The Dark Ride

Matthew Brady: “Me eyes must be foolin’ me!”

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Arr, landlubbers, grab your oars, fasten your wooden legs and don your eye-patches as we prepare to meet the Pirates of the Caribbean, Penny Royal style.

The Launceston Freelance Festival treated participants to a memorable pre-dinner boat ride at the Penny Royal on a fine May evening in 2018.

No one knew what to expect as they boarded the fleet of interlinked canoes that soon began to drift languidly into a dimly lit cave.

The glacial speed of the water safari turned out to be the perfect way to imbibe the grotto’s surreal atmosphere and its oddly juxtaposed inhabitants.

Are ye seein’ this, ya mangy bilge rat?!”

For example, one exhibit featured an array of enormous polystyrene spiders whose quarters abutted the domicile of a cutlass-wielding pirate gang.

Interspersed with the arachnids and tattooed marauders were various iterations of escaped Australian convicts, bushrangers, and constables-in-pursuit.

An unexpected highlight occurred when the head canoe got stuck and a bloke with a big stick appeared from behind a polystyrene spider to pull the boat free from its sub-surface impediment.

Towards the end of the journey, a bushranger ensconced on a high ledge loomed above the boat. Was this perhaps the ride’s titular outlaw Matthew Brady himself?

Brady was an English-born convict who became one of Tasmania’s most notorious bushrangers. He was also known as ‘Gentleman Brady’ because of his impeccable manners while divesting victims of their goods, money, and faith in humanity.

The whole thing was as cheesy and as nonsensical as hell. But, boy, was it fun.

The Launceston Freelance Festival is returning August 23-25, 2020. Three days of panel discussions, networking and workshops in the heart of Launceston. Early bird tickets available from mid-March.

Author: Claire Bell
Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.