Bushranging Gazette #14

Friday, 1 April 2022

Moondyne Festival 2022

The annual Moondyne Festival in Toodyay, Western Australia, is all set to kick off on Sunday 1 May this year. The festival, named for local bushranger Joseph Bolitho “Moondyne Joe” Johns, features a range of activities and attractions, as well as reenactments of some of the infamous bushranger’s escapades.

Visitors are encouraged to dress in period costume when they attend, and scheduled attractions include music performances, a street parade, Morris dancing, a moustache competition, a photo room, sheep dog demonstrations, camel rides, and a “floozy” competition. The events and attractions will be spread around town, encouraging visitors to explore.

For more information about the festival, including a programme, you can visit the website: https://moondynefestival.com.au/

Douglas Stewart’s Ned Kelly

The Conversation has published an insightful article by Julian Meyrick about Douglas Stewart’s 1940s play Ned Kelly. The article gives a background to the play as well as Meyrick’s own observations regarding Australians’ attitude to their own history, and how the play embodies this through its use of language and theatrical techniques.

In 1997, I directed Ned Kelly in one of its few professional productions. Spruiking the show to audiences, I heard many times that people “already knew the story”. But when I asked what they knew, they were often at a loss to give even the basic facts. They felt they knew the Kelly story, but they did not. This combination of belief the past is known, and actual ignorance of it, fuels Australia’s “history wars”. Stewart’s play thus falls into a historical black hole as well as a theatrical one. A nation dismissive of its past dramatic forms is also dismissive of its past. Reclaiming Ned Kelly is therefore about more than its disinterment from the sarcophagus of neglected plays; it is an act of intellectual recovery whereby Australian history is made available as a dramatic resource, and drama is validated as a mode of historical inquiry.

Julian Meyrick

The article is an edited extract from the book Australia in 50 Plays, which was launched on 3 March.

You can read the full article here: https://theconversation.com/ambiguity-and-amorality-is-douglas-stewarts-ned-kelly-one-of-australias-great-forgotten-plays-179458

Mary Ann Bugg, the little known Australian bushranger

On ABC Radio program Night Life with Philip Clarke, the host interviewed historian Carol Baxter, author of Thunderbolt and his Lady, about Australia’s most famous female bushranger, Mary Ann Bugg.

Baxter’s work on the Thunderbolt story has been prominent over the years since her book was first released in 2011, in particular her championing of the story of Mary Ann Bugg. In the interview, Baxter discusses Bugg’s background and relationship with Frederick Ward and her work in researching the history.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nightlife/bugg/13818160

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one

Spectator Australia have published an opinion article by Ross Eastgate about the difficulties of police life, specifically in reference to the dangers and difficulties that officers are put in as a matter of course, and the need for officers to be able to defend themselves – with lethal force if necessary. Specific mention is made of the shootings at Stringybark Creek, amongst more modern examples, particularly the current issue of Constable Zachary Rolfe in the Northern Territory. Being an opinion piece, the views stated therein will not appeal to all.

On October 25, 1878, the criminal Ned Kelly and his gang ambushed four armed Victorian police at Stringybark Creek. Three, of Irish descent like Kelly, were murdered, resulting in the Kelly gang being declared outlaws to be hunted until death or capture. After nearly 150 years the murders still arouse strong emotions around nearby Mansfield among the surviving families and in the Victorian Police.

Ross Eastgate

You can read the full article here: https://www.spectator.com.au/2022/03/a-policemans-lot-is-not-a-happy-one/

Bushrangers of the Sydney Region

On ABC Radio’s Self Improvement Wednesday with Richard Glover from 9 March, Grace Karskens, Emeritus Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, discusses some of the New South Wales bushrangers that operated around the Sydney region in the early years of the settlement.

Karskens gives a good introduction to the early history of bushranging in New South Wales, and discusses the relationships between some early bushrangers and indigenous peoples, and the convict era. Bushrangers discussed include William Geary, the McNamara Gang, John Armstrong, and Jack Donahoe (The Wild Colonial Boy).

You can listen to the podcast here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/self-improvement-wednesday/siw-sydneys-bushrangers/13789430

Grantlee Kieza on the Queensland Native Police

The Daily Mail in the UK have interviewed author Grantlee Kieza about his new book The Kelly Hunters, and focused on the Queensland Native Police that were employed to capture the Kelly Gang. The article gives a good overview of the story of the trackers, who are a prominent feature of Kieza’s new release, which is about the police who pursued Ned Kelly.

They could distinguish even between the sort of boot heels the gang were wearing, […] There’s talk of them having found a sweat smudge from someone who had put their hand on a branch hours before. Uncanny kind of tracking abilities. […] They had the best weapons and they knew how to use them as well, Certainly Ned Kelly feared what they could do. It’s significant that as soon as they arrived he never did another bank robbery. He didn’t really show himself publicly anywhere until the siege of Glenrowan.

Grantlee Kieza

You can read the full article here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10634145/Ned-Kelly-feared-six-Aboriginal-trackers-massacred-people.html

New websites focus on Tasmanian bushranging legends

Two new websites have been launched by Aidan Phelan and Georgina Stones to focus on the history around Matthew Brady and Cash and Company. These sites will host archival material as well as original work that distills the research into easily digested articles on key events, people and places.

Martin Cash and Company, co-authored by Phelan and Stones, also has a Facebook page and Instagram account to act as companions to the core website. The material mainly concentrates on the three outlaws, Cash, Jones and Kavanagh, but will also provide insights into the pursuers, victims, friends and lovers of the trio.

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land is singly authored by Phelan and takes much the same approach to the material. While in its infancy still, it is hoped to be a one-stop shop for people who wish to learn more about Brady’s story, with plans for a book based on the research to come soon.

If you would like to check out these websites, you can follow the links below.

Martin Cash and Company —
Website: https://martincashandcompany.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martincashandco/
Instagram: @martincash_and_company

Matthew Brady: The Bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land —
Website: https://matthewbradybushranger.wordpress.com/


Mini-Spotlight

The Deaf Bushranger

Bushrangers with disabilities were not very common, apart from missing fingers, crippled hands or habitual limping caused by poorly healed broken legs. Yet, it was not unheard of for more significant disabilities to be present, such as in the case of William Brown, one of Matthew Brady’s gang, who was deaf.

Details of his deafness are almost non-existent; it seems likely that it could have been acquired through some form of trauma prior to becoming a convict, but is just as likely to have been congenital. This significant setback doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted on his ability to perform crimes with the rest of the gang, yet it must have required a considerable level of adjustment for the others to be able to include him in their operations given how important active communication and detection of approaching threats were to their survival. It was certainly significant enough to warrant mention in several contemporary reports about the gang’s activities.

He was described in the runaways list as follows:Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

229. Brown, William, 5 feet 6¼ inches, light brown hair, blue eyes, 25 years of age, deaf, a labourer, tried at Middlesex April 1819, sentence life, arrived by the Dromedary 1820, native place London, Britannia, Adam and Eve, sun and moon, right arm, sun and moon, and two hearts, on left, from Public Works at the Coal River October 31, 1825—£20 Reward.

Source: “RUNAWAY NOTICE.” The Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833) 26 November 1825: 1
‘William Brown’, by Thomas Bock [Courtesy: State Library of New South Wales, FL1077005 – DL PX 5; IE1076928]

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