Spotlight: Captain Thunderbolt and His Gang (06/05/1865)

Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News (NSW : 1859 – 1866), Saturday 6 May 1865, page 3



(From the Tamworth Examiner.)

In our last issue we gave the particulars of the robbery of the Warialda mail near Manilla by this newly-fledged gang of bushrangers, and we now furnish an account of their proceedings since that time, supplied us by our correspondent at Barraba, Narrabri, and Wee Waa.

It would seem that on the night of the day that the Warialla mail was stuck-up, Thunderbolt, alias Ward, and his companions went to a paddock on the station of the Messrs. Lloyd, at Manilla, where there were a number of horses, and took two of the best. Proceeding onwards towards Barraba, we hear that two more horses were taken belonging to the Messrs. Sinclair, they at the same time leaving there the horse they had taken from the postman when they stuck-up the Warialda mail, and one they stole from Lloyds’ station. On the morning of the following day (the 20th instant), they went to Mr. Cheesborough’s station, about twelve miles from Barraba, and stuck-up the inmates. Mr. Cheesborough was from home, but one of the women gave the gang a sound rating for their daring to come there. After making some anxious inquiries about Mr. Cheesborough, they took a horse, a gun, a revolver, and some rations, and then left, going in the direction of Mr Lethbridge’s station.

From the 20th till the 24th we heard nothing of them, but on the morning of that day it appears that they got to Mr. Munro’s inn, at Boggy Creek, when they bailed up all the inmates, and took property and cash from the house amounting in all to between £70 and £80. A portion of the property stolen consisted of rations and clothing, of which they took a good supply. They did not molest anyone, although Mr. Munro bravely challenged to ‘tackle’ each of them separately. They declined his invitation, and, after enjoying themselves for a little time, and drinking a quantity of spirits, shot a valuable dog, and left in the directon of Mr. Walford’s public-house, at Millie. On the road to this place they met Mr. Baldwin, stuck him up in the usual fashion and proceeded on their road to Walford’s place. They reached the inn between twelve and one o’clock the same day. It would seem that Mr. Walford had heard of the bushrangers being in the neighbourhood, and that he might expect them very shortly, and accordingly everything valuable and portly was concealed. On reaching the inn they bailed up those who were about the place, and obtained a small amount of cash, but nothing else worth mentioning. Here they remained for about an hour, where we will leave them in order to give an account of the movements of the police.

It would appear that on the police receiving intimation of the presence of the bushrangers at Manilla, intelligence was sent to all the police stations, and constables Dalton and Linch, of the Tamworth police, were dispatched to Barraba, via Manilla. On reaching the former place, constable Norris, of Barraba, joined them, and hearing the affair at Cheesborough’s, they started at once to that place, which they reached on the morning of the 21st instant, just a day after the bushrangers had left. They then took up the tracks and went on to Mr. Lethbridge’s station, where they obtained the services of a black tracker, and continued the search. After tracking them from that time till the 24th, they reached Millie (Mr. Walford’s public-house) about an hour after the bushrangers had arrived there.

The situation of this house is on an open plain, without a tree for miles in any direction. The bushrangers, four in number, were at the house at the time, one being outside on guard, and on the latter seeing four men galloping across the plain, a whistle was given to those inside, and all four came out to see who it might be. On learning that it was the police, they all mounted their horses, one of them holding up his revolver as a challenge to the police to come on, at the same time retreating from the house to the open plain at the rear. They had all drawn their revolvers, but the police, nothing daunted, gave chase, and came within pistol range a short distance from the house. Thunderbolt fired the first shot, to which the police replied — at the same time endeavours were made to cut off the young lad from the rest of the gang, who semed not so well mounted as the others. Firing was continued on both sides with great vigour, when a well-directed ball from the revolver of constable Dalton took effect on the young lad, entered the back and came out near the stomach. He fell from his horse, and constable Dalton shouted to constable Norris to take charge of him whilst he went after the others. On leaving with that intention, he fortunately turned round, and saw the young vagabond, while on the ground, presenting his revolver at him. He threw himself on his horses neck, and the ball passed over him. Constable Norris came up at the moment, and again fired at the ruffian, the ball taking effect, having entered the jaw and escaped at the neck. During the whole time, constable Lynch was keeping the others at bay, and succeeded in doing so, notwithstanding that Ward, who was mounted on a fine chesnut horse, several times rode between the youth and the police, constantly discharging his revolver at the same time, in order to give his mate time to escape. He was, however, unsuccessful. About forty shots were fired by the police, and their ammunition was all expended. After securing the youth, they proceeded a short distance after the others, but their horses were completely knocked up, having ridden them fully five hundred miles.

The fight is described by eye witnesses as an exceedingly plucky affair, and highly creditable to the police engaged. We hope their conduct will not be overlooked by those in authority. The encounter lasted about an hour, and the balls from the several revolvers flew about in all directions, one passing through the whiskers of one of the police, but not injuring him.

The youth who was shot was at once taken to the inn, and a doctor sent for to Moree, but he is in a very weak state, and it is doubtful if he will recover.

We hear that several volunteers, in conjunction with the Wee Waa police, have started after the other three bushrangers.

The head of the gang, who goes under the soubriquet of ‘Thunderbolt,’ is named Ward, and has been engaged in numerous robberies. He was at one time employed in breaking in horses at the Tareela station. The second is supposed to be a man named McIntosh, and is said to be a brother of McIntosh, who was mixed up with Picton in a cattle-stealing case some years ago. The bushranger who is shot is named John Thompson, a youth of about sixteen years of age, and is described as a very dangerous vagabond. He was at one time in the service of Mr. Cousins, of Terriaro, near Narrabri, and was subsequently employed on the Terrehihi station by Mr. Bowman’s superintendent. Before leaving there, about three months ago, he threatened to shoot the superintendent (Mr. Sullivan), and left the station, taking a horse. He had frequently expressed a wish to join the bushrangers. The fourth man was known by the name of ‘Bull’ or ‘Bully.’ Thompson and Ward are well acquainted with the part of the country in which they have been recently committing their depredations, and the latter with his companions will doubtless make for his old haunts at the head of some of the creeks running into the Barwon, near Walget.

At a late hour last night, we learned that the wounded lad, Thomson, was left at Millie, in charge of constables Norris and Lynch, and that constable Dalton had, with four others, supposed to be volunteers, started from Millie in pursuit of the other three men.

Since Mr. Cropper’s place was stuck up, Hall’s gang had been hovering about the stations between Forbes and Condobolin. From Mulgutherie they took a racer, known as Goldfinder, formerly belonging to the late Sir Frederick Pottinger. They afterwards called at Borambil, Mr. Suttor’s station, where they left a horse which they had taken from there.

Croy’s public house, on Old Pipeclay, Mudgee, was stuck up by a number of diggers. About £30 cash was taken, and a quantity of stock drank and destroyed. The Police Magistrate, Mr. W. R. Blackman, and Mr. T. Cudoll, J. P . accompanied by Alderman Hugson, and Messrs. G. Flood, A. Hill, and Delany, who were sworn as constables with the regular police force, proceeded to the spot and arrested three of the ringleaders. Messrs. Charlton, Broaderick, Winter, Farrar, Christian, and others were soon on the spot to render assistance as volunteers, a good proof that in case of our being visited by bushrangers we are in a position to show them a bold front.

The Ovens Constitution adds the following bit of information to the biography of Morgan:— ‘It is stated that Morgan’s father is an old man, now selling cakes with a barrow near the Hay market, in Sydney; and that his mother was a gipsy woman at Campbelltown.’

Spotlight: Miscellaneous Bushranging News (21/01/1864)

Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1843; 1854 – 1876), Thursday 21 January 1864, page 1


CAPTURE OF A BUSHRANGER. – Intelligence, says the Sydney M. H. of the 5th inst., was received from Maitland last evening that Sergeant Shannon, with a trooper, had, after several days’ pursuit, succeeded in capturing the bushranger who has been perpetrating the recent outrages on the Northern road, including the robbery of the Tamworth mail. We are informed that this bushranger is identified as the prisoner Mackie who escaped from the train near Liverpool, while en route from Goulburn to Sydney. It is expected that he.will be brought to Maitland to-night.

