|January 26th||The first convicts transported to Australia (1778)|
|The St. Uny-born William Bryant (1757 – 1791) was a fisherman and convict who, alongside his future wife, Mary Broad (May 1st), was one of the first convicts to transported to Australia. He is renowned for this escape from the penal colony with his wife, two small children and seven convicts in the governor's cutter, managing to sail to Timor in an open boat. Bryant was a convicted smuggler whilst Broad was a convicted highwaywoman; both were initially sentenced to death but their sentences were both commuted to transportation for seven years.
Until the American War of Independence, British convicts had been transported to America and subsequently new penal colonies were sought with the first fleet of convicts arriving in Port Jackson on this day in 1788. Bryant and Broad were also one of the first, of five couples, of convicts to be married in Australia.
A knowledgeable farmer and skilled fisherman, Bryant was allowed to build himself a private hut from which he was evicted, also receiving 100 lashes, for stealing fish. The colony was short of supplies and skills and so, a year later, Bryant was restored to his position in charge of fishing and allowed to return to his hut. Bryant had served some years on board a prison hulk before transportation and his sentence was due to expire two years before his wife's. He was, therefore, not permitted to leave since he was not allowed, nor wanted, to leave his wife and children behind, leading the Bryants to decide to escape.
Navigating up the East coast of Australia they finally made their way to Timor making frequent landings to collect provisions and water much to the anger of the indigenous aborigines who, on occasion, chased them in canoes. The journey took them 69 days. Calling himself William Broad, Bryant claimed that they were shipwreck survivors and he was employed by the Dutch governor as a labourer and fisherman. This succeeded until the real survivors of a shipwreck arrived and it was determined that Broad and his company were escaped convicts whereupon they handed over to the British who planned to take them to the Cape of Good Hope via Batavia (now Jakarta) and then to England for execution.
Given only sufficient food to prevent starvation, all the family became ill and Bryant died in the Dutch East India Company Hospital in Batavia on 22th December 1791, three weeks after the death of his son and quickly followed by three other escaped convicts. At the Cape of Good Hope Mary Broad, her daughter, Charlotte, and the remaining four convicts were handed over to HMS Gorgon to return to England. Charlotte died on 6th May 1792 and was buried at sea.When Broad and the remaining four convicts finally arrived in London in July 1792, just over 5 years since transportation, they found to their amazement that, instead of heading for execution, they were actually minor celebrities and they were pardoned. Granted a small annuity by James Boswell, Broad returned to Fowey and lived quietly.