200 years since the death of William Bligh

William Bligh 200 years
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. Bligh Coat of Arms

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).

DatestampBligh 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 FDC

William Bligh 200 years
Please Note: All prices are in New Zealand Dollars
Set of 4 stamps
Gutter pair
Block of four
FDC with stamp set

Technical Details

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: 40.00mm x 30.00mm horizontal
Format: Two panes each of 20 stamps separated by gutter with Bligh family crest in the centre of the gutter
Perforation Gauge: 13.33 x 13.60

Denominations: $1.00, $2.10, $2.80 and $3.00
Paper: 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.