BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM (Part Five)


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 5 November 1867, page 6


BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM

BY A NATIVE TROOPER

V

Well, we kept getting information but did nothing. Senior Constable W, took a scheme into his head and went to Braidwood to see the Superintendent about it. This scheme was to get some old, crippled horses and take them to within a couple of miles from the gully, plant our saddles and food and then proceed down the gully on foot and come on the bushrangers at night.

At this time the boys would ride up and down the gully at night with impunity! This scheme, to my mind, was a capital one this time if well carried out. I wanted Sergeant B. to try it but he never would. The Ballalaba police would never come in the gully at night about this period. We formed an expedition with W. in charge and went over, but instead of leaving the horses on the range W. would persist in riding them as far as Mick Connell’s. We had been riding about the gully all one night and were returning homewards when we ran against Tom Connell and Lucy Hurley. They were on their horses; stopping on a bit of a ridge, talking. They appeared to be so absorbed in conversation that they did not see us till we were within 200 yards of them, When they saw us Tom wheeled round, and galloped down the other side of the hill like lightning. He was out of sight before we could get a shot at him.

W. never offered to stir himself. This was riding old horses with a vengeance.

Two or three nights before this mine and constable Egan’s horses had been stolen, but they never touched W.s though his was the best of the three. We received word that the boys had gone over to Foxlow again, to stick the place up, but that they would be back again the next night to supper at old Mrs. Connell’s. Lucy Hurley was to be there to meet them. Mrs. Tom Connell had got into trouble for passing stolen notes: Lucy at this time lived generally with the “boys” in the bush, or at her mother’s.

AN UNPLEASANT POSITION.

When we knew that the “boys” would be back from Foxlow that night we remained in the gully until night, watching old Mick Connell’s hut. When it was dark one of our friends came with some food, he also brought with him a double-barrelled gun. Presently, under cover, of darkness, we crawled down quietly to within about seventy yards of the hut, and planted behind a large tree. Shortly after the moon rose, shining, brightly and converting night almost into day. We could see every slab in the hut. W. told me to get near the hut and listen to what was going on inside, to leave one of my revolvers with our mate, and my rifle with W. and party. I did so, and got near the hut, when I heard Lucy say to the old woman, “You had better make the tea they’ll be soon here.” I was turning round to creep back and convey this piece of agreeable news to my mates when I saw a horse’s head coming round the hut. I threw myself, flat upon the ground instantly, and remained as quiet as a log. He rode past me with a revolver in his hand, dismounted in front of the hut, and went inside. I was just going to draw my revolver – a movement I dare, not have done before, without discovering myself and spoiling everything. My revolver was under my breast when I fell. As I was rising cautiously to draw it Tommy Clarke and his brother John were just approaching like the first rider, who turned out to be Tom Connell. They both passed and looked round the hut at me. I never moved, but kept my hand on my revolver. Tommy looked hard at me for a minute, holding his rifle ready all the time. Moonlight shades seemed to favour me. From the place where W, and the party were, they could have shot him dead. Our friend told them they were the boys, and if they did not fire quickly they would hear them and be off. Old W said, seeing my position, “Poor So-and-so-they’ve got him; but we can’t help him.” Constable Egan, who on several occasions has shown great pluck, wanted W. to fire, but he would not. I lay within a few yards of Tommy Clarke and his brother, thinking every moment they would either shoot at me or gallop up to make sure what I was, but they did neither. Tommy was very dubious. This was all the work of a minute. In the meantime old W. kept stamping his feet, I heard him quite plain as I lay on the ground. This appeared to be intended to let Tommy know he was there. Tommy heard the stamping for he looked towards the tree and then called for Tom Connell to come out, the traps were near. Tom Connell came out instantly, jumped on his horse, and the three went off like a shot. This promptness convinced me these men gave no uncertain sound to each other. As soon as Tommy Clarke turned I jumped up and called on my mates to fire, and ran myself to the front to meet Tom Connell, but he had got behind the pigsty so that I couldn’t shoot at him with a revolver. I doubled to the other side of the hut thinking to meet W. and get my rifle, but found he had not budged an inch from his place of shelter. I roared out to him to rush up, and ran to meet him for my rifle. We then all blazed away at them, one shot each, but they had got too far away. We saw them pretty plainly too, especially when they came out on the clear flat. I fired first and my ball went through Tommy Clarke’s cloak. I wanted senior-sergeant W. to come inside the hut and get the property but he refused. He said he would not let any one know who it was that had been at the hut. I saw the bag of things in front of Tom Connell as he rode round into the hut. I heard him take these things off his horse and take them inside the hut, but not being in charge, and having been told by the superintendent that as “a mere trooper” I was not supposed to know what was right in these cases, I said no more. We pushed away as fast we could and left the stolen property in the hut. We were going to Braidwood to make an official report of the affair but on arriving at Jembaicumbene W. told me to remain there and guard Mr. Myers’ store as the “boys” were about. I saw my presence was not required in Braidwood till W. had made his report to the superintendent, It puzzled me how W. would clear himself. Well, he reported that he stopped near the hut for a long while and that while I was near the hut the boys came, saw me, and galloped away before he could do any good. When the Clarke’s first looked, I thought they had discovered me lying down; but when Tommy Clarke surrendered he told me that he thought I was a dog lying asleep in the bush. I had on a large heavy railway wrapper. Moreover W. in his report said that he and Egan were 400 yards from the hut, but they were only seventy. The tree is there now for those who like to test the truth of this. It was only what I expected, that the blame would be thrown upon me to save himself; but I am satisfied there never was a better chance for an officer of police to take aim and shoot these desperate outlaws. When I got into Braidwood the superintendent said it was a very unfortunate affair, but he supposed I couldn’t help it? I looked at him steadfastly, knowing then how the matter had been reported. It was no use my saying anything. I had an opinion that one person at least in this world would swear anything. There were two ayes to my no. I chewed and swallowed it, there being no alternative.

