Spotlight: Johnny Gilbert at Burrowa (27 May 1863)

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Wednesday 27 May 1863, page 3


(From the Yass Courier‘s Marengo correspondent.)

MAY 19.—This morning, about ten o’clock, our little town, our rather village, was thrown into a state of excitement by a horseman galloping into it and reining up his panting steed at the police station. He handed a letter to the officer in command (Swan), the perusal of which caused all to be bustle; for instant boot and saddle was the order, and in a very short time horses were equipped, men armed and mounted, and they and the messenger all rode briskly away in the direction of Burrowa. Upon making the necessary inquiries, and proceeding to the scene of operations, I ascertained that a sticking-up case had occurred, which for coolness and effrontery eclipses all the late affairs of that class. It is well known that Mr. Allen Hancock, of Burrowa, has had for some time in training for the races a horse called “Jacky Morgan,” a provincial celebrity, and a great favourite in the betting circle. About seven o’clock this morning, as jockey in trainer Harry Wilson, was giving the horse his customary diurnal exercise near the Burrowa police barracks, a ponchoed horseman rode up to him, whom Wilson immediately recognised to be no other than the notorious Johnny Gilbert, whom Wilson has known for years. Gilbert instantly told the jockey to dismount, as he wanted the racer, but Wilson refused to do so, when Gilbert drew a revolver, and placing it close to Harry’s skull said, “Off at once, or take the consequences;” Wilson replied, “For God’s sake, Johnny, don’t ruin a poor fellow,” but all to no purpose, for Gilbert took the horse, and along with it a new jockey’s saddle and bridle, Wilson’s private property, which he had purchased only the day before. After Gilbert had cantered away, the unfortunate and almost broken-hearted jock, who by the way was to have raced the horse that very day, made all haste to his employer with the dismal intelligence. I am informed that Mr. Hancock lost no time in vain regrets, but instantly ordered one of his best horses to be saddled, and he in the interim loaded a double-barrelled gun, kissed his wife and family, and rode off, declaring most solemnly that he would never return alive without the stolen horse, and from what I know of his temperament, I’m pretty certain, if he drops across Gilbert, that he’ll keep his word.

Undoubtedly the “bush telegraph” must have been again at work, otherwise how would Gilbert have known the exact time and spot to have seized this racer, and that within rifle shot of the town, and within a stone’s throw of the police barrack itself. The daring sangfroid shown in this affair fully proves the great extent of harborage given to this scoundrel and his myrmidons, for him to dare almost to enter the town of Burrowa itself, where, as at Marengo, two out every three knew him by sight. I almost forgot to mention that this morning, about two hours after the previous robbery, the said Gilbert rode up to two drays, about three miles from Marengo (which were on the turn off road, near the Calabash) and told one of the carriers to stop and lower down a gin case, break it open, and hand him three or four bottles; the carrier hesitated, when Gilbert laughed derisively, threw open his poncho, and showed his belt bristling with revolvers, and also pointing significantly into the bush, thereby intimating that he bad plenty of assistance near at hand, which no doubt, he had, for it is my fixed impression that Gilbert is now at the head of the Wedden and Abercrombie band, and that Gardiner is leading another detachment in the Jingerra Ranges, whose tracks sergeant Brennan was on the other day. At all events, they are now possessed of some splendid horseflesh, three stolen racers, viz., Mr. Skillicorn’s, of Bathurst, Mr. Roberts’, of Currawang, and Mr. A. Hancock’s, of Burrowa.

I regret to state that the murderer, John Kellie, is still at large. Really what with our daily petty larcenies, weekly highway robberies, and bi-annual murders, we constitute a community which, however consistent, is unquestionably the reverse of Utopian.

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