Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Con-artist sailor turned cannibal convict murderer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Jeffrey (illustrated by Aidan Phelan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected sources:

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


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

Bushrangers Bold! by Bob Minchin

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

Newspapers and Gazettes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Monday 24 November 1873, page 2



Illustrated by a Sketch of the Career of Michael Howe, “The last and worst of the Bushrangers.”

Written by J. E. Calder.


It was never the policy of Howe’s party, to remain long in one place; so getting rid of their booty amongst their confederates, they made off for the midland districts, and were at Scantlings or York Plains a day or two afterwards. The main road ran through these plains then, so they took up their quarters within view of it, in case of any thing in their particular line passing that way. But Mr. Stocker’s late surprise, seems to have been a caution to others, and they caught nothing except one poor penniless traveller, who chanced to be sauntering about there, and who fell into the net of course.

But notwithstanding the dulness of the road whilst they were at York Plains, they did not pass their time in inaction, and for want of something better to do, they drove in forty or fifty head of Styne’s and Troy’s cattle, and slaughtered them all for their tallow, rendering it down quite professionally, or rather making others do it for them, who they unceremoniously pressed into the service from a rather distant stock station, and worked them like horses for three days, disposing of the proceeds amongst certain friends of theirs, and facetiously naming the place “the Tallow Chandler’s shop,” in honour of this adventure.

Not being able to get anything out of the prisoner Yorke, who fell into their hands on the 27th November, they made the best use of him that they could, and as he happened to be going to Hobart Town, they made him the bearer of a letter to Colonel Davey, which ought to have a place in the “Complete Letter-writer” of half a century ago, as a masterpiece of impudence and contemptuous disrespect of the Governor. This is the letter spoken of by the old colonial historian W. C. Wentworth, in his history of New South Wales and Tasmania. The death of this old colonist is recorded in the papers received by the June mail, and a portrait and brief memoir of him are given the Illustrated London News of the 27th of April 1872. His work, though quite out of date now, is still well worth reading.

It was the misfortune of the eccentric Colonel Davey, that though he had many good qualities, he had not the knack of gaining the respect of anyone. I have been told that he was one of those jovial persons whom everyone likes, but no one esteems, and was familiarly styled by his drinking acquaintances “Mad Tom the Governor.” He tolerated a large amount of familiarity from his friends, or more properly companions, which proverbially begets contempt, and this was sometimes carried to such lengths, that even this too kind-hearted man could not endure. He might be found quite as often at the Union Hotel in Campbell-street, Hobart Town, (owned, and I believe then kept by Captain Ferguson) as at Government House. From this old sailor-landlord I have heard that some of his companions carried frolic so far with him as not to be always bearable, and at last when he saw them approaching the place, he was wont to escape their half-vulgar pleasantries by flying to the sofa and feigning sleep, till they were gone, when His Honor woke up again, greatly refreshed with his slumbers, and the exeunt of his friends. It is told of him that on the day of his landing here, he conducted himself in a very odd and ungovernor-like manner. Everyone knew that he was going to land publicly at a certain hour, and the bulk of the population poured forth to see the ceremony and give him the best welcome they could. The day was, as the good old fellow expressed it, “As hot as hell,” and when he lauded he answered the hurrahs of the crowd, not by taking off his hat to them, but by pulling off his coat, and made the best of his way up to Government House in his shirt-sleeves, at the head of the noisy tatterdemalions who followed him.

The bushrangers had no more respect for him than others had, and addressed him accordingly. They did indeed acknowledge that they were rather troubled by the military, but seemed to be quite indifferent about himself, and say a good deal that is not too complimentary, of the Governor. The concluding passage of their letter is very rich, as also a preceding one, in which they declare their belief that the Almighty will protect them from all designs against them, and that to destroy them is impossible — a prediction which was terribly falsified before very long.

This letter of Howe and his party is often mentioned by writers on the early history of Tasmania, and though once published, I believe there is but one copy of it extant, except a reprint of it in The Mercury of 22nd March last. For the benefit of those who may not have seen it, but who are curious in such matters, and who may like to know in what language they addressed the chief authority, I transcribe it from your paper exactly, preserving all its orthographical and other errors, and curious superfluity of capital letters:

“From the Bushrangers to the Honble. T. Davey, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land.

“Sir— “We have thought proper to write these Lines to you — As We have Been Kept In the Dark so long — We find it is only to keep us Quiet untill By some Means of or other you think you Can Get us Betrayed But We will stand it No Longer We Are Determined to have it full And satisfactory Either for or Against us As we are determined to Be Kept no longer In Ignorance We think ourselves Greatly Injured By the Country At large In Laying To Hour Charge that Hored and Detestable Crime which We have fully satisfied the Eyes of the Publick In All our Actions To the Contrary During our Absence from the Settlement – I Have Not the least Doubt But you Are Glad that those New Hands goining us We Are Glad also though you think I Dare say they Will prove to our Disadvantage And We think to the contrary And He who preserved us from your plotts In Publick will Likewise Preserve Us from them In secret as we Are Not unacquainted with Your haveing A party In secret And Likewise where they are And where we As Much Inclined to take Life As you Are in Your Hearts We Could Destroy All the partyes you can send out And Without We Have A Little Quietness More than What We have Had you shall soon Be convinced of what I say Therefore if you Wish to prevent it send word out By the Bearer Richard Westlick* which we Expect To Return on the 9th of the ensuing Month With An Answer To Us Don ‘ot think to Defraud Us By sending out A party on this head for if you do Take Away the Mans Life if they Are Either with him Or Watching him for We Will Be watching Likewise You must Not think to Catch Hold Birds with Chaff Therefore To Affirm the Answer Either for or Against us that We will Receive Clap on it the Kings Seal And your Signature we have weighed well within our own Brests the Consequences that will Attend to these Siccumstances Therefore I would Have you Do the same for the Good of the Peaceable And Well Disposed Inhabitants of the Territorys of this Land So No More at Present

Michl Howe Richd Colier (i.e. Collier) Matthew Keggan (i.e. Keegan)

Jas Garry (i.e. Geary) John Chapman John Brown

Peter Septon Thomas Coyne Dennis Curry

George Jones James Parker

Nov 30 1816″

This letter was duly placed in the hands of the Governor by their messenger, who they detained for some time whilst it was being written, and whilst Geary swore them all, one by one, to fulfil the threats contained in it, if need should be. Not having their Bibles with them, they took the oath on some other book, which did just as well. Many commands were laid on Yorke, and he was entrusted with some messages from Howe himself, of a most menacing nature, particularly to the chief magistrate, Mr. Humphrey, and another. Tell them, said he “to take care of themselves, as we are resolved to take their lives, and to prevent them from keeping stock, or growing grain, unless there is something done for us. Tell Humphrey he may reap what grain he likes, but that we can thrash more in an hour, than he can reap in a year.” … “I was detained” says Yorke, “about three quarters of an hour, during which time he charged me to be strict, in making known, what he had said to me, and what I had seen,” &c. He was then allowed to depart.

Whether Mr. Westlick brought back a reply or not, is more than I can say; but if so, it does not seem to have been a favourable one, for they continued at their old practices, until they were all shot, hanged, or otherwise disposed of.

Some time after writing the above letter, two of the party acceded from the main body, and remained about York Plains after the others left. Here they were joined by a third man named Elliott, and were overtaken, 15th of March, 1817, at this place, by a party of the 46th commanded by Ensign Mahon, and a plucky fight took place, in which Chapman and Elliott were shot dead by the soldiers, and the other escaping a little longer, was finally taken by a once well-known settler named Kimberly.

During the last week of Colonel Davey’s Government, Howe and his party paid another visit to Pittwater, where they conducted themselves in a very extraordinary manner, but without violence or even rudeness. Their bravado deportment is thus described by a writer of this period. “In some houses they remained several hours, and appeared complete masters of the settlement, commanding with undaunted authority wherever they went; and were not in the least intimidated at the fate of their companions recently shot at Scantling’s Plains,” that is Chapman and Elliott. They left the settlement without plundering any one, except of a small quantity of provisions.

Immediately after this prank, the Government of Colonel Davey closed; and on the 9th of April 1817, Sorell reigned in his stead.

As the last named officer was coming up the river Derwent on the 8th, the ship was boarded by Captain Nairn, from whom he received an account of the state of the colony, and much information about the bushrangers then at large; and he at once commenced to concert measures to put them down, even before landing. He seems to have learned from Nairn, that the chief cause of the successes of these fugitives, and their very existence in the woods, was the connivance they received from secret confederates, who were far more numerous than themselves, and were the real cause of all the mischief, and that the bushrangers were, as it seemed to him, then a stranger, more nominally then really principals in the outrages of the times, and he therefore dealt his first blows at them. His Gazette proclamation against these inciters to violence, is dated the 14th of April, but it was really drawn up before he landed. But he does not seem at this early period of his rule, to have quite understood the extent of the criminality of the outlaws, so well as he did that of those who encouraged them, or he would certainly have modified one passage of it, which offers something very like amnesty to all who chose to lend a helping hand to root out these supporters of the bushranging classes. The passage in question may be understood differently by some, from the view I take of it, but to me it does not seem to exclude the bushrangers themselves from its advantages; and after events, confirm me in my translation of its meaning, for Howe himself (who at this time had quarrelled with, and separated himself from his. party) was the very first man to claim the benefit of the Proclamation, and Sorell actually accepted his proffer of service to put down bushranging. This act of the new Governor was amongst the very few errors committed by him whilst here.

In wishing to punish those instigators to disorder, Sorell seems to have been actuated by feelings similar to those, that used to regulate the conduct of Sir Godfrey Kneller on the Magisterial bench, who once dismissed a prisoner who was brought before him, on a charge of robbing his employer, and sent the prosecutor to goal instead, for purposely putting temptation in his way. The story is told by several old writers, and Pope speaks of it thus in one of his poems.

” Faith! In such case, if you should prosecute,

I think Sir Godfrey should decide the suit.

Who sent the thief that stole the cash away,

And punished him who put it in his way.”

The Proclamation above spoken of, appeared when Howe was at the Tea Tree Brush by himself, having as above stated, quarrelled, with Geary and the rest of his old bush confreres, He wrote at once to Sorell offering to surrender, whereupon the Governor accepted Captain Nairn’s offer to bell the cat, that is to negotiate personally with Howe in his lair to accept Governmental clemency; and after a good deal of parleying, the solitary outcast was safely lodged in the Hobart Town Gaol on the 29th of April, or just three weeks after the Governor’s arrival. This seemed to be one great step gained in the way of restoring quiet, but it did not prove so.

