--Text from Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty
Adventure by Sven Wahlroos. Used by permission. See Book
Recommendations for more information about this book.
CHURCHILL, Charles Master-at-Arms (Ships Corporal)
on the Bounty; mutineer; stayed on Tahiti and was killed
there by fellow mutineer Thompson.
Churchill was born in Manchester and was twenty-eight years old
when the Bounty left England. Bligh, after the mutiny, described
his physical appearance as follows:
[CHARLES CHURCHILL] Ships Corporal, 30 yeas, 5 feet 10
inches high. Fair complexion, short light-brown hair. Bald headed,
strong made. The forefinger on his left hand crooked, and the
hands shows the mark of severe scald. Tattooed in several parts
of the body.
Churchills attempt to desert the ship at Tahiti, together
with Millward and Muspratt, was described in the January 1789 commentary
in Part I. In view of the fact that he later took a highly active
and decisive part in the mutiny, it is possible that he had toyed
with the idea before Christian approached him with it.
During the mutiny Churchill was one of the first to join Christian
and one of the men who went below with him to arrest Bligh. All
through the morning he assumed the role of Christians second-in-command,
often answering for Christian when the latter seemed to hesitate.
Churchill was a coarse and brutal person with a real proclivity
for violence. During the second stay in Tahiti he was eager to participate
in the warfare between the districts and, with his training as a
Royal Marine and with the muskets procured from the Bounty,
he was instrumental in changing the relatively non-lethal nature
of the conflicts between the chiefdoms into bloody carnage. Like
his friend Thompson, he once killed an innocent Tahitian in cold
A possible reason for Churchills staying on Tahiti rather
than sailing away with Christian was that he had a very powerful
taio, Vehiatua, who was Teinas (Mates) brother-in-law
and chief of Taiarapu. Vehiatua may have made promises to Churchill
that were difficult to turn down. As we have seen (in the commentaries
for February and March 1790) he became chief of Taiarapu when Vehiatua
died without a male heir, but was killed by his crony Thompson soon
COLE, William Boatswain on the Bounty; loyalist;
was on the open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor; arrived safely
Bligh had been furious with Cole in Tahiti when it was discovered
that a set of new sails had been allowed to mildew and rot. On January
17, 1789, he wrote in his log:
This morning, the sail room being cleared to take the sales
to short to air. The new fore topsail and fore sail, main topmt
stay sale and main stay sail were found very much mildewed and
rotten in many places. If I had any officers to supercede the
Master John Fryer and Boatswain William Cole, or was capable of
doing without them, considering them as commen sea men, they should
no longer occupy their respective stations.
As we have pointed out in the January 1789 commentary in Part
1, Bligh was the one who had been in Tahiti before and who should
have known what the islands humidity can do to canvas.
Cole was one of the men on board in whom Christian had confided
his plan to leave the ship on a raft shortly before the mutiny.
He did not mention it when he came back to England, simply because
it was dangerous to have even discussed desertion.
Cole certainly understood Christian well. During the mutiny he
and Purcell urged Christian to stop what he was doing, and when
Christian reminded them of how ill he had been treated by Bligh,
Cole said: I know it very well, Mr. Christian. We all know
it, but drop it for Gods sake!
It was Cole who demanded that the loyalists be given the Bountys
launch rather than one of the two other boats which were not seaworthy.
It was also he who demanded and when Quintal refused
insisted, that they be given a compass.
At the subsequent court-martial Cole confirmed Heywoods
innocence, although in vain. He also spoke up for Morrison, also
in vain. However, his testimony may have contributed to the pardon
Heywood and Morrison were granted after being found guilty.
COLEMAN, Joseph Armorer on the Bounty; loyalist;
kept aboard against his will; survived the wreck of the Pandora;
was acquitted at the court-martial.
Coleman was born in Guildford and was thirty-six years old when
he mustered on the Bounty. He was married and had children.
Blighs description of Coleman is as follows:
[JOSEPH COLEMAN] Armourer, 40 years, 5 feet 6 inches high. Fair
complexion, grey hair, strong made, a heart tattooed on one arm.
(Bligh adds to this description, This man declared to me
publickly when I was in the Boat that he knew nothing of the transaction
and begged of me to remember he told me of it and that he was
kept against his consent.)
The armorer on board a ship was an extremely important member
of the crew. Not only did he keep the arms in repair, but he served
as a highly skilled blacksmith who often had to manufacture gear
that had been damaged or lost.
On Tahiti, Coleman was one of the busiest men on shore. He had
to serve all the needs of the Bounty, but he also
as a gesture of goodwill towards the Tahitians had to repair
and sharpen the iron tools that they had received from previous
Christian, even though he was obviously in extreme emotional turmoil
during the mutiny, probably experiencing a brief psychotic episode
(see the April 1789 commentary in Part I), was not so out of touch
with reality that he did not realize Colemans importance for
the ship and he therefore forbade him to go in the launch.
When Christian arranged his farewell party on Tahiti
in order to kidnap enough women for the mutineers (see the September
1789 commentary in Part I), he had also planned to kidnap Coleman.
However, he could not get Coleman drunk enough, and when the ship
started moving, the armorer immediately became suspicious, jumped
overboard, and swam ashore. It was a disappointment for Christian
but not a disaster: John Williams, one of the mutineers who had
cast their lot with Christian, was something of a blacksmith himself
and had assisted Coleman on board the Bounty.
Coleman helped Morrison build the Resolution. When the
Pandora arrived, he was the first to go on board, happy in
the knowledge that Captain Bligh had promised to do him justice.
He was also the first one to be put in irons. However, when the
Pandora was about to founder, he together with Norman
and McIntosh (who had also been promised mercy by Bligh)
was released from his shackles to help in manning the pumps.
Since there was no evidence against Coleman, and Bligh had stated
that he had been detained in the Bounty against his will,
he had no difficulty in getting acquitted at the court-martial.
ELLISON, Thomas Able-bodied seaman on the Bounty,
mutineer; stayed on Tahiti; survived the wreck of the Pandora;
found guilty at court-martial and hanged.
Ellison was born in Deptford and was only fifteen years old when
he was entered on the rolls of the Bounty. Yet he had already
sailed with Bligh on the Britannia. He was a protege of Duncan
Campbell, Mrs. Blighs uncle, so it would have been difficult
for the captain not to take him along.
Blighs description of Ellison, written after the mutiny,
reads as follows:
[THOMAS ELLISON] 17 years, 5 feet 3 inches high. Fair complexion,
dark hair, strong made. Has his name tattooed under his right
arm, and dated October 25, 1788.
In a letter to Campbell, written at the beginning of the voyage,
Bligh stated: Tom Ellison is a very good Boy and will do very
well. He must often have regretted those words later.
Ellison was in Christians watch and on the morning of the
mutiny he was at the wheel. When the mutiny broke out, he was at
first Terrifyde, as he later testified during the court-martial,
but like several others among the crew he soon became
elated at the turn of events, in fact he lashed the wheel, took
a bayonet and waved it in Blighs face and shouted: Damn
him, I will be sentinel over him!
Ellison remained on Tahiti when Christian sailed away and took
part in the war against Teinas (Mates) enemies. When
the Pandora arrived, he gave himself up voluntarily together
with Morrison and Norman. He survived the wreck of the Pandora
and was in the same boat as Morrison on the voyage to Timor. He
was treated as cruelly as Morrison being pinnioned with a
cord and lashd down in the boats bottom.
At the court-martial Ellison tried to plead his youth at the time
of the mutiny, but that did not impress the court: youth was no
excuse for mutiny, there were thousands of young boys in the Navy.
Ellison did have the satisfaction, however, of corroborating Burketts
testimony concerning Hayward and Hallett having begged to be allowed
to stay on board the Bounty, and he added that they had weept
bitterly when they were ordered into the launch.
Together with Millward and Burkett, Ellison was hanged by slow
strangulation on board HMS Brunswick on October 29, 1792.
ELPHINSTONE (Elphinston), William Masters mate on
the Bounty; loyalist; went with Bligh; died in Batavia. Elphinstone
was born in Edinburgh and was thirty-six years old when he joined
Most authors who have written about the Bounty story have
claimed that John Fryer, the sailing master on the Bounty,
must have been hurt or offended when Fletcher Christian, a masters
mate, was promoted to acting lieutenant by Captain Bligh. The falsehood
of that argument was pointed out in Part I (the October 1788 commentary).
Someone who did have cause to feel slighted was Elphinstone who
was also a masters mate but thirteen years older than Christian
and even three years older than Bligh. However, the likelihood is
that he had no aspirations to become a lieutenant.
Elphinstone was asleep when the mutiny began and was put under
guard, so he did not have much first-hand knowledge about what went
He seems to have been a supporter of Bligh at least until the
open-boat voyage; there are indications that he started rebelling
against Blighs martinet style of authority by the time the
loyalists reached Surabaya.
In Batavia Elphinstone died probably
of malaria only a week after Blighs departure.
FRYER, John Sailing master on the Bounty; loyalist;
went with Bligh; returned safely to England.
John Fryer (Mitchell Library)
Fryer was born at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk on August 15,
1752. He was two years older than Bligh. In the Bounty literature
he has usually, and unfairly, been portrayed as incompetent and
a cantankerous troublemaker by writers who have uncritically accepted
Blighs opinion. It is in fact highly unlikely that the Admiralty
would have chosen an incompetent sailing master for the expedition.
