PITCAIRN DESCENDANTS OF THE 'BOUNTY' MUTINEERS
Part 2

         

According to Adams, once the Bounty departed Tahiti for the third and final time, following the failed settlement and bloodshed in Tubuai, there was no definite destination. The Marquesas Islands were first discussed, but Christian, availing himself of the volumes of voyages of discovery in Bligh's library, read Captain Carteret's description of Pitcairn. The island was very remote, uninhabited and devoid of anchorage, ensuring that a passing ship would be less inclined to loiter; and so it was there he had steered the Bounty's course.

On arrival, Christian and a reconnaissance party went ashore and returned greatly satisfied. They had found wood, water, fruit trees and rich soil. They had also discovered a mountainous and difficult land with narrow, easily defensible passes and a number of caves; the island was the perfect outlaw's redoubt. (Christian had returned to the ship with 'a joyful expression such as we had not seen on him for a long time past.' Adams told a later visitor.) The ship was slowly unloaded and then burned. While the settlement was being built, the mutineers lived under the Bounty's sails; and when these were no longer required for shelter, the cloth had been cut up to fashion clothes. Thus had this small ship served her company to the very end. Her guns and anchors were observed by later visitors to be lying in the shallow water of Bounty Bay.

The massacre of the mutineers and the blacks had taken place in several waves of violence, and principally arose from the fact that the Englishmen had come to regard their Otaheitean friends as slaves. Fletcher Christian was killed in the first wave as he tilled his yam field. McCoy and Mills heard his groans, but decided it was Christian's wife calling him to dinner. 'Thus fell a man, who, from being the reputed ringleader of the mutiny, had obtained an unenviable celebrity,' wrote Beechey, adding by way of another of his editorials, 'and whose crime may perhaps be considered as in some degree palliated, by the tyranny which led to its commission.' Captain Beechey and the Blossom departed Pitcairn on 20 December 1825, continuing on their own voyage of discovery throughout the Pacific and Bering Strait, as part of the Admiralty's new polar ventures. The Blossom did not return to England until 1828. The full import of this voyage would be made manifest two years later.

One of the items of interest that Beechey brought away on the blossom was the diary of Edward Young, one of the most enigmatic of the mutineers. The journal, which Young started towards the end of 1793, some two months after the death of Christian in the first wave of massacres - in some accounts - was said by Beechey to give evidence of Young's education and 'serious turn of mind'. His journal, which was never to be seen or cited again, opened a window on a dark, largely undisclosed aspect of island life - the unhappiness of the island's women. Only one of the female pioneers - Teehuteatuaonoa, nicknamed Jenny - even gave her own version of the early days of settlement, and that only after she had escaped from Pitcairn - she had hitched a passage with Captain Reynolds on the Sultan, some years before, in 1817. From Young's and Teehuteatuaonoa's accounts, and the occasional incautious remark of John Adams, a more complete and complicated history of this exemplary community emerged.

With the exception of the female companions of Christian and Quintal, and Jenny herself who had once been the 'wife' of Adams, all the women brought to Pitcairn had been kidnapped. When the Bounty had arrived at Matavai Bay on its final visit, the usual friendly visitors came on board, including eighteen women, one with a child. After the women went below for supper, Christian ordered the anchor cable cut. Although told that the ship was only going around the island, the women realized the truth when they passed through and beyond the ref; one courageous woman had dived overboard. After this, Christian had been careful not to bring the ship too close to other landfalls, knowing, as Jenny said, that several of the women would have tried to swim to shore. Off the island of Eimeo, five or six leagues from Tahiti, six of the women 'who were rather ancient' and presumably deemed physically unattractive were sent ashore.

After scouting several islands, Christian set out for Pitcairn, a search during which two full months would pass without seeing land. During this time, 'all on board were much discouraged: they therefore thought of returning to Otaheite.' But at last, on the evening of 15 January 1790, the island was seen rising like a great rock from the ocean. For three days a fierce wind held them at bay, preventing any landing; that the island was so effectively defended by the elements may have been seen as a favourable omen. With the aid of a raft, the men methodically unloaded the Bounty, and when everything had been removed they debated what to do with the ship. 'Christian wished to save her for awhile,' jenny said, but while they were debating, Matthew Quintal had gone on board and set a fire in the bow; later, two others followed and fired other parts of the ship. But during the night 'all were in tears at seeing her in flames. Some regretted exceedingly that they had not confined Capt. Bligh and returned to their native country, instead of acting as they had done.'   