In one of Sorell’s early despatches to his official superior the Governor-in-Chief at Sydney, which relates to this transaction, he informs him that he actually gave Captain Nairn a conditional pardon for Howe “for all offences, murder excepted, * * * upon the condition of his detailing all transactions, pointing out all accomplices, and using his utmost efforts in aiding the troops to find his companions.” And he then goes on to say that he considers “the acquisition of this man of the first importance” and adds “Permit me to solicit your Excellency’s favourable consideration of the case of Howe, and to entreat in the strongest terms, that in the event of his doing his utmost for the detection of his accomplices and abettors, you will be pleased to add to my pressing recommendation, your Excellency’s powerful support in the transmission of his case to the Throne.” (Despatch 3rd May, 1817.) The above extracts are copied exactly from this extraordinary despatch.

Howe’s implication in the deaths of Carlisle and O’Birne, did not deter him from accepting the Governor’s terms, Perhaps he thought that his share in these deplorable transactions, could not be brought home to him, as none but his own mates could swear he was present, except his companion Black Mary, who though the cause of the conviction of another for this offence, namely Collier, was not likely to swear against Howe, and this view of the case probably presented itself to both Governors, for two or three months afterwards, the Governor in Chief, Macquarie, promised to exert himself in his favour.

But Howe was always a child of misfortune as well as crime, from the commencement of active life; and either through the mistake or treachery of a trusted accomplice, Edward Beagent, the intelligence of Macquarie’s real intentions to pardon him, never reached him till too late, when he seems to have got some inkling of it, but not before he had quite done for himself with Sorell.

On his arrival in Hobart Town, he was placed in gaol; but Sorell says he was more nominally than really a prisoner, and was allowed to walk about the town pretty much as he liked, but always in charge of a constable, three of whom were told off for this service, Dodding, Ambridge, and Parsons, who took it in turn and turn about to keep an eye on him, as he was a slippery customer at best. What leisure he had either when unable or not disposed to go out, he employed for his own profit, in knitting certain woollen articles, at which it seems he was an adept. He underwent at this time frequent examinations, before Sorell and his old acquaintance Humphrey, about his past career, and above all who were the secret accomplices of himself and party. Of these persons (all of whom he seems to have regarded with small affection, for any one of them would have betrayed him had they dared), he gave ample intelligence; but very little evidence of worth could be extracted from him, that was likely to damage his old mates. In this respect, he seems to have resembled the familiar Guido Faux, who even when under torture, to force him to impeach his companions in the famous Gunpowder Plot, remained faithful to the last, or at least refused to tell enough to implicate them.

Once after his surrender, he accompanied a party of military (Despatch 10th May, 1817) in search of Geary and the rest of his old mates; but even though he had had a bitter quarrel with, and had separated from them shortly before his surrender to the Government, he did as little as he could to promote the success of the search, Sorell himself assuring us that ” he did not perform any service with regard to the discovery of his associates.” (Despatch, September 13th, 1817.)

He was naturally very anxious to know his fate as soon as possible. There was at this time in the service of the Judge Advocate, either as butler or groom, an old Bushranging confrère of Howe’s of the name of Edward Beageant (whom I have named before,) with whom he contrived to have a little quiet chat in his rambles about the town. This man’s master seems to have had a better opinion of him then he deserved, and got him the coveted indulgence of a Ticket of Leave, a good deal against the Governor’s wish, who did not think much of him. Beagent undertook to let Howe know the determination of the Governor in Chief, as soon as possible after the despatch arrived; and they arranged between them what signal he was to give, if it were favorable, and what if it were not. I have explained before in what manner Howe employed his leisure, and he mostly worked at a fixed bench, that stood just outside of the old gaol gate in Murray street, which I dare say many will still remember. As soon as the despatch came down from Sydney, Beagent was to manage, either by eaves-dropping, or some other sly process, to learn how it fared with Howe; and if it were favourable, as it really was, he was to stroll past the place where Howe sat at work, and drop the words “all right,” as quietly as he could into Howe’s ear; but if it were not thus all right, he would then order him to make him a cap, thus symbolising the Executioner’s cap, that he was shortly to wear; and as Howe was a notoriously clever fellow at getting away from any one, he was then to take whatever measures seemed best at the moment for making his escape.

Months passed away, and Howe was still in gaol; and vessel after vessel came in from Port Jackson, without bringing any word concerning the doom of the prisoner; but it arrived at last, and in it (I quote from Sorell’s writings.) Macquarie “promised his intercession for pardon” for Howe. Beageant took measures to ascertain the contents of the despatch, or at least pretended to do so; but whether he was himself deceived, or wished to do Howe a disservice, I do not know, but he soon afterwards took the preconcerted quiet stroll down Murray-street, and addressing Howe, ordered him to make the cap, and then walked on his way. Howe’s countenance did not betray his inward emotions, but his heart must have sunk within him as his last hopes of life went out. It was now dusk, and watching his keeper for a minute of inattention, he was off like a deer for the woods again.

We are informed by Commissioner Bigge, it was just before this, that Howe with Beagent’s assistance, was very nearly successful in making his escape from the colony altogether, in an American vessel; but as usual with this unlucky man, he was disappointed through the captain acquainting the Government of the plot. According to Sorell’s belief—which is however rather hinted at than positively expressed—Howe at this time was not chargeable with the guilt of murder. By what train of reasoning, or by what evidence he acquitted him of participation in the deaths of Carlisle and O’Birne, I cannot undertake to explain. But it would have been well for Howe himself, and others also, had he been successful in escaping, and thus have avoided the further guilt of two dreadful deaths, that I shall shortly have to detail.

Some minutes elapsed after his flight from gaol, before his absence was observed, and the hue-and-cry raised for pursuit; so Howe had just time to call at the hut of an acquaintance that stood somewhere on Lester’s Hill, Murray street, about a third of a mile from St. David’s Cathedral, where it is supposed he obtained a small supply of provisions, and then fled directly, and had reached the woods, that were not then far off, before any pursuit began.

His flight was soon reported to the Governor, who could hardly believe it at first, as he held in his hand at the moment, the certainty of pardon for him for past offences, and to the last never knew exactly the particulars of the cause of his flight, though he seems to have guessed it pretty nearly; for writing soon afterwards to General Macquarie of this escape he says, “His object is yet a mystery; but I have reason to think that he was stimulated to go off, by its being represented to him, that his pardon was uncertain.” It was on the 28th of July that he absconded.

Where he passed, or how he spent this anxious night, is unknown, and how he managed to regain his old haunts, is equally uncertain; but he soon took to his old practices again, but now by himself, for he never rejoined his old associates, or took up with any one afterwards; but I think it must have been before recommencing his career of guilt, that he made one more effort to regain the favour of Sorell, probably after discovering the deception that had been practiced on him. But he was soon made to understand, that his case was now a hopeless one, by receiving no response to the letter that ho wrote to Sorell.

[To be continued.]

*This man, Rd. Westlick, must have been a confidential agent of Howe’s party, and not the bearer of this letter. In the Gazette of January, 11th 1817, there is a long extract from the sworn declaration of the real bearer, who is there styled John Yorke, touching the conduct of Howe and his men, whilst they had him in charge,

Spotlight: Trial of Jackey Jackey

Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser (Vic. : 1839 – 1845), Friday 26 September 1845, page 2


Jackey Jackey. — The trial of William Westwood alias Jackey Jackey, to the surprise of all present, was decided on the evidence of the prosecutor, Mr P. S. Tomlins. Let it not be supposed that by this we mean to impute any undue haste to the Court, or any want of consideration towards the prisoner; on the contrary, a more satisfactory trial we never witnessed. Mr Tomlin’s evidence was so clear, straightforward, and conclusive, that even the prisoner did not dispute it; indeed, he might have well have pleaded guilty at once, and would probably have done so, but for that indomitable spirit of opposition, which seems to be a ruling passion with him. And, yet — strange contrariety! — this man seems imbued with a feeling almost of gentleness, certainly of most careful consideration for females, and, in truth, for all who do not forcibly oppose him. Look at his conduct at Redlands towards Mrs Harrison — what — especially at such a time and in such a scene, hunted, as he believed by the police and with a price set upon his head — what but a considerate feeling could have actuated this man, when he restrained Mrs Harrison from going to the parlour to his comrades, to shew them the keys of the drawers; “No,” said he, “you shall not do that; I can depend upon myself, but not on my comrades; you are a female, and something awkward might happen; you had better stay with your own people.” There is one circumstance we would wish to notice; several outrages and offences have been laid to the charge of Jackey Jackey, of which he has not even heard; and one especially we would mention. Soon after Westwood absconded, some robberies were committed at Brown’s River, which were, as a matter of course, imputed to Jackey Jackey; now, we have the best possible authority for stating that this man was never in the neighbourhood of Brown’s River, and could not, therefore, commit any robberies in that quarter. The sentence of “death recorded” will, in all probability, send him to Norfolk Island.

Spotlight: The Trial of Martin Cash – Second Day

Austral-Asiatic Review, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1837 – 1844), Friday 15 September 1843, page 4



This morning the court, with the space in front was crowded, if possible, more densely than it was yesterday; a few minutes before 10 o’clock, the jury was marshalled from “The Macquarie” by three javelin men, and escorted by some policemen, who had some difficulty in clearing an entrance for them into the court-house; precisely at 10 o’clock, Mr. Justice Montagu resumed his seat on the bench, and the court was opened. The prisoner being placed at the bar, Mr. Justice Montagu said, that in looking over his notes of the evidence, he had resolved upon the manner in which be should put the case to the jury; the learned counsel for the prisoner had taken an objection to the authority of Winstanley as constable, and to the “hue and cry,” which was not constituted in this colony as it formerly was in England; he had also stated, that there was no evidence to show that Winstanley knew that the prisoner was Martin Cash.

Mr. Macdowell replied, that it was his intention to put it to the jury, that Cash ought to have had some notice that Winstanley was a person in authority.

His Honor said, that would have been impossible: the matter occurring in the night time, and in a manner so instantaneous, the deceased could not have given any notice of his authority. His Honor then intimated, that he should put the case to the jury, on the following questions, which he should wish to have answered seriatim, after they had delivered their verdict: his Honor also requested that the jurors would write down the questions as he propounded them :—

1st If guilty, whether they thought that Winstanley, at the time he ran out into the street, had reasonable cause to suspect that the prisoner had committed a felony or other offence?

2nd. Whether they thought that, at that time, Winstanley had reasonable cause to believe or suspect, that the person he attempted to secure was an absconded offender, or a convicted offender illegally at large?

3rd. Did they think, that constables Thomas and Agar had reasonable ground to suspect or believe, that the prisoner at the bar was an absconded offender, illegally at large?

4th. Did they think the prisoner had committed a felony, by discharging a pistol at the constables, in Murray-street?

Upon these questions, his Honor wished a decided answer, should they return a verdict of Guilty against the prisoner; and there was another question, which he would also put to them, namely,—

5th. Whether at the time Martin Cash fired at Winstanley, they thought he intended to murder him, or do him some grievous bodily harm?

