The Times, 5th Nov 1830 Cyprus Brig Trial

From The Times, 5th Nov 1830

Piracy on board the brig Cyrus [sic]

Wm. Swallow alias Waldon, aged 45, George James Davis alias George Huntley, aged 27, Wm. Waits alias Charles Williams, aged 32, Alexander Stephenson alias Telford, aged 23, and John Beveridge alias Anderson, aged 30, were put to the bar and an indictment charging them with having on the 5th September in the 10th year of the reign of his late Majesty near Van Dieman's Land, piratically seized the Brig Cyprus &c. Swallow was also indicted for being at large before the period for which he had been sentenced to be transported, in the county of Surrey, and Stephenson and Beveridge for being at large in the county of Essex before the period for which they had been ordered to be transported.

Mr. Wightman opened the case and Dr. Jemmer stated the facts of it to the Jury. On the day in question the vessel was proceeding from Hobart Town to Macquarrie Island, with about 32 convicts, amongst whom were the prisoners, who had been guilty of a second crime at Hobart Town, and sentenced to be confined at the latter place. Lieutenant Carew, who had the command of the Cyprus, with a small party had gone out on a fishing expedition, when the prisoners seized the vessel, and committed the outrages as detailed by the witnesses.

John Popjoy swore, examined by Mr. Adolphus. - Was at Van Dieman's Land. The period for which he had been sentenced to be transported had very nearly expired. Macquarrie Harbour was the place to which convicts were sent for punishment when they committed crimes at Hobart Town. was on board the Cyprus, under the command of Captain Harris. The crew consisted of the Captain and eight men. There were about 10 or 12 soldiers on board. The convicts amounted to about 20; and two or three at first, and subsequently six, were allowed to be on deck for the benefit of air. A heavy gale of wind had sprung up. The long boat had been hoisted out, and witness, with Dr. Williams, the chief mate, one of the soldiers, and Lieutenant Carew, had gone out on a fishing excursion. Shortly after a gun was heard, and the party neared the brig, on approaching which, they saw a man in a yellow jacket walking sentry on the deck. This man's name was Bryant, and he was a convict. The boat was ordered alongside the brig by the pirates, which order was obeyed. The Lieutenant attempted to get into the main chains, but was stopped by one of the pirates, who presented a musket at him, saying, "Stop, you shall not come on board; we have now possession of the vessel." The Lieutenant begged very hard to get on board, and also for his sword. He said nothing should be spoken of what had occurred if he would give up the vessel; but the pirates were determined not to do so. The Lieutenant then begged to have his wife and two children given up to him, which, after some delay, was consented to, and they were handed over into the boat. Swallow said he had been forced into the mutiny by the convicts, and his conduct was by no means so bad as that of the others. The mutineers ordered witness on board the brig, and used very bad language towards him. Swallow and Alexander were not armed, but the other prisoners were armed with bayonets, pistols and muskets. Witness was ordered to go below. The soldiers were put in confinement, having been disarmed. While witness was below, an order was given to take the Lieutenant, Dr. Williams, and the others ashore, and bring the boat back. Captain Harris was on board the ship, but had no command of the vessel. Watts was one of the persons who went in the boat. Witness, at the time the boat was put off, was in confinement in the forecastle with the seamen; Davis or Bryant was acting as sentry at this time. Witness attempted to come up, but was stopped by a man named George Davis, who said, "Stop there, we'll not let you go." A wounded soldier was put in the boat and taken ashore. Witness was handcuffed, and broke them. Davis and Swallow came and demanded the register of the ship from the Captain, who said he had it not, having left it at the Government House. Swallow passed the windlass, and ordered a man to stand with an axe for fear the vessel should shoulder her anchor. Swallow broke the locks of the hatches with an axe. Watts returned with the boat with three others. They were very wet, and shifted themselves out of the cheats of the sailors indiscriminately. Witness was at last suffered to go on deck, and a saw a second wounded soldier put on board the boat, in which the witness also contrived to get. The jolly-boat accompanied the passengers, the mutineers being well armed. Witness jumped overboard and swam ashore unperceived by the mutineers. There were 40 persons left ashore when the mutineers set sail. There was under 1 cwt. of bread, with some meat, given them. The place at which the unfortunate persons were left was a desert, at which vessels hardly touched. Witness and two others started to get relief, and swam the various rivers until they were stopped by some blacks. At length, witness constructed a canoe, with which he and another put to sea. Witness made Partridge Island. The long-boat seen by witness was the one belonging to the Cyprus.

