Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 19 November 1867, page 6
BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM
(BY A NATIVE TROOPER)
From the few circumstances just related you will form a good idea of Carroll’s position and danger, and no doubt conclude that, as so many persons were coming in dangerous contact with the gaol, it was no difficult matter for a few lawless men to decide upon waylaying those who were hunting them to justice. Carroll’s effigy had just been burnt in Braidwood, and among the mob looking on were a senior-constable and a constable.
THE JINDEN MURDERS
The intelligence of the murders puzzled me. We heard Carroll had gone out to Jingera the afternoon previous. We knew that a certain squatter had been seen talking with him in a public-house in Braidwood for a long time, and one or two of us concluded that Carroll was enticed out; and at this period, when, the whole circumstances have been so fully placed before the public, nothing has altered the opinion previously formed that Carroll was enticed out by false representations. Carroll and his party went straight to the place at Jinden near which they were murdered. They were expected, for that vigilant telegraph, James Griffin, who had been on the look-out, saw them approaching, went to apprise those who were in the plot, and then vanished unseen. Griffin was a particular friend of this squatter and had borrowed his rifle.
It is unnecessary here to repeat in detail the particulars of the murders. Carroll was evidently told he would find the Clarkes at Guineas’, a few miles from Jinden, and advised to approach on foot the next day, as they would be seen from a long distance approaching if they went on horseback. There were two tracks, or bush roads, leading from Jinden house to Guineas’. At some distance on the right of the upper track, leading to Guineas’, and about midway between the two places, there is a ridge of land, and it is tolerably bushy. The land slopes slightly from this ridge to a considerable distance on the left of the track, the ground being tolerably clear, with a moderately-sized tree here and there. Close to the upper track, and about midway, there are three large trees, two being nearly together.
Carroll remained at Jinden house all night, and early next morning started for Guineas’. They had no sooner departed than James Griffin stepped in, and treated Smith to a drop of gin out of the bottle which he had obtained from Mick Connell. What passed between Griffin and Smith at this brief interview may never be known. When satisfied that Carroll and his party had started to Guineas’ there was some proof, so far, that no treachery existed among the conspirators. But the Clarkes wanted further security. They must know that Carroll and party actually went to Guineas’, where, being disappointed, they would return sullenly, and be to a certain extent off their guard. When the “telegraph” saw things working right, the murderers were ready at a moment’s warning. Carroll’s party went to Guineas’, and, of course, were disappointed; so they remained for an hour or two and had dinner. In the afternoon they left to return to Jinden. When half way, they were suddenly fired upon by the two Clarkes and Bill Scott, who had remained concealed behind the three trees just spoken of. Phegan and McDonald fell dead. Carroll and Kennagh fled down the sloping ground with a view to get shelter behind one of the big trees, but they were pursued by Bill Scott and Tom Clarke, the latter singing out for the horses which Griffin held under the ridge above alluded to. They were speedily overtaken and deliberately shot dead when on their knees making ineffectual appeals for mercy.
The accounts of these murders, both oral and printed, and the description of them as given in Smith’s evidence are so various, that it would be folly for me to pretend to give the correct version. Putting the odds and ends together I came to the conclusion that a certain squatter made the plan up, that James Griffin did the telegraphing, and the Clarkes and Bill Scott the shooting part.
What share Mick Connell had in it I cannot say. The above opinion was expressed by me at the time of the murders, but there were officials who could not see it. One of the parties implicated had an official friend in Sydney, and the police, somehow, still had high notions of Mick Connell. The worst of the matter was, that some of the local newspapers hinted pretty strongly that the police had a hand in it.
POLICE INDIFFERENCE TO DUTY.
In eight days I resumed duty, very much weakened by mustard poultices and medicine. As there was an escort going to Queanbeyan I went with it and met my mates about half way out. As the escort passes within five miles of Foxlow we generally come out on the road, on escort days, to hear the news; so as my mates came for news as usual, we met before I got to the station. We soon heard of the boys again. They were on our side. They told a certain friend of ours the next move would be Foxlow, and they would give Mr. Vallance, the superintendent of Mr. Hoskins’ station, and myself a pill each. This information made our senior man stop at home, Although the gang was only nine miles from us. This went on for three weeks. We never left our station. The murder of Carroll and party had frightened many of our chaps. We knew positively that the Clarkes and Bill Scott were camped within a short distance from our station, and it was clearly our duty to go out and capture them if we could, or go through the usual ceremony of firing and being fired at, and making the usual official report of a conflict.
