[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
MRS. COLIN LINDSAY, incidentally mentioned in the proceding chapter, was a special favourite of Mrs. Elliott's She admired her for her amiable disposition and manor graceful accomplishments; but Mrs. Lindsay possessed an additional attraction for Mrs. Elliott, in that she was the widow of a naval officer, Captain Colin Lindsay, who way identified with an exceedingly romantic and peculiarly interesting history that of the Pitcairn Islanders.
Karine first heard the story from Mrs. Elliott. And especially one evening that she and the latter were present at Mrs. Lindsay's was it made the subject of Conversation between the three. The evening was possibly the one signified in the following characteristic little note (Paris it may here be said, was a frequent and ever welcome visitor at Mrs. Lindsay's, which will account, and be ample apology, for the nature of the amusingly worded request made in the note):
" OTTERIE, As there was no positive engagement that you would come to-morrow evening, I have (though not with a clear mind) accepted an invitation to Mrs. Lindsay's for to-morrow evening. If I had the prospect of meeting you there it would be a peculiarly additional attraction Cannot you come in a promiscuous sort of a mannerly Toujours a vous, ELEANOR ELLIOTT.~,
The history as unfolded in the hearing of Karine, if not on this, on some other occasion at Mrs. Lindsay's, is one probably familiar to most; but on account of its charm for Mrs. Elliott, its link with her friend, Mrs. Lindsay, and its wider connection with Manxland, it falls naturally in its place, and will bear repeating here.
As early as 1787, in the reign of King George III., His Majesty's ship the Bounty set sail to the South Pacific Islands for the purpose of obtaining plants of the breadfruit tree. Lieut. Wm. Bligh commanded the vessel. All went well with the crew until after their sojourn at Otaheite. Here they were detained for a considerable time; and, luxuriating in the attractions of the lovely island, they became enervated and unfitted for the stern and arduous duties of seamen. A very short time after their departure from Otaheite they resolved to mutiny against the captain. Accordingly, one night they woke him from his sleep with a pistol at his head, and threatened his life if he offered any protest. They then obliged Bligh and eighteen others to get into one of the ship's boats; and flinging them only enough provisions for a limited period, they shoved them off, and left them to their fate.
The chief mutineer was an officer, Fletcher Christian, next in command to Bligh. Christian was connected with the Isle of Man. He is said to have been one of the Christians of Unerigg Hall, and related through that family to the Taubmans of the Nunnery, Douglas, Isle of Man. Counsellor Edward Christian, his brother, was Professor of Law at Cambridge, Chief-Justice of Ely, and editor of "Blackstone's Commentaries."
Those others that remained on the Bounty were also more or less identified with Manxland. Captain Bligh himself, it is averred, had been for some time in Douglas, and his sojourn there may have accounted for so many of the crew being Manxmen born, or residents of the island. By far the most interesting of these was Peter Heywood, son of Peter John Heywood, Esq., and grandson of Deemster (Chief Judge) Heywood, then of the Nunnery.* Young Heywood was a midshipman only fourteen years of age, and, it is alleged, much attached to Captain Bligh; and had voluntarily no hand in the insurrection against the commander. Having, however, remained with the mutineers on the ship, he was afterwards brought to trial along with others on the charge of mutiny and piracy.
In the meantime Captain Bligh and the sixteen men that made up his party, deserted by the ship, were exposed for nearly six weeks in mid-ocean, undergoing the most frightful suffering from semi-starvation, cold, and wet. How they survived was well-nigh a miracle. They finally, however, landed at Timar, no one having perished on board. Of the nineteen that had been forced into the launch, twelve returned to their native country, the others died soon after' landing at the Dutch settlement of Coupang from the ejects of the horrors they had passed through. ;
With respect to Captain Bligh, a distinguished future was in store for him. In 1801, he commanded the Mulattos at the battle of Copenhagen under Lord Nelson. He was subsequently appointed Governor of New South Wales, and after his return to England from that colony he became Vice-Admiral of the Blue.
As for the mutineers, headed by Christian, they made for Otaheite, where they landed. Fourteen of them remained on the island, amongst these was young Peter Heywood. The others eventually departed and finally settled at Pitcairn, a tiny island, only four and a half miles in circumference, resting on the bosom of the vast South Pacific seas.
On the return of Captain Bligh to England, after his providential escape from death under the most awful circumstances, steps were immediately taken by the Government to send out a ship to discover the whereabouts of the mutineers, and have them apprehended and brought to justice. The fourteen at Otaheite were the only ones found; the Pitcairn refugees escaped discovery. Arriving in England, and after due trial, the prisoners were some of them acquitted, some of them sentenced to death. Of the latter was the young Manxman, Peter Heywood, and another officer; they were, however, recommended to the King's mercy.
