BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM (Part Six)


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Monday 11 November 1867, page 2


BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM.

(BY A NATIVE TROOPER.)

PART VI.

When Hughes and Egan first fired, Tom Connell’s horse broke away and passed me as I went up, but thinking that Tom himself would fall into my clutches, I took no notice of the horse. Hughes told me that he thought Bruce was armed, and was to his mind, as bad as Connell, or he would have left him and helped me to capture Connell.

BRUCE TRIES TO ESCAPE – EXCITING CHASE.

As we proceeded down the hill, Hughes led Bruce, Egan led the horses, and I turned to the place where we saw them getting their dinners, to see if anything was left there. All that was left was a pair of hobbles, Tom Connell’s hat, and a butcher’s knife, like the one Lucy had when she tried to stab me. When we arrived on the flat Hughes asked me to hold Bruce’s horse while he helped him on. My own horse was standing loose. As soon as Bruce got on and drew up the reins, his horse reared up and was coming over on the top of him. By my retaining a hold of the reins I was pulling him over more, so I had to let go, and the horse came down on his side. But Bruce still stuck to him, picked him up and galloped off like a shot. I drew my revolver and was going to fire but Hughes dissuaded, as he would soon catch him. So Hughes jumped on his horse and galloped after him, I made a rush at mine but the animal bolted away. As soon as I caught him I made under the range as fast as the horse would carry me, through a scrub, thick with saplings, and I had to mind my eyes and limbs, for I was going at top speed. I had no time to turn but take it as it came. After a gallop of a mile I heard them coming up towards the range. There was a crossing place close to, near a paddock, leading up the range, and I felt confident Bruce would make up that way. As I came out on clearer ground I saw Bruce standing in his stirrups, jockeying his horse at full speed, with Hughes, after him. He had a splendid horse and I had to race fast to block him. As we came nearer I called upon him to stand and presented my rifle at him, but he told me to fire and be d—. I would have crippled his horse but Hughes sung out to me not to fire. Bruce came pretty close to me but as I was in his track with my rifle levelled at him, he took a second thought and wheeled, round, but turned into Hughes’s hands, for he did not proceed far before Hughes caught his reins. We then led him back to the place we started from. Egan’s horse was done up, which acoounted for his being unable to get up the range at first; and while we were after Bruce he followed, but lost the run of us, so that we had to wait a considerable time till he came back.

Bruce called me all the b-dogs he could think of for shopping him; in fact, he was mad. He threw himself down and bit the ground, foaming in the mouth, and spit at us, and then blew the dust and dirt in the air like a whale. He made several efforts to seize one of our rifles. In short we had to muzzle him, and give him a tumble or two. But that did not quieten him. I drew my revolver at last and threatened to shoot him, if he tried it on again; but he took as much notice of a revolver as he would of a gum leaf. Egan came at last, and then Bruce swore he would not go, so we sent Egan to the nearest place for a horse and cart and some ropes. When these came, and when Bruce saw the ropes he begged of us to take him on horseback and he would go quietly. We did so. When near Ballalaba Hughes went on ahead to get something ready to eat, and to let the others know of Tom Connell’s whereabouts. Bruce then asked me and my mate to let him escape and he would give us £5. We told him it was all right, and to take it easy. We expected him to turn rusty after Hughes left, but he went quietly the rest of the way. If he had made another attempt I believe I should have shot him, for I felt him several times trying to get his foot under mine to pitch me off the horse, but I was up to him.

HOW BRUCE FARED IN COURT.

After supper we left Bruce in the barracks with the Ballalaba police, and Hughes and I proceeded up the gully again, to see if we could come across Lucy and Tom Connell, but it was too dark, and raining cats and dogs. When we had travelled for about thirteen miles up the gully we came to a dilapidated house, and to our surprise found old Mrs. Connell there. She had left her own house thinking we should call and take her; but we had no occasion to take her; she had, so far, done us no harm. We beat about pretty well till break of day and then returned to barracks. Under our system we call them “barracks,” not police stations. We took Bruce into Braidwood, obtained a preliminary hearing and a remand. He was subsequently committed for trial. When the sessions came he was remanded till the next and allowed bail; but no sooner was he outside than we arrested him again for sticking up some Chinamen near Braidwood, when in company with Pat Connell and Tom Clarke, on two occasions. This charge was preferred because the Chinamen swore positively to him as they saw him being taken from the gaol to the court house. But Chinamen are people I don’t pretend to understand much. Bruce was then sent to Sydney, to be tried at the Central Criminal Court, and he ultimately obtained his liberty after being bound over to appear when called upon.