Having put these questions, his Honor remarked that he did not think there was anything in the conduct of Winstanley to reduce the case of the prisoner to manslaughter, and nothing to justify the use of so deadly a weapon as a pistol by the prisoner. His Honor also declared, that every man who joined in a hue and cry after a person suspected of felony, or other offence, was justified in pursuing him. Whether the offence was a felony or a misdemeanor, it was the duty of every one to assist in the pursuit; and it mattered not whether an offence had been actually committed or not, for it would be impossible for persons at a distance to ascertain in what a hue and cry originated. On the other hand, those who raised an unjust hue and cry were liable to be indicted for creating a breach of the peace, or a public disturbance.

The Attorney-General, while he perfectly concurred with the learned Judge, would request that his Honor would add to the other questions, the following:— Whether it was necessary for the prisoner to fire in defence of his life? whether (before he did so) he retreated as far as he could? and, in short, whether anything was done by the deceased, by using unnecessary violence, or otherwise, to justify the prisoner in using fire-arms? The learned gentleman contended that Winstanley had used no violence, merely holding out his arms; and that in a sudden affray of chance medley if the party assailed kills another, without using some degree of retreating, or, as it was called, “without going to the wall,” it would be murder; and he never knew a case of that kind mitigated to manslaughter. The Attorney-General here referred to certain authorities contained in East’s Pleas of the Crown, sub vocehomicide se defend in chance medley,” where the law was laid down by one of the first of lawyers, and had never been controverted. The learned counsel also quoted Hawkins’s Pleas of the Crown, and other authorities, in support of his opinion.

Mr. Macdowell now proceeded to address the jury in behalf of the prisoner; and the points of law being decided in reference to the evidence, he contended that, although the crime of murder consisted “in taking away the life of one of the Queen’s subjects,” yet it was necessary that it should be so taken away deliberately, or in the language of the law, with malice aforethought. The jury, who had attended to the important trial throughout with the most deep and earnest anxiety, would fail, he humbly apprehended, to discover, in the conduct of the prisoner, any of that malice aforethought which was required by law to constitute the crime of murder. There was something in the term “murder,” most revolting and shocking to reflect upon — it was a most foul and unnatural proceeding; but how stood the present case? There was a man, to use the strong language of the Attorney-General, a PROSCRIBED MAN! whose only offence on the present occasion was an effort to effect his emancipation, so to speak, from that society by which he was proscribed, and to free himself from a crowd of persons who were in hot pursuit of him! There was nothing to show that the prisoner and the unfortunate deceased had ever seen each other before, and it did seem to him (the learned gentleman) as different a case from malice aforethought as any two cases could possibly be. In the one case, they had the assassin selecting his prey, and awaiting the moment to compass his vile purpose; in the other, they had a man who had committed no offence in the town that any one knew of, hunted and pursued through the streets for his very life, till he suddenly and accidentally came in contact with the deceased; there was nothing to show that, as respected the firing of the pistols in Murray-street, Thomas did not fire his pistol first; Thomas, indeed, stated, that the prisoner fired first; but Agar, who was more calm and collected than Thomas possibly could have been, declares that he could not say which fired first, the report was like one and the same report. The learned counsel again submitted, that between this case and that of deliberate murder,- there was a vast distinction; and after commenting upon the alleged pointing of the pistols by the prisoner while being pursued, and the improbability, or indeed rather the impossibility, of Mr. Ebenezer Smith seeing the size of a pistol by its flash, while standing in advance of the person firing, contended that the attempt to apprehend the prisoner was not justifiable, unless he was made acquainted with Winstanley’s authority; he referred also again to the hue and cry not being in force in the colony; the learned gentleman put it to the jury, of course under His Honor’s direction, that the prisoner could not be held responsible for Winstanley’s death, unless he had some notice of the authority by which he acted. (In support of this opinion, Mr. Macdowell quoted Forsters Crown Law, article “Homicide.”).

His Honor observed, that the case to which the learned counsel referred, was very different. That case had reference to frays or riots, and by common law, if a constable during such fray or riot held up his staff, or otherwise declared his authority, that was an indication for the rioters to keep the peace; here there was no riot or tumult.

Mr. Macdowell. — The deceased interfered to stop a man in the street, for which it was very certain he ought to have had some authority.

His Honor. — The law was this: — if a man apprehended another without just cause, he was liable to indictment; so also were the originators of an unjust hue and cry.

After some further observations relative to the evidence respecting the pistols, Mr. Macdowell said, that he had undertaken the defence of the prisoner with great unwillingness, on account of his indisposition; but, learning from the prisoner, that if he, Mr. Macdowell, would not defend him, he would not have anyone else, be deemed it his duty to do so — and he had so done to the best of his ability and as well as physical capacity would allow; he trusted that the jury would give such a verdict as would be satisfactory alike to the crown, to the public, and to the prisoner’s counsel.

His Honor addressed the Jury at some length and with much ability, clearly pointing out the law of the case as was laid down on the several points, during the progress of the trial. All that the jury had to do was to find whether the deceased came to his death by the gun-shot wound, and whether that wound was inflicted by the prisoner. If they found the prisoner Guilty, there was malignity about the case; every argument had been used, and every question raised by the prisoner’s counsel upon the points of law, with great ingenuity and ability; but in his Honor’s mind the case was perfectly simple. His Honor then referred again to the questions, which he intended to put seriatim to the jury, and read over the whole of the evidence, commenting upon it as he proceeded. He deprecated the negligence — as it would seem — of the police authorities, in not taking Winstanley’s statement of the transaction, and gave great praise to the conduct of Mr. Cunliffe, “to whose coolness, courage, and promptitude, the public were indebted for the capture of the prisoner.” Those persons who refused to aid in the pursuit when called upon by Cunliffe, his Honor imputed great blame, as not only a cowardly act but a “gross dereliction of duty as good citizens and subjects,” and he regretted that their names were not known to the police, that they might be prosecuted. He directed them to discard all previous impressions as far as they could — from their minds, and to consider their verdict upon the evidences upon which alone they were to decide; and concluded by saying, that in his opinion, the offence was murder — deliberate murder — a very bad case indeed.

The Jury retired, and after an absence of twenty minutes, returned a verdict of Guilty generally; and an answer in the affirmative to the questions of the learned Judge, with the exception of the second, which they answered in the negative — His Honor, with reference to the fourth question, desired them to say, whether they were of opinion the prisoner shot at Thomas or Agar?

The Foreman replied, that they were of opinion he shot at constable Thomas.

The learned Judge perfectly concurred in the finding of the Jury; he addressed the prisoner in a brief but a very feeling manner, and while he held out to him no hope of mercy in this world, he should, nevertheless, remand him, in order again to look over the evidence, and to re-consider the points of law which had been raised by his counsel, who had kindly undertaken his defence when suffering under severe indisposition; he conjured him to entertain no hope that his life would be spared, but to believe that the extreme sentence of the law would be speedily carried into effect, for his Honor had no doubt that everything had been done that could have been done in his unfortunate case.

The prisoner then said, I have always been against taking the life of any man; I would do anything rather than deliberately do so. I never acted in a cowardly manner, nor in any other way than became a man. I have saved lives in the bush, and prevented many murders; if I had been a man to do murder, there would have been many murders committed in the bush. When we were in the bush we acted like men to every one; when we went to a house we took what we wanted, but we did no violence to man or woman; I could not suffer this. I hope you will not consider I am a man that would do a cowardly and deliberate murder; if I was driven into close quarters with a man I would fire at him and try all I could to get away; but I would not kill him, I would cripple him.

His Honor. — I do not doubt but you have throughout endeavoured to avoid shedding blood or using violence; from all that we have read and heard of you this is true; but still, I cannot hold out any hope to you.

The Prisoner. — I beg your Honor’s pardon, I did not mean that; I did not beg for my life — I do not value it one straw.

Spotlight: The Trial of Martin Cash – First Day

Austral-Asiatic Review, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1837 – 1844), Friday 15 September 1843, page 4



It being known that Martin Cash would be tried to-day, for the wilful murder of constable Peter Winstanley, the court was crowded with respectable citizens for some time before His Honor Mr. Justice Montagu took his seat on the Bench, and the greatest anxiety prevailed to obtain a view of the prisoner. At ten o’clock His Honor took his seat, and Martin Cash was ordered to be placed at the bar. The prisoner walked into the dock in the most unconcerned manner, which he preserved during the trial, standing erect, with his arms folded; he was dressed on this occasion in a blue jacket and trowsers, a blue striped shirt, a black handkerchief round his neck, and a green one round his head to cover the numerous wounds he had received at the time of his capture; while the information was being read, he gazed scowlingly at the dense crowd of spectators which filled the area of the Courthouse. The prisoner was then charged in a very elaborate manner, with shooting Peter Winstanley on the 29th of August, with “a certain pistol, of the value of 5s., being then and there loaded with gunpowder,” which gunpowder exploded, and discharged a leaden bullet, which did “strike, penetrate, and wound” the left breast of the said Peter Winstanley; of which wound the said Peter Winstanley “did languish, and languishing did live,” until he died on the 31st of August. To this information the prisoner pleaded, in a firm voice. Not Guilty! The Attorney-General, assisted by the Solicitor-General, conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Macdowell defended the prisoner. The following Jurors were then sworn: Messrs. Corbett, (Foreman), Blackhall, White, Bramwell, Holmes, Season, Large, Curry, Somers, Sadler, Meredith, and Wellard. Upon the application of Mr. Macdowell, all the witnesses, except the medical gentlemen, were ordered out of court. The Attorney-General having stated that the prisoner, as the jury would have learnt by the information which had been read by the officer of the court, was charged with the wilful murder of Peter Winstanley, observed that it would be folly in him to suppose that when the name of Martin Cash was first mentioned, the jury heard it for the first time; it would be gratifying to him indeed to know that this was the first time they had heard of that unfortunate man, all that he could do in the onset was to implore them, as far as in them lay, to divest their minds of any reports they may have seen in the newspapers, or have heard in other quarters — to discard in fact from their minds every particle of information they might have heard elsewhere. It ill became him to adduce any facts relative to the previous life or former transactions of the prisoner unconnected with the present case: but, anticipating the defence which his learned friend intended to adopt, it would be necessary for him to state certain facts which he otherwise should not have referred to, for he felt quite confident that his learned friend would suffer no point of law to escape, nor omit any ingenuity and effort in behalf of the prisoner. In looking to the manner in which he the Attorney-General should conduct this case, and in anticipation of a portion of the defence contemplated by his learned friend, he should have to show that the unfortunate man now placed at the bar, was a proscribed man, having absconded from the Penal Settlement at Port Arthur: and that he was to be captured at all risks, at all hazards, and for a specified reward: he did not think this course would be objected to, but if it was, he conceived that his Honor would overrule the objection.