Prisoners now of the island, the women set to work. It would be their skills of homemaking, their knowledge of preparing the familiar fruits and fish and fowl, and their traditions of making bark cloth and clothes that would carry the settlement. Passed around from one 'husband' to the other, as men died and the balance of power shifted, they rebelled. 'Since the massacre, it has been the desire of the greater part of them to get some conveyance, to enable them to leave the island,' Edward Young recorded in his diary. Shortly before, he had come upon jenny handling the skull of jack Williams and learned to his amazement and horror that the women had refused to bury the slaughtered men. 'I thought that if the girls did not agree to give up the heads of the five white men in a peaceable manner, they ought to be taken by force, and buried,' wrote Young indignantly; he was after all a gentleman. One of these unburied skulls belonged to Fletcher Christian, whose head, according to Jenny, had been 'disfigured' with an axe after he was killed.

The women's desperation finally prompted the men to build them a small boat, according to Young, who also reported that Jenny in her zeal had ripped boards out of her own house for building material. On 13 August 1794, the little vessel was completed, and two days later launched. But the women's hopes of a return to their native land were bitterly dashed when the vessel foundered, 'according to expectation,' as Young wrote, with masculine amusement. Miserably, the women returned to their captors. The 'wives' of McCoy and Quintal - who, as Beechey had to comment, 'appear to have been of very quarrelsome dispositions' - were frequently beaten.

A grave was duly dug for the murdered men's bones. Three months later 'a conspiracy of the women to kill the white men in their sleep was discovered.' No punishment was inflicted, but as Young recorded, 'We did not forge their conduct; and it was agreed among us, that the first female who misbehaved should be put to death.' And so the years passed. A multitude of offspring were born to the women, who had been passed promiscuously around the male survivors. Jenny herself had formerly been the 'wife' of John Adams, who as Alexander Smith had tattooed her with his initials while they were on Tahiti. When he left her she was turned over to Isaac martin. With the arrival of the Sultan in 1817, Jenny at last made good her escape, returning in a roundabout fashion after a voyage of some years, to her native Tahiti thirty-one years after she had departed. As the newsman who first recorded her story reported, she had been 'apparently a good looking woman in her time.' Her hands were hard from manual labour.

Mauatua (Christian's wife, known by him affectionately as Mainmast, perhaps for her height), Vahineatua, Teio (and her little daughter, Teatuahitea), Faahotu, Teraura, Obuarei, Tevarua, Toofaiti, Mareva, Tinafornea, and Jenny or Teehuteatuaonoa ... the names of the women who made the Pitcairn experiment succeed had rarely been evoked. Also evocative were the familiar names with which Jenny referred to the Bounty men - Billy Brown, Jack Williams, Neddy Young, Matt Quintal - the names of English lads one might run into on any waterfront. Christian on the other hand, as Adams reported reverentially, was always addressed as 'Mr. Christian'. As Lieutenant Belcher had been shrewd enough to perceive, the authority Christian possessed had held in check even those against his desperate scheme. Sleepless and the worse for drink, he seems to have succeeded with his mutiny in great part because he was the most popular man on board.

How much of his authority he retained to the end is difficult to tell. He clearly lost his grasp at Tubuai, and also the confidence of the sixteen men who at the last chose to leave him and take their chances on Tahiti. Events related by Jenny suggest that he was having difficulty holding his small band intact during the months in which they roamed the sea, seeking their new home. Adams, as often, contradicts himself: Christian 'was always cheerful,' he told Beechey, and was 'naturally of a happy, ingenuous disposition.' Yet, when discussing he island's geography Adams pointed out a cave, 'the intended retreat of Christian, in the event of a landing being effected by any ship sent in pursuit of him, and where he resolved to sell his life as dearly as he could.' In this cave, Adams told other ships, Christian was wont to retreat and brood. And what of Adam's earlier statements to Captains Staines and Pipon that Christian had 'by many acts of cruelty and inhumanity, brought on himself the hatred and detestation of his companions'?

