From TheTimes, 13th May 1830


Union-hall. - Yesterday a young man, dressed in sailor's cloths, named John Popjoy, was brought before the sitting magistrate, charged with an attempt to break into a house in the parish of Newington. The investigation of the case excited very great interest, owing to the accused having been the means of saving the lives of 40 persons, who were landed on a desert island, near New Zealand, in the month of August last, from a vessel called the Cyprus, the crew of which mutinied on the passage between Hobart-town and McQuarrie Harbour.

The evidence against the accused was simply this - That on the preceding night he was observed in an empty house by a policeman, who found in his possession an iron instrument, with a sharp point to it, and marks being discernible on the brickwork of the next house, the presumption was that it must have been done with the view of obtaining an entrance and robbing the premises. The policeman added that the accused seemed to be the worse for liquor. The sharp-pointed instrument alluded to was produced, and it turned out to be what sailors call a marlingspike, a very useful appendage on board a ship, but not at all an implement calculated for a burglar to go to work with.

The accused, in his defence, said that having met with a shipmate they both entered a public-house together, and drank very freely until he became tipsy. At 12 o'clock they were turned out, when his shipmate and he parted, and it being too late to attempt to obtain admission into his lodging, which was at a considerable distance, he (the accused) in passing the empty house, went in, with the intention of "picking" for the softest plank, to lie down until the morning, being accustomed to hard lying all his life-time. Before, however, he had time to get well settled in his resting-place, a policeman popped upon him, and took him away to the station-house. The accused declared, that he had no intention of breaking into a house, and the marling-spike found in his possession he was going to take on board a vessel in which he was to have sailed that morning, at seven o'clock, for the South Seas. Owing to his having been taken into custody and detained until that hour (two o'clock) he was fearful he had lost his birth [sic], and that the ship had sailed without him.

Mr. Chambers said, that the policeman was justified in taking him into custody, particularly as an instrument was found in his possession which appeared on examination to be such a one as would have made the marks described in the brickwork. The magistrate was inclined to remand the case until further enquiries were made, when the accused begged hard to be liberated, and shed tears that he should have been suspected of such a charge. He then briefly alluded to his recent arrival in England from Van Dieman's Land, in which part of the world he had been instrumental in saving the lives of 40 of his fellow-creatures. At this juncture of the investigation, Snow, the beadle of Newington, happening to enter the office, immediately recognised the accused, and said that he deserved better of his fellow-countrymen than to be placed in the situation he then appeared. Snow knew him when a boy, and at a very early age he went to sea, and remained abroad for 13 or 14 years, and had not been heard of until a recent occasion; he (Snow) had heard from undoubted authority that he was the means of saving the lives of the crew and passengers of the Brig Cyprus.

