Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Friday 1 November 1867, page 6
BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM.
BY A NATIVE TROOPER.
After leaving Lucy Hurley at Mick Connell’s I went home to the barracks, thinking how I should nail the lot of them the next night, as Lucy had not the least suspicion that I was aware what was up. Who should I find at the station but senior-constable X. and constable W. with the news of the Gulf affair. I knew then that as the boys had been there they would be back the next night. I told X. this, but he shook his head and handed me a letter from the superintendent to the effect that I was to hold myself in readiness to start at a minute’s notice with X. who would receive further instructions before morning. This was a clincher. I could not disobey orders, but did not like giving up all my dreams of wealth. Here were all my castles knocked over as soon as I had built them. When you hear that a store has been robbed it is mere folly for a swarm of police to go to that store next day, in the hope of capturing the robbers; but this is frequently done. Well, senior-sergeant C. brought out these instructions and told us to push for our lives as soon as reinforcements arrived. They were not long in coming.
Sergeant H. had sent word that if a party of police went post haste to the Uram-beyan mountains, the boys could be all shot coming up the track from the Gulf affair. Well, X. was senior, so I asked him if he would push up the nearest road — that was, up the gully, and past the Jinden station, but old X. told me to leave it all to him, not to bother about grub, and to carry nothing on the saddle. So out we went to Wild Cattle Flat, had dinner, and then went to within four miles of Animbo, a cattle station, and camped by a log. We had nothing with us. We had made up a pretty good fire as it was raining heavily. We had a quart pot and sufficient tea and sugar to make a quart, and a bit of dry damper.
THE GONG GONGS.
We had all been asleep when we were started up and thought we were attacked. The alarm was caused by the gong-gongs hitting old X.’s cape with a loud crack. These gong-gongs are a large sort of moth, almost the size a small bat, and on a dark, wet night swarm like bees. The fire dazzles while it fascinates them. They will come as far as they can see the fire and fly straight into it. If they happen to hit the ground before they get to the fire, they will crawl into it.
As soon as daylight came we were on the road again till we came to the station where we had breakfast on grub as black as your well-coloured pipe — unfit for a dog to eat. We jogged on again till we came to Big Badger station, belonging to Mr. Smith — not the Jinden-station Smith. Here we got splendid quarters. This was our second day’s travelling from Ballalaba and not at our destination yet. I thought much but said little. I could have started from Ballalaba and reached the place we wanted to go to in about half a day. At any rate in thirty-six miles. The third day came and we got a man to show us the road to the track leading down the mountain. He came with us till within half a mile, and even showed us part of the track, but we had to go down one spur and cross the creek, and then go up the next spur before coming on the track. We went down the spur, but instead of going up the next, went along under the range for twelve miles out of our way. Old X. said we were going right until he got frightened and owned he was lost. Here we were after “the boys” for shooting O’Grady! We had travelled right round Smith’s station at Jinden and were making down for Araluen; so I wheeled about and made for Smith’s place, X. saying it was too late then for us to do any good with “the boys” who had crossed long before now. This was the third night from our station. When within half a mile of Smith’s house I pulled up and asked X. if he knew where he was. He had no idea, and constable W. who was with us, said he could not tell as he had been put out. Yet this X. would tell the superintendent he knew every house, road, and track in the district. He could not believe his eyes when we came to Smith’s house at about dinner time.
THE JINDEN STATION.
Smith came out as big as two men and wanted to know our little game. We told him kangaroos—that we were hunting. He said he had sent for the post and if we waited half-an-hour we should get the news, so we let our horses out in the pad-dock. He said he had no grog, or he would offer some. We told him a good feed would do us better. He at once got us food, but never let on about the Gulf affair, or of Fletcher being one of his stockmen, though he knew all about it as well as he, and more. After dinner we started for home and camped about a mile from his house. We took with us some potatoes out of his paddock and roasted them for supper and breakfast. It was raining all night. We were wet through. My coat was under the saddle to save the horse’s back. We came to a farm at about dinner time.
A WOMAN’S HATRED.
The master asked us inside but the mistress being a little excited told us to go to Bath. She said she would poison that —– so-and-so, meaning myself, and commenced abusing my gallant mate W. To keep her tongue off myself, and her poison too, I told her so-and-so was no chop. “Oh, the rascal”, she said, “I know him by his curly hair”. Now W. had curly hair and this led her to believe he was me. W. was getting a little frightened, and that made her worse. She gave him tongue pie in earnest. The others asked me to take no notice as she was abusing me so much. For my life I could not then have taken in anger what she was saying to W. of me, for we had a stunning feed before us and were cold, wet, and hungry. After dinner, and as soon as W. got up she rushed at him and seized his rifle, and then you would have seen some tugging. She said old X. was quite welcome, but W., meaning me, should never have a meal in peace in her house. She was a sister to the Connell’s, and so had a down on me for shooting at them.
