Spotlight: Supreme Court (14/09/1830)

Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Friday 17 September 1830, page 3

SUPREME COURT, Tuesday, Sept. 14

Charles Routley was indicted for the wilful murder of John Buckly, in the month of July, 1825. The first count charged the prisoner with burning the said John Buckly, by which means he met his death; in the second he was charged with wrapping him in a hide, and suffocating him; and in the third with striking him in divers parts of the body, after which he was wrapped in a bullock hide, being still alive, and thrust into a fire and suffocated.

The Attorney-General opened the case on the part of the Crown, and detailed to the Jury the circumstances under which the prisoner was brought before them. The Learned Gentleman briefly stated the nature of the evidence he should bring forward in support of the prosecution, and proceeded to call the following witnesses :—

Hugh M’Ginnis, jun., examined by the Attorney-General.— I have resided at the Carlton about 12 or 13 years, am well acquainted with the country round about there. [The Attorney-General handed him a plan of that part of the country, which he thought to be a correct representation of the situation generally.] In July 1825, my brother John lived on an adjoining farm, my father also had one adjoining on the other side. Remembers some bullocks were lost about that time; I went in search for them — my brother went with me — I think it was on a Monday or Tuesday, about the 18th or 19th. Bartholomew Reardon lived at the Green Hills, about 4 to 5 miles from my house; I knew the prisoner, but do not know where he was living at that time. I went towards the Carlton; after travelling a mile and half or so, we found a place where there had been a very large fire, I should think as large as the table before me; the ashes appeared to have been scraped together; I raked the fire about, it was so hot that I could scarcely bear my hand in the ashes. The fire was on the top of a hill, near a deep scrub, so as a person might soon disappear from view. We found some bones in the fire — we did not take any particular notice at that time of what sort of bones, but concluded some cattle had been burnt. I saw marks of feet travelling round the fire, as though persons. had been picking up wood. We then endeavoured to find the bullocks, by tracing the steps along some sandy land; the tracks where we first found them were about 100 yards from the fire; we followed them to the lower settlement of Pitt-water, as also the footsteps of two men, who, it seemed by the marks, had been driving them. I thought the traces of the men’s steps were the same as I had seen at the fire. I traced the steps to a house close to Harry Aiton’s; I followed them further on till they became lost with those of other cattle, We went to Constable Kettle, and told him what we had seen. In going back to the fire, we traced the tracks of three men going towards the fire; we fell in with the tracks about a mile from Kettle’s — we did not follow them close up to the fire. I noticed the foot marks — one was of a very large and broad foot; I saw them at intervals all the way to the fire, and when I got there the ground was quite soft, there having been rain just before. The steps at the fire seemed to shew that they had been backwards and forwards for wood; saw the foot marks in several places about the fire. We then again raked the fire about, and examined the bones that were there; we found some short bits of bone, similar to those of a human being; a large bone appeared to be a hip-bone, and the upper jaw-bone with one or two teeth. We found also a button or two, and bits of a steel and knife, and likewise a flint; and upon the ground, under the ashes, there was something in a cake something like blood, and under that there, were the remains of something that had been wove, thought it was cloth, and when I touched it, it crumbled away. I am sure it was blood that was in a cake ; everything we found we took to Mr. Gordon’s, the Magistrate; he was at home — we gave them to Mr. Gordon. — Next day returned with Mr. Gordon — Kettle and my brother John were with us; I then saw several more buttons and bits of bones. we traced the footsteps to the ground where my father’s cattle fed generally, within half a mile of my father’s house. — The shoe marks I there saw, I am sure are marks of the same shoes that I saw about the fire. As I was going home, I traced the bullock tracks, they came directly from my father’s place; I did not particularly trace them, but saw them at different places. I also saw the traces of two men and followed them; I compared the footmarks that followed the bullocks with those at the fire, and they corresponded both in length and width — one of the shoes appeared to have been worn at the toe; I think the marks must have been made within two days. The bullock tracks were not nearer the fire than about 100 yards; the men’s steps were visible all the way from the fire to those of the bullocks. Knew a man of the name of “Pretty Jack;” when I knew him, he resided about Pitt-water; I had heard him say his name was John Buckly — he worked for me in January 1825; I remarked he had very large feet. The nearest road from my house to Reardon’s was over the Green Hills — it was the most secluded road that could have been taken; never knew any cattle drove that way before. Knew a man named William Griffiths in 1825; he is just become free — he is a labouring man. Cannot say whether the prisoner ever knew “Pretty Jack” — never saw them together. I went with my brother to a place where there was another fire. One of the bullocks lost was a coal black, the other was of a leopard colour, and had very rough long hair; I never saw any bullock like it either before or since. It was about a mile and a half from Reardon’s house where I lost the tracks of the bullocks; the other fire was about half a mile from Reardon’s house. We found there some skins of beasts and some entrails burnt. It did not appear to have been more than five or six days since the fire was alight — it was then quite cold out. My father, Smith, and my brother John were with me when I saw the fire; I there saw two large pieces of skin, one was black and the other a leopard colour — there was no brand mark on the black one: the other was scorched and shrivelled up. From the knowledge I have of my brother’s bullocks, I think this was part of the skin of one of them; I saw some bits of marrow, fat, and bones, about a bushel, lay down upon the ground, and a little blood was about the bushes; the pieces of marrow and fat were quite fresh. By the bones of the back and other bits, I think it was beef. The cart track went from here towards Reardon’s brewery; I followed the track till I came within about 30 yards of the brewery — the brewery was about 100 or 150 yards from Reardon’s house. I could see by the bullock traces, that the cart went from the fire to the Bluff; I do not think there were more than two bullocks. The second fire was on the side of a hill by a creek near the road; I saw some traces of other beasts about 5 or 600 yards from the fire. I did not see any marks of any struggling of the bullocks or lying down; I have no doubt that the piece of leopard colour hide belonged to my brother’s bullock. I did not like to go to Reardon’s, I thought it was useless.

By the Court.— I measured the tracks as I was going from the fire when they followed the bullocks. I thought the second fire had been alight about five days, by the state of the entrails and pieces of meat that were about, but not less than two or three. From the place where the first fire was to where my father’s bullock run is, is about half a mile. The place where the second fire was, to where the bullocks were turned out, was about five miles.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.— Many strange bullocks came on the same ground my father’s fed on.

James Gordon. J.P., examined by the Attorney-General.— I am a Magistrate, and reside at Pitt-water, and did so in 1825, and many years previously. In the month of July — I think the 18th, 1825, in the evening about 7 o’clock, the last witness and Constable Kettle came to my house, about 7 o’clock in the evening, and produced to me a common clasp knife, a piece of skull, and a lower jaw-bone with one tooth in it, part of a back-bone, one or two bones of human fingers, and two or three other small pieces of bone. The jaw-bone was that of a full-grown person. It was by its size. So were the bones of the fingers. I measured them by my own hand, and they were nearly as long. They also produced to me some buttons, covered with cloth. It was blue cloth. Four buttons were produced. I laid them by in my bed-room. I gave them two years ago to a servant of mine to bury. The bones were very much scorched, and I could crumble them with my fingers. The other articles were burnt. The handle of the knife was burnt away, and the cloth on the buttons singed. I have no doubt but the finger bones and jaw-bone, were those of a human being. On the following morning, I accompanied Kettle and the two M’Ginnis’s, to the place where they said they found them. There had been a large fire, and the ashes had been strewed about, in a very secluded spot, half way from the lower settlement to the Carlton River. When we came there, it was on high land, but so situated that a fire could not have been seen any great way, through high land. It was in a valley. It was very barren ground, and scrubby all round. We raked amongst the ashes, and found more bones. I found two finger-bones. It was still hot. There was also part of a butcher’s steel found, and some buttons. I took then all home, and placed them with the others. They were buried with the others, after keeping them three years. The bones of the finger were similar to those brought the night before. The traces of bullocks and men were pointed out to me. They were in the direction of Pitt-water from the Carlton.

By the Judge.—I knew “Pretty Jack,” had often seen him. Had known him for three or four years. He wandered about wherever he could get employ. Few would employ him. He bore a bad character, I believe he had no settled place of residence. He had lived about a month on Mr. Lakeland’s farm, about a mile from my house. I had seen him about three months previous to July, 1825, at Aiton’s house. He was once on a charge of felony before me. He told me his name was John Buckly. He had a very disagreeable face, pockpitted, a very clumsy man. The prisoner had a house near the Lower Ferry, but chiefly resided at Reardon’s. There were warrants out against Buckly, but he could not be found. I have never seen him since July, 1825. It was generally reported that he was lost between the Carlton and Pitt-water. Smith, and some one else, brought some pieces of hide to me. M’Ginnis had a very peculiar coloured bullock, which I had often noticed. I understood from him that it was that bullock that he had lost. It was a bullock of a white colour, spotted about the size of my hand all over of a leopard colour. I do not think any of the spots were larger than my hand. The piece of hide brought to me, was spotted with no fewer than five spots. After lying about my house for three years, they were thrown away.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.—It is customary to set the dogs at cattle which go through the feeding ground. They then get scattered about in the bush. I will not swear that “Pretty Jack” has not left the country. It strikes me I never did see all the bullocks in Van Diemen’s Land. I believe that it was M’Ginnis’s by no other reason than the peculiarity of the spots. Would not swear there is not another bullock in Van Diemen’s Land of the same description.

Hugh M’Ginnis, senior, examined by the Attorney-General. — In June, 1825, I resided at the Carlton. Remember my son John lending me a pair of bullocks for the seed time. The last time I saw them was at my own house on a Saturday, at 8 o’clock. I turned out eight bullocks at that time. The feeding ground was about 60 or 70 rods from my house, towards the Carlton. It was then uninclosed Government ground. It is now belonging to my son John. There were no cattle belonging to any body else there. I went to look for the bullocks on Sunday morning. I found all but three, namely, two of my sons, and one other. One was a leopard-coloured bullock with down hair. I never saw one like it in the country. The other was a black one. The other five I found all together. My cattle generally fed down by the banks of the river. I remember my sons, Hugh and John, going in search of them, on the Monday after the one bullock was brought back. I remember going with Smith and my sons to a place near Reardon’s brewery. I remember seeing a place where fire had been. I saw some pieces of skin. I have been a number of years in the Colony. I never saw one like the leopard-coloured bullock of my son’s. One piece of skin resembled that of the leopard coloured bullock. There was a piece of a black hide. It might have been a cow’s hide for all I know. The skins were singed with the fire. It was about half a mile from my house.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.— I cannot say there were no other bullocks on the ground when I turned mine out, on the Saturday. But I saw none. From my house to the settlement, it is feeding ground all the way. The whole settlement turn their bullocks out on this ground. The bullock that was brought to me, said to have been found at the Bluff, had his eyes shot out. Will not swear that my bullocks were not stolen from the Bluff. It is a mile and a half to the Bluff from my house. The furthest place I have been up the country, is Prosser’s Plains. Smith was a Government man of mine. I did not have him apprehended for stealing. I did not suspect him of stealing, but only of giving them away. I do not call giving away my property stealing the property.

