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

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 19 September 1828, page 2

With the following article, an intelligent Correspondent, who was himself one of the victorious party, as well as among the sufferers by the late robberies in the New Country, has obligingly favored us. The same Correspondent most solemnly assures us, that he is quite convinced of the existence of an interior settlement of white people!!! The blacks speak of it with certainty. We shall now give the account in his own words:—

During the last month, a desperate party of bushrangers has been committing a series of depredations in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, and among the out-stations of the settlers. The establishments of Messrs. Arkell, West, Armstrong, James Hassall, Dr. Harris, H. O’Brien, and T. Mein, have been respectively plundered. The party, at the robbery of Mr. Hassall’s station, were five in number, and all well armed. Before the stores were surrendered, three men inside the hut defended themselves to the last shot, and were at last obliged to surrender, on account of the bushrangers placing the other men belonging to the station opposite the door, and daring the offenders to fire on their own men.

Stores to a very considerable amount were then taken, consisting of sugar, tea, tobacco, soap, clothing, fire-arms, &c. &c. The men were obliged to wait upon the banditti, making tea, cooking mutton chops, and bringing up the horses, three of which, together with a servant, they took away. The next morning the servant and one horse returned; and a stockman of Mr. S. Hassall was pressed to assist in driving the two horses, and two of Mr. West’s bullocks. Information was immediately sent to Bathurst, distant 70 miles from the station, to inform the Police. Serjeant Wilcocks, Corporal Prosser, and four privates, were immediately dispatched by Lieut. Brown, to pursue the robbers. Mr. H.’s robbery took place on the 22d of August.

On the 27th the soldiers were on the spot; and were joined the same evening by Messrs. Hassall and Walker, who had returned from a sheep station, about 80 miles farther in the interior. The next day the Police, Messrs. H. and W. with two servants, began the pursuit. At the same moment Mr. S. Hassal’s men, with the two horses returned. The bushrangers had now got six days start; but from the returned man the Serjeant learnt the spot on which the robbers encamped two nights after the robbery. An aboriginal was now wanted to track them; and on the second day’s march one was found. On the 30th the track of the bushrangers was frequently met with; and in the afternoon of the 31st five additional aborigines joined the party to track “the croppies.” The tracking now proceeded at the rate of four miles in the hour, till sun-down. Being near Mr. Hassal’s outermost station, fresh supplies were taken in, and the number of guides reduced, in order to furnish the means of longer pursuit. The Police gained only a few miles this day, on account of the difficulty of tracking over Dr. Harris’s cattle run. After ten hours incessant work the party encamped.

Early on the 2d Sept. the march commenced, and in proceeding over Cunningham’s Plains to the sheep station of Dr. Harris, all hopes of finding the tracks were nearly lost. Success, however, at length crowned the assiduous labours of the natives, who followed the tracks to the hut of Dr. Harris’ men. From this station three men joined the bushrangers, who took the liberty of tasting a sheep of the Doctor’s flock. The Police party recruited their stock of flour; and after gaining all the information the men were willing to give, continued the march to Mr. H. O’Brien’s station. Here the bushrangers had made free with three sheep, three men, one pack bullock, and some sundries, and made a promise to be considerably more free with some fat oxen and dairy cattle. Night prevented a more continued march.

On the 3d, breakfast was over, fresh supplies taken in, and all ready to march at the first dawn. Mr. Gregson, Mr. O’Brien’s overseer, here joined the party. An aboriginal belonging to this part of the country happened to meet with “the croppies,” and took the Police, and their black guides, to the place where he saw them; and by this opportunity a day’s march was gained. About noon a recent encampment of the bushrangers was discovered; the ashes were warm; a kangaroo dog, stolen from Mr. O’B. was also found lying beside it. The tracking operations were continued in the greatest possible silence; not a word spoken but in a whisper. About three in the afternoon, the blacks passed the word – “smoke” – “bullo bullock” – “make a light, croppy sit down.” Serjeant Wilcocks gave them the orders for the attack, expecting to meet with eleven, but only two were at the fire, playing at cards, and cooking a pot of mutton, upon whom a charge was made. They ran; and before they surrendered were both slightly wounded with balls and sword cuts in several places. The prisoners informed the Serjeant that the party was reduced to nine, and that the other men were then on a robbing expedition to Mr. Mein’s station. Serjeant Wilcocks then divided the party; him-self, two privates, and Mr. Hassal, took a station where they could at the same time keep an eye on the property that had been retaken, and on a passage that led to Mr. Mein’s. Corporal Prosser, two privates, Mr. Gregson, and Mr. Hassal’s servant, were stationed convenient to the route the bush-rangers had taken in the morning. Mr. Walker and servant had the custody of the two prisoners. About an hour elapsed when Mr. Hassall discovered the captain of the banditti, six others, a small pack of kangaroo dogs, and a bullock laden with the spoils of the expedition. The captain, soon perceived the Serjeant’s party, called his men together, threw up his hat, and called to the Police that they were ready. “Surrender” was out of the question. Hard firing commenced. The Police were soon together; but could not prevent the bushrangers ascending a very steep rocky precipice. Shelter was at once secured to the bushrangers behind the rocks, where the horses could not reach. Beaten from one fortress, another presented itself immediately; and retreat and fight was the order of the evening, till the want of day-light, and perhaps of ammunition, produced a cessation of hostilities. All the bushrangers escaped; none of the Police were hurt.

