Project Canterbury











Author of Geography of Australia, Tasmania & New Zealand.










Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006


My Friends


Norfolk Island and its Inhabitants,





The following pages, extracted mainly from my journal, have no pretension whatsoever in style, but merely aim at giving a plain, truthful account of Norfolk Island and its Inhabitants about which so little is known.

I spent three weeks on the Island, and went amongst the people for the express purpose of making myself acquainted with their early History, Manners and Customs; and before accepting information, was very careful to have it confirmed by the older members of the Community.

If, however, misstatements have crept in, I shall be very thankful to have them pointed out.

I am,

Yours faithfully,


St. Paul's College
, 1879.








Norfolk Island is one of the loveliest spots that any one could wish to behold. It lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 940 miles N.E. by E. from Sydney, and, with the exception of two small rocky islets--viz., Philip Island, 2_ miles S.W., and Nepean Island, _ mile S.--has no land nearer than Lord Howe Island, about 500 miles S.W., and New Zealand, 600 miles S.E. But although the island is thus isolated, yet the beauty of the scenery, the fertility of the soil, and the salubrity of the climate, are such that it is possible for the inhabitants to make their island home one of the happiest spots on earth. The island is 5 miles long, 3 broad, and about 20 in circumference; its area comprises upwards of 9,000 acres. The whole extent consists of beautiful undulating country, interrupted only by Mount Pitt, which rises to a height of 1,039 feet above the level of the sea. The beauty of the scenery is considerably enhanced by the well-known Norfolk Island Pines, which cover the island from one end to the other. Well, perhaps, I should not say cover, because many of them have been cut down to make way for cultivation; but go where you will you are surrounded by them. Walk into the cultivation paddocks, and they are to be seen looming in the distance; stroll into the valleys and they are to be seen on the summit of the hills, and towering above the tops of other trees beyond; and, again, go into the bush on the East side of the island where there are no settlers, and there will be found cluster after cluster, in many instances covered with moss which hangs down from the branches a distance of two or three feet, bearing testimony, as it were, to their extreme old age. I should imagine that when man first landed on the island, it must have presented a perfect mass of pines, extending from one end to the other. The pine is very useful to the islanders, as it supplies them with good timber for building purposes, being admirably adapted for [5/6] lining boards, rafters and shingles. There is on the island an immense stone boat house, the roof of which is entirely composed of pine. Tree of one size are used as beams, of another size as rafters, and the shingles were split from a full grown tree.

On three sides of the island is bounded by steep hills and precipitous cliffs descending abruptly to the water's edge, and affording nowhere a safe landing place. On the South West side, however, there is one little spot where the land slopes gradually to the water's edge, and forms a little flat about 200 acres in extent. On this is situated the little township, being backed by high hills rising between 400 and 500 feet above the sea level. In front of this is a reef having but one opening through which a boat may be brought. The surf breaks upon this little reef with exceeding great violence, and sometimes when the boats come in, borne along on the top of the crested wave, it seems as if they would be dashed to pieces on the dark rocks below; but the men are accustomed to this sort of thing, and with quick eye and steady hand guide their frail craft safely through the opening into the calm water beyond. A little South of the pier an artificial opening has been made in the reef, under the superintendence of Captain Armstrong, through which small schooners may be brought, and there is inside just sufficient water for such crafts to lie safely. There is no natural harbour, and ships visiting the island are obliged to stand off and on during their stay. When the sea is calm, a landing may easily, and without danger, be effected by means of whale boats; but there is frequently so much sea on that it is perfectly impracticable to land at this spot. When this is the case the signal man hoists a blue flag, and the vessel sails round to the other side of the island to a landing place known as the Cascades, a misnomer, however, for nothing in the shape of a waterfall is to be found. So that of this spot the poet cannot say,--

"In foaming breaks the rill, with merry song,
Dashed down the rough rock, lightly leaps along."

A whale boat is kept at the Cascades, but it is certainly a most awkward spot to land at; the only place which affords a footing being a large flat rock over which the waves are constantly [6/7] washing, and one has to watch one's opportunity of getting to high ground while one wave is receding and another gathering.

The township must, in former days, have been an exceedingly pretty little place, but now a large portion of it is in ruins. There are three streets; one leading up from the landing place, another cutting this at right angles and containing all the best houses, which, for the most part, stand in a row known as "Quality Row," and the third running close to the water's edge, containing a number of houses in complete ruins. Here and there about the town are rows and clusters of pines which give to the place a very pleasing appearance. This township was built by the convicts, who, in the year 1788, when the colony of New South Wales was founded, were sent to Norfolk Island under the superintendence of Lieutenant King, to form there a penal settlement.

Among the more prominent buildings are the Church, the Jail, the two Barracks and Government House. The building now used as a place of worship was formerly the commissariat store house. It then had three stories; but the middle floor has been knocked down, thus leaving a lofty and spacious room. The windows, of which there are a great many, are oblong, with the exception of the chancel window which is of stained glass, and very handsome, having been presented by Bishop Selwyn and the Rev. Mr. Codrington in memory of Joseph Atkins [sic] and Edwin Nobbs who were both shot with poisoned arrows, from the effect of which they died; the former when Bishop Patteson was murdered at Santa Cruz, in 1870; the latter a few years before that sad event. The building will comfortably seat about 400 persons. The jail, which was a large substantial stone building, is now in complete ruins; not a vestige of the roof remains, and the walls are fast crumbling to decay. The cells are very numerous, and some of them seem to have been more secluded and far more horrible than the others, these having been used for the solitary confinement of the worst criminals. Oh! what tales of by-gone woe those walls could tell if they could only speak! One of the barracks has been allowed to go to decay, as the present inhabitants have no use for it; but the other, a large spacious building, is in a very fair state of preserva-[7/8]tion. One of the immense rooms in this building is used as a school room, another as a court house, and a third as a store. In a stone building near the pier, which is a massive stone structure, is the tread-mill. It is now in such a dilapidated state that it is difficult to make out the working of this instrument of torture. The roof has been off the building for years, and therefore the walls, having no protection, are fast crumbling to decay. The floor, too, which is raised six feet from the ground, has rotted away, and the joists are not safe to tread upon. Situated on an eminence at the end of the township stands Government House, once a very nice building, but now, as is the case with many of the others, fast becoming dilapidated. A portion of it is now used as a surgery, and in the other part lives the signal-man. In addition to the buildings already mentioned, there are the ruins of some twenty houses in a state quite beyond repair. The Norfolk Islanders now number 406; of these about 250 reside in town, and the remainder live on their little farms in various parts of the island. In many places in the Southern half of the island are to be seen the ruins of stone cottages which were once inhabited by emancipated convicts. Some of the best cottages have been preserved, but when the Pitcairn Islanders first settled at Norfolk Island, being only 192 in number, they could not occupy all the buildings, which consequently have been allowed to go to ruin.

