Spotlight: A Bushranger’s Autobiography (part three)

Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday 15 February 1879, page 7

(continued from last week.) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

In the year 1841, on April 15, I was tried at Berrima for being in the bush under arms. I was found guilty, and transported for life to Norfolk Island, never to return. I remained in the gaol waiting to be conveyed down to Sydney. One morning the order came for me to go. I was placed in a cart and guarded by three mounted police and a constable. One night on the road I was placed in the lock-up at the Stone Quarry for the night. I put my wits to work to get out, and succeeded. I instantly made for the place where the mounted police slept. I took what arms I wanted, as they were all fast asleep. Next, I scaled the wall of the lock-up yard after a deal of trouble, for I was so heavily chained I could scarcely walk. Before I could get well into the bush, daylight made its appearance. I was surrounded by constables in all directions searching for me. I expected to be taken every minute. The thought came into my head to get up a tree. I picked out a good one, and scrambling up, there I remained all day. At night I came down, but dare not proceed any further, as the constables would be lying in wait all round me. I remained in this way for four days, up in the tree in the daytime, and down at night.

The fourth night I made to a house I could see some way off, to seek some refreshment and likewise something to cut my irons with. I knocked at the door, they opened it, and I went in. They all appeared to be very much frightened at my appearance. They were very poor people, and it grieved me to the heart to take anything from them. They gave me some refreshment, and I felt a different man altogether. I asked them for a knife and file to cut off my irons with. They gave them to me, and I bid them good night. I now walked into the bush, and cut my chains off that night. The next morning, I concealed myself under a bridge, waiting to stop the first man that came. In the course of an hour a gentleman came on horseback. I made my appearance in front of him with no hat and no shoes; all the clothes I had on was a shirt and a pair of trousers. I was something like a wild man, but I gave the old war cry, “Stand, or I’ll blow your head off.” I then ordered him off his horse, and to turn out his pockets. Then I mounted his horse, and marched him in the front of me a mile into the bush. I made him take off everything but his shirt. Then I put on his clothes and gave him my trousers; his own mother would hardly have known him. I told him I was going up the country, and bid him good day. After I had got out of sight, I turned my horse’s head right round, and took down the country. I came on to the road and held gently along until I met two gentlemen going up the country. I stopped them, and took all their money and their watches. This job over I put spurs to my horse, and went lull gallop along, robbing everyone I met until I came to the Cow Pastures. Here I turned my horse adrift, as I did not consider I was safe on his back. He was dead beat. I then went to one of my friends to take a spell, and get some things I required.

The next place where I made my appearance was on the West End road, close to Paramatta. I stood by the road, and the first person I stuck up was a parson going to the West End church to preach. I did not rob him. I let him pass as he was a parson. I had an hour’s conversation with him. He tried to get me to go to church with him, but that did not answer. A horse and chaise now made its appearance, and I bid the parson good day. When the horse and chaise came up to where I was standing, I ordered the driver to pull up or I would shoot him. I made him come down and empty his pockets. He was very loth to perform this part of the business but turned out about £27. I took also his coat and hat and let him go.

I did not fancy that part of the country, so I took the coach and went up towards Goulburn. Here I was in a part I knew well. I began again by sticking up Mr. H. I took all his money and his clothes, but I gave him mine in return. I then took him to a bridge and placed him underneath for about an hour. Three horsemen now made their appearance, all abreast and in earnest conversation. As they came near I jumped into the centre of the road with the word of command, made them get down and tie their horses to a tree. Then their pockets were turned out, and they stood back. I then advanced and took the money up. I then took Mr. J. M.’s horse and bid them good day.

One day as I came out on to the road, I saw some drays encamped. I tied my horse to a tree about 300 yards from the drays. I walked down to the drays. I knew one of the men. I asked him to make me a pot of tea. He told me I had better get off into the bush, as I was in danger there, five constables being with them looking for me only half an hour ago. I took his advice, and went back to my horse to wait while he brought me some tea and other refreshment, as he said he would. About five minutes after I had left the drays, I saw four mounted police come full gallop up to the drays. They did not stop there long, but came full speed towards me. My horse was unsaddled, with a tether rope round his neck, taking a feed of grass. I had no time for anything before they were upon me. I mounted a tree close to where my horse was tied, from which I had the pleasure of seeing them seeking for me for about an hour. They took my horse, but did not discover me. I got clean off, and they did not know how it was done.