Soon as the party had boiled some tea, the fire was put out, some refreshment was hastily taken, the property and horses secured, the sentinels placed at a convenient distance, and “all hands on the look-out” for morning, or an attack from the bushrangers. At midnight it began to rain which was the first wet lodgings for the party. Early the next morning a party of the Police and a black ascended the hills, in order to secure the tracks, but the rain had effaced all traces of them. It was then agreed to find Mr. Mein’s station; and in search for it the party met the captain; a ball had passed through both thighs in the previous engagement. The trowsers, waistcoat, coat, and hat he wore, belonged to Mr. Hassall, a silk handkerchief to Mr. H’s servant, and shirt to Mr. Walker.

“The most notorious “Donohoe” is one of this party. During the engagement one of the bushrangers was seen to fall by three of the party that went with the Police, who, at that time, was wearing the hat and coat taken upon the captain. It is thought, from this fact, that one was killed, and removed by his companions. These mistaken and dangerous men were going to make an establishment of their own, about 300 miles in the interior, where, they maintain, exists a settlement of white people.”

Spotlight: Extracts from Australian, (10/09/1830)

Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 10 September 1830, page 2

It does not appear to be as yet quite certain, whether the man shot dead last week, by one of the mounted police, and reported to be Donohoe, is, after all, the real Donohoe, as several persons, of tolerable veracity, who say they knew Donohoe well, having inspected the corpse, do not hesitate to affirm that he is not the man some people would take him for. Others maintain a contrary story.

The facts of the rencontre seem to be these:—A part of the mounted police, under Sergeant Hodgson, 57th regt. with two constables, who, were beating about the bush on the first instant, perceived three men and a pack horse, about a mile and a half distant. They pursued, the sergeant and two men taking a direction to the left, and the others to the right. The latter party got within a hundred yards of the trio unperceived, when one, the reputed Donohoe, started up, exclaiming “Come on ye cowardly rascals, we are ready, if there is a dozen of you.” The three bushrangers then entrenched themselves each behind a tree, and challenges mutually passed between the soldiers and them. It was half an hour or nearly before one of the soldiers fired, the ball from his piece shivering the bark of the tree behind which Webber, one of the bushrangers, stood. Another shot was fired, and two of the bushrangers fired also. In about a minute more, John Maclestone, one of the mounted police, fired, when the reputed Donohoe fell. On seeing the fate of their comrade, the two survivors beat a retreat, leaving behind their pack horse and baggage, which contained about 1 cwt. and a half of flour, some meat, wearing apparel, transfers, grants, and deeds of land, and a watch. The papers had been stolen from Pegley, a settler at Prospect.

The reputed Donohoe, was reckoned only to be 23 years of age, when he received the fatal ball, low of stature, but with limbs thick set, and a countenance bearing the impress of strong passions, and a determined spirit. His accomplices, who were stated to be Walmsley and Webber, it is reported, in the retreat, committed a house robbery, and on Monday afternoon, stopped Messrs. Erskine and Scott, as they were driving in a gig towards Parramatta, about a mile beyond longbottom; but on discovering Mr. Scott, Webber saying he was once his assigned servant, allowed them to go on. A strong party of police was immediately despatched, but they scoured the road during a good part of that night and Tuesday, without success.

A hut on the Dog Trap farm was on Wednesday reported to, the chief constable at Parramatta, to have been broken into and robbed by two men, one of them answering to the description of Webber. It is about this part of the road soldiers and constables should keep a good look out, and along the less frequented parts of the Liverpool-road, instead of the vicinity of government stations and public houses.

Bushranging Gazette #19

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Victorian Bushrangers at Geelong Gaol

On 7 August, A Guide to Australian Bushranging‘s Aidan Phelan gave a presentation at the Old Geelong Gaol about Victorian bushrangers. The talk ranged from an introduction to bushrangers to the lives and careers of several notable Victorian outlaws.

Among the stories told during the presentation were those of Bradley and O’Connor, Captain Melville, Harry Power and Thomas Menard. Menard has a special connection to the gaol as he was hanged there for murder and was buried in the grounds.

The event was well received and the venue proved to be suitably atmospheric, with replicas of the death masks of Thomas Menard, Ned Kelly and Captain Moonlite adding to the effect.

There is a strong probability that there will be more such presentations in the gaol, as there are plenty more stories to explore.

Aidan Phelan with replicas of the death masks of Thomas Menard, Ned Kelly and Captain Moonlite.

The Crisis of Captain Moonlite

On 23 August Dr. Matthew Grubits presented an online seminar conducted via Zoom for Melbourne Irish Studies Seminars on Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite. The focus of the talk was predominantly on Scott’s religiosity and faith, and how this influenced his behaviour throughout his life.

Grubits drew particular attention to Scott’s most highly valued traits, those being truthfulness, honour and manliness and how the philosophy of “Muscular Christianity” influenced his beliefs. This also came into play when discussing Scott’s most intimate relationship, being the one between himself and James Nesbitt. Grubits pointed to Scott’s unwavering Christianity and his profound grief as key factors in why Scott wrote about Nesbitt posthumously with such passion, imbuing him with the very traits he himself valued above all others. It was suggested that this may potentially be a more accurate way to contextualise their relationship and the way Scott expressed his feelings about it than a perspective that indicates it being sexual in nature, when looked at in the broader context of Scott’s life.

While the 1869 Egerton bank robbery and Scott’s subsequent running afoul of the law were covered, much of this was only touched upon due to time constraints. The emphasis was decidedly on Scott’s personality and beliefs, and less on his bushranging, which is an approach rarely taken when discussing the infamous former lay reader.

