Forbidden IslandBy Treena Shapiro
kept in family
UNDER his initiative, Niihau became the "Forbidden Island."
In 1915, Aubrey Robinson, whose family had owned Niihau for 50 years, closed the island to outside visitors. Rare landings on the island were possible only with his permission. Even relatives of the 300 native Hawaiians living on the island were mostly denied access.
Robinson's descendants have kept the island, and the tradition. Even today, few are granted access to Niihau, which remains largely undeveloped with no paved roads, telephones or electrical lines.
Born in Canterbury, New Zealand, on Oct. 17, 1853, Robinson came to Hawaii in 1863 with the family of his grandmother, Eliza McHutchenson Sinclair.
A year later, the family bought Niihau from Kamehameha IV for $10,000 in gold, not realizing that the island had been enjoying two wet years, and its climate was typically arid. After a few years of drought, Sinclair moved her family to Makaweli, Kauai, and used Niihau as a ranch and summer home.
In 1883, Robinson and cousin Francis Gay formed Gay and Robinson, which became a major sugar producer and the largest private landowner on Kauai. That December, Gay and Robinson received the deed to Niihau.
In 1885, Robinson married his cousin, Alice Gay, with whom he had five children.
Robinson demonstrated great interest in forest planting and ranching, which he practiced on both Niihau and Kauai. In his lifetime, Niihau was used mainly as a ranch to raise purebred Merino sheep and short-horn cattle.
Robinson also brought the first purebred Arabian horses to Hawaii in 1884. And he imported tropical fruit trees from India, China and Mexico, including improved strains of mango, lychee and pears.
Francis I'i Brown
Mr. Golf inspiring on,By Ben Henry
off the course
Special to the Star-Bulletin
FRANCIS I'i Brown was a legislator, a wealthy man and an all-around good citizen.
But despite all his riches and accomplishments, "Mr. Golf of Hawaii" never did anything for money.
While his wealth made it possible for him to travel the world, participating -- and winning -- prestigious golf tournaments most Hawaii residents never would have considered participating in, he never lost his ability to give.
"He brought prestige to golf by winning all these tournaments around the world," said Brandan Kop, one of today's top amateur Hawaii golfers. "More Hawaii people were made aware of golf because of him."
Travel wasn't all he spent all his wealth on. As a kid, Kop's grandfather, Guinea, was a caddie for Brown, who lived from 1892 to 1976.
After a string of wins in the Manoa Cup, California Amateur and British Amateur tournaments, Brown gave his caddie a $10 gold piece, a month's wages for an average person in the 1930s.
Brandan Kop said Brown would pay many of his caddies' way through college. His grandfather was offered either a full scholarship or membership at the Moanalua Golf Club. Guinea chose golf, and would eventually turn pro.
Today, Guinea Kop, who ended up winning the Hawaii PGA Match-Play Championship nine times, is in the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame.
"All that started because of Francis Brown," said Brandan Kop. "He paved the way for a lot of golfers."
Last July, Brandan Kop almost became the first person to three-peat in the prestigious Manoa Cup since 1932, narrowly losing a final.
The last person to three-peat in the Manoa Cup won it nine times total, and also won four in a row from 1920 to 1923.
That person is Francis Brown.