Matthew Brady,
convict and bushranger

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I first heard of Matthew Brady when I was heading out to Maria Island on the ferry.

Our guide started telling us about this notorious bushranger. He even pointed out a spot where Matthew Brady used to hang out.

That made him real for me. I was interested in finding out more about him.

Back in England, in 1820, he had been sentenced to transportation for stealing some food and a basket.

As a convict he was at the receiving end of hundreds of lashes for trying to escape, and for other minor offences. It was in Macquarie Harbour (near Strahan) that he finally managed to escape with several others.

They actually managed to sail a boat to the Derwent River. Then for a couple of years they lived as bushrangers all round the island.

The government was determined to capture Brady. They offered a monetary reward as well as free pardon for any convict who turned him in.

One of Brady's most notorious acts was taking over the town of Sorell. Brady and his gang rounded up a group of people who had met for dinner nearby. The people were marched to Sorell. Some soldiers had just returned from searching for Brady. They were relieved of their weapons and imprisoned in the local lock-up. Brady's gang stayed in charge of the town for the night.

At one stage they even had the cheek to put up a notice offering a reward for the capture of Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur. They did have good reason though. Arthur had been trying hard to get Brady caught, even taking to the task himself.

Finally Brady was captured near Launceston. In 1826 he was taken to Hobart to stand trial. He was charged with a range of many offences including murder. He was sentenced to death and hanged.

Brady had the reputation as being someone who only used violence in self-defence.

Whatever the truth may be, I can't help but shake my head over how severely he was sentenced for that crime of stealing food back in England. And I know that this was the norm in England in those days.

I can understand how badly Brady would have wanted to escape from his captors after arriving in Van Diemen's land. I don't know the truth of the circumstances surrounding his other offences though, including the murder.

I'm just glad that in most countries these days, people do not get so harshly punished for stealing food any more. Well I certainly hope so anyway...

More information on Matthew Brady can be found at
The Australian Dictionary of Biography Online website

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