Spotlight: The Diverting History of John Gilbert (29/10/1863)

Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), Thursday 29 October 1863, page 1


JOHN GILBERT was a bushranger
Of terrible renown
For sticking lots of people up,
And shooting others down.

John Gilbert said unto his pals,
“Although they make a bobbery
About our tricks, we’ve never done
A tip-top thing in robbery.

We’ve all of us a fancy for
Experiments in pillage;
But never have we seized a town,
Or even sacked a village.”

John Gilbert stated to his mates,
“Though partners we have been
In all rascality, yet we
No festal day have seen.”

John Gilbert said he thought he saw
No obstacle to hinder a
Piratical descent upon
The town of Canowindra.

So into Canowindra town
Rode Gilbert and his men,
And all the Canowindra folk
Subsided there and then.

The Canowindra populace
Cried, “here’s a lot of strangers,”
But suddenly recovered when
They found they were bushrangers.

John Gilbert with his partizans
Said, “Don’t you be afraid —
We are but old companions whom
Rank convicts you have made.”

So Johnny Gilbert says, says he,
“We’ll never hurt a hair
Of men who bravely recognise
That we are just all there.”

The New South Welshmen said at once,
Not making any fuss,
That Johnny Gilbert, after all,
Was “just but one of us.”

So Johnny Gilbert took the town,
And took the public-houses,
And treated all the cockatoos,
And shouted for their spouses.

And Miss O’Flanagan performed,
In manner quite “gintaaly,”
Upon the grand piano for
The bushranger O’Meally.

And every stranger passing by
They took, and when they’d got him,
They robbed him of his money, and
Occasionally shot him.

And Johnny’s enigmatic freak
Admits of this solution,
Bushranging is in New South Wales
A favored institution.

So Johnny Gilbert ne’er allows
An anxious thought to fetch him,
Because he knows that Government
Don’t really want to catch him.

And if such practices should be
To New South Welshmen dear,
With not the least demurring word
Ought we to interfere.

Mad Dog Morgan by Rodd Sherwin

There’s a long tradition of folk songs about our notorious bushrangers, and it certainly seems that isn’t changing any time soon. Queensland artist, and writer Rodd Sherwin has thrown his hat into the ring with a ballad about Daniel Morgan. The piece began life many years ago as lyrics for a song based on the story of Morgan, but as it developed the desire for it to be put to music grew ever more irresistible.

Sherwin’s friend, musician Jeremy Williams, has taken the words and crafted them into a song that has now been recorded. It will be available to hear across a range of platforms including YouTube and Spotify from 07/05/2022.

To learn more about Rodd, you can visit his website here.

To learn more about Jeremy Williams you can visit his website here and SoundCloud here.

To stream the song you can find links here, and you can watch it on YouTube here.

Mad Dog Morgan

Born to one, George Fuller
A ‘Bastard’ of a child
Perhaps that was the portent
For a life spent running wild.
Arrested at an early age
For larceny and livestock theft
The Judge then duly sent him down
To the prison hulk ‘Success’

Released as a ‘Ticket Man’
He finally came back
And very soon was known as
Young ‘Down the River Jack’.
While adopting this persona
He maintained his life of crime
‘Till Squatter Evans wounded him
Disappearing down the line.

By the new name, Daniel Morgan
The bushranger ventured out
A manic highway raider now
With all his sanity in doubt.
He committed violent outrage
Convinced he was to blame
The folk around all labelled him
‘Mad Dog’ – such was his fame.

His rugged hirsute features
The sharp eyes and long hooked nose
Did little to alleviate
His hapless victim’s woes.
These sudden night intrusions
Appeared in such a way
A Mad Dog with the posture
Of a fearsome bird of prey.

Possessed by an obsession
Upon this oath he swore
To cross the River Murray
And settle an old score.
While on his road to vengeance
Someone heard him say
‘T’is the end for that cur Evans
This ‘Dog’ will have his day.’

Accused of several murders
And robbery by stealth
He bailed up mail stage coaches
And homes of men of wealth.
He became a hunted outlaw
With a huge price upon his head
Until they finally tracked him down
Found where his trail had led.

