Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 11 September 1830, page 4



On Monday an Inquest was convened by MAJOR SMEATHMAN, Coroner, at the Fox and Hounds, kept by Henry Ball, Castlereagh Street, on the body of John Donohoe.

Henry Gorman. — I am a constable at Bargo; on the 1st of September I and several of the Mounted Police were encamped in the evening, about five o’clock, on Mr. Wentworth’s farm, Bringelly, when one who was on the look-out, said “here come two constables whom we expected?” they were then about a mile and a half distance; one of the Police said, “no they are bushrangers!” Three men were leading a packhorse; I and two of the Police-men took one side of a creek, and the serjeant and another man the other side; we made towards, and came up with them on some forest land; a man on the horse, who I thought was a bushranger named Walmsley, saw us first, and immediately jumped off; deceased took off his hat, and waiving it over his head, threw it in the air, saying, “come on! I am ready for a dozen of you!” The other two took off their coats and hats and went behind trees; we held a parley with them about twenty minutes, before a shot was fired, all parties being behind trees, when one of the Police-men fired, and nearly took down one of the men, who I thought was Webber; after this they appeared shy. Two of them fired their pieces at me, and I fired at them, but without effect on either side. One of the Police men named Mugglestone then fired and Donohoe fell. We chased the other two, but could not come up with them. On returning deceased was quite dead; the other two Police-men did not fall in with us till the Deceased fell; Mugglestone shot the deceased.

John Mugglestone, a private of the 39th regt, now in the employ of the Mounted Police, stated to the same effect, with the addition, that his carbine was loaded with two balls, and that they found on the horse’s back some flour, sugar, and women’s wearing apparel, and that deceased had a watch in his pocket.

Serjeant W. Hodson deposed to the same effect, but with the addition, that he knew the other two bushrangers to be Walmsley and Webber, and that he thought deceased was Donohoe as Dr. Gibson was robbed by him, and the Doctor knew him well, having been Juror when deceased was tried some ago. Deceased was in the agonies of death when he came up to him; he found on his person a small pistol and a watch, (watch produced) no money was on his person; on the horse was found a great many papers among the rest grants of land, transfers, and receipts. The deeds are made out in the name of “Denis Begly, Prospect” and the transfers in the name of Edward Wright (deeds and papers produced); Gorman loaded his piece with a carbine ball and pistol ball, which it appeared by Mr. Jilks had been lost only a week. The pack-horse or rather mare was aged, and marked E.S.

The Jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, without reference to identity. But from a wound in the cheek, and another under the cheek arising from scrophula, there is little doubt but the deceased is the notorious outlaw Donohoe. Donohoe’s life has no doubt been harrassing. But at the same time, it must be allowed that in comparison of the lives of the wretches at Moreton Bay, it was a happy life, and his death much less painful than those of scores who have deceased in that horrid settlement. And so long as such settlements exist, we doubt not we shall never want in this Colony either Donohoe’s and Dalton’s. It is fit and proper, that cruelty should be visited on the nation which practises it with retribution. God is just.

‘On Monday, as Mr. Scott and the Rev. Mr. Erskine were proceeding to Parramatta in a chaise, they were stopped by two armed bushrangers, who were on the point of robbing them, when one of the marauders recognised Mr. Scott as his former master at Emu Plains, on which he shook hands with him in a friendly manner, declaring he would never hurt a hair of his head; they then took to the bush.

A cast of the head of the notorious Donohoe is to be taken.

On Monday a prisoner named Joseph Smith was sentenced to receive one hundred lashes for knocking down Mr. Medley, Superintendent to Mr. George Allan, and nearly choking him.


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Monday 25 August 1873, page 4




Written by J. E. CALDER.


Brady’s journey homewards, after the commission of his first murder, was not a pleasant one, and he spoke but little to his companions. But to deaden the feelings of remorse that rose within him, in spite of his efforts to shake them off, he walked at his best speed; and while pondering over the transactions of the morning, he got bewildered in the bush, and failed to reach his camp till night-fall, when he learned that a very curious circumstance had happened during his absence, as tragic as that in which he himself had been engaged in the morning.

Two convicts who had absconded from their employers, being captured about the day of Brady’s attack on Elphin, were temporarily secured in the Launceston gaol, from which one of them named Aiken managed to escape, and ran off to the woods for the mere purpose of temporary concealment. He was a poor irresolute fellow, having no intention of taking the bush for any worse purpose than what I have said. Wandering hither and thither, he knew not where, till he was pretty well knocked up, as ill-luck would have it he came on the bushrangers’ camp at a moment when only two of them were there. Telling them his tale of distress he was civilly treated by them, that is they refreshed him as well as they could, and allowed him to remain till rested. Having told him who they were, they asked him if he would join them? But this was the last thing in his thoughts, and he refused to do so. They then let him depart, and even directed him to where the road was, which he reached just as a constable was passing along it.

Quite forgetting the recent kindness of his hosts, he related his day’s adventures to this man, and pointed to where the outlaws lay. The constable noted the direction, and then wishing him good afternoon made off as hard as he could, partly to get out of so dangerous a neighbourhood, especially to one of his class, and partly to obtain military aid to attack them in their camp.

The fugitive from the watchhouse had hardly left the camp of the bushrangers before all the absent men of the gang – Brady, Bryant, and Williams excepted – returned; and, being told of the visit they had just had, sharply rebuked their companions for letting him go, as they thought it quite possible that their whereabouts would now be traced through this fellow’s blabbing, and they started after him at once to fetch him back again. They were not long in coming up with him, and took him in charge on suspicion, they said, of his being a runaway, informing him, as usual with them, that they were constables in pursuit of the bushrangers. “Oh,” said the follow, “if you are constables, I can tell you where they now at this moment, for I was at their camp a quarter of an hour ago.”

“Can you?” said one of them with well counterfeited surprise, “that’s just what we want to know, so take us there directly. How many of them are there?”

“Only two when I was there.”

“Is Brady with them?” said the querist.

“No; they said he had gone to the Cocked Hat, and could not say when he would be back.”

“Did you hear where the others were?”

“No; only that they were foraging about the neighbourhood.”

“Let’s see,” said the spokesman thoughtfully, “there are four of us altogether, and we can manage them very well if you will help us. Will you lend us a hand to take them? There’s fifteen hundred pounds for the gang, and you shall have your share for all we take. What do you say?”

“Oh yes,” was the ready reply.

“Then come along with us,” said the other, “and we will have them before Brady and the rest come back, and they can be managed afterwards,” and on they all went.

As they were jogging along, he told them of his adventure with the real constable just before, at which they pricked up their ears, but said nothing.

As they neared the camp, and were seen by the men there, the would-be traitor noticed with a good deal of concern, that the latter evinced no sort of dismay at the approach of the three armed constables, who he was conducting to take or destroy them; but his surprise was changed into absolute horror, when he saw his own party, as he thought them, fraternising with the enemy.

“You’ve got him then,” said one of the camp minders.

“Oh yes, we’ve brought him back to you again,” was the rejoinder.

The wretched Aiken then discovered into what a fearful trap he had fallen through his own abominable folly and treachery, and that the dreadful fate he had designed for his late entertainers would now most assuredly be his own.

“Don’t be cast down, old fellow,” said one of them to him with pretended commiseration; “but you must stand your trial, you know, for meaning to come it on us, and if we don’t find you guilty, we shall let you go again;” and a sort of trial, such as they had held on Goodwin and some others, took place.

The charge against the miserable man, was treachery to the party; and as all of them had had a good deal of experience in their own persons of the ceremonies practised in the Criminal Courts, the formalities they had seen there were gone through with well counterfeited solemnity. The wretched Aiken was nearly stupified with fear, natural to the horrors of his situation, but pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to betray them, for of course he could not deny it, and not much good would have come of it if he had; whereupon one of them who officiated as Judge, sentenced him to die – the sentence to be carried into immediate execution.

The poor creature begged hard for his life, and cried most pituously as they pinioned him and bandaged his eyes to die; but he was now in the hands of men whose ideas of mercy were too obtuse to heed the supplications of a wretch, guilty according to their notions of criminality of the worst of offences, namely, treachery to them; and without more ado, one of them sent a ball into him, which passed into his neck; and he fell, bleeding profusely, but without a moan.

The camp of the outlaws, as said before, was near a dry watercourse, into which they threw the body of their victim, and covered it over with dead boughs.

After dusk, Brady and the others returned from their own evil adventure, and learning what had taken place, and that the Police had now a clue to his hiding-place, he commanded a move to be made. But he was himself so worn out with hard walking and the incidents of the day, that he was in no condition to travel without a little rest. But about an hour before day dawning they moved off, for he felt sure that the soldiers would be down on them as soon as they could see to travel, and they quitted the neighbourhood for some more secure retreat.

But their victim was not dead, as they thought he was; nor was his wound of a mortal nature, and he came to himself long before they left the place; but lay so still that they had no suspicion but that he went as cold as the stones he lay upon when they retired.

As soon as day broke he got up and crawled away, for he was cold and faint from loss of blood; and, more by good fortune than anything else, he reached the Launceston road, then a mere track, and took the way, as he thought, to that town.

But his faculties were so bewildered, and his intellects, never very strong, so disturbed, that he took the wrong way; and coming presently to a point where some other road crossed it obliquely, he followed it and lost himself altogether. He however travelled along it for a good distance, meeting no one till he came to a turn, where he was suddenly confronted by several armed travellers (for every one armed then), and who should they be but the bushrangers again, who were still on the move. His own surprise and dismay were hardly greater than theirs. “Good God!” was the exclamation of the foremost of them, “here’s the fellow we shot yesterday come to life again.” The amazement of all of them was intense, and not unlike Lord Nelson’s when he saw the corpse of Carraciolla, whom he had hung at the yard-arm and sunk in the Bay of Naples, with heavy weights to keep him down, risen again from the bottom of the sea, and now half out of water, coming straight back again towards his own ship. At first they knew not what to think of it. “However,” said one of them, when he had recovered his self-possession a little, “I’ll make sure of him this time”; and then sent another ball into him, and he fell, the little blood he had still left in him, spurting freely from the wound, and the party moved on again, satisfied that he was done for now. But the fellow seems to have had as many lives as a cat. The bullet had not gone fairly into him, having only furrowed the surface of his stomach; but he was so weak, and his nerves had sustained such a shock from his double execution, that it was a long time before he could rise, but he eventually reached Launceston; and the first time my informant saw him (about a couple of months afterwards) he was standing in the witness-box of the Supreme Court at Hobart Town, giving evidence against the men who had taken part in these outrages on him, and indirectly against Brady as being absent from the camp on the day of the death of Kenton.

I give the above details as related to me by Mr. Alexander McKay; and strange as they may appear to be, they may be implicitly relied on. He was present at Brady’s trial, and heard Aiken deliver them from the witness box.

The Colonial Times, of the 10th of March, 1826, records the assault on this man by the bushrangers, before the curious circumstance of his double return to life was publicly known; the account is given as follows:– “Two run-aways 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 bushrangers, who asked him to join them, and on his refusal, they shot him dead.”

The capture of Brady, and the destruction of his gang, took place very soon after the death of Kenton. It was thus related to me by the late Honourable Mr. Wedge, who took an active part in the scenes he describes:

“Several parties were organised to scour the country around Launceston. At Colonel Balfour’s request I remained with him as a sort of aide-de-camp. Whilst the search was going on, in which Messrs. Bartley, Sinclair, and Lieut. Williams were particularly active, three men, who had long been in communication with the bushrangers, tempted by the offer of high rewards, free pardons, and a passage to England, offered to betray them. Within a day or two after the affair at Dry’s, Lieut. Williams fell in with them, * * * somewhere in the neighbourhood of Patterson’s Plains,” (near Launceston) “The bushrangers took to their heels, and they were fired upon, and a ball took effect and entered the calf of Brady’s leg, and passing upwards, came out at the under part of his thigh. I don’t recollect whether Lieut. Williams came upon them by chance, or was conducted to them by one of the men engaged to betray them. Brady made his escape supported, as I understood, by two of his companions. The whole community was in a perfect state of excitement to effect the capture of Brady, who was known to be in a condition not able to travel, and numerous parties were out in search of him day and night. At length one of the betrayers, of the name of Coil, offered to conduct a party to where he was concealed. He said that he was either on an island on the left bank of the North Esk, or in a ravine on the opposite side of the river. A large party consisting of soldiers, constables, and volunteers was formed, amounting to at least fifty or sixty men, if not more, headed by Colonel Balfour (the man Coil disguised in a military cap and great coat). The island, covered with a dense scrub, was searched, as we thought, every inch of it, without discovering anyone; but it afterwards transpired that Murphy, one of the bushrangers, was behind a tree, and as one of the party passed close by it, Murphy escaped being seen by creeping round the tree,” (Murphy was a diminutive man.) “The whole party were then taken to the deep ravine on the north side of the river, * * * in which Brady was concealed. He, however, escaped being discovered, although the search was continued for an hour or more; Mr. Sinclair having, as Brady afterwards said, passed within a couple of yards of him. During the continuance of the search, Murphy removed from the island to some high precipitous rocks above the river, on the opposite side of the ravine, and within view, for the purpose of withdrawing the attention of the party from Brady, but without attaining his object. A shot or two was fired at him without effect. Brady then came to the conclusion that he was betrayed, from the circumstance of so large a party being employed, and the persistence of the lengthened examination of the ravine. He was concealed in a creek, and covered with a thick compact mass of scrub. After the departure of the party, wounded as he was, he managed to hobble with the aid of a staff as far as the “Bullocks Hunting Ground,” up the North Esk. where Mr. Batman shortly after fell in with him, and took him prisoner. His capture occurred as follows :– As Mr. Batman was preparing to encamp for the night, he observed a herd of cattle rushing down the hills, at no great distance from him. As an experienced bushman, he came to the conclusion that they must have been disturbed by someone, * * * he strolled about, to ascertain, if possible, what had disturbed the cattle, but without discovering anything. But so impressed was he with the belief that Brady was in the neighbourhood, that he could sleep but little, and rose at first dawn of light, and walked forth from the encampment. He had not gone far, when the same thing occurred again with the cattle being disturbed. This still further confirmed him in his opinion; and he shortly after observed Brady a short distance off, making his way, supporting himself with a staff. Batman then “cooeyed” for his men, then followed and captured this bushranger,”

On the approach of Batman, he made a sorry attempt to run, but fell before proceeding twenty yards. His wound though temporarily a distressing one, could not have been very severe, for within twenty-five days of its occurrence, he was discovered with some others, trying to make his escape from gaol by cutting through the wall, in which they were all but successful. A second attempt was also discovered just in time to prevent it.

Directly after his capture, he was conducted to Launceston, to be sent round to Hobart Town for trial. Being unable to travel afoot on account of his wound, he was accommodated with a horse, and reached Launceston on Sunday, 12th March. “As might be expected,” says the Colonial Times of the 17th, “the whole population of Launceston crowded to see him. He deported himself in a firm and determined manner, and rode well, although badly wounded in the leg. He had no hat, a handkerchief was bound round his head.” On the 10th he was placed on board the Government brig Prince Leopold, and reached Hobart Town on the 27th along with several others of his class, but some of whom were not of his party, such as the terrible and barbarous Jeffreys and Perry.

To return for a while to the scene of Brady’s concealment in the ravine near the North Esk, several of his party retreated southerly directly afterwards. But Murphy and the boy Williams refused to quit him. The very little good that there was in Murphy, shone out rather creditably at this crisis; and their fidelity cost both of them their lives, a little earlier than they would have lost them, had they been taken along with him, for neither lived to hear of his doom, both of them dying by the murderous hands of Cowen and Callaghan. Messieurs Wedge and Sinclair were so very near the scene of the tragedy, that they were only one second too late to prevent it. Mr. Wedge has given me the following account of it :– “Murphy and the boy Williams had lingered in the neighbourhood of the North Esk and the Cocked Hat Hill, under the idea of being able to succour Brady in his helpless condition. The rest of the party had made their escape to the south end of the island, and were harboured in the Sorell district by some of their confederates, whither the man Coil had followed them after the failure of the search for Brady on the banks of the North Esk. The other men, Cowen and Callaghan, concerned in the betrayal of the bushrangers, about the time of Brady’s capture, undertook to load a party upon Murphy and Williams, but refused to act with either constables or soldiers, and expressed a wish that Mr. Sinclair and myself should aid in searching for them. I believe they were influenced in this by the desire that no one but themselves should participate in the reward. We consequently met them in the evening just at dark, and were stationed by them under the Cocked Hat Hill, and desired to wait there till one or both came for us. We remained there an hour or two under the discomfort of a thunderstorm and rain. On the arrival of one of the men, he told us that Murphy and the boy were in a hut not far off, and took us to within a short distance of where they were, so near that we could hear them talking, but not so close as to distinguish what they said. We were to await his coming out and giving a signal; and then we were to rush the hut, and with the assistance of the two men, to try to secure them. The man had scarcely left us a minute, when a gun was fired off in the neighbourhood, at which Murphy took the alarm, and left the hut unperceived by us. About ten minutes afterwards, the same man came and told us what had occurred, and appointed to meet us in the morning at a small farm close at hand, in the occupation of two brothers. * * * On meeting them at the farm they told us they were concealed in the bed of a creek surrounded with a thick scrub, about three quarters of a mile from McLeod’s Sugar Loaf, but on the opposite side of the valley. They said they could take us within twenty or thirty yards of them without being seen. On our way it was arranged that Sinclair and myself were to remain close at hand, whilst they were to go and watch the opportunity to seize them. Waiting for a few minutes, to our surprise we heard two shots fired, and hastening to the spot we found Murphy shot dead and the boy Williams wounded.” (They were both sleeping at the moment.) One of the men snatched a pistol from Sinclair and shot the boy before any attempt could be made by us to save him. * * * The men who escaped to the Sorell district were I believe soon after shot by the three men Coil, Cowen, and Callaghan. Thus terminated the career of this gang of bushrangers, who had kept the whole colony in a state of dread and alarm during the time they were at large. In fact during their career neither life nor property were secure, so sudden and unexpected were their attacks upon the isolated and thinly scattered establishments of the settlers of the rural districts.”

For the capture of Brady and the men who were with him in 1826, the Government paid £1,525 13s, 3d. to different persons. But the official statement that I copy from does not disclose the names of the recipients, which would have revealed the secret that the Government had used the services of some of the most infamous men whom the chain gangs of the colony could furnish to put down these robbers. A writer in Martin’s Colonial Magazine, who I have quoted from before, (who was an old and well informed Tasmanian settler of the time, now comfortably settled in New Zealand) says that the chief part of the above sum went to these unworthy employees of the Government, and mostly to Cowen. He says that he “ultimately succeeded in bringing them into contact with Lieutenant Williams of the 40th Regiment,” (this should be the 57th), “by whom they were broken and dispersed, escaping only to fall into the hands of a stronger party. To place them in hazardous situations, was not the only plan adopted by this miscreant, who took advantage of Murphy and the boy Williams being asleep and removed from the band, to render their sleep eternal. This fact, communicated to Brady whilst in gaol, seemed so monstrous, that it was some time ere the captive brigand could be brought to give it credence. Cowen, with some hundreds of pounds in his pocket,* obtained his free pardon, and returned to England, a more blood-stained monster, than any that remained to expiate their offences with their lives.” (Pages 74, 75. Vol. 2, 1840.)

