Spotlight: Portrait of James Sutherland

James Saunders was born at Big River, (Ouse). At 18 months old, James was left by his father with a woman at Perth. This woman raised him until he was 5 years old and he was given the name Sutherland. He was then fobbed off on a woman at Evandale, who looked after him until he was 11. James was then kicked out and left to his own devices. He tried to make his way back to Perth, but was arrested and tried under the vagrancy act. He was sentenced to 3 months in gaol.

When he got out of gaol he travelled to Hobart and worked as a dogsbody for Webb’s Hotel. He then found employment for Mr. Pedder at his farm at Kangaroo Point. He remained here for 3 years, then decided to become a miner. Despite being seen in Launceston from time to time, nothing else is known of his life from this period.

[National Library of Australia]

In 1883, James Saunders, now known as Sutherland, was joined by his friend James Ogden in bushranging in Epping Forest. According to news reports they only emerged from the bush to visit brothels and drink. This was followed by a brief crime spree that resulted in Sutherland murdering two men: William Wilson and Alfred Holman. The former was shot after leaving his house, which was also burnt down. The latter was shot while driving a wagon through the forest. Both crimes were as shocking in their violence as they were tragic in their aftermath.

Sutherland and Ogden were soon captured, not far from where Holman’s body was found, and tried for murder. Sutherland accepted the charges laid on him, and seemed to express little or no remorse. He suggested that because the world had been so cruel to him he saw no difference in giving a little cruelty back. The pair were found guilty and executed in Hobart. At the time of their executions, Ogden was twenty years old, while Sutherland, was only eighteen.

Spotlight: The capture and death of Fred Lowry as it was reported 

When bushranger Fred Lowry met his end after a heated confrontation with police it created a sensation across New South Wales. Here we have excerpts from an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald about some of the happenings as well as the outlaw himself.

Photograph of the deceased Fred Lowry (Source: National Portrait Gallery)

“ON Sunday last, just as divine service was concluded, considerable excitement was caused by the arrival in town of a party of policemen in coloured clothes with a dray, in which was the dead body of Lowry, the noted bushranger, and the following prisoners :- Lawrence Cummins, charged with robbery under arms, and supposed to be the man who lately shot his brother, John Cummins, when on his way to Binda in custody on a charge of bushranging; Thomas Vardy, licensed victualler of the Limerick Races Inn, Cook’s Vale Creek ; Robert and Henry Hogan, Vardy’s stepsons ; and Thomas Brown, James Williams, a lad of sixteen, and John Watson, an aboriginal native, employed in Vardy’s service. The Last six named prisoners were all charged with harbouring bushrangers, and with being accessory to robberies after the fact.

The body of Lowry was removed to the hospital, where, in the course of the afternoon, it was seen by numbers of people. He appears to have been a very tall young man, measuring six feet two inches, and probably weighing thirteen stone, well made, with small hands and feet, white skin, small moustache, and a particularly well-developed chest. Taken altogether he was physically a very fine man. He is described as having been twenty-seven years of age; and although he must have led a life of mingled dissipation and hardship, he did not appear to be any older. 

Some doubt was expressed as to the body being that of Lowry, the bushranger; Mr. Horsford, the gaoler, who had known Lowry at Cockatoo Island, where he was undergoing a sentence under the name of Frederick M’Gregor, considered that the hair was much darker than that of the man he had known, and that he was much stouter, and was of opinion that deceased was not Lowry, though he was not able to speak positively. Mr. Fogg, a settler at the Narrawa, and his wife came into town on Monday and saw the body, which they declared was not that of Lowry; but it seemed they have not seen Lowry for three years, and although called at the inquest they did not attend. On the other hand, the Rev. H. H. Gaud, who had seen Lowry some twelve months back, believed that deceased was he, as did also Mr. Moses Baird, who, however, had not seen Lowry for seven or eight years. The evidence taken at the inquest is all in favour of the view of deceased being identical with Lowry ; and it is quite certain that he was the man who robbed the Goulburn mail on the 2nd July last-Mr. Futter, Captain Morphy, and the coachman (Michael Curran) having positively identified him, and Captain Morphy’s watch having been found in his possession.

There is every reason to believe that he is the man who in conjunction with Foley robbed the Mudgee mail. Foley and Lowry, it may be remembered, escaped together from Bathurst gaol on the 13th February last.”

It is intriguing that despite there being far less consensus about the identity of the corpse there have been no noted conspiracy theories raised in intervening years about Lowry escaping death such as the one about Captain Thunderbolt, which was generated with far less supporting evidence.