A WRINKLE ABOUT HORSES.

When we returned to our station my horse was done up, so I had to go to a neighbour’s to borrow one, but as there was no house handy I took a stranger that had come on the run and stopped there. We had rather a tough job to catch him, a greater one to saddle him, and then there was the job to get on him I was half inclined to let him go, for it was plain he had never been ridden much, if at all. I had been taken in up there several times with “pulled tailers,” and begun to think this was another duffer. The way they duff horses in Jingera is as follows: They take the colt and pull his tail, and then alter the brand. They can alter any brand that can be made. They will make a special brand for every horse, if he is a good one, so the horse only costs them the brand. I had lately to find my own horses, as those supplied by Government were old screws, and totally unfit for the times. So, by getting “sweaters,” and stolen horses, I generally managed to be well mounted. After some rearing and plunging I managed to mount my new prad, and, if jumping and plunging would make a good horse, I had a ripper.

SOME NIGHT WORK IN THE GULLY.

We started for the gully again. Some police were stationed at Coady’s, whose promises had been confiscated, and were being guarded till the people went out, in case they attempted to burn down the house. We took some of these police with us, expecting to do something this trip. When we got over, Hughes and I went on to meet our faithful bush incognita and saw him privately, so that the other police should not know who was working for us, because we knew the police generally were the first to betray an informer at times. We ascertained that Alick Bradley and Tom Connell were to be at Mick’s that night at 11 o’clock. This was about their usual time of late; but they altered the time about once a week. Hughes and I went to Mick’s, and sent Egan and the remainder of the party, being the stronger, to look after the Clarkes at another part of the gully; and it was arranged if either party was first attacked the firing should be the signal for reinforcements from the unattacked party at racing speed. We reckoned it would not be many minutes ride, and the shots would be heard a good distance in the night. If nothing turned up we were to meet in the morning at a certain spot. Hughes and I watched Mick’s till nearly 2 o’clock, and then gave it up for a bad job, and returned to our horses, which were tied to a tree about half-a-mile away. My horse, contrary to expectation, was there, all right. We intended to remain here until daylight.

After the moon went down it became very dark. We were both against a tree half dozing. We could never sleep without a sentinel being on guard. We were in that half slumbering mood when the least crack of a stick would startle us. We heard a stick crack, and then all was silent. We heard another. I could, somehow, always tell the difference between a horse feeding, and a horse being quietly ridden. Hughes said it was an opposum, and dosed off, but the next crack woke him, and he came to the conclusion that bush horses were about. There was no sound for half an hour; we dosed again, and heard another crack. We then heard the beating of a horse’s hoof, and sounds like subdued voices. They seemed to be near our horses. I heard my colt blow an alarm as horses do when startled. We sneaked up to behind our horses. We heard two voices close to us, rushed up, and called upon them in the Queen’s name to stand. I went to my colt and was looking, over his back to try if I could see them, but it was so dark you could not see five yards off. As soon as we called on them to stand they bolted off like a shot. I was raising my rifle to fire when my frisky and treacherous colt kicked me in the thigh and dropped me. Hughes saw me under the horse and picked me up with great promptitude. W. could hear the sticks and limbs cracking like a volley of revolver shots. I believe they never stopped till they got out of the gully. It is wonderful how they escaped with sound limbs. This can only be accounted for by the brittleness of the gum tree branches, which give way when you strike against them, but one runs a chance of coming against all sorts of of limbs when on full gallop of a night. We could do no good by moving; we had a short sleep till day-light.

