|Mutiny on the HMAV Bounty|
Bligh provides the only physical descriptions of Ned. Notably, they all occur after the mutiny, so he’s not too keen to flatter. This is where we read Ned was stout, dark-complexioned, with few remaining, rotting teeth. Interestingly, Bligh never attributes African features to him. Nor does he mention Ned’s West Indies connection, even though Bligh would have known and that was their destination.Similarly, the literature will still occasionally cite Bligh as referring to Ned being Admiral Sir George Young’s nephew. Bligh’s only mention, however, in his log, is of Ned being “recommended” by the Admiral. Given the common surnames, it is easy to imagine how that could drift to the latter assumption, and it’s rife with potential, but not yet established.
What we know is this: Admiral Sir George’s genealogy was developed in 1927 by his great-grandson, Sir George Young, 3rd Baronet, under the title, “Young of Formosa”, Formosa being the name of the Admiral’s home in Devon, England. His great-grandson disputes the notion that Ned was the Admiral’s nephew. But in an appendix, he includes the research of a Young relation, Rev. Charles Russell Cooke, who postulates in 1882 that Ned could have descended from the Admiral’s first-cousin, James Young. Based on Ned’s age, Cooke tentatively allocates him a place on that branch of the family tree. We get into a wild set of coincidences, but in this extended family of Youngs, it is tradition that the firstborn of a family be named, “George”. This happens to be the name Ned gives his firstborn, and is the name given the firstborn for the first three generations. More remarkably, the five names listed on this family tree as possibly being Ned’s father, aunts and uncles are to a person the very names Ned gives his children on Pitcairn. The one omission is Ned’s first daughter, Polly, which presumably was his mother’s name and thus excluded from the Young genealogy.
It’s been suggested that if Ned were related to the Admiral or anyone in this nautical family, a possible explanation of why there is no account of him is his being expunged from family records after committing a treasonous act. Correspondence with the present Baronet, Sir George Young, 6th Bt., supports this proposition. This then begs the question, on what information did Cooke base his speculation of Ned’s place in the Young family. Unfortunately, Cooke dies in 1892 without offspring and his estate is subsequently sold. Locating his personal papers has so far proven difficult and his work may need to be recreated.So that’s all, in fact, we know of Edward Young. The Bounty muster lists his birthplace as St. Kitts in 1764, and Bligh notes he was recommended to him by the Admiral. We know he spoke the King’s English from extracts from his journal. Beyond that, we simply don’t know. When someone says Ned was related to Admiral Sir George Young or that he was bi-racial, the son of a plantation owner father and slave mother, we don’t know. We don’t know how old he was when he left for England, only that he was 21 when he signed-on to the Bounty. In fact, we can’t even be certain Ned spoke anything but English. Hopefully, if linguists presently combing the Pitcairn and Norfolk languages for St. Kittian-derived words can determine a significant number, more than might have been contributed by Fletcher, who had made two voyages to the West Indies himself and from court testimony “mixed well” with the locals, we can more confidently infer Ned at least lived long enough in St. Kitts to learn the local creole and that those words likely came from him. If this bears out, biographers can start to look to his arriving in England at an older age, rather than younger. I think we have a ways to go.
July 8, 2012
July 8, 2012