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

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

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

McCabe, Brady and Bryant

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

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

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

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

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

James McCabe, post mortem.

Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Con-artist sailor turned cannibal convict murderer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Jeffrey (illustrated by Aidan Phelan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected sources:

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


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

Bushrangers Bold! by Bob Minchin

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

Newspapers and Gazettes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Brady’s Threat (17 May 1826)

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


(From the Colonial Times. April 28.)

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

Bushranging Gazette #14

Friday, 1 April 2022

Moondyne Festival 2022

The annual Moondyne Festival in Toodyay, Western Australia, is all set to kick off on Sunday 1 May this year. The festival, named for local bushranger Joseph Bolitho “Moondyne Joe” Johns, features a range of activities and attractions, as well as reenactments of some of the infamous bushranger’s escapades.

Visitors are encouraged to dress in period costume when they attend, and scheduled attractions include music performances, a street parade, Morris dancing, a moustache competition, a photo room, sheep dog demonstrations, camel rides, and a “floozy” competition. The events and attractions will be spread around town, encouraging visitors to explore.

For more information about the festival, including a programme, you can visit the website:

Douglas Stewart’s Ned Kelly

The Conversation has published an insightful article by Julian Meyrick about Douglas Stewart’s 1940s play Ned Kelly. The article gives a background to the play as well as Meyrick’s own observations regarding Australians’ attitude to their own history, and how the play embodies this through its use of language and theatrical techniques.

In 1997, I directed Ned Kelly in one of its few professional productions. Spruiking the show to audiences, I heard many times that people “already knew the story”. But when I asked what they knew, they were often at a loss to give even the basic facts. They felt they knew the Kelly story, but they did not. This combination of belief the past is known, and actual ignorance of it, fuels Australia’s “history wars”. Stewart’s play thus falls into a historical black hole as well as a theatrical one. A nation dismissive of its past dramatic forms is also dismissive of its past. Reclaiming Ned Kelly is therefore about more than its disinterment from the sarcophagus of neglected plays; it is an act of intellectual recovery whereby Australian history is made available as a dramatic resource, and drama is validated as a mode of historical inquiry.

Julian Meyrick

The article is an edited extract from the book Australia in 50 Plays, which was launched on 3 March.

You can read the full article here:

Mary Ann Bugg, the little known Australian bushranger

On ABC Radio program Night Life with Philip Clarke, the host interviewed historian Carol Baxter, author of Thunderbolt and his Lady, about Australia’s most famous female bushranger, Mary Ann Bugg.

Baxter’s work on the Thunderbolt story has been prominent over the years since her book was first released in 2011, in particular her championing of the story of Mary Ann Bugg. In the interview, Baxter discusses Bugg’s background and relationship with Frederick Ward and her work in researching the history.

You can listen to the podcast here:

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one

Spectator Australia have published an opinion article by Ross Eastgate about the difficulties of police life, specifically in reference to the dangers and difficulties that officers are put in as a matter of course, and the need for officers to be able to defend themselves – with lethal force if necessary. Specific mention is made of the shootings at Stringybark Creek, amongst more modern examples, particularly the current issue of Constable Zachary Rolfe in the Northern Territory. Being an opinion piece, the views stated therein will not appeal to all.

On October 25, 1878, the criminal Ned Kelly and his gang ambushed four armed Victorian police at Stringybark Creek. Three, of Irish descent like Kelly, were murdered, resulting in the Kelly gang being declared outlaws to be hunted until death or capture. After nearly 150 years the murders still arouse strong emotions around nearby Mansfield among the surviving families and in the Victorian Police.

Ross Eastgate

You can read the full article here:

Bushrangers of the Sydney Region

On ABC Radio’s Self Improvement Wednesday with Richard Glover from 9 March, Grace Karskens, Emeritus Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, discusses some of the New South Wales bushrangers that operated around the Sydney region in the early years of the settlement.

Karskens gives a good introduction to the early history of bushranging in New South Wales, and discusses the relationships between some early bushrangers and indigenous peoples, and the convict era. Bushrangers discussed include William Geary, the McNamara Gang, John Armstrong, and Jack Donahoe (The Wild Colonial Boy).

You can listen to the podcast here:

Grantlee Kieza on the Queensland Native Police

The Daily Mail in the UK have interviewed author Grantlee Kieza about his new book The Kelly Hunters, and focused on the Queensland Native Police that were employed to capture the Kelly Gang. The article gives a good overview of the story of the trackers, who are a prominent feature of Kieza’s new release, which is about the police who pursued Ned Kelly.

They could distinguish even between the sort of boot heels the gang were wearing, […] There’s talk of them having found a sweat smudge from someone who had put their hand on a branch hours before. Uncanny kind of tracking abilities. […] They had the best weapons and they knew how to use them as well, Certainly Ned Kelly feared what they could do. It’s significant that as soon as they arrived he never did another bank robbery. He didn’t really show himself publicly anywhere until the siege of Glenrowan.

Grantlee Kieza

You can read the full article here:

New websites focus on Tasmanian bushranging legends

Two new websites have been launched by Aidan Phelan and Georgina Stones to focus on the history around Matthew Brady and Cash and Company. These sites will host archival material as well as original work that distills the research into easily digested articles on key events, people and places.

