Edward Bell was the clerk on board HMS Chatham during its’ voyage in 1791 – 92 in the Pacific as tender to HMS Discovery, George Vancouver’s main expedition vessel. Bell kept a journal – an MS version is at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington (NZ) and is interesting for the light that it throws on Peggy Stewart’s love for George Stewart and their daughter Charlotte (also known as ‘Little Peggy’).
Some quotes from Bell’s journal entries:
“We were surprised today at seeing alongside in a double canoe, 3 women all dressed in white linen shirts,and having each a fine young child in their arms, perfectly white (…) they were women who had cohabited with some of the Bounty mutineers and these little ones were the offspring of their amours (…) the women called themselves by the names of those with whom they had lived, with the addition of a Christian name …Peggy Stewart, Mary McIntosh and Mary Bockett…” (27 Dec 1791)
“Poor Peggy was not a beauty, nor had she in her appearance that I should suppose would ever tempt a man to turn Pirate but she is possessed of much sensibility, an affable, agreeable disposition together with a sweetness of manners that upon a short acquaintance made up for the deficiency of personal beauty. She was immoderately fond of her little child and seldom without it…” (24 Jan 1792)
“She frequently asked if Stewart would be hung and at those times burst into a flood of tears (when told it was likely)(…) she informed us that the Pandora had been here and had taken 13 of the Bounty’s people and sailed from here about 8 months ago (…) she pleaded two midshipmen Stewart and
Hayward Heywood’s part very strongly, and endeavoured to impress us with an idea that they were in no way concerned with the mutiny”(….)(folio 72)
“Peggy Stewart came today with a present and as usual brought her child with her, she was much distressed by Capt. Vancouver telling her that Stewart and Heywood would be hung on their arrival in England with the other mutineers…“ (folio 88)
At the time these entries were written, George Stewart was already dead, drowned during the Pandora wreck on 29th Aug 1791; however this news would not reach Tahiti for a considerable length of time, possibly Peggy was not directly informed until the arrival in 1795 of the London Missionary Society’s missionaries. It is said she died of a broken heart upon hearing this news.