Spotlight: The Bushrangers, Windsor (1830)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 19 January 1830, page 3

The Bushrangers.

To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette.

Windsor, 26th December, 1829.


With reference to a paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Gazette of the 19th instant, relative to complaints “making of the depradations committed on the settlers in the interior, by those notorious characters, Underwood and Donohoe,” and expressing surprise “that the reward so promptly offered by Government, for the apprehension of these desperadoes, has not long since led to their capture.” In justice to the exertions of the Police, and reasoning why these desperadoes have not been informed against by prisoners of the crown, who are their principal associates, I beg leave to make the following observations:–

The Windsor Police have received the most accurate information of Donohoe and his accomplice. It has been stated, by one reputed to have been in their confidence for a considerable time, that Donohoe is not connected with the notorious Underwood, but that one John Walmsley, an absentee from an iron gang, was introduced to his notice by the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, on whose farm are shipmates of both the desperadoes, and that their connexion so commenced. That Donohoe, knowing his own awful condition, that his former acccomplices had been executed, that the reward offered for his apprehension was sufficient to tempt even a bushranger, having no greater offence to answer, to seize and capture his comrade under such circumstances, was bound to suspect and dread his new companion, and to act with the strickest precaution; and so he did, until they accidentally were on the very spot where Chilcott came for water, on the road to Hunter’s River, when they first committed highway robbery in company. The bank notes so stolen, are stated to have been spent in the dwelling of “a few acres settler'” on the South Creek, and it was in confidence related to the govermnent servant alluded to, and others, that the said settler proceeded to Parramatta to procure cash for the notes, and that he defrauded his guests £20 of the money, pretending it was stolen from him in that town. Donohoe, by his highway robbery, gained somewhat more confidence. They proceeded again in pursuit of further spoil; and as they have confessed, fell in with Mr. Clements, whom they fired upon and mortally wounded, that Walmsley committed the deed, Mr. C. having known him when at Hunter’s River, an absentee working as a sawyer; which fact, it is supposed, alarmed Walmsley, and prompted him to murder, he being recognised by Mr C. By these combined acts, Donohoe embraced a companion so worthy of his character, and they have since that period been inseparable. They have entrusted gold and silver watches to the care of, and for sale by, the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, these servants not only screen, and at times harbour them, but render them every intelligence, real or imaginary, as regards the intentions and movements of the Police. Where men in numbers are combined, and are connected most clearly with other government servants at Windsor and its environs, altho’ their information, at times, merely arises from suspicion, nevertheless it suffices to alarm the desperadoes, and give them opportunity to sally forth into some remote depository of flour, pork, &c. 50 or perhaps 70 miles from the common scenes of depredation The Police have frequently been from Windsor more than a week; their return is soon known, and as their visit to the bush was dreaded, their absence from it is hailed, and the remigration of the desperadoes is announce with tidings of new robberies. It is due to the Police of Windsor, Penrith, and the neighbouring constabulary to state, that very prompt and steady exertion has been made to apprehend the desperadoes.

I would now venture to offer a few reasons why it is probable these characters have not been betrayed long since. The Government Reward states the sums offered to be for the apprehension of DONOHOE and Underwood; ignorant wicked men, capable of treachery to their bosom friends, have always a latent dread of being deceived, and were this reward imprinted at the foot of the Lord’s prayer, they would yet be of opinion that on its being discovered that Donohoe’s companion was Walmsley, and not Underwood, “the reward would therby be brought to a bubble,” that they would eventually lose their good name, be still employed, at the danger of their lives, among the same servants; and be without the pale of either friendship or protection. Several government servants, towards whom shrewd suspicions attaches in this matter, have been reminded of the liberal reward offered by Government; their opinions differ with Government in this respect, they have bluntly asserted to the Police, that they would not thank any one for a ticket-of-leave under circumstances placing their lives in jeopardy. The answer thus candidly given, shews no indirect inclination, but expresses a reasonable terror. Then I would most respectfully suggest an alteration in the Government Notice, re-publishing the reward, to be made to the following effect viz.– “Whereas there is reason to believe that the companion of Donohoe, has not on all occasions been the felon Underwood as heretofore suspected, but that some other person has been connected with him in various murders, highway robberies, or other capital crimes:— Now therefore the Government is desirous to give due encouragement for the apprehension of these desperadoes, or each or either of them, and hereby offer a similar reward of —— pounds, for the apprehension of the man who has been an accomplice of Donohoe as afore said, whosoever the said man may be, on his conviction of any capital offence; or, of any crime unto which suspicion formerly attached to Donohoe and Underwood; or, if illegally defending himself, he should be slain when captured, so that he be recognised; and that the reward for Underwood yet remains in full force.” I would further respectfully suggest, that as it is unnecessary, and would be imprudent, that the informant should take an active part in the capture of these men, but that it be merely sufficient for him to give such statement to the Heads of Police as may lead to their apprehension; thus leaving it in the power of one person to effect so desirable an object; that to ensure his every protection, he should be rewarded with an emancipation, and, if required, a passage to Van Diemen’s Land. This, I am confident, would gain the desired event; and the Police would proudly avail themselves of the opportunity of becoming captors where so much credit will attach to their calling. To an emancipated man, either a free pardon, or a farm of —— acres should be granted, choice to be given to the person who gave the private information required. To one absolutely free, a share in the reward, or an adequate portion of land, as may most suit the views of the espial by whose means peace and comfort would be rendered to the honest settler and affrighted traveller now under dread of assassination. Hints, nearly amounting to overtures, have been thrown out by persons when questioned, nearly to the above effect; and I repeat that a ticket-of-leave has not only been disdained, but scoffed at.

Again, a constable’s salary (if free) at Windsor, is but 2s. 3d. per diem, how then can it be expected he can leave his wife and family for days together, and furnish his own rations in pursuit? It may be said, he frequently returns hungry to an empty table. If constables could be allowed some moderate supplies at the present on the capture of the men, the charges so made might be subducted from the reward, if the Government do not feel justified in renumerating their exertions from the Police fund. If approved or amended, or if in any way attended to, this inducement should not be merely published in the Gazette, but hand bills should be circulated by the police at every lonely cottage within the track of depredation; among the Government servants and stockmen in particular; the whole to be laid down in plain language clearly to shew the intent of Government. And further should be added, that the persons named are charged with Murder, Highway robberies and Burglaries, and that harbouring or succouring them with a guilty knowledge, will place such persons under the law, upon their trial as accessaries to crimes of the deepest dye.

It has been truly illustrated, that there is no peace in “the wicked,” Donoghoe always taking the pre-caution to place his comrade next a log; when they recline to rest, and then to close upon his person in such a manner as to prevent secret movements, and to expose the turbid state of their minds, they do not continue two nights in one spot. They have a dreadful aversion to the horse police, and are always urgent with the stockmen, whereabout the “slip rails are,” and whether they have seen the horse police. The information received is deemed indubitable, but the excitement for their apprehension is considered insufficient under serious calculation of possible or probable consequences, not within the conception of a Sydney courtier or merchant, who fears not the assassin behind the bush, or that he will be annoyed by a visit from such blood-thirsty guests as Donoghoe, Underwood or Walmsley are said to be.

It is supposed that the Englishman (Walmsley) will ”open his mouth” when apprehended, and make disclosures against settlers and servants rather of a tangible nature; and this is Donoghoe’s opinion says an informant.

As Editors can either publish or destroy, I need only leave it to “option’s choice,” and conclude by subscribing.


your very humble servant.


Leave a Reply