You may think it a pleasure, but it is no joke to lie in the bush and half dose with anxious fears throughout the cold and frosty nights in that quarter. Still, when we thought we were secure from surprise, we could sleep out a frosty night without a blanket or cloak; and in the morning find ourselves benumbed, and covered on the exposed side of our bodies with hoar frost.

ALICK BRADLEY.

After we met our mates we went down to Mick Connell’s and had breakfast, and hung about awhile, when Alick Bradley came in as bold as brass. I treated him, asked familiarly how he was getting on, the state of his health, and in other ways expressed some concern for his welfare. He said he had come over to live in the gully now, as he had been discharged since the last robbery at Foxlow. This was the third time Foxlow station had been stuck up. I tried to draw him to drink, but he would only have two glasses of rum, and then turned to port wine, and said he must not get drunk. I did not let on about seeing him that night; in fact we oould not tell who they were for certain, but knew enough to work on. We left Mick’s but set a party on to see how much grog Alick took away. We learnt that he took with him, shortly after we left, two bottles of gin.

We started towards Ballalaba and after crossing the first ridge, turned up behind it and made back to the road we expected Alick would take to the gully. We saw Alick start, but instead of our chaps keeping quiet they foolishly let themselves be seen. Alick took no notice of us, but I was certain by his passing unconcernedly without looking about, that he had seen us. He went on quietly till he got in a little gully, when he set off at full gallop. My mates would keep on the road, galloping, as they had not seen him turn off, until they came near the gully. I was a long way behind, so they waited for me when they found they had lost the run of him. They were all excited and thought he would go to his own place first, but I expressed a contrary opinion. To gain time I bowed to the majority and we pushed to Alick’s house, but he was not to be seen. We passed to another house, and two or three of us lit our pipes and had a smoke when we saw Alick coming down the hill from ther other side of the gully, and making towards his own place. We knew he had done his work then, and we also knew the “boys” would be off. I never let on seeing him, but let him pass unseen, and then joined my mates who were not far off.

Hughes and I then went to our bush friend to ascertain a little of the programme, and found the boys were off to stick up in two or three days, and that Alick was to join them that night. As we knew the direction they would take we made for their tracks, picked them up, and followed them for five or six miles, when they began to scatter, and my colt began to sulk, so we made our way aoross the range to our station. We could do no good by following the tracks, which were designedly made to deceive. The further we advanced, the more we should be behind, for the boys were on scent, after seeing Alick and were sure to start in a wrong direction, then scatter so as to make the devil’s own job to follow them. We had no tracker, but we understood their game by the dodging, and direction of the tracks, and arranged our plans accordingly. We returned to our respective stations.

ALICK BECOMES A CONFEDERATE.

Hughes and another man went to Braidwood. We arranged that if the robbery took place our way before he came back, I was to watch Alick’s movements, and make him ours. If the robbery took place near Braidwood, as we rather expected, on account of the “two or three days” our bush friend spoke of, then Hughes would hear if there was a fourth man in the gang. If so we were right. Hughes had not long to wait. The robbery came off, and the fourth man was among them.

It seems after the “boys” stuck-up Mr. Taylor’s place at Bomby they took all the things to the top of Jillamatong hill. This hill is quite close to Braidwood. They planted the things among some rocks and left them in charge of Alick, with some spare horses, while they went across to Little River, to stick up the escort, but not succeeding, they went back again.

While they were gone information was given to all the police, who, being accompanied by the tracker, ran the tracks to the top of the hill and got the property and the horses. As they were coming up Mr. Alick saw them and made off, and went straight to his home in the gully, yoked his bullooks, and started to Foxlow, to return the dray he had borrowed, and to bring his own back. This was a clever move of Alick’s for alibi purposes. He left word with his wife that if any of the police came while he was at Foxlow, for her to jump on the horse kept ready in the little paddock, gallop out, meet him tell him the news, and he would then stick in the bush with the others. If the police had watched the goods on the hill they might have come across the robbers; but Alick, who had seen the police, may, have found speedy means of informing the boys of their danger, and so the game would have been all up.