Stalked by Johnny Windlaw
Who shot Dan in the back
The Mad Dog Morgan died there
Unaware of an attack.
Herein lies the irony
Daniel’s life should end this way
This is how the adage goes
Each ‘Dog’ must have it’s day.

A video preview of Mad Dog Morgan by Jeremy Williams [Courtesy: Rodd Sherwin]

Spotlight: Morgan, the Bushranger (Poem; 15 April 1865)

Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (Vic. : 1860 – 1870), Saturday 15 April 1865, page 3


Dark, brooding, melancholy, and alone,
Beast-like, the ruffian plundered, prowled and slew,

Without a rival or compeer to own
His fellowship ; all shuddered in his view.

Like to a tiger whose fierce maw once drew
The life-blood from some shrieking unaware,

And ever after’s thirsty to renew
The baleful draught ; still watching from his lair,
Where fetid bones, half-gnawed, pollute and plague the air.

Thus seemed the human monster ; he had swilled
His godless hands full oft in human gore :

It was a pastime— horrid, grim, but filled
His fiendish longing restlessness for more.

It joyed the tiger’s instinct in his core ;
Or devil’s impulse that delighted in

Such deeds as man bad never done before ;
That sighed to top the summit of all sin
Which man hath scaled, where devildom can but begin.

He knew no refuge where all perils past,
If Fortune warded him, to seek for rest ;

He felt no ray of hope ; his choice had cast
It all away as an unwelcome guest.

He wooed no such like blisses to his breast.
He sought no pleasures such as humans seek

Who love by sweetnesses to be caressed.
His joys were ills and mischiefs ; and to wreak
Fiends’ deeds in equal triumph o’er the strong and weak.

Strange was his choice — and dark must be his soul
Erratic all the spheres upon his birth —

To choose a present easeless lot, with goal
Dark— darker than his end upon the earth.

No wealthy comforts beckoned to their worth
To compensate him here for future pain.

It was a lot of woe — a total dearth
Of all the good that mankind loves to gain ;
And which, sans virtue, Reason would not wish obtain.

And yet amid his deeds of ruthlessness
Some sparks of human sympathy would steal;

And then he seemed as if be would that less
Of odium had on him burnt its seal ;

As if in men’s eyes yet he cherished weal
But this was when on calmer moments bent ;

When he could see the pleasures others feel,
But ere his soul could purpose to relent
His passions loosed their springs and got unbridled vent

He was a terror ; he had made a name ;
‘Twas all he had for glory and for pride ;

‘Twas all his harm [?] that’s deserved [?] shame
Most infamous to all the w? ll? b?

Yes, he was great ; for[?] blood his hand had dyed,
And Iong men’s tongues had chosen him ? theme.

But do I when Death appears with sudden stride,
And changes all the “spirit of his dream,”
Who is there but doth shout in joyousness supreme?

He stood a terror midst a host of foes ; —
A moment and that terror was no more.

The unseen missile brought him low as those
Had helpless on his mercies lain before.

A few short hours his mortal course was o’er,
And he was but a lump of lifeless clay!

Oh, what collapse! that o’er the fearful doer
Of fearful deeds should thus be brought to bay
And helpless lay him down ‘neath Death’s all conquering sway.

Hamilton, April 12. B. H.

Spotlight: How Gilbert Died by A. B. “Banjo” Paterson

There’s never a stone at the sleeper’s head,
There’s never a fence beside,
And the wandering stock on the grave may tread
Unnoticed and undenied;
But the smallest child on the Watershed
Can tell you how Gilbert died.

For he rode at dusk with his comrade Dunn
To the hut at the Stockman’s Ford;
In the waning light of the sinking sun
They peered with a fierce accord.
They were outlaws both – and on each man’s head
Was a thousand pounds reward.

They had taken toll of the country round,
And the troopers came behind
With a black who tracked like a human hound
In the scrub and the ranges blind:
He could run the trail where a white man’s eye
No sign of track could find.

He had hunted them out of the One Tree Hill
And over the Old Man Plain,
But they wheeled their tracks with a wild beast’s skill,
And they made for the range again;
Then away to the hut where their grandsire dwelt
They rode with a loosened rein.

