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Tom Christian MBE (1 November 1935 – 7 July 2013) was a citizen of Pitcairn Island, and was its long-serving radio operator.[1][2] During his lifetime, Christian was profiled in a number of publications, including National Geographic and People magazines.[3]

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
Born(1935-11-01)1 November 1935
Died7 July 2013(2013-07-07) (aged 77)
NationalityPitcairn Islander
OccupationRadio operator
Known forThe "voice of Pitcairn"

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

When Christian was 17, he left the island for New Zealand and stayed for three years, where he was trained to operate the 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]

Christian was described as one of the two most sought after amateur radio operators in the world.[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]

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 American Radio Relay League, 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 amateur radio operators.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Margalit Fox (24 August 2013). "Tom Christian, Descendant of Bounty Mutineer, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Tom Christian". The Telegraph. 19 August 2013. Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Christian, one of the few Pitcairners of his generation to be educated abroad, became an internationally known amateur 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 (17 April 1989). "Trouble in Christian's Paradise". People. Archived from the original on 24 August 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 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. 30 July 2013. Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 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.