At the Police court, Young, on the 11th and 14th instant, the following examinations took place :—
Robert Cotterell, alias Blue Cap, was charged with robbery with firearms. William Marshall said. — I am an inn keeper, and reside at the Rock Station, on the Levels. I know the prisoner. I have seen him several times. My place was robbed in the middle of July last by three men. The prisoner is one of them. They took about £11 in money, a saddle and bridle, a gun, a revolver, Crimean shirts, a coat, grog, and several other articles. They were all armed. On the evening of the robbery, about half past six o’clock, and while sitting at tea, a knock came to the door. I sent the girl to see who it was. As soon as the door was opened the prisoner and another named Scott rushed in and told us all to bail up. Scott went through the passage, while the prisoner kept sentry over us with a gun. It being a cold night I told him to come to the fire. He said he did not want fire, but “tin.” I told him he had come to a wrong place for it. He searched my coat pockets, and when attempting to rifle my trousers pockets, I took out what money I had in the pockets and laid it on the table; there was about £2. There was a third person with the bushrangers, whose name, I believe, is Duce. Scott and Duce went to the store and helped themselves, while the prisoner kept sentry over us in the house. They had tea. The prisoner kept guard while his mates had their repast, and they relieved him until he had his. They stayed about an hour.
The same prisoner was further charged with a like offence. Jeremiah Lehane said. — I am a grazier, and reside at Reedy Creek. On the 24th July last my place was robbed. I was close by the house, at a well which some men I had employed were cleaning out. The prisoner came up to us and asked for Mr. Lehane. I told him I was Mr. Lehane. The prisoner then ordered all of us to go up to the house. I asked him if he belonged to the police force. He said, “No, I am a bushranger.” The prisoner was armed. He marched us up to the verandah of the house, where we saw an accomplice of the prisoner’s. He was also armed, and called himself the “White Chief,” I believe his name is Jerry Duce. The prisoner gave the men in charge of Duce, and then ordered me to accompany him to my private office. Prisoner then said he wanted a revolver I had. I gave it to him. He then ordered me to open a certain drawer in my desk, in which were several papers and a pocketbook, the latter containing six one-pound notes. He opened the book and abstracted the money. He searched about for more money, but found none. He took a double-barrelled gun, which he returned as he was leaving. He ordered me to proceed with him to the stable; he took a saddle, but, being told it belonged to one of the labourers, he put it back, and took another belonging to my stockman. The whole of the articles stolen, including the money, I value at about £20 10s. I identify the saddle (produced) as the one prisoner stole from out of my stable.
The same prisoner was charged with robbing Philip Saunders’s Sydney Hotel, in June last. Philip Saunders said. — I am a publican, and reside at the Halfway-house, Lachlan-road. Some time in June last my place was robbed. I was then residing at Spring Creek, Young. I cannot swear that prisoner was one of the two men who robbed me. Two men came to my place on the evening of the day, referred to about four o’clock- They asked for some drinks and departed. One was riding a chestnut mare, and the other a bay mare. They returned after dark about seven o’clock. Mrs. Saunders went to the bar and asked them what they wished to drink. They said, they did not want drink, but money. Mrs. Saunders said they would not get much money from her. She produced a box containing some silver. One of the men said, ” You’ve got more money than that.” Mrs. Saunders said, “Not much.” She brought another box, in which there were some half-sovereigns and other money. I don’t know how much it amounted to. There was also a revolver taken and a bottle of grog. I can swear that the man who demanded the money is not the prisoner. If the second man is the prisoner he is much altered. I cannot swear he is one of the men who robbed me. — The same prisoner was charged with having robbed Mr. Lehmann at Stony Creek, on the 28th June last.
H. Lehmann deposed. — I am a publican, and reside at Stony Creek. On the 28th June last, about ten o’clock at night, I was in my store. Two men came into the store ; one was a stout man, with a revolver, the other a sparer man with a gun. The first man said, “Hand me over the ‘tin.'” I thought he was joking. He said, “Be quick.” I gave him the cashbox saying, “Here, take it.” There were notes, half-sovereigns, and silver in the cashbox, amounting to about £8 or £9. He then asked for a revolver, which I gave him.He then wanted some clothing and took some Crimean shirts, socks, two ponchos, three silk handkerchiefs, and other articles. He then asked me to go into the bar to have a drink. On going to the bar his companion was there. The prisoner is the second man. They then locked the doors and remained inside until the police arrived. I heard a knock at the door, and called out, “Who’s there?” The reply was, “Police.” The prisoner, or his companion, then said “We’re too long here, it’s time to be off.” They went out, at the back, secured their horses, and escaped. It was very dark.
[Warning: The content in this article may be distressing for some readers. Discretion is advised.]
Justin Kurzel’s hyper-stylised and ultraviolent interpretation of True History of the Kelly Gang received positive reviews when it debuted in Toronto in September 2019 and seems to be landing blows in the UK where it opened this weekend. Many critics praised the gritty aesthetic and the subversion of history employed throughout. Fans of the historical Kelly story were not so embracing and questioned why the creative team felt the need to stray from history so radically to play up the violence and sex (and dresses). While Kurzel’s approach may be artistically valid, it certainly falls into his wheelhouse of telling grimy tales of psychopaths and nihilism. But is the Kelly story truly the one to use as a basis for this kind of story? Here is a list of five bushrangers stories more ripe for the Kurzel treatment than that of the Kelly Gang.
1. Michael Howe: One of the earliest bushrangers to be labelled as such was Van Diemens Land’s most notorious outlaw. Already the subject of a film that took vast liberties with the history to create a twisted and gory tale of a madman (The Outlaw Michael Howe), the historical Howe has more than enough violence and weirdness in his story to sustain even the most subversion-inclined filmmaker. According to the generally accepted story, Howe was a former Navy man, and a violent ruffian who joined John Whitehead’s bushranging gang in 1815. This version of events also describes the banditti roaming through the Van Diemonian frontier raiding farms and torching them for good measure, and attacking Aboriginal camps where they would kill the men and take the women as sex slaves, which is how Howe supposedly paired up with “Black” Mary Cockerill, who was portrayed as his love interest in the 2010 film. During a violent gunfight, Whitehead was wounded and Howe hacked off his head to stop the attackers claiming the reward that was on it (in those days presenting an outlaw’s head was used as proof to receive the bounty).
Howe frequently escaped the law, once being granted minimum security incarceration in exchange for giving evidence about his colleagues, from which he simply walked away. This has fuelled conspiracy theories that he was working for the government to dob in bushrangers in exchange for leniency, though the historical record shows it is not so clear cut. Howe was said to have murdered his confederates when his paranoia got the best of him and even escaped from capture on one occasion by murdering his captors with a hidden dagger. He shot Mary Cockerill with a blunderbuss to create a distraction during a chase allowing him to escape from soldiers, resulting in her helping the military track him down in spite when she had recuperated. He kept a diary bound in kangaroo skin, supposed to have been written in blood and detailing his lust for power. Eventually Howe became a hermit, his clothes disintegrated and he wore a cloak made of kangaroo skins he had stitched together. When a former associate tried to lure him into a trap, Howe fled to the Shannon River where he was cornered and bludgeoned to death. His mangled head was then hacked off and taken to Hobart for the reward. It was displayed proudly on a spike near where the Drunken Admiral restaurant now stands. Of course, as with a great many bushranging stories, even though this is the most widely accepted version of events it is also very wide of the mark in terms of accuracy, and the real Michael Howe was nowhere bear as bloodthirsty or savage as he has been made out to be.
2. Alexander Pearce: The historical Pearce has been the subject of two feature films that were released close to each other (Van Diemens Land, The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce) due to the harrowing narrative of his last years. Pearce was transported to Van Diemens Land and suffered the fate of all convict transportees. Malnourishment, hard labour and floggings were the daily grind. Pearce soon joined a gang that managed to escape from prison and went bush in an attempt to gain liberty.
The bushrangers soon realised the fatal flaw in their plan was their complete inability to navigate the wilderness and find food. When the rations ran out they turned to cannibalism, the victims being hacked to death in their sleep and turned into food for the survivors. Eventually the few that were left went seperate ways and Pearce was apprehended while raiding a sheep farm. He was returned to prison but escaped again with another convict who he immediately took into the bush and slaughtered. When he was recaptured Pearce declared that human flesh tasted “better than fish or pork” and had some of his companion’s flesh in a pouch that he was saving for later. Naturally, he was hanged for his crimes.
3. Thomas Jefferies: Called “The Monster” by those who heard of his despicable crimes, Jefferies was another Van Diemonian bushranger of the 1820s. He was a transportee who quickly climbed the ranks to become flagellator (the man who performed the floggings), which was a job he relished. Jefferies was known for abducting female convicts and taking them into the bush to have his way with them. When this behaviour lost him his privileges he went bush with three other convicts. Jefferies travelled through Van Diemens Land raiding farms and committing arson, rape and murder.
In his most infamous crime, he and his gang raided a farm, murdered a neighbour and wounded the owner, abducted the owner’s wife and child, and when the woman slowed down to tend to her infant Jefferies plucked it out of her hands and smashed the baby’s head against a tree until it was dead, before dumping the body in the scrub to be eaten by wild animals. Jefferies went deeper into the bush with the traumatised woman and raped her before releasing her to walk home two days later. It was this crime that earned him his nickname. Jefferies also killed and ate one of his gang members when they got lost in the bush, later admitting that he had cut the remains into steaks that he would fry up with bits of mutton, adding to his horrendous reputation. Later he also murdered a constable by shooting him through the head. When he was finally captured by John Batman, he was sentenced to death. Lynch mobs formed to try and break him out of prison so they would have the joy of administering the punishment themselves. There was supposedly an elderly woman that was so enraged she tried to stab him with a butcher’s knife through the cage of the wagon he was being transported in. Even bushranger Matthew Brady, who had been a former associate of “The Monster” and was captured after Jefferies had given the authorities information about his whereabouts, refused to be kept in a cell with him, telling the guards that he would decapitate the villain if he was not relocated. When Jefferies was hanged many sighed with relief that justice had been served.
4. Dan Morgan: The story of Dan Morgan’s life is a complex one to retell due to so many decades of misreporting and folklore obscuring the truth. The film Mad Dog Morgan is a perfect illustration of how difficult it is to tell the story with adherence to the facts. Yet, if one was to create a narrative based on the folkloric Morgan, it would have be one of the most violent and perverse stories put to film. Morgan has no definitive backstory, the only reliable account of his life starts when he was imprisoned on the prison ship Success for highway robbery in the 1850s. Success and its sister ship President were reserved for the worst criminals in Victoria. On these ships prisoners were isolated, kept in undersized cells with poor ventilation, and subject to cruel and unusual punishment. During the day Morgan was ferried to the mainland to break rocks, which is where he lost the tip of a finger when his hand was crushed. Morgan was also a witness to the murder of prison inspector John Price by convicts, who bludgeoned him to death with their tools over the harsh conditions he enforced. When Morgan was released he became a swaggie and never used his real name. He worked for a time breaking horses on stations around Victoria and New South Wales but eventually went rogue. He was joined by a man called German Bill or Fancy Clarke and began a career of robbery. One of their victims was Henry Baylis, the magistrate of Wagga Wagga, who they bailed up but quickly released. Baylis, accompanied by a party of police, located the bushrangers and engaged them in a shootout. During the battle, Baylis was shot but survived, but depending on which version you believe German Bill was either mortally wounded by police or by Morgan attempting to create a diversion to facilitate his escape. The more damning accounts of Morgan’s exploits tend to be based on hearsay and exaggerate his bloodthirstiness. He was accused of tying people naked to trees and leaving them to die from exposure; threatening a woman by backing her so close to a fireplace that her dress caught alight and badly burned her legs and back; branding people; making an old man dance on a table for him under threat of death; shooting a shepherd in the groin over a perceived slight; and tying people to fences and flogging them. While some of these may be grounded in actual incidents, albeit loosely, most are not. Even popular understanding of his known crimes portrays him as an unhinged monster. Most accounts of his visit to Round Hill Station suggest he got drunk on rum, then started shooting at people. He was supposed to have threatened the station manager whose wife begged for mercy so he shot the man in the hand instead, either putting a hole through it or blowing off one of the fingers. He then shot one of the staff who had gone for help, believing he was fetching the police. During another robbery, Morgan shot a Chinese man in the leg and in another he forced a station manager to write cheques at gunpoint.
Eventually Morgan’s reign of terror ended when he was shot in the back at Peechelba station. His body was displayed and photographed then mutilated. A police superintendent had the jaw skinned so he could souvenir the beard; locks of hair were cut off and so was the head. There were also descriptions of the ears being hacked at and the scrotum being sliced off to be turned into a tobacco pouch. A film depicting Morgan as folklore describes him could indeed be a very grisly and twisted experience for the kind of director who wants to make a film that will shock and mesmerise.
