Sunday, March 29, 2015

John Buffett's Spy-Glass

An object that will have very special resonance to so many on Norfolk Island has been donated to the museum this week by Beverley Buffett. Beverley donated a telescope, handed down through the family to her late husband Peter, and understood to have come from Pitcairn Island with John Buffett when the Pitcairners arrived here in 1856. John Buffett came to live on Pitcairn Island in 1825 when the whaling ship he was with stopped at the island and in response to the ageing John Adams’ request for help with the teaching of the children he elected to stay.
Lisa Richards and Beverley Buffett
On Pitcairn, Buffett married Dorothy Young daughter of Edward Young and Mauatua (widow of Fletcher Christian) and they had five sons, including John Jnr whose line Beverley’s late husband Peter descended from. Peter’s great grandparents were Joseph Allen Mcleave and Kathleen Laura Nobbs; grandparents Peter ‘Pa Peet’ and Emily Evans and parents Arthur ‘Totus’ Benjamin and Mary Gordon. Peter, who passed away in 1991, and Beverely have three daughters Jeanette, Rebecca and Emily.

While Myra Stanbury and Kalle Kasi from the Western Australian Maritime Museum were visiting the island last week they looked at the telescope and confirmed that its age is most likely about 175 years, being very similar to examples they have seen made around 1840. The telescope is generally in good condition, with just one section missing that connects the end piece to the main body of the telescope. Its cover is made of canvas and there are no makers marks.

John Buffett's telescope
Albert Buffett alerted us to a recording in the Pitcairn Island Register on the 24th of January in 1853 of the sighting and arrival of H.M. Steam Sloop Virgao “after eagerly looking at the sail through the spy glass..” It is possible that the ‘spy glass’ referred to is the one that Beverley has donated. From the 1840’s through to the early 1850’s the Register records that over 300 ships called at Pitcairn as the island had become a regular stopping off place for whaling and other ships. Presumably from one of these ships John Buffett secured his ‘spy glass’.

The telescope is an important addition to the museum collection and its display will considerably add to our capacity to tell the story of the life of our fore-fathers and mothers on Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands. This is an object of important significance, associated directly with John Buffett. We are so thankful to Beverley for its donation.

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