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

Books:

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


VAN DIEMEN’S LAND NEWS.

(From the Colonial Times. April 28.)

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

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

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


THE BUSH-RANGERS.

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: 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.

TASMANIAN HISTORY – A SKETCH OF OLD TIMES; EMBODYING THE BUSH CAREER OF MATTHEW BRADY by J. E. Calder (Pt. 8)

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


TASMANIAN HISTORY

THE FIRST TROUBLES OF GOVERNOR ARTHUR

A SKETCH OF OLD TIMES; EMBODYING THE BUSH CAREER OF MATTHEW BRADY.

Written by J. E. CALDER.

[Concluded.]

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,”

Spotlight: The Late Bushrangers

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


THE LATE BUSHRANGERS. &c.

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: The Van Diemonian Bushranging Scourge

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


Tasmanian Extracts.

FROM THE HOBART TOWN GAZETTE.

On Monday the Anniversary of His Majesty’s Birth Day was observed here, with every kind of joy and respect, demonstrative of the attachment of a people so peculiarly under his protection as are the inhabitants of this young Colony. Since the world began, no other nation has arrived at an equal pitch of prosperity, nor has there ever been a Government so popular as is the Administration of our present Sovereign, who extends the benignant hands of his power over the whole globe. — Former dynasties endeavoured to spread their dominion by the force of arms and the havoc of war ; but our magnanimous Monarch rises on the wings of peace, and by means of commerce, brings foreign nations to increase his wealth, and by agriculture and colonization, creates new countries and new people from the desert wild. The Levee, held by his Excellency, in honour of the day, was very numerously attended, and many Gentlemen from the other side of the island were present. In the evening, an elegant and sumptuous entertainment was given to a large party at Government-house. The long-room was filled with Gentlemen from among the several classes of the Community, the civil and the military, the merchants and the agriculturists of the Colony. On the cloth being removed, the health of our King was drank with rapturous expressions of attachment, and a Royal salute was fired from Mulgrave Battery, while the band played the National air. The other usual and loyal toasts being drank, His Excellency gave “the health of Governor DARLING, and the prosperity of the sister Colony,” when the new and beautiful “Australian Air” was struck up. This was followed by “the prosperity of Van Diemen’s Land,” when the Lieutenant Governor took occasion to remark, that the greatest drawback might be considered the prevalence of bushranging, and concluded his toast by wishing that every heart and every arm, and (looking towards Mr. Hone) every tongue might be raised to put down bushranging in this island. “Sir Brent Spencer, and the 40th Regiment,” was the next toast. When the health of the Lieut. Governor was proposed, every glass was filled a bumper, and the walls rung for several minutes with the acclamations of the Colonists who were present, expressive of the paternal and indefatigable exertions of His Excellency for the general good. The Rev. Mr. Robinson being called on for a toast, gave this elegant sentiment — “The land we left, and the land we live in, and may we, with His Excellency’s co-operation, promote this important and interesting portion of the globe.” The party did not separate till a late hour.

On Tuesday morning the bushrangers Brady, Bryant, Tilley, McKenney, Brown, Gregory, and Hodgetts, were put upon their trial for making an assault on William Andrews, a private of the 40th, at Bagdad, on the 26th of December last, and stealing his gun. The Jury returned a verdict of guilty against Brady, Bryant, Gregory, Tilley, and Brown, and acquitted McKenney and Hodgetts, their being no evidence to prove that they were present at the time.

Brady, Bryant, Tilley, and Goodwin, were then tried for having committed the crimes of felony and arson at Mr. Lawrence’s, on the Lake River, on the 36th of February, when Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the charge, the former declaring that be should plead guilty to every other information that might be filed against him.
On Thursday, Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the murder of Thomas Kenton, with malice aforethought, and at the instigation of the devil on the 5th ultimo.

The same two also pleaded guilty of stealing 4 horses from Mr. Lawrence, in which charge Tilley and Goodwin were included, and, upon trial, found guilty.

