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Pitcairn Philately

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

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

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

  • 2017
    • William Bligh – Death
    • Transverse Ladybird
    • Robert Pitcairn
    • Marine Reserve
    • Maps through the Centuries
    • The Women of the Bounty
    • Prominent Pitcairners Part 5
    • Rosalind Amelia Young
  • 2016
    • Pitcairn Languages
    • Ferns of Pitcairn
    • Adamstown
    • Phoenix Petrel
    • HM Queen Elizabeth II 90th Birthday
    • William Shakespeare
    • Pitcairn Landscapes
  • 2015
    • 75th Anniversary DeFinitives 1940-2015
    • The Breadfruit Saga
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 4 Ben Christian
    • Pitcairn on Canvas
    • Red Lion Fish
  • 2014
    • Byrd Expedition Visit -75th Anniversary
    • Nelson Mandela
    • 250th Anniversary of Birth of Fletcher Christian
    • Centenary of World War I
    • Botanic
    • 225th Anniversary of the Mutiny of the Bounty
    • Albatross, Giants in the Sky
    • Mutiny Anniversary
    • Albatross
  • 2013
    • Ship Landing Point
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 3
    • Royal Baby
    • QE II Coronation Anni.
    • Lobsters
    • Cruise Ships 2013
    • Nordhoff and Hall
  • 2012
    • Charles Dickens
    • WWF Clam Shells
    • Prominent Pitcairners - Roy Clark
    • Romantic Bounty
    • Botanical
    • Queen's Diamond Jubilee
    • Dolphins
    • The art of Pitcairn Part 4 - Tapa
  • 2011
    • Christmas
    • Parkin Christian
    • Pitcairn Supply Ships
    • Birds of Henderson
    • Royal Wedding
    • Peony Flower
    • Paper Wasp
    • Fautu Flower
  • 2010
    • Endemic Snails
    • Hotspots
    • WWF Tropical
    • Reef Fish
    • London 2010
    • ANZAC
    • Children’s Art
  • 2009
    • Royal Navy Visitors
    • Aircraft over Pitcairn
    • Wandering Gilder
    • Drangonfly
    • Charles Darwin
    • Panda
    • Return to Pitcairn
    • Coconut Cra
  • 2008
    • Green Turtles of Henderson Island
    • Discovery of a Community
    • Sunsets
    • Flowers and Bees
    • Pitcairn Longboats History
    • Pitcairn From Space
  • 2007
    • Pitciarn Ocean Fish
    • 10th Definitive, Bounty Detail
    • Salt and Pepper Moths
    • Rock Carvers
    • Raising the Bounty Anchor
    • Terns and Noddies of the Pitcairn Islands
  • 2006
    • Majestic Whales
    • Early Civilizations, Part 1
    • Cave Dwellers of Henderson
    • Journey to Norfolk - 150th Anniversary
    • The Queen's 80th birthday
    • Old Glory - 175th Anniversary
    • Stunning Scenery of Henderson Island
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Old Glory 175th Anniversary
  • 2005
    • Christmas 2005
    • Cristle-thighed Curlew
    • Bounty II
    • Royal Wedding
    • Blue Moon Butterfly
    • Oeno Eclipse
    • Scenic Views – Oeno & Ducie
  • 2004
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Murphy’s Petrel
    • Bounty
    • HMS Pitcairn
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Shells Part III Terebra
  • 2003
    • Blue Star Line Ships
    • Shells Part II - Conus
    • Golden Jubilee of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part II - Weaving
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part III - Painted Leaves
    • Squirrel Fish
    • Christmas 2003.
  • 2002
    • Notable Figures of Pitcairn
    • Golden Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Feline Friends - Pitcairn Cats
    • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
    • Trees of Pitcairn Part III.
  • 2001 – Cruise Ships
    • Pitcairn Internet Domain Names
    • Tropical Fruit
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part I
    • Woodcarving
    • Cowrie Shells
    • Butterflies of the Reef.
  • 2000 – Botanical Definitive: London
    • Mr. Turpen
    • Millennium Part III
    • Exhibition Sheetlet
    • Anaheim Exhibition Sheetlet: Space
    • Christmas 2000
    • Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday.
  • 1999 – School Days
    • Bounty Relics
    • Millennium Part II - towards 2000
    • The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Edward to Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
    • Pitcairn Island Honey Bees.
  • 1998 – Christian’s Cave
    • Millennium Part I - towards 2000
    • Diana, Princess of Wales
    • Botanical
    • Year of the Ocean.
  • 1997 – Hong Kong ‘97
    • South Pacific Commission
    • Island Health Care
    • Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary.
  • 1996 – Supply Ship Day