CAPTURE OF MACKIE. – We have much pleasure to record the capture of this notorious villain, through the energy of senior Sergeant Thorpe and some other members of the police force. It appears that having learnt that Mackie was in this district, senior Sergeant Thorpe, with senior Constable Gordon, and Constables McMorrow, Leonard, and Warren, proceeded last Sunday evening to the residence of a free selector, living at Batty’s Creek, near Falbrook, where they arrived about half-past one o’clock on Monday morning. They immediately surrounded the house, and searched it, but could not discover the object of their search. The police, however, remained about the place, and at daybreak Constable Leonard discovered what appeared to him to be Mackie lying asleep, concealed under some bushes of a cockatoo fence which had been used as a temporary fence around a corn paddock. Four of the police immediately surrounded the spot, and Mackie having in the meantime awoke and got up, attempted to escape. He was however secured, and upon being searched a large quantity of cheques and notes stolen at the late mail robbery were found upon him. Near him were found a double-barrelled gun, and also two single-barrelled pistols, capped and loaded, which he attempted to grasp before being seized. He afterwards said that he was sorry for not having made a show, for that certainly he would have shot some of the Constables if he had done so. After being secured with a double pair of handcuffs, he was strapped to the saddle, and after having been conveyed about three or four miles, he made a sudden jerk, jumped off the horse, and attempted to climb over a fence alongside the road. He was, however, again secured, and handcuffed to senior-sergeant Thorpe, who arrived safely with his prisoner in the Singleton lock-up about eleven o’clock this (Monday) morning. Mackie admitted that he robbed the mail the other day, and also stated that they might think themselves very lucky of having captured him, as it was his intention to have stuck up the bank at Singleton on a Court day, when the Constables were absent at the Court. Sergeant Thorpe informs us that Mackie is certainly one of the most determined villains that he has ever come across, and states that it was very lucky the way he was captured, otherwise probably the lives of some of the Constables would have been sacrificed. — Singleton correspondent of the Maitland Mercury.

SUPPOSED CAPTURE OF “CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT.” – The Maitland Mercury 7th inst says :– On Sunday evening senior-constable O’Sullivan apprehended a man on a charge of highway robbery or bushranging. The fellow captured is supposed to be the highwayman who gave himself the somewhat terrible name of “Captain Thunderbolt,” when committing some petty thefts in the neighbourhood of Maitland. He was apprehended about fourteen miles beyond Dungog, on the road to Gloucester. Mr. Superintendent Lydiard deserves praise for the tact he has manifested in the disposal of the men under his command, by which they have succeeded in ridding the district of the few scoundrels who endeavoured to settle themselves in it after the fashion of the bushrangers in the south and west.

GILBERT AND HIS GANG. – The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier, writing on the 28th ultimo says:– Rumours are current that the Gilbert brigade are meditating an attack on a station not a hundred miles from here, as the respected proprietor of the said extensive station has, in the opinion of the robber chief, been guilty of the most heinous of crimes, viz., that of harbouring and entertaining the police. However, before making this attack, let them take a retrospective glance at the fate of O’Meally and Burke, as the owner of the threatened station is well known to be a man of determined courage and a crack shot. When the mail of the 6th instant was stopped and plundered by Gilbert and Hall, two of the servants belonging to the station I refer to were among those previously bailed up, and Gilbert sent a verbal message or warning by them to their master.

THE COOMA MAIL ROBBERY. – The Golden Age gives further particulars of this robbery, by which it appears that the perpetrator is a man named Bermingham, a printer by trade, who lately has been engaged shearing in the neiglhbourhood. On Tuesday, a man was sighted by sergeant Donohue, chased, and captured; and although he is not the perpetrator of this particular felony, it appears that there are charges equally serious against him. He is the man who was fired at by the police in the streets of Queanbeyan as mentioned in our last. The following particulars are from the paper above referred to :– Mr. Superintendent Markham on Monday dispatched sergeant Donohue and another trooper on search, mounting the former on his (Mr. Markham’s) favourite horse. On Tuesday sergeant Donohue, accompanied by one of the Micalago police, both in disguise, in the course of a search for the mail robbers, came upon two men in the bush tailing a small herd of cattle. One of them was seated on a file chesnut horse, to all appearance answering the description of the horse ridden by Bermingham at the time of the mail robbery. Sergeant Donohue immediately singled this fellow out, and an exciting chase ensued. For several miles the pursued led the pursuer at a full gallop over the most broken and dangerous country lying to the east of the Cooma road, and towards the Jingeras, evidently with a view to baffle his pursuer and exhaust his horse. But the sergeant’s horse was as good as the horse of him who led the chase; and sergeant Donohue, after some miles’ riding, had the satisfaction of finding himself gaining on his foe. Being now within pistol-shot he commenced firing at every opportunity presenting, and after sending seven shots after his man he had the pleasure of seeing his horse fall under him exhausted. On coming up to his prisoner, sergeant Donohue demanded his name, which he said was William Dunne of the Rob Roy. Unwilling yet to surrender, Dunne continued to offer resistance, and was not subdued until a blow on the head from a loaded whip was administered by the sergeant, who then threw Dunne his handcuffs and made him put them on himself. Being in a strange country, and not having observed the direction he had travelled, the sergeant was at a loss to retrace his steps with his prisoner; seeing which Dunne became unwilling to afford him any information on the subject, and it was only by threatening to strap him to his horse and drag him where he pleased, that he was induced to act as guide; and thus after a while they reached the high road near the Rob Roy, where Dunnes’ relations reside. Here the sergeant made the prisoner lie down in the road, in sight of his father’s house, and kept sentry over him with his loaded revolvers, forbidding any one to approach the spot. Ultimately the other police, three in number, who had been scouring the bush in different directions. came up, and the prisoner was then securely escorted to Queanbeyan. There are several charges against the prisoner of horse and cattle stealing; and in addition to these he will be charged with being an accomplice of Bermingham in the robbery of the Cooma mail. The chestnut horse he was riding is said to be the one ridden by Bermingham when the mail was stuck up by him and there are other evidences of Dunne’s being a participator in that robbery. Dunne is said to be one of the best riders in these districts; and his first remark on being overtaken by the sergeant was to the effect that he was the first man who had ever overtaken him in pursuit. He also admitted that the shots fired after him all went close by him, and one even passed through his hair, yet he would not surrender till compelled. Doubtless the success of this capture is mainly owing to the fleet and enduring horse ridden by sergeant Donohue, who assured us that with one of the ordinary horses of the service he could never have kept sight of his prisoner. The merit of the arrest, however, belongs entirely to sergeant Donohue; and his success shows plainly that if we are to have bushranging suppressed it must be by the services of men qualified as he is, and by no others. Sergeant Donohue has long been accustomed to rough bush riding, having been for some time superintendent of cattle stations. Light in weight, of an active and determined character, and a thorough horseman, he is just the man for his work. -– Last night the police returned to town, having recovered the whole of the bags, which they found off the road near the scene of the robbery. The bags had all been ransacked, and every letter opened – their contents lying scattered around. There was no money left, of course, but several cheques were recovered amongst the letters and papers gathered up by the police.


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Thursday 12 December 1867, page 2





After going some seven or eight miles in the scrub at the base of the mountain and being scratched and torn to pieces we resolved to get out again, as it was near night and not a blade of grass to be seen to feed the horses. We came out and ran round some eight or nine miles further where we camped at about 8 o’clock near some good grass and water. Next day we tried another place, and came out on the marked tree line with plenty of grass all through, and a shade too much water, for at night we had to place stones and sticks to sleep on — a bed I can recommend for making people weak. We kept on scouring till we came to a shod track. This we followed hopefully till it led towards a station where the ground was covered with all sorts and sizes of horse-shoe tracks. Ac cording to our information from the S. C. at Narrabri there must be a great many bushrangers out in this direction. At last we selected one track, and followed it many miles, hoping it would lead to the particular haunt of Ward (Thunderbolt). His track did not go to the stations but shied off as if out of sight. I felt persuaded this track was that of Mr. Ward coming down from Gallathera Plains to see his wife, who was stopping at a sheep station with a half-caste shepherdess. But I did not then exactly know the spot, although I had traced her out in that direction. We lost the track at last on a short grassy flat — the worst possible place for tracking.

Having run out of rations we made across to Barraba to see our other two Braidwood police, and to see if we could not form a plan to work in conjunction with each other. We arrived at Barraba half starved.

There was a police station there but no feed for horses. We stopped there two days to spell the horses. We formed a plan; the tracker was to go with one trooper, and the other was going with me. We were to meet again in three days at one of Mr. Lloyd’s sheep stations— some forty miles off.


