Forgotten Bushrangers: Thomas Menard

The American-born bushranger who roamed from Warrnambool to Beechworth.

Thomas Menard, also known as “Yankee Tom”, “Yorkey Tom” or James Barrett, was a native of Louisiana who travelled to Victoria in 1855 in search of gold. Born around 1837, he was a single man with no friends or relatives in the colony, and he soon found work as a labourer.

He was not a tall man, even by the standards of the time, only standing at around 5’6″ tall. He had brown hair and grey eyes, and was of medium build. There were few identifying marks, but those on record were a mole on the corner of the right eye, a small mole on each breast, scar on finger of right hand, and a deep scar on his left shin. This basic description would be elaborated on later as police ramped up their hunt.

Next to nothing is known about Menard’s early life or the time he spent in Australia between 1855 and 1865, though later speculation would suggest he spent at least part of the time engaged in crimes such as highway robbery and murder, but the claims are unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, a life of crime would explain why he had aliases.

Menard was employed by a Henry Evans to work a quarry in Warrnambool. It was hard work, but Menard seemingly took to it without complaint. One of his colleagues was an Irishman named James Sweeney. Sweeney was a mouthy, irritable fellow who was constantly spoiling for a fight. After a series of verbal stouches instigated by Sweeney, during which he made disparaging comments about the Americans and the civil war, Menard had had enough.

View of Warrnambool (Tower Hill) by Daniel Clarke, 1867 [NGV]

On 10 June, 1865, after the men had retired for the night, Menard appeared at the doorway to the hut shared by himself, Sweeney, John Hall (alternatively reported as Howe and Haw), while brandishing a pistol. A colleague named Wales was asleep in the skillion. Hall was roused by a gunshot and a candlelight from the slush tub. He spotted Menard with the firearm and begged, “Tom, don’t!” Menard replied, “I don’t want to hurt you; lie quiet.” At that moment Menard fired another shot at Sweeney. Both had hit, one in the abdomen, the other lodging in the left breast. Menard bolted and as Hall helped his wounded colleague to his feet, Menard fired again through the door, hitting Sweeney in the wrist. Hall tried to give chase, but Menard got away.

Sweeney was taken to the hospital where he was attended by Dr. R. Henry Harrington. The abdominal wound was fatal, having destroyed the liver, and in a couple of days Sweeney died in hospital. The charge levelled against Menard was now murder.

Knowing what would befall him if he lingered, Yankee Tom went bush. For the next month police scoured the region to find him with no luck. On occasion, Yankee Tom would re-emerge to get supplies or food, before once again disappearing into the bush. On one such instance, on 24 June, he made an appearance at a halfway house kept by a Mrs. McLean. He simply entered and had refreshments, paid for by another man, then crossed the road back into the bush. The following day he emerged from the bush and entered a surveyors’ camp. He was dirty and unkempt, described as looking like a “lunatic”. He soon disappeared back into the bush once more.

On 28 June, Yankee Tom made an appearance at Maud Post Office. He purchased paper, envelopes, and stamps from Mrs. Meyers, the postmistress, before borrowing a pen and ink. He went to the back of the shop, wrote a letter, then posted it. The letter was addressed to Miss Chapman at Mrs. Taylor’s, Fyansford. He left without further interaction.

Such sightings of the dirty, raggedy bushranger were quite common in the weeks after the shooting of Sweeney. A party consisting of Detective Bailey, Constable McKay, and a civilian volunteer named Steady, began searching for Yankee Tom around Lethbridge and Stieglitz at the beginning of July, gathering as much information as they could from locals.

An amended description of Yankee Tom was published on 1 July:

Thomas Menard, aged twenty-seven or thirty, five feet six and a half inches high, about ten stone weight, thin face and build, pale and dirty complexion, large staring grey eyes, dark brown hair, light reddish beard, whiskers, and moustache of about six week’s growth, thin legs, swaggering gait, doubles his feet over when walking, and splashes his legs almost up to the knees, knock-kneed, mole on cheek near nose, wore short light-colored drab monkey jacket with large white buttons, moleskin trousers, blucher boots and small brown billycock hat. Yorkey Tom is only a recent alias, and not one by which he is generally known.

Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935) 1 July 1865: 14.

Menard was able to make it all the way to Beechworth on foot, where he broke into a house in Yackandandah, allegedly accompanied by Henry Evans, and robbed it before continuing on to Barnawartha. It was believed that they were ultimately heading to Belvoir, but their journey would be cut short when the pair were stopped by Mounted-Constable Ryan of Wodonga police.

With descriptions of the offenders, and a tip-off of where they were heading, the constable was able to track them down. Evans was arrested, but Menard dumped his swag and bolted. Evans was taken back to the lock-up where he was interrogated. Constable Ryan then inspected the swags of the pair. In Evans’s swag were provisions and sundry items stolen from the house in Yackandandah. In Menard’s swag was a double-barrelled pistol, ammunition and more provisions.

Menard encountered two men on horseback at 6:00pm the following day; he was on foot. Unbeknownst to Menard, the two men were plainclothes police – Sergeant Bambrick, officer in charge at Wodonga, and Constable Ryan. The police had received a tip-off that a man matching Menard’s description was in the vicinity of Barnawartha. When they caught up with the fugitive, Bambrick asked him his name. “Barrett,” was the reply, delivered in a surly tone. Menard then drew a revolver and fired at Bambrick’s head, but missed. Bambrick tried to dismount, but his foot caught in the stirrup iron and he fell to the ground. Menard bolted, putting ten yards between himself and the police before Bambrick recovered. The shot had spooked Ryan’s horse, causing it to bolt into the bush. Bambrick pursued on foot, calling on the bushranger to surrender before firing at him. Menard returned fire and continued running. Five shots were exchanged then Bambrick almost caught up to his target. At that moment Menard turned and shouted, “You bastard, now I have you covered!” Unfortunately for him the gun misfired and Bambrick was able to crash tackle him as he sought cover behind a tree. Bambrick disarmed Menard and pistol-whipped him into submission. At this moment Constable Ryan had managed to catch up and handcuffed Menard. The American was indignant and hollered at his captors declaring, “I’m sorry I did not take your life. I would be quite willing to die alongside of you, for I don’t care for my life. If only I had two men with me as good as myself I would kick the flanges out of you —— Victorians, and I would think no more of sticking up a police-station than any other common place.”