I now thought the sooner I get a new horse the better; so, I made to Mr. Stukey’s, to pay him a visit. I arrived at his place before he was up. When he made his appearance, I rather surprised him by telling him to stand. At this time there was no one up but himself. I went to the kitchen, and called the servant-man. He dressed himself, and came down stairs.
“Tie your master’s hands behind him,” I said. At this time all the young ladies came running down stairs in their nightgowns. “For God’s sake, don’t hurt my father,” they cried. It seemed there was an ill-feeling between the servant-man and his master, as he had got him flogged a few days before. The servant-man now commenced pitching into his master, right and left; at which the young females appealed to me to prevent the servant from beating their father. I gave I the young ladies no answer to that, for I considered he was doing nothing but right.
The man now came to me and said, “Give me a pistol and I’ll shoot him.”
“No,” I said, “I’ll do no such thing.”
I now over hauled the house. I found a double-barrelled gun. I then went into the kitchen and ordered the servant-woman to get breakfast ready. I then asked the master where the key of the store was. The servant-man took the key and unlocked the store. I went in, and found plenty of rum, wine, and brandy. I took a glass of the brandy, gave the servant-man one, and likewise the woman. I then asked the young ladies to take a glass of wine with me. This they did, and drank my health. After I had got such things as I required out of the store, I took breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. Stukey. After breakfast I ordered Miss Stukey to go and bring me a suit of Mr. Stukey’s best clothes. At this time the servant-man and also the servant-woman wanted to join me as companions. I gave my consent to the man, but not to the woman. He then put on a suit of his master’s best clothes, while I went into the stable, saddled a horse, and put the plunder on his back. He was quite a young horse, and had not been rode many times. I mounted him, and off we went. The servant-woman came running after us and caught me by the hand. The horse took fright, and by chance flung me off and galloped away into the bush. I went back to Mr. Stukey’s, and he begged and prayed of me not to let his servant-man go with me, as his time was almost done, and he promised me faithfully not to take him to court for his conduct that morning. I then advised the man to stay where he was, for mine was a very bad game to play. Having arranged my swag, I bid them good day, and was getting out of the paddock, when the female servant came running to me again, and catching hold of me said, “Where you go, I will go, so say no more.” I tried to persuade her to go back, but she would not. So, I let her come with me, and a faithful companion she was whilst I remained in the bush.

I now thought I would pay my friend Mr. “Black Francis” McCarthy a visit. He was in the habit of going to Goulburn church every Sunday. I came to the road and waited. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon I saw him coming in his carriage. I was ready, and sprang out before them, and bid them pull up or be shot. I then ordered him down out of the carriage, and turn out his pockets, and be sharp about it, and not dare to speak one word to me, as he hadn’t me in Goulburn Court-house now, and trying to make men swear away my life, and his life was now in my hands. It was my firm intention to tie him up to the wheel of his carriage, and make his driver flog him; but through his sister being with him he escaped this punishment. I next ordered him to take one of the horses out of the carriage and take off the harness, and I warned him that if he let the horse escape, I would consider he did it purposely, and blow his head off. When I had picked up the money and watch I got on the back of his carriage horse, and left him to his reflections. He was “black” enough when I met him, but I left him white enough; and from the top of a hill, I looked back and had the pleasure to see the coachman leading the one horse up the hill, and Mr. Black Francis pushing the carriage behind — a sight that gave me real satisfaction.

Spotlight: Extracts from the Launceston Advertiser regarding Donohoe, 04/10/1830

Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846), Monday 4 October 1830, page 2



On Monday an Inquest was convened by Major SMEATHAM, Coroner, at the FOX AND HOUNDS, kept by Henry Ball, Castlereagh Street, on the body of John Donohoe.

