BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM (Part Three)


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 29 October 1867, page 6


BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM.

BY A NATIVE TROOPER.

III.

I generally heard all about these things after they were done, for the “Boys” would tell all their little games to their friends and glory in out-witting the “traps”.

THE ROBBERY AT MORRIS’S STORE.

Next day there was the devil to pay in Araluen. The bushrangers had been there during the night and stuck-up two or three places. Berriman had been taken, and rescued. Four policemen were stuck-up and their arms taken from them. The Superintendent was off like lightning to see what was up and dismiss the four policemen who so shamefully allowed themselves to be disarmed. For myself, I would not consider long on their case, but have sent them all to the “right about”. After examination, however, only one was dismissed as an example. The particulars of this distardly affair appears to be as follows:— Constables Richards and Curran, two foot police, were informed that the boys were sticking up Morris’s store, so they went up and came across Tom Connell whom they captured. Tom would always stand when bailed up. They took him to Morris’s public house.

It seems Tom Connell had missed his mates who, after they had stuck up the store went to stick up another place. The police coming up, seized Tom who was loitering about, put a strap round his hands, and in this way took him to the public house. The police took about £20 from Connell who had himself taken it from Morris’s store — a brother of the Morris who kept this public house.

They had not been long here before the rest of “the boys” came to stick it up. The two constables were inside with Tom Connell secured. “The boys” commenced operations by bailing up the men about the place. They had bailed up several when Dacey, a constable of the town, came up. As he approached, Tommy Clarke and Pat Connell were still bailing up, so all that Dacey had to do was to come up quietly, see who they were, call upon them, and if they offered to run, shoot them. Instead of that he walked right up with a revolving rifle in his hands, and I believe a revolver, but am not sure. However, the rifle was enough. As he came up Tommy Clarke walked out and met him, and asked him who he was. Dacey told him he was a policeman, whereupon Tommy Clarke ordered him to hand over his rifle and fall in with the other men that were bailed up and standing in a row. Senior constable S. was informed of the bushrangers being at the public-house so off he went and rode in front of the place — seeing the men all the time the same as Dacey had. He dismounted and hung his horse up, and was walking over to them when Tommy Clarke asked who he was. S. told him his name, whereupon Tommy Clarke told him to hand over his rifle and fill in with the rest.

While this was going on outside the bar door Richardson and Curran were inside, behind the counter, with the door shut. Pat Connell went up and ordered them to open the door, but the two inside constables replied by firing at the slabs. Pat Connell fired a few shots, not at the slabs, but through the door, and then threatened to burn down the house if they did not open the door. Morris told the inside constables that he would not have his house burnt down. He said he would open the door, so that the inside constables could shoot “the boys” as they came in. The police inside had sworn in a special constable and stationed him with them behind the counter: he was armed with a revolver. Tom Connell was at this time a prisoner under their eyes. John Clarke, who now came on the scene, was standing guard over their prisoners outside; so there was only Tommy Clarke and Pat Connell to fight, if they came in. Morris opened the door and Tommy Clarke walked in and forthwith commanded the two policemen to drop their firearms — and so they did, instead of pulling the trigger at Clarke as soon as he came to the door. If the constables had not shot them dead, they would have beaten them back, and still stuck to the prisoner they had. But no, they surrendered themselves and their prisoner, and handed over their firearms to the bushrangers.

Here was a pretty lot of police — and one of them a native who ought to be shot for disgracing his country. Well, the boys made the police serve them out with grog, and they gave D. a kick or two in the behind for his courage. They took what they wanted, packed up, and bade them good night! The Superintendent went to the place and held an inquiry into the matter and dismissed R., I suppose because he was a native. He was not up to the mark of clearing himself. If any one they all ought to have been dismissed, and then put on their trial for aiding and abetting the bushrangers. It was a clear case. Here were policemen deliberately walking up to highway robbers and giving them their arms and ammunition. What more clear than this was aiding them.

Well, here was a pretty state of things. I was criticised all to pieces because I did not take them myself the evening before, when I was full gallop in the bush; but there was nothing much said to these men who had shelter to protect, and a good covered position to fire from with deliberate and dead certainty — because the boys approached to within an inch or two of their guns, and, instead of firing, they first surrendered their arms, and then took “nobblers” with the robbers afterwards. However, it is no use enlarging on this affair. We now knew that we had to face the boys with something more than a revolver. We had now to face breech-loading revolving rifles, and they had as many revolvers as they liked to carry. This made the police shake their heads somewhat dismally, and the civilians too, for the latter began to think it was all up with much of their property. Although I stated in court that it was Tom Connell who was with Clarke, everybody would have it that it was Berriman. John Connell was found guilty of having stolen tea in his possession and received ten years imprisonment with hard labour on the roads. Neither Lucy Hurley nor the old woman were tried, but bound over to appear when called upon.

FESTIVITIES AND ROBBERY AT MICHELAGO.

