This article is taken from Stand 238, 21(2) June - August 2023.

Ian C Smith And... Action!
Brandishing bayonet, cutlass, and pistol, Fletcher’s stance cries out for poise. Collar open, hair loose, he could be a movie hero in a later period of history, his bones never found, a man of mystery. He even sports the unshaven scoundrel look suitable for a South Pacific dawn over the ocean scene, except for those wild eyes maddened beyond any method actor’s range.

Observing Bligh – still snapping orders – from behind, we note his bound wrists chafing, the undignified nightshirt. Various accents echo across water, shouted commands, snarled counters, idiotic suggestions. In the launch. Out of the launch. Factions form, splinter. The pirates need this one. That one weeps. Gunwales wobble, dipping so low they caress reflected marine light. Utter turmoil. Lloyds would never underwrite this lot despite Fletcher slipping them his best sextant in a merciful gesture at the last, and four cutlasses. Bligh nurses his now freed wrists, his precious log that shall indict all by name and deed.

Before this, before reaching Tofua and further run-ins, in thrall to the sound of his own whiplash tongue, Bligh puffs up for another speech, one about England and justice. See that sailor standing next to him, the short one scarred by smallpox and tattoos? Tom Burkitt in one of history’s walk-on roles – he was plucking a fowl at mutiny’s eruption – moved by a sense of decorum, or possibly humiliation overkill, tugs down that nightshirt ruched by the ropes’ restraints, covers his vociferous now ex-captain’s bare white bum.

Much ...
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