The seminar proved to be an enlightening and engaging exploration of Scott’s life and psyche that raised many questions that will hopefully be answered when Grubits manages to secure a publisher for his doctoral thesis. It is an indicator of very exciting things to come. Watch this space.

New Jessie Hickman book brings the Lady Bushranger to a new audience

With so much emphasis in recent years having been put on highlighting the stories of female bushrangers, and especially educating children about notable women in history, it seems odd that it has taken so long for the “Lady Bushranger” to get her own children’s book.

Wild Bush Days is a new children’s book from MidnightSun Publishing, written by Penny Harrison and illustrated by Virginia Gray that introduces you for readers to the bold Jessie Hickman through the eyes of two young adventurers. The book is aimed at three to six year-olds and features many charming, full colour illustrations.

Jessie Hickman was Australia’s bold, but little-known, Lady Bushranger. Raised in the circus during the early 1900s, she later turned to a life of crime and cattle hustling. She used her skills as a rough-rider and tightrope walker to elude police, often hiding in a cave, deep in the mountains.

Told through the eyes of two young, modern-day explorers who go looking for the bushranger’s cave, Wild Bush Days conjures the spirit of adventure, from a time when girls weren’t expected to be daring.

(Official blurb)

Wild Bush Days is now available from most book retailers.

The Legend of Ben Hall on Amazon Prime

Fans of Matthew Holmes’ 2017 bushranger epic, The Legend of Ben Hall, can now rent or buy the film to stream on Amazon Prime.

The film’s shift to streaming makes it accessible to an even larger audience, with DVD and Blu-Ray editions of the film having been out of print for several years.

While the film was shown on Australian free-to-air television on Channel Nine in 2019, the commercial broadcaster has not aired it since. The Legend of Ben Hall has also been available on other services, such as YouTube and HBO Europe, with every distribution to a new platform boosting exposure for the epic indie film.

Director Matthew Holmes is about to embark on a new project, Fear Below, a Jazz Era crime flick featuring a fearsome bullshark. It is his second feature since The Legend of Ben Hall, with upcoming thriller The Cost due to premiere in early December of this year. In the intervening years he has launched several unsuccessful efforts to gain funding for films about Ned Kelly and the Glenrowan siege, Frank Gardiner, John Vane, and a streaming series about bushranging in Victoria and New South Wales during the 1860s through to 1880.

Aussie Icons by Ian Coate

The keen-eyed may have seen garden sculptures popping up in Woolworths and Bunnings stores recently including a platypus wearing a very familiar suit of armour. Bushranger Platypus is part of a series of garden statues called Dinkum Aussie Icons designed by Australian artist Ian Coate.

Other characters include Convict Crocodile, Swaggie Koala, Nurse Possum and Digger Wombat. Each is a cartoony Australian animal dressed like a figure from Australian culture or history. They are designed to educate and amuse, encouraging children to take an interest in Australian culture and nature.

I am delighted to announce the ‘DINKUM AUSSIE’ icons I designed have finally hit the shelves at Bunnings and Woolworths. We have just launched a website and Facebook page dedicated to these little Aussie characters and I would love for you to be the first to follow our Dinkum Aussie Page and join us for some ridgy-didge fun.

Ian Coate (via Facebook)

You can read more at Ian’s website:

Ned Kelly on Super History

While there is certainly no shortage of videos about Ned Kelly on YouTube, precious few could be said to be both informative and hilarious. Brian Pilchard recently released a short documentary from his ongoing Super History series on his YouTube channel, OK Champ, where he covers the Kelly story with an imaginative mash-up of dodgy costumes, excessive amounts of cardboard, green screen, pop culture references and hilariously bizarre re-enactments.

The Kellys in action

You can watch the video below:

A Fateful September Day by Julia Dąbrowska

The following is a piece penned by long-time follower of A Guide to Australian Bushranging (and contributor) from Poland Julia Dąbrowska in commemoration of the death of Jack Donahoe who was shot in a stand off this day in 1830. — AP

The setting sun shines through the branches of gum trees covered with thick leaves. The fallen twigs crackle under the boot heels of the bushrangers and the hooves of a packhorse. Jack Donahue walks at the head of the gang. He gazes at his mates, William Webber and John Walmsley, and at a horse carrying several sacks. Suddenly, John Walmsley stops, pointing at something.

“It’s a campfire,” he said. They have seen campfires in the bush many times before, so they didn’t pay any special attention to it.

Little do they know that the campfire is in the police camp. Jack’s anxiety is increasing. He realises that the policemen are following him and his gang.

He stands, waving his hat, shouting, “Come on, you bloody bastards! We are ready to fight you all!”

The bushrangers decide to abandon the packhorse and seek some hideout. The police party and the bushrangers were less than hundred yards apart from each other. A sound of shooting breaks the silence of the bush. The first shot finds its mark in the tree Webber hides behind. Jack continues to tease the policemen, encouraging his gang members to fight and not surrender. It’s getting increasingly darker. John Muckleston, the best marksman in the police party, notices the head of Jack Donahue, protruding from behind a tree. Not wanting to wait anymore, the trooper squeezes the trigger. One ball hits Jack Donahue in the back of the neck, another one in his left temple. Jack falls, shaking, dropping his weapon upon the ground. Blood stains his flaxen hair and white shirt. William Webber and John Walmsley decide to run away.

It’s completely dark now. Jack Donahue lay on the ground, shivering, barely breathing, with  his hair sticky with drying blood. Yes, he chose death in a battle over surrendering to the authorities. This is the death that any true Irishman would like to receive.