Despite the heartfelt pronouncements of almost every visitor that 'for good morals, politeness of behavior,' as well as their 'strict adherence to the truth, and the principles of religion.' the Pitcairners had, thanks to John Adams, 'not their equals to be found on earth,' it is very unclear how much of anything Adams himself said was to be taken as truth. Most suspicious were his inconsistent stories of Christian's death. Was the story he spontaneously told Captain Folger, the first visitor to catch him unawares, the real truth? If so, then Fletcher Christian was killed in a single massacre that occurred on the island about four years after arrival. Or was the truth that which he elated, after a sober second thought, to Eolger's second mate - that Christian committed suicide? Why, when Christian's own wife was living, had Adams insisted that she had predeceased her husband? And what of his statement to Captain Pipon that the mutineers had divided into parties, 'seeking every opportunity on both sides to put each other to death'? Had Adams and Christian been of the same 'party'? Or had they been adversaries? What importance is to be attached to the striking fact that Adams was one of only two men left sanding in the wake of the massacres? Was it Adam's party that killed Christian? Cold it even be - impossible as it would seem of the venerable patriarch? - that it was Adams who killed Christian?

With the arrival of each ship eager to pay homage to the Christian miracle of Pitcairn, the wily survivor made subtle adjustments to his narration. From the tenor of the questions he was asked, he must have soon caught hold of the shape his story had taken in England. By the 1820s, Adams had introduced a new element: the mutiny had been caused by the 'remorseless severity' of Bligh, who had even subjected his mate, Fletcher Christian, 'to corporal chastisement.' Adams died in March 1829, on the day after his sixty-sixth birthday - if the date he had told the captain of the Maryland on her visit in 1824 was true. His power to shape and embellish the story, however, continued posthumously. Just before the pious old mutineer expired, one reverential tribute - uniquely, and many years after the fact - reported. 'He said in a whisper as his countenance lighted up with joy "Let go the anchor" and fell back upon his pillow and died.'

After Adam's death, the next generation continued the tradition of telling the story of the Bounty to the steady stream of curious visitors, if with some fuzziness as to details. In relating the famous coconut scene, for example, a Pitcairn narrator described how some 'fruit, which had been sent on board for the captain's cabin ... disappeared; Captain Bligh was exceedingly angry,' and had berated Christian by saying, 'I suppose you have eaten it yourself, you hungry hound!' ('Can we be surprised at insults of this nature rankling in the mind of a susceptible man, and driving him at last to the desperate deed ... ?' the visitor interjected.) these new narrators brought new details to light and accorded old ones new scrutiny. It was more openly recognized that Adams's safeguarding of his own daughters' virtue was in great part due to the fact that if they married they would cease to fill his own fields. His step-daughter was reported to retain 'most unpleasant recollections of John Adams, who she insists killed her mother by his cruel treatment of her.' The patriarch's insistence on religious observances had been rigorous, 'even to severity of discipline,' whatever that might have entailed. it was also said that when the Bounty arrived at Pitcairn and Christian went ashore to scout the island's there had been a plot afoot among those, such as Adams, who had remained on board to leave their ringleader and take the ship back to Tahiti.

The growing legend was, however, able to absorb all its discrepancies as well as all its darker elements. Truly unfavourable reports were largely ignored - such as an account that the pious youths had been caught red-handed brewing spirits very much like whisky; or that when Thursday October Christian had come on board the Briton, he had abruptly left the table when a West Indian member of the company entered, muttering, 'I don't like that black fellow, I must go.' Fletcher Christian's off-spring were generally treated with great tact and only very occasionally received anything less than flattering descriptions - such as the opinion of a visitor in 1830 that 'Thursday and Charles Christian, the sons of the mutineer, are ignorant, uneducated persons, unable to maintain superiority.'

As long ago as 1791, when the Pandora had been roaming the board Pacific in her hapless search for the Bounty, surgeon George Hamilton had mused on a far-fetched and, under the circumstance, inappropriate fantasy: should Christian 'elude the hand of justice, it may be hoped he will employ his talents in humanizing the rude savages, so that, at some future period, a British Ilion may blaze forth in the south, with all the characteristic virtues of the English nation, and complete the great prophecy, by propagating the Christian knowledge amongst the infidels.' And so, improbably, it had come to pass. Few in England, apparently, were able to discern that the Pitcairn Islanders' traits were more readily traced to their Polynesian ancestry than to English Christendom. Their selfless and communal identity, the much marvelled lack of locks on their doors, their open-handed generosity, their cleanliness - these were Otaheite characteristics that the men of the Bounty had admired, and not found in the society that had only recently ceased to gibbet executed criminals along the Thames.

