Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tales of the South Pacific — The Bambridge Family


Tahitian cemetery markers. The stone at the back is for John
Bambridge. The marker is for Mary Ann, her daughter Florey,
and her mother Popua. Photo by Allegra Marshall (2016).



Mary Ann Tapscott, “Mere,” the only known child of John Tapscott and Popoua Taurami, was born 16 Dec 1867 on, it is claimed, Maiana, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands. She died in Pirae, Tahiti, French Polynesia on 28 Nov 1918. Mary Ann and her mother, Popoua, have identical death dates, likely due to the influenza epidemic. (Thanks to Allegra Marshall for suggesting this.) The two died the same month that the disease was introduced to Tahiti by the arrival of ailing passengers on the ship Navuna (Monique Layton, The New Arcadia: Tahiti's Cursed Myth). The pandemic is claimed to have killed one-seventh of Tahiti’s inhabitants.

On 5 Feb 1885 Mary Ann married John Maehaa Bambridge (20 Jun 1859-30 Aug 1898), one of 17 children of missionary Thomas Bambridge (1801-1879) and Tahitian wife, Maraea O'Connor (1817-1881). John’s first wife, Hamoura Roau, had died the year before leaving 4 children.

Suzanne Bambridge by Paul Gauquin, 1891
(Wikimedia Commons).
John and Mary Ann and had nine children, one of whom, the last born, Florey Nui Bambridge (10 Oct 1898 – 10 Dec 1902), is buried with her parents. Another child, “Bill” Bambridge, born 18 Aug 1892 in Papeete, Tahiti, as William Moari'imaiterai Bambridge, was an actor and assistant director, with roles in the Oscar winning movies “Tabu: a Story of the South Seas” (1931) and “Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). A grandson, Ben Bambridge, had a role in the 1956 movie “The Tahitian,” and was a principal, though questionable, source for the tale of the “pirate” John Tapscott. A major painting by the French post impressionist Paul Gauguin portrayed Mary Ann’s sister-in-law Suzanne Teriimarama Bambridge.

Descendants of John Maehaa Bambridge and wives
Mary Ann Tapscott and Hamoura Roau, at the Pirae,
Tahiti City Hall (Overblog, “Tahiti Passion,” 2006).

In 2003 the extensive and well-known Bambridge family was the subject of a photographic exhibit, “De Londres a Tahiti - la Famille Bambridge et Allies,” in Papeete, the Tahitian capital of French Polynesia. The display combined photography with genealogy and history to describe the descendants of Thomas and Maraea with their European, Polynesian and Chinese bloodlines.

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