Illustration by Julia Dąbrowska


Conservators at Work

A photograph shared recently by the State Library Victoria shows a team of conservators working on the specialised display case for Ned Kelly’s armour.

Times have certainly changed since the days when the armour was displayed in the open on an old cockatoo perch in the old Melbourne Aquarium, and when it was worn as a costume during Australia Day parades.

The new case also contains Ned’s boot and a rifle attributed to him, and is climate controlled to protect the items from moisture and a risk of oxidisation. The armour is also occasionally removed for cleaning by the conservation team to remove any rust or decay.

Image via State Library Victoria

Spotlight: The Bushrangers, Windsor (1830)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 19 January 1830, page 3

The Bushrangers.

To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette.

Windsor, 26th December, 1829.


With reference to a paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Gazette of the 19th instant, relative to complaints “making of the depradations committed on the settlers in the interior, by those notorious characters, Underwood and Donohoe,” and expressing surprise “that the reward so promptly offered by Government, for the apprehension of these desperadoes, has not long since led to their capture.” In justice to the exertions of the Police, and reasoning why these desperadoes have not been informed against by prisoners of the crown, who are their principal associates, I beg leave to make the following observations:–

The Windsor Police have received the most accurate information of Donohoe and his accomplice. It has been stated, by one reputed to have been in their confidence for a considerable time, that Donohoe is not connected with the notorious Underwood, but that one John Walmsley, an absentee from an iron gang, was introduced to his notice by the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, on whose farm are shipmates of both the desperadoes, and that their connexion so commenced. That Donohoe, knowing his own awful condition, that his former acccomplices had been executed, that the reward offered for his apprehension was sufficient to tempt even a bushranger, having no greater offence to answer, to seize and capture his comrade under such circumstances, was bound to suspect and dread his new companion, and to act with the strickest precaution; and so he did, until they accidentally were on the very spot where Chilcott came for water, on the road to Hunter’s River, when they first committed highway robbery in company. The bank notes so stolen, are stated to have been spent in the dwelling of “a few acres settler'” on the South Creek, and it was in confidence related to the govermnent servant alluded to, and others, that the said settler proceeded to Parramatta to procure cash for the notes, and that he defrauded his guests £20 of the money, pretending it was stolen from him in that town. Donohoe, by his highway robbery, gained somewhat more confidence. They proceeded again in pursuit of further spoil; and as they have confessed, fell in with Mr. Clements, whom they fired upon and mortally wounded, that Walmsley committed the deed, Mr. C. having known him when at Hunter’s River, an absentee working as a sawyer; which fact, it is supposed, alarmed Walmsley, and prompted him to murder, he being recognised by Mr C. By these combined acts, Donohoe embraced a companion so worthy of his character, and they have since that period been inseparable. They have entrusted gold and silver watches to the care of, and for sale by, the government servants of a gentleman at Mulgoa, these servants not only screen, and at times harbour them, but render them every intelligence, real or imaginary, as regards the intentions and movements of the Police. Where men in numbers are combined, and are connected most clearly with other government servants at Windsor and its environs, altho’ their information, at times, merely arises from suspicion, nevertheless it suffices to alarm the desperadoes, and give them opportunity to sally forth into some remote depository of flour, pork, &c. 50 or perhaps 70 miles from the common scenes of depredation The Police have frequently been from Windsor more than a week; their return is soon known, and as their visit to the bush was dreaded, their absence from it is hailed, and the remigration of the desperadoes is announce with tidings of new robberies. It is due to the Police of Windsor, Penrith, and the neighbouring constabulary to state, that very prompt and steady exertion has been made to apprehend the desperadoes.

I would now venture to offer a few reasons why it is probable these characters have not been betrayed long since. The Government Reward states the sums offered to be for the apprehension of DONOHOE and Underwood; ignorant wicked men, capable of treachery to their bosom friends, have always a latent dread of being deceived, and were this reward imprinted at the foot of the Lord’s prayer, they would yet be of opinion that on its being discovered that Donohoe’s companion was Walmsley, and not Underwood, “the reward would therby be brought to a bubble,” that they would eventually lose their good name, be still employed, at the danger of their lives, among the same servants; and be without the pale of either friendship or protection. Several government servants, towards whom shrewd suspicions attaches in this matter, have been reminded of the liberal reward offered by Government; their opinions differ with Government in this respect, they have bluntly asserted to the Police, that they would not thank any one for a ticket-of-leave under circumstances placing their lives in jeopardy. The answer thus candidly given, shews no indirect inclination, but expresses a reasonable terror. Then I would most respectfully suggest an alteration in the Government Notice, re-publishing the reward, to be made to the following effect viz.– “Whereas there is reason to believe that the companion of Donohoe, has not on all occasions been the felon Underwood as heretofore suspected, but that some other person has been connected with him in various murders, highway robberies, or other capital crimes:— Now therefore the Government is desirous to give due encouragement for the apprehension of these desperadoes, or each or either of them, and hereby offer a similar reward of —— pounds, for the apprehension of the man who has been an accomplice of Donohoe as afore said, whosoever the said man may be, on his conviction of any capital offence; or, of any crime unto which suspicion formerly attached to Donohoe and Underwood; or, if illegally defending himself, he should be slain when captured, so that he be recognised; and that the reward for Underwood yet remains in full force.” I would further respectfully suggest, that as it is unnecessary, and would be imprudent, that the informant should take an active part in the capture of these men, but that it be merely sufficient for him to give such statement to the Heads of Police as may lead to their apprehension; thus leaving it in the power of one person to effect so desirable an object; that to ensure his every protection, he should be rewarded with an emancipation, and, if required, a passage to Van Diemen’s Land. This, I am confident, would gain the desired event; and the Police would proudly avail themselves of the opportunity of becoming captors where so much credit will attach to their calling. To an emancipated man, either a free pardon, or a farm of —— acres should be granted, choice to be given to the person who gave the private information required. To one absolutely free, a share in the reward, or an adequate portion of land, as may most suit the views of the espial by whose means peace and comfort would be rendered to the honest settler and affrighted traveller now under dread of assassination. Hints, nearly amounting to overtures, have been thrown out by persons when questioned, nearly to the above effect; and I repeat that a ticket-of-leave has not only been disdained, but scoffed at.

