Biographical entry: Hay, Kenneth Houston Dalrymple ( - 1971)

31 May 1971


Kenneth Houston Dalrymple Hay was a well-known pre-war resident. He worked for Levers Pacific Plantations Pty. Ltd. (q.v.) and stayed behind during the Japanese occupation as a coastwatcher (q.v.). Hay became a leading Honiara businessman after the war. Born in the 1890s, he was a veteran of Gallipoli in the First World War, after which he returned to help run a property at Yass, Australia. He later sold out and went into stock-dealing in Queensland and also worked as a lighthouse keeper off the coast. He moved to the Solomon Islands in the 1920s as a junior plantation assistant for Levers and soon became a senior manager on several plantations. Just before the Second World War (q.v.), he managed Gojaruru plantation on Isabel Island and Berande rubber plantation. When war broke out he ferried all of Burns Philp's (q.v.) stores from Tulagi to Berande for safekeeping. He then joined the coastwatchers and was based at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal.

After the war, Hay was Acting General Manager for Levers at Yandina and set up on his own as a dealer marketing scrap metal left in the Protectorate from the war, making a great deal of money. He moved to Honiara in 1947 as Levers' Manager there, and lived in what had been an American Transport Pool house in Mud Alley. In May 1949, Hay left Levers and purchased Tetere and Tetepare plantations, and in 1949 he opened Woodford Hotel. This was the first hotel in Honiara and the only place that sold liquor since the Guadalcanal Club had just burnt down. He purchased his Mud Alley house which he lived in until 1969. (NS 31 Mar. 1969) The hotel, on the site of the present Mendana Hotel (q.v.), was housed in a former U.S. Army hut near the government offices, and by 1950 it had been extended to include a small residential wing. His company, Mendana Enterprises Ltd., also took over the Trade Scheme's Honiara butchery, leased Levers' Three Sisters plantation, purchased Ilu Experimental Farm, and in 1951 was an investor in Tenaru Timbers Ltd., which planned to harvest timber from Guadalcanal. He also purchased the Aerated Water Factory, Mendana Electrics, the Mendana Self-Service Store and Mendana International Travel. In May 1955, Hay opened Honiara's first movie cinema (q.v.). Financially over-extended, K. H. Dalrymple Hay Pty. Ltd. was put into liquidation in 1955 by South Pacific Traders of Melbourne, through the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Hay's business interests surfaced again in 1965 when he was the principal in the float of a new company, Guadalcanal Plains Ltd., with a nominal capital of £750,000. The plan was to produce rice, soya beans, sorghum, beef cattle and chickens. Hay was Managing Director until he retired in 1968, and there were several directors from Australia with pastoral, legal and financial backgrounds, who presumably financed the company. It acquired the Mendana Hotel, the Mendana Self-Service Store, the Honiara Butchery, Ilu Farm and the area of land at Tetere known as One Tree Plain and Tetere Coconut Plantations, all from Hay's company Mendana Enterprises Ltd. The new company extended the Mendana Hotel by adding fifteen air-conditioned en suite rooms, plus a billiard room, squash court, tennis court and swimming pool. These were completed late in 1967. Hay resigned as Managing-Director of Guadalcanal Plains Ltd. in 1968 due to health problems and returned to Australia, although he maintained his interest in his own company Mendana Enterprises Ltd. He returned for some months in 1969 after almost a year away.

From 1952 to 1959 Hay was a member of the BSIP Advisory Council (q.v.) and he was awarded an O.B.E. in 1969. He married three times but had no children of his own. Hay's third wife, Susan, had previously been married to Michael Georgette, an Isabel planter. She was described by Sir John Gutch, High Commissioner from 1966 until 1961, as 'rather flamboyant'. (Gutch 1987, 116) Sir Colin Allan met her first in the 1950s and described her as 'a somewhat strange blonde woman with large glittering eyes, who on having a little too much to drink was inclined to disport herself in solo dancing inspired seemingly by Salome and the seven veils'. (Allan 1989, pt. 1, 51) In her later years, she never lived permanently in Honiara, preferring to make regular visits. Ken Hay died in Sydney on 31 May 1971 after a long and serious illness. Larger than life, rotund, the perennial entrepreneur, he was one of Honiara's main businessmen for twenty years and spent almost fifty years in the Protectorate. His ashes were scattered over Gold Ridge on 8 August 1971. Hay would not allow Solomon Islanders into his Mendana Hotel, the last hotel in the Pacific to bar non-white patrons. (PIM June 1949; Feb. 1950, Oct. 1951, June 1957, 15 June 1965, 7 Oct. 1966, 31 Jan. 1969; NS 30 May 1971, 18 Aug. 1971; Kendrick 1968; PIM 1966, quoted by Douglas 2004, 42, no month given; Kakamora Reporter Oct. 1971, May 1972)

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Published resources


  • Allan, Colin H., Solomons Safari, 1953-58 (Part I), Nag's Head Press, Christchurch, 1989. Details
  • Gutch, John, Colonial Servant, T.J. Press, Padstow, Cornwall, 1987. Details


  • Pacific Islands Monthly. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Douglas, Ngaire, 'Towards a History of Tourism in Solomon Islands', Journal of Pacific Studies, vol. 26, no. 1-3, 2004, pp. 29-49. Details
  • Kendrick, A.R., 'Large Scale Agriculture on the Guadacanal Plains', World Crops, vol. 20, no. 6, 1968, pp. 48-50. Details