20c, 90c, $1.80,
Mint and CTO $5.90
25 May 1999
Tablet Values: 20c, 90c, $1.80, $3.00
Designer: Julian Vasarhelyi, UK
Printer: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand
Process: Offset Lithography
Paper: CA Watermark
Stamp Size: 27.94 x 44.45 mm
Perforation Gauge: 14 x 14
Pane Size: 50 (2 panes x 25 stamps)
Mint and CTO: $5.90
First Day Cover: $6.40
Gutter Design : Features the Bounty’s Anchor and Bible
Following the arrival of HMAS Bounty in January of 1790, the next ship known to have called at Pitcairn was the Topaz, an American sealer under the command of Captain Mayhew Folger. Topaz, shown against a setting sun over Pitcairn on the 90c stamp in this issue, arrived on 6 February 1808. From a community comprising nine mutineers and nineteen Polynesians; twelve women, a girl and six men in 1790, eighteen years later, Folger discovered just one surviving mutineer, John Adams, ten Polynesian women and twenty-four children. Although Folger’s discovery was reported to the British Admiralty, a further six years passed before the naval warships HMS Briton and HMS Tagus, rediscovered the community.
John Adams, known formerly as Alexander Smith was the sole survivor of the men who had arrived with the Bounty. After almost ten years of bloodshed and strife, he had reformed the community as one regulated in accordance with the Church of England Book of Common Prayer. An 1825 portrait of John Adams, from a drawing of Richard Beechey, a Mid-shipman aboard HMS Blossom, features on the 20c stamp against a backdrop of Bounty Bay, adapted from an 1853 watercolour by F. Linton Palmer.
George Hunn Nobbs arrived on Pitcairn in 1828. John Adams died during the following year, leaving the community without a leader. By 1830 however, Nobbs had established himself as the most powerful personality on the island. Apart from a brief period in the 1830s, he served the community as pastor and schoolteacher and was instrumental in highlighting the need of Pitcairn’s steadily increasing population, to find a larger island. In 1856, the entire population of 194, sailed for Norfolk Island aboard the Morayshire. Our $1.80 stamp shows George Hunn Nobbs, taken from an engraving by H. Adlard, against a background of Kingston, Norfolk Island, from an 1857 engraving from the Rev T. B. Murray’s book ‘Pitcairn: The Island; the People and the Pastor’.
In 1858, the families of Moses and Mayhew Young, comprising some twelve children and four adults, dissatisfied with the system of land tenure imposed by the Governor of New South Wales and pining for their former lifestyle, sailed for Pitcairn. They were followed some five years later by a further twenty-seven folk from four more families.
Life on Pitcairn was not what it was prior to 1856. The American whaling industry was in decline and there were fewer ships calling to trade in fruit and vegetables. The community reverted to a subsistence economy. The 1838 Constitution and laws were revived in 1864 and although a Chief Magistrate and two councillors were elected, governance appears to have centred on meetings of the heads of families.
Between 1875 and 1883, four shipwrecks in the Pitcairn group, provided the community with some good fortune. News of the hospitality and generosity displayed to those shipwrecked, by the Pitcairners, spread through the outside world arousing renewed interest in the island community. In addition to many gifts sent privately, the Royal Navy revived their regular visits from 1878. Laws were enacted by visiting naval officers at the request of the island’s general assembly.
By October 1892, when HMS Champion arrived, under the command of Captain Rooke, the islanders had become very aware of how ineffective their government had become and agreed to reorganise the entire system. On 1 January 1893, an elected Parliament of 7 members, from which the members elected a President, Vice President, two judges and a secretary, was established with the aim of providing stronger government through a larger number of representatives. HMS Champion a steam-sailing vessel, features on the $3.00 stamp of this issue.
The 1893 Constitution lasted little more than eleven years before it was found to be too cumbersome. R.T. Simons, the British Consul in Tahiti, in 1904 re-established the post of Chief Magistrate and formed two committees to take charge of internal and external affairs. The Simons Constitution, with some amendments remained in force until 1940.