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Bounty Day is on June 8th, and this year the festivities will be held on the 10th because it’s a weekend. Bounty Day is a major holiday on Norfolk Island, and celebrates the day that the descendants of the mutineers on the Bounty arrived on the island. The mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 is a tale which has often been told in books, movies, songs and TV shows, yet continues to be a subject of debate, with the relationship between Captain William Bligh and head mutineer Fletcher Christian at its centre.
There has been a tendency to portray Captain Bligh as a cruel tyrant who flogged his men into mutiny, but records show that his rule was generally mild and enlightened. For whatever reason, he and his master’s mate, Fletcher Christian, failed to get along. During the voyage, the ship’s crew enjoyed a lengthy stay on Tahiti, and its relaxed lifestyle seem to have made a return to naval discipline appear intolerable to the men; Bligh’s acid tongue, quick temper and insulting manner probably didn’t help.
Fletcher led the mutiny against Bligh while the ship was near Tonga, and took control of the Bounty, while Bligh and his loyalists were set afloat. The mutineers spent time in Tahiti, where Fletcher married Maimiti, the daughter of a local chief. From there, they kidnapped several of the locals and took them to Pitcairn Island, at that time uninhabited and incorrectly mapped. Once there, they sunk and burned the Bounty so that nobody could leave.
Perhaps they thought they had found an island paradise, but Pitcairn Island became plagued by murder, rape, slavery, alcoholism and insurrection. During one conflict, Fletcher Christian was reportedly killed, leaving behind his pregnant wife and their sons, Thursday October and Charles; his daughter Mary Ann was born after his death. Thursday and Charles are the ancestors of almost everyone with the surname Christian on Pitcairn and Norfolk Island, and the Christians are one of Norfolk Islands first families.
Norfolk Island was once a penal colony, and after the convicts had been repatriated to Tasmania, it was resettled in 1856 by people from Pitcairn Island, whose population (the descendants of mutineers and their Tahitian wives) had grown too large for it. Norfolk Island became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
[If you have been worried about Captain Bligh all this time – don’t be. That capable seaman navigated his way to Timor across 3618 nautical miles of sea in 47 days, and made his way back to England, where he reported the mutiny to the Admiralty. Later he was appointed Governor of New South Wales, where he must have rubbed people up the wrong way again, as the Rum Rebellion saw him arrested and imprisoned by the rebels. Once all that mess had been sorted out, he was promoted].
Fletcher is an English surname which is an occupational name for an arrowsmith, someone who makes arrows. The word is derived from the Old French fleche, meaning “arrow”. It takes a great deal of skill to make arrows correctly, and during medieval times, the role of the fletcher became highly respected and well-paid.
The Fletchers trace their descent from Jean de la Fleche, a Norman noble who was granted lands in Yorkshire by William the Conqueror. Jean’s descendant, Sir Bernard Fletcher, moved to Scotland, where he was granted lands by King David I. The Fletchers forged strong relationships with the Campbells, the Stewarts and the McGregors; one of the Fletchers is said to have saved the life of Rob Roy McGregor when he was wounded. The Fletcher line continued their involvement in arrowsmithing for royalty and the nobility for several centuries.
The most famous Australian with the first name Fletcher is probably Sir (David) Fletcher Jones, the son of a Cornish miner who started his own highly successful menswear business in the 1920s. Fletcher Jones is credited with transforming men’s fashion in Australia, which gives this name a conservative, yet stylish, feel.
Fletcher began charting in New South Wales in the 1990s, when it debuted at #365. It peaked in 2009 at #156, and is currently stable at #178. Fletcher is #152 in Victoria, and is significantly more popular in Tasmania, where it is in the Top 100 at #56.
Given the connection between the islands of Pitcairn, Norfolk and Tasmania, it seems apt that Fletcher Christian’s forename should be most popular there. Another Tasmanian connection to the name is that Errol Flynn’s first film role was playing Fletcher Christian in In the Wake of the Bounty.
The name Fletcher is more popular in Australia than elsewhere – in the US, Fletcher is #790 and rising, and in the UK it is #253 and rising.
As surnames for boys become ever more popular, Fletcher is another which seems as if it has plenty of room for growth. The flipside to Archer, it connects us to an enigmatic adventurer who founded an island dynasty, and continues to haunt our imaginations.
POLL RESULT: Fletcher received an approval rating of 88%. 32% of people liked it, and 28% loved it.