5. Jimmy Governor: Governor’s life was the basis of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, which was first written as a novel by Thomas Kenneally then adapted by Fred Schepisi as a feature film. Both stick remarkably close to Governor’s real life. Governor was an Aboriginal man who worked briefly as a black tracker for the police. Undoubtedly he was used in acts of state sanctioned aggression against fellow Aboriginal people. Governor was part white on his grandmother’s side, which no doubt created some identity confusion. He then became a labourer for the Mawbey family, living in a hut on the edge of their property with his wife, a white woman, and their son, who was probably not Jimmy’s. Jimmy worked hard but was paid poorly and at the same time his wife complained about living in squalor away from her family, begging scraps from Mrs. Mawbey. She was also subjected to bullying from the Mawbeys and their associates for having married a black man. This reached breaking point when she threatened to leave Jimmy. He snapped and took his uncle with him to the Mawbey house where they slaughtered the women and most of the children with a nulla nulla (club) and a hatchet. Immediately afterwards they went on the run, but Jimmy decided to strike back at the white society that had bullied and demeaned him.
A murder spree began, where Jimmy targeted farms where he knew the families and murdered any women or children that were there, usually with his club. Jimmy had a list of around thirty names that he was systematically working through on his murderous vendetta. Jimmy and his brother Joe were made outlaws by act of parliament and stayed on the run for almost two years. Huge posses were formed to track them down as the murder count came to double digits. Governor was ambushed and shot in the jaw, but escaped. He survived by eating honey he took from a farmer’s beehive. He was soon caught and nursed to health so he could stand trial. He was found guilty of murdering the Mawbeys and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol.
As can be seen, there are far more gory and gruesome stories in bushranging history than that of the Kelly Gang, though none are as easy a sell as a movie. Still, we have already seen some of these stories adapted to screen in some form: The Outlaw Michael Howe, The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce, Mad Dog Morgan and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Whether any of these horror stories would get the exposure of Kurzel’s punk-gothic homage to A Clockwork Orange with Ned Kelly helmets is unlikely, however.
Few bushrangers can lay claim to being the living embodiment of bushranging as John Gilbert was during his short and violent career. Known variously as “Flash Johnny” and “Happy Jack”, Gilbert was known for his impulsiveness and energy. Gilbert was a bundle of contradictions; vain, ostentatious and unpredictable yet courteous to women, admired pluck and preferred bluff over violence. He captured the imagination of New South Welshmen in the early 1860s and became a legend in his own lifetime.
During his life Gilbert’s origins were a mystery to most. Journalists would scramble for the merest hint of a clue in the hope of uncovering the story behind the most notorious highwayman in Australia. Gilbert was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1842, the youngest child of English emigrants William and Eleanor Gilbert. John had a slew of siblings: Ellen, William jnr, Francis, James and Charles. When John was still an infant his mother died, but soon afterwards William remarried to a Canadian woman named Eliza. After this union John’s half-brothers Thomas and Nicholson were born.
As a ten year old he journeyed with his family from the beautiful waterside vistas of Ontario into the United States, departing from New York on the ‘Revenue’ to the dry, sweltering goldfields of Victoria.
In 1854, twelve year-old Johnny Gilbert took his leave of his family and obtained employment as a stable boy for a pub in Kilmore. While this work provided pocket money and good experience with horses, one of his greatest loves, his exposure to the larrikins, louts and rogues travelling to and from the gold fields seems to have fostered a fascination for lawlessness in the boy. When he was about eighteen, Gilbert headed to the gold fields of New South Wales to seek his fortune.
Gilbert worked around the boom town of Kiandra, one of the most bustling gold rush locations. The gold fields in this time were a cesspool of debauchery, lawlessness and other forms of villainy. Murders, riots, lynchings and robberies were everyday occurrences and put enormous strain on the understaffed and overextended colonial police. A law passed in Britain had prevented the various regional police forces to unite as one entity, forcing the existing regional forces to remain fractured and overworked. This, combined with the rise in lawless behaviour and the huge influx of immigrants seeking riches on the goldfields, resulted in absolute mayhem. No doubt this was a perfect environment for Johnny Gilbert who had a thirst for adventure and thrill-seeking. At this time bushranging had blossomed from sporadic cases of stock theft, home invasions and highway robbery by criminals hiding in the untouched wilds into something almost industrial in its scale. The easy pickings from the mail coaches and less cautious miners meant that anyone that was unprepared for the backbreaking labour of mining for gold was very likely to “go bush”.
It was around this that Gilbert crossed paths with Frank Gardiner. Gardiner was on the run, having violated his ticket of leave conditions, and had established himself in Lambing Flat (later Young) with his mate William Fogg, running a dodgy butcher’s shop that dealt in meat from stock that had been procured illegally. Gilbert adopted the Murringo region as his new home and picked up work as a stockman. Likely it was through Gardiner and Fogg that Gilbert became associated with men that were not known at that time but would soon become household names, such as John O’Meally, Fred Lowry and John Peisley.
By 1862 Gilbert was fully entrenched in the lawless lifestyle of Gardiner and his cohort and on 10 March that year he was involved in his first documented act as a bushranger. Along with Gardiner, O’Meally and Tom McGuinness he robbed two storekeepers of almost £2000 in gold and banknotes. Such a score was no doubt absolutely thrilling for the bandits but devastating for the victims. Gilbert took to adopting a very flash dress sense as his new outlaw lifestyle began to bring in spoils he could hardly have imagined on a stockman’s wage. He was fond of ostentatious clothing such as bright red sashes and tassles, as well as jewellery and accessories, particularly fob chains and rings. He worked with Gardiner committing highway robberies including at least one involving a young squatter named Benjamin Hall. Gilbert seems to have worked his way up to being Frank Gardiner’s closest bushranging associate as the only known photograph of Gilbert is a carte de visite of him and Gardiner together.
At the beginning of June 1862 Gilbert began to strike out without Gardiner. On the first of the month he and two others allegedly robbed Herbert’s Store at Little Creek, taking monkey jackets and boots. They then went to Chard’s store and attempted to rob the store owner of £30. The commotion roused some local miners who armed themselves and attempted to capture the bandits but they managed to escape.
On 15 June, 1862, Gilbert accompanied Gardiner and his gang to Eugowra Rocks where they robbed a gold escort in one of the biggest gold heists in Australian history. The bushrangers had blocked off the road with drays from a waylaid bullock team in order to halt the Orange gold escort. When the escort arrived, Gardiner emerged from behind the boulders that rested uphill alongside the road and called upon the coach driver to bail up. Gardiner’s gang promptly opened fire, injuring several policemen and spooking the horses who bolted and caused the mail coach to crash. The gang looted the coach as the police escaped, lifting around £14000 in gold and cash (close to $4000,000 in modern Australian currency). The police responded swiftly and Sub-Inspector Pottinger led a party of police that, almost by accident, managed to find the bushrangers’ camp and recover a portion of the loot.
Just after this, Johnny Gilbert was joined by Henry Manns (one of Gardiner’s gang) and his brother Charlie Gilbert as he attempted to leave the district to avoid the increased police activity. Gilbert converted his stolen gold into cash at a bank and carried the spoils – £2500 – in a valise on his saddle.
On 7 July, the trio were stopped by Sub-Inspector Pottinger who was accompanied by Detective Lyons and a volunteer named Richard Mitchell. When they asked Johnny Gilbert for documents proving his ownership of the horse he was riding, he duped and fled. Henry Manns and Charlie Gilbert were arrested but “Happy Jack” had a plan. He rode towards the Weddin Mountains and alerted members of Gardiner’s gang and Gardiner himself. The police and their prisoners stayed overnight at a nearby station. The following day, as the police and their prisoners continued on their way, the bushrangers positioned themselves for ambush at Burrangong.
The bushrangers emerged from the bush and bailed up the escort and opened fire. Detective Lyons was thrown from his horse when it was clipped by gunfire and he chased it into the bush. Pottinger and Mitchell returned fire at the bushrangers without effect on both sides. As Pottinger and Mitchell doubled back for reinforcements. Charlie Gilbert and Henry Manns were freed and the bushrangers escaped. Once clear the men split up, Manns heading to Murrumburrah where he would soon be arrested again, the Gilbert brothers heading to Victoria where they collected their brother James and left for the nearest port to make their way out of the colony.
The brothers managed to gain passage to New Zealand where they headed for the goldfields. They were determined to go straight and leave bushranging behind them. Johnny, however, became paranoid that he would be recognised and began cross-dressing in public to counter this. His disguise was unconvincing however and ended up drawing more attention to him than it diverted. Johnny told his brother that he had to return to Australia and soon made his way to Queensland.
As this was occurring, Frank Gardiner began to grow tired of the bushranging life and escaped out of New South Wales with his mistress Kitty Brown. Gardiner’s absence left a power vacuum in the Lachlan bushranging scene.
Gilbert’s time in Queensland was short lived as his sudden appearance and distinct features immediately put him on the radar and he returned to New South Wales at the beginning of 1863, where Ben Hall was making a name for himself as a bushranger.
Initially teaming up with Fred Lowry, a tall and brash former stockman and prison escapee, Gilbert was involved in several robberies around the Yass gold fields. Gilbert decided to utilise his contacts from his time with Gardiner, teaming up with John O’Meally, Ben Hall, Patsy Daley and others. This new gang, known popularly as the Gilbert Gang, wasted no time in making a splash.
On 2 February, 1863, the gang robbed Dickenson’s Store at Spring Creek, stealing £60 worth of goods. As they made their escape they bailed up a policeman and stole his horse. While positive identification of the culprits was impossible, it is more than likely that the Gilbert Gang was responsible.
On 15 February, Vincent Cirkell, a publican in Stoney Creek, was shot dead. It was believed the Gilbert Gang suspected him of being an informant and that O’Meally had been the trigger man. This version of events was merely a fabrication as the poor man was shot during a robbery that had escalated out of control and the assailants did not match the descriptions of any of the gang members. Such misidentification was commonplace as the hysteria surrounding the gang intensified and minor bushrangers were happy to let the more prominent bandits take the blame.
The gang struck again on 28 February, robbing Solomon’s store on the Wombat Diggings. The bushrangers fired at Meyers Solomon, the storekeeper, beat a young man named George Johnstone and threatened to kill Solomon’s wife before leaving with £250 worth of loot.
The first gang member to be captured was Patsy Daley. Daley’s aggression had made him particularly wanted by police and they got their man on 11 March when he was found hiding in a mine shaft. After this, the gang’s numbers would fluctuate wildly.
On 1 April, Gilbert hit the road with Lowry and a recruit named Gibson. They were spotted by a party of police and engaged in a horseback shoot-out, ending in Gibson’s capture and Gilbert and Lowry escaping into the bush. One of the officers had mocked Gilbert’s shooting, yelling that he couldn’t hit a haystack.
The Gilbert Gang continued their depredations unabated. Along with various robberies, the bushrangers made a point of partaking in less villainous activities. Gilbert and O’Meally at one point crashed a wedding and only left after being given some booze and cake. Despite such jovial incidents, the gang’s robberies were becoming more frequent and less discerning. Nobody was exempt from their attention regardless of age, sex or social class. Gilbert had even taken to using fire as a tool to distract people from pursuing him after a robbery.
On 7 June the gang were particularly busy, robbing Henry’s store near Possum Flat of half a chest of tea and dress prints; O’Brien’s store was robbed of £37 cash; McCarthy’s store was stuck up and the widow McCarthy liberated of her rings and 15 shillings, as well as taking four ounces of gold from one of her customers; finally they tried to bail up McConnell and Co. but when the staff refused to let them in they peppered the place with shot, broke in and looted the place, taking goods and £15 from the till. Having had their fill of robbing stores they robbed Heffernan’s pub of booze, watches and firearms before moving on to Regan’s Hotel while singing O’er the Hills and Far Away, an old English folk song.
On 21 June, Gilbert and Lowry attempted to rob John McBride but were met with resistance. McBride drew a Colt revolver and started firing, blowing Lowry’s hat off. In the battle McBride was hit in the thigh and the bushrangers bolted. McBride would die soon after from his wound. This appears to have been the last straw for Lowry, who was not sighted with any of Gilbert’s gang afterwards. He would go on to form his own gang and operate near Fish Creek.
