Section Index
Bicentennial - 2011
Visiting the Rock
Underwater Life
at the Bell Rock

"Inchcape Rock" by Robert Southey
Light-keeper's Duties "1823"
The Bell Rock Prayer
Sir Joseph Banks and Mutiny on the Bounty
Sir Walter Scott's visit, the "Pharos Loquitur"
"The Year without a Summer"
"Death of HMS Argyll"
Pharos Experience
Preparing for Automation
Life in the Bell Rock
Lighthouse (1865)

A Keeper's Account
'"A Quiet Night In"

A Keeper's Account
"Outdoor 'Excursions'"

North Carr Lightships
Lighthouses of the Forth
The Bell Rock Tartan


Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820)

Robert Stevenson named the ship, which housed the artificers during the progress of the Works, the "Sir Joseph Banks" - in compliment to Sir Joseph Banks, who was Vice-President of the Board of Trade in the year 1806 when the Bill for the Lighthouse was progressing through Parliament.

A Biographical Sketch

Sir Joseph BanksBorn in London into a wealthy family, on 13 February 1743, Joseph Banks received his earliest education at home under private tuition. At age nine he attended Harrow School and was then enrolled at Eton School which he attended from the age of 13 until 18. In 1760 he entered Christ Church at Oxford University as a gentlemen commoner.

His passion for botany and dedication to Linnean precepts had developed to such an extent that, unable to study botany at Oxford, Banks employed a private tutor, Isaac Lyons, from Cambridge. As was usual for members of his social class, Banks did not take out a degree. He came down from Oxford in 1763 an independently wealthy man following the death of his father in 1761.

As an independent naturalist, Banks participated in a voyage to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1767. Although he did not publish an account of this expedition, he allowed others full use of his collection. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquities. In 1778 he was elected President of the Royal Society, a position he held with varying degrees of support, until his death in 1820. He remains the longest serving President in the history of the Royal Society, founded almost 350 years ago.

He successfully lobbied the Royal Society to be included on what was to be James Cook's first great voyage of discovery, on board the Endeavour (1768-1771). This voyage marked the beginning of Banks' lifelong friendship and collaboration with the Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander, one of Linnaeus' most esteemed pupils, and the beginning of Banks' lifelong advocacy of British settlement in New South Wales. The Endeavour had sailed into Botany Bay in April 1770 and proceeded up the east coast and through Torres Strait, charting the east coast of Australia in the process.

Frustrated in his attempt at a second voyage to the South Seas, again with Cook, Banks set off in July 1772 for Iceland, his only other venture outside Europe.

From this time, Banks was actively involved in almost every aspect of Pacific exploration and early Australian colonial life. He was interested and involved in Cook's later voyages, despite his disappointing withdrawal from the second voyage. He actively supported the proposal of Botany Bay as a site for British settlement. He proposed William Bligh to command two voyages for the transportation of breadfruit and other plants, including the ill-fated voyage on the Bounty which ended in mutiny in April 1789.

He had a role in choosing the governors of the settlement in New South Wales, founded in January 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet. It was Banks who later recommended Bligh to succeed Philip Gidley King as the fourth Governor of New South Wales, Bligh's governorship ending in deposition during the Rum Rebellion in 1808. Banks corresponded with the first four Governors of New South Wales who, while they reported officially to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, also reported privately and therefore more intimately and openly to Banks.

Practically anyone who wanted to travel to New South Wales, in almost any capacity, consulted Sir Joseph Banks. He was the one constant throughout the first 30 years of white settlement in Australia, through changes of ministers, government and policy.

Banks organised Matthew Flinders' voyage on the Investigator (1801-1803) which helped define the map of Australia. He had connections with Sir George Macartney's embassy to China (1792-1794), and with George Vancouver's epic voyage to the north-west coast of America (1791-1795).

He sent botanists to all parts of the world, including New South Wales, often at his own expense. Their collections were added to both Kew Gardens and to Banks' own collections. His collectors voyaged to the Cape of Good Hope (Francis Masson and James Bowie); West Africa (Mungo Park); the East Indies (Mungo Park); South America (Allan Cunningham); India (Anton Hove); Australia (David Burton, George Caley, Robert Brown, Allan Cunningham, George Suttor). David Nelson was sent on Cook's third voyage and Archibald Menzies was sent on Vancouver's voyage.

King George III had appointed Banks adviser to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew some time after his return from the Pacific. His informal role as governmental adviser on a range of issues was recognised in 1797 with his appointment to the Privy Council. He served as a member of the committees on trade and on coin. In his capacity as President of the Royal Society he was also involved in the activities of the Board of Longitude and the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Board of Agriculture (founded in 1793) and the African Association (founded in 1788). He was also a Trustee of the British Museum.

In addition to the Banks family estates in Lincolnshire, Banks acquired his main London residence at 32 Soho Square in 1776. It was established as his London home and scientific base. His natural history collections were housed there and made freely available to bona fide scientists and researchers. Until his death, this house was a centre for the wider scientific community. He did not discriminate between British and foreign scientists. He was, in fact, influential in maintaining scientific relations with France, for example, during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

In 1819 he was appointed Chairman to two committees established by the House of Commons, one to enquire into prevention of banknote forgery, the other to consider systems of weights and measures.