The person who was wounded on the 29th of August, was sworn in as a constable, who for certain purposes was always considered to be on duty when his services were required; it was on this account that he, the Attorney-General intended to offer such evidence as he had described. Having done this he should lay before the jury such a body of evidence, as would enable them to come to a conclusion as to the guilt of the prisoner; it was for them to judge from the evidence, without fear or affection, and irrespective of the reports they might previously have heard. The learned counsel then entered into a brief and succinct account of the capture of Cash; and in reference to the circumstance of Winstanley hearing the cry of “stop him— it’s Cash, the bushranger,” as uttered by the witness, Cunliffe, observed, that if Winstanley had not been a constable, it was his duty, as a good subject, to capture the prisoner; and in doing so, Mrs. Smith would tell them that he did no more than his duty. He used no violence — he committed no assault; but did the least that could be done, by merely extending his arms towards the prisoner, who immediately shot him. Cash, it would be shown, struggled violently when on the ground and it was necessary, perhaps, to use some violence in taking him. He was a man of great prowess, of great strength, and resolute determination; and one of the constables beat him on the head with a pistol, while another constable kicked him on the head. The learned gentleman regretted that it was necessary to beat him thus severely; but the circumstances of the case seemed to require more than ordinary exertion, on the part of those engaged in his capture.

The Attorney-General concluded his address by directing the jury not to allow anything to operate against the return of a fair and a conscientious verdict, and again implored them to discard from their minds any preconceived impressions which they might have imbibed from hearsay reports. The learned gentleman then proceeded to call his witnesses, who delivered the same testimony as we have already reported in our account of the inquest, observing the following order of examination:— Mr. Price, Constables Thomas and Agar, Messrs. McDonald and Cunliffe, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Ebenezer Smith, Drs. Crowther and Officer. A considerable time was occupied in discussion upon technical points of evidence, chiefly with regard to the authority of Winstanley as a constable, and the identity of the prisoner with “Martin Cash, the bushranger,” his Honor rejecting the Gazette as prima facie evidence until its publication was proved, for which purpose Mr. Barnard, the Government printer, was called. There was some evidence given which, as bearing more especially upon the particular points of the case, we think it necessary to repeat; and, first, a portion of that deposed by constable Thomas, who was examined to the following effect by his Honor.

I swear I heard “Martin Cash” called out before we got to Argyle-street, as well as after — but I do not know by whom; I heard it called by several people before and after the pistol was fired off.

Cross-examined by Mr. Macdowell. – It was about twenty-six minutes before nine o’clock that I first saw the prisoner in Murray-street; I did not speak to him; it was not a very dark nor a very-light night; when the prisoner first spoke to me, it was, I should think, about 700 or 800 yards from Brisbane-street; I swear I heard two pistols fired in Murray-street—one by me, and one by the prisoner; I was following him, anxious to apprehend him, and he was running, anxious to get away; he never stopped to interfere with me; I found him on the ground.

By his Honor. — I knew the man that was running; I first knew it was Cash in Murray-street, from the description I had heard of him, and from Agar, who said, “Tom, this is the man we want;” I said, ” yes;” I picked him out from the description I had heard, and from his accent; I understood, by what Agar said, it was Martin Cash; I was looking for Martin Cash, or Jones; we were stationed at this spot for that purpose; I ran after Cash to take him prisoner, being an absentee, and having committed robberies; I had been instructed by my superior officer to take him on that charge if I could — by Mr. Symonds, the senior district constable; he told me to take him as a thief, a runaway, an absentee. At the close of Mrs. Smith’s examination, after she had mentioned the period of Winstanley’s de-cease, his Honor complained that no inquiry had been made by the magistrates, or the Coroner (as we understood), of Winstanley before his death, as to whether he had heard the hue and cry, and upon what grounds he had acted in attempting, the capture of the prisoner; also, as to whether he, Winstanley, knew the prisoner to have been Cash, or believed him to have committed come felony. The Attorney-General stated, that an inquiry was proposed, but forbidden by the medial attendant. His Honor observed that there had been great xxxx somewhere, and he should inquire into the matter. He never heard of a case where an inquiry was not made of the wounded man, as to the circumstances and cause of his death. His Honor should say nothing upon the subject at present.

Constable Thomas was recalled and questioned, as to whether he had seen the Proclamation or placard, offering a reward for the apprehension of Cash and describing his person; when he stated that he had, and that he had raised the hue and cry from no motives of reward; he would have raised it had he never seen the placard. (Cash, when the witness made this avowal, laughed contemptuously.) Upon this he was cross-examined by Mr. Macdowell, when he said, again, that Agar told him in Murray-street, that the man was Cash; his reply to Agar was “Yes; ” he did not remember saying to Agar, “do you think so?” he could not positively swear that he did not use those words, but he did not believe he did. Dr. Crowther, after describing the cause of Winstanley’s death, stated, that after he was first called to him, he returned, when he found him better and perfectly sensible, and able to relate how the accident occurred; when witness first saw the deceased, he, witness, thought the wound was mortal, and on his return he thought so, also; he had a conversation with the deceased, who said something to him relative to the nature of the wound and its probable result; this was between eleven at night and two o’clock in the morning; when Winstanley said this, he was in a perfectly sane state of mind; he said repeatedly that he was dying —that he was a dead man; it was hard, he said, to be killed by such a rascal, or words to that effect; witness suggested to him the propriety of preparing for an event that might take place in a short time; Winstanley made no reply but shut his eyes and groaned as if in pain; nothing fell from Winstanley expressive of the slightest hope of recovery; witness left him under the impression, that Winstanley himself thought he would die; at this visit Winstanley related the circumstanoes under which he came to his death ; he said, that when be heard the landlady (Mrs. Smith) call out “Peter, there is a thief,” he went into the road, and saw a man running down the street; he raised his arms attempting to stop him, and instantly received a shot; he exclaimed immediately, “the rascal has shot me,” or “I am shot;” witness did not recollect the exact expression; Winstanley said he then left the man who shot him, and was carried into the house; witness was not aware that he named any person’s name as having shot him; he made use of this expression, “who would have suspected that man to have been armed?” On his cross-examination. Dr. Crowther said, he extracted the ball after death; it was unnecessary to have done so before, as it would only have put the deceased to needless pain and would have accelerated his death, as he had already lost a great deal of blood. Dr. Officer concurred in the propriety of the treatment adopted by Dr. Crowther, and coincided in the cause of Winstanley’s death; it would have been highly improper to have extracted the ball during the life of the deceased, as it might have extinguished life; there were, doubtless, cases where it was proper and necessary to extract the ball, but this was not one of them. The case for the prosecution being closed, Mr. Macdowell rose and addressed the Court:—He submitted that upon that information, and upon the evidence adduced, there was no case to go to the jury, the charge against the prisoner being that of Wilful Murder. The learned counsel admitted that the evidence went to show that the deceased came by his death by an act of the prisoner, but there was nothing to show that the prisoner was actuated by malice aforethought; on the contrary, it was clear that the prisoner did not know the deceased, who, as the learned counsel should contend, without any legal authority, stopped the prisoner as he was proceeding along tbe street. The original attempt which the constables Thomas and Agar made to apprehend tbe prisoner, was a question altogether irrespective of the interference of Winstanley; if those men had reason to suspect that the prisoner at tbe bar was as absconded offender, there was nothing to show that the unfortunate deceased had any such knowledge. It had been said, that a “hue and cry” was raised; but that old formality of the law has been long since abrogated; the statutes which enacted and supported such a proceeding have been repealed, except in the instance of the simple offence of angling in a river in tbe day time on a Sunday. It was certainly in evidence that the constables Thomas and Agar, with a number of other persons, pursued the prisoner with loud cries, but that, legally speaking, was not a “hue and cry;” there was, in fact, now no such thing; and even when such was in existence, tbe constables raising the cry were obliged to be armed with a special warrant. Under those circumstances, if any person who joined in the hue and cry, for people were compelled to do so, met with his death, that was murder; in the present unfortunate case, there was no warrant to apprehend, neither was there a knowledge of any offence committed. The learned counsel quoted from Blackstone’s Commentaries, an explanation of tbe old “hue and cry,” as enacted by the 4th and 5th of William and Mary, and the repeal of the laws in reference to them, by the 7th and 8th Geo. IV. His Honor observed, that the “hue and cry” to which the learned counsel adverted, and which had been repealed, had reference only to certain particular offences; it was still applicable in cases like the present, and any person was justified in attempting to apprehend a suspected felon who was running from his pursuers. Mr. Macdowell would then admit that, but, supposing that the hue and cry was proper, was there anything to show that it had ever reached the de-ceased? all that they had heard on this point was, that Mrs. Smith had told Winstanley there was a thief running away, and that there upon he immediately ran out to apprehend him. Then there was the dying statement of the deceased to Dr. Crowther, in which be plainly infers that be did not know who tbe prisoner at the bar was; he Winstanley observed “who would have supposed that the fellow was armed?” The learned counsel submitted that the offence which the prisoner had committed could not be murder. No one could regret more deeply than himself the lamentable consequences that had ensued, but he must say that Winstanley having interposed in a manner for which he was not authorised, the consequences however deplorable rested upon his head and upon his bead alone. His Honor could not concur in the view of the case which had been taken by tbe learned counsel, neither could he allow if to go forth to the public, that a constable in the exercise of his functions, was not entitled to the protection of the law, because as had been averred, the statutes respecting hue and cry were repealed, they were in his Honor’s opinion still in force for all practical purposes in cases similar to the present. The Attorney-General briefly replied, he said that the statutes enforcing the hue and cry were only enacted in aid of the common law, by this law the deceased, even as a good subject and citizen, was called upon to act, and he was bound to interfere as a constable when he heard cries in the streets, if it were only to protect the pursued party from the violence of his pursuers. His Honor having conferred some time with Mr. Hone, the Master of the Court, who sat on the hench during the whole trial, observed that he was very happy to have his views of the case concurred in by the learned Master of tbe Supreme Court. His Honor then explained the law in reference to the justifiable interference of officers attempting to arrest suspected offenders; it was for the jury to say whether the unfortunate man Winstanley was justified in his conduct; if they were satisfied of that, be should call upon them for a verdict if not, he should reserve the point; at all events there was a clear case to go to the jury. Mr. Macdowell who was evidently labouring under severe indisposition, proceeded to address the jury, but his Honor perceiving his exhaustion, suggested an adjournment; to this the learned counsel acceded and the court was accordingly adjourned until the next morning at ten o’clock. The jury were then conducted under the charge of Mr. Under-sheriff Crouch, to “The Macquarie,” where they were allowed fire and refreshments, and where they remained excluded from communication from without until the next morning. There was a report in the Town that Mrs. Cash, the prisoner’s wife was present during a portion of the day, we did not recognize her amongst the few females who had the courage to brave the crowd and gain admittance into the court-house.