This chapter of the Bounty saga was also to serve English poetry. 'Christina, the Maid of the south Seas' was written by Mary Russell Mitford in 1811, following the news of the discovery by the Topaz - the poem was then one of the few public responses to the event. Relating the love of Christian's daughter Christina for 'Henry', an English sailor somehow serving on the American Topaz, the poem received editorial assistance from two old Bounty hands: Rear Admiral James Burney, who had edited Bligh's log for publication , and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In an ill-advised p0reface, the authoress expressed some anguish at both having to recognize 'the sufferings of Captain Bligh' on the one hand and 'irritating the feelings of a highly respectable family' on the other; one may be sure that this in itself succeeded in irritating the Christian Curwens.

Another poet inspired by this mot romantic tale of love and exile was none other than that ach-romantic Lord Byron. By the time he published The Island in 1823, Byron was near the end of his wild life and had perfected his self-image as the dark-haired exile, dragging his intriguing taint of unspecified wrongdoing across Europe. Who better to immortalize the charismatic mutineer! And yet, in a role reversal of breathtaking unexpectedness, Byron championed William Bligh.

Awake, bold Bligh! the foe is at the gate!

Awake! awake! - Alas it is too late!

Fiercely beside thy cot the mutineer

Stands, and proclaims the reign of rage and fear.

As for the mutineers -

Young hearts, which languish'd for some sunny isle,
Where summer years and summer women smile;
Men without country, who, too long estranged,
Had found no native home, or found it changed,
And, half uncivilised, preferr'd the cave
Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave -

Perhaps Byrons's uncharacteristic disapproval of so romantic a figure arose from pique, a wounded sense that Fletcher Christian - his long hair loose, his shirt collar open - had out-Byroned Byron.)

A number of the survivors of the Bounty did not live to learn of Fletcher Christian's fate. Loyalist Charles Norman died in December 1793, which would explain his absence as a 'witness' in the duelling pamphlets of Bligh and Edward Christian. He had been buried in the Gosport church of his baptism, and o had not strayed far from Portsmouth Harbour after his acquittal and release. After the court-martial John Hallett joined the Penelope as third lieutenant, and a little over a year later, while the ship was in the West Indies, the muster indicates that he was 'Invalided' for the remainder of the voyage. Hallett did in Bedford in December 1794, 'after a long and severe illness,' as The times reported. Another obituary indicated he had lost the use of his limbs following the open-boat voyage, and although recovered sufficiently to make another voyage, he 'again lost the use of his limbs, and recovered them no more.' Hallett was only twenty-two years old at the time of his death. His parish church registry noted he had been a 'gentleman'.

A later tradition put out by the Heywood family represented that Mr Hallett had died on board the Penelope - and that in 'his last moments he expressed his contrition for the unfavourable evidence he had given against his friend peter Heywood.' He had been bewildered by the events of the mutiny and too much under the influence of lieutenant Bligh - so Hallett had himself confessed to 'one of the most distinguished flag-officers in the service, who was then first lieutenant of Penelope.' The first lieutenant of the Penelope had been Pulteney Malcolm - another of Thomas Pasley's nephews at it turns out, although this striking fact was not publicized. Doubtless, the rumour of Hallett's 'death on board', instead of by slow and dreadful paralysis allegedly resulting from his ordeals in the open boat, was intended to deflect invidious attention from those persons who had made him suffer. An elaborate memorial tablet of white marble in the chancel of St. Mary's, Bedford, reflected both his proud parents' grief and their social pretensions: amid engrailed sable arms and a demi-lion rampant was inscribed his epitaph: 'Juvenis Laboris patiens, Virtute praeditus, nec Tempestate nec Fama nec Periculo Fracta: A young patient in his duties, outstanding in his valour, broken neither by tempest, nor rumour nor danger.' The notion that 'Fama' - rumour - could be a threat to a naval officer of only twenty-two is so curious that one must suspect that it was pointed.

Lawrence Lebogue died in the spring of 1795, on board the Jason, while she was moored in Plymouth Harbour. Lebogue was forty-eight at the time of his death and had served Bligh loyally in the West Indies, on both breadfruit voyages, and in his outspoken affidavit on Bligh's behalf once back in England; for this latter he had incurred the full wrath of Edward Christian who had declared that Lebogue's was 'the most wicked and perjured affidavit that ever was sworn before a magistrate, or published to the world.' that the open-boat journey had ruined his health, as it had ruined so many others', is suggested by his suffering, like Bligh and John Smith, from fever on the Providence. Yet, when a friend of Bligh's looked the sailmaker up for a glass of grog after this ordeal, remarking wryly that this was 'better than being in the boat,' Lebogue had been dismissive.

