John Williams

John Williams, seaman, aged 25 years, five feet five inches high, dark complexion, black hair, slender made; has a scar on the back part of his head; is tatowed, and a native of Guernsey; speaks French.

This description is of one of the major players in the mutiny on the Bounty. It was written by Captain Bligh after the event in his response to assertions made at his court-martial (where he was acquitted).

Williams was one of the three mutineers who established themselves with Fletcher Christian on Pitcairn. 26 years of age, he was an 'armourer,' or blacksmith, and his skills were very important to the other men on the island. His Tahitian 'wife' died within a few months of arriving in Pitcairn and he became depressed and demanded another woman, saying that if he did not get one he would take the cutter and leave the island. The mutineers had brought with them from Tahiti some Tahitian men, whom they mistreated, and a few Tahitian women. The British sailors took one of the Tahitian men's women to give to Williams. Eventually the Tahitians became so disaffected they killed all four of the mutineers when out in their fields, including Williams and Christian. Williams left no children on Pitcairn, but the forge he established was still there 150 years later.

Williams gave his home as Stepney, in London, and is reported to have been the illegitimate son of an Elizabeth de Ste-Croix, who from her surname was almost certainly from Jersey. There is no mention of his birth in the Guernsey church records.1 There was an established sea-faring Williams family and a John Williams extant in Guernsey at the right time to be his father, but this family seems to have been perfectly respectable.

1 See Booth, Tony, 'Guernseyman and Bounty Mutineer', Review of the Guernsey Society, XLVII (2), Summer 1991, pp. 39 ff. He gives a detailed account of the Mutiny and Williams' part in it. He also tells us that Williams was born on Glategny Esplanade in Guernsey, that his father was a sailor, and that because his mother Elizabeth de Ste-Croix could not look after him, he was made a ward of the Town Hospital until he was put in to the Navy aged ten.