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William Bligh (1754-1817) – Part 2

William Bligh’s strength was charting and surveying, skills honed under Cook on HMS Resolution. And by 1800 Bligh had built a successful career in the Royal Navy with a reputation for maintaining discipline.

In 1803 the first settlement of Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania) at Risdon Cove by Lieutenant John Bowen, was followed by an 1804 settlement on the other side of the Derwent River at Sullivan’s Cove (Hobart) by Captain David Collins. England feared a possible French settlement agenda.

In 1806, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), Bligh took up the position of Governor of New South Wales with the mission to crush corruption in the rum trade. The result of Bligh’s appointment, the third mutiny of his career, was the infamous Rum Rebellion in 1808.

Following the rebellion, Bligh refused to leave New South Wales until officially relieved of command by England. But eventually, deposed by the rebels, he agreed to leave for England on HMS Porpoise. Bligh sailed South to Lieutenant Governor David Collins for support. That support was not forthcoming. Collins ordered that no person should provision HMS Porpoise; Bligh was effectively imprisoned on the ship in the Derwent River until 1810.

Richard Morgan (my great great great great great grandfather), an ex-convict from Norfolk Island, had arrived in Tasmania on 6 October, 1806 aboard the King George. He took up his grant of 130 acres at Kangaroo Point directly across the river from Collins’ settlement at Sullivan’s Cove. It is not known why Morgan risked slighting Collins by supplying Bligh’s ship, but there were approximately two months overlap between Bligh’s August arrival in Sydney and Morgan’s departure from Sydney. They may have become friends, or Bligh’s way of doing things could have appealed to Morgan. Bligh’s popularity among the poorer settlers near Sydney is expressed by the number of tombstones with children named William Bligh.

So, against Collins’ orders, HMS Porpoise was supplied by Morgan. A friend of Morgan’s, James Belbin, was caught on board HMS Porpoise and earned a sentence from Collins of 500 lashes. Certainly a powerful message to anybody who would befriend or assist Bligh. Belbin’s flogging appears never to have been carried out.

In 1810 HMS Porpoise returned to England via Sydney. On arrival back in England, William Bligh was backdated to the rank of Rear Admiral then several years later to Admiral of the Blue. He died in 1817. Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is a descendant.

The purpose of writing about William Bligh is simple. In the context of Richard Morgan and Tasmanian history there needs to be a global picture of what was happening in politics, war and migration. Tasmania was not an isolated land, nor were the players in this story immobile or bit players.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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