Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Hunter Valley Bushranger

Edward Murtagh

Edward Murtagh was 17 when he arrived in Australia on the Heber on 12th July 1837. He had been tried in County Meath and sentenced to 7 years transportation.


After arrival he was assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company at Stroud. After he absconded from service on 23rd February 1838 a notice was posted for his apprehension with a description of his features - 5'4 1/2 with ruddy and freckled complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.

He was in and out of Newcastle and Sydney gaol over the next few years. He made several attempts to escape from iron gangs but was re-captured.


In 1843 after absconding again he began bailing up travellers on the roads around Stroud. The Maitland Mercury recorded his capture: -

On Sunday last one of the Australian Agricultural Company's sheep watchmen was stopped on the road near the washpool by an armed bushranger, and stripped of nearly all his clothes. No trace could be obtained of the thief until Tuesday, when he again made his appearance, and bailed up the postman who comes from Raymond Terrace to Stroud, and stripped him in like manner, and also took his money and horse. All pursuit was made immediately that possibly could be, but to no effect.

The constables were on the look out all night, and about daylight next morning Constable John Tipping, attached to the Dungog police, succeeded in capturing the villain, who turns out to be a runaway from the Newcastle iron gang. He was armed with a fowling piece and a pistol. Report says, that there are two more armed and mounted bushrangers committing depredations in this vicinity (Dungog), but it is to be hoped they will not long be at large to pursue their nefarious practices

Committed for Trial

The Magistrate at Stroud James Edward Ebsworth committed Edward Murtagh for trial at the next Quarter Sessions on two charges - Highway robbery in feloniously assaulting with firearms James Henry Hood, emigrant and forcibly taking from him a horse and other property

All prisoners in the Hunter region at this time who were committed for trial at the Maitland Circuit Court or Quarter Sessions were forwarded to the Gaol at Newcastle to await trial. When the time arrived for them to take their trial, they were brought back from Newcastle to Maitland.

Edward Murtagh was admitted into the Gaol on 8 July 1843 where he languished for several months as he was not tried at the next Quarter Sessions. There were 65 other men and 30 women held in gaol at this time. At his trial he pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to be transported to a penal settlement for 10 years.

He was later sent on the Louisa to Tasmania. He died in Launceston Hospital on 12 October 1848 aged 28.


[1] Government Gazette 14 March 1838

[2] Newcastle Gaol entrance books 4 July 1843

[3] Maitland Mercury 8 July 1843

[4] Maitland Mercury 14 October 1843