Spotlight: Apprehension and Committal of Martin Cash

Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Tuesday 5 September 1843, page 3




On Friday morning a highly respectable Jury was summoned to enquire into the death of Constable Peter Winstanley, who had been shot by Martin Cash, in Brisbane-street, on Tuesday night when in the act of capturing that daring and desperate man, and who expired on Thursday morning, at the Old Commodore. As Winstanley’s body lay at that house, and as he was shot opposite the door, the Jury was summoned to attend there, and accordingly, at ten o’clock on Friday morning the following Jury was impanelled :— Mr. Rout, senior, Foreman ; Messrs. J. Robertson, J. Johnston, J. Wilkinson, E. Howe, W. Lindsay, and S. A.Tegg. Having viewed the body of the deceased, and returned to the jury jury-room, the Coroner, Mr. Champ addressed them and observing that as there would be great impropriety, as must be obvious to them, in having Martin Cash dragged there through the streets, and as it was desirable that he should be present, at the enquiry, it was proposed that the inquest should be held at the gaol ; he also directed the jury to discard from their minds the various contradictory reports they must have heard, and judge the case solely by the evidence to be adduced.

Mr. Rout, the foreman, believed, that, according to a recent law, it was not necessary that the party accused should be present at the enquiry. The Coroner said, as we understood him, that perhaps it was not legally necessary, but in the present instance it was highly desirable. The jury accordingly repaired to the gaol, and about half-past ten the enquiry commenced. The jurors having taken their seats, Martin Cash, was brought into the room, very heavily ironed, so much so, indeed, that he was assisted up the stairs by three persons ; he looked embrowned and weather-beaten ; the upper part of his face was cut and bruised, but the cap which he wore concealed the injuries inflicted upon his head by the constable Thomas Thomas, who broke the butt of his horse pistol in beating him over the head [see his evidence] ; the prisoner was dressed or rather, scantily covered with a flannel jacket and trowsers, ragged at the knee, and exposing his thigh, without shoe or stocking ; he sank into his seat in sullen indifference and sat scowling, and apparently unconcerned, and with his arms folded during the examination of the several witnesses. Before the examination was commenced, Mr. Champ addressed the prisoner, and told him that he had sent for him, in order that he might be present at the enquiry ; so that he might have an opportunity to hear the evidence, and to put such questions, to the witnesses as he might think proper.

Prisoner (in a careless manner) — Oh! there is no occasion to say anything here.

The Coroner wished him to pay attention to the evidence. He had thought it better for the prisoner to be present, seeing that he stood charged with the murder of the deceased, whether rightly or not he, the Coroner could not say.

Mrs Mary Ann Smith.— I am the landlady of the Old Commodore public house in Brisbane-street ; I had known the deceased, Peter Winstanley, for several years ; he was at my house on Tuesday night, when he told me he was a prisoner of the crown, and had two or three months to serve before he got his emancipation ; about twenty minutes before nine on Tuesday night, the deceased was in my bar, having been in the house about half an hour ; I heard a cry of “stop that man!” I ran into the street, and saw a man running a-head of his pursuers, and going down Brisbane-street, towards the Government paddock ; there were a great many people after him, and as near him as the Man of War public-house ; I called to Winstanley, and said, “Peter, come out and stop this man, who has been thieving or murdering his wife ;” the man was running in the middle of the road ; Peter Winstanley came out instantly, and stood in the road, opposite the man who was running ; Winstanley held his arms in the middle of the road ; the other man ran against him with some force, and then drew back a little, and fired ; I did not see with what the man fired, but I saw a flash, and heard a report, I should say of a pistol ; Winstanley cried out, “Oh, Mrs. Smith, I am shot — I am a dead man ;” he came towards me, and leaned against me, and I and my son assisted him into the house ; when he entered the house, he fell on his back ; I cannot tell what became of the other man ; there was a great rush and noise in the street, and I locked the door instantly ; the deceased was standing about two yards from me when he was shot ; I sent immediately for Doctors Meyer and Crowther ; just before I heard the shot, the man who was running appeared to take some-thing from about his breast, and he held out his arm towards the deceased ; there was no one else standing by him ; the flash seemed to come from his hand ; I am quite positive that the man who was running was the man who fired the shot ; I did not see his face ; he was dressed in dark clothes ; there was no light, except from the fire-arms, by which I could distinguish that the man was tall, and that he was dressed in dark clothes ; I did not observe what was on his head, or what kind of trousers he had on ; Dr. Crowther came about five minutes after Winstanley was shot ; he was then lying on the ground, where he fell ; Dr. Meyer was very ill ; he went away, as he could not attend upon the deceased ; nobody had interfered with the deceased, or touched him, before Dr. Crowther came ; he had not spoken at all ; when Dr. Crowther came, the deceased’s clothes were taken off, and he was removed to bed ; I saw a hole in his side before he was put to bed, and while the doctors were examining him, the wound was bleeding ; Dr. Crook was also there, and he and Dr. Crowther attended the deceased till he died ; I saw no other marks of violence on his body ; the deceased died a little before eleven o’clock yesterday (Thursday) morning ; I knew the deceased to have been a constable, but did not call to him in that capacity ; I should have called to any one.

On being asked if he wished to put any questions to Mrs. Smith, Cash replied — “I have no wish to put any questions to the woman ; I don’t know her — what questions should I put to her ?”

In answer to a question by the Coroner, Mrs. Smith said, there were two lamps near — one over her door, and another at the corner of the street, by the church ; she could not at all distinguish the features of the man who fired.

John Price, Esq., Police Magistrate for Hobart Town, deposed as follows :— I know the deceased, as “Peter Winstanley,” he was a constable since the 10th April, 1842, and was attached to the Hobart Town Police Force ; he was not on duty on Tuesday last ; I had sent him up the country on special service, with two absconders in his charge ; constables are always considered to be on duty when their services are required ; I know the prisoner Martin Cash, I know him well ; I first saw him about eighteen months since ; he is a prisoner of the crown and an absconder from Port Arthur ; I tried him summarily and sentenced him eighteen months’ ago, to hard labour in chains for two years, at Port Arthur ; I sentenced him for absconding ; I think, also, he had two years extension of sentence, he being a seven years’ man ; I have seen his name in the Gazette, as having absconded from Port Arthur ; there is no other Martin Cash in the colony ; there is a Martin Cass, but not Cash ; I know of a Proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of the prisoner, published by authority of the Government ; I have also issued warrants for his apprehension ; this was known generally to the police, but I cannot say whether the deceased knew it ; I issued a warrant for robbing the Coach — a highway robbery, likewise as being a prisoner at large with fire arms ; on being told that Winstanley was dead, Cash said he was glad ; I think it right to say, however, that he sent me a message this morning, saying, he was sorry for the expression he had used relative to Winstanley’s death ; Cash at first refused to have his wounds dressed, until I threatened to use force for the purpose.

The Police Record Book was now produced, by which it was found that Cash had been tried summarily on 2nd June 1842, by Mr. Price & Mr. Gunn, when he received two years’ extension of his sentence, and was recommended to be sent to Port Arthur, he being at large a long time and suspected of having committed several felonies.

Mr. Ebenezer Smith, son of Mrs. Smith, stated, that on hearing the cry of “stop thief,” or “stop that man,” he ran out, and he corroborated so much of his mother’s evidence as proved the shooting of the deceased ; he stated, also, that Winstanley grappled with the man before he drew back and fired ; Winstanley also held the man till some of his pursuers came up, when he let him go, and said, he was a dead man ; the pistol which the man fired was a foot long ; witness distinctly saw it by the flash; the man was running with his arms crossed when witness first saw him ; as soon as he shot Winstanley the people came up and grappled with him ; he struggled a great deal to get away, and kept the people away till he got to the curb, when he fell ; witness thought there were two or three hundred people following him ; when he was down a man beat him with the butt-end of a large pistol, while the people called out — “use him fair, don’t kill him!” The man that beat him was a tall man dressed in light clothes, but witness would not know him again ; witness never lost sight of the tall man from the time he fired at Winstanley till he fell down ; he got by some means to the foot of the sign post, where, in about five minutes afterwards another pistol went off ; witness did not know by whom that was fired ; after this there were cries of “murder him! kick him!” and the man with the pistol beat him again ; he must have been dragged to the sign-post by the movement of the people ; all the time he was on the ground he struggled very much ; witness heard that a man was shot in the face by the second pistol ; about ten minutes after the second pistol was fired, the man was got up and taken to the Penitentiary ; witness could not trace the man’s features, and did not know whether it was the same that shot Winstanley ; he was, however quite certain that the man that was beaten with the pistol was the same as was taken to the Peniten-tiary ; being requested to look at Cash, the witness did so, but said, that he did not see his features sufficiently distinct to enable him to recognize him, he had on a dark dress but no cap when witness saw him.

By the Foreman.—He appeared to have on a close-bodied coat, down to the knees ; his clothes were dark.

Prisoner. — Have you wrote down everything this young man knows about me ?

Coroner. — He has not mentioned you yet .

Prisoner. — Well, the man you think to have been me ; he says had on a frock coat.

Coroner. — He says it was so dark, he did not rightly know ; but I will write it down, if you wish it.

Prisoner. — Ah! well —

John M’Donald. — I live at No. 45, Brisbane-street ; at half-past eight o’clock on Tuesday evening I heard the report of a pistol, in the direction of Murray-street ; I ran out, and saw a man running, and some people crying ” Stop him ;” he turned round the corner into Brisbane-street ; I went up to him, when he said, “They want to rob me ;” I went closer to him, when he said, “If you dare to stop me, you are a dead man!” No one else was near, and I was in advance of the man. On hearing this, I let him pass, but hearing cries of “He is a murderer” I threw off my coat, and feeling an irresistible inclination to stop him, I ran after him ; when near Roxboro’ House, he turned deliberately round, and fired at me — fortunately, the pistol did not go off ; he was not then running very fast, but appeared exhausted ; a man named Cunliffe came up ; he was close to me when the man pointed the pistol ; I think I was rather the foremost of the two ; I could not swear it was a pistol the man pointed at me, as I did not see one, but I heard a snap ; I saw neither flash nor sparks ; we both continued to run, calling — “Stop him, stop him !” we passed several persons, ; some laughed, some stood still ; we came near the Old Commodore, when a man rushed out of the house ; I saw Cash shoot him ; I never lost sight of Cash since I first pursued him. [The witness here corroborated the shooting, as explained by the other witnesses.] Cunliffe and I then closed upon the man, and threw him on his back ; a constable came up, and took up a pistol that was lying on the ground, and beat Cash about the head ; we succeeded in holding him on the ground till other persons came up ; I should not know the constable again who beat Cash with the pistol ; thinking Cash was going to bite my leg, I let go my hold, when Cash took out another pistol, and fired it off at random ; I heard some one say he was shot in the face, and he ran off; I am not quite sure that the constable took the pistol off the ground.