The second day we came to a sheep station hut, and out came a great big half-caste gin, as surly as you please, who told us plump we were after Thunderbolt, but were fortunately off the scent. She poked all sorts of fun at us which we took in good humour, and went away in a different direction to our meeting place. But we had not got a mile away before we heard a row behind us. It was a clear ground, and on looking back, lo and behold there were two big gins coming racing mad after us on stock horses, standing up in the stirrups, their petticoats flapping in the wind. They both sat astride over the saddle.

They pulled us up. The big one came close and said she would introduce us to her cousin Mary, who had just come home, having been away to see her father, and now she wanted a husband. This cousin Mary did not come nearer than two hundred yards, so we were unable, having no opera glass, to look at her charms. We saw she kept eyeing us, with her horse reined up on the spur ready for a charge. This was done to see if we knew her.


I became suspicious and surmised we were near the presence of Mrs. Captain Thunderbolt. As soon as she reined up we became suspicious, the more so when she eyed us over with such curiosity; but we said nothing as we wished to make her believe we were gulled. So I told the big gin that I wanted a wife, and would be glad of an introduction. After a good deal of persuasion the lady came up when my mate introduced me to her as Mr. MacGatterie, and I introduced my mate as Mr. Squatter Dixon. I saw the lady eyeing me very closely all the time they stopped with us. I saw she had a suspicion that I knew her, and we had a job to get away from them. They would insist on our going back with them and have breakfast, but urgent business called us away. They watched us for miles, and it was not till we got in a thick scrub that we turned towards our place of meeting. We knew the direction and came to it all right. Our mates were not there, so we left word we would be at a certain place next night. We got some rations and went back to watch the gins; but we discovered they had watched us all the time. They came on us two miles from the hut. They told us where we camped, and where we got our dinner, and that we had come back to watch them. We saw we were check-mated, but did not let on. We had only then to consider how we could profit by our discovery, so we determined to stop in the hut that night, and pump them all we could. I found out it was the Captain’s lady, and a little more to, so we went to meet our mates but they did not come. To give the gins the slip we went across the mountains to Narrabri, seventy miles, and came out splendidly on a good road and in the midst of plenty of grass. I came across a friend of mine so we gave the horses a day’s spree. This friend put me up to a trick or two, and kindly offered to go out and show me one of Ward’s camping places. But I could not get a horse for my friend. He told me there were two of his horses at Ward’s camp, but I could not get a horse for him to go with us after them, and it was necessary that he should show us the road. So I got a direction, went out, but could not find the place. As I had to appear at the assizes in Sydney with reference to some of the Braidwood cases I told my friend and a few of his acquaintances to keep an eye on matters, and that I would be back before long. We had a scour through the mountains and became so familiar with them that we arrived at Barraba by a new route. In fact we could go through the mountains anywhere. We found our two mates at Barraba, where they had been delayed by the fancy colt — the quiet horse — which had thrown his rider unawares. One of the chaps want into Tamworth to see about getting some feed for our horses and a fresh horse for himself, but it was no go.

As I had to leave for Sydney soon I took the rest of the men, meaning to try once more and work my way into Tamworth. We came back to the gins’ hut and there I met a friend who told me Thunderbolt had gone down to Murrurundi, to stick the mail up; and the gin had gone to a certain place to meet him coming back. So I told the other chaps he had gone down but they would not believe me. I, therefore, started at once for Tamworth, taking the tracker with me — determined to get a fresh horse and to push on, as it was on my road to Sydney. Before I got in I met two police coming along the road who told me the mail was stuck up. This made me push on to the office where I asked for another horse —but there was none, of course — and they told me positively it was not Ward who had stuck up the mail but two boys. Putting two and two together I knew this to be false and told them so; but they were sure of it. I know, as far as circumstantial evidence can go, that it was Ward and not two boys — two boys, how absurd!c who stuck up that mail, for I was told on my way down all about it. And I also found out that if I could get back soon, I should be able to capture him. I had learnt a great deal about him, more than the stationary police could dream of. So certain was I that, although my resignation was in and the notice expired, I decided upon withdrawing it if I could go back to the north as soon as the Braidwood cases had been disposed of in Sydney. I applied, bona fide, to the Inspector-General of Police. My application was refused. If the Inspector-General was made aware of my application, he may have sent for me and asked my reason for wishing specially to withdraw my resignation to go to the North. I would have told him; but my mind is satisfied that the Inspector-General knew little of it except as a matter of form, and, as a matter of form, if at all, so placed before him. I intend in these papers to make no remarks as to the machinery of the head office. This is not the place. Let the centralised system be fairly tested and judged upon its merits. The time may come, and that soon, when it may be regretted that there were not established in conjunction with it, supplementary bodies in every district of the colony, of volunteer native troopers.


Now, the people up there are disgusted with the police, as they go from one station to another, without adopting any rational system to try and catch Thunderbolt. Here is Thunderbolt, a native of Windsor, I believe — I saw his mother in November — who has been out about four years, and sticks up the mail whenever he is hard up. He never, that I know, sticks up people in the bush. Why is he not captured? Have the people in the north not good reason to complain? Does it not seem as if the police were merely putting in their time? The country wonders, but I don’t wonder why he is not taken. I was six or seven weeks in the ranges, from one end to the other, and during that period never met or saw a policeman.


On one occasion I chased a wild bull and fired at him repeatedly to train our horses to it. We chased this bull for two miles, constantly firing, until we killed him. It occurred to me that this was about the best practice men should be drilled to who are sent after the bushrangers; for it teaches them to ride, to fire while galloping, and to exercise caution. For a wild bull, with a couple of bullets in a fleshy part will test a rider on the side of a mountain to keep beside him. One drill of that sort would be of more service to a man than twelve months drill in Sydney, and for the horse to. Well, if two or three of us could travel about, firing our arms off occasionally, and camping about without attracting the notice of the police, how long could a man whose object was occasional plunder, remain in those ranges without being taken? As things are now Thunderbolt can remain there five years longer, perfectly secure, with police stations all round him, and he may become the father of a numerous family. I know the men who were with me will try hard to take him, but what can they do? Their horses were done up when I left, and they were ordered to remain at home till they got fresh again. They wanted ammunition, but could not get it. They had only six rounds when I left, the most of this being damaged by camping out in the wet. The Gunnedah police were put on Ward in his camp, when I left, and my old tracker who was up there was left behind for some reason or other — it would be hard to tell. So they sneaked on the camp and blazed away at Ward and his mate, but they both got away on foot. The boy took one road and Ward the other — so ended the encounter.


Well, my old mates, being out scouring, saw a man in the bush and called upon him, but he sloped, it being very scrubby. They only got one run down and one shot, when they lost him. Ward made down to the gins’ hut, or close to it, and the lady was talking to him, both on horseback, when up rode two of the Tamworth police and fired at him from a distance, it being open forest land. They had a splendid chance, but he again got away. As soon as my old mates missed him they met a friend, and were told that the boy, Mason, was making for a certain place. Their horses being used up they could not follow but sent a note to one of the police at Narrabri. This policeman went to the house, and the boy surrendered. Now if all the police helped one another like that how much better it would be; but they were natives, and good men, working together, but humbugged for want of proper officers over them — at least some officer who could tell a saddle horse from a draught horse before he paid £15 or £20 for him.


But some of the superintendents in buying horses, purchase mere scrubbers from a rich man to secure his favour. They give him a good price but the animal is a mere scrubber, unfit for the work. If a poor man came with a good stock horse fit for any bush work, they turn up their nose and don’t want him. Then word is sent to Sydney that they cannot get horses. In this way the men have to ride animals little better than donkeys, dearly purchased, and when they want to do anything, they cannot.


Well, I was on X.’s case in Sydney. The first thing I did on arriving was, as previously stated, to write out an application to withdraw my resignation, stating, that I had good hopes of being able to catch Thunderbolt and would like to start back as soon as the Braidwood cases were over. X’s case and —’s were one, and should have been tried together, but sergeant V. had the case against Mick Connell, and to get him into it he wanted — to give certain evidence under a promise that my charge against her should not be prosecuted. There was a charge also, of stolen rings against this lady. Well, she did swear a few words but not before Mr. Butler, who prosecuted for the Crown, left the Court to indict her for perjury. X’s case then came on, and the charge against him was for aiding and abetting Tom Connell to escape — that is what we charged him with, and all the evidence we had against him. After long trial the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the second count — “aiding and abetting, &c.” That verdict, to my notion, was a true one, and according to the evidence, and the true case against him. But his Honor, as I understood, said they must find him guilty or innocent of the full charge, “accessory to the fact after robbery &c;” that   there was no second count. The jury seemed staggered for a minute or two when they returned a verdict of not guilty. Then his Honor seemed astonished, but acquitted him. He was then charged with sticking up Chinamen on two occasions, but there being only one Chinese prosecutor there the case fell to the ground.