Cross-examined by Mr. C. Phillips. - Witness tried the boat with a knife, for the purpose of making himself sure it was the same boat. Witness had been transported for horse-stealing. Had been charged with highway-robbery in the colonies, but had proved himself innocent. Had "buried in oblivion" all the charges made against him in the colony. At Sydney had stowed himself away, and had also run away from his master. Knew a gentleman named Bryant, at Hobart Town, who made a charge against him of robbing his premises. There were a "few" charges made against him while under sentence of transportation. Was sent to Sydney after the robbery of Mr. Bryant's house. Went as a volunteer to Macquarrie Harbour, and was induced to go there to get among his "pals". Had had 200 lashes at Botany Bay, but this he considered only a "few". Had never been pilloried abroad, nor was he afraid of being so here. Had been, since he returned, taken to a police-office in this country. He was courting the daughter, and beat the father.

By Mr. Clarkson. - Had not told the gentleman who conducted the prosecution of the charges made against him abroad. Received his discharge at Hobart Town. Had been 12 years and upwards in the service of Government. (The certificate of "good behaviour" was here put in.) Gave information to the first vessel he met when he went to sea in the canoe. Had not been flogged at Van Dieman's Land.

By Mr. Bodkin. - Swallow said he had been forced by the mutineers to navigate the vessel; he was very ill at the time. There was a "puff" of wind at the time. Swallow demanded the certificate of the ship's register. None of the ship's company were armed.

Re-examined by Mr. Adolphus. - Was transported at the age of 17 for horse-stealing. Had been made an overseer at Hobart-town, by order of the Governor.

Mr. Walter Williams examined by Mr. Wightman. - I am a surgeon, and was on board the Cyprus in that capacity in the month of August 1829, while she was on her voyage from Hobart-town to Macquarrie-harbour, with convicts. Research-bay is two or three days' sail from Hobart-town. There were on board 12 sailors, 11 soldiers and passengers, besides 33 convicts. The prisoners Swallow and Watts were two of the convicts. After the long-boat got some distance from the vessel, and that the gun was fired, I heard some noise resembling the clashing of swords, and the boat thereupon put back, and Lieutenant Carew attempted to get on board, but was repulsed by one of the convicts, who twice snapped a pistol at him. The prisoner Watts was on deck, and took an active part in the mutiny. He even dared Lieutenant Carew to go on board the vessel, and was armed with some sort of weapon. Lieutenant Carew asked for his sword, but Ferguson, who had it, refused to give it to him. Lieutenant Carew then asked for his wife and children, and they, with his servant and wife, were put into the boat, together with the chief mate, and the boat was rowed ashore by a party of the convicts, under the conveyance of the jolly-boat, in which was an armed party. The prisoner Watts took two fowls, and having wrung off their heads, threw them into the boat. Swallow came to the side of the vessel, and said, "You see, gentlemen, I am a pressed man;" and added, "I am unarmed, and surrounded by armed men." He repeatedly declared that he was a pressed man. He was about to get some blankets for the use of Mrs. Carew, but Watts ordered him to throw down the keys, adding that the blankets should be sent on shore. About three o'clock the next morning we heard three cheers, and soon after the Cyprus set sail, and disappeared. We remained on this desolate coast for 13 days. In the mean time a canoe was constructed, in which the witness Popjoy, a man named Masters, and another person, put to sea, and returned, after an absence of three or four days, to our relief, with a ship's boat, in which we embarked. We had been reduced to the last extremity. Swallow had been affected by a dangerous complaint, but was recovering at the time of the mutiny.