There are excellent roads leading to the four quarters of the island; these were made in early times by the convicts, and have been kept in a good state of repair. Formerly there was a good road round the island, which used to be the favourite drive of the aristocracy; but when the place ceased to be a penal settlement, and the officials were removed, the traffic was reduced almost to nullity and the road was neglected. It is now in such a bad state that none but horsemen or pedestrians can traverse it. The soil all over the island is of first rate quality, being a dark black or brown loam, and capable of growing almost everything the inhabitants have need of. The grass is thickly matted all over the place, and growing wild in all parts are lemons and guavas. These are not indigenous; but were, no doubt, taken there in early times, and in the course of years got scattered all over the [8/9] bush. I never before saw so many lemons--thousands and thousands of trees loaded with fruit, and the inhabitants do not utilise them in any way. The guavas are almost as plentiful. In the proper season the fruit is delicious, and is consumed in large quantities by the people, who are particularly fond of it. Almost every settler has his little plantation of bananas, potatoes and kumara (sweet potato). Wheat cannot be grown as it always gets the blight. Oranges grow tolerably well, and peaches flourish. All kinds of garden flowers do well: in fact, if a little judgment were exercised, I feel confident that almost everything would grow, so that there never need be a scarcity of food on that charming little oasis situated in the midst of the desert ocean. Water, unfortunately, is none too plentiful. There are several creeks, or rivulets, flowing in various parts of the island, but they, for the most part, go dry in very hot weather. Most of the people obtain their supply of water from wells which are from 80 to 120 feet deep, and by sinking to this depth I imagine that an unfailing supply of water could be obtained in most parts of the island.

There are no indigenous animals, and the variety of birds, if we except the sea birds, is very limited; and besides being of small size, are, to my mind, very deficient in beauty of plumage. In the early days pigeons were taken there and allowed to breed; they are now to be seen in thousands in almost all parts of the island. The men occasionally go out and shoot 10 or 15 brace in a very short space of time. It is sometimes difficult to get close to them; but it may generally be done by creeping, and since the place is covered with grass, and there is not a reptile of any kind on the island, one feels no hesitation in having recourse to such a measure. There are a few wild pigs in the bush, and any body is quite at liberty to shoot these if he be fortunate enough to come upon them.

Although the island is so small, yet one may go out riding every afternoon of the week and visit a fresh part presenting lovely scenery, though of course having but limited diversification. Then there are many beautiful glens which should be visited on foot. In these grow many kinds of ferns; all of which, however, with one exception, viz., Asplenium dimorphum, [9/10] are found in Australia. Mount Pitt may either be ascended on foot or on horseback. It is very steep in parts; but when the summit, which is quite bare, is reached, the traveler is abundantly rewarded for his toil by the magnificent scenery which lies before him. He stands 1039 feet above the level of the sea, and obtains almost a bird's eye view of the whole island and the expansive ocean surrounding it on all sides. Language is inadequate to convey any just idea of the beauty of that view, and I shall not attempt to describe it.

The climate of Norfolk Island is nearly as warm as that of Sydney; but refreshing sea breezes are almost every day experienced, which have a moderating effect upon the temperature, and make it really pleasant and salubrious. Philip Island, which, as has before been stated, lies 2_ miles S.W. from Norfolk Island; it is composed chiefly of rock, and is almost destitute of vegetation; yet, strange to say, it is the abode of hundreds of Rabbits, which manage in some way to eke out a wretched existence on the coarse grass which, in some few places, scantily covers the land. The Tropic Bird, the Wide-awake, the Gannet, the Petrel and numerous other sea gulls make their nests in holes in the precipitous cliffs, some of which rise to a perpendicular height of 900 feet. What is most remarkable about Philip Island is the great variety of tints which its land presents. On a bright, fine, sunny day the colours of land, sea, and sky, contained with each other, as seen from Norfolk Island, make up a most charming view. Nepean Island lying about _ a mile South of Norfolk, is merely an uninhabited rock, quite destitute of vegetation with the exception of two stunted pines. It is the habitat of thousands of sea birds which lay eggs about the size of a hen's egg, and although somewhat fishy in flavor, are by no means unpalatable, and the Norfolkers frequently visit the island for the purpose of procuring these eggs for eating.



The Contents of this Chapter are extracted from an article which appeared in an English paper upwards of 35 years ago. The paper was kindly lent to the writer by the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, who informed him that the statements made therein were quite correct.

