Piratical Seizure of The Government Brig Cyprus

Colonial Times Friday 4 September 1829 p.3

PIRATICAL SEIZURE OF The Government Brig Cyprus,
By Convicts, on their way to the Penal Settlement of Macquarie Harbour.

We last week mentioned that the Cyprus was on her passage to the Penal Settlement of Macquarie Harbour, conveying 31 prisoners under sentence of transportation to that place ; and having onboard a large supply of provisions for the Settlement ; and that the prisoners had mutinied aud taken possession of the vessel , and carried her out to sea.

On Monday afternoon, the Government sloop Opossum, which we reported in our last to have been ordered by Lieutenant Governor ARTHUR to Research Bay, to relieve the Military, the crew, and the prisoners, who had been put on shore there from the Cyprus, returned to port. The persons put on shore at Research Bay were, Lieutenant CAREW, 63d Regiment, his Lady, and two children ; Surgeon WILLIAMS ; Captain HARRISON, the master of the vessel ; the Chief Mate ; the Steward ; Mr. UNDERSHELL, the Commissariat Clerk ; 1 serjeant, and 9 privates of the 63d Regiment ; two women, wives of the soldiers, and one child ; 15 prisoners ; and the crew, seven in number, of the brig -in all 44 persons. ; all of whom arrived safe per the Opossum except five of the prisoners, who are endeavouring to make Hobart Town overland, by heading the River Huon. They had permission from Lieut. Carew to do so, under the impression that they would reaeh Hobart Town in five days from the time they sailed ; but as nearly three weeks have now elapsed since they left, fears are entertained of their safety, more especially as they had neither provisions, gun, nor hunting dog with them in the woods.

The following are the paiticulars of the capture of the Cyprus, as nearly as we have been able to collect them ; and we have taken some pains, in older to obtain the most authentic information, in which we believe our leaders may rely as to its accuracy :—

The Cyprus went into Research Bay on Monday, the 9th of August, in consequence of the wind being then foul, which prevented her from proceeding on her voyage round the coast to Macquarie Harbour. During her stay here, the Captain took the opportunity of recovering two anchors, which he had lost there about a fortnight previously, and, having taken in some fire-wood and water, expected to have had a fair wind, and to have sailed on the Saturday morning following. The preceding evening being very calm, Lieut. Carew, Mr. Burn, the mate, Mr. Williams, one soldier, and one prisoner went into the small boat to fish in the bay-leaving the Captain, the soldiers, and sentinels on Board, together with the ship's crew. This was about six o'clock in the afternoon, some time before dark. At this moment, while the fishing-boat was distanced from the vessel about two hundred and fifty yards, there were no persons on the ship's deck, except two sentinels on duty, each having a musket with fixed bayonets, and a soldier without arms—the rest of the soldiers and the serjeant, (together with all their muskets and ammunition) being between decks, taking supper ; and the master of the vessel and Mrs. Carew in the cabin ! At this moment also, there weie five of the prisoners on deck likewise ! They had been allowed to come up as an indulgence, as was granted to all the other prisoneis in theil turn, to receive the benefit of the air. These prisoners composed Walker ( an able seaman), Pennel, McKern, Jones, and Fergusson, a carpenter. With the exception of the latter, who assisted the ship's carpenter at his work, all these men were double ironed ! This man, together with Walker and Wood, who assisted the sailors to woik, were theiefore allowed to sleep with them, and of course to walk the decks, and were so doing at this period ! Fergusson here availed himself of the opportunity which presented itself, hy calling upon his fellow prisoners walking the deck, aud saying, that if they did not embrace that opportunity, he would discover their previous plots ; for that they had six favourable opportunities already, and did not avail themselves of either. They instantly rushed upon the two sentinels, and knocking them down, released the prisoners, who jumped on deck, and fastened down the hatchway on the soldiers, aud knocked down Captain Harrison, who had come up to see what was the matter. The soldiers instantly fired shots up through the hatchways at the prisoners ; and one of the balls passed through Walker's jacket. The pirates then poured down boiling water on the soldiers, and threatened to throw down a kettle of lighted pitch to smoke the ship, and smother them all, unless they immediately suaendered ! The soldiers could not standup in the little place tbey were in ; and, being deprived of light or air, and threatened with being instantly smothered, had no other alternative than to suuender their arms ; upon which they were let on deck, one by one ; when they were put into a boat, and guided by another boat, containing armed prisoners, until they were put on shore, when they repeated the same means, until they put the forty-five persons on shore. The whole time, from the first attack, until they shouted " the ship's our own," did not occupy more than eight or ten minutes ! ! ! One of the sentinels, named Scully, had his head cut in four several places.

