AFRICA: IN AND OUT OF AFRICA – THOMAS LIMPUS, JOHN RUGLESS, SAMUEL WOODHAM

It is natural to infer that Government understands it is simply landing these people in Africa, to let them shift for themselves, and get their Board in the best manner they can’. Richard Miles, Cape Coast Castle to Home Office, London.

1782 – 6 November, England: Government chartered the Den Keyser to transport forty (40) or so criminals reprieved death from England to Senegal on Africa’s west coast.

They were to serve sentences of seven (7), fourteen (14) years or life at the fort settlements of Goree and Cape Coast Castle. In 1644 the English established a permanent foot-hold on West Africa when its  forces captured Cape Coast Castle, the main Dutch base in West Africa,captured from the Dutch in 1644 during the third Anglo-Dutch War.

Convicts Samuel Woodham and John Rugless were destined for a life-time of military service. Civilian prisoners like Thomas Limpus; reprieved to be ‘banished from this realm’ would be dumped and left to ‘shift for themselves’.

1782 – 3 December, Africa: After a month a sea Den Keyser arrived off Goree but permission to land was denied. A Mexican stand-off between ship and shore lasted four (4) days.

1782 – 7 December, Goree: Eventually twenty (20) convicts including Thomas Limpus were allowed ashore. Captain William Lacey the local Lieutenant-Governor, who had replaced the murderous Governor Joseph Wall, ‘sent [the others] off and would not give them any victuals’.

1782 – 10 December, Cape Coast Castle: A day or so later the remaining convicts ‘landed…naked and diseased on the sandy Shore of Cape Coast Castle’. Miles. op. cit.

1783 – February: Richard Miles, Lieutenant-Governor of Cape Coast Castle, wrote to the Home Office complaining of their unannounced arrival.

‘The grand consideration seems to be, to get them out of Europe at all Events….No provision whatever is made for them’. Richard Miles. op. cit.

1783 – Goree: Meanwhile at Goree Thomas Limpus sized up his situation and decided to get away as soon as possible. After a few days work for food he joined as crew of a trading ship due to depart for England.

1783 – mid-August, London: Limpus was back in London by mid-August 1783.

1783 – Goree:  Samuel Woodham and John Rugless joined their assigned military detachment where most regular troops had been at this outpost of Empire for some some time.

Sick and starving many, eaten up with venereal disease, were more than a little mad. The fort was more or less defenceless as most soldiers traded their weapons for food grog and sex.

Officers flogged the rank and file mercilessly. Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Wall ordered one, a Sergeant Armstrong, receive eight hundred (800) lashes.

Woodham and Rugless saw nothing good could come from staying at Goree so, like Limpus at the first opportunity, sailed home on a returning trading ship. See: Three Amigos + One Thomas Barrett

 1794 – October/November, England:  Woodham and Rugless had arrived in England by the end of 1794 and were soon in trouble with the law.

‘The administration gave no consideration to the date of expiry of sentences and several of the First Fleet convicts had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782’. Dr John Cobley, Crimes Of The First Fleet, Angus and Robertson, 1982

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth:  Thomas Limpus, Samuel Woodham and John Rugless sailed on the First Fleet’ ‘bound for  Botany Bay’ on 13 May 1787.

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: The three (3) friends disembarked at Sydney Cove in January 1788 where Limpus met up with Thomas Barrett an old friend from the hulk Dunkirk. See: A Vicious Circle – The Hangmans Noose 

Biographical information taken from: Mollie Gillen, Founders of Australia, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1989. 

EPILOGUE

1802 – London: Governor Joseph Wall was recalled to England. Tried at the Old Bailey and found guilty of murdering Sergeant Armstrong. He was executed outside Newgate before a rowdy crowd baying for blood.

1825 – November, Sydney: A chilling echo; in 1825 Major-General Ralph Darling, Governor of New South Wales inflicted severe sadistic punishment on two (2) soldiers one (1) of whom died.

Privates Joseph Sudds and Patrick Thompson stole some cloth from a Sydney shop because neither wanted to return to England.

‘On 22 November [1825] they were stripped of their uniforms and dressed in convicts’ clothing. Sudds and Thompson were drummed out of the regiment to the tune of the Rogue’s March.

Iron chains, personally designed by Governor Darling, were hung from a spiked iron collar around the prisoners’ necks, to the waist, then to the ankle. The chains [weighed 6.35kg] were three times heavier than the chains worn by convicts in the road gangs.

The two prisoners were unable to stand erect or to lie down at full length. Sudds was already ill when first sentenced and by this time could hardly stand. In this, and wearing the heavy iron collar and chains, his illness worsened and he died five days later’. http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/discover_collections/history_nation/justice/sudds/crime_punishment/

Patrick Thompson did not die with the heavy collar still in place he was put to work on a road-gang at Emu Plains. When he could no longer stand Thompson was loaded onto a cart, taken to the Penrith lock-up where the neck iron was removed.

More fortunate than Governor Wall – Sir Ralph Darling died a Knight of the Realm.

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