Looking to the future
Only the grave of the Hackney-born John Adams, who was the last male survivor of Pitcairn’s violent inception, can be seen today. The other mutineers’ remains were never found. By 1793, Pitcairn’s society had erupted in civil war; the Tahitian men brought to the island killed five mutineers in one day, including Christian, before they turned on each other. When Edward Young died in 1800, it left Adams alone with nine women and around two-dozen children.
I walked to where Adams’ headstone was enclosed by a picket fence. The weathered engraving is unreadable but he died naturally in 1829 and is buried alongside Teio, his Tahitian wife, and daughter, Hannah.
By then, Adams had become the island’s father figure, yet with his death Pitcairn endured more hard years. The population was wholly relocated 6,000-kilometres away by Britain to Norfolk Island in 1856 owing to few resources. Two of the descendents’ families, the Youngs and the Christians, returned soon after, to form the nucleus of today’s island names, alongside the Warrens. The Adams never came back.
I met a Warren descendent, 57-year-old island songwriter Meralda, at the Pulau School. I listened to her teaching the children local songs. Possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of her ancestry, Meralda explained her forebear, Samuel Warren, a whaler by trade, emanated from the USA and arrived on Pitcairn in 1864.
“The Warrens can be traced to the Pilgrims’ Mayflower in 1620,” she explained. Then, offering a different perspective on her ancestry, she added: “I’m the 6th and 7th Bounty generation of the Tahitian women Teio, Toofaiti and Vahineatua. We forget that without those women there would be no Pitcairn society.”
She, too, worries about their future lineage: “These four children are so precious because we’re all getting older. We’ve had people apply to live here but they’ve never arrived.” Yet I imagined breaking into such a close-knit society so intertwined by history must be difficult.
Adrianna Christian’s communal birthday dinner in Adamstown that evening reflected the best of island life and featured delicacies like pineapple bread. The whole island turned out, and I felt privileged to gatecrash this age-old community gathering. Yet seeing everybody reinforced how time is against Pitcairn. Soon, Ryan Christian would leave for New Zealand to continue his education, and Nadine won’t be encouraging him to return.
“This is an idyllic place for a child but not real life. There’s little in the way of jobs for our children,” she lamented.