Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Cyprus Brig

by Frank McNamara (Frank the Poet)

Come all you sons of Freedom, a chorus join with me,
I’ll sing a song of heros, and glorious liberty.
Some lads condemn’d from England sail’d to Van Dieman’s Shore,
Their Country, friends and parents, perhaps never to see more.

When landed in this colony to different Masters went,
For trifling offences, t’Hobart Town gaol were sent,
A second sentence being incurr’d we were order’d for to be
Sent to Macquarie Harbour, that place of tyranny.

The hardships we’d to undergo, are matters of record,
But who believes the convict, or who regards his word?
For starv’d and flogg’d and punish’d, deprived of all redress,
The Bush our only refuge, with death to end distress.

Hundreds of us were shot down, for daring to be free,
Numbers caught and banished, to life-long slavery.
Brave Swallow, Watt and Davis, were in our noble band
Determin’d at the first slant, to quit Van Dieman’s Land.

March’d down in chains and guarded, on the CYPRUS BRIG convey’d
The topsails being hoisted, the anchor being weighed.
The wind it blew Sou’Sou’West and on we went straightaway,
Till we found ourselves wind-bound, in gloomy Recherche Bay.

’Twas August eighteen twenty nine, with thirty one on board,
Lieutenant Carew left the Brig, and soon we passed the word
The Doctor too was absent, the soldiers off their guard,
A better opportunity could never have occur’d.

Confin’d within a dismal hole, we soon contriv’d a plan,
To capture now the CYPRUS, or perish every man.
But thirteen turn’d faint-hearted and begg’d to go ashore,
So eighteen boys rush’d daring, and took the Brig and store.

We first address’d the soldiers “for liberty we crave,
Give up your arms this instant, or the sea will be your grave,
By tyranny we’ve been oppress’d, by your Colonial laws,
But we’ll bid adieu to slavery, or die in freedom’s cause.”

We next drove off the Skipper, who came to help his crew,
Then gave three cheers for liberty, ’twas answer’d cheerly too.
We brought the sailors from below, and row’d them to the land
Likewise the wife and children of Carew in command.

Supplies of food and water, we gave the vanquish’d crew,
Returning good for evil, as we’d been taught to do.
We mounted guard with Watch and Ward, then haul’d the boat aboard,
We elected William Swallow, and obey’d our Captain’s word.

The Morn broke bright the Wind was fair, we headed for the sea
With one more cheer for those on shore and glorious liberty.
For Navigating smartly Bill Swallow was the man,
Who laid a course out neatly to take us to Japan.

Then sound your golden trumpets, play on your tuneful notes,
The CYPRUS BRIG is sailing, how proudly now she floats.
May fortune help th’Noble lads, and keep them ever free
From Gags, and Cats, and Chains, and Traps, and Cruel Tyranny

There is an excellent discussion of the history of the events on which this song is based at this site


  1. It's quite a yarn, isn't it. Swallow was a pretty remarkable chap. He must have learnt to navigate somewhere. I remember reading that navigation was the undoing of most mutineers - Fletcher Christian being an excellent example.

    Frank McNamara seems to be being credited with more and more these days, which is a great thing. As we unearth more and more evidence about all sorts of historical events, the past seems to be becoming closer, even as it drifts further away.

    Sailors were incredible back then, weren't they. I went sailing today, and our first capsize occurred about fifty metres from the shore! Still, we were sailing a very different boat to the Cyprus Brig. Lots more sail per waterline length too, I suspect. The crew didn't mutiny, although he had every right to, considering the general hash of things the skipper (yours truly!) was making of things. My excuse? None really, except perhaps that I was a bit rusty, and it was an unsettling blustery northery. Don't know about Queensland waters, but the northery is generally a bit of a pig on Port Phillip Bay.

  2. Ah well Stephen as the great Sam Larner said "the more you sails a boat and does things about a boat the more enlightened you become". For more, listen to Singing the Fishing - Topic Records.