Through the years since the first definitive issue of Pitcairn stamps was released in 1940, the philately of Pitcairn Island has enjoyed a much-sought-after status among stamp collectors throughout the world.
William Bligh – Death
William Bligh was born on 9 September 1754, most probably in Plymouth, Devon, England. He was signed for the Royal Nave at age seven, at a time when it was common to sign early for a commission. His first position came in 1770, at age 16, when he joined HMS Hunter as an able seaman. He rose quickly through the ranks and in 1776 was selected by Captain James Cook for the position of sailing master of HMS Resolution, and he accompanied Cook in July 1776 on Cook’s ill-fated third voyage to the Pacific, where Cook was killed.
Bligh returned to England at the end of 1780, and was able to give details of Cook’s last voyage. (Bligh’s portrait as seen in the $1.00 stamp was captured in 1776 by John Webber and is held in the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia).
Bligh married Elizabeth Betham in 1781 in Onchan on the Isle of Man. Shortly after, he was back at sea and fighting in the Battle of Dogger Bank under Admiral Parker, which won him his commission as a lieutenant. He also fought with Lord Howe at Gibraltar in 1782. Between 1783 and 1787 Bligh was a captain in the merchant service. Like many lieutenants, he found commissions were hard to obtain after the fleet was largely demobilized at the end of the War of American Independence.
In 1787, Bligh was selected as commander of HMAV Bounty, and set sail for Tahiti on behalf of the Royal Society to obtain breadfruit trees for the Caribbean. This voyage proved eventful, and was written into history when, in April 1789, Fletcher Christian, leading a group of seamen, seized control of the ship, and set Bligh and 18 loyalists adrift in the ship’s open launch. Bligh’s seamanship saw them successfully sail over 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km) to safety in Timor, the nearest European settlement.
In October 1790, Bligh was honorably acquitted at the court-martial inquiring into the loss of HMAV Bounty. His image is seen in the $2.10 stamp painted in 1791 by John Russell and sourced for the State Library of New South Wales, Australia.
After his exoneration, Bligh remained in the Royal Navy, and had various commissions with HMS Providence; HMS Assistant; and HMS Director at the Battle of Camperdown against Dutch enemy. In 1801, Bligh joined Vice Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen in command of the HMS Glatton and was praised by Nelson after their victory. (John Hagan’s portrait is seen on the $2.80 stamp and was completed as part of the Bounty Chronicles.
Bligh had gained the reputation of being a firm disciplinarian, and, accordingly, was offered the position of Governor of New South Wales on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks. H. A. Barker sketched him in 1805 (State Library of New South Wales) as shown on the $3.00 stamp, and in 1806, he became the fourth governor of NSW. But during his time in Sydney, his confrontational administrative style provoked the wrath of a number of influential landowner settlers, businessmen and officials. Bligh claimed that they were defying government regulations by engaging in private trading ventures for profit, and he was determined to put a stop to this practice. The conflict between Bligh and the entrenched colonists culminated in another mutiny, the Rum Rebellion (so called as Bligh tried prohibiting the use spirits as payment for commodities).
On 26 January 1808, 400 soldiers of the New South Wales Corps marched on Government House in Sydney and arrested Bligh. A rebel government was subsequently installed and Bligh, now deposed, made for Hobart, Tasmania. Bligh failed to gain support from the authorities in Hobart to retake control of New South Wales, and he remained effectively imprisoned on the HMS Porpoise from 1808 until January 1810.
The rebellion was declared illegal, and the British Foreign Office declared it to be a mutiny. Bligh was replaced, however, and returned to England, where in 1814 he received a back-dated promotion to Rear Admiral, and subsequently Vice Admiral in the same year. (First Day Cover image as painted by Alexander Huey en. 1814, National Library of Australia).
William Bligh died in London on 7 December 1817, and was buried in a family plot at St. Mary’s, Lambeth (this church is now the Garden Museum). His tomb is topped by a carved stone breadfruit.
William Bligh Collectors Notes:
- Designer of the stamps is Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand;
- Printer of the stamps is Southern Color Print, Dunedin, New Zealand;
- The printing process is Offset Litho;
- The stamp size is 40.00mm x 30.00mm horizontal;
- The format is two panes each of 20 stamps separated by gutter with Bligh family crest in the center of the gutter;
- The perforation gauge is 13.33 x 13.60;
- The denominations are $1.00, $2.10, $2.80 and $3.00;
- The paper used is 103gsm Tullis Russell Yellow/Green phosphor gummed stamp paper.
- The period of sale of the stamps is 7 December 2017 for a period of two years.
Acknowledgment: The Philatelic Bureau wishes to thank the following for their help in sourcing images: The National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia; the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Australia; the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK; the National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia; John Hagan, Pitcairn Islands Study Center, USA; and Maurice Bligh, UK.
Pitcairn Stamp Issues
(Click small stamp images to see larger views.)
Below is a listing of all Pitcairn stamps issued since 1940 when Pitcairn Island began issuing its own stamps