NON A PITKERN-NORF'K PERSPECTIVE

The old Rustin' ruston at Gada Bridge (Part Three) ... by Rachel Borg


For those who are not aware, the Pitcairners re-settled here on Norfolk in 1856, bringing some of their laws with them; while others were soon to be added not long afterwards, hence to law of fornication.  As to the name of the bridge; Bishop George Selwyn went on to relocate the Melanesian Mission headquarters from Auckland to Norfolk Island, following a free grant of land in 1866 by Sir John Young, the Governor of New South Wales; which was supplemented by the purchase of further land.  The area of land on which the Mission was established and operated until the early 1920s occupied over 400 hectares extending in the direction of Anson Bay, some distance inland, and out towards Headstone.  During that period the relationship between the two communities, was like any marriage, had its ups and downs but was generally a good working partnership.  Today the most impressive and visible remnant of the Melanesian Mission days is of course the magnificent St Barnabas Chapel. 


That all having been laid down as our reference point, I have to admit to secretly wondering just what the ‘saintly’ Bishop Selwyn would have thought about having a bridge built and named in his honour by men who had committed the most ‘unsaintly’ crime of fornication.  We can only now hope that he had a reasonable sense of humour as he looked down from his saintliness upon the unfolding scene.  A wicked sense of humour you see is one of those things that Islanders have never been particularly short of, and very soon this bridge of sin had earned itself the new and somewhat irreverent name ‘Gada Bridge’.  ‘Gada’ is a very old Norf’kword and in ‘Speak Norfolk Today’ it is glossed thus:-


gada (gLdLn. 1. full green bananas.  2. Coition

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The old Rustin' ruston at Gada Bridge (Part Two) ... by Rachel Borg


What do you suppose it is that makes us all so prone to looking backward rather than forward?  Are we all just plain curious, or do we simply like to accumulate piles of information; are we ferrets and bower-birds perhaps, or nosey parkers, or simpler people who have a hankering for good stories.  We might all of course fall more into some categories, and less into others.  

A romantic, in the classic sense of the word, might say it is pure unadulterated sentiment that drives us to know the unseen; or the human heart’s innate eternal desire for truth which compels us to uncover and lay bare the events of the past.  Who knows what a cold hard realist, or a pragmatist even, might offer up on the subject of digging around in a pile of old rubble for tiny clues to our dead and distant past?  Perhaps let’s not go there today.


The other thing about history, particularly on this miniscule scale, and especially if it is oral history is that much of it passes out of living memory as the events of one period in history are repeatedly overlaid by the next. 


Deep in the vaults of the Norfolk Island Museum lies a rather small slightly tatty manuscript entitled “The Descendants of the Mutineers of the Bounty” by Eric Stopp, Official Secretary dated 1944.  It contains a small but rather intriguing paragraph on our Island’s past; but an intriguing little layer it is nevertheless:


                ‘According to the Minutes of Proceedings of the Council of Elders there were a number of breaches of the Fornication Law and persons working off fines imposed under this law built a bridge on the Anson Bay Road, which was named after the saintly Bishop Selwyn, but the Islanders have their name for it’.

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