in England — settling in the thriving town of Levuka which was the pioneer trade centre in Fiji.
Of the two, DH Miller settled in the farthest corner of the country, choosing the Lau Group where his descendants still live to this day.
However, WH Miller remained in Levuka partaking in the thriving sandalwood and whaling industry Levuka was famous for back then.
As sailors, the Millers were also key in navigating around Fiji waters transporting traders who ply their trade across the islands.
Their descendants moved to Vanua Levu to make a living for themselves from the sandalwood trade as the valuable trees were readily available on the island.
These Millers bought huge portions of estate whose mainstay were copra, sandalwood and beach-de-mer.
As the son of a fourth generation Miller who settled on Vanua Levu, William Henry Miller later started his own family after marrying Betty Whippy of Kasavu in Savusavu.
The boat builder and copra farmer purchased a piece of land in Nadivakarua, Bua which became known as Sawai Estate.
Known as ‘kai’ or natives of Vanua Levu by this time, the couple had six children who were born in different locations as Mrs Miller preferred her children to be born in the homes of her Whippy relatives who were scattered around the island.
Of the six children, the fourth eldest was Albert Barty Miller who is Athletic Fiji’s current technical adviser.
For the 61-year-old athlete who has represented Fiji at the South Pacific Games and 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the most memorable days were spent in his family estate of Nadivakarua, Bua overlooking the Savusavu Harbour and parts of his maternal home in Cakaudrove.
“Growing up, we were born in various Whippy homes where mum would go to give birth with the help of a midwife from Natokalau Village in Nadivakarua,” he said.
“When I hear about birth complications ending in deaths, I always wonder how these midwives back then handled deliveries at a time when they did not have proper equipment we now have in our hospitals.
“At the very young age of six, I was whisked away from home to attend primary school at the Savusavu Government School as my father thought that the village school was not up to standard for all of us.
“The hardest thing was leaving home at an early age to live with relatives because in such cases, one would always be an outsider even though these were blood relatives and I would miss home a lot.”
For a boy who was brought up in the wild of the Nadivakarua estate, Albert as he is known to many, was always looking forward to school holidays as it meant fishing, hunting and swimming out in the sea for countless hours.
Albert began the formative years of secondary education at the Dudley Intermediate School and Cuvu Secondary School for a term each before finishing it at Levuka Secondary School.
Throughout this period, he had been slowly developing his passion for sports, being mentored in 1973 at Cuvu College by famous rugby player Peceli Kina who was his physical education teacher. From 1973 to 1976, Albert held the junior, inter, senior, open champion for high jump at Levuka Public Secondary School.
His passion for the sport was further heightened by an American Peace Corp volunteer he met in Savusavu during his gap year after secondary school.
Describing himself as an average achiever, Albert said he finished secondary school with low academic marks only passing his English subject with flying colours.
As an average achiever, Albert went on to graduate with a Bachelors in Physical Education and Masters in Social Work, choosing to remain in the sports field where his interest was.
In 1983, Albert represented Fiji at the South Pacific Games winning medals, also participating in the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles participating in the decathlon.
In 1999 the Nadivakarua native coached his wife, Litiana Miller, who won a gold medal for Fiji at the 1999 South Pacific Games in Guam.
The proud mother of four boys who is originally from Natua in Seaqaqa, Cakaudrove set a new record in the 100 metres event clocking 11.92 seconds during the 1999 SPG.
Albert currently works with the Fiji Paralympic team as a sports development officer, a job he describes as quite challenging requiring a lot of patience.
Under his tutelage, Fiji has already producedtwo paralympian who have qualified on merits for the next Paralympics.
Fiji’s last athlete to qualify for the Paralympics under merit was Iliesa Delana.
(Next Week : The story of the Miller that spirited a Samoan Princess from her home)