Jeffries and Perry were then tried for the murder of Magnus Bakie or Baker, the constable from George Town, who was deliberately shot through the head by Jeffries, as they were travelling through the woods on the 11th of January last. The circumstances were exactly as stated in our Journal of that date.

On Saturday, Jeffries the murderer, Perry and Hopkins, were found guilty of stealing a gun, meat and other articles, from the dwelling-house of Joseph Railton, near Launceston. They had been brought up on the Thursday previous, but owing to the absence of a witness on the part of Hopkins, the trial was postponed.

Jeffries and Perry were afterwards arraigned for the murder of Mr. Tibbs’s child, an infant only five months old. When Mrs. Tibbs came into Court, and her eye glanced on the insatiate murderers of her babe, she was so affected as to be able to stand. Her situation powerfully excited the commiseration of every one present. The bare recital of the dreadful journey which the monster had compelled her to take with him in the woods, was a painful addition to her sufferings. When it was necessary for her to look at the prisoners, in order to prove their persons, the suddenness with which she withdrew her eyes, and the tears with which the effort was accompanied, was an instance of detestation more strongly., depicted than any assembly of spectators perhaps ever witnessed. The child was proved to have been taken away from the arms of the mother, and killed by Jefferies and Russel, and its remains were discovered about a week afterwards in a decayed state, and mangled by the carnivorous animals in the woods. When Mrs. Tibbs had asked Jefferies who called himself Captain, and was dressed in a long black coat, red waistcoat, and kangaroo skin cap, to point out the place where she might find the body, he said “it was no odds it had not suffered a moment’s pain in leaving the world,” and he and Russel, who was afterwards shot and partly eaten by the monster, expressed themselves as regarding the life of a child as nothing. Both prisoners were found guilty; the trial lasted till 11 at night.

It is with great pain we state, that most of the men convicted of robbery and murder, in gaol, whose days of probation must now of necessity be very short, continue with hardened and untouched consciences, apparently insensible of their approaching fate. Jeffries is said to have been brought at last to a sense of his unhappy slate, but Brady, Bryant, McKenney, and Perry, excite both disgust and compassion at their insensibility. The whirl of their late lawless and dissipated life seems scarcely to have subsided.

Spotlight: Jeffries and Brady and company on trial (as reported)

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


On Saturday, Jeffries the murderer, Perry, and Hopkins, were found guilty of stealing a gun, meat, and other articles, from the dwelling-house of Joseph Railton, near Launceston. They had been brought up on the Thursday previous, but owing to the absence of a witness on the part of Hopkins, the trial was postponed.

Thomas Jeffries and John Perry

Jeffries and Perry were afterwards arraigned for the murder of Mr. Tibbs’s child, an infant only five months old. When Mrs. Tibbs came into Court, and her eye glanced on the insatiate murderers of her babe, she was so affected as to be unable to stand. Her situation powerfully excited the commiseration of every one present. The bare recital of the dreadful journey which the monster had compelled her to take with him in the woods, was a painful addition to her sufferings. When it was necessary for her to look at the prisoners, in order to prove their persons, the suddenness with which she withdrew her eyes, and the tears with which the effort was accompanied, was an instance of detestation more strongly depicted than any assembly of spectators perhaps ever witnessed. The child was proved to have been taken away from the arms of the mother and killed by Jeffries and Russel, and its remains were discovered about a week afterwards in a decayed state, and mangled by the carnivorous animals in the woods. When Mrs. Tibbs had asked Jeffries, who called himself Captain, and was dressed in a long black coat, red waistcoat, and kangaroo skin cap, to point out the place where she might find the body, he said “it was no odds it had not suffered a moment’s pain in leaving the world,” and both he and Russel, who was afterwards shot and partly eaten by the monster, expressed themselves as regarding the life of a child as nothing. Both the prisoners were found guilty ; the trial lasted till 11 at night.

