There’s an island in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia and north of New Zealand that its 1,800 inhabitants call “Paradise”.
It is Norfolk Island, famous for Norfolk pine trees and infamous for being the most cruel and inhumane of British penal colonies from 1825-55.
In 1856 it was a safe haven for the descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian partners after they were pardoned by Queen Victoria. She granted them land to settle after being rescued from Pitcairn Island.
Patricia Rankin, a Cowichan Valley resident since 1979 who has roots in that South Pacific area, went searching last year for evidence of her great, great, great, great grandfather, William Broughton, who lived there from 1801 to 1808.
She flew east two hours from Brisbane, Australia, and spent four days exploring and photographing some of the unique lush tropical scenery and convict settlement ruins and restored colonial mansions. There are stunning tracks, mountainous trails and hiking all over the island, which is half the size of Saltspring Island.
Rankin was interviewed on the local radio station by “Fletch” Christian and met many local people and a few tourists. It is a volcanic and very fertile land that supports agriculture and Norfolk Blue cattle that have the run of the Island. The weather is often quite wild and changeable, with fierce winds and rough seas.
There is little industry to sustain the Islanders so last year, the Australian government had to take over. This is mostly unpopular for a proud group of survivors who have their own language and customs. Now they even have to pay income tax.
Rankin is an Australian “First Fleeter”, someone whose ancestors arrived in Australia in 1788. William Broughton, a teenager, wanted adventure like his uncle, Captain William Broughton who’d sailed with Captain Cook and was second in command to Captain Vancouver. So William signed on as the servant to the ship’s surgeon and never returned to England.
William Broughton served the colony of New South Wales as Deputy Commissary, a very important position in those days as the storekeeper. He and his first wife, a convict, and family were posted to the convict settlement on Norfolk Island, discovered by Captain Cook in 1774. Unfortunately, she was killed by the Maori when they captured her ship in New Zealand while en route to England.
William was sent back to Sydney where he married his second wife, a naval officer’s widow, who brought up all his children and added to the family. Patricia is descended from the second family’s eldest son, John Archer Broughton.
Rankin will be giving an Armchair Travel presentation for the Elder College on Tuesday, April 4 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Koksilah Room at the Island Savings Centre.
She will be illustrating her stories with many of her photographs taken in September, 2016. Membership in the Elder College costs $5 and the cost of the lecture is $12.