Father Receveur, was both a member of the Franciscan order and a scientist — unusual but for the time (the Enlightenment) fairly common. He was vital to the Laperouse expedition, travelling aboard the Astrolabe, the second of the expedition’s ships commanded by ‘Fleuriot de Langle’ Laperouse’s ‘right hand man.’
While on their way to Botany Bay from a long journey down from the northern Pacific a stopover to replenish supplies was called for. The two ships anchored at Tutuila in the Samoan Islands. All went reasonably well but, just prior to departure, a group from the expedition went to source fresh water and were attacked by indigenous inhabitants. Fleuriot de Langle was killed along with 11 others, and Father Receveur was gravely injured. On 17 February 1788 after around three weeks in Botany Bay he succumbed to his wounds and the very first Catholic ceremony here was performed at his burial. His grave is kept to this day by local authorities and each year he is remembered.
Hyacinthe de Bougainville commissioned the tomb in 1825 but it wasn’t completed until 1828 under the direction of Captain Piper.
The inscription on the tomb in French says ‘Here lies L Receveur French Priest of Friars Minor, Scientist in the Voyage Around the World under the leadership of de Laperouse, died February 17th, 1788.’
A Pere Receveur Mass is celebrated at La Perous every year in his honour.