The Capture of Hugh Burn and Richard McGwire

On the 1st of June 1815, two members of Michael Howe’s gang, Hugh Burn and Richard McGwire were captured at Kangaroo Point (Bellerive) and brought into Hobart Town. After having been attracted to a hut near Tea Tree Brush by the smoke that rose from its chimney, a party of the 46th Regiment spied Hugh and Richard leaving the hut. They fired their muskets at the two bushrangers without effect and the two young men made their escape into the thick scrub. The sudden appearance of the soldiers led to Hugh and Richard being split up from Michael and the rest of the gang, with the determined pursuit preventing them from doubling back to another of the gangs’ hideouts and instead forced them into the vicinity of Kangaroo Point. Seeing that their only chance of escape was by the river, they approached a settler with a proposition and a silver watch, saying that if he would fetch them a boat, the pair would pay him generously, in conjunction with the watch. Agreeing to this, the settler hurried away, but rather than procure the boat, he went straight to the authorities in Hobart Town and informed them of the bushrangers’ whereabouts. Being either naïve, desperate, or both, (after all, these were two men who during a previous incident believed they could bribe their captor to feign sleep, so they could be let go with no trouble), Hugh and Richard waited longer than they should have for the man’s return. While they continued their wait, the pair were suddenly surrounded by a party of soldiers and shots were fired, with a bullet wounding Hugh in the hip. After this, the bushrangers both surrendered and the Sydney Gazette reported the following, “one of the parties who were out in search of them (Michael’s gang) fell in with one of their huts in a thicket, and put to flight the only two that chanced to be there at the time. Several stands of arms, with a quantity of ammunition, were found in the hut, as were also several of their hunting dogs; which latter were afterwards destroyed, and means taken to prevent their being replaced by the bushrangers.”

Illustration by Aidan Phelan.

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