John Gregory

On Tuesday morning the bushrangers Brady, Bryant, Tilley, McKenney, Brown, Gregory, and Hodgetts, were put upon their trial for making an assault on William Andrews, a private of the 40th, at Bagdad, on the 26th December last, and stealing his gun. The jury returned a verdict of guilty against Brady, Bryant, Gregory, Tilley, and Brown, and acquitted M’Kenney and Hodgetts, their being no evidence to prove that they were present at the time.

William Tilly and James Goodwin

Brady, Bryant, Tilley, and Goodwin were then tried for having committed the crimes of felony and arson at Mr. Lawrence’s, on the Lake River, on the 26th February, when Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the charge, the former declaring that he should plead guilty to every other information that might be filed against him.

Matthew Brady and Patrick Bryant

On Thursday, Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the murder of Thomas Kenton, with malice aforethought, and at the instigation of the devil, on the 5th ultimo.

The same two also pleaded guilty of stealing four horses from Mr. Lawrence, in which charge Tilley and Goodwin were included, and, upon trial, found guilty.

Jeffries and Perry were then tried for the murder of Magnus Bakie or Baker the constable from George Town, who was deliberately shot through the head by Jeffries, as they were travelling through the woods on the 11th of January last. The circumstances were exactly as stated in our Journal of that date.

It is with great pain we state, that most of the men convicted of robbery and murder, in gaol, whose days of probation must now of necessity be very short, continue with hardened and untouched consciences, apparently insensible of their approaching fate. Jefferies is said to have been brought at last to a sense of his unhappy state, but Brady, Bryant, McKenney, and Perry, excite both disgust and compassion at their insensibility. The whirl of their late lawless and dissipated life seems scarcely to have subsided.

We understand the various criminals, now convicted in Gaol, will be brought up to receive the sentence of the law from His Honor the Chief Justice this day.


Illustrations by Thomas Bock. [Source]

Spotlight: Reward Notice for Thomas Jeffries

Thomas Jeffries may have referred to himself as “The Captain”, but he earned himself a more notorious nickname: The Monster. In his brief bushranging career, the former flagellator committed acts of robbery, murder, rape and cannibalism. Such was his reputation that after he was captured, Matthew Brady planned to break him out of Launceston Gaol just so he could have the satisfaction of lynching Jeffries himself.

Thomas Jeffries and John Perry, sketched while on trial.

The reward for Jeffries and his companions (Hopkins and Perry) would have been adequate inducement for people to turn them in, but bushrangers always proved much harder to catch than what the authorities seemed to be able to comprehend. Considering how high the reward for Jeffries got, it seems strange in hindsight that upon his initial absconding the reward for his capture was a measly £2, as he was just another runaway convict in the eyes of those offering the reward. It goes to show how sometimes when the greatest dangers are underestimated, tragedy ensues.

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

It may seem odd that the reward is measured in dollars so long before Australia adopted decimal currency, but there is a very good historical reason for this.

In the early days of colonial Australia, the government procured Spanish dollars to supplement the existing currency, of which there was not enough to go around due to a lack of exports. The scarcity of money had resulted in things like rum being used as currency, which was considered a big problem. In those days Spanish dollars were so common due to their use by the East India Company they were considered an almost universal currency. In order to prevent the coins being used outside of the Australian colonies, however, the coins had the centre punched out – these ring-shaped coins were called “holey dollars”. The punched out bits were also used as currency and were called “dumps”. It was not officially withdrawn as a currency until 1829, but there were still holey dollars and dumps in circulation until the 1840s.

A NSW holey dollar [Wikimedia Commons]

No doubt, the money would have made things very comfortable for an individual (for a while, at least), but without knowing where the monster and his band were, no amount of money would bring results. Fortunately, Jeffries was captured near Evandale by a small band, amongst whom was infamous bounty hunter John Batman.