Wednesday, January 25, 2006
BURNING THE BOUNTY
On January 23rd, 1790, having found a possible refuge from British justice on remote and uninhabited Pitcairn Island, Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers decided to set fire to the Bounty. It was Matthew Quintal who finally took it into his own hands to start the flames.
In a re-enactment, at Les Quintal's lovely cliffside paddock, on the 216th anniversary of the original event, a large model of the Bounty was burned, the fire being started by the most senior member of the Quintal family, Greg.
Hundreds of local people and visitors gathered in this very picturesque spot to witness the event, and to enjoy fish and chips and island entertainment.
A similar re-enactment takes place on Pitcairn Island each year on January 23rd, but it is the first time it has happened here on Norfolk Island. The initiative was taken mainly as part of the celebrations for our sesqui-centenary year..the 150th anniversary of the coming of the Pitcairners to make a new home on Norfolk Island on June 8th, 1856. (For those who do not know, some of these people were to return to Pitcairn, forming the basis of the community of Bounty descendants who still live there.)
The symbolic re-enactment was a fun family occasion, but it was somewhat poignant to reflect on the feelings of those original mutineers, and their Tahitian women and the handful of Tahitian men.
As they literally "burned their bridges behind them", these mutineer men knew that this was their only possible chance of escaping inevitable hanging, should the ship be sighted by a vessel passing by, or should any of their number decide to take the vessel and sail back to civilisation.
However, for the women, this was the moment when they realised they would never return to their native Tahiti and their families. They had well and truly thrown in their lot with Christian and the other men.
They were strong women, those "founding mothers", and played a role in building what eventually became a proud and resourceful community, that continues to this day.