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February 14, 2012

Then she stole the sailor’s heart

Pillory, whipping post and stocks Wallingford, Berkshire;  sketch

Pillory, whipping post and stocks; based on a drawing by Llewellynn Jewitt

Jeffery Hart Bent was not a very forgiving man.  Jeffery once passed a toll that he thought he shouldn’t have to pay. When they asked Jeffery for the fare, he rammed through the gate, breaking it, and continued on his way, leaving the broken booth behind him.

When called to Australia’s Supreme Court, Jeffery didn’t seem to see the condemned man as having many more rights than the broken tollbooth.  The court was a man short when a squeaky clean English solicitor named Garling was held up at sea on his way to New South Wales, captured by an American ship. Only, they weren’t a short, as there were convicts who had served their time and were eligible to serve in the court. Jeffery Hart Bent, however, would not consider it, and he held in contempt any of his advisors who would.

Judge Bent had heard many stories from his little brother Ellis, no doubt, but nothing could prepare him for the sea voyage he was about to make.

Susannah is back at sea

When Susannah Lalliment and the other condemned women were found stranded on the island of São Vicente, their state was said to be pitiful. Their clothing was reduced to rags.

The women had been cared for by Catholic nuns, seemed to be in good enough health, and they might have been able to prosper, eventually. Now, they were being “rescued” by a British ship. I haven’t yet found how many went willingly, and how many wished to stay in the Cape Verde islands and resisted being taken into the boat.

The ship went home to Britain, and stopped at Portsmouth to let its free passengers off. Unfortunately, Susannah Lallement was not let on shore. She may have wondered if her father even knew that she was there, if he even knew that she was still alive. He probably didn’t, but even if he did John Lalliment probably could not afford the fare to get on board.

22 February 1814, The Broxbornebury leaves Southampton

Finally, she said goodbye once again to Britain, this time on board the Broxbornebury, a first rate private ship owned by Captain Thomas Pitcher Jr. Pitcher was a merchant who ran goods for the East India Company. In addition to the castaways, over 80 new convict women came on board, and an unspecified amount of dry goods. These were joined by “free” women whose husbands had been convicted and transported. These convict wives brought along their children. Many of their husbands were travelling on the Surry, which spent part of the journey in the same convoy.

Captain Pitcher owned the ship and ran it, and Pitcher ran his crew like he owned them too.  The crew were bound to him, and he could punish them as he saw fit.

One of those crew members was a carpenter or armourer named Aaron John Walters.  Aaron appeared to be a kind man, but, if he was anything like the rest of the crew, he would act like an “animal” when they stopped at port to get a drink. Aaron could see the beauty of a woman behind the rags and low status brought upon her by the condemnation of the courts. His hands would have been strong from working the ships, and with such a small crew he would have a lot of work to do.

There were also eccentric free passengers, such as those who would make Judge Jeffrey Hart Bent look normal.

Susannah must have felt very alone on this weird ship Broxbornebury.

It was not unheard of, on such a voyage, “to be greeted by drunken women, screaming their intentions to kill one another.”(*) This voyage, however, was “a voyage of great length, difficulty and danger, attended with such bad weather that men who had been twenty years at sea had never experienced worse.”

Jeffrey Hart Bent feels sorry

A storm tore the Broxbornebury from the convoy. The Surry was nearly destroyed. Two women died aboard the Broxbornebury and several children from flu. But there were other things which stuck harder in the mind of Jeffrey Hart Bent.

This man had little sympathy for convicts who wanted to be lawyers, but what he saw on board the ship disturbed him. A sailor, whose offense may not have been very bad, was flogged on board. He may have been harnessed in a pillory when flogged. It wasn’t very pleasing to hear the man “howl” in pain as Bent stood by. Perhaps this sailor was Aaron.

Bent related another story in his journal. A female convict, on Susannah’s ship, whose name I don’t know, was then sent to the pillory. In the British empire in 1814, the pillory was still used as a punishment for minor offences. Perhaps the victim was Susannah herself.

To escape her punishment, the women threw herself on the floor of the ship. She dashed her head against it as they tried to bring her to the pillory. Then, when all else failed, the condemned woman held her breath until she was “black in the face,” hoping to escape her fate through death.

After expressing concern for her safety, the Broxbornebury‘s surgeon, Colin McLachlin, managed to convince Captain Pitcher to forgive the woman for her minor offense.

No, this wasn’t exactly a pleasure cruise.

It was on this voyage that Aaron and Susannah met. Susannah had nothing left to lose, and Aaron didn’t exactly like his job or his boss. They agreed that when they got to port, Aaron would jump ship to be with her, and they’d be married.

However, the journey wasn’t over yet. The Surry, which carried the convicted husbands of many of the women on board, was in trouble. Turberculosis killed dozens of convicts on board the Surry, along with its captain and top officers, soldiers and some of the crew, and a storm partially destroyed the ship.  The skeleton crew of Aaron’s ship, the Broxbornebury, was needed to carry the Surry’s survivors to port.

28th July 1814, The Broxbornebury lands off Sydney Cove

Jeffrey was upset that he wasn’t greeted in an official manner, with a salute and everything.  But he was treated better than most of the Broxbornebury’s passengers.  While Jefferey got off early, many of the other passengers of the two ships were left on ship in quarantine.

