From the Times, 13th Aug 1832


Mr. T. DUNCOMBE said, he had to present a petition from an individual named William Popjoy, claiming some compensation for his services in having been the means of saving the lives of 45 individuals, who had been put on shore on a desert island in the South Seas, by the convicts who had piratically seized the brig Cyprus, which was conveying them from Hobart Town to Macquarie Harbour, (Van Dieman's Land.) He also claimed compensation for having been employed as a witness against some of the pirates, who were convicted on his evidence: he likewise prayed that some arrears of pay, which were due to him while serving on board a man of war, should be given to him. The circumstances of the petitioner's case, the hon. member observed, were such as entitled his prayer to the favourable consideration of Government. He had, when a boy, been put on board the Nimrod man of war; at the age of 12 he deserted from that ship and soon afterwards was tried as an accessory in the stealing of a horse. The party who was the chief criminal, and who had induced the boy to take a part in the transaction, escaped, but Popjoy was found guilty, and sentenced to 14 years' transportation. Of these he spent 13 years in Hobart Town. Before his time expired, the Cyprus brig was taken up to convey certain convicts from Hobart Town to Macquarie Harbour. Captain Harris, of the brig, asked that Popjoy should be permitted to go with him, as he understood he was a good sailor. He consented to go. On the passage the convicts rose upon the crew and troops, in whose charge they were, and succeeded in getting possession of the vessel, which they took to some part of India, having first put Lieutenant Carew, the military officer in command, and some of the crew, and some women and children, (in all 45 persons), on shore on a small desert island. Popjoy, who had been solicited by the convicts to join them, and refused, was amongst the number so put on shore, and to his skill and intrepidity it was that the lives of the whole were preserved: but for the timely aid which he had been the means of procuring for them, they must have all perished for want of food. The island on which they landed was 20 miles distant from any place from which succour could be obtained. In order to reach the place from which relief could be expected, Popjoy constructed a small canoe of wicker-work, over which he fastened some pieces of tarpawling smeared with boiled soap. In this frail vessel he and another put to sea, and though they had a distance of 20 miles to go in a tempestuous sea, they succeeded though in hourly peril of their lives, in reaching that destination. As soon as they reached, assistance was afforded, and the remainder of the party were rescued from their distressing situation. These were circumstances which he thought established a fair claim on the part of this man to some remuneraton from Government. Besides this, he had several testimonials from different individuals of his good conduct, and also of his activity and zeal on board the Cyprus. An instance of this kind he felt necessary to state. On her way out of port the Cyprus was compelled by foul winds to bring up, and during the gale she parted from her anchors. Captain Harris understanding that Popjoy was an expert diver, asked Lieutenant Carew's permission to have his irons taken off, that he might assist in getting them up. Lieutenant Carew would allow them to be taken off one leg only, and with the two irons on one leg he was allowed to dive for the anchors (a fact that did not speak for the humanity of the Captain or Lieutenant Carew), and by fastening a rope to each of them, they were recovered. Lieutenant Carew was afterward tried for the loss of the vessel, and sentenced to be cashiered, but was afterwards restored on the evidence of Popjoy. Taking the whole circumstances of the case, he thought there was quite enough in it to give a fair claim to this man for some compensation from Government.

Sir JAMES GRAHAM said, that as to that part of the petitioner's claim which referred to arrears of pay due to him, his prayer was one which, consistently with the regulations of the navy, could not be complied with; having deserted from his ship, his name was marked with an R, and by a regulation in the Navy, which he did not think it prudent to dispense with in this case, all arrears of pay were stopped from such person until that mark was removed. But though he had no claim on the Navy, he did admit that the nature of his case was such as to entitle him to some consideration on the part of the Government.

The petition was then brought up and read, but as it prayed for pecuniary aid without the sanction of the Crown having been signified, it could not be received, and was withdrawn.

Return to John Popjoy