Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Suf today!

 The Pier Store Museum is located 20 metres from Slaughter Bay reef and sits right on Kingston Pier. The surf today has been roaring - huge waves rolling in and pounding against the pier wall. Just wonderful!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vale Leslie Quick Bown

Everyone at the Norfolk Island Museum was saddened to hear of the recent death of Les Brown. In 2004 when he received his Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award, he was described as being “known on Norfolk Island and throughout historical circles in both Australia and New Zealand as the foremost historian on Norfolk Island history. Les’s passionate interest in all things Norfolk has led him to dedicate his life to the ongoing pursuit of knowledge in this particular field”.

Les was a member of the first Norfolk Island Museum Trust and served for a number of years. Importantly while researching artefacts for a museum exhibition in the early 1990s he identified two basalt patu in the Australian Museum as being those that Tuki and Huru presented to Philip Gidley King in 1793. This led to a ceremony on Norfolk Island where the patu were repatriated to Tuki and Huru’s descendants, and subsequently gifted to the people of Norfolk Island. Les undertook vast amounts of research on that one project alone. Over the years subsequent Museum Director’s, including myself, came to rely not only on Les’ fabulous memory and capacity to bring forth a detail or information on the question at hand, but also on his incredibly generosity – he would never say he was too busy or didn’t have the time to research our questions, never receiving any more payment than thanks.

Over the years Les also donated many valuable items to the museum including books, diaries, maps and artefacts. Now, thanks to the Executor of his Will Mr. Paul Bowe, the entirety of his collection has come to the Norfolk Island Museum. Many hundreds of books and papers covering every aspect of this islands history were accepted into the museum collection this week. This is the largest single donation that the museum has ever received. Obviously the quality of the material is exceptional with all of the key research books on Norfolk Island included. Because of the size of the collection it will take us more than a few months to sort and catalogue each item. We are hopeful of being able to keep the collection physically together in one place, identifiable as the ‘Les Quick Brown Collection’. It will eventually be available to anyone wishing to research Norfolk’s history.

Our sincere thanks to Paul and his wife Lynne for deciding to donate Les’ collection to the Museum. While Les’ legacy to the museum during his lifetime was immense, having his wonderful collection now available to us all will provide an enduring contribution to the historical research of this island for years to come. The photo shows Paul handing over the books to Lisa Richards.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Panorama Of Kingston c1867

This reproduction of a series of photographs that were taken by the Reverend Bice is displayed in the Commissariat Store Museum, on the basement level under All Saints Church.

The photographs were enlarged and now take the form of a 8 metre long display that is extremely interesting as it depicts part of the penal settlement that was on the Island from 1825 to 1855. The photographs were taken looking across the road from Quality Row towards the sea – that is, in a south westerly direction.

Although it is 157 years since the closure of the Second Settlement it shows the remnants of the buildings that were erected during this settlement and are still recognisable as the main centre of the convict era. Most of the visitors to the Museum are intensely interested in what was here during the Second Settlement and, as so many of the buildings have crumbled or totally disappeared, it bears out the “one picture is worth a thousand words” statement.

Of most interest is the three storey building that was the Prisoners’ Barracks that could house up to 900 men – 300 to a floor – and this is shown before its eventual collapse.
The building consisted of a rectangular block with a return at each end. Around the sides of the wall were two chapels, overseers’ rooms, watch-houses, guard posts, offices, stores, workshops and a court/school room. In the Barracks there were 22 wards and all slept in hammocks. The one door in and out of the building was situated in the middle of the main block. In 1835 the Reverend Atkins described the Barracks during the hours of darkness “for at least 10 hours every night, persons of all ages from 16 to 60 and of every degree of depravity through the heat of the climate, the violence of unbridled passion and the absence of women, unnatural crimes were of common occurrence”.

The other interesting section is the row of cottages along the drain through the swamp land and these 12 connected dwellings are now just a few sections of foundations poking through the grass with the cattle grazing nearby.  The extant foundations reveal that there were six kitchens each servicing two cottages.  The six eastern cottages each consisted of two rooms while the six to the west were single roomed.  The variation between the two cottage types probably indicated the different status of the occupiers. In the photograph, the closest house are the remains of the Chief Constable’s quarters and this also shows  just a few pieces of the foundations still visible.

The gaol with most of its buildings intact is depicted in the photograph. Little is known how many of the buildings were used and for what reason; the arms of the pentagonal arrangement of cells is just visible and from 1836 onwards there were many disagreements between Commandants, the Colonial Secretary and even the Royal Engineers.  The disagreements and arguments continued until 1850 but the area is now nearly depleted of any structures at all and all that remains are grass-covered mounds and a few foundations and low walls.   

The original photographs are held in the National Library of Australia. The museum has reproduced the images onto a card which sells at the Commissariat Store and REO Café for $1.50.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ucklun's Norf'k - Words as a Memory of our Past

This wonderful book by Peter Muhlhausler, Rachel Nebauer-Borg and Piria Coleman was launched last Saturday in the Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery of the Pier Store Museum. It is now available for sale at the REO Café and Bookshop and on-line through our website shop at

In the Introduction by Peter he says “This little book documents the history of Norfolk Island through the words of its language, for words of any language are not just labels for the world around us, but a memory of how speakers make their world their hoem, ‘home’. Words tell us about lifestyle, concerns and cultural practices of the speakers of a language and of the many changes that are experienced by each new generation of speakers. Unfortunately, languages, like humans, can experience a loss of memory and words and meanings can get lost”.

