Mary Bryant


Mary Bryant : biography

1765 – 1794

James Boswell

Boswell had a reputation for amorous dalliances with lower class women and his friends took to imagining or joking that Botany Bay had provided him a new mistress.Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, 1987, paperback 1996 ISBN 1-86046-150-6 His friend William Parsons wrote a scurrilous poem in which they’re imagined hanged together on the gallows at Tyburn in a final union. Yet despite this "elegantly turned prurience" (as Robert Hughes put it),Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, 1987 London: Collins Harvill, page 209 it seems Boswell was motivated only by sympathy and that all he received from Mary was a packet of "Botany Bay tea leaves". The tea was found with papers at Boswell’s Malahide Estate in Ireland in 1930. It and the papers are today at Yale University. In 1956 two of the leaves were presented to the Mitchell Library in New South Wales by Yale University Library, in honour of the Hon. Douglas M. Moffat, United States Ambassador and Yale Alumnus. The leaves were identified as coming from the plant Smilax glyciphylla, commonly known as "wild sarsaparilla", a small vine found mainly on the east coast of Australia.


In May 1787, Bryant was sent as a prisoner with the First Fleet aboard the ship Charlotte. Bryant gave birth on the journey to a baby, whom she called Charlotte after the ship, and gave the surname Spence, after one of the other convicts, David Spencer, possibly the father. When she arrived in Australia, she married William Bryant on 10 February 1788. Bryant, a convicted smuggler, was also on the Charlotte with Mary and they later had a son together called Emanuel, born on 6 May 1790.

William Bryant was also from Cornwall, where he had worked as a fisherman. In Sydney Cove, a colony just starting off, William was considered useful, and was put in charge of looking after the fishing ships. When he was caught selling fish on the side to convicts, he was given 100 lashes. He made a plan to escape with Mary, persuading a Dutch captain to give him some sailing equipment, and waited until all boats that could chase after them had left.

Books about Bryant

  • Cook, Judith (1993) To Brave Every Danger: the epic life of Mary Bryant of Fowey, highwaywoman and convicted felon, her transportation and amazing escape from Botany Bay. London: Macmillan ISBN 0-333-57438-9
  • Currey, C. H. (1963) The Transportation, Escape and Pardoning of Mary Bryant (née Broad). Sydney: Angus and Robertson
  • Durand, John (2005) "The Odyssey of Mary B" Elkhorn WI ISBN 0-9743783-1-3
  • Erickson, Carolly (2005) The Girl From Botany Bay. Hoboken, NJ.: John Wiley ISBN 0-471-27140-3
  • Hausman, Gerald & Loretta (2003) Escape from Botany Bay: the true story of Mary Bryant. New York: Orchard Books ISBN 0-439-40327-8
  • Hughes, Robert The Fatal Shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787-1868. New York: Knopf ISBN 1-86046-150-6
  • Kampen, Anthony van (1968) Het leven van Mary Bryant. 3 vols. Bussum: Unieboek NV (in Dutch)
  • King, Jonathan (2004) Mary Bryant: her life and escape from Botany Bay. Pymble, N.S.W.: Simon & Schuster Australia
  • Pearse, Lesley (2003) Remember Me. London: Michael Joseph (London: Penguin Books, 2004 ISBN 0-14-100649-8) (historical novel)
  • Pottle, Frederick A. (1938) Boswell and the Girl from Botany Bay. London: Heinemann
  • Scutt, Craig (2007) Mary Bryant: The Impossible Escape. Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia; Black Dog Books ISBN 978-1-921167-61-4
  • Veitch, Anthony Scott (1980) Spindrift, The Mary Bryant Story: a colonial saga. Australia: Angus & Robertson Publishers ISBN 0-207-14409-5
  • Walker, Mike (2005) A Long Way Home. Chichester; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley