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 aboard HMS Gorgan, Cape Town March 1792. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson 1961

1790 – 17 December, Sydney: Just in the nick of time to save the Sydney settlement from disaster Waaksamheyd a Dutch ship hired by Lieutenant Henry Ball RN (HMS Supply) at Jakarta, reached Port Jackson laden with food and medicines for the starving Englishmen, women and children marooned there since January 1788.

1791 – 21 September: Nearly a year later HMS Gorgan arrived from England tasked with returning the marine officers of Sydney Garrison to England.

1791 – 28 March: Six (6) months earlier, in March 1790, the hustle and bustle surrounding Waaksamheyd’s  departure had helped divert attention when, at midnight on the 28th, 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.

(more…)