While John Connell was being tried the rest of the boys were sticking-up near Micalago where they placed the head station under Levy. It seems they were having a party here when the bushrangers introduced themselves to the ladies and gentlemen, and joined in the festivities. And here they remained enjoying themselves until Captain Battye with a party of police hunted them out. Shortly after this the boys stuck-up Micalago again, Mr. B. telegraphing for them. As they came back they called at his house and got some of the flour baked and then camped about two miles off. There they sorted the stolen goods, Mr. B. being the inspector. They then made their appearance down about Goulburn, where they stuck the mail up occasionally, as a change in their ordinary programme. At this time their head quarters was out at the back of our station, about seven miles off, in a part of the Molonglo mountains, but it was not known for certain. I always believed that they had a camp in that direction somewhere, but never could make the rest of my mates believe it. One day we went out there, but Sergeant B. said he would never go again as the place was too scrubby.

THE BUSHRANGERS’ CAMPS.

The boys had about four main camps at this time — one was at Slapup towards Micalago but between Micalago and Jinden. The other was between Jinden and Araluen; and then they had one or two in the gully. They kept their horses at the top camp at this period, but sub-inspector Stevenson passing that way, they deemed it prudent to clear out. The boys did not particularly like Stevenson’s company. He was sagacious and could soon smell a rat, and the boys knew it.

PAT AND TOM CONNELL’S SPREE.

When the boys wanted a spree, two of them would leave the camp on their best horses, taking nothing with them but revolvers. On one of these occasions senior constable S. and two others came upon them at Mick Connell’s public-house, Stoney Creek. The boys were about half drunk and amused themselves by galloping round and round the police who become so exasperated at the impudence of these scoundrels, that instead of taking deliberate aim they blazed away in quick time, right, left, and front. This continued till the boys got tired of the sport and then they made off for the gully where they intended to partake of dinner quietly, until they saw Mr. Watson and constable Walsh when they speedily decamped. Watson was in the creek about thirty yards from the house when they came up, and instead of letting them dismount and go into the house he made a rush at them and thus scared them down the flat and then pursued them. Tom Connell’s horse was so much knocked up in this chase that his brother Pat had to keep thrashing it with a sapling. They went about a mile down the road in this manner, towards the creek, until the boys wheeled into a pretty thick sapling scrub. They turned short off, but the police crossing so fast had not time, so they went on a half mile farther, and then pulled up to look. The two boys had thus slipped aside in the bush. When the police discovered they had lost sight of them they returned to the station much grieved and disappointed. They told me this as I passed their station. The next morning I and sergeant B. went up to where the chase had taken place. We picked up the mare Tom Connell was riding. This mare had been taken from Rosebrook on the night of the party. It appeared that young Battye had ridden her down from Cooma to the spree, and Tom Connell had taken her without asking permission. The mare belonged to Mr Lee of Bathurst, to whom it was forwarded via Goulburn.

THE MURDER OF CONSTABLE O’ GRADY.

After a lull, and a long silence comes a storm, so the boys next turned up at the Gulf, seventy-one miles down towards the coast. While sticking-up there, the police were informed of it. The boys had been sticking-up all that day out of the town of Nerrigundah. They shot one young man through the leg because he refused to stand when called upon. Things were in a sad plight. The inhabitants were panic-stricken. There were only two policemen in the town and one of them was sick in bed. It was known that there were at least five bushrangers, well armed, playing havoc, and carrying all before them with impunity. The boys had made it up with one of Smith’s stockmen on the Jinden station to lead them down to the Gulf, and he did it faithfully. Though O’Grady was very ill, and though he knew there were four or five of them, he got out of bed, dressed and armed himself, and went up with his mate to tackle them like men. They came up, not with show, but with a cool determination to do business with judgment. They came up in the shade of the street until within close quarters, when the boys spotted them. Fletcher, one of the boys, fired, and then O’Grady fired, not at random, and shot Fletcher dead. O’Grady, the next moment was himself shot dead, either by Pat Connell or Tom Clarke, but it was never positively known which. The boys then mounted instantly, and galloped right over the other constable, but did not hurt him much. So you see what two resolute men can do. It grieved me to hear of O’Grady’s death. His bravery was of that kind that I never expected to find in the police. Take all the surrounding circumstances, and a nobler act of heroic bravery and strict devotion to duty will not be found in the annals of New South Wales. Poor O’Grady! He was a brave man. He saw his danger, but he faced it nobly. It is hard to see a young man shot down in the prime of life, but I would sooner be shot down as O’Grady was than behave as the police did at Araluen. That Araluen affair is a dark spot in the annals of our Braidwood police; in fact the whole of the police have been injured in reputation by it. Where four men deliberately surrender, as they did at Morris’s public house, the people lose all confidence in police efficiency. However, this last affair was a victory, thanks to O’Grady and his plucky mate, and one of the boys had been shot dead. On their way back, the boys were encountered by sergeant Hitch and a party of volunteers, and it was supposed John Clarke was wounded. It got about that we were looking for Johnny, so he took to the bush with the rest. This gave us a better chance, for he was an active telegraph and scout for the boys. Moreover, Tom Clarke and Pat Connell had been both outlawed for the shooting of O’Grady.