And their grandsire gave them a greeting bold:
“Come in and rest in peace,
No safer place does the country hold –
With the night pursuit must cease,
And we’ll drink success to the roving boys,
And to hell with the black police.”

But they went to death when they entered there
In the hut at the Stockman’s Ford,
For their grandsire’s words were as false as fair –
They were doomed to the hangman’s cord.
He had sold them both to the black police
For the sake of the big reward.

In the depth of night there are forms that glide
As stealthily as serpents creep,
And around the hut where the outlaws hide
They plant in the shadows deep,
And they wait till the first faint flush of dawn
Shall waken their prey from sleep.

But Gilbert wakes while the night is dark –
A restless sleeper aye.
He has heard the sound of a sheep-dog’s bark,
And his horse’s warning neigh,
And he says to his mate, “There are hawks abroad,
And it’s time that we went away.”

Their rifles stood at the stretcher head,
Their bridles lay to hand;
They wakened the old man out of his bed,
When they heard the sharp command:
“In the name of the Queen lay down your arms,
Now, Dunn and Gilbert, stand!”

Then Gilbert reached for his rifle true
That close at hand he kept;
He pointed straight at the voice, and drew,
But never a flash outleapt,
For the water ran from the rifle breech –
It was drenched while the outlaws slept.

Then he dropped the piece with a bitter oath,
And he turned to his comrade Dunn:
“We are sold,” he said, “we are dead men both! –
Still, there may be a chance for one;
I’ll stop and I’ll fight with the pistol here,
You take to your heels and run.”

So Dunn crept out on his hands and knees
In the dim, half-dawning light,
And he made his way to a patch of trees,
And was lost in the black of night;
And the trackers hunted his tracks all day,
But they never could trace his flight.

But Gilbert walked from the open door
In a confident style and rash;
He heard at his side the rifles roar,
And he heard the bullets crash.
But he laughed as he lifted his pistol-hand,
And he fired at the rifle-flash.

Then out of the shadows the troopers aimed
At his voice and the pistol sound.
With rifle flashes the darkness flamed –
He staggered and spun around,
And they riddled his body with rifle balls
As it lay on the blood-soaked ground.

There’s never a stone at the sleeper’s head,
There’s never a fence beside,
And the wandering stock on the grave may tread
Unnoticed and undenied;
But the smallest child on the Watershed
Can tell you how Gilbert died.

Spotlight: The Prison Bell

Owen Suffolk, the poet bushranger, spent many years in and out of prison, which enabled him to find a lot of inspiration. His depiction of prison life is mournful and tinged with melancholy. To Suffolk, the prison is the place where souls and minds are broken and every day is a reminder of the grim reality of that condition. To this end his poem ‘The Prison Bell’ captures the essence of the convict life and all its suffering.

The Prison Bell

By Owen Suffolk

Hark to the bell of sorrow! – ’tis awak’ning up again
Each broken spirit from its brief forgetfulness of pain.
Its sad sound seems to me to be a deathwail from the past,
An elegy for buried joys too pure and bright to last.
It haunts me like an echo from the dark depths of despair,
And conjures up the fiend-like forms of misery and care;
The saddest of the sorrowful, its tones bright dreams dispel,
For waking woes are summoned by the harsh-toned prison bell.
It tells me that I am not now what once I used to be,
A dearly loved and loving boy whose heart was light with glee;
It tells me that life’s coming years must be long years of pain,
And that my brow with innocence can ne’er be wreathed again:
That I must wander through this world all friendless and forlorn,
Unsolaced by affection’s smile, the thing of shame and scorn.
Those fearful tones, those dirge-like tones, what fearful tales they tell!
It rings the death of hope and joy, that sadly sounding bell.
How oft when some bright vision of the days of olden time
Comes o’er me like an angel dream from heaven’s own hallowed clime,
And beautiful and holy things – the bright stars and the flowers,
And childhood’s prayer – were dear to me as in life’s sinless hours.
How oft, too, when in such dreams I wander by the side
Of one fair form whom virtue might have won me for my bride,
They come, those tones so horrible, those drear tones through my cell,
And memory shuddereth to hear the harsh-toned prison bell.
That bell! – how many hear it sound who’ve ceased to struggle long,
Who, reckless of crime’s after doom, have linked themselves to wrong;
And heard it is with shuddering and tearful vain regret
By those who for one first bad act for years must suffer yet.
‘Tis also sadly heard by some strange-struggling beings who
Cling to the false and evil while they love the good and true;
And some – a few – all innocent, who’ve learned, alas! Too well
That man’s best judgement sometimes errs, may weep to hear that bell.
I’ve heard it when bright memories have crowded to my brain,
When hopes and aspirations high have whispering come again;
And it hath sought to crush each thought that fain would save from ill.
As wildly it hath chanted forth, ‘Despair; be evil still.’
But no, a prison oft hath proved a holy place of yore,
And if the heart yearns for the good, God will the good restore,
Then courage soul: let faith’s bright beams grief’s darksome shades dispel,
And days of joy may yet be thine far from the prison bell.