After a series of brushes with police, Gilbert and O’Meally set their sights on bigger fish. On 30 July they rode into Carcoar and attempted to rob the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. This was the first time anyone had attempted to rob a bank in New South Wales. Gilbert attempted to lure the clerk with a dodgy cheque while O’Meally watched the door. When O’Meally attempted to bail up the bank manager at the door, Gilbert was distracted and the clerk pulled a pistol on the bushrangers and fired a shot. At that moment the manager ran for help and scores of gawkers filed out into the street. The bushrangers cut their losses and mounted, riding out of town as fast as they could. Unwilling to call it a day, the pair robbed a store on the way back to their camp, leaving with around £300 worth of goods and cash.
The gang, now merely comprising of Gilbert and O’Meally, had recruited a juvenile delinquent named John Vane as a telegraph and supplier of horses. Since the failed bank robbery the pair had decided they needed more manpower and adopted as junior gang members Vane and his best friend Mickey Burke. Vane was tall, lanky and somewhat clumsy whereas Burke was energetic and enthusiastic.
The new look Gilbert Gang’s first operation was on 2 August. At dusk they arrived at Coombing Park and stalked the grounds. Their intention was to steal a prized racehorse named Comus II, owned by Icely, the station owner. Vane and Burke took Comus II from the stable along with a grey gelding belonging to Sub-Inspector Davidson but were spotted by Icely’s groom. The groom took aim but was shot in the mouth by Burke, allowing the bushrangers to escape.
Now the gang reconnected with Ben Hall and became a formidable force unlike anything yet seen in New South Wales. On 24 August the gang bailed up nine diggers and held them captive while they waited for four storekeepers they had been informed were due to pass through. The gang robbed these storekeepers of whatever they had on them that was somewhat valuable, disappointed that these seemingly well-to-do men were not as flush as had been intimated. The gang also stole the horses and gear from the men to replace the knocked up mounts they had been on and rode towards Junee. In the meantime the alarm had been raised and a police party led by Sub-Inspector Pottinger rode out to catch the bushrangers. The groups crossed paths and there was a shoot-out, but the bandits escaped much to Pottinger’s chagrin.
In Junee on 27 August, the gang got to work. Gilbert raided Hammond’s Store with Vane and Hall while O’Meally and Burke struck Williams’ pub. Gilbert left a good impression on the Hammonds and their servants with his fine clothing, well groomed appearance and pleasant demeanour during conversation. He even took the time to flirt with the ladies. When the gang left town they took two of Hammond’s horses, five packhorses and goods and cash to the value of £250.
The gang continued to wreak havoc, robbing stores and distributing the stolen goods amongst their sympathiser and selling the surplus to traders. At the end of August, O’Meally killed a storekeeper named Barnes who they had previously robbed. When they encountered Barnes they attempted to rob him and he tried to ride away. As he fled O’Meally shot him under the shoulder and he fell to the ground, smashing his head, dying instantly.
On 19 September the gang set up a mile out of Blayney and stuck up travellers. Nine people were captured and robbed and kept captive under some trees nearby. A mounted trooper was bailed up and robbed and made to join the others. This was followed by the mail coach from Carcoar, which was also bailed up. When one of the occupants refused to follow Gilbert’s orders he threatened to blow the man’s brains out. The unperturbed traveller, named Garland, called Gilbert’s bluff but Ben Hall intervened and convinced Garland to do as instructed or receive a beating. The mail was sifted through while Vane and Burke bailed up more travellers, taking possession of a racehorse named Retriever. Now with no less than a dozen prisoners the decision was made to head for Blayney. As they went Gilbert bailed up a man named Beardmore who offered to write a cheque for £20 if Gilbert would loan him a revolver and duel at twelve paces. Gilbert refused, but Beardmore’s jibe that he knew Gilbert wouldn’t be game infuriated the bushranger and prompted him to accept the challenge. Hall again intervened. Gilbert relieved Beardmore of a gold ring, but when the man asked to have it back because it was a gift from his mother, Gilbert accepted because he admired Beardmore’s pluck.
A few days later, the gang bailed up three constables. They stripped them naked and tied them to a tree. O’Meally threatened to shoot the men but Hall cooled him off. The gang took possession of the uniforms and with the one taken from the trooper near Blayney, they now had four complete troopers’ uniforms, which they began using as disguises while riding. The gang was about to seal their place in history.
In September, the gang raided Grubbenbong Station, the property of John Loudon. They ransacked the place, taking any valuables they could find before demanding supper. When Mickey Burke went to smoke his pipe Gilbert ordered him outside as it was impolite to smoke near women. After the meal, Gilbert was so taken by the Loudons that he returned all they had taken. The gang then rode to William Rothery’s Cliefden Station, where they again bailed up the household and demanded refreshments. Hall and Vane checked out Rothery’s horses before the gang indulged in food and champagne. They rode off with two of the horses and headed for Canowindra.
Here they arrived at dusk the following day, bailing up Robinson’s Hotel and shouted the patrons drinks and cigars. Gradually the townsfolk were all taken prisoner in the hotel and what began as a raid became a big party with dancing and piano. While the townsfolk were occupied with the dance the local store was raided, the loot put on packhorses. The local constable had been handcuffed and was brought in and placed on a chair to watch the amusements. The festivities continued into the early hours. The gang left at sunrise, but there was more to come.
On 3 October the gang raided Bathurst. Whereas Canowindra had a tiny population of a few dozen, Bathurst was a thriving city with more than 6000 residents. They arrived in the evening and made their way through the crowds of Saturday night shoppers. Their first stop was the gunsmith but none of the pieces on offer were to their taste. They moved on to the jewellers but when the jeweller’s daughter saw what was happening she screamed and tried to raise the alarm. The bushrangers mounted and began riding wildly through the streets. They then bailed up the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel with the intent of stealing a racehorse named Pasha, but the horse was not there so the gang departed.
With the gang’s activities becoming ever more brazen, a reward of £2,500 was offered for the apprehension of the gang or information leading to it. This did not bother the bushrangers, however, and they continued business as usual. On 12 October, they once again struck Canowindra. As before, Robinson’s Hotel was bailed up and the townsfolk herded inside for another night of festivities. The gang held the town for three days, covering the cost of meals and drinks. All who entered the town were detained but not once were they bothered by police.
Of course, the good fortune of the gang could not last and the first major blow to what was now considered the Gilbert-Hall Gang was about to be landed. On 24 October, the gang descended upon Dunn’s Plains near Bathurst. Here was the residence of Henry Keightley, a police magistrate who had been assisting police and openly bragging about what he would do if he encountered the gang. The gang ordered Keightley to surrender but instead he retreated inside and opened fire on the bushrangers. A heated battle ensued during which Burke was shot in the stomach. In incredible agony he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head but still took half an hour to die. Keightley and the other occupants of the house surrendered when they ran out of ammunition. Vane, beside himself at Burke’s death, beat Keightley and his friend Dr. Pechey. Keightley was then held to ransom. His wife was ordered into town to fetch £500, which would them be given to the bushrangers in exchange for Keightley’s life. The demands were met and the gang took off, true to their word.
It was now established that Ben Hall had taken control of the gang. His generally calm demeanour proving to be more suited to leadership then Gilbert’s impulsive and whimsical style. The reward was raised to £4000 for the gang or £100 for their accomplices. The death of Burke had hit Vane hard and tensions arose between him and Gilbert who struck him during an argument and gave Vane a black eye. Vane promptly turned himself in, no longer seeing any appeal in the lifestyle he had adopted. The gang was once again reduced to the trio of Gilbert, Hall and O’Meally. They passed through Canowindra again but only stayed for a drink. The police were soon hot on their heels and interrupted a robbery. The gang got away but the police were becoming an ever more problematic occurrence. Brushes with the police became more and more frequent with the gang having to drop everything and run on multiple occasions, rarely even having time to get their boots on. In this atmosphere of frustration and increased tension the gang decided to attack Goimbla Station.
Goimbla Station was the home of David Campbell, a squatter who had been assisting police. As with the Keightleys, the gang intended to intimidate him into no longer helping their enemies. Campbell refused to surrender to the bushrangers and took cover in the house and opened fire. Another battle took place, during which the gang burned a barn and a stable, roasting the squatter’s horses alive. Mrs. Campbell joined in the fracas, fetching guns and ammunition while being fired at, and the squatter’s brother William was wounded. David Campbell refused to give in and seeing O’Meally stand up from behind cover, he fired and hit him in the neck. He died instantly. Gilbert and Hall knew they stood no chance and ran away, leaving the blood-drenched corpse of their longest standing confederate behind.
For the remainder of 1863 and into 1864, the pair continued to rob travellers and raid stores. They recruited John Dunleavy and Jim “Old Man” Gordon to help out. The gang were involved in several shoot-outs with the police including one at the appropriately named Bang Bang Hotel. These violent brushes with the law seemed to be bringing out the worst in Hall and Gilbert. When they bailed up a man named Barnes, who they suspected of being involved with the disaster at Goimbla, they threatened to burn his cart and hang him, even going so far as to procure a rope. Hall suggested that instead of a hanging they should flog him, so Barnes was tied to a tree and given 25 lashes.
Perhaps realising what the bushranging life was doing to him and those around him, Gilbert took his leave of the gang around August. While Ben Hall continued to commit crimes with Dunleavy and the Old Man, Gilbert returned to Victoria where his family lived.
In October 1864 Gilbert returned from his sojourn to rejoin Ben Hall who had been abandoned by the other two in the intervening months. They recruited John Dunn, a seventeen year old ex-jockey, who had previously telegraphed for Gilbert and O’Meally but was now wanted for skipping bail. Straight away the gang launched into their old tricks with new blood. Dunn was a natural, immediately keeping pace with the other two as they bailed up a buggy at Breadalbane Plains on 24 October, establishing the new outfit. More robberies followed but Hall was not satisfied with this and wanted another taste of the glory days.
16 November 1864 saw the Hall Gang strike at Black Springs, just outside Jugiong. Dozens of travellers were bailed up, including diggers, teamsters, squatters and Chinese, who were robbed then kept prisoner on the opposite side of a hill to shield them from the road. The gang intended to rob the mail coach that was due that afternoon. A trooper named McLaughlin was bailed up and added to the collective and when the coach arrived shortly after, the gang were surprised by the police escort riding behind. A horseback gunfight ensued. During the gunfight Gilbert shot Sergeant Edmund Parry in the back, killing him instantly. This was the point of no return for Gilbert.
The gang continued a spate of smaller robberies, stealing valuables and horses from the Binalong region. The mail started sending the deliveries by horseback during the night in an effort to foil the robbers but the bush telegraph informed the gang and they adjusted operation accordingly. When they had taken all they desired, they burned the rest of the letters and papers. While Hall and Gilbert always rode together, Dunn was not always present for the gang’s nefarious activities.
On Boxing Day, 1864, the gang bailed up Edward Morriss at his store in Binda. They raided the cashbox and took over £100. The gang then escorted Morriss and his wife to a ball at the Flag Hotel. With the bushrangers were their girlfriends Christina McKinnon and the Monks sisters Peggy and Ellen. At the ball the gang sang, danced and shouted drinks all the while acting in a lewd fashion with their female companions. When Morriss escaped to release the gang’s horses, the bushrangers fired on him and then turned their ire on his store. The bushrangers set fire to the building causing £1000 in damages and destroying the records of Morriss’ debtors.
26 January, 1865, the gang rode to Kimberley’s Inn, Collector, and held it up. Earlier that day they had been engaged in their usual activity on the roads. While Hall and Gilbert raided the inside, Dunn tried to keep guard outside. When Constable Nelson arrived to arrest the bushrangers, Dunn shot him dead. When Gilbert examined the body, he took the murdered trooper’s pistol belt to replace his own.
On 6 February, 1865, the gang went to work near Springfield Station. After they had robbed several travellers and a bullock team, a buggy arrived carrying the four Faithfull boys, sons of the squatter who owned Springfield. When the gang attempted to bail them up, two of the boys, Percy and George, presented firearms. A gunfight broke out during which Gilbert’s horse, spooked by the noise, reared just as he was aiming his revolver. The sudden movement blocked the aim and the horse was killed as the shot hit it in the head. Gilbert took cover behind a fence as bullets struck close. Hall chased the youths, seemingly intent on gunning them down as they retreated to their house. The gang ransacked the boys’ things and retreated before they could return.
In response to the murders perpetrated by the gang as well as the depredations of Daniel Morgan who had been operating along the Murrumbidgee at the time, the New South Wales government passed the Felons Apprehension Act that would make the three Hall Gang members outlaws by act of parliament. They had 30 days to surrender before the act was passed.
