I accompanied my husband to the joint meeting of the Pitcairn Island Study Group and CCS at the Union Jack Club in London on 31st March 2001.
We arrived early enough to have coffee and catch up with other CCS members before the start of the meeting and a welcome from the PISG.
The first illustrated talk by Madge Darby covered Captain Bligh's trip on Providence to collect breadfruit. They set sail to Tahiti via Cape of Good Hope on 3rd August 1791. Bligh was in charge of stores and used Captain Cook's anti-scorbutic methods to keep his crew healthy. Tahiti provided plenty of fresh water, fruit, fish and pork to replenish stores and plenty of entertainment for the crew! Also, Tahiti provided fertile inspiration for the artist Tobyn. When they left Tahiti they had 15 extra crew and one stowaway, as well as 1700 breadfruit. 696 breadfruit survived to arrive at Kew. An incredible number of slides were shown of pages from journals of the journey. Also explained was another lesson Bligh learned from Cook; he was firm but fair with his crew and didn't have to resort to the dreaded flogging as often as other captains.
After an excellent lunch in the Union Jack Club Restaurant, we enjoyed a talk and colour slide presentation from Dr Rima Bartlett, who has a degree in anthropology, entitled Ways of Viewing Captain Cook and Other Sailors to Polynesia. Dr Bartlett advised us that, should we go to Hawaii, on landing at Honolulu airport we should leave that behind as soon as possible to explore further afield and discover the true Polynesian culture. It is still there if you make the effort to find it. Beautiful colour slides gave us a taste of the people and island. We saw pictures of a beautiful bay with a stone marking the site of Cook's death. In the next cove there is a monument to Cook erected by the Australians. Our President, Cliff Thornton, was able to add a personal perspective to the meeting as he had visited the site earlier this year. Dr Bartlett advises that, as Hawaii is the 50th state of the USA, Honolulu is very Americanised and so it is best to save a visit there until the end of your tour.
Next we saw collections presented by members. The first was of stamps and covers relating to Cook. Then came Bounty stamps and the contents of a box bought at auction containing a fascinating collection of objects. There was a tobacco tin containing a packet of pigtails from some of the mutineers on the Bounty and some natives. One belonged to William McCoy. We also saw a hankie which once belonged to Sally, the baby daughter of William McCoy. The third presentation featured a map from a journal of William Wales, the astronomer on Cook's second and third voyage, that has so far not been identified. Finally, we learnt about Captain Bligh's exploits. We were shown a 1967 150th anniversary set of three stamps showing Pacific Island, covers of Bligh's birth place and a picture of St Mary of Lambeth, which is a church near Lambeth Palace, at present redundant, where Bligh is buried.
During the afternoon tea break we could view the items for auction as well as chat with friends about all that we had seen and learnt. The meeting formally closed before the auction started so that members could leave when they were ready. A very lively auction followed with most items sold, some at quite high prices.
We said our goodbyes and left about 6pm. This was a very interesting day out for me and was obviously enjoyed by all the members of both groups. Perhaps this could become an annual event. I can see how people can get so "hooked" on Bligh and Cook as there is an amazing amount of information available to bring history to life.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1868, volume 24, number 3 (2001).
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