It is more likely that he was highly competent and that Bligh tried
to defame him for exactly that reason; Bligh simply could not stand
competition from colleagues and had a highly vindictive nature.
As the distinguished Bounty historian Rolf Du Rietz has pointed
out, Fryer is the one member of the Bounty complement who
has suffered most unfairly in the later descriptions of the dramatis
Fryer was appointed to the Bounty on August 20, 1787. He
had served as Master in the Royal Navy since 1781 when he was in
HMS Camel. He had risen to Master of the Third Rate.
In the beginning of the voyage, Bligh had approved of his sailing
master: The master is a very good man, and gives me every
satisfaction. His feelings towards Fryer soon changed, however,
and most probably because the master was not a yes-man; he had strong
opinions of his own. Also, even though he was not as sensitive to
insults as Christian, he was conscious of his dignity and his competence
and let Bligh know, in no uncertain terms, that he was not going
to take things lying down.
During the mutiny, Fryer was the only officer who made a forceful
attempt to talk Christian out of his hasty decision. When that failed,
he made an earnest, although equally unsuccessful attempt to mediate
between Christian and Bligh. Finally, he was among those who most
forcefully demanded that the loyalists be given the Bountys
launch instead of one of the other two boats which were not seaworthy.
At one point Christian pressed his bayonet against Fryers
chest and she he would run him through if he advanced one inch further.
During the open-boat voyage the men seem to have been divided
in two parties: those who looked to Bligh for leadership and those
who wished that Fryer were in command (see also the June 1789 commentary
in Part I).
Although Bligh had just as low an opinion of Fryer as of Purcell,
he brought charges against the latter but not against the former.
The reason is probably that Fryer simply knew too much about Blighs
questionable financial transactions as purser, and Bligh could not
afford to take the risk of these being exposed.
During the court-martial of the accused mutineers, Fryer testified
that he had seen Burkett, Muspratt, and Millward under arms. His
testimony regarding the rest of the accused was generally in their
As soon as the court-martial was over, Fryer looked up Joseph Christian,
a distant relation to Fletcher, in order to tell him about the facts
that had not been divulged during the trial. Fryer was later instrumental
in helping Fletchers older brother, Edward Christian, gather
the facts which had been omitted by Bligh and which Edward published
in his Appendix to Steven Barneys Minutes of the
Proceedings of the Court-Martial. He wrote an account of the
mutiny in 1792.
Fryer went on to a distinguished and honourable career in the
Royal Navy, reaching the top of his profession, Master of the First
Rate, in 1798. Even before then his competence had been recognized
by several commanders who wrote him letters of recommendation. Captain
Thomas Foley of HMS Britannia, for example, wrote that
he conducted himself with sobriety, diligence, and obedience
in the execution of his duty, and that in every respect he shewed
himself to be skilful Seaman and good Officer and that in the
several difficult services there was to perform he gave his assistance
with a zeal and ardour, that calls on me to recommend him in the
strongest terms in the favor of the Navy Board, as one worth any
Promotion they may have to bestow.
(Bligh would have been totally incapable of writing such a letter
of recommendation for anyone, no matter how talented.)
In the Battle of Copenhagen, Fryer was sailing master in Admiral
Sir Hyde Parkers flagship London (his son Harrison
Fryer was midshipman in Nelsons flagship Elephant,
his brother-in-law Robert Tinkler was a lieutenant in the Isis,
and Bligh commanded the Glatton). He retired from the Navy
in 1812 and died at Wells-next-the-Sea on May 26, 1817.
For the best summing up of Fryer the man and the sailor, we have
to go to Rolf Du Rietz (1981):
John Fryer of the Bounty was . . . not a so-called historically
important figure, and he will never get a full-dress biography.
Nevertheless he was as far as we know a loyal and
profoundly competent officer and an honest man, who deserved well
of his country during the greatest and most crucial period of
the naval history of Great Britain. As a moral character, there
is every reason to suppose that he was far above Bligh, and we
must never forget that a human being may, after all, be of great
worth even if he does not become a Fellow of the Royal Society,
or succeed in ending up in the Dictionary
of National Biography.
HALL, Thomas Able seaman and ships cook on the Bounty;
loyalist; went with Bligh; died in Batavia.
Hall was born in Durham and was thirty-eight years old when he
mustered on the Bounty. Evidently it was not easy to be a
ships cook under Bligh, because of the scanty rations he ordered
to be issued to the men. Morrison writes: The quantity was
so small, that it was no uncommon thing for four men in a mess to
draw for the breakfast, and to devide their bread by the well known
method of who shall have this, nor was the officers
a hair behind the men at it. . . . the division of [the] scanty
allowance caused frequent broils in the gally, and in the present
bad weather [off Cape Horn] was often like to be attended with bad
consequences and in one of these disputes the cook, Thos Hall, got
two of his ribbs broke & at another time Churchill got his hand
scalded and it became at least necessary to have the Mrs mate of
the watch to superintend the division of it.