One day we were lying about in the barracks when a man from the farm came, and gave me the wink to follow him outside when he told me he had just seen the three boys in the paddock. It was a wet day and he said they had blankets over them. They rode close past our friend as if they had not seen him. When he came near the barracks, he said he turned to look behind and saw the boys rounding up some horses in the paddock. This paddock was only 900 yards from the police barracks. Our horses were close at hand so we put them in the yard at once and reported to our senior man the refreshing news. “All right,” said he, “let’s feed the horses.” We fed them. He then told the two men, one a senior constable, who had arrived, to stop for the night. After consultation they decided on stopping inside to guard the store. Their own sense might have told them that Tom Clarke would not venture until he knew the police were all out. But we guarded the store all night, as we had done for a long time, but no Clarke came to amuse us. The next morning we mustered our spare horses and found they had taken one of ours and also one belonging to the station (Mr. Hoskins’.) This little trick could have been prevented, if we had jumped on our horses at first and charged the boys when we were told that they were in the paddock 900 yards off, rounding up horses. If we had not captured them we could have done no harm in trying. If we missed them the two men at home had a deadly chance of shooting them. Because, if the boys were only trying to draw us out and to double back to the station the two police who had come for the night could have remained and been prepared, while we who belonged to the station could have mustered the men on the farm, and supplied them with firearms belonging to Mr. Hoskins and lain in wait for them. But instead of considering any plan we let them take our horses and ride away with them before our face. We stayed at home just the same, quite indifferent, courting the girls all day long, except at mealtimes. Laziness and feeding appeared to be the order of the day at our station. To say the truth, I was becoming very uneasy, for though we were at home guarding the Foxlow station, the Clarkes could have stuck us up at any time almost for we were scattered – one in a hut courting, another in the next hut playing cards, another in the barracks cooking, or getting wood and water, with no one specially to look out. And, moreover, many men kept walking about the farm, watching and listening, that one scarcely knew friend from foe. At last we had a civil growl among ourselves, and it would be hard to say what would have been the end of it if we had not been shifted. New arrivals came, so Egan and I were sent to Ballalaba, two fresh men remaining at Foxlow with H.
NEW SCOURING PARTIES FORMED.
Although the employing private individuals as secret detectives in pursuit of bushrangers had terminated so disastrously, yet the scheme of sending men in scouring parties was worthy of approval, especially where those men belonged to the regular force. And in proportion as these parties separated themselves from the formal routine of duty to which they had been addicted under the present police system, so would be the measure of their success, the more so if such parties were under good leaders who were allowed the exercise of their own judgments. If the formation of Carroll’s party did no other good, it forced upon the country the necessity of giving up the regimental sham, and using the police in a manner more in accordance with the requirements of bush life. The present police system requires that every policeman shall do his duty. This notion of duty is something akin to the old soldier’s mechanical, without reflection, two hours on and four off — punctually at his post, punctually relieved, punctually in bed, and punctually at his meals. And when on parade it is “heads up,” and “eyes front” with him — buttons shining, boots and pouchbox well polished. Some police will part their hair straight in the centre, like many government clerks, oil and scent it, clean their finger nails and start off, in a gentlemanly sort of way after bushrangers but they’ll take care not to rough it much when out as a matter of form among safe ranges.
Well, there seemed now to be a chance. Egan and myself were sent to Ballalaba, and two fresh men were sent in our place to Foxlow. Two bush parties were formed one under Wright, the other under sub-inspector Brennan. It was my misfortune to be with Ford at Ballalaba, while my mate luckily got with Wright. Ford was acting under Byrnes’ instructions. Brennan’s party was at Crowarry, but unfortunately he was called as a witness to Yass and did not return, I told Brennan how things were going on. He said he could see, and when he came back he would put matters to the right about, and for me to say nothing. Captain Battye with his men, who bad been out all day, called one night and asked the man in charge to get them something to eat but he refused; so the captain reported him but got no satisfaction. I mentioned to Captain Battye that I could get the best of information about the boys, and that with two reliable mates I could do good. He reported and recommended this to the superintendent who came out and asked what information I had. I told him the boys had gone to Goulburn, but but he did not think so, and told me I would be placed in Ford’s party. We went out every day but saw nothing. In a few days we heard the mail had been stuck up near Goulburn.
