Fletcher Christian

Fletcher Christian 20cFletcher Christian 1764 - 1793

Fletcher Christian was born on 25 September 1764, in Eaglesfield, in Cumberland. He came from old gentry, a landed family with estates both on the Isle of Man and in Cumberland. After his lawyer father’s death when Fletcher was just three and a half years old, his mother got into financial difficulties and ran up a large debt. To avoid debtors’ prison she fled with Fletcher and his siblings to Douglas on the Isle of Man.
 
Fletcher Christian $1.00 Christian went to sea at the age of 18, joining the HMS Cambridge on which William Bligh was sixth lieutenant. Since Christian was enrolled as just a ship’s boy, it is unlikely that the two had much contact and on returning Christian was discharged. On April 25, 1783, Fletcher signed on as midshipman on board HMS Eurydice, sailing for India. Christian, through seamanship competence, was made acting lieutenant after only one year’s service. By June 1785 however, the Eurydice was back home and Christian was paid off. Looking for employment, he used his family connection with the Bethams, the family of Elizabeth Bligh, and saw Christian join the merchant ship Britannia, owned by Elizabeth’s uncle and commanded by William Bligh. They sailed together on two voyages to the West Indies. On the first, Christian sailed as an ordinary seaman and on the second, Bligh made him second mate.

Fletcher Christian $2.10 In 1787, Christian joined the HMAV Bounty, on Bligh's recommendation, for the ship's breadfruit expedition to Tahiti and during the voyage Bligh appointed him acting lieutenant. Five months after arriving, the Bounty left Tahiti in April 1789 and headed for the Tongan Islands, but the luxurious months on the idyllic island had made the crew soft, forcing Bligh to marshal out strict punishments to bring them into line. Severely discontented by a series of brutal floggings and suffering the loss of their female companions, eighteen members of the crew, led by Christian, conspired to mutiny. On April 28th Christian and several of his followers entered Bligh’s cabin, took him captive and soon cast him and eighteen others adrift in a small boat which took them on an epic, and now famous, 3,168 nautical mile voyage.

Fletcher Christian $2.80 Following the mutiny, Christian attempted to build a colony on Tubai but being unsuccessful he returned briefly to Tahiti where he married a local chief’s daughter, Maimiti, on 16 June 1789. While on Tahiti, he dropped off sixteen crewmen including four Bligh loyalists who had been left behind on Bounty. The remaining nine mutineers, six Tahitian men and eleven Tahitian women then sailed eastward. They headed for the uncharted Pitcairn Island where they stripped Bounty of all that could be floated ashore before setting the ship on fire and stranding themselves. Difficult times followed with the resulting sexual imbalance, combining with the effective enslavement of the Tahitian men by the mutineers, leading to insurrection and the deaths of most of the men.

The American ship Topaz visited Pitcairn in 1808 and found only one man, John Adams, still alive, along with nine Tahitian women. Maimiti claimed Christian had been murdered in 1793, along with four remaining mutineers and all six of the Tahitian men. Christian was survived by Maimiti and his sons, Thursday October Christian (born 1790), and Charles Christian (born 1792) and a daughter Mary-Ann Christian (born 1793).

Fletcher Christian $3.00 Christian, possibly the world’s most famous mutineer, was well thought of by his men. All of them saw their misfortunes as having been brought about by Bligh. There is no portrait or drawing of Fletcher Christian from a real life study. Bligh described Christian as…"5 ft. 9 in. high, blackish or of very dark complexion. Hair - blackish or very dark brown. Make - strong. A star tatowed (sic) on his left breast, and tatowed on the backside. His knees stand a little out and he may be called a little bow legged. He is subject to violent perspiration, particularly in his hand, so that he soils anything he handles".

All others who knew Christian agreed that he was handsome and of an athletic build. He seems to have been an honest and forthright man, normally with a happy and friendly disposition, very charming and liked by most on board the Bounty.

Fletcher Christian datestamp Rumours have persisted for more than two hundred years that Christian's murder may have been faked, that he had left the island and that he made his way back to England around 1808. Although highly unlikely, this claim has led to speculation that will probably never cease. Many scholars believe that the rumours of Christian returning to England helped to inspire Samuel Taylor Coleridge in writing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Fletcher Christian FDC

250th Anniversary of the birth of Fletcher Christian
Please Note: All prices are in New Zealand Dollars
Set of 5 stamps
$9.10
Gutter Pair
$18.20
Block of 4
$36.40
FDC
$10.60

Technical Details

Designer:
Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand

Pitcairn Stamps
proudly brought
to you by:
Bounty Post
Printer: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand
Process: Offset Litho
Stamp size: 48.0 mm x 30.00 mm horizontal single stamps
Perforation Gauge: 14.00 x 14.167
Denominations: $0.20c, $1.00, $2.10, $2.80 and $3.00
Paper: 103gsm Tullis Russell yellow/green phosphor gummed paper
Period of Sale:
25 September 2014 for a period of 2 years
Please Note: The stamps are singles and not joined in a setenant strip.

Acknowledgement: The National Film and Sound Archives of Australia; the late Thad Koza; Larry Learmonth; Tony Probst and the film companies that produced the Bounty films.