- Wyndham Cultural Centre
177 Watton St
- City of Wyndham
In 1828, James Porter, sailor, chancer, illywhacker, found himself on a ship bound for Van Diemen’s Land, having been convicted of stealing a stack of beaver furs. After several escape attempts from the notorious penal colony, Porter, who told authorities he was a ‘beer-machine maker’, was sent to Sarah Island, known as hell on earth.
Many had tried to escape Sarah Island; few had succeeded. But when Governor George Arthur announced that the island would be closed and the prisoners moved to the new penal station of Port Arthur, Porter, along with a motley crew of other prisoners, pulled off an audacious escape.
Commandeering the ship they’d been building to transport them to Port Arthur, the escapees sailed all the way to Chile. What happened next is stranger than fiction, a fitting outcome for this true-life picaresque tale.
The Ship That Never Was is an entertaining and rollicking story from our past by Adam Courtenay, the son of Bryce Courtenay and an exciting new voice in popular history. James Porter, whose memoirs were the inspiration for Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of his Natural Life, is an original Australian larrikin whose ingenuity, ability to talk himself out of a tight corner and refusal to buckle under authority makes him an irresistible anti-hero in the tradition of Ned Kelly.
Adam Courtenay is the son of Australia’s best-loved storyteller, Bryce Courtenay. He is a Sydney-based writer and journalist who has had a long career in the UK and Australia, writing for papers such as the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review.