Again, a constable’s salary (if free) at Windsor, is but 2s. 3d. per diem, how then can it be expected he can leave his wife and family for days together, and furnish his own rations in pursuit? It may be said, he frequently returns hungry to an empty table. If constables could be allowed some moderate supplies at the present on the capture of the men, the charges so made might be subducted from the reward, if the Government do not feel justified in renumerating their exertions from the Police fund. If approved or amended, or if in any way attended to, this inducement should not be merely published in the Gazette, but hand bills should be circulated by the police at every lonely cottage within the track of depredation; among the Government servants and stockmen in particular; the whole to be laid down in plain language clearly to shew the intent of Government. And further should be added, that the persons named are charged with Murder, Highway robberies and Burglaries, and that harbouring or succouring them with a guilty knowledge, will place such persons under the law, upon their trial as accessaries to crimes of the deepest dye.

It has been truly illustrated, that there is no peace in “the wicked,” Donoghoe always taking the pre-caution to place his comrade next a log; when they recline to rest, and then to close upon his person in such a manner as to prevent secret movements, and to expose the turbid state of their minds, they do not continue two nights in one spot. They have a dreadful aversion to the horse police, and are always urgent with the stockmen, whereabout the “slip rails are,” and whether they have seen the horse police. The information received is deemed indubitable, but the excitement for their apprehension is considered insufficient under serious calculation of possible or probable consequences, not within the conception of a Sydney courtier or merchant, who fears not the assassin behind the bush, or that he will be annoyed by a visit from such blood-thirsty guests as Donoghoe, Underwood or Walmsley are said to be.

It is supposed that the Englishman (Walmsley) will ”open his mouth” when apprehended, and make disclosures against settlers and servants rather of a tangible nature; and this is Donoghoe’s opinion says an informant.

As Editors can either publish or destroy, I need only leave it to “option’s choice,” and conclude by subscribing.


your very humble servant.



Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 11 September 1830, page 4



On Monday an Inquest was convened by MAJOR SMEATHMAN, Coroner, at the Fox and Hounds, kept by Henry Ball, Castlereagh Street, on the body of John Donohoe.

Henry Gorman. — I am a constable at Bargo; on the 1st of September I and several of the Mounted Police were encamped in the evening, about five o’clock, on Mr. Wentworth’s farm, Bringelly, when one who was on the look-out, said “here come two constables whom we expected?” they were then about a mile and a half distance; one of the Police said, “no they are bushrangers!” Three men were leading a packhorse; I and two of the Police-men took one side of a creek, and the serjeant and another man the other side; we made towards, and came up with them on some forest land; a man on the horse, who I thought was a bushranger named Walmsley, saw us first, and immediately jumped off; deceased took off his hat, and waiving it over his head, threw it in the air, saying, “come on! I am ready for a dozen of you!” The other two took off their coats and hats and went behind trees; we held a parley with them about twenty minutes, before a shot was fired, all parties being behind trees, when one of the Police-men fired, and nearly took down one of the men, who I thought was Webber; after this they appeared shy. Two of them fired their pieces at me, and I fired at them, but without effect on either side. One of the Police men named Mugglestone then fired and Donohoe fell. We chased the other two, but could not come up with them. On returning deceased was quite dead; the other two Police-men did not fall in with us till the Deceased fell; Mugglestone shot the deceased.

John Mugglestone, a private of the 39th regt, now in the employ of the Mounted Police, stated to the same effect, with the addition, that his carbine was loaded with two balls, and that they found on the horse’s back some flour, sugar, and women’s wearing apparel, and that deceased had a watch in his pocket.

Serjeant W. Hodson deposed to the same effect, but with the addition, that he knew the other two bushrangers to be Walmsley and Webber, and that he thought deceased was Donohoe as Dr. Gibson was robbed by him, and the Doctor knew him well, having been Juror when deceased was tried some ago. Deceased was in the agonies of death when he came up to him; he found on his person a small pistol and a watch, (watch produced) no money was on his person; on the horse was found a great many papers among the rest grants of land, transfers, and receipts. The deeds are made out in the name of “Denis Begly, Prospect” and the transfers in the name of Edward Wright (deeds and papers produced); Gorman loaded his piece with a carbine ball and pistol ball, which it appeared by Mr. Jilks had been lost only a week. The pack-horse or rather mare was aged, and marked E.S.

The Jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, without reference to identity. But from a wound in the cheek, and another under the cheek arising from scrophula, there is little doubt but the deceased is the notorious outlaw Donohoe. Donohoe’s life has no doubt been harrassing. But at the same time, it must be allowed that in comparison of the lives of the wretches at Moreton Bay, it was a happy life, and his death much less painful than those of scores who have deceased in that horrid settlement. And so long as such settlements exist, we doubt not we shall never want in this Colony either Donohoe’s and Dalton’s. It is fit and proper, that cruelty should be visited on the nation which practises it with retribution. God is just.

