Bruce and Margaret: 50 years in love (and counting)
When Bruce’s daughter convinced him to join Facebook, he didn’t realise what he was getting into. Hundreds of friend requests started filing in from all corners of the world, especially PNG and Australia - “you taught me when I was at Wewak”, “I remember you from Rabaul”, “My daughter went to Ela Murray International!” For 39 years Bruce had worked as teacher and headmaster across Papua New Guinea.
Bruce Mackinlay was barely 18 when he arrived in Port Moresby from Melbourne in 1965, ready for a new job in a country far from home. He was immediately signed up by Graeme (now Sir Graeme) Whitchurch to play football (AFL) in a local team and made fast friends with his teammates.
It was at the wedding reception of one of these friends that he first laid eyes on Margaret, a beautiful young Motuan girl from Hanuabada, recently graduated from Saint Scholastica’s Ladies College in Sydney.
It took a few handwritten notes passed back and forth through common friends (Facebook would have been handy at the time) to arrange a first introduction. It wasn’t long after that Bruce convinced Margaret to join him in Rabaul where he had been posted to a new position. There, they married and began a life together that would take them to many of Papua New Guinea’s most beautiful locations.
Bruce turned to teaching and was soon sent to Samarai Island in Milne Bay for his first school principal role in 1971. In those days, local Milne Bay children had to travel daily by workboat to reach their school on Logeia Island. Bruce was able to arrange new classrooms and develop the existing ‘A’ school into a dual Australian-Papua New Guinean curriculum school to serve all children on the island. A long career in PNG followed.
Bruce and Margaret enjoyed involvement in sport wherever they were posted. Margaret was probably the first Papua New Guinean lady golfer to win the National Champion title and Bruce became involved with golf at the national level. Two children, Bruce and Konio enjoyed their early years growing up in Rabaul.
In 1989, Bruce finally sat opposite a PNG Citizenship Committee in Port Moresby. To his surprise, Frank Igo, a family friend from Elevala and respected Motuan leader, was sitting on the panel. After answering all the questions, the panel deliberated. Bruce was feeling quietly confident when suddenly Frank, who in good Elevala character liked to tease and give him a hard time, stopped and asked “So Bruce, on your application under Languages you ticked the box for English, and Tok Pisin, but why not Hiri Motu?”. Thankfully Margaret had taught Bruce well and he replied “Frank, sori, motu gadu asidibagu,”. Citizenship was granted!
The happy couple recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary at home in Port Moresby, where, still playing golf, they live in semi-retirement, surrounded by grandchildren, family and friends.