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Pitcairn Island Encyclopedia

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.

HMS Actaeon - HMS Fly

Mayhew Folger - Joshua Hill

Hill of Difficulty- Moetua

Morayshire - Pitcairn

Pitcairnese - Teimua

Teio - E. Young

TEIO (“Te’o,” “Mary”) Teio went to Tubuai as the consort of Thomas McIntosh who was a loyalist and stayed on Tahiti when the Bounty sailed away for the last time. Teio was on board, however, but we do not know whether she came along willingly or was kidnapped. She arrived at Pitcairn as the consort of William McCoy and she was the only woman who brought a child with her, a baby daughter whose Tahitian name we do not know, but who was called “Sully” by the mutineers. Sully had had a Tahitian father.

Teio bore McCoy two children: Daniel and Kate. McCoy committed suicide in 1797 by throwing himself off a cliff during an attack of delirium tremens, and we do not know much about what Teio did during the next few years. Sometime after the turn of the century John Adams’ consort Vahineatua died and Teio then when to live with him. She bore him his only son George. When Captain Beechey visited the island in 1825, he formally married Teio and Adams.

Teio died only nine days after Adams on March 14, 1829.

TERAURA (Taoupiti, Mataohu, “Susannah”) We do not know whether Teraura was one of the Tahitian women who were kidnapped by Christian and his companions when the Bounty sailed from Tahiti for the last time. She arrived at Pitcairn as the consort of Edward Young.

When the women on the island took their revenge for having lost their male consorts on Massacre Day, Teraura was the one who cut off Tetahiti’s head with an axe while he was sleeping with Teatuahitea.

She bore Young no children and when he tired of her, preferring Mauatua and Toofaiti, she seems to have taken up with – or been forced to take up with – Matthew Quintal. We do not know whether this was before or after Quintal’s consort Tevarua fell to her death from a precipice in 1799. Teraura was pregnant with Quintal’s child when he was murdered later that year by Adams and Young; the child was a boy who was named Edward.

Six years after Young’s death, in 1806, she married Fletcher Christian’s elder son, Thursday October, when he was sixteen and she was past thirty. She bore him six children: Charles, Joseph, Thursday October II, Mary, Polly, and Peggy.

Teraura survived the disastrous attempt of the population to emigrate to Tahiti in 1831, but she lost her husband there to the diseases against which the Pitcairners had no immunity. She became the last survivor of the original settlers and lived to see the first celebration of Bounty Day, the sixtieth anniversary of the burning of the ship, on January 23, 1850. She died half a year later, on July 15, 1850, almost twenty years after her husband.

TEVARUA (Tewalua, “Sarah”) Tevarua was the consort of Matther Quintal who called her “Sarah.” Even though she had accompanied him to Tubuai, it is likely that she was one of the Tahitian women who were kidnapped by the mutineers in Tahiti when they left the island for the last time; she must have known Quintal’s brutal nature by then. She arrived at Pitcairn as his consort and bore him five children: Matthew, Jenny, Arthur, Sarah and a boy who died unnamed a week after his birth.

Tevarua was without a doubt the most abused woman on Pitcairn. Island tradition has it that Quintal once bit off her ear when she did not bring home enough fish. Even if the story is apocryphal, being Quintal’s consort must have been hell on earth.

Tevarua died in 1799 by falling – or more probably, throwing herself – from a precipice.

TINAFANAEA (“Tinafornea”) Tinafanaea must have been from Tubuai and it is likely that she came along voluntarily when the Bounty sailed from Tahiti for the last time. On Pitcairn, she was shared as a consort by the two Tubuaians, Titahiti and Oha. (Some sources claim she was Titahiti’s wife but that he shared her with Oha.)

When Adams’ consort Puarai died towards the end of the first year on Pitcairn, Tinafanaea was “given” to Adams. Earlier, Tararo’s consort Toofaiti had been “given” to Williams. This was more than the Tubuaian men and Tararo could tolerate, and the two outrages combined to set off the bloodshed that eventually wiped out almost all men on the island.

Tinafanaea seems to have stayed in Adams’ household even when he, after Mills was killed on Massacre Day, took Vahineatua as his consort.