Peter was fatherless, but he had a devoted mother, loving brothers and sisters, and a most happy home in the Isle of Man. Very pathetic was his case in consequence, and his relations, knowing his fine honourable disposition, could not bring themselves to believe the awful charge against their darling boy. Heywood had especially one sister, Nessy, who loved him with a love the most devoted and intense. When she heard that her brother had been condemned, she instantly determined to cross the sea, and make her way to London to implore his pardon.
When telling this story Mrs. Elliott was overcome with emotion, and her voice almost failed her, as she described (the account of which she had often heard from her mother) the sufferings and endurance of this noble girl making the passage to Liverpool in the dead of winter, in a wretched vessel and in awful weather (a terrible undertaking a hundred years ago), bent on saving her beloved brother from disgrace and death. With the assistance of wise counsellors and kind friends, a petition was at length secured on behalf of Heywood and Morrison, and despatched to King George. The result was the free pardon of both officers.
Nessy, as well as being a devoted sister, was also an accomplished girl. Besides other gifts, she was possessed of poetic powers of no mean order; but in less than a year after her arduous undertaking on her brother's behalf, she died. Her early death was probably accelerated by exposure to cold, and the severe strain upon her delicate organisation during a period of intense mental suffering.
Now as regards the missing mutineers, they met with terrible retribution. Having taken Otaheitean wives with them, and some Otaheitean men from Otaheite, they existed on Pitcairn in broken numbers for some years, until of all the original number only one remained, John Adams. The others perished miserably, most of them by murder consequent upon quarrelling amongst themselves.
John Adams (also by birth a Manxman), the survivor of the Bounty, was an illiterate seaman. He could merely read and write a little, having taught himself. Left alone with five or six heathen women, and twenty fatherless children, he now realised his solemn and responsible position. Remorse for the crime he had committed, and which had brought him into his present condition, weighed heavily upon his mind. About this time also he had dreams, which greatly agitated him and gave him no rest night or day. In this state of disquietude, not knowing where or how to find peace for his distracted heart and brain, he suddenly bethought himself of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer that had been rescued from the Bounty. He began to read the Word of God. In it he soon found light to his path and peace to his soul. He now studied and meditated upon it continually. By the grace of God, Adams became a new man. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, he set to work to Christianise the heathen women and children under his charge. He was a man of mental vigour and resource, and soon also made laws to regulate the little community. Under the godly discipline of Adams the young people grew up; and eventually the Pitcairn community became a people cherishing all that was holy and beautiful in principle and conduct. Many of her Majesty's ships touched at the island during the course of years, and the commanders have but one testimony to bear, that the inhabitants are, of all people they had ever heard of, the most exemplary in morals and piety. Their loyalty to Queen Victoria was, and is, of the most exalted kind; and the whole order of their government, ecclesiastical and civil, is touchingly perfect in its administration and practice. They built a church and schoolhouse. The order of their Church service is that of the Church of England. Divine service may be said to extend over the whole of Sunday, and they have public service also every afternoon in the week excepting Saturday, when the men are engaged in fishing.
One of their distinguished visitors, in writing of them, says: "The week spent at Pitcairn's Island will be looked upon by me as one of the most interesting of my life. A state of society is there beheld which cannot be believed unless seen. In many points, particularly in the culture of their minds, a high state of civilisation presents itself, without vice or luxury, the community living in the most primitive simplicity. But the most remarkable feature in their character is that of earnest and universal piety. And from this fountain springs their brotherly love, so true, so touching, so unlike anything I had ever seen or dreamed of, as animating a whole community, that it can only be likened to the feeling that exists in a deeply religious and united private family in England.
" So earnest is their piety, so directly does it appear to spring from Him who is the Divine Source of all religion, that I almost fancied myself in a Theocracy of the primitive ages."
Surely the God of all grace can make the wrath of man to praise Him. It does seem so incredibly marvellous that such a model system of living should spring out of one of the blackest deeds on record!
