Memorandoms by James Martin: An astonishing escape from early New South Wales
UCL Press, £17.99 pb, 203 pp, 9781911576822
In 1784 William Bryant was sentenced, rather optimistically, to be transported to the American colonies. Britain had just lost the War of Independence; Bryant thus languished in a hulk in Portsmouth while Britain adjusted to the loss. This meant that when he finally arrived in New South Wales with the First Fleet, Bryant’s sentence was set to expire in just three years. Perhaps he did not trust imperial record-keeping – not without cause; perhaps he noticed that there was no plan to return convicts home after their sentences expired. In late March 1791, Bryant and eight others took matters into their own hands and escaped.