Banks was created a baronet in 1781 and invested Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1795. In March 1779, he had married Dorothea Hugessen (1758-1828), daughter and heiress of William Western Hugessen. They had no children.

Sir Joseph Banks died on 19 June 1820.

The genus Banksia

(named in honour of Sir Joseph Banks for his contribution to botany)

The Swamp Banksia - Banksia Robur

Banksia is a genus of about 75 species in the Protea family (Proteaceae). All species occur in Australia with one (B.dentata) extending to islands to Australia's north. Banksias can be found in most environments; the tropics, sub-alpine areas, the coast and desert areas. The most diversity in the genus occurs in the south of Western Australia where over 80% of the species occur.


Archaeological evidence suggests that banksias or Banksia-like plants have existed for over 40 million years. The first humans to discover and make use of Banksia plants were the Australian aborigines who used the nectar from the flowers as part of their diet.

The first Europeans to observe banksias were probably Dutch explorers who made several landfalls along the West Australian coast during the 17th and early 18th centuries. No botanical collections were made, however, until the discovery of the east coast of Australia by Captain James Cook in the Endeavour in April 1770. Accompanying Cook were botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander who collected many new species at Botany Bay including four which would later be included in a new genus, Banksia, named in honour of Joseph Banks' contribution to botany. The four species collected were B.serrata, B.ericifolia, B.integrifolia and B.robur. Later, on the same voyage, Banks and Solander collected a fifth species (B.dentata) on the north Queensland coast.


Banksia flowers are quite small but they occur in dense clusters which, in some species, can number several thousand individuals. Banksias are classified into two broad groups; sub-genus Isostylis and sub-genus Banksia. The former consists of only three species, all native to Western Australia, and is recognised by having flowers in cone-shaped clusters. This group is similar in many ways to the related genus, Dryandra. The sub-genus Banksia has its flowers arranged in the more or less cylindrical spike familiar to most Australians.

The flowers are followed by large, woody seed "cones" in which the seeds are contained within closed follicles, two seeds per follicle. In the majority of species these follicles remain tightly closed unless stimulated to open by heat, such as following a bushfire but, with a few species, the seed is released annually. The seeds themselves have a papery wing which allows them to be distributed by wind. Lieut.

William Bligh (1754-1817)

It was Joseph Banks who proposed that William Bligh should command two voyages for the transportation of breadfruit and other plants - included the ill-fated voyage on the Bounty, which ended in the famous mutiny of April 1789.

The Mutiny

'Just before Sunrise Mr Christian and the Master at Arms... came into my cabin while I was fast asleep, and seizing me tyed my hands with a Cord & threatened instant death if I made the least noise. I however called sufficiently loud to alarm the Officers, who found themselves equally secured by centinels at their doors... Mr Christian had a Cutlass & the others were armed with Musquets & bayonets. I was now carried on deck in my Shirt, in torture with a severe bandage round my wrists behind my back, where I found no man to rescue me...'
From Lieut. Bligh's logbook

On the morning of 28 April 1789, 12 crew members, led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, staged a mutiny. They captured the ship and set Lieutenant Bligh and his supporters adrift in the ship's launch. Without charts or adequate provisions, he endured and successfully navigated an open boat 6,705 kilometres (3,600 miles) to Timor.

Some of the mutineers were later captured in Tahiti and brought back round the world to stand trial. Other crew members, including John Adams, decided (for obvious reasons) never to return to England and instead founded a British colony on Pitcairn Island.

A Short Biography

William Bligh, watercolour
on ivory miniature, c. 1814

William Bligh was born in Plymouth, England in 1754. In 1770 he joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman, rising to midshipman the following year. Between 1776 and 1793 he made three voyages to the South Seas, the first as master of HMS Resolution under Captain James Cook, 1776-1780, and the second as commander of HMS Bounty on a voyage to Tahiti to collect breadfruits for use as a food crop in the West Indies, 1787-89. It was this voyage that was interrupted by the celebrated mutiny.

Bligh, though a man of his time, was hardly the tyrant portrayed in modern Hollywood epics. The mutiny was largely a product of unaccustomed high-living by the ship's company and of the many liaisons established with local Tahitian women. It inevitably became a daunting task for any commander to return the sullen "Jack Tars" to a life of 18th century Royal Navy discipline and ship's food.

Bligh's association with Southern latitudes did not end with the mutiny. In 1806 he returned as governor of New South Wales, and after clashing with the corrupt "Rum Corps", suffered a second mutiny. Again exonerated by his superiors in England, he was made a rear-admiral in 1811 and a vice admiral in 1814. However, to echo the Irish playwrright Oscar Wilde - it could be said that to suffer one mutiny is unfortunate; to have a second could well be considered as downright carelessness!

Acknowledgement is made to the State Library of New South Wales for the use (in part) of the above material.

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