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Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia

[HMS Bounty]
[Crew List]

Adams - Christian

Churchill - Hayward

Heywood -

Millward - Quintal

Samuel -

--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 (Ship’s 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] Ship’s 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.

Churchill’s 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 Christian’s 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 blood.

A possible reason for Churchill’s staying on Tahiti rather than sailing away with Christian was that he had a very powerful taio, Vehiatua, who was Teina’s (Mate’s) 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 afterward.

COLE, William Boatswain on the Bounty; loyalist; was on the open-boat voyage from Tofua to Timor; arrived safely in England.

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 island’s 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 God’s sake!”

It was Cole who demanded that the loyalists be given the Bounty’s 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 Heywood’s 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. Bligh’s 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 visitors.

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 Coleman’s 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. Bligh’s uncle, so it would have been difficult for the captain not to take him along.

Bligh’s 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 Christian’s 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 Bligh’s 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 Teina’s (Mate’s) 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 lash’d down in the boat’s 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 Burkett’s testimony concerning Hayward and Hallett having begged to be allowed to stay on board the Bounty, and he added that they had “weep’t 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 Master’s 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 the Bounty.

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 master’s 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 master’s 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 on.

He seems to have been a supporter of Bligh at least until the open-boat voyage; there are indications that he started rebelling against Bligh’s martinet style of authority by the time the loyalists reached Surabaya.

In Batavia Elphinstone died – probably of malaria – only a week after Bligh’s departure.

FRYER, John Sailing master on the Bounty; loyalist; went with Bligh; returned safely to England.

John Fryer

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 Bligh’s 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 personae.

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 Bounty’s launch instead of one of the other two boats which were not seaworthy. At one point Christian pressed his bayonet against Fryer’s 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 Bligh’s 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 favor.

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 Fletcher’s older brother, Edward Christian, gather the facts which had been omitted by Bligh and which Edward published in his Appendix to Steven Barney’s 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 Parker’s flagship London (his son Harrison Fryer was midshipman in Nelson’s 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 ship’s 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 ship’s 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, John’s 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 Christian’s watch. His – and Hayward’s – disinclination to do any work clearly made it easier for Christian to take over the ship.

Hallett’s 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 Christian’s 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 Bligh’s wife Betsy; the families of both had been friends of the Bethams for some time.

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 Bligh’s 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 Christian’s 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 wrote:

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 villains.

At the trial of the accused mutineers, Hayward damaged Heywood’s 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.

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--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.
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Adams - Christian

Churchill - Hayward

Heywood -

Millward - Quintal

Samuel -

[HMS (HMAV) Bounty] [Crew List]