The cases being over the lady was not tried, to the great glory of sergeant V., so I reported myself at the Police-office, and was told my application had not been sent in, but would be in the morning. Next morning I was told as my resignation was due there was nothing to prevent my being discharged — so I was discharged. Of course I thought it strange I should not have been allowed to go and try to take Thunderbolt when I had such a chance. However, I was half crippled then in my left wrist and they deemed it expedient to get rid of me. Such is the way of the world. Now, I had done as much active service for two years as any trooper in the force, and here was my reward. If crippled they might have aided me a little. If I had been a new arrival I might have got a brief pension. But I don’t want it. This country is my home, and in it I am able and can earn an honest living by the sweat of my brow. May every trooper who leaves the service be able to do the same is the wish of their old companion.



Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Monday 9 December 1867, page 2




As Bruce’s case did not come on for trial at the May assizes, being remanded till August, I was sent back to Braidwood, where I had no sooner arrived than I was transferred back to Sydney, to stay at the depot till my three months’ notice to leave the force had expired.


Before giving a brief account of my journey northwards after Thunderbolt I should like to say a little more about the depot at Sydney. The principal part of a trooper’s duty there is to put his time in, and make as much show to the public as possible. At almost every turn you take you meet a sergeant and they all have some order. You are taught to ride perhaps by some man that could not ride a chase for fifty yards in the bush without risk to life or limb. He is paid to teach bushmen to ride, if any happen to be there, which is but seldom, for they generally become disgusted and leave. You are stuck on a military saddle with long stirrups, and your toes nearly touch the ground. You have no power over your horse. If he gives two or three bucks you go over his head. You ride round and round, jotting away. The saddle is by no means fit for country service. The flaps are very prominent, with a small knee pad more for ornament than use, and the trooper is expected to sit in it like a forked stick over a fence. The knee pad is useless. You can only just touch the knee pad if your horse bucks. Your only chance when he begins to buck is to stick your feet well over the animal’s neck and then you might be able to get your knee to the pads. So allowing the first buck to bring your knees to the pads you are then out of the seat of the saddle. The next buck will bring you on the horse’s neck, or on the pummel of the saddle, and consequently the next buck brings you on his head.

These are the sort of saddles bought for the police to use after desperate bush riders.

Pick out one of the best bush riders and place him in one of these saddles, and send him to catch a mounted robber in some mountainous country, or other rough place; if he were on a good horse and succeeded in sticking on till he got from the top of a tier to the bottom he would have done no good but would have run a risk of crippling himself for life. Now, troopers are employed chiefly to arrest country robbers and bushrangers; at least this has been their work for a long time past. And what has been the sort of men they have been sent after but desperate and clever horsemen. Do these men use straight-flapped saddles without pads to ride in ? No. They use the stock-man’s saddle with a short flap and good knee pad, and, generally, the natives of the country are admitted to be excellent riders, in hundreds of instances as good as any in the world. Why then should these men, when taken in to capture bushrangers, be sent to the depot where it is merely pretended to teach them to ride. What good does this do? Why should one hundred men at one time or other be kept at the depot?

It’s a nice life to see the new hands tumbling in in all directions, but who pays? These new hands do not like a native who happens to join the force for the good of his country because he cannot help laughing at their awkwardness. But why should a country pay thousands of pounds on this tomfoolery when the men are totally unfit for the bush services required of them? And why should so much be expended on saddles and other things which are only fit for cavalry on a level country? What good, so far, has all this expensive cavalry drill done for the country? Has it tended to facilitate the capture of bushrangers, or the suppression of crime? I say the reverse is the fact, from the impunity with which bushrobbers can keep so long uncaptured. The employing of hundreds of men who knew nothing of the bush or country, and sergeants who know as little to drill them, is a very useless expense. It is not all prejudice with me, when I ask why are not respectable natives taken on as bush troopers? No expense is required to teach them to ride. One dozen natives in the police at Braidwood would have prevented the bushranging gang from carrying all before them for more than a week or two. I declare solemnly if I had been supplied with one good bushman as mate when I first went to Braidwood, and been allowed my own way, from my knowledge of bush manners, the country, and the people, I could have taken Tommy Clarke and Tom Connell twenty times over, before they had committed any crimes of note. This is no vain boasting.


The fact is the natives are not required in the force. They are considered as only fit to make bushrangers, and many a promising young man has been driven to the bush by police persecutions. Do you suppose that all the young people who have taken to the bush have done so for the sake of robbing and plundering? They are usually disliked by the police and are taken on suspicion for some supposed case, acquitted, and retaken, and they are pointed at until they take the bush in disgust under the mistaken notion of recovering their self-respect. Not many are driven to this, but it is well known that two or three of the most formidable bushrangers took the bush from their self-respect being wounded by some police interference. But it is also a well known fact that many bush natives live by nothing else but rowdyism, and by horse and cattle stealing. There are black sheep in every flock, and I do not exempt my native countrymen, more especially those in the back parts of the country, where they run almost wild. But take what I call the civilised and christianised natives, and they will be found among the most loyal in the colony and the most patriotic. I could muster one hundred natives in a week that would fight to the death in a good cause, and these men would be glad to join the police from which they I are improperly excluded. But enough on this head.


You may like to know a little about the trooper’s boots. Every year there is a new issue to each man. He gets one or two pairs of pants and two pairs of boots — one pair they call Wellingtons, made of bad harness leather blackened over, with a toe nearly three inches wide and so stiff that it is next to impossible to walk in them; the other pair are Napoleons, or riding boots, often made of the belly parts of the hides. One year he may get a good issue but he will get four bad ones after it. I have been told that thirty shillings a pair are paid for these boots, but I am not sure that such is the case. If so it is much too high a charge, and it is a great oversight in the authorities to countenance such proceedings.


In briefly explaining these matters I have run away from my northern trip.

When I arrived in Sydney on transfer, I applied to go after Thunderbolt. My application was accepted, and I was forthwith despatched, on the promise that I should have permission to follow out my own system. I was to have two mates — one a tracker, and a first-rate man, a half-caste, and a very clever fellow in many respects. He was with our party at Ballalaba. The other chap was a young man belonging to the Braidwood district who joined the force just before the Clarkes were arrested, and as good a rider and as steady a man as could be found — just the man for the situation. These two started to Tamworth before I did, but as they missed the coach I pulled them up on the road, so we all arrived in Tamworth together, Tamworth being the head-quarters of the district.

We were to be supplied with horses, and whatever we required for the bush; but when we got there, there was no horses for us except two, and they were young things. One had only been purchased about a week previously, and had not been ridden by the police. As the sequel will show there was a good reason for this. After I had been there a few days this horse was told off to me, and the other one to the tracker. As I had brought up a new saddle with me, expecting to have a good horse, I had to get it stuffed before using it; one evening I put my saddle on him to see what he was made of. I was going out with another man to the police paddock, to bring in the horses to be fed for the night and take some out. As I took my horse out of the stable it was plain to me that he was all there for a trick or two; and I felt convinced that if he commenced to buck he would throw me out of the saddle I had. I made this remark to the men who were there, but they assured me a child could ride him, so I mounted. I was convinced then he would buck, from my experience in riding all sorts of horses since I was a child. I told the sergeant it would be better for me to ride him in another saddle, as I could get no seat in my own, being stuffed it would not sit on the horse’s back, and was a very bad saddle in every way for this horse. The sergeant and the men laughed, and said if I could not ride that horse I could ride none in the place, as the animal never gave a buck in his life. So away I went very well till the horses we were driving went off the road, and I started to turn them back. Away I went like the renowned John Gilpin anywhere the horse took me — he had no more mouth than a colt just yarded. I stopped him at last, and got on very well till on the road home again, when he bailed me up between a fence and a mud hole. Here he commenced pig-jumping, round and round, and the saddle turned half off, and I came off, but in a soft place, being about knee deep in mud. So I mounted again, and as I got into the saddle the trooper with me gave him a clip or two with his whip. Off I went again down the street, full gallop, with the horse’s head right up in the air. I tried to pull him in but it was no use. I was standing in the stirrups sawing away at his mouth when he propped short, and at it he went, but the first buck shifted me. I could not sit in the saddle. I kept on for four or five good bucks, more by maintaining a centre of gravity than anything else, till one of the stirrup leathers slipped off. I came over his head, and in falling out cut my left hand, and thus coming on the ground with all my weight on one hand on a hard metalled road my wrist was broken, my fingers touching my arm. This arm was helpless, I felt little pain, and only discovered it to be useless when attempting to rise by it. I got a saddler to twist it the right way, but he was not skilled. He straightened it, however, and ten minutes afterwards I saw a doctor, but my arm was so much swollen that he could only then put splints on and chance it being set right. I do not think it was properly set as I feel occasional gritting still.