The most striking character in the settlement at Norfolk Island is the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, the chaplain of the settlement, now a very old gentleman, who joined the Mutineer descendents at Pitcairn Island, in the year 1828. He is the unacknowledged son of the Marquis of -------, his mother being the daughter of an Irish Baronet. In 1811, he entered the Royal Navy, and visited, among other places, New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, calling at St. Helena on the way home, just after the arrival of Bonaparte at that Island. Having left the British Navy in 1816, he joined a ship of 18 guns, designed for the use of the patriots in America. After a 16 months cruise, during which he had many adventures, he was captured by a Spanish Guarda Costa while in charge of a prize, and was carried into Callao, in Peru. Here he was imprisoned, and for many weary months walked the streets with 30 lbs. weight of iron attached to him, while living on the spare diet of beans and chilii peppers. He eventually escaped in a Yankee vessel, and rejoined his ship. After a long cruise off Manila, he set out for Arica (Peru,) with 85 others in an open launch, to attempt the cutting out of a large merchant ship from Cadiz, named La Minerva. So desperate did the undertaking appear, that the landlord of the house where Nobbs boarded, and to whom he owed a considerable sum, offered to board him for 6 months gratis if he abandoned the enterprise. The vessel was nevertheless captured, and Nobbs' share of the prize money was 2000 dollars, half of which he sent to his mother. In November, 1819, he took the situation of prize master on board a 40 gun ship, under Buenos Ayres Colors, commanded by a Frenchman. After [11/12] capturing some valuable prizes he deserted at Tumbey, where he nearly lost his life from hardships encountered in the woods, while attempting to discover a road to Guayaquil. Getting on board an English packet, he was landed at Talcahuano, in April, 1820. On the 7th day of May, at Midnight, Talcahuano was attacked by Benevedes and his Indian troops. The Chilian garrison were put to the sword; a number of the inhabitants were killed; and Nobbs carried off a prisoner. He was, however, recaptured next morning by troops from Concepcion. On the 5th November, 1820, Mr. Nobbs took part in the cutting out of the Spanish frigate, Esmeraldas, from under the Callao batteries, one of the famous achievements of Lord Cochrane. Having received a letter of recommendation from Lord Cochrane to General Cruy, the Governor of Valpariso [sic], for his conduct in the Esmeraldas affair, he was made lieutenant in a Chilian Sloop of War. In September, 1821, he commanded two launches from his ship which cut out and captured, at the Isle of St. Mary, an armed brig, after a severe conflict. Shortly after this he was ordered up a river near the town of Arica, to recover British and American property, which had been seized by Benevedes. When the launch had proceeded about 16 miles up the river, a detachment of cavalry, concealed on the banks, suddenly opened fire on it. In a short time 48 out of the 64 who were on the boat were killed or wounded, and the boat was captured in spite of a desperate resistance. Mr. Nobbs, on this occasion, received a blow on the back of his neck from the butt end of a musket, and he has suffered severely at times from the effect of that blow ever since. The dead and badly wounded were thrown into the river; the remainder were landed and stripped of their clothing and a rag of some sort or other given in exchange, and all were marched off to prison. All were sentenced to be shot, and for many days they were kept in extreme suspense. Every morning 3 or 4 were taken from the number, and in a few minutes their friends heard shots at the back of the prison which told them that the unfortunate comrades were no more. There were 3 Europeans beside Nobbs, and every morning these 4 men used to shake hands when the soldier appeared, thinking it might be their turn next. But it was ordained by Providence that such should not [12/13] be the case, for at this time the brother of Benevede's wife was, with 3 others of Benevede's officers, taken prisoner by the Chilian troops, and, at the urgent request of his wife, Benevede contented to exchange his 4 prisoners for his 4 officers who were in the hands of the Chilians. Soon after his release Nobbs went to Valparaiso, and found a letter from his mother urging him to return home. He consequently quitted the Chilian navy, and went home in a passenger ship. His mother died soon after, and on her death-bed exacted form him a solemn promise that he would never accept any favour at the hands of his father's family, or appropriate to his use a sum of money invested in the public funds for his support since 1803. His mother was anxious that he should quit England, and take up his abode in some distant part of the world where her wrongs and his might be buried in oblivion. He mentioned Pitcairn Island to her, and said he was rather taken with the place, having heard its history and all particulars connected with it from the captain of a whaler which had touched there, and in whose ship he had once been a passenger. His mother encouraged him to go there, and almost her last words were, "Go to Pitcairn Island, my son; dwell there, and may the blessing of GOD rest upon you." In October 1822, Nobbs was sent to Naples. On his passage from that city to Messina in a Neapolitan vessel, she foundered, and those on board lost everything, escaping only with their lives. In October of the following year he went to Sierre Leone as chief officer of a ship called the Gambia. Of 19 persons who went out in that ship, the captain, Nobbs, and 2 colored men only lived to return. In 1824 Nobbs went to Sierre Leone in command of the same ship, and was 6 weeks on shore with the fever. On returning to England he resigned his command, and collected what little property he had, resolving to leave England for ever and to settle on Pitcairn Island. He reached Calcutta in May, 1826, and got to Callao by way of New York, Singapore, Rio and Valparaiso. He long sought in vain for a passage to Pitcairn, but finally at Callao, he met the owner of a launch, an invalid, who, on condition that Mr. Nobbs should fit her out, agreed to accompany him to Pitcairn. The two left Callao by themselves, on a voyage of 3,500 miles, which distance they accomplished in [13/14] 6 weeks, landing on the 28th October, 1828. The owner of the launch died soon after reaching Pitcairn, and Mr. Nobbs broke up the boat and used the timber in building a house. Mr. Nobbs was cordially received by the patriarch John Adams, and the natives generally. He married the grand-daughter of William M'Coy, one of the mutineers of the Bounty, and at once undertook the moral and religious instruction of the community. In August, 1852, Admiral Fairfax Moresby visited Pitcairn Island in H.M.S. Portland. He was much struck with Mr. Nobbs and his suitability to the position he occupied. He procured him and one of his daughters a passage to England, where he was ordained priest by the bishop of London. Having been presented to the Queen, and many important personages, Mr. Nobbs returned to Pitcairn Island as chaplain of the community. He accompanied the islanders in their migration to Tahiti, and subsequently to Norfolk Island. He is now 79 years of age, and is surrounded by a large family of children and grand-children, and says that he is thoroughly content to end his days in his present dwelling, without ever again leaving the street in which he resides.



