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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Dealtry   16 January 1874

Pitcairn Islanders.

p. 27

of P. Paper 5th.


Captain Fremantle,1 the Senior Naval officer on the Station, writing to the Admiralty on the 23d. of Sepr./55 and having just left Pitcairn Islands gave the population at 187 persons. He said “The Sexes are evenly divided—one half being above the age of 15 may be considered adult— the rest are children and infants— Two men and six women are all that remain of the old generation—that is the immediate descendants of “the Bounty people” ’2

The Inhabitants were not at first unanimous as to accepting the offer of removal to Norfolk Island, though a large majority were in favour of the step—

p. 36


The whole community were brought away and Lieut: Gregorie, to whom the charge of removing them was entrusted, reported that the number landed by him at Norfolk Island on the 22d. of April/56 was 194— the difference between this and the number previously given having been made up by births—3



A full return of the Inhabitants on the 30th. of Sepr/57 with their ages Social position &c. will be found at p.p 14–15 & 16 of P. Paper of 29th. May/63

Mr. Nobbs5 1st.

Jany/73 copy


There are no recent returns of the population but the Surgeon6 has promised to send to the Governor of New S. Wales7 a Census of the Inhabitants, which should have reached this office before now—

p. 29 P. Paper


It appears from a dispatch of Sir W. Denison8 of the 10th. of July/59 that two families, numbering 16 in all, had returned to Pitcairns Island being dissatisfied with their condition & that others were thinking of following their example, though I doubt if any more went— I also find from a dispatch from Ld. Belmore9 dated 31st. Octr 1870 that their friends were anxious to get them back again, & proposed to charter a Schooner for the purpose— Whether they succeeded in this object there is nothing to shew. In the same dispatch Ld. Belmore questions whether the numbers of the population now exceed 300— He gives the births at 200 since the date of the arrival of the Islanders in 1856— Probably some of the able bodied men, whom the Governor estimates at between 40 and 50 in number, had left the Island on seafaring expeditions.

When in Pitcairns Island they were probably the most virtuous community in the world and there was a question whether a single Convict, for whose retention they applied, could be allowed to remain in Norfolk Island for fear of contamination—Lord Palmerston10 having said that he would not have the worst and best of mankind brought together, but whether the frequent visits of whalers to the Coast of Norfolk Island has not had a deteriorating effect upon their morals is open I have heard to grave question.—

W. Dealtry

16/1/74 | Col: Office11


The Rev’d G. H Nobbs to His Excellency the Governor


The Rev’d G. H Nobbs to His Excellency the Governor


Norfolk Island

January 1st. 1873.

Honble Sir and Friend,

I have the honor to report to your Excellency the result of our annual election of Magistrate and Councillors. This morning William Quintall, Stephen Christian, and Alfred Nobbs12 the Magistrate and Councillors of last year and reelected on the 26th. ultimo were duly sworn in to their several Departments. The usual routine of reading publicly, the Island Laws, chiefly compiled by Sir William Denison and amended by Sir John Young13 was observed, and other duties and observances were attended to, and will I presume be promptly reported by the Authorities.

My letter dated December 2nd. and which I send at this time, no opportunity having previously occurred, will I trust be satisfactory to Your Excellency, the more so as I have requested Mr David Buffett to explain his very incorrect (not intentionally so) averment in such a manner as will exonerate me from any misapplied or unaccounted for expenditure of public moneys.

We are prospering peacefully and comfortably. The School is well conducted by the Schoolmaster, Mr Revel14—the number of Scholars ninety seven— There have been but three deaths during the past year—one a man of nearly four score years, an immediate descendant of the “Bounty”—there are now but three survivors—another an accident by fire—and the third, the mother of a large family, from that fell disease pulmonic consumption. The health of the Community is generally good, as Your Excellency will learn from Dr Watling’s Report, who will also forward a census of the Island.15

On Sunday last we were startled, while the Church bell was ringing for evening service, at the sudden change and then almost extinction of its sound—upon examination next day it was found to be so badly cracked from an imperfection in the casting, that it is totally unfit for use. It is the only bell we have, and sent hither by Sir John Young in consequence of our informing His Excellency that we lacked funds for purchasing so necessary an adjunct to public worship. We are now in a similar strait, and may we ask permission to prefer a similar memorial to Your Excellency—setting forth our need of a bell larger than the one in question, as we have now a more extended parish.

