The Chairman's View
by David Sleep
As published in the July 2009 magazine
I have always been struck at the wide and diverse range of topics and subjects covered at our bi-annual London meetings and the programme arranged by our hard working Secretary, Austin Meares for our Spring meeting was no exception. It was Austin that started the programme off with an incredible and absorbing presentation on The Norfolk Island Story as seen through its stamps and postal history.
The story of Pitcairn’s connection with Norfolk Island is well known, but in Austin’s presentation we were shown how its stamps have covered every aspect of its history, culture and those personalities that have influenced the Island’s development. Whilst its first inhabitants can be traced back to East Polynesian seafarers, it was the great explorer and navigator, Captain James Cook who was the first European to sight the Island in 1774 and named it after the Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk. Cook has appeared on many of the Island’s stamps, which were first issued in 1947 and have been very popular with collectors worldwide ever since.
Norfolk’s notoriety came from its use as a penal colony in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and again stamps record these interesting and turbulent times. However it was in 1856 that the Pitcairn story took a new chapter when Norfolk became the home of the Pitcairners as their Island had become too small for the growing population. Many of the Pitcairners would occupy buildings remaining from the penal settlements, however a number elected to return to Pitcairn in 1858, although without doubt Norfolk became an intrinsic part of the Pitcairn and Bounty story and many relics and reminders of the strong links are to be seen today. In fact many members voiced that a visit to Norfolk is a good alternative to Pitcairn given the ease of transport links, although I am sure we would all agree that to get to both Islands would be the icing on the cake!
As the Group discusses how we can encourage and promote closer interest in Norfolk Island’s history and philately to our own collecting themes and activities, without doubt Austin’s outstanding presentation went a long way to achieve this and I for one was extremely swayed to consider Norfolk as another collecting theme, which together with Pitcairn very much compliment one another with their constrained and sympathetic policy on the number of stamp issues released each year and keeping tight control on the subject matter for each issue.
Our intrepid traveller, member Marigold Mann once again presented a fascinating account of her travels with a Pitcairn and Bounty link. This time she embarked on a cruise around Cape Horn and her photographs illustrated so well the majestic beauty of the scenery around Cape Horn but knowing that after a month, William Bligh and the Bounty crew could not round it, which inevitably led to the longer trip via the Cape of Good Hope, which could have been a contributing factor to the mutiny later. Marigold’s cruise took her via Terri del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan and many other spectacular sites at the tip of South America.
The afternoon was devoted to members’ displays with the theme of commemorating the 220th anniversary of the Mutiny on the Bounty. It was incredible to think that 20 years had gone since that memorable exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which inspired me to join both the U.K. and worldwide Groups. We had some outstanding displays, including original stamp artwork, postcards, unique photographs and many of those bicentenary stamps from a number of territories which joined in celebrating an event which has captivated us all and inspired us to continue to promote and encourage the Bounty and Pitcairn story and all the collecting themes it has brought to us.
It was a great honour for me at the Spring meeting to present to our founder Chairman, David Ward a framed 20th anniversary cover, duly signed by its designer and our President, Jennifer Toombs, to commemorate this momentous event. All agree that if it had not been for David’s determination and others to make that important step we would not have a Group that has flourished and grown into the well respected and pioneering organisation it is today and has a publication The U.K. Log, which is read throughout the world and so professionally edited and presented by David Ransom, one of those founder members.
I am sure all members would have been encouraged by the news that our President, Jennifer Toombs has once again been commissioned to design a stamp issue for Pitcairn Islands and what a significant issue, the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Let us hope that this is the start of something special as we all know Jennifer’s designs are most unique and unparalleled.
As you receive this edition several of our members are preparing for a ‘trip of a lifetime’ when they will be boarding the Braveheart in Mangereva to make that awe-inspiring crossing to Pitcairn and remain there for several days to admire and cherish all the sites and landmarks we all know so well from books, photographs and films, and afforded the hospitality of the Pitcairn Islanders we have all come to know. We all look forward to hearing of their adventures at a future meeting and articles in our publication.
You will receive with this edition of The U.K. Log a questionnaire, which I encourage all members to complete and I would like to thank Graham Ford for all his hard work in devising the questions. We want to know what you view best about the Group, your collecting interests, where we can make improvements and your ideas and suggestions to develop the Group for the future.
Under the terms of our Constitution, my three year period as your Chairman ends at the next Annual General Meeting in September. As I record my concluding words in my last Chairman’s View I wish to say what a great privilege and such a rewarding experience it has been for me to have held this distinguished position. I am extremely indebted to have worked with such a dedicated and enthusiastic team of officers and committee members and it was such a great pleasure for me to have been your Chairman as we celebrated twenty years in 1988 of this fascinating and outstanding Group. Above all I wish to thank you the members for all your support and encouragement to me and the Group and I know that this will continue with my successor.
I very much look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our next London meeting in September.