Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Convict Escape Ship – Cyprus Brig in Japan – 1830




A watercolour of a British-flagged ship that arrived off the coast of Mugi, in Shikoku, Japan in 1830, chronicled by low-ranking Samurai artist Makita Hamaguchi in documents from the Tokushima prefectural archive.

Photograph: Courtesy of Tokushima prefectural archive


A watercolour by samurai Makita Hamaguchi showing one of the sailors with a dog from the ship that ‘did not look like food. It looked like a pet.’

Photograph: Tokushima prefectural archive

















An amateur historian has unearthed compelling evidence that the first Australian maritime foray into Japanese waters was by convict pirates on an audacious escape from Tasmania almost two centuries ago.

Fresh translations of samurai accounts of a “barbarian” ship in 1830 give startling corroboration to a story modern scholars had long dismissed as convict fantasy: that a ragtag crew of criminals encountered a forbidden Japan at the height of its feudal isolation.

The brig Cyprus was hijacked by convicts bound from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour in 1829, in a mutiny that took them all the way to China.

Its maverick skipper was William Swallow, a onetime British cargo ship apprentice and naval conscript in the Napoleonic wars, who in a piracy trial in London the following year told of a samurai cannonball in Japan knocking a telescope from his hand.

Swallow’s fellow mutineers, two of whom were the last men hanged for piracy in Britain, backed his account of having been to Japan.

Some researchers, citing the lack of any Japanese record of the Cyprus, had since ruled the convicts’ story a fabrication.

But that conclusion has been shattered by Nick Russell, a Japan-based English teacher and history buff, in a remarkable piece of sleuthing that has won the endorsement of Australian diplomatic officials and Japanese and Australian archival experts.

Russell, after almost three years of puzzling over an obscure but meticulous record of an early samurai encounter with western interlopers, finally joined the dots with the Cyprus through a speculative Google search last month.

The British expatriate all but solved what was for the Japanese a 187-year mystery, while likely uncovering vivid new detail of an epic chapter of colonial Australian history.

Nick Russell

“If you’d said I was going to go hunt and find a new pirate ship, I’d have gone, ‘you’re crazy’,” Russell told Guardian Australia. “I just stumbled on it. Boom. There it was on the screen in front of me.

“I immediately knew and as soon as I started checking, everything just fitted so perfectly.”

The ship anchored on 16 January 1830 off the town of Mugi, on Shikoku island, where Makita Hamaguchi, a samurai sent disguised as a fisherman to check the ship for weapons, noted an “unbearable stench in the vicinity of the ship”.

It was Hamaguchi’s watercolour sketch of an unnamed ship with a British flag that first intrigued Russell when he saw it on the website of the Tokushima prefectural archive in 2014.

With the help of a local volunteer manuscript reading group, Russell has since worked at translating written accounts of the ship’s arrival by Hamaguchi and another samurai, Hirota, now held by the Tokushima prefectural archive. Hamaguchi’s is called Illustrated Account of the Arrival of a Foreign Ship, while Hirota’s is A Foreign Ship Arrives Off Mugi Cove.

Russell first thought it may be a whaling ship, but the manuscript readers were skeptical. Having learned mutinies were common among whalers, Russell last month Googled the words “mutiny 1829”.

This stumbling upon a link between a samurai record and the story of the Cyprus was the research equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack, according to Warwick Hirst, the former curator of manuscripts at the State Library of New South Wales.

“It was a fantastic find,” Hirst, author of The Man Who Stole the Cyprus, told Guardian Australia. “I have no doubt that the Japanese account describes the visit of the Cyprus.”

Read More in the Guardian

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kick out MAY in JUNE – Voters back Labour Manifesto

Voters overwhelmingly back policies set out in Labour’s leaked manifesto, including nationalising the railways, building more houses and raising taxes on higher earners, according to a poll.

The ComRes survey shows around half of people support state ownership of the train network (52 per cent), energy market (49 per cent) and Royal Mail (50 per cent).

Roughly a quarter of people (22, 24 and 25 per cent respectively) said they opposed the policies, outlined in the party’s draft document, which was signed off by Labour executives at a meeting on Thursday.