The early history of the Islanders is exceedingly romantic and interesting, and I purpose giving in this chapter, a brief outline of it.

Long before the discovery of Australia, it was thought that land lay in this part of the ocean, and a desire of proving this opinion, and the hope of making valuable commercial discoveries, led to several expeditions being sent out from Europe, in which, the then King of England, George III, took a prominent part. In the year 1762, Captain Wallis, of the Dolphin, and Captain Carteret, of the Swallow, left England on an expedition, and in the course of their voyage, touched at Tahiti. The Captain of the Swallow, whose ship had been separated from the Dolphin during a storm, was cruising about, when one day a midshipman, named Pitcairn, who was at the mast head, saw land, appearing from the great distance to be a rock rising out of the sea. The land was called after the discoverer, Pitcairn Island. Some years after this, Cook, on his third voyage of discovery, visited Tahiti, and gave a glowing description of the beauty and fertility of the island, which exactly corresponded with, and thus confirmed, that given by Wallis, of the Dolphin.

Some 17 years afterwards, it was though advisable to try and introduce the breadfruit, which flourished in Tahiti, into the West Indies, as an addition to the food of negroes engaged on the plantations. The Government took the matter in hand, and gave instructions for the purchase and fitting out of a suitable vessel, the Bounty, 216 tons. Her crew, including officers, consisted of 46 men. Lieutenant W. Bligh was appointed commander. The mate of the Bounty, Fletcher Christian, was the fourth son of Charles Christian, Esq., of Mairlandelere, in Cumberland. His brother, Edward, became professor of law at [15/16] Cambridge, Chief Justice of Ely, and well known as the editor of Blackstone's Commentaries.

The Bounty was fitted out at Depford. Her internal fittings were prepared for the reception of breadfruit trees, and very inferior accommodation was afforded to the officers and crew. Lieutenant Bligh has been described as a man of irritable and passionate disposition, and during the fitting out of the ship rendered himself very unpopular. On the voyage he treated his crew very badly, at times shortening their allowance of food in the most arbitrary manner. On one occasion he ordered the usual quantity of bread, 2 lbs., to be stopped, and said the men should have 1 lb. of pumpkin instead. On the crew murmuring at this unjust act, Bligh summoned before him the first man of every mess, and commenced an angry address to them, by saying, "I'll make you eat grass, or anything you can catch, before I have done with you." The officers were also very badly treated by Bligh. When they arrived at Tahiti, he seized all provisions that were brought on board the vessel, as his property, and served them out to the men in small quantities.

At length about 1,000 breadfruit trees were placed on board, and the Bounty set sail from Tahiti. A few days after, Bligh missed some cocoanuts from a pile he had purchased, and said the men had stolen them, the officers knowing and conniving at it. He questioned them all, but they denied any knowledge of the affair; whereupon he accused them of taking them and ordered a search to be made. He asked each officer how many he had bought, and questioned Christian as to the number he had. Christian replied, "I really do not know, Sir, but I hope you do not think me so mean as to be guilty of stealing yours." "Yes," said Bligh, "You hound, I do think so; you must have stolen them from me, or you could have given a better account of them. You rascals, you are all thieves alike, and combine with the men to rob me. You will steal my yams next. I will flog you and make you jump overboard, before we reach the Endeavour Straits?" Christian made no reply, but he went to his cabin. He had for months borne with patience all the indignities which had been heaped upon him; but the climax had now come, and he resolved to leave the vessel on a raft. He was unable to carry his plan [16/17] into effect, and therefore resolved on mutiny. Having got several seamen who had been flogged by Bligh to help him, they seized Bligh and the other officers and sent them off in the launch with a certain amount of provisions. The launch with its passengers at length reached a port, but Bligh and his men endured dreadful hardships on the voyage.

Having thus got rid of the Captain and his party, Christian, who was always respected by the crew, took command of the ship, and after calling at Tahiti for supplies, sailed for an island named Toubonai, accompanied by 9 Tahitian men, 12 women, and 8 boys. They arrived there safely and proceeded to make a fort, but the natives proved so hostile towards them that the men grew dissatisfied, and the majority expressed a desire to return to Tahiti. There were about 16 men with the mutineers who had not taken part in the mutiny, and these were strongly opposed to passing their lives on the island. It was therefore decided to return to Tahiti, and land there those who wished, and there make a settlement. When they arrived at Tahiti, 16 persons went ashore, taking with them their share of arms, ammunition, and everything else on board. Those who remained on board were Fletcher Christian, John Mills, Isaac Martin, William Brown, Edward Young, William M'Koy, John Williams, Matthew Quintal, and John Adams. These 9 men took Tahitian women as wives, and 6 Tahitian men who had 3 wives between them, also joined the party, making in all 27 souls, who determined to follow the fortune of Christian. One of the Tahitian women, the wife of M'Koy, also took with her her infant daughter born just before the vessel left Tahiti.

