BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM (Part Nine)


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 26 November 1867, page 3


BUSHRANGING AND OUR POLICE SYSTEM.

(BY A NATIVE TROOPER.)

IX.

Mention was made of the arrival, as secret police, of Meare’s party, Turner’s party, and the two brothers, “the natives,” as I called them. The natives did not receive much information at our station, except from myself, and I told them all I dared without compromising my authors.

Turner’s party stopped at our station one night to spell, and as I knew them to be respectable men I asked them to sit down and have something to eat. It was all right till they left and then I got my knuckles rapped for asking them. “Who were they? They didn’t want them there.” I saw the old jealousy and swore to myself if my best friend called I would rather give him a shilling to go to the store and get some dry biscuits for his dinner. We had a mess, and all the police that came had to pay if they took better. Some of the parties who came frequently got the leavings. Wright’s party often called, but they generally missed the fat. In fact, it was most disheartening for me to be on the station, and I prayed for the time to come when I could get away. The Turners tried to get a man with them from our station, but it was no go. Then the two natives tried to get me, and that was no go.

ANOTHER HUNT AFTER THE BUSHRANGERS.

One day the superintendent, Mr Orridge, was out, when word came that three of the boys, the two Clarkes and a third man, were seen near old Mrs. Clarke’s place. Mr. Orridge is a fair man generally, and acts promptly when he believes the information to be genuine; but he only believed this at times. Away we went in two parties on each side of the river.

Our party under Mr. Orridge was to come on them, while Ford went with Byrnes to watch the house at night. We got on their tracks in one place, but soon lost them, so we beat about till dark when we came down near Clarke’s house, and watched a short time. The superintendent asked me if I were to ride past the house, as if coming from some other direction, and take a good survey, whether they would be suspicious? I told him they would, most certainly, so we went home. As night came on, the other party got near the house when up came the boys, within thirty yards of them, so the party all fired at them from their ambush; but the boys turned their horses round and rode away before faces. That night old Mrs. Clarke came to the barracks and reported to me that her sons Thomas and John were at her house when the police came on them, but what police she did not know. This was a bit of policy on her part to save herself.

THE DEATH OF BILL SCOTT.

Soon after this a man was found dead near Manar, supposed to be Scott. He was found near a tree with his skull fractured. On the body was found some revolving rifle caps and this led people to believe he was a policeman or a bushranger, or someone that used such rifles. As Scott had not been seen since they stuck up Boro, on their way back from Goulburn, and his body being found on a track which the boys were known to have come by, it looked suspicious. It was afterwards proved that the body was that of Bill Scott, by the clothes he had on. It is supposed he wanted to leave the Clarkes, and they murdered him so that he should reveal nothing, or “sell them.”

MY OWN UNFORTUNATE POSITION.

As I could do no good myself I used to tell my natives — “the brothers” — all I could. They had been out in the Araluen mountains and found some of the bushrangers’ camps, and finally discovered their last camp, and followed their tracks over to the head of the gully. Then the brothers came back to our station to get some rations and letters, and to hear the news, for they had been out a fortnight scouring the mountains on foot. They told me all they had seen, and that the boys had shifted up the gully way. I knew this to be true, for my oldest and best bush friend — from the gully came to me the day before, and begged of me to come up that way and it would be right. This was the bush friend who put us on them when I was with — at Jingera, and made a mess of it. So he made it right with the boys again, and they had come back to him. He was a relative. He came to me according to his promise some time previous, when all was right. But I had to tell him it was no use depending on me, for it was all a chance, whether I could prevail on our party at Ballalaba to go out at all, or if they did, they would merely go up and back again, as a matter of form. I told him we should make a mess of it from the way our party was constituted, and that he would possibly be betrayed by their blundering, and murdered. He asked me to leave Ballalaba and join Wright’s party, and then he would put me on them. I told him I could not possibly get shifted. If the superintendent had been out there at the time I would then have told him all about it, and he would have acted, perhaps If the superintendent was out, we had to work out any information we received; but when he was away, and he only seldom came to our station, sergeant — would only work to suit himself. If I had left my station and gone up to the other party, I should have been dismissed for leaving my post. So I told my friend how matters stood, and that if I was not up on a certain day to give all the information he could to Egan, who was my old mate at Jingera and Foxlow, and was now in Wright’s party. He promised he would see Egan, but before leaving me begged and prayed of me to come out at the sacrifice almost of my situation. This chap did not like sergeant B. and would give him no information whatever, but I happened to make friends with him, and he came to me as he knew the capture of the Clarkes would give us both a good start. We had talked it over between ourselves often. He was afraid of betrayal by trusting others, for they were very incautious.