We came to the gully and watched the hut all night, but no Alick came. So we consulted our bush friend, got on the track of Alick’s dray, and proceeded to Foxlow. While we were watching his hut, waiting for him, Alick was at Foxlow, talking and yarning about the bushrangers, to the police recently stationed there, stuffing them with all sorts of lies, and in the morning started for home, as we were starting for Foxlow. He was a cunning gentleman, was Alick, but we followed his track so as to make no mistake in the road he took. And it was wise we did so, for he took a lot of bush tracks across ridges and gullies, but had to come back to the road at Parker’s Gap as he could not otherwise cross the range.

HE IS CAPTURED AND CONVICTED.

We met him fair in the gap. He was driving his team along. We did not let him see us until we were too close for him to get away. We rode as if intending to pass him unnoticed when we turned close upon him, asked him where he was on a certain night, and arrested him. We gave him the usual caution that anything he said might be given in evidence against him. He replied that he did not care what he said, as there was no one there who knew him, and that no one could swear he was one of the four. On account of the boy with him being so young, we could not safely leave the team with him, so Alick had to drive it to Ballalaba from which place it was sent home in due time.

We took Alick on to Braidwood, and after an investigation before the magistrates, he was committed to take his trial, and kept in gaol until the ensuing sessions. In the meantime we returned to our station, thinking to get another party who was working with the gang slyly, but his case being hardly ripe we could not take him yet, so left him to his doings. We then beat about after the gang itself. Tom Connell was trying all he could to get a shot at me, but he somehow never succeeded.

On the sessions coming off Hughes and I went into Braidwood, and, though we had many respectable witnesses, we found some difficulty in obtaining a conviction. In fact, his Honor Judge Simpson, summed up rather in favour of an acquittal, and, in consequence of that, several other cases were put off till next sessions ; but it was deemed advisable afterwards to bring them on to Sydney. It seems that some person told senior-sergeant D. that Alick was at the robbery, so he went up the gully with constable G., searched Alick’s hut, took away some flour and a pair of stirrup leathers, and made some inquiries for Alick. Now this was just the thing to have sent him to the bush as a clever bushranger with the Clarkes, if we had not taken him before he got the news from his wife.

HOW REWARDS ARE DISTRIBUTED.

For this affair senior-sergeant D. received £15 out of the reward of £200 that was offered for the Clarkes’ associates. D. got his mate, G, £5, and £25 to D’s. informant. This informer merely told that Alick was one of the men who stuck up Taylor’s place, but gave no information whatever that led to Alick’s arrest, because as soon as D. searched the hut and found he was not there he went back to Braidwood. All that Alick had to do then was to remain in the bush till captured, or perhaps shot. Now the proclamation offering the rewards states that any person who shall give such information “as will lead to the arrest” of such persons shall receive the above reward; that is, one half to the police who capture, the other half to the informer whose information led to the arrest. As will be seen D.’s informer contributed in no way to Alick’s arrest. The informer who really led Hughes and I to arrest him was a different person, who had never misled or betrayed us. By the terms of the proclamation, therefore, our informer should have received £100, and Hughes, Egan, and myself, the other £100 that was offered for him. But it was not so. Hughes, received £30, Egan and myself received £25 each. Now here were people getting our money for lying in their bed, while we were living in the mountains, half starved with cold and hunger; we captured the man, and put the case in form. But we were only common constables, without official friends, while D. is a man that could not ride a horse out of a trot except on a straight road. I consider that Bruce’s and Bradley’s cases were as well traced up as any of the gang, and our thanks were to be mulct out of our fair moiety of the reward offered by the Government. In fact they tried hard for half our information for the other party whose hints led to nothing. You may think I am complaining captiously; but the time has long passed when I felt somewhat hurt at what we each felt to be an injustice. The distribution of Government rewards to police is a matter that requires some investigation; but as the pursuing of this subject would lead to charges of official corruption I would prefer others to deal with it, while I continue my story of the bushrangers.

CARROLL AND HIS PARTY.