A SPLIT IN THE GANG.

But I am overrunning my story. When leaving Ballalaba we went over to Jermyn’s, searched his place, and found the bed full of Foxlow property. We took old Jermyn into custody and he afterwards received seven years’ hard labour on the roads or other public works. He owned afterwards, to having been at the camp with the boys in the Molonglo range when we attacked them there. We had the boys nearly in our hands and were getting reliable information about them every day. Tom Connell had left the Clarkes and was going to shoot young Tom B. for being seen with me; he also threatened to shoot me and burn me afterwards.

We got information one day that Tom Connell, Alick Bradley, and Lucy Hurley would be at Mick Connell’s that night; We formed a party and went within 300 yards of Mick’s house, keeping in the bush close to the road. In due time we heard them bidding each other good night, as they were coming past us. Our proper course of action was to dismount, walk about fifty yards to the road, and bail them up as they came by. But W. would not move; he said it was no use, so they went by. I asked Egan if he would come, but he said he did not like to disobey orders. W. dared me to go; so they rode past us three parts drunk and singing.

After they had passed us, they started off to race and Tom Connell fell off his horse against a tree. Alick Bradley started after Tom’s horse, and he fell off, so both their horses went away. Tom and Alick slept somewhere about there for about four hours, when Lucy Hurley roused them up and they walked away into the gully. We went down to old Mick Connell’s and stopped there drinking till 12 or 1 o’clock when we left and proceeded to where we heard Tom Connell and his companions pulled up. We did not then know that Tom and Alick had fallen off their horses not far from where we now were, and where we camped for the remainder of the night, W. telling me to guard the horses for two hours. After stopping round the horses for two hours and a half I went to W. and asked him the time. He replied my time was up, that the horses would be all right, and that I could lie down and sleep till daylight. I told him I heard someone walking up above us, He told me “I was a d—, etc.” that there was no one about but I was convinced I had heard someone and remained awake all night. I knew if the camp was attacked old W. would not suffer the blame,

A COMMON TROOPER’S HARDSHIPS.

Next morning old W. commenced harping on me till I got out of temper, and told him I would report him for neglect of duty. It is no slight undertaking for an ordinary constable to report his superior officer, no matter how justifiable his reasons; so he told me I could report and be ——, that he would soon get rid of me, that I wanted to know more than he, that he would starve me like a dog, that I fancied I could capture bushrangers, but he would take the conceit out of me; that I wanted to take people for harbouring; in short that I wanted to do too much; that Mick Connell was a highly respectable and decent man, and so was Bruce, and he would see that neither got into trouble.

In this frame of mind we started to go out to Kelly’s, but instead of coming out there we got a mile and half above Kelly’s place. The “Boys” had a camp on the Round Mountain not far from here, and I asked W. to attack it, but he declined to have any thing to with it. He began talking about this camp to some friends of the boys, a course that was likely to cause them to shift and we should lose the run of them. I told a person in our confidence to get them to shift but to watch where they went. The “boys” did remove, but Sergeant B , and party came on them and ran Tommy Clarke pretty close. Tommy led them into a boggy swamp, and it was well he did, for they were gaining on him every jump.

