Monday, November 15, 2004


Author hails Mary Bryant as a role model - A seafaring story


National Nine News

She was the gutsy female convict who left Old England forever for Botany Bay, but managed to pull off one of the greatest escapes ever.

Yet history seems to have forgotten Mary Bryant - often described as the female version of Captain William Bligh, the famous seafarer who navigated an open boat on a six-week journey to safety following a Bounty mutiny.

Now historian Jonathon King wants everybody to know the story of the illiterate 21-year-old who was transported to Sydney from Cornwall in 1788 for pocketing a silk bonnet.

Four years later Mary Bryant escaped the remote NSW colony with her husband William, two children and 11 others after equipping and stealing an open boat.

The plan was orchestrated by Mary, a Cornish fishermen's daughter, perhaps remembering her father's words "A boat of your'n gives you freedom, my gal."

Posing as shipwreck survivors they sailed for ten weeks along the north eastern Australian coast, before reaching the safe haven of Timor.

However, William gave away their identities during a drunken binge one night, and the group were handed back to British authorities by the Dutch and sent back to Blighty.

William and the children died on the journey home.

Mary survived and was spared execution at the last minute.

King used a re-enactment of the great getaway on Sydney's Harbour to launch his new book, Mary Bryant Her Life and Escape from Botany Bay.

The author, who re-enacted the voyage of the First Fleet to mark Australia's Bicentennial in 1988, said his tale was 21 years in the making and took him all the way to Cornwall to get right.

King, a descendant of colonial Governor Phillip Gidley King, "fell in love" with Mary because she was a good role model for everybody, particular women.

"I've got four kids of my own - all daughters - I want to set a good example," King said.

King was astounded by the ex-convict's story.

"You can't read or write (but) you can actually organise an escape and get all the way from Sydney to Timor and then back to England and get back home to your little village," he said.

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