The Coroner here desired the witness to be more particular in his answers, as it was a matter of great consequence to the prisoner, observing that he said just now the constable picked it up.

Prisoner. — He has sworn it.

The witnesses were here ordered to withdraw, and M’Donald’s examination was resumed — I am quite positive Cash is the man ; I never lost sight of him until he was taken to the Penitentiary ; I did not see the pistol fired, but I heard the report and could feel him rummaging about his breast, and I immediately heard the pistol go off ; the constables soon after handcuffed Cash, and lodged him in the Penitentiary ; I did not know the deceased ; neither can I say that the body I saw this morning was that of the person shot by Cash.

By the Foreman. — I could tell by his accent that he was an Irishman ; he spoke like Cash, whom I heard speak at the Penitentiary ; I was leaning over his face, and could recognise his features ; it was dark, but I could see sufficiently for that purpose.

By Mr. Lindsay. — I could not say what dress the prisoner had on ; I believe it was dark ; I will not swear positively, but I think he had a coat on ; I asked the constable his name who struck Cash with the pistol, but he would not tell me ; I took off his hairy cap, put it in Cash’s hat, and gave them to Mr. Gunn. On being pressed, as to his recognition of Cash’s face, the witness said, that when he was in the “Tench,” he saw his face distinctly by the lamps, and he had never lost sight of him ; he could say positively that Cash was the same man that was lodged in the Penitentiary.

By the Foreman — I was six or eight yards behind Cash when Winstanley first came out of the “Old Commodore,” and within two yards of him when he shot the deceased ; he just put out his hands, and touched Cash, when he was shot ; the deceased did not hold Cash after he was shot.

The prisoner declined to ask this witness any questions.

Charles Cunliffe. — I reside in Murray-street, and am a carpenter and joiner by trade ; on Tuesday evening, between eight and nine o’clock, I heard the report of a pistol ; I went out to my gate, and saw a man coming in a direction from Veteran’s Row, in a blue dress ; I ran to meet him, and asked him what was the matter ; he turned round and pointed something at me ; I will not swear it was a pistol, or, if it was, that he snapped it ; he made me no answer ; I then heard a voice behind the prisoner, saying, “stop him — it’s Cash — stop thief!” or words to that effect ; I then pursued him down Brisbane-street, and overtook him near the Independent chapel ; he then turned round, and pointed at me again ; I drew back, and cried out, “stop him — it’s Cash, the bushranger ;” I met three people, who crossed to the other side of the road ; no one was then with me, but some persons were behind me ; we ran till we came to Trinity Church, when I saw a man run across the street. (The witness here corroborated the manner in which the deceased was shot.) After Cash fired, I seized him by the shoulder and said, “you murdering rascal, do you know what you have done ;” I threw him on his back, and M’Donald and I fell upon him ; I did not see M’Donald till I put my hand on Cash’s shoulder ; I put my hand on his throat, and my knee on his chest, a constable came up, to whom I said, “keep off, for God’s sake — he has got fire-arms about him ;” other persons then came up, and as they were taking Cash’s fire-arms away, a pistol went off, and slightly wounding me in the hand, shot a person in the face ; Cash was then secured, and conveyed to the Penitentiary ; he was there searched, and one or two watches, and some notes, were taken from him, but no fire-arms ; I recognise him as the same person I had seen conducted to the Tench ; he was smothered with blood, so that Mr. Gunn could not recognise him ; the prisoner Cash is that man ; I did not call out to the prisoner to stop till I captured him ; the man who ran out of the Old Commodore must have heard me say, it was “Cash, the bushranger ;” he must have heard me a quarter of a mile off from the way I hallooed ; I did not know at the time who that man was, but I have since heard he belonged to the police ; I do not recollect whether I saw any pistol at the time Cash was taken ; there was one went off at the time, which I felt, but I did not see it ; my hand was on the muzzle of the pistol, when it went off.

By a Juryman (Mr. Howe) — I saw a constable beat the prisoner on the head with something that I heard was a pistol ; this I prevented ; this pistol could not be the one that went off.

Thomas Thomas. — I am a constable, and was on duty, with constable Agar, on Tuesday night, in Murray-street, near the Blue Bells of Scotland public-house, between eight and nine o’clock ; I saw two men coming down the street, a tall one and a short one ; they came from Brisbane-street towards the Blue Bells of Scotland ; they stopped, while Agar and myself kept out of sight ; we then stepped out to them, when the short man asked Agar “if he knew a man named Pratt about here?” Agar said he did not exactly, and asked me if I knew him? I said, I did not exactly, but there is a man of that name living hereabouts, on the other side of the creek, first house on the right, up a sort of alley ; the short man went up towards the house, about twenty yards ; the tall man stood with me, and Agar went after the short one ; the short man turned back, and said to the tall one, “here, I want you!” he was away about a minute, but did not go into the house ; the tall man took no notice, but went on towards Brisbane-street, and I kept behind him, Agar going with us ; the tall man must have heard the other ; he quickened his pace and began to walk very fast, and set to running, when I ran too, and said, “you must stop, my man ;” he stopped directly, and pointed his pistol at me and fired ; I was ready for him, and fired at the same time ; I saw his pistol most distinctly ; he then set off running very fast, and Agar and I ran after him down Murray-street, towards Brisbane-street ; before he reached Brisbane-street, he stopped, and pointed his pistol two or three times, but did not fire ; I pointed mine too, but I had nothing in it ; we stuck to him ; I could not see the pistol ; another man came up, and Cash fired again, but whether at me, or Agar, or the other man, I cannot tell ; he actually fired in Brisbane-street, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards from the corner; I do not know the other man who first came up ; I am quite positive Cash fired, I saw the flash ; Cunliffe had not joined us at that time ; this was in Brisbane-street, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards from the corner of Murray-street ; when Cunliffe joined us he asked what was the matter? I was now getting “winded,” and Cunliffe being fresh, I said to him, “my good man, take him if you can, it is Cash, follow him up ;” Cunliffe pursued him ; he joined us first-near Elizabeth-street.

The Coroner here directed Cunliffe to be re-called, when Cash said, “Can’t you take one man’s statement at a time? You had better call them all up at once, and tell them what to say.” Thomas recognised Cunliffe, who said, that Thomas had told him that it was Cash the bushranger.

Examination continued — I followed the pursuit, raising a hue and cry with the others, till we came to the Old Commodore, when the man Cash was down ; I then set to, and being satisfied it was Cash, struck him on the head with my pistol ; this pistol I had from Mr. Symonds, Chief District Constable ; I broke it beating Cash, about the head ; I beat the man because I thought I stood a good chance of being shot if I did not secure him ; when the pistol broke I seized him by the throat, and called upon Agar, who had a thick pair of boots, to kick him about the head ; when he was nearly strangled and pretty quiet, I called to Agar to put the handcuffs on ; while putting on the handcuffs, Agar took a pistol from

him, which went off at the same moment ; Agar has that pistol ; (it was a small pistol, the barrel of which corresponded with the ball that was taken from Mr. Oldfield’s cheek 😉 the prisoner had the pistol in his hand when Agar took it from him ; when the pistol went off, I called out to Agar to give it him in the head ; it was the only chance we had ; he was then handcuffed and taken to the Penitentiary ; I should know the man again ; the prisoner Cash is the man ; I did not hear any one call out anything besides “stop thief, and stop him!”

Constable Agar corroborated the testimony of Thomas, and Drs. Officer and Crowther deposed to the cause of the deceased’s death, occasioned by the wound inflicted by the pistol shots, which had penetrated the anterior portion of the left lung, and lodged in the opposite side of the body, causing considerable hœmorrhage.

On being asked if he wished to say anything in his defence, Cash said, it was of no use saying anything there ; he begged the jury to notice the quantity of false swearing that had been adduced, and observed that, because there was a reward offered for him, the witnesses had sworn that he had arms about him sufficient to shoot all Hobart Town.

The Coroner addressed the jury, and, in a plain and lucid manner, placed before them the leading points of the case, and after a consultation of nearly half an hour, they brought in a verdict of “wilful murder against Martin Cash.”

The Surveyor-General was present during nearly the whole time, till half-past four o’clock, and a few respectable persons were admitted into the jury room. We beg to express our thanks to Mr. Champ for the urbanity and readiness with which, when the jury was adjourned, he acceded to our request for permission to attend the inquest in the jail.


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), Wednesday 20 August 1873, page 3




Written by J. E. Calder.


To return to Brady; very shortly before the recent attack on Mr. Meredith, his party was reinforced by several men, and the names of those of whom it now consisted, were Bird, Brown, Bryan, Cody, Dunne, McKenny, Murphy, and the leader.

From Grindstone Bay they made their way once more to Hobart Town, which they entered despite the active but ill-managed pursuit that was maintained to destroy them. All the disposable troops, and the entire police force of the South, assisted by more than four hundred civilians, were after them. Yet in face of all this force, they got into Hobart Town unobserved, though it was guarded by a thousand armed men and more, who lay within a cannon shot of the town boundaries.

On their way they passed through what is still the most insignificant of Tasmanian villages, which in defiance of good taste and propriety has been invested with the historic name of Jerusalem. Here they robbed a farmer named Clitherow, a most plucky fellow, who fought them so bravely, and in his own person resisted them so manfully, that it was with the last difficulty Brady restrained his enraged followers from shooting him. But in place of sacrificing him, he accepted his pledge to raise no alarm before next day, which Clitherow, who was as honourable as brave, observed.

From here they struck over to the Derwent river, halting at Stanfield’s house so, which is on land called Green Point, and nearly close to the shore. It is hardly necessary to say that they robbed it of property and cash, valued at two hundred pounds. The wearied men lay at Green Point till near midnight, and then sallied forth to complete their journey to the capital.

It was either at Stanfields or a neighbouring farm, that they seized a boat and got across the river, which is here very wide. With audacity almost amounting to temerity, they landed at the south western terminus of what was then, and for many years afterwards, the principal ferry in Tasmania, namely Austin’s, and then marched straight for Hobart Town, which they entered unseen long before the night ended, as their march was only nine miles. They settled themselves in the house of an accomplice, who lived somewhere in Campbell-street, I believe.

Directly it was known that they had crossed the river, the whole of the male portion of the inhabitants of the town and suburbs, capable of bearing arms, turned out to oppose, and if possible to destroy them; military, police, and civilians, uniting heart and hand to rid the country of a banditti, which Hydra-like seemed always to revive, however freely it was cut to pieces.

The country all around the seat of Government was astir with armed men. Numerous patrols perambulated every road by which the town could be approached, and every point that the bushrangers were likely to pass, was thoroughly guarded. The force was moreover so disposed as to form a sort of cordon, within which it was hoped to entrap these fellows, but who, unknown to the authorities, were already in the citadel.

