Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).


‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ is one of those epic films that gets remade every generation. It tells the tale of the stubborn Captain Bligh and his good friend and second-in-command, Fletcher Christian. During a long voyage through the South Seas, Bligh’s increasingly tyrannical behaviour alienates him from the crew to such an extent that Christian is obliged to orchestrate a mutiny. Bligh and his cronies are cast aside but somehow make it all the way back to England in a rowing boat, where the Captain is promptly court-martialled for losing control of his ship. Throw in some beautiful Tahitian women and you’re guaranteed box office gold. The earliest version was filmed in 1916. Clark Gable and Charles Laughton went head to head in 1935. Marlon Brandon and Trevor Howard did it in 1962. Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins did it in 1984. A brand new version is sure to be headed your way sometime soon.

One thing none of these films mention is that Captain Bligh played a key role in shaping Dublin Bay as we know it. Born in England, he cut his cloth sailing the South Seas on board the Resolution with Captain James Cook when he was 18-years-old. The Bounty incident took place in 1787. The 33-year-old Captain Bligh was honourably acquitted at the court-martial three years later. In 1800, the Captain was sent to Dublin to survey and sound the bay and estuary. He deduced that most shipwrecks in Dublin Bay were caused because the ships carried too little cable and ground tackling to guarantee safe anchorage in stormy sea conditions. One of his solutions was to strengthen the South Wall from the Poolbeg Lighthouse to the Half Moon Battery. These improvements began shortly after Bligh’s report was submitted. In 1803, he published an extremely accomplished map showing the bay in fine detail, along with his proposed improvements. The Bull Wall has also sometimes been erroneously attributed to him. Bligh’s work in Dublin helped earn him the Fellowship of the Royal Society. In 1805, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales where he faced another mutiny and was imprisoned by the mutineers for two years. He returned to England afterwards. In 1814, he was appointed a Rear Admiral and later Vice Admiral. He died in 1817 and was survived by six daughters.



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