Welcome to the first induction into the “Dem Tull Hall of Fame.” Each year I will write up a biography of individuals/ships that will get special mention for their contribution to Pitcairn as a way for Dem Tull to honour them. One will be a Pitcairner (this issue); the other will be a significant vessel, so often the lifeblood of Pitcairn; and finally one will be a non-Pitcairner who has significantly contributed to Pitcairn in the past. The only requirements for these inductions are for those no longer with us. Now follows the first induction for a Pitcairner: Charles Richard Parkin Christian.
Charles Richard Parkin Christian was born on Pitcairn Island on November 27th, 1883. His parents were Francis Hickson Christian and Eunice Jane Lawrence Young (both Pitcairners who were born on Norfolk and returned to Pitcairn in the two waves of resettlement). He was the third of 9 siblings.
Parkin’s early life witnessed some of the major events of the islands history. He was a survivor of the horrific typhoid epidemic in 1893 that claimed the lives of thirteen other Pitcairners. This was also around the time when Pitcairn began adopting the Seventh-Day Adventist Church doctrines, and Parkin would be a devout Adventist for his entire life.
As he grew he showed himself to be an intelligent, witty and insightful young man. He was considered a masterful and slow speaker, and he made sure that the listeners got the point. He also had a sense of humour that was greatly appreciated by Pitcairner and outsider alike. He had dark, tough skin that was said to be so hard that it resembled leather. One person whom I spoke to recollected that Parkin’s skin was so hard that mosquito’s who attempted to bite him would leave empty handed and with a significantly blunt nose.
He eventually fell in love with Rosalind Eliza Butler, the daughter of a Pitcairner and a shipwreck survivor (Peter Butler of the Khandeish, that wrecked on Oeno Island in 1875). They married and had their first child, a daughter Lorena, who was born in 1910. Tragically she died a few days after birth of illness. Their second child was also a daughter, Marjorie, who was born in 1912. Their third and final child was a son, Richard, who was born in 1915.
So much was Parkin’s influence on the community that he became the island magistrate in 1920, the first of 8 terms in that position. He was also the coxswain of one of the island boats for many years in the early to mid part of the 20th century.
One other highlight worth mentioning is that like most Pitcairners he was a keen fisherman. So much so in fact that in the early 1930’s he hauled up the greater part of the HMAV Bounty’s rudder! Sadly, all that remains of that on Pitcairn today is two chunks of wood, the rest in museums and private collections around the world.
Sadly in 1941, his wife Rosalind died of pneumonia while they were in New Zealand. Parkin had her cremated and prepared to return to Pitcairn. Since it was during the war, and shipping was not safe, it was a while before he found a ship. However, he had to take a longer route home and went to Panama and from there south to Pitcairn with the urn. He also, knowing that people on Pitcairn had run out of flour, brought lots of flour to be distributed amongst the people.
In 1958, following his final term as Pitcairn Island Magistrate, Parkin journeyed to the United States to attend a world conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. He flew in to New York City from Panama, and straight into a press conference. One of the first questions asked of him was by a reporter who asked him, “Mr. Christian, what do you think about New York City?” According to one witness, Parkin groaned, and said (and I quote, “in a low, gravelly voice”), “How would I know? I just got off the plane from Panama!” Needless to say, people were amused at the reporter being caught out. Later, a reporter asked him what he thought about coming out to “civilisation.” Parkin replied “Ah, I don’t know. I think I left civilization on Pitcairn, and am now somewhere else!” Ever one who had a way with words, one person who knew Parkin recollects that “Parkin was a real thinker, even a philosopher if you will.”
Parkin’s daughter Marjorie passed away from cancer in 1969 in New Zealand. By this time, Parkin himself was ill, and for medical reasons he came out to New Zealand shortly after the death of Marjorie, and stayed with his granddaughter Iris (Marjorie’s daughter) and her husband Langford. Sadly this trip abroad was permanent, since it was thought his heart might not take an operation. On September 15th, 1971 Charles R. Parkin Christian passed away in hospital in New Zealand, and was buried in Auckland. He was survived by his son Richard (who died a couple of years later), as well as numerous grandchildren.
Today, there are several descendants of Parkin still living. However, it seems the years have not overly dulled people’s memory of this outstanding Pitcairner, and his legacy lives on. I hope I have conveyed this account of him accurately.
In closing, I wish to thank the people who have contributed information on Parkin to me, both directly and indirectly. The information given was invaluable. Special thanks to his granddaughter Iris Warren who provided much information on him, and also to Herb Ford who was a witness to Parkin’s meeting with the reporters in 1958. Also thanks to Brian Young and Pauline Brown for little tidbits they mentioned on him.