Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Wreck of the Khandeish on Pitcairn Island

Back in March this year we met with visitor Barry Guttridge (pictured) visiting with his Cameron Park Probus Group. Barry most kindly provided us with a copy of a letter written by his great, great, grandfather’s brother, Arthur Moreland White. In 1875 Arthur was a 22 year old Second Mate in the merchant navy on board the British ship the Khandeish when it was shipwrecked off the coast of Oeno Island, one of the Pitcairns Islands. Arthur’s letter was written to his sister Laura Phoebe White while on board the Ennerdale, the vessel that eventually took them back to San Francisco after spending 6 weeks marooned on Pitcairn Island. The letter provides a wonderful insight into life on Pitcairn including the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and, in particular, the musicality of the islanders.

After describing the luck of the crew to make it to their longboats immediately following the shipwrecking, and after 3 days sailing to find Pitcairn, he describes their welcome by the islanders: “indeed such kindness as we received on that island would put miserably to shame our own Countrymen at home”.

Over their six week stay the sailors became involved with the work of the island. White describes that his usual day included “to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and go up the mountain and get a load of wood, come down again with the Barrow, and after breakfast go up and plant yams or, Oval potatoes, or Indian Corn or else go fishing down the Rocks. We very seldom had any dinner on the island indeed there was such quantities of fruit growing that we did not want any. The oranges especially grow so thick, that they are a regular nuisance and fall down and we could not consume half of them, tho’ I think we used to go through about 1,000 per day among us. There are also Cocoa-nuts, Bread-Fruit plantations, Jack-Fruits, guavas, Rose-apples and many other fruits in abundance, tho I think the Cocoanut is the most indispensable Tree on the Island as they make Oil to burn and cook with, food for Fowls out of the refuse, thatch for their houses, and Brooms fro the Leaves and the wood for their building purposes”.

Further on White describes the inhabitants of the island: “There are 73 inhabitants at present on the island. Simon Young is looked up to and respected as the chief man among them; he is about 56 years old and has had 14 children, one of them was killed with Bishop Patterson on one of the South Sea Islands. He conducts the Service in Church on Sundays and teaches singing and also keeps school every day for the younger people from 10 till 2, he is the most unaffected, pious, simple man I ever came across. He has 3 grown up daughters viz Rossalind, Mary Ann and Johanna; they are all very pretty, with beautiful hair.

It is Rosey that composed the Poetry I am sending, she is a very clever Girl and has the sweetest voice I have ever heard, in fact all the people on the Island are splendid singers, they are all taught and sing in parts according to their voices, they have a singing School at Simon Young’s House every Sunday night for sacred Music. And such melody I never heard before in my life. They do not sing anything but sacred music. They have an accordion, two fiddles, and a Concertina on the island, and some of them can play them very well….”

“…The Islanders are just like goats, they go anywhere, they all go barefooted. I never had a pair of boots while I was there, except on Sundays, and they were lent to me, as I did not save any from the wreck….There are plenty of fowls, pigs, sand goats, on the island, also a few sheep. There are no cows, as the do not require them, they make excellent butter and milk out of the cocoanut…On Sundays they have a Sunday School from 7 till 9 in the morning, Church begins at ½ past 10, they use the English Church Service, and read a sermon afterwards. The Church is like one of their houses, but better furnish’d and is used for a School on Weekdays. Church again in the afternoon and at ½ past 2, and after Church School again till about 5. They then get supper, and after Supper the singing School till about 10. I wish you could have heard them singing. It was like being in Heaven, I never heard anything like it before. The Women dress vey simply “in white generally” with their hair in nets…The men are very good carpenters on the Island and I think can do anything they lay their hands to”.

When the time came to leave the Island White records the sorrow they all felt: ”…[Our last night] was a sorrowful night for all of us, as the people on the island had become like Brothers and Sisters and even dearer still to some of us. I never felt leaving home even as I felt leaving that loved Rock for it is no world “it is paradise” on earth, and I believe the people live as pure lives as it is possible for poor humanity to lead…I went in the last boat and then such crying and weeping as there was on the Boat they made a Baby of me ‘altho I am not much given to that sort of thing. I believe it is the first time any one cared for me”.

