Spotlight: Bushranging at the Billabong

(Police news, January 6, 1877)

This etching from 1877 may be quite crude for its time but it relates to a forgotten piece of bushranging history. In January 1877, reports of a bushranger operating near Albury began to surface. The offender was most notable for his white calico mask seemingly made from a puggaree. One report is as follows:

~

BUSHRANGING NEAR ALBURY.

A correspondent at Albury sends as the following particulars of the case of bushranging in that district. On Sunday last a report was received atthe Albury police station of a robbery under arms, which had taken place in the neighbourhood of Ten Mile Creek on the previous evening. The circumstances of the affair are substantially as follows: –

About 37 miles from Albury, on the main Sydney road, and about three miles from Germantown, is a small store kept by a man named Bounds. The house is a mere roadside store, doing business principally with teamsters, the place being a convenient and favourite camping-ground. About half past 10 on Saturday night, two men rode up to the store on horseback, and one of them dismounted and giving his horse into the charge of his companion entered the house. Producing two revolvers and presenting one, he ordered the inmates of the store – Mr. Bounds and his wife, and a girl about 15 years of age – in true bushranging style to “Bail up,” a command which it need hardly be said was at once obeyed. The robber then proceeded to tie up his three subjects, a work which he accomplished in a secure and workmanlike manner. Having made all fast he inquired what money there was in the place, and ascertaining the whereabouts of the till, helped himself to its contents, which fortunately amounted only to £115, 25s in silver and a half-sovereign. To make up for the insignificance of the money booty he then proceeded to help himself to some of the store goods, but the precise extent of his operations in this direction has not yet been determined, the inmates of the store being unable to see what was going on. When, however, he had selected what he wanted, he removed the bandage from Mr. Bounds’ eyes, and forced him to sign a cheque on the Commercial Bank, Albury, for £22, a document which by the way will hardly be of much use to Messieurs the bushrangers, as the bank of course got notice of the robbery early on Monday. After obtaining the cheque, the robber quietly rejoined his companion, mounted his horse, and rode away. The man who was outside, being out of the view of the inmates of the store during the whole affair, cannot of course be described, but the robber who entered the building and performed the actual robbery is said to be about 5ft. 8in. in height, having light whiskers and blue eyes. He was dressed in a flannel shirt, printed moleskin trousers, and light felt hat; and he wore over his face a kind of mask made of dirty white calico, with holes for the eyes. A number of the mounted police force have been scouring the country ever since the news reached Albury, but up to the present time (Monday afternoon), no intelligence of the arrest of the robbers has come to hand.”
The bushranger who stuck-up Mr. Bound’s store near Germantown, on the 6th inst, was captured on Monday by the New South Wales police. The Border Post states “that the man gave his name as Richard Lauaghan. He is supposed to be identical with the Billabong robber who recently stuck-up three men near King’s Hotel. Some of the stolen clothes were found in his possession. He was committed by the Germantown Bench to take his trial at the next Albury Court of Quarter Sessions.
~
Of course it must be stated that the consternation around these events must have been considerable given that it was around a year before Ned Kelly would become public enemy #1 and seven years after Captain Thunderbolt’s reign was cut short at Kentucky Creek. The offenders’ capture was reported in slightly more detail in The Weekly Times:
~