It happened that on board the Bounty was a copy of Capt. Carteret's voyage to the South Seas, in which the position of Pitcairn Island was described. This being a lonely spot, probably induced Christian to make for it, but, owing to its having been wrongly described, they were for several weeks unable to find it, and had almost given up the search when a rock far distant, was seen rising up above the level of the ocean. The mutineers wanted a place were they would have little or no chance of being discovered, should search be made, and this little island, [17/18] only 4_ miles in circumference, far from the haunts of ships and of men, offered an asylum to them. The rock-bound sides of the island by no means looked promising, but in the interior, and concealed by them, lay forests of palms clothing the mountain sides, and lovely fertile valleys. A small bend in the shore, afterwards called Bounty Bay, was discovered into which the vessel was steered, and here was her last resting place, for Christian, having surveyed the Island, and divided it into 9 parts, being one each for himself and his 8 companions, sunk the vessel, having first removed from her everything that would be likely to be of use to them. No share of land was apportioned to the Tahitians, who from being friends of the English were soon made their slaves. They, however, willingly assisted in cultivating the ground and in other employments, and for 3 years the mutineers lived on the island as comfortably as they could wish. But they treated the Tahitians very harshly, and this treatment was carried to such lengths that it finally led to very serious consequences. The wife of Williams was one day searching for birds' eggs on the cliffs, when, losing her footing, she fell, and was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Williams now insisted on taking one of the wives of the Tahitians, at which act of injustice the natives formed a plan to murder all the whites; and they would undoubtedly have carried their designs into effect, had not the plot been communicated to the English by the women by means of a song, the concluding words of which were, "Why does blackman sharpen axe? To kill white man."

Finding the plot was discovered, 2 of the natives fled to the woods, and the other 4 were pardoned, on their promising to murder the two fugitives, which they accordingly did. The whites, however, continued to oppress the blacks to such an extent, that another plot was formed by the 4 Tahitians, and Christian was shot while at work on his plantation. Four other Englishmen also shared the same fate. M'Koy and Quintal escaped to the woods. Adams was wounded, and endeavoured to escape down the rocks, when the natives called him back, promising to spare him. Young was hidden by the women, who thus saved his life. The natives, soon after this event, quarelled among themselves, and one of them was shot. M'Koy and Quintal, who still re-[18/19]mained in the woods, shot another; a third was murdered, out of revenge, by the wife of a murdered Englishman, and the fourth was shot by Young.

There now remained on the island 4 Englishmen, 12 women, and several children. Out of the 9 mutineers, 2 were foreigners, and it is a singular fact that neither of these had children; nor had the natives any issue. The wife of the Rev. E. [sic] H. Nobbs told me this fact, and added that she regarded the circumstances as a proof that it was the will of GOD that none but the descendants of Englishmen should inhabit the island. Of the 4 men now on the island, 2 came to a very sad end. M'Koy had in his youth been employed in a distillery in Scotland, and he now succeeded in manufacturing an intoxicating liquor from a root growing on the island, called the Ti Root. The result was that M'Koy and Quintal were continually in a state of intoxication, and at last M'Koy in a fit of delirium tremens, went to the sea coast, and having fastened a heavy stone to his leg, jumped from a rock into the sea, and was drowned. Quintal became dangerous, and threatened to kill the others, who in self-defence were obliged to have recourse to the dreadful expedient of shooting him. Thus, but two men, viz., Adam[s] and Young were left on the island. Both these were of a serous turn of mind, and the fearful scenes they had witnessed made a lasting impression upon them. They, therefore, resolved to have daily prayer, morning and afternoon service on Sundays, and by GOD'S help to train up their children, and those of their departed companions, in the paths of piety and virtue. A Bible and a Prayer Book had been saved from the Bounty, and these were now brought into requisition. Daily school was also held. Young had received a very fair education; but this was not the case with Adams, who, however, feeling his deficiency, set to work to improve himself under Young's direction.

In a few months Young died, and Adams was left alone as the protector, teacher, and guardian of the 12 native women and 19 children. He strove to do his duty, and indeed GOD'S blessing rested upon his labours, as is proved by the subsequent history of these people. For many years Adams acted as their pastor, and having but one Prayer Book used to read each sentence or part of sentence [19/20] separately, which was then repeated by the whole congregation. Although Prayer Books are now plentiful amongst them, yet the islanders still retain the old custom. All are silent while the clergyman reads a sentence or clause, and then all repeat it in a solemn and measured tone of voice.

All was peace amongst them now, and for years that little band continued to live on Pitcairn Island shut out from, and unknown to, the outside world. * * * * * * * *

Twenty years had passed away since the mutineers first landed, and those who thought at all about the matter came to the conclusion that the Bounty and its crew of Mutineers had gone to the bottom of the sea, when a report was spread that Capt. Folger of the American ship Boston, had discovered their retreat. No notice, however, seems to have been taken of the report until 3 years afterwards, when Sir Thomas Staines of his Majesty's ship Briton, in the course of her cruise came across the island. It was night, and Sir Thomas hove to and waited for the daylight, in order to discover the nature of the land. In the morning, he was much surprised to see the island laid out in regular plantations and scattered with neat little huts. As he neared the shore, he observed some natives carrying a canoe to the water, and, when they had launched it, two stepped in, and, dashing through the surf, were soon alongside the ship. Much to the astonishment of those on board, one of the occupants called out in good nautical English, "won't you heave us a rope now?" Their request was complied with and the strangers were soon on deck. The name of the eldest was Thursday October Christian, the first born on the island and the son of Fletcher Christian, the ringleader of the mutineers. The Captain invited them to go below and take some refreshment, but before thinking of tasting what was before them, Christian rose up, and placing his hands in a devotional posture, repeated in a pleasing and serous tone of voice, "For what we are going to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful for Christ's sake, Amen." Capt. Staines and the officers accompanied the islanders to the shore, w[h]ere they were cordially welcomed by the inhabitants.

