Peter Zerface

Peter Zerface painted by Jennifer Toombs
The following is taken from edition 6 of the "Pitcairn Postcard magazine" *

In the conclusion to my book HGK’s Pitcairn Time Capsule, I wrote “X10 and X11 were included in the book The Romance of Pitcairn Island by W. Y. Fullerton in which the author wrote about his two hour stop at Pitcairn on 3rd July 1921 aboard the Paparoa … Mr Fullerton credits the two photographs to a Mr Zerface (I would love to know who he was!).” Well now I do know who he was. Peter Zerface, like Henry Keyse, was a barber working for the New Zealand Shipping Company. 

Henry Keyse’ photographs of Pitcairn were taken some time between 1916 and 1923, and I know that Peter Zerface‘s Pitcairn photographs were taken between 1916 and 1921.

My research has shown that Peter Zerface was not the barber on the Paparoa when Fullerton was on board, the barber on that ship was one E. J. Dovey if I am reading the  writing on the ‘Agreement and Account of Crew’ for the voyage correctly. Peter Zerface was the barber on the Ruahine at the time.

The Ruahine’s first call at Pitcairn was on 26th November 1916, at which time several people went ashore including Captain E. T. Smith, and many Islanders visited the Ruahine and received presents. It is my opinion that Peter Zerface took his Pitcairn photographs at this time.

A close examination of the photograph of the large group of Islanders and children shows them holding various items, and one boy seems to be holding a boxed toy car.

Peter Zerface, 1918
Peter Zerfahs was born c.1881 in Chelsea, London, later changing the spelling of his name to Zerface. He worked as a barber, first in Leyton, and then joined the New Zealand Shipping Company. He married Amy Clinch on 31st December 1913 when he gave his usual residence as Picton and his current residence as SS Ruahine

The photograph on the left was taken in 1918 for his employment identity card.

During the second world war, Peter was working on board the Rangitane. On 27th November 1940, she was sunk by the Germans after the crew and passengers had left the ship in lifeboats. The story of this event is given on Trevor Bell’s excellent website where you will find a link to a fascinating Pathe News movie clip showing the rescued survivors of the Rangitane. There is a great shot showing Peter Zerface waving to the camera.

This link will take you to a newspaper report from 1941 of the survivors of the Rangitane who were rescued from Emirau Island.

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*Copies of the magazine are available for sale here.