MORE SHUFFLING OF DUTY,
One day, being in the gully, we called at a certain place. My bush friend told me the two Clarkes were back, but that Bill Scott was not with them. This was on a Saturday. The Clarkes would be at a certain place on Sunday or Monday night for certain. We decided to watch the place both nights. The first evening, about an hour before sundown, we saw smoke rising about three miles at the back of the house, in a dark scrubby mountain. We started, thinking to catch them in the camp. One sergeant refused to go. We found the embers of the fire, and followed tracks till dark, when we returned to the house where a supper was ready. We had supper, one standing guard. We were informed positively the boys would be there before morning, but we went to our barracks. Instead of going out the next night we remained at home and had the mortification of afterwards hearing that Tommy Clarke had called at the place as we were told; that he had his supper quietly; remained about the house all night, and that Wright’s party passed within two hundred yards of both Tommy Clarke and his brother. My information was from a safe source and I knew it if I had power to act, but I was under an incredulous leader, who was not over-fond of bush work, and who would act more from B’s instructions, rather than in a manner which was demanded by the necessities of the case. We once on a wet day, got safely on their tracks, knew where they were going, but instead of lying by, we actually pushed on to the house and had supper. F. asked if it was any use stopping all night? I told him no, flatly; because, the boys would soon be told by the inmates or the children, who were expert “telegraphs,” that we were about. We rode fifty miles that day and spoilt a good chance after all. This game continued day after day. A more unskilful and self-willed leader it was never before my misfortune to be under. Where a party of four or five join for a common purpose, it is obviously for each one’s interest that matters should be well considered. If one of the party had a private and reliable source of information the others should take counsel among themselves and test it. But from the “system” the man in charge is presumed to know, at least he always assumes to know more than those under him.
If I wanted to go one way F. would go another just as B. told him, and home again. This continued, and was repeated so many times that it would be wearisome to relate them. The day we followed the tracks of the boys for fifty miles in the Araluen mountain, it came on to rain hard and we rode home. In speaking to F. about his conduct before the sergeant and all hands at supper, he said the boys were not in that direction. I asked him what he meant after following their tracks all day. He said they were tracks of stockmen, looking for cattle, and persisted in this and swore they were not out in that direction, but he had only just come to the district and knew little of the Clarkes’ way of travelling. The half-caste tracker who was with us, a man who had been born in the Jingera country, and who knew the way of the people better than any of us, swore it was them. But when a senior-constable contradicts a man to his teeth, against the most palpable evidence, what can a trooper do? We had a row on the subject and I wrote out my resignation, with an explanation why I was leaving the police, in the hope of bringing about an inquiry. But the superintendent said it was a curious resignation and that he did not believe what I said in it, but he would forward it on. There were some who were very glad that I was resigning out of their road.
ANOTHER WILD-GOOSE CHASE.
Now the boys were at Bell’s Creek that morning and made across the mountains to the very house we had dinner in, and they remained in the house that night. Tommy Clarke owned to this after he surrendered.
Soon after this information came to our station that the boys were seen camping out in the Araluen ranges. We went out with a special constable with us. We made a complete circle, and crossed our track when we discovered fresh tracks following our own. We concluded these to be the boys tracks and followed them to near the place where the Araluen police had agreed to meet our party from Ballalaba. The other party after getting their dinner on the hill parted and went home before we reached there the second time. We returned to the tracks and found them also going to the meeting place. Now it seems the Clarkes had followed our trail up to see who we were, and saw the other chaps getting their dinner, watched them away, and went over to their camp and had a smoke; so that when we came up to the fire the Clarkes had only just gone. We followed their tracks for a short distance when F. said it was not them and would go home. The special constable tried to persuade him, but it was useless. I said nothing, knowing it was useless to try to convince him, so we pushed for home. Was this doing duty fairly? Tommy Clarke told us afterwards that we passed close to him after we had got about a mile from the meeting place, so that if we had followed up the trail we should have come on them, as they believed they were safe after seeing the other party go homewards; and seeing us making for home they never dreamt we should have come back to our old tracks. So here was another chance lost, and F. ready to swear we were only humbugging him as he could not see fresh tracks. The man could hardly tell a horse track from a bullock’s.
AN INGENIOUS TRAP.
