Spotlight: The Bushranger’s Hut

Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 18 June 1927, page 15




(By Our Travelling; Correspondent.)

From Dr. James Ross’s “Hobart Town Almanack” of 1830 :—

“But come, we must travel faster, or we shall never reach Lake Echo. Having surmounted this hill, we came upon an extensive plain of rich grass, at the upper end of which appeared a sort of rise or terrace ground. On approaching it we heard a curious sort of drumming sound, like that produced by the little tympanums which the Chinese hawk about the streets to amuse children, or the flappers that Dean Swift describes are in use among the philosophers of Laputa. A few more stops opened to our view a rushy pond, or lagoon, of about 60 acres, and we soon discovered that the curious noise proceeded from the bull-frogs it contained. A herd of about 500 of Sir Lord’s wild cattle was seen at the further corner of the plain, but the moment they set eyes upon us they all trotted off.

“The country now became more open, and our view was extended over undulating downs of thinly-wooded pasturage, with the blue tips of the western mountains rising in the distance. Here we met another curiosity of the morning, lt was no less than the ruins of a hut belonging to the notorious bushman, Michael Howe. The floor, which had been neatly laid with bark, the fireplace, and great part of the thatched roof still remained. It stood in a secluded spot, on a gentle slope, concealed from behind by a thick honeysuckle tree, with an open view in front, reaching down, to a small stream of water. Near it lay prostrate the trunk of a huge tree, which he had used to chop his meat for his own use and to feed his dogs. In crossing the little stream we chanced to strike against his large iron pot, hid in a tea tree bush, which I afterwards carried home, and still use for culinary purposes. This was doubtless the place from which he last emerged when he met his death at the Shannon hut, now the fertile estate of Hunterston. It is said that when his companion, Warburton, used to visit Howe, so great was the distrust of that wretched man that he obliged him to keep on the opposite side of the trunk of the tree just mentioned on pain of being shot to death. It is scarcely possible to conceive a state of existence more truly miserable than this man must have led. With the remorse of the most horrible robberies and murders on his conscience, he was here left to himself to contrast the native innocence and serenity of God’s works with his own wicked heart, added to the hourly dread of apprehension. The tumultuous laugh, the heated exhilaration of companion’s in sin, to drown reflection, was wanting to him. The silent language of nature must have incessantly read him a lesson that would harrow up the soul, and his countenance, severed from the trunk, which was afterwards exhibited in Hobart Town, is said to have betrayed the lineaments of a murderer truly horrific. He will ever remain the most notorious votary of tin wretched system of bushranging’ which has now for some years, by the exertions of the local Government, been happily put an end to.

“We had proceeded about three mile from my cottage when we unexpectedly arrived edge of a lofty precipice. All at once a heavenly prospect burst upon the view. At a depth beneath us of at least 600 feet, and at the bottom of a very steep bank, was seen gliding along, like a canal for upwards of a mile the silent-stream of the Ouse, at the time called the Big River, until it was hid upon the left by the almost perpendicular shoulder of the precipice of which we stood; The bank on the opposite side of the river was nearly, as steep and lofty as that on which we stood, will ‘the exception’ of the green plain of a valley, running up at right angles. The banks of the romantic valley, though covered with grass, were equally steep, and the whole reminded us strongly of the princely retreat, so well described in Johnson’s Rasselas. Small parties of cattle were seen browsing in place where they must with difficulty have kept their footing, while in parts they had formed a horizontal tract along the verge, of the mountain. Just below the Rivers Ouse, and Shannon, joined their streams and down the winding channel, which the united volume cut for itself were here and there to be seen the morning fogs, as white as clouds of snow, encircling the hills, and giving their tops the appearance of little islands. Beyond this the western range of hills rose like a lofty barrier in the sky, while the angular point of Tenerife stood abovoe all the rest covered with snow. To add to the interest of the scene, a huge eagle kept hovering round us, at times so near as to make us hear the whirring noise of its feathers as fleeted through the air. Dr. Syntax, or any other hunter of the picturesque would not begrudge travelling 100 miles to enjoy such a view. The edge of the precipice was covered with large, loose stones or rocks, lying on so tottering foundation as to be overthrown with the slightest touch.”

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