Such of the bushrangers who temporarily escaped pursuit after the capture of Brady, were all shot, or taken soon afterwards, the last survivor being an old and daring offender named Dunne. But very few particulars have been preserved of the last days of their career in any published reports. The only two newspapers that were then established, are silent or nearly so on these subjects, for it so happened that just after the fall of these men, all the energies of the Government were employed in the task of trying to crush one of them out of existence, for attacking its policy and exposing certain acts of maladministration, as it thought them, and as these two journals took quite opposite views of the subjects under review, every number of them is filled, or nearly so, with controversial matter, arising out of the so-called libels of the delinquent journal, that is even more intolerable to the reader of the present day, than the party squabbles of Messieurs Pott and Shirk; and the subject of those prosecutions, as well as I can make it out, just as immaterial as the egg-shell war between the rival States of Lilliput and Blefuscu. Amidst all this blazing, very little is to be gleaned about any topic except themselves; and even the trial of Brady is nearly lost in the noise and confusion of this editorial scuffle. A ray or two of light does however sometimes break through the gloom, and we hear of Brady’s attempted escapes from gaol, as named before; and one anecdote characteristic of this man is also vouchsafed us of the incidents of his gaol life.

Amongst his many companions in misfortune and confinement was the brute Jeffreys, formerly a flagellator and executioner, a man of horrid character and crimes, whom Brady had always vowed he would shoot if he ever met him in the bush; and now, finding him amongst his cell-companions, he sent for the turnkey Dodding, and authoritatively demanded the instant removal of this execrable creature to another cell, failing which, as he told him, he “should find him without his head” at his next visit. The determined bearing of Brady enforced immediate compliance, and they were separated accordingly. (Colonial Times, April 28th, 1826.)

On Tuesday, the 25th April, Brady and five of his old boat associates, and some others, were led into the Supreme Court to stand their trials for a multitude of offences. When called upon to plead Guilty or Not Guilty to the charges as they were read out to him by the clerk of the Court, Brady – who knew the general indifference of military juries, who in those days tried all criminal cases, to men of his class – avowed his intention of pleading guilty to every charge that might be brought against him, whether he were guilty of it or not (for which expression the Judge, whom Brady was eventually brought up for sentence, took care to admonish him none too kindly.) He himself was tried, firstly, for assaulting Private William Andrews, of the 40th regiment, “and stealing his musket,” secondly, for the robbery and burning of the premises of Mr. W. D. Lawrence; and lastly, for the murder of Thomas Kenton; to all of which charges he pleaded guilty, though he was not guilty, in his own person at least, of the burning of Lawrence’s house; but regarding his trial as he did, as a mere formal preliminary to a sentence of death, he treated the entire proceeding as a mockery, his doom, he believed, being in effect already registered, and his plea, therefore, of no moment. He was found guilty and remanded for sentence along with the others.†

Accordingly, on the following Saturday, they were all ranged in the dock again, and sentenced to die, twelve in all, including the barbarians Jeffreys and Perry. Of the remarks of the Chief Justice at this time nothing is reported, excepting that “it would have been a satisfaction if he could have considered that Brady and Bryant had pleaded guilty through contrition; but he feared it was done from bad feeling, and rather dictated from a motive to cast a sneer on the proceedings of justice.” This is all that is recorded. But I have been informed by Mr. McKay, who was present, that the address of the Judge was a very protracted one, and that he especially singled out Brady for animadversion, touching on the Kenton tragedy, and probably not knowing all the causes that led to that deplorable transaction (for Brady refused to give even one word of explanation) he addressed him with great severity. The bushranger listened to every syllable, but spoke not a word, nor did he betray, by any change of expression, the smallest concern at the bitter words of the Judge ; “but,” says the Colonial Times, “he behaved with the utmost fortitude and firmness.”

“On the return of these unfortunate men to gaol,” writes the Colonial Times, “Tilley offered to shake hands with Brady, who refused with much contempt. McKenny also refused to speak to him. This was on account of their supposing he had given information.” But at this time they did not know who their real betrayers were.

It was about this time that Governor Arthur called at the gaol. My old friend Wedge gives some account of his interview with Brady, at which he was present. It is as follows: “After Brady was taken, the Governor visited the Gaol, and saw him in the cell in which he was confined. I, with one or two others, was present. I forget who they were. The Governor, from something that was said, remarked approvingly upon the forbearance of Brady, in abstaining from acts of personal violence at the places he had robbed, but expressed surprise that he should have committed such a cold blooded murder as that he had perpetrated on a man of the name of Kenton. At the mention of this man’s name Brady became exceedingly excited, “Ah sir,” he replied “I determined to shoot him, wherever I met him. The villain was in league with me, he planned half the robberies I committed, then betrayed and caused me to be taken prisoner. I shot him, and do not regret having done so.” Mr. Wedge then gives the particulars of Brady’s capture at Kenton’s hut, which I need not repeat, as it does not vary much from my own account of it.

Of the twelve men who were allotted to die at this time, Brady and four others were placed on the scaffold on the morning of Thursday, the 4th of May, 1826, and all the rest suffered next day.

After death, his body was removed to the General Hospital. It was interred in the cemetery of the Catholics, whose religion he professed, and his grave was long marked by a cairn of stones that were removed, I am told, about six years ago. He was a robust but short man, and is described in what may be styled the hue-and-cry portion of the old Gazette, as five feet and a half inches high.

I will close this account with one more extract from Martin’s Magazine :– “The writer of this paper, naturally felt a great desire to see a man who had created such a prodigious sensation, not only by the number and daring character of his deeds, but who had evinced so considerable a degree of generosity, even in his worst offences. Accordingly he was admitted to the gaol, in company of the late Colonial Surgeon.

“Near the foot of the fatal scaffold they were so speedily to ascend, heavily ironed, were seated Brady, with Bryant and McKenny. They seemed to be in earnest conversation, but inclined their heads respectfully at our approach. Brady possessed a fine, open, manly, but not handsome countenance, a strong well knit frame, bespeaking great capability of endurance. His physiognomy was prepossesing, a gift further enhanced by an easy address; his wounded leg was still unhealed, and his comrade McKenny was still on crutches. Pity and regret were the predominant emotions as the surgeon thus broke silence, ‘Well Brady, how are you to-day? Is your leg any better.’

“The bushranger gazed at us for a moment; then with an ‘Oh,’ and a jerk of the head in the direction of the standing gallows, seemed by that significant gesture to reply, that in a few days all on earth would be well enough for him.

“On the 4th of May,” (the writer says the 11th, but this is a mistake) 1826, he ascended the scaffold, maintaining his constancy unshaken to the last. His demeanour, while it was perfectly firm, was devoid of all unseemly levity and bravado. Fully impressed with his dreadful position he evinced a resolution to surmount it. * * * * The drop fell, and after a few convulsive struggles, the dreaded freebooter who had struck Tasmania with terror and dismay, hung an inanimate and impotent mass of clay.”

“Here ends the story of a misspent life.”

14th August, 1873.

Of all wretched existences, that of a bushranger in Tasmania seems to have been the most unhappy. In the earliest years of settlement, when police and military were few, it may have been just endurable; but directly this state of things ceased, it became insupportable, and nothing but the certainty of death if taken kept any one of them that I have read of from surrendering. Even Howe’s gang, Governor Sorell tells us, wanted to give in, and would have done so but for the influence of their leaders, who were deserters, and therefore offenders both against the military and civil laws, one or the other of which would have certainly done for them sixty years ago. Howe himself, who was six years in the bush, described the life of those of his class as one of constant terror and disquietude, saying, on one occasion that “he believed the life of the damned was nothing to it.” Brady, says the late George Washington Walker, when interrogated by Colonel Arthur on the same subject, pretended at first that it was one of great enjoyment, saying “There is no place like the bush, Governor.” By and bye, however, he told a different story, and acknowledged it was one of complete wretchedness. For many weeks before his capture, he had not known an hour’s undisturbed repose. He made the same admissions to Mr. Wedge, when the latter was his prisoner at Lake Arthur. “He told me,” says Wedge, “that the life of a bushranger was very wretched and, miserable, that they were, in constant dread of being fallen in with – that the least noise in the forests startled them, and that they were obliged to be on the alert night and day for fear of parties coming suddenly on them, I asked why they did not surrender themselves? The reply was, ‘We know our fate when taken, and will live as long as we can;'” and Mr. Denne, who was in this man’s hands for six days, reported his experiences of their camp lives as follows :– “They lead a miserable and terror struck life. They are constantly on guard during the night, and not a creature can stir or a sound be heard, than they are instantly filled with alarm. They frequently debate and quarrel for hours together, about their future proceedings. The guard is relieved every two hours. They are constantly expressing disgust at their mode of life, and the certainty of being speedily apprehended.” (Gazette, 20th Nov., 1825.)

Such was bushranging, and such the lives of those who followed it; and though the alarm they created, which a few of us still remember, was great, it was like repose and quiet to what they suffered themselves; and we of the present day have much to be thankful for, that in the entirely altered, circumstances of the colony, we know nothing of the disturbances that the generation which preceded us in the occupation of the country were the daily witnesses of.

*Two of the men employed to betray Brady’s gang received each £400, and went home in the ship Medway, which sailed 26th April, 1826. (See Colonial Times, April 21st); of the other I can discover nothing.

† A writer in the Colonial Magazine, speaking of this trial, says that “he,” Brady, “as well as the other. Behaved with the most respectful firmness. Being asked his plea on the first indictment (he was arraigned on many) he replied with the utmost composure, ”Guilty, your honour; I shall plead guilty to all, and much more than you can bring against me. It would, therefore, be only wasting your honour’s time, and that of the gentlemen of the jury, to proceed.’ His name bring included with others, the trial did proceed, and upon the same question having been put on every fresh count, he always smilingly answered ‘Guilty.’

“He received his sentence with the same unshaken fortitude, and bowing easily and respectfully to the judge and jury, he and his confederates were reconducted to their cell,”


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 23 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. CALDER


The pursuit after Brady was now kept up so perseveringly, that he saw his career must soon finish unless he could escape the country aItogether; and he now reverted to his favourite idea of seizing some vessel, and fleeing to such cover as he might find in lands where he was unknown. Here his doom was certain and speedy, for further concealment amongst an outraged people was hopeless, and nothing but flight from their midst remained for him. Rapidity of motion or the connivance of secret acquaintances, availed him but little now that the rewards of the Government for his destruction were too large for cupidity to resist; while the atrocities of such hot-brained men as Bird and Murphy – which it was studiously circulated that he took part in – raised up an army of enemies to annihilate him. The half kindly feeling of the colonists for himself personally, for his gallant boating, undoubted talents and great forbearance, was changed to horror when it was believed that he had devised such deeds as the cold-blooded murder of Hunt at Grindstone Bay, the wanton burning of Lawrence’s property, and some other acts of incendiarism even worse than this, that were done at this time by men of his party who were separated from the main body; and in every face he saw nothing but hatred. By the artifices of enemies in his own camp, he found himself more frequently in situations of danger than ever; and as fast as he drew his men out of one difficulty, it was only to see them in another caused as though by mysterious agency that was not to be understood, and which he ascribed to every cause but the real one. The new allies, Cowan and others, having nothing to fear, even if taken, acted their prearranged parts, with such a well disguised semblance of fidelity to the others that they quite escaped suspicion. Seeming to yield to their opinions, and cordially to assist them in everything, they were regarded by the rest as amongst the most resolute and faithful of the party. They were always the first to obtain intelligence of the movements of their pursuers, which they certainly knew, at least partially, but used it only to increase their perplexities. At the same time they communicated Brady’s whereabouts, and intended operations and movements to the police, so that he was now never an hour out of danger, and nearly every day brought some indication of approaching disaster.

Overcome by the constantly increasing perils of his situation, he persuaded his men to follow him to the Tamar, where the brig Glory was lying somewhere in this long and rather narrow inlet of the sea. The Tamar, which is in reality only the estuary of the united rivers called the North and South Esks, and not a river itself in the proper sense of the word, is forty miles long. Having reached some point of its elevated shores, he quitted his men for awhile to reconnoitre it from a lofty hill, to discover where the Glory lay, and he succeeded in making her out. But night overtook him, and he failed to rejoin his men till morning, who were very uneasy at his unusual absence.

On their route to the Tamar, they met several travellers, who they carried along with them to prevent any immediate alarm, and while Brady was absent, as related above, one of them named either Guilders or Guelders, escaped from them during the watch of Goodwin, one of the gang, for which neglect, says the Colonial Times (10th March), “they formally tried their sentry, shot him dead, and threw him into the river.” But this is not quite correct. He indeed stood his trial, and was sentenced to die but they gave him a chance for his life. Having ere this secured a boat, from which to attack the Glory, they conveyed him a long distance from the shore, and then threw him overboard without shooting him, but proving to be a good swimmer, he reached land again. Guilders reached Launceston, and gave information to the Commandant, Colonel Balfour, of the movements of Brady, who started in pursuit with a well appointed party.

On Brady’s return, the bushrangers pulled off to the Glory. But some of the men were irresolute, and others undoubtedly treacherous, having no intention of quitting Tasmania, till their evil mission of betraying or destroying their companions was fulfilled, and he could not persuade them to board. Rowing round her several times, they debated the matter amongst themselves, and Brady soon saw that few of them liked the project. Dispirited by their objections, he went, says the Colonial Times, “into the stern of the boat and said, ‘decide it amongst yourselves, let not my voice avail anything.’ They said as the wind was foul, they would not take her, and sent Watson a prisoner into Launceston, to say they would that night rob Mr. Dry. … It was treated with derision.” But they meant it, and carried their project into fatal execution.

Abandoning their boat, they proceeded to Mr. Dry’s forthwith. The details of this adventure have been supplied me by the late Honourable Mr. Wedge, who was present, and whose account I shall quote from.

Mr. Wedge had dined that day with the Commandant of Launceston, when the news reached him of Brady’s intention, which he at least did not treat with derision. “The Colonel,” says Wedge “instantly ordered his horse, and started accompanied by myself armed with a double gun. On entering the field leading to Elphin,” (the name of the place where Dry then lived), “we heard the discharge of fire-arms at the time. Making all haste to get there, we found the whole establishment in the utmost confusion. Everything in the house tumbled together, and the inmates in the greatest state of excitement. Mr. Dry, without his coat, and his shirtsleeves covered with blood, occasioned by the scratch of a bayonet. The discharge of guns we had heard, was occasioned by Mr. Mulgrave, the Police Magistrate, who had received the first intimation of the attack, having proceeded there with a party of constables. Fancying the bushrangers were in the house, he courageously led the way to the front door. Brady, however, who acted as sentinel and commander-in-chief, walking in and out of the house, whilst the others of his party were putting such things together as they intended to take away, heard Mr. Mulgrave’s party coming. He immediately ordered his party to withdraw from the house, and stationed them behind some palings at the back, where they awaited the entrance of Mr. Mulgrave’s men at the front door, when they fired their volley. Fortunately the palings caused them to raise the muzzles of their guns, and their shots took effect on the shingles of the lean-to, instead of going into the passage leading through the house. Brady considerately told the ladies, that there was likely to be some hot work, and advised them to ‘lay down,’ saying ‘these soldiers,’ as he thought them, ‘are only rough fellows, and don’t care who they hit.’ The Colonel and myself arrived a few minutes after this occurred, and whilst a consultation was going on as to what was best to be done, one of my men came to me to ask me if I had been in my tent, pitched at the time within thirty yards of Elphin house. In answering in the negative, he replied, ‘well I think the bushrangers are at your boxes.’ I communicated this to Colonel Balfour, who at once formed a party to go and attack them. We were however at a great disadvantage, it being so dark that if a hand were held up it could not be seen unless held above the horizon,” (a Dr. Priest had now joined them.) “The bushrangers,” continues Wedge “heard us coming, and retreated over the fence, and on our arrival, received us with a volley, which was returned without effect, only having the flash of their guns to guide our aim. Their fire was more fatal. The white trousers worn by Dr. Priest, became a target for their aim, and the Doctor and his horse must have received the greater part of the volley, for no less than sixteen balls went through the flap of the saddle into the horse, two of them passing through the Doctor’s knee. He would not submit to have his leg amputated, and as predicted by his medical advisers, died a week or ten days afterwards. We could not go in pursuit of them, as from the extreme darkness of the night, we could not see which way they went. During the time the bushrangers were pillaging the house, Dr. Landale had a narrow escape from being murdered. One of the men, I think it was Murphy, was on the point of shooting him, thinking it was me.” (Wedge, was one of Brady’s most active pursuers) “but Brady, who knew the Doctor, was just in time to save him, saying ‘It’s not Wedge, but Dr. Landale,'” &c.

After the retreat of the bushrangers, Colonel Balfour returned to Launceston, leaving a strong party to protect Elphin. Wedge says “He then started for town, and in passing a large pile of wood, near the track through the paddock behind which the bushrangers had secreted themselves, they gave him evidence of their good intentions by giving him a salute from six or seven guns. … It caused his horse to swerve, by which the Colonel lost his cap, which was picked up and afterwards worn by Brady in triumph,” the latter, according to a writer who I have quoted from before, styling himself Commandant of Launceston.

I believe that no one who has followed me through the narration of the incidents of Brady’s bush career, can be imbued with any veneration for a man so lawless as he was. Still it is impossible to refuse him a certain measure of praise for never failing to restrain (at least as well as he could) the nearly ungovernable licentiousness of the desperate fellows who he was the leader of, thus preventing unnecessary criminality, when in his power to do so, in performing which it is well known he often risked his own safety; for there were some of his men, particularly Murphy and Bird, who often angrily resented his interference, and would have sacrificed him just as soon as any other person when under the control of their Satanic passions, had not his own resolution and unyielding nature acquired from him a degree of ascendancy even over those malevolent spirits, which they felt the full force of, which awed them into an involuntary submission to his will. After having given more than one of several examples of the better nature of this man, which showed itself in the voluntary preservation of life in some instances, in the prevention of unnecessary havoc in others, and the enforcement of respectful treatment of the females of any place he pillaged, it is not without regret that I have now to exhibit him as a murderer himself.

After the late fight at Elphin, he retired with his men to a secluded retreat in the woods, and set up his camp by the side of one of those dry watercourses that are sometimes found even in this land of overflowing rivers, which cease to run in the hot autumnal months, though they still retain water in the more depressed portions of their beds. These waterholes are often at some distance apart – that is, a hundred or two yards or more – the natural pathway of such streams being perfectly dry between them. In such places, forests and close-growing underwood often abound, affording most excellent shelter against easy discovery.

It was whilst here Brady heard that his old betrayer, Kenton, was in the neighbourhood, living, I believe, at a public-house called either the “Old Opossum” or “Cocked Hat,” from the district it was in, namely, the Cocked Hat Hill. Brady was now more than ever incensed at this man, and the very mention of his name, I have heard, had the effect of provoking him to frenzy. He was not usually a fiery man, any more than a vindictive one, nor subject to out bursts of passion. But he had now – according to his style of thinking – strong grounds for wishing to confront and punish him; and directly he knew where he was to be found, he started off with two others, Bryant and the youth Williams (the latter always a ready volunteer for any mischievous service), to take him to task, but not, it is generally believed, with the intention of killing him.

I have said before that after Brady’s flight from Kenton’s hut, the latter, though as free a man as the Governor, was sent to gaol for conniving at the bushranger’s escape (for in those days the authorities never stuck at trifles. ) Barefaced as this man was, he was ashamed to own how the bandaged brigand had mastered him and escaped from his care, and he preferred pleading guilty to the charge of winking at his flight, than allow the real narrative to get abroad. Whilst in gaol, he used to boast of having aided the outlaw in regaining his freedom; of his great intimacy with him, and perfect knowledge of all his robberies; for which he was thought none the worse of by his gaol associates, who held such actions more in honour than disesteem. These statements of the imprisoned hero soon gained general credence, of which he artfully took advantage to avenge himself on Brady, by imputing acts to him with which he had no concern, even causing it to be believed that two soldiers who were killed by men not of his party, were shot by Brady himself. Irritated at conduct like this, after his forgiveness of Kenton’s treachery to him, he resolved to expose and chastise him now that he had the opportunity.