‘On Monday, as Mr. Scott and the Rev. Mr. Erskine were proceeding to Parramatta in a chaise, they were stopped by two armed bushrangers, who were on the point of robbing them, when one of the marauders recognised Mr. Scott as his former master at Emu Plains, on which he shook hands with him in a friendly manner, declaring he would never hurt a hair of his head; they then took to the bush.

A cast of the head of the notorious Donohoe is to be taken.

On Monday a prisoner named Joseph Smith was sentenced to receive one hundred lashes for knocking down Mr. Medley, Superintendent to Mr. George Allan, and nearly choking him.

Spotlight: Death of Donohoe

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 4 September 1830, page 2


This daring marauder has at length been met by that untimely fate which he so long contrived to avoid. On Wednesday evening, at dusk, as a party of the Mounted Police were riding through the bush at Reiby, near Campbell Town, they came up with three bushrangers, one of whom was Donahoe; on being called upon to stand, they threw away their hats and shoes, and ran off, when the Police fired, and killed Donahoe on the spot, one ball entering his neck and another his forehead. Favoured by the dusk, the others made their escape, and in defiance of the dreadful fate of their comrade, that very night broke into a hut and carried off what they wanted. The body of Donahoe was removed to Liverpool, and will be brought to Sydney this morning.

Thus is the Colony rid of one of the most dangerous spirits that ever infested it, and happy would it be were those of a like disposition to take warning by his awful fate.

Spotlight: The Bushrangers, August 1830

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Thursday 12 August 1830, page 3


To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette.


I beg leave most respectfully to offer a remark, and to venture a suggestion at the same time; on the subject of bushranging; if unworthy of your notice, a hint “to Correspondents” will suffice.

There is a truly liberal reward for the apprehension of John Donohoe, per ship Ann and Amelia, whose name has been the terror of the settler for many months; and there is also a similar reward for the capture of his coadjutor, Underwood. This munificence on the part of the Government has aroused the energies of the constabulary of Parramatta, Windsor, and Penrith; and to it may be attributed that impetus in every quarter for the honour of their capture; but as it has been ascertained, beyond a doubt, that Underwood is not one of Donohoe’s present accomplices, but that he is secreted in the district of Illawarra, or in that direction, where he was formerly intimately acquainted and closely connected; and as it is on record in the Windsor Police Office, that James Walmsley, or Womersly, ship Minerva, stands charged on oath with the wilful murder of Mr. William Clements, and further with the highway robbery on the person of Chilcott; it appears necessary that a special reward should also be offered for such a character, equally guilty with the notorious Donohoe. About ten months ago these two desperadoes were joined by Wm. Webber, ship Minstrel, an absentee from No. 20 road party, and they now commit their depredations in company.

I would therefore, as a common observer, most respectfully beg leave to remark, that should the constabulary fall in with these determined characters, whose very situation impels them to fight, the constables may be killed or wounded, and although they capture two out of the three, and Donohoe escape, there is at present only the pitiful reward of eight dollars each, a sum allowed for the apprehension of a prisoner illegally at large more than 80 days, although he be taken from the plough in the humble employment of some misguided settler. No doubt the Government would take any meritorious conduct into its consideration; but at the same time ignorant people are allured by certainties, and it is no trivial incentive to valour, to reflect that “Fifty pounds, and a grant of land” will render a poor man and his family that certain independence through life, in these times not easily acquired in trade, even with the most unremitting exertion and industry.

Although I am but a very humble individual, I trust you will accept the importance of the subject in excusing myself for troubling you, and most respectfully beg to subscribe Sir, your most obedient, and very humble Servant,


Windsor, August 2, 1830.

My Story: Julia Dąbrowska on Jack Donahoe

Julia Dąbrowska is a long time follower of A Guide to Australian Bushranging, and an enthusiast for all things related to Jack Donahoe (also variously spelt Donohoe, Donahue et al). After many discussions about the topics of bushranging and Donahoe, I invited Julia to write about her experience of being so invested in the topic from so far away. Julia lives in Poland, not a place where one expects bushrangers to be known about, let alone one that doesn’t usually make the top five list of most infamous bushrangers. Hearing her perspective highlights the universal appeal of these figures and their stories, and sometimes it takes an “outsider” to draw our attention to something that has been under our noses the whole time.

Julia’s boundless enthusiasm for the story of the “Wild Colonial Boy” truly demonstrates that at their core these bushranger stories are very human, and there’s something deeply relatable about the themes that emerge as we explore the history of these rebels and bandits. I’m sure that you will enjoy reading Julia’s own account of discovering this slice of Australian history in a place so far away, and I am very appreciative that she took the time to write for the website.


There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name. He was born and raised in Ireland, in a place called Castlemaine.

Fortunately, I can recall what exactly caused me to develop interest in bushrangers. My earliest memory involved with bushrangers is listening to the song “Wild Colonial Boy” and learning its lyrics back in 2015, when I was just 14 years old. I imagined main character of the song – Jack Duggan (or Jack Doolan) like this : 

Jack Duggan by Julia Dąbrowska

I learned the lyrics of the song, I sang it at a campfire, but I did not know who the real person who inspired the song was. Jack Donahue – the Irish name speaks itself, who the person was. A tough, brave young man, who would always fight for what he believes in and who would choose death over surrendering. After discovering the story behind the song, I immediately started to read every article about Jack Donahue I could  find. Although real-life Wild Colonial Boy was completely different to what I imagined in terms of appearance, his personality was exactly how I thought about him.