Spotlight: For Frank Gardiner

Owen Suffolk was a bushranger who spent more than a decade in prison for a range of crimes, particularly Pentridge Prison. Suffolk gained the moniker “The Poet” for his deftness with poetry much of which refers to the experience of convicts and bushrangers. Perhaps his most well-known is For Frank Gardiner. It is a bold declaration of defiance and desire for freedom at any cost, the sort of liberty the outlaw archetype represents free from the constraints of the law and the mores of society; a liberty denied Frank Gardiner when he was finally apprehended at Apis Creek and dragged back to New South Wales.

Frank Gardiner in prison

For Frank Gardiner
By Owen Suffolk

It is not in a prison drear
Where all around is gloom,
That I would end life’s wild career,
And sink into the tomb,
For though my spirit’s ever bold
Each tyrant to defy;
Still, still, within a dungeon cold,
I could not calmly die.

It is not that my cheek would pale
Within a lonely cell;
It is not that my heart would quail
To bid this world farewell.
For if oppressed by tyrant foe
I’d freely be the first
To give my life, and strike the blow
To lay him in the dust.

But place me in a forest glen
Unfettered, wild and free,
With fifty tried and chosen men
A bandit chief to be.
‘Tis there, when fighting with my foes
Amid my trusty band,
I’d freely leave this world of woes,
And die with sword in hand.


Spotlight: The Ballad of the Kelly Gang


While many folk songs have been written about the Kelly gang, one that stands above the others is this one supposedly penned by none other than Joe Byrne himself. Joe’s reputation as a wordsmith would certainly be demonstrably true if this were the case, but it is just one of history’s mysteries. Many versions of this song exist with slight variations in the lyrics (many often discarding facts along the way) and sometimes being performed to a different tune. It was featured in a party scene in The Last Outlaw being sung to the tune of “The Wearing of the Green”. Below is a version of the lyrics followed by a some interpretations of the song for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The Ballad of the Kelly Gang

By Anonymous

Oh, Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that’s going round
On the head of bold Ned Kelly, they have placed two thousand pound
And on Steve Hart, Joe Byrne and Dan, two thousand more they’ll give
But if the sum was doubled, boys, the Kelly gang would live.

‘Twas in November, 78 when the Kelly Gang came down
Just after shooting Kennedy, to famed Euroa town:
To rob the bank of all it’s gold was their idea that day,
Blood horses they were mounted on to make their getaway.

Ned Kelly marched into the bank, a cheque all in his hand,
For to have it changed for money then of Scott he did demand,
And when that he refused him, he, looking at him straight,
Said, “See here, my name’s Ned Kelly, and this here man’s my mate.

The safe was quickly gutted then, the drawers turned out as well,
The Kellys being quite polite, like any noble swell.
With flimsies, gold and silver coin, the threepennies and all,
Amounting to two thousand pounds, they made a glorious haul.

“Now hand out all your firearms”, the robber boldly said,
And all your ammunition – or a bullet through your head.
Now get your wife and children – come man, now look alive,
All jump into this buggy and we’ll take you for a drive”

They took them to a station about three miles away,
And kept them close imprisoned there until the following day.
The owner of the station and those in his employ
And a few unwary travellers their company did enjoy.