    • 70th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen
    • China ‘96
    • Amateur Radio
    • World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • 1995 – Birds Definitive
    • Oeno Holiday
    • Queen Mother’s 95th Birthday
    • Marconi - 100th Anniversary of First Radio Wave Transmission
    • 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.
  • 1994 – Lizards (overprint)
    • Early Pitcairners
    • Shipwrecks
    • Corals
    • Christmas.
  • 1993 – Royal Navy Vessels
    • 40th Anniversary
    • Her Majesty’s Coronation
    • Scenic Views II
    • Lizards.
  • 1992 – 40th Anniversary - Her Majesty’s Ascension
    • Sharks
    • Sir Peter Scott Commemorative Expedition
    • 175th Anniversary of Bligh’s Death.
  • 1991 – Bicentennial Celebrations
    • Cruise Ships
    • Royal Birthdays
    • Transport
    • Christmas.
  • 1990 – Bicentenary Sheetlet 3: Settlement of Pitcairn Island
    • Links with the UK
    • Stamp Booklet
    • 90th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • 50th Anniversary of First Pitcairn stamps
    • Henderson Island Birds.
  • 1989 – Bicentennary Sheetlet 1: Voyage of HMAV Bounty to Tahiti to collect Breadfruit
    • Tripartite Sheet
    • Aircraft
    • Bicentenary Sheetlet 2: The Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • 1988 – 150th Anniversary of the Constitution
    • Australian Bicentenary
    • Seventh Definitive Issue: Ships 6th Definitive Additions.
  • 1987 – Trees of Pitcairn II
    • 19th Century Paintings Part II
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners.
  • 1986 – The Wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson
    • Turtles
    • The Seventh-day Adventist Church
    • 60th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 1985 – The Life and Times of HM Queen Mother
    • 19th Century Paintings Part I
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners
    • Christmas 1985.
  • 1984 – Sixth Definitive Stamp Issue: Fish
    • Night Sky
    • Ausipex ‘84
    • Pitcairn Island Longboats.
  • 1983– Commonwealth Day
    • 175th Anniversary of Folger’s Discovery of the Settlers
    • Trees of Pitcairn I.
  • 1982 – Fruit of Pitcairn
    • 21st Birthday of HRH The Princess of Wales
    • Christmas 1982.
  • 1981 – Scenic Views I
    • 125th Anniversary of Pitcairn Migration to Norfolk Island
    • The Wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales
    • Fifth Definitive Additions.
  • 1980 – London 1980
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • Handicrafts.
  • 1979 – 150th Anniversary of the Death of John Adams
    • Engravings
    • Christmas 1979.
  • 1978 – Bounty Day
    • 25th Anniversary of the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
    • Development.
  • 1977 – Royal Silver Jubilee
    • Fifth Definitive.
  • 1976 – U.S. Bicentennial.
  • 1975 – $1 Fourth Definitive Addition
    • Mailboats
    • Insects.
  • 1974 – Shells
    • Centenary of Universal Postal Union
    • Centenary of Birth of Sir Winston Churchill.
  • 1973 – 50c Definitive Addition
    • Flowers
    • Royal Wedding of H.R.H. Princess Anne.
  • 1972 – 25th Anniversary of the South Pacific Commission
    • Royal Silver Wedding.
  • 1971 – Polynesian Pitcairn
    • Royal Visit of H.R.H. Prince Philip (overprint).
  • 1970 – Flowers
    • Fish.
  • 1969 – Fourth Definitive Addition.
  • 1968 – Human Rights Year
    • Handicrafts
    • 20th Anniversary of the World Health Organization.
  • 1967 – Bicentennial of the Discovery of Pitcairn
    • Definitive Decimal Surcharge
    • 150th Anniversary of the Death of Admiral Bligh.
  • 1966 – Sir Winston Churchill
    • World Football Championships
    • W.H.O. Headquarters
    • 20th Anniversary UNESCO.
  • 1965 – Definitive Addition: New Value
    • ITU Centenary
    • International Co-operation Year.
  • 1964 – Third Definitive.
  • 1963 – Freedom from Hunger
    • Red Cross Centenary.
  • 1961 – Centenary of Return from Norfolk Island.
  • 1958 – Definitive Addition.
  • 1957 – Second Definitive Addition
    • The First Queen Elizabeth Pictorials.
  • 1953 – Coronation Issue.
  • 1951 – Definitive Additions.
  • 1949 – Silver Wedding of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1946 – Victory Issue.
  • 1940 – First Definitive.

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

Robert Pitcairn
Marine Reserve
75th Anniversary Cover
75th Anniversary Cover
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Christmas FDC
Supply Ships
Royal Wedding
Royal Navy Visitors
Royal Navy Visitors
Aircraft over Pitcairn
Flowers & Bees
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[Pitcairn Postal Service]