Some years after this a whale ship touched at the island. Onboard was a man named John Buffet, who was of an earnest turn [20/21] of mind, and possessed a good plain education. As John Adams was now very old, the inhabitants desired him to remain as their teacher, and the Captain willingly gave him his discharge for that purpose. Another of the crew, John Evans, took a fancy to the Island, and deserted his ship in order that he might remain there. This took place in December of the year 1823, and there were 52 souls on the island. I had several long and interesting conversation with this good old man, Buffet, who is now upwards of 70 years of age. He was able to tell me all about John Adams the Mutineer, and besides confirming the accounts I have read, supplied me with much interesting information which is not contained in books. He had only been there about 55 [sic] years when Mr. Nobbs, an account of whom has already been given, arrived, at the island. I before mentioned that Mr. Nobbs was accompanied by one companion, who, being in a very bad state of health landed immediately. Mr. Nobbs remained on board and asked Buffet to keep him company. When Buffet was leaving to go on board, one of his friends said, "you had better take your sextant with you." "oh," said Buffet, "there is no occasion to do that, there will surely be one on board." On being pressed, however, he did take it with him, and a fortunate thing it was for the two in the launch, for during the night a heavy squall came on which drove the boat far out of sight of land. In the morning Mr. Nobbs took his sextant to ascertain their position, when, to his great mortification, he found that the instruments had been rendered useless by the loss of the indicator, and if Buffet had not taken his, they might never have reached the island.

Mr. Nobbs' companion died a few weeks after landing, and as the islanders wished him to remain, he broke up the cutter and used her timber for building himself a house. Next year John Adams died, and Mr. Nobbs succeeded him in his pastoral office. In the year 1830, the colony consisted of 87 persons, and as they had sustained a long drought, the British Government, fearing lest there might, at some future time, be a scarcity of water, proposed to the islanders that they should leave Pitcairn and go to Tahiti. The islanders consented to go, although some of them were exceedingly sorry to leave their beloved island home. They, however, did not remain long in Tahiti. On their own island, drunkenness, the use [21/22] of bad language, and similar vices were absolutely unknown. One and all striving to serve GOD and obey his commandments, they dwelt together in harmony like one family. But the Tahitians were very different, and Mrs. Nobbs informed me that during their sojourn there the bad example set by the Tahitians was very injurious to their young people. Buffet and a few other families took the first opportunity of returning to Pitcairn, and the remaining families returned a few months afterwards in an American brig.

In the year 1832, much distress was caused by a man named Joshua Hill, who went to the island and gave out that he had been sent by the British Government for the benefit of the islanders. Now the Pitcairners were always loyal subjects and received him with delight. But this imposter--for such indeed he was--had not been sent at all, and he soon began a reign of terror. He ill-treated Messrs. Nobbs, Buffet and Evans to such an extent that they were obliged to leave the island. It did not, however, last very long; for when the Home Government became cognisant of the fact, they sent a ship and removed Joshua Hill, and the three fugitives retuned, much to the joy of the people.

Sometimes afterward, Rear Admiral Moresby visited Pitcairn Island, and hearing from the islanders that they were desirous that Mr. Nobbs should be ordained, kindly offered to take him to England for that purpose, which was accordingly done. A few years after this event, as the population had greatly increased, it was deemed advisable by the Government to remove the settlement to Norfolk Island, and this was done with the consent of the people, though that consent was given very reluctantly by many. They were landed on Norfolk Island on Sunday, June 8th, 1856. They were indeed fortunate in being allowed to live on such a lovely spot. Houses of a far superior class to those they had been accustomed to live in, stood already furnished for them to enter. Cattle and sheep were apportioned to each household, one cow being allowed for each member of the family; and each married couple received 50 acres of first class land. One would naturally suppose that on such an island, with four times as much ground as on Pitcairn, and with so many pleasant surroundings, the people would have been contented; yet it seems not, for in a very short time several families returned by a whaler to Pitcairn Island, and they and their descendents now number 92 souls.



For many years the head quarters of the well known Mission--the Melanesian Mission--were at Auckland, New Zealand; but from the time that the Pitcairners settled at Norfolk Island, the late Bishop Selwyn desired to remove the central station thither. There were strong reasosn in favour of this step; especially the greater suitableness of the climate to the Melanesian scholars, and the shortening of the voyages of the mission schooner. His plan, however, met with opposition from almost all quarters, and was for a time abandoned. The islanders themselves were averse to such a step being taken, for they considered that they had an exclusive right to the whole island and everything it contained; and they feared that if strangers were admitted, they and their descendents might suffer. A few years afterwards, money was required for carrying out certain objects for the benefit of Norfolk Island, and, as it had no fund of its own, the Home Government, who had entire control over the island, authorized the then Governor of New South Wales (Sir John Young, now Lord Lisgar) to sell a limited quantity of land. Sir J. Young was well aware that this would be unacceptable to the islanders, and wished to render it really beneficial to them, so he proposed to Bishop Patteson, who had succeeded Bishop Selwyn, that the Mission should purchase the block which was offered for sale. The proposal was agreed to, and the Mission purchased 1,000 acres, for which they paid £2,000, which money formed the nucleus of a public revenue for the benefit of the people.

During my sojourn at Norfolk Island, I questioned several of the islanders respecting the establishment of the Mission Station amongst them, and they told me that although a slight evil arose from having it there, yet the benefit arising therefrom more than counter-balanced the evil. The evil, and I think the only [23/24] evil, is, that a little sickness is introduced into the community by the Melanesian boys; but, on the other hand, those who are engaged at the Mission are exceedingly kind and liberal towards them, and as their clergyman is now too infirm to take both services on Sunday, the Missionaries relieve him by taking the afternoon service.

When they had been on the island about 3 years, it was found necessary to have a school-master, since Mr. Nobbs was getting too old and infirm to discharge the combined duties of pastor and school-master. The Government therefore procured the services of a Mr. Rossiter as teacher, and made an agreement with him for a term of years, paying him a salary of £300 a year. When this agreement came to an end, the Home Government granted Mr. Rossiter 50 acres of land, and he was henceforth to be supported by the inhabitants, who pay 7s. a quarter for the education of each child. Mr. Rossiter sets the islanders an excellent example. He rises at 5 a.m. and works on his plantation till breakfast time. School commences at 9 and continues till 2 p.m. He then returns home and goes to work till dark. If all the islanders were to follow his example, the island might be made quite an emporium for fruit and vegetables.

