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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - February 10, 2013

  THE amazing Mr swallow

William Walker/Swallow/Brown/Shields had a remarkable life. Born in 1792, he worked on coal boats from the age of 15 years and was press-ganged in the navy at 18. He served two years and then fell victim to the depression and unemployment that followed the Napoleonic Wars. In 1820 he was sentenced at Durham Assizes to seven years transportation for stealing a quilt and goods valued at eight pence.

On the way to London on the to be put aboard the hulks he evidently convinced another prisoner to jump overboard. The poor fellow did so and drowned and Walker used the diversion to slip over the other side himself and stay afloat using some cork he had found on board. He was picked up by a passing ship and put ashore in London, claiming he was a sailor who had fallen from the rigging.

After earning some money as a rigger he grew a beard, called himself Brown and returned to Sunderland as a crewman on a collier. He was recognised and arrested, convicted of absconding, sent to the hulks and transported to Van Diemen’s land on the Malabar in 1821.

In early 1822 Walker and several other convicts stole a schooner, belonging to influential grazier and merchant Anthony Kemp, from the Derwent River and escaped. Walker was found living in Sydney as John Shields, posing as a seaman apprenticed to a merchant ship.

He was placed on board a ship called the Deveron, which was almost wrecked, in a huge storm on the way back to Hobart. Walker saved the day by climbing the mast in mountainous seas to cut away the topmast which was broken and fouling the rigging of the ship.

For attempting to escape he was sentenced to 150 lashes and transportation to the more brutal penal settlement of Sarah island. However, the transfer to Sarah Island was cancelled, no doubt due to his heroism on the Deveron.

In 1823 Walker somehow stowed away on the Deveron and escaped again, eventually returning to England via Rio de Janeiro. He lived with his wife and two children for six years until his arrest for housebreaking led to his life sentence and return, as William Swallow, on the Georgiana.

William Swallow was put to work on boats for a month and then was part of the crew loading the Georgiana, which had been chartered to take wheat, onions and potatoes to Sydney after unloading the convicts. He was found hiding amongst the cargo after the ship’s departure was delayed and sentenced to fifty lashes and transportation to Sarah Island, yet again, for ‘absconding from the public works with the intention of escaping’.

Walker was flogged but again escaped being sent to Macquarie Harbour by claiming he fell asleep in the hold. His luck was about to run out, however, as about this time someone realised who he was and he and another convict were locked in the cells for ‘ being runaways and returned under second sentence of transportation’.

William Walker/Swallow should have been hanged; it was the mandatory sentence for the crime. Instead he was put aboard the brig Cyprus to be sent to Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour. But it would be two years before he arrived there.

William Walker and John Pobjoy were working as part of the crew during the time the Cyprus was anchored up in Recherche Bay and there are two versions of what happened next.

One version says that security was lax and Carew and Dr Williams went fishing in the longboat with Pobjoy and their negligence allowed the mutiny to take place.

The other version has it that the fishing trip was a ploy to enable Pobjoy to inform Carew and Williams that a plot was afoot against the ship by Walker and some others.

Nevertheless while they were in the longboat the plot was sprung. The guards were overwhelmed by the four unchained convicts who were exercising on deck. A chicken coop was used to block the hatchway and keep the other soldiers below decks while the prisoners were freed. The soldiers fired up through the decks but water was poured down on them to make their muskets useless and the convicts secured the ship and told the soldiers they would not be harmed if they surrendered their weapon.

Carew was not allowed back on board and fearing for his family’s safety he complied with the convicts directions. All passengers and crew and convicts unwilling to take part in the plan were conveyed to the shore with a few rations, which took five trips. Last to leave the ship was Pobjoy, who dived overboard as Walker set sail and swam ashore.

Apart from two guards who were knocked on the head at the start, no one was hurt and the Cyprus sailed off with 18 men aboard, leaving 44 people on the beach at Recherche Bay.

Some bark shelters were built and Pobjoy and another convict shelters were erected and two convicts set out to walk back to Hobart along the coast. After swimming the Huon River they encountered hostile Aborigines and fled without their clothes and swam back across the river and returned to the others. Another five convicts then set off to attempt to reach Hobart by going inland through the bush.

Meanwhile a Welsh convict called Morgan made a coracle from canvas and wattle which was made waterproof with wax and soap brought ashore with personal effects. Morgan and Pobjoy used the flimsy craft to cross the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to Partridge Island, where they found the ship Orelia, which they had attempted to signal days earlier as it passed by.

The Orelia sent a boat to pick up those on the beach and another boat from Hobart found the other five convicts a few days later.

Lieutenant Carew was court-martialled, found guilty of negligence and cashiered but pardoned and allowed to keep his commission. He later served with the regiment in India, fathered three more children and died in Ireland in 1847.

