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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Heywood's Dirk highlights the island's mutinous past
Circa 1817 English naval officer and victim of the celebrated mutiny on the bounty William Bligh-1754 - 1817 is cast adrift

Peter Heywood's Dirk is a piece of history which puts the Isle of Man at the centre of one of the most infamous naval events of all time.

The incredible story of the Mutiny on the Bounty has been the inspiration for countless films, books and songs.

The three main protagonists, Peter Heywood, William Bligh and Fletcher Christian all met on the Isle of Man.

They are thought to have met at a church in Douglas where their destiny would have been cemented.

Image: Manx National Heritage
Heywood's Dirk is thought to date back to the second part of his naval career

It is not surprising that the beginnings of a story with such a strong maritime theme should have started on the Isle of Man.

Manx National Heritage Curator, Matthew Richardson says in the nineteenth century the Island was at the nerve centre of many trading routes.

"The area we now call Douglas quayside has been described in the past as 'The golden triangle of British naval history'. Right at the epicentre of this area was St Matthew's church.

"This was the building where all three men and their families would have worshipped. It was the central meeting point in the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty".

When Bligh was testifying against Heywood and Christian he said 'I curse the day I ever came to know a Manxman'
Curator, Matthew Richardson

Peter Heywood's father was the Seneschal on the Isle of Man which was the representative of the Duke of Athol. The family lived at the Nunnery in Douglas, a very high profile family home. Captain Bligh was posted here as a customs officer and Fletcher Christian was from another very famous Manx family.

The three men would have met time and time again through various social networks and when Bligh was about to sail on the Bounty Heywood and Christian, through their family connections, were given officer positions onboard.

Matthew Richardson said "After the Mutiny when Bligh was testifying against Heywood and Christian he said 'I curse the day I ever came to know a Manxman'.

"This statement alone brings this world famous story back to it's roots on the Isle of Man.

Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Island: Getty Images

When Bligh took command of the Bounty on a voyage to the South Pacific, Christian was his 2nd in command and Heywood was a midshipman.

The voyage ended in a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian and to him escaping with his fellow mutineers to Pitcairn, whilst Bligh and his loyal crew navigated an open boat through uncharted seas to eventual safety.

Heywood took no part in the Mutiny, but was accused by Bligh of complicity and put on trial.

He was later saved from the death penalty largely through the efforts of his sister who campaigned on his behalf.

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