Re-examined by the Attorney General.— I fed the bullocks upon grass, and about the farm yard. Many bullocks were at that time fed in the farm-yards.

John M’Ginnis examined by the Attorney General.— Corroborated the evidence of the former witnesses.

Ralph Dodge examined by the Attorney-General.—I knew John Buckly or “Pretty Jack,” heard that he is missing. I heard it first about July, 1825. I have not heard that he was ever seen since.

By the Court.—The broadest of the three feet marks was not the longest. The shortest was the narrowest.

William Sale Smith examined by the Attorney-General.— In 1825 I lived at Pitt-water. I heard that John M’Ginnis had lost some bullocks. My son in-law, John M’Ginnis, came to me and asked me to assist in searching for them. A few days after I was splitting shingles at a place called Bullock-hill. I found where a fire had been — the ashes were very fresh, but the fire was out. I found two pieces of bullock hide sticking to a log which was not burnt through. I took the two pieces of hide, which I thought belonged to my son’s bullocks, and placed them under a tree, one piece was full of small spots, and the other black. I believed at the time they were part of my son-in-law’s bullock, and I believe so now. There was the paunches of two beasts in the middle of the fire, which I opened and found to contain several grains of wheat among the dung. I found some pieces of bone; they were very small, and I could not tell to what animal they might have belonged. The hide and paunches were fresh. I saw the track of a cart, about two or three rod off the fire, I traced it to the bridge against Reardon’s brewery, both backwards and forwards. The track was very fresh, and within a rod or two of the bridge. I saw some bits of meat and bones, as if a beast had been chopped up. I went with M’Ginnis the next morning to the spot where I had hid the pieces of hide, and shewed them to him, and placed then on the logs as when I first found them. I took them to Mr. Gordon’s. It was near two miles from Mr. Lakeland’s where I was splitting shingles. It was a quarter of mile from where I split the shingles to the fire.

By the Court.—It was a large fire. The fire was out. It had rained between my first finding the fire and going again — the ashes were damp.

Richard Green examined by the Attorney-General.—In July, 1825, I lived at B. Reardon’s, and had been there since May, 1823, when I first came into the country. I was employed in shoemaking and tanning. I knew a man named “Pretty Jack,” and had for some time before. I had seen him often at Reardon’s, in company with Charles Routley and James Hanaway. He was doing no work. The last time I saw him was a week before the robbery of Mr. Minett, in Pitt-water. The last time I saw him was at the Eastern Marshes, at Reardon’s run. I was living at Reardon’s house all July, 1825. Routley, Hanaway, and another were at the house one Saturday, about two or three o’clock. Hanaway went out first, Routley followed, and I saw no more of them that day. I saw Hanaway on Sunday afternoon, he came to Reardon’s place and yoked four bullocks, filled a keg of beer, took a cart, and said he was going to the lower ferry. I saw the cart and Hanaway about two or three o’clock on Monday. I got up, and saw a cart coming from the brewery by the road-way — the night was moon light. I heard the cart and Hanaway at the door. It was Reardon’s cart and Hanaway was driving it. The bullocks also were Reardon’s. It was the same cart I saw go on Sunday afternoon. It was loaded with meat above the sides. It appeared to be a large bullock. I cannot exactly say what sort of meat it was, but it was fresh killed meat. I got up next day at day-break — say six o’clock. I saw Charles Routley standing at the end of the house; as soon as he saw me he walked down the paddock. I went about my work until Routley was gone from sight. I went to the front yard and saw the cart covered in blood. I knew Routley was in the bush a run-away. There were several of my fellow servants saw him. He came armed with a gun. I was with him the night he took the bush, in Reardon’s brewery. I saw him contriving to get ammunition to go at that time. He was afraid of being taken upon a warrant. I saw him get the ammunition, and knew he went into the bush. I saw him at Reardon’s two or three months after this — it was on a Sunday night, in the parlour — there was a wedding there that night — Thomas Miller was married. I heard Routley talking in Reardon’s bed-room. Hanaway, Reardon, and his wife were in the room, I heard Routley say, that he had put “Pretty Jack” into the fire he turned his head round and grinned at me. I knew that Routley said it. They were all talking and joking in the room. I went away to my lodging, and have never seen “Pretty Jack’ since. I had been at the door about two minutes when I heard Routley say it. I went up to the door, and just as I got there I heard Routley say it. I went up to the door, and as I got there I heard Routley say those words. I will swear he mentioned “Pretty Jack’s” name. I did not hear him say I put him. I was in the passage only two minutes. I did not see Routley that night. I never swore that I saw him that night. I have have [sic] left Reardon’s four years. I do not recollect how long I lived at Reardon’s after Routley was in the bed-room. I was an assigned servant. I had heard that “Pretty Jack” was missing when I heard this, but did not go to the Magistrate at that time. I did not tell of it until I had got my liberty from Reardon two or three years afterwards. I first gave the information to Captain Glover. I went voluntarily.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.—I did not say on a former trial that you was in Reardon’s bed-room. I said you would settle any person who said any thing about you. (Examination read as taken before Mr. Spode.) I did not say before in the Court that I first saw the cart from the window. I did see the cart as I passed the window, after it was gone into the yard.

In answer to a question as to how many days after M’Ginnis lost the bullocks, he saw the prisoner at Reardon’s?— It was not after, but before.

Re-examined by the Attorney-General,— I saw “Pretty Jack” in the Eastern Marshes about a week before Mr. Minett’s robbery, and about three weeks or a month before the bullocks were lost. I saw Routley at Reardon’s, in the parlour, on the day of the wedding, I said before. The moment I was out of bondage I thought it my duty to bring these things forward. I was never before the Magistrate till I made the statement.

Robert Cockburn, examined by the Attorney-General.—In April, 1829, I resided at Kangaroo Point. I lived at Bailey’s house, and Jones lived there at the same time. The second time, Dec. 1, 1828, it was about from 9 to 11 o’clock, a voice asked was Bailey at home? Bailey went out, and Routley followed him in. He was dressed in coarse cloth trowsers, a sort of blue jacket without sleeves, skin cap, and half-boots. He complained of having been chased through the Bagdad Tier by a party of men. Bailey told me to make him some tea, and I did. He then laid down alongside me in bed. After going to bed we talked of Macquarie Harbour. I said when I was there, I heard you burnt “Pretty Jack” alive, what did you do it for? He said, we had been in so many concerns together, that he was afraid when he was apprehended he would tell of all. I said it was a cruel death, I should sooner have shot him, or knocked his brains out. I told him it had been said he forced Jack to carry the wood. He said yes, you would have carried it had you been there. I then said, how did he take it, when you threw him upon the fire? he said the b——r turned his face and grinned at us as if he had been laughing. He said Perkins was with him when he did it. I asked him how it ended? He said, by rousing up the fire and breaking the bones, so that they should not be discovered from any other bones. I asked him no more questions. I had known him more than seven years. I got up soon after day-light and gave information the same morning in Hobart Town. I knew “Pretty Jack.” I asked him no more questions — I was afraid as he had a large knife like a butcher’s knife. It was in his jacket pocket. When I was a prisoner, in Mr. Simpson’s house drinking, I was introduced to Routley by a man named Edwards, as a fit person to be trusted to join in such a robbery, as Mr. Simpson’s. I said when all is ready let me know, but I was removed from Pitt-water to the Coal-River, and had no opportunity of seeing Routley afterwards. The first time he came to Bailey’s house, I heard a voice call Bailey, he said come in. Bailey went out and came in again, and opened the bed-room window, and let Charles Routley in that way, I saw Charles Carter and Chief District Constable Robertson leave the Police-office. A few minutes before they left, I saw Buckly go away. Buckly and me came over together, I did not tell him I was going to give information against Routley. We were warned to go by Mr. Lascelles.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.—There were several persons in the same room with us. There was myself, you, and a child. Jones did not sleep with us, under the same blanket. Mr. John Lord, a Magistrate, did not live there. His house was some way by land.

Margaret Donovan examined by the Attorney-General.— I was not a servant to Reardon, but used to stop there now and then. I remember the time when Reardon came to town to be tried here. It was on a Monday. I remember in the morning, in the kitchen, hearing conversation about the cart. I went to the front of the house. I saw the cart near the front door. It was bloody and had straw in it. I heard of some bullocks of M’Ginnis’s being stolen. After this. But cannot say at what time. I believe it was within seven days after.

W. Webb, examined by the Attorney-General.—I live at the Carlton, and lived with M’Ginnis as a servant in 1825; I remember his bullocks beings stolen, I was minding bullocks at the same time; I knew the bullocks were missing on Sunday. I knew “Pretty Jack” for nine years; he had worked at the Carlton the harvest before. I am a shoe-maker; I made a pair of shoes for him, he had a middling sized foot, but very broad, it was wider across the instep than the length; I have not seen him since. The Thurday previous to the Sunday when the bullocks were missing, he came to me near the barn, asking me for one Shoe; I understood there was a warrant against him — he had been living for one or two harvests at the settlements of the Carlton and Pitt-water.

Cross-examined by the Prisoner.—I have made other shoes from the same last, but made them longer than “Pretty Jack’s.” It was on the Thursday or Friday before M’Ginnis’s bullocks were stolen, that I saw him.

