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Historical Records of New Zealand

The Deposition of Thomas Lewe (Prisoner)

The Deposition of Thomas Lewe (Prisoner).

I, Thomas Lewe, state that I met Captn. Riggs about three weeks before he sailed from Port Jackson, in the streets of Sydney, and asked him if he wanted any hands. He said “Yes.“ and asked me if I was a prisoner. I answered “Yes,“ and he told me to call on board his vessel on the Sunday following, which I did, when he ordered the people to give me some dinner, and that he had made up his mind to take me. He then ordered me to come frequently on board, to know when the ship was going to sail. I met him also by appointment at Storus [? Storer’s], the blacksmith, residing at Sydney, several times, where I gene-rally found four or five other prisoners, particularly on the day he carried us away; when he took me on board his vessel in his own boat, and kept me there until near twelve o’clock that night, when he ordered me in his boat, and took me to Campbell’s Wharf, where we met Francis Ewer, Nathaniel Ewer, Henry Gordon, and a man named John Smith. He took them in his boat, and landed us all on the North Shore, nearly opposite the light- page 528 house, with provisions, water, &c., and when he left us said he would come and fetch us, and, as a signal, would shew a light three times, that we might not be deceived by any other boat. Late on Wednesday evening or early on Thursday morning following he came, made the signal, called us by name, particularly me, and when we were all down, took us in his boat, and carried us on board his vessel. On our arrival on board he gave us something to eat, and a glass of grog each. Being forward, I saw the carpenter, and second mate assisting him, holding a candle while he made a hole in the bulkhead. When the hole was finished, he, Captn. Riggs, ordered us in, and the bulkhead was again nailed up. After being clear of the harbour the carpenter came down and said to Henry Gordon, “The Captn. has ordered me to take you out of irons, steward,“ and told him he must go aft and do his duty as usual. Henry Gordon went aft, and we remained under the forecastle until Captn. Riggs came to us, when he said he should give us the same rations as his own ship’s company, and treat us as such, and asked us personally if Mr. Marsden knew any of us. Some answered “Yes,“ some “No,“ and those that Mr. Marsden did not know were sent on deck to work. On our arrival at New Zealand he called us aft, read his articles, and asked us to sign them, put us on equally with his own men, and I, as one, signed the articles. I was sent for in Dusky Bay with Francis Ewer, James Johnson, Ralph Story, and James Purcell, and accused of an intention of taking away one of the boats to leave the ship. I denied it, and asked him who gave him the information. He would not tell me, and put me with the others in the hold. The next morning he called us all up, and tied Francis Ewer and James Johnson up in the rigging, and flogged them himself. He then liberated Purcell, but sent me with the other three in the hold, and there kept us, without allowing us any provisions, for five weeks, and only granted one hour per day for each man to come up and catch fish, but if we did not catch fish we must starve. Sometimes he sent us bread which was not fit to be issued to the crew, and has continued since that time to keep us on that kind of bread until we were taken out of the vessel by the Captn. of the Dromedary.

Dated on board H.M.S. Dromedary, Bay of Islands (New Zealand), this fourteenth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and twenty.

Thomas Lewe.