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Pritchard, George (DNB00)


PRITCHARD, GEORGE (1796–1883), missionary and consul at Tahiti, born in Birmingham on 1 Aug. 1796, worked from childhood with his father, a journeyman brass-founder, and showed great mechanical skill. While he was a youth, he and his family attended Carr's Lane Chapel, and he became a local preacher in villages around Birmingham. Having resolved to undertake missionary work, he left with his wife (Miss Ayllen, West Meon, Hampshire) in a cargo ship for Tahiti, in the Society Islands of the Pacific Ocean, on 27 July 1824. Pritchard and his wife were welcomed on their arrival by the queen, Pomare, and he was shortly appointed British consul for the Georgian, Society, Navigator's, and Friendly Islands. On 21 Nov. 1836 the queen refused to admit to her dominions two French priests, Laval and Garret, from Gambia Island, and there followed a long quarrel with the French government, which ended in the islands being placed under French protection in 1842, and a temporary annexation by France in 1843. Pritchard advised the queen throughout this critical period, and helped to pay in 1838 an indemnity of two thousand Spanish dollars summarily demanded by the French admiral, Du Petit-Thouars. In 1841 he went to England to lay before the British government the case of the dispossessed queen, and to describe the outrages which the invaders inflicted upon British subjects ; but he returned in February 1843 without obtaining any genuine guarantee of security. On 5 March 1844 he was seized by the French authorities on the pretence that he encouraged disaffection among the natives. Captain Gordon, of H.M.S. Cormorant, procured his release, on condition that he should leave the islands and never return. He sailed in the Cormorant to Valparaiso, whence he reached London. The English government thereupon demanded of the French an apology and pecuniary reparation. Pritchard asserted that his property had suffered damage to the amount of 4,000l. Eventually, in the queen's speech of 1845 announcement was made that the difficulty had been satisfactorily adjusted. Pritchard subsequently lived in retirement in England, dying at Hove, near Brighton, in May 1883 in his eighty-seventh year. His widow and several children survived him.

He published : 'The Missionary's Reward, or the Success of the Gospel in the South Pacific,' with an introduction by the Rev. J. A. James, 1844; and 'Queen Pomare and her Country,' 1878, 8vo, with an introduction by Henry Allon ; he also left in manuscript 'The Aggressions of the French at Tahiti and other Islands in the Pacific.'

[Annual Reg. 1844, p. 260; Dumoulin et Desgraz, lies Täiti ; Brief Statement of the Aggressions of the French on Tahiti (London Missionary Society, 1883); private information.]

S. T.