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Pitcairn Philately

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

Through the years since the first definitive issue of Pitcairn stamps was released in 1940, the philately of Pitcairn Island has enjoyed a much-sought-after status among stamp collectors throughout the world.


Pitcairn Languages

The Pitcairn language, also known as Pitkern and Pitcairnese, is a creole language based on an 18th century dialect of English and Tahitian. It is a primary language of Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands.

Following the mutiny on the Bounty, the British mutineers stopped at Tahiti and took eighteen Polynesians, mostly women, to remote Pitcairn Island, and settled there. Initially, the Tahitians spoke little English, and the Bounty crewmen knew even less Tahitian. Isolated from the rest of the world, but needing to communicate with each other, they formed a unique new language that blended a simplified English with Tahitian words and speech patterns.

The Pitcairn language was influenced by the diverse English dialects and accents of the Bounty crew. Geographically, the mutineers were drawn from as far away as the West Indies, with one mutineer being described as speaking a forerunner of a Caribbean patois. One was a Scot from the Isle of Lewis. At least one, the leader Fletcher Christian, was a well-educated man, which at the time made a major difference in speech. Both Geordie and West Country dialects have obvious links to some local phrases and words, such as whittles, meaning food, from victuals.

Many expressions that are not commonly used in the modern English that is spoken in most areas of the world carry on in Pitcairn. These expressions include words from British maritime culture in the age of sailing ships. The influence of Seventh-day Adventist church missionaries and the King James Version of the Bible are also notable.

In the mid-19th century, the people of Pitcairn resettled on Norfolk Island; later some moved back to Pitcairn Island. Most speakers of the language today are the descendants of those who stayed on Norfolk.

In an article printed by the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser on 17th July 1819, Jenny (wife of mutineer Isaac Martin) said, “On the island, the Tahitian language was discouraged while the English language was promoted.” The article continues by saying that, “This woman, Jenny, (also known as Teehuteatuaonoa) however, can speak neither English nor Tahitian but a jumble of both.”

There is virtually no Tahitian language today, and the strong pronunciation differences and words from other sources makes the Pitcairn language difficult for any visitor to understand. Pitcairners, when communicating with visitors converse in a perfectly understandable English.

A local idiom, particularly in place names, which are part of the Island’s history, was developed so that a conversation may include references to “John Catch a Cow;” “Where Tom Off” and “Up in a Ti.” Sadly the Pitcairn language is struggling to survive although there is a determined effort in the Pitcairn school curriculum to learn the unique tongue.

A good example follows that most know from the ANZAC commemorations. The ode “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon has been translated into the Pitcairn language by Meralda Warren:

“Dem nawa gwen groe ole semes ucklan laf gwen groe ole, Age nor gwen futto dem ulla hem years dreag daun, Un when har sun se gorn daun un een a morning, Wi gwen always sink orf dem.” (They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them – or the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.)

Pitcairn Languages Collectors Notes

Designer: Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand.
Printer: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Process: Offset Litho.
Stamp Size: 30.00mm x 24.00mm horizontal.
Sheetlet Size: 180.00mm x 96.00mm horizontal.
Format: One sheetlet containing eight stamps in a block adjoined, surrounded by 4 other perforated images.
Perforation Gauge: 14.00 x 14.167.
Denominations: $0.20c x 2; $1.00 x3 and $2.00 x3.
Paper: 103gsm Tullis Russell Yellow/Green phosphor stamp paper.
Period of Sale: 7 December 2016 for a period of two years.
Acknowledgment: The Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau wishes to thank Meralda Warren of Pitcairn Island for her valuable help in providing images and text for this stamp issue.

Pitcairn Stamp Issues

(Click small stamp images to see larger views.)