On account of the whooping cough, which, at the time of my visit, was very prevalent, school was suspended by the doctor's order for some 3 or 4 weeks; I had not therefore an opportunity of seeing the children in school. I heard an excellent report given of Mr. Rossiter's capabilities as school-master, and the children appear to make very good progress. There are, at the present time, about 100 children on the roll, and for the instruction of these, in addition to Mr. Rossiter, are a male and female teacher. I had the pleasure of inspecting Mr. Rossiter's fence (plantation), and what I saw growing there was a convincing proof as to the quality of the land. The vine flourishes remarkable well; especially the Isabella. I never before saw grapes of the size they had attained; but this is due, in a great measure, to the careful manner in which the land has been cultivated. The ches[t]nut, custard apple, orange, peach, plum, and several other fruit trees produce fruit which is perfection itself. One spot in his garden pleased me very much. It [24/25] is a small glen, in the bottom of which is an extensive grove of bananas. Extending up the one side are all the fruit trees I have just mentioned, and up the other the bush in its natural state, presenting in one part a natural fernery, the beauty of which could not possibly be enhanced by any artificial means. Many large Norfolk Island pines are to be seen in various parts of the island; but one is growing on Mr. Rossiter's land, which conveys a very fair idea of the size they frequently attain. Its diameter at the base is fully 8 feet, its height is about 130 feet, and its branches are covered with moss which hangs down about 2 feet. All kinds of vegetables are to be seen growing there in abundance--peas, beans, cabbages, turnips, celery, potatoes, kumara and yams. These yams have been imported from the Melanesian Islands, where they form the chief food of the islanders. They grow to an immense size. One was grown on the Mission Farm which weighted nearly 100 lbs.

All the inhabitants are extremely fond of music, and there is to be found an harmonium in almost every house. A large number of the younger people play very well, and nearly everybody sings by note. For their knowledge of music they have to thank Mr. H. Carleton who was left onshore at Pitcairn Island for about three weeks, when on his way to San Francisco, and during this time he taught the people. The islanders feel much obliged to this gentleman for teaching them, and well indeed they may, for it is a continual source of pleasure to them. Some who learned music from Mr. Carleton at Pitcairn Island are now aged men, and one of them, Driver Christian, conducts the singing in church, and also at other times when they assemble for practice. A short time ago they regularly had two practices a week,--one on Sunday evening for church singing, and the other on Wednesday evening for glees, choruses, &c. The practice on Wednesday evening has, for some reason, unfortunately fallen through; but during my stay on the island one was held to which I was invited. I was perfectly astonished at their singing. Upwards of 100 of the inhabitants had assembled together, of whom about 65 took part; and amongst them I noticed some particularly good bass and tenor voices. For two hours they practised, and at the end of that time seemed quite as fresh as when they began.

[26] The hospitality of the islanders is very striking.--The stranger is warmly welcomed by the head of any house into which he may go, and the family do their best to make him comfortable. Everything about their houses is remarkably clean, and their meals are served up in a first-rate manner. I was much surprised to find their tables spread with so many dainties, chiefly the produce, or prepared from the produce of the island. Their principal meat is mutton, varied occasionally by pork. Beef is seldom used. I was informed that there are several women on the island who are rigid vegetarians; these are some of the older ones who came from Pitcairn Island where animal food was seldom used. The dress of the men consists of a crimean shirt, and trousers made of the blue material from which sailors' clothes are often made. They wear a kind of Panama hat made by the women, who charge 4s. each for them, but which are I think worth much more. They only wear boots on Sundays and other special occasions, at which times they dress precisely the same as we do. The every day dress of the women is of print, but they have dresses of other material for special occasions. The race are, as a rule, good looking, well made, affectionate, simple in their manners and ideas, and very intelligent. The younger ones have lost all traces of the Tahitian blood, and are just as fair as our people. Most of the people are very fond of riding, and there is no lack of horses. The men hold the stirrup between the toes, and usually ride at a great rate,--up and down hill being all the same to them; but their horses are very sure footed, and an accident rarely happens.

There are two customs observed amongst them which strike strangers very forcibly, and cause them to be favourably impressed with the character of the islanders; one is their love for church going--every person on the island attends divine service at least once on Sunday; most of them attend twice. The other is the reverential way in which at every meal they ask a blessing on the food they are about to partake of, and return thanks at its conclusion. Many of the people are exceedingly pious, but there are black sheep in every community, and Norfolk Island is no exception to the general rule. Some few of them are very lazy, and in hard times look to their neighbours for [26/27] support. I am glad to be able to say that there are not many such; but, as I am endeavouring to write a true account of these people, I feel bound to mention this fact. Drunkenness is unknown amongst them, and swearing is very rarely heard. Intercourse with other parts of the world is increasing, and it is to be regretted that such is the case, for with it, the amount of vice and sin is also increasing.

There are on the island about 1000 head of cattle, but these are by no means equally distributed. It has before been mentioned that when they first landed, the stock was distributed amongst them, according to the number of each household; many, however, sold theirs, and now some families own 50 or 60 head, others 5 or 6 head, and some none at all.

There are also about 2,300 sheep which belong to a Company; several families do not belong to the Company, and therefore possess no sheep. They may be purchased by members and non-members at 12s. per head. The Company occasionally supply ships, when they charge 14s. per head, and the profits are divided amongst the members two or three times in the year.

There is a resident doctor on the island, Dr. Duke, to whose support each family pays 21s. a year, in addition to which £50 are paid out of the revenue of the island; and the Mission contributes £50 a year, and £30 for medicine.