The trio were unfazed, continuing to add to their long list of crimes by stealing horses and firearms, robbing travellers and mail coaches. They brought in a fourth member to the group, long rumoured to have been Braidwood bushranger Thomas Clarke, but almost certainly Dunn’s mate Daniel Ryan. The quartet attempted to rob a gold escort on 13 March near Araluen. The gang opened fire and a battle erupted during which two troopers named Kelly and Byrne were injured while defending the gold. The bushrangers were outmaneuvered and forced to retreat without the loot.
The four bushrangers continued to operate in the wake of the failed heist. Moving their operations closer to Binalong, they stole horses to replace the ones they had been riding on in order to keep ahead of the police. By 17 March the gang was back down to three. They continued to rely on sympathisers for food and shelter, the police becoming more dogged in their pursuit.
In May the gang split, Hall seemingly taking leave of Dunn and Gilbert. He set up camp at Billabong Creek but was sold out by one of his sympathisers, Mick Coneley. On 5 May Hall was ambushed and shot to death, around 30 bullets being pumped into his body. He never fired a shot and was still mere days away from being declared an outlaw.
Gilbert and Dunn must have sensed the net was closing in. They no longer knew who they could trust, but Dunn was certain his family would provide them temporary shelter.
On 12 May, 1865, Gilbert and Dunn sought refuge with Dunn’s grandfather near Binalong. Overnight, the police were informed and they surrounded the house. The following day the police made their move and as the bushrangers tried to escape, a running gunfight took place. Gilbert was shot through the heart by Constable John Bright and killed instantly, but Dunn escaped. Gilbert was 23 years old.
His corpse was taken back to Binalong and autopsied. An inquest was held and Gilbert was buried in the paddock of the police station, the grave was unmarked. Dunn was captured nine months later and, after a trial, was hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol for the murder of Constable Nelson.
It has been claimed that in his short life Gilbert had committed more than 600 crimes. His flashy dress sense, jovial personality, expert horsemanship and flair for drama made him instantly popular among the class of people that admired rogues. Yet, his short fuse, willingness to use lethal force and his lack of distinction between who he victimised are qualities that paint him as one of the most villainous bushrangers to his detractors. Like many bushrangers he is both as noble and as ignoble as he is described by his supporters and detractors. It is a paradox only resolved by simplistic reasoning.
Forever consigned to popular culture as Ned Kelly’s little brother, Dan Kelly was a young man of only nineteen when he lost his life fighting the police. Like so many “boy bushrangers” his young life was snuffed out without him having ever fulfilled his potential, wasting his youth on a life of crime. But there was more to Dan Kelly than just having Ned Kelly as his big brother.
Daniel Kelly was born on 1 June, 1861 to John “Red” Kelly and Ellen Quinn. He was named after one of his father’s brothers and christened in the church in Beveridge, Victoria, where the family were living in a house John had built. Before Dan was born, there had been Mary Jane (died in infancy), Annie, Ned, Maggie and Jim. Dan would be followed by Kate and Grace. Dan’s infancy years were quiet for the family. John turned his hand to a number of occupations but was primarily employed doing odd jobs around the district and splitting timber. Financial strain, however, soon saw John attempting to distill his own whiskey. Unfortunately he took to drinking most of the produce himself. The difficulty saw the family relocate to Avenel, but here their problems would not only continue, they would worsen.
John spent six months in gaol in 1866 for stealing and butchering a calf. This meant that for half a year Ellen was reliant on her brothers for help around the place. The Quinn brothers were not model citizens by the furthest stretch, Jimmy Quinn being the worst of the lot. Jimmy was too fond of liquor, quick to violence and did not discriminate when choosing a target. No doubt Dan’s exposure to this would have negatively shaped his young mind. When John was released from gaol he was a broken man. Dan was barely five years old when his father died of dropsy, an old term for oedema (build-up of fluid in the soft tissues), likely linked to his alcoholism. He was buried in Avenel. The family soon found themselves frequently homeless, moving from Avenel to an abandoned pub in Greta. Here the Kellys co-habited with Ellen’s sisters, both of whose husbands were in prison at the time, and their children while they attempted to make ends meet.
The new home in Greta was short-lived. One night John Kelly’s brother James had arrived at the house drunk and his sexual advances were rebuffed by Ellen. He returned later that same night and burned the place to the ground. The children inside were asleep but the sisters remained awake, fearful of retribution. After another binge at the local pub, James threw incendiary devices at the house until a fire took hold, but thankfully there were no fatalities. The families were now homeless again and devoid of earthly possessions such as clothes and furniture. When James was tried he was sentenced to death by Sir Redmond Barry. This was later commuted to a long prison sentence by the executive council. The Greta community got together and helped the victims get back on their feet. Ellen soon gained a lease on a selection on the 11 Mile Creek. Things were starting to look up.
With his big brother Ned, only twelve himself when Red died, acting as man of the house, Dan and his brother Jim often ran wild. By 1870 things had changed dramatically for the family. Ellen had her selection but the land was not fit for crops. The family had to rely on the money they made from lodgers and travellers looking for a drink. Fifteen year-old Ned worked for a time as Harry Power‘s offsider, and then found himself in and out of gaol, eventually copping three years for receiving a stolen horse. Jim was now the man of the house in Ned’s absence. Jim was not a good candidate, however, and would coax Dan into mischief; their first arrest occurring when Dan was only ten years old.
In September 1871, Jim and Dan had borrowed horses without permission from a hawker named Mark Krafft. Krafft had been grazing his horses at the Kelly selection, as he had frequently done, and the boys had taken them for a joyride. Jim had previously been working as Krafft’s servant to get some extra money, the pudgy child being less physical than his big brother and thus less suited to splitting work. Constable Ernest Flood, newly stationed in Greta, nabbed them on a charge of illegally using a horse and took the children to Wangaratta to be kept in the logs until trial. When they went to court two days later the case was quickly dismissed on account of Jim’s and Dan’s ages (12 and 10 respectively) and the fact that Jim had been a servant of Krafft for a time. One can only imagine the impact that the experience of being taken away from their family and locked up in a cell with a bunch of strange, grown men waiting for trial for two days would have been on the children. It would eventuate that Flood was nothing but bad news for the family, allegedly stealing their horses and selling them to railway workers and sexually assaulting Dan’s big sister Annie and making her pregnant, though the truth of this is debatable owing to there being no solid evidence to back the claims.
Jim, only fourteen, ended up in gaol in 1873 with two sentences of 2 1/2 years to be served consecutively for helping shift stolen cattle. With Red gone and Ned and Jim in gaol, Ellen was on the lookout for a new man to help around the house and to protect her from her brothers or anyone else that might come sniffing around with bad intentions. She took the bold move of selling grog on the sly to travellers and seemed to think she had found her man in Bill Frost, an itinerant worker who had lodged with the family. Frost engaged in a sexual relationship with Ellen, from which she became pregnant with a daughter. Frost was apparently not keen to be a father and skipped town. Ellen, not one to be passive, tracked him down and took him to court for maintenance. After a long and bitter dispute she won but the infant died before the first maintenance payment came through. One can only imagine how this would have impacted young Dan, who had to assume the role of man of the house.
It wasn’t all gloomy for Dan though. According to some accounts, while his big brothers were doing time, Dan was lavished with affection from his sisters. Some considered this made him spoiled, but at any rate he managed to keep his nose clean during this period. It was at this time that Ellen took in George King, a 25 year-old American-born traveller, miner and stock thief. It was a remarkably short courtship as they were married in 1874, just after Ned came home from Pentridge. Within a month Ellen gave birth again. No doubt Dan, now thirteen, was relieved not to have the responsibility of being the male head of the household anymore. Between Ned and George the role was well taken care of.
Dan’s main hobbies at this time were much the same as the majority of young men in the country – riding and hunting. Dan would latch onto groups of boys who were out kangaroo hunting and took much pride in his marksmanship. He also took much joy in racing his peers on horseback. A brilliant description of Dan came from Joseph Ashmead, a friend of the Kelly family, in an unpublished memoir:
He was riding a smart black pony, and proudly told us it was a galloper and could clear any fence in the north east. The boy was alert and active with piercing black eyes that took in everything at a glance. He wore strapped trousers, a red shirt and straw hat tilted forward, secured by a strap under his nose. The back of his head was broad and covered with close cropped hair as black and shiny as a crow; his jaw was heavy, his lips thin, and when closed tightly, there seemed to be something cruel in them, but when they relaxed into a smile, he appeared to be a jovial, good-natured fellow. His name was Dan Kelly and he was a great lover of horses. I was the only one of the boys who had a horse. A bay pony. She had belonged to a clergyman and was an honest goer. Dan ran his eye over my over my horse and proposed that we should have a race, a challenge that I gladly accepted. When Dan found that he could not shake me off, he developed a great respect for me, and declared there was not a kangaroo in all the country who could get away from us, so we went kangaroo hunting, not once but many times. I left my cows to look after themselves, or bribed some of the boys to look after them for me, with the promises of some sinews out of the kangaroo’s tail to make whip crackers with.
No doubt Dan’s hunting provided much needed meat for the family, or at least was able to be sold to raise money for other goods. Seemingly Dan left home at the first opportunity to seek work. By some reports he travelled into New South Wales to work on sheep stations around the Monaro region as a shearer. He was also reported to have worked in Chesney Vale with Ned as a brick layer, but was not very good at it. It is likely that this is when Dan took up possession of an abandoned miner’s hut by Bullock Creek in the Wombat Ranges and began prospecting for gold. Sluices were later constructed along the creek and this would have provided a bit of pocket money. No doubt the seasonal nature of most of these jobs left Dan with a considerable amount of free time in between and he soon found himself adopting the larrikin culture of the day.
The fast riding, clownishly attired, skirt chasing lifestyle of the larrikin had become a widespread issue throughout the colonies. Gangs of youths in porkpie or billycock hats worn on jaunty angles, short Paget coats and jackets, bell-bottom trousers, colourful sashes and pointy high-heeled boots would loiter in public areas making a nuisance of themselves. Dan became a founding member of the “Greta Mob”, who populated the streets around Greta and Wangaratta. Apart from Dan, the mob consisted mostly of his cousins Tom and Jack Lloyd and a young Wangaratta jockey named Steve Hart, with the rotating roster of associates typical of these forms of social group. Their primary interests were fast horses, smoking, booze and chatting up girls. The boys were known to ride full gallop through the streets and challenge each other to various horse tricks. Steve Hart, for instance, could get his horse to vault over the railway gates, much to the chagrin of the gatekeeper. The Greta Mob adopted as their signature the larrikin badges of high-heeled boots, cocked billycock hats with the hatstring worn under the nose (to stop the hat flying off when riding at full gallop) and brightly coloured sashes worn around the waist. The style was clownish but that’s not unusual for teenage boys of any era. Unfortunately, Dan was still living in hand-me-downs and cut an odd figure in his threadbare, oversized, outdated outfits. The only verified photographic images we have of Dan illustrate this clearly. He wears a rumpled hat, a baggy sack coat with missing buttons and fraying cuffs as well as baggy trousers held up with a piece of rope. He was known to grow his hair long and seems to have cultivated a moustache at some point. But what Dan lacked in creole couture he made up for in his riding and his drinking. It has been written that Dan had many sweethearts but whenever they were unavailable for a night of frivolity he would employ the services of working girls, though it is incredibly unlikely that a fifteen year-old boy would have the presence of mind or the funds to engage in that lifestyle, regardless of the usual rampant libido they enjoyed.
One of the few times Dan graced the courts was in relation to a supposedly stolen saddle. In March 1877 he was charged with stealing the saddle in question in Benalla and was tried during the Beechworth general sessions before Judge Hackett. It had taken five months to lay charges against the teenager. The saddle in question was one that Dan had purchased from a man named Roberts in exchange for a different saddle and £1, and he produced a receipt to prove it, which was verified in court. Along with Jack Lloyd and his brother-in-law Bill Skillion, Ned Kelly was present during the hearing as a witness to back up his little brother. In the end the case was dismissed and Dan walked away with a sense of vindication. Judge Hackett stated that he “did not see why the prisoner was there at all” as his case was clear-cut. During this case Dan displayed a trait that distinguished him from his older brothers – he provided no resistance to arrest and complied happily with the police. This could be interpreted by some as overconfidence in his ability to dodge a conviction, but more likely Dan understood that resisting arrest was a fool’s game and further that he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused (which a trial would – and did – prove). This would not be the last time he displayed a conspicuous willingness to comply.
While he had been waiting to appear in court over the saddle charge, Dan met two boys from the Woolshed Valley named Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. They were also waiting to appear in court that day over a charge of assault against a Chinaman named Ah On. It would eventuate that the pair would not get their day in court that same day, remanded to be tried in the next session. What exactly transpired between the young men in that cell can only be guessed at, but this would prove to be a fateful friendship.
