Notable South Australians/Capt. Thomas Allen
Capt. Thomas Allen
WAS one of the oldest shipmasters connected with South Australia. He "joined the great majority" at Alberton, on Sept. 14, 1885, in his 69th year; and those acquainted with him at Port Adelaide will long remember his affable manners, and kind cheery visage. He was a man brim full of information on nautical subjects, and never more in his element than when recounting some of the strange episodes in which he had been the chief actor. One of these, vouched for as true, will bear repetition here. "He took the last batch of convicts hence to Hobart, and as the vessel sailing previously with prisoners—the Lady Denison—was never heard of after leaving Port Adelaide, Capt. Allen took such precautions that he delivered his freight in good order and condition, though his vessel had a narrow escape from being taken charge of by the prisoners on board. Among the convicts committed to Capt. Allen's charge was a well-known resident in Adelaide, who had formerly held a responsible position in the city. He, however, violated the trust reposed in him by embezzling a large sum of money, and his guilt being clearly proved he was transported for life. His wife also embarked in the convict vessel, ostensibly with a view of taking out her husband as an assigned servant on arrival at Van Diemen's Land. On the passage, however, her intercourse with the prisoners was so frequent that the captain's suspicions were aroused, and as the lady had an immense chest in her cabin this fact added to the captain's mistrust of his passenger. After mature consideration, he requested the lady in a polite manner to be allowed to inspect the contents of the chest. She, however, indignantly refused; but the skipper, resolving at all hazards to have his mind set at rest, called the carpenter aft, and commanded him to force the cabin-door open, which the lady had previously locked, defying the captain to touch her property. On the door being forced the carpenter was ordered to break open the chest, and on the lid being removed the captain's suspicions were more than verified, for, instead of its contents being lady's wearing apparel, arms, ammunition, charts, sextants, and other essentials necessary for the capture and navigation of a vessel were revealed. It was useless for the lady to protest any longer, and the secret came out. It was her intention to release the prisoners, and supply them with the necessary arms to take the vessel, and after capturing the craft the convicts intended sailing for some unknown port, [t is needless to add that the prisoners were doubly ironed and the lady was not allowed to hold any further intercourse with them." Subsequently Capt. Allen had a brigantine of his own, and did well in the Indian trade. He next bought into the Schah Jehan, but never ceased to regret it as an untoward circumstance which was attended with much loss. Later on he navigated the barque Conquest for a time, and then joined the pilot service, which proved too much for his weight Capt. Allen's death removed from our midst one of those "old identities" who are now but few in South Australia.