Sheep, cattle, garden produce, and whaling form the chief, in fact, the only source of revenue to the islanders. They have no vessel of their own, but a small schooner from New Caledonia, occasionally visits the island and takes away whatever is offered for sale. They get 2_d. per lb. for onions, 1d. per lb. for bananas, and 4s. per hundred for oranges; these are very fair prices, and if all would only set to work and cultivate their land to a greater extent than they do at present, they would never be in want. There are two whaling companies, the N. I., and the I. J.; the former containing about 50, the latter about 30 members. They are, of course, to a certain extent in opposition to each other, and have for their guidance certain rules. There may be two or three boats out from each side, but whichever side first sees a whale spouting shows the waif, and the other side must not give chase to that particular fish. Sometimes, [27/28] however, the one company invites the other to join in capturing a whale, when, of course, each has a share of the oil. In good seasons each shareholder receives as much as £20 for the oil obtained during the season; but this year they have had a very bad time of it, having only captured between them three small whales. The consequence is that, at present, money is exceedingly scarce with them. The whales found in this part of the ocean are the humpback, the oil from which is not so valuable as that from the sperm whale, being worth £26 per tun as against £80 per tun for sperm oil. A medium sized whale will yield about 3 tuns of oil. The humpback whale as no teeth, but has inside his mouth the well known whale-bone. Each company has a boiling down establishment at the township; and, at the Cascades, on the other side of the island, is one large building which is used by both companies. It is quite a sight at the Cascades to see the rocks covered with huge bones from whales, 50 and 60 feet in length. The men usually tow the carcase out to sea when they have removed the blubber; but it is sometimes too rough to do so, and the huge carcase is washed up on shore where it lies tainting the atmosphere for months afterwards.

The inhabitants are very jealous of admitting people as members of their community. In some few instances, people have gone there and married Norfolk Island women, in which case they are considered as belonging to the community, and receive 12 1/2 acres of land. When a Norfolker marries he receives 25 acres of land, this being 12 1/2 each for himself and wife; but if a stronger marries one of the women, it is only his wife's portion, viz., 12 1/2 acres, that he receives.

In other cases, before any person can settle there, he must obtain the votes of two-thirds of all who have attained the age of 20, and can read and write; the approval of the Magistrate and Councillors for the time being, and also that of the Governor of New South Wales, who is also the Governor of Norfolk Island; so that it entirely rests with themselves whether they admit or refuse any person wishing to reside on the island.

The islanders have no taxes to pay, but are obliged to give one week's labour out of every 7 months to any public work that may require to be done.

[29] The Magistrate is elected from amongst the inhabitants every year, and also 2 Councillors whose duty is to assist the Chief Magistrate with their advice, when called upon to do so, and to attend at all public meetings and take a note of the proceedings. Any member of the community is eligible for the office of Chief Magistrate provided he is a resident on the island, has possession of a landed estate therein, and has attained the age of 28 years. The Councillors must be residents on the island, and must have attained the age of 25 years.

The Chaplain presides at the election, which takes place on the day after Christmas Day, and opens the proceedings with prayer. In case of an equality of votes for two candidates he is entitled to give the casting vote, but he himself in not eligible for the office of chief magistrate or councillor. All members of the community who have attained the age of 20 years, and can read and write, are entitled to vote at the election of Chief Magistrate and Counsellors.

The Chief Magistrate has primary jurisdiction in all matters of dispute, whether between the inhabitants of the island themselves, or between them and such persons as may visit the island. If he cannot induce them to come to an understanding, he calls for the assistance of the Councillors, and the whole case is gone into before the three magistrates. Their decision is final in all cases when the property at issue does not exceed 50s. in value, or in cases of common assault, when they are empowered to inflict a fine, not exceeding 10s. If the case be of a serious character, and the contending parties are unwilling to submit to the decision of the magistrates, a jury, consisting of 7 Elders is summoned, and the whole case being submitted to them, their decision is final.

The power of the Jury extends to the decision of all questions of disputed property, of all cases of theft, and of aggravated assaults if not accompanied with danger to life or limb; but all offences of a more serious character are decided by the Governor of New South Wales.

The punishment which a Jury is competent to award is limited to a fine, the amount of which shall not in any case exceed £10. The offender has the amount of the fine recorded against him, and may pay it either in money, in labour on public works, or in [29/30] produce. When a Jury has to be selected, tickets, containing the names of all the Elders (those who are 25 years of age or upwards,) are placed in a bag, from which 7 tickets are drawn by the Chief Magistrate in the presence of the Councillors and the parties in the case: the 7 Elders whose names are thus drawn form the Jury.

Drunkenness is unknown; indeed wise precaution is taken to prevent such a thing, for the law says, "No beer, wine, or spirituous liquors of any kind shall be landed upon the island, excepting such as may be wanted for medical purposes, and they shall be placed in charge of the Magistrate--the Magistrate in no case to issue any without a written order from the Surgeon; all issues to be noted in the Register." The laws, a copy of which I have in my possession, appear to me to be very comprehensive and just what such a community require.

Mr. Francis C. Nobbs, son of the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, is the present Magistrate; and this is the 5th year that he has been elected to the office by the people, who thus give proof that, in their opinion, in which opinion I heartily concur, he is the person best qualified to undertake the magisterial duties.

But little more remains to be added. Should any of my readers be desirous of visiting Norfolk Island, I can assure them that they will be warmly welcomed by the hospitable islanders; and the pleasure derived from such a visit would be very great. For my own part, I shall always look back with the greatest pleasure upon the three weeks which I spent upon that lovely little island; and so pleasing are the associations connected with my visit that I can say in the words of the poet Longfellow:--

"This memory brightens o'er the past,
      As when the sun, concealed
Behind some cloud that near us hangs,
     Shines on a distant field."


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