Below is a listing of all Pitcairn stamps issued since 1940 when Pitcairn Island began issuing its own stamps

  • 2016
    • Pitcairn Languages
    • Ferns of Pitcairn
    • Adamstown
    • Phoenix Petrel
    • HM Queen Elizabeth II 90th Birthday
    • William Shakespeare
    • Pitcairn Landscapes
  • 2015
    • 75th Anniversary DeFinitives 1940-2015
    • The Breadfruit Saga
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 4 Ben Christian
    • Pitcairn on Canvas
    • Red Lion Fish
  • 2014
    • Byrd Expedition Visit -75th Anniversary
    • Nelson Mandela
    • 250th Anniversary of Birth of Fletcher Christian
    • Centenary of World War I
    • Botanic
    • 225th Anniversary of the Mutiny of the Bounty
    • Albatross, Giants in the Sky
    • Mutiny Anniversary
    • Albatross
  • 2013
    • Ship Landing Point
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 3
    • Royal Baby
    • QE II Coronation Anni.
    • Lobsters
    • Cruise Ships 2013
    • Nordhoff and Hall
  • 2012
    • Charles Dickens
    • WWF Clam Shells
    • Prominent Pitcairners - Roy Clark
    • Romantic Bounty
    • Botanical
    • Queen's Diamond Jubilee
    • Dolphins
    • The art of Pitcairn Part 4 - Tapa
  • 2011
    • Christmas
    • Parkin Christian
    • Pitcairn Supply Ships
    • Birds of Henderson
    • Royal Wedding
    • Peony Flower
    • Paper Wasp
    • Fautu Flower
  • 2010
    • Endemic Snails
    • Hotspots
    • WWF Tropical
    • Reef Fish
    • London 2010
    • ANZAC
    • Children’s Art
  • 2009
    • Royal Navy Visitors
    • Aircraft over Pitcairn
    • Wandering Gilder
    • Drangonfly
    • Charles Darwin
    • Panda
    • Return to Pitcairn
    • Coconut Cra
  • 2008
    • Green Turtles of Henderson Island
    • Discovery of a Community
    • Sunsets
    • Flowers and Bees
    • Pitcairn Longboats History
    • Pitcairn From Space
  • 2007
    • Pitciarn Ocean Fish
    • 10th Definitive, Bounty Detail
    • Salt and Pepper Moths
    • Rock Carvers
    • Raising the Bounty Anchor
    • Terns and Noddies of the Pitcairn Islands
  • 2006
    • Majestic Whales
    • Early Civilizations, Part 1
    • Cave Dwellers of Henderson
    • Journey to Norfolk - 150th Anniversary
    • The Queen's 80th birthday
    • Old Glory - 175th Anniversary
    • Stunning Scenery of Henderson Island
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Old Glory 175th Anniversary
  • 2005
    • Christmas 2005
    • Cristle-thighed Curlew
    • Bounty II
    • Royal Wedding
    • Blue Moon Butterfly
    • Oeno Eclipse
    • Scenic Views – Oeno & Ducie
  • 2004
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Murphy’s Petrel
    • Bounty
    • HMS Pitcairn
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Shells Part III Terebra
  • 2003
    • Blue Star Line Ships
    • Shells Part II - Conus
    • Golden Jubilee of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part II - Weaving
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part III - Painted Leaves
    • Squirrel Fish
    • Christmas 2003.
  • 2002
    • Notable Figures of Pitcairn
    • Golden Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Feline Friends - Pitcairn Cats
    • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
    • Trees of Pitcairn Part III.
  • 2001 – Cruise Ships
    • Pitcairn Internet Domain Names
    • Tropical Fruit
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part I
    • Woodcarving
    • Cowrie Shells
    • Butterflies of the Reef.
  • 2000 – Botanical Definitive: London
    • Mr. Turpen
    • Millennium Part III
    • Exhibition Sheetlet
    • Anaheim Exhibition Sheetlet: Space
    • Christmas 2000
    • Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday.
  • 1999 – School Days
    • Bounty Relics
    • Millennium Part II - towards 2000
    • The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Edward to Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
    • Pitcairn Island Honey Bees.
  • 1998 – Christian’s Cave
    • Millennium Part I - towards 2000
    • Diana, Princess of Wales
    • Botanical
    • Year of the Ocean.
  • 1997 – Hong Kong ‘97
    • South Pacific Commission
    • Island Health Care
    • Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary.
  • 1996 – Supply Ship Day
    • 70th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen
    • China ‘96
    • Amateur Radio
    • World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • 1995 – Birds Definitive
