Testimony of John Fryer (9/12/1792)

Mr. JOHN FRYER, Master of His Majesty's armed Vessel " Bounty," was called in and sworn.

Examined by the Court-

Q. Inform the Court of all the Circumstances within your Knowledge respecting the running away with His Majesty's Ship" Bounty" ?

A. 0n the 28th. of April, 1789, the first Part we tacked and stood to the Southward and Westward until the Island of Tofoa bore North then steered West North West. In the first Part of the Evening we had little Wind with rain-I had the first Watch. About ten O'Clock the weather cleared and became very fine; the Moon at that time was in its first Quarter and a breeze sprung up from the E.S.E. Between ten and eleven O'Clock Mr. Bligh came on Deck, agreeable to his usual Custom to leave his Orders for the Night; after Mr. Bligh had been on Deck some little time I said, "Sir, we have got a fine breeze and a Moon coming on, which will be fortunate for us when we come to the Coast of New Holland." Mr. Bligh replied, "Yes, Mr. Fryer, so it will," which was all the conversation that passed between us. After leaving his Orders he went off the Deck.
At twelve O'Clock we had fine Weather and every thing quiet on board. I was relieved by Mr. Peckover, the Gunner; every thing remained quiet until he was relieved at four O'Clock by Mr. Fletcher Christian. At the Dawn of Day I was much alarmed, whether from the Noise Mr. Bligh said he made or by the People coming into my Cabin I cannot tell, but when I attempted to jump up John Sumner and Matthew Quintal laid their Hands upon my Breast and desired me to lay down, saying, " You are a Prisoner, Sir." I attempted to expostulate with them; they told me to hold my Tongue or you are a dead Man, but if you remain quiet there is no Person on board that will hurt a hair of your head. I then, by raising myself on the locker, which place I always slept on for coolness, saw on the ladder going upon Deck -Mr. Bligh in his Shirt, with his Hands tied behind him, and Christian holding him by the cord. The Master at Arms, Charles Churchill, then came to my Cabin and took a Brace of Pistols and a Hanger, saying, " I will take care of these, Mr. Fryer." The Pistols would have been of no Service to me as I had no Ammunition; the time we armed to confine the Chiefs at Anamocha on account of a Grapnel being stolen from the large Cutter when on shore, John Mills the Gunner's Mate had taken the Cartridge Box out of my Cabin, which had the Pistol Balls in, and filled it with Musquet Cartridges for one of the People who wanted a Cartridge Box and Mr. Bligh ordered him to load or part load the Pistols with Powder only, to be in readiness to fire off the four Pounders in case of necessity. 
When I saw Mr. Bligh on the ladder I asked what they were going to do with their Captain. "Damn his Eyes," Sumner said, "put him into the Boat, and let the Bugger see if he can live upon three fourths of a Pound of Yams a day." "Into the Boat?" I said, "for Godsake for what?" "0 Sir, hold your tongue," they replied (Sumner and Quintal). "Mr. Christian is Captain of the Ship and recollect that Mr. Bligh has brought all this upon himself." I said again, "Consider, my Lads, what you are about." John Sumner replied, "0 Sir, we know very well what we are about." "I am afraid not," I said again, "or you would not persist in your Intentions; let me persuade you to lay down your Arms and I will insure that nothing shall hurt you, for what you have done." "0 No, Sir," they replied, "hold your tongue, it is too late now."
I then said, "What Boat are they going to put Captain Bligh into?" They said, " The small Cutter." "Good God! the small Cutter's bottom is almost out, being very much eaten with the Worms." "Damn his Eyes," Sumner and Quintal said, "the Boat is too good for him." I said, "I hope they are not going to send Captain Bligh adrift by himself." They answered "No, his Clerk, Mr. Samuel, Messrs. Hayward and Hallett, are going with him."
