site unseen Admiral Bligh's tomb, SE1

one infallible way of finding out a person's age is to ask them which actor played Fletcher Christian. Senior citizens (or should it be recycled teenagers?) will reply Clark Gable, the middle-aged Marlon Brando and the young Mel Gibson. Try the same question as regards Captain Bligh and you will get the answers Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard or Anthony Hopkins.

Personally I'm a clear Brando/Howard man and although the odds were heavily weighted against Howard, I still root for his Captain Bligh - and not just because Howard was a cricket-lover and Brando gave one of those mannered performances which heralded the terminal decline of a once-great actor.

Needless to say, the cinematic versions are extremely economical with the truth. Bligh was rather more than a nautical Adolf Hitler. He was in fact an explorer and navigator of genius. Fourteen years after the events on the Bounty, a certain Horatio Nelson commended Bligh for his bravery and skill at the Battle of Copenhagen. Ten years later he was promoted to the position of Rear-Admiral.

Not a lot of people know that - but why should they? It suits Hollywood to end the Bounty story with Fletcher Christian triumphant and Bligh in terminal disarray.

Although William Bligh was born and brought up in Cornwall, he lived and died in Lambeth. A plaque on 100 Lambeth Road commemorates the family home, almost opposite our Imperial War Museum. Bligh died in December 1817 and was buried just down the road in St Mary-at-Lambeth, his parish church.

St Mary's tells a fascinating story in its own right. Closed down in 1972, the neglected former church soon became a vandalised eyesore. Demolition was planned, even though the building stood only a few yards from Lambeth Palace, the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It took the dedicated efforts of Rosemary Nicholson and colleagues to turn the then redundant church into the present-day splendour of the Museum of Gardening History, honouring the 17th-century gardeners, the Tradescants, who are also buried in the old churchyard.

But any visit to the Museum must include a moment spent beside the fine stone tomb of Admiral Bligh. It surely reinforces the feeling that fact and fiction are rarely even on nodding terms.

Andrew John Davies

Admiral Bligh's tomb is situated in the churchyard of the Museum of Gardening History, Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7LB (0171-261 1891)

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'