All 43 pages of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for a Labour government were leaked on Wednesday, days before the official manifesto launch.

The 20,000 word document revealed a radical plan for the country after 8 June; proposals that saw right-wing critics claiming the Labour leader wanted to drag Britain back to the 1970s.

The latest polling, conducted in the last 24 hours and published in the Daily Mirror, reveals wide-scale support for the proposals, even if the party leader remains unpopular.

On the plan to ban zero-hours contracts, 71 per cent said they backed the move, while just 16 per cent said they were against it.

Income tax hikes for the highest 5 per cent of earners on salaries of more than £80,000 also got the thumbs up from 65 per cent of voters, with 24 per cent opposed to higher levies.

And more than half (54 per cent) of voters said they supported the policy of building 100,000 more council houses each year.

Voters are split on whether MPs should be given a final vote on the terms of the Brexit deal, a policy that also found its way into the Labour manifesto.

Thirty-six per cent supported Labour’s call for Parliament to have a say at the end of the negotiating period, while 35 per cent are opposed, the survey found.

Meanwhile, Theresa May's support for fox hunting is at odds with nearly eight out of ten (78 per cent) of those polled, who said they wanted the ban to remain in place.

Voters were less flattering about the Labour leader, the survey found, with 56 per cent saying Mr Corbyn would be a “disaster” as prime minister and 30 per cent saying he should be given “a fair chance”.

Labour’s proposal for renationalisation of the railways is borne out by a Which? survey which reveals the extent of overcrowding and delays on the network.

More than half of travellers (53 per cent) could not get a seat at least once during the past six months, while one-in-seven (15 per cent) said this occurs "regularly".

Which? said it has been contacted by thousands of people sharing details of their nightmare train journeys.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Egon Kisch 1885–1948


Kisch arrived in Fremantle on 6 November 1934 on the P&O liner RMS Strathaird.

The ship was promptly boarded by representatives of the Federal Government who refused Kisch entry to Australia on the ground that he was "undesirable as an inhabitant of, or visitor to, the Commonwealth".

Kisch professed to be deeply hurt and was sure that things would be put right once he was given a chance to explain. He was scrupulous, however, in denying his membership of the Communist Party of Germany.

Kisch was required to stay in the custody of Captain Carter on board the Strathaird as it proceeded through Australian waters via Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Attorney-General Robert Menzies prosecuted the Lyons Government's case against Kisch

On 12 November 1934, large groups of Kisch supporters gathered in Melbourne and the Strathaird was surrounded by boatloads of Kisch well-wishers. The International Labour Defence (another M├╝nzenberg Trust front) engaged Melbourne barrister Joan Rosanove, who, with a group of Kisch supporters, went aboard the Strathaird and initiated a habeas corpus action.

The Melbourne court hearing the action delayed any immediate decision on Kisch, leaving him in custody aboard the Strathaird as it departed the city.

Egon Kisch in Melbourne 1934
On 13 November, Kisch defied Australian authorities when he jumped over five metres from the deck of the Strathaird onto Melbourne's Station Pier, breaking his right leg. The Victoria Police quickly took charge of Kisch and carried him back on board the Strathaird.

The next day, the issue rose to national prominence when Labor MP for Batman, Frank Brennan rose in the House of Representatives to accuse the Lyons government of cowardice. He asked why Kisch's right to speak in Australia was being restricted just because the Lyons administration disagreed with him.

In response, the Attorney-General Robert Menzies pointed out that every civilized country had the right to determine who should or should not be allowed in, and that, since Kisch was a revolutionary and since revolution involved violence, he was not to be permitted entry.

High Court Justice Evatt authorised Kisch to visit Australia, finding that the Lyons Government had failed to list the reason for Kisch's exclusion in their order

As the Strathaird made its way up Australia's east coast to Sydney, supporters of Kisch took his case before High Court Justice Evatt, who found that the Federal Government had incorrectly excluded Kisch from Australia because they had failed to list in their order the advice received from the British Government. Evatt released Kisch and ordered that he be free to visit as long as he respected the laws of Australia.

see more on wikipedia