Mutiny on the Bounty: Captain Bligh - merciless or misjudged?

Hollywood’s version of the Mutiny on the Bounty is well known:  The brutality of Captain William Bligh forces his former friend, Fletcher Christian, to take up arms and rebel. Loyal officers and remaining crew are set adrift into the vastness of the South Pacific, while the mutineers sail off to their new-found island paradise.

But is this history fair to Bligh? Was he a tyrant, or did the mutiny follow a catastrophic personality clash with Fletcher Christian?  

Neither theory explains Bligh’s superb leadership as he successfully navigated 4,000 miles of ocean in that open boat, nor the unfortunate fact that other mutinies blighted his later career.

But meanwhile what happened to the mutineers?  And why was Bounty in the South Pacific hunting for breadfruit plants in the first place?

It is a compelling story that pits colonial power, Empire, and the slave trade against the frailties of individual sailors far from home.

Proposed Lecture



With over thirty years of experience in horticulture and arboriculture, Clive has worked for many significant heritage organisations including English Heritage, The National Trust and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

A maritime dimension is added to Clive’s life through his work for the RNLI, involving search and rescue at sea. His present role includes launch and recovery work driving a 19 tonne semi-submersible tractor!

The story of the mutiny on the Bounty neatly combines Clive’s personal interests in both maritime and horticultural history.  As a public speaker, Clive brings great knowledge and an infectious passion to all his talks. He has presented in many venues including: The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, Hong Kong and the United States.

Gardens for Princes and People

Plants have been grown for pleasure for many thousands of years; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, for example, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, were reputedly built around 500BC.

From then on garden making has continued uninterrupted.  For many centuries they were the exclusive domains of the rich, and often used as a means to display both wealth and power.  More recently magnificent public gardens have been created that are often rightly valued as green sanctuaries in our congested cities.

One constant is that gardens continually evolve, reacting to the fickle nature of fashion, and the introduction of new plants transported from around the globe. 

This talk looks at some of those changes, by tracing the development of some of the most beautiful gardens from Britain, Europe and around the world and using them to illustrate this fascinating 2,000 year old story.

Prepared for

The Royal Geographical Society - HK

Clive Mayhew  FArborA, MICFor