The Melancholy Loss of the Amphitrite.
The convict ship Amphitrite sailed from Woolwich Pier for NSW in August 1834, with 108 female convicts, 12 children, and a crew of 16. The ship, only three-quarters of a mile from the English shore, was caught in a gale off the coast of France and ran aground. The French attempted to help her and offered to take the convicts and crew ashore – but the Captain and Surgeon, fearing they had no right to liberate convicts, refused all offers of help. The ship was torn to pieces with only two members of the crew as survivors.
It is indeed a sad tale and one can almost hear the agony in the desperate verses. The broadside was published by W & T Fordyce, Printers, Dean Street, Newcastle, and was not dated however one imagines it went into print soon after the tragedy in 1833. I set the text to music in 2007.
The Sydney Gazette reported this first-hand account:
“About 7 pm the flood tide began. The crew, seeing there was no hope, clung to the rigging. The poor 108 women and 12 children remained on deck, uttering the most piteous cries. Owen, one of the three men saved, thinks the women remained on deck in this state about an hour and a half. “
“It makes the blood run cold to read of such horrors. If ever there was a multiplied murder it was in the case of those hapless beings, whose lives might have been saved, but for the obduracy of their temporary gaolers who sent these people to destruction – on the cold-blooded plea that they had no orders to save them. The name of the Amphitrite and her immolated human cargo must ever raise a blush on the cheek of true-hearted Englishmen.”
Warren Fahey sings ‘The Melancholy Loss of the Amphitrite’ –
Warren Fahey: Vocals.
Marcus Holden: Viola, Violin.
Garry Steel: Accordion.
Carolyn Johns: Tuba.