Spotlight: Death of Gipsy Smith, the Bushranger (13/07/1852)

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), Tuesday 13 July 1852, page 2


The particulars of this occurrence have been communicated to us by Mr. Weymouth, of Kensington, who arrived in Adelaide on Saturday last, overland from the Diggings. Mr. Weymouth left the Loddon on June 21st, and met inspector Alford and his party on the 3rd inst. about five miles beyond the border. The party were proceeding most satisfactorily, and Mr. Weymouth noticed that the horses were in good condition. Inspector Alford was endeavouring to fall in with Gipsy Smith, who with his gang had lately committed several outrages on travellers and persons residing near the overland road, and Mr. Weymouth had the satisfaction of informing him of the death of the Bushranger. It appears that Smith and two of his companions, by name Bailey and Sullivan, had taken possession of a dray, belonging to a man from Adelaide, who with his wife were proceeding to the Diggings. Smith, having previously separated the man from his wife, arrived with his companions at Roston’s Station. It is stated that whilst camped there, and when Smith on one occasion was washing himself, one of several pistols that he always carried in his jacket went off accidentally, and killed him almost instantly. Considerable suspicion, however, attaches to one of his companions, Sullivan, who immediately after the event took Smith’s horse and rode away. This man Mr. Weymouth met on the evening of the occurrence. Sullivan asked two or three questions of Mr. Weymouth’s party, and then proceeded in the direction of the Diggings. The man and his wife who were with the dray taken possession of by Smith, are now residing at Roston’s Station, having taken service there. The number of persons on the road is stated to be still very considerable; so that the death of Gipsy Smith, and it is to be hoped, the consequent dispersion of his gang, will tend very considerably to allay the apprehensions of travellers. Two of the Mounted Police remain at the midway station which has been formed at Scott’s woolshed, about fifteen miles beyond the desert, and eleven miles this side the border line.

Spotlight: Gipsy Smith the Victorian Bushranger (23 April 1904)

Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), Saturday 23 April 1904, page 8


(by G. Buckmaster, formerly Victoria mounted police.)

In your very interesting history of “The early days of South Brisbane,” a convict named Gipsy Smith is mentioned. From a description of his person and his leading and peculiar characteristics, I have no hesitation in saying that he is identical with the Gipsy Smith who in 1857 became a notorious bushranger in Victoria, and who was as famed for his daring and successful robberies as for his good humour and courtesy to his victims. Brisbane at that date was known in Victoria as Moreton Bay, and Gipsy Smith often regaled his victims with a recital of pranks he played while up here. Strange to say he presented none of the physical marks of the “old hand,” the “Vandemonian,” or the “t’other sider,” as these ex-convicts were called, on his person or in his manner. That was strange, for I have seen here in Australia those people, male and female, in every position of life, in Parliament, on the bench, and in the police, in the mansion and in the hovel, all displaying the indelible brand of the brutal system with which demons in human form treated them while convicts from the old country. Why are men and women who now do a long sentence in Australia not thus recognised? I would much sooner proclaim myself the son of one of those convicts instead of the son of one of those inhuman monsters whose brutality placed such a mark on the face of a Christian man or woman. But the authorities could not overlook Gipsy Smith’s bushranging pranks, and a reward was offered for his arrest. No doubt he had in his mind the adage “The nearer to the church the further from Heaven,” for he pitched his camp quite close to the Daisy Hill police camp. A traitor gave information to Senior-constable Patrick Finnigan and some constables stole out and captured Gipsy Smith without a struggle. So highly did Captain McMahon, the Chief Commissioner of Police, approve of that arrest that to Finnigan’s one chevron as a senior constable he added two more, thus giving him three stripes of a first-class sergeant. Gipsy Smith was committed for trial to the Castlemaine Circuit Court, and while under escort to the gaol there, so fascinated the mounted constable, that he induced him to remove the handcuffs. After a time, watching his opportunity, Smith seized the constable’s sword, and drawing it, tried to make off, pursued by the constable, who armed himself with the scabbard. With this he attacked Smith, and a furious fight followed. But the sword proved itself far superior to the scabbard, and the constable was laid low. Smith, when subsequently arrested, declared that he had never met a braver man than that constable, who in several bouts nearly overcame him. That constable, too, was armed with a pair of horse pistols. Why did he not use them? Why he could not use them I explained in a former issue of the “South Brisbane Herald,” in “A Narrow Escape.” Gipsy Smith was tried at the Castlemaine Circuit Court and found guilty. I forget his sentence. Some time after I met the great First-class Sergeant Finnigan, who thought himself no small potatoes. The Victorian foot police were only allowed to sport a small leg-of-mutton whisker at that time, and wore the Albert cap, which the graceless “London Punch” irreverently compared to an inverted flower pot. With the whiskers and the strap of his cap Pat made a good display, his blue cloth jumper was tied around his waist with a red silk ribbon which nearly fell to his feet. His tight blue pants and his £5 Napoleon boots were the admiration of all, and when he tried to speak with an English accent it was just as laughable as to hear an Irish man speak with a Yankee nasal drawl to hide his brogue. But no one is safe in this world until he has six feet of clay over his body. A sergeant named Daly reported him for riding barebacked the trooper’s horse while drunk. Gipsy Smith got him out of that. Then a prisoner escaped from him. For this he was reduced. Then he took to drink and was dismissed, and the last I heard of him he was a highly respected superintendent in the Tasmanian police force. So Pat Finnigan had more luck than Gipsy Smith. It may interest the friends of Sergeant Timmins in Beechworth to learn that after the sergeant was dismissed in 1869, with Superintendent T. E. Langley and Sub inspector Henry Downing, for “tampering with the enemy,” Timmins, too, became a superintendent in the police force of Tasmania. The year 1869 was an unlucky one for the police of the Ovens district. Captain Standish, the Chief Commissioner, was reduced in rank for attempting to boss the Secretary of the Victorian Law Department.

