Buki Biga Kiriwina: The Kiriwinan Dictionary

The 50-Year Journey: A Dictionary Dedicated to the People of Kiriwina

For over 50 years, Rev. Dr. Ralph Lawton and his wife Margaret Lawton poured their hearts and souls into creating a comprehensive dictionary for the people of Kiriwina. This incredible work stands as a testament to their unwavering dedication. Their legacy lives on, enriching the lives of the Kiriwinan people and preserving their language and culture for generations to come.

Free access to the Kiriwina Dictionary is available via this link:

Ralph’s research into the dictionary led to him being awarded his PhD in July 2013 from the Australian National University for Kiriwina lexicography, making him the oldest recipient of a PhD at the time at 85 years old. Margaret passed away in December 2014, just one month before their 58th anniversary, which was a devastating blow for Ralph and the family.

Despite this, Ralph went on to complete a first draft of the Kiriwina Dictionary. However, failing eyesight and health issues prevented him from finalising it for publication. Some dedicated supporters formatted his work, and a draft printed copy of the dictionary, bound in two volumes, was gifted to him on his 93rd birthday.

Ralph’s resilience and positive attitude in the face of his failing health, blindness, and the challenges of COVID restrictions, was a testament to the measure of the man. He died on the 21st April 2021 aged 93 one month and 14 days. His love for Kiriwina and its people remained strong. His engagement with Caring for Kiriwina’s activities and the continued work of the charity provided him with strength and comfort, becoming a part of his legacy.

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