Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1781, Sunday, May 16, 1830.
On Wednesday, a young man dressed in sailor's clothes, named John Popjoy, was brought before the sitting magistrate at Union hall, charged with an attempt to break into a house in the parish of Newington. The investigation of the case excited very great interest, owing to the accused having been the means of saving the lives of 40 persons, who were landed on a desart island, near New Zealand, in the month of August last, front a vessel called the Cyprus, the crew of which mutinied on the passage between Hobart town and M'Quarrie Harbour.
It appeared that the accused had been drinking with a shipmate until it was to late for him to return to his lodging, and was making his way into an empty house, when he was detected and brought, before the Magistrate, who was about to remand him, when Snow, the beadle of Newington, entered the office, and having recognised the accused, said that he had deserved better of his fellow countrymen than to be placed in the situation he then appeared. Snow knew him when a boy, and at a very early age he went to sea, and remained abroad 13 or 14 years and had not been heard of until on a recent occasion he (Snow) had heard from undoubted authority that he was the means of saving the lives of the crew and passengers of the brig Cyprus.
The Magistrate feeling very desirous of hearing the particulars of the mutiny onboard the vessel, requested Popjoy to give an account in his own say; a statement which may not be uninteresting to many of our readers. "In August, 1829, he embarked on board the Cyprus brig, at Hobart Town, bound for M'Quarrie Harbour, with convicts and a detachment of soldiers, under the command of Lieut. Carew, an officer of the 62d Regiment. On the third day they came to anchor, in Research Bay, and while there, Lieut. Carew proposed that some of the ship's crew, together with himself, should get into the long-boat for the purpose of fishing in shore. Towards the evening they heard several musket shot on board the brig, to which they pulled immediately, and found the convict's had mutinied, and were in possession of the vessel; they were immediately ordered on deck by the mutineers, who were all armed, and five soldiers were lying wounded near the mainmast, and groaning from the pain of their wounds. Popjoy was asked by the mutineer who acted as the captain, whether he would accompany them to the coast of Chili, on the promise of being made second mate; but he refused the offer, and was sent below with the ship's company, who at this time had not been sent ashore, owing to a heavy gale of wind that had just sprung up. Finding that a convict named Bryan, was sentinel over the hatchway, with whom Popjoy was rather a favourite, he was admitted upon deck by this man, and under pretence of going for a drink of water forward, he availed himself of the only chance of escape, and letting himself gently down by the fore-chains into the water, and swam to the shore through a tempestuous sea. On landing on a desert shore, Popjoy had not been long there before he discerned a light at some distance and having with difficulty, by wading a broad river and crossing a swamp, arrived at the spot, he there found Lieutenant Carew, his wife, and two children, and part of the crew of the Cyprus, in all about forty persons, who had been previously landed on this inhospitable shore by the mutineers. At daybreak next morning they had the mortification of beholding the brig under weigh, and steering off in an easterly direction, leaving those on shore to their fate, without food or means of escape. Under these discouraging circumstances, Popjoy, being an expert swimmer, volunteered with two other men to proceed in the direction of Hobart Town, to seek relief for their companions in distress, or die in the attempt. They had not proceeded far before they came to a broad river, when one of the party left his companions, declaring that he would go back and expire with the rest rather than hazard being drowned, or killed by the natives, Popjoy and his only companions then rushed into the river, and succeeded in gaining the opposite bank, and then went forward for about five miles, when they came to another river, across which they swam with their clothes on their heads, The moment, however, they got to the other side they were dreadfully alarmed on seeing a party of indians with long spears coming towards them; not a moment was to be lost now, and the two poor fellows were obliged to seek safety by flight, and re-cross the river, leaving their clothes behind them. They wandered three days away from the rest of their unfortunate companions, and on the way back Popjoy and his fellow traveller underwent very dreadful sufferings, both being naked, and having no ether food to subsist upon except wild berries and a few mussels they collected on the shore. When they got back to the place from whence they set out, their miserable fellow sufferers scarcely knew either of them, their bodies and legs were lacerated in such a manner by the bushes, briars, and stunted wood, over which they had passed in their journey.
On the return of this enterprising but unsuccessful attempt to gain Hobart Town, Popjoy constructed a kind of canoe out of the gum tree, in which he got out a sufficient distance to sea, to be enabled to catch fish for the subsistence of the whole party. In this way they continued to live for seven days, until the frail bark went to pieces, and then they were reduced to the necessity of living upon a few mussels and a species of wild parsley. The wife of Lieutenant Carew and his children now began to drop away, and fell sick; at length Popjoy succeeded in forming the frame of a canoe, and with two hammocks, which were brought on shore, he covered the bottom and, sides, and paid it all over with soap, which some of the people happened to have in their rockets when they were turned ashore. In this frail bark Popjoy and Morgan launched out to sea, and after being buffeted about for five days, on the evening of the fifth day were thrown ashore on Partridge Island, the canoe having gone to pieces, and had resigned themselves up for lost from the extremity of fatigue and starvation. They had not, however, been many hours in this deplorable condition before they heard the noise of a vessel coming round the Point. The vessel turned out to be the Orelia brig, which was compelled to put in from sea, and bring up at the anchorage, having experienced a tremendous gale of wind on her passage. Popjoy and his companion were taken on board in a truly deplorable state, and treated with that hospitality and kindness which their situation demanded. They gave information of the state of misery which their unfortunate companions were enduring in their desolate abode, and no time was lost in despatching two of the ship's boats laden with provisions for their use. The welcome assistance arrived in time to save the lives of the unfortunate sufferers, and in less than a week they were all landed safely in Hobart Town, and at the time of Popjoy's departure for England, were recovering from the effects of the dreadful privations which they suffered after being put ashore by the mutineers.
Popjoy produced a letter from the authorities of Hobart Town, in which his conduct during the trying occasion was extolled in the highest manner. If another day's delay had occurred, many of those who were thus fortunately saved must have perished. The bare fact of their having subsisted for thirteen days upon mussels, is a proof to what extremity of distress they must have been reduced.
Mr. Chambers listened with the utmost attention to the account given by Popjoy of his and his companion's suffering under the trying circumstances, and said that his conduct was entitled to the highest commendation. The Magistrate regretted that the poor fellow had been taken into custody, but hoped, if the vessel that he intended to go on board had sailed, something might be done for him to prevent his sustaining any loss by a detention on shore.
See the poem and song that tell the story of this event - Seizure of the "Cyprus Brig" in Recherche Bay and Cyprus Brig.