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Memorandoms by James Martin: An Astonishing Escape from Early New South Wales

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On the night of March 28, 1791, James Martin, William Bryant, his wife Mary, and their two children, along with six other male convicts—among the first cohort of prisoners sent to Australia from England— stole a small boat from Sydney Harbor and sailed up the coast of Australia. They reached East Timor on June 5. Once there, they posed as survivors of a shipwreck, until th On the night of March 28, 1791, James Martin, William Bryant, his wife Mary, and their two children, along with six other male convicts—among the first cohort of prisoners sent to Australia from England— stole a small boat from Sydney Harbor and sailed up the coast of Australia. They reached East Timor on June 5. Once there, they posed as survivors of a shipwreck, until they were eventually discovered and ordered back to England. The Memorandoms of James Martin is the only known chronicle written by members of that first group of prisoners, and this convict narrative is also the only firsthand account of the best-known Australian convict escape. This document, confirmed in its details by careful scholarly analysis, clarifies one of the most important origin stories of Australian history.


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On the night of March 28, 1791, James Martin, William Bryant, his wife Mary, and their two children, along with six other male convicts—among the first cohort of prisoners sent to Australia from England— stole a small boat from Sydney Harbor and sailed up the coast of Australia. They reached East Timor on June 5. Once there, they posed as survivors of a shipwreck, until th On the night of March 28, 1791, James Martin, William Bryant, his wife Mary, and their two children, along with six other male convicts—among the first cohort of prisoners sent to Australia from England— stole a small boat from Sydney Harbor and sailed up the coast of Australia. They reached East Timor on June 5. Once there, they posed as survivors of a shipwreck, until they were eventually discovered and ordered back to England. The Memorandoms of James Martin is the only known chronicle written by members of that first group of prisoners, and this convict narrative is also the only firsthand account of the best-known Australian convict escape. This document, confirmed in its details by careful scholarly analysis, clarifies one of the most important origin stories of Australian history.

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