Susannah again had to wait. Her Aaron was risking his life, not only with the vicissitudes of the sea, but the ravages of plague, to save a group of strangers, most of whom had probably committed the “most heinous crimes.”  I’m not sure when Susannah and the convicts were finally allowed to leave their ship, as the old reports are unclear.  The Surry’s passengers were quarantined for months.  Aaron isn’t recording as being on shore until November, over three months after his ship landed.

Both were probably subjected to the “fever” for a time, languishing at port under quarantine, not knowing when they’d be allowed to touch land.

When they got to shore, however, Susannah and Aaron’s troubles were far from over.

One of the Broxbornebury‘s officers gained a reward for his selfless bravery.  The Captain, the entrepreneur who enjoyed flogging his crew and putting women in stocks, tried to take credit for the rescue. It was his crew after all who saved the distressed people. Well, in Australia’s courts, they didn’t buy it. There was no immediate reward for the captain, but one of his officers. The captain would appeal, he wanted his money.

The crew were Captain Pitcher’s investment. Employees could be bound to their employers in those days, for the term of a contract, almost like rented property. And there was no way the Broxbornbury‘s captain would take likely to losing his property.

Aaron wasn’t the only shipmate to abscond from service. About half of the Broxbornebury’s crew left the ship in disgust and went into hiding.

The captain, however, offered a reward for their return. Four pounds was offered to anyone who found any one of the absconders. Four pounds was not a small sum in those days, as we remember that stealing ten pounds was enough to get the death penalty.

Sydney was populated with some decent folk, but there were also unreformed criminals who would steal the wedding rings and return ticket off their own wives for the money to go down the pub.  If one of these greedy people knew that Aaron had absconded, he could easily lose his liberty and be separated from Susannah forever.

It wasn’t easy to hide either.  The survivors of the two large prison ships probably knew Aaron absconded.  Even if they didn’t know Aaron by name, they’d recognize his face if they saw it in town.

Even the honest people would be tempted to turn Aaron in.  A newspaper advertisement dated the 12th of November 1814 threatened that the 13 men who “jumped ship” would “never find employment” without being found out.  Aaron’s captain was not the only person to run such advertisements, other “absconders” cost their employers money.  It was in the interest of nearly every employer in Sydney to bring these people to justice, to discourage their own employees from running off.

Susannah and Aaron couldn’t move inland however, as murderous bush rangers threatened any unfamiliar faces who ventured outside of civilization.   Many of these bushrangers were rumored to be “absconders” who’d convinced themselves that they were fighting against tyranny.  A few probably were, at least to being with at least.

Apparently, Aaron’s heroism saved him, either that or the authorities disliked the captain, for in early 1815, the couple were wed. There appears to have been no serious reprimand for Aaron’s absconding, and they went on to found a magnificent family who tell their stories to this day.

Meanwhile, the Captain found another crew, and continued sailing the Broxbornebury throughout the world till his death. The ship outlived him by over a decade, suriving storms and long voyages that would have given Jeffrey H. Bent a headache.

Find out more

Books

Papers of the New Haven colony historical society, Volume 4 (1882)

A History of American Privateers, by Edgar Stanton Maclay

America Invades Australia, by Rupert Lockwood

A Journey to a New Life, by Elizabeth Hook (2000)

History of the American Privateers, and Letters-Of-Marque, During Our War With England in the Years 1812, ’13 and ’14. Interspersed With Several Naval … British Ships-Of-War. by George Coggeshall

The reliquary; A depository for precious relics-legendary, biographical and historical, Illustrative of the habits, customs and pursuits of our forefathers: Edited by Llewellynn Jewitt, Volume 1

A History of Australia: I – From the Earliest Times to the Age of MacQuarie by Charles Manning Clark, (1962)

Manning Clark’s History of Australia: an Abridgement

A History of Australia, by Marjory Barnard  (1963)

The three colonies of Australia: New South Wales, Victoria,South Australia, their pastures, copper mines & gold fields by Samuel Sidney (1852)

Newspapers

LLOYD’S MARINE LIST—Jan. 15 1813; The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Monday, January 18, 1813
LLOYD’S MARINE LIST—APRIL 13. 1813; The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, April 17, 1813
LLOYD’S MARINE LIST—APRIL 16. 1813; The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Monday, April 19, 1813
“Memorandum”; The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, May 1, 1813
The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Tuesday, October 20, 1812
1814 ‘Sydney.’ and ‘European Information’, The Sydney Gazette and New South
Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 30 July, p. 2
‘Classified Advertising.’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 12 November, p. 2

Other issues of the same Newspapers make passing mention of the events, down until 1950s.

Academic Papers:

“On the Doctrine of Constructive Total Loss”; by Manley Hopkins; in The Assurance Magazine , Vol. 1, No. 2 (1851), pp. 63-70 (Cambridge University Press/Institute and Faculty of Actuaries: 1851)

Websites:

The story of the Emu’s capture was on a few history timelines of Australian library websites. I first found the story of Susannah Lalliment at a website by Concept Artist Christina Henry: http://www.christinahenri.com.au/index.php?/ongoing/convict-women-articles/ In addition, I’ve seen parts of it told on hundreds of family history websites, each contributing a new detail to the story, including the following.

http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/w/i/l/Leanne-M-Williams/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0150.html

http://www.historyaustralia.org.au/twconvic/Broxbornebury+1814

http://www.chestnut-blue.com/Chestnut-o/p649.htm#i38522

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