Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part two)

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 8 February 1879, page 6


(Continued from last week)

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY

I was bred and born in Manuden, in Essex. I was brought up by a kind father and mother. They tried to give me a good education, but I paid no attention to it. I entered upon evil courses when very young. At 16 years of age, I was taken up for highway robbery, and was committed to Chelmsford gaol in 1835. On the day of trial, through the intercession of my father, and on account of my youth, I got off with 12 months’ imprisonment. When my time had expired, on the morning I was released from gaol, the first person I saw was my father waiting to accompany me home, where on arriving I was surrounded with kindness by my parents, and my father advised me never again to keep company with my old companions. I took his advice for some time, but not for long. I became acquainted with a young man, a greater vagabond than myself, who induced me to live like himself, by plunder both by day and by night. But this game did not last long. It brought me among my old companions and to Chelmsford gaol.

On January 3, 1837, I was tried for robbery, and, being an old offender, received 14 years’ sentence of transportation, while my companion was discharged. While I remained in gaol, waiting to go down to Portsmouth, one day I shall never forget, my father and mother, and sisters and brothers, came to take their last farewell of me. The tears rolled down their cheeks for their undutiful son and bad brother. I took my leave of them at the time, thinking I never should see them anymore. Shortly afterwards I was removed down to Portsmouth, and had been there only a few days when an order came down from London for 300 prisoners to go on board the ship Mangles, and I was one among the number. We sailed from Portsmouth March 15, 1837, and had a pleasant voyage (to Sydney). Soon after landing I was assigned to a gentleman in the interior of the country, a very hard and severe man. He did not allow me a sufficiency of food, and only a scanty supply of clothing. I had not been with him long when I was prosecuted several times for little or nothing. I found it impossible to remain with him and I took the bush, thinking to make my situation in life better; I was well aware I could not make it any worse. Through my not knowing the bush I was soon taken by the mounted police and brought back to my master again, after I had been tied up and received 50 lashes. I now made up my mind never to remain with him. I took the bush again, but was soon captured and sent to court, and sentenced to six months in a chain gang. I now thought within myself that I was rid of my master, but to my great mistake, when my six months in the chain gang were done, I was sent back to him once more.

I was now put to a standstill. I did not see what to do. I did not fancy stopping with him to be starved to death in the land of plenty. One night me and two other men went out and committed a robbery with arms in order to supply our wants, and things went on in this way for some considerable time. I had enough of everything I wanted. My master looked jealous, but he did not know how it was done, as I worked for him in the day, but worked for myself in the night. But, at last, I was bowled out. One night, with my two companions, a robbery was committed, and the next day we were taken up on suspicion and brought before a magistrate. My two companions were committed for trial, and I was discharged and again sent back to my old; master. In the course of two or three days I was told that one of my mates had turned King’s evidence, and I knew I might as well take the bush and have a run for it, as I was well aware I might expect to be transported, if not hanged. That night I bolted, with the intention of taking arms, and the first place I made for was one of my master’s sheep stations, to see one of my old farm mates.

I had not been long there when I heard the noise of a horse’s feet come galloping up to the hut. I ran to the door to see who it was, and who should it be but a man I knew very well, who had been in the bush about 18 months. He was a terror to the settlers in that part of the country, and was well mounted and armed. He dismounted and came into the hut. I liked his appearance very much. I got into a yarn with him and told him how I was situated, and that I liked his line of life, and would serve with him as his companion if he was willing. He looked at me, but gave me no answer. I then got up and went over to him and took his hand, and said, “Here is my band and my heart to go with you if you like.” He hesitated a little, and then said I could come. So, we bid the hutkeeper good day, and off we went together through the bush until we came to a road. Here my companion dismounted and tied his horse to a tree, and then concealed myself alongside of I the road ready to receive the first traveller that came by.

We had not been there long when I saw a horseman come riding along. When he came close up me and my companion jumped out into the centre of the road, and my companion cried out, “Stand; don’t move hand or foot, or I’ll blow your brains out. Get off that horse. Have you got any money?” The traveller got off, and I went up and searched him. I took £7 from his pockets and the watch off his neck. Then we led him and his horse a short way among the trees, where I ordered him to strip. He did not understand this, but I soon explained that I wanted his clothes, and in return I would give him mine. His were just my fit, and then I mounted his horse, which was a good one. We bid him good-day, and off we went full gallop. When night came on, we camped out, and the next morning we went to stick up a settler’s place about a mile distant.