James Shelby, examined by the Attorney-General.— I am a constable and have been for three or four years. I remember in December, 1828, going out in search of a prisoner; had a warrant for felony. We watched Dalton’s house, on Bagdad Tier; got there before sun rise, and planted ourselves in the bottom opposite to the house, but could not see it. Before the sun rose, some one from Dalton’s house went up the tier, and I went after him; he got away from us — a short time after we found him again. Sewell had him in custody; I asked him what he had done with his arms, and he said if he had arms he would have dropped one of us; he was in a miserable state as to clothing; said he had torn his clothes in getting away from Mr. Robertson and Carter. I took him to Mr. Armytage’s; he wanted Mr. Armytage to give him a character. He said he was more afraid of Charles Carter than any other man; he said that he thought Cockburn was the only enemy he had, and if he was out of the way he should get out of all his troubles.

Cross-examined by the prisoner.— I was a good distance from Sewell when he took me. I will not swear, I saw Sewell take you. There were three constables in the party; I was down in a gully below the house. I had not heard you were working at Dalton’s in ploughing and sowing; I did search you. I found nothing about you.

——— Tripp, examined by the Attorney-General.— I was a servant to Mr. Gordon, the Magistrate, for four years. Mr. Gordon gave me some things; I saw bones, a knife, and a steel. I buried them, and have since looked for them, but cannot find them

Charles Carter, examined by the Attorney-General.— I was a constable in December, 1828, attached to the Richmond Police. I was in Hobart Town, and went over the water to apprehend Routley; I went over to Kangaroo Point. As soon as we landed, we ran up the side of a hill; saw Routley jump out of a window from Bayley’s house, and run away. I chased him two or three miles; I came up within 50 yards of him, when he jumped into a scrub and disappeared. I searched the scrub, but could not find him; he had nothing on but his shirt, and a small parcel under his arm, like a pair of shoes. I know Robert Cockburn, saw him in Hobart Town; I did not learn that there was a Sheriff’s warrant after him for debt.

This was the case for the prosecution.

The prisoner then addressed the Court to the following effect:—

Your Honor and gentlemen of the Jury.

I need not trouble the Court with any observations, as I have a clear conscience, that I am innocent of this charge. I am charged with killing a man, whom it is not proved is dead, or has been murdered;— it is not proved that “Pretty Jack” has not left the country.

At 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning, the Chief Justice proceeded to sum up the evidence, and to deliver his charge to the Jury. His Honor pointed out in the most clear and distinct manner the law as applicable to the various counts in the indictment, and dwelt at very considerable length upon every to point that could be favourable to the prisoner, admitting the Jury, that if they did not believe the evidence of Green and Cockburn, there really was no count upon which to identify Routley with the murder charged against him; but if gave credit to the testimony of these witnesses, then that part of the case which, without such belief remained unimportant, would in consequence become collateral and important evidence for the Crown; so that in point fact, the decision as in the guilt or innocence of the prisoner must depend upon the fact of those persons being the witnesses of truth, or the inventors of that which they had sworn to have heard from the mouth of Routley.

After a most patient and luminous explanation of the evidence as it affected the prisoner, and giving to him the full benefit of every thing, that would bear a favourable complexion, the Jury retired, and in about a quarter of an hour returned a verdict of — Guilty.

The Judge proceeded to pass the dreadful sentence of the Law, pointing out to the prisoner the enormity, and more than inhuman barbarity that had been exemplified in his atrocious case, and at the same time shewing him how clearly the finger of Providence might be traced in putting an end to his long career of crime, and at the same time holding him up as an example, that the perpetrators of such horrible outrages become their own accusers, and furnish out of the very excess of their depravity, the clue that may be followed to their final condemnation. After exhorting him to avail himself of the few hours that remained to make an atonement to his God and his country, by making every confession that lay in his power, he sentenced him to be executed on Friday morning.

Through the whole of this extraordinary trial, which lasted from 10 o’clock on Tuesday to nearly 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning, the prisoner conducted himself with a propriety that could scarcely be expected from a person of his class in life, standing in such a situation.

September 16.

George Scott and George Parker, were found guilty of stealing in a dwelling-house. The following prisoners were discharged by Proclamation:— James Tansley and Joseph Carter, for absconding from Macquarie Harbour; Daniel Wilkinson, cattle stealing; John Donnelly and Arthur M’Lane, burglary.

Spotlight: Brady, Jeffries and McCabe reports (07/01/1826)

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 7 January 1826, page 2

On Saturday evening Brady and his party, appeared at Mr. Haywood’s, and robbed him of a large quantity of tea, sugar, tobacco, rum, and flour, besides all the bedding and wearing apparel in the house. Brady alone was mounted on horseback. On coming up, he said, “Mr. Haywood, I am Brady.” He desired him to be under no apprehension of being hurt on account of the late execution of Broadhead, who, he said, was not a bushranger. He wanted provisions only and after remaining about 3 hours, they departed, taking with them 2 horses, besides the one Brady had mounted, to carry their plunder. They said Jeffries, the runaway from Launceston watch-house, had tendered them his services, and had been rejected. While they, were in the house the Messenger arrived with the letters, which they took from him, saying, they wanted only the Government despatches, but carried the whole away with them. They are believed to have crossed the Derwent within these last few days, and to be not many miles distant from Town. We pray and trust most fervently that their iniquitous career may be drawing to its conclusion.

McCabe, Brady and Bryant

The reward offered in another column, by the Government, for the apprehension of that monster in human shape, the murderer Jeffries and the others, though large, will, we are informed, be materially increased by a public subscription. A feeling of horror, and an ardent desire for justice, is roused throughout the Colony, and a public and private effort is making which will give a speedy and decided blow to robbery and bushranging for ever in Van Diemen’s Land. As far as pecuniary means can assist, and it can do much, the Government, we are sure, will be both prompt and liberal. Were these circum-stances known in London to-night, what thousands would be subscribed to-morrow!

Extract of a Letter, dated Launceston, January 1, 1826

“We have three or four fellows out on this side, and yesterday morning they went to the house of a Native Youth named Tibbs, about a mile from this Town and in sight of it. They robbed him, and it is supposed murdered and disposed of the body of his stock keeper. They shot Mr. Tibbs in the neck, and what is more than all they took his wife away with them, with an infant, her first child, sucking at her breast, and she has not been heard of since. Since writing the above, I have heard that Mrs. Tibbs has arrived in Town, but without her child, the villains having murdered it.”

EXECUTION.—Yesterday morning Jas. McCabe, William Priest, John Johnson, Samuel Longworth, Charles Wigley, Jas. Major, W. Pollock and George Harding, underwent the dreadful sentence of the law. All the eight unhappy men died truly penitent, praying most fervently; McCabe in particular offered up an earnest ejaculation, which we trust will be heard, that his associates who are now at large may see the error of their ways and give up their wretched and destructive course.

Richard Brown, James Brown, John Green, Thomas Bosworth, Richard Miller, and William Craven, will likewise undergo the awful sentence of the Law this morning.

James McCabe, post mortem.

Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Con-artist sailor turned cannibal convict murderer.

He was referred to as “the monster”, accused of a string of horrific crimes including murder, infanticide and cannibalism. His reputation was so repulsive that the gentleman bushranger Brady threatened to break him out of prison so he could have the privilege of hanging the villain himself. But was Thomas Jeffries (aka Jeffrey) as bad as he was claimed to be?

Jeffries (or “Jeffrey” as he would write it) was a native of Bristol, born in 1791. His father was a butcher, and as a young man Thomas pursued a career in the British Navy. After three years, the harsh discipline of the Navy pushed him to abscond, which was not altogether uncommon. He then did a stint in the army before absconding again, and after discovering that he no longer fit in with his old mates back in Bristol he attempted to give the Navy another shot. This ended with him robbing the ship.

After an elaborate scheme to rob his well-to-do uncle, Jeffries found himself burning through money. To combat this he joined a gang of highwaymen. After one of their victims was murdered they were captured but released due to lack of evidence.

Jeffries was eventually transported in 1817 for robbery. Sailing on the ship Marquis of Huntley, his experience as a sailor allegedly saw the captain order his irons be struck off so he could work as one of the crew.

The “H.C.S. Marquis of Huntley” coming out of Penang by William John Higgins [Source]

Some sources suggest that he had a wife and children that were left behind when he was transported, though this is unlikely and doesn’t seem to tally with the records of him as a convict. It must also be pointed out that some sources claim Jeffries was a hangman from Scotland, which is certainly not the case. Misinformation about Jeffries goes back to at least the mid-1800s when James Bonwick cobbled together a very inaccurate depiction of Jeffries (among other bushrangers) in a book about the bushrangers of Van Diemen’s Land.

Jeffries landed at Sydney and was quickly assigned, but his misbehaving saw him handballed back to the authorities. He was allocated to a work party at Coal River, where he absconded with a party of four others. They took to the bush, but after a time their supplies ran out and two of their number were, according to Jeffries, killed and cannibalised by the others.

Jeffries was recaptured and sent on a ship to Van Diemen’s Land. He arrived in George Town, where he was sent to the prisoners’ barracks. Soon he climbed up the food chain and become an overseer. He would later brag that in his time as constable the incidence of misbehaving steeply decreased, though there is no evidenceto back him. It was here that his troubles with alcohol began to become evident.

He was stripped of his position after drunkenly attempting to stab the chief constable who had busted him breaking through the wall of the barracks with a pickaxe. Attempts to put him in irons failed but he was subdued and locked up in the George Town Gaol. He was to be transported to Macquarie Harbour but instead was considered more useful in the work party at George Town. In February 1825 he absconded from his work gang and was at large for a time, but was soon recaptured, given 50 lashes and sentenced to hard labour.

In April that year Jeffries was transferred to Launceston, where he became the watch house keeper. In addition, Jeffries was made the flagellator. In the convict world the flagellator was the most despised man. This job was usually given to inmates whose cruel streak was considered useful to the governor for keeping others in check by inflicting as much severe pain and injury on others as they could muster. Many convicts viewed the flagellator as a traitor to the convict class, as they had essentially fallen in with the oppressors to break and brutalise their peers.

Old Launceston Gaol from Wellington Square [Courtesy: Tasmanian Archives, LPIC147/4/62]

Here, even by his own admission, his alcoholism spiralled out of control, leading to reprimands. He was also fined in August for allegedly falsely imprisoning and assaulting Elizabeth Jessop. Although the witness accounts differ greatly and tend to support the idea that Jessop was heavily drunk at the time of the alleged offences and lied about what happened, she was believed over Jeffries. Later writers have tried to construe this event as evidence of Jeffries’ sexual deviancy by claiming he raped the women in his custody, which is not supported by the evidence.