That they had got over the Derwent was indicated by several circumstances, one of which was curious enough. After landing at Austin’s they next tried to sink their boat, a whaleboat, by first scuttling, and then half filling her with stones, and shoving her off into deep water to sink. But in their hurry to get into town, and in the darkness of night, the work was done imperfectly. Thus the scuttle hole was cut too far aft, and the stones were put in too far forward; hence, from the peculiar build of a whaleboat, the hole was soon out of water altogether, and she did not sink at all. She was picked up at daylight as she drifted about, and then it was that some one well acquainted with the neighbourhood chanced to look at these stones, and at once pronounced them to be of a kind found only on the Hobart Town bank of the Derwent, an unmistakeable proof that they had crossed over (Gazette, 22nd October, 1825).

The fact of their having got within Hobart Town is given on the authority of the official Gazette of the 26th November.

What could have prompted them to make this visit it is now vain to enquire. But the frequent successes of Brady, notwithstanding a few mishaps, seem at this time to have kindled within him a little too much of that over-daring known as foolhardiness, to which he sacrificed himself in the end; and several of his adventures at this period were so daring and successful, as, I suppose, justified to his own mind the belief that himself and followers were equal to any enterprise, however hazardous.

As precedingly stated every precaution was used to prevent the escape of the robbers, now believed to be in the snares of the Government.

But to make quite sure of this, it was necessary to guard the Derwent, so that they should not retreat in this direction. All private boats that could be found were therefore removed from it, and several vessels and guard boats, under the command of Captains Welsh, Hobbs, Frank Pitt and others, watched the river day and night to intercept them, if, contrary to expectation, they made any attempt to get back.

While all those preparations were proceeding and the expectation of the surrender of the fugitives was growing stronger and stronger every hour, the robbers, confident in their means of escape, still lay in Hobart Town, doubtlessly laughing at all the fuss and bustle that was going on around them for their capture. But matters began to get serious, and it was time to think of retreating, and the night of Sunday, the 28th October, was fixed on for the enterprise. About an hour after dark they stole over to Providence Valley, near Shoobridge’s, within the present boundaries of the city, hiding in the bed of a small creek, in what was then called the Naval officer’s Paddock, that is where King and Queen-streets now are.

Wishing, however, that their escape should be known to the Governor, and that they had once more given him the slip, two of them suddenly appeared, says the Gazette of the 5th November, “as William Gormley, one of the night patrol on the New Town road was on the look out by the creek at the further end of the Naval officer’s paddock.” Being challenged by the watchman, they answered they were soldiers. The other six being close behind, the patrol was seized, and hurried off the road to be the eye witness of their escape from the presence of the very formidable force by which the town was begirt.

The nameless little rill, in the bed of which they lay concealed just before seizing Gormley, passes under the New Town road, about sixty paces above the inn called the Dallas Arms.

They hurried forward at their best speed with their prisoner to the Prince of Wales’ Bay on the Derwent, about four miles north-westerly of Hobart Town. “They divided themselves,” says the Gazette, “into two parties, four going before, and the others marching him along with them, * * * till they were nearly opposite to Mr. Salmon’s farm” (now Mr. W. J. T. Clarke’s, of Victoria), “and on arriving at a projecting point beyond the farm, four of them went down to the beach, and the others remained sitting with Gormley on a bank. After a few minutes, a loud whistle was heard, and they ran off to join the others, saying he might now return and report what had occurred as soon as he pleased. During the walk, they made no secret of who they were, and were very inquisitive to know what treatment McCabe had met with since his apprehension.” * * * (This was a week before he was tried.) “They fired off Gormley’s gun and returned it to him,” then jumping into a boat kept purposely concealed for them by its owner, they dashed across the river.

Colonel Arthur would not believe Gormley’s report of their flight, so sure was he that they were still within his lines, and, indeed, stopped as they seemed to be by a broad river on one side, and a line of fire, so to speak, on the other their fortunes looked desperate enough. But the bushrangers had an accomplice, and this accomplice had a boat in concealment, which he lent them on receiving three watches and as many sovereigns, (Gazette, 26th November, 1825.)

It was not till the 18th November, just three weeks after the flight of the robbers, that certain tidings reached the Governor, of the fish having got out of the net, and were now robbing away again as actively as over sixty miles off. Then it was that a traveller from the East Coast named Denne,* who had just escaped from Brady after a forcible detention of six days, reached Hobart Town with the news that the outlaws, so far from being within the lines, were following their old practices, and were just then at Grindstone Bay again.

The amazement of Colonel Arthur is not to be described, but his chagrin was so great at having been once more outwitted by Brady, that he seems to have been ashamed to declare the fact at first. At any rate the official organ of the Government, the Gazette, that came out the day after Denne’s arrival with the startling but rather ludicrous news, was not informed of it, for it still speaks with the most perfect certainty of the brigands being within the living enclosure. It says: “We are sorry to say the bushrangers are still in the woods, though so hemmed in by the loyal and unwearied exertions of all” (I copy the words exactly) “as to render them comparatively harmless, and their speedy apprehension inevitable. The cheerfulness with which every individual lends his aid for this purpose, and submits to personal inconvenience, must soon have this desired and certain reward.” But, notwithstanding this editorial flourish, the game was gone.

But in spite of the Governor’s silence the truth leaked out at last, and a day or two afterwards, the troops and volunteers were all ingloriously returned to their homes after their really wearisome watch. But it was observed of the retiring heroes, that there was not much similarity in the deportment of the several classes of which the retreating force consisted. The demeanour of the official portion of the host was sour enough, and they got off home as fast as they could, to escape the notice of the critical and curious, who on this occasion of general disappointment, were more disposed to be censorious than civil. Of the unofficial part, the older ones did indeed deport themselves with becoming gravity, which though a little suspicious in a few instances, was pretty well maintained by most of them; but as for the younger ones, who formed the great majority of the muster, I grieve to say it, that to a man they behaved with the most indecorous levity, evincing in fact, much more amusement than regret, at the clever manner in which they had all been done.

Brief as Denne’s captivity amongst them was, it was long enough for him to see them commit several robberies, and take many prisoners. At one time, he was himself locked up for a whole night, along with fifteen others, “in a hut so small, that they were nearly smothered,” the bushrangers pitching a tent outside for themselves. At length, Brady ordered them to be released, but only two or three at a time, and at long intervals, for fear of a rush. During his six days’ detention, he observed that they burned nothing but charcoal at their camp, of which there is every where plenty in the bush, that their concealment could not be traced by the smoke of their bivouacs, and many other curious precautions were used by them to prevent surprise.

It was just before Brady’s escape through the lines, that Colonel Arthur was within a hairs breadth of falling to the rifle of Josiah Bird, one of this gang, said to be as true a marksman as ever levelled a piece. This man had stolen out of Hobart Town in disguise, for the chance of a shot at him, and at one moment actually had him under cover of his rifle. But as it is said of the devil’s children, that they have the devil’s luck, he escaped by the merest accident from death, as certain as that which eventually overtook his intended assassin.

Bird was taken at last, and lodged in gaol, was visited by the Governor, who then learned for the first time, how narrowly death had missed him. Colonel Arthur was riding out, unattended by any one except an Orderly servant, who rode at a little distance behind him. Bird was so concealed as to be seen by neither of them. But the Orderly’s horse must have winded him, for it took fright at the instant, and galloped off, nor could its rider pull it in, till he came close up to the Colonel, thus interposing itself and the Orderly between the bushranger and his mark. The Governor; remembered the circumstance. “It was at that moment, Sir” said Bird “that my piece was levelled at your head; and from the certainty of my aim, I had no reason to doubt that your life was in my hand, when the unexpected intervention of the Orderly man between us, defeated my object, until you were out of my reach. I had for some days meditated your life, which now seemed awarded to me almost beyond the doubt of failure, when the unlooked for occurrence frustrated my design, and but for which I assure you, Sir, you would have been a dead man.” Such is the account of this transaction, as told by Colonel Arthur himself, to the late G. W. Walker, in whose published Life it will be found, pages 51, 52.

It is difficult to place all Brady’s adventures in their proper order, and I do not know to what period the incident of his meeting the Provost Marshal, Beamont, belongs; but I will introduce it here.

The Marshal was returning from a wearying journey through the Hamilton district; and halting for a minute for a drink, his horse broke from him, while he was still many miles from home; and as if infected with the spirit of these bushranging times, bolted and took the bush also, galloping off with the Marshal’s saddle-bags, pistols, and everything, leaving the rider to finish his journey home a-foot. Not being dressed for a long bush walk, he soon fell so lame and foot-sore, that his pace was quickly reduced to a very slow walk, and he moved forward with great difficulty.

As he was hobbling along through the then sparsely peopled bush, he suddenly came on the camping ground of some strangers, who had chosen a most secluded spot for their hiding place. From their little fire, which was of charcoal only, there issued no smoke, and nothing indicated that the place was occupied by anyone, until it was reached. The spot chosen was so retired, that Beamont was actually standing in front of the little tent before he discovered it. It was in charge of one man only, who was sleeping so heavily, that it seemed evident he was much in the condition of his visitor, that is to say pretty well knocked up. His gun, which Beamont did not observe at first, leant against a tree two or three yards off, and Beamont stood between it and his owner. Believing that he had got unexpectedly into bad company, he was just about stealing off, but was stopped by the man suddenly starting to his feet. His first exclamation, on seeing a stranger standing between him and his arms, showed him to belong to the bushranging class, of whom there were then so many in the woods :— “Grabbed at last, by God,” said he, with a look of something like resignation. “Not by me at any rate,” said Beamont, who could hardly move himself, and though a plucky fellow, was just now in no condition for a fight, nor in his present unarmed state, any match for the other. Suspecting that his new acquaintance was either the notorious Brady or someone of his people, he naturally thought that this unseasonable rencontre was not likely to end too pleasantly for him, charged as he was with the final disposal of all such follows as the one who stood before him, and that his life was not worth five minutes’ purchase. Brady had seen the Marshal before, and at once recognised him, and perhaps was the most surprised of the two at finding him at his camp ; and though he never doubted of some day making his acquaintance — that is in his official capacity — he did not dream of his ever visiting him in his own lair. Each looked steadily at the other for some seconds, when Brady, seeming to divine that the rencontre was an undesigned one, thus broke silence: “So it’s you Mr. Beamont is it? What is the Provost Marshal doing alone in the bush in bushranging times like these, when no man is safe for a minute? If you have come for me,” edging up to his gun and seizing it, “you may find you have come a little too soon.” Beamont looked at him like a cat when stuck up by a dog, with no chance of getting away, which Brady observed, and then continued, “Pray do you know whose company you are in?” “Not exactly,” said the traveller. “Well then I am Brady the bushranger; you know me now I suppose.” “Oh yes,” rejoined Beamont, trying to look pleasant, “I think I have heard that name before.” “Most likely you have,” was the dry reply.