At about this time Carroll and his party made their appearance in Braidwood and its surrounding district. After a while they commenced running down the police and made them their enemies. This was bad policy. Carroll excepted one or two high officials from censure from political motives. It would have been wise if he had been as prudent in other respects. He condemned the police as a body in the Braidwood district for not doing their duty. To a certain extent he had good grounds, for some of the police did nothing. But Carroll went to work and condemned us all, and having in his party one accustomed to the quill, put things into shape without, in every instance, adhering strictly to truth. The mission on which Carroll came was a good one. From the disturbed state of the district; from the impunity with which the Clarkes and their associates were carrying all before them; from the apparent incapacity of the police and want of judgment in those who guided them; and from the dismay of the inhabitants I can easily account for the Government taking this extraordinary step of sending up a party of private detectives well armed-armed in a double sense, with rifles and revolvers, and with full power to go whither they list, and use them. On an expedition of this kind as much judgment is required in him who selects the men, as prudence and courage in the men selected Carroll and his party are, unhappily dead, and I should be much pained to set down ought in malice, but this matter must be fairly met. I say if Carroll had been more discreet, and taken matters more quietly until he had made himself acquainted with the district and the people he would have had every chance of success in his mission. He could have made out some cases against the police, and many cases against harborers. But he had more than bushrangers and harborers to contend against. It was, in ordinary phrase, death for a policeman; to be seen speaking to him. In fact we got orders not to recognise either Carroll or his party, nor to interfere with them. Hence there was a spirit of jealousy and dislike fostered against Carroll who had thus to battle against the moral and secret force of the police. There were frequent disputes of an angry nature in Braidwood, between Carroll and the police. I was in court when he accused them, he was not one of ours, he was an intruder. His presence was the seal and stamp of our incapacity, and we hated him. I could have put him up to a trick or two, but I should not have been long a mounted trooper if they had seen me speaking to him. He was sent on a certain mission. He had full powers to not and to go where he liked. He had the full exercise of his own judgment; He was invested with powers no policeman ever dreamt of. He was beyond the pale of that system which requires that all shall proceed from head-quarters in Sydney. The common trooper, if he saw a bushranger within two hundred yards of him, dare not act without informing his sergeant, who might be asleep,or in the back yard, or away. If near, ten to one he will say “Wait till I dress and I’ll go with you.” Even then he may wish to consult the superintendent who, to show that he’s alive, may telegraph to Sydney for orders, and when these orders came where is the bushranger who, a short time previously, was within two hundred yards of the trooper, Hence the frequent country telegrams in newspapers “The outlaw has been seen and the police are in pursuit.” It is much to be regretted that police magistrates have not the control of the police in their respective districts.

Well, Carroll had everything to contend against. Officials were his enemies. He solicited information from the very friends of the outlaws. His knowledge of the Jingera country was imperfect. He was sadly deceived by those who professed the greatest confidence. He roused up suspected harbourers, and even made himself unpopular by accusing a storekeeper of sly grog selling – a thing which he should not have noticed as beyond his mission, and which he should have looked upon as hiding some piece of deception. Though he did not know it, his life was at Tommy Clarke’s disposal at almost any hour of the day or night. There was a time when he seemed to know this, and it would have been well if he had abandoned his purpose as hopeless. Police have a power of doing mischief to such an outside party as his greater than he ever calculated upon. What ignominy would have been heaped upon us if Carroll’s party had been successful! A party of police volunteers on such an expedition would be recognised, but not outsiders. I do not say that Carroll or his party could fairly attribute his untimely fate to a single member of the force. The police were entirely negative, but this quality though dangerous, was less so than Carroll’s imprudence and high handedness. He took too lofty a view of his own importance — though his mission was important enough — and would at times assume dictatorial airs before a justice of the peace who, at the bottom, might have been his best friend, though seemingly his enemy. In fact he neither knew the people nor the Braidwood district.

I am running before my story. Carroll and his party were not murdered at this time. There was some work yet to do by all, both before and after that eventful tragedy took place.

TO BE CONTINUED.

[Links to other chapters here]

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