The Magistrate, feeling very desirous of hearing the particulars of the mutiny on board the vessel, requested Popjoy to give an account in his own way - a statement which may not be uninteresting to many of our readers: - "In the month of August, 1829, he embarked upon the Cyprus brig at Hobart-town, bound for McQuarrie Harbour, with convicts and a detachment of soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Carew, an officer of the 63d Regiment. On the 3d day they came to anchor, owing to contrary winds, in Research Bay, and while lying there Lieutenant Carew proposed that some of the ship's crew, together with himself, should get into the long-boat for the purpose of fishing in shore. Popjoy accompanied the fishing party, and towards the evening they heard several musket-shots on board the brig, to which they pulled immediately. On going alongside, the boat's crew found the convicts had mutinied, and that they were in possession of the vessel; they were instantly ordered on deck by the mutineers, who were all armed, and five soldiers were lying wounded near the mainmast, and groaning from the pain of their wounds. Popjoy was asked by the mutineer who acted as the captain, whether he would consent to accompany them to the coast of Chili, on the promise of his being made second mate, but he refused the offer, and was sent below with the ship's company, who at this time had not been sent ashore, owing to a heavy gale of wind that had just sprung up. Finding that a convict named Bryant was sentinel over the hatchway, with whom Popjoy was rather a favourite, he was admitted upon deck by this man, and under pretence of going for a drink of water forward, he availed himself of the only chance of escape from the mutineers, and letting himself gently down by the fore-chains into the water, he swam to the shore (about a mile) through a rough and tempestuous sea. On landing on a barren and desert shore, Popjoy had not been long there before he descried a light at some distance, and having with difficulty, by wading a broad river and crossing a swamp, arrived at the spot, he there found Lieutenant Carew, his wife and two children, and part of the crew of the Cyprus, in all about 40 persons, who had been previously landed on this inhopitable shore by the mutineers. At day break next morning, they had the mortification of beholding the brig gently under way, and steering off in an easterly direction, leaving them on shore to their fate, without food or the means of escape. They were at a considerable distance from Hobart-town, to gain which they had not only to cross an arm of the sea but also to wade innumerable rivers, besides the risk from the hostile Indians. Under these discouraging circumstances. Popjoy, being of a hale constitution, and an expert swimmer, volunteered with two other men to proceed in the direction of Hobart-town, to seek relief for their companions in distress, or die in the attempt. The three accordingly commenced the journey, but they had not proceeded far before they came to a broad and rapid river, when one of the party left his companions, declaring that he should go back and expire rather than run the hazard of being drowned, or killed by the natives. Popjoy and his only companion then rushed into the river, and succeeded in gaining the opposite bank, and they went forward for about five miles, when they came to another river, across which they swam with their clothes on their heads. The moment, however, they got to the other side they were dreadfully alarmed on seeing a party of Indians with long spears rushing down a steep hill towards them: not a moment was to be lost now, and the two poor fellows were obliged to seek safety by flight, and across the river, leaving their clothes behind them. They were now three days away from the rest of their unfortunate companions and on the way back Popjoy and his fellow-traveller underwent very dreadful sufferings, both being naked, and having no other food to subsist upon except wild berries and a few muscles [sic] they collected on the sea-shore. When they got back to the place from whence they set out, their miserable fellow-sufferers scarcely knew either of them. Their bodies and legs were lacerated in such a manner by the bushes, briars and stunted wood, over which they had passed on their journey. On the return of this enterprising, but unsuccessful attempt to gain Hobart-town, Popjoy constructed a kind of canoe out of the gum-tree in which he got out a sufficient distance to sea to be enabled to catch fish for the susistence [sic] of the whole party. In this manner they contrived to live for seven days, until the frail bark went to pieces, then they were reduced to the necessity of living upon a few muscles, and a species of wild parsley. The wife of Lieutenant Carew and his children now began to droop away and fall sick. It was at length proposed that Popjoy should make an attempt to construct a canoe or boat of the same kind, that two persons might venture in out to sea, and try to reach Hobart-town. Popjoy set to work, and having procured some sticks, which he made pliable over the smoke of the fire, he succeeded in forming the frame of a canoe, and with two hammocks which were brought on shore, he covered the bottom and sides, and paid it all over with soap, which some of the people happened to have in their pockets when they were turned ashore. In this frail bark Popjoy and Morgan launched out to sea, and after being buffettedabout for five days, during which they experienced all the privations such a situation was calculated to produce. On the evening of the fifth day they were thrown ashore on Partridge Island, the canoe having gone to pieces, and had resigned themselves up for lost, from the extremity of fatigue and starvation. They had not, however, been many hours in this deplorable situation before they heard the noise of a vessel coming round the point, and distinctly heard the voices of their own countrymen. Providentially for the two unfortunate men and their companions whom they had left behind, the vessel turned out to be the Orelia brig, which was compelled to put in from sea and being up at that anchorage, having experienced a tremendous gale of wind on her passage. Popjoy and his companions [sic] were taken on board in a truly deplorable state, and treated with that hospitality and kindness which their situation demanded. They gave information of the state of misery which their unfortunate companions were enduring in their desolate abode, and no time was lost in in despatching two of the ship's boats laden with provisions for their use. The welcomed assistance arrived in time to save the lives of the unfortunate sufferers, and in less than a week they were all landed safely in Hobart-town: and at the time of Popjoy's departure for England were recovering from the effects of the dreadful privations which they suffered after being put on shore by the mutineers.

Popjoy produced a letter from the authorities of Hobart Town, in which his conduct during the trying occasion, was extolled in the highest manner. It was therein stated that he was the foremost to exert himself in obtaining muscles and other shell-fish, for the support of his fellow-sufferers. He swam out, fearless of the numerous sharks well-known to abound in those seas, and he it was who constructed the extraordinary little machien in which a navigation of 40 miles in boisterous weather, a tremendous sea running, with death staring him and his companion in the face every moment, was fortunately effected. If another day's delay had occurred, many of those who were thus fortunately saved must have perished. The bare fact of their having subsisted for 13 days upon muscles is a proof to what extremity of distress they must have been reduced.

Mr. Chambers listened with the utmost attention to the account given by Popjoy of his and his companions suffering under the trying circumstances, and said that his conduct was entitled to the highest commendation. The Magistrate regretted that the poor fellow had been taken into custody; but hoped if the vessel he intended to go on board had sailed, something might be done for him to prevent his sustaining any loss by a detention on shore.

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