Person 12

Frances Simpson Heywood

circa 1790 –


Pauline Reynolds (2016) has recently discussed the Pitcairn Island (and associated Tahitian) ‘ahu fabrics in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection in great depth, clarifying certain points of confusion in the Kew documentation, and identifying the relevant people involved. In August 1816, Frances Joliffe (who was the young widow of an Indian Navy officer drowned off the coast of Mumbai) was remarried to Post-Captain Peter Heywood RN (Retired). Heywood also became stepfather to her daughter Diana Joliffe Heywood. In marrying Heywood, Frances was not only marrying a naval hero of the Napoleonic Wars, but one of the few survivors of the 1789 mutiny aboard HMS Bounty.

It is said that the 16-year-old Heywood was unarmed during the mutiny itself and was kept below deck while Bligh and his officers were loaded into the longboat. He disembarked with several others at Tahiti, and fathered a daughter there, before being arrested by Captains Bligh and Edwards aboard HMS Pandora in 1791. He narrowly escaped drowning on the Great Barrier Reef and hanging back in England but was cleared of all charges by George III. The young Peter was evidently remembered with great fondness on both Tahiti, and by the Tahitian women who married the mutineers and travelled on to Pitcairn; as Reynolds observes, the ‘ahu and letters sent to the Heywoods via Lieutenant John Marshall and Captain Jenkin Jones testify to that.

That the sentiment was equally strong for Heywood is similarly evidenced by the fact that he spent much of his short retirement writing and publishing a dictionary of Tahitian; that Frances continued this association after Peter’s death in 1831; and that their daughter Diana Joliffe (as well as briefly marrying the explorer Edward Belcher) would go on to author The Mutineers of the Bounty & their Descendants in Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands in 1870.


  • Reynolds, P. (2016). Tapa cloths and beaters: tradition, innovation and the agency of the Bounty women in shaping a new culture on Pitcairn island from 1790 to 1850. Textile History, 47(2): 190-207




Other Names

Frances Simpson Joliffe; Mrs Heywood

Date of Birth

circa 1790

Date of Death


Entry created on 28 August 2020