John Pobjoy received a full pardon and returned to London where he came to the notice of the police when he bashed the father of a woman he was ‘courting’. He was soon in trouble again when arrested and brought before the Thames Street magistrates for house breaking. In what was to prove a crucial event he used his patriotic exploits in Tasmania as references to secure his acquittal.
 
Meanwhile, the remarkable William Walker/Sparrow sailed the Cyprus to New Zealand and then past Tahiti to Keppel’s Island, where seven convicts left the ship. One man was lost overboard and three others went ashore on islands in the China Sea before the remaining seven finally reached the coast of China.

There the Cyprus was scuttled and the convicts used the longboat to reach shore where they spun a concocted story that they were survivors of a shipwreck of a ship called the Edward.

Walker, using the alias Captain Waldron, and three others returned to London after signing on as crew on the Charles Grant. The other three sailed to America on a Danish ship and were never heard of again. Meanwhile the three who left the Cyprus arrived in Canton and told different versions of the alibi story. Then news arrived from Sydney of the mutiny and one of the survivors confessed. The Kellie Castle sailed to London, with one of the convicts as a prisoner and arrived six days before the Charles Grant. Three of the others were arrested and Swallow escaped but was later found and stood trial with them.

The case against the four was confused and flimsy until, as luck would have it they were brought to court at Thames Street, and the clerk of court remembered John Pobjoy's story and he was called as a witness.

Two of the convicts, Davis and Watt, were hanged at Execution Dock (and were probably the last men hanged for piracy in Britain). Another of the men who left the ship in the Pacific was later found and hanged in Hobart.

Swallow somehow convinced the court that he was forced to do as the others ordered and was only an unwilling member of the mutiny. He and the other two were sent back to Hobart and finally arrived at Sarah Island prison in Macquarie Harbour just as the authorities were closing it down.

Pobjoy was outraged that the leader of the mutiny escaped the noose and attempted to secure a pension as a reward for his part in the affair. Queen Adelaide, Viscount Melbourne, the Duke of Wellington and the Admiralty refused his requests for some reward and he returned to the sea and died when swept overboard from his ship returning from a voyage to bring timber from Canada in August 1833. He had married in June 1832 and a daughter was baptised two months after his death.

William Walker spent a year at Sarah Island and was then sent to Port Arthur where he died of TB in May 1834. Amazingly, his official convict record noted that he was ‘a very good man’.

'The Cyprus brig'
Frank McNamara (Frank the Poet)

Brig

Come all you sons of Freedom, a chorus join with me,
I’ll sing a song of heroes and glorious liberty.
Of lads condemned from England upon Van Diemen’s Shore,
Their Country, friends and parents, to never see them more.

A second sentence being incurred we were ordered for to be
Sent to Macquarie Harbour, that place of tyranny.
The hardships we’d to undergo are matters of record,
But who believes the convict, or who regards his word?
 
Starved and flogged and punished, deprived of all redress,
The Bush our only refuge, with death to end distress.
Hundreds of us all shot down, for daring to be free,
Numbers caught and banished to life-long slavery.

But Swallow, Watt and Davis, were in our noble band,
Determined at the first chance to quit Van Diemen’s Land.
In heavy chains and guarded, on the Cyprus Brig conveyed
The topsails being hoisted, the anchor being weighed.

The wind it blew Sou’Westerly and on we went straightway,
And found ourselves all wind-bound, in gloomy Recherche Bay.
’Twas August eighteen twenty nine, with thirty one on board,
Lieutenant Carew left the Brig, and soon we passed the word.
 
The Doctor too was absent, the soldiers off their guard,
A better opportunity could never have occurred.
Confined within a dismal hole, we soon contrived a plan,
To capture now the Cyprus, or perish every man.
 
We first addressed the soldiers ‘for liberty we crave,
Give up your arms this instant, or the sea will be your grave,
By tyranny we’ve been oppressed, by your Colonial laws,
But we’ll bid adieu to slavery, or die in freedom’s cause.’

While some lads turned faint-hearted and begged to go ashore,
Eighteen boys rushed daring, and took the Brig and store.
We brought the sailors from below, and rowed them to the land
Likewise the wife and children of Carew in command.
 
Supplies of food and water, we gave the vanquished crew,
Returning good for evil, as we’d been taught to do.
The Morn broke bright the Wind was fair; we headed out to sea
With one more cheer for those on shore and glorious liberty.

For our elected captain, Bill Swallow was the man,
Who laid a course out neatly to take us to Japan.
Then sound your golden trumpets; play on your tuneful notes,
The Cyprus Brig is sailing, how proudly now she floats.

May fortune help the Noble lads, and keep them ever free
From Gags, and Cats, and Chains, and Traps, and Cruel Tyranny.
 

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