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Christian Fletcher

Christian Fletcher(17641993)

Fletcher Christian was a Master's Mate on board the Bounty during William Bligh's fateful voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit plants. It was Christian who seized command of the Bounty from Bligh on April 28, 1789.

Born on 25 September 1764, Fletcher Christian was the second youngest son of Charles Christian and Mary (or Ann?) Dixon Christian who were to have ten children, six of whom survived infancy. Fletcher's father, Charles Christian, was descended from a long line of Manx gentry, his mother tracing her ancestry back to Edward I. Fletcher's mother, Ann Dixon, was of an old, well-established Cumberland family, her mother being one of the powerful Fletcher clan; it was after his maternal grandmother's family that Fletcher Christian was named.

Charles' marriage to Ann brought with it the small but respectable property of Moorland Close, "a quadrangle pile of buildings...half castle, half farmstead." Charles died in 1768 when Fletcher was not yet four. Ann proved herself grossly irresponsible with money. By 1779, when Fletcher was fifteen, Ann had run up a staggering debt of nearly £6,500, and faced the very real prospect of debtors' prison. Ultimately Moorland Close was lost, and Ann and her three younger children were forced to flee to the Isle of Man where English creditors had no power. The three elder Christian sons managed to arrange a £40 per year annuity for their mother, allowing the family to live in genteel poverty.

Other than the fact that he attended a boarding school St. Bees School, Cumberland and lived in the small Manx capital city of Douglas no evidence exists of Fletcher Christian's youth. He next appears in 1783, now eighteen years old, on the muster roles of the H.M.S Eurydice outward bound for a twenty-one month voyage to India. The ship's muster show Christian's conduct was more than satisfactory because "...some seven months out from England, he had been promoted from midshipman to master's mate".

Christian twice sailed to Jamaica with Bligh.

Following the mutiny, Christian attempted to build a colony on Tubuai, but the mutineers terrorized the natives. Abandoning the island, he stopped briefly in Tahiti where he married Maimiti, the daughter of one of the local chiefs on 16 June 1789. While on Tahiti he dropped off sixteen crewmen. These sixteen included four Bligh loyalists who had been left behind on the Bounty and two who had neither participated in, nor resisted the mutiny. The remaining nine mutineers, six Tahitian men, and eleven Tahitian women then settled on Pitcairn Island where they stripped the Bounty of all that could be floated ashore before Matthew Quintal set it on fire. This sexual imbalance, combined with the effective enslavement of the Tahitian men by the mutineers, led to insurrection and the deaths of most of the men.

The American seal-hunting ship Topaz visited the island in 1808 and found only one mutineer, Alexander Smith (who was using the alias John Adams), still alive along with nine Tahitian women. The mutineers who had perished had, however, already had children with their Tahitian wives. Most of these children were still living.

Adams and Maimiti claimed Christian had been murdered during the conflict between the Tahitian men and the mutineers. According to an account by a Pitcairnian woman named Jenny who left the island in 1817 Christian was shot while working by a pond next to the home of his pregnant wife. Along with Christian, four other mutineers and all six of the Tahitian men who had come to the island were killed in the conflict. One of the four surviving mutineers fell off a cliff while intoxicated and was killed, and Quintal was later killed by the remaining two mutineers after he attacked them.

Christian was survived by Maimiti and his son, Thursday October Christian (born 1790), who was the ancestor of almost everybody surnamed Christian on Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands, as well as the many descendants who have moved to Australia and New Zealand. Besides Thursday October. Fletcher Christian also had a younger son named Charles Christian (Born 1792) and a daughter Mary Ann Christian (Born 1793).

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. Many scholars believe that the rumours of Christian returning to England helped to inspire Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

There is no portrait or drawing extant of Fletcher Christian that was drawn from life. Bligh described Christian as "5 ft. 9 in. high. Dark Swarthy 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 Bowlegged. He is subject to Violent perspiration, particularly in his hand, so that he Soils anything he handles."

Isle of Man, 1989, Fletcher Christian

Niuafo'ou, 1989, Mutiny on Bounty

Norfolk Island, 1989, Christian's home county

Norfolk Island, 1989, Mutiny on the Bounty

Norfolk Island, 2000, Fletcher Christian

Pitcairn island, 1940/1951, Christian, crew and Pitcairn

Pitcairn island, 1940/1951, Christian and Pitcairn

Pitcairn island, 1940/1951, Christian, crew and Pitcairn

Pitcairn island, 1969, Christian's Cave

Pitcairn island, 1976, Fletcher Christian

Pitcairn island, 1985, Christian's Look Out

Pitcairn island, 1989, Munity on Bounty

Pitcairn island, 1989, Mutiny on Bounty

Pitcairn island, 1990, Fletcher Christian, Cockermouth

Pitcairn island, 1990, Chronometer of Bligh and stamp M2

Pitcairn island, 1998, Christian's Cave

Pitcairn island, 1998, View from the beach

Pitcairn island, 1998, Cave entrance

Pitcairn island, 1998, Pathway through forrest

Tonga, 1985, Fletcher Christian, Bounty

Tonga, 1985, Fletcher Christian

Umm al Quiwain, 1969, Film Munity on the Bounty


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