Voate Drui: Pioneer of the Fijian link in Rochdale

Date published: 05 October 2013

Voate Drui came to Rochdale in 1962 from Fiji as one of the four original Fijian men who came to play for Rochdale Hornets. Today, still living in Rochdale, he is the only surviving member of the original four men and is responsible for creating a Rochdale legacy.

Voate came to the UK with Orisi Dawai, Joe Levula and Liatia Ravouvou in the early 1960s.

Years after their arrival, the men are responsible for the strong connection that is now well known between Rochdale and Fiji. Voate said: “We are the beginning of the story. We started it all off.”

Voate, who has played rugby all of his life, described his time at Hornets as “beautiful” and said: “We really really enjoyed the rugby when we were here.”

At the time of their arrival, Arthur Walker was chairman of Rochdale Hornets and was responsible for bringing the players to the team.

“We came all the way from Fiji to play for Rochdale Hornets and we are proud of it,” said Voate.

Voate and his fellow rugby players were the first Fijian men to come and play in this country.

During his time, Voate suffered a dislocated shoulder three times and injuries to his eye. He said: “I’m suffering now but I don’t regret a thing.”

Unfortunately, Dawai, Levula and Ravouvou have all passed away. Voate, now 81, said: “It is horrible being the only one left but what can you do. It can happen to anyone and when your mates pass away, you’re left on your own.”

Voate married his wife Dorothy in 1964 and the pair will be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary next year. The couple have a daughter, Merewai and a son, Andrew.

Dorothy said: “They had a good following. They had a gang of followers from different towns and thousands of people knew who they were and why they were here.” 

When talking about the upcoming Fiji versus Ireland rugby match that will be held in Rochdale, Voate said: “They are following our line of what we have done for many years. They are following what we used to do.”

Voate will be in attendance at the Fiji v Ireland rugby match on 28 October and will be cheering on his team, Fiji.


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