Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I first came across Mary Bryant’s story on a trip to Sydney in 1987. I had flown from London, but Mary had sailed from Portsmouth on 13 May 1787 on board the Charlotte, one of eleven ships that comprised the First Fleet. The fleet sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and through the perils of the Southern Ocean to establish a British colony in Botany Bay, Australia.
Mary had been sentenced to death for highway robbery at Exeter in 1786. She escaped the noose by agreeing to be transported to Botany Bay for seven years, but the noose would cast its shadow over her again.
Facing starvation in the colony and despairing that they would ever be able to get a passage home when their sentences expired, Mary and her husband William took decisive action. In 1790, on a moonless night, they, their two children and seven other men escaped by sea. They accomplished one of history’s great open-boat voyages, sailing north along Australia’s East Coast and then northwest to Coupang in Timor.
The Many Tellings of Mary’s Story
The story of Mary Bryant has been told countless times, in exhibitions, books, websites and in TV series. Meg Keneally recently published a novel Fled based on Mary’s life. As she said, very little is known about Mary’s background. Finally, thanks to my research, we can now fill in many gaps about Mary’s life and solve a few mysteries. I am really looking forward to sharing all my findings about Mary with you.
There are many books about Mary which I have read, the First Fleet and the early years of life at the colony at Sydney, so have compiled a list of those I have enjoyed and found useful in my research. I will add more books to the list over time. Some are easy reads and some academic tomes.
List of Non- Fiction Books
Australians Origins to Eureka; Thomas Keneally:
Boswell and the Girl from Botany Bay; Frederick A. Pottle:
Paradise in Chains; Diana Preston:
Memorandoms by James Martin; Dr. Tim Causer
The Colony; Grace Karskens:
The Fatal Shore; Robert Hughes
The Founders of Australia; Mollie Gillen:
The Transportation, escape and pardoning of Mary Bryant; C.H. Currey:
List of Fiction Books
To Brave Every Danger; Judith Cook
Fled; by Meg Keneally
Credits: Picture Botany Bay New South Wales, ca 1789 / watercolour by Charles Gore, State Library New South Wales
Julia is a corporate lawyer by day, and a historical detective in her spare time. She researches the 18th century and the women history has overlooked. She competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, for fencing and was granted an OBE in 1999. Today, she lives outside Edinburgh. Follow the instagram link below for daily posts on inspirational and controversial women.