Corporate entry: Elkington's Hotel

Alternative Names
  • Elkington, Thomas Harold and May Elizabeth Ann


Elkington's Hotel in Tulagi was the first hotel in the Solomon Islands. Thomas Elkington was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1861 and became a miner before migrating to Queensland late in the nineteenth century. From Australia he went to the goldfields of southeast New Guinea, where he prospered enough to build Elkington's Cosmopolitan Hotel in Samarai. It was probably in Queensland that he met his future wife, May Elizabeth Ann Bathe, born in Derbyshire, England in 1884. They married at Samarai in 1908, and later that year had a son, also named Thomas. To escape the competition from the several other Samarai hotels, about 1913 they decided to move to Tulagi to open a hotel there, which they did circa 1916.

Tom probably went to Tulagi ahead of his wife and son, who joined him in December 1917. Selecting land on a hill overlooking Tulagi Harbour, they built a timber building raised on low concrete blocks, with a wide verandah all around and a red galvanised iron roof. There were ten guest rooms with a dining room in the middle of the building and a kitchen and laundry leading off the back verandah. At one end was a bar and parlour, and behind that a storeroom and the family's living quarters. Each guest room had a single bed and all shared a communal bathroom at the back. Lighting was with candles and kerosene lamps, as well as carbide lights in the main parts of the hotel. This was the only source of bright light at Tulagi and acted as a navigation beacon for the small port. The hotel also had Tulagi's only piano in the early days, housed in an asbestos box to keep out humidity. Elkington's Hotel was one centre of the Tulagi social scene, balanced by the more exclusive Tulagi Club on the other side of the island.

A second child, June, was born in Sydney in 1916. The Elkington's sent their son to Southport School (on what is now Queensland's Gold Coast) to be educated. In 1927, June was in Sydney with her mother to begin school at the Garden School, Mosman, when May Elkington died from pneumonia. Tom Elkington died from a stroke at Tulagi in 1929. The children arranged for the hotel to be managed by Bill Fyfe and his wife, until it was sold to 'Butcher' Johnstone and John Mather. It was destroyed by fire in 1934. (Golden 1993, 91-93; Bennett 1987, 169, 224, 269, 208)

Related Concepts

Published resources


  • Bennett, Judith A., Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800-1978, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1987. Details
  • Golden, Graeme A., The Early European Settlers of the Solomon Islands, Graeme A. Golden, Melbourne, 1993. Details