Where is Fletcher Christian Buried?
and comment by David Siddall 2012.
WHETHER regarded as lovable hero or disloyal rogue, Fletcher Christian seems to have had family connections with many of the buildings in Cockermouth. But even historical researchers who have painstakingly traced records find it hard to categorically pin down the final fate of the man played so colourfully by Marlon Brando. And his place of death remains a mystery that every now and then prompts Lord Lucan-style myths and legends.
One certainty is that Fletcher Christian was born 1764 near Eaglesfield, and that he was ringleader of the dramatic Mutiny on the Bounty.
What is less well known are his connections with Cockermouth town centre. As a teenager he attended the Grammar School, the old building that stood alongside the graveyard at All Saints church until it was demolished in 1896 to make way for the present All Saints hall. By the way the present building has been superbly refitted out as a venue for weddings and receptions.
In later years while Fletcher Christian was encircling the globe on HMS Bounty his brother John was working as a lawyer and latterly practiced as an attorney based at the Swann Inn in Kirkgate. No doubt Fletcher must have called on his brother John on occasional revisits to Cockermouth and his recorded home port of Whitehaven. Our former Town Clerk, David Bertram, also recalls a reference to the Christian family being in Norham House at one stage.
Fletcher Christian's paternal grandmother, Bridget Senhouse, descended from the powerful Fletcher family, which had ruled at Cockermouth Old Hall. The Hall, located in the area behind the Market Place, was demolished for car parking at a similar time when the authorities almost demolished Wordsworth House to make way for a bus depot. Conservationists of today are amazed by the over zealous clearance policies of that era.
There is little need to repeat the drama of how our local hero set his captain and former family acquaintance, Captain William Bligh and others adrift in an open boat in the South Pacific. But while Cpt Bligh's safe return to Blighty (pun intended!) is well documented, it still remains a mystery how Fletcher Christian died. The researchers attach the highest likelihood to death through old age or during feuding amongst the mixed settlers on the lonely Pitcairn Islands.
But local historian Hugh Turner in his detailed study lists some of the anecdotal tales of the Cockermouth mutineer slipping back to England in his old age. Mr Turner writes: "Around 1808-9 stories were circulating that he (Fletcher Christian) had been seen in woods in Cumberland." But Mr Turner tends to dismiss these sightings as much will of the wisps as the oft claims in our own times of Lord Lucan being spotted.
In 1796 there was an anonymous publication referring to supposed letters from Mr Christian written from Cadiz in Spain. But William Wordsworth, who went to Cockermouth Grammar School in the same era as our hero, was among many who rebutted such lightweight speculation.
Another brother to Fletcher was Edward, who became headmaster at Hawkshead Grammar Schoool in the 1780s.
In 2005 descendants of Fletcher Christian, Tom Christian, his wife Betty, three of their four daughters and their son-in-law came to Cockermouth and visited Moorland Close Farm at Cockermouth, where the leader of the Mutiny on the Bounty was born on September 25 1764.
Mr and Mrs Christian left their home on Pitcairn Island, and arrived in Cockermouth on Mr Tom Christian's 70th birthday. Tom Christian is Fletcher Christian's great-great-great grandson and was Pitcairn's communications officer for 45 years and an island councillor.
Maryport Maritime Museum's Fletcher Christian display, which includes a chest reputedly, owned by the mutineer.
Recommended reading are 'Fletcher Christian some facts, some fallacies' by Hugh Turner and available at the Cockermouth Tourism Centre and 'Fragile Paradise' by Glynn Christian.
More comment on Fletcher Christian's local links