After arriving in San Francisco the Captain, Officers and crew of the Khandish told of their time on Pitcairn and of the needs of the islanders. Rosalind Amelia Young records in her book “The Mutiny of the Bounty and Story of Pitcairn Island 1790-1894  by a Native Daughter”, that “the generous citizens of San Francisco responded with such heartiness that contributions kept pouring in, and every useful and necessary article that was thought of,—cooking utensils, tinware of almost every description, cups, plates, spoons, etc., etc., wooden pails and tin pails,—testified to their large-hearted liberality. Clothing made and unmade, buttons, pins, needles, etc., almost enough to stock a respectable haberdasher's shop, were contributed to the immense stock of goods collected in response to the call of charity and benevolence. A good supply of flour, a luxury to the islanders, was sent by Captain Skelly of the Khandish, as his contribution to the general stock. As a crowning gift to the whole, a beautifully-toned organ, of the Mason & Hamlin Organ Company, was sent”.

Another of the crew of the Khandish Peter Butler, returned to Pitcairn and married the poetry writer “Rosey” - Rossalind Eliza Young. Our sincere thanks to Barry for the copy of this fabulous letter written by his common ancestor, Arthur Moreland White.

Picture This!

The Theme of History Week for 2014 is ‘Picture This’. The Week is on in 3 weeks time, running from September 7 to 14. The History Council of NSW explains the theme as follows:  “Driving humanity; reflecting change; imagining reality. In the image conscious 21st Century photographs shape the world. How has the development of the visual changed, informed and sculpted society? How do historians use art and photography to inform their research? Who were the original mad men of the advertising industry? Who were our image makers? People have long manipulated their images and all cultures have created their view of the world through visual representations. History Week 2013 will bring the past into view through the frame of images”.

We’d love to know about any photographs that you have that describe some part of the Norfolk Island story and help to bring ‘our past into view’. If possible we’d love to take a scan of any special images so as to be able to keep a digital copy in the museum collection. In this case with permission from the owner, the scanned photographs would be catalogued into our collection with the name of the owner as the donor and any future use of the images would be credited to the owner. In a way, allowing us to keep a scanned copy of your photos is like taking out insurance against any future loss or damage to the original. Please give me a call on 23788 or call in to the Pier Store on week days if you have any images you’d like to let us scan.

There is a rich photographic record of Norfolk Island from across the years. The beauty of this island has inspired local and visiting photographers since the camera was invented continuing to today, with our talented local photographers capturing our natural stunning environment. We have fabulous images of the buildings and people over time. The 8 metre montage of photos taken by Rev. Bice from the Melanesian Mission on display at the Commissariat Store Museum is an incredible record of the Kingston gaol area in 1867. A quick search on Trove calls up nearly 2,500 Norfolk Island images held in collections across Australia.

In the coming weeks we’ll be highlighting some of the amazing photos in our collection. For today, we have two photos that tell some of the story of the issuing of liquor on the island. The first is of Victor Edwards coming out of the Liquor Bond in about the late 1940’s to early 1950’s, which was then located in the current Administrator’s Office building. From 1857 liquor was strictly supervised. In Governor Denison’s 39 Laws and Regulations Clause No. 35 read “No beer, wine, or spirituous liquor of any kind shall be landed upon the island except such as may be wanted for medical purposes, and this will be placed among the other medical stores in charge of the Chaplain, to be issued at his discretion…”. An original permit issued to Mrs Colenso at the Melanesian Mission in 1898 on display at the Pier Store allows her to keep two bottles of brandy and two bottles of Woolf’s Schnapps!

From 1900 the law stated: “Persons applying for a permit to keep beer, wine or spirituous liquors will be required to produce a certificate from the Government Medical Officer, stating that the beer, wine, or spirituous liquors are required for medicinal purposes”. Clearly then from the photo, Mr Edwards must have been ill! Of course any restriction on alcohol will result in home brew being made, or as known on Norfolk Island, sup. Homebrew was made with anything that could ferment especially surplus fruit and even vegetables. It is said that the term ‘sup’ (soup) came from one enterprising lady who put an excess of parsnips to good use producing a very potent brew. From this time onwards sly grog was known as ‘sup’ and it was not unheard of for ‘sup’ to be served in a tea cup in mixed company.