HENRY GORMAN. — I am a constable at Bargo ; on the 1st of September I and several of the Mounted Police were encamped in the evening, about five o’clock, on Mr. Wentworth’s farm, Bringelly, when onen who was on the look-out, said “here comes two constables whom we expected?” they were then about a mile and a half distant ; one the Police said, “no they are bushrangers!” Three men were leading a pack-horse ; I and two of the Police-men took one side of a creek, and the serjeant and another man the other side ; we made towards, and came up with them on some forest land ; a man on the horse, who I thought was a bushranger named WALMSLEY, saw us first, and immediately jumped off; deceased took off his hat, and waving it over his head, threw it in the air, saying. “come on! I am ready for a dozen of you!” The other two took off their coats and hats and went behind trees; we held a parley with them about two minutes, before a shot was fired, all parties being behind trees, when one of the Police-men fired, and nearly took down one of the men, who I thought was WEBBER; after this they appeared shy. Two of them fired their pieces at me, and I fired at them, but witout effect on either side. One of the Police men named Mugglestone then fired and Donohoe fell. We chased the other two, but could not come up with them. On returning deceased was quite dead; the other two Police men did not fall in with us till the deceased fell ; Mugglestone shot the deceased.

John Mugglestone, a private of the 30th regt, now in the employ of the Mounted Police, stated to the same effect, with the addition, that this carbine was loaded with two balls; and that they found on the horse’s back some flour, sugar, and women’s wearing apparel, and that deceased had a watch in his pocket. Serjeant W. Hodson deposed to the same effect but with the addition, that he knew the other two bushrangers to be Walmsley and Webber, and that he thought deceased was Donohue as Dr. Gibson was robbed by him, and the Doctor knew him well, having been Juror when deceased was tried some time ago. Deceased was in the agonies of death when he came up to him ; he found on his person a small pistol and a watch, (watch produced) no money was in his person ; on the horse was found a great many papers. among the rest grants of land, transfers, and receipts. The deeds are made out in the name of “Denis Begly, Prospect” and the transfers in the name of Edward Wright (deed and papers produced); Gorman loaded his piece with a carbine ball and pistol ball, which it appeared by Mr. Jilks had been lost only a week. The pack-horse or rather mare was aged, and marked E. S.

The Jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, without reference to identity. But from a wound in the cheek, and another under the cheek arising from scrophula, there is little doubt but the deceased is the notorious outlaw Donohoe.

Donohoe’s life as no doubt been harassing. But at the same time, it must be allowed that in comparison of the lives of the wretches at Moreton Bay, it was a happy life, and his death much less painful than those of scores who have deceased at that horrid settlement. And so long as such settlements exist, we doubt not we shall never want in this Colony either Donohoe’s and Dalton’s. It is fit and proper, that cruelty should be visited on the nation which practices it with retribution. God is just.

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

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


The soldier named Morley, mentioned in our last as having taken to the bush, has been captured and now awaits his trial before a Court Martial.



A Short time ago, Donohoe, Walmsley, and Webber, met a messenger belonging to a road or iron gang, at the Lower Branch of the Hawkesbury, as he was proceeding from one gang to another, on duty, carrying a new blanket and a cake with him from place to place, for safety. Walmsley accosted him ‘Ah, Tom Taylor! is that you? We must have your cake at any rate, but as you are my shipmate, we wont take your blanket, as they might send you to a penal settlement for selling it.’ Tom Taylor is not only a ship-mate, but comes from the same part of England as John Walmsley. This took place beyond Wiseman’s, on the Great North Road to Maitland, about the twelve mile hollow. They have crossed twice recently at Singleton’s Mill, on the Hawkesbury, and there is good reason to suspect they are the men who robbed Mr. Chandler. They confess they have been very much harrassed lately; they do not remain long in one place. They have committed two robberies in the Seven Hills district; and it has been told to a certain publican on a turnpike road, that one of these men purchased some spirit at his house lately, and carried it to his companions lying in ambush, not very far away at the time. Six constables and two black natives proceeded in search of these men a few mornings since, and are expected to remain some days away. The black natives are rewarded out of the police contigencies, and it is said that the constables on this special duty are allowed one shilling per diem in addition to their pay. If they fall in with Donohoe’s party, they will be apt to earn the extra allowance in an intrepid encounter with people who would rather be shot than hanged.