Cross-examined by Mr. C. Phillips. - The conduct of some of the prisoners, except those whom I have named, did not betray any particular activity.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarkson. - Ferguson appeared to have been the ringleader. The others might have acted under his control.

Thomas Capon, examined by Mr. Wightman. - I am high constable of Hobart-town. I cannot say whether the prisoners were convicts.

Mr. Curtis Esperon, examined by Mr. Wightman. - I am second officer of the Charles Grant East Indiaman. In the month of February last, four of the prisoners, who gave the names William Waldon, John Anderson, Alexander Telford, and Charles Williams, came on board in Whampoa Beach. They produced shipping notes, and sailed home with us to England. I saw the boat in which they came alongside, at the Thames police-office. Waldon left the ship off Margate, and the other men were taken into custody at Blackwall.

Mr. Thomas Wright proved that the prisoner Huntley came to England on board the Kellie Castle, and was taken into custody on his arrival at Blackwall.

Other witnesses were called, who proved the apprehension of the other prisoners.

The case for the prosecution being closed, the counsel for the prisoners contended, that as there was no evidence to prove that the prisoners were convicts, the indictment in which they were so charged must fail. Neither had the ownership of the vessel been proved.

The witness Capon was then re-called, and he said that he had been told by a Mr. Briggs that he had sold the Cyprus to the Colonial Government.

Mr. C. Phillips submitted that the evidence produced was not the best that might have been procured. Mr. Baron Bolland decided, however, that the case should go to the jury as it stood.

None of the prisoners made any defence except Swallow, who repeated that he was forced to remain on board the ship.

The learned Judge having summed up the evidence, the Jury retired, and after an absence of two hours and a half, returned into Court with a verdict of guilty against George James Davis, alias Huntley; William Watts, alias George Williams; Alexander Stevenson, alias Telford; and John Beveridge, alias Anderson. The Jury, however, recommended the two latter prisoners to the merciful consideration of the Court, on the ground of their not being as active as others in the mutiny; and, with respect to William Swallow, alias Waldon, they returned a verdict of not guilty.

The prisoners having been called upon to say why judgement of death and execution should not pass upon them and the proclamation for silence having been made in the usual way -

Sir C. Robinson put on the black cap, and addressed the prisoners as follows:- "You have been convicted by a jury of your county of the crime laid to your charge, of piratically and feloniously carrying away by force of arms the vessel named in the indictment. This offence is capital in itself, and it is considered by the law of the land as a crime of the greatest magnitude; for robberies of this description may be effected upon property of great value and are generally attended with much personal violence and loss of life. Your case is attended by circumstances peculiar to yourselves, inasmuch as you have all been convicted of crimes in the former part of your lives, of which you were declared guilty, and were sentenced to be transported from this country to Botany-bay, and when there you were again sentenced to be transported to an inferior settlement in that place. You were, therefore, under the most favourable dispensation of the laws of your country, but it appears that instead of being grateful for the leniency which was thus shown to you, and endeavouring by you future good conduct to atone for your past transgressions, you rather chose to resist the lawful authority under which you were placed, and continued that act of outrage which brought you here. These circumstances, however, form no part of your offence, nor will they be considered in your sentence, but I have felt it to be my duty to remind you of them inasmuch as they will be considered elsewhere by those to whom your case will be submitted. It forms, therefore, an awful consideration for yourselves, and ought to prepare you for the final completion of that sentence which it becomes my painful duty to pronounce."

Sentence of death was then pronounced upon the four prisoners, but without naming any day for the execution. The learned Judge concluded by telling the jury that he would take care that their recommendation with regard to Beveridge and Stevenson should be mentioned in the proper quarter.

Two charges of assault upon the high seas were disposed of by verdicts of acquittal in both cases. The details were of no interest.