Thursday, May 14, 2009

William Marsters, Palmerston Island, Cook Islands - an anti-hero?

But what makes a hero appear to fall from grace to perhaps become an anti-hero?

Again, sticking to Google, the definition that illuminates certain characteristics about our family hero includes: “…The character [has] ambiguous morals, or character defects and eccentricities…” Marsters may not totally be described as a hero.

There were some definite shortfalls in his character. He wasn’t an axe murderer or anything terrible, but it cannot be denied that he had some “character defects and eccentricities” . These had already been noticed by observers who met him during his travels around the Pacific (refer to "Stories of Palmerston - Sisters of the Sun").

Most significantly, it must be admitted that he did have an unusual attitude towards marriage and friendship. He married Akakaingaro (whom he called Sarah) soon after he arrived in Penrhyn around about 1856 and took her and their children with him on his journeys around the islands as he worked on the trading boats.

It was not too long after he arrived on Palmerston in 1863 with Sarah and his two sons, that he engaged in a polygamous relationship with his wife’s cousin, Tepou, who had originally been brought from Penrhyn to look after Sarah’s young children.

He later also became involved in a relationship with Matavia, the wife of his best friend. Jean-Baptiste Fernandez who had left his wife behind on Palmerston while he worked on the whaling ships in the region. Yet, although Portugese Fernandez would have been surprised by his wife’s coffee-coloured children on his return, it did not appear to spoil is relationship with his best friend and drinking buddy.

All told, Marsters had 22 children to these three women on Palmerston. And apparently they lived quite harmoniously together – each with their own residences around the island (refer “The Masters of Walcote” Chapter 1.)

This attitude to multiple relationships at the same time could possibly have evolved from England where (in 1851, as Richard Masters) he married Charlotte Farmer from his home village of Walcote (most probably at his father’s coercion) to legitimize his son. Yet a couple of years later he also had a daughter to a woman called Sarah who may have lived in a de facto relationship with him - she was named Sarah Masters on the entry of their daughter’s baptism record in the St Leonards Church, in Misterton.

On Palmerston, he openly engaged in the polygamous relationships with his recognized wife, Sarah and her cousins Tepou and Matavia. Yet, despite his own situation, he did not allow his sons to behave similarly which exemplifies the “…ambiguous morals, character defects and eccentricities…” of the definition above.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi
    In reference to the Fish Market in William Marsters made references to when conveying stories to his decendents, I found this article in the History of Leicester. -

    Maybe this is the Fish Market we have been looking for???