Spotlight: Trial of Gipsey Smith and Twigham, for the Murder of Serjeant McNally (1857)

Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (NSW : 1848 – 1859), Saturday 14 March 1857, page 3


AT the CASTLEMAIN CIRCUIT COURT, on the 26th February, William Twigham was placed at the bar, indicted for the murder of Serjeant McNally, at Mount Ararat, on the 16th October last.

Mr. McDonogh appeared for the prisoner.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty. The facts of this case have been already published. The deceased and another police constable were in the pursuit of a man named Turner alias Gipsy Smith, an escaped convict, and came up with him near Mount Ararat. Turner was a few yards from a tent, when the police apprehended him, and he called out for assistance. The prisoner came out from his tent, and fired a two-barrelled gun at the police, one of the bullets taking fatal effect upon McNally, and the other slightly wounding Moore, the second police constable. We subjoin the evidence given by Adams, the owner of the tent:—

William Adams deposed: I am a digger, and in October last resided at Mount Ararat; I was a free man; I remember Turner coming to my tent about the 16th October; my wife and three children were there with me when he came; shortly afterwards (about half an hour) two other men came; I see one—the prisoner; his companion, Turner, myself, and family dined together that day in my tent; Turner went out alone about half-past three or four o’clock, and returned first on horseback about four or half-past four o’clock; he then went into my tent; he had a small bundle and a small canister of powder; he laid these things on the table, and shortly afterwards Twigham came in, about a quarter of an hour after Turner; he brought a swag of red blankets, and laid them underneath the dresser’s legs, where he sat down, [a sketch of the tent and plan of interior were here produced]. Turner was there; I saw him take the small canister of powder over to him (Twigham,), and ask him if it was fine enough; that was about five o’clock, and afterwards I went out to cut some wood; when I returned about six o’clock, to have some tea, they were present, with my wife and children; and after tea, about half-past six, I went out to the wood again; two other men came, leading a horse, and then went into my tent; it was between light and dark; a man came to my tent a few minutes after, and said that Turner had better go, as the traps were laid on him; Turner said there was no b—y fear of the traps coming where he was, for if they did, he would show them the punishment they served out at Mount Ararat; Twigham then pulled out the blankets from underneath the dresser where he had placed them; he opened them and took out a bright double-barrelled gun in two halves; the gun produced is like it, but I cannot swear it is the same; he rigged it together, and Turner asked him if he wanted fresh caps; to which he replied, “No, it is all right,” and he laid it down by the corner of the dresser where he sat. [The plan of the tent was here handed round to the jury.] I then saw Turner go out of the tent, and come in again: in two or three minutes after, he went out a second time; I then went out to my mate’s tent, and saw Turner standing at the corner of my tent; I passed him a few yards, and then met Serjeant McNally and Constable Moore coming up to my tent. [Witness described the corner of the tent, according to the plan produced.] It was then dark; I did not know the constables then, although I had known them previously; I passed on a few yards, and then stopped; I heard them bid good evening to some one, and I heard Turner answer “Good evening.” I then heard a voice say,”Hollo! Turner, Gipsy, you are the man man we want,” and then a scuffle took place; I heard Turner call out, “You cowards, come out,” and ran up towards my tent; I saw Twigham coming out of the door with a double-barrelled piece in his hand; I was about six yards from the tent then, and the shafts of the cart were between me and him; though it was a dark night, there were two candles and a fire alight in the tent, I could see him by that means as plain as I see him now; he turned towards where the noise of scuffling was, then rose the gun to his breast and fired; I saw no one present but myself and Twigham at that time; I heard a voice cry out, “The Lord have mercy on my soul — I am shot.” I went away from where I was standing a few yards, and in about half a minute I heard another shot fired; prisoner then wore a yellow wide-awake hat and a drab coat; I did not notice the waistcoat; I noticed the coat because it was a first-rate made one, with pearl buttons I think; I did not see any one but Twigham when the shots were fired, and did not go into my tent again for half an hour or so; I heard a noise as if several were running away, and heard a voice call out “Police — help — murder;” I next saw Twigham placed under a verandah in Carisbrook lock-up, with blankets rigged up before him, and fourteen or fifteen others; I picked him out at once from amongst them; I saw McNally a few minutes after the shot was fired apparently dead on the ground, and my wife was holding a candle over him; I did not see Moore for a few minutes afterwards; he was covered with blood on both arms and cheek; I went for a doctor but could not find one; when I went back there was no one at the tent; I never saw McNally again or his body; I went up to the camp, and Moore arrested me: I was examined at the Police Court, and told more there than here, because I do not recollect what took place exactly then.