Ironically, Menard was only arrested on the house-breaking charge and an additional charge of escaping custody as the officers were unaware that James Barrett was in fact the fugitive murderer Thomas Menard. He was committed for trial at the Beechworth Circuit Court. Henry Evans was found not guilty of house-breaking, doubt being cast upon his involvement as the only evidence appeared to be that he was in company with Barrett when Constable Ryan arrested him on the road.

Beechworth courthouse (Photography: Aidan Phelan)

However, with Barrett being positively identified as Yankee Tom, it meant a change of venue for the American’s trial. As the warrant for his arrest relating to Sweeney’s murder was from another region it was necessary to transport him there to stand trial. He was taken to Geelong Gaol on 9 August, 1865.

Menard’s committal hearing for the murder charge was held in Warrnambool Police Court. He pleaded ‘Guilty’, openly admitting that he had shot Sweeney. Only two witnesses gave evidence, John Hall and Dr. Harrington. In the press, the description of him was decidedly unflattering:

The prisoner was a rather insignificant looking fellow, appearing to be about thirty years of age. He was attired on a suit of gaol clothing, having a light drab overcoat, with large pearl buttons, over his shoulders. He is of a fair complexion, with sandy hair, beard, moustache, and whiskers to match. He has savage-looking wandering bluish-grey eyes, and though not stout in person, has a wiry appearance. When addressing the Court, he appeared to have a peculiar stutter, or hesitation in his speech.

“THE LATE MURDER IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 12 August 1865: 7.

The trial concluded on 10 October swiftly. The witnesses gave their accounts, Menard pleaded his guilt, and he was sentenced to death. He was then taken back to Geelong Gaol to await the inevitable. The warrant for his execution was signed by Governor Darling on 24 October. All that was left to do was prepare Menard for the next world.

As is often the case with condemned men, Menard dedicated much of his time leading up to his hanging with reading the Bible and praying. He still maintained something of a callous indifference to his crime, however.

The night before his execution, Menard decided to give a statement about his crime, penning a short letter of confession wherein he openly admitted to slaughtering James Sweeney after being bullied. A second confession was written and forwarded to authorities via his attendant, but the details were kept secret. It was speculated in the press later, that the second confession was that Menard had committed six other murders previous to Sweeney, while he was living as a bushranger. He was also alleged to have admitted to robbing a coach near Castlemaine.

On 28 October, 1865, at 10:00am, Menard was hanged at Geelong Gaol. The night before he had spent quietly reading the Bible and praying. He refused breakfast, but ate an orange.

When he went to the gallows he was clutching a paper in his right hand, upon which was supposedly written his final statement, but he did not have the nerve to read it as intended. Some accounts state that it was actually a prayer written on the paper by the gaol governor. Menard was attended spiritually by reverends Strickland and Crisp. Forty civilians were assembled on the ground floor as witnesses. As Menard stood on the drop, Strickland read the burial service then the hangman shook Menard’s hand.

The gallows at Geelong Gaol: These permanent gallows had only just been installed when Menard was executed upon them. He was one of only four people executed at the gaol in its history.

When Menard was finally dropped, the hanging was botched. The fall did not break the neck at all and instead of a quick, clean death, Menard dangled, convulsing. His pulse was observable by the attending doctors, Reid and Syder, for fifteen minutes before he was finally strangled to death. Charles Travers Mackin M.D., coroner for Geelong Gaol, witnessed and oversaw the inquest. Dr. Shaw, assistant to the coroner, suggested that Menard’s strong neck muscles had simply prevented the rope from doing its job.

Extract from the coroner’s inquest: Deposition of Charles Travers Mackin. [PROV]

A death mask was made from plaster by Metcalfe and Heard of McKillop Street, and a copy was forwarded to the Melbourne museum. Menard was buried within the grounds of the gaol with a single red rose and a written prayer from Brodie, the gaol governor, interred with his remains.

Thomas Menard’s death mask [Source]

Forgotten Bushrangers: The Leabrook Bushrangers

One of the more enigmatic tales associated with the history of bushranging is that of the so-called “Leabrook Bushrangers”. While most cases of bushranging are fairly clear cut, this 1909 cold case sees the definition of what can fall under the banner of bushranging stretched to its outer limits.

We begin our story in Adelaide Hospital, South Australia. Medical staff are doing all they can for a policeman who has been brought in with a terrible wound in his jaw. An article in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner gives some of the details:

While in the execution of his duty in Eastry-street. Knightsbridge. (S.A.). Constable William Hyde was shot in the jaw, and now lies in the Adelaide Hospital in a precarious condition. It appears that Constable Hyde had arrested one of three suspicious characters who were lurking in the neighbourhood, and while taking the man to the lockup companions of the prisoner sought to effect his release. After some scuffling one of the men produced a revolver, and fired five shots at the constable, one of which lodged in the officer’s jaw. They then made off in the darkness, and the constable was found by a passer-by. Bleeding profusely, and in a semi-conscious condition. An alarm was given, and the wounded constable taken to the hospital. A diligent search for the assailants was made with the aid of black trackers, but no arrests have yet been reported. Hyde is 35 years of age. and a popular member of the force. The doctors hold out no hope of his recovery.

Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), Saturday 9 January 1909, page 5

Constable William Hyde had been shot on 2 January and succumbed to his injuries two days later. It would emerge that the desperate robbers had been cornered in an alleyway while trying to escape after being busted in the act of initiating a robbery at the tramway office. Seeing no escape, they fired at Hyde who was grappling one of them. The shot hit him in the face and smashed his jaw.

Source: Gadfly (Adelaide, SA : 1906 – 1909), Wednesday 6 January 1909, page 9

Even in 1909, with the use of telegraphs being commonplace and allowing for faster transmission of information than ever before in history, the news of the horrific crime didn’t reach New South Wales until several days after the worst fears of the doctors were realised. Though this was a vast improvement over the speed of information in the early days of bushranging, it meant that locating the fugitives, if they had ventured into New South Wales, would be nigh on impossible.

