Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Adventure of a Lifetime...

...a feeling of going home to where it all began.

These are the words of our very own Millie Walden of Norfolk Island as she reflects on her recent visit to Pitcairn Island.
 A group of 10 people have recently returned home to Norfolk after making the long journey to Pitcairn.  Travelling via Auckland to Papeete followed by a 5 hour flight to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, which are located in the extreme southeast of French Polynesia.  Then a 36 hour boat trip to Pitcairn on the Claymore II, Pitcairn’s government chartered passenger and cargo vessel.   A voyage where most of the passengers spent their time below deck in their cabins feeling not so well!

Millie has been excitedly relating her Pitcairn stories and sharing her photographs with us and amongst them is the story of ‘John Buffett’s Box’..

This particular story begins with Heather Koldeway from the Zoological Society of London who visited Pitcairn Island in November 2013 along with Terry Dawson from the University of Dundee.  They are undertaking a project funded by the United Kingdoms, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ‘Darwin Initiative’ to help develop a more sustainable livelihoods strategy for the island based on tourism and fisheries, which is interesting in itself.  However, Heather Koldeway has connections with Pitcairn Island dating back to 1848.

Her great-great grandfather, Dr. James Donnet, visited Pitcairn Island during that year on the HMS Calypso and he returned home with some beautiful mementos.  These mementos were contained in a beautifully crafted box made by John Buffett who arrived on Pitcairn Island in 1823.  The wooden box made from Miro and Gardenia was given to Heather’s grandfather by Fletcher Christian II, grandson of Fletcher Christian “the ringleader of the Mutiny on the Bounty”, as he is described by Dr James Donnet.   The visit of the HMS Calypso in 1845 was recorded in the Pitcairn Island Register by George Hunn Nobbs, the patriarch of the Pitcairn community at that time, it reads … “Dr. Donnet, hearing there were some hieroglyphics supposed to have been cut by the aborigines on the face of the cliff, on the east side of the Island determined to inspect them himself.  He was informed that the path was not only difficult, but dangerous, yet he would not be turned from his purpose.  Accordingly he started with one of the islanders and succeeded in his undertaking being the first European that ever went down the face of the cliff (which is very precipitous), without the assistance of a rope”… It was Arthur Quintal, the Magistrate of Pitcairn in 1855 that assisted him down the cliff. 

Pitcairn Island’s December issue of “Dem Tull” provides the account of Heather Koldeway handing over this box with its treasures to the Pitcairn Museum.  It says the box has a top that slides off, several compartments inside and a drawer underneath.  It contains medicinal powders and bottles and mementos from the Calypso’s visit to Chile and other places.  Of particular interest of course are the items from Pitcairn, locks of hair from three young Pitcairn women at the time, two sisters Martha (21) and Jemima (20) Young, and Ruth Quintal (19).  Martha and Jemima are the daughters of George Young and Hannah Adams.  Ruth is the daughter of Arthur Quintal.   Heather also presented a letter written by Arthur Quintal to Dr. Donnet in 1855, Dr. Donnet maintained friendships with the Pitcairn Islanders for years after his visit.   The box also contains a collection of shells picked from the shores of Pitcairn over 165 years ago.

Colleen Crane left Norfolk Island last October for a 6 month stay on Pitcairn Island. Colleen is a descendant of John Buffett and was fortunate to witness the actual handing over of the box to the Pitcairn Museum.  I believe Colleen has just arrived back in New Zealand after a 2 week voyage from Pitcairn on the Claymore II! It will be fantastic to catch up with Colleen once she lands back on Norfolk as I’m sure she also will have many memorable stories to share.

Millie travelled to Pitcairn along with Arthur Evans, Phillip ‘Lully’ Macrae, Robert ‘Possum’ Westwood, Ray Sills, Michael ‘Boo’ Prentice, Roger Duncan, Donna Rowlinson, Rob Ryan and Yvonne Robinson.  She said “it was a particularly emotional trip for herself, Arthur, Lully and Possum as Pitcairn is where our ancestors came from when they travelled across the ocean on the Morayshire in 1856.  Every day on Pitcairn was a special day, visiting all areas of the island that we had only read or heard about, the people were so welcoming and we can’t thank them enough for welcoming us to their home”.  Millie couldn’t believe that she was actually there… “it was a dream come true”.

Thank you Millie for sharing this experience with us, it has prompted me to make contact with the Pitcairn Island Museum.  Carol Christian-Warren is the Curator and we are both delighted to be in touch with each other.
Colleen Crane and group in the Pitcairn Island Museum

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