Cross-examined by Mr. McDonogh: I had not brought all to recollection when that took place. I knew Turner before, but never saw Twigham till three years ago at Bendigo. Upon my oath I never was in Van Diemen’s Land, nor in Port Arthur. I never was in Norfolk Island, nor ever escaped from that place. I came out to this country in the Susan, from Liverpool in 1840. — There were soldiers on board her, but she was not a Government vessel. She went to Sydney. My wife and children were arrested at the same time; I was brought before the bench three times, charged with aiding and abetting murder. The reason why I was not listened to then was, because I could not tell the names of the persons present. There were two others besides Twigham and Turner. There were two men there when the shot was fired, but I did not know them. One of the other two men was at dinner in my tent. — After hearing the reply of Smith to the person who cried out that the traps were coming, I was uncomfortable, but did not give them into custody because I had no opportunity. The police were about seven or eight yards from the tent door, through which the light issued. — When I saw the police, I did not point out Turner, nor ever heard anything against him previously as committing robberies. I never rode through Dunolly with Gipsy Smith, and the police were never after me for highway robbery. I never sent him a message to come and rob the stores, nor ever spoke anything of that kind. No other words than good night passed when I met the police. I had gone about seven or eight yards when I heard the scuffle. Not two minutes elapsed till the shot was fired. I did not assist the police, but went towards the house, and then saw Twigham come out with the gun. The scuffling was on the right hand of my tent, and about six yards to the right of the chimney. — When Twigham fired he was just past the chimney. He never had any conversation with Gipsy Smith, nor did I say that as Twigham was unknown he was just the man to put in for it. I never said that I would be even with Smith, and would send him out of the country to secure myself, nor that Gipsy Smith could swear the same thing against myself. I cannot read, therefore do not read the papers. I have heard that there are rewards offered for the conviction of these two men. I do not expect to get a penny if Twigham is convicted. I have heard of New Zealand, but never had any inducement relative to that place, or any inducement at all to come forward to clear the innocent and convict the guilty. I did not know that any guns or blankets were found in a water hole near my tent. I came out free to Sydney, and came free to Melbourne.

Re-examined by Mr. Ireland: I know Mary Barrington. She is here.

The jury found the prisoner guilty.

William Turner, alias Gipsy Smith, was then placed at the bar, and indicted for the wilful murder of Serjeant McNally. He was defended by Mr. Prendergast.

Mr. Ireland opened the case, which was identical with Twigham’s, tried on Monday, and it was for complicity in the same murder that this prisoner was now tried.

Mr. Prendergast raised a technical objection that the prisoner was not then in legal custody; and evidence having been called, it appeared that the warrant of committal could not be found. Serjeant Drummond had, according to his own statement, handed it to Inspector Barclay, but the latter did not remember having received it.

Mr. Prendergast submitted that the warrant was not proved; a piece of paper had been proved, but no warrant, and therefore the prisoner could not be tried for murder. His Honor ruled that the objection was fatal to the indictment, and Mr. Ireland on behalf of the Crown consented to take a verdict of manslaughter, and the prisoner did so through his counsel.

The prisoner is one of the most hardened ruffians in the colony, as is shown in the evidence in Twigham’s case, and an accessory in the slaughter of a constable; yet the culpable carelessness of the police authorities has allowed him to escape the punishment he so richly deserves. It is to be hoped that the Government will make some inquiry into this matter, and ascertain to whom the blame belongs. The prisoner was remanded for sentence.


Twigham, alias Laxton, found guilty of the murder of Sergeant McNally, was brought up for sentence. On being asked in the usual way, if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed on him, he said, Nothing more than the witness Adams, by whose testimony he was convicted, was a perjured man, and that his statements were false.