And Indian hawker fell in too, as everybody knows.
He came in handy to the gang by fitting them with clothes
Then with their worn-out clothing they made a few bonfires
And then destroyed the telegraph by cutting down the wires.

They rode into Jerilderie town at twelve o’clock at night,
Aroused the troopers from their beds, and gave them an awful fright.
They took them in their night shirts, ashamed I am to tell,
They covered them with revolvers and they locked them in a cell.

They next acquainted the womenfolk that they were going to stay
And take possession of the camp until the following day
They fed their horses in the stalls without the slightest fear,
They went to rest their weary limbs til daylight did appear.

They spent the day most pleasantly, had plenty of good cheer,
Fried beefsteak and onions, tomato sauce and beer,
The ladies in attendance indulged in pleasant talk,
And just to ease the troopers minds, they took them for a walk.

On Monday morning early, still masters of the ground,
They took their horses to the forge and had them shod all round.
Then back they came and mounted, their plans they laid so well,
In company with the troopers they stuck up the Royal Hotel.

They bailed up all the occupants and placed them in a room,
Saying, “Do as we command you, or death will be your doom”
A Chinese cook, “No savvy!” cried, not knowing what to fear,
But they brought him to his senses with a lift under the ear.

All who now approached the house, they shared a similar fate,
In hardly any time at all, they numbered twenty-eight.
They shouted freely for all hands, and paid for what they drank,
And two of them remained in charge, while two went to the bank.

The farce was here repeated, as I’ve already told,
They bailed up all the banker’s clerks and robbed them of their gold.
The manager could not be found and Kelly, in great wrath,
Searched high and low, and luckily, he found him in his bath.

The robbery o’er they mounted then to make a quick retreat,
They swept away with all their loot by Morgan’s ancient beat
And where they’ve gone, I do not know. If I did, I wouldn’t tell
So now, until I hear from them, I bid you all farewell

Spotlight: Captain Thunderbolt by Slim Dusty

When we think of bush ballads and Australian folk songs, there’s really only two voices that jump to mind: John Williamson and Slim Dusty. Here, Slim sings about Captain Thunderbolt painting a colourful portrait of the bandit by contrasting him and his exploits with the land itself, concentrating on his lookout – Thunderbolt’s Rocks.


Captain Thunderbolt

West of Uralla in wild mountain ranges,
Where frost devils swaddle the landscape in white
Where long grasses wilt in the cold autumn changes,
And woodfires at evening in homesteads burn bright

Where sunrise breaks red like a wound that is bleeding,
The hills of New England lie misty and dim
By the highway where modern day vehicles are speeding,
Thunderbolts lookout rears rugged and grim

Bushranger bold like a hawk in its eyrie,
Scanning the road for the mounted pursuit
Cynically watching for police tired and weary,
Seeking the mail coach in search of its loot
Plundering while baffled the troopers debated,
Easily evading the ambush they lay
Swift to the cave where the dark woman waited,

Where sunrise breaks red like a wound that is bleeding,
The hills lie all misty and dim
By the highway where modern day vehicles are speeding,
Thunderbolt’s lookout rears rugged and grim

Was he a brave hero or scoundrel defiant?,
Taking and heeding the pathway to crime
Kneeling to know God or Devil suppliant,
Shot like a dog in the waterhole slime
Only a name now for history’s researchers,
Living forever in legend and tales
Bushman still claim on the old lookout perches,
Thunderbolts ghost as the evening grows pale

Where sunrise breaks red like a wound that is bleeding,
The hills lie all misty and dim
By the highway where modern day vehicles are speeding,
Thunderbolt’s lookout rears rugged and grim

Spotlight: Over the Border

Usually referred to as the “Mad Dog Morgan song”, this anonymous poem was sung a capella over the closing credits of the film Mad Dog Morgan. The poem is about Morgan’s fateful decision to cross the New South Wales border into Victoria where he would meet his end thanks to a bullet in the back.


OVER the border to rifle and plunder,
Over the border went Morgan the bold,
Over the border, a terrible blunder,
For over the border bold Morgan lies cold.