HOW SOME MEN DO DUTY.

As soon as we got to the next house we were told about Tom Connell and Alick Bradley falling off their horses and losing them; they had only just left the place as we arrived. They were to be at Mick Connell’s again that night, so we resolved to halt. Lucy Hurley was to ride a bay horse over to Mick’s at about 4 o’clock, and Tom Connell was to meet her there, close to the stockyard. This was good information to us. If we had gone down, kept out of sight, not far off, we could have captured him. We went to one of the ridges about half a mile from Mick’s house and watched it all day. When night came, W. said he would not go near the house but stop close to one of the roads leading from Mick’s to the gully. Tom Connell was to meet Lucy at the stockyard at 9 o’clock. My suggestion to W. was to tie our horses to a tree and go down quietly on foot, for if you made the least noise, they were off like kangaroos, W. would not go near the place, so we remained on the road until about 10 o’clock, and then we pushed home to Jingera, a distance of fourteen miles from Mick Connell’s and a fearful road to travel at night. When we got home we were not allowed to feed our horses. We remained at home for two days when I and Egan, were sent down to Ballalaba for the post. Before we started W. came to me and asked me not to notice what he had said; that he did not wish to offend, that if I would stick to him, he would stick to me, and we would stop at home for a week and have a spell. Above all things for me not to say a word to the police at Ballalaba — among whom I knew there were two gallant men — nor to let them know that Tom Connell was in the gully drinking. I told him it was all right, and away we went I saw plainly that I was in the “system;” and, being in Rome, it might be best to become a Roman. Still I felt sick at being a policeman. After the good chances we had had I felt somehow or other humiliated. On the road I spoke to Egan about it. Two ordinary policemen will talk matters over at times; He said it was rum work, and if it were known —– would soon be dismissed. I said it was E.’s duty to report —–; but he replied that he did not like to interfere, nor would he like it said that he had been the means of getting any man the sack. I said if our conduct of late were known in Sydney we should all get the sack, and deservedly; and that it was a constable’s place to report his officer, no matter how high his rank, if that officer did not do his duty. E. turned round and asked me why I did not report him? I said I would report him to senior-sergeant C. as soon as we got down, and tell them also about Tom Connell being up the gully. But when we got there the police were all out, and not expected back till next day, so I wrote out my complaint to the superintendent. We returned to our station. W. asked me if I had seen the police? He looked hard at me but seemed satisfied when told they were all away.

THE BUSH INFORMER.

On our way back I was told that Tom Connell and Lucy had passed up that morning and were going to camp out at Jingera Jack’s farm, which is on the top of the Jinderie mountain, close to Bruce’s place. On the top of this mountain, there is a clump of rocks, about half a mile each way, and inside all is clear ground with plenty of good grass. There is only one way of getting to this place and at this period none of the police knew of it. The mountain sides are covered with granite boulders, some of which are 110 feet solid. I was also informed that Lucy was to go back to the gully for more of their swag. This was mentioned to W. but he disbelieved it, saying, in a pumping way, that he knew, who told me; but I know it would not do for me to tell him my informant unless I wanted everybody else to know him. So he would not go up. The next night Hughes came out to take charge and W. went into Braidwood; but during the day Bruce had called at the station, had dinner, and a long yarn with W. He told us he was going over to the gully, to Williams’ place, some twelve miles above Mick Connells. Knowing Hughes, and having confidence in him, I told him this, and that I had heard Tom Connell was going to camp near his place, and mentioned that W. Egan, and myself had promised to meet our gully informant that very night. The next day we went to the gully, and met at a particular spot this trustworthy bush informer who was introduced by me to Hughes: Safety to himself, and success to our plans, demanded that I should tell this person to act differently towards old W.

We then asked him what was on the board. He said Tom Connell and Bruce had been together at Mick Connell’s, drinking, and he believed they were there then. He said if we did not take Tom Connell soon we should miss him altogether, as he and Lucy were going to shift back somewhere and lie to for a spell. We stopped that night near our friend’s as it was getting late, and went next day towards Mick Connell’s and stopped about two miles off; while our trusty friend went to the house and had a nobbler, and a confidential yarn about the “boys.”

He learned that Tom Connell and Bruce had started out Bruce’s way somewhere to camp, and that Lucy was to meet them in the gully. His advice was to push for Bruce’s, to keep wide of tracks so as not to be seen returning homewards, as the “bush telegraph” was vigilant; and to have a quiet, sly peep at old Mrs. Connell’s in the gully as we passed.