I requested they would let me go on Deck to speak to Captain Bligh, before he went into the Boat; they answered I could not. At last I prevailed on them to call upon Deck to Christian to give me permission to go up, which after some hesitation he granted. When I came upon Deck Mr. Bligh was standing by the Mizen Mast with his Hands tied behind him and Christian holding the Cord with one Hand and a Bayonet in the other. I said, "Mr. Christian, consider what you are about." "Hold your tongue Sir," he said, "I have been in Hell for Weeks past-Captain Bligh has brought all this on himself." I told him that Mr. Bligh and his not agreeing was no reason for his taking the ship. "Hold your tongue, Sir," he said. I said, "Mr. Christian, you and I have been on friendly terms during the Voyage, therefore give me leave to speak; let Mr. Bligh go down to his Cabin and I make no doubt but that we shall all be friends again in a very short time." He then repeated, "Hold your tongue, Sir, it is too late," and threatening me if I said any more; however, I said, "Mr. Christian, if you will not grant what I first asked you, do pray give Captain Bligh a better Boat than the small Cutter, whose Bottom is almost out, and let him have a chance to get on shore." He said, "No, that Boat. is good enough." I whispered to Captain Bligh to keep his Spirits up, that if I staid on board I might be enabled Soon to follow him. Mr. Bligh said, "By all means stay, Mr. Fryer." This he spoke so loud that Christian could not avoid hearing him, but took no notice.
Captain Bligh said one of the Men under Arms (Isaac Martin) was a Friend, aft by the Hencoops, and said to me several times, "Knock Christian down." All this Christian must hear, but still took no notice. Captain Bligh must certainly have been much confused at this time, otherwise he never would have said "knock Christian down," whatever he thought at that time. There were two Men behind me, Sumner and Quintal, with Musquets and Bayonets fixed. However I made an effort to get past Christian, to speak to Martin, who Captain Bligh said was a friend, when Christian put his Bayonet to my breast, saying, "Sir if you advance an Inch further, I will run you through," and ordered the People to take me down to my Cabin; his orders were readily obeyed by Sumner and Quintal. At the Hatchway I saw James Morrison, the Boatswain's Mate; he was at that time getting a Tackle to hook upon the Launch's stern, apparently, so I said to him, "Morrison, I hope you have no Hand in this Business? " He replied, "No Sir, I do not know a Word about it," or Words to that effect. "If that's the case," I said in a low Voice, " be on your Guard; there may be an opportunity of recovering ourselves." His answer was" Go down to your Cabin, Sir, it is too late." I was then confined to my Cabin and a third Centinel put on, John Millward, who I thought seemed friendly. I winked at him and made a motion for him to knock the Man down that was next to him, which was John Sumner. Millward immediately cocked his Piece and dropt it pointed towards me, saying at the same time, " Mr. Fryer be quiet, no one will hurt you." He held his Piece sometime in that position. I said, "Millward, your Piece is cocked, you had better uncock it, as you may shoot some Person." He then held his Piece up and said, " There is no one who wishes to shoot you." Sumner said, "No, that was our Agreement not to commit Murder."  Mr. Samuel, the Clerk, was all this time getting things out of Captain Bligh's Cabin. Messrs. Peckover, the Gunner, and Nelson, the Botanist, were confined down in the Cockpit, to which Place I persuaded the Centinels to let me go. When I got there Mr. Nelson was with Mr. Peckover in his Cabin. Mr. Nelson said; "Mr. Fryer, what have we brought on ourselves? " Mr. Peckover, the Gunner, said, "What is best to be done, Mr. Fryer?" I told him that I had spoke to Captain Bligh desiring him to keep his Spirits up, that if I staid on board the Ship I hoped soon to follow him, and Mr. Bligh said, "By all means stay, Mr. Fryer." I said to them if we were ordered into the Boat-say that you will stay on board, and I flatter myself that we shall recover the Ship in a short time. Mr. Peck over said, "If we stay we shall be all deemed Pirates." I told them not-that I would answer for them and everyone that would join with me. At the time we were talking Henry Hilbrant, the Cooper, was in the Breadroom getting some Bread to put into the Boat for Captain Bligh; I suppose he must have heard our Conversation and had gone on Deck and told Christian, as I was immediately ordered up to my Cabin, when I