Adelaide, Thursday. — The remains of Constable William Hyde, the victim of the Knight’s bridge outrage, whose tragic death aroused so much sympathy, were buried yesterday in the West Terrace Cemetery. Amongst those in attendance were the premier (Mr. Price), the Chief Secretary (Mr. Kirkpatrick), the Minister for Education (Mr. Coneybeere), and the Commissioner of Police. All branches of the police force were represented. A company of 123 police, including 13 members of the mounted force, marched in front of the horses. The lines of sympathetic onlookers were unbroken, and probably over 10,000 paid their last respects to the dead officer, while it is estimated that 6000 were present at the graveside.

Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), Friday 8 January 1909, page 5

Public sentiment at the time was seemingly one of outrage, as is to be expected. A reward of £250 for the capture of the suspected bushrangers was offered, though without descriptions or names it was not going to be easy to prove that anyone brought in was guilty. The reward was raised in February, with predictable results.

The Government have decided to increase from £250 to £500 the reward offered for information leading to the conviction of the murderer of the late Constable Hyde at Knightsbridge on the night of January 2.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), Tuesday 2 February 1909, page 6

Police in South Australia and New South Wales kept in communication to try and identify leads. It was generally believed that the guilty men had headed into New South Wales, rather than Victoria, Western Australia, or the Northern Territory. In late February, police in Sydney seemed to pick up a lead that they felt had strong potential:

The Sydney police have sent word to Adelaide that they have reason to believe that two men whom they have in custody were implicated in the shooting of Constable Hyde at Kensington. Their names are given as Percy McKay and William Roberts and they have been committed for trial in Sydney on a charge of having stolen jewellery.

Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954), Friday 26 February 1909, page 2

No doubt this would have caused considerable consternation among the communities back in South Australia. Now it has become a waiting game as the two men were put on trial. Had the Sydney Police really found the killers?

Percy McKay and William Robertson, two young men, were committed for trial at the Sydney Police Court on Monday for stealing jewellery from a dwelling, and the Sub-Inspector of police objected to bail being granted because they were good grounds for believing that the accused were implicated in the shooting of a police-constable in Adelaide recently. The magistrate thereupon refused bail. The policeman referred to was Constable Hyde, who was shot on January 2 last, and who died shortly afterwards.

Narracoorte Herald (SA : 1875 – 1954), Friday 26 February 1909, page 3

Despite the confidence from the Sydney Police, it would soon transpire that these men were not the shooters at all, and thus the supposed “good grounds” for believing it was McKay and Robertson were fairly dubious. The police were back to square one with no new leads.

As the hope around the case faded to despair, locals decided that the least they could do was to arrange some form of memorial to the slain officer. More than half a year later, with no new developments, plans were put in motion:

Seven months have elapsed since Constable William Hyde was murdered at Knightsbridge and, unfortunately, his murderers are still at large. Some time ago a committee of local residents was formed for the purpose of perpetuating the memory of the constable, and it was decided to plant an oak tree, to be surrounded by an ornamental tree-guard, on the spot where he was shot, at Eastry-street, Knightsbridge, near the Marryatville school. The ceremony of planting the tree will take place tomorrow at 3.30 p.m. Mr. Peter Wood, acting chairman of the Burnside District Council, will plant the tree, in the presence of members, of the Kensington and Norwood District Council, and the children attending the Marryatville school.

Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 – 1922), Tuesday 3 August 1909, page 4

The memorial tree was eventually replaced with a plaque that was installed at the fence of the house that was subsequently built on the site, then later affixed to the shop that replaced the demolished house. A memorial garden was opened in 1981, and in 2021 a new sculpture was unveiled there depicting Hyde’s uniform and a newspaper reporting on the incident that took his life.

The culprits were never identified and therefore the case went cold with nobody ever held to account for the murder that shocked the Knightsbridge community. To this day it is referred to by some as a bushranging case, but it lacks the hallmarks of bushranging — specifically, the crime took place in a town and there was no evidence that the criminals resided in the bush. We will likely never find out who did the crime, but as the criminals have disappeared into the fog of time and become forgotten, Constable Hyde is remembered for his bravery and dedication to his duty.

The sculpture at the Constable Hyde Memorial Garden [Source]

You can read more about this case here:

Click to access An-Unsolved-Crime.pdf


THE people of Queensland may be congratulated on the speedy termination of the bushranging career of the three ruffians who escaped from the Rockhampton Gaol and for a short time lived by plundering travellers and the residents of the surrounding districts. The credit for their extermination is due not to the police force, but to civilians, and if the same determination to put down crime was exhibited by the residents of the Southern and Western districts of this colony as that which characterized the conduct of Messrs. Jardine, Paton, and Caldwell, we should soon be rid of Ben Hall, the murderer
Morgan, and others, whose acts of violence have brought this colony and its inhabitants into unmerited disrepute, and enabled some of our envious neighbours to cast a stigma on the whole of the people of New South Wales. Howson was the first of the gang brought to justice. Webster another of the party, visited Tregilgus’ public-house on the 9th of June; the police having received information of his whereabouts surrounded the house, but Webster, though fired at by the police, rushed off, and would probably have
effected his escape but for the exertions of Mr. Jardine, who borrowed a revolver from Sub-Inspector Foran, pursued Webster, and coming within range fired, exclaiming, “That will do, he will not go any farther. ” Webster then fell, and the constables coming up took him prisoner and conveyed him back to his former residence, the gaol. In the end of June, Fegan and Wright visited and robbed a number of stations along the Peak Downs road. At Mr. Caldwell’s Fegan helped himself to a fresh horse and to about £30 in cash. Shortly after the bush-rangers left, Mr. Caldwell sent round, and having collected and armed six or seven of his employes, started in pursuit, accompanied by a young man named Paton. Near a lagoon on the outskirts of the station, Mr. Caldwell discovered his horse feeding quietly at the edge of the scrub. The party, believing that the bushrangers were not far off, and would soon be searching for the horse, concealed themselves in the scrub, and in a short time Fegan was seen coming along on foot; he was about to endeavour to repossess himself of the horse, when the party, springing from their ambuscade, surrounded him, and the sight of half a dozen revolvers levelled at his head convinced him of the folly of attempting to escape ; he therefore quietly submitted, and was conveyed back to Rockhampton, where he and his companions have since been committed for trial. Wright, the last of the gang, continued his robberies until the 4th July, when he was met by Mr. Paton and Mr. Bedford near the Wilpend station ; on seeing Wright approaching, Mr. Paton picked up a revolver and presented it at the bushranger, saying, “You are my prisoner ; throw your hands up !” Wright replied in a saucy tone, “All right,” and partially lifted his hands, but immediately afterwards lowered them towards his belt. Again Mr. Paton exclaimed, “Throw your hands up, or I’ll fire !” and the bushranger not immediately complying, he (Mr. Paton) turned to speak to one of his men who had followed, though still keeping the bushranger under cover. In turning he touched the trigger unintentionally, and the contents of the revolver were instantly lodged in the body of Wright, who exclaimed ” Oh, my God! what is that for?”and sank to the ground a corpse. On the body was found a revolver loaded and capped. Information of the circumstances was at once sent to Mr. Caldwell, the nearest magistrate, and an inquiry took place next day. Four gentlemen—-Messrs. Stanley, Gerard, Mackay, and Macdonald—-were empanelled as a jury, and concurred with the opinion of the presiding magistrate, that the act of shooting Wright was justifiable homicide.