After I was laid up the men let it out about the horse being a buckjumper, and that they all knew it — even the sergeant who told me it was a quiet horse; because the sergeant summoned the last owner of the animal and had him fined £2 in the court-house for allowing the horse to buck up and down the street and run over some children.

Now this was cowardly, and treacherous — to play a stranger such a trick, just because I had come over there to try and take Thunderbolt. If I had been in a good saddle the horse might have bucked away, but they played to get me what is termed a “burster,” and they succeeded in what they might look upon as a justifiable deception. One would have thought they would rather have helped a stranger among them to do his duty. But Thunderbolt is still at large.

Peter, the tracker, had another “quiet” horse, but having a good saddle he put the “top rail” on, and was thrown head fore-most. We were then in a nice fix, my mate with his head bound up and I with a broken hand and wrist; but during this time two more men came over, and one of them got my buckjumper. He put a blanket and a cloak on his saddle, another military one, determined not to be thrown, but he was thrown before the week was out.


These two men went out to Barraba, and I and the tracker were to go to Narrabri. They would not allow the third man to come with me. I tried to get a pack horse to carry our rations so as not to show ourselves to the station people, as a great many of the stockkeepers would screen Ward (Thunderbolt) from us; but it was no go, we were not to have much chance of apprehending this bushranger. I only brought one revolver from Sydney, being told I should be supplied at Tamworth with all I required; so I had to put up with one revolver and a small Tranter’s revolving rifle. Being unable even to get ammunition I had to send for some to Mr. Ryland at the Sydney Depot. As soon as I could move my arm I started, first to Narrabri, and on my way I fell in with a squatter on the Mucki who assisted me a great deal. He rowed us over the river, there being no bridges, and the rivers and creeks being flooded, besides the roads being very muddy.

When we came to Cox’s Creek we had to swim our horses over and go over ourselves in a canoe, very pleasant travelling for a man with a broken arm.


We arrived at Narrabri at last where we gave the horses two days’ spell as the roads would soon knock them up. At Tamworth I was told I could get a pack horse at Narrabri, but I could get nothing, I had received some very good information to work on, but to work it properly we should have a pack horse to carry rations; for to be seen on the stations in the Killarney mountains would be to draw all the friends of Thunderbolt to watch us, a thing which I wished to avoid. My intentions were to scour all the ranges, running across from Narrabri to Bingera, north and south; and from Barraba on the east to the west end of Killarney mountains, a distance of seventy miles either way, a very rocky and scrubby country, and Thunderbolt’s haunt when on that side of the country, which was very often.

This is the locality where Thunderbolt lies to after sticking up the mail, as has been proved, but why it is not scoured and the offender hunted out of it, or captured, is very hard to say.


From the Narrabri side of the mountain there is only one place to get in the ranges, so I asked the senior-constable at Narrabri which was the least scrubby part to enter, as I meant going my own road quietly. The direction he gave me — pointing to a spur of the mountain — was the very worst part of the whole ranges. I might have expected this after the way I had been served; so with a small railway wrapper, a small damper, and a piece of beef we started, though the ground was covered with water. We could carry no blankets, partly because we could not get them. I managed to get the tracker one quietly and got into a row for it. The horses would have all they could do for they were without corn except such as was as black as your hat — half rotten. The corn had got wet, as the person in charge was too much occupied in curling his moustache, and cleaning his brush to attend to it. But though the corn on the station was spoilt, the Government is rich and cannot be bothered with these trifles.

Before starting from Narrabri, I asked if the storekeepers rode shod horses or not. He said no, and that if I saw a shod track I was to be sure it was a bushranger’s, as no one ever used shod horses out there. I asked him in which direction Barraba lay. I had a pretty good idea, having passed that place myself some years previously when going to Queensland with horses. This was seventy miles below Narrabri; but the direction the officer in charge gave me would have brought me out twenty or thirty miles wide of that place. He was either trying to run me astray or else he knew no better himself, although stationed there for some time; but it was excusable seeing he had not been very long in the country and could not be expected to know much of bush matters.



Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Thursday 28 November 1867, page 6




I was very glad the capture of the Clarkes was all over. Here were two men who could not be arrested for months, although the district was fairly swarming with police and detectives, one party running away from the other, and both sometimes running away from the bushrangers. If it had not been for myself and another in running the young chaps in Jingera to inform on them, I believe there would have been a worse gang out this day than any that we have yet seen, and that more blood would have been shed than could be dreamt of. It seemed to me as if the police authorities wanted them out, to keep up excitement. Clarke at first did not care for shooting the police, but one crime brings on another, and he had got to that pitch that he would have shot any one who came in his road. I am confident he would have had some more mates, and it would have taken years to put them down, unless the “system” had been departed from by the formation of special bush parties. Bushrangers must be fought according to their own tactics, and a bush party must expect to undergo many privations and many hardships before they can expect to succeed. If the police had continued to work the same system as before Carroll’s party, Wright’s, and other scouting parties were formed, the Clarkes would never have been taken. I consider that system bad, so far as the suppression of bushranging is concerned. I consider it a robbery to the country as the force stands now, and worse than if fifty bushrangers were out, because they rob for a living and only rob a few individuals in one locality, whereas the police system robs the state wholesale. It takes one half of the revenue to keep up a body of men that are quite out of their place. The force is established on the same footing as the Irish constabulary. The chief part of the force consists of men from the Irish or London constabulary. Most of them taken on are men just landed in the colony, mainly from the Irish police, never having touched a horse perhaps, let alone know how to manage one; and they have no idea of the bush, nor the ways of the people in this country. But they are taken on and sent to the police depot, Sydney, where they are kept three or four months at great expense to the country in teaching them to ride. I only speak about the mounted men, and personally I say nothing against any of them, horse or foot; I know many of them to be excellent men, as men in any way you take them, but they are placed in false positions when sent after bushrangers in a bush country of which they have no knowledge. As strangers, and acquainted with police duty, they do very well in towns and villages; in fact they are better for this kind of duty than the natives of the colony by far. But when it comes to country work, catching bushrangers in the mountains, it is a different thing. There may be found an exception now and then.

Well, to return to the drill. They are learnt to ride in a sort of a way, in about three months, under pay all the while; and they are learnt the use of the sword, quite a useless article, after the fashion of dragoons. The sword is quite useless at the present time for any practical police work. It serves merely to occupy the time of the men in cleaning and keeping them from idleness. Then they are learnt the rifle drill the only useful part in it, but though they are showed how to use it they are never practised in firing enough to hit the target at 200 yards. In fact there is very few of them that ever fired a shot till they were sent up in the bush to shoot robbers, and then when they come on him they blaze away anyhow, sometimes to the sky, thinking the noise will frighten if not kill. This has been well stated in those words of poetry on the late Sir Frederick Pottinger and his eight men when firing at Frank Gardiner in close quarters. This is such a bit of truthful verse, that I will repeat it.

“His warriors then, like valiant men,

With carbines blazed away,

While the whistling lead on its mission sped

But whither none could say.

For the snow white steed at gentle speed

Bore Gardiner from their view;

While Sir Frederick Pot, and all his lot,

Tried to pierce the robber through!”

Now, I don’t suppose those men ever fired a shot before, and so it is now with most of the men. They may be better now some of them by this time, but two, three, or four year ago, they were awful. Well, the first four months they are paid for nothing. But it is not only these men who have just joined. There’s the senior-sergeant with his large cheque to drill them, and he has some one to attend and wait upon him, as he attends on those above him and so on, to say nothing about the expenses for horse-flesh, fodder, saddles, shoeing, &c., to keep it up. It surprises me that the depot has not been looked to, for there are police employed as grooms to senior-sergeants. I was brought up in the bush and can ride almost any horse that could be found, but when I joined I was kept six weeks in Sydney learning to ride on a military saddle and use a rifle, but I never fired a shot out of it till I was sent to Jingera after Clarke when he broke out of gaol; but I knew how to use it, having served some time after Ben Hall’s gang as a special constable at Goulburn. It was after this they sent me to Sydney to be taken on the force. I had no idea they were going to teach me to ride but they did, and kept me there bumping about with long stirrups and fooleries till I could hardly ride at all. My theory for bush work is this :— There is not a district in any part of the colony but there are scores of young men, the sons of respectable storekeepers, graziers, and other settlers. They are men of intelligence, natives of the colony, whose time is occupied in stock riding, or other pursuits, but who are merely so occupied for want of something else to do. As an illustration, suppose one of those men was appointed the chief trooper in the district where he had been bred and born, with power to select his own half-dozen men. Can anyone suppose that a bushranger would exist in that district for a month?

