Biographical entry: Palmer, Sidney Philip


Sidney Philip (Phil) Palmer was born the son of a medical doctor in England and served in the Boer War in South Africa. He married Harriet Wheatley, the sister of Norman Wheatley (q.v.), in Pretoria in the early 1900s. The couple had two sons, Ambrose Ernest (b. 1904) and Philip Francis (1905), and a daughter Kathleen (1908). Harriet died and the family returned to England, and Palmer then decided to join his brother-in-law in the Solomons, arriving in Tulagi from Sydney on 10 August 1910. He worked in partnership with Wheatley for three years and then set up a plantation on San Jorge Island off southern Isabel, which had no population due to earlier headhunting raids. In 1913 Palmer registered a lease of over six hundred acres at Kaola. But the next year he enlisted in the Australian Light Horse troops, which consisted of both cavalry and mounted infantry. After the war, Palmer brought his sons to the Solomons, staying first with Wheatley and then back on San Jorge. So hard did he work his sons in restoring the plantation that they ran away, and they never spoke to him again. Palmer continued to make copra on San Jorge, but since he had no vessel he was dependant on others to get it to Tulagi for sale. His health deteriorated in the 1930s and after a long spell in hospital from tropical leg ulcers he returned to San Jorge, only to die horribly in February 1939 when he fell and, while immobile with a badly broken leg, was attacked by ants, which began to remove the flesh from his body. He managed to crawl home but died soon after. He was a cultured Englishman down on his luck. (Golden 1993, 334-337)

Published resources


  • Golden, Graeme A., The Early European Settlers of the Solomon Islands, Graeme A. Golden, Melbourne, 1993. Details