RAID ON SORELL GAOL


From James Bonwicks's The bushrangers: illustrating the early days of Van Diemen's Land


The township [of Sorell] then boasted of many houses, two hotels, a handsome church, the parsonage of the excellent Mr. Garrard, a "good gaol" and a schoolhouse. It was into such a populous and established neighbourhood that Brady, with Dunne, Bird, Murphy, and four others, dared to venture. Arriving at Mr. Bethune's house on the Friday evening, they took that gentleman, his overseer and servants, prisoners, and then made themselves comfortable for the night.

The next day was very wet, and the Bushrangers did not feel disposed to change their comfortable quarters. In the evening Mr. Walter Bethune and Captain Bunster rode up. Personating a servant, Brady came out and called for the groom to take Mr. Bethune's horse. When the gentlemen got inside they found themselves in the hands of the Philistines. But Brady at once allayed their fears, ordered dinner for them, and behaved with courtesy and respect. In the course of conversation at table, a remark was made about Brady offering to yield to Government. He indignantly denied that he had thought of such a thing. It was afterwards astertained that some other party represented himself to be Brady, when rifling a house at Bagdad, and there gave information of the intention of the gang to surrender. The brigand chief said that no occasion at present existed for such a course; for, when hard pressed by pursuit, they could easily retire to a farm they had among the mountains, where they had an abundance of sheep, horses, cattle, flour, and other necessaries. In that secure and pleasant retreat they could take a spell until the excitement had passed.

When it was about ten o'clock on the Saturday night, Brady announced to his friends his resolution to attack Sorell Gaol, and liberate some acquaintances. The two Bethunes were tied, as well as the other inmates, and the whole, eighteen in number, were marched in solemn and silent procession towards the town. Most opportunely for the eight Bushrangers, they arrived at a moment when least expected, and when, in fact, a party of soldiers within were cleaning out their guns. The military, under the command of Lieutenant Gunn, had been out all day looking for the very men who had thus civilly placed themselves in gaol--to make them prisoners. The arms were secured, and the warriors and civilians securely locked up in a cell from which the prisoners had just been released.

Mr. Long, the gaoler, was in his house adjoining the lock-up; and directly he saw how things stood, he made his escape over the wall, and ran off for Lieutenant Gunn, who was then staying with Dr. Garrett. Catching up their double-barrelled guns, they made for the town. The magistrate hurried too much, and fell into the hands of the Bushrangers, who broke his gun, and placed him with the others in the cell. Two of the robbers stood in the path of Mr. Gunn. He raised his fowling piece, but at that instant a shot shattered his arm above his elbow. When the rascals left the scene of their triumph, they placed against the door of the gaol a log ornamented with a coat and hat, to resemble a sentinel. The enterprizing and brave Gunn was brought to town, and suffered amputation of his arm. The Government rewarded his zeal with a pension of 70 a year, and the honourable post of Superintendent of the Hobart Town Prisoners' Barracks.


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