Dan’s first and only conviction came from an incident at Goodman’s store, Winton, on September 28, 1877. Dan had travelled into town to exchange meat for goods. When he arrived the establishment wasn’t open and therefore no trade took place. Annoyed, Dan went drinking with his cousins Tom and Jack then returned with them to Goodman’s store, drunk. Dan smashed in the door and took the goods he sought. A man going by the name Moses Solomon was also there and claimed he was assaulted by the rowdy larrikins. Tom Lloyd lingered and flashed Mrs. Goodman, the other two pushing Tom into her with the lights out. Dan was found guilty of wilfully damaging the property and sentenced to three months in Beechworth Gaol. Tom Lloyd was additionally charged with intent to rape but was found not guilty, yet still got six months for his part. Dan did his time in Beechworth Gaol without incident. Almost miraculously for a Kelly boy he managed to get through his sentence without incurring any additional penalties. Three months crushing granite would have given Dan bigger muscles, but also greater resolve to walk the straight and narrow once he was out. Unfortunately fate had a different plan for him.
While Dan was still in prison a warrant was issued for his arrest. A witness saw two young men they believed to be Dan Kelly and Jack Lloyd leading a mob of stolen horses near Chiltern. They reported it to the police and the paperwork was duly issued. This was noted by Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick after reading the announcement in the Police Gazette. On April 15, 1878, Fitzpatrick was sent from Benalla to take over at Greta police station. Fitzpatrick informed his superior, Sergeant Whelan, that he knew of a warrant for Dan Kelly and intended on arresting him on his way to the station. Fitzpatrick went alone to the Kelly property and what occurred has been subject to much scrutiny and debate. The general thrust is that Fitzpatrick enquired after Dan but found he was away. The constable then asked a neighbour, Brickey Williamson, about Dan’s whereabouts before electing to return to the Kelly house and wait. He was greeted by Dan who offered to go quietly on the provision that he could finish his dinner first. After this, a scuffle broke out and Fitzpatrick was wounded in the wrist. The policeman claimed Ned Kelly had shot him, Ned Kelly claimed he wasn’t even there. Each witness account conflicted with the others in some way. Regardless, Dan and Ned immediately fled to the Wombat Ranges. Ellen Kelly, Brickey Williamson and Dan’s brother-in-law Bill Skillion were arrested and charged with aiding attempted murder.
For six months Dan and Ned hid in the ranges. A second, fortified, hut was built further up the creek from Dan’s place using thick logs, and both huts were equipped with whiskey stills. The intention was to raise money for Ellen Kelly’s defence by selling gold and bootleg whiskey. Unfortunately it was not enough and Ellen got three years, the men each received six years.
After the trial police parties were organised to bring the Kelly brothers to justice. Warrants had been issued for their arrest. There was £100 on each of their heads; Ned for attempted murder, Dan for aiding and abetting. A party was sent from Mansfield to find the Kellys in the Wombat Ranges. The party consisted of Sergeant Michael Kennedy and constables Michael Scanlan, Thomas McIntyre and Thomas Lonigan. When Ned found the police party’s tracks he sent Dan to find their camp, which he duly did. The next day the brothers, roused by McIntyre firing a shotgun while hunting parrots, went to the police camp with Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. They hid in the spear-grass and intended on ambushing the camp to take the police guns and horses. When the bushrangers emerged they held McIntyre at gunpoint. When Lonigan ran to cover and moved to fire at the arrivals, Ned shot him. There was a moment of disbelief as Lonigan struggled on the ground. Dan remarked “He was a plucky fellow. Did you see how he went for his gun?” He then seized the police shotgun and searched the tent. When Lonigan’s identity was revealed, Dan exclaimed that “He won’t be putting any of us poor buggers away again.”
McIntyre took a particular dislike to Dan, describing his nervous laughter and his “grotesque” appearance in his oversized hand-me-down clothes. McIntyre fully believed that Dan would be the one to put a bullet in him.
Dan insisted McIntyre be handcuffed but Ned refused, believing a fear of being shot was incentive enough for the trooper to obey his orders. This did not sit well with Dan who grumbled that the police would just as soon clap cuffs on them.
When Kennedy and Scanlan returned from scouting McIntyre tried to persuade them to surrender but a gunfight broke out. Scanlan was shot, McIntyre escaped on Kennedy’s horse and Kennedy fired at the Kellys with his pistol. A bullet from Kennedy hit Dan’s shoulder as the sergeant retreated into the bush after McIntyre. Kennedy was soon killed by Ned a considerable distance from the camp. The gang looted the bodies and Dan took Scanlan’s pocket watch. The salvageable items were collected and the tent burnt as the gang escaped.
As a result of the incident at Stringybark Creek, Ned and Dan were outlawed with a reward of £500 each. At this stage Joe and Steve were unidentified.
In December 1878 the gang re-emerged near Violet Town. They stuck up Younghusband’s Station on Faithfuls Creek in the afternoon and began herding the staff into a shed. They kept the staff as prisoners in the tool shed overnight and stole new outfits from a hawker’s wagon. That night the gang chatted with their captives, answering questions but with Ned doing most of the talking. Dan and Steve were overheard talking about how they’d like a lark with the female prisoners. In the morning the nearby telegraph poles were damaged by Ned, Joe and Steve. In the afternoon Ned, Dan and Steve headed into Euroa to rob the bank, leaving Joe on sentry at the station. The timing was meticulously arranged to coincide with a funeral that would keep the townsfolk occupied during the gang’s activities. Dan acted as a guard, standing at the rear of the bank, making sure that nobody escaped or interrupted while Ned and Steve robbed the place. Once the loot had been acquired the bushrangers headed back to the station with the bank staff and the manager’s family and servants. On the way Dan rode in the stolen hawker’s wagon and kept his gun trained on Mrs. Scott, the bank manager’s wife, who was driving a buggy alongside, in case she tried to escape or raise an alarm. The raid went off without a hitch and the gang escaped with thousands of pounds to distribute among their families and sympathisers. Before they left, Dan gave Constable Scanlan’s watch to Becroft, the hawker’s assistant, and money with which to repair it. It is unclear what the nature of the damage was.
In February 1879 the gang struck again at Jerilderie. They travelled over the border to answer a challenge that they wouldn’t last 24 hours in New South Wales. The gang roused the police in the middle of the night and locked them in their own cells. Mrs. Devine, the wife of the senior constable, recalled how as the gang occupied their home during their stay Dan would bounce her son on his knee but later spoke in quite a violent manner in order to make her work faster as she decorated the courthouse for mass. The gang then went through town disguised in police uniforms pretending to be reinforcements against the Kelly Gang. On the Monday Dan and Joe had their horses shod at the blacksmith and investigated the telegraph lines before the gang put their plan into full effect. Ned, Steve and Joe robbed the bank while Dan kept prisoners under control next door in the hotel. The gang had successfully managed to occupy the town for a whole weekend unmolested and rode away with thousands of pounds in unmarked notes that could not be traced. In response, the New South Wales government doubled the reward for the gang to £8000.
Upon leaving New South Wales, the gang split up to reconvene at the Byrne selection at a set date and time. Only Dan arrived on time. He stayed for dinner and questioned the Byrnes about whether the other gang members had been past. Dan seems to have had a good relationship with the Byrnes, frequently stopping by in much the same manner for a meal and a chat. Dan also seemed to be the most active gang member, being reported as having been spotted more than any other member of the Kelly Gang. It is also probable that he partook in Joe’s favourite past-time of visiting the Sebastopol opium dens for a smoke and card games.
Over the course of 1879 and early 1880, Dan and Joe Byrne tested the loyalty of the Sherritts and various other sympathisers that were suspected of turning on the gang. On 14 May, 1880, Dan paid a visit to his uncle Tom Lloyd. Lloyd’s neighbour, a police informant named Jacob Wilson, saw horses in Lloyd’s garden and began snooping. He was found behind the cow shed by the dogs and the barking roused everyone in the house. Uncle Tom sent the dog to chase the man down and he climbed up a cherry tree. Dan Kelly and cousin Tom Lloyd, who were unarmed, fetched the dog and yelled taunts to the police they assumed were nearby, before going back inside. Wilson was so terrified he stayed in the tree until morning. Incidents like this were increasingly common and the gang began to stop visiting certain people in case they were spotted.
More concerning to the gang however was the rumour that had been circulating that the Sherritts were in cahoots with the police, fuelled by the vicious game of “Chinese Whispers” that accounted for the gang’s bush telegraph. On one occasion Dan arrived at the Sherritt selection on Sheepstation Creek looking for Jack Sherritt, Aaron’s younger brother. When he was told Jack wasn’t home he pushed his way inside with a revolver drawn and searched for him. Dan said they wanted to speak with him. Unbeknownst to Dan, Jack was at that moment speeding away to speak to Assistant Commissioner Nicolson in a desperate attempt to seek protection. Nicolson told him to go to a local pub and use that as his alibi. It was clear to everyone that the gang was getting desperate and had cottoned on that something was up and Ned was determined to address it in his next big scheme.
In early 1880 a plan had been devised by Ned Kelly to escalate the gang’s activities. The banks were too heavily guarded to rob as they had done previously, so now they were struggling to find ways to keep their network of sympathisers on-side. The gang’s health was also deteriorating as the rigours of life on the run was wearing them down. Ned suffered sciatica and sandy blight, Joe struggled with withdrawals as his opium supply was cut off due to lack of funds, and Dan was described by one witness as looking gaunt and hollow-cheeked. Police parties were coming closer than before to catching the gang and even had the assistance of an elite team of black trackers from Queensland on top of a network of police spies and informants. Ned wanted to end the pursuit in dramatic fashion by luring a trainload of police and trackers to be derailed at Glenrowan. He sent Dan and Joe to create a commotion at Aaron Sherritt’s hut, where a team of constables had been allocated to protect him, as the bait. On Saturday 26 June, Dan and Joe kidnapped Aaron’s neighbour Anton Wick and used him to lure Aaron to his back door whereupon he was murdered by Joe with a shotgun. Dan guarded the front door in case the police that were hiding inside tried to escape. The two bushrangers then terrorised the party of constables as they cowered in the bedroom, Aaron’s mother-in-law and pregnant wife stuck between the two sides. Attempts to burn the place failed and the outlaws rode away two hours later. It would be midday the next day before any of the police were brave enough to see if they had gone. Initially Ellen Barry, the mother-in-law, stated that Dan had been quiet when entering the hut with a pistol. It was only later when attempts were being made to gain a payout from the police that she would describe him resting on the table as he looked at the murdered Sherritt with a grin.
Dan and Joe arrived at Glenrowan at around 5am on 27 June, 1880. Dan was immediately employed with tending the horses and carrying the gang’s armour into the Glenrowan Inn. Over the course of the day Dan guarded the prisoners in the inn and even initiated dancing to keep them entertained. He was seen to get intimate with Jane Jones, the publican’s daughter, she having been spotted sitting on his knee and kissing him, even being given one of his revolvers to use while she kept the prisoners at bay when Dan had to leave the room. As the weekend rolled on and the special train did not appear as expected, tensions began to rise. Multiple times during the gang’s stay at Glenrowan, Dan told Ned they should leave and argued the point only to be shouted down by his brother who was determined that they would stay and fight. The longer they waited the more difficult it became to keep the prisoners under control and the more they risked accidentally derailing a civilian train. Ned refused to heed his brother’s pleas. When Ned decided to release Thomas Curnow, the school teacher, Dan argued publicly with him as he knew Curnow could not be trusted. Curnow had spent the day trying to butter Ned up, a suspicious Dan watching like a hawk. Sure enough, when the train did appear in the early hours of 28 June, Curnow warned the police that the tracks were damaged and the gang was in Glenrowan. Just before the train arrived, Dan had told the prisoners to head home, however they were detained by Ann Jones who told them to wait for Ned to make a speech. If Dan’s instructions had not been countermanded a considerable amount of the tragedy that was to unfold could have been avoided.
When the train arrived the gang dressed in their homemade armour and engaged in a gun battle. Ned and Joe were wounded early on and they retreated inside. Ned soon disappeared into the bush behind the inn and Dan took control of the situation, doing his best to evacuate the women and children despite the relentless firing from police. Joe was shot dead by a police bullet early in the morning and Dan and Steve became very disheartened, believing Ned had also been killed or had abandoned them. When Ned re-emerged just before 7am the remaining gang provided covering fire from the inn, but within a half hour Ned was captured and the two bushrangers were stuck in the inn surrounded by police in broad daylight. Dan had received a bullet in the leg that shattered his knee and necessitated a retreat into the inn. At 10am the rest of the prisoners were released and Dan and Steve remained inside. As the prisoners left they shook Dan’s hand.