heard from the Centinels that Christian had consented to give Captain Bligh the Launch, but not for his sake but the safety of those who were going with him. I then asked if they knew who was going into the Boat with Captain Bligh; they said no, but believed a great many. I then heard Christian say, "Give every Man a dram out of Captain Bligh's Case, that is under Arms." John Smith, the Captain's Servant, was called for and the dram served out; this Circumstance gave me great hopes that if I should stay on board, that they would get drunk and in a short time might take the Ship. Sometime after, Messrs. Peckover and Nelson were ordered upon Deck, when Christian said to me, "Mr. Fryer, go into the Boat." I said, "I will stay with you, if you will give me leave." "No, Sir," he replied, "go directly into the Boat." Captain Bligh was at that time on the Gangway without the rail and his Hands at Liberty. He said, " Mr. Fryer, stay in the Ship." "No, by God, Sir," Christian said, "go into the Boat or I will run you through," pointing his Bayonet at my Breast. I then went outside the rail to Mr. Bligh, and asked Christian to let Mr. Tinkler, my Brother in Law, go with me.  Churchill said" No "-however, after much solicitations, Christian permitted him to go with me; I then requested my trunk, which was granted, but Christian gave orders that nothing else should be taken out of my Cabin. I requested my Log Book and Quadrant, which was denied me as Mr. Bligh had a Quadrant. I cannot say who was in the Boat first,  Mr. Bligh or myself; however, we were both on the Gangway together, All this time there was very bad Language made use of by the People to Captain Bligh. We all begged that they would give us two or three Musquets into the Boat; Churchill would not consent to it-said Mr. Bligh was very well acquainted with the People where he was going.
The Boat was ordered astern; after laying astern sometime, four Cutlasses were handed into the Boat, the People at the same time making use of very approbious Language-I heard several of them say, "Shoot the Bugger" (meaning Captain Bligh). Mr. Cole, the Boatswain, said, " We had better cast off, and take our Chance, for they would certainly do us a mischief if we staid much longer." Captain Bligh very readily agreed to cast the Boat off. There was very little Wind; we got our Oars out and rowed directly astern; our reason for so doing was, that we should be sooner out of the reach of the Guns. As won as the Boat was cast off I heard Christian give orders to loose the Top Gallant Sails; they steered the same course as Captain Bligh had ordered -W.N.W.-and continued to do so for the time we saw them. The Confusion that prevailed on board from the first Alarm to our quitting the" Bounty" was so great, and our attention from that time to our arrival at Timor so much taken up by the attention to our Preservation that it was not possible for us to make any Note or Memorandum at the time, even if I had had the means, so that the foregoing account is an exact State of the Case to the best of my recollection. The following is the list of the Persons that I observed under Arms-Fletcher Christian, Master's Mate, Charles Churchill, Ship's Corporal, Thomas Burkitt, A.B. one of the Prisoners. Christian, Churchill and Burkitt were in the Cabin when Captain Bligh was seized. John Sumner, Matthew Quintal, John Millward-one of the Prisoners-Sumner, Quintal and Millward were Centinels over me.  Isaac Martin was Centinel abaft of the Hencoops. The four following that remained on board wished to come into the Fryer's Journal: " Several of them appeared to be drunk, which was really the case, "Boat-Joseph Coleman, Armourer-one of the Prisoners, who called out several times to recollect that he had no hand in the Business-Thomas M’Intosh, Carpenter's Mate, another of the Prisoners, and Charles Norman, another of the Prisoners, were leaning over the rail apparently to me to be crying-Michael Byrn, another of the Prisoners, in one of the Boats crying. I heard him say that if he went into the Boat, that the People who were in her would leave him when they got on Shore as he could not see to follow them, or Words to that effect. Mr. Peter Heywood, another of the Prisoners, I did not perceive on Deck at the Seizure of the Ship.

