Spotlight: The Bush-Rangers – Dreadful Outrages and Murder! (10 March 1826)

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 10 March 1826, page 2


Dreadful Outrages and Murder!

Extract of a letter from Launceston, dated on Monday last :— “On Saturday evening last, Brady, with his whole party of fourteen attacked Mr. DRY’S house ; and, after putting in the necessary centinels and securing the servants in an inside room, proceeded to rifle the house of all its contents —very coolly emptying all the drawers and boxes of their contents of linen, clothes, and everything valuable, and deliberately tying them up in bundles to be conveyed away on horses’ backs. One of the servants escaped into town, and brought a strong party out, who arrived at the house while they were all inside. Owing to some unfortunate circumstance, they however escaped through the back door. They had been two hours in the house when the party arrived, and from the house they rendezvoused in Mr. WEDGE’S tent, at the back of it. An order was given by Colonel BALFOUR to some men to rush it; and at the same moment Dr. PRIEST rode in a direction which he thought the bush-rangers would take, but before he was an hundred yards from the tent, he was fired at by several men at the same moment. Two balls entered the joint of his knee, and went through it, eight balls entered the horse’s body, and killed him. A great deal of firing took place between the soldiers and the bush-rangers, but without injury to either side. The night was extremely dark, and consequently favourable to Brady’s party, which enabled them to remain about the grounds for some hours after the engagement, and finally to go away quite unobserved. Colonel Balfour came to town about 10 o’clock, and five shots were fired at him as he rode through the paddock. It therefore became extremely hazardous for any one to approach Dry’s house during the night. We were all called out to defend the town, expecting an attack every hour, being ignorant of the numbers of the banditti. The accounts vary from fourteen to nineteen ; the former is the least number that they could have had. — It is impossible now to give you all the particulars, interesting as they are ; but nothing is more remarkable than the generalship observed by Brady. Dr. Priest is not out of danger; he persists in declining to have his leg amputated, contrary to the opinions of the Medical men who attend him. Mr. Dry’s wound is not material. We have had accounts every hour almost since yesterday morning of the movements of the bush-rangers, but they are evidently intended to mislead us ; for at the time they were thought to have crossed the North-Esk, they were on the road-side, two or three miles from Captain BARCLAY’S. Yesterday morning. Brady deliberately shot Thomas Kenton, after giving him his reasons for doing so, viz. that he once asked him (Brady) to come to his hut, while some soldiers were there, who wounded him on the occasion. After Kenton’s murder, his party wounded two other men. At 8 o’clock last night, some of the party set ABRAHAM WALKER’S stacks on fire, and the whole of his harvest was destroyed ; together with a new barn. The quantity of wheat destroyed could not have been less than 2000 bushels ; and the loss cannot be estimated at less than £1000. We hear to-day, that Brady’s party are near Mr. ROSES’, at Cora Lyn.”

Extract of another Letter:— “Watson, who was employed by Brady and his gang as a carrier, says, that on their route to Guilders, they got into such a thick scrub, that they could not extricate their horses, although they took the saddles off, and of course there left them. The first night after, their arrival, Brady went out at dusk to a high hill, to look for the Glory, and was lost all night, not returning till morning. On the third day, Guilders made his escape, (to give information, which he did to Colonel Balfour), while Goodwin was on sentry ; for this he was brought to a Court Martial, shot dead, and flung out of their prize-boat into the Tamar. They then sailed three times round the Glory, Brady advising them to take her; he went to the stern of the boat, and said, “decide among yourselves, let not my voice avail any thing ;” they then said, as the wind was foul, they would not take her. They then landed, and sent Watson into Launceston to say, they would that night rob Mr. Dry, and would go to the Gaol in Launceston, and take out Jeffries, torture him, and then shoot him. It was treated with derision! A man who escaped from Mr. Dry’s, came into Launceston at 10 o’clock, P. M. to say the banditti were there. Colonel BALFOUR instantly started with 1 serjeant and 10 soldiers, and some volunteers. They surrounded the house just as they had packed up their booty, when a brisk fire commenced ; the bush-rangers were forced out of the house into the back yard, and kept firing into the house ; it was quite dark, and the banditti were thought to have gone, when Colonel BALFOUR proceeded with half the soldiers to defend the town (rendered the more necessary, as a part of the banditti under Bird and Dunn had been previously dispatched by Brady to attack Launceston.) On his going away, the banditti went up to Mr. WEDGE’S hut, (adjoining one of the out-buildings) and began to plunder ; when the soldiers, with Dr. PRIEST; proposed to charge. The bush-rangers heard it; and fired a volley, by which Dr. Priest’s horse was shot dead, and himself shot in the knee. The soldiers, not above five in number, with some volunteers, fired and charged, but owing to the darkness, the banditti escaped. On the night of the 5th, the bush-rangers set fire and burnt down the stock-yard, with all the wheat belonging to Mr. ABRAHAM WALKER and Commissary WALKER, opposite to Mr. THOMAS ARCHER’S. The extent of damage is not yet ascertained. The bush-rangers were seen between the Punt and Mr. GIBSONS stock-yard, on the 6th. They sent word to Mr. MASSEY, on the South-Esk, Ben Lomond, that they would hang him and burn his wheat. A great fire was seen last night in the direction of his house, but it is to be hoped they have not executed, their threat. The bush-rangers have Mr. Dry’s two white carriage horses with them. They shot Thomas Kenton dead, at the Punt, on the South Esk ; they called him out of the house and deliberately shot him. Two runaways were last week sent into Launceston gaol, from Presnell’s, where they were taken ; one of them broke out of gaol, and was met by the bush-rangers, who asked him to join them, and, on his refusal, they shot him dead. Brady now wears Col. Balfour’s cap, which was knocked off at Dry’s. — When the bush-rangers were going down the Tamar, they captured Captain WHITE, of the Duke of York, in his boat. Capt. SMITH, late of the Brutus, who was with him, being well dressed, was mistaken for Colonel BALFOUR. They knocked him down ; but, discovering this mistake, they apologised. They then made Captain White go down upon his knees, and were going to shoot him. but Capt. Smith interfered and saved his life, on representing to them the misery it would inflict upon his wife and children. During the night, Captains Smith and White were allowed to depart, and they made the best of their way to Launceston, where they gave the necessary information; but, unfortunately, it was too late, the bush-rangers having crossed the river, and proceeded to commit the dreadful enormities before-stated.

