Monday, 15 September 2008

Continuing the lady convict theme

Source: Morning Post and Gazetteer. London. 21 December 1799.

If there was any piratical event crying out for dramatisation in fiction or film it's this one, the subject of this post. Accounts are vague and contradictory but the drama is there, and it's because accounts vary so much means that you can do it and the historians can't complain too much.
Anyway, in a nutshell, in August 1797 a mutiny occurs on board a convict ship (called variously The Lady Shore, Jane Shore, or Lady Jane Shore) bound for Port Jackson. The convicts are female. The marines on board (convicts themselves, who had exchanged prison or execution for army service), are Irish republicans and Frenchmen, and all join forces in the fracas.
Those not murdered and who don't want to participate are put into a longboat. The longboat makes it to Brazil. The Lady Shore is captured a few weeks later in port at Montevideo, where, according to John Black, a purser, all were held in the prison, except for the pretty ones among the convicts; they were held in private houses. (It appears that only newspapers and missionaries had anything to say about this appalling behaviour. I've found a rather annoying website providing what appears to be original text, but doesn't reveal sources or proper dates. Worth a look though)

Black's extended account can be found here. It takes a while to download, but definitely worth a read. Later Black, on a return trip to England fell in with a whaler with a letter of Marque and joined the crew. He becomes master of another ship the whaler takes as a prize, and goes catching whales in the South Seas.

William Minchin, another mutinee (if that's a word), ended up In New South Wales and had a successful, if checkered, career there.
Another, Semple Lisle, gave a lot of attention to it in his biography.

The account below comes from "The Annual Register, or a view of the history, politics, and literature for the year 1798". Second edition. London: 1806. p. 60:

The following is the account of the mutiny on board the Lady Jane Shore transport: The Lady Shore had on board, besides convicts, eight soldiers of the New South- Wales corps, amongst whom were German, French, and condemned criminals, reprieved on condition of serving, during life, at Botany-Bay. They arrived at Portsmouth while the mutiny on board the fleet was at its height. They formed a plan to seize the ship when she should get out to sea. Of this captain Wilcox was informed by major Semple. He complained to the transport-board of the danger of proceeding to sea with such men, while they had arms in their hands. The colonel of the regiment was sent to investigate the business; but he, perhaps, hesitating to give credit to Mr Semple, and, from the benevolence of his own heart, entertaining a better opinion of his men than it would seem they deserved, overruled captain Wilcox's desire. In this state they went to sea. — When four days sail from Rio de Janeiro, the mutineers rose, in the night, on the second mate, who was then on watch. He found resistance to so many armed men to be all in vain, and, of course, submitted to save to own life. They then entered the cabbin of the chief mate, and murdered him in the most savage manner, cutting his head off. They then proceeded, past Mr Black’s birth, to the round-house, where captain Wilcox was, and demanded admission, which he refused, and, on their farther persistance, fired a pistol at them through his door. They instantly broke the door in pieces, and murdered poor Wilcox in a manner too shocking to describe. They then returned to Mr Black's hammock, and, without the least warning, thrust their bayonets through it in several places, not the least doubting but he was in it. But, during the disturbance, be had quitted it, and concealed himself; which gave him an opportunity of begging his life, when their rage began to abate. This they granted, put him and ten others into the long boat, gave them a compass, and turned them adrift. They got safely to Rio de Janeiro, from whence Mr. Black took his passage in a foreign ship; but at sea fell in with a South Whaler, the captain of which (captain Wilkinson) received him on board. After this, captain Wilkinson took a Spanish vessel, value about 10,000 L. Mr Black was appointed prize-master, and carried her to the Cape. He has since sailed, with captain Williamson, to the coast of New Holland, to fish for whales.


Anonymous said...

Your site is a fantastic find. I've inherited what appears to be the last will and testament of James Willcoxs. It included several sealed documents as well as the long-written will. The document is enormous, something like 2' x 2'.

The will was written as he was to depart as "commandre" of the Lady Shore to Botany Bay and China.

Could this be real?? How exciting!

Gavin Pascoe said...

My goodnes - Please get in contact with me at work on or via this blog. I'd love to have a look at what you have. What country are you in?

Cyril Aydon (Darwin Biographer) said...

The ship was built for the East India trade, and was named "Lady Shore", after Lady Charlotte Shore, wife of Sir John Shore, who was Governor General of India at the time.
The idea that it was called the Jane Shore originated with historians who mistakenly assumed that it was named for the notorious mistress of Edward IV.
James Willcocks's will, or a copy of it,is in the National Archives at Kew.