Source: “THE CAPTURE OF FEGAN, THE BUSHRANGER.” Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 – 1872) 17 August 1864: 1.

Forgotten Bushrangers: The Bendemeer Encounter


One of the various forgotten bushrangers of the 1870s was Frederick Cranley. Little is known of the bushranger who would meet a grisly end in 1877. While Cranley was in Australia, it was believed that his parents were in the East Indies. Cranley was employed as a fencer on the farm of a Mr. Robson on the Cockburn River, twelve miles from Tamworth. From 27 April to 12 July, 1877, he had been gainfully employed by Robson before suddenly going bush.

Cranley and a mate, Stephen Ward Wonnocott, stayed at W. C. Avery’s Telegraph Hotel in Bendemeer, drinking heavily and making a nuisance of themselves. They sang loudly and made inquiries of the other patrons regarding the other houses and farms in the area and who the wealthier landowners were. At around 4.00pm on Saturday 14 July, the proprietor was absent for the afternoon and the bushrangers wasted no time in getting to work. They had spent the morning drinking and were greatly frustrated when their tab was cut off at a cost of £1 11s. They ordered Robert Avery, the proprietor’s son, to make his mother write out their bill. Upon receiving the account, Cranley stated that they would see Mrs. Avery presently. They retreated to their bedroom and Cranley equipped himself with his revolver. They returned to the bar and locked the door before Cranley moved to the bedroom. Cranley drew his revolver and declared that he was sticking the place up. Robert ran to his mother, who was in the kitchen, and told her what was happening. She promptly emerged with the servants to confront Cranley. By now, Cranley had worked himself up and began shouting,

Money I want, money I’ll have!

Cranley ordered everyone back inside. Three times he made the order and each time he was ignored. Tired of Mrs. Avery’s resistance, he fired a shot past her head. The terrified woman, naturally, complied.

Outside, a travelling salesman who had been staying at the hotel named Bancroft heard the shot and rushed to the verandah. He was met with Cranley aiming a revolver at him and demands for him to hand over his watch and money. Bancroft refused to comply.

In the chaos, word had gotten to the police station that the hotel was being robbed. The responsibility of sorting the mess out fell on a police constable named Edward Mostyn Webb Bowen. Bowen was well known for his headstrong demeanour and impulsiveness. Just two months earlier he had been scrutinised after shooting a horse thief named Plummer dead in a failed robbery in Tenterfield. The inquest had deemed his actions justified and commendable. Upon hearing the news he mounted and rode top speed to the unfolding crime.

Constable Bowen

Cranley ransacked the drawers in Mrs. Avery’s bedroom before moving to the bar where he broke the neck off a brandy bottle and poured himself a drink. Presently the pounding of hooves could be heard in the courtyard. Cranley rushed outside. It was Constable Bowen who was now tying up his horse.
“Who the bloody hell are you?” Cranley barked, wheeling around and levelling his pistol at the policeman.
“Drop the pistol and surrender.” Bowen replied, drawing his own. With a growl Cranley fired, but the shot missed. Bowen responded with a shot that struck the bushranger in the right hip with little effect. Cranley tried moving back and pulled the trigger.

An impotent fizz.

Cranley’s gun misfired. He pulled the trigger again but it was jammed. Cranley cursed under his breath. Bowen took aim and fired, hitting Cranley in the right side of the chest near the nipple. Cranley staggered and fell. The fading bushranger was carried into the dining room and laid out on the table where he expired within a few minutes. He was thirty years old. Bowen assessed his handiwork and singled out Wonnocott, clapping the darbies on him and taking him back to the station at Bendemeer. Cranley was searched and was found to be carrying pistol ammunition, a letter and a photograph of a woman but no money.

On 16 July an inquest was held, running from 10.00am until 9.00pm. The conclusion of the twelve jurymen and the coroner was that not only was Bowen correct in his course of action but deserved a promotion for it. It had taken the jury all of five minutes to return their unanimous verdict. Subsequent to this event Bowen was made a senior-constable at Murrurundi station but left the force in 1878 and became a clerk for the inspector-general of police only to re-enlist as an officer in March 1879, likely in response to the Kelly Gang who had robbed the bank at nearby Jerilderie the month before. By the end of that year he would be involved in another clash with bushrangers, this time at McGlede’s Farm near Wantabadgery Station, and the battle would see him on the receiving end of a fatal bullet.

“THE BENDEMEER TRAGEDY.” Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (NSW : 1872 – 1881) 18 August 1877: 1.

“A Bushranger Shot Dead at Bendemeer.” Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) 21 July 1877: 22.

“ENCOUNTER WITH BUSHRANGERS AT BENDEMEER, N.S.W.” Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889) 3 September 1877: 138.

“SHOOTING A BUSHRANGER.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 21 July 1877: 14.

ENCOUNTER WITH BUSHRANGERS AT BENDEMEER, NEAR TAMWORTH, N.S.W. The illustrated Australian news. September 3, 1877. SLV Source ID: 1696721

“A STICKING-UP CASE.—ONE ROBBER FATALLY SHOT!” The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser. 20 July 1877: 6.

“THE WANTABADGERY OUTRAGE.” Wagga Wagga Advertiser. 26 November 1879: 3.

Forgotten Bushrangers: John Johnston

With the death of Captain Thunderbolt and the arrest of Harry Power, many believed that bushranging was a thing of the past, a disgraceful chapter to relegate to the history books. However, despite the lack of big names in the majority of the 1870s, there was plenty of bushranging happening throughout the colonies. One of the various bushrangers in New South Wales during the early 1870s left out of the books is John Johnston.