Now I was drilled and equipped in the regular way and was sent out to catch Clarke. I never had any one with me at first, though I bailed him up behind a tree on one occasion, but I had to give him up on account of my revolver at first missing. I had a tracker with me but he would not come near after the first shot. He left me to the mercy of the two of them; but though I did not take them I took all sorts of care they did not take me. When my revolvers missed I was close to Clarke, and the moment my last cap missed fire he rushed at me like a tiger and called on me to surrender. I could do nothing. I dared not attempt to take him as he had a revolver in each hand and I saw the caps on the nipples plain enough. When he found I would not stand for him he made a rush to get his horse, but I knew he would have me then, so I galloped between him and ran the horses away, and while my eye was off him for a minute he disappeared — whither I could not tell; but I will own the truth — I got very frightened then, as I expected to be knocked off from behind every tree. I had only one fresh cap on, so I pushed home with his horses. If I had had a mate with me that day there would have been an end of the Clarkes. I could always find them if allowed my own way, but my superiors would have their way, and it was only once in the first twelve months we came on them in the official way, and then we made a mess of it.

So you can see from the beginning of this tale, after I had estimated the capacities of my immediate superiors, I tried hard to deviate from the system and have my own way with one mate; but they would never let me. Sometimes I got out with the tracker but at first he was useless when it came to close quarters.

Well, it kept getting worse and worse up there. More men kept coming out and getting in one another’s way. Some smart fine-looking men, new arrivals in the colony came up in charge of a party, but they knew not what to do, where to go, or how to act. It was all chance work. Some-times they would run up against the boys, but they could always get away. One, now and then, would be taken, more by chance than anything else. There was no generalship except what was bad. Now, if two men were together who knew how to work, and were to go out their own way, two on one side of Jingera, and two on the other, taking it quiet, they would all have been taken at the commencement ; but no, that would not do. Many and many a time I could have played the boys into my hands, and with only one mate could have taken the lot of them, but that did not suit some. The fact is, I showed my cards before I was ready to play them, and so spoilt a chance for myself, for I never dreamt but it was intended to catch the bushrangers with as little delay as possible.

But I have run away from the point of expense I was bearing on. Well, too many men is one fault in the police, not only for expense, but they baffle one another when in the bush. If some smart young natives were taken in the force and found with good horses — men who could ride well — good bushmen, and men who could be depended on, as there are hundreds in every district who can be — then bushranging would cease. There is a fine lot of natives who are brought up respectably, and would go through fire and water to achieve anything they took in hand; for it must show itself to the reason of every man that a native — I don’t mean aboriginals — or a man who has been some time in the country, and had some experience in bush matters, will know how to go to work better than men just arrived in the country. The knowing of roads, the nature of the country, the haunts, and the people is very necessary. A clever bushman never wants you to show him the road. If he wants to make to a particular house suspected, he goes to it at once according to his own bush tactics. If a stranger he would beat about the bush, or he would call at some public-house or station and learn in the course of conversation that so-and-so’s hut is over at the Black Range, or some other place, on a certain creek or river. He will then ride away in some other direction and slew round and come out at this suspected place before any one knows anything about it and wait the time to strike a blow, and then strike the nail fair on the head. Then its done without any fuss or trouble. On the other hand put some of them policemen from Sydney on this duty and it takes them some time to find out who is the likeliest to harbour robbers or the person wanted. A bushman would tell in one night in a country house which way the wind blew. But your Sydney man newly arrived from Dublin or London must enquire the road, and if he finds it out he goes about his work in such a way that the people soon discover something’s up, and their bushranging friends soon hear that the police are coming, long before the police have found out which way to go. Then some of the friends keep an eye on the police to see when they start. All at once the imported policemen gets some one to show them the road — but while they are on the road to the house we will go inside and see what is doing. There is Tom Clarke — on supposition — courting the daughter and cutting a dash. The boy of the house, or some one, is up on the nearest ridge looking out. The signal is passed and some one runs inside saying, “Tommy, here’s the traps!” “All right,” says Tommy. “You watch them away, I’ll be at the little camp waiting for you.” So, just before the “traps” come in sight Tom comes out and mounts his nag and rides away. Up comes the imported police — a fine body of smart-made men — they are now full of importance, armed to the teeth, they search the house, turn it upside down — no one there — they grind their teeth, and then get some dinner and return to their station, watched all the while. And perhaps a startling telegraph is sent to Sydney full of nonsense. The “traps” then swear vengeance on Peter or Jack for running them on the wrong scent, by false information. By-and-bye Tommy hears, all from the “traps” swearing vengeance on the person by name — that Peter sent the traps out. Peter has to fly for his life, or Tommy will give him a touch up, and Tommy has friends who will give him a touch up too. Peter, or Jack, or Sam, after being thus suspected and, in danger say I’d like to crack a wood on Tommy and get him “nabbed” but them — new-chum traps let out everything you say. It gets to Braidwood and then over the country. I’ll never tell them anything again.”

But the bushman, if let alone, goes quietly out of the house, and soon sees the little game if any is going on, and comes down on them “on the quiet,” and so ends the affair; while on the other hand the play only begins, and begins with Tommy having a full knowledge of the sort of men pursuing him, and becomes gradually familiar with the stupid way in which they are commanded. A man must be stupid who persists in any line of tactics which invariably fail. Fifty men only, of the right sort, would stop all bushranging in this country, and save the expense of the hundreds of men in the force, and horses, who are now doing nothing. Some of them are right enough for large towns and for serving summonses, and general duty, on certain beats.

There is Thunderbolt in the northern districts, and he will reign until special scouring parties are formed, or until some good luck befalls the regular police. I have applied to go after him but was refused, because my system was not approved of; but the pursuit of Thunderbolt, as I have been after him once, may be the subject of future papers.

In the foregoing papers many things have been imperfectly sketched, and some mistakes have crept in, which I could have corrected if I had been able to remain in Sydney and revise; but my general object will be attained if what is written be the means of drawing the attention of those now in power to the present system of police which appears to my mind very unsuited for the bush work of Australia.

As this concludes nearly all I intended to say respecting the Southern district, the next letter or two will have reference to a little duty after Thunderbolt in the Northern districts.



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




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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.]


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 19 November 1867, page 6




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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


[Links to other chapters here]


Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Thursday 14 November 1867, page 6




We went back to our station after Alick’s conviction, and had a couple of days spell, for we had been out constantly night and day, wet, cold, or dry, and were getting knocked up. I had been out from the time Tommy Clarke began, and to be always wearing two revolvers, with a lot of ammunition round one’s waist, was making me weak; Most of the other chaps were new comers.


About this time the Ballalaba police came upon the Clarkes in the gully. The boys were off their horses, at a little distance but when they heard the police they ran to their horses and galloped away, whíle the Ballalaba police, being close on, blazed away, at them. So the boys turned round and fought for it. They were pretty close to each other. Tommy Clarke was shot in the leg, and was led away by his brother John, while Tom Connell covered their retreat, and kept the police back till they had got to the top of the hill, when Connell waved his hand triumphantly at the police and, with the two Clarkes, rode away. The police did not think it worth their while to follow, so mounted their horses and returned to their stations. The party to which I belonged were in the gully that day; about two miles from the scene of the encounter and rescue. We were told that Tommy was carried away on foot by his brother, while, Tom Connell alone kept the party pf police, under sergeant B. at bay, till they escaped. We hunted about, but seeing nothing, returned to head-quarters, where we only got a very imperfect and partial sketch of this affair.

A short time after the Ballalaba police came on them again, near Ballalaba. The boys were getting their dinners and had just time to mount their horses as the police rushed on them. The police being well mounted the boys could not get away until Tommy Clarke drew up and boldly faced them, firing right and left. Tom Connell, having a bad horse,, sneaked down towards the creek, when the whole of the police went after him and bailed him up. He surrendered, as he always would, quietly, when in the least danger. The police did not then pursue the Clarkes, who were near, but permitted them to go on, unmolested. Tom Connell was taken to the police station in triumph. For this B. was made sergeant, and he deserved his promotion, but there were men in his party who also merited consideration, but they were overlooked.