Joined by John Perry, William Russell and James Hopkins, Jeffries escaped from Launceston watch house. The prison authorities had suspected this and lay in wait as the gang headed out. When they were fired upon by a guard, Jeffries dumped his kit and the gang bolted into the bush.

Jeffries was now on the run, and he and his gang were about to seal their infamy with a string of horrendous crimes ranging from robbery to murder and cannibalism.

A description of Jeffries from 1 April 1825 describes him thus:

Thomas Jeffreys, 210, 5 ft. 9¼ in. brown hair, brown eyes, 35 years of age, painter, tried at Notts, July 1817, sentence life, arrived at Sydney per Prince Regent, and to this Colony per Haweis, native place Bristol, castle, hearts, and darts, flower pots, and several other marks on left arm, absconded from the Public Works at George Town, Feb. 1, 1825.—£2 Reward.

“RUNAWAY NOTICE.” Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825) 1 April 1825: 1

The gang first robbed a hut at Springs, taking flour, a musket and ammunition. They continued towards the South Esk River, robbing huts as they went. They are said to have expressed at this time a desire to join Matthew Brady’s gang. Brady would later express that Jeffries had offered his services to him but refused. Whether or not this occurred at the same time is impossible to say.

In mid December 1825, the gang stayed for ten days at James Sutherland’s farm, Rothbury, near Campbell Town. On Christmas Day there was a shoot out and one of Sutherland’s men was killed. The gang raided a hut then continued into the bush.

Thomas Jeffrey (illustrated by Aidan Phelan)

On 31 December they raided John Tibbs’ farm near Launceston. Several people were bailed up including Mrs. Tibbs and her infant, as the bushrangers robbed the house. The bushrangers then took their prisoners into the bush, carrying the plunder. The group was split up with Perry and Russell taking one group, Jeffries with the remainder.

Tensions grew as the groups were matched through the bush, resulting in Russell shooting Beechy, a bullocky, and Perry shooting Tibbs in the neck. Despite being badly wounded, Tibbs managed to escape and raise an alarm in Launceston. Beechy would later die from his wound.

The two groups rejoined and continued to head north. During the trek, Jeffries and Russell took Mrs. Tibbs’ child from her and went into the bush where he was killed by one of the bushrangers who dashed his brains out on a tree. Jeffries told the distraught mother they had sent the child to a man named Barnard. After camping for the night the prisoners were released in the morning.

Soon after, a reward of $200 or a free pardon was issued for Jeffries and company.

Thomas Jeffries: on Trial for the Murder of Mr Tibbs’ Infant, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077014]

The gang’s next robbery was committed near George Town, followed by several days of walking in the bush with captives. On 11 January 1826, the gang encountered Constable Magnus Bakie who was robbed and ordered to guide them through the bush. When Jeffries became convicted the Constable was trying to steer them into the path of a search party he executed Bakie by shooting him.

They set their captives free and continued into the bush, where they ran out of food and became lost. Perry murdered Russell in his sleep and he and Jeffries ate their comrade’s flesh to sustain themselves. Several days had passed between Bakie’s murder and when Jeffries and Perry re-emerged near Launceston at a farm where they found provisions and slaughtered two sheep for their meat. Nor wanting to waste anything, Jeffries and Perry ate the remaining “steaks” made from Edward Russell with fried mutton.

The bushrangers camped overnight but were separated where Perry supposedly became lost while looking for water in the bush while caring their only cooking pot. Around this time the gang’s departed fourth member, Hopkins, was captured.

On 22 January, search parties went out looking for Perry and Jeffries. While one party was at breakfast at a farm near Evandale, an Aboriginal boy who had been recruited as a tracker pointed out Jeffries approaching. The party overwhelmed Jeffries and he surrendered. The creek where “The Monster” was taken was later renamed Jeffries Creek and ran under what is now known as Logan Road. The creek has long since dried up.

The successful posse took Jeffries and back to Launceston where crowds tried to attack the wagon. He was then lodged in the old Launceston Gaol. Shortly afterwards Matthew Brady would write to the Lieutenant Governor, declaring his intention to break into the gaol and murder Jeffries. Perry remained on the run until the end of the month and was captured near Launceston.

When Brady was also captured in March, he and his associates were sent by ship to Hobart to stand trial with Jeffries and Perry. Brady vociferously refused to share a cell with Jeffries, threatening to decapitate him if he was not moved to a different cell.

Thomas Jeffries on Trial for the Robbery at Mr Railton’s and John Perry, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077004]

Jeffries was tried and found guilty of murder, then sentenced to hang. He was executed alongside Matthew Brady, having confessed to his life of crimes in a self-penned memoir, but laid the blame for his criminal behaviour on his alcoholism. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Hobart Town.

Selected sources:

The following is an incomplete list of some of the sources and references used in the research for this biography. — AP


The Bushrangers, Illustrating the Early Days of Van Diemen’s Land by James Bonwick

Bushrangers Bold! by Bob Minchin

A Compulsion to Kill: The Surprising Story of Australia’s Earliest Serial Killers by Robert Cox

Newspapers and Gazettes:

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833), Saturday 17 December 1825, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 20 January 1826, page 3

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 29 April 1826, page 2

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 17 May 1826, page 3

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 24 May 1826, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 5 January 1827, page 4

Spotlight: An Interior Settlement of White People (19/09/1828)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 19 September 1828, page 2

With the following article, an intelligent Correspondent, who was himself one of the victorious party, as well as among the sufferers by the late robberies in the New Country, has obligingly favored us. The same Correspondent most solemnly assures us, that he is quite convinced of the existence of an interior settlement of white people!!! The blacks speak of it with certainty. We shall now give the account in his own words:—

During the last month, a desperate party of bushrangers has been committing a series of depredations in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, and among the out-stations of the settlers. The establishments of Messrs. Arkell, West, Armstrong, James Hassall, Dr. Harris, H. O’Brien, and T. Mein, have been respectively plundered. The party, at the robbery of Mr. Hassall’s station, were five in number, and all well armed. Before the stores were surrendered, three men inside the hut defended themselves to the last shot, and were at last obliged to surrender, on account of the bushrangers placing the other men belonging to the station opposite the door, and daring the offenders to fire on their own men.

Stores to a very considerable amount were then taken, consisting of sugar, tea, tobacco, soap, clothing, fire-arms, &c. &c. The men were obliged to wait upon the banditti, making tea, cooking mutton chops, and bringing up the horses, three of which, together with a servant, they took away. The next morning the servant and one horse returned; and a stockman of Mr. S. Hassall was pressed to assist in driving the two horses, and two of Mr. West’s bullocks. Information was immediately sent to Bathurst, distant 70 miles from the station, to inform the Police. Serjeant Wilcocks, Corporal Prosser, and four privates, were immediately dispatched by Lieut. Brown, to pursue the robbers. Mr. H.’s robbery took place on the 22d of August.

On the 27th the soldiers were on the spot; and were joined the same evening by Messrs. Hassall and Walker, who had returned from a sheep station, about 80 miles farther in the interior. The next day the Police, Messrs. H. and W. with two servants, began the pursuit. At the same moment Mr. S. Hassal’s men, with the two horses returned. The bushrangers had now got six days start; but from the returned man the Serjeant learnt the spot on which the robbers encamped two nights after the robbery. An aboriginal was now wanted to track them; and on the second day’s march one was found. On the 30th the track of the bushrangers was frequently met with; and in the afternoon of the 31st five additional aborigines joined the party to track “the croppies.” The tracking now proceeded at the rate of four miles in the hour, till sun-down. Being near Mr. Hassal’s outermost station, fresh supplies were taken in, and the number of guides reduced, in order to furnish the means of longer pursuit. The Police gained only a few miles this day, on account of the difficulty of tracking over Dr. Harris’s cattle run. After ten hours incessant work the party encamped.

Early on the 2d Sept. the march commenced, and in proceeding over Cunningham’s Plains to the sheep station of Dr. Harris, all hopes of finding the tracks were nearly lost. Success, however, at length crowned the assiduous labours of the natives, who followed the tracks to the hut of Dr. Harris’ men. From this station three men joined the bushrangers, who took the liberty of tasting a sheep of the Doctor’s flock. The Police party recruited their stock of flour; and after gaining all the information the men were willing to give, continued the march to Mr. H. O’Brien’s station. Here the bushrangers had made free with three sheep, three men, one pack bullock, and some sundries, and made a promise to be considerably more free with some fat oxen and dairy cattle. Night prevented a more continued march.

On the 3d, breakfast was over, fresh supplies taken in, and all ready to march at the first dawn. Mr. Gregson, Mr. O’Brien’s overseer, here joined the party. An aboriginal belonging to this part of the country happened to meet with “the croppies,” and took the Police, and their black guides, to the place where he saw them; and by this opportunity a day’s march was gained. About noon a recent encampment of the bushrangers was discovered; the ashes were warm; a kangaroo dog, stolen from Mr. O’B. was also found lying beside it. The tracking operations were continued in the greatest possible silence; not a word spoken but in a whisper. About three in the afternoon, the blacks passed the word – “smoke” – “bullo bullock” – “make a light, croppy sit down.” Serjeant Wilcocks gave them the orders for the attack, expecting to meet with eleven, but only two were at the fire, playing at cards, and cooking a pot of mutton, upon whom a charge was made. They ran; and before they surrendered were both slightly wounded with balls and sword cuts in several places. The prisoners informed the Serjeant that the party was reduced to nine, and that the other men were then on a robbing expedition to Mr. Mein’s station. Serjeant Wilcocks then divided the party; him-self, two privates, and Mr. Hassal, took a station where they could at the same time keep an eye on the property that had been retaken, and on a passage that led to Mr. Mein’s. Corporal Prosser, two privates, Mr. Gregson, and Mr. Hassal’s servant, were stationed convenient to the route the bush-rangers had taken in the morning. Mr. Walker and servant had the custody of the two prisoners. About an hour elapsed when Mr. Hassall discovered the captain of the banditti, six others, a small pack of kangaroo dogs, and a bullock laden with the spoils of the expedition. The captain, soon perceived the Serjeant’s party, called his men together, threw up his hat, and called to the Police that they were ready. “Surrender” was out of the question. Hard firing commenced. The Police were soon together; but could not prevent the bushrangers ascending a very steep rocky precipice. Shelter was at once secured to the bushrangers behind the rocks, where the horses could not reach. Beaten from one fortress, another presented itself immediately; and retreat and fight was the order of the evening, till the want of day-light, and perhaps of ammunition, produced a cessation of hostilities. All the bushrangers escaped; none of the Police were hurt.

