Spotlight: The Bushrangers John and Thomas Clarke (22 June 1867)

Illustrated Adelaide Post (SA : 1867 – 1874), Saturday 22 June 1867, page 14


SOME particulars of the apprehension of the Clarkes were published in our last, but the following additional circumstances connected with their capture have since been contributed by a Sydney journal:— “After the surrender Tom Clarke was very communicative, and spoke of the many hair-breadth escapes he had had with particular gusto, and this man’s mind and feelings are so deadened that he looked upon the awful position he was then in as a piece of by-play. His brother, on the contrary, was extremely morose, and it was with some difficulty that he would allow Dr. Pattison to dress his wound, which was a very bad one, the shot having taken a piece of his shirt into the orifice. The doctor had to probe the wound, at which he called out lustily. The ball passed right through the top of the left arm. Sir Watkin, the black tracker, was shot by Tom Clarke from the window of the hut, the ball striking him above the wrist of the left arm, splintering the bone very much, taking a zig-zag direction, and lodged in the elbow. After Tom Clarke was handcuffed, Sir Watkin went up to him, and said — ‘Tommy, you shot me cowardly.’ ‘ No,’ said Clarke, ‘I merely shot you in defence; you wanted to take my life.’ ‘Well,’ said Sir Watkin, ‘I forgive you;— shake hands.’ Tommy raised his manacled hands, which Sir Watkin heartily clenched and shook cordially. Sir Watkin is now under the medical care of Dr. Pattison, in the Braidwood hospital. On the evening when the two Clarkes made for Guinea’s hut, in which resided Thomas Berry, junior, and his wife, they shortly after their arrival laid down to sleep. About day-light, on the following morning, Tommy awoke first, calling Johnny, saying, ‘Johnny, I’ve had a dream that Byrnes (a senior sergeant stationed at Ballalaba) had trapped us.’ Johnny exclaimed, ‘all nonsense.’ ‘Well,’ said Tommy, ‘this day will tell something.’ This was related by Tommy Clarke while Dr. Pattison was dressing the wound of Johnny. After Sir Watkin’s and Johnny’s wounds had been attended to, Tommy pulled up his trousers to show a wound he had received in the affray—a flesh wound in the back, caused by a slug from Sir Watkin’s gun. While he was stripping to show his wound, Tommy pointed out two bullet-wound marks he had received in his legs, one on his left shin and the other on his right. He said the one on his right leg bad been very bad, so much so that he could scarcely at one time raise it to get into his saddle. This fact tallies with what had been stated that he had been wounded and walked very lame. Guinea’s hut, as it is called, where this affray took piece, is about two miles distant from the spot where Carroll and his party were barbarously murdered — a circumstance which is now fresh in the recollection of every person. In the hut the police found a quantity of ammunition, and a breech-loading rifle, supposed to belong to Carroll. It seems from circumstances that the dream that Tommy had, being fresh in his mind, must have somewhat cowed him, for had he made a bolt out of the hut, by removing a slab or otherwise, there might have been a possibility of escape; for when the constable left for Ballalaba for reinforcements, there were only three police and the wounded tracker to guard.” The prisoners were tried on the 28th ult. for shooting at a police constable named Walsh, and found guilty. They were sentenced to death, and the 25th inst. was appointed for their execution. Both heard their condemnation unmoved.

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: The Bushrangers John and Thomas Clarke (22 June 1867)

  1. Articles like this one convince me that a newspaper’s sole goal was to sensationalise events for the mighty dollar/pound.
    If Sir Watkin had been shot by Tommy, and if Tommy had admitted to doing this, the court case would be about him shooting Sir Watkin – not about the injuries to Constable Walsh. He would have been convicted and sentenced in less than an hour in the courtroom. It was stated at the trial that the police could not say for certain who shot Sir Watkin. This due to the amount of smoke in the air from the shooting.
    Tommy did not receive any wounds in the affray – he was running not limping to the hut, with his brother, as two groups of policemen were shooting at him.
    Primary source material, the deposition of Senior Constable William Wright and his evidence in court said nothing about the breech-loading rifle belonging to Carroll. In fact Carroll’s missing rifle was a revolving rifle, not a breech loader. Carroll was one of the Special Constables killed in January. The Clarke gang, along with the police and harbourers were suspected of the murder of the four Special Constables, but none of these groups of people were ever charged with the murders. An unfortunate sympathiser, not a gang member, James Griffin, was convicted of the murder of Patrick Kennagh in what amounted to a mistrial. Trooper Woodland, who was present at the capture published hearsay concerning the ownership of the rifle – he was not present in the hut with Tommy and Wright. It appears the serial numbers for the guns given to the Specials had not been recorded. This fact was very useful for the people that did take the guns from the dead bodies. The ammunition and guns found in the hut belonged to the Clarke boys and Thomas Berry the owner of the hut.
    For a correct factual account of the deeds of the Clarke Bushrangers please see my book, available in Aidan’s bookstore. I also have an updated account of the Execution of the Special Police on my website – I would welcome any feedback on these accounts.

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