The report goes on to give a run down of Lowry’s criminal history using excerpts from other publications to illustrate. The history of the deceased out of the way the article continues with the account of the coroner, Dr. Waugh who states in part (with a seeming addiction to semi-colons):

“I directed [Detective] Camphin to keep guard in front with the same instructions, while Saunderson and myself would search the house; at the same time I told all the men that I suspected Frederick Lowry, the bushranger, was in the house, and to be prepared; we then dashed up to the house; we saw a girl, who seemed to be frightened and who was half-crying; Saunderson and I dismounted, hung our horses up to the front of the house, and went on to the verandah; I asked the girl if there was anyone in her room; she said “no”; I looked in and saw only a little child; the girl was about half-dressed; I then went into the bar and called for Vardy the landlord; Vardy came out of his bedroom into the hall adjoining the bar; I asked if he had any strangers in the house; he said “yes”; I asked where they where; he nodded his head to the room they were in; I asked if he knew who they were; he said no, and to look out; I went to the parlour door adjoining the room he mentioned and leading to it; it was locked inside; I knocked and asked for admittance; I got no answer; I then said if the door wore not opened at once I would break it open; I then knocked my shoulder against the door for the purpose of breaking it open; I failed in the first attempt, and I no sooner took my shoulder away than a shot was fired from inside, and a voice exclaimed “I’ll fight you, b__s”; the shot came through the door and wounded the horse I had been riding in the back; I removed the horse from that place and gave him to Vardy, and told him I should hold him responsible for him ; I then went back to the bar-door, and then the parlour door was opened and a man came out with a revolver in each hand crying out “I’m Lowry; come on ye b__’s, and I’ll fight ye fair”; at the same time he presented one of the revolvers at me; I covered him directly; I think we both fired together; at that time we were four or five yards apart ; he then advanced upon me within three feet; I covered him again, and we both, fired in each other’s faces; the second shot I fired he dropped his revolvers and staggered; I jumped forward and seized him by the neck, struck him with my revolver on the head, and told him he was my prisoner; I brought him into the bar; he continued to struggle; Saunderson came to my assistance; we then shoved the deceased into the yard, threw him on his back, and putting my knee on his chest I handcuffed him ; he then said he was Lowry, and was done…”
To further support the assertion of the corpse’s identity various effects of the deceased’s are detailed in the article:
“Lowry’s vest [a black-cloth vest bound with blue, with buttons like silver] ; it is similar to that described as having been worn by the robber of the Mudgee mail; I produce a thin black cloth sac coat claimed by Lowry, a brown Inverness cape, another heavier one, a cabbagetree hat with broad black ribbon, and an elastic riding-belt: one of the capes
contained a flask of powder, a few percussion caps, two dice, a gold watch, chain, and key ; I believe, from the description, that the watch belongs to Captain Morphy, who was robbed on the Big Hill, Goulburn, on the 2nd July ; I also found two knives, one £50 note, and altogether £164 19s. 6d., in notes stolen from the Mudgee mail, all except £10 in notes, £2 in gold, and 19s. 6d. in silver ; the money, except the silver, was in a little bag in Lowry’s trousers pocket…”

The article closes with a note of what was to come next:

“The body will be kept till Thursday, when Mr. Kater is expected to arrive. In the meantime some photographic likenesses of deceased have been taken by Mr. Gregory.”
Interestingly, the in-depth article detailing the thrilling exploits and capture of one of the Lachlan’s greatest outlaws is followed by two curious stubs wherein we are informed of a morning tea to welcome a new pastor and that a farmer in Wollongong had killed a pig of “unusual size”, highlighting the old adage that life goes on.


Source: ​“THE CAPTURE AND DEATH OF LOWRY, THE BUSHRANGER.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 4 September 1863: 2. <;.

Spotlight: Prison Record of Thomas Rogan

Born in Victoria, of Thomas Brown (aka Baker) there is surprisingly little information about his early life available. On his Victorian prison record it states that he was a native of Geelong, as well as listing his birth year as 1856, though his New South Wales record lists it as 1857. It seems that at some point in his teens his father William left the family and moved to Carlton after which time he could not be found. This may have informed the path he forged throughout the 1870s as it was deemed important enough to list in his Victorian record.

Brown sought an outlet for his angst as a teenager and found that petty crime was a great way of distracting himself from his sufferings. In the mid-1870s he began horse stealing and did a two and a half year stretch in gaol in 1877 for stealing horses and saddles with a mate. After his release he hung around the Sandhurst/Bendigo area where he met Andrew Scott, Jane’s Nesbitt, Frank Johns (aka Thomas Williams) and August Wernicke.