His Honor said he was perfectly satisfied with the justice of the verdict, and even if Adams’s character was bad, yet he had evidently spoken truly on this occasion, as the evidence of the police completely corroborated him. He proceeded to pass sentence of death in the usual form, without holding out the slightest hope of mercy.

The prisoner was removed without evincing the slightest emotion.


Gipsy Smith, was then brought up for sentence, and on being asked why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, entered into a long statement, declaring that now it could be but of little consequence to tell the truth, and he could have no inducement to utter what was false, as the sentence he would receive would last his life out, as he was now an old man, and could not hope to survive it. He declared in the most impressive manner that the man Adams, through whose testimony he had been convicted, was a perjurer, that he had been his mate in Van Diemen’s Land, twelve years ago, and that they were both under Captain Childs, in Norfolk Island. He gave a rambling, but striking history of his own life, and said that ever since he had been in the colonies, twenty nine years, he had never enjoyed any liberty but what he took himself; he had originally been sentenced for an offence which now he would not have been sent out for at all. With nine others he escaped in a whale-boat, was recaptured, and then sent to Norfolk Island for sixteen years, and when there he met with Adams. If he had had the same opportunities that prisoners now have, perhaps he would be now a different man. He admitted his guilt thoroughly and that he had become radically dishonest. The only thing that pained him was that a man of the name of Mason was now suffering in the hulks for a crime in which he (Smith) alone was the surviving participator; a case too of which Mr. Ireland must be aware. This fact, he declared, had haunted him ever since the man was convicted; had deprived him of sleep, and made him miserable. He concluded a characteristic address, by again averring that Adams was an escaped convict, and that if he went to Melbourne there were plenty there that knew the fact.

His Honor said that he had not intended to address him at all, but the prisoner’s remarks had shewn that he was still possessed of some feeling. He could not for a moment dissent from the verdict of the jury in Twigham’s case, for it did not depend on Adam’s evidence alone, the police corroborated it in every particular; whether he was or was not an escaped convict, on this occasion he had no doubt he had spoken the truth. The fact that he (the prisoner) had brought this fate down on Twigham, must be a dreadful reflection on him, and the narrow escape he had had himself, entirely owing to a technical point of law, had shewn him the position in which he stood himself. It was better that he should so escape the fate that would have awaited him, rather than that the law should be broken. The sentence that he would pass on the prisoner would be fifteen years’ hard labour on the roads or other public works, the first two years in irons.

The prisoner was then removed.

Spotlight: Death of a Bushranger (1879)

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Friday 18 July 1879, page 7


“Gipsey Smith,” whose name is associated with some of the most daring bushrangers in the early days of the goldfields in Victoria, died in the Melbourne Hospital last week. According to the prison records he was transported from England when a mere youth to Van Diemen’s Land. Being a refractory convict he was subsequently sent to Port Arthur where the worst class of criminals were confined. In the year 1853, he with six others escaped in a whaling boat and after a perilous voyage landed at Brighton. Being an absconder he said it would be useless to go to the diggings as he would soon be discovered and at once decided on a course of bushranging. In those days the assistance rendered by the police for the security of life and property was but limited, which encouraged desperate criminals to commit acts which have furnished a long catalogue of crimes in the early days of the goldfields and subsequent years. Smith was often seen in a spirit of bravado passing among the diggers with a red sash round his waist, in which were exhibited a brace of pistols. On one occasion he was arrested by a young trooper, who was taking him to the lockup. In a lonely part of the road Smith asked the trooper to take off the handcuffs for a moment, which the officer consented to do. As soon as the prisoners hands were free he seized the officer’s sword and attacked him. The trooper at the same moment drew the scabbard from his belt, and at once stood on his defence. The two fought for some time, and the prisoner finding he was getting the worst of the fight struck the officer’s horse, which bolted into the bush, and Smith escaped. Smith always spoke of the trooper as one of the best men he had ever met with in an encounter. On another occasion, when Smith and his mate, named McNally, were surrounded by the police, the latter was shot dead, and the former escaped. In the year 1857, Smith was arrested at Ballarat, and would have been lynched by the diggers, but they were prevented by a few of the police. Smith was tried and sentenced to 15 years on the roads of the colony. In those days the Pentridge stockade was very insecure, and Smith was sent to the hulk President. Afterwards he was transferred to Pentridge, and placed in a position of trust in one of the divisions, where he conducted himself to the satisfaction of the authorities. After he was discharged from prison he was taken in hand by Mr. Lang, son of the late Dr. Lang of Sydney, who appears to have placed considerable confidence in Smith’s honesty. He was often entrusted by Mr. Lang to bring mobs of cattle from New South Wales to the Melbourne market to sell, and in subsequent years he was placed in charge of a station.