Lists (None yet)

Login to create lists

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

4 corrections, most recently by wattlesong - Show corrections


"Michael Howe: The Last and Worst of the Bush rangers of Van Diemen's Land," by T. E. Wells, is quite a curiosity of litera- ture. It was written in 1818 by a cousin of Dr. Samuel Marsden, and in an introduction Mr. J. H. M. Abbott justly observes that it is a documont of considerable historical value. It is "one of those 'footnotes to history' which make the stories of old days clearer and enable us to look at a period from a new angle." During the second decade of colonisation In Tasmania, when the events herein described occurred, the island was in a condition approximating to civil war. Food supplies having failed, the authorities sent parties out into the bush to procure kangaroo meat. When the famine was over   many of those refused to return, but re- mained in the bush maintaining themselves by robbery. Quite a number of them were at large and the Banditti, as Wells calls them, often took possession of whole districts, compelling the inhabitants to seek refuge. Indeed there were times when they controlled the island outside the settlements on the Derwent and Tamar.

They were a ruthless crew, but the most brutal and callous of all was Michael Howe. Howe was a man of low intelligence, al- though he bad a sort of animal cunning, and he was utterly devoid of any sentiment of humanity. He was at one time the leader of the gang, and was the last to escape the clutches of the law. The principle of houour among thieves was not recognised by Howe, who treacherously killed his as- sociates. He established a reign of horror over the countryside, burning and looting and murdering indiscriminately. On more than one occasion he was captured, but contrived to escape. At last after six years this wild man of the woods was clubbed lo death, a fearsome spectacle with his kangaroo skin dress, and his long dishevelled beard. Ac- cording to Wells "he presented altogether a terrible appearance His face . . . ex- hibited strong marks of a murderer." His head was brought to Hobart and displayed to the public "to whom the end of this monster afforded an Inconceivable degree of satisfaction"—as well it might! But although with the despatch of Howe the depredations ceased for a time he was not by any means the last of the bush rangers in Tasmania. The history of bush-rangers did not close until a quarter of a century later. (Angus aud Robertson.)

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by