Soon as the party had boiled some tea, the fire was put out, some refreshment was hastily taken, the property and horses secured, the sentinels placed at a convenient distance, and “all hands on the look-out” for morning, or an attack from the bushrangers. At midnight it began to rain which was the first wet lodgings for the party. Early the next morning a party of the Police and a black ascended the hills, in order to secure the tracks, but the rain had effaced all traces of them. It was then agreed to find Mr. Mein’s station; and in search for it the party met the captain; a ball had passed through both thighs in the previous engagement. The trowsers, waistcoat, coat, and hat he wore, belonged to Mr. Hassall, a silk handkerchief to Mr. H’s servant, and shirt to Mr. Walker.

“The most notorious “Donohoe” is one of this party. During the engagement one of the bushrangers was seen to fall by three of the party that went with the Police, who, at that time, was wearing the hat and coat taken upon the captain. It is thought, from this fact, that one was killed, and removed by his companions. These mistaken and dangerous men were going to make an establishment of their own, about 300 miles in the interior, where, they maintain, exists a settlement of white people.”

Spotlight: Brady’s Threat (17 May 1826)

Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Wednesday 17 May 1826, page 4


(From the Colonial Times. April 28.)

Brady, on Tuesday night, told Mr. Dodding, one of the turn-keys at the gaol, that if Jeffries was not taken out of the cell ” he would be found in the morning without his head.” Jeffries was consequently removed to another cell. He voluntarily gave up two knives, which he had concealed about his person, either to carry his former threats into execution, or to cut his irons, in attempting to escape. McKenny, whose leg was trodden upon by a horse, and who goes with a crutch, and Bryant, are in the same cell with Brady, who we understand has received many little comforts while in the gaol, from a very respectable gentle-man, whose humanity is proverbial. On Tuesday, when the seven bushrangers were tried, they were escorted from the gaol to the Court by the military. They were all fettered, and chained together — Brady was dressed in a new suit of clothes, of decent appearance. He was quite cheerful, and laughing the whole of the morning before the trial. He has, recovered from his wounds and is able to walk. The other bush-ranger, McKenny, who was so severely wounded still uses a crutch. Brady is a good looking man, with a penetrating eye. McKenny and Brown also appeared cheerful, and are both good looking young men. The others, particularly Tilly, seemed very miserable. Jeffries has at last taken to the Bible. He has sent for the Rev Mr. Bedford, and has been crying like a child Yesterday Jeffries and Perry were found guilty of the murder of Constable Baker. — We understand that the whole of the pri-soners who have been found guilty will be brought up for sentencing to-morrow. Several are expected to undergo the awful sentence of the law on Monday. Supreme Court. — On Saturday last, Jeffries and Perry were found guilty of the wilful murder of Mr. Tibb’s child. On Tuesday, Brady and the other bushrangers were tried, for a highway robbery, and for setting fire to Mr. Lawrence’s stacks. Brady pleaded guilty, and the rest were found so. Arrived on Monday, the Australian Company’s ship Greenock, Captain Miller, with a cargo from Scotland for that Company.— The Greenock left Leith the 22d November, and the Cape of Good Hope the 4th March.— Passengers (for Hobart Town) Mr. Gracie, Mr. W. Crawford Davidson, Mr. Burn, Mrs. Robertson and family, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. John Dalzell, Mr. and Mrs. John Scott, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mailer, Messrs. William and John Elliot, Mr. John Fitzpatrick and family, Mr. James Dow, Mr. John McRae and family.— For Sydney, Mr. Andrew Newton and family, Mr. William Reid, Mr. Shairp, Mr. Gavon Ralston, the Rev. Mr. McGarvie, (Presbyterian Cler-gyman), Mr. Rankin, Mr. James Sloan, Mr. William Jobson, Mr. Edward Middleton, Mr. Thomas Elliot, and Mr. Robert Smith. Sailed on Tuesday, the brig John Dunn, Captain McBeath for London, chartered by Mr. Petchey, and laden with bark and extract of ditto, on his account.— Passengers, Dr. Carter, R.N. Mr. Wilmot and family, and Major Loane’s three daughters.

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.

Spotlight: The Bushrangers, Windsor (1830)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 19 January 1830, page 3

The Bushrangers.

To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette.

Windsor, 26th December, 1829.


With reference to a paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Gazette of the 19th instant, relative to complaints “making of the depradations committed on the settlers in the interior, by those notorious characters, Underwood and Donohoe,” and expressing surprise “that the reward so promptly offered by Government, for the apprehension of these desperadoes, has not long since led to their capture.” In justice to the exertions of the Police, and reasoning why these desperadoes have not been informed against by prisoners of the crown, who are their principal associates, I beg leave to make the following observations:–

The Windsor Police have received the most accurate information of Donohoe and his accomplice. It has been stated, by one reputed to have been in their confidence for a considerable time, that Donohoe is not connected with the notorious Underwood, but that one John Walmsley, an absentee from an iron gang, was introduced to his notice by the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, on whose farm are shipmates of both the desperadoes, and that their connexion so commenced. That Donohoe, knowing his own awful condition, that his former acccomplices had been executed, that the reward offered for his apprehension was sufficient to tempt even a bushranger, having no greater offence to answer, to seize and capture his comrade under such circumstances, was bound to suspect and dread his new companion, and to act with the strickest precaution; and so he did, until they accidentally were on the very spot where Chilcott came for water, on the road to Hunter’s River, when they first committed highway robbery in company. The bank notes so stolen, are stated to have been spent in the dwelling of “a few acres settler'” on the South Creek, and it was in confidence related to the govermnent servant alluded to, and others, that the said settler proceeded to Parramatta to procure cash for the notes, and that he defrauded his guests £20 of the money, pretending it was stolen from him in that town. Donohoe, by his highway robbery, gained somewhat more confidence. They proceeded again in pursuit of further spoil; and as they have confessed, fell in with Mr. Clements, whom they fired upon and mortally wounded, that Walmsley committed the deed, Mr. C. having known him when at Hunter’s River, an absentee working as a sawyer; which fact, it is supposed, alarmed Walmsley, and prompted him to murder, he being recognised by Mr C. By these combined acts, Donohoe embraced a companion so worthy of his character, and they have since that period been inseparable. They have entrusted gold and silver watches to the care of, and for sale by, the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, these servants not only screen, and at times harbour them, but render them every intelligence, real or imaginary, as regards the intentions and movements of the Police. Where men in numbers are combined, and are connected most clearly with other government servants at Windsor and its environs, altho’ their information, at times, merely arises from suspicion, nevertheless it suffices to alarm the desperadoes, and give them opportunity to sally forth into some remote depository of flour, pork, &c. 50 or perhaps 70 miles from the common scenes of depredation The Police have frequently been from Windsor more than a week; their return is soon known, and as their visit to the bush was dreaded, their absence from it is hailed, and the remigration of the desperadoes is announce with tidings of new robberies. It is due to the Police of Windsor, Penrith, and the neighbouring constabulary to state, that very prompt and steady exertion has been made to apprehend the desperadoes.

I would now venture to offer a few reasons why it is probable these characters have not been betrayed long since. The Government Reward states the sums offered to be for the apprehension of DONOHOE and Underwood; ignorant wicked men, capable of treachery to their bosom friends, have always a latent dread of being deceived, and were this reward imprinted at the foot of the Lord’s prayer, they would yet be of opinion that on its being discovered that Donohoe’s companion was Walmsley, and not Underwood, “the reward would therby be brought to a bubble,” that they would eventually lose their good name, be still employed, at the danger of their lives, among the same servants; and be without the pale of either friendship or protection. Several government servants, towards whom shrewd suspicions attaches in this matter, have been reminded of the liberal reward offered by Government; their opinions differ with Government in this respect, they have bluntly asserted to the Police, that they would not thank any one for a ticket-of-leave under circumstances placing their lives in jeopardy. The answer thus candidly given, shews no indirect inclination, but expresses a reasonable terror. Then I would most respectfully suggest an alteration in the Government Notice, re-publishing the reward, to be made to the following effect viz.– “Whereas there is reason to believe that the companion of Donohoe, has not on all occasions been the felon Underwood as heretofore suspected, but that some other person has been connected with him in various murders, highway robberies, or other capital crimes:— Now therefore the Government is desirous to give due encouragement for the apprehension of these desperadoes, or each or either of them, and hereby offer a similar reward of —— pounds, for the apprehension of the man who has been an accomplice of Donohoe as afore said, whosoever the said man may be, on his conviction of any capital offence; or, of any crime unto which suspicion formerly attached to Donohoe and Underwood; or, if illegally defending himself, he should be slain when captured, so that he be recognised; and that the reward for Underwood yet remains in full force.” I would further respectfully suggest, that as it is unnecessary, and would be imprudent, that the informant should take an active part in the capture of these men, but that it be merely sufficient for him to give such statement to the Heads of Police as may lead to their apprehension; thus leaving it in the power of one person to effect so desirable an object; that to ensure his every protection, he should be rewarded with an emancipation, and, if required, a passage to Van Diemen’s Land. This, I am confident, would gain the desired event; and the Police would proudly avail themselves of the opportunity of becoming captors where so much credit will attach to their calling. To an emancipated man, either a free pardon, or a farm of —— acres should be granted, choice to be given to the person who gave the private information required. To one absolutely free, a share in the reward, or an adequate portion of land, as may most suit the views of the espial by whose means peace and comfort would be rendered to the honest settler and affrighted traveller now under dread of assassination. Hints, nearly amounting to overtures, have been thrown out by persons when questioned, nearly to the above effect; and I repeat that a ticket-of-leave has not only been disdained, but scoffed at.

Again, a constable’s salary (if free) at Windsor, is but 2s. 3d. per diem, how then can it be expected he can leave his wife and family for days together, and furnish his own rations in pursuit? It may be said, he frequently returns hungry to an empty table. If constables could be allowed some moderate supplies at the present on the capture of the men, the charges so made might be subducted from the reward, if the Government do not feel justified in renumerating their exertions from the Police fund. If approved or amended, or if in any way attended to, this inducement should not be merely published in the Gazette, but hand bills should be circulated by the police at every lonely cottage within the track of depredation; among the Government servants and stockmen in particular; the whole to be laid down in plain language clearly to shew the intent of Government. And further should be added, that the persons named are charged with Murder, Highway robberies and Burglaries, and that harbouring or succouring them with a guilty knowledge, will place such persons under the law, upon their trial as accessaries to crimes of the deepest dye.

