John Fryer (Royal Navy officer)

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John Fryer (sailor)

John Fryer RN (15 August 1753 – 26 May 1817) was the sailing master on HMAV Bounty, a British vessel made famous by the Mutiny on the Bounty. He had the interesting position of being a strong critic of both Lieutenant William Bligh and mutiny leader Fletcher Christian, even at one time accusing Bligh of favoring Christian. Despite his anger at Bligh, he did not support the mutiny.

Fryer was born at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. After his naval service, he returned to Wells, and his grave in the churchyard is now clearly identified.

In 1787, Fryer was appointed Master of the HMAV Bounty, with Fletcher Christian as Master's Mate. The Bounty's Captain William Bligh on 10 January 1788 put his crew on three watches, giving one of them to Christian; and on 2 March 1788 promoted Christian to Acting Lieutenant. Some have speculated that this was the source of the ill-will that later developed between Fryer and Bligh. However, as a Master, Fryer would never have been promoted to lieutenant at sea. Indeed, he never did become a lieutenant.

Fryer remained loyal, and accompanied Bligh in reaching Timor. Bligh's account of the Mutiny vilified Fryer, but Fryer gave fair evidence at Bligh's court-martial. Edward Christian, Fletcher's brother, was assisted by Fryer in publishing a counterweight to Bligh's version.

Fryer never received promotion, but served in the Royal Navy until 1812.[1]

Fryer has been portrayed by three actors in various film portrayals of the Mutiny on the Bounty. In the 1935 film, he was played by DeWitt Jennings while Eddie Byrne portrayed him in the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed him in the 1984 film The Bounty.

A biography of Fryer was edited by Owen Rutter in 1939: John Fryer of the Bounty (Golden Cockerel Press).

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