John Johnston was a seaman from London, England, born in 1829. A man of notably diminutive stature, he only stood at four feet, seven inches tall (139cm). He had dark brown hair and hazel eyes, with a large nose that bore a conspicuous bump. He was employed on the ship Orphens but deserted when the ship was wrecked off the coast of New Zealand – a very dishonorable act. He arrived in New South Wales in 1863 but soon fell foul of the law, found guilty of horse and cattle stealing and given twelve years in Parramatta Gaol.

Parramatta Gaol (Source)

After serving nine years, Johnston found himself again at liberty. Not knowing what to do with himself, the now 44 year old turned to bushranging. In an appropriately short period of time, Johnston gained a warrant for horse stealing in Singleton. Johnston had stolen two horses and corresponding saddles and bridles from William John Dangar, a noted pastoralist whose brother Henry Dangar was a prominent surveyor, entrepreneur and politician on whose property the infamous Myall Creek Massacre took place; and another brother, Thomas Gordon Gibbons Dangar, was also a politician and owned a store in Singleton that had been robbed by the Jewboy gang in 1840 that had immediately led to their capture. When spotted on Long Bridge, West Maitland, by Constable Bowden and called upon to surrender, Johnston presented a revolver. After threatening the policeman the bandit took off. The next depredation took place on 24 July, 1873, when Johnston bailed up a boy named Willard at Camberwell, depriving him of his horse, saddle and bridle.

Following on from his previous robbery, Johnston struck again on 27 July at Warland’s Range, robbing Rev. Father Patrick Finn, the Roman Catholic priest from Murrurundi. Johnston approached the priest on foot. Stopping Finn on the road by grabbing the reins of the horse, Johnston demanded that Finn dismount. After some heated exchange, from Finn Johnston gained a horse, saddle, bridle and a purse containing seven sovereigns as well as the priest’s coat. Two days later the horse, minus accoutrements, was recovered by Constable Egan. Johnston was busted while working as a ploughman for a selector named Donnewald. Johnston was living in a hut in Double Gully provided by Jacob Donnewald, who was doing a five year stint in Parramatta Gaol, where he had probably befriended Johnston.

Constable George Thompson of Muswellbrook was aware of the warrant for Johnston’s arrest and had received intelligence that he had been spotted on Wybong Creek. On 15 August, taking with him mounted trooper Patrick Sweeney, he made a rendezvous with Constable James Rutherford, who had camped overnight at the creek in the hope of spotting Johnston. Unfortunately after a search they found no trace. The police then headed to Sandy Creek to the residence of a man named Donnewald where they suspected Johnston may have been hiding. To their relief and chagrin they found that Johnston had indeed been there but had left for Double Gully a half hour previous. The police took off for Double Gully and upon arrival found a horse saddled and bridled and tied to a tree near a house. The police dismounted and tied their horses about seventy yards from the house before proceeding on foot. Johnston appeared in the kitchen window, dressed in leggings, black felt hat with a white turban and dark coat, his face covered in black whiskers, and Sweeney, knowing it was their target, responded “That’s the man.” Johnston saw the troopers coming and bolted, Rutherford shouting “Man, man!” while gesturing towards the fugitive.  The troopers switched their attention to the tiny figure hurtling over a paddock toward a mountain. Rutherford levelled his gun at the figure.

“Surrender, Johnston, and throw up your hands!”

Johnston paid no heed. Reeling off a shot, Rutherford missed his target. The police took off, Rutherford launching three more bullets in Johnston’s direction. Sweeney turned back to fetch the horses, sensing that they weren’t going to be able to catch the bushranger on foot. Roused by the gunfire, a local man named Brackenreg rode up to Thompson who commandeered Brackenreg’s horse and galloped forward. The pounding of hooves caught Johnston by surprise and he turned and ran towards the horse, possibly hoping that by doubling back he could throw the officer off his tail. When it became apparent that this was not a sound solution he doubled back again towards the mountain. In the meantime, Sweeney and Rutherford had mounted and were riding up. Sweeney presented his gun, Rutherford stating “It’s no use firing, you’ll never hit him. The man’s too far.” It was at that point that Sweeney fired his last shot which stuck true and Johnston pitched forward with his hands outstretched. He struggled back to his feet but collapsed onto his knees and elbows. With his right hand he fumbled about his body, Thompson assuming that the bushranger was searching for a revolver.

“Johnston, if you attempt to move your hands I’ll fire!” Thompson boomed from atop Brackenreg’s horse. Johnston looked up at the Constable with a pained expression:

“Thompson, I’m sorry…”

Johnston fell. The troopers took the limp body back the the house, Johnston vomiting en route and laid him out in the kitchen. By the time they reached the house Johnston had expired. The police examined the body and found that a bullet had entered his body from his right hip. On his person was a powder flask, two sovereigns, two half-sovereigns, two shillings and a sixpence, a comb, a pocket knife and a box of percussion caps.

An examination of the body was done by Jacob de Leon, on 16 August. He found that the bullet had penetrated the pelvis and ruptured the bladder and arterial vessels in the pelvic region leading to nervous shock and internal haemorrhage. After the inquiry, the jury deemed the shooting to be justifiable homicide.

Selected Sources:

“A BUSHRANGER SHOT DEAD.” The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889) 2 September 1873: 3.

“A SUPPOSED BUSHRANGER SHOT.” The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912) 23 August 1873: 239.

“INQUEST ON THE BODY OF THE BUSHRANGER JOHNSTON.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 22 August 1873: 5.

Forgotten Bushrangers: Robert Burke

Robert Burke (aka Bourke) was a small time bushranger who had one major incident in his career that made him particularly noteworthy, as many bushrangers tended to. Hardly prolific, Bourke gained his spot in the pantheon by an unfortunate incident that ended in disaster at a station in Diamond Creek.