Tinafanaea died sometime between the visit of the Topaz (1808) and the Briton and the Tagus (1814). She left no descendants.

TI-PLANT . . . Before the Hawaiians taught the Tahitians this use, or abuse, of the “Tree of Sin” (as the missionaries called the okolehao, or ti plant), the Bounty mutineer William McCoy had come upon the secret all by himself on Pitcairn. McCoy had earlier worked in a brewery in Glasgow and was what is sometimes referred to as a “chronically thirsty” man. After much experimentation, he succeeded in distilling a strong liquor from the ti-root, in other words, okolehao. . . .

The abuse of okolehao, then (although it was not known by that name), accounted for at least McCoy’s death, but probably also Quintal’s, since he seems to have gone totally out of control after starting on the okolehao and this was the reason he was “executed” by Adams and Young.

The word abuse should be stressed, because okolehao is no more dangerous than any other spirits and can taste just as good although – like any other liquor – it can also taste like liquid sandpaper. Captain Charles Fremantle who visited Pitcairn in HMS Challenger in 1833 wrote: “It was not unlike whisky and very good!”

TITAHITI (Ta’aroamiva) Titahiti’s original name was Ta’aroamiva. He was from Tubuai, the youngest brother of Ta’aroatohoa, the chief of Natieva (the district is now called Taahuaia. Ta’aroamiva followed Christian and his men to Tahiti (where he changed his name to Titahiti) and to Pitcairn.

On Pitcairn, Titahiti shared Tinafanaea (who may also have been from Tubuai) with his compatriot Oha until she was “given” by the mutineers to Adams whose consort had died within a year of the arrival.

Titahiti was one of the three Polynesians (two from Tubuai, one from Raiatea) who conspired to kill the mutineers towards the end of the first year on the island. The mutineers found out about the plot through the women and sent the three Tahitians to kill the conspirators. Two were killed, but Titahiti surrendered and henceforth lived on the plantation of Isaac Martin as a virtual slave.

On Massacre Day Titahiti borrowed a musket from Martin under the pretext that he was going to shoot a pig for supper. He then joined Teimua and Niau who had stolen some muskets when they fled to the mountains. Some time after the murder of the five mutineers, Titahiti was himself killed by Young’s consort Teraura as an act of revenge.

Like the other Polynesian men on Pitcairn, Titahiti left no progeny.

TOOFAITI (Toohaiti, Hutia, “Nancy”) We do not know whether Toofaiti was kidnapped by Christian and the other mutineers or whether she came along willingly. On the arrival at Pitcairn, she was the consort of Tararo. Both of them were from the Leeward Islands, she from Huahine, he from Raiatea.

Toofaiti was “given” to John Williams after his consort died; this was the incident that triggered the interracial strife and bloodshed on Pitcairn. According to an island tradition, it was Toofaiti who sang the song

Why does black man sharpen axe?
To kill the white men.

which warned the mutineers of the plot by the Tubuaians and the Raiatean Tararo to exterminate them.

After Williams was killed on Massacre Day, September 20, 1793, Toofaiti and Mauatua seem to both have been consorts of Edward Young to whom Toofaiti bore three sons, George, Robert, and William, and one daughter, Nancy.

When the whole population of Pitcairn migrated to Tahiti in 1831, Toofaiti was one of the seventeen who died from a disease contracted on the island. Her death occurred on June 9, 1831.

TOPAZ A Boston sealer owned by Messrs. Boardman and Pope and commanded by Captain Mayhew Folger.

The Topaz sailed from Boston on Sunday, April 5, 1807. The main purpose of the voyage was of course to procure seal skins, but the ship also carried gin and rum with which to trade in New Holland (Australia). She arrived in Hobart Town on October 27. Interestingly, Bligh was aware of her dealings, at least afterwards, because in his dispatch to Viscount Castlereagh on June 30, 1808, (in which he reports on his arrest), Bligh includes the report

That the officers of the Porpoise when at the Derwent, commanded by Lieutenant Symons, received from the American Ship Topaz . . . upwards of Eight hundred gallons of Rum, and one hundred and fifty of Gin, that about three hundred was only on account of the Ship, for which Bills were drawn on their own private account, and afterwards Sold by them at two and three pounds per gallon.