On the morning of the mutiny, he was sitting with Muspratt, the
assistant cook by the starboard fore scuttle splitting wood for
the galley. His actions during the mutiny seem to have involved
bringing up provisions for the launch. Otherwise, there is very
little mention of Hall in the literature of the Bounty. Weakened
by the open-boat voyage he died from a tropical disease (probably
malaria) in Batavia on October 11, 1789.
HALLETT, John Midshipman on the Bounty; loyalist;
went to England with Bligh.
Hallett was born in London and was only fifteen years old when
he mustered on the Bounty. In many ways, he and Hayward were
like peas in a pod. Both had come on board by the influence of Ms.
Bligh who knew their respective families well (Ann Hallett, Johns
sister, seems to have been a bosom friend of Betsy Bligh). Both
were disliked on the ship because of snobbishness and arrogance,
both had a tendency to sleep on duty, and when the mutiny broke
out, both had tearfully begged to be allowed to stay on board the
Bounty while other loyalists were going into the launch.
Yet both later testified against those loyalists who had been forced
to stay on board the ship.
When the mutiny broke out, Hallett had not even appeared on deck
even though he was in Christians watch. His and Haywards
disinclination to do any work clearly made it easier for
Christian to take over the ship.
Halletts testimony during the court-martial of the accused
mutineers was highly damaging to Heywood. Hallett claimed that he
had observed Bligh saying something to Heywood during the mutiny
and the latter had just laughed and turned around and walked away.
After the publication of Edward Christians Appendix,
Bligh needed help in defending himself against the charges that
had been leveled at him, and he found a willing instrument in Hallett
who claimed that, no matter what anyone else had said, Bligh had
never accused anyone of stealing any coconuts.
Hallett later became a lieutenant and died
on board HMS Penelope.
HAYWARD, Thomas Midshipman on the Bounty; loyalist;
went with Bligh; arrived safely in England; shipped as third lieutenant
on the Pandora, survived the wreck, and went back to England.
Hayward was born in Hackney and was twenty seven years old when
he came on board the Bounty. Both he and his young friend
Hallett came to the ship through the influence of Blighs wife
Betsy; the families of both had been friends of the Bethams for
Hayward seems to have been lazy and undependable. He and Hallett
were universally disliked on the Bounty because of their
arrogance. Hayward had a propensity for sleeping on duty: on Tahiti
Bligh put him in irons for having been asleep while on watch when
the deserters left the ship.
Nevertheless Hayward and Bligh seem to have liked each other.
After Blighs hysterical outburst over the supposedly missing
coconuts, the officers had agreed among each other not to accept
a dinner invitation from the captain. Hayward broke the agreement
and dined with him the evening before the mutiny. Bligh commended
him highly after the open-boat voyage, and Hayward was totally in
support of Bligh during the trial of the accused mutineers.
Hayward was the mate of Christians watch. On the morning
of the mutiny he was again sleeping on duty (on the arms chest)
when Norman called out that he had seen a giant shark. This awakened
Hayward and although he was at first interested in catching the
shark, he soon noticed that some of the men came on deck armed and
asked them what was going on. Christian told him Mamu!
(Shut up in Tahitian) and that took care of Hayward;
he never made any attempt to alert Bligh.
When the loyalists were to go into the launch he, and Hallett,
tearfully begged to be allowed to stay on board. They were too disliked
by the crew, however; nobody wanted them on board.
Not only did Hayward reach England safely, he soon returned as
third lieutenant in the Pandora in search of his former shipmates.
The dislike he had developed for them, even for the loyalists, was
immediately evident when the ship reached Tahiti. Towards Heywood,
especially, he seems to have developed feelings close to hatred.
When Heywood who had stayed on Tahiti with the other loyalists
and some of the mutineers came on board the Pandora
and wanted to greet Hayward as an old shipmate, Hayward turned a
cold shoulder and would have nothing to do with him. Heywood later
Having learned from one of the natives that our former messmate,
Mr. Hayward now promoted to the rank of lieutenant was on board,
we asked for him, supposing he might prove the assertions of our
innocence. But he, (like all worldlings when raised a little in
life) received us very coolly and pretended ignorance of our affairs.
Appearances being so much against us, we were ordered to be put
in irons and looked upon oh! Infernal words! as piratical
At the trial of the accused mutineers, Hayward damaged Heywoods
case by making it clear that he considered Heywood a mutineer because
the latter had remained on board.
Hayward was later drowned in the China Sea while commanding the
sloop-of-war Swift when she foundered in a typhoon.
[HMS (HMAV) Bounty] [Crew List]