Rogan’s Victorian prison record

Perhaps it was his delinquent streak that caused him to be drawn to Scott, the charismatic Irish bank robber and prison escapee better known as Captain Moonlite. It would appear that he joined Scott during his exodus from Victoria after a period of police harassment and probably found the kind of father figure that he always craved. Scott was a nurturing, supportive voice to his gang, all of whom were wayward adolescent boys. Such encouragement could have resulted in great things if it was not for Scott’s propensity for criminality derailing the boys further – a fact Scott was to be keenly aware of.

Rogan’s devotion to Scott led to his involvement in the raid on Wantabadgery Station. During the heated gunfight with police from Wagga Wagga and Gundagai Rogan hid under a bed with a rifle and revolvers, terrified out of his wits. He wasn’t found until the next day when the owner of the property had found him by accident.

Rogan was tried with the other survivors of the gang and found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of Constable Webb-Bowen and sentenced to death along with Scott. Thomas Williams and Graham Bennett had their death sentences commuted to long stints in gaol. He was imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol while he awaited the inevitable and on one occasion he was visited by his mother and sister. The two women left the prisoner, absolutely beside themselves, as he had torn shreds off them, pointedly asking his mother why it was only as he awaited death that she took an interest in his welfare. Rogan was prone to such volatile behaviour while awaiting execution and on a number of occasions Scott, who was in a nearby cell, had to call out to him to settle him down for the warders. No doubt he felt there was an injustice in his sentencing.

Rogan was hanged alongside Scott and the pair held hands on the gallows. Rogan had no last words.

Spotlight: Portrait of James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt, Bushranger (Picture Credit: National Portrait Gallery)

Carlton boy, James Nesbitt, was not a master criminal by any far stretch of the imagination. Spending time in prison for taking part in a mugging, his behaviour seems to have been driven by a generally poor capacity for judgement rather than maliciousness and largely informed by a rough childhood thanks to his mentally unstable and extremely abusive father. Likely, this tendency to follow and to seek paternalistic figures was what drew him to befriend Andrew George Scott in Pentridge Prison (at one point landing him in trouble for giving Scott tea as a gift). Nevertheless, once both men were at liberty they met up and stayed together until Nesbitt’s death separated them in 1879.

While Scott toured Victoria lecturing on prison reform, Nesbitt was his constant companion, the pair even living together for a time in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. When Scott suggested that the newly formed gang comprised of himself, Nesbitt and tearaways Gus Wernicke, Tom Rogan, Graham Bennett and Thomas Williams, head North for Sydney to find work, Nesbitt was all for it. It soon eventuated that the gang became desperate for supplies and turned to bushranging, Nesbitt acting as an important element in maintaining morale.

When the gang stuck up McGlede’s Station and were besieged by police, Nesbitt fought valiantly to defend his comrades and made the poor decision to attempt to create a diversion and enable Scott and the boys to escape. Firing like mad and running away from the homestead he caught the attention of the attacking police and was promptly shot dead. When Scott saw Nesbitt’s body after the gang were captured he broke down, weeping uncontrollably and kissing Nesbitt. While awaiting execution, Scott wrote a series of letters to Nesbitt’s mother and wore a ring woven from a lock of Nesbitt’s hair. The letters were never delivered.

Nesbitt was buried in Gundagai cemetery with Gus Wernicke and in 1995 Andrew Scott’s remains were removed from Rookwood cemetery and re-interred in Gundagai so that his final wish to share a grave with Nesbitt could be granted.

Spotlight: “Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, from a photograph taken in Braidwood gaol”


Picture Credit: Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales

In 1867 Thomas and John Clarke were the most wanted men in Australia. With a reward of £1000 for Thomas and £500 for John, the hunt was on for two of the most notorious bushrangers in New South Wales. After a long shoot-out in Braidwood on 27/04/1867, the villainous Clarke brothers surrendered to the police party led by Senior Constable Wright, shaking hands with their opponents as if at the cessation of a gentlemanly game of cricket. During the fracas Constable Walsh and the black tracker Sir Watkin Wynne had been wounded by the outlaws and John Clarke had suffered a gunshot wound to his arm.

On 28/05/67 the brothers were put on trial in Sydney to keep them away from sympathisers and found guilty of wounding Constable William Walsh with intent to murder and sentenced to death and removed to Darlinghurst Gaol. On 25/06/1867 Thomas and John Clarke were hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol. Their bodies were removed to Rookwood Cemetery and buried in the Roman Catholic section. In some opinions the Clarke brothers were the bloodiest bushrangers in history and their story will be covered in more depth in future posts.

According to the entry on the State Library of New South Wales website, “Photograph probably taken in the first week of May, before the Clarkes were shipped to Sydney. John Clarke wounded in left arm during capture.” Thus this image would date from before their trial.