Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Matthew Brady (c. 1799–1826)

by L. L. Robson

This article was published:

Matthew Brady (1799-1826), bushranger, was convicted for stealing at Manchester, England, a basket and some butter, bacon, sugar and rice. He was sentenced to transportation for seven years by the Lancashire Quarter Sessions held at Salford in April 1820. Described as a labourer, he was transported in the Juliana. During four years under convict discipline he received a total of 350 lashes for attempts to abscond and for other misdemeanours. Sent in 1823 to Macquarie Harbour, a new penal station for secondary offenders and desperate prisoners, he escaped next year with a group of confederates. They sailed a small boat to the Derwent and for two years roamed the island as bushrangers. Rewards offered by the government were increased from 25 guineas to 100 guineas or 300 acres (121 ha) of land, with the added inducement of a free pardon for any convict who succeeded in bringing Brady and his banditti to justice.

The Brady gang's most audacious feat was the capture of the township of Sorell. A dozen Hobart Town citizens, assembled near Sorell for a dinner, were taken and marched to the town where several soldiers, lately returned from searching for the bushranger, were surprised, disarmed and lodged in the lock-up. The bushrangers remained in charge of the settlement during the night. They later attacked the home of Richard Dry near Launceston, their threat to do so having been disregarded; and at one point posted a notice offering a reward for the capture of Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur.

During the two years that Brady was at large he fought a number of running battles with government troops and private settlers. After the bushrangers were reduced through the vigorous efforts of the lieutenant-governor, who took the field himself, and of Lieutenant-Colonel William Balfour of the 40th Regiment, Brady was captured near Launceston. His capture was credited to a band led by John Batman, but prisoners of the Crown had been instructed to join the gang in order to betray its members. In April 1826 Brady was brought to Hobart to stand trial and his firm deportment excited much attention. With others he was charged with stealing a musket and bayonet, with setting fire to the premises of William Lawrence at the Lake River and stealing horses from him, and with the murder of Thomas Kenton. He was hanged on 4 May 1826.

During Brady's career in the bush he was aided by persons either sympathetic to him or afraid of reprisals if they informed. His popular repute as a man who used violence only in self-defence is supported by a host of stories. His name is given to Brady's Lookout, south-west of the Cressy district.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 4-6
  • G. T. Lloyd, Thirty-Three Years in Tasmania and Victoria (Lond, 1862)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 1 (Lond, 1941)
  • Colonial Times (Hobart), 5 May 1826
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 11 Mar, 1 Apr, 6 May 1826
  • Calder papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Lancashire Records Office.

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

L. L. Robson, 'Brady, Matthew (c. 1799–1826)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Matthew Brady, 1826

Matthew Brady, 1826

Archives Office of Tasmania, PH30/1/4134

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bready, Matthew

c. 1799
Manchester, England


4 May, 1826 (aged ~ 27)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Places
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Lancashire
Trial Date: 17 April 1820


Occupation: manservant