Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nobbs, George Hunn

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1413967Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41 — Nobbs, George Hunn1895George Clement Boase

NOBBS, GEORGE HUNN (1799–1884), missionary and chaplain of Pitcairn Island, born 16 Oct. 1799, was, according to his own account, the unacknowledged son of a marquis by the daughter of an Irish baronet. Through the interest of Rear-admiral Murray, one of his mother's friends, he, in November 1811, entered the royal navy, and made a voyage to Australia. Leaving the navy in 1816, he joined a vessel of 18 guns, owned by the patriots in South America, and, after a sixteen months' cruise, while in charge of a prize, he was captured by the Spaniards, and for some time kept a prisoner at Callao. On making his escape he rejoined his ship. In November 1819 he became a prize master on board a 40-gun vessel bearing the Buenos Ayres colours, but, soon deserting her, he landed at Talcahuano on 1 April 1820. On 5 Nov. following he took part in cutting out the Spanish frigate Esmeralda from under the Callao batteries, and for his brave conduct was made a lieutenant in the Chilian service. Shortly afterwards being wounded in a fight near Arica, he left America and returned to England. His mother, to whom he had several times remitted money, soon afterwards died, and he took the name of Nobbs; but it is not stated what he had previously been called. In 1823 and following years he made several voyages to Sierra Leone. On 5 Nov. 1828 he settled on Pitcairn Island, and was well received. John Adams [q. v.], the well-known pastor and teacher of the Pitcairn islanders, died on 29 March 1829, after appointing Nobbs to succeed him. The latter possessed some knowledge of medicine and surgery, and exercised his skill with much benefit to the community. In addition, he acted as chief of the island, as pastor, and as schoolmaster. In August 1852 Rear-admiral Fairfax Moresby in H.M.S. Portland visited the island and conveyed Nobbs to England, where, in October and November 1852, he received episcopal ordination, and was placed on the list of the missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, with a salary of 50l. a year. On 14 May 1853 he relanded on Pitcairn Island, and resumed his duties. In course of time the Pitcairn fund committee suggested to the islanders that it would be to their advantage to remove to Norfolk Island, and, after consideration, Nobbs and those under him settled on the latter island on 8 June 1856. Here the pastor received an additional 50l. a year out of the revenue of the island, and his people, except a few who returned to Pitcairn Island, lived happily under a model constitution given them by Sir William Thomas Denison [q. v.], the governor-general of the Australian colonies. Nobbs died at the chaplaincy, Norfolk Island, on 5 Nov. 1884, and was buried on 7 Nov. He married Sarah Christian, a granddaughter of Fletcher Christian [q. v.], one of the mutineers of the Bounty, by whom he had several children. Two of his sons were educated at St. Augustine's College, Canterbury—Sidney Herbert Nobbs, who became curate of Pagham, Chichester, in 1882, and George Rawden French Nobbs, who was rector of Lutwyche, Brisbane, Queensland, from 1887 to 1890, and still resides in Australia.

[A Sermon preached in St. Mary's Chapel, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, on Sunday, 12 Dec. 1852, by the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, to which is added an Appendix containing Notices of Mr. Nobbs and his flock, 1853, with portrait; Lady Belcher's Mutineers of the Bounty, 1870, pp. 186 et seq., with portraits of Nobbs and two of his daughters; Bath Chronicle, 22 Jan. 1885, p. 3; Tasmanian Tribune, 13 March 1875.]

G. C. B.