It was in April 1837, that four men were tried at the Supreme Court before His Honour the Chief Justice, and a military jury for “piratically and feloniously taking away the Government Brig Frederick from Macquarie Harbour, in January 1834. “They all pleaded not guilty, and as was reported at the time spoke ‘in plain and manly words.’
The four men were William Shires, Charles Lyons, James Porter and William Cheshire and all had been convicts at the brutal prison settlement of Sarah Island, in Macquarie Harbour. They had worked in the government shipyards under the direction of Master Shipwright, David Hoy. They had in various roles, helped with six others, to finish the last ship constructed in the yard, the brig ‘Frederick.’ The settlement was being broken up by Major Bailey and most of the prisoners had already been transferred to the new colony at Port Arthur, where they continued to work in the shipyard there.
Evidence was given against them by many people who had sailed from Macquarie harbour on the Frederick. On board were the prisoners, ten other men and Mr Taw, master of the Frederick, and David Hoy.
At the trial of the four men David was called to give evidence. He told the court that the four men were prisoners of the Crown and from January 12th they all four acted as seamen on the Frederick. The ship had weighed anchor on the 11th at about 10:00am and sailed the 25 miles down the harbour and anchored that evening near the Bar. They laid at anchor until the 13th then ‘ran back’ about 2 miles to Wellington Head which was where ships usually waited if the winds were not fair to cross the Bar. They were about 300 yards away from the shore inside the gate, and all was well.
All was quiet, and one can imagine that the ship and those on board were settled for another evening waiting for the weather and tide to be ready to move and sail out through the Gates of Hell and into the great Australian Bight. David and Mr Taw were sitting in the cabin when suddenly and totally unexpectedly, two men rushed into the cabin. Shires pointed a musket at David and shouted “we have got the vessel, and if you do not give yourself up, I will blow your brains out!”
A postscript to this… my birthday is January 12th; from now on I’ll always think of David and what happened to him on that date nearly 200 years ago.