Thursday 8 August 2019 * SOLD OUT *
6 – 8.30pm

Almost universally portrayed as a villain in movies and books, does this view of William Bligh stand up to scrutiny today? This lively debate challenges the stereotype, looking beyond the mutiny on the HMS Bounty to explore the many sides of one of the maritime world’s most infamous figures and skilled seamen. 

What’s not in doubt is that Bligh’s life was extraordinary – he caused controversy on land and sea. He was an officer of the Royal Navy, a survivor of a brutal mutiny at sea, and a Governor of NSW whose actions caused a military coup that became known as the Rum Rebellion. 

Come and judge for yourself as we hear from author Peter Fitzsimmons who will argue Bligh as tyrant and villain, together with Rear Admiral Peter Briggs who will argue that Bligh was a heroic figure and strong leader. 

This not to be missed debate will be moderated by the maritime museum’s curator of environment and communities Dr Stephen Gapps. 

Note: Ticket includes light refreshments and the opportunity from 5 – 6pm to view the museum’s newest exhibition Bligh – Hero or Villain?

Image: Mutiny on the Bounty (The Mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Ship the Bounty), 1790 by Robert Dodd. Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra


Peter FitzsimonsPeter FitzSimons is an Australian journalist, radio and television presenter and author, and former national representative rugby union player. As a journalist, FitzSimons has written for the Sydney Morning Herald since 1988, and has been a sports columnist since 1987.

He regularly appears on the Australian Foxtel program, The Back Page. For the Saturday edition of the SMH, FitzSimons writes a column titled The Fitz Files giving an overview of sports happenings over the past week and has worked as co-host for radio 2UE on Mike Carlton’s breakfast program. FitzSimons has authored over 30 books including his most recent Mutiny on the Bounty in 2018.


Rear Admiral Peter BriggsRear Admiral Peter Briggs enjoyed a 40-year career in the navy specialising as a submariner, including two submarine commands.

He is a past President of the Submarine Institute of Australia and led the Silent ANZAC project to protect, preserve and tell the story of HMAS AE2. More recently he led the successful search to find and examine HMAS AE1.


Stephen GappsDr Stephen Gapps is an historian and museum curator with research interests in public history, the Australian Frontier Wars, historical re-enactments and the commemoration of the past. His PhD thesis was a history of historical re-enactments and Stephen has participated in various re-enactment groups and events over the last 20 years. 

In 2011 he won a NSW Premier’s History Award for Regional and Community History and in 2016 was awarded the NSW State Library Merewether Fellowship. 

Stephen is currently lead curator developing a new permanent gallery display at the Australian National Maritime Museum that explores deep time, environmental and Indigenous histories. He is a conjoint lecturer with the University of Newcastle and currently developing a research project digital mapping the Frontier Wars conflict. His most recent book The Sydney Wars – Conflict In The Early Colony 1788-1817 was published in 2018.