It has been truly illustrated, that there is no peace in “the wicked,” Donoghoe always taking the pre-caution to place his comrade next a log; when they recline to rest, and then to close upon his person in such a manner as to prevent secret movements, and to expose the turbid state of their minds, they do not continue two nights in one spot. They have a dreadful aversion to the horse police, and are always urgent with the stockmen, whereabout the “slip rails are,” and whether they have seen the horse police. The information received is deemed indubitable, but the excitement for their apprehension is considered insufficient under serious calculation of possible or probable consequences, not within the conception of a Sydney courtier or merchant, who fears not the assassin behind the bush, or that he will be annoyed by a visit from such blood-thirsty guests as Donoghoe, Underwood or Walmsley are said to be.

It is supposed that the Englishman (Walmsley) will ”open his mouth” when apprehended, and make disclosures against settlers and servants rather of a tangible nature; and this is Donoghoe’s opinion says an informant.

As Editors can either publish or destroy, I need only leave it to “option’s choice,” and conclude by subscribing.


your very humble servant.


Spotlight: Brady robs Haywood; Jeffries at large; Execution of McCabe (1826)

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833), Saturday 7 January 1826, page 2

On Saturday evening Brady and his party, appeared at Mr. Haywood’s, and robbed him of a large quantity of tea, sugar, tobacco, rum, and flour, besides all the bedding and wearing apparel in the house. Brady alone was mounted on horseback. On coming up, he said, “Mr. Haywood, I am Brady.” He desired him to be under no apprehension of being hurt on account of the late execution of Broadhead, who, he said, was not a bushranger. He wanted provisions only and after remaining about 3 hours, they departed, taking with them 2 horses, besides the one Brady had mounted, to carry their plunder. They said Jeffries, the runaway from Launceston watch-house, had tendered them his services, and had been rejected. While they were in the house the Messenger arrived with the letters, which they took from him, saying, they wanted only the Government despatches, but carried the whole away with them. They are believed to have crossed the Derwent within these last few days, and to be not many miles distant from Town. We pray and trust most fervently that their iniquitous career may be drawing to its conclusion.

The reward offered in another column, by the Government, for the apprehension of that monster in human shape, the murderer Jeffries and the others, though large, will, we are informed, be materially increased by a public subscription. A feeling of horror, and an ardent desire for justice, is roused throughout the Colony, and a public and private effort is making which will give a speedy and decided blow to robbery and bushranging for ever in Van Diemen’s Land. As far as pecuniary means can assist, and it can do much, the Government, we are sure, will be both prompt and liberal. Were these circumstances known in London to-night, what thousands would be subscribed to-morrow!

Extract of a Letter, dated Launceston, January 1, 1826

“We have three or four fellows out on this side, and yesterday morning they went to the house of a Native Youth named Tibbs, about a mile from this Town and in sight of it. They robbed him, and it is supposed murdered and disposed of the body of his stock keeper. They shot Mr. Tibbs in the neck, and what is more than all they took his wife away with them, with an infant, her first child, sucking at her breast, and she has not been heard of since. Since writing the above, I have heard that Mrs. Tibbs has arrived in Town, but without her child, the villains having murdered it.”

EXECUTION.— Yesterday morning Jas. McCabe, William Priest, John Johnson, Samuel Longworth, Charles Wigley, Jas. Major, W. Pollock and George Harding, underwent the dreadful sentence of the law. All the eight unhappy men died truly penitent, praying most fervently; McCabe in particular offered up an earnest ejaculation, which we trust will be heard, that his associates who are now at large may see the error of their ways and give up their wretched and destructive course.

Richard Brown, James Brown, John Green, Thomas Bosworth, Richard Miller, and William Craven, will likewise undergo the awful sentence of the law this morning.


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 28 December 1872, page 3



[Written by Mr. J. E. Calder.]

Christmas time in Tasmania was not always the pleasant time that it is now, when the day-dreams of many a preceding week are so happily realised in friendly meetings and greetings, pleasure parties, bush excursions, trips up or down the beautiful Derwent or its expansive estuary, which are so joyously engaged in at this season by the people of the South, and the troops of pleasure-seeking visitors from continental Australia, who come hither at this season to pass a few weeks amongst us, in holiday keeping and rational relaxation from the none too pleasant realities of working life.

But all things of this kind wore unknown here half a century ago, when-outside the town at least-every day of the year brought its perils and anxieties ; when society was utterly disorganised, and when no one who lay down at night did so in the certainty that the night, as now, would be one of peaceful and unbrokon repose. The recollection of this state of things is hardly retained by us at present, for then, what with the savage onslaughts of the native tribes, the predatory acts of tho bushranging classes, the everlasting pursuits of military par-ties, and their hard bush fights with the marauders they wore after, the condition of this now most peaceful land must have been the very reverse of what it is at present ; and the happy changes that time and circumstances have brought about since then, should be especially cherished by the Tasmanian of our generation, by allowing him how much happier in his own condition, than that which was the lot of those who preceded him in the occupation, of; this country, who lived through those periods of our history which, in ignorance or forgetfulness of the bitter troubles of the past, we too fondly call ” the good old times.”

At no period since the year 1813 were bushranging depredations so numerous in Tasmania, as they were just about the Christmas season of 1825, especially those that were enacted by the daring band that was led by Matthew Brady, or more properly Bready, for that was his right name. I purpose recalling a few of tho curious exploits that he engaged in just about this season-forty-seven years ago -which, like the whole of his personal history, may be read by any one, as there is nothing revolting in them, as he was not naturally addicted to acts of murderous violence, and though the stain of the blood of one man was afterwards on, his hand, whom he killed when smarting under the remembrance of recent and heartless treaohory, his whole conduct whilst an outlaw in the bush was quite unmarked by savage atrocity of any kind ; indeed he more frequently saved life from the rage of his own followers, than any other brigand of whom I have ever read.

A few words of this man’s early career may not be out of place in introducing him. He was a Manchester man, born just at the close of last century, being under twenty-seven when he made the inevitable atonement that ever ends such a life of guilty riot as his was. He was brought up in a gentleman’s family, and is described in the police records as “a gentleman’s servant,” probably a groom, as he was an excellent and even a graceful rider, and it was probably through this connection that he had acquired something very like propriety of personal deportment which has been often, described by old writers on the colony who had met him, as he had nothing of the brutal manners of an ordinary robber in his strange composition. He arrived here, under a transportation sentence of seven years, in the convict ship Juliana, almost on the last day of the year 1820.

He had not been long in the colony before he made two attempts to escape from it, as a stowaway on board ship; for the last one of which it was that he was sent to the dreaded penal settlement of Macquarie Harbour, for the unexpired portion of his original sentence, five years, which he resolved never to complete, if by any chance he could escape from this place of suffering. But here he continued for a couple of years before he could make good his determination, when, assisted by 13 others, he took the commandant’s boat from under him, and after a stormy passage of 10 days made good his landing, somewhere on the east side of the Derwent, on the 19th June, 1824, and commenced the dangerous career of bushranger immediately.

A circumstance much to the credit of Brady is related by the historian of Macquarie Harbour, the late D.A.C.G. Lempriere, touching his escape from that place. Both the commandant and the surgeon of the settlement were in the boat at the time of her seizure. The first named officer managed to make his escape from the captors, but not so the other, whom they seized and secured, with the intention of flogging him before they quitted the Harbour; and they accordingly stripped him and tied him up for this purpose, when Brady, hearing what was about taking place, dashed in amongst them and made them desist. We are told by Lempriere that this man had formerly been a hospital patient of the doctor’s, and very kindly dealt with by him, and as he was by no means deficient of the better qualities of our nature, a grateful rememberance of past benefactions now impelled him, at the risk of his own safety, to protect the kind-hearted surgeon against this indignity, of which he had been so often the unwilling witness in the case of others when under punishment.

I have, of course, no intention of following this man through his long career of criminality, and a life of alternate mishaps and successes, when he was an outlaw in the woods; or even of telling the story of the many deeds of rapine, in which he was of course the chief actor, that took place within a brief period of the Christmas Day of 1825, some of which have a strong dash of the comic in them, and seem to have been as often done in the mere spirit of devilry, as under the pressure of necessity, but will confine myself to showing “how he served Mr. Flexmore on Boxing Day.”

Of the thirteen companions of Brady who left Macquarie Harbour with him, the bullet or the executioner had already disposed of the whole, excepting one man, who by a timely surrender on their first landing escaped the usual doom of offenders of their class; and now for the first time since the disruption and annihilation of his first followers, his party was again recruited to its original strength, six or eight being the largest numbers whom he over got together before. But as several old bushranging notorieties had lately submitted themselves to his leadership, he was once more at the head of as formidable a gang as was ever banded together for lawless enterprise, several of whom were his own inferiors in nothing but tact, and (sometimes even) moral discretion.

For several days both before and after Christmas those intruding freebooters were especially active and mischievous; and such a catalogue of offences was in this brief space added to their already fearfully long list, as was enough to have hanged them all round ten times over. They victimized every traveller whom they met with, and every homestead that they passed was summarily assaulted and despoiled, Messrs. Gill, Gunning, Owens, Kimberley, Brown, Clarke, Pitt, Armitage, Hayes, Flexmore, and a host of others being sufferers.

From Mr. Flexmore I have lately received an account of Brady’s visit to his father’s house at Green Ponds, which was the same as that now occupied by his family there. The residence stands at the westernmost end of a rooky ravine, through which a small stream of water passes that soon after unites with the creek known, in days I am writing about, as the Green Waterholes. In front is a pretty large meadow, which was in tillage long before 1825; the main line of road through the country, which has been but little altered from its original direction, then, as now, lay within a quarter of a mile of the house, and in full view of it.

It was at nine or ten o’clock of the morning of the 26th of December, as Mr. Flexmore’s father and himself were sitting in front of the house, that a party of horsemen, fourteen in number, rode sharply past, and pulled up at the hut of a suspected colleague of Brady’s, named Kelly, who lived about a quarter of a mile off. They were all well armed, but this excited no suspicion at a period when all armed; besides this, their appearance was so good that they were taken for a party of mounted policemen.