What happened in the inn next is unknown but it is possible that Dan was struck in the neck by a bullet while his helmet was off and killed or that he took his own life by taking poison. All that is known for certain is that at 3pm the inn was burned and while it was on fire his corpse was witnessed by multiple people, in the back room still in body armour and resting on a pillow made of sacks. The body was effectively cremated in the fire and the burnt remains released to his family. Later, Dr. Hutchison, a medic who had been called up to assist during the siege, retrieved what was believed to be Dan’s foot from the ruins and the scorched bones were handed down through the family.
Around 200 people attended the wake at Maggie Skillion‘s home, many of whom were drunk and armed. Police efforts to reclaim the bodies were scrapped in response, the risks being too high. Though there are a number of (probably deliberately) conflicting oral histories with respect to the location of the last resting place of the two outlaws, most accounts indicate Dan Kelly was buried in an unmarked double grave in Greta cemetery with Steve Hart. The location within the cemetery of the exact double grave they were interred in is a closely guarded secret in family traditions in an effort to avoid the graves being disturbed. Unfortunately, this has added fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories and in one infamous case a particularly motivated “truther” went through the cemetery plunging steel probes into grave sites hoping to prove that there were no coffins in them. When Ellen Kelly died the 1923, she was buried in an unmarked plot next to the official spot where Red Kelly’s youngest son is buried.
In the years after Glenrowan there were rumours that Dan and Steve had escaped to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. In 1911, novellist Ambrose Pratt, author behind the memoirs of Captain Thunderbolt’s apprentice William Monckton, published a book claiming to be the memoirs of Dan Kelly. In fact, many people claimed to be Dan Kelly over the years, most notably a tramp called James Ryan whose ridiculous attempt to cash in on the survival rumours were published in the press and convinced scores of people who lacked knowledge of basic facts of the story. Ryan’s story even inspired the utterly woeful film The Glenrowan Affair. Ryan was killed by a coal train in the 1933 and is buried in Ipswich, Queensland. In order to lure tourists, the cemetery even erected a memorial telling the story of the claimant. None of the alleged Dans ever had any solid case to back their claims up but the myths of a miraculous escape from the burning inn persist to this day.
Dan Kelly was, in most ways, at least as competent as his big brother. As a horseman, tracker and marksman, his abilities were perhaps even better. Certainly he was more ruthless than Ned, a pragmatism that some interpreted as callousness or even psychopathy. It must be remembered that the gang were wanted dead or alive (preferably dead) and mistakes could not be afforded. Dan was a much better judge of character than Ned and certainly better at performing under pressure. Even the Kelly matriarch was known to have held Dan in more regard than Ned in these measures.
Unlike his brothers, Dan was fairly successful at avoiding trouble. In fact, it is probably telling that the worst trouble in Dan’s life seemed to come from following Ned’s and Jim’s lead. Imagine how different the story would have turned out if Dan had been able to accompany Fitzpatrick as intended, before Ned and Ellen had attacked the policeman. A stint in the logs, a quick trial during which the mistaken identity could be proven and Dan could have gone home as a free man. Sadly, as in all things, life never pans out the way we think it should.
Every interpretation of the Kelly story brings with it a host of conflicting perspectives on various points, and each is unique. More recent film depictions have been executed more artfully than the early silent films or even early “talkies”. Whereas the formative depictions of the story were usually morality plays, emphasising the social ramifications of lawlessness, the rise of the understanding of film as an artform changed the approach many directors and writers took. Gregor Jordan’s contribution is no exception. It is not a depiction of a historical figure, rather it’s an interpretation of the cultural figure of Ned Kelly that seeks to explore the idea of a man being shaped and guided by external forces to his doom.
Jordan’s film is crafted from a John Michael McDonagh screenplay based on the Robert Drewe novel Our Sunshine. Just as the book moves away from history for the sake of artistic expression, the film steps away from the history as well as the book both for artistic purposes and marketability (the latter being driven by executives rather than the creative team). This has riled many history buffs who had hoped to see the history brought to life on screen, but this is most definitely not that. It must be highlighted that the film differs drastically from the book in many areas also, thus any interpretation of the film text is not reflective of the source novel, just as much as it is not reflective of history, and must be viewed on its own terms.
He wasn’t such a bad fella. He… he was just a dumb paddy who got picked on his whole life. And that does something to your pride, you know?
Jordan’s Ned is a man with a deeply ingrained sense of injustice and is a passive protagonist. The events in the story that shape his life have nothing to do with the decisions he makes, he merely enacts a pre-conceived narrative. While Ned is brash and prone to explosions of temper his actions have no real effect on the outcome of events. This is most conspicuous in the aftermath of the Fitzpatrick incident when Ned is accused of injuring the constable despite not being present. He seeks an alibi but is denied, locking in his fate. It is then that he goes into hiding and his mother is jailed. Neither Ned’s participation, nor indeed his presence, was required to affect him becoming a bushranger. Even the act of taking Kennedy’s watch at Stringybark Creek plays out without any explanation of the protagonist’s motivation, it is simply part of the pre-conceived narrative.
None of his actions prevent the bad things from happening and nothing he does results in the undoing of the undesirable outcomes. By the end Ned has become resigned to this and when Hare unexpectedly appears and asks for Ned’s sash, he is met merely with a look of weary indifference – nothing Ned could say or do would matter because it would happen anyway.
Of course, there is an easy explanation for this fixation on destiny. This is Ned’s own interpretation of his life being acted out before the audience. This is demonstrated by the voice-over narrating the story throughout. Ned is unable to see how his actions could have resulted in the outcomes that he found himself subject to and thus we are not shown anything that could condemn him. The effect is that Ned is merely following a script and is little more than a puppet of fate. This sense of determinism is the desperate rationalising of events to make sense of a life gone astray.
Ned is thrown in gaol over a suspected stolen horse but we’re never shown anything to contextualise the event other than Ned finding a horse then being assaulted by police. The police are bullies who pick on the Kellys, but again there’s no context given beyond them being Kellys and Irish and the police not liking them for that. This trend for oversimplified cause and effect creates a sense of there being no control over things – they just are. We don’t know why the police at Stringybark Creek are carrying stretchers in the middle of the bush, but this is all it takes to confirm Ned’s belief that he would be gunned down. There’s no suggestion that the police may simply arrest him. All of this indicates Ned twisting the events in his mind to justify the way they turned out in such a manner that he is not at fault.
Further to this is the way that the supporting players are portrayed. This is Ned’s own interpretation of his gang, his family, the police and public, but of course it is all determined by its relationship to himself. Joe Byrne is Ned’s closest friend, but depicted as a womaniser and keenly intelligent, always at Ned’s beck and call. This is in contrast to Ned’s comparative sexual repression, lack of education and his natural leadership. Joe is the yin to Ned’s yang; the Horatio to Ned’s Hamlet, always on hand to confirm Ned’s suspicions or bounce ideas off. Dan Kelly is depicted as an impulsive runt. He is brash and somewhat arrogant but just as devoted to his family as his big brother, despite harbouring ill-feelings towards their deceased father. Ned takes on that paternal role and we see their relationship develop in such a way that Ned becomes something of a sage for Dan, offering wisdom from the school of hard knocks. Steve Hart however is shown as petulant, flaky and mischievous with a cowardly streak. Ned seems to look at him as little more than an inconvenience and is not afraid to belittle him. For all their differences, one thing unites this gang, which is a complete subservience to and admiration of Ned.
Then we see how the various other characters relate to Ned: Julia falls in love with him to the extent of cheating on her husband because he is so much more manly; Kate adores him and sees him as the family’s protector; the police fear Ned while also having a begrudging respect for him; Aaron views Ned with admiration but this soon gives way to fear once he starts helping the police. In essence, the characterisation of the cast is almost entirely derived from how they view Ned, or rather how Ned imagines they view him.
I am a widow’s son, outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed!
This leads us to Ned’s perception of himself. By the way many events play out we see Ned as charming, attractive, playful, witty, tough, commanding and, moreover, popular. Everyone knows who he is wherever he goes, even if they occasionally need their memory jogged at gunpoint. When we see the Jerilderie robbery, Ned’s passion and charisma as he dictates his letter in front of a crowd whips them into a frenzy, chiming in to help him create memorable insults directed towards the police. Whenever Ned speaks people listen and even the police can’t help crack a smile when they think of how devilishly clever and witty he is.
I’ve watched gravel fade. Dust settle into crust. I’ve seen drips of water turn to stone that defied gravity. I’ve turned blood red with cave mud. I’ve been a bloody rock!
The film’s extremely gloomy, desaturated palette echoes the increasingly burdened state of mind of Ned. As the film is framed as Ned telling his own story, naturally the atmosphere is reflective of Ned’s own feelings, embodying his essence. The flatness and sparseness of the locations is also indicative of Ned’s emotional connections to the places we visit in the story. While in reality the Kellys lived near the foot of a large, smooth hill dotted with trees and covered in grass, albeit prone to drought, when we see the homestead in the film it juts out of the grey, flat and boggy landscape as if plonked in the middle of nowhere and looks more like his ancestral home, Ireland, than Australia. Ned does not really imagine the surroundings, his only focus is what the house represents – his family. To Ned, it’s his mother and siblings that matter, not the place they live in. Ned is very focused on family and the pain and loss he feels relating to his mother’s imprisonment is signified by a shot of Ellen in her cell, alone and surrounded by darkness except for a patch of light coming from the cell window. His memories of his family are generally bleak bar one: the memory of the day he received his green sash.
Ah, what did Da call me? That’s right. He called me Sunshine.
Here we see his parents beaming with pride, the sun shining brightly upon young Ned as he receives his reward for saving a life, surrounded by people that cheer for him. This is Ned’s “happy place”, the memory he clings to that proves he really is a good person. This is why the reveal of the sash after his capture is so important. It shows how beneath the armour, his outlaw facade, he still clings to this sash as a symbol of something pure and virtuous inside him. The only other time we really see the sunshine and the beauty of the landscape is between Ned’s return home and the Fitzpatrick incident then the gang’s emergence from the fire-decimated landscape. Colour and sunshine and the beauty of nature symbolise hope and optimism. His time working on the Cooks’ station is a happy time as it seems things could be improving for the Kellys, and it serves to drive home how bleak things become afterwards.
They said I’d lost what it meant to be human, maybe never had it in the first place, but wasn’t this about protecting the ones I loved? The ones who gave me food, and shelter, even the clothes on me back? And therefore wasn’t it now a war?
Perhaps the most disturbing sequence in the film involves the gang, starving and dying of thirst, slaughtering their horses to drink the blood. This is immediately following a huge bushfire that the police cause leaving the gang stranded and struggling to survive. The horses are slaughtered in the dark of night and the gang look like wild men, deranged and filthy. The desperation of their situation is written on their faces in mud, soot and blood. This nightmare is a representation of Ned’s feelings during the height of his outlawry. He is ashamed of what he has become and is desperate to reform his image and so ventures to the only person he can think of that could help him – the only woman who has ever shown him romantic love – Julia Cook. Julia reminds Ned of who he really is and this motivates his crazy scheme at Glenrowan.
They say the trouble with the Irish is that they rely too much on dreams and not enough on gunpowder. Whereas the English were shy on dreams, as usual, but had plenty of the other. Now we had both.
Ned never states definitively what the plan is for Glenrowan. We are given allusions that it’s something big and important as the gang create armour, gather weapons and then re-emerge with clean clothes and haircuts. The town of Glenrowan becomes the base of operations, though what Ned hopes to achieve here is never made clear. Ned gives a speech about how he and his gang are at war with the British Empire and even the London Times. Ned has emerged from the chrysalis of desperation as a revolutionary, a freedom fighter. The bizarre mix of people in the inn represents what Ned sees as the common people, the ones who are victimised by the corruption in the power structure. Yet, they are also reflective of the nature of the social and political dimension Ned’s situation has taken on: little more than a bizarre circus. The caged lion that paces and hollers outside is a symbol of Ned’s warrior spirit; ironic and subversive in that the lion is usually the symbol of England, the culture Ned is so opposed to. When the gang emerge in their armour they are chivalrous knights, protecting the downtrodden from the oppression of police and the political construction they represent. We see the ruthlessness of the police as they gun down innocent civilians as they try to escape from the inn. The gang respond by emerging from the shadows like steel automatons and casually decimate the front line of the police despite the fact that it is pitch black, raining and they are wearing helmets that restrict their vision. The gang avenge those who have been struck down by the cruelty of the police before being forced to head back inside. This is where Ned decides to make his last stand.