He started for the Cocked Hat accordingly long before daylight of Sunday, the 6th of March, and reached it while yet dark, and while the inmates of the inn were still asleep, who were quickly aroused by such a thunder-clatter at the door as might have been heard a thousand yards off. After some hesitation about admitting the noisy and impatient strangers, the door was opened and in they went. Brady then enquired if Thomas Kenton had slept there that night, and being answered as he expected, demanded to be shown to his room without delay, as he wished to speak with him. The person addressed, seeing from his determined manner that he was not to be refused, took a candle and led the way to Kenton’s berth, and entered it along with the bushrangers, besides some others whom the disturbance had wakened up, and who were curious to know the meaning of this interview, and how it was going to end. A man named Yates had slept in the same apartment where Kenton was, and both started up, not knowing what this ill timed intrusion meant. Brady then placing himself in front of Kenton angrily enquired if he remembered him? which of course there was no denying. He next avowed himself to those present, and also the purpose of his visit, by saying sternly to his former betrayer: “Kenton, I have come to shoot you.” The name of the man and his object appalled them all into silence, and they shrunk at the unexpected disclosure of his dreadful intention of putting one of the company to death, and all fell back a little except the two principal actors, who remained together in the middle of the apartment.

Brady was not long in breaking silence by saying, “So you old villain I have fallen in with you at last, and mean now to clear off old scores with you for all the mischief you have done me since we last parted, when I told you we should meet again, and what would come of it if you ever did me another bad turn. Now after letting you off as I did when you betrayed me and others to the military, you have told a hundred lies about me, and for which you shall suffer before I leave this room.” Then, after a pause, during which Kenton was silent, he went on, “You say you helped me to make my escape after you and others had bound me, which you know is a lie, for I freed myself from the bandages you helped to put on me, and then mastered you. It was you who planned half the robberies I committed, and got most of the gain, that I risked my life for, while you were safe; and when it suited you to break with me, you laid the soldiers on me, who, with your assistance, took me, and had me prisoner for an hour. Still I let you off, and should have said no more about it had you kept quiet yourself, and not made things worse for me than they ought to be with your villainous lies. You have said that I committed murders that you know I had nothing to do with, and was no more present at than you were. You know I was not within miles of the place when the soldiers Spicer and Thompson were shot, whose deaths you have laid on me. Can you deny it that you have told hundreds that it was me who killed them, and did other things that I had no hand in?” Kenton’s guilt kept him silent. Then, after another pause of some seconds, he went on, “It’s more than flesh and blood can stand, and you shall die!” and drawing a pistol from his belt he held it at Kenton’s head. But here some of the bystanders begged hard for his life, urging that Kenton’s long imprisonment and sufferings were punishment enough. But they were cut short by Brady, who was in no mood for interruption, turning fiercely on them and telling they knew nothing about it; and it is said he then detailed all the circumstances of his betrayal by Kenton, his capture, and wonderful escape, and concluded by turning up his coat sleeves, and exposing to view the fire scars on his wrists and arms. They were now silent in their turn, and Brady was about raising his pistol again, when Kenton, so it is reported, said something about the company present trying him, which was met by Brady telling him: “No. There are none of them who were present at what took place, so I’ll settle the matter without their help. I give you five minutes to prepare for death in, beyond which time you shall not live one second.” (laying strong emphasis on the last two words) and then retiring a yard or two, he took out his watch, to time the short remainder of Kenton’s life.

Angry as Brady really was, Kenton did not believe that his words were anything but threats, meant to intimidate him; so fool-like he commenced acting the part of one who is callous to all such displays of violence, at a moment when it is thought that a single submissive word would have saved him. But that word was not forth-coming, and instead of uttering it, he commenced upbraiding his executioner, and tauntingly bade him do his worst. “Five minutes to prepare myself in,” said he contemptuously, “I don’t want one. I believe in neither God nor devil, and have no fear about dying. Fire away,” (and here he used words that cannot be written down.) “You know better than to do it, you are afraid to do it, you cursed cur dog.” Kenton had by this time moved a little, and leant with his head against the door frame. Irritated to something like frenzy, Brady’s usual prudence quite deserted him, and he pointed his pistol at him again. But here the hardened youth Williams stood forward, and offered to shoot him. “No,” said Brady; “you have done enough to hang you ten times over already; but you shall do nothing here; I can settle him without your assistance;” and then taking a steady aim at Kenton’s head, he fired, and his victim fell to the floor, his blasphemous tongue stilled for ever.

Brady kept his eyes fixed on the alarmed and nearly stupified company, during the few seconds it took him to reload; but seeing from, their dismay, that they meant not to obstruct his retreat, he moved off, telling them as he retired to go into Launceston, and report what they had witnessed to the Commandant. He then quitted the house and returned to his solitary bivouac.

I received the details of this dreadful transaction from many sources, but chiefly from Messieurs Gee and McKay; and I have moulded the information into what I believe to be a faithful narrative. It is strange that this passage of Brady’s eventful life has never found its way into print in a continuous form that I know of, and is now to be obtained from oral narration only. Indeed, from the faulty style of newspaper reporting in the olden times, very little information of the closing events of his ill spent life, are to be gathered from contemporaneously written history, or from any history that I know of. *

[To be continued ]

* One account that I have received of this affair, says Brady called Kenton outside, and them shot him.


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Friday 22 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. CALDER.


About this time the party was strengthened by several old freebooting notorieties who submitted themselves to the leadership of Brady, besides a mischievous youngster named Edward Williams, who, enamoured of an adventurous life, persisted in joining them, despite the advice of Brady and others never to take the bush; and he remained with them till he died by the murderous hand of Cowen, some months before completing his seventeenth year. This stripling had hitherto acted as letter-carrier to the police, and absconded from the service of a military settler, Captain Gunning. He was one of the most troublesome of the party to Brady, who had more difficulty in keeping him out of unnecessary mischief than all the others. He was a free lad, but whether born here or not I cannot say.

Soon after Brady’s retreat from Sorell, he reached Spring Bay with his party, and by a ruse got possession of a boat belonging to the penal settlement of Maria Island, just opposite.

The bushrangers had their camp by the shore of this beautiful harbour, and near to the point where the boats of the island landed to receive and transmit letters, &c., and where any governmental agents having messages for the island took post, the signal of their arrival being a smoke made at this point.

There was a sloop named the Glutton stationed at this time at an off-lying rock of Great Swanport, called the White Rock, which then abounded with seals, and was annually visited by vessels from Hobart Town employed in the fur-seal trade, on which business this sloop was now engaged. Her owner was a Mr. Campbell, and she was commanded by one Peter Stewart, a man of Scottish descent, but Dutch by birth.

This vessel Brady determined to seize, for at no time does he seem to have despaired of escaping from the colony. But as the White Rock is eight or nine miles from the nearest land, a boat was indispensable for his enterprise, so he resolved to seize the Commandant’s for the purpose.

The party collected a quantity of wood, and setting it on fire, the smoke warned the Commandant of the arrival of a messenger. In less than ten minutes the signal was answered by a similar white cloud rising from Maria Island, which, the day being nearly still, went high above the trees of the place

The robbers then awaited the arrival of the Blue-eyed Maid, as the settlement boat was called, which could not reach them for some hours, for Maria Island is about ten miles from the head of Spring Bay, where the bushrangers lay. There was a light air from the north-east, and she came slowly across under a lug-sail, which was hauled down as she neared the point, and her crew running her ashore where the fictitious messenger awaited her, they hardened her nose on the beach. No sooner were the unwary boatman on land than the bushrangers, who lay behind a fallen tree, sprang from their concealment with a deafening shout, and guns in hand rushed the boat, mastering the astonished cox-swain and his men without difficulty. The crew being unarmed, made no resistance. The robbers then unbeached the boat and off they went on their piratical errand.

There were several of them who understood enough of boating to manage her in fine weather, as it was now; so pulling out they steered for the Glutton at the White Rock, but did not reach her till next day at noon, having passed the night in a nook of Spring Bay, near a remarkable, but now partially destroyed, natural “Fountain” as it is called — a cone of earth several yards high, from the apex of which a small perennial stream of brackish water issues The master of the craft, seeing the boat approaching, suspected she was after no good, so got his anchor up and made sail. But the wind, such as it was, failing just then, “they,” says the Gazette (17th December,) “succeeded in boarding, and made out to sea, steering north,” (this must have been after rounding Schouten Island.) “The wind however rising, they became timid,” (another account says very sea-sick), “and retreated under the island. A long consultation then took place amongst them what course to pursue. By Brady’s advice, they agreed to sink the sloop, and Tilly, a man who had lately joined them, having a hatchet, cut a hole in her bottom, and she sunk.”

The destruction of the sloop took place two days after she was seized, the interval being passed in trying to get out of Swanport, where they were detained by calms at one moment and contrary winds at other times, between the lofty, barren, but beautifully picturesque shores of Maria and Schouten Islands. The act of sailing her was hastened by the neighbourhood of a Government brig that was hovering about them, which they immediately guessed was in chase of them, as she really was. But the captain recognising the sloop to be the Glutton on a sealing cruise, put his helm down and sailed off, without speaking her, little dreaming of the prize he was letting escape. Stewart begged hard of them to spare the sloop, but they were not to be over-ruled.

Taking again to the Blue-eyed Maid, they landed along with the crew of the sunken sloop, on the island called by its discoverer, Tasman, “Vanderlin’s Eylandt,” but by us “the Schouten.” In this seclusion they rested a couple of days, when they crossed to the mainland again, and lay there till discovered by a boat expedition commanded by Captain Hobbs, one of their many pursuers. Hobbs watched them for a couple of days, but durst not attack them in their rocky stronghold, the Colonial Times saying they occupied a most “formidable position, from whence his boat’s crew was exposed to their fire if he proceeded to attack them.” The necessities of the bushrangers, who were now nearly without supplies, forced them at last to abandon their camp, and their boat also, which Hobbs secured.

They now struck inland, but were stopped for several days by a greatly swollen stream called the Swan River, that flows into the Great Swanport.

They crossed it at last, and soon afterwards got possession of an outlying stock hut of Mr. Meredith’s, where the exhausted and starving wanderers obtained refreshment, but very little rest; for in their fatigued state, no watch seems to have been set, and the hut was surrounded by a number of soldiers in chase of them, while they were all asleep. But the military behaved badly, and the bushrangers starting up, dashed out, broke through the encircling line, and every one of them escaped unhurt; the soldiers getting nothing but some of their arms, which the runaways had not time to remove. This gross act of neglect is told by the Gazette, which closes the account as follows :— “We do not venture to express the unpleasant sensations which arise upon writing this narrative, which we close without further comment.” (December 17th.) The starving gang took again to the woods, and suffered for several days the extremes of hunger and exhaustion, till they reached the farm of Mr. Kearney at St Paul’s Plains, where they rested and re-equipped themselves completely, and took to the highways again as soon as they were quite recruited, their recommencement of active life being marked by unusual havoc and audacity. At this time Brady managed to mount his party, who, excepting two of them, were all capital riders.

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

From Mr. Flexmore of Hobart Town, I have lately received an account of their visit to his father’s house at Green Ponds, at which he was present, it is as follows :—

It was at nine or ten o’clock of the morning of the 20th December, 1825, as his father and himself were sitting in front of his house, that a party of horsemen, 14 in number, rode sharply past, and pulled up at the hut of a suspected colleague of theirs named Kelly, a shoemaker, who lived about a quarter of a mile off. They were all well armed, but this excited no suspicion at a period when no one moved about unarmed; besides this, their appearance was so good, that they were taken for mounted policemen, belonging to a colonial corps, formed of young sprigs of the half swell, half snob class, with the pleasant designation of the Doughboy Cavalry.”

On reaching Kelly’s hut, they all dismounted and went in. 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 was still enjoying the bright morning sun of midsummer, when they came up to him. On presenting themselves, Brady saluted him with his usual politeness, for he could conduct himself properly enough when it suited him, and he thus introduced himself.

“Good Morning, Mr. Flexmore.”

“Good morning.”

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

“No I don’t,” said Flexmore, rather gruffly, for he had a little John Blunt about him.

“Then I take leave to inform you that I am Brady the bushranger, and I’ll trouble you for your money.”

Flexmore started at this 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 that morning with a pair of boots, which Flexmore paid for on delivery, taking the price of them out of a little bag, that had plenty more in it, which he saw him put back under a bed in an adjoining room. Brady therefore knew 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 outlaw as the rear rank man follows his front file, and after rummaging the pockets of some clothes that were hanging up handed him 16s., which the other accepted with a shake of the head and a dissatisfied and incredulous look, saying, “Pray Mr. Flexmore is this all 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 you have more than this, sir, so let me have it without more words;” then casting a glance in the direction of the bed, he continued: “it’s in a small bag under the bed-stead, I know all about it, so bring it out, or I’ll shoot you down like a crow.” Whereupon Flexmore, seeing that no good was likely to come of denying it any longer, dived under the bed-stead and brought the concealed treasure to light, about forty-five pounds in notes.

Our acquaintance of the road, being rather a man of action than words, clutched it immediately, and, having a pretty fair idea of the contents, did not trouble himself to count them, but thrust them, bag and all, into his pocket. The prize brought back his usual good humour, which, indeed, he seldom lost. Being in no hurry to leave, he thought he might as well stay a little, and get all he could out of his victim, so, turning to the younger Flexmore, and scrutinizing his person, he noticed a gold chain and seals dangling from his pocket-watch, as then customarily worn, and demanded them, watch and all, directly. Whilst Flexmore was taking it out, slowly and reluctantly enough, Brady addressed 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 anywhere else), not having encouraged him to sit down. In his time, he said, the master of a house, who left a visitor standing, would be looked upon as a churl; but the times, he added, were worse than they were in his young days (he was six-and-twenty), but there was no help for it, he supposed. By this time, the watch was pulled out, but, being silver only, the highwayman received it with no great satisfaction; but, after a pause, he said 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 snatched off his hat, a new Panama, presenting him with his own old one in return, saying he hoped that both of them would be benefited by the exchange.

Having got all he could from their persons, he took a look round at things generally. It was the ominous, comprehensive look of a professional forager, which boded further mischief; and while they were wondering what next this troublesome fellow meant seizing on, a well-conditioned horse that was grazing in the home-paddock, a couple of hundred yards off, commenced “kicking up his confounded heels and neighing like fury,” thus making himself unnecessarily conspicuous. It happened that the horse Brady rode, was knocked-up from overwork, and was unable to keep the galloping pace of the rest, so he directed Murphy, one of the party, to secure it, and also to give a look into the stable for another saddle, to replace his own, which 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 Mr. Flexmore, which was to keep quiet till next day, about the morning’s transactions, failing which, he might rely on seeing him again directly after harvest, which was now close 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 shew of politeness, he raised his stolen hat to Mr. Flexmore, and jumping into the stolen saddle, galloped off with all his grim looking followers at his heels, to the nearest publichouse of Green Ponds.

It being a holiday, there were plenty of people at the inn, long before Brady and his people made their appearance there. Up to this moment, however, none of them knew anything of 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 astir, though they knew not what, when fourteen strangers rode up to the door of the publichouse. It being still early the villagers were for the most part pretty sober, and none of them 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 excellent spirits, 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 (pushing the landlord out altogether) and of premises generally, and handing the beer and spirits about 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 everybody drank and nobody paid for. Pot after pot, and nip after nip, were handed across the 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.

While 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 in the bar having communicated itself to his lieutenants in the stable.

They did further mischief during their stay by overhauling the house thoroughly, and securing plenty of tobacco and other stores, besides eleven pounds in cash. (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 or kindly manners, and he suffered none of his men to enter her dwelling, and only asked that each of them 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 party 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, about a mile and a half away, and informed him of the morning’s transactions. That officer instantly got his constables together, and as many of the soldiers of the detachment stationed there as chanced to be sober, and moved them towards Green Ponds, in quest of the fugitives. But the advancing force, instead of keeping amongst 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 of course no 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 in their saddles, and off they went at a sharp canter through the bush. The soldiers fired at 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, namely the youth Williams, 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 directly, and sent under an escort to the guardhouse.

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 that any good might come of it; and though his party were all a-foot, he kept on their track towards Bothwell, which is about fourteen miles from the Cross Marsh. But as Bothwell was then a military station, the bushrangers went not too near it, but turned into the bush near the Den Hill, to avoid placing themselves between two fires.

The day was one of adventures. After a march of several miles, that was rendered more wearisome 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 crosses the inferior slopes of the Den Hill, an eminence of great abruptness and considerable elevation, but pretty smooth and low where the road passes over it. While resting a minute at the top of this commanding point, some one of the soldiers espied a thin light smoke ascending from a part of the hollow beneath them, where they knew there were no residences, a circumstance which assured them there were strangers there, and probably the very fellows they were after. With fresh hopes they plunged into the basin of the Clyde, a small sluggish stream that issues from some most beautiful lakes in the mountainous regions of Central Tasmania. Taking a compass bearing of the smoke, Whitfield’s men hurried towards it at a good pace, and in less than an hour came upon the retreat of the enemy, who they found, some sitting on or lying about 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 of the others as chose to listen; the others, all except a sentinel, being asleep close by. Their horses stood saddled, ready for an instant move if necessary. On seeing the approach of the advancing party, the sentry on watch roused the rest and then discharged his piece at the foremost of the approaching body, which was now too close on them for them to escape from without a fight for it. Whitfield’s people made a rush to place themselves between the outlaws and their horses, but were repulsed by the others (who were under cover of trees) by a general volley, which sent two of them down, wounded, but not fatally. The firing lasted about three quarters of an hour; but so well was each side protected, that little further mischief was done, when the fight ceased through the ammunition of the assailants failing them.

It was now getting dusk, and under 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 got possession of most of them and made off. An ill-directed volley from a few of the soldiers, whose ammunition was not quite spent, was 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 horse stolen from Flexmore in the morning, was re-taken, and ten of the forty-five pounds of his money, which the robbers had dropped in their flight, were also recovered. The Gazette announces with a flourish that ten of the horses were taken; but Mr. Flexmore assures me they were not.

The robbers roamed about the southern districts till the close of February, 1826; some time before which it was that they were joined by the police spies, Cowen, Coil and Callaghan, who, as said before, had been let loose to destroy them.

Their stay in the south, was not passed in inaction; and they committed many robberies , of which I know little beyond the names of their victims, that it would interest no one to repeat.

Towards the end of February, they shifted the scenes of their devastations to the northern districts again, to escape from the hot and ceaseless pursuit of three hundred muskets, that drove them from place to place in the south, which they now quitted, some to revisit it no more, and nearly all the rest as captives only; for the days of their success were now drawing to a close.

