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William Bligh

In their own words

William Bligh
Audio: 2 minutes

I am now unhappily to relate one of the most atrocious acts of piracy ever committed. Just before sunrise, Mr Christian and the master at arms and several officers came into my cabin while I was fast asleep, and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord and threatened instant death if I made the least noise. I called sufficiently loud to alarm the officers, who found themselves equally secured by sentinels at their doors. There were now three men at my cabin door and four inside. Mr Christian had a cutlass and the others were armed with muskets and bayonets.

I was carried on deck in my shirt, in torture with a severe bandage around my wrists, where I found no man to rescue me. I asked the reason for such a violent act, but I was threatened to be put to death if I said a word. The boatswain was ordered to hoist the small cutter out, with a threat if he did not do it instantly to take care of himself. But on a representation that this boat was very leaky, he was directed to hoist the launch out. Mr Hayward and Hallet, midshipmen, and Mr Samuels, clerk, were now ordered into the boat. I assumed my authority and demanded the cause of such an order, endeavouring to bring someone to a sense of his duty, but it was to no effect. ‘Hold your tongue sir, or you are dead this instant’, was constantly repeated to me.

I continued to endeavour to change the tide of affairs, when Christian changed the cutlass he had in his hand for a bayonet and holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied my hands, he continued to threaten me with instant death if I did not be quiet. The villains around me had their pieces cocked and bayonets fixed and particular people were now called on to go into the boat and were hurried over the side. With those people, I concluded of course, that I was to be set adrift. I therefore in making another effort to bring about a change, expressed myself loudly in such a manner as to be saluted with ‘blow his brains out’.

Acknowledgements

Bligh, William (1789) Logbook of HMS “Bounty”, 1788-1790, 28 April 1789, Dixson Library, State Library of NSW

Attribution

Voiced by Joel Horwood

Related people

William Bligh

Related information

William Bligh by John Webber video: 2 minutes
William Bligh by John Webber video: 2 minutes
William Bligh by John Webber video: 2 minutes
William Bligh by John Webber video: 2 minutes

William Bligh

by John Webber

Portrait story

Twice rebelled against, and twice vindicated, William Bligh occupies an ambivalent space in Australian history. Angus Trumble, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery, explains.

Part of the crew of His Majesty's Ship Guardian endeavouring to escape in the boats
Part of the crew of His Majesty's Ship Guardian endeavouring to escape in the boats
Part of the crew of His Majesty's Ship Guardian endeavouring to escape in the boats
Part of the crew of His Majesty's Ship Guardian endeavouring to escape in the boats

South-bound and down

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour recounts the story of ill-fated sea voyages in the early stages of the Antipodean colony.

Mutiny on the Bounty (The Mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship the Bounty)
Mutiny on the Bounty (The Mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship the Bounty)
Mutiny on the Bounty (The Mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship the Bounty)
Mutiny on the Bounty (The Mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship the Bounty)

High & Bligh

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2008

Joanna Gilmour explores the 1790 portrait of William Bligh by Robert Dodd.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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