Thomas Jeffries: an overview

He was referred to as “the monster”, accused of a string of horrific crimes including murder, infanticide and cannibalism. His reputation was so repulsive that the gentleman bushranger Brady threatened to break him out of prison so he could have the privilege of hanging the villain himself. But was Thomas Jeffries (aka Jeffrey) as bad as he was claimed to be? Continue reading Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Spotlight: An Interior Settlement of White People (19/09/1828)

During the last month, a desperate party of bushrangers has been committing a series of depredations in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, and among the out-stations of the settlers. The establishments of Messrs. Arkell, West, Armstrong, James Hassall, Dr. Harris, H. O’Brien, and T. Mein, have been respectively plundered. The party, at the robbery of Mr. Hassall’s station, were five in number, and all well armed.

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Describing the Hall Gang

Does the popular image of the Hall Gang marry up with eyewitness descriptions? Unlike with many earlier bushrangers, witness descriptions of bushrangers in the gold rush era were often quite detailed. Many in the modern day are familiar with the studio portraits of Ben Hall before he became an outlaw, as well as the illustrations of Gilbert and Dunn produced for newspapers, but these images only give us a controlled glimpse. No verified photographs of Gilbert and Dunn exist (the man photographed with Gardiner never having been officially named, and quite possibly a son of Gardiner’s close associate William Fogg), … Continue reading Describing the Hall Gang

The Parkes Letter

My dear Sir Henry Parkes

I find by the newspapers that you have been very liberal in offering a reward for the Kelly gang or any one of them Now Sir Henry the man that takes I Captain E. Kelly will have to be a plucky man for I do not intend to be taken alive. And as I would as soon die in NSW as Victoria I will give you or any other person who wishes to take me a fair chance to try your pluck.

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Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part four)

We got to the place agreed on, and where I could see the main land at about two miles distance. We must get across to it, and had no boat. I was a very bad swimmer. and two miles was a long pull for a new beginner. But my two companions did not hesitate, but pulled off their trousers and plunged into the water, with me after them, with my trousers thrown over my neck, for I was determined to get over to the mainland or be drowned in the attempt. After swimming about a mile, one of my companions — and very soon after the other — was seized, and drawn down by the sharks. I was left alone to the mercy of the waves, expecting the same fate every minute. At last, after a desperate struggle, I got to the land, but had lost my trousers and shirt, and scrambled ashore quite naked. In this state I found myself alone in a bush that I did not know, and greatly grieved at the death of my two companions. I made a bed in the long grass and picked up some shellfish that kept me alive for three days. On the fourth day the constables saw me, and I was brought back to Port Arthur once more, where I was punished with 90 days’ solitary confinement and 12 months’ “E.H.L.C.” (extension with hard labour in chains). Continue reading Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part four)

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part three)

One night on the road I was placed in the lock-up at the Stone Quarry for the night. I put my wits to work to get out, and succeeded. I instantly made for the place where the mounted police slept. I took what arms I wanted, as they were all fast asleep. Next, I scaled the wall of the lock-up yard after a deal of trouble, for I was so heavily chained I could scarcely walk. Before I could get well into the bush, daylight made its appearance. I was surrounded by constables in all directions searching for me. I expected to be taken every minute. Continue reading Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part three)

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part two)

On January 3, 1837,1 was tried for robbery, and, being an old offender, received 14 years’ sentence of transportation, while my companion was discharged. While I remained in gaol, waiting to go down to Portsmouth, one day I shall never forget, my father and mother, and sisters and brothers, came to take their last farewell of me. The tears rolled down their cheeks for their undutiful son and bad brother. I took my leave of them at the time, thinking I never should see them anymore. Shortly afterwards I was removed down to Portsmouth, and had been there only a few days when an order came down from London for 300 prisoners to go on board the ship Mangles, and I was one among the number. Continue reading Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part two)

Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part one)

In 1879, the Australasian newspaper published a series of articles that transcribed a handwritten manuscript. This manuscript contained the memoirs of William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey. These rushed memories covered his early life, his time as a convict, and his … Continue reading Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part one)