On reaching Kelly’s they all dismounted and went in. But soon afterwards Brady and two others came out, and returned on foot to Flexmore’s, carrying their arms with them. It being Boxing Day, and a general holiday, almost all the domestics were absent from the premises. The old gentleman and his son were still enjoying themselves in the bright morning sunshine of summer when they came up to them. On presenting himself Brady saluted them with his usual politeness, for, as said before, he could conduct himself properly enough when it suited him, and he thus introduced himself to, and explained the purport of his business with, the master of the establishment.

“Good morning, Mr. Flexmore.”

“Good morning,” replied the other a little stiffly.

” Do you know who I am, Sir?” said the spokesman of the party, not quite relishing the curtness of Flexmore’s reply.

“No, I don’t,” said the other rather gruffly, for he had a little of John Blunt about him at times,

” Then I take leave to inform you that I am Brady, the bushranger, who you have heard of before, for I’ve robbed above half the settlers of the country already, and mean to rob the other half before I’ve done with them; and now, Sir, I’ll trouble you for your money.”

Flexmore started a little at this unexpected announcement, but was not thrown off his guard by it, and, excusably enough, feigned being pretty well out of cash, just then. But Brady knew better than this; for the miscreant Kelly had been at the house in the morning with a pair of boots which Flexmore paid for on delivery, taking the price of them out of the little bag, that had plenty more in it, which he saw him put back under a bed in an adjoining room. Brady knew therefore that this was not true, but seemed to believe it, and said, ” Then give me what little you have if you please.” Mr. Flexmore rose up, none too willingly, and went to his bedroom, as closely followed by the bushranger as the front file as by his rear rank man, and after rummaging the pockets of some clothes that were hanging up, handed him sixteen shillings which the other accepted with a shake of the head, and a dissatisfied, incredulous look, saying, “Pray, Mr. Flexmore, is this all that there is in the house?” “Every farthing,” responded the other as bold as brass. “Come, come, old fellow,” said Brady, laying politeness aside, and placing the muzzle of his pistol to his breast, “I see that civility is lost on you, I know, Sir, that you have more than this, so let me have it without another word.” Then casting his eye in the direction of the bed, he continued, “It’s in a small bag under the bed; I know all about it, so bring it out, or I’ll shoot you like a crow.” Whereupon Flexmore, seeing that no good was likely to come of denying it any longer, dived under the bedstead, and brought the concealed treasure to light, about forty-five pounds in notes.

Our acquaintance of the road, being more a man of action than words, clutched it immediately; and, having a pretty fair notion of its contents did not trouble himself to count them, but thrust them bag and all into, his pocket. The prize brought his usual good humour, which indeed he seldom lost. Being in no hurry to leave, he thought he might as well stay a little longer, and get all he could out of his victims, so turning now to the younger Flexmore (our friend of Macquarie-street), and closely scrutinising his person, he noticed a gold seal or two, dangling from his watch pocket, as then customarily worn, and demanded them, watch and all, directly; and whilst he was getting them out slowly and reluctantly enough, Brady amused himself by lecturing his father, half chaffingly, half seriously, about people of the present day not knowing how to deport themselves towards a gentleman, as he gravely styled himself, which was in allusion to Flexmore, who wished him in the bottomless pit at the time, not having encouraged him to sit down. In his time, he said, the master of a house, who left his visitor standing, would be looked on as a churl; but the times, he added, and the people too, he feared, were not what they were in his young days (he was six and twenty), but there was no mending either he supposed. By this time the watch was pulled out, but being silver only the highwayman received it with no great satisfaction, but said, after a pause, that he was not above taking it for all that, and would wear it as a souvenir of their first meeting; and then slipped it into his own pocket a good deal quicker than it came out of Flexmore’s. He next made a snatch at his hat, a new “Panama,” and presented him with his own old one in return, saying he hoped both parties might be benefited by the exchange.

Having now got all he could from their persons, he took a look round at things generally. It was the comprehensive look of a professional forager, which seemed to bode further mischief; and whilst they sat wondering what next this troublesome follow meant to seize on, a well conditioned horse, that was grazing in the home paddock about a couple of hundred yards off, commenced “kicking up his confounded heels, and neighing like fury,” thus making himself unnecessarily conspicuous. It so happened that the horse Brady rode had knocked up from overwork, and was unable to keep the galloping pace of the rest of his party; so he directed Murphy (one of his gang) to secure him, and also to give a look into the stable for another saddle to replace his own, that, he said, he did not care to be seen on any longer, by which he meant that one of the flaps was half off and all the stuffing out of the other.

These matters being arranged, and the party reassembled, Brady vouchsafed a little advice to the Flexmores, which was to keep quiet till next day about the morning’s transactions, failing which they might rely on seeing him again directly after harvest, which was now near at hand, when, so he vowed, “he would burn the whole place down, and shoot all who took any part in betraying him.” Then with a show of politeness he raised his stolen hat to the Flexmores, and jumping into his stolen saddle, he galloped off with all his grim looking followers at his heels, to the nearest public-house of the Green Waterholes.

It being a holiday, there was plenty of company at the inn long before Brady and his people made their appearance there. Up to this moment, however, none of them knew anything about what had taken place at Flexmore’s, or even that the bushrangers were in their immediate neighbourhood. But they began to see there was something more than usual astir, when fourteen strangers rode up to the door of the public-house. It being still early the villagers were for the most part pretty sober, and none of them were more than half drunk as yet, and they made way rather deferentially for so many well mounted travellers. Brady, whose recent successes in so many quarters had put into high good humour, offered to treat every one who liked to drink for nothing, which was of course all of them; and the first suspicion they had that all was not quite right was when they saw Brady take charge of the bar (shoving the landlord out of the place altogether), and handing the beer and spirits about just like water, greatly to the satisfaction of all present, except the deposed landlord, who saw with ill concealed displeasure, the liberal disbursement of his liquors, which every body drank and nobody paid for. Pot after pot, and nip after nip were handed across the bar counter by the officious Brady, as fast as they were called for, till all the company, except his own party and the landlord, were as drunk as fiddlers at a fair.

Whilst the leader thus did the honours of the house, some of the men saw that their horses wanted for nothing; the reckless liberality of the captain at the bar having communicated itself to his lieutenants in the stable.

During their stay here some of them gave the house a thorough overhauling, securing plenty of tobacco and other stores, besides eleven pounds in cash. (See Govemernt Gazette, 31st December.)

After this half-mad frolic was over they mounted and rode off, making towards the house of a lady of the name of Ransome, who lived near by, and in whose service Brady had once been, and he had not forgotten her kindly acts and kindly manners, and he suffered none of his men to enter her dwelling, and only asked that each might be supplied with a glass of wine, for which he thanked her respectfully, and rode off.

The fact that these men were Brady’s people having transpired during this brief interview, an officious servant started off to the residence of the district constable, Mr. Whitfield, who lived at the Cross Marsh, not far off, and informed him of some of the morning’s transactions. That officer instantly got his constables together, and as many of the soldiers of the detachment then stationed there as chanced to be sober, and moved them towards Mrs. Ransome’s. But the advancing force, instead of keeping among the trees, marched along the highway, where the land was cleared on either side. The bushrangers, who were seldom off their guard, observed the enemy before they were seen themselves. It was at no time a part of Brady’s policy to expose his men to unnecessary danger, and before Whitfield’s people, who were the stronger party, could reach them, they were off through the bush. The soldiers fired after them at a venture, though they were quite out of range, and the only effect of the discharge was to make some of their horses shy, by which two of them were dismounted, viz., the stripling Williams (whose shocking death l lately described in The Mercury), and a man named Hodgetts. But the former stuck to his bridle, and regaining his seat followed the tracks of the rest, and rejoined them; but Hodgetts came to grief, and his horse bolting, he was seized and secured, and sent under escort to the guard-house. The bushrangers did not waste powder on their pursuers, who were too far off to be reached; but being well mounted were soon out of sight.

But Whitfield was not the man to give up a pursuit, so long as he thought any good might come of it; and though his party were all on foot, he kept on their track towards Bothwell, which is thirteen or fourteen miles from the Cross Marsh. But as Bothwell was then a military station, the bushrangers went not near it, but turned into the bush near the Don Hill, to avoid placing themselves betweem two fires.

The day was one of adventures. After a march of several miles, which was rendered the more worrisome by the hot unclouded sun of a Tasmanian midsummer afternoon, Whitfield and his party, twenty-nine all told, reached the highest point of the road, that is where it passes over one of the interior slopes of the Don Hill, an eminence of great abruptness and considerable elevation, but pretty smooth and low where the road is directed. Whilst resting for a few minutes at the highest point of the road, some one of the party espied a thin blue smoke ascending from a part of the hollow beneath them, where they knew there were no residents; a circumstance which assured them that there were strangers there, and probably the very fellows whom they were after. With fresh hopes they plunged into the basin of the Clyde, a small sluggish stream that issues from some beautiful lakes in the mountainous regions of central Tasmania. Taking a compass bearing of the smoke, Whitfield and his men hurried towards it, and in less than an hour came upon the retreat of the enemy, whom they found lying about on the grass refreshing themselves, whilst one was standing in their midst reading aloud from the last week’s Colonial Times for the edification of such as chose to listen to him, the others, all except a sentinel, being asleep close by. Their horses stood saddled ready for an instant move if necessary. On discovering the approach of the advancing party, the sentry on watch roused up the rest, and then discharged his piece amongst the approaching body, which was now too close on them for escape without a fight for it. Whitfield’s men made a dash to cut off the horses of the bushrangers, but were repelled by a volley from the others, who had already treed themselves (that is, got under cover), which sent two of the foremost of them to the ground, very severely wounded, but not fatally. Whitfield and his men quickly followed the example of Brady’s gang, who were accustomed to bush fighting and bush devices, and they too placed themselves behind trees, firing like their adversaries when ever they thought they saw a chance. The fight lasted for about three quarters of an hour, but so well was each man protected that little more mischief was done, when the firing ceased, through the ammunition of nearly all the assailants failing them.

It was now growing dark, and under the cover of coming night and the haze created by the smoke of more than forty muskets, the bushrangers made a dash at their horses, and getting possession of the most of them made off. A few ill-directed shots from such of the soldiers whose cartridges were not quite expended were sent after them, but with no effect. Of the robbers two or three only lost their steeds; but being pretty fresh, they followed their companions so quickly afoot (Brady being one of the dismounted ones) as not to be greatly behind. But the soldiers and civilians were so knocked up, more by the heat of the day than the length of their march, that the pursuit was very feebly kept up, and the brigands all escaped.

