Tom Christian

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Tom Christian
Tom Christian on Pitcairn Island -- credit Neil Tweedie
Tom Christian, one of the leaders of the Pitcairn Island community, descended from Royal Navy deserters and Polynesian women -- credit Neil Tweedie
Born (1935-11-01)November 1, 1935
Pitcairn Island
Died July 7, 2013(2013-07-07) (aged 77)
Pitcairn Island
Nationality Pitcairn Islander
Occupation Radio operator
Known for The "voice of Pitcairn"

Tom Christian MBE was a citizen of Pitcairn Island, who was its long-serving radio operator.[1][2] During his lifetime Christian was profiled in a number of publications, including National Geographic magazine and People magazine.[3]

Christian served as the Governor's appointee on the Pitcairn council for forty years.[4] In 1983 Christian had been appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry.

Christian left the island for New Zealand, when he was 17, for three years, where he was trained to operate radio station ZBP, first set up by the New Zealand military during World War II.[1] In 1989, according to People magazine, Christian was the highest paid Islander, earning $10,000.[3]

The Telegraph reported that Christian had spent other relatively brief periods off-island, that he had always been attracted to life off-island, and never expected to stay on the island so long.[2] Christian, like most Pitcairn Islanders, was a follower of Seventh-day Adventism, and worked for six months at a Seventh-day Adventist radio station in California. He also made several cruises as a radio operator on a freighter vessel. In later years Christian visited the outside world where he delivered lectures on Pitcairn and its history.[1]

In his New York Times obituary Christian was described as one of the HAM Radio world's two most sought after operators.[1] Christian, as the island's radio operator, with call sign VP6TC/VR6TC, served as "the voice of Pitcairn" from the mid-1950s to his retirement in 2004. His radio hut was atop spyglass hill, which, at 870 feet (270 m) elevation, is the highest point on the island.[3] He was awarded an MBE in 1983.

According to his New York Times obituary Christian and his wife Betty Christian took a firm stand during the Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004 against the idea that Polynesian people had different standards about the sexual initiation of minors.[1]

Christian died of the after-effects of a stroke.[1] He and Betty had four daughters, Darilene, Sherilene, Jacqueline, Raelene, and six grandchildren. According to the HAM radio association he had been diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's disease in 2009, and his health and awareness of his surroundings had steadily deteriorated since then.[4] His daughters Jacqueline and Raelene are also HAM radio operators.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Margalit Fox (2013-08-24). "Tom Christian, Descendant of Bounty Mutineer, Dies at 77". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Tom Christian". The Telegraph (UK). 2013-08-19. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-08-25. Christian, one of the few Pitcairners of his generation to be educated abroad, became an internationally known ham radio operator, and as chief radio officer of the island maintained the islanders’ link with the rest of the world for many decades. Among other things, he imported the first electric fridges, battery lights and motorcycles to Pitcairn; served on the island’s governing council; and developed a sideline as an entrepreneur, selling such things as postcards, mail-order filmstrips, and carvings. 
  3. ^ a b c Harriet Shapiro (1989-04-17). "Trouble in Christian's Paradise". People magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2013-08-24. Christian rides to work on a battered Honda motorbike, jouncing over the rough-cut road that runs like a red dirt ribbon up the steep flank of a spyglass hill. At the windblown summit, 870 feet above sea level, Christian, 51, parks his bike outside the single-story building that houses the Taro Ground radio transmitter. As chief radio officer, he is responsible for maintaining the only official link between the 46 men, women and children of Pitcairn Island and the rest of humanity. 
  4. ^ a b "Tom Christian, VP6TC/VR6TC, SK". American Radio Relay League. 2013-07-30. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-08-25. Tom Christian, VP6RC/VR6TC, a long-time radio amateur who became known as “the Voice of Pitcairn,” died July 7 on the tiny South Pacific Island that was his lifelong home.