AT MICK CONNELL’S AGAIN.
We then went to Mick Connell’s, and on the way were informed that “the boys” had got back, but X. knew better, and went to Mick’s for a nobbler, and it was hard to get him away. The tracker got screwy, and after we left Mick’s, about a couple of miles, fell off his horse. Old X. told me to leave him and come on home; but bad as I wanted home, and a change of dry clothes, I dared not leave him, as I knew he would go back to Connell’s, and as the “boys” were about they would soon have made a tracker of him, and taken his firearms and horse. To leave him there without firearms would have been as bad, as I knew we were being watched home, and he would certainly have been murdered. So I remained with him, and got him close home once, when he gave me the slip, and it took all I knew to follow him in the dark and catch him after a gallop of a mile among saplings. He swore he would shoot me but I did not believe him until I heard him cocking his carbine behind me. It was so dark that I could not see him. There was no road. We had to bush it for seven miles. As soon as I heard him cocking his carbine I turned round sharp and knocked him off his horse, and gave him one, two, for falling. I put him on the horse again and made him ride beside me. This sobered him, and he came on all right. When I got home X. had just got in. I think they had been lost. Sergeant B. was at home, so X. returned to his station. He told us not to let on about missing the track and no one would be the wiser. I believe he reported he was there but am not sure.
Now we had left Smith’s station that morning and stopped at three or four places on the road and then reached home early that night. Why should X. take three days to ride round the other road? It seemed as if he wished to avoid meeting them — though he was called the smartest man in the force at the time. The Superintendent believed he was the best man he had.
A DISCOVERY OF RACEHORSES.
Sergeant C. was stationed at Ballalaba at this time, in charge, and another active constable named G. They asked me if I thought there was any chance of coming across “the boys”—and I replied that there was. My impression was they had a camp out the Molongo way. Sergeant B. also had been told of some horses having been seen down Molongo way, below the station, so off we all went. This was my fancy spot for a camp. B. was put on the scent to find the horses. We found twelve of them, mostly racers, amongst them being Fireball, Deception; and Astronomer — all first-class horses. While I was mustering them up, the others caught them and took off their hobbles. We scoured all round but could find no more. Tommy Clarke saw me ride close to him, and he lay down behind a log, with his brother Johnny, till I passed. They told me this afterwards, when they surrendered.
We took the horses to Ballalaba and reported the matter. The superintendent came out and ordered a search to be made for a camp, so we packed up three day’s grub.
We started out in the night this trip and went properly to work, and reached the place where we got the horses, pitched our camp there, and let our horses go. As soon as we got dinner we started on foot, having a better chance that way of picking up foot prints and running them to a camp. The superintendent, Mr. John Wallace, senior-sergeant C., I and the tracker went out, leaving sergeant B. and constable G. at the camp. We were all walking abreast of each other, about a mile from the camp, I being on the left and sergeant C. next to me. In this way we approached a fern swamp. These swamps are pretty dry to walk in, but very scrubby. The tall tree-fern grows from 8 to 12 feet high, and is intersected thickly with a sort of wild rose vine and covered with small thorns. When near one of these places I heard a footstep and signalled to C. whose place it was to signal to the next man and so warn the rest of the party. But the step being so near, sounded as if it was coming out of the swamp on towards us. We were so intent on listening that the remainder of the party had not been warned by C. and went on out of sight. The invisible owner of the foot step stood as if listening for about ten minutes, and then turned short back and went on. We concluded the invisible had either seen or heard us. C. and I consulted; he was for going after the party and cooeying them back, and as they could not be found without calling, we knew that by making the least noise it would scare away the boys if near. Our only way was to pick up the track and follow it to the camp. If we went after our party we should have been again unable to find the track. To pick up the track of a man in the bush is no easy matter. Even then we should have to return to where we heard the sound. We came to bare ground and there saw a small wellington boot track. This being followed, led us on to what appeared at a distance a deep creek, but on coming to it, we found it was a basin or deep swamp with a stream coming out at the side of the mountain. Here it was difficult to follow the track as the ground was covered with dead fern leaves. Suddenly the track made down to this den of ferns, but C. would not let me follow it down. We went up a little further and went down into the basin and crossed to the other side, making no more noise than a cat.
