William Bligh was born on 9 September 1754, most probably in Plymouth,
Devon. He was signed for the Royal Navy 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).
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
demobilised 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 (6,500km) to safety in Timor, the nearest European
settlement. In October 1790, Bligh was honourably 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 from
the State Library of New South Wales.
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 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 of 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. 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 200
years - purchase
Please Note: All prices are in New Zealand Dollars
|Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand
to you by:
||Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand
||40.00mm x 30.00mm horizontal
||Two panes each of 20 stamps separated by gutter with Bligh family
crest in the centre of the gutter
||13.33 x 13.60
||$1.00, $2.10, $2.80 and $3.00
||103gsm Tullis Russell Yellow/Green phosphor gummed stamp paper
|Period of Sale:
|7 December 2017 for a period of 2 years
Acknowledgement: 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 Centre, USA and Maurice Bligh, UK.