This is the tale of two convicts in Van Diemen’s Land. Their story does not have an end yet: happy, sad or otherwise. Can you help?
“a more worthless set of men he had never before sailed with.”
…Captain Benjamin Avery stated, as he stood once again before the magistrate in the Water Police Office and denounced nearly half his crew paraded before him in the dock. Seventeen large and aggressive men shouted angrily as they were, as one, sentenced to twelve weeks hard labour in prison. They cursed their Captain in the vilest language and their threats grew louder and more violent. They had, after all, been found guilty of disobeying his orders, and one had even stuck the master and started to draw a knife on him. In a military service such as the Navy, they would have all been hanged—if they were lucky. But this was a civilian court and the three suddenly very civilian-looking Police Constables on guard duty that day began to realise that if the prisoners chose to act on any their blood-curdling threats, there was very little they could do to stop them…
Ships disappeared at sea all the time. There was no such thing as GPS, It would be another half century before wireless radio was invented. Passing vessels hailed one another and exchanged names with their captains, who would report who they had encountered, where and when, at the next port they arrived at. It was at the very best, a three month voyage from Britain to Australia. To send a letter and receive a reply would take half a year—If you were lucky. Mary Chapman waited. A whole year passed. Then the letter arrived.