Return to Pitcairn

The story continues….    A number of the islanders who emigrated to Norfolk in 1856 became homesick and pined for their old home. They wanted nothing more than to return. This was compounded when instructions came from Australia through Governor Sir William Dennison who insisted the settlers were beholden to New South Wales.

The islanders maintained that an absolute condition of their leaving Pitcairn was that Norfolk should be ceded to them totally. Their protests fell on deaf ears and this small community, that had been living as one family for sixty years, separated. Albert Gazzard described the scene: “…one last mingling of their voices in song, pathetically and falteringly rendered, sobs choking their utterance and tears dimming their sight”.

The return took place over a 5-year period from 1859 to 1864. The 1859 date is significant as it is 150 years this year since the initial group returned. The group actually set sail in late 1858 but didn’t arrive in Pitcairn until 1859. The journey of 3,700 miles was extremely arduous with storms and persistent seasickness being experienced.

Return to Pitcairn

The Pitcairn Guide sums up the return to Pitcairn:

“Late in 1858 an opportunity to return home arose when Mary Ann, en route to Tahiti, offered passages and 16 of the Islanders led by Moses and Mayhew Young boarded her. Those who chose to stay behind voted to pay the costs of the journey from communal funds.

The Islanders returned home to find some of their homes vandalised and there was evidence of shipwrecked sailors having been on the Island. It was later discovered that these sailors were from the Wildwave that had been shipwrecked on the reef at Oeno island. Gardens were overgrown, cattle and other domestic animals were running wild and John Adams’s grave marker was missing. They arrived home in time to stop the French, who thought the Island was abandoned, from annexing their home.
Return to Pitcairn FDC
In 1864, a second group from Norfolk returned home on the St Kilda. Along with the returning Pitcairners was Samuel Warren of Rhode Island. Samuel had married Agnes Christian, daughter of Thursday October II and Mary (Polly) Christian, just prior to departure. During the journey one of Thursday October II and Mary’s children was to die, leaving just 43 people on Pitcairn. It was a different Pitcairn now with only five families – the Youngs, Christians, McCoys, Buffetts and the American Warrens. Of these the male lines of the McCoys and Buffetts were to die out.

George Nobbs had become the leader of the Norfolk community and had he opposed the journey to Norfolk few would have gone. However when he had tried, to argue against returning, even his persuasion had not overcome the Pitcairners’ nostalgia.”

Return to Pitcairn - 150th Anniversary, 1859 - 2009
Please Note: All prices are in New Zealand Dollars

60c, $1.00, $2.00, $3.50
Stamp strip


FDC - with Stamp strip


Technical Details

Mary Pavicich, Australia Pitcairn Stamps
proudly brought
to you by:
Bounty Post
Illustrators: Tracey Yager, Sue Draper, and Glenn Douran.
Printer: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand
Process: Offset Litho
Stamp Size: 45.06mm x 37.5mm
Format: 2 panes of 5 strips each containing 4 stamps and central tab. The panes are separated by a central gutter.
Perforation Gauge : 14.40 x 14.60
Denominations : 60c; $1.00; $2.00 and $3.50
Paper : 103gsm Tullis Russell yellow phosphor gummed paper
Period of Sale :
22 April 2009 for a period of 2 years.