Adventures of a transported convict, Charles Adolphus KING

Manchester Chronicle, Nov 1839

Adventures of a convict

On Monday evening last, GREEN one of the lock-up keepers and Sergeant JACKSON where visiting some common lodging houses in the neighbourhood of Deansgate and on going into one in Wood St, GREEN recognized a man named Charles Adolphus KING, who about 4yrs ago was transported for 14yrs for a burglary in Salford. He charged him with having made his escape, and KING at once acknowledged that he had. They took him into custody and he was brought up before Mr MAUDE at the Borough Court on Tuesday, when he again admitted that he had escaped, but begged very hard that he might not be sent back again, saying he would rather die than be again a transport, and that if he were sent back he should be sent to Norfolk Island, and no one knew the horrors of that place. Mr MAUDE said he must be remanded, and it would be for the Secretary of State to determine whether he should go back to fulfil his sentence, or be tried for having escaped. The prisoner was then removed.

From a statement which he has himself made it appears that he is 20 years of age. He states that he went to Sydney, and was employed, a short time after he got there, as a gentleman's servant, but his master removed to another part of the country, he was sent to work with the other transports in the public works. He says, he went to work about 5am, getting a dish of food made of Indian corn, and continued at work till about 3pm, getting nothing to eat till he gave over. This was the case with all the convicts. They then go to their sleeping rooms, the beds consisting of a kind of springy bark. They work in chains, and are occupied in cutting down wood, and forming public roads. Their work is of the most laborious kind, and they are always taking out with them what is called triangles, which are long pieces of wood put together in that shape, to which the convicts, when they evince the least symptoms of disobedience, are tied, and flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails, the punishment inflicted being so severe that 50 lashes are supposed to be equivalent to 500 given to soldiers.

The mode in which he says he effected his escape was this :-

"One day, near two years ago, the convicts being but singly chained, he and another named Daniel MAWNEY, concealed themselves after the work was over, and when it was dark, swam from the beach to an American whale ship, which was cruising off the coast. No one was keeping watch, and they succeeded in concealing themselves in the hold. They remained concealed for 14 days, subsisting only on a few biscuits which they found and a small quantity of water which they obtained from a cask. At the expiration of that time they were discovered and the captain threatened to deliver them up. When they got to New Zealand he and his companion jumped overboard, and swam several hundred yards to shore. They were seen by some natives, who attacked them and struck KING in the back with a spear, he fainted, and when he recovered found they had taken his shirt and trousers, all the clothes he had. They had all gone and taken MAWNEY with them, he saw no more of him until about a week afterwards, when he found his corpse which was dreadfully lacerated. By dint of great labour he succeeded in getting off his irons, by beating them with a hard stone. He afterwards fell in with the natives and recovered his shirt, but, tearing it up to dress his wounds, he fell into displeasure of the chief, who he heard was going to murder him, and he therefore made his escape in a canoe to Sandy Island, a few miles distant, on which there are no natives, he stayed there about 3mths, then went to the Bay of Islands, where there was an American ship, the crew of which gave him some clothes.

Soon afterwards he shipped on board an English ship, Elizabeth, Captain CARY, bound for England, and arrived in London on the 10th of June. In July he shipped on board the Cambrian, Captain DRING, at Liverpool bound for Quebec. He returned a few weeks ago, and only arrived in Manchester on Thursday night. He says if those made a living by thieving in England were aware what the transports had to undergo, they would break stones upon the road rather than subject themselves to the chance of it.


Liverpool Mercury, April 20th 1847

The horrors of transportation

On Wednesday evening last, Charles Adolphus KING, an escaped convict, delivered the first of two lectures on the Horrors of Transportation and Convict Life, at the Clarence Temperance Hall, Bond St. The lecturer is the same individual who in 1840, was tried and convicted before Mr Justice COLERIDGE at the Liverpool assizes, on a charge of returning from transportation, his sentence was transportation for life. In consequence of an extraordinary and romantic story he told in Court, and which was published in the Liverpool papers at the time, considerable interest was felt in his favour, and a petition was sent up from this town, praying her Majesty's intercession on his behalf, signed by a large number of the inhabitants. He was afterwards sent to a Government Penitentiary, where he remained in solitary confinement for a period of four years, and ultimately received her Majesty's free pardon, when he was set at liberty.

He has lately been lecturing in various parts of the country. The lecturer commenced by giving a short sketch of his early life, habits, and general conduct, his first steps to crime [which consisted in stealing a red herring at Liverpool] and his ultimate conviction in 1835 for burglary, and sentence of transportation for 14 years. He then went on to describe the mode in which he was conveyed on board the hulk, his transfer to a convict ship, sufferings during the voyage, and arrival at Botany Bay, giving a number of interesting details relative to the mode in which criminals are disposed of. The usual plan was to hire them out to different parties in the colony, for certain periods, and their future prospects and comforts depended altogether upon the master under whom they might be placed. If a convict behaved himself with propriety, he might, in 7 or 8yrs get a ticket of leave, but if he were guilty of any misdemeanour, his ticket would be cancelled. He deprecated the severity of many of the measures adopted by Government with the view to reformation of criminals, observing that, if they wished to effect any permanent or beneficial change in the character of a man, they must instruct his mind, so as to make him abhor crime, that was the only successful mode of operating.

After being some time at Botany Bay, he ran into the bush, and after considerable privation and suffering, and several narrow escapes of being re-captured, succeeded in getting on board a vessel lying at anchor in Sidney harbour, and ultimately making his way back to his native country, where he was apprehended a short time afterwards in Manchester. He was subsequently brought to Liverpool, and tried before Mr Justice COLERIDGE. The lecturer gave a detailed account of the mode of treating criminals in the Penitentiary, every kindness was exercised them and nothing was withheld which could in anyway contribute to their improvement, divert them from a vicious course of conduct, and prepare them, when they should be liberated, from going forth into society as reformed and better men.

The four years that he spent there in solitary confinement were devoted [except that portion of his time required to attend to the duties required by the institution] to reading and reflection, pondering upon his past misconduct, and forming resolutions for the future. He expressed the deepest gratitude for the kindness he had received when in Liverpool from several gentlemen, amongst whom were the late Mr Egerton SMITH, Mr HUGHES of Byrom St, Mr MOSS and Mr AMOS, late governor of Kirkdale Gaol. The best return he could give to those individuals, and all who had taken an interest on his behalf, was by reforming his conduct, since he had been set at liberty he had devoted his time to the improvement of his mind, and had not committed any offence against the laws of his country, and so far the end and aim of his benefactors had been served. He assured them that his future life should be devoted to the service of God, and to everything which could tend to make him a better and more useful member of society, and wherever his lot might be cast, Liverpool would never be effaced from his recollection.

At this part of his address the lecturer seemed much affected, and again expressing the gratitude he felt, dropped down on his knees, where he remained as it were in a state of unconsciousness for a few seconds. Towards the close of the lecture he exhibited himself in the dress and chains usually worn by convicts while labouring in the penal settlements, and explained the manner in which they were employed, their treatment, mode of punishment, etc. The narratives and statements which he brought before the audience possessed considerable interest, which was heightened by the candour and truthfulness with which every incident and scene connected with his extraordinary and perilous adventures was presented to the audience. The room was crowded, more especially with the humbler classes of society, who listened throughout the evening with the greatest attention. The second lecture will be delivered on Wednesday next.

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