Over the border, why, why did he wander
‘Midst cold-hearted strangers all friendless to roam?
Was it that absence might make him grow fonder
Of those he had left in his own native home?

Over the border not long did he plunder,
Swift is stern justice as slow she is here,
Bold are the men o’er the border, no wonder,
When even the women know nothing of fear.

Fiercely they hunt him the cruel marauder,
Quickly they follow him, dead on this track,
Line with their troopers the river-side border,
Over he may come, but never go back.

Never—from far and near gathering quickly,
Stern faces watch him all night through the gloom,
Nought can avail him now sympathy sickly,
Sealed is for ever the murderer’s doom.

Shot like a dog in the bright early morning,
Shot without mercy who mercy had none,
Like a wild beast without challenge or warning,
Soon his career of dark villainy’s run.

Honour the brave hearts there over the border,
Great was the lesson they taught us that day;
Oh! that each other bushranging marauder,
Over the border would venture to stray!


Spotlight: The Ballad of Martin Cash

The Ballad of Martin Cash

by Frank the Poet

Come all you sons of Erin’s Isle
That love to hear your tuneful notes,
Remember William Wallace and
Montrose of sweet Dundee–
The great Napoleon played his part,
But by treachery was undone
Nelson, for England’s glory bled
And nobly fought by sea–
And Wellington, old Erin’s son,
Who Waterloo so bravely won,
When leading on his veteran troops,
Bold faced his daring foes–
But Martin Cash of matchless fame,
The bravest man that owns that name,
Is a valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

By treachery as it was said,
This hero to a gaol was led,
‘Twas Bedford who, in Campbell Town,
Had got him seven years.
Which sent him to the settlement
In misery and discontent,
But soon he made his foes repent,
As you shall quickly hear,
He left Port Arthur’s cursed soil,
Saying “No longer will I toil”,
And soon he reached the Derwent’s side
In spite of all his foes.
He made the settlers crouch in dread
Where’er that he showed his head;
This valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was once when near the old Woolpack
His enemies they did attack;
The number being three to one,
They thought their prize secure.
But Martin to his piece did cling,
And three of them did quickly wing,
Saying, “Down, you cowardly dogs,
Or I nail you to the floor!”
It’s loud for mercy they did cry,
But no one came to their reply,
While Martin, with a smiling eye,
Stood gazing at his foes.
Then through the bush he took his way,
And called on settlers night and day,
Did our valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was on the Salt Pan Plain
He faced his enemies again,
There were Sydney blacks and horse police,
And well-trained soldiers too;
But at the time when they drew near,
Cash hailed them loudly with a cheer,
And let them have it left and right,
His colours were true blue.
Bravely did he stand his ground,
The bullets flying thick around,
And like a fearless general
He faced his firing foes.
“Surrender, Martin !” loud they cry,
“Never till the hour I die
Said this valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Brave Cash, not caring for his life,
To Hobart came to see his wife,
The constables who lay in wait
Cried, “Martin is in view !”
Some cowards tried to block his way,
But one of them soon lifeless lay,
Their numbers were increasing,
And still did Cash pursue.
And in the street a man rushed out,
Who tried to stop him in his route,
But with a pistol in each hand
He clean shot off his nose.
“Surrender, Cash !” was still their cry,
“Never, till the hour I die
Said this gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

O’erpowered and wounded, bleeding, pale,
The Bobbies marched him off to gaol,
And when his trial was brought on
Some hundreds listened by.
And when the Judge, with panting breath
Had told him to prepare for death,
He calmly heard the sentence
With a proud, unflinching eye.
We all have hopes that we shall see
Bold Martin yet at liberty,
That shortly he will be as free
As the ocean wind that blows.
He’s of a good old valiant race,
There’s no one can his name disgrace,
He’s a noble son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

He’s the bravest man that you could choose
From Sydney men or Cockatoos,
And a gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Source: The Adventures of Martin Cash: comprising a faithful account of his exploits, while a bushranger under arms in Tasmania, in company with Kavanagh and Jones in the year 1843 by Martin Cash, edited by James Lester Burke. (page 122-123) Hobart Town: “Mercury” Steam Press Office, 1870.