Cyprus Brig

A song by Francis MacNamara
Collected by Lloyd Robson from J.H.Davies of Newtown, Tasmania, 1961.

Cyprus Brig: J.H. Davies tune

Poor Tom Brown from Nottingham Jack Williams and poor Joe
They were three gallant poacher boys their country all does know
And by the laws of our Game Act as you may understand
Were fourteen years transported boys all to Van Diemen's Land

When we landed in this colony to different masters sent
For little trifling offences boys to Hobart Town gaol were sent
Now the second sentence we received and ordered for to be
Sent to Macquarie Harbour that place of tyranny

Down Hobart Town streets we were guarded on the Cyprus Brig conveyed
Our topsails they were hoisted boys our anchor it was weighed
The wind it blew a nor nor west and on we steered straight way
Till we brought her to an anchorage in a place called Recherche Bay

Now confined in a dismal hole those lads contrived a plan
To take possession of that brig or else die every man
The plan it being approved upon we all retired to rest
And early next morning boys we put them to the test

Up steps bold Jack Muldemon his comrades three more
We soon disarmed the sentry and left him in his gore
Liberty Oh Liberty it's Liberty we crave
Deliver up your arms my boys or the sea shall be your grave

First we landed the soldiers the captain and his crew
We gave three cheers for Liberty and soon bid them adieu
William Swallows he was chosen our commander for to be
We gave three cheers for Liberty and boldly put to sea

Play on your golden trumpets boys and sound your cheerful notes
The Cyprus Brig's on the ocean boys by justice does she float


Lloyd Robson: Well perhaps you'd like to tell us then something about this song the Seizure of the Brig Cyprus Mr. Davies.
J.H.Davies: Well about all I can tell you about prisoners transported out here ... well they were sent out for fourteen years you see, and when they got to Hobart of course they were sent out to different Masters to work on farms mostly and for little offences they got sent to gaol to get a second sentence see. They were transported for the second sentence to Macquarie Harbour, to receive the second sentence you see. Of course that was a quite common thing in the prison times you know. They used to take these men out, ticket-of-leave men, they had to pay 'em a small wage, well of course there was no such thing as pay day in those days ... they paid you when you got the sack or else not at all. Well what they used to do the farmers in those days apply to get two or three or whatever they wanted onto their farm, and then when they had a bit of a cheque to come, they'd rig up some crime again 'em and send them into Hobart. Give them a letter to bring in to walk in perhaps ... the old boss was far away when they got to the gaol it was a letter to get a floggin'. That was quite common, and of course they'd lose their pay then, perhaps they's been workin' three months or more and get nothing for it, 'cause they'd committed an offence you see.
Lloyd Robson: Could you sing us this particular song, now then? How does that song go, about the Cyprus?
J.H.Davies: The Cyprus Brig? Yeah, I'll do me best.
[Recording transcribed by Mark Gregory April 2011]

The seizure of convict ships by convicts happened a number of times. This particular event occured in August 1829, and a manuscript in the Mitchell Library has a poem of 48 lines that commemorates the seizure. Titled 'Seizure of the Cyprus Brig in Recherche Bay' it is printed in Geoffrey Ingleton's True Patriots All and attributed to Frank MacNamara (Frank the Poet).

Hugh Anderson in his encylopaedic book Fairwell to Judges & Juries (2000:608) writes:
'A very good account of the events dealt with here is in F Clune and PR. Stephensen's "docu-fictional account", The Pirates of the Brig Cyprus (London, 1962), and which is complemented by the contemporary reports of the trial of the mutineers (14 October~ 14 December 1834) in S.A.Spence's book (Mitcham, Surrey, 1968).William Swallow, alias Brown, a seaman from North Shields, who was married with two children and aged 39 years when tried for housebreaking in Surrey, led a remarkable if miserable life. He was born at Sunderland in 1792, and as William Walker was apprenticed in a collier when aged 15 years. Three years later he was press ganged in the Royal Navy and served two years before being discharged into the chronic unemployment after the Napoleonic Wars. He sank into complete poverty and in October 1820 was caught stealing clothes and food down-valued to eightpence, for which he was given seven years transportation. On the way to London on the Merchant Packet Swallow jumped overboard, later claiming he had fallen from the rigging. Under the name William Walker he was sentenced at Durham in January 1821 for stealing a quilt and arrived in Hobart on the Malabar later that year. He did not remain in the colony for long, but absconded in the Deveron in 1823. As Swallow he was returned on 18 April 1829 on the Georgiana with a life sentence. Nevertheless, his convict record states he was "a very good man. William Swallow died at Port Arthur in May 1834.'

See Cyprus Brig trial Colonial Times (1831)
See also Cyprus Brig sighting: Sydney Gazette (1829)