The horses stolen from Mr. Flexmore in the morning was retaken and restored, as also ten of the forty-five pounds of his money, which the robbers managed to drop in their flight. The Official Gazette announces with a flourish that ten of the horses were taken, but Mr. Flexmore, assured me they were not.

Such was the manner, and such the scenes, amidst which our early settlers passed the Christmas, and, indeed, all other seasons, either exposed to the murderous assaults of the native tribes, or the somewhat more merciful attacks of hordes of bushrangers, whom the shocking severities of the Government and its agents drove into the wilderness to prey on the property, and sometimes on the lives, of those who first made the country what it has become, namely, the fitting abiding place of civilised men; for beyond doubt it was not so much the innate depravity of the prisoner classes that made them take arms against the free, as the excessive severities allowed by our old disciplinary modes of punishment, inflicted often in the most heartless manner for the most trumpery offences, of which so many of us are still the living witnesses.

24th December, 1872.

James McCabe, Murder and Rum

The bushranger, James McCabe, who had for a considerable stretch been Matthew Brady’s right-hand man, eventually left the gang after one of their most successful raids, that being on the property of George Meredith at Little Swan Port in October of 1825. Despite the popular story that Brady had shot him in the hand for “interfering” with a female then turfing him, the real reason McCabe left the gang was apparently far less poetic: Brady had destroyed all of his booze after a drunken brawl in which a man had been killed. Though it seems to have been somewhat glazed over in the contemporary press, the brawl had resulted in the death of the gang’s hostage, a staffer from Meredith’s property named Henry Hunt, which was the main reason Brady took the action he did.

No doubt this was all the culmination of a brewing resentment between Brady and McCabe, and it was hardly the first time McCabe had left Brady’s company. It seems McCabe was either to proud to ask forgiveness or too arrogant to realise he would not cope on his own. Naturally this would end in disaster for McCabe.

He didn’t last long on the run after this, but did his best to elude authorities, and made his way back to Bothwell on foot where he became increasingly desperate after he lost his supplies, and even some of his clothing, after an ambush. In the end a man he had taken prisoner escaped while McCabe was committing a robbery, and alerted the police in town as to the bushranger’s presence. McCabe was quickly subdued, arrested and taken to Hobart Town. On 6 January the following year he was finally executed for his various crimes.

What follows is a dramatic recreation of the event. Unfortunately there is little to nothing recorded about the details of the falling out between McCabe and his colleagues, so this interpretation may help paint the picture by putting what we do know into context.

The waters of Grindstone Bay lapped at the shore and receded gently as the stolen whaleboat glided down along the coastline. On board the vessel were the members of Matthew Brady’s gang, with the booty from their latest raid and a hostage named Henry Hunt. The craft was shallow and open, and allowed just enough room for the men to squeeze in and grab an oar to row. Brady sat at the stern, watching the men and keeping an eye on Hunt. Despite his diminutive stature, he was solidly built and his blue eyes were piercing in a way that could both intimidate and charm depending on his mood. He had a cloak wrapped around him to brace against the wind that was kicking up against his back. Peeking out from the cloak was his pistol, which was ready to go off at any moment if Hunt tried to do anything rash.

Hunt directed the landsmen in how to manoeuvre the whaleboat in the coastal waters as they came in close to the bay. The boat was steered towards the mouth of the 80 Acre River and allowed to lurch onto the banks. The bushrangers set about unloading their ill-gotten gains and established a camp close to the water. They knew they had to work quickly as it was growing steadily dark and the area was known to be the haunt of Aboriginals who were not at all pleased to have white men encroaching on their space. Brady knew only too well how the Aborigines of nearby Oyster Bay, led by the infamous Musquito, in particular had problems with the whites as their murderous raids had put the entire colony on edge over the previous two years.

In fact, George Meredith, whose Little Swan Port property Brady’s gang had just ransacked, was one of the men who had set out to capture Musquito and his “Tame Mob” following a deadly attack close to where the gang now assembled their camp. Meredith claimed that his posse had found the mob but they had all escaped unharmed under cover of darkness, but rumours persisted that in fact the men under Meredith’s instructions had found the mob asleep in their camp and had been ordered to put them all to death. Nobody cared enough about the lives of the Aborigines to try and find any bodies, doubly so seeing as they had ambushed and murdered men. Some saw it as just desserts if indeed the rumour was true.

As darkness blotted out the horizon, the rush of the waves was mingled with the sound of revelry. A hogshead of rum had been tapped and the men drank freely from it, but none more so than James McCabe. McCabe and Brady were the last of the Macquarie Harbour escapees still at large, and they had been through a great many misadventures together.  He was slightly built, with sharp features and pouty lips, his face was careworn and pockmarked. With a pewter tankard in one hand and conducting an invisible choir with the other, McCabe regaled the gang with a rendition of John Barleycorn before slumping down against a tree, giggling. Brady glared at his companion. The pair were polar opposites in just about every manner possible. McCabe was brash, impulsive and hot-headed while Brady was calm, measured and controlled. McCabe was a devil for the drink, while Brady avoided it as much as he could manage.

In all their time together, since escaping from Sarah Island, they had seen all of their other companions captured or killed, and in fact Brady himself had almost been nabbed himself on one occasion, no thanks to McCabe who bolted at the first sign of trouble. It was McCabe that had convinced him to go to Thomas Kenton’s hut, despite everything telling him it was a bad idea, then when Brady’s misgivings were vindicated and they were jumped by a pair of redcoats, McCabe has shot off like a rocket, leaving Brady to his fate. Fortunately, Brady was resolute enough to have affected his own escape (though not unscathed) and it took a considerable amount of begging for Brady to allow McCabe to share his company when they eventually reunited. It was a marriage of convenience, but the convenience had worn off.

McCabe staggered to his feet and made his way to the rum for a refill. He was halted by William McKenney blocking his path.

“Move, McKenney.”

“That’s enough, Jim. Go take a seat; you’re drunk,” McKenney replied firmly.

“To Hell with you, I know how I am,” McCabe replied.

He attempted to push past McKenney, but the more sober man simply shifted to deny him passage. McCabe’s face scrunched into a scowl.

“What’s your problem, McKenney?” McCabe slurred.

“Get out of it, McCabe; you’re three sheets to the wind.”

“I’ll show you a sheet…”

McCabe wobbled, then lunged at McKenney. They fell to the ground, wrestling. It didn’t take much effort for McKenney to get the upper hand, straddling McCabe and grabbing him by the throat. McCabe fished around and grabbed a pistol that had fallen from his trousers as he hit the ground. With the weight of the firearm enhancing his blow, McCabe struck McKenney in the head, causing him to roll off.

Seeing the commotion, the other gang members rushed over, with Josiah Bird and Patrick Dunne leaping in to join the fisticuffs. Bird and Dunne were, just like McCabe, drunk as newts, and swung punches at everyone and no-one in particular.

“Arrah!” Dunne shouted as he landed a blow on McCabe, hurting his hand. McCabe returned the gesture, jabbing the Irishman in the ribs.

McKenney spear-tackled McCabe to the ground and tried to disarm him but McCabe rose and swung his pistol around, levelling it at his opponent and cocking it. At that moment, Henry Hunt, who had been seated nearby patiently, ran to McKenney’s side and tried to prevent McCabe from shooting him. In so doing he made himself the target. McCabe, unable to stop himself, pulled the trigger and a ball of lead pushed through Hunt’s chest. He collapsed with a groan.

Brady stormed across and snatched the pistol out of McCabe’s hand. He cursed at his companion and struck him across the head with the pommel of the pistol’s stock, knocking him unconscious. He ordered other members of the gang to tie McCabe up as he attended to their fallen prisoner.

Brady knelt beside Hunt and put his fingers to his throat to feel for a pulse. Hunt was unresponsive and lying in a pool of his own blood. There was no pulse. Brady felt numb.

“He’s dead,” Brady stated coldly. McKenney gazed on the body in horror.

“What do we do, Matt?”

“We bury him. In the morning we’ll get moving.”

Brady stood slowly then crossed to a pile of tools and took up a hatchet. He proceeded to hack the rum cask apart, freeing the liquid, which melted the dust into mud. A rivulet of rum snaked between his feet and downhill. He did the same with the remaining ceramic bottles of porter and a bottle of wine. His gang looked on with disappointment but none intervened.

Brady took several of his men to an area close to the beach and dug a grave for McCabe’s victim with what implements they had at their disposal. The corpse was then carried down from the camp and placed in the hole, far too shallow to rightly be considered a grave, then filled it in. Throughout the process, all men wore a look of grim determination and did not speak. Once the hole had been filled, the men stood in silence for a moment of respect before returning to the camp.

William Young, or Tilly as he was better known to the gang, seemed particularly disturbed by the turn of events.

“It’s a bad business, Matthew,” Tilly said to Brady. Brady simply grunted.


The following morning the gang packed up their camp as James McCabe slowly came to. Realising he had been tied to a tree, he began straining at his bonds and screaming furiously with every profanity he could muster. He was soon freed and as he made his way to the cask of rum, he realised it had been destroyed.

“What did you do to the drink?”

“I did away with it, McCabe,” Brady replied.

“What in Hell for?”

“It’s no good. After your display last night, I cannot trust any of you to behave sensibly with the stuff. You put a man to death for no good reason. You’re lucky I don’t put a ball through you myself.”

McCabe, who had been so drunk his memory of the previous night was almost non-existent, immediately reeled with confusion. In his addled state of mind, he balled his hand into a fist and swung at his leader. Brady dodged the blow easily and grabbed McCabe.

“That bastard McKenney put you up to it, didn’t he?” McCabe hollered.

“I want you gone,” Brady said calmly. McCabe was red in the face and scowled as he pushed Brady away from him.

“Fine; I don’t need you lot at any rate. Good riddance.”

McCabe found his belongings and set off on foot, glaring at each man as he went. He hoped someone would stop him and beg him to stay but nobody did. As he reached the outskirts of the camp, he turned around to face his former colleagues.

“Damn the lot of you to Hell. You won’t last a month!”

With that last burst of defiance, James McCabe left Matthew Brady’s company for the last time.