About this time there was a call made on us to go over the range, as a woman out there had lost her child the evening before and could not find him. So out we went about twelve miles away, and beat about looking for the child till night, but could see nor hear anything of the lad. It was just dark when we got back to the house, and found a whole squad of horsemen who were looking for the boy. We noticed two or three of the Clarke’s “telegraphs,” and suspected there was something up. At first we thought it was a draw, to stick up our station, or some place about; but we went inside, and between tears and groans the woman asked me if I carried a revolving rifle, and who else did; and then she wanted us to put the horses in the paddock and stop till morning; then she wanted us to try a nobbler — a drop of real good stuff — but we saw through it all, though we pretended not. We told her we were going to have another turn round, and then we could come and stop for the night. As soon as a chance offered I told F. there was a plan concocting to shoot me and the only chance we had was to give them all the slip till daylight, and then come back and see if the child was at home. As soon as we started to go away, they wanted to know where we were going to camp, and they would go with us right or wrong; but we told them we were going down the side of the range, and would meet them down on the creek at the old hut.
They did not seem to believe it, but when we told them we should be sure to be there they appeared satisfied. There was a farmer there that put in a word for me, and so we parted. This farmer told me privately he knew there was something up, and to look out sharp, for the old woman was up to some mischief. The questions she put about the rifles made me think we were about to be stuck up in earnest. She would have poisoned me if I had drank anything. Those with me knew little of the bush dodges, and as to F. he foolishly believed all she had said and would have stopped in the house for the night with all the mob around us. But F. agreed to take my advice for once, and it was a lucky thing he did, or the world would not have troubled him long; but it was me the Clarkes specially wanted, and I knew I had only myself to depend upon, to keep my wits clear, and my arms always ready.
So we started away in the direction we told them we should go until out of hearing, and then turned silently over the range, and up the other way, and came round to the next house and had some supper. Then we made another double; and at last camped in the creek, about two miles from the aforesaid house of corruption. We tied our horses to trees in the creek, and laid down till morning, without a fire, and then made down to the old woman’s house again, when lo and behold, there was the child, said to have been found at daylight that morning about four miles away. The child it was said had been out two days and nights with-out anything to eat, but still was as fresh as a daisy. It was all a sham. When they found we had given them the slip they brought the child home. He was over at the next house all the while; so we got some breakfast and went home; but you may depend upon it if I could have got a chance at the coves about there I would have touched them up a bit. Some of them joined us going home; and one chap told me confidentially not to trust the woman, and to keep an eye about the place as the “boys” were there sometimes, and also at the back of his place where they kept some horses. He said he would get me one of the horses in the yard, along with some of his own, and he would let me know, so that I could take the horse on suspicion, without throwing any down on him and he would do more for me. So he sent word to the station, but the sergeant said he didn’t believe in any flash natives, nor would he work with them. The chap let the horse out again and shortly after Clarke came and took it.
I know this person meant working honestly. In fact he told me one of his brothers was very thick with the boys, and was afraid he would get into some trouble, so the sooner the Clarkes were taken the better. By working quietly with him he would put us on them. The two brothers came to the station one day to give us information, and I was positively ordered to send them away.
Now the country was crying out about us not doing our duty, and the people not giving information to the police. It was no use giving us any information for we took no notice of it if they did. If I had had two mates at this time, and my own way of working I could have taken the two Clarkes simply enough, but that would not suit others. It was no odds. Our pay was going on, and what matter to us if it cost the Government ten thousand pounds a month. Our wise senior men were hoping some more smart men would join the gang and keep the play up.
Such was the state of things when a lot of secret police came out — Meares’ party, and Turner’s party, and two brothers whom I will call the natives — two as smart men as any in the country for that sort of work.
P.S. I regret to trouble you with a slight correction in paper VII. Some part of my letter appears to have been omitted. It was John Carroll, who is now alive, and a warder in Darlinghurst gaol, who was with Flynn’s party. The deceased Carroll, at the time of which I was speaking, was also a warder belonging to Darlinghurst gaol, but detached to Parramatta gaol where he was employed for a while as acting gaoler. Again, it was not McDonald but Phegan who wrote the petition for the Clarkes, and who perpetrated the disguise. Phegan was a native of Tasmania. His father, I believe, was a soldier in H.M. 12th Regiment. Phegan served his apprenticeship as a compositor on the Hobartown Advertiser, was well informed, a good violinist, and was at one time connected with a Sydney newspaper called the People’s Advocate. He got into some scrape at Narrigah, otherwise he was a respectable man of reputable parents.
McDonald was also a man of excellent character. He had been in the army for many years and left with high testimonials. He had been a police trooper in the district in which he was murdered, and had been a warder in two different gaols where his ser-vices were muoh appreciated.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)