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Matthew Travers (c. 1795–1822)

Matthew Travers (c.1795-1822), a labourer, was sentenced to life transportation in July 1816 at Kildare, Ireland. He arrived at Sydney aboard the Pilot in July 1817 and was sent on to Hobart, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on the Elizabeth Henrietta. He was described as being 5 feet 4½ inches (166 cms) tall, with a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, and hazel eyes.

Travers forfeited his Ticket of Leave and received 25 lashes on 17 September 1821 for concealing himself on the ship Grace with the intention of escaping the colony. On 11 December 1821, for being absent from church, he was ordered to labour the same hours on the G. Gang for 14 days. He was sentenced to 25 lashes on 23 December 1821 for nelect? of duty. On 30 March 1822 he was sentenced to 150 lashes and transportion to Macquarie Harbour for the remainder of his sentence for absconding, stealing and carrying away a schooner, the property of A. Kemp. He was sentenced to 25 lashes on 27 April 1822 for attempting to break out of the gaol. On 21 August 1822 he was sentenced to 25 lashes for neglect of duty.

Travers and seven other convicts — Alexander Dalton, Thomas Bodenham, William Kennerly, Robert Greenhill, Edward Brown, Alexander Pearce and John Mather — escaped from Macquarie Harbour on 20 September 1822. According to Pearce's later testimony Greenhill, who had an axe, appointed himself leader. About 15 days into the journey, the men were starving and drew lots to see who would be killed for food. Thomas Bodenham (or perhaps Alexander Dalton, Pearce's later accounts slightly differed) drew the short straw and Greenhill killed him with his axe. Dalton (or Bodenham), Kennerly and Brown – took fright and decamped. Kennerly and Brown reached Macquarie Harbour, but Dalton seemed to have died of exhaustion. That left Greenhill, Travers, John Mather and Alexander Pearce. With Greenhill and his friend Travers acting as a team, it was Mather's or Pearce's turn to die next. Mather became the next victim. Travers was then bitten on the foot by a snake. Greenhill insisted they carry him for five days, but when it became clear he would not recover, killed him. Although Greenhill still had the axe, Pearce managed to overpower and kill him — and ate his flesh. Pearce finally reached a settlement and fell in with a shepherd and was eventually arrested.

Pearce confessed his cannibalistic crimes to Rev. Knopwood, who was also a magistrate, but was not believed. Knopwood thought the other men were still alive and living as bushrangers and sent Pearce back to Macquarie Harbour. Within a year he had escaped a second time, this time with Thomas Cox. He was picked up within ten days and tried for the murder of Cox (he had also cannibalised Cox but was not charged with this offence). He again confessed to the murder and cannibalisation of the men during his first escape from Macquarie Harbour.

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Citation details

'Travers, Matthew (c. 1795–1822)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Trevor, Matthews

c. 1795
Dublin, Ireland


December, 1822 (aged ~ 27)
Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

axe wounds

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: unknown
Sentence: life
Court: Kildare (Ireland)
Trial Date: July 1816


Occupation: labourer