As O’Donahue made his escape to the woods he did repair
Where the tyrants dared not show their face by night and day
And every week in the newspapers there was published something new
Concerning that bold hero boy called brave Jack Donahue
Resign to you, you cowardly dogs its a thing I ne’er will do
For I’ll range these woods and valleys like a wolf or kangaroo
Before I’ll work for Government said bold Jack Donahue

When I’m thinking of Jack Donahue now, always the same image comes to my mind. A brave, determined young man, dressed in elegant clothes, shouting to policemen who ambushed him that he can defeat them all.  A man who would never surrender, despite the fact that not surrendering means death. 

I must say that I find Jack Donahue’s elegant style of clothing, typical for upper-class gentleman of the 1820s, as much astonishing as his daring and self-confidence. When one thinks about a bushranger – an escaped convict who hides in the bush, and therefore lives in very harsh conditions – the elegant clothes are the last thing that comes to mind. Jack Donahue was described as wearing a black top hat, blue coat lined with silk and white pleated shirt – a far cry from how I imagined a bushranger to have looked for the first time.

Donahoe by Aidan Phelan

When hearing the word “bushranger”, most people would recall Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, Dan Morgan and Captain Thunderbolt – definitely the best-known bushrangers. Their stories are really thrilling, but the story of Jack Donahue is equally interesting.  The story of Ned Kelly is more or less known even outside of Australia. That cannot be said about the story of Jack Donahue – it would be exceedingly difficult to find any non-Australian who knows his story.

Although story of Jack Donahue and his daring robberies is undoubtedly very thrilling, I must say that I feel somewhat sorry for him. For a young man, who was orphaned as a boy and spent all his childhood and teenage years living in poverty, without any perspectives for his future life, turning to a life of crime was the easiest way to survive.

Jack Donahue by Julia Dąbrowska

I want the memory of Jack Donahue never to fade away. I learned the lyrics of “Bold Jack Donahue” and “Wild Colonial Boy”. I sing them on every Saint Patrick’s Day (as a homage to Jack Donahue being Irish) and on every campfire I go to. I wonder whether I am the first person in my country who sang them.

Jack Donahue – definitely extraordinary and complex character. Brave, tough, determined, clever – no wonder that he managed to gain a status of a folk hero and his story still appeals to imagination of many people (to my imagination too).

This is what do I find interesting about Jack Donahue.

The Battle of Bringelly

“Surrender to such cowardly dogs is a thing I’ll ne’er do. This day I’ll fight with all my might,” cried Bold Jack Donahue.

Lyrics from Bold Jack Donahue. Traditional.

As with most bushrangers who transcend history to become enshrined in folklore, Jack Donahoe (aka Donohoe, Donahue) made the leap from brigand to legend in his final stoush with the forces of law and order. His recklessness in the face of death seemed to strike a chord with Australians of a certain class.

This year marks 190 years since Donahoe’s death, so it seems appropriate to recount the final battle that sealed his place in history.

The Gang

Donahoe and his partners William Webber and John Walmsley had been ruling the roads, sheltered by sympathisers who kept them fed and clothed in clean garments. These merry highwaymen approached their occupation with great pluck and a level head, one time even liberating a victim of his rum by pouring it into a chamber pot that they took away with them. Naturally such flagrant lawlessness was causing the settlers to wring their hands in dread, lest they be bailed up on the road or have their homes raided.

As is typical of the press throughout Australian history, the more the bushrangers eluded the police, the more the press put them on blast. Donahoe in particular had become something of a celebrity and everyone seemed to have a story about being bailed up by him.

One could feasibly have overheard conversation in the pub that sounded like, “I was robbed by Donahoe on the Cobbity Road, I was! There he were, bold as brass, astride a cob with a pair of barking irons in his hands. ‘Up with your copper,’ says he. Who am I to refuse a bushranger? So I gives it him and off he trots waving his hat about and whooping like a mad owl! So as you can imagine, I’m a bit light on cash so you’ll have to pay for the ale this time, my handsome.”

In July, Donahoe had been shot in the right shoulder during a shootout. The wound had mostly healed, but not well, and continued to give him trouble. Victims described him as having visible stiffness in the shoulder, though it didn’t hinder him terribly. In the afternoons he and his colleagues would perform robberies then escape to their hideouts in the Parramatta region just before dark when the police were unable to track them properly.

The Hunt

The authorities were growing tired of chasing the bushrangers through the wilderness and were hoping for a breakthrough. This came in the form of locating one of the gang’s treasure troves in an old cave hideout, but the bushrangers were nowhere to be found. The search party, under Lieutenant MacAlister, magistrate of Argyle, with the assistance of an Aboriginal tracker referred to as “Black Jemmy”, decided to change tactics. Rather than root around for the bandits like a bushpig in search of truffles, they elected to split up and keep watch on hotspots where the fugitives were known to haunt.

Sergeant Hodson of the 57th regiment led a party of troopers to the vicinity of Bringelly. The team consisted of Hodson, two men named Muckleston and Warburton, Chief Constable Farley, Constable Gorman and some others. They spent a fortnight combing through the bush with no success and at sunset retired to their camp in a hollow on the property of a man named Wentworth. It is easy to imagine the frustration the mounted police were feeling after months of fruitless bush-bashing.