'Oh damn me, I never think of the boat!' he had replied. Following his return to England with the last of the Pandiora's crew in September 1792, Thomas Hayward had joined the Diomede as second lieutenant. Incredibly, he was to endure yet another shipwreck, albeit less dramatic than that of the Pandora. Off the coast of Ceylon in August 1795, working against a strong wind, the ship struck a rock and gained water so quickly that there had only just been time to evacuate. The next year, Hayward received what was to be his last commission. Appointed commander of the 18-gun sloop Swift, he was en route from Macao to England with a convoy of merchantmen when overtaken by a violent typhoon in the south China Sea. The sloop was observed making signals of distress before foundering with all souls lost. Thomas Hayward was twenty-nine years old. In his short life he had served in ten ships and survived a mutiny, to historic open-boat voyages and two shipwrecks, before succumbing to the sea. He left behind him a series of unremarkable charts, which indicated ambition if no particular talent. His watchful father had given his some blank logbooks for the Bounty voyage. One of these was found in the Pitcairn library of old John Adams, still bearing the name of Thomas's father and a fanciful coat of arms with the motto 'Pro Deo patria et amicis' - for God, country and friends.  

George Simpson, the Bounty's quartermaster's mate, was found dead in his hammock on the Princess of Orange in 1801. No cause of death was given, and his personal effects were turned over to his father in the lake District.

William Muspratt had remained on the Hector until early February 1793, and following his successful legal plea had been discharged to the royal William, a ship on which it appears, however, he did not serve. Later the same year, however, he wrote a will identifying himself as 'a Seaman belonging to His Majesty's Ship Bellerophon'; if this was correctly stated, Muspratt had joined his former shipmate Peter Heywood on his uncle Pasley's ship - however, his name is not listed on the ship's muster: it is possible that, given his history, he took a 'purser's name'. Muspratt's will was 'proved' in 1798, indicating that the Bounty steward was dead by this time. Shortly after receiving his pardon, Muspratt had been bold enough to disconcert the Admiralty with a petition for his back wages; only two prior cases could be found to bear any similarity to his, and in one, as the Admiralty secretary reported, the recipient had already been hanged. Whether or not his Bounty wages were included in his estate, William Muspratt left everything to his 'dearly beloved Brother Joseph' of Fareham.

Befitting his temperament, James Morrison's career following his pardon was full of action, smoke and thundering explosions. Reverting to the profession for which he had qualified before the Bounty, Morrison eventually achieved the rank of master gunner, and in this capacity saw heated action in the Mediterranean. In 1801, Morrison's service took him back to Jamaica and the West Indies, here, one may be sure, he added to the island's knowledge of the breadfruit expeditions. In 1803, Morrison was in the Tonnant, which, while engaged in a blockade off the Spanish coast during tempestuous weather, found herself unable to re-supply. Eventually, the captain was reduced to sending his purser ashore to a safe cove to seek out local provisions. One wonders how the long-haired master gunner endured this pinch - with many a knowing conversation, discussing pounds and ounces and equivalent weights owed, and dire grumblings of short rations? Or had he mellowed somewhat since his Bounty days?

Following a stint as a gunnery instructor in Plymouth, Morrison joined the distinguished Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, with whom he had served before, apparently to mutual satisfaction, in the Blenheim. In 1806, en route to the Cape of Good Hope (now British), at which station he was to take command, Troubridge grounded the Blenheim on a sandbar. The damage sustained by the ship was severe, and, broken and gaining water, she had limped to safe harbour in Madras. But Troubridge was a proud man and, despite being warned of the Blenheim's obvious defects, flattered himself that he could overcome yet one more challenge, and determined to continue to the Cape. The Blenheim was last seen by another of His majesty's ships off the coast of Madagascar, lying fatally low in the water in the wake of a severe gale. Morrison had expended considerable energy railing against Bligh on matters that would have appeared in hindsight to have been very slight - especially when reviewed, say, from a broken ship commanded by a captain who had chosen to bet his men's life against his own pride.

At some point after the Bounty voyage, Morrison had returned to his native Stornoway and entertained his relatives with stories of his life in Otaheite, central to which seems to have been the considerable status he had enjoyed as the taio of a local chief. Long after specific personalities had been forgotten, Morrison's family retained the tradition that a forebear of long ago had been king of a South Pacific Island.  

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