    • Oeno Holiday
    • Queen Mother’s 95th Birthday
    • Marconi - 100th Anniversary of First Radio Wave Transmission
    • 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.
  • 1994 – Lizards (overprint)
    • Early Pitcairners
    • Shipwrecks
    • Corals
    • Christmas.
  • 1993 – Royal Navy Vessels
    • 40th Anniversary
    • Her Majesty’s Coronation
    • Scenic Views II
    • Lizards.
  • 1992 – 40th Anniversary - Her Majesty’s Ascension
    • Sharks
    • Sir Peter Scott Commemorative Expedition
    • 175th Anniversary of Bligh’s Death.
  • 1991 – Bicentennial Celebrations
    • Cruise Ships
    • Royal Birthdays
    • Transport
    • Christmas.
  • 1990 – Bicentenary Sheetlet 3: Settlement of Pitcairn Island
    • Links with the UK
    • Stamp Booklet
    • 90th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • 50th Anniversary of First Pitcairn stamps
    • Henderson Island Birds.
  • 1989 – Bicentennary Sheetlet 1: Voyage of HMAV Bounty to Tahiti to collect Breadfruit
    • Tripartite Sheet
    • Aircraft
    • Bicentenary Sheetlet 2: The Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • 1988 – 150th Anniversary of the Constitution
    • Australian Bicentenary
    • Seventh Definitive Issue: Ships 6th Definitive Additions.
  • 1987 – Trees of Pitcairn II
    • 19th Century Paintings Part II
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners.
  • 1986 – The Wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson
    • Turtles
    • The Seventh-day Adventist Church
    • 60th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 1985 – The Life and Times of HM Queen Mother
    • 19th Century Paintings Part I
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners
    • Christmas 1985.
  • 1984 – Sixth Definitive Stamp Issue: Fish
    • Night Sky
    • Ausipex ‘84
    • Pitcairn Island Longboats.
  • 1983– Commonwealth Day
    • 175th Anniversary of Folger’s Discovery of the Settlers
    • Trees of Pitcairn I.
  • 1982 – Fruit of Pitcairn
    • 21st Birthday of HRH The Princess of Wales
    • Christmas 1982.
  • 1981 – Scenic Views I
    • 125th Anniversary of Pitcairn Migration to Norfolk Island
    • The Wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales
    • Fifth Definitive Additions.
  • 1980 – London 1980
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • Handicrafts.
  • 1979 – 150th Anniversary of the Death of John Adams
    • Engravings
    • Christmas 1979.
  • 1978 – Bounty Day
    • 25th Anniversary of the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
    • Development.
  • 1977 – Royal Silver Jubilee
    • Fifth Definitive.
  • 1976 – U.S. Bicentennial.
  • 1975 – $1 Fourth Definitive Addition
    • Mailboats
    • Insects.
  • 1974 – Shells
    • Centenary of Universal Postal Union
    • Centenary of Birth of Sir Winston Churchill.
  • 1973 – 50c Definitive Addition
    • Flowers
    • Royal Wedding of H.R.H. Princess Anne.
  • 1972 – 25th Anniversary of the South Pacific Commission
    • Royal Silver Wedding.
  • 1971 – Polynesian Pitcairn
    • Royal Visit of H.R.H. Prince Philip (overprint).
  • 1970 – Flowers
    • Fish.
  • 1969 – Fourth Definitive Addition.
  • 1968 – Human Rights Year
    • Handicrafts
    • 20th Anniversary of the World Health Organization.
  • 1967 – Bicentennial of the Discovery of Pitcairn
    • Definitive Decimal Surcharge
    • 150th Anniversary of the Death of Admiral Bligh.
  • 1966 – Sir Winston Churchill
    • World Football Championships
    • W.H.O. Headquarters
    • 20th Anniversary UNESCO.
  • 1965 – Definitive Addition: New Value
    • ITU Centenary
    • International Co-operation Year.
  • 1964 – Third Definitive.
  • 1963 – Freedom from Hunger
    • Red Cross Centenary.
  • 1961 – Centenary of Return from Norfolk Island.
  • 1958 – Definitive Addition.
  • 1957 – Second Definitive Addition
    • The First Queen Elizabeth Pictorials.
  • 1953 – Coronation Issue.
  • 1951 – Definitive Additions.
  • 1949 – Silver Wedding of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1946 – Victory Issue.
  • 1940 – First Definitive.

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

75th Anniversary Cover
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Christmas FDC
Supply Ships
Royal Wedding
Royal Navy Visitors
Royal Navy Visitors
Aircraft over Pitcairn
Flowers & Bees
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[Pitcairn Postal Service]