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Historic Cannon Gifted to the People of Norfolk Island

Friday, June 14, 2019

The HMS Bounty cannon, which was auctioned in Scotland in 2018, as been gifted to the people of Norfolk Island by an anonymous person.  Last year when the news articles reported that a cannon in Scotland own by Peter Kaye, was to be sold, many people on Norfolk Island and Pitcairn Island, were interested to find out more about this large British historic maritime naval gun which was documented as being from the HMS Bounty.  It was thought that the cannon is one of the four 4-pounder naval guns from the HMS Bounty, which had been burnt and sunk in Pitcairn Island in January 1790.

I have read news articles which say the cannon is believed to have been given to Captain Stewart of a British ship the Orealla, which called at Pitcairn in 1898.  The cannon came with a letter claiming to authenticate its links to the Bounty signed by the Pitcairn Island’s president JR McCoy, who was a great-grandson of William McCoy, one of the Bounty mutineers.  The Orealla belonged to a Liverpool based shipping company whose owner bought Little Cumbrae Island in the Firth of Clyde in 1913 and took the gun there.

Little Cumbrae changed hands again in 1960 when it was bought by businessman Peter Kaye.  He later relocated the gun to his retirement home in Borgue in Dumfries and Galloway.  After Mr Kaye died last year, his possessions were sold, including the cannon, which was auctioned a year ago at Thomas Roddick Saleroom in Dumfries, on Saturday 9th June 2018.

I read last year’s news reports that the naval gun sold at auction fetching for £17,000.  Together with the buyer’s premium and VAT the total price was recorded at £20,570 or (AUD $36,158).  The buyer of the historic cannon was un-named.

I followed the 2018 news items with interest and thought that, here on Norfolk Island we could only dream that the HMS Bounty Cannon could be purchased for our community of Pitcairn Island descendants.

On Monday, 10 June 2019, at the 163rd Anniversary, Bounty Day celebrations Gaye Evans and Lewis Quintal unveiled this treasured item, on behalf of the Council of Elders.  Dreams can come true!  This extremely generous donation of the 4-pounder cannon was gifted by a nameless person.  The transport box had been held at Foodland warehouse and no one knew the gift that was held within, until it was presented at the Bounty Day

During the speeches the Council of Elders announced each descendant family groups will nominate a male and a female member to form a Council of Elders custodians in charge of the cannon.  The Pitcairn Island family names are, Adams, Christian, McCoy, Quintal, Young, Buffett, Evans and Nobbs.

As I continue to learn more about the history of the HMS Bounty cannons, I have read an interesting report by Nigel Erskine.  He led a maritime archaeologist team, twenty years ago in 1999, to recover the remaining cannon from the HMS Bounty watery grave in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island.  The cannon was taken to the Queensland Museum, at its Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville. After conservation work was completed it was returned to Pitcairn Island where the cannon is on display in the Pitcairn Museum.

“Apart from this Bounty cannon, (raised in 1999 the whereabouts of two others are known.  Two cannons were raised from Bounty Bay in 1845.

One of these now in the Norfolk Island Museum, was originally mounted on the cliffs below the settlement at Pitcairn (Adamstown) and fired on ceremonial occasions. When the entire population of Pitcairn Island was transferred to Norfolk Island in 1856, the cannon also made the trip.

The whereabouts of the second cannon raised in 1845 has remained a mystery for many years, with no record of its departure from the island until now.

 A third cannon, which was raised from Bounty Bay in 1971, sits outside the Pitcairn home of Len Brown.”

HMS Bounty, also known as HMAV (Armed Vessel) Bounty.  I have also read that some of the HMS Bounty remains, such as her ballast stones, are still partially visible in its waters at Bounty Bay.  Her rudder is displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva.  An anchor of HMAV Bounty was recovered by Luis Marden in Bounty Bay in 1957.

My brother visited Pitcairn Island for work in June 2012 and I have copies of his photographs including a photo of a cannon.  Also included in the images is the photograph I found on the of the Thomson Roddick Auctioneers & Valuers Facebook page of the cannon in Scotland.  I enjoyed taking photos of the newly arrived cannon at the unveiling presentation at the Bounty Day celebrations on Monday 10th June 2019.  The other cannon included is from the pictures I have taken of the HMS Bounty Cannon on display at the Norfolk Island Museum, Pier Store Museum.

If you would like to learn more about the “HMS Bounty” and the historic stories, head down to the Norfolk Island Museum “Pier Store Museum” at Kingston and you can read more and see the wonderful replica model of the HMAV Bounty in a large glass cabinet and the Bounty cannon which are on display.

Betty Matthews

June 2019

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