After this affair you could not go near Ballalaba unless you took your own grub with you. They fancied they had everything right, and became jealous of the police of other stations. The party to which I belonged have gone there as they were sitting down to meals, either dinner or supper, but they would eat away without, offering you a mouthful. So the police of other stations never went to Ballalaba except they could not help it. You could never get any information from the Ballalaba police about the boys; they kept all to themselves to prevent others from succeeding. They cared not two pence how long the boys were out, so long as no other police, took them. They went so far as to request the superintendent to prevent me from crossing the range. It was surmised that our party had the right information. The superintendent most unwisely complied with the request and ordered us not to cross the range. It will be seen presently that our information was correct. The “bush informer” previously alluded to, was our friend. It may be here stated that this young person got a moiety of the reward for the apprehension of the Clarkes, but I would rather tell these things in my own way, though perhaps not exactly in regular order to your mind. Well, they even tried to prevent us from coming up the gully, but we went in spite of them. For where else could we work with any prospect of success? It was in this locality the Clarkes were stopping.

Now here was the country crying out about people being robbed and murdered, and Carroll accusing the whole lot of us to the Colonial Secretary, and before magistrates, for not doing our duty, when one portion of the police were positively trying to keep the other portion of the police in the district from coming on the bushrangers. No doubt the Ballalaba police would have liked to reap all the honours, but why complain to the superitendent and prevent other parties of police from using their exertions? Were robberies and murders, to be perpetrated until one particular party of police arrested the criminals? The whole affair was a grievous blunder. Each policeman, of whatever rank, fancied he had the best clue. An impartial mind, must admit that it was becoming high time for the Government to interfere in some way.


At about this time Tom Clarke got another mate, called the Big Tailor, whose proper name was James Doran. They commenced by sticking up some Chinamen’s stores at Major’s Creek, but Stafford and his party of police came on them and obliged them to shift, though they took their own time to retreat. Here was another party who wanted to do the thing quietly. They had received reliable information that the Clarkes were to stick up in Major’s Creek that night. In fact, when half a mile away only, this party were informed the bushrangers were at the Chinese stores. Now mark this. This party of police belonged to Araluen. There were police stationed at Major’s Creek, who had only just returned from patrol, and were sleeping soundly in the barracks. The Araluen party, after being told the boys were at the stores, had to pass the police station at Major’s Creek; but instead of the officer in charge calling them up, so that all could go down and surround them, as it was his duty to do, he went down with only two policemen. And they went down, not with circumspection, but openly rode along the road to the store. Of course they could be easily seen. The Big Tailor gave the alarm at once to the Clarkes who were inside the store. The Clarkes came to the door as the police came up. Constable Reilly, a plucky fellow, was in front and as he rode up Tom Clarke went to him and coolly asked him who he was. Reilly told him he was a policeman. “Well” said Tom Clarke, “take that!” – as he suddenly let fly at him with his rifle. The other two police, the sergeant and the constable then came up and fired in return; Reilly fired a shot or two, and then retreated after his mates, and tried to rally them, but they did not like the smell of it, and so kept at a civil distance, thus enabling the bushrangers to mount their horses and ride away with a spare horse loaded with booty. Not only this, the bushrangers actually took time to light their pipes before riding away! Here are your regimental policemen when in action.

Now, it will not be found that the Clarkes gave away such a chance as this during the whole time they were out. If S. had got the men from the Major’s Creek police station, went down on foot together, and surrounded the place, they could have taken alive or shot the lot of them. However, he received nearly as many thanks as if he had captured them.


We shifted our station at this time to Foxlow. After being there a short time we heard that the Big Tailor was crippled through a fall from his horse, and was harboured at a certain place some distance above Mick Connoll’s. So Egan and myself started one evening in the wet to the head of the gully, riding all night so as not to be seen. We arrived at a settler’s place at about 7 o’clock in the morning, and as we neared the place, saw two men coming in our direction on horseback. As they looked rather suspicious we kept behind some bushes till they were within shot, when we rode steadily towards them, prepared for contingencies. They would have pulled up only for shame’s sake; so after looking about, as if they could not help it, they came on. They were two of Carroll’s mates. As soon as we saw that, we bade, them good morning, and rode fast to the house, where we saw a man walking about, with a gun in his hand. On approaching nearer, we saw it was Carroll; and his third mate was near. We bade them good morning and walked into the house. We learnt Carroll’s mission was to take the son, our “bush informer” for sticking up the stores at Major’s Creek with the Clarkes. Of course. we knew this to be wrong, but said nothing, determined not to interfere with the detectives. In fact, we did not let on that we knew them to be Carroll and his party. Carroll was waiting for the son. We were told inside that he was over at Guineas’ helping them to get in their potatoes; and for us to go and take him if there was anything against him. But we had no charge against him. In fact we had reason to believe he was the most straight-forward young man in all Jingera. We saw at once that Carroll had been urged on by Lucy Hurley, who was anxious to get rid of him because the young man had refused to do certain jobs and to help her to take some horses to Tom Connell. In fact the “boys” determined shortly after this to shoot him, but he managed to escape.

Carroll had sent the two men we met to Guineas’ to arrest young —. When we came out, Carroll called Egan, and told him who he was, and who he was going to arrest. He sent Egan to me to say he was an officer of police and requested me to go to Guineas’s and keep young — in a string, till he and his men came up and arrested him. This I declined (1) because we had come expressly to arrest the Big Tailor; (2) because we did not like being interfered with by Carroll; (3) because we knew where young — was on the night of the robbery; and (4) because we had orders not to ride in the bush alone; and it was seven miles across to the range to Guineas’. After considering a few minutes, I told Egan to tell Carroll my objections. He asked my number as well as my mate’s, and reported us to the Colonial Secretary, or to some one high in authority.

Here was a pretty kettle of fish, four men well armed going to take an innocent young man, and charge him with robberies, while the police were to be brought into it for a reprimand. The whole affair was absurd. It was absurd to send a trooper seven miles off to take a man, and keep him in a string for an hour or two, till Carroll’s men came up. It would have been illegal for us to take him without a sufficient charge; and even then, to obey the order for arrest, the policeman must know that he who orders has power to enforce obedience. Carroll did not possess this power over the police. Well, Carroll and his party took this person and had him brought up at the Braidwood Police Court. He was remanded from time to time; the only particle of evidence, which Carroll could adduce being that of Lucy Hurley, and so, finally, he was discharged. But of this more presently.

Now, on the morning we met Carroll at the house in the gully, he had passed one place and enquired for the Big Tailor, who was soon told by friends that he was “wanted,” and, of course he was shifted at once. So that our night’s ride in the wet, and swimming rivers in the dark went for nothing, and this through the imprudence of a man who was charging the police with all sorts of crimes, with being too familiar with the Miss Clarkes, and for being in a public-house getting a nobbler after being out in the cold and wet bush two or three days. The Big Tailor was actually in the pig stye when Carroll was inquiring in the house for him, and telling the inmates he was a special detective, and that he wanted the Big Tailor for the robbery at Major’s Creek. But he was not in the pig stye when we called there about an hour after wards. As soon as Carroll and his party left, the Big Tailor was removed to a thick scrub half-a-mile off, on the hillside. We felt so disappointed when we went to the pig stye, and afterwards heard what Carroll had said inside the house, that we said to ourselves “This is a clear case of aiding and abetting a bushranger to escape.” Through this ocurrence the Big Tailor was never arrested.


The Big Tailor, in due time, rejoined the Clarkes at their camp near Michelago. We were told he was being harboured at a settler’s place named P—, and that he had a double-barrelled gun and revolvers with him. Our opinion of the Tailor, was that he would have shot as many men as came in his road sooner than be taken. We went after him, but it was a wild-goose chase. When, at one end of the gully we heard he was at the other, near Michelago. He got wind we were after him, and managed to slip off towards Gippsland. It is generally supposed that he got drunk on his way there, fell against a tree, and was killed. Now the Tailor sadly wanted to leave the Clarkes. When he went away he had with him a railway wrapper and a double-barrelled gun belonging to the Clarkes. When the Tailor’s body was found there was neither gun nor wrapper near it, and it was not ascertained that his death was otherwise than accidental. But the Clarkes were camped not far from where his body was found, and as the Clarkes never liked to trust a confederate who had left them, it is more probable that they killed him and took the gun and wrapper from him. The Clarkes then got another mate by the name of Bill Scott, a real rowdy, and a customer that would deliberately shoot any man in New South Wales for sixpence.


