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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Cocomo Village of yesteryears


The Story of the Expedition of the Marquis de Rays, by Josephine Hyacinthe Niau
whose family became an 'investor' in the Marquis' fraudulent scheme.
Her book was published in 1936 by Angus & Robertson

 

New France’ was a utopian society founded in 1880 by the con-man Marquis de Rays on the island now known as New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago of present-day Papua New Guinea.

He launched this scheme in 1877 and soon hundreds of investors poured in money, and altogether 570 would-be utopian settlers joined up. The marquis deliberately misled the colonists, distributing literature claiming a bustling settlement existed at Port Breton, near present-day Kavieng, with numerous public buildings, wide roads, and rich, arable land.

Instead of finding this Utopia, the colonists, mostly French, German and Italian, found a swampy, malarial-infested wasteland, surrounded by cannibalistic neighbours. Some were killed while others died of disease and starvation before the survivors made their ways to Australia, New Zealand, other Pacific islands, or back to Europe. For the full story of Marquis de Rays’ audacious con, click here.

All that's left of 'New France' today is Josephine Niau's excellent book and a millstone in Rabaul on East New Guinea whose inscription reads, "This Mill Stone was landed at Port Breton, New Ireland, by settlers brought out by the Marquis de Rays Expedition in the year 1880. Salvaged and brought to Rabaul in 1936. Survived the Japanese occupation and Allied operations in 1942-1945".

The Niau family, together with some two hundred other Italians from that ill-fated expedition, settled at "New Italy" in northern New South Wales where they congregate once a year to celebrate their survival.

‘New France' is arguably the biggest fraudulent utopian scheme ever perpetrated but, as they say, history repeats itself and the dream of a life of ease on a tropical island lives on unabated as evidenced by such phantom paradises as Cocomo Village or Cocomo Lodge or GoNativeFiji (if I find any others, I'll let you know! ☺).


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