Q. You have named six Persons who were under Arms; do you believe that those were the only Persons under Arms?
A. No. 

Q. What was your reason for so believing?
A. From hearing the People in the Boat say so, but I did not see any more under Arms to the best of my recollection. 

Q. Inform the Court of the Number of Men you saw upon Deck on each of the times you went upon Deck?
A. Eight or ten. 

Q. What time did you remain upon Deck on each of the times that you went upon Deck ?
A. About ten "minutes or a quarter of an Hour.

Q. What works were going on on each of those times?
A. When I went upon Deck first they were hoisting the Boats out and when I went upon Deck the last time there was nothing going on particularly, but the Centinels over Captain Bligh and myself forcing of us into the Boats.

Q. Do you think that the Boats could be hoisted out by eight or ten People?
A. No. 

Q. Have you any other reason to know that there were any Persons under Arms, other than those you have mentioned, but from what you was told in the Boat?
A. No.

Q. When you was upon the Quarter Deck did you perceive any of the Prisoners active in obeying any Orders that they received from Christian or Churchill or while you was on the Gangway?
A. I saw Burkitt and Millward, two of the Prisoners, under Arms as Centinels over Captain Bligh and me at the Gangway, which I suppose was by Order of Christian.

Q. You have said that you saw Morrison, the Boatswain's Mate, assisting in hoisting the Boats out; did you see any other of the Prisoners employed on that Business or on any other?
A. No, my attention was so taken up with the Conversation with Captain Bligh that I did not observe what was doing.

Q. When the Dram was served to the People on board the " Bounty" did you see either of the Prisoners partake of that Dram?
A. 0nly one of them, Millward.

Q. When the Boat in which Mr. Bligh and those who accompanied him were put [was] veered astern, did you observe anyone of the Prisoners join in the bad Language which you say passed upon that occasion?
A. Not to the best of my recollection. I saw Millward upon the Taffrel Rail with a Musquet in his Hand; there was so much Noise and Confusion in the Boat that I could not hear one Man from the other.

Q. You say also that when the Cutlasses were handed into the Boat very bad language was made use of by the Mutineers; did anyone of the Prisoners join in it upon that occasion?
A. Not to my recollection-it was a general thing among the whole. 

Q. Did you see Thomas Ellison, one of the Prisoners, in the Day of the Mutiny on board the" Bounty" ?
A. No.

Q. Did you see William Muspratt at that time?
A. No. 

Q. At the time you were ordered upon Deck after the Conversation you have related to have passed in the Cockpit, how and by whom were those Orders conveyed to you?
A. By the Centinels, Millward, Sumner, and Quintal.

Q. When Mr. Bligh and you were ordered into the Boat, did any Person assist or offer to assist Mr. Christian in putting those Orders into Execution?
A. Yes-Churchill, Sumner, and Quintal-and Burkitt I saw-under Arms upon the Quarter Deck at a Distance. 

Q. You have said when you cast the Boat off that you rowed right astern for the purpose of getting out of the Way of the Guns-had you seen any preparations made for firing them?
A. I meant the small Arms that the Men had in their Hands-which they held up, and their language was" Shoot the Buggers."

Q. Was you near enough when you heard Christian order the Top Gallant Sails to be loosed to know any of the People who went upon the Yards?
A. It was only one, who was a Boy at that time, Thomas Ellison. 

Q. As Master of the" Bounty," how many Men did it require to hoist the Launch out?
A. It might be done with ten Men. 

Q. Was the remark you made of your not having seen Peter Heywood on Deck during that Day the 29th. of April made at Timor or since you knew that he had been apprehended by the" Pandora"?
A. Since I knew he was apprehended, but I had frequently told Captain Bligh in Our Conversations that I had not seen the Youngsters on Deck.

Q. How many men went up to loose the Top Gallant Sails?
A. I only saw this Boy Ellison go up to loose the Main Top Gallant sail.

Q. What reason had you to imagine that John Millward was friendly to you at the time he was placed Centinel over you?
A. He appeared to me to be very uneasy in Mind.

Q. You say that you obtained permission for Tinkler to join the Boat with you. Had he been compelled to remain in the Ship?
A. He had been told by Churchill that he was to stay aboard to be his Servant and came crying to me in my Cabin.

Q. In what Part of the Ship were the Youngsters birthed in?
A. Down the Main Hatchway-they had a Birth on each Side of the Main Hatchway.

Q. Did you observe whether there was a Centinel or Centinels over the Main Hatchway?
A. Yes, I omitted to mention that I saw Thompson sitting upon the Arm Chest on the Main Gratings by the Main Hatchway. I wanted to have gone into Our Mess Place in Order to speak to them thro' the Bulkhead, but I was stopped by Sumner and Quintal. 

Q. Was Thompson Armed?
A. To the best of my recollection I saw a Cutlass in his Hand.

Q. Did you consider him to have been a Centinel over the Youngsters' Birth?
A. Yes-and a Centinel on the Arm Chest at the same time.