Extract of another Letter :— “After the affair at Dry’s, in which Brady showed so much adroitness, in extricating his party from such a superior force, he proceeded to the house of a Mr. Field, a Settler, which they plundered of every thing useful ; from there they proceeded to Mr. Dugan’s, which they also robbed. Brady now wears Colonel Balfour’s cap, which was lost in the affair at Dry’s. It is impossible to describe the state of alarm in which these events have placed the whole of this side of the Island.”

The appalling accounts detailed this day of the proceedings of that most diabolical banditti, headed by Brady, are calculated to excite the most serious considerations. Twenty-one months have now elapsed since the escape of Brady and thirteen others from Macquarie Harbour. And several of them are still at large, carrying terror and desolation in their progress, from one end of the Island to the other, which they appear to traverse at their pleasure, without dread or apprehension. That we have not a sufficient Military Force cannot be now asserted even by the most prostrate of the adulators. We have a whole Regiment! And the sister Colony, the great Territory of New South Wales, to which no comparison with this Island can hold, has no more. We have an armed Prisoner Establishment of upwards of, we understand, one hundred and fifty men. We have a Troop of Mounted Soldiers, and a large internal Constabulary. We repeat, we have an infinitely greater numerical Civil and Military Force than have our brethren in New South Wales. To what then can be attributed the non-apprehension of this detestable and lawless banditti, whose outrages are now of a character threatening the most serious consequences! There must be something wrong somewhere. We observe, that the ruffian horde have singled as their victims individuals against whom they are not known to have any personal cause of hatred ; and latterly, mischief seems to have been as much their object as plunder. We have inserted what we believe to be accurate details of the last week’s abominable outrages. We have been obliged to withhold certain passages, in which all our Correspondents agree, by no means flattering to the discretion and conduct of Mr. MULGRAVE. We are quite convinced, from all that reaches us, that this individual is not possessed of talents fitting him for the important situation which he fills — important in itself, but much more from its being removed from the superintending eye of the Government, and from the watchful public protection of the Press. Mr. Mulgrave in private life is no doubt most honourable and respectable, but something more is required for the well filling the important office he holds. We have withheld from the public eye, because, in the present state of the Colony, we consider it proper to do so, numberless details which have been transmitted to us, of the most unsatisfactory nature. In Jeffrey’s case there are many circumstances in our possession, which exhibit, to speak “moderately,” great indiscretion. And we are convinced, that if the details before us, as to the affair at Mr. DRY’S, are also in the possession of the Executive Government, that Mr. Mulgrave will not appear to have acted there wholly without indiscretion. These are not times for the continuance in important public offices of persons who do not appear to fill them at least successfully. We trust the Executive will turn immediate attention to the necessity of adopting some measures which may be calculated to remove that dreadful state of alarm and anxiety, in which the whole Island is now placed, and which much inevitably produce the most unfortunate results.

Leave a Reply