2a["The Late Captain Thomas Allen", The South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA), Tuesday 15 September 1885, page 5]

The Late Captain Thomas Allen.

Another of the old shipmasters was gathered over to the great majority on Monday afternoon when Captain Thomas Allen breathed his last at his residence at Albeiton. For some time past he had been suffering from an affection of the foot, which necessitated the cutting off of the great toe, and subsequently the foot had to be amputated. Under the effects of the latter operation he succumbed, and quietly passed away. He was amongst the early shipmasters of the Port, and some very strange experiences could be related of his early career. He took the last batch of convicts hence to Hobart, and as the vessel sailing previously with pri soners - the Lady Denison - was never heard of after leaving Port Adelaide, Captain Allen took such precautions that he delivered his freight in good order and condition, though his vessel had a narrow escape from being taken charge of by the prisoners on board, as the following incident will show. Among the convicts committed to Captain Allen's charge was a well known resident in Adelaide, who had formerly held a responsible position in the city. He, however, violated the trust reposed in him by embezzling a large sum of money, and his guilt being clearly proved he was transported for life. His wife also embarked in the convict vessel, ostensibly with a view of taking out her husband as an assigned servant on arrival at Van Diemen's Land. On the passage, however, her intercourse with the prisoners was so frequent that the captain's suspicions were aroused, and as the lady had an immense chest in her cabin this fact added to the captain's mistrust of his lady passenger. After mature consideration, he requested the lady in a polite manner to be allowed to inspect the contents of the chest. She, however, indignantly refused, but the skipper, resolving at all hazards to have his mind set at rest, called the carpenter aft, aud commanded him to force the cabin-door open, which the lady had previously, locked, defying the captain to touch her property. On the door being forced the carpenter waa ordered to break open the chest, and on the lid being removed the captain's suspicions were more than verified, for instead of its contents being lady's wearing apparel, arms, ammunition, charts, sextants, and other essentials necessary for the capture and navigation of a vessel were revealed. It was useless for the lady to protest any longer, and the secret came out. It was her intention to release the prisoners and supply them with the necessary arms to take the vessel, and after capturing the craft the convicts intended sailing for some unknown port. It is needless to add that the prisoners were doubly ironed after this incident, and the lady was not allowed to hold any further intercourse with them. Subsequently Captain Allen had a brigantine of his own, and did very well in the Indian trade. Then he bought into the Schah Jehan, and never ceased to regret an untoward circumstance which lost for him a lot of money. Later on he navigated the barque Contest for a time, and then joined the pilot service, which proved too much for his weight. Of late years he was a constant frequenter of the Port, where his genial manners and varied information on nautical subjects won for him many friends. His death is much regretted, as it severs a link between the long bygone past and the present.

2b["The Late Captain Allen", The South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA), Monday 12 October 1885, page 3]




In your issue of September 15 there appears in an obituary notice of the late Captain Thomas Allen an episode in his life when in command of the brig Punch, and taking the last batch of convicts to Hobart. Now as I happened to be serving as second mate of that vessel at the same time, viz., May and June, 1850, I claim to know some of the circumstances connected with that very futile attempt at capture by the convicts and the cause of its discovery and defeat.

I hope I shall not trespass on your patience or your space if I narrate, as succinctly as I can, my remembrance of what transpired during that emeute. We sailed from Port Adelaide about the end of May or beginning of June, 1850, with a strong crew and a convict guard of a sergeant and four troopers. I forget the precise number of male convicts, but we had, in addition, two women convicts, one an aged Jewess whose daughter, a free woman, accompanied her as passenger and the other quite a young woman, and to the latter the credit of saving the ship is mainly due. It happened thus. On the second or third morning after leaving the port, and before daylight, we were running free with a strong breeze from the north-west and squally at 4 a.m. I had relieved the chief officer, who with Captain Allen remained on deck, and who were discussing the propriety of taking some of the sail off her, when suddenly the wind shifted to south-west and struck the ship flat aback, All hands were soon on deck. All was confusion for a space, as the gale had increased very much, Topsailyards on the caps, reef tackles hauled out, mainsail hailed up, jib alone furled, when this young woman convict told one of the men that the convicts were loose in the main hold. The captain on being informed ordered the after-hatch to be put on and secured with the hatch-bar, which was quickly and quietly done. He then told me to send the men aft to arm, but to create no noise or confusion. And when this was done, and most were armed, the hatch was lifted off, when down jumped the captain, myself, and others, and the scene, to my fancy, was far more ludicrous than terrible at that phase of the conspiracy. True, some of them had slipped their darbies, but had not got on their sea-legs, and they were soon overcome. Mr. B. was fast in his irons--he had no hand in the matter, apparently. We then secured them, not with double irons, but good seizings of spun yarn. The trooper on guard next claimed our care. He was gagged and bound-- his pistol taken from him by the convicts. He had been surprised by them when asleep. We released him, and it is needless to state relieved him also. Then went on deck, leaving one of our number as an extra sentry, and snugged the ship. At daylight we then went with Captain A, to inspect the contents of this chest, which was not in Mrs. B.'s cabin, nor in the cabin at all, but in the main hold, and placed there (close to Mr. B.'s hand) by myself (when B. came on board), and by the order of Captain A. Upon Mr. B. being asked to give up the keys of it for search, he said they were mislaid or lost, whereupon Captain A. hailed the deck and told them to pass down the cook's axe, that being a 'kay' that would fit it, he was certain. On hearing this B. produced the keys, and the search disclosed weapons, charts, sextons, two Quadrants, mathematical instruments &c., the skipper more than once remarking that the pistols 'were very nate tools,' which were duly taken charge of, the chest of drawers getting a passage to Davy's locker. Captain Allen told them that he could run into Encounter Bay in four hours (he could not) from where he was, and would do so if he saw any more signs of insubordination, that it entirely rested with themselves whether he reported the attempt on his arrival in Hobart or not (he never made any report on the ship's arrival there). They were all awfully repentant then, and made most superb promises of good behaviour, which, as they were well watched, they kept. Mrs. B., with four children, were passengers in the cabin, and the intercourse which that lady had with the prisoners is a very pretty fiction. She was permitted to see her husband twice only, both of which times I accompanied her, having strict orders to remain close to her during the interview--the first interview taking place after the shindy, and when we were more than half passage across--and it strikes me that if your authority had seen that poor lady as I saw her at that meeting he could never have imagined her to be the virago your issue shows. In conclusion, the chest in the lady's cabin is a myth, and the carpenter is another myth (we carried none), but the loveliest myth is the lady coming out of her cabin, and under the eyes of the police, the officers of the ship, to say nothing of the crew, going down the after hatch, passing the convict women, the sentries at the partition, &c, going and coming at her own sweet will unquestioned, is, to say the least of it, very like a whale.

I am, Sir, &c., W. R. BYRON.

Streaky Bay, September 29.

[The information contained in the obituary notice of the late Captain Allen with regard to his vessel taking the last batch of criminals to Tasmania was supplied to the writer many years ago by Captain Allen himself, and while we give space for the second mate to give his version, it really appears to tally with the captain's as nearly as most seamen's yarns do with each other.--Ed.]