Discovering Pitcairn's bounty in Shrewsbury

What I love about my newly acquired role as co-owner of an antiques shop in Shrewsbury are all the fascinating objects that come into our possession, even if only for a short time. As a former archaeology graduate things with a history have always interested me. But I am now learning about places I admittedly knew very little about before, through the items we have at It’s a nomad life.

A history lesson presented itself to me in the form of three objects from the least popularised place in the World; Pitcairn (this lesson also involved my first viewing of the 1984 film The Bounty starring Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson and, to my slight surprise, a young Neil Morrissey). Sam, the true antiques expert of the partnership at It’s a nomad life, filled me in on the history of Pitcairn after bringing fantastic carved wooden items, including a Walking stick, Chalice and Book shaped trinket box from the island down onto the shop floor.  

Pitcairn is one of four islands spread over several hundred miles of ocean (the others being Henderson, Ducie and Oeno). The British troop of HMS Swallow spotted the island in 1767 when it received its name. But it was the story retold in The Bounty that led to the island being inhabited for the first time since the 15th century.

In 1789, there was a mutiny onboard British naval ship HMS Bounty led by Fletcher Christian against commanding officer Lieutenant William Bligh. The ship’s mission was to pick up breadfruit plants from Tahiti and transport them to the West Indies in the hope that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. Through Bligh’s narrative of his time on the ship we know that the crew stayed in Tahiti for 5 months after 10 months on board. With Bligh no stranger to harsh treatment of his crew, tensions began to rise (no doubt aided by the fact that many of the men had fallen in love with local women – Fletcher Christian even marrying).

Bligh ordered the crew to set sail for home on 5 April 1789. 23 days later, 1,300 miles west of Tahiti, mutiny broke out. This resulted in 9 mutineers and Tahitians (six men, 11 women and a baby) settling on Pitcairn Island. Their descendants still live there today, apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. It is estimated there are just 48 inhabitants of Pitcairn (and you thought Shrewsbury was small!). They are currently from four main families: Christian, Warren, Young, and Brown – names of the sailors. In fact you can see the name Vernon Young inscribed on the trinket box!

And Sam even learned something – after 5 years of living in Scotland I recognised Pitcairn as a Scottish name - the island was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crew member who was the first to sight the island, who was from Fife!  

For more information on Pitcairn check out the island’s website.

To view some of the items at It’s a nomad life, 14 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury see the shop’s website.

 

Victoria Crook

It’s a nomad life

 

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Vicky Vicky

Vicky runs local antiques business It's a nomad life with her partner Sam Handbury-Madin. The shop, which moved from Wyle Cop to Green Lane in 2015, sells Tribal and Asian art and collectables from around the world. Vicky is a Shropshire lass, who moved back to Shrewsbury in 2008 after time spent in Italy, London and St. Andrews (where she studied archaeology and ancient history). She met her husband Sam on her return and they opened It's a nomad life in 2012, combining their love of travel and old things! Vicky also works as a Freelance Fundraising Consultant.

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