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Big Tim History - LONGBOAT TALES 3

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Writing about longboats and ships is (for me at least) quite fun and nostalgic.  Sadly Pitcairn doesn’t have the ready supply of cargo ships and tankers that they used to get.  That’s why writing about it hearkens back to a time that I personally feel should not be forgotten, so future generations can get a glimpse of what life was like fer uwas sullun back den.  You may think I am in a contemplative and nostalgic mood, and you’re right.  It’s one of those weeks.  On with the stories…


I may as well just start on from last week with stories from Number 3.  On one occasion, they had visited a ship where the steward of the vessel was stingy and belligerent, and was not willing to do any trading.  Naturally, this left a bad impression with the crew of the longboat.  As they were leaving the ship, Gifford (seriously, his name crops up a lot in these boat stories) asked Renk (Reynold Warren), “see ha man in white gut hem stripe orn his shoulder (in other words the aforementioned steward)?”  Renk replied “you mean da use fer bout a weckle (weckle = food)?” Gifford replied “da’s the one!”  Renk did that smile of his and stated, “waell, da we ought to tek him up in hem apple, un cut et down orn top!”  Of course, most Pitcairners and Norfolk Islanders would know what he meant, but for those who don’t know, Renk was basically saying that the steward should get a tree (rose apple) cut down on him.  The reason I put this little story in is because statements like this should be preserved, even after people like Renk and Gifford have passed away.


Now that we have seen a ‘bad’ steward, now let’s get to a ‘good’ steward.  Once when the ship Halifax Star visited, Tonick (Anderson Warren) really wanted some nuts for trade, and when he sought out the steward, the steward happily told him that he will give him a whole bunch for free.  Tonick, however, being a fair-minded gentleman, insisted on paying.  The steward would not hear of it, and the banter went back and forth until the steward smiled broadly, saying something along the lines of “I will give you these nuts for free or not at all.”  Tonick reluctantly, but at the same time quite happily conceded and got his nuts.


As there are different impressions of different ships, here are two others.  During the early 1970’s, there was a Dutch vessel that stopped.  As my father said about it, trade aboard was terrible, so “we se in a boat fer whistle blow!”  But on the other hand there was the Reiderstein in the early 1970’s that stopped at Pitcairn and when the Pitcairner’s came out they found that places had already been prepared for them in the dining room to eat with the passengers.  It was vessels like the Reiderstein that left a lasting impression on the island for their kindness and generosity, which the people of Pitcairn appreciated and when possible, they repaid in kind.  This mutual gesture has been repeated, such as when the ship Santos Star approached, with the captain asking ahead if Pitcairn had any chocolate to trade.  Now this is pretty much a unique request, since Pitcairn ain’t known for its chocolate trade.  But people pooled together and got chocolate that they had traded for on previous ships and the ship stopped for forty-five minutes with good trade.  It departed with everyone quite happy from the visit, especially the chocolate-supplied captain.


Finally there is the visit of the Bethioua on December 3rd, 1976.  It was a brand new tanker with a full cargo of fuel.  The captain contacted Pitcairn beforehand and asked for permission for the ship to stop.  Of course, permission was readily granted, and the Bethioua  stopped at the island for the entire day.  The visit was prosperous enough, but the grateful captain then arranged for sixty drums of petrol to be given to the people of Pitcairn as thanks for such a wonderful visit.  Even today my father speaks very fondly of this captain.


That’s it for this week, some tales of positive and not-so-positive visits from ships.  I’ll cook up something different for next week.

Photo 01:  One of the Longboats from the 1970’s working alongside a ship.  Photo by Terry Young.


Photo 02:  The last Pitcairn-built Longboat preserved in Adamstown.  Photo by Terry Young.

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