Alexander Pearce
had a grisly tale to tell


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What happened to Alexander Pearce? What happened to cause a man sentenced to transportation for stealing shoes in his native Ireland, to eventually be associated with something much darker...

In the National Treasures exhibition at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, there is a certain item from which we can learn about Pearce's story. The item is the account by Reverend Robert Knopwood of what Pearce related to him. It was about what happened during Pearce's journey of escape from Macquarie Harbour (near Strahan on Tasmania's west coast) toward Hobart.

According to the story, in 1822, eight convicts including Alexander Pearce escaped from the Macquarie Harbour penal colony. They set out in the direction of Hobart.

On the way, three of the convicts decided not to continue with the others. Whatever befell them, some might argue that it was probably for the best.

After many days without food, the rest of the convicts resorted to killing each other, for food.

You read that right.

They were hungry and needed to eat. And at some point the decision was made to kill people in the group so that their bodies could be eaten.

Like how cattle, pigs and chickens are killed and eaten.

Except of course we are talking about human beings this time.

Yes I'm talking about cannibalism.

The last remaining survivor from this group of escapees was Pearce. He was actually captured by the authorities. He was sent back to the penal colony at Macquarie Harbour.

Then guess what?

It happened all over again.

Pearce escaped, practised cannibalism and was captured again. This time around though, he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging.

Understandably his cannibalism tales were doubted, even by the Reverend who recorded what Pearce reported.

But today Pearce's story can still be found in songs, movies and books.


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