When Lieutenant Carew came along-side to go on board, they refused to admit him, and Pennell levelled his piece at him, but it missed fire several times, the soldiers having wet the powder in the muskets before giving up the arms. They then demanded Lieutenant Carew's commission, which, in order to satisfy them, he said was on board. Upon the whole of these unfortunate persons being landed, the pirates sent on shore only 60lbs. of biscuit, 20lbs. of sugar, 4lbs. of tea, 20lbs. of flour, and 8 gallons of rum ; together with a lighted stick and a tinder-box, one musket, and a few rounds of ammunition ; but, although many were the en- treaties, they refused to give them their trunks, or clothes, or any other necessaries ; even Mrs. Carew's or her children's things, who were left so destitute, that Mrs. Carew would not come on shore, on the return of the Opossum in the harbour, until after dusk. These persons, 44 in number, remained 13 days in that desolate and forlorn situation, exposed to all the inclemency of the weather, both night and day, upon such a very scanty allowance, which did not of course last them many days ! Thus seventeen prisoners voluntarily went off in the Cyprus, besides Browne, one of the sailors, whom they hand-cuffed, and forced to go with them ; all the rest of the prisoneis they forced on shore, not knowing there was so large a quantity of provisions on board as actually was. Walker was appointed Captain ; Ferguson, who dressed himself in Lieutenant Carew's uniform, and put on his sword, was appointed Lieutenant, and Jones, the Mate ! They purposed making regulations when they got out to sea, and to make canvas clothing for the sailors, as they supposed there was a considerable quantity of canvas on board. Morgan and Knight, two more of the sailors, were also pressed, and ordered by Walker to remain on board, until next morning. They, however, treated them very well, and endeavoured by making them, drunk, to prevail upon them, to go with them; but they sternly refused, and were therefore put on shore next morning. McKern, one of the ringleaders, first picked out ten men, as they were determined to take no more ; but the remaining seven prevailed upon them to take them, as if they were put ashore, they said they would all suffer for having assisted in capturing the vessel ; upon which they were permitted to remain on board, though they apprehended they would come short of water. Walker, Ferguson, and Jones, promised to give Morgan and Knight (the two sailors whom they pressed) the jolly boat, to go on shore in the morning; but a James Cham refused, saying, that they might be becalmed off the coast, and wisely added that the jolly-boat might enable the Lieutenant to send an express to Hobart Town and cause them to be retaken. Pennell, Jones, and Watts became quite intoxicated the same night; and, at half-past five on Saturday morning, they gave three cheers, and sailed with a fair wind, and were out of sight in two hours, blowing hard from the north-west; and it was supposed that they bent their course for Valparaiso.

Knight, the sailor, though now a prisoner, was, we understand, formerly an officer in the navy. Walker pressed him very much to go with them, on account of the knowledge he possessed of the coast of Peru; but Morgan and Knight both resolutely refused. The latter is of opinion, they meant to go to the coast of Peru, and then scuttle the ship, and pretend they were sbip-wrecked sailors. He says, the fellows, have plenty of good clothes and boots and shoes, belonging to the Lieutenant, the Doctor, Captain, Mate, &c. ; and that they Have 8 casks, of 70 gallons each, containing 560 gallon's of water, being sufficient for two months, at two quarts each per day. A remarkable instance of the presence of mind in a female occurred. The Serjeant's wife, duriug the confusion rolled up the Government dispatches, intended for Macquarie Harbour, and actually succeeded in bringing them safe off in her apron ! The soldiers and crew, &c. were all searched previously to their being sent on shore ; and none were suf- fered on deck until the boats returned.—Several of these prisoners, it appears, were at Macquarie Harbour previously, and expressed themselves at all hazards never to go there again. They were heard to say, that they knew what they had to endure at that place, and would sooner die than go there again ! ! !

We come now to the wretched creatures, who were left on that desolate place, in Research Bay, without any shelter or food, and starvation staring them in the face. Mrs. Carew and her children must have suffered inconceivable hardships ; still this lady is said to have borne it better than many of the men ; her sufferings were greater than during the Peninsular war.—She slept in a hut constructed of branches and bushes, but they let all the rain through.—Popjoy, one of the prisoners, fished a little, the first few days, on a temporary raft, and caught a few small fish ; they also gathered a few muscles ; but during the last few days, the tides having risen too high, they could not get any more. Many of the individuals lived for some days upon a single muscle a-day. Their distress then became exceedingly great ; many of the children and people began to chew and smoke tobacco, in order io satisfy their hunger; the prisoners were at last driven to such a state of staivation, that they actually roasted a small lap dog, and eat it voraciously ; and, if relief had not fortunately been so soon obtained, they would have soon been reduced to cast lots for each other ! ! !

