Saturday, May 30, 2009


The name of Queen Victoria is commemorated all over the world, but there would not be a single place where her memory is honoured with the same respect and affection that Norfolk Islanders feel towards this grand monarch.

Back in the 1850's, when Pitcairn Island was becoming overcrowded, Victoria offered Norfolk Island to the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers and their Tahitian wives as their new home. Although moving was difficult for the Pitcairn Islanders, they made the best of it, and were forever more grateful for the gift of the Norfolk Island for their home.

For the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the elders of the island established a Queen Victoria Scholarship to mark the occasion, and it continues to this day.

When the Queen died, the Norfolk Islanders wrote to England, seeking assistance with the provision of a bronze statue to be placed on the island in the Queen's memory. This never came to pass.

But Victoria has not been forgotten. Last Sunday, on May 24th - Queen Victoria's birthday-Marie Bailey (who is Bernie's cousin) invited the community to the opening of "Queen Victoria Gardens, which she has established so that this community can finally honour the Queen who made such a generous gesture to the Pitcairners over 150 years ago.

First we gathered under Marie's magnificent Poinciana tree for drinks and some very British cucumber sandwiches!

Then we made our way to the new gazebo, admiring the beautiful plantings on the way. Marie has obtained a number of exotic species representing different areas of the Empire, as well as old English plants and native Norfolk species.

The official opening was carried out with a speech by Penelope, who remembered the important celebrations of Empire Day in her childhood.

William spent the rest of the afternoon re-cutting the ribbon!

After the cutting of the ribbon and a speech by Marie, we all admired the new gazebo. The central table carries a number of items, such as photos, letters and newspaper articles, which relate to Norfolk Island's relationship with the Queen.

Around the upper part of the Gazebo, the names of the main Pitcairn families are listed, one on each of the eight sides. Around the base of the central rable, Kentia palm fronds have been stencilled. Although this palm is native to Lord Howe Island, it grows prolifically on Norfolk Island, and its seeds and seedlings are our main export! What is not generally known, however, is that this palm was Victoria's favourite plant. She had fronds close to her at her deathbed, and asked that they be placed at the four corners of her coffin when she lay in state.

It was a great photo opportunity

For older Norfolkers like Marie, Bernie and Greg, the occasion was memorable and historic

What Marie has given to this island is an extremely generous gesture, and there are many older Norfolkers who are delighted that we now have a very prominent reminder of our gratitude to Victoria. Moreover, the Gardens and the Gazebo have greatly enhanced and beautified this part of the island, and our street, which is, fittingly, called Queen Elizabeth Avenue. It was so named for Elizabeth II's Coronation.

You see, the new gardens are right opposite our driveway, and we have this beautiful outlook whenever we drive out of our driveway.

We ourselves have our own reminder of Queen Victoria's affection in our house. In the early 1850's, George Hunn Nobbs, who was the leader and pastor of the Pitcairn people, went to England to be ordained. He had an audience with the Queen, and she gave him this picture of her young family. It has come down through the family to us. I will have to tell you more about it in another posting.


Karen said...

Very interesting and I like the picture of the queen's family...history. The gardens are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

John and I loved being asked by Marie to view this. It is amazing and think she is a wonderful person. We look forward to having another look at it on our return.

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