At about this time Carroll was nearly every day arresting some of the people in the Jingera country; some were guilty enough, but others he was “rigged” to take by his informant who had a down on them. We knew he was being misled, but, could say nothing. It was about this period he made the great mistake of seizing some wine and spirits which had just been transferred from one store to another. Carroll was “rigged” to this by another store-keeper. It is questionable whether Carroll ever knew the facts about this case, at all events, it did him much injury, for after keeping the wine for some time, the magistrates ordered him to return it. This turned many people against Carroll; for the store-keeper in question had a license all the while, and entered an action for damages, but Carroll’s death stayed proceedings.

As we are approaching the period of the “Jinden murders” it would be as well here to devote a few lines as to Carroll’s position preceding this occurrence.

When Carroll first came up to Braidwood he was in Flynn’s party. Flynn went out to Foxlow where he had friends who told him truly of the movements of the boys. A certain police-sergeant heard of Carroll being at Foxlow, and went over, stuck him up, and made him exhibit his authority before all the civilians. This was a cut which Carroll never forgave. Flynn had got on the right scent, and saw the boys come over to an old hut. They went to this hut after an encounter with us in the Molongo range, close to Foxlow, previously described. It was to this hut we wished to go when sergeant C. refused, and so we made a mess of it. Now, there can be no doubt that Flynn would have done some good then, but Carroll, most unwisely, fell out with him, and got the party broke up. Carroll then formed his own party and came to Braidwood again with Kennagh, Phegan, and McDonald. The last named had been in gaol for forgery, and Carroll made up a plan with him to entrap the Clarkes through the instrumentality of James Clarke who was in gaol. This plan was as follows: McDonald was to go to old Mrs. Clarkes’ house on a visit with a message from Jemmy, and he was to see the “boys” Tommy and Johnny, and concoct some plan for Jemmy’s escape from gaol. By this dodge, McDonald hoped to find out the haunts and movements of the Clarkes. He was supposed to be acting alone, but it was concerted how, where, and when he should report progress to Carroll and his other two who were to be pretended, surveyors, and they pitched their camp not far from old Mrs. Clarke’s hut, and went about their business for awhile in a very fair manner. The scheme was admirable if cautiously carried out; but Carroll was too eager. He went spying about the house too frequently, and in such a way that anybody could see he was no surveyor. The vigilant “bush telegraphs” were not long before they found out what he and his party were up to. McDonald would go from old Mrs. Clarkes straight to Carroll and talk to him. The rumour that secret detectives had been sent out began to be confirmed in the minds of the ” telegraphs,” who had not permitted these strange “surveyors” to pursue their innocent avocations without being well watched. The proclamation of outlawry had put Tommy Clarke on his mettle. The Felons’ Apprehension Act stimulated the ingenuity of relatives, and sympathising friends. Hence a higher class of bush telegraphs sprang up. Old Mrs. Clarke was not long in detecting the designs of McDonald. She was as deep as McDonald, and had more in her heart to sharpen her perceptions for the safety of her recreant sons. Hence, when she discovered that Carroll was a detective she hunted him from her house. The whole design oozed out, and appeared to be so treacherous on McDonald’s part that the Clarkes, or some one, fired into their camp at night. Carroll then shifted into Braidwood and took up his quarters at Vider’s public-house, whence he would make occasional trips to the gully and back. He reported that he never could see any of the police about Mrs. Clarke’s hut. Carroll was perfectly correct in making this report, for the police could not be induced to watch this most important locality. It was about the time we took Bruce that Carroll made his visits to the gully, and in one of these excursions he made a woeful mistake in arresting our best bush friend; This person put our party on Tom Connell, Bruce, and Lucy Hurley, after his “confidential inteview” at Mick Connell’s. We only got Bruce. I obtained a warrant against Lucy for the carving knife attempt at me, with a view to stop her gallop. She was examined and committed but let out on bail. She as certained from the police — mind this — who had betrayed her and her paramour. So she “rigged” Carroll to arrest young —. She swore she had often seen him sticking up with the boys, and that he helped to stick up Foxlow the first time, but we knew him to be at home at the time the robbery was committed. She told Carroll he helped to stick up Major’s Creek, but we knew he was camped on the road with a load of goods, going to market, accompanied by his mother. He satisfed us that the Big Tailor was at the Major’s Creek robbery. He told us also where the Big Tailor was stopping, namely, near his mother’s hut.


Well, Carroll commenced operations in earnest. He began with the harbourers. He took Mick Connell, or Michael Nowlan O’Connell, as he was called in the indictment; and, then he took James and Pat Griffin. Carroll was right here for they were all guilty of harbouring, aiding, abetting and all that, but he was wrong, when he arrested young —. This young man would have been Carroll’s safety, if he had exercised prudence but he took him at the instigation of Lucy Hurley who had a terrible spite against the young man’s mother, who had a great grudge against me until she saw my intimacy with her son was for a good purpose. So, when we met Carroll at the hut we refused to aid him by going to Guineas’ for reasons before stated. Young — was kept in gaol for some time, but Carroll could get no evidence against him, so he was liberated. This made — work harder — not for Carroll — but for the “regulars,” to get the boys captured. As soon as Mick Connell was let out on bail, the storm began to brew against Carroll. He sent word to the boys that he wanted to see them, and something was arranged. Carroll was boasting that he would arrest all the settlers in the gully, and that he would get up a case against Ned Smith of the Jinden station that would astound him. He arrested Tommy Clarke’s sisters, and used them somewhat roughly. He brought them to the police court where they were examined, but the evidence being insufficient they were liberated. Smith, of the Jinden station expected every day to be taken. Thus the boys and Mick Connell became exasperated and vowed a terrible vengeance. This was about the time I got the gun from old Mrs. Jermyn, near Foxlow. I borrowed it ostensibly to shoot ducks, as her husband was in gaol, and there were swarms of ducks on the river at night. We had not left Jermyn’s long before the boys called and asked for this very gun, saying they wanted it for a particular purpose. When they heard the police had it they swore they would stick up the one who had it, but never ventured to do so.

I was told something desperate was brewing and wrote to Carroll privately to put him on his guard. We watched a certain place two nights but saw nothing. From exposure in the gully I was attacked with inflammation of the chest, and had to go to Braidwood for medical treatment. When lying sick the first day, I was told Smith from Jinden had been in town two days previously and was seen talking to Lucy Hurley, and that they were both talking to Carroll in a public house for a long time. Mick Connell was plotting something with the boys. Smith returned to his station, and the day after or so Carroll and party went there. The two Griffins were out on bail. Knowing Smith, of Jinden; knowing Lucy, and Mick Connell, and the Griffins; knowing the rancour which the Clarkes entertained towards Carroll, for arresting so many of their relatives, especially their sisters, and suspecting treachery, I wrote from my sick bed privately to Carroll, warning him to be very cautious, to keep off tracks, and not to leave the public roads. A few days after this the startling news arrived in Braidwood that two of the special constables had been found shot dead on the track between the Jinden station and Guineas’, and the next day came the appalling announcement that Carroll and Kennagh were found shot dead about a quarter of a mile from the track, and that over Carroll’s breast was placed a £1 note symbolical of the blood money he was hunting for.

These are a few matters preceding the murders, but how those murders were planned, where, and by whom; and how and by whom the murders were perpetrated, will require more careful consideration, for it will not do to mention at least one name in whose behalf high official influence may have been used to save him from a felon’s doom.


[Links to other chapters here]


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




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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


[Links to other chapters here]

Spotlight: Britton and Thunderbolt at Gostwyck (07/11/1863)

Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 – 1871), Saturday 7 November 1863, page 2

Telegraphic news.

(From the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Telegrams)

BENDEMEER. Saturday, 6 p.m.

It has been ascertained that the two men who stuck up a hut at Gostwick are the identical two who escaped from Cockatoo Island some time ago. It appears that after their affray with the police they managed to elude all further pursuit by secreting themselves in a hut belonging to one of Mr. Stitt’s shepherds while he was absent, who upon his return found one of them quietly feasting upon his supper. These robbers have now separated from each other. One is about 5 feet 11 inches in height, and the other About 5 feet 7 inches. The shots of the police took effect on the shorter man, wounding him in the leg; he was last seen about twelve miles from Bendemeer, on Thursday. One of the townspeople who was out after cattle met him, and he related the manner of his escape from Cockatoo. He carried a double-barrel gun, one barrel only being loaded, he having no more powder.