On the 26th of February, they surprised the establishment of Mr. Lawrence, of the Lake River, and committed greater excesses whilst here, than on any other occasion when Brady commanded. Despite of his entreaties, some of his men got to the cellar, and drank till they were half stupified, and behaved very grossly. Bird and the fiendish Murphy, the most mischievous and intractable of all of them, were the authors of much unnecessary outrage The owner of the estate was absent, but a son and several servants were about, and all the latter were made helplessly drunk by these two fellows. Having robbed the house, they next burned it to the ground, and also the ricks and a valuable out-house. The Superintendent was a-field, and the first warning he had of this wanton devastation, was given by the vast volume of smoke that ascended from the ruins, and the tall column of flame that shot up from the rapidly consuming premises. He was in the saddle at the moment, and galloped off directly to the scene of disaster, through a shower of fireflakes that were falling everywhere, setting fire to the withered grass, and thus increasing the conflagration. As he rode up quite unconscious of the cause of the misfortune, he passed near the spot where Bird and Murphy were standing, without perceiving them through the smoke that filled the atmosphere. But they saw him, and could not resist the temptation of a shot. They were both crack marksmen, but being half drunk, their aim was unsteady, and their fire not very damaging, though one ball passed through his hat, and gave him such a start that he lost his seat. The bushrangers on retiring added four very valuable horses to their booty, which last named theft formed one of the principal of the charges against them when on their trial. They then rode off to a dry spot in a marsh about four miles from the house, where they passed the night.

[To be continued]

* The story of the attack on Flexmore has been printed in the Mercury before. It is introduced here, that there may be no hiatus in the narrative.


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Thursday 21 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. CALDER.


To return to the scenes enacting at Grindstone Bay, &c.; Brady, after the liberation of Mr. Denne and his other prisoners, shifted his quarters, and moved into the fine district that Howe had so often desolated before, namely, Pittwater; and at Sorell it was that the most audacious and successful enterprise of his chequered career was enacted.

But here, as everywhere, his path was beset with dangers, and he could move nowhere without confronting some trap set for his destruction. At this time there were in Sorell a military party of sixteen rank and file, besides police, the former under the command of the active Lieutenant Gunn. This indefatigable young officer scoured the district, now under his military charge, as no one ever traversed it before, in search of Brady, whom it almost seemed destined he was never to meet. But this was now to take place; Brady having determined on surprising him in his own camp, with a third of his number, that is including the police, and to pay him off for his persevering pursuit of his party.

It was on the 25th of November that the gang reached the farm of Thornhill, that belonged to Mr. R. Bethune. It was a day of rain and tempest; the sky and earth seemed almost meeting, and the downpour from above was so heavy and incessant, that all the roads leading into the district were next to impassable.

But bad as the weather was, Brady’s people remained in the bush till darkness closed in. They had made several prisoners the day before, who they drove through the cheerless bush, thereby preventing an alarm. Amongst those unfortunates was their old captive Denne, who, after his recent visit to the Governor, was now jogging home again, when he was intercepted by the ever-wandering gang at a place called the White Marsh, on the Prosser’s Plains road. Reversely of what he expected, they applauded him for convincing the Governor of their escape from Hobart Town, saying that “he had only done his duty,” which, in this instance, happened to please them, and they now treated him with a little more consideration than on the first occasion of their becoming acquainted.

The tempest was still as violent as ever, and the trees of the forest rocked again under its force, even to the uprooting of many of them, which were heard falling at irregular intervals, as usual in a heavy gale, and plenty of rain. At nine o’clock of this dreadful night, the bushrangers made a move with their prisoners, to the residence of Bethune, who was sitting up with his superintendent after the farm servants were abed. The knock of the bushrangers was answered by the superintendent within, demanding, pistol in hand, to know who they were that sought admittance at such an hour of such a night as this? The challenge was answered by Brady himself, replying “Constables,” when the door instantly flew open, like that of the den of the Forty Thieves, at the mystic open sesame of Ali Baba, and in rushed the gang, who, first knocking the pistol out of his hand, then pushed him into the parlour, where they found Bethune half asleep; but he roused and started up at hearing Brady’s usual exclamation, “We are the bushrangers – sit down and be quiet.”

The brigands then flew to the men’s hut, where eight of them were napping it, who were turned out of bed by a very expeditious process, and marched off with such clothes as they could catch hold of, to finish their toilets by the kitchen fire, where Denne and his companions in distress, were steaming themselves into life again, guarded by their watchful sentinels all the while; Bethune and his superintendent remaining where we left them, under the eye of Brady in person. The conversation in the parlour being all about bushranging, was not very edifying to his two prisoners, but to which they listened, or at least seemed to listen, with great complacency, though doubtlessly not with much comfort. Brady spoke with great apparent warmth against several persons, who were obnoxious to his party, particularly one magistrate, who he vowed to be avenged on before long. One circumstance is recorded in relation to this interview, rather to the credit of Brady. He named a well-to-do settler, who he meant to rob in a day or two. But being told he was just then in great distress, his wife being dangerously ill, he changed his purpose directly, saying, “Oh, if that’s the case, I’ll let him off.” They regaled themselves right merrily, while at Thornhill, but their vigilance never relaxed, and the watch was so well kept that no one escaped; and their presence in Pittwater was therefore known to none but themselves and prisoners.

Mr. Bethune was expecting a visit from his brother the next day; the same who had aided to disperse Brady’s party at the Plenty about fourteen months before. But not caring to resent it now, he insisted on it that the preparations making for his reception, should be continued.

The next day brought no change of weather. The rain came down as hard as ever, and few stirred abroad on this wretched day of storm, but the active Gunn and his soldiers, who were abroad as usual, in the faint hope of coming on the retreat of the men, then resting quietly at Bethune’s, and almost in sight of their quarters.

In the afternoon, the expected visitor and a friend named Bunster, arrived, as wet and miserable as rain and a cutting southwester could make them. As they rode up, they were received by Brady in person with great decorum.

While some of his men led their horses to the stable, he himself marshalled his guests to the house, Bethune and his friend wondering who the mischief this very officious person was who received them with such superlative assiduities, and seemed completely master of the place. But there was not much time for reflection, for drenched as they were, their self-constituted host and some others, hurried them off to a bedroom, where they helped them off with their steaming clothes and supplied them with dry ones. The strangers looked and looked at them, but could not make them out at all, and it was only when someone gave them a hint not to be too curious, that they began to see how matters stood, namely that they had got into a mess, and that their obliging attendants were the men called par excellence “the bushrangers,” so like wise men they bowed to their fate with the best grace they could, virtually if not actually passing their parole to be on good behaviour.

Brady next led the way to the dining room, where an excellent repast awaited them, of which all partook with keen appetite, and things went on quite pleasantly. Bethune and Brady sat together, their good humour in no way damped by any disagreeable recollections of their previous meeting at the Plenty, but which rather improved it than otherwise, more particularly now that the positions of both in reference to temporary power and command were so completely and ludicrously reversed.

The Colonial Times of the 2nd December speaks thus of this meeting: “The gentlemen were treated with the utmost civility. Dinner was prepared and every attention paid them.” But after sitting at their wine for an hour or two, the weary visitors asked to be shown to their bedrooms, pleading fatigue as their reason for wishing to break up so early. But Brady shook his head at this proposal, and surprised them by telling them with a slightly altered look, that they must not think of retiring just yet, for though it was now ten o’clock and the day near closing, its real business was not yet begun, and, in time informed them that he meant to attack the gaol and guardhouse immediately, “and you gentlemen,” he continued with polite solemnity, “must all accompany me down to the township, as I mean to liberate all the prisoners now in gaol, and to put you in, in their places.” They thought he was not in earnest but they did not know their man; but they quickly discovered that he meant what he said, for the words were hardly spoken, when several of the gang stepped forward, armed to the teeth by this time, and then he gave the word arrest, or slay the Franks, telling them at the same time, that they were no longer to consider themselves guests but prisoners, and in less time than I can tell it in, his men – having previously tied up the servants and other prisoners – now served all the gentlemen in the same manner, the Gazette telling us that “they bound them all two and two by the wrists, and marched them to Sorell gaol” (3rd December 1825.) The brothers Bethune – Bunster and another, were siamesed in this manner, and all the rest being coupled up like hounds, the whole of them, eighteen, were ranked up, and ignominiously marched off to gaol, with the armed bushrangers four on each side, for their escort; and in this undignified manner, the whole of them reached the lock up, as fast as their grave looking guards could drive them along.

The Governor of the gaol, Laing, lived in a detached cottage about two hundred yards off; the military force then in Sorell, having quarters in another one, nearer the gaol; Gunn being lodged in the house of a friend, across the street.

The 16 soldiers had had a most fatiguing day of it, having been abroad in the storm ever since breakfast, along with their indefatigable commander; who notwithstanding the tempestuous state of the weather, kept them on the move through the flooded bush to take the men, who were to take himself and whole detachment – police and all – prisoners, before the day was over. But as this gentleman personally shared the discomforts of his men, no one complained. It was dusk when the tired soldiers returned to their barrack.

Having dried and refreshed themselves, the men looked next to their firelocks, which of course needed cleaning after such a day of rain; and they were drying by the guard-room fire, when the bushrangers came unexpectedly upon them. The gaol was however first rushed, and taken directly, and all Brady’s prisoners forced in, where he left them under a guard of four, while he himself with the remaining three, proceeded to attack the guard-house, where the soldiers were resting at the end of the room farthest from the fire, some at cards, others half asleep, and no one watching.

Brady, after reconnoitering the room through a window, and seeing from the posture of affairs within, that no time could be more favourable for an attack than the present moment, dashed in with three others, and took post between the men and their firelocks, and then presenting their own pieces at them, demanded their instant surrender. “I am Brady,” said he to the wonder-struck soldiers, “and if any of you move an inch, we will give you a volley for your pains.” Taken as much by surprise, as if the enemy had dropped on them from above, and completely cut off from their arms, they were mastered before they could unite for defence. A short but sharp struggle, in which only a few joined, is said to have taken place, though this is very unlikely, but whether or no they were every one taken, and driven by Brady into the cell, and locked up with his other prisoners.

It is a singular fact, but vouched for by the Gazette, that the criminals who were in the gaol when Brady took it, refused the liberation that he offered them.

While this unparalleled outrage was proceeding, the governor of the gaol ran to Gunn’s quarters. He was quite wearied with his long day’s march through the bush, and lying down, when the bearer of the evil tidings of the complete defeat of the soldiers presented himself. The lieutenant, a fiery Scotchman, greatly vexed at the news of the inglorious discomfiture of his whole detachment by a fourth of its number, snatched his piece, a double-barrel, and hastened to the scene of disaster, to see if anything could be done to re-take the place, but unhappily failed to reach it, being met on the way by Murphy and Bird, who were in pursuit of Laing to destroy him. Suspecting that they were from the enemy’s camp, he raised his piece for a shot at them. But they were ready first, and sent the contents of their fire-locks into him before he could draw the trigger. His right arm was shattered to pieces by their fire. He was also struck in the breast, but not severely. He fell, and they left him for dead. Just before this, these two, who were the most bloodthirsty of the party, had been to Laing’s house to shoot him, but his absence at Gunn’s saved him. But here they met with sterner resistance than they expected, and were successfully kept out for a time by two men named Scott and McArra. But a shot from the little scoundrel Murphy’s gun breaking McArra’s wrist, they got in, and, learning where Laing had gone to, they followed, when meeting Gunn, who in the dark they thought was Laing, served him in the manner described above. They then returned to the gaol, triumphantly announcing that they “had done for two of the rascals.”

Lieutenant Gunn once told me that it was Murphy who shot him, without naming Bird. But in the darkness of such a night of storm, the excitement of the moment, and his painful wounds, he may not have known there was a second man present. But the following extract from the Gazette of the 17th December shows that he was mistaken: “When Lieutenant Gunn was presenting his piece, and was fired at by Murphy, he hastily pointed at Bird, when he found he could not draw the trigger, his fingers being broken by the shot; and instantly but providentially” (I copy the expression exactly), “received the contents of Bird’s gun in the same arm.”

The quiet little hamlet of Sorell, was now in a ferment of excitement; for what had occurred at the gaol was soon known all over the place; and most of the villagers hastening down to the scene of disturbance, some to help the now helpless authorities, others to ascertain the extent of disaster, but most to see the fun only, had all of them their officiousness or curiosity satisfied by being locked up themselves, as fast as they arrived. A local magistrate, well known for bustle and parade of activity, was amongst the number thus treated. Rushing with all the speed he could get up, to the gaol gate, he demanded authoritatively to know “what the deuce-and-all was the matter?” The sentry at the gate made no reply, but jerking his fowling-piece out of his hand, smashed it before his face, and then catching him by the nape of the neck, sent him spinning into the gaol-yard, with such a thrust, that he seemed to fly rather than run into it, coming down heavily after a furious scamper to save himself of a dozen or fifteen yards. The gaol was never so full before, for about half the people of the place were now in it.

The outlaws, satisfied with the mischief they had done, began to think about retiring; so locking every door, they quitted Sorell long before day-break, quietly and quite unobserved, which they had no difficulty in doing; for after a dozen or two of the most curious of the villagers were locked up, for prying into matters that Brady thought they had nothing to do with, the rest were too wise or else too frightened to come near the place, and got home as fast as they could, justly regarding Brady’s cage, as the fox did the den of the sick lion, as a place none too safe to approach.

But to keep up the belief that they still held possession of the prison, the brigands, when they relieved the watch at the gate, and just before their departure, replaced him with the effigy of a sentinel, which proved on after examination to be only a bundle of sticks and straw, moulded into the figure of a man, which they dressed like one of themselves, with a stick over his shoulder for a gun. (See Martin’s Colonial Magazine.) “On the bushrangers departing,” says the Colonial Times newspaper of the 2nd December, “they put up a stick, with a great coat and hat upon it, to imitate a sentinel at the gaol door, in order to gain as much time as possible.”

The deceit was successful, and no one came near the menacing bundle of sticks and old clothes that guarded the fallen chivalry of Sorell; and the bushrangers were many a mile off on their route for Spring Bay before the trick was found out, and several hours passed before the prisoners were relieved, who had passed a horrible night, huddled together in cells where there was neither fresh air, light, nor room for half their number.

The demeanour of the prisoners was generally quite the reverse of what one would have hoped for from companions in misfortune, for, instead of mitigating each other’s discomforts, they increased them. They were all so much in one another’s way that of good humour there could be none; and in the multitudinous discussions that ensued about the misfortunes of that eventful night, each man very naturally thought that everyone was in fault but himself, and, as they all said so, there was no end of noise and furious disputation about it. They quarrelled and screamed all night like cats on a house top, either in pairs or parties, or all together, the civilians blaming and abusing the military for want of discipline and vigilance, and the military damning the civilians all round for want of pluck, and then all joined voices in a general chorus of oaths at their fellow-sufferers collectively, but at no one in particular.

But relief came at last, through an active inquisitive fellow named Culliford, who was up betimes in the morning, peeping every now and then round the corner at the gaol, and above all at the fierce but rather funny looking sentinel on duty at the gate, who seemed, at first sight as watchful as Cerberus himself. After peeping at him and drawing back about fifty times, he began to think it a little curious that the man kept so long in one posture. The cunning fellow watched and watched, but still could detect no movement, and at last came to the conclusion that the man had gone to sleep on his post standing. A bright thought then came into his head that with caution and a little management he might be secured. Some other determined fellows now joined him, and after a good deal of deliberation about the best method of belling the cat, they advanced in a body to the attack. Creeping on him quietly and inch by inch, so as not to waken him, they made a simultaneous dash at him, knocked him over and carried the gaol.

After the accomplishment of this dashing coup de main, the imposture was discovered, which of course made it clear that there was not a bushranger within miles of Sorell, whereon the doors were unlocked, and the captive host within liberated, who, says an informant, streamed out of the gate for several minutes, most of them bolting off home as fast as they decently could, amidst the jeers and laughter of the more fortunate portion of the population, who had been lucky enough to keep out of Brady’s way.

Lieutenant Gunn received the usual pension of an officer of his rank, for the loss of his arm, which was shattered to pieces by twelve balls – probably buck-shot – he also received a civil appointment, besides a money present from the colonists of about £300.

I have heard much said, and read a good deal in extenuation of the defeat of the military and police on this occasion; and the newspapers of the time try hard to gloss it over; but this much is certain, that there could have been no surprise had a proper watch been kept at the gaol.

Such readers as may have no opportunity of consulting the colonial newspapers of 1825, will find an account of this tragi-comic adventure, in M. Martin’s Colonial Magazine for 1840, vol. 2, page 419, and in several other works in which Tasmanian brigandage is touched on.

After leaving Sorell, the fugitives marched as quickly as they could move on Spring Bay, taking great precautions to prevent their route being known. Spring Bay is much about fifty-two miles from Hobart Town.

Despairing of securing Brady by open pursuit, as his resources and means of escape seemed inexhaustible, the Government now took such steps to entrap him, as nothing but the impossibility of getting him by other means can palliate. “Permission” says West in his History of Tasmania, vol. 2, page 205, “being given for prisoners to unite with the bushrangers to betray them; men in irons left town secretly, joined the gang, and gave intelligence to the police.” Several of the worst characters were chosen for this odious office, for which they were well qualified by their peculiar talents, excessive depravity, and bad practices. Pre-eminent amongst these men, was one named Cowen, who escaped by Governmental connivance from a punishment gang. Flying as if for his life from a pretended pursuit to the house of a smith, known to be in league with the bushrangers, his irons were struck off, and on saying that he wished to join Brady, he was furnished with a note to him. But the movements of the bushrangers were now so rapid and uncertain, that many weeks passed before he could unite with them. Two other men named Coil and Callaghan were also set free for the same purpose; and some of Brady’s agents were also tampered with by the police, to give information of his movements. His speedy downfall was therefore certain; for though he might again have burst though a circle of fire, there was no escape from the machinations of treachery. However the fates were not yet propitious, and he had still some months to run before the play was over.

[To be continued].


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Tuesday 19 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. CALDER.


Amongst the properties lying at the head of Great Swanport are the estates of the Meredith family, of many thousands of acres. Mr. George Meredith, the founder of this well-known Tasmanian family, was one of the first settlers who sailed for this colony after the death of Michael Howe, which closed the first epoch of brigandage in Tasmania. Mr. Meredith emigrated in 1821.

In early life, this gentleman had held a commission in the Royal Marines, and had seen plenty of hot service at the close of the last century and the beginning of the present one, and served in Egypt when that province was wrested from the French. Acting ashore, it was he who fixed the Union Jack on Pompoy’s Pillar, displacing and making prize of the symbol of conquest which Napoleon had caused to be planted on this historic monument, (See Martin’s Colonial Magazine.) After securing this trophy, the Cap of Liberty, he removed it to England, and presented it to the Birmingham Museum, where it still is, or should be, that is to say, rusting in some cellar-like lumber-room of that building!

Brady and his followers reached Swanport early in October, 1825. Mr. Meredith did not then reside at the present head establishment of the family, namely, Cambria, but had another property united Redbanks. Possessed as this gentleman was of ample means, and a well stocked house, Brady marked it for plunder so soon as the coast was clear, and circumstances favourable for free-booting operations, which they were very far from being when he set up his camp amongst the neighbouring hills. To have attacked it just then, would have been to have given up his party to the destroyer; for the proprietor – himself no mere carpet Knight – was at home at the time, and the Chief of Police having got some inkling of Brady’s movements, had stationed a party of twelve soldiers there in charge of the intrepid Gunn, to remain till the outlaws were heard of, therefore no attempt could be made on Redbanks until the garrison was withdrawn.

The bushrangers kept in close concealment until this removal took place, which they knew would be soon if they kept quiet, and moved not from their camp; and as their presence near Swanport was only known to one accomplice, they remained in security, till the suspicions of the authorities subsided; and the services of the soldiers, which in these bushranging times were always in request, were wanted elsewhere.

By some unaccountible neglect, no intimation was given to Mr. Meredith, that he was in danger of an attack, nor did he suspect one; and even the soldiers themselves, had no exact knowledge of the cause of their temporary location at Redbanks. But here they remained several days, constantly on the alert, but no one knowing the cause of alarm, as the visit of Brady to so sparsely inhabited a place as Swanport was expected by none but the police.