Whereas in history Ned’s last stand occurred as he returned to the inn from behind police lines, in this interpretation it is portrayed as Ned venturing out to fight the police single-handedly to create enough of a distraction for the captives to escape. The last stand now becomes a noble and selfless act whereby Ned saves the surviving captives at the cost of his own freedom and, in effect, his life. Naturally without Ned to lead them, the rest of the gang end up dead and the scene of what should have been Ned’s greatest victory goes up in flames. Ned wanders through the bizarre, alien landscape with its camels and pelting rain, only to collapse metres behind the police. The dead lion signifies the death of Ned’s spirit. He realises that he was never destined to succeed and when he regains consciousness again he fires on the police and is quickly taken down. His survival beyond this maiming seems to add insult to injury as he lies gasping under the weight of his armour, the very thing that saved his life from gunfire now little more than an embodiment of his crushing defeat resulting in a demeaning death at the end of a rope.
Such is life.
This is perhaps one of the most unusual interpretations yet of the Kelly story, as it is in essence a warped portrayal played out in the memories of a doomed man. The inaccuracies become the artifice that demonstrates the unreliable nature of a narrator assured of the notion that his life was predetermined and all of his actions, no matter how nefarious or altruistic, were incapable of altering the course of his destiny. Everyone is in awe of the protagonist either through fear or respect as he does a marionette dance from one happenstance to another. This is the story of a man shaped by external forces to become the most hunted man in the British Empire and destined to die an ignominious death as a young man fighting a war he cannot possibly win. There is no real moral lesson to this story, merely the depressing realisation that life rarely turns out the way we want it to.
Note: The following will be discussing people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and will also include images of persons now deceased.
Few bushrangers have such a horrific and blood soaked history as Jimmy Governor, the Aboriginal bandit who struck terror in New South Wales at the turn of the last century. Governor ended the lives of nine people, mostly women and children, and signified the end of the colonial era in Australia with his three month rampage at the dawn of federation and he was also the last outlaw in Australia’s history to date. The following is a brief overview of his tumultuous life.
Governor was born to Aboriginal parents though his maternal grandfather was Irish, resulting in him having dark red hair (by some accounts). Governor was a Wiradjuri man and grew up learning the ways of his people. Although there is nothing recorded to definitively confirm this, it is more than likely. Jimmy was a hard worker and skilled. His skill breaking in horses was in high demand around Gulgong and Breelong before he became a police tracker at Cassilis in the 1890s. He soon left the force very disillusioned but having developed vital tracking skills.
Jimmy was well liked by many who knew him and seems to have integrated well into white society thanks to his determination to succeed and aptitude for whatever he turned his hand to but he was still far from equal, a pain he carried deep inside. He married a sixteen year old named Ethel Mary Jane Page when he was twenty three and this would prove to be the beginning of the end.
Jimmy received a fencing contract at the Mawbey farm in Breelong and took his new wife with him. Ethel’s parents relocated to Dubbo and this seemed to fuel her isolation, which was firmly entrenched by Jimmy’s choice of accommodation – an Aboriginal camp near a creek outside of the station. The young family had a humpy for shelter, a far cry from Ethel’s previous lifestyle. When Jimmy worked on the fences Ethel would often travel to the homestead to do chores in exchange for rations for Mrs. Mawbey and her family and friends, who were not at all approving of her marriage. In their downtime Jimmy and his brother Joe would hunt possums, Jimmy favouring his nulla nulla (club) and Joe a tomahawk.
Things came to a head when Ethel tried to get a cup of flour from Mrs. Mawbey. Instead of getting the rations she received a verbal shredding about her marriage to Jimmy. Heading back to the humpy Ethel was beside herself. When Jimmy came back to the camp he and Ethel had an argument. Part of the dispute, Jimmy would later claim, was:
“The missis wanted a fortune dropped on her. She wanted us to rob people of money, and leave it at Jim Watson’s corner fence 2 ½ miles from Gulgong. Her brother Willy was to go there and get it when it was all over.”
The blue was explosive and Ethel expressed her feelings about living in away from other white people or family and barely being able to feed herself and their infant son. Jimmy took this rejection of his way of life and the criticism of his capacity to provide for his family as a statement that his wife would leave him. Years of alienation and insecurity welled up inside him and exploded in a murderous rage. “I suppose I am alone in this world with no one to care for me.” he bemoaned. Jimmy’s rage turned to who he felt must be responsible for making his wife feel this way – the Mawbeys. Grabbing his nulla nulla and taking his brother Joe and uncle Jacky Underwood with him Jimmy confronted Mrs. Mawbey and Ellen Kerz the local school teacher.
Jimmy pounded on the door and when Mrs. Mawbey answered he demanded an apology. When not only was the apology not forthcoming but he was met with further insults, Kerz calling him “black rubbish”, Jimmy snapped. The men went on a rampage and slaughtered Mrs. Mawbey, Helen Kerz and three children; Grace and Percy Mawbey and their friend Elsie Clarke.
With the blood of the Mawbeys and Kerz still warm, Jimmy Governor decided to go on a self-destructive spree of revenge killings, hoping to take out as many people who had slighted him as possible before he was inevitably put to death. According to some accounts Jimmy had a hit list of more than twenty potential victims including whites, Chinese and fellow Aboriginal people. This was not a man to be trifled with.
It seemed like the Governor gang were unstoppable, adding the murders of Elizabeth O’Brien and her infant at Poggi, Kiernan Fitzpatrick at Wollar and Alex McKay at Ulan to their tally. Others were wounded and allegedly there were rapes as well. With more than 2000 people hunting these bushrangers down and Jimmy and Joe Governor being declared outlaws under the Felons Apprehension Act (the last people in Australia to be given such a distinction) with a reward of £1000 for their capture, it was only a matter of time before justice struck swiftly.
The first of the gang to be captured was Jacky Underwood who was quickly tried and executed on 14 January, 1901. His last utterance was asking if he would be in heaven in time for dinner.
Time was running out for the “Breelong murderers” and things came to a head when Jimmy and Joe were ambushed on 13 October, 1900. A shot was fired hitting Jimmy in the mouth but he managed to get away alive. He and Joe split up and Jimmy spent the next few weeks struggling with his injury, living off oranges and honey for sustenance. He soon became too unwell to remain at large and was captured on 27 October by a civilian posse. Governor was taken to Sydney for trial. Mere days later Joe Governor was shot dead near Falbrook Creek, his body laid out and photographed.
Jimmy’s trial was of considerable interest at the time and the papers covered it in detail. The grim events of Jimmy’s bushranging career all seemed to come back to his tumultuous relationship with his wife and his rage against the world. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.
Jimmy Governor was hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol at 9am on 18 January, 1901. He spent his last night with ministers and his last moments were spent smoking a cigarette. His last words were incoherent to the observers – possibly spoken in his nation’s language – and are thus unrecorded. Thus ended the life of Australia’s last outlaw.
“JIMMY GOVERNOR.” The Pioneer (Yorketown, SA : 1898 – 1954) 10 November 1900: 3.
In 1864 Dan Morgan’s reign of terror was moving into full swing. In January of that year the New South Wales government formally issued a reward for Morgan’s apprehension, which was advertised in many publications in an effort to raise awareness.
Morgan’s reputation had grown exponentially in the span of a year. In August of the previous year, Morgan and German Bill had attempted to rob Henry Baylis, a police magistrate, which resulted in a gunfight in which Baylis was wounded and German Bill received wounds that would kill him within hours. Morgan had soon after raided Thomas Gibson’s station in Burrumbuttock and forced Gibson to write a £30 cheque for each member of the staff. His trip to Mittagong Station saw Morgan torch a woolshed because he believed Isaac Vincent, the station manager, had been supplying information to the police. Naturally, these were bridged by acts of highway robbery in Walla Walla and surrounds. Morgan had developed a reputation as being unpredictable and slightly mad but not bloodthirsty, however the worst was yet to come. By the end of 1865 Dan Morgan would be one of the first targets of the Felons Apprehension Act for robbery and murder.
New South Wales Government Gazette. 25 January 1864: 193.
At the beginning of 1865 the Ben Hall Gang were the most wanted men in Australia. Their success on the roads was problematic and they were nigh on untouchable. However, after a failed coach robbery in Black Springs resulting in Johnny Gilbert killing Sergeant Edmund Parry, the gang now had to tread carefully. The new recruit John Dunn was working out splendidly, taking to his role with a natural gift that saw him very quickly gain equal notoriety to his colleagues. Things were about to become far more serious as the gang descended upon Thomas Kimberly’s Inn in Collector on the outskirts of their usual beat on January 26, 1865.
Hall and company had held up some drays earlier that day and had been helping themselves to the grog when John Dunn spotted young Harry Nelson on his way back home from Taradale. Dunn stuck up the hapless boy and took him to join the other victims once he had been searched. The gang were informed that Harry was the son of Constable Nelson and then proceeded towards Collector gathering more prisoners as they went. In the early afternoon, Hall, Gilbert and Dunn arrived at Kimberly’s Inn on horseback and forced Harry Nelson to hold their horses. Harry was told in no uncertain terms that he was to hold the horses or have his brains blown out, likely by Gilbert whose taste for the dramatic was well known by this point. When Thomas Kimberly was roused he went to the door and was greeted by the not-so-cheery sight of a pepperbox revolver aimed at his chest. The gang proceeded to round up the occupants of the building and add them to the existing number of victims. Hall and Gilbert went inside to ransack the rooms while Dunn emptied the pockets and purses of the captives outside and kept watch. Inside the inn Hall searched the rooms upstairs with a servant named Eliza Mensey who was equipped with the keys while Gilbert raided the stores. The bushranger and the servant girl conversed for a time and Hall procured Kimberly’s gun stash and between himself and Gilbert took £26 worth of items consisting mostly of men’s and boy’s clothes and boots.
Unfortunately for the bushrangers word slipped out about what was happening at the hotel and worked its way into town where it reached thirty eight year old Constable Samuel Nelson, the lock-up keeper and solitary officer in town formerly of Moreton Bay. Nelson had been repeatedly frustrated in his duties by the refusal of the police force to provide him with reinforcements in an attempt to nail the Hall gang, thus had avowed to do his best to fulfill the duty of capturing the bandits alone. Nelson had served in the New South Wales police force for just over seven years after arriving from England in 1855. His dedication to his civic duty was never more conspicuous as it was on this day. With his colleagues out of town searching for the bandits, Nelson took it upon himself to sort out the happenings at the inn. Fetching up his carbine with bayonet attached, he marched to the inn telling his wife Elizabeth “Now, I’m just going to do my best”.
Meanwhile at Kimberly’s Inn, John Dunn was acting as a sentry. He had already scared off Mr. Edwards the clerk of Petty Sessions with a few parting shots and was feeling on edge. He hollered for his companions to come downstairs as police were coming but when Ben Hall appeared, armed with two revolvers, he dismissed Dunn’s worries and said “You can manage it, Jack” before returning to his business upstairs. Much younger than his colleagues in crime, Dunn was slight and spry, qualities that had served him well as a jockey and bush telegraph for Gilbert previously. Unfortunately on this day he was also unusually agitated and his nervousness showed in his erratic behaviour. He mounted his horse and roamed the perimeter before returning to Harry Nelson and ordering him to hold the horses. Dismounting, Dunn crouched behind the fence with a shotgun and revolver.
On the way to the inn Constable Nelson crossed paths with his eighteen year old son Frederick who followed a short distance behind. Just before dusk Nelson arrived at the inn and upon sighting Dunn presented his rifle. Dunn ordered Nelson to stand or be shot. Nelson was not about to be cowed by bushrangers on this day and continued on, cocking the rifle. As he aimed at Dunn, the bushranger fired at him with a shotgun, twenty odd pieces of hot lead hitting Nelson in the chest lacerating the heart and perforating the liver and causing a hideous wound down to his stomach, which was visible through the hole. The constable staggered onto the road dropping his carbine with an exclamation of “Oh!” whereupon Dunn fired again with his pistol and the bullet hit Nelson in the left side of the face killing him instantly. Spotting Frederick Nelson near the fence Dunn hollered for him to stand but the boy, still in shock, bolted. Dunn reeled off a shot at the retreating lad but missed.
Roused by the gunfire, Hall and Gilbert emerged from the inn and saw Nelson’s body on the path in a pool of blood and gore. Dunn darted back to the inn, greatly agitated and told Hall and Gilbert “I’ve shot one of the bloody traps, the other has bolted.” Hall and Gilbert went over to investigate the fallen officer. The bushrangers searched Nelson, Gilbert stripping him of his belt stating “It’s just what I wanted, I’ve burst mine”. Dunn took up Nelson’s carbine leaving the body on the road. Once the bandits had left the body was taken inside the inn where an inquest was held. While on the run the bushrangers discarded two of the shotguns stolen from the inn under a tree where they were soon retrieved.
