Archive for March, 2009

HMS GORGON & THE ‘BOTANY BAY ESCAPEES’

Friday, March 13th, 2009

‘I confess that I never looked at these people [Botany Bay escapees] without pity and astonishment. They had miscarried in a Heroic struggle for liberty after having combated every hardship and conquered every difficulty’. Watkin Tench at Cape Town aboard HMS Gorgan, March 1792. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson 1961

1791 – 21 September, Sydney Cove: HMS Gorgan arrived at Sydney in September 1791 tasked with returning marines of the Sydney Garrison to England.

Six (6) months earlier, in March, the hustle and bustle surrounding the departure of Waaksamheyd a Dutch ship that arrived from Jakarta (December 1790) and saved the Sydney settlement from starvation, helped divert attention when, at midnight on 28 March 1791, convicts William and Mary Bryant, their children Charlotte three (3) years and baby Emanuel, with seven (7) convict companions, oars muffled on a stolen rowing boat – Governor Phillip’s own cutter – slipped silently out of Sydney Harbour and set course for Timor.

‘In writing of the recruitment of criminals into the armed forces, Stephen Conway observed, ‘It was still found necessary periodically to clear both the putrid and congested gaols and the equally overcrowded and insanitary hulks’. Conway, cited Alan Frost, Botany¬† Bay Mirages, Melbourne University Press, 1994.

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