Peter John Shapcote .
Born Approx. 1765, Stepney, London

 

His parents were John Shapcote and Sarah Crofts.

 

 

As with his father there is a certain cloud of mystery concerning this Shapcote.

 

We know almost nothing of his origins, but he appears to have been a person of some education, indicated by the way in which he handled his father's estate.

 

He is recorded on a naval document dated 15 Jan 1778 as a Servant to his father on HMS Squirrel, Falmouth, Cornwall.

 

On 9 Jan 1779 - he was an Able Seaman on HMS Squirrel, Plymouth, Devon, England.

 

He was a crew member onboard the Justinian which was to accompany the Second Convict Fleet to Australia. This vessel set sail from Falmouth on was a store ship carrying much needed supplies to the new Colony of New South Wales. No supply ships had managed to reached the penal colony of Port Jackson for two years, and food harvests there had failed and rations were in very short supply  

 

The store ship The Guardian had  floundered at the Cape of Good Hope

 

Article from“The Sydney Cove Chronicle” dated 30th June, 1790

 

HIS MAJESTY’S SHIP GUARDIAN IS LOST

 

His Majesty’s Ship Guardian is lost. We received this unhappy and tragic news with the arrival of the Lady Juliana and the ships that accompanied her from England to New Holland.

 

The Guardian was carrying a goodly supply of provisions to our Settlement, sufficient to last the colony two years.

On board when she struck an island of ice on Christmas Eve last, ten days out from the Cape of Good Hope, were her Commander, Lieutenant Edward Riou, her crew, and twenty-five specially selected convict artificers.

 

The Guardian was saved from foundering by the strenuous and heroic exertions of Lieutenant Riou, who put off some of the crew into five small boats, and off loaded many provisions into the sea.

 

For the ensuing eight weeks the Guardian, waterlogged in great propensity and with a damaged rudder, struggled to Table Bay in a truly remarkable fashion, but repairs to her construction were considered of exhorbitant cost, that her Commander was forced to run her aground to spare the expence.

 

Our distress at the loss of our provisions nevertheless does not prevent us from commiserating with the valiant Lieutenant Riou.

 

WOE TO OUR YOUNG SETTLEMENT

 

Deplorable paucity of provisions stores and cloathing:

 

So the Guardian is lost and with it our provisions. What, in the name of Heaven, is to become of us?

 

Our people are feeble, we have many hundreds more mouths to feed, and our larder is far from adequate.

 

The atmosphere that prevails in our small Settlement differs exceedingly from that joyous day near one month since, when the cry of “The flag’s up” rang forth and a ship carrying the British colours was espied for the first time in two and one half years.

 

The did we present a scene of happiness, of kissing those nearest us, of being so overcome in our emotions as to make us insensible even of speech.

 

Today, we are a veritable picture of misery, and the distressing and deplorable condition in which our newcomers find themselves – more of that in other columns of this Journal – does nothing to alleviate our pitiable state.

 

Her Majesty’s Government must know what is going on. We cannot be left to starve.

 

It has been made known to the Authorities that our paucity of provisions, stores, cloathing and tools places us in a diabolical position.

 

It is known to them that we are dismally lacking in carpenters, brickmakers, farmers, and men capable of superintending the convicts in their labours.

 

It is known to them, for Governor Phillip has made them thus aware, that to trust all our provisions to one ship would be fatal were that ship to be lost.

 

Yet, ignoring our plight, and His Excellency’s exceeding good advice, the Ministry would seem to have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye towards the people marooned in this desolate and distant place.

We have eaten not one ounce of fresh meat these three years since – save the flesh of the kangaroo, fish, and birds, which are variable both in quantity and quality.  Much of the livestock we brought with us has wandered off, died or been killed.

 

And the food, such as we have, is, apart from that carried by the storeship, Justinian, and the transports themselves, three years old.  Vast quantities of flour has been spoiled, and condemned as unfit for use, and were it not for the recent arrivals, it would have been finished in November. Likewise, our pork would have lasted only two weeks more, and our rice until September.

 

We have, indeed, been granted a merciful stay of time. But it must be remembered that the provisions brought by the Justinian and the transports are sufficient only to supply the newcomers for a period of several months. The provisions intended for us are most cruelly at the bottom of the sea.

 

No soul upon this Earth could accuse us of improvidence. Since our arrival in New Holland we have been rationed with our supplies, in the first instance to seven pounds of bread or flour weekly; seven pounds of beef or four pounds of pork; three pints of pease; six ounces of butter; and one half pound of rice.

 

Since that time our rations have been reduced on two occasions, until at the time when the Lady Juliana was sighted, we were receiving the miserable amount of two and one half pounds of flour, two pounds of pork and two pounds of rice, weekly.

 

We have become feeble, unable to work more than three hours in one day without severe discomfort. Scurvy has become rift. Our sufferings both of body and spirit have indeed been great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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