We rode up to the house, and stuck them nil up. After searching the men, we ordered the mistress of the housed to get us some refreshment, which she did. After a good snack, and drinking a couple of bottles of wine, I went outside to look at the horses. While outside I heard a scream, and ran inside, where I saw my companion attempting some liberties with the mistress of the House. I checked him at once; when he drew a pistol from his belt, and was levelling it at me when I rushed upon him and struck it out of his hand. This led to a row between us, and I resolved to part from such a hot-tempered companion, as two of the same sort were better asunder. I left him there, and mounting my horse I went off by myself.

I was now left alone to manage a trade I did not much understand, but my heart was good to learn. I now was my own master, and it was my wish to remain so. I came out on a road after a long ride, and determined to stick up the first passenger that came. I had not been there very long when I saw a man come riding along, When close up I jumped out into the middle of the road, and used the word of command as I heard it from my companion yesterday, “Stand; don’t move hand or foot, or I’ll blow your brains out. What have you got in them leather bags before you on your saddle?” “They are the mailbags, sir,” he said; but there’s nothing in them but letters.” “How do you know what’s in them; unbuckle them and throw them from your saddle. Quick! I’ll soon see what’s in them.” On overhauling the bags I found, to my great satisfaction, they contained something else besides letters. I unsealed several and found they had money in them. I then mounted my horse, and set off about a mile with the bags, where I dismounted and searched the swag. It took me some time to open such a number of letters. The sum I found in them was £70, and cheques and orders £200. After this I was always very partial to mailmen.

 At this time Christmas was close at hand, and I went to a friend of mine, as I took him to be. At his place I was made welcome, and he appeared happy to see me. Two days before Christmas Day I gave him some money to go to a store and buy some rum and other things to make merry Christmas with. In the afternoon, by chance, I took a walk to meet him on his return. At length I saw him coming, and five constables with him. I concealed myself in the trees and let them go on, laughing in my sleeve to think how nicely they were sharped. My horse was up at his place, but that made small odds, as I could soon get another. I made for the main road to get a nag, as I did not fancy walking. When I got to the road, I stationed myself to receive the first swell that came. After a while I saw two gentlemen come riding together, engaged in a deep yarn; when close I rushed out, shouting to them to stand or be shot. They seemed quite astonished at my sudden command; but I ordered them to dismount and tie their horses to a tree, and then demanded their money, and made them turn out their pockets. They turned out £19 between them. Picking up this I mounted one of their horses, bid them good day, and pushed off into the bush.

My next attempt was on a settler’s house. I rode up to it, and bid the master of it good day. He made me no answer, and did not relish the looks of me, for he seemed frightened. There were four men on the farm besides himself. I bailed them all up, making one man tie the other. Next, I ordered the woman-servant to bind the master’s hands behind his back. All were now secured but the females, and these I wanted to wait on me. I now overhauled the place, and the first thing I saw was a double-barrel piece and a brace of pistols, and grasped them eagerly. The next thing that drew my attention was one of the men singing out to me, “For God’s sake, don’t rob my master, for he is a good man,” winking his eye at me the same time, as much as to say, he is a great vagabond. I next ordered the females to get me some refreshment as quick as possible, and after that I had a glass or two of wine. Then I untied the master’s hands, and made him load one of his own horses with a sackful of everything I required. I then mounted my own horse, and led the pack-horse by my side. I made for the mountains to have a spell, as the police were now rather busy. The country for me. I remained in ambush as long as my store lasted.

