Howe, Michael (DNB00)

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HOWE, MICHAEL (1787–1818), bush-ranger in Tasmania, was born at Pontefract in 1787. After serving for some time on board a merchantman, and incurring an evil reputation at home as a poacher, he entered on board a king's ship. Deserting from her he was tried at York in 1811 for highway robbery, and was sentenced to seven years' transportation. On his arrival in Van Diemen's Land he was assigned to a settler, from whom he ran away into the bush, and became the leader of a large band of ruffians. For six years he led this wild life, the terror of all decent people. Twice he surrendered on proclamations of pardon, but on each occasion was suffered to escape and return to the bush. Once he was apprehended, and under the guard of two men was marched towards the town, but killing both his guards escaped again. At last a reward of one hundred guineas was placed on his head, with a free pardon and passage to England if required. Howe's position became desperate; he had quarrelled with his associates; he attempted to free himself, by another murder, from the native girl who had lived with him. She fled and gave information of his hiding-places. With her assistance a party of three men, bent on obtaining the hundred guineas, tracked him, overtook him, and endeavoured to make him prisoner. After a desperate resistance he was killed by a blow from the butt-end of a musket. His head was cut off and carried into Hobart Town. In his knapsack was found a pocket-book, in which he had written with kangaroo's blood notices of miserable dreams, and a list of seeds, vegetables, &c., showing—it was thought—an intention to settle somewhere if he made good his escape.

[Quarterly Review, xxiii. 73, an article based on Michael Howe, the last and worst of the Bushrangers of Van Diemen's Land. Narrative of the Chief Atrocities committed by this great Murderer and his Associates during a period of six years. From Authentic sources of Information, Hobart Town, 12mo, 1818. It is said by the Quarterly Review to be 'the first child of the press of a state only fifteen years old;' Bonwick's The Bushrangers, illustrating the Early Days of Van Diemen's Land (1856), p. 47. The same author's Mike Howe, the Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land (1873), though a work of fiction, professes to be 'a narrative of facts as to the leading incidents of the bushranger's career.']

J. K. L.