Martin Cash and Company, co-authored by Phelan and Stones, also has a Facebook page and Instagram account to act as companions to the core website. The material mainly concentrates on the three outlaws, Cash, Jones and Kavanagh, but will also provide insights into the pursuers, victims, friends and lovers of the trio.

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land is singly authored by Phelan and takes much the same approach to the material. While in its infancy still, it is hoped to be a one-stop shop for people who wish to learn more about Brady’s story, with plans for a book based on the research to come soon.

If you would like to check out these websites, you can follow the links below.

Martin Cash and Company —
Instagram: @martincash_and_company

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land —


The Deaf Bushranger

Bushrangers with disabilities were not very common, apart from missing fingers, crippled hands or habitual limping caused by poorly healed broken legs. Yet, it was not unheard of for more significant disabilities to be present, such as in the case of William Brown, one of Matthew Brady’s gang, who was deaf.

Details of his deafness are almost non-existent; it seems likely that it could have been acquired through some form of trauma prior to becoming a convict, but is just as likely to have been congenital. This significant setback doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted on his ability to perform crimes with the rest of the gang, yet it must have required a considerable level of adjustment for the others to be able to include him in their operations given how important active communication and detection of approaching threats were to their survival. It was certainly significant enough to warrant mention in several contemporary reports about the gang’s activities.

He was described in the runaways list as follows:Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

229. Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

Source: “RUNAWAY NOTICE.” The Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833) 26 November 1825: 1
‘William Brown’, by Thomas Bock [Courtesy: State Library of New South Wales, FL1077005 – DL PX 5; IE1076928]

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

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


Dreadful Outrages and Murder!

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: The Bushranger Brady (1873)

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


[From the Illustrated Weekly Herald.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: List of Executions at Hobart Town (1827)

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


List of prisoners tried, found guilty and executed, at Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, from the 1st of January 1823, to the 1st of January 1827 :—


April 13.— James Smith, sheep-stealing.

April 14.— George Richardson, Robert Oldham, William Davis and Ralph Churlton, sheep-stealing.


July 19.— Alexander Pearce, murder.

July 22.— Thomas Butler, sheep-stealing; Patrick Connolly, James Tierney, Isaac Walker, and John Thomson, bushranging and robberies.


January 28.— Thomas Hudson, William Allen and Francis Oates, murder.

February 25.— Henry McConnell, robbery; Jeremiah Ryan, Charles Ryder and James Bryant, murder and robbery; John Logan, attempting to shoot Mr. Shoobridge, Musquito and Jack Roberts (Aboriginal Natives), murder, and Peter Thackery, bushranging and robberies.

February 26.— Samuel T. Fielding and Jas. Chamberlaine, sheep-stealing; Stephen Lear and Henry Fry, burglary at the Surveyor General’s.

August 31.— John Reid Riddle and Thomas Peacock, murder; William Buckley, Joseph Broadhead and John Everiss, bushranging and robberies.

September 7.— John Godliman, murder.

December 12.— Jonas Dobson, murder of his overseer.


January 6.— John Johnson, burglary at Mr. F. Barnes’s; Samuel Longman and Charles Wigley, burglary; James Major, burglary and stealing an ox; William Pollock and George Harden, sheep-stealing; Wm. Preece, bushranging and robberies; and Jas. McCabe, bushranging, robberies, and murder.

January 7.— Richard Brown, James Brown, and John Green, sheep-stealing; Thomas Bosworth, Richard Miller and William Craven, burglary and stealing a boat.

May 4.— Matthew Brady, Patrick Bryant, Thomas Jeffries and John Perry, bushranging, murder, and robberies; John Thompson, murder of Mary Smith.

May 5.— James McKenney, John Gregory, William Brown, John Tilley, James Goodwin, and Samuel Hodgetts, bushranging, murder, and robberies.

September 13.— Thomas Dunnings, Edward Everitt, and William Smith, murder of Mr. Simpson, of Pittwater; John Taylor and George Watters, absconding from Macquarie Harbour and robbing soldiers of their arms; Jack and Dick (Aboriginal Natives), murder of Thomas Colley.

September 15.— James Edwards, John McFarlane, and Thomas Balfour, absconding into the woods, and robbing Mr. Holdship; John Clark and John Dadd, burglary; Patrick Brown, sheep-stealing; George Brace, bushranging and robberies.

September 18.— John Penson, burglary at Richard Worley’s; James Rowles, robbing Mr. John Dunn; Timothy Swinscow, and William Wickens, robbing Mrs. Till; Robert Cable, John Davis, John Cruit, Thomas Savell, and George Farquharson, sheep-stealing.

It will appear from the foregoing list, that from the 13th April, 1823, until the 19th of July, 1824, (a period of fifteen months) only five persons were executed — all of whom were for sheep stealing. Since which period (not three years) seventy-six! have suffered; most of whom for murder, and other very daring offences. This statement however does not include the number of unfortunate men who have forfeited their lives at Launceston; which we believe to be about thirty; therefore the total is upwards of One Hundred.


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning, Mr. Flexmore.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24th December, 1872.

James McCabe, Murder and Rum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Move, McKenney.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll show you a sheet…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do we do, Matt?”

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

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

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

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

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


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

“What did you do to the drink?”

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

“What in Hell for?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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