Swift and Mercury Mutineers
A group of First Fleet convicts were charge with Return from Transportation. These were convicts involved in the mutiny of the transport ships Swift and Mercury. The Swift was bound fort Halifax, America, with a number of convicts on board in August 1783. Some prisoners came aboard at Blackwell on 16 August, the ship sailed that day down to the Galleons where the remainder were received on board from the ship Censor and left the Downs on the 28 of August. That night the Captain and crew were unable to prevent the prisoners, who were confined between decks, from removing their irons. On the morning of the 29 August the prisoners made what they called a rush; they all came at once into the cabin and secured the captain and the mate, Thomas Bradbury, and all the ships company, and the firearms.
The mutineers sailed along the coast to between Dungeness and Rye where they dropped anchor and at six o’clock in the evening of that same day, forty eight of the convicts got into the lowered boats and went on shore. The rest of the convicts remained on board with the 18 crew. About midnight, the then captured crew, told the remaining convicts that they were in a dangerous situation if the wind came up and would lose their lives, the sailors were released. A few hours later the convicts who had been drinking pretty freely began to get drowsy and went below, so the released crew got possession of the ship and bought her into Portsmouth.
The trials of the convicts who escaped from the Mercury transport in Torbay (a borough in Devon) was held on Monday 24 May 1784 at the Castle in Exeter, before Mr Justice Heath. 24 convicts were identified and received the death sentence, 66 escapees were not able to be charged as they were captured on the water, in boats, by the crew of the Helena, and therefore could not be said to be at large within the kingdom. The crew of the Helena were deprived of their expected rewards of 20 shillings for each convicted man. One convict William Blatherhorne participated in both mutinies.
First Fleeters’ Convicted of ‘Return from Transportation’ and who sailed to Botany Bay
Barrett, Thomas – Charlotte
Batley, Oten – Charlotte
Blatherhorn, William – Charlotte
Bradbury, William – Scarborough
Branagan, James – Charlotte
Brown, Thomas – Charlotte
Bruce, Robert – Charlotte
Cox, James – Charlotte
Dunnage, Joseph – Scarborough
Hall, John – Charlotte
Harris, John – Scarborough
Haydon, John – Charlotte
Jones, John – Charlotte
Keeling, John Herbert – Scarborough
Killpack, David – Scarborough
Limpus, Thomas – Charlotte
Martin, Thomas – Charlotte
O’Craft, John – Charlotte
Partridge, Richard – Scarborough
Robinson, William – Charlotte
Sidaway, Robert – Friendship
Welch, John Coen – Scarborough
Wilson, Charles – Scarborough
Woodham, Samuel – Scarborough
Article published in First Fleet Folio, February 1997
Note: Thomas Barrett made the famous Charlotte Medal that is held at the National Maritime Museum, Sydney NSW. Barrett was hanged on 27 February 1788 for the theft of beef and pease from the stores.
Gillen, Mollie The Founders of Australia