But no enemy appearing in this district for a week after the arrival of the soldiers, they then received their marching orders and left. Brady, who had been anxiously awaiting this event, saw them get underarms, and depart for Hobart Town at eight o’clock of the morning after getting the route. Just at the same time, he saw the unfortunate and unsuspecting proprietor, mount his horse, and ride off with some of his sons to a distant part of the run, whilst the farm servants dispersed themselves hither and thither about their usual occupations. The robbers made no movement for three hours after the soldiers had commenced their march, that they might be well out of reach before they made their attack on Redbanks.

At one hour before noon, they came down from the hills, and finding no one at Meredith’s except his wife and daughters, their entry was quite unopposed. Brady having first assured the ladies that they need fear no affront, the work of pillage commenced. They made prize of a large quantity of plate, provisions and spirits of all kinds, and a larger selection of choice wines than I care to enumerate.

There were two excellent whaleboats in Meredith’s boat-shed; and Brady wishing to give his land pursuers the slip, thought the present a capital opportunity of throwing them off the scent, by sailing for the Derwent, more than a hundred miles off. One of the boats was therefore put into the water, loaded with the plunder of the place. Meantime the servants a-field got, tidings of what was going on, and though some of them behaved badly enough, others acted in better part. One of the latter secreting himself, watched for an opportunity, and as the robbers went to and from the house, waded out to the boat, and scuttled her with his falling axe; another servant reached her in the same manner, recovered some of the plate, and both escaped. On discovering this, Brady transhipped his plunder to the undamaged boat, and all of them jumping in, they sailed off but before proceeding to sea, they completely unfitted the other one for pursuit by chopping her nearly in two.

The bushrangers were all landsmen; and though one or two could pull a little, they understood nothing about the management of a boat, so they pressed one of Meredith’s men, a professional boatman named Henry Hunt, into their service to steer her.

Once embarked, they stood to the south to round Cape Pillar, and enter the Derwent, there to recommence work, where they were not expected. But Brady was always unfortunate at sea, and his present adventure ended in failure. Their boat had been so long ashore that she leaked frightfully, and all their efforts to keep her dry were unavailing. But the wind being fair, she made tolerable way. But it was soon seen that she was not to be trusted, and Hunt refused to face the stormy seas off Cape Pillar, especially with landsmen only in her, who could be of no use if she got into difficulties.

He therefore persuaded them to run for Grindstone Bay, where they landed on a sand beach, in front of land now known as Castle’s grant; a place that I shall have to mention again in the course of this narrative as a favourite retreat of Brady’s. It is indeed even now one of the most secluded of settlements but at the times I am writing of, the appearance of a soldier or constable there would have been quite as novel a sight as a horse in the streets of Venice.

The morning’s plunder was so ample that they resolved on a few days rest here. The determination was an unfortunate one; for though quite assured against external danger, strife soon arose amongst themselves, which Brady was powerless to repress. The abundance of wines and spirits they had with them soon set them quarrelling, the disturbance which followed being begun and kept up by his old but turbulent companion McCabe, whom had always much difficulty to keep in order, for he was at best a bad fellow, and a cruel one also, and whenever unnecessary mischief was committed, it was always begun by this fellow.

Brady, like Howe, was from necessity a sober man; but not so his old bush comrade McCabe, to whom the abstinence his chief insisted on was intolerable; and he now indemnified himself for past restraint, by excessive indulgence, and a desperate brawl was the result of this debauch, which some of the others joined in as well as McCabe. While it was at its height the boatman Hunt was shot dead, and his body buried in the sand. Heated with wine and rioting, most of them were soon too drunk to continue further disturbance. Then it was that Brady and another man named McKenny, seeing the evil that must come of this state of things, determined that it should go no farther; and before their companions recovered consciousness, they demolished every bottle that remained; a procedure that was ultimately approved by all the others, except the ungovernable McCabe, who was absolutely furious when he awoke, and discovered what had been done. Though not a very robust man, he was one of those sinewy, wiry fellows, who it is not a safe thing to encounter in fight, more especially as he possessed wonderful activity and endurance. He immediately assaulted McKenny, but finding that all his mates sided with his opponent, and that he had no sympathisers he separated himself from them, to meet them no more. Brady, and the rest tried hard to persuade him to do nothing to break up their party, but the hot-headed man was inexorable, so shouldering his gun he left the camp, to commence the dangerous and mad career of robber life by himself.

McCabe and Brady were the last of the fourteen who left Macquarie Harbour together sixteen months before, eleven having died already, and one other escaping by a timely surrender; thus twelve of the original number were disposed of and the remaining sands of McCabe’s own lifeglass were so nearly run out, that they might be told without counting them; for in less than a fortnight after breaking with Brady, he was safe in gaol, to await the certain and terrible punishment of a life of guilt. It is as well to follow him to his unhappy end.

From the outlaws’ camp at Grindstone Bay, he passed across the wild and rugged East Coast tiers into the settlement beyond, never stopping, except at night, till he was once more in the pastoral district of Bothwell, where he arrived thoroughly prostrated with his long and rapid walk. The field of operations was a badly chosen one, as it happened at the moment to be well guarded both by military and police.

He was first seen by a traveller while he was sleeping under the shade of some trees. This man, suspecting that he was a bushranger, hastened off to a military post and reported him to the guard, a part of which marched at once on the refuge of the weary fugitive. As the soldiers approached him it was observed that he was still asleep; but being by habit an easily alarmed man, he woke up before they were within shot of him, and he started from the ground, and flying with the speed of a professional runner, all trace of him was quickly lost; and all that his pursuers secured were his gun, blanket, and some of his clothes.

McCabe had been here before, and knew the ground well. He had also an accomplice here, and made for his house at once. This was the person whom I have spoken of before, as a stock owner of rank, and the unsuspected confrere of Brady’s people. Whatever could have induced such a man to cultivate an intimacy with robbers it is impossible to say, it is enough to state that such was the case, and that he had been in the habit of furnishing them with supplies, and intelligence also of all police movements relating to themselves which from his knowledge of the different members of the magistracy, he had abundant means of acquiring, no one suspecting for whose use he sought it.

After a four-mile run McCabe reached the house of this friend of the brigands, but not in the mood of mind in which they had heretofore met. His recent mishap with his companions; his fatigue and exhaustion, the unlooked for surprise of the morning, the loss of the little he had, and, above all, his ungovernable nature, all tended to distract him, and he entered the house of the settler not as a confidant, but as enemy. He was admitted, as usual, but the unmasterable passions of this degraded man, prostrating his feeble reasoning powers, he seemed for the moment reckless of, and indifferent to, everything, even the traditional honour that is said to exist between thieves. Seizing on a loaded fowling-piece that stood against the wall of the room, he cocked and presented it at the head of the astonished flock-master, and using such imprecations as I do not care to write down, demanded an immediate supply of everything he wanted. At the same time – so it is reported – he took a blazing brand from the hearth to apply to the roof of the dwelling, and was only restrained from burning it to the ground by the passionate entreaties of the wife of the unfortunate settler, addressed to the demoniacal brigand. Her exhortations so far appeased him that he desisted from his savage purpose; and on receiving her assurance that his wants should be supplied, he seemed to calm down a little, and shortly afterwards left the premises, once more an armed man, to follow and finish his perilous courses.

Such is the narrative of the particulars of this visit, as they are given in the newspapers of the time; but of which some parts doubtlessly received a good deal of false colouring, to remove suspicion from the guilty settler, on whose report they were published.

Armed and in the woods once more he travelled back to the main road, and somewhere between the Cross Marsh and the Lovely Banks, he met a youthful traveller named Mortimer, who he attacked directly; and as the reasoning faculties of the man, such as they were, were still dormant, he fired at him, but the shot took effect only on the horse he rode, but not very injuriously. He now forced young Mortimer to dismount and surrender both his purse and horse also; and next vaulting into the saddle the madman galloped off to the field of certain danger, and possible ruin, namely, to Bothwell, where his own late appearance had put all on the qui vive to take or destroy him.

We now arrive at the closing scene of McCabe’s bush career, which terminated on the 25th October, 1825.

Mortimer’s horse was a good one, and the brigand was soon in Bothwell again. Riding through the woods, he fell in with a shepherd named Bayliss on the morning of the fatal 25th. Having seized and bound this man, he drove him before him as guide, to the farm-house of a once well known colonist, Dr. Scott, which was in the charge of his brother. When they came within view of the dwelling, McCabe dismounted and tied Bayliss to a tree, and then fastening his horse to a branch, he proceeded on foot to pillage it, which he speedily and successfully accomplished.

During McCabe’s absence, Bayliss got away, and taking the horse, galloped off to the guard-house for assistance to capture the bushranger. The men got under arms and started after him with Bayliss for their guide, at such a rapid pace, that they reached the place where they expected McCabe, four miles off, in about fifty minutes.

As soon as the fugitive left Scott’s, he returned for his horse and his prisoner Bayliss, but finding both gone, his disappointment made him absolutely frantic, as his means of escaping with his plunder, which was large, were quite frustrated. But for a moment, and only for a moment, fortune seemed auspicious. A shepherd, also named Scott, happening to pass just then with his flock was made prisoner by him, and loaded with part of his booty, in this manner McCabe proceeded, for some yet undiscovered retreat, but just at this moment the soldiers, followed by some civilians, hove in sight. More confused than ever, a suspicion crossed his mind that Scott was in the plot to take him, and he levelled his piece to destroy his supposed betrayer. But the shepherd was a most resolute fellow and though only a slight as well as a lame man, and no match for McCabe, he pinned him by the throat before he could pull the trigger, and perhaps as much to his own astonishment as his adversary’s, he threw the stronger man on his back after a most determined struggle for mastery. But the robber’s resources were not quite exhausted yet, and, drawing forth a long knife, he tried to stab Scott; but he prevented it, and eventually wrested it from him. By this time the soldiers and others came up, and a private of the 40th. Regiment, named Maroney, was the first to throw himself on the brigand, and, assisted by a Mr. Russel, they put an end to the conflict, and to the bush career of McCabe. The rest of the party arriving in a minute or two, the bushranger was secured, and marched to the guard-house, from whence he was removed to Hobart Town under a military escort, to disturb the peace of the colonists no more.

“At ten o’clock of Thursday morning (27th October), says the Gazette, “the news reached Hobart Town of his apprehension, and that he might soon be expected. The sensation of satisfaction that instantly burst forth throughout the town was inconceivable, in which all ranks, high and low, free and bond, equally participated. Though the morning was wet, and the roads very muddy, the way towards New Town was crowded with people impatient to see personally the appearance of a man whose crimes wore too gross to proceed from a being in the human shape. Till about half-past 2 o’clock, when he entered the town, the rising ground opposite Captain Ker’s house was crowded with spectators. * * * The whole of Elizabeth-street up to Government House was one continued crowd; and when the party reached Wellington Bridge, it was so dense, as scarcely to find room to pass. He walked along in company with a soldier to whom he was manacled, and attempted several times to address individuals he had known at some former period. * * * He is a tall athletic man, strongly marked with smallpox, and bears the effects of a shot in his face,” &c.

On the 2nd November, he was tried for robbing young Mortimer, and for other capital delinquencies, and was found guilty; but it was not till the 20th December that he was brought up for sentence, before a Judge who had probably passed more death sentences than any other colonial Judge living. He was usually rather ill-tempered when on the Bench, and was sometimes unnecessarily harsh, and never ever merciful to the unfortunate creatures whom he tried who were hanged, literally by dozens. Indeed the scaffold seldom sufficed for the many executions that followed a sitting of the Supreme Court, and it usually took two or three mornings to hang all the men sentenced to die during a session, who were disposed of in instalments of six or eight at a time; for when once sentenced in those days a man stood almost as little chance of a reprieve, as the dead have of returning to life.

Before this Judge, McCabe now stood with twenty-seven others to hear his doom. He of course expected, no mercy, nor did he desire it; for though only twenty-four years of age, he was wearied of existence. Being asked by the clerk of the Court, if he had anything to say that sentence of death should not pass on him, he replied, says the Gazette, “with an air of indifference, ‘oh, nothing.'” The Judge then spoke severely of his attack on the stripling Mortimer, who it was said he deliberately fired at, and expressed regret that he had not killed him. But at this stage of his address, he was abruptly interrupted by the bushranger saying, “I made use of no such words to him; but I wish mercy from no man; I said I was very glad it happened on the horse and not on himself – that is what I said, Sir,” He was then sentenced, along with seventeen others to die, and died accordingly on the 9th January, 1826.

[To be continued.]


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Monday 18 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. Calder


As soon as the whereabouts of these fellows was known in Hobart Town a number of civilians united themselves with a military party and went in pursuit of them, and on the 1st of September came up with them on the hovel of a poor sawyer. The bushrangers’ dogs gave the alarm, and the tired outlaws started up just in time to see a military party, headed by a Captain Innes, marching rapidly on their place of refuge. But the dogs were as wearied as the men, and saw not the soldiers till they were surrounding the hut, and the fugitives had no choice but to run for it, and left their plunder and some of their arms behind. But the country hereabouts is favourable for retreat, so plunging into one of those intricate jungles found in many parts of this district, they escaped for the moment.

But Innes was an active officer, and as his party was pretty fresh he gave them no respite, and difficult as the place was for movement of any kind, he never remitted pursuit except at night, and being aided by a black tracker – a civilised boy of one of the native tribes, called by his white companions Tegg – he came up with them again on the 4th. This delay was caused by the excessive difficulties of the backwoods of this district, that is, the undulatoriness of the surface, the thick growth of underwood, and the vast quantities of fallen timber, which combined, are in the last degree impeding,

The principal civilians who aided the military were parties headed by Messieurs Bethune, Champion, and an active constable named Kerby. The advance of both soldiers and civilians though slow, never intermitted, and the robbers were forced to push on at such a rate that the least active fell behind and thus got separated from their leader. This caused the pursuing party to divide into small companies, Bethune, Champion, and Kerby, each taking charge of one. The latter made one prisoner soon after this separation took place, on hearing which, the others reunited and marched to the place of capture, thinking it likely that other runaways might not be far off, and they met at the small stream called the Styx, and following along its course the practised eye of the young black soon discovered the traces of another of the fugitives, and when once upon them he followed the scout like a bloodhound, by marks quite invisible to persons who have no experience of tracking, but which are perfectly plain to the savage. A leaf or stick displaced, a single blade of grass trampled upon, the faintest scratch on a stone or prostrate tree, which we should never see at all indicated the course of the pursued as distinctly to the trained savage as footprints on the snow would appear to us. Persons who have never seen tracking can have no idea of the acuteness of the trained vision of these people, nor understand how they can discern what none but themselves could see. But I have been told by an officer of the police, the chief of a bush party having several of these exports with him, that the art of following by marks that are invisible to ordinary persons, is not difficult to acquire, and that after a few months’ practice he himself could track almost as well as his guides.

The boy followed the trace of the fugitive to the edge of the jungle he had entered. Bethune and others plunged into it after the black; but coming to a large pool the scent was lost, but the game was not far off, for after emerging from the thicket into the open forest, “I saw,” says Bethune in his report, “a man about two hundred yards from me.” The poor wretch was quite exhausted from the combined effect of fatigue and long fasting, for he had tasted nothing but water for two days, and was also suffering from the recent loss of an eye in the fight at Valleyfield. Bethune challenged him to stand, and as the wearied man could hardly move, he complied, of course. He, however, still carried a loaded firelock, but was so bewildered, as men often are when thoroughly prostrated by suffering and exhaustion, that he seemed not to comprehend its use at the moment, and flung it from him, in place of defending himself with it. Bethune, however, was not aware of his bodily condition at the time, and, running at him, seized and made prisoner of him. After a poor effort, at equivocation he owned that he was one of Brady’s companions, and proved to be Jeremiah Ryan. Bethune than re-joined his captain, into whose hands he committed the prisoner.

This was another of Brady’s evil days. Eleven weeks had scarcely elapsed since the first day of their landing after their stormy boat voyage from Macquarie Harbour, and no less than eleven of the fourteen who first absconded, were already taken, and either hanged, or in a fair way of being so; and there now remained at large only Brady, McCabe and Bryant, and the last-named being caught during the next fortnight the number was reduced to two, within three months after their bush career began.

What became of Brady and the others after this day of disaster, or how they escaped from their pursuers, I know not; but they were all separated, and Brady must have been alone for several weeks. It was now universally believed so complete was the defeat of the fugitives that all of them who had escaped capture on this fatal day, had perished in the most miserable manner in which life can terminate, namely, by starvation in the woods; and there ensued a period of welcome repose of three months duration, during all which time the newspapers of the colony are quite silent on the subject of bushranging.

But in the midst of this happy calm, the colony was suddenly startled by the news of the return of the irrepressible Brady to active life, whom every one thought, and perhaps hoped, was dead. This was near the end of November, but he was now alone, having failed to rejoin his sole surviving companion, McCabe.

It was after nightfall of the 26th November that he attacked, single-handed, the residence of a settler at a place called then Macquarie Springs, in the fine district of Jericho. The occupants of this solitary dwelling were the owner and his wife, and two farm labourers. These latter were convicts, as farm servants mostly were then, and were not much to be depended on, as their sympathies were too often with the enemy.

With his gun slung over his shoulder, and with a horsepistol in his hand, he approached the place, and knocking, the door was opened, and rushing in impetuously he commanded their instant submission, and overpowered and bound all the men, before they recovered from their surprise. “I am Brady,” said he, “surrender without a word, or ‘we’,” feigning there were more outside, “will give you no quarter.” His dauntless bearing terrified them into compliance, and he plundered the place at his leisure.

But just as he was leaving, the clatter of horses’ hoofs was heard approaching, and several horsemen galloped up. It was a moment of seeming peril, but their arrival in no way disconcerted him, and he stood his ground. He made no offer to retreat, and they on their part made none to advance. One of them it is said offered to lead a pursuit, but as no one else seemed to relish a scuffle with him, the proposal was not seconded. Brady observing their irresolution, and wishing to get rid of them, now turned upon them, and advanced with levelled gun to where they stood, which movement sent all these heroes to the right-about at once, and off they went at a galloping pace, which they never slackened till they were far enough out of range of Brady’s firelock. He then retreated himself.

But he had too much judgment not to see that robbing by himself was too hazardous to be continued, so he retired into concealment, and was heard of no more, for another couple of months, being supported by secret colleagues, of whom he had several in the district.

It was about this time that he made the acquaintance of the only man to whom he was ever known to offer extraordinary violence, namely Thomas Kenton. This person was originally a sailor, and his ship a whaler touching at Norfolk Island, he there deserted her and found his way to Tasmania in 1810. He became a settler at Brown’s River, where he held a grant of 60 acres first surveyed by me, now the property of Mr. John Lucas, to whose father he sold it. We next hear of him as an officer of Police, and he received the respectable appointment of District Constable, “for the districts on the borders of the counties of Buckinghamshire and Cornwall,” in September of 1810, (these two counties then comprised all Tasmania), and was just about as fit for his office, as for the Primacy of England.

Of this man’s connection with Brady, very little has been preserved in any printed or written document that I can discover, and there is scarcely a trace of it in the newspapers of the period, which were the Gazette and Colonial Times. His death by Brady’s hand is indeed just mentioned by a Launceston correspondent of the last named paper as follows :–

“Yesterday,” (that is the 5th of March, 1826), “Brady deliberately shot Thomas Kenton, after giving him his reasons for doing so, viz. that he once asked him (Brady) to his hut, where some soldiers were then, who wounded him on the occasion.” (Colonial Times, March 10th, 1826.) We also learn in an after number, that this murder formed one of the charges for which Brady suffered, but nothing more I gather the following account of the cause that ultimately led to the murder of Kenton, from the gentleman who took the official depositions relating to the temporary capture of Brady at Kenton’s cabin.