Well, I told B. that I wanted to go up the gully to work a little game. He wanted to know my author, but I refused to betray him, because I knew if I mentioned his name in the barracks, the Clarkes would have it soon afterwards, and my friend would share the fate of the big Taylor. I told him it was a man I could depend upon, and that I knew it was right. Although I spoke the truth I well knew it was the very thing to stop me from getting there – and so it did. B. said the horses were too tired to go out, and he would spell them till he got some good information. I could see it was decided against me, and I walked out of the barracks sick at heart. After all my labours – after waiting patiently for that one attack, for that best of all chances when it was known they were in —’s hut, sleeping out at nights, and to be out of it when the information came, was to me a most grievous disappointment. The only comfort I had was to learn that my friend had gone to Egan, and thus Wright’s party acted with promptitude while ours treated the matter with indifference. I told my native friends to make up the gully towards —’s and they would have a chance. They promised to start next day, but it came on to rain in torrents and they did not go, so they missed a chance. The dirtier the weather the better in these cases.

THE CAPTURE OF THE CLARKES.

Our party were all at work next morning, not in the gully or anywhere else after bushrangers, but at home. I and another were paving the doorway with brick-bats, to be able to get in the mess-room, which was almost up to our knees in mud, when in came Walsh, one of Wright’s men, full tilt with news. Word was given to saddle up, to arm ourselves, and away we went full tear. We heard something about the tracker being wounded, and something about a hut and I could pretty well guess where it was. It was no time to ask questions the way we were racing. There were twenty-four miles before us, and the pace we were going convinced me the horses would not stand it, so I slackened and followed their trail, being jockey enough to know how to ride my horse. I soon pulled them up with their horses fairly bursted, and some of them were splendid horses or they would not have stood what they did. I was then going ahead but was called back to lead them the road, for B. had galloped along till he came to the scrubby ranges. I had then no occasion to push ahead to keep pace with them for I could not get them out of a walk, except Ford, who was mad to get up to the place. He told me Wright’s party had the two Clarkes bailed up and would try to keep them in the hut till we arrived. B. said it was no use pushing on too much as they would sure to be away before we got there, and I believe someone would have been very glad if they had got away. Walsh had gone on his own way. As soon as I found out how things were I pushed on as fast as I judged my horse could keep it up. Our men began to fall behind fast. Eleven of us started from the station. When we were within four miles of the hut, I and one of the trackers took our own road and lost sight of our chaps; so we pulled in and turned after them, and it is a lucky thing we did, as they were making right away from the place. We kept together then, that is all who could keep up, for it was a race for life, seeing that the least delay might be fatal to Wright’s party.

We came straight as a line to Guinea’s hut. We were in sight of the other hut, but could not see a soul moving about. We asked the Guineas if the Clarkes were in the hut and they told us they were. So we galloped across the flat and into the river head first. We all had to swim it. There was no time to look for crossing places. As we were galloping towards the hut, Wright’s party saw us and waved their hats madly. We placed our horses in the stock-yard and stripped off our boots which were full of water. I and Brown went close up to the hut to guard it, while Byrnes and Wright were forming some plan of storming it. I saw Tom Clarke at the window twice, looking at me, but as he did not fire, I did not, and Byrnes had told us not to begin firing until we had challenged them to surrender; and we were not to call upon them till he had spoken to Wright, and to look out for the other chaps that were coming and let them know, for when we were within two miles of the place there were only five of us left out of the eleven. Even Walsh, who had got a fresh horse on the road – we five were up a long time before him. It took us one hour and fifty minutes to get our horses, arm ourselves and ride these twenty-four miles over rough country, swim two rivers, taking the bush all the way, and coming out fair on the hut.

