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2-149 (Text)

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"After escaping from Port Macquarie, New South Wales, early in 1836, and undergoing many hardships in the bush, I finally engaged with a Gentleman on the Patersons River (Mr. Andrew Lang) as a Freeman, to split slabs for a Rough Building.
"I so employed myself for about three weeks, when I was recognised as an escaped prisoner, and fearing the circumstances would be carried to the knowledge of Mr. Lang by the Overseer, I determined upon quitting the station, and I was induced, for the first time, to commit a Forgery as a means of defraying my passage to Sydney, intending there to swim to a Vessel bound for England, and so to secrete myself on board until she was far away from the land of my sorrow and affliction.
"But Alas! These calculations proved visionary. I was shortly taken, not for that offence, but on suspecion of being one John Jones, who somewhat resembled me in his personal description, and for whom there was at that time a reward of Fifty Pounds. The Constable, John McDougall, apprehended me, marched me to his house, where he secured the chain of a Timber carriage to a Beam, and manacled me with his servant for the night. On the following morning, he loaded his pistols, mounted his Horse, and marched me before him on the Road for Maitland.
"At this juncture my mind was tortured with the contemplation, not so much of the fate which awaited me, as the awful degree, that every prospect of my being restored to my friends, to whom I had erected a Domicile of affliction by my juvenile follies, was placed beyond the reach of human possibility. So impressed, I was intent upon making my escape from the Constable in charge of me, at the peril of being shot in the attempt, and as we approached a pond convenient to a very thick scrub by the road side, I expressed a wish to have a drink of water.
"The Constable dismounted and after I had satisfied my thirst, he turned his Horse to the pond, and I thrust myself forward into the scrub and so effected my escape. It afterwards appeared that his Horse galloped away from him, and he proceeded to Maitland, to make his report.
"During the night I found myself surrounded by the Mounted Police who were galloping in every direction, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I escaped them. The Basils of the Handcuffs had bedded themselves in my wrists, by my endeavouring to break them, across the different boulders of Stone, but I could not get rid of them until the following morning, when I called upon an old man (a Settler whose Son had a great regard for me) who broke them with a Hammer, and wished me to take shelter in his Granary for a month.
"This offer I declined accepting owing to his liability to 14 years' transportation in the event of my being found on his premises, and after taking some refreshment I resolved upon advancing towards Port Stephens as the most unlikely direction to be taken by the police in pursuit. In prosecuting this journey, I passed two very cold nights in the Mountains without a fire or place of shelter, when I came to a Sheep Station at Wollorobba, where I requested the Shepherd to put down the pot and boil me a little Tea, for which I promised payment.
"I was at this time 50 miles distant from where I effected my escape, and little expected the approach of the Constabulary; but to my disappointment I was there retaken by two of them armed, who escorted me to Maitland, where I was arraigned at the Quarter Sessions in May, 1836, and 'on the plea of Guilty of Forgery' was sentenced to transportation to Norfolk Island for Life.
"I was accordingly removed to that floating Den of Infamy, the Hulk PHOENIX, until opportunity offered for the Shipment of a draft of re-convicted prisoners to that place.
"During my stay on board, scenes of depravity which human nature shudders to contemplate were exhibited with apparent delight. Nor were the means as resorted to by the Keeper for the punishment of slight Offences, at all calculated to lessen the successful spread of so demoralizing a contagion.  The men of the adjoining Cell to that in which I and 9 others were chained, had been smoking a Tobacco pipe one Evening, contrary to the Rules of the Establishment; when the Keeper came to our Cell and charged us as the Offenders.
"He sent for 10 pairs of Handcuffs, took our shirts, Blankets and clothes away, and manacling each of our hands behind our backs, he reefed the legs, which were very heavily honed, to the upper part of the Iron Staunchions of the Cell by means of a Bar outside, with the whole weight of our chains and bodies pressing on our Shoulder blades for the night, in a state of perfect Nudity. By the following morning, and for two days afterwards, I could scarcely regain the use of my Arms.
"I have also seen men in a similar position, with the additional torture of a gagging instrument to silence their Cries, and the throwing of Buckets of Water over them when in that state. Numerous complaints had been made to the Authorities, but the capabilities of the Keeper and his aidants were such, that no prisoner could withstand the case they would make out to render futile the complaintants, assertions; and thus these Outrages upon humanity commissioned with impunity.
"The Keeper's predecessor, Captain Murray, who had practised similar cruelties, died in a state of Mental derangement, and the one in question (Mr. McKeig) laboured under a similiar malady, brought on by the excessive use of Ardent Spirits.
"From the PHOENIX, I was transferred to the Barque CARNARVON with 99 others, for that place of horror - Norfolk Island. The dreadful picture afforded me the intensity of sufferings and torture to which every Victim to this Island was subjected was most appalling. So much terror had this produced on my mind that during a faint squall on our passage, I most fervently prayed to the Almighty to suffer the Vessel to sink and mercifully receive the Souls of all from a state of endurance worse than death in its most terrific shape.
"My feelings on landing there, no pen or language can correctly describe. In a state of Nudity we were ranked upon the Beach, and after undergoing a minute and most indelicate inspection, our miserable rags were handled on, and we were marched to the Police Office, and from thence to the Barrack Yard. "From this instant all my hope of happiness was to cease. My beloved Parents, my Brothers and Sisters for ever lost to me. Shut out from the World for ever to herd with beings in human for but whose every action excluded their claim to the appellation of 'Man'.