THE BILLABONG BUSHRANGER CAPTURED.
Thanks to praiseworthy activity of several members of the police force, the individual who has recently created no little consternation in the neighbourhood of the Billabong by his penchant for committing robbery under arms (states the Border Watch), has been arrested. On Sunday, the 7th inst., Mr. Superintendent Singleton received information of a most bare-faced robbery on the Sydney road. The report ran somewhat as follows : — John Bounds, a settler, complained that on the previous evening (Saturday), about half-past 10 o’clock, two men rode up to his house, situated about three miles from Germantown, one with his face covered with a piece of calico, in which there two holes cut for his eyes. They bailed him up and robbed him, and then stayed about two hours searching the place for money, but only succeeded in finding half a sovereign and 20s in silver. Not content with this, however, they compelled Mr. Bounds to draw a cheque on the Commercial Bank, Albury, for £22. The man with the mask tied up Mr. Bounds, his wife and child, and left. He was armed with two pistols. The police were immediately in pursuit of the desperado, and effected a smart arrest on the following day (Monday). The arresting constables state that the man they captured gave his name as Lanaghan, and that he is identical with the Billabong robber who stuck-up three men near King’s hotel. Some of the stolen clothes were found in his possession. We learn, also, that his accomplice is likely to soon be arrested. Accused was fully committed, at the Ten-Mile Creek Police Court, on Tuesday last, to take his trail at the next Court of Quarter Sessions to be holden at Albury, on a charge of robbery under arms. Prisoner was identified by bounds, and also by his wife and girl.
Helemt-with-neck-apron-variation.-JHolt-004.jpg
A pith helmet adorned with a puggaree with a neck curtain much like the one Lannighan used as a mask. (Source)
The tale didn’t end there. The Australian Town and Country Journal reported on the follow up in March of that year:
~
BUSHRANGING IN THE ALBURY DISTRICT
At the Albury Quarter Sessions on Monday week before District Court Judge Forbes, Richard Lannighan and Lorn Pentland, the former a young man of about 25, and the latter a mere youth of not more than 20, were jointly and severally charged with having, at Three-mile Creek, on the 6th January proximo, stuck up and robbed John Bownds, a storekeeper. Mr. O’Ryan, instructed instructed by Mr. Nagle, appeared for Pentland, Lannighan being undefended.
Constable Ridout deposed: I am a constable of police, stationed at Tarrara. On the 7th instant about 2 o’clock in the morning, I received some information from Mr. Bownds, in consequence of which I went to his (Bownds’) house, and joining constable Turnbull went in search of prisoner. We met the prisoner Lannighan, on the morning of the 8th. He was riding one horse and leading another. He said “I wanted to see some of you fellows.” He then told us that he had been stuck up and robbed on the Saturday afternoon. He said he was going home when a man stuck him up and robbed him of about, £22 in bank notes and £1 in silver. He said the robber was on foot, and he was on horseback and leading another horse. The robber then tied his hands behind him, took him into the bush, and after taking his watch and chain, got on his (Lannighan’s) horse and rode away. He was unable to get loose until 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, when he managed to break the cord which bound him, and walked home with his hands tied behind him. He further said the robber was armed with two double-barrelled pistols, and wore a dirty calico cover over his face, with holes cut for his eyes. He was too exhausted to leave his house in order to give information to the police. I then asked Lannighan to show me the tree where the robber had tied him up. He showed me a tree near the road, which he said was the one where the robber had stuck him up. He then went a little further into the bush, and showed me a tree where he said he had been tied. I remarked to him that there were no marks on the tree of a cord such as there would be if a person had been tied up to it for any length of time. He then seemed confused, and we walked away a little examining the other trees, but watching his movements
Presently we saw him working the bark off a sapling with his thumb, and trampling the earth at the base. We then went up to him, and he said that that was the tree, and pointed to the mark he had made on it. Constable Turnbull then told him we had seen him making the marks pointed out a few minutes before. We then arrested him on suspicion of having robbed Mr. Bownds, and took him to the Ten-mile Creek lock-up. I previously asked him if he wore a puggaree when he was robbed, and he replied that he never wore one. I showed him the puggaree produced after his arrest, which was given to me by Mr. Bownds, and he said he believed it was his, and that the robber must have taken it from him when he stuck him up, I was also present when the prisoner Pentland was arrested at Cookardinia on the 10th instant. I did not hear what answer he made to the charge of robbing Mr. Bownds. He said he had not seen Lannighan since Lunt’s Billabong races, a month ago. Pentland was then put in the lock-up with Lannighan at Ten-mile Creek, and I overheard part of their conversation while in the cell. Pentland said, ” Lannighan, this is a nice b—-y mess we’ve got ourselves into.” Lannighan said, ” Well, it cannot be helped.” One of the prisoners then said ” hush,” and Pentland said, ” I can get witnesses to prove I was at home on that night.” Lannighan said, “It’s no b—-y use, we’re in for it, and we’ll have to suffer it.” Some other conversation ensued, but it was rather indistinct. I fancied Pentland said, “That b—-y puggaree that you left behind sold us,” or words to that effect. I don’t know that I ever saw the two prisoners in company before. I produce a waistcoat and shirt which Lannighan was wearing when arrested, and which Bownds has identified as his property. Cross-examined : I saw Constable Covenay this morning, but said nothing to him about the case. The lock-up at Ten-Mile is built of slabs, and a slab partition runs between the room where I and Covenay were in and the lock-up. I heard all the conversation that took place, and can swear positively to the words used. I took the conversation down in my note-book afterwards.
Constable Covenay gave corroborative evidence. With regard to the robbery itself, John Bownds deposed : I keep a store at Three-mile Creek on the Sydney road. The night of the 6th January, between half-past ten and eleven o’clock, a man came to my house with two pistols in his hand. His face was covered with a piece of calico, with holes cut in it for his eyes and nose. He presented the pistols first at my wife and then at me, through the window, and said ” your money or your life.” I went to the door and he told me to go inside ; he followed me and again demanded money, and I gave him a purse containing 29s. He then said “you have more,” and I replied that I had not, as I had sent it all to the bank the day before. I believe prisoner Lannighan is the man. I judge from his general appearance and his hair and voice. I saw Lannighan on Tuesday before this, the 2nd January. He called at my store and purchased a cotton shirt and some other goods. I asked him to stop all night, as I have known him for some time. He stayed, and left in the morning. After I told Lannighan about sending the money to the bank, he said I must give him a cheque, I said I would, I but it would be no use to him, as I could stop it atthe bank. He told me to tie my wife’s hands, which I did, and also the little girls. After I had tied my wife’s hands he took a puggaree from his pocket, and tied them again with it. I then drew a cheque for £22 on the Commercial Bank, Albury, and gave it him. After that he said, “I must secure you,’ and tied my hands with a throat strap, and made me go into the room where my wife was. He then went into the bedroom, and brought out the box I generally keep the cash in ; there was no money in the box. He next blindfolded all three of us with towels. He then returned to the bedroom, stayed there about half an hour, and went into the store for about the same period. He went away shortly afterwards. When he went out I heard other footsteps walking away besides his ; and while he was in the house I heard noises outside as if other persons were there. I missed a shirt, trousers, and vest, and other goods from the store. Next day I saw the tracks of two persons outside in the sand. Subsequently I examined the foot marks of Pentland behind the police barracks at Germantown, and they resembled one of the tracks I found in my paddock. The clothes produced are the ones I lost out of my store.
Other evidence was given, and after retiring for about an hour, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Richard Lannighan, who was sentenced to three years’ hard labour at Darlinghurst. Lorne Pentland was found not guilty and discharged.

Sources:

Image – State Library of Victoria, Rare Books Collection; mp016674:3030866; http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/244747

“Bushranging in the Albury District.” Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) 3 March 1877: 26.

“THE BILLABONG BUSHRANGER CAPTURED.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 13 January 1877: 16.

“BUSHRANGING NEAR ALBURY.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 13 January 1877: 21.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s