Kenton occupied a remote hut, the position of which is unknown to me, and was often visited by Brady and McCabe, who had reunited some time in January, 1825. They were also associated at this time, with a very young man named Hyte. This youth was in the service of one of the most active and independent magistrates, who ever sat on the Tasmanian bench, Mr. T. G. Gregson. The youngster Hyte, was outwardly at least, so well conducted that his master had no suspicions of his fidelity, even when he was ever intriguing with Brady. In the end, he went off to the woods with the bushrangers; and it was this young fellow who first introduced them to Kenton, the inexperienced youth having no suspicion that he was none too trustworthy.

Kenton’s cabin stood near the edge of a handsome plain, and was now frequently visited both by military and police, who had got some inkling of his intimacy with these outlaws, and kept an eye on his movements, and, being none too scrupulous, was easily engaged to betray them.

Soon after this compact, two soldiers took post secretly at Kenton’s hut, he having reported that he expected a visit from Brady’s party very shortly. The hut being, as said above, on the margin of a plain, was easily seen from the woody heights that surrounded it, amongst which Brady and his mates lay in concealment. By pre-arrangement, a signal was always hung out if the coast were clear of hostile cruisers – a white sheet hung over an adjoining fence indicating safety, and its removal the reverse.

The three outlaws came down as expected, and, seeing the safety signal up, advanced towards the place, but still not exactly in confidence that all was right. Brady, though a bold fellow, was a very superstitious one, and as rank a believer in dreams and omens as a highland seer, and was now tortured by the recollection of his sleeping thoughts of the night before that evil hands were upon him, and his companions could not persuade him out of his fears, which were too deeply impressed on his ill-regulated mind to be easily dismissed as imaginary only, and which the sight of the signal did remove. He had no good opinion of Kenton, and was not to be talked out of the presentation that disturbed him. He advanced, it is true, but often stopped on the way, looking anxiously at the hut and at every object behind which treachery might be lurking, and it was long before his associates could persuade him to move forward. Little by little, and stop by stop only, was the space between him and the hut diminished, and the door nearly reached, when the soldiers rushed from their concealment, and before Brady could fire, both himself and Hyte were knocked over, and McCabe, stunned by the suddenness of the surprise fled to the woods. Brady was wounded in the fray.

“I thought it would be thus,” said he as he rose, “my dream of last night was not sent for nothing;” then turning to Kenton he added, “I always thought you would betray me, but you shall suffer for it yet,” Kenton smiled but said nothing, and all of them entered the hut.

The captors having no handcuffs, had to use such means of securing their prisoners as could be found in Kenton’s hut; and their hands were bound with cords only, Kenton helping to tie them. They next committed the grave mistake of deciding to remove them one at a time to a distant police station, marching Hyte off first, and to return for Brady as soon as they could, whom, they left for the present in charge of Kenton, arming him with the gun taken from the former, who in his present wounded state they thought incapable of mischief, but they did not know their man. Brady was really not much hurt, but as he bled freely, he feigned being severely hit.

When the soldiers were gone, Kenton entered into conversation with his prisoner and had the hardihood to attempt to console him under his mishap, saying he thought his capture was as good a thing as could have happened to him, adding with cruel irony, that in his opinion it were better to be hanged at once, than continue his present courses and most unhappy life. Brady listened with as much coolness as he could command, being more engaged with thoughts of escape, than of resignation or repentance.

With these in his mind, he complained of pain and want of sleep, and asked his keeper’s leave to lie on his bed, and to throw a coverlet over him, as he was cold from the loss of blood.

Kenton did so, and Brady seemed to compose himself, whilst the other sat by the hearth, without greatly noticing the wounded man, who was all the while trying to undo the bandages on his wrists, which his captors had not tied so closely together as to give unnecessary pain. But the knots were as tight as that of Gordius and not to be undone. Baffled in this, he now complained of thirst, and asked for water, of which he saw there was none in the room. With this reasonable request, Kenton also complied, and went down to the creek for some, a distance of about a hundred yards. Brady sprung from the couch directly it was safe to do so, and it is said by some, that he held his bandaged hands over the flame of the fire till the cord parted and that as his hands were not tied closely together, the rope separated without disabling him. I do not avouch the truth of the oft-told tale of the manner in which he freed himself, but that he did get rid of his bandages at this moment is certain, as the event proved.

Kenton had not taken the gun with him when he went out, and the liberated brigand seized it directly he was free, and then quietly awaited the return of his keeper, which took place a minute afterwards.

“Now,” said Brady, feigning coolness that he hardly felt, “it is my turn to be master, so prepare yourself for what is going to happen,” and with these words he put the gun on full cock.

The surprise of Kenton was complete. He was now no longer Brady’s master, but a humble suppliant for his own life. He guessed his meaning and begged for mercy, saying “for God’s sake Brady, don’t shoot me.”

“You old vagabond,” said the bushranger, looking him, so to speak, through and through, “have you not often told me there is no God (He was an avowed disbeliever) and now you ask for mercy in his name. Do you think you deserve it at the hands of a man whom you have so shamefully betrayed?”

Kenton was silent, for the words of the bushranger struck home; but after a second’s pause, during which Brady kept his eye on the trembling man, like a black snake mesmerising the victim it is about to seize, his better nature prevailed, and, with uncommon forbearance, told him to go about his business, as he cared not to take the life of so worthless a creature. “But,” said he, before quitting the place, “take warning by this day’s work, and see that you never play the traitor again. We shall meet again before long, and if it comes to my knowledge that you have done me, or those who may be with me, another bad turn, you shall die. I let you off this time, not that I fear the consequences of shooting you, but because I do not think you are worth dying for, even though something tells me that I shall be hanged for murdering you yet.” Then coolly putting his piece on half-cock, he quitted the hut, leaving the half stupefied traitor to stifle his reflections as he best could, and to invent excuses for permitting him to escape, whenever the men returned for their prisoner, which took place some hours afterwards.

In their anger at finding that the bird had got out of their trap, they seized Kenton, and bore him off to the station-house instead, He was dismissed the service of course, and then tried and sent to gaol for allowing the prisoner to escape, for in those days the magistracy never stuck at trifles. Kenton, barefaced as he was, feared to make any public declaration of his treachery, and actually pleaded guilty of connivance at the flight of the robber; and afterwards boasted of aiding him to evade justice, which more inflamed Brady against him than any other part of his conduct, and determined him to punish him for it, if ever they met again.

Brady hovered about the midland districts for some weeks after his last adventure at Kenton’s, committing several daring robberies in company with two men named Pollock and Godliman but re-joining McCabe again he dismissed these recruits, and quitted his present quarters for another scene, and moved to a place called Mike Howe’s Marsh, a fertile plain amongst the inferior slopes of the Table Mountain, a well known eminence of the great watershed of Tasmania.

Their journey hither was not without its adventures. They first fell in with a party of five mounted and well armed stock-riders, all of whom they made prisoners directly. They forced their mounted captives to follow them, taking their horses from them and making them all walk; and such as hesitated when ordered to dismount and lead their steeds, were shoved out of their saddles without more words. The Gazette of the 25th of February, 1825, gives an amusing account of the inglorious defeat of the larger force.

At Howe’s Marsh they were joined by a half starved convict named Plum, who they allowed to follow their fortunes. They now struck over to Wood’s Lake, where they attacked an outlying stock hut of a well known colonist named Kemp. Leaving their prisoners in charge of Plum, Brady and McCabe dashed into the hut, and overpowered all the occupants, five in number, and then plundered the place of arms and a large quantity of provisions, helping themselves to a horse a-piece, and loading some of the others with their pillage. The men they forced to follow them, to prevent their raising an alarm just yet. They now moved down to the lake margin, driving men and horses before them like sheep. Their prisoners were dismissed next day, but they stuck to the horses.

When their prisoners were gone they moved to a secluded nook of the lake where for once they lived in quiet for a fortnight, when they were disturbed by a small roving party, who were scouring the country in chase of them. It consisted of two constables and a soldier of the 3rd Regiment. These parties were mostly dressed in the same rough style as the bushrangers, for whom they were often mistaken, and many fatal accidents happened, from their wearing no distinctive dress. The meeting was sudden, and quite unexpected on both sides.

It was at noon of the 12th March, when Brady’s dogs gave the alarm that there were strangers about his camp, and the bushrangers stood to their arms. The travellers demanded their names and occupation, to which Brady, who was never at a loss, replied ”Constables, and who are you?” “Constables,” was the rejoinder. “No,” said Brady “you are not constables, you are Brady and his bushrangers, so down with your arms or we will shoot you,” and all three levelled their pieces at them. Matters were now getting serious, and both sides got under cover of trees, and they commenced blazing at each other whenever they got, or thought they got a chance, but so well was every man covered, that it was long before a shot took effect, when Plum exposing himself a little was instantly brought to the ground by Constable Dutton. But neither Brady or McCabe could be reached, and they held their posts till dark, and then drew off, leaving their companion and their camp also to their opponents.

They now retreated to the Lakes Arthur, that lie about eight miles from Wood’s Lake, where they made themselves masters of the encampment of one of the government surveyors, Mr. J. A. Wedge, who was absent at the moment with the most of his party surveying the shores of these lakes.

Wedge says he was returning to his tent at sunset, with three servants, and, on approaching it, “I saw two well-dressed men coming from the direction of my tents, whom I took to be newly arrived emigrants in search of land, coming to me for information as the Government surveyor. I observed that they carried guns, but had no suspicion of them. When they were within twelve or fourteen yards of me, they stopped, calling on me to stand. Not thinking they were bushrangers, I continued to advance towards them, when, presenting their guns, they peremptorily desired me to stand, “or we will fire on you – we are the bushrangers.” Being unarmed, I stopped accordingly. Brady then came up, McCabe standing ready with his gun. . . . Brady searched all my pockets, and took my watch from me.”

The robbers had watched the surveyor leave his tent in the morning, and took possession of it directly afterwards, making prisoners of the cook and bullock-driver. They next overhauled his boxes, and smashed his firearms to pieces. His clothes they appropriated, and were dressed in them when he first met them. Brady, as we have seen before, had no love for Government men, and therefore did not permit Wedge’s servants to idle away their time while he was absent, but set them both to work to have a good supper ready for all hands on their return.

On reaching his camp at evening, Brady politely invited Wedge to sup with him; but this he refused, unless he unbound his men first (all of whom he had “coupled up” by this time), which was assented to after a good deal of grumbling, and they fell to, but not in the most amicable mood with each other, and the meal was rather a dismal affair at best, the survey party being ill at ease with their rebel hosts, and the hosts so distrustful of their guests, that they sat at point-blank distance from them, with their guns between their legs, ready for instant action, in case of a rush being made by the more numerous party.

Wedge describes Brady as a robust man, “muscular and well made. He had an intelligent countenance, bright hazel eyes, and an expansive forehead.” McCabe, he says was a bad looking fellow, “with a narrow visage and sallow complexion.”

To detail all Brady’s wanderings at this time, and his ever-recurring fights for existence would be out of the question, for he hardly ever was two days in one place; and such was the rapidity of his movements, particularly after his men were mounted, that, to use the expressions of Wedge, he seemed ubiquitous, and kept the whole colony on the qui vive, no one knowing how soon he might be attacked by men who, so to speak, seemed in all places nearly at once. Being an excellent rider, in which art he soon perfected all his future followers, he made little of sixty miles a day, or more, changing his horses as they knocked up, to which he coolly helped himself as he went along, of which there are always some at every large establishment. The speed of his movements was marvellous; and by the time the many roving parties could concentrate on any point of recent outrage, he was fifty miles off, attacking all the best homesteads in some distant district, that was no longer adequately protected. His robberies may be numbered not by scores, but by hundreds; and I do not know a district in Tasmania, into which settlement had then penetrated, where he had not committed a score of most audacious robberies. Indeed, wherever there was anything to be had in the rural districts, there was he sure to appear; and yet for several months after his interview with Wedge, he had no companion but McCabe.

From the Lake Country they descended into the rich, low-lying lands of North Tasmania, where they continued their system of exactions for some weeks, mostly unresisted, but sometimes having to fight for it.

They were indirectly the cause of a very lamentable disaster, soon after their descent from the Lake districts. They had taken possession, in the early part of April, 1825, of the cottage of a person named Bassam; and while resting there, a party of soldiers who were in search after them, came down on the place, and demanded of Bassam’s shepherd, to know if the bushrangers were there; but the terrified man so equivocated, as to convince them that their prey was not far away and they poured a volley into the hut. This was what Brady could never stand, and both he and McCabe ran to the door and returned the fire, felling one of them, but not mortally. Bassam then came out, and entreated the soldiers not to confound him with the bushrangers, whose prisoner he was, and gave his name and occupation. But the shots of the robbers, and the fall of their comrade so exasperated them, that, they refused to hear him, and immediately despatched him with their bayonets. The death of this poor settler allayed their wrath for a moment; and in the midst of the confusion by which a violent death is always followed, the outlaws made off, taking, says the Gazette of the 8th April, “all their luggage except a pistol, and very quietly walking off.”

After this lamentable affair, the robbers recommenced their wanderings, and turned once more to the south, travelling afoot by the main line of road. They met many persons while on their march, and robbed every one they met, from one of whom they took no less than two hundred sovereigns, which this simpleton carried about him in such troublous times as these.

Several horsemen whom they met about this time, were also stopped, and were not only fleeced of a considerable sum of money, but were forced to surrender two of their horses, with which the fugitives galloped off.

But they were too fatigued to proceed very far, and rested for a few days at the hut of a confederate in the backwoods, and next re-appeared near the Cross Marsh, about thirty miles from Hobart Town, where they resumed their old practices with more than customary activity, adding a fearful number of robberies on the highway to their already voluminous catalogue of offences.

From this place they crossed into the settlements of Bothwell and Hamilton, where there are many first-class homesteads, as might be expected from the nature of the country hereabouts, which is a vast pasture field. Here, as everywhere else, devastation followed closely on their track, and they surprised and robbed many of the first men of the place.

It was at this time that they became acquainted with a person occupying a good position in colonial society. He was a gentleman by birth, the son of a clergyman, and of good family. He had emigrated in 1822, and settled in the Bothwell district as a sheep farmer. But not-withstanding the advantages of birth, education, and social standing, he was a man of bad disposition and practices, and evil tendencies. He now secretly allied himself with those degraded robbers, and became for the remainder of his own brief career the most trusted and useful of their confederates; and the unsuspected custodian of their plunder. But, as usual with all evil-doers, the Fates were just, and severed his connection with the world about four months after the final disruption of Brady’s gang, being convicted of sheep stealing, then a capital offence.

The continued successes of these two men appears now to have determined them on bolder courses; and, tiring of robbing by themselves, they beat up for recruits amongst the many outlaws whom Governmental oppression had driven into the woods; and as those two men had a reputation for success, far above any others, they had no difficulty in finding accomplices, to join with leaders whose enterprises were so well planned, and mostly so fortunate in their results, and four other men joined them, with whom they took post once more in the north.

Their first achievement with these new allies was unpropitious. Arriving after a most exhausting march at an outstation of Mr. Dry’s, that lay I believe near the base of the beautiful basaltic mountain that still bears his name, they composed themselves for a few days’ rest, as they hoped; but they were now so watched, that their place of refuge was soon discovered, and a party of soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant Williams, came on their retreat so guardedly, that neither their dogs nor the sentinel on watch observed them, and all their arms were secured before they saw their danger. In this helpless state, they fled to the hills directly, leaving a great deal of valuable property behind, the proceeds of their recent depredation in Bothwell.

A storm of bullets was sent after them as they fled to the cover of the woods, but ineffectively. The soldiers were even more exhausted than themselves, and hardly pursued them, and they once more escaped capture; but the former were well consoled under the misadventure of losing their prey, by the booty that was left in their hands, which consisted of a large quantity of plate, and four hundred pounds in gold, which latter they seem to have appropriated.

But they were quickly equipped for adventure again; for at all Tasmanian homesteads, especially in times of disturbance, plenty of firearms were kept ostensibly for defence purposes, but which from the suddenness of the attacks of such men as Brady, and the apathy of the farm servants then, who were mostly convicts, and seldom of much use when most wanted, the bushrangers were soon ready for the road again. But they were now so hunted after both in the North and South, that they resolved on an entire change of quarters, which they had not visited before, mainly Great Swanport, which lies on the East Coast.

The eastern shore districts are generally infertile, though there are some fine properties there; but taking them as a whole, these parts of Tasmania are inferior. Some of the best orchards in the island are to be found on this coast.

[To be continued].


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 16 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. Calder.

To the reader of Tasmanian history, the most remarkable passages, after those relating to the capture and extinction of the Native tribes, are those that embody the details of the careers of the most remarkable of the bushrangers, who have at different times held the country, so to speak, in their hands. They stand before us it is true, without any of the artificial adornments with which writers customarily invest the robber heroes of Europe, and with a far less romantic and euphonious designation, than the brigands or banditti of the historical lands I speak of, and with plain vernacular names, that it may be grate too harshly on the ear of the sentimental reader of English narratives. The acts of the bushrangers of the remote and unclassical land of Tasmania, may be hardly readable, when achieved by men bearing such vulgar plebeian names as Michael Howe or Matthew Brady, even though the details of their marauding lives, are a hundred times less revolting than those of the ferocious bands who still infest many of the European states. With rare exceptions they shed no man’s blood, and the two men above named, never in wantonness; and though both of them destroyed life, it was when writhing under strong and not unnatural excitement, created more by the treachery of the victims themselves, than by their own malevolence. That there were amongst the fugitives of Tasmania, men as infamous as the brutal brigands of Europe, is true; such for example as Pearce, Jeffreys and Wheelan; but the majority of them were neither cruel nor very ferocious, nor quite devoid of the better feelings of our nature, of which they often gave proof in practising forbearance, even under circumstances when forbearance could hardly be expected of them, and where persons under less temptation have not always proved too forgiving. The remission of vengeance is always a pleasing act; but in the brigand, who stands himself beyond the line that mercy never crosses, forbearance, such as Brady more than once evinced, must be accounted to be a redeeming quality, particularly in his case, who lived in times when clemency was never shown to men of his kind. Of the disposition of the strangely compounded man there is a clever sketch in Montgomery Martin’s Colonial Magazine for 1840 (a London publication), written by a writer long resident in Tasmania. He thus speaks of Brady at page 412 :- “If he did much injury, he also evinced much forbearance. He never wantonly sacrificed human life, and on no occasion was female delicacy outraged or insulted. This was much from a proscribed outlaw, the possessor of unlimited temporary power, who well knew that no aggravation of crime would enhance his amount of punishment, whenever he fell into the hands of justice,” &c.

Bushranging in Tasmania extended over two protracted periods. The first one began soon after the establishment of the colony in 1804, and only ended with the death of Michael Howe on the 21st October, 1818, when there intervened a period of repose of rather more than five and a half years, during which it was that the occupation of the lands of the country commenced in earnest; for it was not until Howe’s gang was thoroughly rooted out and himself destroyed, that this took place, except in a very limited degree. The plague broke out again in June of 1824, when Matthew Brady and thirteen others escaped from Macquarie Harbour; and this second period never quite died out until the cessation of transportation in 1853, which put a complete end to it; Brady’s bush career lasted not quite two years.