"This was the place in which I was doomed to pass the remainder of my days, and blank despair for a time took possession of my Soul. Soon after my arrival on the Island, I found circumspection indispensible to escape, if possible, the Machinations of the unprincipled characters employed by the Underlings in Office to trepan their fellow prisoners into some indiscreet Act. Numerous were these despicable Treacherous characters, who with the hope of preferment, or for a much less inducement, - A STINKING PIECE OF TOBACCO would retail to the Underlings every trifling occurrence of the day, - such was the rage for information, that to keep place with their employers' wishes, THEMSELVES were compelled to hatch plots and form conspiracies, into which the unwary were ensnared. The daily working of these plans, for no other than purposes of information, and of furthering their diabolical views, was made known to the Underlings, who in their turn duly reported the same to the Authorities, whose pusillanimous wisdom suffered them to believe that they were indebted to such scoundrels for their lives and properties.
"When the plot was properly matured, the poor incautious and goaded fellows, who had lent them-selves to its measures, would be suddenly pounced upon, and in a short time weighed to the Earth with heavy chains. By these means were the most inoffensive entrapped, cruelly tortured, then placed in the custody of the most brutal Overseer, and under him employed at the most harassing descriptions of labor, in whose presence a murmur, - nay an unpleasant look, would again subject the already emaciated wretch to further lacerations and torture. 
"Human nature could not long patiently endure such dreadful state of suffering, and so treated, men, as a natural result became desperate, and in all their passions and actions were Very Devils. Under such a System, the best conducted men on the Island were in imminent danger, their language was misinterpreted, as were their actions misrepresented; if the quiet and unassuming, FOR A TIME, escaped the wiles of these reptiles, he would then be represented as an artful dangerous character, and well to be looked after: HE WAS A MARK'D MAN AND ALMOST SURE TO FALL. 
"Such was the state of things when I arrived, but glaring instance of treachery occurred, which in a great measure arrested the progress of false informations.
"Two men named Morgan and Beattie, gave information that a Mutiny was about to break out among the Prisoners, in confirmation of which they handed over a paper containing 120 names, which Morgan stated he had forcibly taken from a man named Farrell, and in doing which he had received some severe wounds with a knife.
"Chains were got in readiness and two of the parties accused, named Farrell and Brechan, were consigned to the Gaol. The truth of this Information I have reason to believe was doubted from the beginning, - and the facts, as elicited from one of the parties, combined with other forcible Evidence, PROVED THAT MORGAN HAD STABBED HIMSELF AND FORGED THE LIST OF NAMES for which the calumniating Wretches were sentenced each to receive 300 lashes.
"To the success of Machinations so diabolical may be ascribed the protracted periods of Slavery to which a number of prisoners STILL REMAINING ON THE ISLAND have been subjected.
"There existed little if any hope of those whose sentences were undefined being restored to Freedom under 18 or 20 years; and the contemplation of their having to exist under the onus of unrestricted rigour for so long a term (unless indeed they chose to resort to measures of Villainy) reduced them to the lowest stage of despair; and those who had before been quiet and unassuming finding themselves unjustly assailed, calumniated, and hunted down by the underlings in Office and their Creatures, they had recourse to acts of the most desperate.
"Several daring attempts have been made to take Boats from this Settlement; but there never were more than four instances of the parties being successful.
"During the Commandantry of Colonel Morrisset 20 men left their Huts in the night and went to the Boatshed. Upon being challenged by the Sentry, they told him they were ordered to fetch Mr. Cunningham, the Botanist from Phillip Island.
"Upon their getting the Boat out, the Sentry desired them not to launch her, until he informed the Sergeant of the Guard. One of the party continued to amuse the Sentry, who was an Irishman, in his native tongue, - while the others succeeded in getting her afloat, on perceiving which the Sentry fired his piece and alarmed the Garrison. These men however cleared the Bar without an accident, pulled over to Phillip Island, took the tent, provisions, etc, belonging to Mr. Cunningham, but without using the least violence, and then put to sea.
"Another equally daring occurrence took place on the 29th May 1833 in a conspiracy by 16 men to take one of the Launches. It so happened that two Government Vessels, a Brig and Schooner were in the Harbour at the time. The Launch going from the Shore pulled alongside the one coming from the Schooner which was laden with Maize, etc, and transferring her cargo into the empty Launch, which was the better Boat of the two, they double-banked their Oars and in the face of both Vessels got clear off.
"Other attempts were not so fortunate and they were fired upon by the Military before they go clear.
On one occasion several men were killed, and on another the Offenders when taken were Sentenced to receive 300 Lashes.
"The following anecdotes will afford illustrations of the depravity and utter hopelessness of the prisoners on the Island when I arrived.
"A Tyrannical Overseer named Sullivan had charge of a Road party, and so much was he in the habit of harassing and torturing the men under him, that the Devil prompted them to a conspiracy to murder him, and seizing the first opportunity, a man named Reynolds repeatedly struck him with a Hoe until he had completed his fatal purpose.
"During the perpetration of this Deed, a misguided wretch named Connor (not one of the conspirators) immediately stepped up, and attempting to seize the head of the deceased, in order to implicate himself with the sole purpose of being hanged.
"Another poor wretch named Doolan was murdered in his Hammock in the night. A man named Riley was executed for this Murder in the year 1833 in company with Reynolds and Connor. Doolan had hatched up a story while at Moreton Bay to give evidence against Innocent Men, but had been detected in falsehood and FORWARDED HITHER TO TERMINATE HIS SENTENCE, AND THROUGH HIS TREACHERY, IT SO HAPPENED, HIS LIFE.
"A wretch named Thompson was executed 26th December, 1835, for having attempted to assassinate a man named Fell. A baser character than Thompson could not possibly be conceived. He was universally held in hatred as one of the creatures of the Underlings, and was well known as a disgusting wretch; like others on the Island, he was given over to propensities abhorrent to Nature.

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