AN EXCITING ENCOUNTER.

We were going along under the side of the hill, among some small oaks, when Hughes descried a horse hung to a tree, and asked me if I knew it. At the distance I could not tell, but it looked like Lucy’s, and if it were, the “boys” were about waiting for her. Some rode round close under the range, keeping a sharp look out. Suddenly we spotted them above us getting their dinner, Tom Connell was handing out some tea. We were all riding abreast, and I wheeled about towards them. Bruce was the first to see us and give the alarm. Tom sprang up and seized his rifle which was lying beside him, then jumped behind a large stump and took aim at me. He had been looking out a long time to get a good shot at me, for I was beginning “to know too much of them for their safety, and they thought the sooner I was stopped the better; Hughes saw him muzzle the rifle, and perceiving his intention called on me to dismount instantly and get behind a tree, but as I never cared a snuff for the lot of them together I was not going to run from these two. At least it was not running away: but it was giving them a chance to escape, or shoot some of us. We had only a few saplings near us for shelter while the remainder of the intervening space between us was clear. I stretched, and lay myself under the cover of my horse’s neck so that he could not aim well at me. Hughes called on him to surrender and blazed away, but, unfortunately never touched him. We were only about 150 yards from them but Tom jumped about so quick that it was no easy matter to hit him. In fact I don’t think at 150 yards, the best rifle shot could hit me on a good horse if I were appraised of his intentions in time. As Hughes and Egan, two energetic and laborious constables, jumped off their horses, Tom Connell sprang on one of Bruce’s nearest to him, without a saddle. All this was not the work of three seconds for I saw Tom aim at me, and heard the report, and when I rose from the horse’s neck I saw Tom on the horse, and my mates dismounted. There was a thick oak scrub near into which Tom galloped and I after him. I had got to within fifty yards and was preparing to shoot his horse before he could believe it. Tom would have surrendered then without much trouble. The momentary chase was exciting. There was room enough to ride through this scrub on a sort of cattle track. Tom was plainly before me. Another second or two would have brought me on to him when Lucy made a sudden plunge at me with a large butcher knife.

This side thrust was so unexpected that for a moment I felt appalled. I was intently looking at Tom when she made the drive at me, and did not notice her until she had the knife near my breast. If my horse had not shied I should have got it: I pulled up as soon as I could, for my horse shied down hill, terribly frightened, and my finger was on the trigger to shoot Lucy. I had to make back through the scrub the best way possible and when clear of it, my horse stood like an old cow and would not budge an inch. My mates were getting on their horses. I called to them; and after a few minutes my horse got his mind and we proceeded up the range.

THE CAPTURE OF BRUCE.

We blessed Lucy Hurley. After inspecting the track we turned down towards the creek and dismounted to reconnoitre. On looking over the brink I perceived Tom Connell preparing to take aim at me, so stepped back. He did, not fire, but as he was going round a projecting rock I fired. He threw up his arms and fell off his horse. I told my mate, and ran down the creek below him, thinking my mate would go to near where Tom was, so that we should have him between us. I was approaching stealthily, keeping a sharp look, but in case he was only wounded and would try a shot at me coming up when I heard Hughes calling me to come up to him, I did not go at first till I heard: them singing out philliboloo and then I rushed up the bank and fell half way down again. When I got up, Bruce, a thick set man, resembling Tom Clarke, had his head between Egan’s legs, I thought more of Egan than any man in the police, but if he had then been killed dead I could not have helped laughing. He had both arms out as if he were going to fly. I rushed up and poked my revolver at Bruce and told him to take it easy. He stood, and we handcuffed him. Lucy was galloping up on horseback but when she saw me she cleared out. I do not think there is a woman in the world who can ride a horse with Lucy in the bush.

We left Bruce with Egan and ran to the creek; but Tom had vanished leaving his horse behind. We took this horse to where Egan was and jumped on our own, galloped round but could not see him. Tom knew all the short turns and cuts about the range, as he had lived there for a long time. This was the third time I had encountered him here. I had sworn that morning that either Tom Connell should shoot me or I him, and this would have been tested if Hughes had come down when I called, for we were only thirty yards apart, though he was sheltered by granite rocks. But Hughes afterwards told me that Bruce was singing out to Tom to make up the creek away from me; When I fired, therefore Tom pretended to fall from Bruce’s horse, wounded, so as to run up the creek to where his own horse was, saddled.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

[Links to other chapters here]

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