Photo by Michael Gill

Marie Christian Thomas
Conference Speaker


Title of talk:  "A Photographic Journey through Pitcairn’s Present and Past with Marie Christian and Tony Probst"

Video of talk (Marie speaks in the second half, beginning after 31 minutes) 
Photography by Marie Christian Thomas


Marie Christian Thomas, a sixth-generation descendant of Fletcher Christian, leader of the Mutiny on the Bounty, was born and grew up on Pitcairn Island.  The daughter of Linas and Gifford Christian and the second youngest of seven siblings, Mrs. Thomas was raised with her three brothers and three sisters.  School was begun at the age of five and ended at age fifteen.  Mrs. Thomas recalls that in those years there was no crime and no television.  In fact, there were no modern conveniences at all on Pitcairn.  Wheelbarrows were still used to haul firewood, heavy loads, and sometimes even kids, up and down the steep hills.  Open fires were used both for cooking and for heating bath water in a 44-gallon drum.  A large stone oven was used to bake bread.  Life was simple, and everyone was happy.

When Mrs. Thomas was 16, the family left Pitcairn Island and moved to Wellington, New Zealand to start a new life in another world.  The family adjusted to all the worldly things such as cars, telephones, television, grocery stores and paved streets.  Marie’s first job was at a laundry, folding sheets.  Then she became a worker and model at a hosiery factory.  Later she performed office work at Kodak Industries.

In 1971 Mrs. Thomas returned to Pitcairn Island with her two children, Anne and Graham.  There she met Leroy Thomas, who was to become her future husband.  He had been sent to Pitcairn Island by Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico to perform some experiments in the South Pacific.  They became friends, and he fell in love with her son, Graham.  Mr. Thomas was on Pitcairn for only three months; and, when he left, Marie didn't know if she would ever see him again.  The only communication they had was by mail, which took up to six months while anxiously awaiting a reply.

Mrs. Thomas and her children returned to New Zealand in 1972, and she continued to keep in touch with Leroy.  When he was laid off from his job at Sandia National Laboratories, he traveled to New Zealand where they were reunited.  Mr. Thomas lived with a family from church, and Marie and her children lived with her oldest sister and her family.  Nine months later Leroy gave Marie the diamond ring from his own finger, explaining that he had been wearing it only until he met the right person to whom to present it.  Shortly afterwards they had a civil wedding ceremony, giving Leroy the opportunity to adopt the children.

Today Mr. and Mrs. Thomas reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Mrs. Thomas runs estate sales, and they also own rental properties which keep them busy.  Even though Pitcairn Island is a great distance away, the ancestral family ties are kept strong through telephone and email.




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Last updated October 10, 2012

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