Burke, whose real name was Clusky, was born in Dublin in 1842. He, his brother James, and sister were sent to Australia in 1854 from Liverpool by their uncle and were taken in by a family in Melbourne. Clusky was trouble though and soon absconded from his job and foster family, taking to the bush. He was a member of the Church of England and likely had a decent education for the time as he could read and write. It would appear that for a time he worked as a sailor, possibly gaining a little taste of the wider world while travelling. Possessed of a taste for theatre and an immutable vanity, by most accounts he was rather a refined gentleman (as far as bushrangers were concerned), prone to reciting poems or Shakespeare. He was also fluent in French and had spent time in a French boarding house in Melbourne flying completely under the radar thanks to his grasp on the language. He was a fine specimen of the Victorian era man. Standing at five feet and eight inches tall, he had handsome features, light brown hair and blue-grey eyes under a dark, heavy brow. He bore scars on his forehead, right elbow, back of the head on his left side and his right knee.

In 1862 Clusky ended up getting three years on the roads on a charge of robbery under arms near Ararat. On 16 October, he had bailed up a man named Pope near Mount Mistake. Threatening the man with his pistol, he pulled the trigger but the gun was not loaded. Clusky stated “I have another one yet” and drew another pistol, which aided in his alleviating Pope of £5. When tried before Chairman Clarke, Clusky stated that he had only robbed out of desperation, unable to find employment though he was willing and needed money to send to his sister in Melbourne. Despite getting a three year sentence, he only served two years in Pentridge. As soon as he was out he headed back to Ballarat where he obtained employment and he then found work in Bullarook Forest before crossing the border into Yass Plains. While here he was treated poorly by his employer and took off on a borrowed horse and went back to robbing mail coaches, sticking up three coaches single-handedly. After his initial robberies he returned his steed with a letter being sent to his old master informing him of where to find the animal. He was known to be an admirer of Dan Morgan, his contemporary, though he was not a fan of his bloodthirsty reputation and preferred not to shed blood.

Robert Clusky’s prison record.

Burke was not an unsuccessful bushranger, having stuck up the Jugiong-Gundagai coach. He stole a mob of horses but set them loose near Picton and sent a letter to the local police telling them where to find them, the letter signed “Burke the Bushranger”. Having accrued a decent amount of cash Burke headed to Sydney where he lived a short while before heading to Melbourne on a ship called Rangatira. He stayed in lodgings near the Olympic Theatre in Lonsdale Street and visited the Bourke Street waxworks, which he found very displeasing. He soon took off on foot, next seen in Kew and then headed for Dandenong where he raided the home of a man named Horner. Upon Burke leaving, the matter was reported and Superintendent Smith of the Greensborough police was duly notified of Burke’s intentions of heading in that direction. The journey was gruelling, his clothes becoming raggedy and filthy lending him the appearance of a tramp. Burke would use this to his advantage in gaining sympathy from settlers on occasion but he still found that blue steel was the best incentive.

Burke attempted to gain entry to a house in Eltham but, when refused, fired several shots into the wall. The occupants then allowed him inside whereupon he ransacked the place but found nothing of value and left empty handed. A brief visit to a farm in Kangaroo Ground saw Burke taking tea before heading off at daybreak. He was then spotted in Diamond Creek, a large rural region North East of Melbourne bordering on the township of Greensborough. The irregular, frequently mountainous terrain was peppered with yellow box gums and farms taking advantage of the sparkling waters of the Diamond Creek, so named because of the quartz in the creek bed that shimmered like diamonds in the sun. In 1851 gold had been discovered nearby in Warrandyte and kicked off the Victorian Gold Rush but Diamond Creek had avoided being tainted by the madness. It was here on 4 October that Burke headed to the most prominent cattle run perched on a slope near a bridge. The property was known then as Diamond Creek Station, though now it is better known as Allwood.

It was 8:00am when Burke reached the property. He was careful about which building he approached and passed through a paddock, greeting Robert Hurst, the station’s manager, before heading to the homestead. Ellen Hurst answered and asked what he wanted. Burke was fidgety and avoided eye contact stating only that he wanted food and, thinking him to be a tramp, Ellen brought him into the kitchen and gave him breakfast. As Burke dug in Ellen noticed her brother Henry enter the house and beckon her. She excused herself and found her brother in the bedroom.

A sketch of the crime scene

Henry Facey Hurst was a well liked personality around Diamond Creek, the sort of person you could reliably referred to as a “top bloke”. Handsome, athletic and hard working, Henry was a fine example of the squatter class. Perhaps his most famous achievement was the construction of a bridge nearby from which that town would later gain its name – Hurstbridge. When Ellen entered the bedroom Henry inquired about the identity of the man in the kitchen. Ellen told him it was a tramp.
“I don’t like the look of him.” Henry whispered. He proceeded to load his fowling piece as a precaution. The pair entered the kitchen and stood behind the visitor.
The grubby, rumpled figure slurping tea from a pannikin at the dining table barely shifted at the arrival. Henry gently placed the fowling piece in the corner. As Burke reached for some bread his pistol, stolen from a Mr. Mathison during one of his robberies, was visible beneath his coat.

“Good morning, mate, where are you from?” Hurst asked.
“Cape Schanck.” came the brusque reply behind a forearm wiping liquid out of his moustache.
“And where are you going?” Hurst continued.
“To Kilmore.” came the reply.
“The deuce you are; You’re going a round-about way of it!” Hurst exclaimed. The game was up and Burke knew it. He swiveled to face his inquisitor.
“Are you the master of the house?” Burke rumbled.
“Yes.” Henry stood defiantly with his arms folded. Burke pounded his fist on the stool.
“I will never take an insult from any man; I came to get my breakfast!” Burke rose to his feet, flicking his coat back and drew his revolver. “Do you know who I am? I am a bushranger!”
“Please don’t shoot!” Ellen shrieked as Henry stooped for his gun. Henry threw his sister a look and gestured for her to get help, which she did immediately, running to find a friend of the Hursts named Joseph Abbott. Burke, suddenly spooked, aimed for the girl and quick as thought, Henry raised his fowling piece and fired a shot which whizzed past Ellen’s head and lodged in the wall as she ran out. Hurst jumped on Burke and tried to wrestle the pistol from his grip. In the scuffle the revolver went off, which could be heard outside the building. Ellen ran as fast as her legs would take her and saw Abbott in the stockyard and frantically gestured to him.
“You must go unto the house, a bushranger has shot my brother!”