Matthew Brady, but whose proper name was Bready, (so at least he is styled in both Gaol and Ship records), was born at Manchester, just about the close of last century. His occupation in England was that of a gentleman’s servant, probably a groom, as he was an excellent and even a graceful rider, and perfect in his horsemanship.

For some delinquency, he was tried at Lancaster, on the 17th of April, of 1820, and received a seven-year sentence of transportation, and arrived here in the convict ship Juliana, on the 29th of the following December.

As a young man his habits appear to have been more scampish than profligate, and the Reports of his conduct, whether in gaol or on board ship, enumerate a long list of offences committed after his conviction, and conclude with the general statement of his conduct, as bad in one instance, and very bad in the other. But his transgressions do not seem to have been grave ones, mere infractions of discipline in most cases, to which through life he was notoriously inattentive. In Tasmania, his worst misdeeds before taking the bush, were that he twice attempted to escape from the colony as a stowaway on board ship, for one of which it was, that he was sent to the penal settlement of Macquarie Harbour for the unexpired portion of his sentence, about five years, a doom from which, considering the severities customarily practised at those dreadful places of torment, it is not to be wondered at, that he determined to escape, should chance ever offer the means of getting away.

It will be known to most of your readers, that Macquarie Harbour is an extensive inlet of the bleak West coast of Tasmania, the climate of which part of the colony is at least twice as humid as that of the eastern hemisphere of the island. The prevailing winds are from North West round to South West, and after traversing the breadths of the vast Pacific, are mostly so loaded with vapour,that the rainfall all along the western shore-line is very much heavier than elsewhere. This is attributable to the peculiar configuration of the country, which is occupied by very elevated land through nearly all its central length, on either side of which the climates, in so far as moisture is concerned, are very different. This elevated region naturally acts as a screen to the districts of the east, intercepting, and thus warding off, most of the vast volume of vapour that rolls in from the west or stormy quarter. A chilly and humid atmosphere, and the general repulsive aspect of the place, have long conferred on Macquarie Harbour the character of being the most dreary spot within the four shores of Tasmania.

The area of this so-called harbour is about a hundred square miles. It abounds with mud-flats, having deep water passages between them. The outlet of the harbour, called formerly “the Gates,” is so narrow, that the place is not discernible from the sea, or hardly so; and Lieutenant Flinders, when surveying the coast of the island, passed on without discovering that there was any break in the coast line here, which was first ascertained by the late Captain James Kelly, on the 28th December, 1815. It is a bar-mouthed inlet, and the rush of water through the entrance, at every turn of tide, is very great. It is indeed so narrow, that, as I have stood here, I have thought that in my youthful cricketing days I could have thrown the ball across it. The depth on the bar does not exceed eight or ten feet; and to increase the difficulties of entrance, a low rock or two stand nearly within it. It is the estuary of two fine rivers called the King and Gordon, each of which drains a large extent of mountainous and marshy country.

Forests that are intricate beyond conception, and absolutely impervious to unpractised bush travellers, grow round most parts of it, and extend inland for many miles; thus cutting off all hope of successful escape from it in a landward direction; while the chances of getting away by sea (at least to the prisoners who were kept here) were nearly as hopeless, for the gates were not only guarded by military and police, but the pilot, Lucas (a man more dreaded by the convicts than any other) was also stationed as nearly as could be, at this point.

There are two small islands within this harbour, about eighteen miles from the gates, that were used for settlement purposes. The chief establishment was on one called Sarah Island, said to cover about twenty-five acres ; and the lesser one, named Grummet Island, was the receptacle of all the worst characters of the place, that is to say of such as Governmental severity had demoralised and brutified beyond hope of regeneration.

The excessive difficulties of escaping into the distant settled districts from hence, recommended it to our third Governor, Colonel Sorell, as a place of banishment ; and determined him at the close of 1821, to establish one here, and it was, formed accordingly.

Sorell was only the ruler of a dependent province; and his orders for the Government of the place were received from a higher quarter, and he was forced to adopt the disciplinary usages of the parent colony, as New South Wales was then called, and Macquarie Harbour, like Norfolk Island, soon became a place of unmitigated and unbearable torment, and not one of reform.

Reformation by the means in force here fifty years ago, whose tendency was only to deprave, was never affected by them, or very seldom indeed. The late Mr. Lempriere, who for several years filled the post of Chief Commissary at Macquarie Harbour, informs us in his history of this old settlement, that in all his experiences he knew of but one example of it, which may be read of in the second volume of the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, &c., at pages 207-8.

To escape from those abodes of misery and despair, was always the predominating idea in the minds of these sufferers: and to compass this the rashest enterprises were often undertaken; and it is recorded in one of the Parliamentary Blue Books of 1838 that of one hundred and sixteen men who absconded from this place in something less than four and a half years from the time of its first establishment, no less than one hundred and one of them came to untimely ends, either by ordinary executions, shooting down by the military and police, drowning, or perishing miserably in the woods. Of this last named class there were seventy-five instances. Of the small remainder nothing is known. They probably died by the spears of the natives.

To this place Matthew Brady was sent, as related above, in 1821. Here as elsewhere he was ever in some scrape or other, and for upwards of two years endured all that was miserable in a convict’s life at Macquarie Harbour.

As the settlement was always badly provisioned it was determined to establish what was called a farm on the mainland opposite to Sarah Island, that vegetables at least might be had, which were much wanted to counteract the evils of constant salt meat diet ; and Brady was one of the farm employés at the time of his escape, which event is thus described by the historian of the settlement, D. A. C. G. Lempriere, who resided there for several years :-

“From this spot, in June, 1824, a party of convicts, which afterwards formed one of the most formidable bands of bushrangers that ever infested Tasmania, made their escape. These men had planned to run away with one of the barges, when the commandant, accompanied by the surgeon, visited the place where they were working.

“It was soon perceived there was something wrong amongst the prisoners ; and the commandant succeeded in reaching the boat, and in pushing off, just before the fellows ran to seize her. The poor doctor was not so fortunate, he was taken prisoner by the gang, who after a kind of council of war, determined to give the doctor, in his own person, an example of the scenes he had so often witnessed-the application of the cat-o’-ninetails. The instrument of torture was in a few minutes prepared, and ready for action. It was in vain, the intended victim attempted to expostulate-it was in vain, that argument in arrest of judgment flowed from his trembling lips ; he was ordered to strip. There appeared no remedy, and he slowly managed to get off his coat, when a deliverer appeared in the shape of Brady, who had been a patient in the hospital, and kindly treated by the doctor , he would not allow him to be touched.

“The men made good their escape in the open boat, though closely pursued by the pilot, Mr. Lucas, a most active and determined man, who during the time he was stationed at Macquarie Harbour, became the terror of the runaways ; for they scarcely ever entertained hopes of escape, when they knew he was pursuing them.”

The runaways, fourteen in number, cleared the heads of Macquarie Harbour on the 9th of June, (two days after the attack on the commandant), and immediately bore away for the shores of the Derwent, under every inch of canvas that their boat could live under. The wind was at W.S.W. at the time, and the sail was close-hauled ; and though the sea ran very high, they dare not relieve her ; for with the fiery and resolute Lucas in sight, and only a few miles astern of them, their capture was certain, had they shortened sail in the least. Both were crack sea boats, and of that class called whaleboats, rigged mostly with a lug sail, and which though dangerous in a high degree under bad management, will live almost anywhere and in any weather if well handled. The runaways were unarmed, and therefore no match for Lucas if he came up with them, for he had soldiers with him, and as his own well-trained crew were also armed, they were forced to run for it at all hazards, or be taken.

Their course was southerly inclining a little to the east until they rounded the South West Cape, which is about a hundred and ten miles from the Gates of Macquarie Harbour, and then easterly and north-easterly for ninety or a hundred more, before they could reach Storm Bay, where they landed after a ten days’ voyage, somewhere on the east coast of that magnificent estuary of the Derwent river.

It is surmised that they escaped from Lucas by landing at night in some one of the nooks of the coast, and that he thus passed them by, still believing that they were ahead of him, and thus he lost their track. Baffled in this manner this excellent servant of the public, who was never known to evade his duty in any manner, and who in long after years sacrificed his life to it, never landed anywhere except at night, until he reached Hobart Town, and apprised the Government of the escape of these desperate fellows. His boat voyage, which began on the same day that the pirates passed through the Gates, 9th of June, terminated on the 18th. The bushrangers were not far behind him, for they entered the Derwent and landed the next day.

Amongst the fourteen runaways was a Scotchman named James Crawford, who it is said formerly held a commission as lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and he commanded the boat expedition, and he is also said to have directed the first shore movements of the party, but from the conduct of Brady at the outrage at the doctor, which he repressed in spite of the others, it is pretty clear that ashore he was one of the leading spirits of the party from the first, for which his daring character, disregard of self in all times of danger, circumspection in attack and retreat, and undoubted natural talents, fitted him.

In Tasmania, Brady’s name is not always mentioned reproachfully. There are many still living who remember his visits to their parents’ homesteads, and their reports of his bearing (leaving his robber practices out of the question), are not very unfavourable, and though it was his constant custom to bind all the inmates of the places he plundered, females and children excepted, he never permitted any more serious outrage to be inflicted on their persons, and it is reported that he had frequent bitter misunderstandings with his men on the subject, who were often inclined to be disorderly, and who he more than once forced to restore such of their plunder as their victims particularly desired to retain, such, for example, as family papers or souvenirs, that had a value in the estimation of their rightful owners, beyond their mere intrinsic worth, and though these forced restitutions gave rise to many quarrels, he was always inexorable. His deportment to females is always named to his credit, and his uniform respectful demeanour in their presence was so well known, that his appearance at any homestead was much less feared by the women than the men. The latter, especially the men servants, never escaped the indignity of being tied up in couples like hounds. If there were no military or police in the neighbourhood of any house that he took possession of, he often held it for a whole day or more, but strove to make his visit as little disagreeable as possible, in the presence of his grim freebooters, and being a man of good address, he seldom failed of partially allaying the fears of the occupants. It is, however, complained of him that he was too fond of fun and practical jesting to have been quite agreeable, and that he too often made all the menials of the household helplessly drunk when he left, which looked like carrying frolic too far. But this conduct, which was mistaken for mischievous fun, was in reality a piece of policy only; for he well knew that it was from the convict class of servants, and hardly any others, that treachery was to be feared, and that they were the men and not their masters, who were in league with the police, and by leaving them hopelessly drunk, he had nothing to fear from them till he was far enough away.

Many of the old bushrangers had the same bad opinion of those men ; and I think it was Dunne, a most notorious bush robber, who, as he was being led captive to Hobart Town, chanced to be marched through a chain-gang working on the roads, who he, in a seemingly subdued state of mind, asked his conductors to permit him to address; and they, thinking he meant only to give them a little seasonable admonition, allowed him to do so; whereupon he commenced his exhortation by charging such of them as had any thought of taking the bush “to shoot every _____ assigned servant where-ever they met them,” as they were the men, he said, who were the real betrayers of all “honest fellows,” meaning thereby persons of his own class.

One or two instances only are cited when Brady’s people were absolutely mischievous; but those were the acts of the most riotous of his followers, Bird, Murphy, and McCabe, whom he sometimes found it impossible to restrain. But acts like theirs were quite at variance with the usual tenor of his bush career. It is indeed said that Colonel Arthur was himself not insensible of this man’s merits, and that he would have saved him when taken at last in compliance with the general wish of the colonists, only that the blood of one man was on his hands. Of this, however, I have no proof, and relate it on hearsay only, hardly, indeed, believing it, as that Governor was not overflowing with clemency to men of Brady’s class, and not very likely to be merciful to any of his people, by one of whom he was once within an ace of being shot himself, as I shall presently relate.

On what point of the shores of the Derwent it was that the bushrangers landed after their voyage from Macquarie Harbour, I have no precise information; but believe it was at Clarence Plains. They were hardly ashore before they began operations on the highway. The first traveller whom they met was a Mr. Patrick Brodie, who they stopped and robbed of what he had about him, Almost directly afterwards, they possessed themselves of firearms and ammunition, which they took from a man in the service of Lieutenant Gunn, who from that moment became one of the most zealous and determined of the pursuers of this party. He chanced to be in Hobart Town at the moment; but directly he heard of this robbery, he started after them with a party, and very soon came on them; and attacking them on the instant, captured five of the four-teen in less than five minutes. This occurred on the 25th of June, or less than a week after their landing. This bad beginning was made still worse,by the voluntary surrender of a sixth. For the above named robberies, and one or two others, the men taken by Gunn, were tried almost directly, were sentenced to die, and died accordingly on the 22nd of July.

Very few acts of bushranging had been committed in the colony since the fall of Michael Howe, nearly six years before this time. The sudden appearance, therefore, of so numerous a horde of freebooters as were now in the field, created great excitement everywhere. But in the midst of all this ferment, the Governor preserved, or pretended to observe, an attitude of perfect tranquility, which the colonists regarded as most unseasonable. The inhabitants of Hobart Town, almost to a man, offered him their services, to be used in any way he might direct in the suppression of these men. But Colonel Arthur, with the characteristic disdain of civilians, too usual with soldiers, politely rejected the offer. He himself was satisfied with stationing a few detachments of military at those points of the interior which these during rovers were the most likely to visit, and to offer a small reward, £10, for the capture of any member of the band.

The spirit of the military in the colony, seems to have been more torpid at this period, than it was in Howe’s time, when nearly everything that was done to crush bushranging was achieved by them. But they now received more than one defeat from Brady; and what was done at this time, in repressing this and other gangs, was more generally the work of the police and civilians, than of the soldiers. Even Lieutenant Gunn, who took the first of them, and who continued the pursuit of them till they disabled him, was not now in the service, having quitted it some years before ; and though he retained his military designation, being on half-pay, he was at present a farmer of the Tea Tree Brush. This gentleman, of whom I shall have more to say presently, was formerly in the Bourbon Regiment, which he joined sometime about the close of the career of Napoleon I., and was placed on the half-pay list shortly after the end of the war, and so remained unattached till his death in 1868. He was a man of gigantic stature, being, he once told me, six feet seven inches high. He was cool and daring in a high degree, and was never known to fail in anything that he undertook, except the destruction of Brady’s band, which about seventeen months afterwards (under very extraordinary circumstances), took his party instead. But this resolute man never gave in himself, till nearly shot to pieces. This was the most dramatic incident of Brady’s career ; and tragical as it was, in so far as Gunn’s fate was concerned, was so full of comic adventure, that it, is strange it has never formed the subject of stage representation, as Howe’s exploits have.

It would unnecessarily extend this paper to relate all the lesser adventures of these depredators. I shall therefore pass over, either with slight notice or none at all, those that are of little interest, or of, which the particulars are imperfect. Brady’s career of outrage, which lasted scarcely two years, comprised, of house and highway robberies, something like three hundred instances, that would require a volume to describe, the most of which are not worth noticing. Of this latter class were several in which his party were engaged, between the dates of their repulsion by Gunn and their attack on the residence of Mr. Robert Taylor, of Valleyfield, where they were also defeated.

This gentleman’s farm house stood on gently rising ground near to the Macquarie River, formerly called the Relief, which is one of the many affluents of the South Esk. The country hereabouts is either open or is lightly-wooded grass land, and the districts that surround it may be be fairly ranked amongst the elite of Tasmanian pastures.

Mr. Taylor was a very elderly person, having passed through more than the allotted years of human life, being seventy-four years old at the time he was called on to resist the onslaught of seven armed bushrangers (to which the party was now reduced), headed by Crawford, who led the attack. There were in the house at the moment, Taylor and his aged wife, two sons, and two daughters, besides several free domestics whom Mr. Taylor had brought from Scotland when he left home.

In the fore part of the day of this assault, 15th July, the bushrangers had robbed the residence of a lady, who is spoken of in the annals of the time as the widow Smith, from which they had removed considerable booty, making prisoners of several of her servants, who they loaded like pack-horses with their plunder, and who they also took along with them to direct their march on Valleyfield, which they meant to assail that night. With this view they pushed forward as rapidly as their heavily laden prisoners could travel, and came in view of Taylor’s cottage just about dusk. In their way thither they fell in with one of Taylor’s sons, a mere youth, who, like one of Jacob’s children, was tending his father’s flock in the wilderness. It was now midwinter, and this young man was heavily clothed against the cutting gales, which are felt chillily enough at this season, particularly in the open country, and to this circumstance it was that he owed his life, from the misdirected fire of a friend, who, in the heat and excitement of the fight, and the duskiness of the long twilight of a Tasmanian evening, mistook him for one of the assailing host. Seeing the advantage of having one of Taylor’s family with them, he was seized and placed in front, with the view of distracting the fire of the garrison, in case the two parties came to blows. Crawford loaded him like the rest; and on his being asked if he thought his father would fight, replied that he was quite sure he would. “Oh, then,” said Crawford, “we will give you the post of honour, so go to the front and let him shoot you first,” and he was forced to march in the van.

Taylor’s family were quietly seated within for the night, all except the young shepherd, who they were, however, expecting home every moment. But the dogs, of which there are always several about a bush homestead, especially in troublous times, were very uneasy, and, though nothing could be seen, it was evident that there was something astir more than usual. Their restlessness excited old Taylor’s suspicions that all was not right, and he went round the premises, but could hear or see nothing. Still the dogs would not lie down, but continued watchful and unquiet, which convinced their master that it was unsafe to disregard the warning of those vigilant sentinels. I have said before that the country hereabouts is open, and Taylor or some one of his household, going out again to see if he could discover the cause of their disturbance, now saw the advancing party approaching, in number about a dozen ; and as several of them carried arms, there remained no doubt of their being on an evil errand. Old Taylor, who, notwithstanding his age, retained much of the energy and fire of youth, now marshalled his sons and servants, and told them that the bushrangers were coming down on Valleyfield, and that he meant to resist them, and asked which of them would stand by him. They all volunteered excepting one man who demurred, saying they would all be killed, and that he would not fight, and then went to the rear of the premises, and oddly enough was the only one who was killed in the fray that followed. Taylor then armed his friends, and put himself at their head to repel the advancing party, if it proved a hostile one, of which he was speedily made sensible by his shepherd son, who called out to him that the place was in danger, and not to fire on him. The father recognised the voice, and guessing that he was a prisoner, forbade his people to fire until they could distinguish friend from foe. A sharp sighted servant led off by letting fly at the bushrangers; on which young Taylor, who had all the pluck and spirit of his aged father, threw off his load, and rushed over to his friends, who received him with a joyous shout of welcome, and the firing became general. The bushrangers were as determined to carry Valleyfield, as the others were to prevent it, and plenty of shots were exchanged between the two parties; but as usual in such cases, when daylight is failing, many were ineffectual. Old Taylor was ably seconded by his people, and owed his own life to the gallantry of the youth, who had just before escaped from the bushrangers, who, seeing one of them levelling his piece at his father threw himself on him, and he succumbed to the stripling, who though no match for him, brought him to the ground by the suddenness of the assault, and the energetic exertion of whatever strength he possessed. This man who he had under him was Crawford. A servant instantly shot the fallen brigand, but not fatally, and his followers rushed to his assistance, but were unable to beat back their adversaries, or even to reach their leader. In the melée, a shot from one of the defenders hit the youth, who was struggling with Crawford. The official account that I am writing from says :- “A servant came to the aid of his young master, and in attempting to shoot his opponent, by some intervention of lamentable fate, he missed his aim, and mortally pierced the beloved object of his zeal.” But in the times I am writing of, newspaper correspondents were not always reliable; and there is one if not two misstatements in this short quotation. The shot, though a dangerous one, was not mortal, and he recovered from it, to die by the hands of a more merciless foe than the bushrangers, namely, the natives, who speared him to death in November of 1826. I believe there is also another grave mistake in this report, but which I am not quite able to correct.

