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Mathew was born of Irish parents in 1799, in Manchester, England. He grew into a good looking man who had received some level of education as he was able to read and write. He was employed as a groom when he forged his master's name on a cheque to pay off a debt, and at Lancaster on 17 April 1820, was sentenced to transportation for seven years. He arrived to Van Diemen's Land aboard the 'Julianna', and was anything but a model convict, recording many punishments on his record sheet for offences such as, 'Neglect of Duty', 'Plotting and Contriving to Escape from the Colony', Not going to the Convict Barracks with his gang at the regular hour', 'Going aboard the ship Castle Forbes with the intent to escape the Colony', and 'Leaving his gang and remaining absent for three days'. Punishment for these crimes ranged from 25 to 50 lashes, but they did not deter Brady's resolve to escape. In June 1824, while working on a vegetable farm, Brady and six other convicts escaped and seizing a boat from Macquarie Harbour, got clean away.
They managed to procure several fowling pieces and for the following months carried out numerous criminal atrocities. On one hold-up of a man named Taylor, the occupants of the house fought back resulting in two of the bushrangers, Bain and Crawford being caught. In September 1824, at Launceston, both men were hanged for their crimes.
The gang was in the Jericho district when a squad of soldiers caught up with them and another man with them named Jeremiah Ryan, was captured, and two weeks later the convict Bryant was apprehended. In November, Brady robbed two settlers at a hut on Black Marsh Road and disappeared again. Then suddenly he turned up once more with McCabe and the two bushrangers carried out too numerous a number of atrocities to mention. As a consequence, on the 14th April, 1825, Lieutenant-Governor Sir George Arthur offered a reward of twenty gallons of rum for the capture of Brady and McCabe. Then on the 20th April, Brady galloped up to the front door of the Royal Oak Hotel at Crossmarch, and after fastening a note to the door rode off. The note said; "It has caused Matthew Brady much concern that such a person known as Sir George Arthur is at large. Twenty Gallons of Rum will be given to any persons that will deliver this person to me. I also caution John Priest that I will hang him for his ill-treatment of Mrs. Blackwell, at Newtown." Brady and McCabe enlisted other men into their gang, including Cowen, Callaghan, Murphy and Williams. The gang also set up an extensive intelligence network, but as it turned out, not all were trustworthy.
In 1826, Thomas Kenton, a deserter from a whaling ship was flying the white cloth from a window, a sign it was all clear. As Brady and McCabe approached the hut a squad of soldiers hiding in the bush rushed out onto the unsuspecting men. McCabe escaped by running up a hill, but Brady was captured and after tying him up, the soldiers went in pursuit of McCabe. Brady managed to free himself and escaped, but from this point on the raids were well planned. Following a hold-up at Pittwater they next stuck up the gaol at Sorell, and after taking the guards captive, set the prisoners free. On hearing the commotion, the Governor Laing and Lieutenant Gunn armed themselves and approached the guardhouse. They were met by a hail of bullets, two of them hitting and seriously wounding Gunn. The gang escaped but more resources were brought into the hunt by the authorities. Brady had not killed anyone up to this stage, but he could not forgive Kenton's betrayal. On Sunday 5th March 1826, he found him at the Cocked Hat Inn and after informing why he was going to die, shot Thomas Kenton through the head. Cowen & Callaghan did not want to be a party to murder so gave themselves up to the police. At this time Brady was shot through the leg on one of their raids and would not heal. Cowan and Callaghan now turned traitor and led the police to several members of the gang. Cowan shot young Williams through the head and for it collected £100 reward and a free pardon. Brady was finally cornered by noted bushman, John Bateman, and he surrendered without a struggle.
On 25 April 1826, the remainder of the gang were tried at the Supreme Court at Hobart and faced numerous charges including the murder of Thomas Kenton. Matthew Brady was brought to the gallows on May 4th, 1826, and protested bitterly against having to stand on the same gallows as the cannibal Jeffries. Bryant was hanged on the same day and Tilley, Brown, Hodgetts and Goodwin, on the following day. Brady was buried in the Old Roman Catholic Cemetery and while a stone cairn did mark his grave, it was removed in the 1870's and today the whereabouts of his remains are unknown.
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