Bushranging Gazette #15

Sunday, 1 May 2022

End of an Era at Glenrowan

Chris and Rod Gerrett, who have owned and operated Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan for more than thirty-five years are calling it a day and handing the reins over to new owners.

The shop, which includes a small museum and replica of the Kelly family’s house at Greta, has been a mainstay of Glenrowan and is located a stone’s throw from the Big Ned statue. Thousands of visitors have enjoyed the attraction, and hopefully will continue to do so under its new proprietors, Michelle Coad & Douglas Stoneman, for many years to come.

Some of the displays in the museum. [Source]

Representatives for the defunct Ned Kelly Vault took to Facebook to eulogise the end of an era.

Chris and Rod will be greatly missed by many making the pilgrimage up and down the Hume. It really is the end of an era! We wish them every happiness in their retirement.

The Ned Kelly Vault [Via Facebook]

Read more: https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/property/35-gladstone-street-glenrowan-vic-3675-2013619212


The Bushranger Letter

At Narryna, the 1830s merchant’s house at Battery Point in Tasmania, a special presentation will be held on May 5th titled “The Bushranger Letter”. The details are being kept under wraps, but the event is being promoted as an evening of “storytelling and facts”.

Secrets of the collection Narryna presents our Secrets of the Collection series. We will be hosting a series of talks on items that are normally hidden away behind the doors of Narryna. The first one is on the curious story of ‘The Bushranger’s Letter’.

Official Press Release

The event will run from 6:00pm until 8:00pm. Tickets start at $10 and include entry to the museum; bookings preferred.

Book your ticket here: https://www.narryna.com.au/shop

The Drover’s Wife

Films have had a hard time during the pandemic due to audiences not being able to visit cinemas, and Australia’s already embattled offerings have struggled. So it was with Leah Purcell’s feature film The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, a historical epic inspired by Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife, which depicts the hardships of pioneer women who were left behind while their husbands would travel on musters.

Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson [Source]

Leah Purcell has previously adapted the reimagined story into a stage play, which was then adapted by her into a novel. It greatly expands on the Lawson text by weaving in a troubled pregnancy, murder, fugitives and emphasis on the relationship between whites and Aboriginals.

Originally slated for a 2021 release to coincide with Purcell’s novel, the pandemic saw the film, which has had a positive reception at festivals and in early reviews, pushed back until this year. In April Leah Purcell was awarded the Chauvel award at the Gold Coast Film Festival’s Screen Industry Gala Awards.

“As a writer I love hanging things on history. These are my family’s stories. Molly Johnson was my mother, my grandmother, me, my aunties.” [Source]

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson will hit Australian cinemas on 5 May.


Thomas Jeffries at George Town

…So I had the pleasure of seeing my lads go to Port Macquarie, while the choice was given to me to come here on the Derwent. This I chose and to my sorrow I landed at George Town…

Thomas Jeffries, 1826

While stationed at the George Town convict barracks in 1822, Thomas Jeffries (or Jeffrey) gained the rank of constable. This gave him a level of authority over other convicts and he would later brag that there were no men under his watch that were flogged or had escaped.

Thomas Jeffries [illustrated by Aidan Phelan]

His time as constable came to a dramatic end after he tried to stab the chief constable in a drunken rage upon being caught attempting to chip through a wall with a pickaxe.

He was stripped of his privileges and sentenced to be sent to Macquarie Harbour, but instead was placed on a work party, from which he absconded in June 1825.

George Town, Tasmania [photographed by Aidan Phelan]

Escapes at Eaglehawk Neck

Many prisoners attempted escape from Port Arthur, but not many succeeded — and most who made it as far as Eaglehawk Neck were soon found naked, starving and hopelessly lost only days later. The isthmus connected the Tasman Peninsula to the Forestier Peninsula, which in turn connected to the Tasmanian mainland. Across the breadth of Eaglehawk Neck was a line of dogs that were chained to their kennels and illuminated at night by lamps. The dogs had such fun names as Caesar, Ajax, Achilles, Ugly Mug, Jowler, Tear’em and Muzzle’em. They were kept tethered close enough that their noses almost touched, so that nobody could pass between. The area under the lamps were covered in white shells to increase the visibility of the dogline.

Martin Cash swam across this stretch of water – Eaglehawk Bay – to make good his escape from Port Arthur. He was recaptured three days later, but it was not his last attempt. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

On one side of the neck is Eaglehawk Bay, which is a much narrower corridor where the dogline extended onto a pair of wooden pontoons in the water. On the opposite side is Pirates Bay, thus named for its connection to a gang of convict bolters who stole a schooner, that included Bob Greenhill and Matthew Travers who would later escape from Macquarie Harbour with Alexander Pearce.

The site of the dogline is now marked by a bronze statue of one of the dogs and its kennel. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

This is also where Martin Cash tried to escape a second time, accompanied by Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones on Boxing Day 1842. After escaping from their jobs at the quarry at Port Arthur, they hid in the bush for three days before continuing to Eaglehawk Neck. They stripped nude and deliberately swam across on the opposite side of the isthmus to where dogs had been stationed on pontoons. They lost their bundles in the waves and had to continue through the bush naked and unarmed, until they found a hut for a convict work party where they got clothes, supplies and weapons.

Pirates Bay, where the dogs on the beach nowadays are far friendlier. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

On 28 December 1852 Andrew Kelly and James Dalton managed to survive the swim across the neck. Four fellow escapees, however, either drowned or were taken by sharks. The pair continued on, acquiring a shotgun from a man named Reardon then continued to Prosser’s Plains (Buckland). They would subsequently manage to move through Tasmania, bushranging along the way, then pirate their way across Bass Strait only to be apprehended in Melbourne.

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