Convicted of Returning from Transportation
THESE convicts effected their escape from Botany Bay under the following extraordinary circumstances:-- A Dutch schooner, commanded by Captain Smyth, took a supply of provisions to the settlement of Sydney Cove. A convict, named Briant, and who was married to the prisoner Mary Briant, persuaded Captain Smyth to let him have his six-oared boat, with an old lug-sail, a quadrant, and compass, for which he paid him what money he had, and some he collected among those to whom he intrusted his design; for the convicts having little use for the money with which their friends had supplied them, on sailing from this country, had most of it by them. Captain Smyth gave him one hundred pounds of rice, and fourteen pounds of pork; they purchased of a convict, who was baker to the colony, one hundred pounds of flour, at the rate of two shillings and sixpence, and one shilling and sixpence per pound, which, with ten gallons of water, was all the provisions they took on board; and, at ten at night, on the 28th of March, 1791, William Briant, with his wife and two children, the one three years and the other one year old, the three other prisoners, Samuel Briant, James Cox, and William Martin, embarked in this open boat to sail to the island of Timor, which, by the nearest run, is upward of one thousand three hundred miles from the place of their embarkation; but, by the course they were forced to take, it was impossible for them to form an idea what distance they might have to run, or what dangers, independent of those of the sea, they might have to encounter; added to this, the monsoon had just set in, and the wind was contrary.
Under these circumstances they rather choose to risk their lives on the sea, than drag out a miserable existence on an inhospitable shore. They were forced to keep along the coast, as much as they could, for the convenience of procuring supplies of fresh water; and on these occasions, and when the weather was extremely tempestuous, they would sometimes sleep on shore, hauling their boat on the land. The savage natives, wherever they put on shore, came down, in numbers, to murder them. They now found two old muskets, and a small quantity of powder, which Captain Smyth had given them, particularly serviceable, by firing over the heads of these multitudes, on which they ran off with great precipitation; but, they were always forced to keep a strict watch. In lat. 26 degrees 27 minutes they discovered a small uninhabited island: here was plenty of turtles, that proved a great relief to them; but they were very near being lost in landing. On this island they dried as much turtle as they could carry, which lasted them ten days.
During the first five weeks of their voyage they had continual rains; and being obliged to throw overboard their wearing apparel, &c. were for that time continually wet. They were once eight days out of sight of land, and after surmounting infinite hardships and dangers, they landed, on the 5th of June, 1791, at Cupang, on the island of Timor, where the Dutch have a settlement; having sailed considerably more than five thousand miles, and been ten weeks all but one day in performing this voyage. At Cupang they informed the governor, that they had belonged to an English ship, which was wrecked on her passage to New South Wales. The governor treated them with great humanity, but at length overheard a conversation among them, by which he discovered that they were convicts, who had escaped from the colony in New South Wales.
On the 29th of August, 1791, the Pandora, of twenty guns, Captain Edwards, was wrecked on a reef of rocks near New South Wales. The captain, and those of the crew who were saved, got to Cupang in their boats, when the governor gave the captain an account of the eleven persons he had there, and of the conversations he had overheard.
The captain took them with him to Batavia, where William Briant and his eldest child died. The rest were put on board a Dutch ship, in which Captain Edwards sailed with them, for the Cape of Good Hope. On their passage to the Cape, James Cox fell overboard and was drowned, and Samuel Bird and William Martin died. At the Cape, Captain Edwards delivered the survivors to Captain Parker, of the Gorgon, and they sailed with him for England. In their passage home, the younger child of Mary Briant died.
Their trial took place, at the Old Bailey, on the 8th of July, 1792, when the Court ordered then to remain on their former sentence, until they should be discharged by the course of law. This lenient treatment was in consequence of the great suffering they had endured, the full punishment for such an offence being death. Joseph Lorrison