Meanwhile, the pair continued to wrestle in the kitchen, limbs entangled awkwardly in a furious attempt to restrain each other. Burke reeled off two shots before he managed to get his arm over Hurst’s shoulder and fired. The bullet passed down through Hurst’s body and out, lodging in Burke’s left thigh.
“You’ve done for me you wretch!” Hurst groaned in agony as the pair continued to grapple.
“Let us quit for I’m wounded, myself.” Burke begged as Abbott burst in and continued the struggle as Hurst collapsed. Abbott grabbed Burke by the throat and tried to restrain him as the bushranger roared “I’ll shoot you if you don’t let me go!” In response Abbott struck the revolver from Burke’s hand, which was later found to be empty.


Meanwhile Ellen had informed the stockmen what was happening and some of them had ridden for Eltham to fetch the police. The others had rushed into the house and assisted in disarming Burke as he collapsed from blood loss and restrained his hands and feet. Hurst was lifted onto the bed where Ellen found him in precarious health. A messenger was sent immediately to find the local doctor to attend the dying man. Robert Hurst returned to the homestead whereupon he sent his daughter Emily to fetch the Queenstown police. He was directed to the spot where found Burke, now conscious, was bound in the yard to a wheel under a tree.
“You villain, why did you shoot my son?” the distraught father bellowed.
“He insulted me and I will not be insulted by any man.” Burke grumbled.

Soon the stockmen returned with Constable Hall who ensured that Burke was immediately taken into custody. Constables from Heidelberg notified Superintendent Smith at Greensborough but by the time they arrived on the scene police had already arrived from Eltham, Whittlesea and Queenstown and ascertained the bushranger’s identity and relieved him of his revolver, 50 revolver bullets, 90 firing caps, a map of Victoria, a list of squatters and their station names, a compass, a leather pocket book containing two cheques and a deposit receipt, a letter, a French grammar book and a photograph of an actor named G. V. Brooke.

Gustavus Vaughan Brooke: Burke the bushranger carried a photograph of this Irish actor on him at the time of his capture.

Though Hurst was attended by Dr. Ronald and Dr. Barker nothing could be done for him. Hurst died from his wounds eight hours after the encounter at 5:00 pm. He was later carried across to a spot by the creek and buried. Burke was removed to Greensborough police station where Dr. Barker tended his leg wound but considered it serious enough that he should stay put until stabilised. Once well enough to travel, Burke was escorted to Melbourne by Constables Gorman, Hall and Senior Constable Harty. Once in the city he was lodged in Melbourne Gaol under the care of Detective Nicolson, who had only ten years earlier helped capture the notorious Bradley and O’Connor. An inquest was undertaken in the wake of the killing by Superintendent Hare in the Diamond Creek Hotel. Burke was escorted from Melbourne in irons for the inquest. Due to his leg not being properly healed, the wound burst several times during the inquest and bled.


Burke was taken to Melbourne Gaol to await execution. A group of concerned citizens convened at the Mechanics’ Institute and created a petition begging the executive council to commute the sentence to life imprisonment as there wasn’t enough evidence of malice aforethought. Despite gathering 7000 signatures, the council declined to overturn the death sentence and Burke was subsequently hanged on 29 November 1866 by William Bamford. His last words were:

Just as I am—without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O, Lamb of God, I come.

As was customary, his body was buried under quicklime in the gaol grounds. Within weeks Burke was being used as a cash cow by showmen. And advertisement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser for a series of phrenology lectures at the Geelong Mechanics Institute by Thomas Carr wherein Burke’s phrenological analysis would be presented for a shilling (or two shillings for reserved seats).

Selected Sources:

“BURKE’S EARLY CAREER.” Leader. 20 October 1866: 7.

“No title” The Herald. 9 October 1866: 2.

“SHORT-LIVED BUSHRANGERS.” Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912) 1 January 1910: 2

“Advertising” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929) 6 December 1866: 4.

“BURKE THE BUSHRANGER IN VICTORIA.” The Kyneton Observer. 9 October 1866: 2.

“THE DIAMOND CREEK OUTRAGE.” The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954) 16 October 1866: 3.


“THE MURDER AT DIAMOND CREEK.” The Herald. 9 October 1866: 3.

Forgotten Bushrangers: “Scrammy” Jack Moreland

There are many Jacks in the pantheon of bushranging, but “Scrammy” Jack Moreland is one of the more obscure.

Moreland was nicknamed scrammy because he was missing two fingers on his left hand (“scrammy” being a term for people with busted hands). He was one of the few notable Queensland bushrangers and operated near the Cape River district in the late 1860s, emerging to prominence in 1870.

Moreland, who would be referred to in the press as Three-Fingered Jack, worked with an Irishman named John Sullivan and an unnamed Aboriginal boy, emerging to raid the store at Francis Town in May 1870. The gang came across a boy bathing in the river and bailed him up, keeping him hostage until his absence was noted. When a man came looking for him, he was bailed up as well and tied up and left on a sandbank in the river. The boy escaped and raised the alarm and a bullock driver named Donald Simpson went in pursuit. He didn’t have to go far as the bushrangers were already descending upon the store. Simpson advised them to surrender and Jack responded with a cry of “Shoot the bloody cur!” upon which Simpson drew a revolver and shot Moreland in the thigh. Wounded but still lucid, Jack fired at Simpson and shot him in the lungs. The Aboriginal boy fled and Moreland and Sullivan mounted their horses. The pair took off but as they did, Francis the storekeeper appeared and fired at Scrammy Jack. The shot hit its mark and Jack slumped in the saddle but kept riding.

Two days later Simpson died of his wounds and a search party set out. Inspector Clohesy took a constable and a tracker to find the culprits but instead only found an aggressive black snake which bit the tracker who died hours later. The inspector learned that Moreland and Sullivan had been seen crossing the river. Moreland had removed his trousers to get a better look at the nasty bullet wound in his thigh and had told the witnesses – one of Francis’ staff and an Aboriginal man named Sam – that he had snagged himself in the river. Moreland and Sullivan then ascertained that the men they were speaking to had gold on them and robbed them at gunpoint before escaping.

Queensland Police Gazette, 04/01/1871

In May 1870 Jack Moreland and John Sullivan were formally charged with the wilful murder of Donald Simpson. Unfortunately for Scrammy Jack he never got to trial. He was arrested in November 1873 and held in remand in Brisbane Gaol where, after a hunger strike, he had a severe bout of diarrhoea and died.

“SATURDAY, MAY 28, 1870.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 28 May 1870: 5.
“ATTEMPT TO STICK UP A STORE ON THE GILBERT.” South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 – 1881) 30 April 1870: 4.
“Current News.” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939) 13 December 1873: 2.