OLD MRS. CONNELL AND LUCY HURLEY.

I may as well here relate what I was doing at this time. Senior-constable B. was stationed at Araluen for a short time, and sergeant S., the officer of that station, was up at Major’s creek, on some particular scheme. I was left alone with the tracker, and was out day and night. One day I was planted at the back of old Mrs. Connell’s, watching the place. After a little while I saw Lucy Hurley come up and go into the house; and of all the rows I ever heard between two women, the best came off between the old woman and Lucy. Such scratching and tearing, such swearing and horrible execrations, screams, and defiant expressions, I never heard before. I heard Lucy say to the old women “I’ll tell Tom as soon as be comes back. He’ll be here to-morrow.” The old women denied that he would be back. Lucy said he had promised to meet her in the scrub at a certain spot at the back of the hut, and she would tell Tom all, and then woe to the old woman. It seemed curious to me that Lucy should threaten the old woman with a hauling over the coals by her own son, but this is bush life among a certain class.

Now, I knew the little spot in the scrub well, and so determined to go home, get some grub, turn out the horses, and get some men from Major’s Creek station, proceed to this little spot in the scrub, and wait there quietly in ambush till they came. While turning this over in my mind I saw Lucy leave the old woman and go towards her own place; so after a little interval, I proceeded down the range to Lucy’s hut.

LUCY’S COYNESS.

Thinks I, as Lucy has fallen out with the old woman, and as she was much excited, she might let out something concerning the boys that would be of use to me. So I worked round and came up to the hut as if I had come straight up the gully, quite unconcernedly. When I got to the hut Lucy was as calm as a mouse. She asked me with a doubtful look in her eye, if I had come up the gully? I told her I had, and that on my way I fancied I heard some one cooeying. I said this, because when Lucy left the old woman she roared out what she had to say as loudly as she could — to give the poor old woman “fits”. But Lucy told me it was the old woman who was shouting at her, and bullying her, and refused to let her get her horse out of the paddock. Ahem! says I to myself. Lucy said she was glad I had come, and asked me to protect her while she went and got the horse out of the paddock. I agreed, and went up with her; but while she was getting the horse Mrs. Connell never came out to prevent her. I expect she had had quite enough of Lucy. I went down to the hut again with her, and was going inside when Lucy stopped me. Of course that made me suspicious, and I was about to force the door when she told me Mrs. John Connell was in her confinement. With this I let her go in alone, but I had a peep “on the quiet” to satisfy myself. There was no one in the hut but Mrs. John Connell, so Lucy told me the truth this time. She asked me which way I was going, and if I was going to Mick Connell’s way, because, if I was, she would go with me.

LUCY’S STRATAGEMS.

Lucy had never been so civil to me before. She generally called me all the b— dogs she could think of, and she called sergeant B. the same. In fact, we had to keep our hands on our revolvers when we searched her hut, as we did at all hours of the night. But this agreeableness on Lucy’s part promised better, so I went with her to Mick Connell’s. Here I tried to make her drunk, but she would only take port wine. With the boys she would drink either rum or brandy, but she was too “fly” with me. She had some gold rings, a gold watch, and gold guard which Tom Connell gave her — all stolen — but I never could find them on her, though she gave me an excellent chance; for while I was pretending to look and praise a brooch she wore, she took a gold-scarf pin out of my comforter, and planted it somewhere about her. I could not find it,and did not like parting with it, as it was a keepsake. But I let her keep it as it would probably give me a chance of finding something else about her. But it was no use. She was too “fly” for me. Mrs. Connell saw her with it and asked her how she came by it. Lucy said I gave it to her.

HEART BROKEN MRS. CONNELL.

At this time Mrs. Connell was getting sick of Lucy and the boys, and began to wish they were captured. Her anguish of mind must have been great when she saw the headlong course her sons were pursuing. For all this, and no matter how bad they were, the poor old woman had still a mother’s love for them. I often pitied her, for at the bottom she was a good old woman, and it was but natural for her to do a great deal to save her sons. But now she was getting sick and heart broken, so she told one of our chaps something, but seeing this pin with Lucy she spoke about it, and I had to go and demand it from her. She wore the rings Tom had given her every day, but the police could never find them on her. Everyone else could see her wear them but the police.

After I got to Mick Connell’s with Lucy I had a long yarn about the boys. She was very shy at first, but answered me at last, and told me she would follow any man until she had taken his life that would shoot her Tom Connell. She said Pat Connell was also a “plum”, but she didn’t think much of the Clarkes. I promised to screen Tom Connell if she would put me on the Clarkes, and she said she would; so after a while we parted.

(TO BE CONTINUED.)

[Links to other chapters here]

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