Monday, July 25, 2011

Miriam Christian

In the annexe of our house museum at No. 10 Quality Row we have a display of the various inhabitants and restorations since the house was built in 1844. It was built to be the residence of the Foreman of Works, the first being Thomas Seller. On arrival of the Pitcairners in 1856 Isaac and Miriam Christian and their children moved into the house. They eventually raised fifteen children together before Isaac’s tragic death in a whaling accident in 1877. While the house is presented as it would have been during the time of Thomas Seller, the presence of Isaac, Miriam and all those children can also be felt.

Included in the display is a copy of a poignant letter written by Miriam to her mother Elizabeth Young. Elizabeth had been part of the group of 26 who left Norfolk in 1863 to return to Pitcairn Island. They were the second group to return after dissatisfaction with the arrangements on Norfolk and an enduring homesickness for Pitcairn.

Group of Pitcariners 1857, Miriam is thrid from left top row. National Library of Australia
January 9th 1873.

My dear beloved mother,

The arrival of Russell and Stanley and old Mr Buffett took us quite on surprise. they arrive here in October last and oh how glad we are to hear that you are all quite well, especially you dear my dear mother. we are all quite well at present. Hunt & Parkins is gone away in a schooner to the Fiji. Isaac & Leonard came home a week ago. Godfrey is gone third mate of the whaling barque Fanny Fisher with Capt West. we are verry sorry indeed to hear how poorly off you all are in clothing and other things that you find it hard to get on Pitcairns Island. the community in general has raise a subscription for you all and given into the hands of Russel and Stanley for the good of our Pitcairn friends. I hope it will be received with thankfull hearts. I hope dear mother that you will come back again to us a Norfolk Island. poor old Arthur Quintall has gone the way of all the earth. he died about a month after Russel and Stanley came here. dear mother I send you a box of things by Russell and some other things in it for those whose names are writen on the parcels. the rest is for you dear mother one parcel for Agnes Warren from Mr Rossiter her friend. We send an album containing the likenesses of our family. you will find four bars of soap in the chest for you mother. when you give out the parcels with their names on it the chest belongs to you. it was Godfrey’s chest therefore I send it to you. everybody is sorry to part from Russell and Stanley. tell Robert to take Lydia and you and come back to Norfolk Island for we have a good doctor here. if the letters that I see come from Pitcairns Island which someone wrote saying that the people on Norfolk are a verry wicked set of people and courting the Scriptures as they do thinking that they were perfect and without sin. I would wish them to bear this in mind. Let him that think he stands take heed lest he fall. Doras is still living with us but not married yet. Mr Nobbs is getting to be very old. Jacob and Marias children are verry sickly. they lost three since you left us and another one now is verry ill and is not likely to live long poor little Lucy. we got three more since you left us. one is dead and two alive. at one time Isaac, Hunt, Godfrey, Leonard, and Parkins all gone to sea. Hunt and Godfrey has been living in Fiji a long time and Isaac, Leonard and Parkins has been whaling out of Sydney. dear mother Russell says that someone on the Island is always quareling about lands. my lands dear mother I leave it into your hands to give it to those that look after you and Isaacs lands he give to Margarett and Thursday. and now I wont write any more for they will tell you all about us. and now dear mother I hope and pray that if we don’t meet you on earth we may meet each other in heaven above. goodbye mother, farewell      Your daughter   Miriam Christian
My husband sends you his best wishes

The photograph is of a group of Pitcairn Islanders on the verandah of one of the houses on Quality Row in 1857 and is from the National Library of Australia. Miriam is third from the left in the back row.

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