Forgotten Bushrangers: “Cranky Sam” Poo

One of the things that defines Australian bushranging is the diversity of those that become bushrangers. Surprisingly, the only Chinese bushranger that seems to be of note is Sam Poo, whose career as a highwayman was as short-lived as it was violent.


Not a lot is known about Sam Poo’s early life, except that he was probably born around 1835 and his real name was likely Li Hang Chiak. It is believed he arrived on the Australian Goldfields from Singapore in the 1860s looking for fortune and possibly escaping trouble back home. He quickly gained the nickname “Cranky Sam” from the others on the Talbragar Goldfields in New South Wales due to his short temper and antisocial behaviour.

The Goldfields were a place of high tensions between the white and Chinese diggers. Fights and riots were commonplace between the two races and it is believed that Sam Poo was right in the thick of it, emerging in the wake of the infamous Lambing Flat riots. Sam’s interest seemed to have been more from personal resentment rather than the more conscientious motive of trying to fight back against institutional racism. Sam Poo disliked his fellow Chinese miners as much as his white rivals and became increasingly antagonistic and socially isolated. As time went on he withdrew from the Talbragar diggings and would spend hours shooting at a tree stump then digging out the bullets, recasting and firing them again. Then one day in 1865 he disappeared without explanation.


In an unprecedented move for a Chinese miner, Sam Poo had taken to the bush to live the life of a highwayman. He reputedly robbed ten Chinese miners on the diggings as his warm-up before heading to the highway. Armed with a sawn-off rifle and a clunky old revolver he operated on the Golden Highway between Dubbo and Dunedoo. Aggressive and only able to communicate in broken English at best, he was very intimidating to white travellers who were already anxious about the Chinese. As January 1865 drew to a close, things began to escalate…

This murky image accompanied a retrospective article about Sam Poo, bushranger. Published in The Queenslander, February 20, 1936.

Billabong Station

On January 30, 1865, Elizabeth Golding, who lived with her husband Robert Golding at the Plunkett’s Billabong Station near Dubbo, saw Sam Poo talking to her daughter in the late morning. The discussion appeared to be heated. He soon returned and spoke with Mrs. Golding stating “If I cannot have my will of the girl, I will of you.” Mrs. Golding noted he was carrying a sawn-off rifle with a piece of leather around the barrel. Mrs. Golding ran to seek help. By the time her husband arrived Sam Poo was gone.

Three days later while riding around the property, James Francis Plunkett saw Sam Poo in one of his shepherd’s huts. He later discovered a flour bag had been emptied and some leather leggings had been cut. The cut leather, it would be found, was that which Sam Poo had wrapped around his rifle, indicating he had been hiding on the property for some time. 

Shoot-out with Senior Constable Ward

 On February 3, John Cluff saw Sam Poo in the neighbourhood. Poo emerged from the scrub and threatened Cluff with his sawn-off rifle. He asked Cluff where he was going. Cluff informed him he was going to see his boss, Plunkett, to which Sam Poo replied “Go on or I will give you one too.” gesturing to his pistol on a log nearby.

Senior Constable John Ward

Senior Constable John Ward was returning to Coonabarabran from taking a prisoner to Mudgee for trial. Two stockmen informed him just outside of Barney’s Reef (between Birrawa and Dunedoo) of where Sam Poo was camped and reported that he had been committing offences in the area. Ward investigated and found Poo camping in the scrub. When Sam Poo saw Ward he bolted. Ward gave chase on horseback and Poo drew his rifle and said “You policeman. Me fire.” Ward dismounted and took cover behind his horse as he drew his revolver. Poo, by chance rather than skill, shot Ward in the groin, a devastating hit that drives into his abdomen. Ward fired 3 shots at Poo as he escaped.

 James Francis Plunkett found Ward and took him back to his homestead and sent for the doctor. While waiting for help Ward expressed distress about his family and dictated an account of the shoot-out with Sam Poo knowing that he was close to death, which Plunkett recorded. Plunkett prayed for Ward, who died at 4.00pm and was quickly buried.

The next day, Dr. William King arrived after travelling 50km to treat Ward only to discover the patient was already dead and buried. 

This photograph was published decades later in a retrospective article.

 The hunt for Sam Poo

 Armed police and mounted posse-men joined a manhunt for Sam Poo over two weeks. Driven by the desire for justice to be served to the man who created a widow with four children, they scoured the bush around the Golden Highway. 

On February 18, the posse found Sam Poo camped in the scrub not far from where he’d murdered Senior Constable Ward. Stockman Harry Hughes, a half-caste tracker, approached Sam Poo with mounted constables Burns, McMahon and Todd. Realising he’d been found, Sam Poo fired his rifle at Hughes, tearing the tracker’s hat near his right ear. The troopers returned fire without hesitation and Sam Poo was shot in the thigh. Collapsing to the ground, he pulled out his pistol and reeled off a few shots at the approaching lawmen. He was easily overpowered, disarmed and taken prisoner. 

Picture Credit: Michael Pennay via Flickr

The Trial of Sam Poo

Sam Poo was taken to the Mudgee hospital and treated for his wounds and thereafter transferred to Bathurst to stand trial for the murder of Senior Constable Ward and the attempted murder of Harry Hughes.

On October 11, Sam Poo pleaded not guilty before Justice John Fletcher Hargrave with Sing Shigh translating. The trial was reported in newspapers across New South Wales and concluded quickly with Sam Poo found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. 

On December 19, 1865, Sam Poo, the Chinese bushranger once known as “Cranky Sam”, was hanged in Bathurst Gaol, aged 35. He as described as being completely unaware of what was happening, clapping his hands at the door to his cell before his arms were pinioned. Three other Chinese prisoners were brought in to witness the execution. He uttered no final words before the noose was placed around his neck, the hood drawn over his face and the trapdoor opened. He was left hanging for the required thirty minutes to ensure the execution was effective.


Selected sources:

“NEWS OF THE WEEK.” Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917) 5 January 1866: 2. Web. 10 Jul 2017 <;.

“Sam Poo Was Australia’s Only Chinese Bushranger” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939) 20 February 1936: 10. Web. 10 Jul 2017 <;.

“Cranky Sam—Australia’s Only Chinese Bushranger” Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954) 4 January 1953: 28. Web. 10 Jul 2017 <;.