Cut off in this manner from all resources, Morgan and Meekins were indefatigable, in endeavouring to construct a raft to oross the Bay, but many of their efforts failed—at length, they succeeded in constructing a boat of wattles, cut with a, knife and a razor, and covered willi canvas—the canvas well soaped out-side ; and in this frail bark, with two paddies, upon which the hopes of about forty souls depended for their existence, did Morgan and Popjoy venture to cross a tempestuous Bay of no less than twenty miles distant, to Partridge Island ! She frequently disappeared among the waves, and with her vanished the hopes ot these unfortunates who gave up all for lost ; at length, after two days and two nights' hard pulling, they succeeded in reaching Partridge Island. They left their companions on Sunday evening, the moment after they finished the boat, and reached the island on Tuesday. Fortunately, therefore, the fire, which they succeeded to make, was noticed by the ship Orelia the same evening, who sent on shore to see what it was, supposing them to be runaway prisoners. The chief credit is due to Morgan, who built this curious and lucky boat, and afterwards ventured his life in her. They might have remained where they were ever since unnoticed, but for him, at least until the arrival of the brig Tamar, which they expected would shortly touch there on her way to Macquarie Harbour , but it is more than probable, that there would have been no survivor to tell the tale ; for in another week, they must have all perished, from hunger and want.

The Orelia, when she left Hobart Town, several days previous, passed within five miles of the shore where those poor people were left ; but although Lieutenant Carew fired away all his ammunition to make the Orelia observe them, he could not succeed. They even raised a flag, a white sheet, belonging to Mrs. Carew, and a red shirt belonging to a sailor, but all to no purpose, although within one mile of the vessel. We have seen the little boat by which the two men passed on to Partridge Island. It is tied together with rope-yarn, and seems rather a crazy concern to face the deep ocean. We understand the prisoners who were landed behaved well ; particularly Drury. Indeed, we think His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor could not bestow the Royal Mercy more deservedly, than upon the whole of these poor sufferers, who escaped from the jaws of starvation and death, and suffered such severe privations and hardships for the last fortnight, on a desolate place, where they could procure neither food nor shelter, not having even a kangaroo dog or gun ; but placed in fear of the native blacks. Upon the arrival of the Opossum in Research Bay, the soldiers and prisoners had to walk a distance of ten miles across the bush, before they could go on board, which took them 48 hours to accomplish, as well from the very weak and exhausted state they were in, as from the difficulties of the place they had to travel through, a thick scrub, Mrs. Carew and the women and children and the Officers of the ship came round in a boat, and no doubt were all rejoiced, at the providential relief afforded by the Opossum.

Research Bay is about 70 miles from Hobart Town, and Macquarie Harbour about 170 miles from that. The ship Georgiana and the Orelia were both lying at Partridge Island, wind-bound, when the Opossum left.

We are somewhat apprehensive that this affair will be a great temptation to other prisoners to make similar attempts, while this Penal Settlement is continued. It is, however, much better for the Colony that these desperate characters have got off, even with the loss sustained, than that they should have escaped into the bush, and have become bush-rangers, for ia all probability they would have then committed numerous depredations before they would be taken. There is also some consolation, that they committed no murders, nor ill-treated the women on this occasion.

The loss sustained is supposed to be very considerable :—
The vessel. . . £1500
Provisions, &c. . . 1000
Lieutenant Carew's losses. . . 500
Other passengers . . . 300
In cash about . . .  50
[Total] . . . £3,350

If any thing can induce the Settlement of Macquarie Harbour to be abandoned, we trust this loss will. We hope the Tamar will make a speedy passage, otherwise the Settlement of Macquarie Harbour will be in great distress; for the wind generally sets in foul nine months in the year. She began loading with provisions on Tuesday, and is expected to sail on Sunday.

The following is a list of the prisoners, who captured the Cyprus:—

Michael Herring, Robert McGuire, William Templeman, Matthew Pennell, William Watts, James Davis, Samuel Thacker, John Beveridge, Alexander Stevenson, Leslie Ferguson, John Lynch, James Jones, William Swallow (commonly called Walker), Charles Towers, James Cham, Thomas Bryant, John Denner, William Brown. In our next number, we propose to give some account of their crimes.