My impression is that the Bell we now have cost fifteen pounds, but one to be of efficient service would cost twice that amount. A bell and Coir matting for the aisles of the Church, to prevent the resonance of its wooden floor, are all that we are in need of, or at least cannot purchase from our communal resources.

I most respectfully apologise for asking these favours and trust the exigencies of the case may be accepted as a plea for making the request.

I am &c | (sd) George H. Nobbs

His Excellency | Sir Hercules Robinson | Governor in Chief | &c &c &c

CD annotations

2.2 55] underl blue crayon
2.3 187] underl blue crayon
2.3 He … infants— 2.5] scored blue crayon; ‘see Mr Nobbs Report—97 scholars [Crossed]—race Women removed once.—’ blue crayon
2.4 evenly] ‘evenly’ blue crayon
2.5 Two men] ‘2 men’ blue crayon
2 (margin) p.27 … Feby/57] ‘Marked Correspondence—’ pencil
4.3 landed … Island] underl blue crayon
4.4 April … 194—] underl blue crayon
7.1 It … went— 7.5] ‘
blue crayon
7.5 I also … again, 7.7] scored blue crayon
3.2 Revel … ninety seven—] scored and marked blue crayon


Stephen Grenville Fremantle was captain of HMS Juno when it visited Pitcairn Island in 1855 for the purpose of determining the decision of the population regarding their removal to Norfolk Island (Navy list 1855).
See House of Commons Parliamentary Papers: Correspondence on the subject of removal of inhabitants of Pitcairn’s Island to Norfolk Island; 1857 (2160) X.565, p. 27. The original inhabitants of Pitcairn Island included mutineers from the HMS Bounty (see letter to C. L. Denison, 14 January 1874 and n. 2).
George Wayne Gregorie was made lieutenant in 1857, but was acting lieutenant in 1856 when he headed the removal of the Pitcairn Islanders (Navy list 1858; Correspondence on the subject of removal of inhabitants of Pitcairn’s Island to Norfolk Island; 1857 (2160) X.565, pp. 36–8).
See House of Commons Parliamentary Papers: Pitcairn islanders. Norfolk Island. Copy of correspondence with the government of New South Wales, in reference to Pitcairn Islanders settled in Norfolk Island; 1863 (297) XXXVIII.337, pp. 14–16. The copy that was enclosed has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
George Hunn Nobbs was a missionary on Norfolk Island.
The governor of New South Wales from 1872 until 1879 was Hercules George Robert Robinson (ODNB).
William Thomas Denison was governor of New South Wales from 1855 until 1861.
Somerset Richard Lowry-Corry, fourth earl of Belmore, was governor of New South Wales from 1868 until early 1872 (Aust. dict. biog.).
Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, was prime minister when the removal of the Pitcairn Islanders took place.
Colonial Office.
Young was governor of New South Wales from 1861 until 1867 (Aust. dict. biog.). The laws mostly concerned the division of land among the settlers and the retention of most of the island as Crown lands.
An article describing a visit of Lord Belmore to Norfolk Island in the Hobart Mercury, 22 October 1870, p. [3], mentioned the teacher of the local school, Mr Revels, as ‘an English certificated schoolmaster, whose services were engaged in New Zealand’. An article, ‘Norfolk Island’ that appeared in the Canterbury, New Zealand Press, 1 December 1873, p. 3, referred to the resignation of Mr Revel as schoolmaster. Revel has not been further identified.
Watling was the government surgeon to the Pitcairn community of Norfolk Island.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


On the increases in crossbred English and Tahitian population of Pitcairn islanders. [See Descent, 2d ed., p. 190.] Includes copy of letter from George Hunn Nobbs about the population of Norfolk Island.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Dealtry
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Colonial Office
Source of text
DAR 90: 30–7
Physical description
AmemS 16pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9244,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22