TOMMY CLARKE NARROWLY ESCAPES.
When we came out we heard some one walking ahead. We both (senior sergeant C. and myself) stood behind a tree. Tommy Clarke came out and stood listening about twenty yards from us. I was levelling my rifle at him, and wanted C. to call on him to surrender, but he would not, and told me if I dared to speak, or make any attempt to take him, he would suspend me from service. I could easily have put a bullet through his thigh, but was obliged to obey orders. Before coming out I had been told that Tommy and John Clarke were there, and Tommy’s wife, and that Tommy was sick. Tommy stood listening for about five minutes, and then went back again. Now, here we could have taken Tommy Clarke, or have shot him, and Johnny would have run for his life when left alone. We could have done a clean, clever trick that day, and even if John Clarke had stood to fight we were as good as they, and our camp was hardly a mile below us, and they would hear the shots. The scouring party would have come; at all events we could have taken up a good position where we were, so as to have kept off half-a-dozen men; but no sooner had Tom Clarke disappeared to his camp — for we saw the smoke — than C. wanted to run for his life to our camp. Well, Tommy had heard us as we came along steadily, and to have run over the stony ridge then in front of us would have merely invited his bullets among us: at any rate it would be bidding good-bye to our camp. I pointed this out and told him he would be shot, so this made C. remain behind the tree until I climbed the rocks and had a good view on both sides to see all was clear. I motioned for C. to come up. This was our only danger, for if they had heard us they would either have fired or waited till we had got out of sight when they would have shifted.
As soon as out of hearing we ran full split down the hill to our camp and got sergeant B. and G. We were exhausted with running, and stripped, planting our clothes in a log, and then returned, with few clothes on, the way we had come. But C. would have it we were going wrong and so we got wider than we ought. Finally we turned short and got near their camp when we ran over a track quite fresh — a horse track, shod. We began to think it was all up. We followed this track till we came across three or four more — all fresh — so we stuck to them till they led us round to the head of the basin to the other side.
A BUSH FIGHT WITH THE BOYS.
When near the place where we first heard the footsteps, we found ourselves near the bushrangers’ camp and heard them laughing and talking quite loud. I crept on and listened to what they were saying. I saw the tent for the first time, and heard Pat Connell say, “Come, look sharp, and let’s get away or that — (myself) and mob will soon be on us, for they’re about somewhere. I tracked them to here.” As soon as I made out what they were up to I returned and told the rest, and we all crept up to a big log about thirty yards off, and fired into them without calling upon them; it would have been folly to do so considering the shelter they had. As soon as we fired one of the Clarkes fell. Constable G., a plucky fellow, wanted to rush them but was overruled. They at once fired back upon us from all points, cursing and swearing like savages, and we at them. We were behind a big log so they could not hit us. Their bullets went into the log, and some whizzed over our heads. I just popped my head up to get a good shot at the man who was cursing me so, but he was behind a tree twenty-five yards off. The lower part of the tree was hid from view by the ferns, but I could see the smoke rolling out from it. While thus looking two or three bullets swept past my head, so I squatted down. This sort of work lasted about an hour, when they began to surround us, at least they threatened to do so. Some began to whistle, others to sing, and swore they would shoot every d—l of us. This made C. order a retreat, for we were doing no good, beyond firing in the air. B. would put his revolver over the log and fire haphazard. Our only safety lay in parting out a little, and charging the camp resolutely. If they had escaped we should have taken their camp and horses, and cooking utensils, and been deemed the conquerors, but C. wanted to go to the camp for the rest of our party. B., however, said he would stick behind the log. Ultimately we all retreated about twenty yards behind a big tree, and had a “barney” over it, so I filled my pipe and had a smoke on the strength of it. When it came to my vote — whether we should run to our camp or stop — I said the minute we left our present position the affair was over, and therefore proposed to rush their camp, but B. would not agree, and ordered a retreat to our camp and consult the superintendent. So we ran away from “the boys” like men and left them masters of the field.
It seems that after we left the other chaps at first, the tracker came on some tracks from the same direction, and they ran them to the enemy’s camp also, and had gone down below the camp a couple of hundred yards, and sent the tracker to our camp for us, or whatever men there were there. When the tracker came to our camp no one was there, so he returned to his mates. When he got back we were attacking the enemy’s camp higher up. They could hear us swearing at one another but could not tell one lot from another and on that account did not like to approach; so they stopped for about an hour and then made for our camp, where they all were when we returned.
SLEEPING IN THE BUSH.
