Spotlight: The Bushranger Brady (1873)

Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), Monday 3 February 1873, page 4


[From the Illustrated Weekly Herald.]

The following sketch has been sent in to us by an old correspondent, who writes from personal experience : —

Reading in a late number of your journal a few days ago a narrative of some of the exploits of “Brady,” the bushranger, from the pen of a Mr. Calder, has induced a desire to recount a few incidents of my experience of colonial life, which, if you could find acceptable to your readers, may be continued to a considerable length.

I may premise this sketch by stating that I first put foot on Australian soil in the year 1825. Since then I have sojourned in other climes, but mostly in Australia, and have probably passed through a life as versatile and eventful as any old colonist of the present day. For nearly fifty years I was in the habit of keeping a record of what was passing around me; but my journal, with many, valuable private papers, were consumed in a fire which took place about 100 miles from Melbourne, in August, 1871; and although I am at a loss for dates and many other connecting particulars, yet my memory serves me well, and following in the wake of Mr. Calder, I will begin by relating some more of the doings of Brady. I remember him well as he stood in the dock of the Supreme Court at Hobart Town, arraigned for murder and other capital crimes, for at that period robbery with firearms was deaths without any hope of reprieve. Brady had not the appearance of a desperado; his countenance was pleasing, his features well-formed and regular, depicting firmness, and courage, but not cruelty, his eyes were rather small, dark and quick, a well-formed head, and his whole expression intelligent. He appeared about 5ft 8in in height, well-built, and muscular. When his trial was ended, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty, he was asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed against him. He replied that by the laws of his country he had done enough to suffer death, and he would rather die than live without freedom. What a contrast there was between his appearance and the bloodthirsty monster, Jeffery, who was tried at the same assizes, and whom I may hereafter refer to!

I have seen and heard of many of the bushrangers of early times, who have become notorious for deeds of blood and daring in the Australian colonies, but none that I overheard, except Brady, is worthy of the name of brigand. Brady’s band usually consisted of fourteen chosen men, disciplined, well armed, and mounted, and under complete command of their leader. I never heard of an instance of rapine or outrage towards a female amongst his band, and it was said when he entered a house where there were ladies or females, he assured them they need not be alarmed, as he would suffer no rudeness to be offered by any of his men; He seldom made his appearance with his troop, except when in want of supplies. He had a retreat in some of the mountain fastnesses, which was not discovered till after his death, and where, it was said, he had built comfortable quarters for himself and men, and stabling for his horses, had a good library, and many of the luxuries of life. Perhaps, in a peculiar way, he was fond of notoriety, and was also a humorist, as the following story, told me by a friend who was present, will show, viz. : —

A bachelor, Captain B — , who was one of the leading merchants of Hobart Town, fond of good living, and had a fine cottage where he resided, a few miles from town — had invited a number of his friends to dine with him. The circumstance came known to Brady, who was in the vicinity at the time, and he resolved, to become an uninvited guest. It was in the winter season, and the gentlemen did not assemble till it was nearly dark. Brady, with his men, having preceded them, placed, all the servants and others in the house in a spare room, and put a sentinel over them. When he saw his horses properly put up, he walked with some of his men out of doors to receive the party as they arrived, saluted them courteously by name, asked them to walk in, and ordered the men to take their horses. Several of the gentlemen put the question, “Who the d— are you ?” The response was, “I’m Mr. Brady,” to the consternation, I have no doubt, of some and the disgust of all. When the guests had met, Brady ordered his men, with the assistance of one of the servants, to put down dinner and wait at table — he had himself been a waiter in an hotel at Hobart Town — he then, informed the gentlemen he would do the honors of the table, and appointed each to his particular place — strong remonstrances against which took place, and might have proved serious, had not Brady taken the precaution to have a guard of armed men always present. At last order was restored, and the ceremony of dining went on. Brady was in great good humor, told some, anecdotes, and when the cloth was removed, sang a song or two, and by his adroitness and tact drew the gentlemen out, and as the wine passed round they became chatty and jocular, forgetting they were under restraint. The evening went on, and about 10 o’clock Brady took out a handsome gold watch and said it was time to depart, and that he would only request the gentlemen to accompany him a short distance, to a township which, if I mistake not, was called “Ret Town,” where there was a gaol or lockup. Having ordered, his men to mount their horses, he arranged the order of march for those on foot, placing the servants in front and the gentlemen, next, whilst Brady and his men flanked them and brought up the rear. As they approached the township, a soldier on guard threatened to fire on them, but being cautioned not to do so at the peril of his life, and seeing such a number of armed men rushing towards him, he was soon secured, and all the garrison, which probably might consist of three or four soldiers, and as many constables. Brady soon possessed himself of the keys of the lookup, turned the prisoner out of it, and having ordered the soldiers, constables, gentlemen, and servants in to it, bade them good-night, looked the door, and galloped off with his troop.

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