Original Entry

Last time I was musing on the idea of the outlaw hero , especially in relation to Graham Seal's ten common characteristics of the outlaw hero. I won't list them here because I've covered them before .

For the benefit of those not familiar with the bushranging tradition, they fall roughly into two groups: the convict absconders who went bush in NSW and VDL from the early decades of settlement, and the "wild colonial boys" in the second half of the 19th century, mostly in Victoria & NSW. (Sometimes the gold rush era (1850s) and the Kelly Gang (late 1870s) are separated out as well, having some characteristics that aren't shared with the other groups but generally the "well known names" fall into my two groups. So there :)

For obvious reasons, I know more about the earlier group. What I do find interesting about the later bushranger is they obviously realised the benefits of the outlaw hero image -- these being public sympathy, increasing their support network, reducing the chances of being betrayed etc. So you get this emphasis on gallantry, treating women properly and generally gentlemanlike behaviour. More on that later, or I won't get this done tonight.

To Brady, and firstly something he probably didn't do. That was, nail a notice to the door of a hotel, at Crossmarsh or otherwise, offering a reward for the delivery of Lt-Gov Arthur. There is no known evidence that is occurred, and it's more than likely a later addition to the story. Now Howe & his gang wrote a letter to Davey (I have never actually read it all, but if you want to tackle it, there's a copy of it in the The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany (hope that link works, it should be page 310); and Cash & Co wrote a letter to Franklin threatening to flog him if "Mrs Cash" wasn't released, but of Brady, it would seem not. He did hold up the gaol at Sorell though, releasing the prisoners and looking up the guards/soldiers.

Matthew Brady was born in Manchester, to Irish parents. (I say this, because the early bushrangers were invariably young, male and, more often then not, Irish.) Legend says he was transported for forgery, whereas the truth is something along the lines of receiving stolen goods (Last time, I said theft of bacon, butter, rice -- possibly I knew what I was talking about). Forgery is a more respectable crime then common theft. After a series of escape attempts and generally disruptive behaviours, Brady was sent to Macquarie Harbour. Here, in 1824, he managed to get mixed up in an escape attempt (legend says he stepped in to protect the settlement's doctor, and therefore had no choice but to go with the runaways). Thirteen of them, I think there were, although there is some disagreement about who actually went, but they made it to the Derwent River (near Hobart) without having to eat anyone (in a captured whale boat actually).

There was only one newspaper in the colony at the time, the Hobart Town Gazette which eventually became just government notices, and it came out once a week. This means the official notice of the escape attempt was in the same issue that reported the recapture of half the escapees.

Over the next few months, the remaining escapees were picked up one by one, until just Brady and the bad-tempered, excessively violent, red-haired McCabe remained. They wandered about the island creating havoc, and there's along period where they're not heard from. If you ever read And Wretches Hang by Richard Butler, you'll find our hero spent the time recovering from wounds in the company of a young widow who lived in the bush with various native animals and liked to sun bathe nude. Really. Sticking to more factually acceptable stories, he paid a visit to a supposed supporter, Thomas Kenton, and was captured and, the story goes, escaped by putting into the fire and burning the ropes -- so the long, quite period was due to him recovering from wounds, except the capture might have appeared at the end of the quiet period.

However it went, the months passed and more men joined them, until they had a sizable gang which round about the island robbing houses and stirring up the populace (while being polite to woman, refraining from unnecessary violence, helping out the less fortunate and all those other hero traits). The refraining from violence bit is actually important, because Brady apparently made a big deal about it. Then early in 1826, the gang made a visit to Launceston and the surrounding area. The newspapers got quite excited about it. Because I'm tired, you'll get a better account from that than from me. There are some interesting lines in it, like

Brady now wears Col Balfour's hat which was knocked off at Dry's


It is impossible now to give you all the particulars, interesting as they are, but nothing is more remarkable then the generalship observed by Brady.


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.

That last bit could be seen as the beginning of the end. As it says further down that web page:

He is understood to have declared that success uniformly attended him until he embrued his hand in blood after which he became perfectly wretched and felt that his fate was sealed.

Of course, the two spies that the government had slipped into the gang also played a part. One being Guilders, who gets a mention in the newspaper account. With the information the spies passed on, the military confronted the gang, which split and they were then picked off. Oh, read the newspaper's version (typos and all). The respectable settler, John Bateman (not a typo :) is better known without the 'e' in his name, as one of the founders of Melbourne.

Even after his capture, there are still interesting bits popping up in the newspaper, such as the escape attempt (on the same web page) and Brady's dislike of the child murderer Jeffries.

Brady, on Tuesday night, told Mr Dodding, one of the turnkeys at the gaol, that if Jeffries was not taken out of the cell, "he would be found in the morning without his head."

The story goes that his cell was full of flowers from women admirers. I don't know if that was try, but the Colonial Times does say that Brady "received many little comforts in the gaol, from a very respectable Gentleman, who humanity is proverbial". Whoever that might be. That Brady was well thought of (probably more so once he was no longer a threat to property) isn't in any doubt.

And just in ending, there's a large tree in Notley Fern Gorge (up the Tamar a bit), that's said to have been used by the gang to store guns. Down the river, closer to Launceston and just off the highway, there's Bradys Lookout. There's a similarly named peak in the central highlands, as well as Bradys Lake and IIRC also a creek or river running into the lake, but I can't find either on my map.

(Of course I'm doing this late at night and mostly from memory, so there's probably some errors, but probably less than any other account you'll find :)


Bushrangers - Tas & Brady

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