The fight was now going against the attacking force; but notwithstanding this, one or two of them, amongst whom was the sanguinary McCabe, got to the back of the premises, where he found the unfortunate non-combatant John Lowe. Irritated at the desperate resistance that his party had met with, he sent his bayonet through his heart, and the thrust proved instantly mortal.

Crawford and another man named James Bains were made prisoners by the Taylor party, and another bushranger was badly shot, but escaped capture. Brady, who now took the command, drew off the rest of his people, now reduced to five, including the wounded man, who had lost an eye in the fight, but was carried off by the others.

Of Taylor’s party, none were killed but Lowe, and none hurt except the youth who was accidentally shot.

A writer in M. Martin’s Magazine, speaking of this skirmish, says that the ladies in the house “were not idle spectators of the scene in which their father, brothers, and friends were so hotly engaged,” but, like the heroines of Saragosa, “charged the supernumerary firearms of the father and brothers, and evinced the most praiseworthy fortitude.”

As soon as this act of resistance was publicly known, the whole colony rang with the praise of the heroic family who had taught the outlaws such a lesson, and the inhabitants presented the family with a piece of plate in acknowledgment and admiration of their spirited conduct.

The prisoners, Crawford and Bains, were tried at Launceston, and died some time in September following ; but owing to the loose state of the newspaper reports of the time, I cannot say when exactly. The notice, such as it is, of their trial and death will be found in the Gazette of the 24th September, 1824.

The five robbers who escaped now turned to the South, and travelled thitherward quite unobserved, and even passed through Hobart Town itself unnoticed, the head-quarters of the Government, where Colonel Arthur had his official residence. In less than six weeks after the attack on Valleyfield, Brady was plundering the settlers of the valley of Brown’s River, about ten miles south of Hobart Town. He even extended his visit a dozen miles further down, namely, to Oyster Cove, the future and last residence of the captive natives, where he robbed the establishment of Mr. David Wedge. He then returned to Hobart Town, which he actually entered a second time on the night of the 23rd of August, and slept there with all his people under the very noses of the military and police. Whatever the authorities could have been thinking about to suffer such a gang to pass between their legs twice in less than ten days unperceived, and even unsuspected, is unaccountable. Nor were these the only times that Brady and his riotous followers slept in Hobart Town, in contempt of the Government. The police report, published in the Gazette, of 27th August, 1824, speaking of their present movements says :- “The banditti were on a hill within three minutes’ walk of the police office at eight o’clock in the evening.” With singular audacity they entered and slept in the hut of a Government overseer named Chandler, not nearly a mile from the police station, and only quitted town next morning ; and having seized two men from the street to act as guides, they pushed on for the settlement called the Black Snake, about ten miles north-westerly of Hobart Town. Here they dismissed their guides, and went to their usual work directly, attacking the farm houses, and plundering their owners all round of their cash, ammunition, and provisions ; while the Hobart Town police were all astir to take them alive or dead, as they returned from Brown’s River, where it was thought they were still concealed.

Before the many robberies which they had committed amongst the terror-struck farmers of the Black Snake were known to the Government, the light-footed marauders were off again, and were next heard of in the neighbourhood of the river called the Plenty – a well known affluent of the Derwent, which, as we all know, has in recent years obtained attention as the scene of an experiment for the propagation of the English salmon. This stream is about thirty miles from Hobart Town; and here Brady and his wearied followers established themselves on the last day of August.

[To be continued].

Musquito: An Overview

Indigenous readers are advised that the following discusses the history of first nations people and contains the names and likenesses of deceased persons.

Aboriginal bushrangers of the early colonial period tend to be somewhat difficult to define. Given that many were not from within the colonial society, and the few that were often did not behave like most bushrangers when that took to the bush, they tend to almost require a separate definition. In fact, there’s a definite overlap where the Aboriginal bushrangers and resistance fighters are concerned. None exemplify this conundrum better than the man known as Musquito.

Born in the early to mid 1780s in New South Wales, Musquito is believed to have grown up around Broken Bay (though some sources state he was from Port Jackson) as a Gai-mariagal man, probably by the name Y-erran-gou-la-ga. At some point he seems to have picked up at least a moderate amount of English, and he had a brother known to the whites as Phillip. The rest of his early life is a mystery.

Nouvelle-Hollande, Y-erran-gou-la-ga by Barthelemy Roger (1807) [Source: NLA]

In 1805, Musquito became a wanted man. His actions around the Hawkesbury River were a cause for concern — so much so that his own people turned on him. When Musquito murdered a woman (almost certainly an Aboriginal woman), the people he been raised amongst turned him in with another man named Toulgra (called “Bulldog” by the whites) in exchange for another of their nation who was wrongfully imprisoned. Musquito never stood trial for the murder, nor was he formally charged. Instead, he and Bulldog were sent to Norfolk Island after threatening to start a fire where they were lodged at Parramatta Gaol.

Musquito remained on Norfolk Island for eight years, where he was expected to perform labour in order to earn his rations and was employed as a lime-burner. When he was removed from the island in 1817, he was sent to Port Dalrymple, Van Diemen’s Land, on the Minstrel. He was eventually employed by Edward Lord, the wealthiest man in Van Diemen’s Land. Here he worked as a stockman, but when Lord left the colony for Mauritius in February 1818, Musquito remained.

In September 1818, Musquito was told by Governor Sorell that if he assisted in the tracking down and capture of Michael Howe he would be rewarded with free passage back to New South Wales. By this time his brother Phillip had written to Governor Macquarie to ask for Musquito’s return to his ancestral home. Sorell had even tried to get Macquarie on board, recommending that Musquito, “Big Jack” McGill, and “Black” Mary Cockerill be acquired by New South Wales for their superior tracking abilities, but nothing was ever followed up. For unknown reasons, Macquarie seemed to want Musquito kept away from his homeland.

When Musquito, accompanied by McGill, found Howe camped by the Shannon River, they pounced upon the bushranger and after a violent struggle Howe escaped without his kit bag and supplies. In the bag was Howe’s famous kangaroo skin journal, in which he described his dreams, memories, desires and fear of the Aboriginals, who had recently been engaged in attacks on white farmers (at least one of these attacks resulted in a death that Howe was accused of).

Musquito had been looking forward to returning to New South Wales as per the agreement struck with the government, but when he heard nothing from Macquarie or Sorell he decided he had copped all he was willing to from the white man. Musquito went bush and found his way to Oyster Bay. The government had treated Musquito like merely some troublesome Aboriginal they could afford to ignore, but they were about to be proven terribly wrong.

Musquito managed to find his way to a sort of commune of Aboriginal men and women that had, for various reasons, found themselves expelled from their own people; many had transgressed tribal laws making them outlaws from both colonial and indigenous societies. This community would come to be known as the “Tame Mob”. When Musquito joined them he remained somewhat on the outer, but his knowledge of English language, farming practices and firearms saw him quickly rise through the ranks to become their leader. In fact, he became so highly regarded amongst the mob that, by some accounts, he was given a wife (known as “Gooseberry”) who was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the tribe. He was later described as having three wives by Thomas Anstey, the magistrate at Oatlands, who also described Musquito prostituting some of the women, including his wives, to white men in exchange for goods. That Anstey was not speaking from experience, but rather repeating rumours, is telling.

View over the Great Oyster Bay towards Freycinet peninsula, Tasmania, Australia by Joern Brauns [Wikimedia Commons]

Soon the Tame Mob grew to encompass dozens of men and women, and they were even alleged to have fallen in briefly with some white bushrangers in the Oyster Bay region. As time wound on, this seemingly harmless group of outcasts became motivated to push back against the colonists. Adding coal to the furnace was Musquito, whose first hand experience of the colonisation of New South Wales had instilled in him a fierce distrust and hatred of white men, and the irreversible damage their ways were inflicting on Van Diemen’s Land and its peoples, just as they had done to his homeland.

There were many rumours that circulated about Musquito, including that he had murdered Gooseberry in a rage on the government paddock in 1821. He was said to have had a taste for mutton, which the other Aboriginals refused to eat, and he was described as a great drunkard who would trade rations for rum.

The Tame Mob, now estimated to be 75 strong, began to engage in acts that are better described as acts of war, rather than bushranging. Thefts and brutal murders were coupled with arson in an effort to stamp out the influence of whites in their region, which essentially sprouted from Oyster Bay and encompassed Pittwater (Sorell), Orielton, Risdon and even reached as far as Jericho and Oatlands. A reward of £100 was offered for Musquito – dead or alive – and he was given the nickname “The Black Napoleon”.

From November 1823 to 1824 the Tame Mob, led by Musquito, performed a series of violent and deadly raids along the Tasmanian east coast, targeting white farms, gangs of bushrangers and rival mobs that stood in their way. Prominent in the mob alongside Musquito were “Black Jack” (Jack Roberts) and “Black Tom” (Kickerterpoller), the latter of which would go on to leave his own mark as a bushranger.

On 15 November, 1823, the Tame Mob attacked a hut at the property of George Gatehouse at Grindstone Bay. For several days before they had begged food from John Radford, the stock-keeper, engaged themselves in fishing and held a corroboree nearby. They returned to the hut on the fateful day armed with spears. In the ensuing assault two people were murdered – a Tahitian man named Mammoa, and a 19 year-old assigned servant named William Hollyoak. The lone survivor, John Radford, pinned the murders on Musquito and Black Jack. Hollyoak had been staying at Gatehouse’s on his way back to his employer, George Meredith, having just come out of hospital. The three men had been lured out by Musquito and speared as they retreated after sensing an ambush. Radford was speared through the side by Black Jack, and after stopping to pull a spear out of Hollyoak’s back, was speared in the thigh. The last Radford saw of Hollyoak was the boy being swarmed by Aboriginal men, with five or six spears sticking out of him. Radford managed to make it to Prosser’s Plains to raise the alarm. When they recovered the body of Mammoa, he has been speared almost 40 times.

A posse was formed by George Meredith to find the Tame Mob and seek retribution. By Meredith’s account, the Aboriginals all escaped unharmed when the posse found them in the bush, though other accounts claim they found them all asleep and slaughtered as many as they could, with very few escaping. In response to this turn of events, Musquito was severely beaten by members of the Tame Mob who were obviously angry about the messy encounter he had led them into.

Misquito [i.e. Musquito] and Devil’s Hole Tasmania, 1868 by “J.R.” [Courtesy: State Library of New South Wales]

The following raids mostly involved arson – burning houses and crops. These were clearly attacks designed to flush the colonists out of the area. Despite being assaulted by his own tribe, Musquito still enjoyed some seniority and helped the Tame Mob develop strategies for battle. He educated them on firearms, noting that the firearms could only fire once before needing to be reloaded; thus in battle the mob would wait until a shot had been fired then swarm on their attacker with spears while he reloaded. Often one of the English speakers, usually Musquito, would lure the occupants of a house to the door. From his use of English they would mistake him for a “tame black” (one raised by whites, or at least employed by them), and this would distract them while the rest of the party surrounded the house before attacking.

On 16 June 1824, Musquito joined the Tame Mob in four attacks. They struck the farm of a man named Oakes at Murderers Plains (Abyssinia), where two men were murdered; Triffitt’s at Big River (Ouse) where another man was murdered; and two of Captain Wood’s properties at the Clyde River (near Hamilton) and Lake Sorell where a hut was destroyed without fatalities.

In July, the mob killed a man named Patrick McCarthy at Sorell Plains near New Norfolk. On the 23rd of the same month, Robert Gay, a servant of George Meredith, was killed and mutilated. The murder was attributed to Musquito and his followers.

In August, Lieutenant William Gunn went in pursuit of Musquito after having been given the slip by Matthew Brady’s gang. He would have no satisfaction in this pursuit either. Meanwhile, the Aboriginal group that was attacking farms was now estimated to have 200 or more members, indicating that some form of merger had been struck between the Tame Mob, the Oyster Bay tribe and the Big River tribe. The little rebellion was now a full scale war.

In late August 1824 Musquito and Black Jack were finally brought to heel. For three days two men named Hanskey and Marshall trekked through the wilds with a seventeen year-old, half-Aboriginal boy named Teague (or Tegg) acting as their guide after a purported tip-off from some of Musquito’s female followers. Teague had been promised a boat as his reward for helping to capture Musquito. Their perseverance paid off and they intercepted Musquito near Oyster Bay with Black Jack and two Aboriginal women. Teague opened fire and shot Musquito twice in the thigh and once through the body. Though he attempted to shelter, Musquito’s injuries were severe and he was captured.

After recuperating in the Colonial Hospital in Hobart, Musquito and Black Jack were tried for murder. They were denied legal counsel and could not give evidence as they were not Christians, thus unable to swear on a Bible. Musquito was found guilty of the murder of Hollyoak, and Black Jack was found guilty of murdering Patrick McCarthy. Naturally, the two were sentenced to death.

On 24 February 1825, Musquito was hanged in the Murray Street Gaol, Hobart, along with Black Jack and six whites. Prior to his execution Musquito was said to have confided in his gaoler, John Bisdee:

Hanging no good for black fellow… Very good for white fellow, for he used to it.


Teague never received the boat he was promised, and therefore turned bushranger himself and swore to kill any white man he encountered. Two murders were attributed to him, but he avoided any punishment for them, if indeed he was guilty. He was found by his master Dr. Edward Luttrell, and spent the rest of his life in Luttrell’s employ. He died in 1831.

The amalgamated Aboriginal forces that had begun their reprisals on the whites under Musquito continued for six more years, with the conflict being referred to as the “Black Wars”. Musquito’s off-sider Black Tom became a prominent figure during this time, picking up where Musquito left off.

No doubt the life of Musquito is shrouded in misinformation and outright lies, just as many of his bushranging and Aboriginal contemporaries alike have endured, due to the concerted vilification by colonial historians and others who felt they had something to gain by portraying this Aboriginal man as a mindless, violent monster. Many of the crimes attributed to him were likely not committed by him, if they even happened at all. Certainly, the outcome of his trial had been determined before it began.

Many of the colonists described the first nations of Van Diemen’s Land as peaceful until Musquito came onto the scene. Many laid the blame for the Aboriginal retaliation attacks squarely at his feet, others admitting that his treatment by the authorities was to blame for his rebellion.

Musquito left an indelible mark on Tasmanian history and many of the beats of his story would be repeated in decades to come by other Aboriginal bushrangers, in one way or another. It seems the lessons that could have been learned from Musquito’s life were ignored or dismissed by the people who most needed to heed the warnings.

Recommended reading: Steps to the Scaffold by Robert Cox [Cornhill Publishing, 2004].

Spotlight: The Late Bushrangers

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


On Saturday last, the following criminals received sentence of death :- Matthew Brady, Patrick Bryant, James Goodwin, James M’Kenny John Gregory, William Tilly, William Brown, and Samuel Hodgetts, (the above eight composed the residue of the gang of bushrangers of which Dunne only remained at large.) Thomas Jeffries, John Perry, and James Hopkins, whose horrid crimes are fresh in the recollection of the Public and John Thompson, for the murder of Margaret Smith in the watch-house. His Honor Chief Justice PEDDER, addressed the unhappy men in the most feeling manner. He stated to them, that the Law had awarded the punishment of death to the crimes of the least magnitude amongst them. Those of the greatest were attended with circumstances of atrocity, that he should only shock the feelings of the auditory by repeating them. His Honor addressed this to Jeffries and Perry. He then made some impressive observations upon the offices of Brady and the rest, and finally passed the awful sentence of death upon the whole, in a manner which powerfully excited the feelings of all present ; and in the course of which, he himself was most seriously affected. Brady behaved with the utmost fortitude and firmness . Jeffries appeared much agitated, as did several of the rest.

On the return ot these unfortunate men to the gaol, Tilly offered to shake hands with Brady, who refused with much contempt. M’Kenny also refused to speak to him – this was on account of their supposing that he had given information.

Brady, M’Kenny, and Bryant being Roman Catholics, were then conveyed to the cell adjoining the debtor’s side, which they had hitherto occupied. The two former seemed serious, though cheerful. The remainder (except Perry, who was alone) were confined in one cell. Jeffries who was amongst the rest of the Protestants, became penitent, and fully sensible of his approaching fate. During the whole of the week, the Rev. Messrs. Bedford, Connolly, and Carvosso, have been unremittingly attentive in their endeavouring to bring these unhappy criminals to a due sense of their awful situation.

The death warrant arrived on Tuesday, by which fatal instrument they were ordered for execution is follows :- Jeffries, Perry, Thompson, Brady, and Bryant, yesterday, and this morning the whole remainder. The Reverend Ministers of Religion were with the unhappy men at an early hour of the morning, and rendered them every consolation which in their wretched situation could be afforded. At a few minutes after eight o’clock, the Sheriff, D Fereday, Esq. attended by the usual cortege, arrived. The criminals were then brought out into the lodge, to undergo the usual awful preparations. Mr. Bedford (of whose attentions to these unhappy men, and indeed upon all similar occasions it is impossible to speak in terms of sufficient praise), first led out Jeffries; he appeared firm and composed; while the executioner was pinioning his arms, Mr. Bedford exhorted him in the most feeling manner to let his repentance be sincere, and from his heart, in which case he might trust safely to the Divine mercy for forgiveness. — Jeffries prayed fervently, and seemed really penitent. Then followed Perry and Thompson, to whom Mr. Bedford shewed similar attention. When the executioner had adjusted the ropes, these unhappy men retired to a bench, where they knelt down in prayer, while the same ceremony was undergone by Brady and Bryant, who were attended by the Reverend Mr. Connolly, with whom they had performed the devotional duties of their Church, and by whose zealous exertions they appeared to have become truly and sincerely penitent. When this ceremony had been gone through, and all was ready, the melancholy procession was set in motion. Mr. Bedford, with the deepest solemnity, commencing with reading aloud that portion of Scripture, “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man also shall his blood be shed.” This passage was so peculiarly applicable to the crimes of the wretched sufferers, and the tone in which Mr. Bedford uttered it was so solemn and emphatic, that the whole five seemed to feel deeply their dreadful situation. Jeffries first ascended the fatal scaffold — he was firm and composed. Mr. Bedford occupied his attention with devotional consolation, while the executioner affixed the rope. During which interval Messrs. Connolly and Carvosso administered all possible consolation to the unhappy men who were at the foot of the ladder. When they had all ascended, and the necessary preparations for their entering upon the awful change before them had been concluded, Mr. Bedford addressed the people who had collected in great numbers outside of the gaol, nearly as follows:- “The unhappy man, Jeffries, now before you, on the verge of eternity, desires me to state, that he attributes all the crimes which he has committed, and which have brought him to his present awful state, to the abhorrent vice of drunkenness. He acknowledges the whole of the crimes with which he has been charged, and he implores of you all to take warning by him, and to avoid the commission of the sin of drunkenness, which infallibly leads to all other crimes.” During this, Brady and the rest preserved the composed deportment which they had exhibited from the first, wholly without levity, but firm and resigned. Nothing now remaining, Mr. Bedford commenced reading certain portions of the funeral service ; and when he came to a particular passage, the drop fell, and this world closed upon the wretched men for ever!

This morning the following criminals underwent the awful sentence which had been passed upon them :- James Goodwin, James M’Kenny, John Gregory, William Tilly, William Brown, and Samuel Hodgetts. The whole of the Rev. Clergymen were unremitting in their assiduities, by which the unhappy men had been brought to a state of the most sincere penitence, trusting to the Divine mercy for that forgiveness hereafter, which the magnitude of their offences prevented them receiving here.