The name
of Omai (Mai), a man of Ra'iatea (Society Islands), who travelled to England on one of the ships of Captain Cook's second voyage to the Pacific, has come once again to the attention of the British press in recent years because of concerns over the future of two paintings in which he appears. One is a spectacular romantic portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the other a portrait with Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander (the naturalists of Cook's first voyage) by William Parry.  While Parry's painting has been secured by a collaboration between U.K. museums, the future home of the Reynolds portrait still remains uncertain. It is on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland until 2011.

Rather less well-known is Lee Boo (Lebu), who travelled from what is now Palau to England  in the late eighteenth century, but died in London of smallpox.  

Lebu was the son of Abba Thulle (Ibedul) the rubak, chiefly title-holder, of Oreor.  When the British ship, the Antelope, was wrecked in Palau in August 1783, the captain and crew gained the protection of Ibedul.

Something of his story is told on his tombstone in the churchyard of St Mary's Rotherhithe.

"To the memory of prince Lee Boo, a native of the Pelew or Palaos Islands and Son of Abba Thulle, Rupack or King of the Island Cooroora, Who departed this Life on the 27th December 1784, aged 20 years, this stone is inscribed by the Honourable United East India Company as a testimony of Esteem for the humane and kind treatment afforded by his Father to the Crew of their Ship, the Antelope, Captain Wilson, which was Wrecked off that island on the Night of 9th August 1783.
Stop, reader, Stop  let Nature Claim a tear
A prince of Mine, LEE BOO, Lies Buried Here

Lee Boo's tomb in the churchyard
of St Mary's, Rotherhithe, London
(Click on image for fuller pictures)









Lee Boo