Q. Do you know that on that Day there was any effort made by any Person in the Ship to recover her?
A. No-only by what I said to the Gunner and Morrison. The Boatswain came down in a flurry and I whispered him to stay in the Ship, but I do not know whether he heard me or not; he has since said he did hear me.

Q. What time elapsed from the first Alarm to the time of your being forced into the Boat?
A. About two hours and a half or three hours, to the best of my recollection.

Q. What did you suppose to be Mr. Christian's meaning when he said he had been in Hell for a fortnight?
A. From the frequent Quarrels that they had had, and the Abuse which he had received from Mr. Bligh.

Q. Had there been any very recent Quarrel?
A. The Day before Mr. Bligh challenged all the young Gentlemen and People with stealing his Cocoanuts.

Q. When you went into the Cockpit were there any Centinels placed over Mr. Nehon and Mr. Peckover?
A. Not below; the same Centinels who confined me to my Cabin kept them below also. 

[Mr. PETER HEYWOOD delivered a Paper writing to the Court which was read by the Judge Advocate as follows-" As what I should ask would be rather an examination in Chief, rather than a Cross examination of Witnesses in the usual Manner, and might be the means of delay to the Court, and prevent the Evidence from standing in so clear a point of view, as it is incumbent upon me, and no doubt is the wish of the Court to have it stand, I shall therefore beg to defer asking any questions until I come up on my Defence- reserving to myself, however, the privilege of calling again any of those 'Witnesses who may be examined on the Part of the Prosecution.]

Cross-examined by MICHAEL BYRN—

Q. Was you upon Deck when the large Cutter was hoisted out?
A. No. 

Cross-examined by JAMES MORRISON-

Q. Do you recollect when you spoke to me, what particular answer I made, and are you positive that it was me who said, " Go down to your Cabin?"
A. Yes, I am positive it was you-you said, "Go down to your Cabin, it is too late." 

Q. Do you recollect that I said, "I will do my endeavour to raise a Party and rescue the Ship?
A. No. 

Q. Did you observe any Part of my Conduct particularly on that Day, which will lead you to think I was one of the Mutineers?
A. I never saw him only at that time, and his appearance gave me reasons to speak to him to be on his Guard; he appeared to be friendly and his answer rather surprised me, or whether he spoke thro' fear of the others or not, I do not know.

By the Court-

Q. Might not Morrison's speaking to you and telling you to keep below, be from a laudable Motive, as supposing your resistance at that time might have prevented a more advantageous effort?
A. Probably it might-had I staid in the Ship he would have been one of the first that I should have opened my Mind to, from his good behaviour in the former Part of the Voyage.

Q. Did he speak to you in a threatening tone or address you as advice?
A. Addressed me as advice.

Q. Did you see any Person that appeared to be forcing Morrison the Prisoner to hook the tackles upon the Launch?
A. No.

Q. Did you see the Prisoner Morrison employed in any other way than that which you have related, from the time you were first confined until the Boat was cast loose from the Ship?
A. No. 

Q. In hoisting out that Boat did you consider it as assisting the Mutineers or as giving Captain Bligh a better chance for his Life?
A. Assisting Captain Bligh and giving him a better chance for his Life. 

Cross-examined by THOMAS BURKITT-

Q. If you did not see Captain Bligh before he was going up the ladder with Mr. Christian, how could you see me in his Cabin assisting to seize him?
A. I have not said that I saw you assisting to seize Captain Bligh, but when Captain Bligh was on the ladder I saw Churchill and Burkitt come out of his Cabin Armed. 

Q. Did you see me when I was on Deck under Arms take any Charge upon me or use any bad Language?
A. No. 

Q. Did I in the Course of the Voyage do my Duty and behave myself as became a good Seaman in every respect whatever?
A. Yes. 

Cross-examined by JOHN MILLWARD-

Q. Did you see me at the time you came and spoke to Morrison for to rescue the Ship?
A. No, he was ordered as an additional Centinel over me, after that Business.

Q. Did I take the Arms I had at that time voluntarily or by Force?
A. I cannot tell. 

Q. Do you recollect the Words I spoke to you when I came down the Cockpit?
A. No, but what I have already said.

 The Witness withdrew.