I’m very sad to say, that this week, one of my favourite Pitcairn residents, Keane Warren passed away. You will have seen images of him on this blog, and Keane was one of the few people on the island who I could truly call a friend and never judged me or questioned my motivations.
Keane was the stand in pastor while I was on island, and was married to Daphne. He is also “Pirate” Pawl’s father. He and Daphne lived upstairs from Pawl and Sue in fact, so I’d often make double visits. Popping in to say hello to Daphne and Keane before heading downstairs to Pawl and Sue.
In my first weeks on Pitcairn I got quite badly sunburnt after an impromptu fishing trip left me somewhat unprepared for the hours in an open topped boat. The next morning at around 7:45 am, I emerged bleary eyed from my room at Big Fence, to find both Daphne and Keane perched expectantly in the living area bearing their respective cures. Daphne had Avon moisturiser, which she swore would be the fastest path to relief. Keane poo pooed her product, instead wielding his own concoction of homemade coconut oil.
The pair looked at me with such expectation, I felt as though I was having to choose a favourite child or something. Unsure of what to do in the midst of their bickering over whose was best, and not wishing to offend either of them, I chose the path of diplomacy. I pulled over a chair, accepted both gifts, and then announced it was going to be a competition.
I put Daphne’s Avon cream on one arm, and Keane’s coconut oil on the other, and vowed to do the same until one of them “won” the race. I thought by that point, both would have forgotten all about it. A couple of days passed and it was clear that Keane’s product had won hands down – I suppose you can’t really argue with nature.
I didn’t really want to bring it up, so the next time I saw the pair together I managed to avoid it, but later on, I saw Keane driving his quad in the road and stopped him. I congratulated him on his wonderful coconut oil and conspiratorially whispered not to tell Daphne. He tapped his nose indicating it was our secret, and grinned broadly, pleased with himself and enjoying the banter. His face always reminded me somehow of a baby’s – wide eyed, open… innocent somehow. He had a childlike, slightly mischievous, quality that somehow seemed to transcend his years, and in part reminded me of my late grandfather.
There were many other island moments with Keane I could go into, but I’ll mention just a couple….
Firstly, I loved his outfits. Fishing Keane was a favourite – vest top (or “singlet”), ragged shorts, and a knife belt. Somehow the whole look conjured up images of an ageing Bruce Willis in some future incarnation of Die Hard. Then there was his church look – which resembled a cowboy or a town sheriff. Usually a vertically striped shirt tucked into dark slacks, with a Western-esque belt strapped tightly around his girth. The look would often be completed with a pair of dusty Crocs (the Pitcairn footwear of choice) which always made me smile. Smart, smart, and then oh ok, cowboy, and then ….hmmm. Crocs. Keane had his own sense of style. I don’t know that he realised it, but he did.
I also have to thank Keane again, for his last church service, and for arranging the Sweet Bye and Bye. I’ve mentioned it before, and I mentioned it on Radio 4, but I’ll say it again. Many people thought Keane was very forgetful, but he didn’t forget his promises. It was the most touching of moments, knowing that at least one person on island was willing to publicly display their friendship with me like that. Most people could be nice in private, but publicly didn’t seem to want to have much to do with me. Keane and Daphne were the first people to really buck that trend and make an effort and I considered both to be true friends. They ignored public opinion, and made their own decisions, and in that way were very ‘un-Pitcairn’ about things.
In fact, I have had little contact with the island since I left – a few Facebook messages here and there, but I had phoned Daphne and Keane twice since my departure. I saw them as surrogate grandparents and I missed them. Keane was always so genuinely excited to hear my voice, and it was partly their enthusiasm that made me feel that my stay on Pitcairn hadn’t been in vain.
I was very sad to hear of his passing – and it is times like this where distances feel so vast. When I last spoke to them, they were excitedly prepping for their trip to New Zealand – going off for medicals, but also to see family – a rare opportunity when you live on Pitcairn. While away in Wellington, Keane suffered a fall, and ended up in hospital in an induced coma, and never recovered. I wish I could have been closer, as I’d love to see Daphne and give her a big squeeze, and I also feel for Pawl – still marooned on Henderson island, who didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to his dad. I’ll be thinking of all of the family – most of whom I never met, but heard so much about that I feel that I know them, and I’ll also be thinking of everyone on Pitcairn – for losing one of your number in such a small place has a huge impact, and even those who had their differences with the family will feel his loss.
I said in my last blog post that I felt that the Pitcairn I left will never be the same again – and it’s true – I can’t imagine Pitcairn without Keane, he loved it there and always wanted to show off the best of the island to anyone who was willing. Pitcairn could do with some more advocates like him.
It’s time to sign off – but I’d like to thank Keane for making me feel welcome, and for showing me love against the odds. Though oceans separate us, I’m thinking of all of Keane’s friends and family, but particularly of Daphne and Pawl.
Keane, or the “Captain”, – we salute you, we miss you, we love you.