Beamont’s situation was not a pleasant one by any means from the first, and was still less so, after the other had secured his piece, which he put on full cock directly, as if preparing for mischief. “Now,” said Brady, “let me know at once what brings you to my camp.” “I came on it accidentally,” said Beamont, “of which you may be sure, as I am unarmed and quite alone. I first lost my horse and then my way, and that’s how I came here. I am dead lame, and must stop with you come what will of it, for I can go no farther.” Brady smiled at his distresses, and at the joke of having his future executioner for his guest, and then went on :– “Well, if you are knocked up, and have lost your horse, I suppose I must lend you mine, as soon as you are ready to start, for you cannot remain here, as I will not answer for your life after my fellows come back, which will not be long first.” Beamont cheered up wonderfully at his altered prospects, and accepted the offer. “But how am I to return your horse to you?” “Oh,” said Brady, “I’ll go with you, as will be best; for if you should meet any of our people, they may be troublesome, and perhaps put a bullet into you.” Beamont mounted the stolen horse, the efficious Brady giving him “a leg up,” and off they went together; and in this way did those two men, who held such very antipodal positions in the country, jog on in company, chatting away as merrily as if they were old friends, Brady going several miles to accommodate his future executioner, and never quitting his side, until they hove in view of the New Norfolk watchhouse, the sight of which seemed to admonish Brady that he had gone far enough. He now requested Beamont to dismount, and return him his horse, as “it was not quite convenient,” so he mildly phrased it, “to accompany him any farther, at least in that direction,” (taking a comprehensive view of the lock-up as he spoke.) So wishing the Marshal good afternoon, he went off at his usual galloping pace to his solitary bivouac.

[To be continued].

*This gentleman resided until recently on Bruny, Island. He died not long ago.


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].


Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Wednesday 27 June 1855, page 2



Yesterday morning the last sentence of the law was carried into effect upon the four unhappy men who were respited from Friday last, namely Peter Connelly, John Whelan, Edward Heylin, and John Parsons Knight, convicted at the late session of the Supreme Court, before His Honor Mr. Justice Horne and in whose behalf it will be remembered a petition numerously signed was presented to the Governor, but to which an unfavorable reply was received by the petitioners. A strong feeling prevailed in certain quarters that as mercy had been extended in one instance, and life had not been proved to have been taken, the Royal clemency might have been shown in the cases of these men. Upon that, it is not necessary here to express an opinion, we merely state the fact Connolly and Whelan were convicted of two robberies under arms, first the robbery of Mr William Kearney, at Grass Tree Hill in February last, when they conducted him into the bush, and presenting pistols at him, rifled his pockets, and took away £23 in notes, threatening to shoot him if he looked at them or said a word. The other robbery was that of Mr. Richard Carpenter in March, at North West Bay when they got £8 and used similar threats, leading him into the bush and driving away his horse. In both instances the bush-rangers were positively identified, and neither Connelly nor Whelan offered any defence, the latter maintaining an obstinate silence, because, (as he said) the judge would not order his money to be restored to enable him to employ counsel. The way in which the delinquents were captured was remarkable. Connolly had been sentenced, as a vagrant, and two pistols, a powder flask, watch, chain, and other articles found in his possession at the police station led to his being apprehended at the Prisoners’ Barracks by that energetic officer, D. C. Beresford, on a warrant charging him with the robbery at the North West Bay. Whelan, it will be remembered, was taken into custody by constable Mulrenan (formerly in the 99th regiment ) at the shop of Mr. Gorney, bootmaker, next the Royal Standard Inn, Elizabeth street, while fitting on a pair of boots, having at the time, a pistol in his pocket loaded up to the muzzle. The other two unfortunate men, Heylin and Knights, were convicted of the burglary, with violence, at the house of Mr. Nicholson, solicitor, Victoria-street, on the night of March 5. Some commiseration has been expressed for both these men, who are stated to have been repectably connected, and well educated. Heylin, who was transported for forgery, was a graduate of one of the universities. Knights was stated to be the son of pious parents his father having been a Wesleyan local preacher, and special interest had been made in their behalf, but as the result shows, unavailing. The whole of the condemned having avowed themselves Roman Catholics, received the ministrations of the clergymen of that church, and the Vicar-General and the Rev. Mr. Bond were unremitting in their attentions. Heylin and Knights were extremely penitent. As to Connolly, his behaviour on the scaffold did not warrant a similar presumption. Whelan made a confession, by which it would appear he was sensible of the justice of his fate.

According to custom a great crowd assembled to witness the execution. Among them were many females, some with children at their breasts, and many boys varying in age from seven or eight years upwards. It was quite shocking to observe the eager haste of the multitude to be present at the scene of death, and to see hundreds rushing to the spot towards the hour of eight. The preliminary remarks of the lookers-on showed any thing but respect for the dread ceremony of the law, many indulged in speculations as to the probability of a further respite, and to the last moment hopes were expressed that the execution would not take place. These hopes were heightened by the delay in the appearance of the executioner. The clock struck eight, and there was in awful stillness, two minutes passed and three, and five, but no one was seen on the fatal boards. The suspense was harrowing, the majority not being aware that in this dread interval the priests were performing their sacred avocations, and endeavouring to prepare for eternity those whose souls were being summoned thence. At about seven minutes after eight, the hangman presented himself, followed by the Very Rev. the Vicar-General, whose solemn recital of the litany was heard below. Knights came next, he seemed nearly over-powered, but bowed deferentially, being evidently engaged in fervent prayer. On Heylin making his appearance, several men in the crowd exclaimed, “Poor Ned, that’s him,” “Yes, there’s Ned”‘ and (what we never witnessed on a previous occasion) they burst into tears, some of them weeping like women. Heylin had gained the respect of his companions, as it appeared from these sympathetic demonstrations. But, when Connolly came, the scene was most extraordinary, the ill-fated man jumped from the step on to the scaffold, and vociferated something to this effect, “Arrah, and it’s the heart and blood of an Irishman they’re after taking: if I had to live again I’d shoot them right and left like ducks, so I would.” Father Bond, who came up with him, went over, and endeavored to pacify him, but it was with difficulty he was restrained. While the executioner was placing the cap, he repeated the exclamation and Whelan turned round and told him to be quiet. The effect of this scene on the spectators was anything but salutary. Murmurs were heard in several directions, and a few referred to the late case of pardon as compared with this proceeding, which they characterised as a murder. The hangman was a long while adjusting the sad preliminaries, when, at length, the bolt was drawn, and the four men were launched into eternity. The crowd then began to disperse, and no one can say that the influence of the public execution under such circumstances is likely to be beneficial. The idea that the men should have been reprieved appeared to have taken fast hold on many minds, and small knots of people freely renewed the discussions on the event. The policy of carrying out the sentence is matter of opinion, but the impropriety of public executions was never more decisively evinced, and it is to be hoped that the practice pursued in the adjacent colonies of executions within the walls of the gaol will be speedily introduced here.


During Monday night an intimation was conveyed to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary that Whelan wished to make a confession of his crimes, and Mr. Champ consequently went to the condemned cell, and received the statement, which was reduced to writing. We understand the unhappy man acknowledged himself to have perpetrated the dreadful murders that hare lately produced so much consternation throughout the colony. Among others he confessed to have murdered Mr. James Dunn of the firm of Merry and Dunn, of Franklin, Huon, who, it will be recollected, left Hobart Town to proceed to Franklin about the 30th April, but had been since missing. He mentioned that he did the deed near Stony Steps, on the Huon track, and that the remains would be found in a hole a short distance from the road, about four miles from town. It will be recollected that a Gazette announcement appeared on the 10th May, of Mr. Dunn not having been heard of since he left town, and offering the reward of a conditional pardon to any prisoner of the crown who should afford such information as would lead to Mr. Dunn’s discovery, and a further reward of £50 in the name of Mr. J. A. Learmouth, a relative. Whelan also confessed to the murder of Mr. William Grace, of Great Oyster Cove, in the Huon district, who left his home for Hobart Town about the 23rd April, and had not been since heard of. And he also stated that the remains would be found about two miles on the other side of Brown’s River. The next admission     he made was that he was the man who murdered Mr. Axford, whose remains, it will be remembered, were found about a mile and a half from Mr. Palmer’s, the Swan Inn, Bagdad, on the 25th of May, at the foot of Constitution Hill, in a state of nudity, the head and face being dreadfully mutilated. Deceased had been last seen on the 8th May walking down Constitution Hill, on his way to Hobart Town, intending to take the coach. As to this affair there is still a mystery attached to it. It is quite possible that Whelan did the deed, as he was at large until the 19th of May, but it can easily be conceived that a man like Whelan would think it a praiseworthy not to confess to this murder in order to save others. We understand there are three persons in custody on suspicion, and the confession will require to be well tested, in order to guide further proceedings to the accused. Whelan next acknowledged to have robbed the hawker (Hopkins we think his name is) at St. Peter’s Pass, about the 12th May; and the description given by the hawker of his assailants tally with that of Whelan and Connelly. There were some other confessions by Whelan, but as they will be published tomorrow, we shall not at present give particulars.


Yesterday, in consequence of the confession made by Whelan, a communication was made by the Colonial Secretary to the Chief Police Magistrate, who gave the necessary directions to the chief constable to cause search to be made for the remains of Mr. Dunn and Mr. Grace. Accordingly, between 11 and 12 o’clock, Mr. Symons, accompanied by constables Bailey, Vickers, &c, started off to Stoney Steps with the Vicar-General, &c., on the melancholy errand. After wending their way through mud, and scrub, and clambering the rocks in the direction of the Huon track, they found themselves in the vicinity of the spot described by the murderer. A dog belonging to Mr. Vickers scented a place where some crows were disturbed, to which Vickers ran, followed by Bailey, and the rest of the party, and there, indeed, in a ravine forming a natural grave, was discovered the object of the search, the mutilated remains of the unfortunate Mr. Dunn, clothed in his flannel and linen shirts; on the latter of which was marked the murdered man’s name, one boot on, the other on the bank close by, his sword stick hear the side, and his glazed cap in a ditch just by. No blood was visible. Deceased’s skull was broken in, the forehead was pierced with a pistol shot, and the greater part of tho flesh torn away by the crows. One hand was perfect, and an ear, but the other remains were much decomposed. When found there was no covering, but from the position of the hole, although so near the road, discovery would have been very difficult. It is supposed that the ruffian made his victim strip near the fence at the road, and then having shot him dead, dragged the body to the ravine or dry creek where it was found. Singular to relate, the clothes which were found on Whelan, are found on inspection to be like Mr. Dunn’s clothes, and we understand that a relation saw them yesterday and identified them. Mr Dunn’s height correspond-ed very nearly with that of his murderer. On discovering the body, Vickers was despatched to town with the intelligence, and afterwards took with him eight or ten men from the Prisoners’ Barracks to fetch the remains in a shell. The news of Whelan’s confession, and the subsequent discovery of Mr. Dunn’s body, caused the utmost excitement in town.