After yet another day without result, on the 1st of September 1830, Farley headed off on his grey horse to procure provisions as the rest of the party unsaddled their horses. It was about five o’clock when fate decided to throw the beleaguered bluebottles a bone.

A Fortuitous Arrival

The thing about bushranging that often gets overlooked is that riding horses through the bush is far more romantic than it is practical. The reality was that much of the time was spent travelling on foot, simply because it was a far more efficient way to get through tangled scrub and between the gnarled, twisted trees with branches that jut out at just the right height to peg out an incautious rider like washing. Thus, on the afternoon of the first of September the trio of Donahoe, Webber and Walmsley headed back to their hideout on foot. Of course, riding a horse in the bush is not the same as guiding one through it, and the bushrangers were leading a black packhorse laden with their ill-gotten gains into the scrub. No doubt they would have seen the police campfire about a mile away.

“‘Ere, do you see that fire over yonder?”

“Ah, probably some hapless gloak got stuck out in the bush as the sun went down. Pay it no mind; keep walking.”

And so it was that the police clapped eyes for the first time upon the men that had been causing them such frustration. They too opted not to mount up, dashing into the bush on foot to cut the bushrangers off, leaving two of their number to watch the camp. Hodson was determined to bring the bushrangers in by any means necessary. As the bushrangers approached a creek, Hodson decided to split the group up to get the bandits in a pincer movement should they cross. Hodson took two constables to the left, the others went on the right.

The right-hand party kept up with the fugitives seemingly undetected, but when they got within a hundred yards, the bushrangers knew something was up. Donahoe signalled to the others by taking off his hat and waving it. They ditched the packhorse and took shelter behind the trees. Being resourceful, they were equipped for battle already. Donahoe was the first to take a snap at the authorities.

“Come on you cowardly rascals, we’re ready if there’s a dozen of you!”

The Battle of Bringelly

Donahoe had long made it known that he’d rather receive his death on the receiving end of a musket ball than at the end of a rope. He even carried a small pistol secreted in his trousers so that in the event that he was captured he could shoot himself. Two of his previous colleagues had been sent to the gallows, one of whom suffered the trauma of his rope snapping once he fell through the drop. The poor fellow then had to wait for the executive council to decide whether he could be freed. They decided it was better to have another crack at making the bushranger dance on air, so the drama on the scaffold was played out a second time, and this time it went to plan. No doubt Donahoe was aware of how easily executions were botched and the thought of such indignity was unpalatable to him. It is not unlikely that such a fate was on his mind when he tried to encourage Webber and Walmsley to engage the troopers in battle with him.

For half an hour there was an awkward lull as both sides debated about starting the attack. Eventually it was the troopers that felt the itch in their trigger finger first. Warburton raised his firing piece and launched a ball at a tree where he had seen Webber take cover. This shot, however, only succeeded in hitting the tree trunk and sending a small shower of splinters flying out. The shot was only off by about an inch.

Donahoe waits to strike.

The bushrangers opened fire, exchanging shots with the police through the gloom and the ashen puffs of gun smoke. Though the firing was intense at such close quarters and under such limited cover none of the blows landed. Donahoe continued to taunt his attackers.

“Come on, I could beat the whole bloody colony! Charge, my boys!”

Donahoe’s reckless shouting and gesticulating made him the obvious target for Muckleston, whose aptitude with the rifle was well known. He watched the bushranger’s shelter like a hawk eyeing off a rodent in the grass, waiting for the opportunity to strike. He held his breath as Donahoe stuck his head out from cover to take aim. The smooth face and flaxen hair catching the last hints of light as darkness set in provided an ample target. Mucklesworth’s finger squeezed the trigger and his rifle kicked like a mule as it squeezed two lead balls out of the muzzle in a puff of smoke. They found their mark in the left temple and the neck of the man referred to as “Bold Jack”.

Seeing their leader fall, the others elected to give up and retreat. They ran at top speed deeper into the bush, discarding their hats, coats and shoes in order to facilitate an easier, more stealthy passage through the wilderness.

Abandoned by Webber and Walmsley, Donahoe lay on the ground, bleeding and barely conscious. As he gurgled his last breaths he must have realised that he had died as he had hoped – in battle, not on the scaffold. He hadn’t had to use his secret weapon after all. The battle had been as abrupt as it was violent.

The troopers attempted to follow Webber and Walmsley but by now the darkness had set in. They returned to Donahoe and his body was searched. As well as the horse pistol and rifle, the troopers found his secret pistol tucked away in his trousers pocket. The packhorse was also retrieved and searched. In the cargo were a watch, stolen bank documents, flour, meat and women’s clothes – hardly the treasure trove one would expect from a renowned highwayman.

Skirmish between bush-rangers and constables, Illawarra [Source]

The Aftermath

The confrontation had been brief and violent. The constabulary had their prize lashed to the back of a packhorse and taken to Sydney. The body was then taken to the hospital where it was kept until the official procedures were carried out.

Sketches were made of the body laid out on the mortician’s slab, and a death mask was made by a tobacconist. Unlike later masks that were used for phrenological study, this mask would provide a reference for a collection of tobacco pipes shaped like the outlaw’s head, complete with bullet wounds. If contemporary accounts are to be believed, they were very popular.

After the inquest was conducted, Donahoe was buried in an unmarked grave in Raby. The lack of a marker or monument meant the bushranger’s admirers would have nowhere to go to spare a thought for the wild colonial boy.

With Donahoe buried, all that remained was to catch up with Webber and Walmsley. They would not remain at large long, and when the law finally caught up with them their true colours went on display.

Donahoe’s death mask.