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Launch medallion for London Missionary Society's flagship JOHN WILLIAMS

Date: 1844
Dimensions:
Overall: 41 x 41 mm, 3 mm
Medium: Metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Medallion
Object No: 00030688
Place Manufactured:England

User Terms

    Description
    This medallion commemorates the launch of the London Missionary Society's Pacific Ocean flagship JOHN WILLIAMS (I) in 1844. The work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in general and John Williams in particular led to a greater understanding of the potential of trade and colonisation in the Pacific.
    SignificanceThe European occupation of Australia and the Pacific in the late 1700s to early 1800s resulted in the slavery or repression of the indigenous inhabitants. After an influx of soldiers, convicts, settlers and traders came the arrival of missionaries and preachers who attempted to 'save' the local inhabitants. Many missionary societys attempted to take their message and their protection to the most remote parts of the Pacific by either buying, chartering or building ships such as the JOHN WILLIAMS, built by the London Missionary Society in 1844.
    HistoryThe London Missionary Society (LMS) was founded in 1795 as a non-denominational organisation dedicated to spreading the Christian faith in the non-European world. Although non-denominational its primary support after 1836 was from the Congregational Church of England. The Society sent missionaries to Africa, China, India, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Islands. The Society's missionary activities in the Pacific were on a number of occasions blended with speculative trading which ensured close links with Sydney's merchants and traders. This included links with all of the JOHN WILLIAMS vessels and the LMS's other ships MESSENGER OF PEACE and HAWEIS which were involved in trading ventures throughout the Pacific.

    John Williams was born in England in 1796 and grew up as a member of the Congregational Church of England, later converting to the Calvanistic Methodists and joining the Tabernacle Church. In September 1816 he volunteered and was accepted for missionary service with the London Missionary Society. In November 1816 Williams, along with William David Bourne (1794-1871); David Darling (1790-1867) and George Platt (1789 - 1865) sailed for the South Pacific to take up the position of missionaries in Tahiti.

    Williams preached throughout the Pacific, held prayer meetings in Sydney and Hobart, bought the ship HAWEIS to trade between the islands and New South Wales, and planted and harvested sugar cane and tobacco to provide a cash crop for the missions. The 72-ton HAWEIS was built on the island of Moorea. The vessel was launched in December 1817 by King Pomare of Tahiti, and was named after Dr Thomas Haweis whose interests led to the founding of the London Missionary Society.

    In 1837/38, Williams gave evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines. He was influential in the establishment of the NSW Aborigines Protection Society and the Auxiliary Missionary Society in Sydney.
    Returning to Sydney in early 1838 Williams drew considerable crowds at public meetings before sailing off to the Pacific Islands. On 20 November 1839 John Williams was killed whilst trying to establish a missionary on the island of Eromanga in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).

    The work of the London Missionary Society in general and John Williams in particular led to a greater understanding of the potential of trade and colonisation in the Pacific. Williams believed that Australia had a duty to to support the Christianisation of the islands of the Pacific which would not only save souls but would also make travel safer.

    JOHN WILLIAMS (I) was a wooden, three-masted barque of 296 tons. 101.0' (L) x 24.6 ' (B) x 16.0' (D). Felted and sheathed in yellow metal the barque was built at Harwich, England in 1844, London registered, rated 12 A1 at Lloyds and owned and operated by the London Missionary Society.

    According to THE SHIPPING GAZETTE AND SYDNEY GENERAL TRADE LIST (202/11/1844) 'the expense of building this fine vessel was raised by subscriptions by children attending Sunday Schools in England. Reports have reached Sydney of her being a superior vessel, and upon inspection she exceeds what was anticipated. She was launched at Harwich on the 20th March, 1844, in the presence of a vast concourse of people…'. After many years of active service JOHN WILLIAMS (I) was wrecked on a reef at Danger Island, Cook Group on 16 May, 1864. The vessel was speedily replaced by JOHN WILLIAMS (II) which was subsequently wrecked on Niue Island on 8 January, 1867.

    The medal is inscribed on the obverse THE JOHN WILLIAMS MISSIONARY SHIP / LAUNCHED AT HARWICH MAR. 20. 1844; / 296 TONS; LENGTH 103 FEET, / BREADTH 24 FEET 8 INCHES, / DEOTH IN HOLD 16 FEET; / HAS 10 STATE ROOMS. On the reverse THIS SHIP/ THE PROPERTY OF THE / LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY / IS INTENDED TO CONVEY / ITS MISSIONARIES TO THE ISLANDS / OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC / AND TO BE EMPLOYED IN VISITING / THE DIFFERENT GROUPS OF ISLANDS / IN THAT OCEAN / IN PROMOTING THE GOSPEL / AMONG THEM / SHE HAS BEEN PURCHASED FROM / A FUND OF UPWARDS OF 6200 [pounds] / RAISED BY / THE JUVENILE FRIENDS / OF THE / SOCIETY.
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