It wasn’t long before John Dunn too had a price on his head. This dreadful turn of events would lead Dunn to the scaffold the following year thus closing the epic saga of the Lachlan bushrangers.
When Dunn was finally brought to justice, his judge Sir Alfred Stephen, stated:
Was it nothing to you to shoot brutally, and murder a poor man like that? Talk of bravery- I know no greater bravery than was displayed on this occasion by Constable Nelson. The town was deserted by the police, who had been put upon a wrong scent, and he was left alone. A little girl tells him the bushrangers are at Kimberley’s and what does he do? ‘I will go down and see what I can do alone’, such a sentiment can only be equaled by his namesake, who expected ‘every man to do his duty.’ Nelson went to do his duty, and met his death; it was a most brutal murder, and it is impossible for anyone to sympathize with you. The unhappy man is not only shot dead, but you at once return to your companions, and the others who were at your peril and made use of the most filthy expressions, you talk in this beastly and insulting way to men whom you had covered by revolvers, and firearms pointed at their heads, spoke to them insultingly when they were helpless- That was your courage and here is your bravery.
“INQUEST ON CONSTABLE NELSON.” Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 – 1871) 4 February 1865: 6.
“BUSHRANGING DAYS” The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (NSW : 1888 – 1954) 29 January 1932: 1.
“COMMITTAL OF DUNN THE OUTLAW FOR THE MURDER OF CONSTABLE NELSON.” Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875) 13 February 1866: 3.
There are many myths about the death of Dan Morgan, some of which aren’t entirely without reason. Here we examine the end of one of Australia’s bloodiest legends.
Despite being seen by many as monstrous and inhuman, Morgan had a great many sympathisers and friends who were so outraged by his death and mutilation that police had to quell potential riots around Wangaratta in the aftermath.
As he lay dying, Morgan was asked if his real name was Morgan or Moran – he refused to answer. This may lend a certain weight to the “McNally” origin. The origin story championed by Margaret Carnegie is that Morgan was born as William Moran junior in Campelltown in 1833, though his siblings had the surname McNally because that was the surname that the parents were using prior to their relocating to Campbelltown. Jack Bradshaw, whose autobiography is often riddled with false information, claimed to have been a good friend of Morgan’s and reported that he frequently visited his widowed mother in Wangaratta. If Morgan’s real name was Moran, could he have been trying to obscure attempts to single out his relatives?
Claims that Morgan’s scrotum was removed to make a coin pouch seem to be no more than rumour handed down as oral history, however the flaying of Morgan’s beard and the people cutting off pieces of hair (including one alleged instance where the knife wasn’t sharp enough so the souvenir hunters just yanked the hair until it came out with a piece of scalp) definitely happened and Superintendent Cobham was suspended over asking Dr. Dobbyn to perform such a gruesome act. This combined with the subsequent decapitation and postmortem contusions indicate more may have occurred that wasn’t deemed acceptable to print at the time. Thus with the postmortem autopsy having been carried out before the butchery occurred it is impossible to say what condition the remains were in when they were buried so this rumour may actually have some substance to it.
The man who shot Morgan, John Wendlan, was reported as being named “Quinlan” in earlier reports, likely because the reporter was attempting to record the name phonetically and rush the information to the editor as quickly as possible.
Reports in the wake of the death of both Morgan and Ben Hall shortly after state that copies of Morgan’s death mask were being sold around Wangaratta and were doing excellent trade. None of these copies are known to exist still, or if they do the owners are not willing to let on.
The bullet that killed Morgan shattered vertebrae in his upper spine and caused considerable damage to his throat. Morgan was paralysed from the neck down and died choking on his own blood. Though he was capable of speaking in small bursts he was largely inaudible.
When Morgan’s head was severed it was wrapped in cloths that were soaked in brine to preserve it for the trip to Melbourne. It was then placed in a wooden box and taken by coach to Professor Halford of Melbourne University. Initially the head was deemed incapable of molding by Professor Halford due to the severe damage inflicted upon it and the decay that was beginning to set in, but a cast was made nonetheless. The casting demonstrates a severe contusion (swelling) in Morgan’s left eye that was not present in any of the photographs, which could indicate that claims the head was kicked around like a soccer ball may have been true. Many of the people who examined the corpse expressed that they were impressed at how straight and handsome his teeth were. After the casting the flesh was stripped from the bones and the skull was kept in the university archives where it was later studied for a book comparing races based on bone structure.
By May 1870 bushranging was almost completely wiped out. Captain Thunderbolt met his inglorious end and all that was left were the odd copycat and the last of the highwaymen: Harry Power. Harry Power was a legend in his own lunchtime whose limited notoriety was on a scale comparable to the most infamous of his contemporaries so of course news of his capture was very well received. This is how it went down according to the news of the day…
By the mail which arrived yesterday morning from Beechworth, came to the chief commissioner of police an official account of the gallant capture of Power, the bushranger, by Superintendents Nicolson and Hare and First class Sergeant Montford. Much of the information supplied is, in the opinion of Captain Standish, matter which it would be wrong to publish ; but being naturally desirous to make public the leading features of the affair, he has communicated the following, which is substantially the same as the account telegraphed to us by our correspondent at Wangaratta. The account of the actual capture is a little indistinct, and we supplement it by a passage from a private letter from Mr. Hare to a gentleman of this city, which throws a little more light upon the way in which the encounter took place. It may be surmised that the attack was, in fact, made pell-mell. There was no previous observation — no reconnoitring. As soon as signs of smoke were visible, the party started at full speed to the spot, and we may suppose that Mr. Nicolson, being first, fell upon his man, who awoke suddenly to find Mr. Hare and Sergeant Montford also arrived, so that he was covered with three revolvers. The handcuffing followed, as a matter of course.
The following is the statement :—
Superintendents Nicolson and Hare and first class Sergeant Montford arrived at Benalla on the 29th May, having been sent on special duty in connexion with the search for the bushranger Power. They proceeded to a station in the neighbourhood, and were engaged several days in prosecuting inquiries. On the 1st inst., they proceeded, accompanied by a black tracker and a guide, whose services they had secured, to the head of the King River. The same day they reached Table Top Range, and camped there, turning out their horses. They carefully avoided all roads and tracks while travelling through the bush. At daybreak on Thursday last the party proceeded through the mountains till they reached a spot within 14 miles of the Glenmore Range. Here they camped in a secluded gully, and remained prosecuting their inquiries till the afternoon of the 4th inst. During the whole of this time they were compelled to watch their horses, so as to guard against being discovered by any persons in the neighbourhood. At half past 5 p.m. on Saturday last they started on horseback, and proceeded for a mile or two, when the darkness become so dense that the guide declined to go any further, stating that he had lost his way, and that the ranges were so steep that he feared an accident. He suggested that the party should wait till daybreak, having evidently miscalculated his knowledge of the natural features of the country. He was, however, prevailed upon to proceed, and with the assistance of Sergeant Montford, whose previous knowledge of the country was here found to be invaluable, a track was discovered which led to the part of the King River which they desired to reach. They remained here for about an hour, as it was undesirable for many reasons that they should reach the point for which they were making before midnight. In that neighbourhood was the house of a settler named Quinn, which is so situated as to prevent access to the Glenmore Range without passing within a few yards of the door ; the King River being on one side and several deep and dangerous lagoons on the other. These lagoons terminate in a creek, the only bridge over which is exactly opposite Quinn’s premises. There was reason to believe that Power’s usual camping place was not far distant from Quinn’s house, and as the latter kept numerous watchdogs, the greatest possible caution was necessary to pass the place without giving any alarm. At midnight the party made a start, and after going for half a mile, and crossing numerous watercourses, which they were compelled to wade into to ascertain their depth, the guide was once more at a loss, and the party found themselves in a labyrinth of lagoons from which it appeared almost impossible to extricate themselves. However, by the assistance of the black tracker, they succeeded in retracing their steps to the place from which they had started four hours before. The darkness at this time was so great that it was with the utmost difficulty the party was kept together, and the horses at last refused to face the creeks. The night drawing to an end, they proceeded in all haste in the direction of Quinn’s house, but keeping on this this occasion along the banks of the river, encountering by the way many obstacles such as log fences, dead timber, rivulets, &c., till they reached a paddock a quarter of a mile from the house. The party here dismounted, and leaving the horses in the care of the black tracker, crept cautiously along the lagoon at the back of Quinn’s house, which they fortunately succeeded in passing without alarming any of the numerous dogs. For the third time the guide stated he was quite incapable of leading the party to the point they wished to reach, and appeared to be suffering from extreme fatigue and cold.
After a short consultation the party decided on risking the loss of their horses and sent Sergeant Montford for the black tracker who had been left in charge of them. The sergeant returned with him after a delay of about 20 minutes. By this time it was broad daylight, and their anxiety was much increased lest their presence should become known. They then made a fresh start, spreading out in a line, and systematically searching spurs and gullies. About half-past 7 a.m., when about half a mile up Glenmore Range, they came upon a hollow tree, which had evidently been used as a sleeping place, and which led them to conjecture that they were on the right track. At that instant the black tracker saw smoke about 300 yards further up the mountain. They proceeded silently and speedily in that direction, and when within about 30 yards of the smoke they perceived a fire in front of a quantity of gum bushes which screened a gunyah. This the party immediately rushed, and discovered inside of it the bushranger Power, lying with his clothes on, with a revolver by his side, and a gun close to his head. The party covered him with their revolvers, and calling on him to surrender, dragged him outside and handcuffed him without his making any further resistance. To the remark made that he had given the police a great deal of trouble, he replied, ” I am sorry I did not hear you coming—I would have dropped one of you,” and added that he would have preferred being shot dead to being taken alive. Sergeant Montford was then despatched for the horses. On searching the gunyah the party discovered a large supply of bread, meat, tea, sugar, and vegetables. The revolver and the double-barrelled gun were both heavily loaded. In the gunyah they also found a purse containing £15. The whole party having been without any food for 24 hours, and on short allowance for the previous two days, gladly availed themselves of Power’s hospitality. The black tracker, who was extremely exhausted by hunger, fatigue, and cold, exclaimed on seeing the store of provisions, “My God, what a feed we shall have.” After this welcome repast, and having taken possession of all the property found in the gunyah, they placed Power on the black tracker’s horse, and rode off to a hut nine miles distant, where they obtained a cart, and ultimately reached Wangaratta, distant 40 miles, at 7 o’clock on Sunday night, after being 25 consecutive hours in the saddle. The prisoner was most communicative as to his exploits. He complained of the many persons who reported having been robbed by him, for which statements he said there was not the slightest foundation. He admitted having committed numerous robberies, and stated his intention to plead guilty to those brought against him. During the whole time the hardships the party underwent were considerable. With the exception of Thursday it rained incessantly, and their difficulties were considerably enhanced by the caution they had to observe, which necessitated the adoption of the most difficult and secluded routes. They had only taken provisions sufficient for two meals per man, and were unable to obtain further supplies, and were moreover without any kind of shelter for the whole period, while the idea of lighting a fire was of course out of the question. Their success was in a great measure owing to the thorough knowledge of the country which Sergeant Montford possessed, he having formerly been stationed at Wangaratta for some time.
ANOTHER DESCRIPTION OF THE ENCOUNTER.
Mr. Superintendent Hare, writing to a gentleman of this city, thus describes the affair. His narrative commences shortly after daybreak on Sunday morning :—
“However, on we went, hoping almost against hope, when suddenly we came across a tree which bore indications of having been inhabited. At this moment the blackfellow at once made signs of ‘smoke ahead.’ Off the three of us started in the direction, Nicolson first, myself next, Montford behind, and the blackfellow bringing up the rear, with a Snider rifle at full cock, ready to shoot the first man who showed himself. We had to go a couple of hundred yards, which, I can assure you, did not take many minutes — Nicolson all the time taking off his coat as if going to have a stand up fight with someone—when we beheld a kind of habitation before us, not a stir about the place. Our joy was beyond description, when the first thing we saw was two feet sticking out, and in a few seconds Power, the man of whom we had heard so much, and who had been in our minds for months and months, stood before us handcuffed. Oh that we could have telegraphed to town at that moment! Our happiness was complete ; we sat down to a billy of tea, and I ate the best breakfast I ever had in my life. You will see that the poor blackfellow, who had really had more grub than any one of us, was almost dead with cold and hunger. He called out at the top of his voice directly he saw what was in the gunyah, ‘My God,won’t we have a feed !’ Nothing but his belly was in his thoughts.”
We have not been indulged with a view of the rest of this vivid description of the proceedings.