Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Reverend George Harrison

In 1821 the frigate Morning Cloud left Bristol in the South Pacific on a mission of exploration and trade. On arriving at the Rongo Rongo Islands, the crew put ashore for fresh water and food, but upon landing the shore party attacked a group of natives killing thirty of them with their superior firepower and then capturing and raping three women that had been with them. In the night however a raiding party of islanders moving stealthily under the cover of darkness, cut the mooring ropes of the ship which then ran aground on the reefs on the east side of the island. As the ship began to break up, the crew were forced to come ashore and were captured. One of the victims of the ensuing massacre was Rev. George Harrison of Islington who had joined the ship with the intention of founding a Baptist mission on one of the islands. It was later found out that Harrison and his companions had been eaten and his their heads shrunk and hung in the tribal leader's hut. Today the shrunken head of a caucasian man is displayed in the 'House of Independence National Museum of the Kingdom of Rongo Rongo' in the capital Mantatatutu and is reputed to be Harrison's. Relatives have asked for DNA testing to be carried out to determine whether the head is the priest's and have requested its return to England for proper burial, but the Rongo Rongo royal family has refused permission, claiming "the object (sic) is an important symbol of the fight of the Rongo Rongo people for their independence from colonial domination". The parishoners of Islington have begun a campaign to retrieve the head and asked the British Prime Minister to intervene.

Photo: the head of Reverend George Harrison

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