About the time that Mrs. Elliott and Karine spent the evening specified with Mrs. Lindsay, a reference to the Pitcairn Islanders appeared in the newspapers; it was to the effect that her Majesty's ship Opal had lately visited the island, by the command of Rear-Admiral A. F. R. de Horsey, to deliver an organ, a present to the Pitcairners from Queen Victoria. Captain F. C. B. Robinson reported on the visit in these words: "It is unnecessary for me to do more than allude to the simple piety and moral excellence of these charming islanders, whose guilelessness and affec tionate hospitality must win on the hearts of all who come in contact with them; it did so with us, and I should be sorry to lose this opportunity of mentioning opinions so much in accord with those of previous visitors. They were in great distress at having nothing they could think worthy to offer for her Majesty's acceptance, and we brought off a model of one of their canoes, which they ventured to hope the Queen would deign to receive from them. By sunset on the 3rd, the supplies we needed were received, and having landed the majority of our guests, I prepared for departure. It was dark before their boat returned for Mr. McCoy and Mrs. Simon Young, the pastor's wife, and her two daughters, who had remained on board till the last These also then bid us an affectionate farewell, repeated from the boat, with hearty cheers and kind wishes. Cordially reciprocating these, we steamed to sea, and as we left, we heard those in the boat once again, with more than loyalty, singing " God save the Queen."'
This recent report renewed all the interest of the Pitcairn story, and the evening that Mrs. Elliott, Mrs. Lindsay, and Marine met together, the narrative formed the chief topic of conversation. Mrs. Lindsay mentioned that on more than one occasion Captain Lindsay visited the island, and how enchanted he was with the people. Amongst their feats of prowess, what wonderful climbers and swimmers they were how even old women could scramble up almost perpendicular precipices; and how the children gambolled and dived in the foaming surf breasting the huge waves for sheer sport!
But what was most interesting was the description of the graceful manners and affectionate behaviour of the people, combined with the most irresistible simplicity. Mrs. Lindsay told how when Captain Lindsay parted from them, the women and girls hung about his neck, kissing and begging him to soon return. She then offered to read her guests some of the Pitcairners' letters to her husband. Mrs. Elliott and Karine hailed the proposition with delight. One of them is as follows:
" To LIEUTENANT COLIN W. LINDSAY, R.N.
"PITCAIRN'S ISLAND, July 1842.
"DEAR SIR, I have taken the opportunity of writing unto you such things as have taken place since you left us. The influenza has not left us without her fatal victims, for in the short space of two months four of our friends have died under that most painful disorder; it is with pleasure I tell you that they died with a fair prospect in that Saviour who paid His life a ransom for their souls. Perhaps you would wish to know their names. The oldest of them is Charles Christian, the oldest man on the island, and Edward Quintall, him that was sick when you was here, and to add more to his afflicted family his youngest son is gone with him; only one female is among the dead, and that is poor old Isabella Christian. She came from Tihiti in the Bounty, and she is supposed to be more than a hundred years of age; she has known Captain Cook in his third voyage. Mr. Fletcher Christian is magistrate of the island at present. We are all in good health; no disorder of any kind has visited us these six months. Since you left us this state of things is much the same. You must write to me, as it will give me great pleasure to hear from you, and believe me, dear Lindsay, your very sincere friend, FREDERICK YOUNG."
In another letter from the same writer, in 1849, he mentions that his sister has been married and is the mother of a child who is to be called "after some one who is very dear to you, and indeed to us all " meaning Mrs. Lindsay, Captain Lindsay's then affianced bride. And reporting of himself the correspondent further says, "I am still single, but by the time this reaches you I may be spliced to one whom I have loved a very long time."
The father or grandfather of this Frederick Young was the mutineer, Edward Young, midshipman, nephew of Sir George Young, Bart.
After listening to these delightful mementos, Mrs. Elliott then, in her inimitable way, alluded to Byron's poem, "The Island," and repeated passages from that imaginative version of the mutiny and Pitcairn settlement. And we think we can hear her as, with ease and softly articulated tones, she said:
" And who is he ? the blue-eyed northern child
Of isles more known to man, but scarce less wild
The fair-haired offspring of the Hebrides,
Where roars the Pentland with its whirling seas;
By Nenha's side he sate, and watched the waters
Neuha, the sun-flower of the island daughters
Highborn (a birth at which the herald smiles,
Without a scutcheon for these secrete isles)
Of a long race, the valiant and the free
The naked knights of savage chivalry.
Come let us to the islet's softest shade
And hear the warbling birds! the damsel said:
The wood-dove from the forest depth shall coo,
Like voices of the gods from Bolotoo.
We'll cull the flowers that grow above the dead
For these must bloom where rests the warrior's head
And we will sit in twilight's face, and see
The sweet moon glancing through the tooa tree,
The lofty accents of whose sighing bough
Shall sadly please us as we lean below;
Or climb the steep, and view the surf in vain
Wrestle with rocky giants o'er the main
Which spurn in columns back the baffled spray.
How beautiful are these I how happy they,
Who, frond the toil and tumult of their lives
Steal to look down where nought but ocean strives ! "
* The Nunnery did not become the property of the Taubmans till some years later.