The Topaz continued her voyage into the South Pacific and on February 6, 1808, sighted Pitcairn Island. See also FOLGER, MAYHEW.

TUSCAN A 300-ton British whaler which, under the command of Captain Thomas Stavers, arrived at Pitcairn on March 8, 1834, and carried George Nobbs, John Buffett, and John Evans to Tahiti, the three having been exiled by Joshua Hill, the “dictator” of Pitcairn.”

The surgeon on board the Tuscan, Dr. Frederick D. Bennett, has left a fascinating account of the visit in his chapter on Pitcairn in A Narrative of a Whaling Voyage Round the Globe (1840).

TUTUI (tiairi, “doodooee,” candlenut) The nuts of the candlenut tree (Aleurites triloba) are rich and oily and about the size of a walnut. In old Tahiti they were used for lighting (tutui means to kindle a fire or set fire to something). Several nuts were threaded on a rib of a coconut frond, forming a taper which would burn like a candle. Seasoned in black mud the tutui takes a high polish and is used for jewelry, especially in Hawaii where the nut is called kukui.

Even as recently as half a century ago the tutui was used on isolated islands, as reported by H. L. Shapiro in The Heritage of the Bounty (1936):

In the evening, which comes soon after six o’clock on Pitcairn [the] snug interiors were illuminated by the faltering light of the doodoee or candle nut. The use of these nuts for lighting once widespread in Polynesia today still lingers on remote islands such as Rapa. . . .

. . . as one nut burnt low the next would be ignited, thus producing a candle-like illumination satisfactory except for the cracking and spitting that Beechey found disconcerting.

A reddish brown dye made from the inner bark of the candlenut tree is used to decorate tapa cloth and the sap of the tree is used to waterproof it.

VAHINEATUA (Wahineatua, Paraha Ita, “Balhadi,” “Prudence”) We do not know whether Vahineatua was kidnapped by the mutineers or not, but she arrived at Pitcairn as the consort of John Mills to whom she bore two children: Betsy (Elizabeth) and John. The boy died from a fall at a young age.

After Mills had been murdered on Massacre Day, Vahineatua went to live with Adams to whom she bore three daughters: Dina, Rachel, and Hannah. She was pregnant with a fourth child when, according to Teehuteatuaonoa, “she was killed, being pierced in her bowels by a goat.”

Mills called Vahineatua “Prudence.” Adams referred to her as “Balhadi,” which was the closest he could come to pronouncing her second Tahitian name, Paraha Iti.

HMS VIRAGO The first steamship to visit Pitcairn (January 27, 1853). The visit ended tragically. When the Pitcairners wanted to fire one of the Bounty’s cannons in a farewell salute, the ramrod happened to contain a nail which caused a spark that ignited the power in the cannon, killing the Island Magistrate, Matthew McCoy.

WALDEGRAVE, William Captain of HMS Seringapatam. Waldegrave described his visit to Pitcairn in 1830 in a most interesting article entitled “Recent Accounts of the Pitcairn Islanders.” (Royal Geographical Society Journal, volume 3, 1833). See SERINGAPATAM.

YOUNG, Brian In 1988 Brian Young, a direct descendant of midshipman Edward Young of the Bounty was Pitcairn Island’s magistrate. His Norwegian-born wife, Kari (nee Boye), has written an interesting book about Pitcairn called Den siste mysterist (The Last Mutineer), published in Norwegian in 1982.

YOUNG, Elizabeth (nee MILLS) Elizabeth (Betsy) Mills was born in 1791 or 1792, the daughter of mutineer John Mills and Vahineatua. In 1811 she married Matthew Quintal II who died in 1814. In 1823 she married William Young, the son of mutineer Edward Young and Toofaiti; he died in 1839.

All through her life, Betsy remembered and told of the terror she had experienced as a child in witnessing the murder of Matthew Quintal.

Betsy survived both migrations, to Tahiti in 1831 and to Norfolk in 1856. She was in the second group of Pitcairners who, in the schooner St. Kilda, returned from Norfolk Island on February 2, 1864.

Betsy lived to be the last survivor of the children of the mutineers. She died on November 6, 1883, at the age of ninety-one or ninety-two.

--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book Recommendations for more information about this book.


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