I passed the word behind as soon as saw the others coming up. I was waiting for our chaps to get in position before calling upon the Clarkes to surrender. As soon as Walsh got up, and planted behind the fence, he called out to them to surrender, when Tommy Clarke walked out of the hut followed by his brother John, both with their arms out, except the wounded arm of Johnny. I passed the word and I and Brown walked down towards the boy so that they should not make a bolt for it but they fairly gave in.

FAIRLY IN CUSTODY

I could not bring myself to shake hands with Tom Clarke then, though all the rest of the troopers did. Tommy asked some of the chaps if I was there, and they pointed me out. He eyed me for a minute and said, “I did not think we should have met this way. I always fought you fair, so don’t keep anything in.” I replied it was better that way than if he had been shot. He said, “You were just in time or I should have been off and then there would have been a different tale to tell.” He owned to shooting the tracker, and when asked by Byrnes who carried Carroll’s revolving rifle, he replied that he did, and he said he took the other rifle from the police at Araluen, and the revolvers he took from a policeman at Collector. He said Bill Scott had left him and was gone on his own hook. Tommy seemed ready to answer any question put to him, but you couldn’t believe a word he said, for he tried to take all on himself to screen his brother.

We had started and got about a mile back on the road when we met Sub-inspector Stevenson’s party coming up from Major’s Creek, so they would have stood a poor chance fighting the lot of us in a place like that. We all came on together to the Crowarry police-station, when I and another pushed on to meet Mr. Orridge and the doctor. When seven miles off Ballalaba we met them, and turned back; went to Mick Connell’s public house, and waited there till the escort came up. What with the different parties of police all meeting we formed a fine squadron. We got a room ready at Mick’s to guard the prisoners in during the night, for it was too late and dark for us to reach our own station.

AT MICK CONNELL’S FOR THE NIGHT.

As soon as we got them in the room Dr. Patterson examined John Clarke, and found he had been wounded on the top of the arm near the shoulder, the ball passing just above the bone. Tom Clarke was wounded in the top part of the thigh with a slug, that had to be left in. John Clarke had no other wounds except the one recently done, although it was confidently reported that he had been hit several times before. Tom Clarke was riddled through the legs. I asked him where he got all the shot marks, but he refused, saying “It’s no odds.” I asked him if I ever touched him. He looked very hard at me, and said, “No”, though I believe I did. I asked him about the shot I fired at him when John Connell was with him, when I fired at him full gallop with the rifle? He said, the bullet just grazed the top of his head, and that he felt the heat of it. I asked him a great many questions; some he would answer with truth, and others he would turn off. Anything that would implicate any of his harbourers he would deny with a look you would believe to be sincere. I don’t think there was a better dissembler in the world than Tom Clarke. He would look at you as innocent as a child, and tell you all the lies imaginable. John Clarke would say very little, and put on the face of innocence. Tommy wouldn’t allow him to say much.

As soon as morning came, the sub-inspector took charge of the prisoners, the superintendent having gone to Braidwood overnight, to report the matter by telegram to Sydney. I and Ford, and some others, went back to Crowarry, there to stop till Wright’s party returned from Braidwood. As we all got ready to start, the sight was sickening to see two brothers in such a position. At first I could not shake off the revenge I felt for them, but it becomes every man to forgive as he hopes to be forgiven himself, and as we were going to part, I walked up and bid them good-bye. Tommy gave me a curious look. I don’t think I ever felt so sick of anything in my life as I did then, to see two fine-looking young men, with all hope of life gone, and all through their being led astray; for no one could believe for a moment that they would ever have led the life they did if they had not been schooled up to it. I believe old Mick Connell and his brothers ran them on a good deal.

[To be continued.]

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