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THE MAN WHO STOLE THE CYPRUS

225 x 150 mm, 240 pages, 27 illustrations half in colour

9781877058615, $29.95, Paperback

Warwick Hirst

Available: Out of Stock

On the evening of 14 August 1829 the government brig Cyprus was sheltering in Recherche Bay on the remote south-east coast of Tasmania when she was captured by eighteen convicts under the leadership of William Swallow, a prisoner for life. Eight years earlier he had stowed away on a ship to England only to be eventually arrested and sent to Hobart for the second time. After marooning the crew, military guard and passengers on the desolate shore, Swallow skilfully sailed the brig across the Pacific to Tahiti then back to the Tongan Islands and on to Japan before finally scuttling her off the Chinese coast.

This epic of endurance was matched by the adventures of the people left behind in Recherche Bay. They were saved from starvation, not by their vacillating officers, but by an enterprising little cockney convict named John Pobjoy, who one year later would do his best to betray Swallow and his companions.

Five of the Cyprus convicts, including Swallow, eventually made their way to London where they were recognised and put on trial for piracy at the Old Bailey. The chief witness against them was Pobjoy, who had turned up in England after receiving a pardon for his efforts in rescuing the castaways.

Following on from his earlier book, Great Convict Escapes in Colonial Australia, Warwick Hirst has written a fascinating account of a rogue whose undoubted leadership, determination and resourcefulness might, in different circumstances, have led him to a far more favourable fate.

Until recently Warwick Hirst was Curator of Manuscripts at the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.