HISTORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - THE NORFOLK ISLANDERS

On June 8th, 1856, after a journey of 3,700 miles across the vast Pacific, the Morayshire landed 194 Pitcairners (a baby, Reuben Denison Christian had been born during the trip) on Norfolk Island.  The date of June 8th is still being celebrated on Norfolk as “Bounty Day,” a public holiday (on Pitcairn Island “Bounty Day” is celebrated on January 23rd, the traditional date of the burning of the Bounty).  The newly arrived Pitcairners initially found accommodations in the buildings still remaining from the previous penal settlement (many Pitcairners were reportedly unsettled by the prisons and the evidence of the treatment of the convicts that still remained on Norfolk).  These modern buildings (vastly different from the home-made buildings on Pitcairn) and new animals (such as cattle and horses) presented a new and different life for the Pitcairners.

            

When the new inhabitants arrived, they brought with them their beliefs (pretty much Anglican), culture (a mix of Polynesian and European), and law (amongst which was women’s suffrage, which had existed for a long time on Pitcairn, and considered the first place in the world to implement this).  From now on, Norfolk was also to be considered as self-governed (on November 1st, 1856 Norfolk Island was separated from the colony of Tasmania and was “a distinct and separate settlement”).  The people adapted to the new way of life, such as learning to milk cattle and shear sheep, not to mention new ways of farming (such as using horses and cattle to plough the fields) that they would never have learned on the more isolated Pitcairn Island.

            

However, not all of the new arrivals were pleased with their new home.  In 1858, 17 members of the Young family decided that they preferred their old home, and departed Norfolk aboard the vessel Mary Ann.  Nor were they the only ones to depart, because in 1863, a second group returned to Pitcairn Island, which included Christians, Youngs and Buffetts on the St Kilda.  Together with the first group they became the ancestors of today’s Pitcairn Islanders.

            

As time passed in their new home on Norfolk, members of the oldest surviving generation (most notably the surviving children of the mutineers, and the oldest living witnesses to Pitcairn’s history) began to pass on.  Arthur Quintal (a notable son of the mutineer Matthew Quintal) died in 1872 on Norfolk and George Adams (the only son of John Adams) died the following year.

            

Change also came in the form of the Melanesian Mission, which desired to set up their headquarters on Norfolk.  There was opposition to this from the locals, such as George H. Nobbs, the religious leader of the people.  However, the Melanesian Mission won out, and set up its headquarters in 1866, and they would end up occupying about one-ninth of the island.  Following the death of the first Bishop of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson (he was killed in the Solomon Islands by natives on Nukapu in 1871), the St. Barnabas Chapel (which is today a cultural and architectural landmark on Norfolk) was built.  The presence of the Melanesian Mission would remain for many years to come.

            

Whaling would become an important part of Norfolk (it never was on Pitcairn…at least by the locals, but whaling ships often visited regularly there), since whales frequented the coastline of the island.  Accordingly, American whalers ended up visiting, and many Norfolk Island men would become the crew on whaling voyages.  Whales were also hunted locally by the Norfolk Islanders, and there was a whaling station eventually built at Cascade Bay many years later.

            

George H. Nobbs died in 1884 on Norfolk, while the other influential “outsider” to Pitcairn, John Buffett died some years later in 1891, and slowly the people who were originally born on Pitcairn also began to pass away.  Over time, the people transitioned from being Pitcairners to being Norfolk Islanders.

            

In 1896, Governor Viscount Hampden of New South Wales travelled to Norfolk and in his opinion stated that the people were unable to govern themselves, so he set about removing the island laws and had new ones set up under the authority of New South Wales.  On March 19th, 1897, the administration of Norfolk Island was placed under the governor of New South Wales, but the island itself was not made a part of New South Wales.  Regardless, the Norfolk Islanders period of self-government ended.


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