Described as ‘a work in progress’, the booklet details a range of Norf’k words and gives their meanings and origins. It clearly shows the richness of Norf’k expressions and the important role language plays in culture and identity. Thankfully the work by Shirley Harrison, Beryl Palmer Nobbs and Alice Buffett has meant that we have not lost many of the memories of our language and where we have come from. Peter describes these three as “pioneering in documenting and promoting the language”. The revival of the language since it was declared the official language of Norfolk Island in 2004 is so encouraging. Just one week earlier than this book launch, Rachel Nebauer-Borg launched her book of adult fiction written entirely in Norf’k, “Stidaun Short Letl”. We now have school resources and classes, books, poetry, song competitions and museum displays all dedicated to the Norf’k language.

At the launch all three of the authors spoke. From their words it was clear that a great amount of time, resources and, most importantly, passion has gone into their work and this booklet. It is one of the outcomes of a 2006 ARC Grant that supported a joint language project between the University of Adelaide, the Norfolk Island Government and the Museum. The Museum is very, very thankful that the copyright and income from all book sales is to come to the Museum Trust to be used for future language displays and resources.

At the launch it was also good to be able to welcome Anne Harrison, daughter of Shirley Harrison. Shirley was the daughter of Moresby and Mavis Buffett and completed her MA and PhD thesis on the origin and use of Norf’k words. The Museum has been the grateful recipient of all Shirley’s research material. Anne is now continuing her mother’s work and legacy with a MA in Norf’k nicknames and will be returning to the island several times over the next year to begin her research.

One of the words or phrases recorded in ‘Ucklun’s Norf’k’ is ‘myse fish’ or ‘mais fish’. It says: “While there are written records for toela and tintoela as meaning ‘sweetheart’ from the 1960s, and records of the word as meaning ‘girlfriend’ in the 1970s from Shirley Harrison’s informants who were born around 1900-1910, the related expression mais fish also meaning ‘sweetheart’ was recorded as early as 1938. Mais fish means ‘the best catch’ (not literally) or to be ‘caught: hook, line and sinker’. It is actually known by Island elders to have been used way before then. Eliza Clarkson, affectionately known to many as ‘Miss Everett’ recounted in a memoir of her life, “during my early teenage years I can remember, along with other girls in my age group, picking out the most handsome and friendly cable station young men, and having romantic thoughts about them. If they even just said to us hello myse fish, we would be over the moon with delight”.

This is a wonderful book to pick up and browse through – so many fascinating stories and information. To read it is to enter into the world, culture and lifestyle of Norfolk Islanders. It is highly recommended.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Post 1856 Maritime Project Completed

Late last year we received a grant from the Maritime Museums Program Support Scheme (MMAPSS) to undertake a project upgrading our whaling and Resolution displays and artefacts. Since early January we have been busily working away on the project. It has included conservation work on the trypot and whaling artefacts, digitising of photographic collections, researching, writing and making new interpretive panels, and making a purpose built display case for the Resolution bell.

A number of local suppliers have provided services and helped us including JCB Cabinets, 2899 Gallery, NIBS, Brent Jones and Framed Picture Framing Services. Haylee Fieldes, now located in Perth, has designed the new interpretive panels and given the whole space a refreshing new look and feel. Volunteers Sue and Don Brian undertook hours of research on Norfolk’s whaling history and unearthed many stories, songs and images for us. The new display includes a large screen that shows a selection of images from the early and later whaling days, together with a soundscape of songs and stories. Sue spent many hours scanning hundreds of images from our photographic collection relating to whaling and the Resolution. Included in the soundscape is a recording made by Ray Hall in 1962 of Cobby Robinson recounting a whaling incident that occurred some time in the 1930s. The danger and drama of whaling in those early days is vividly caught in this recording.

As previously reported Janelle Blucher has been researching the recovery of artefacts from the wreck site of the Resolution in Port Vila harbour and has made many interesting discoveries. Many thanks to the people who have come forward and supplied information and images on her building and loss. She has also made a good contact with a local dive shop owner in Vanuatu who has told of the blasting of the wreck site in the 1980s by the New Zealand Navy and found reference to the ships service in the Pacific during WWII.

Amongst the objects to receive conservation treatment are the trypot, hunting implements, oil lamps, whale bones and baleen and the whaling managers desk. Rehousing the baleen and bones into new storage conditions will ensure they are properly secured for the future. The Resolution bell’s new purpose built cabinet, made by JCB Cabinets, has provided it with an airtight environment which was urgently needed to protect it from air borne salts, moisture and dust.

Albert Buffett has provided the names of the men in a wonderful photograph taken around 1940 and included in one of the interpretive panels. Leaning back against their whaleboat are from left to right: Edgar “”Jimmy” Edwards, Henry Buffett, Andrew “Peacock” Evans, Nathaniel “Sattie” Menzies, Louis Bataille, Augustine “Hares” Adams, John  Charles “Teeny” Menzies and Wilfred Randall.

Please come upstairs to the Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery to see the changes that have been made to our whaling and Resolution exhibitions. The Pier Store Museum is open 7 days a week 11.00am to 3.00pm.