The superintendent inquired if any of us were shot and seemed quite surprised that we should have escaped. It was resolved to go back at once, so we caught our horses and pushed up, but it was dark before we got there, and raining gently. We went up on the side the boys were, and when near hung our horses up and crept along on foot. B. would have it that we were on the same side then as we had been firing from, and so put us out from finding the place for some time. At length we came to the spot and I had to be careful, for the boys were there. B and I went to where we thought the tent was and lay down till morning, with the superintendent and Mr. Wallace just above us, and the remainder of the party above them. Morning came and found us all frozen with cold. It cleared up in the night and commenced freezing, and we being half wet through, and lying still all night, we were frozen to that degree that “the boys” could have easily shot every one of us. The tracker could not stand at all. The superintendent and Mr. Wallace put a rifle between his arms and led him about till he got warm. We searched, but saw no trace of blood about the camp. We had hit the right place and lay down in the dark, but everything was gone, except half a bullock that was hanging over our heads, some milk, potatoes, bedding, clothes, and pumpkins. As soon as we found the tracks we ran them on some eight miles, still the superintendent decided that we were getting further behind, so we returned home and got a feed of which we were badly in need. There was another “fluke.”
We had then orders to take a packhorse with provisions for three days. We had information “the boys” were camped about six or seven miles further out, in an empty hut. I had the party within two miles of the place when sergeant C. galloped up to me and asked me if I knew where the hut was. I told him I could find it by my directions, as the country was just the same as I had been told, but he said, bullishly, he was not going to follow me where I liked, and he would go to the nearest house and inquire. I told him he would make a mess of the whole affair if he did. ” Mind your own business,” said he. “I’m in charge and wont be dictated to. Be civil or I’ll put you under suspension.” As he was so impertinent I let him go his own road. We camped close to “the boys” that night, and it took us till night the next day to find our road home again. Of course I was reported for incivility. These men, when promoted are very touchy. The superintendent told me I was only an ordinary trooper, and was not supposed to know if C. was right or wrong. This was doing our duty, if you like. He was frightened to tackle them again, so he kicked up a row with me to get out of it. As anticipated I led the life of a dog and tendered my resignation, but the superintendent told me I was too hasty and a fool to give up the regular force to join a parcel of volunteers, as I had threatened, as no volunteers should ever take them.
From what I saw around me, and from my knowledge of the bush and the people about Jingera, I had determined to go to Sydney, obtain an interview with Mr. Parkes, who I knew was going the right way to work, and join a party of volunteers. If I had my own way of working I could have found them in a week. I spoke to the superintendent about withdrawing my resignation, and he said if I wrote an application he would tear it up. I was stationed in Braidwood then for about a week.
Sergeant C. and B came in. Here was a barrack full of police and civilians from all sides, blowing a houseful about “the boys” being cowards, and that they would not come out and fight fairly. I got up and told them plainly they ought to be the last men to speak, as it was only the other day they ran away when “the boys” challenged to fight like men. Up some of them jumped and went to the superintendent and reported me again for speaking to civilians about police matters. This was the only point they could get a hold of — speaking the truth in the barracks. I was sent out to Wild Cattle Flat, then to Jingera. I and Egan, a plucky constable from Maitland, took it very easy here for about three weeks.
PAT CONNELL SHOT DEAD.
A man came from the gully and told us that Tom Connell was drunk there every day, so we went over and had a look at Mick Connell’s and came back again. About this time “the boys” mustered and went down again to Araluen. Information was sent to the Ballalaba police, that the boys would come up at some particular point of the range, so the police pushed out and saw them going along. The tracker watched them till they camped, and then the police crawled up, and fired a volley into them. It appears the boys did not expect anyone up there for they had stolen a lot of horses in Araluen, and Pat Connell was going round them when our chaps fired. The boys had hung up their firearms by the fire to dry. When the police fired the boys all jumped up in alarm and made for the first shelter. Pat Connell galloped back to get his firearms. The police had all taken up their positions behind trees, except Tom Kelly, a Goulburn constable. Pat Connell came close by Kelly and told him to stand back; but Kelly was not a man for nonsense, so he let fly at Pat Connell and shot him dead. The dead bushranger, the notorious Pat Connell, was then strapped on a horse, the police took what arms and things that were near the fire, and returned home. For this gallant action senior-sergeant C. was promoted sub inspector. B. was promoted sergeant, and Gracy was made a senior constable; but Tom Kelly the hero of the contest, was sent back to Goulburn, as his reward, and glad he was to get away safely.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)