When this was done, I thought it was time to have another parley with the mailmen. So, I mounted my horse, and made for the road between Goulburn and Yass. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon the mail made its appearance. I rode up full gallop in front of the driver, and cried out, “Pull up, or I’ll blow your head off,” keeping a strict eye on the passengers at the same time. “Come down one and all, and be quick. Now turn out your pockets,” was the word; and then ordering them to stand back, and I put the contents of their pockets into my pocket. I next ordered them to stand back a distance of 100 yards, while I overhauled the mail. I dismounted and got up on the coach. I took the mail bags from the box, and likewise a carpetbag. I buckled them in the front of my saddle, mounted my horse, and bid them good day, and I turned mailman. After I had got about a mile in the bush, I rummaged the bags, and was employed for an hour in breaking letters open. The total sum of money the different letters contained amounted to £200. With this I thought I might as well take a trip down to Sydney. It was dangerous to remain in that part of the country, for the police were everywhere. The country was in a complete uproar after me.

I dung my horse, and took the coach down to Sydney. When I reached Sydney, I put up at a hotel in George street. I remained in Sydney about a month, regaling myself with every kind of sport. One night when I was at the play, I observed a man looking at me very hard as if he knew me. I recognised him to be a shipmate of mine, who came with me in the Mangles from England. I left the theatre and got out of Sydney as fast as I could. When I got up the country everything was very quiet. I thought it was time to give them another stir up, as they seemed so dull. I commenced again by sticking the first swell up who came the road. I had not been waiting long before Mr. P. M. arrived. I received him with open arms and the usual salute, “Stand; don’t move hand or foot, or I’ll blow your brains out.” He looked like a stuck pig. And the next word was, “Come off that horse. Now, turn out your pockets.” He turned out about £30; and then I cried, “Hand that watch this way.” He had a splendid suit of clothes on, which were about my fit. I took him into the bush a short distance, and made him strip. I took his clothes and gave him mine. After he had dressed himself, I struck a light and lit my pipe, and got into a great yarn with him about the affairs of the country. I handed him a cigar, and he had a smoke. After we had done smoking, I tied his horse to a tree, and took him with me to the side of the road, waiting to receive the next visitor that came that way. By and bye I saw two gentlemen coming on horseback. When they came up to where I was concealed, I sprang out, crying, “Stand, or I’ll blow your heads off.” “Pray, don’t hurt us, sir,” said the gentlemen. I made them dismount and turn out their pockets, and I got £11 between them. I now picked the best horse out, and mounted him. He was as lively as a bag of fleas. Then I bid them good-bye, and off I went. As I was riding through the bush, I saw three mounted policemen, well-armed. When they saw me they put spurs to their horses, and made towards me full gallop. I put spurs to my horse, and off he went like the wind. The further they came after me the further they got behind; and I soon gave them the go-by.

The next place I made for was Mr. Cardoe’s station, to pay his superintendent a visit, as he was a great wretch. Many a young man had he drove to destruction. When I arrived at his place he was walking in front of his house. I rode up to him, and he bid me good evening. I dismounted and put a pistol to his head, saying, “If you move, I’ll blow your head off!” All the men there was about the place was three. I ordered one of them to tie his hands behind him, and then to tie him to the verandah post. Then I went into the house and overhauled it. I found a single-barrel fowling piece and £4 in money. All the men seemed very pleased to serve him in the way I did. I now ordered one of the men to load my horse with things I wanted. I then untied him from the post, and ordered him to kneel down. “Oh, for God’s sake, don’t shoot me. I’ll never get another man flogged if you forgive me this time.” I forgave him, and I believe he behaved very kind to the men after that. I now mounted my horse and bid them good night, and left that part of the country.

I went to pay one of my friends a visit. When I came to his place I was treated with great kindness. I sent one of the females to a public house for some rum to regale ourselves. Someone that knew me saw me drinking there. This person went out and gave information, and I was taken when three parts drunk. They brought me to a public house sat Bungadore, where they confined me in the parlour with four men to guard me. Each man had a pistol. I rushed one of them, and took his pistol from him; the other three ran out of the door. I now had a run for it, but before I could reach the bush, I was surrounded with horsemen well-armed. I was brought back and secured in a curious manner. I had as many ropes and cords around me as a man could well carry, and so conveyed to gaol in a cart, tied up like a faggot.

In the course of two or three days I was taken before a magistrate, and committed for highway robbery. The magistrate who committed me was “Black Francis McCarty.” He tried all he could to hang me by trying to make the witnesses swear to more than they knew. But I had the pleasure of taking satisfaction of him afterwards, as you shall hear in the course of your reading.

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