Mary Bryant

Convict
Arrived on: Charlotte
Sentence and crime: Seven years transportation for assault and robbery
Escaped colony on 28 March 1791
Mary Bryant was the first convict to successfully escape the colony of New South Wales and return to Britain.

David Collins wrote of the brazen getaway in March 1791:

In the course of the night of the 28th, a convict of the name of Bryant…eluded the watch that was kept upon him, and made his escape, together with his wife and two children (one an infant at the breast), and seven other convicts, in a fishing boat. Their flight was not discovered until they had been several hours without the heads.

Against the odds, the party navigated their way to Timor in 69 days, where they posed as shipwreck survivors. After questioning by the Captain of another ship, however, the group finally admitted their story of escape and were arrested. Following the death of her husband, William, and young son, Mary and her daughter were sent to the Cape of Good Hope where they were picked up by the Gorgon on its return voyage to Britain from NSW. The escaped convict’s tale aroused great public interest in England, and Mary was eventually pardoned, in May 1793. 

Source: David Collins, An account of the English colony in New South Wales, T Cadell Jun and W Davies, London, 1798.

Illustration of convicts boarding small boats.

[Convicts embarking for Botany Bay] Thomas Rowlandson, 180-? National Library of Australia, Rex Nan Kivell Collection; NK228.