HISTORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - PITCAIRN ISLAND AND THE BOUNTY

The Norfolk people, as they are today, originated from the original settlers of Pitcairn Island, a mix of Europeans and Polynesians.  Of course what is the history of either Norfolk Island or Pitcairn Island without talking about the HMAV Bounty?

            

The HMAV Bounty was sent to Tahiti in 1787 where they were to collect breadfruit and transplant them to the West Indies as food for the slaves.  On the return trip from Tahiti, on April 28th, 1789, while the ship was in the modern day Tongan islands, a group of the crew mutinied against the ships commander, Lieutenant William Bligh and set him and a boatload of loyal crew adrift (in an amazing feat of navigation and seamanship, Bligh managed to get the boat and all but one of the men to safety…one of them was killed on the island of Tofua a couple of days after the mutiny by Tongans).

            

With Polynesian companions picked up at Tahiti the mutineers tried to settle unsuccessfully on the island of Tubuai, but were ultimately repulsed (a fascinating story in itself, but unfortunately little to do with Norfolk/Pitcairn).  Eventually, the leader of the mutineers, Fletcher Christian, and eight fellow mutineers along with six Polynesian men, twelve women, and one baby set sail to look for a home.

            

The Bounty arrived on Pitcairn Island in January, 1793 and the ship was stripped, burned, and sunk (she was deliberately set alight before she was supposed to by the seaman Matthew Quintal).  The people settled on the island but after much difficulty between the Europeans and Polynesians, there was a massacre in 1793 where almost all of the men were killed (four European men survived:  Edward Young, Matthew Quintal, William McCoy and John Adams).  Quintal and McCoy eventually died (killed and suicide respectively), and Young died of a lung disease (asthma, tuberculosis…take your pick) on Christmas day, 1800.

            

Pitcairn was rediscovered by the outside world in 1808 by the American seal-hunting ship Topaz.  By this time the population consisted of Adams, nine women and a bunch of children (a unique mix of what became the first of the modern day Pitcairners/Norfolk Islanders).  From the teaching of Adams, they had become devout Christians, practising a rudimentary form of Anglicanism (drawing a lot from Adams memory from his youth).

            

Life on Pitcairn proceeded as normal after this with visits from various ships, but very few outsiders were permitted to remain.  In 1823 two men, John Buffett and John Evans became a part of the community (Buffett was a carpenter who had volunteered to stay on the island at the locals’ request while Evans deserted).  The two men married local girls and had children.  In 1828 two more men arrived on a small boat from South America.  One of them, Noah Bunker died soon after arriving but the other, George Hunn Nobbs married and eventually became the pastor.  The venerable Adams died shortly afterwards.

            

In 1831, the entire community was moved to Tahiti but disease killed off many, and eventually all of the survivors returned to Pitcairn.  Unfortunately, shortly after this there arrived on the island in October, 1832, a man named Joshua Hill who claimed that he was sent to take charge of the island community.  His “reign” on Pitcairn was fraught with controversy and the island was put under his dictatorship to the point that he initiated public floggings and even banished the three “outsiders” and their families.  However, he was eventually deposed as well as exposed as a fraud and was removed from the island in December 1837.

            

The following year, on November 1838, Pitcairn Island had a constitution drawn up with the help of Captain Eliott of the HMS Fly.  For the next decade peace continued on Pitcairn until overcrowding forced them to take action.  The people of Pitcairn were offered a new home on Norfolk Island in 1855, and most of the people agreed to the move.  The entire population departed Pitcairn on the vessel Morayshire on May 3rd, 1856 and landed and settled on Norfolk Island on June 8th, 1856.  Though a few did soon return to Pitcairn, most remained on Norfolk Island, and became the forebears of the present Norfolk Islanders.


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