Spotlight: Morgan, the Bushranger (Poem; 15 April 1865)

Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (Vic. : 1860 – 1870), Saturday 15 April 1865, page 3


Dark, brooding, melancholy, and alone,
Beast-like, the ruffian plundered, prowled and slew,

Without a rival or compeer to own
His fellowship ; all shuddered in his view.

Like to a tiger whose fierce maw once drew
The life-blood from some shrieking unaware,

And ever after’s thirsty to renew
The baleful draught ; still watching from his lair,
Where fetid bones, half-gnawed, pollute and plague the air.

Thus seemed the human monster ; he had swilled
His godless hands full oft in human gore :

It was a pastime— horrid, grim, but filled
His fiendish longing restlessness for more.

It joyed the tiger’s instinct in his core ;
Or devil’s impulse that delighted in

Such deeds as man bad never done before ;
That sighed to top the summit of all sin
Which man hath scaled, where devildom can but begin.

He knew no refuge where all perils past,
If Fortune warded him, to seek for rest ;

He felt no ray of hope ; his choice had cast
It all away as an unwelcome guest.

He wooed no such like blisses to his breast.
He sought no pleasures such as humans seek

Who love by sweetnesses to be caressed.
His joys were ills and mischiefs ; and to wreak
Fiends’ deeds in equal triumph o’er the strong and weak.

Strange was his choice — and dark must be his soul
Erratic all the spheres upon his birth —

To choose a present easeless lot, with goal
Dark— darker than his end upon the earth.

No wealthy comforts beckoned to their worth
To compensate him here for future pain.

It was a lot of woe — a total dearth
Of all the good that mankind loves to gain ;
And which, sans virtue, Reason would not wish obtain.

And yet amid his deeds of ruthlessness
Some sparks of human sympathy would steal;

And then he seemed as if be would that less
Of odium had on him burnt its seal ;

As if in men’s eyes yet he cherished weal
But this was when on calmer moments bent ;

When he could see the pleasures others feel,
But ere his soul could purpose to relent
His passions loosed their springs and got unbridled vent

He was a terror ; he had made a name ;
‘Twas all he had for glory and for pride ;

‘Twas all his harm [?] that’s deserved [?] shame
Most infamous to all the w? ll? b?

Yes, he was great ; for[?] blood his hand had dyed,
And Iong men’s tongues had chosen him ? theme.

But do I when Death appears with sudden stride,
And changes all the “spirit of his dream,”
Who is there but doth shout in joyousness supreme?

He stood a terror midst a host of foes ; —
A moment and that terror was no more.

The unseen missile brought him low as those
Had helpless on his mercies lain before.

A few short hours his mortal course was o’er,
And he was but a lump of lifeless clay!

Oh, what collapse! that o’er the fearful doer
Of fearful deeds should thus be brought to bay
And helpless lay him down ‘neath Death’s all conquering sway.

Hamilton, April 12. B. H.

Spotlight: The Prison Bell

Owen Suffolk, the poet bushranger, spent many years in and out of prison, which enabled him to find a lot of inspiration. His depiction of prison life is mournful and tinged with melancholy. To Suffolk, the prison is the place where souls and minds are broken and every day is a reminder of the grim reality of that condition. To this end his poem ‘The Prison Bell’ captures the essence of the convict life and all its suffering.

The Prison Bell

By Owen Suffolk

Hark to the bell of sorrow! – ’tis awak’ning up again
Each broken spirit from its brief forgetfulness of pain.
Its sad sound seems to me to be a deathwail from the past,
An elegy for buried joys too pure and bright to last.
It haunts me like an echo from the dark depths of despair,
And conjures up the fiend-like forms of misery and care;
The saddest of the sorrowful, its tones bright dreams dispel,
For waking woes are summoned by the harsh-toned prison bell.
It tells me that I am not now what once I used to be,
A dearly loved and loving boy whose heart was light with glee;
It tells me that life’s coming years must be long years of pain,
And that my brow with innocence can ne’er be wreathed again:
That I must wander through this world all friendless and forlorn,
Unsolaced by affection’s smile, the thing of shame and scorn.
Those fearful tones, those dirge-like tones, what fearful tales they tell!
It rings the death of hope and joy, that sadly sounding bell.
How oft when some bright vision of the days of olden time
Comes o’er me like an angel dream from heaven’s own hallowed clime,
And beautiful and holy things – the bright stars and the flowers,
And childhood’s prayer – were dear to me as in life’s sinless hours.
How oft, too, when in such dreams I wander by the side
Of one fair form whom virtue might have won me for my bride,
They come, those tones so horrible, those drear tones through my cell,
And memory shuddereth to hear the harsh-toned prison bell.
That bell! – how many hear it sound who’ve ceased to struggle long,
Who, reckless of crime’s after doom, have linked themselves to wrong;
And heard it is with shuddering and tearful vain regret
By those who for one first bad act for years must suffer yet.
‘Tis also sadly heard by some strange-struggling beings who
Cling to the false and evil while they love the good and true;
And some – a few – all innocent, who’ve learned, alas! Too well
That man’s best judgement sometimes errs, may weep to hear that bell.
I’ve heard it when bright memories have crowded to my brain,
When hopes and aspirations high have whispering come again;
And it hath sought to crush each thought that fain would save from ill.
As wildly it hath chanted forth, ‘Despair; be evil still.’
But no, a prison oft hath proved a holy place of yore,
And if the heart yearns for the good, God will the good restore,
Then courage soul: let faith’s bright beams grief’s darksome shades dispel,
And days of joy may yet be thine far from the prison bell.

Spotlight: For Frank Gardiner

Owen Suffolk was a bushranger who spent more than a decade in prison for a range of crimes, particularly Pentridge Prison. Suffolk gained the moniker “The Poet” for his deftness with poetry much of which refers to the experience of convicts and bushrangers. Perhaps his most well-known is For Frank Gardiner. It is a bold declaration of defiance and desire for freedom at any cost, the sort of liberty the outlaw archetype represents free from the constraints of the law and the mores of society; a liberty denied Frank Gardiner when he was finally apprehended at Apis Creek and dragged back to New South Wales.

Frank Gardiner in prison

For Frank Gardiner
By Owen Suffolk

It is not in a prison drear
Where all around is gloom,
That I would end life’s wild career,
And sink into the tomb,
For though my spirit’s ever bold
Each tyrant to defy;
Still, still, within a dungeon cold,
I could not calmly die.

It is not that my cheek would pale
Within a lonely cell;
It is not that my heart would quail
To bid this world farewell.
For if oppressed by tyrant foe
I’d freely be the first
To give my life, and strike the blow
To lay him in the dust.

But place me in a forest glen
Unfettered, wild and free,
With fifty tried and chosen men
A bandit chief to be.
‘Tis there, when fighting with my foes
Amid my trusty band,
I’d freely leave this world of woes,
And die with sword in hand.


Spotlight: The connection between bushranging and the unofficial national anthem

On a muggy April night in 1865 a young woman cuts across the courtyard of a station on the outskirts of Wangaratta. She enters a nursery and in the faint cobalt hue of the night she manages to light a lamp. She proceeds to a cot near the window and by the lamplight checks the fourteen month old infant asleep within. The child has been ill but is finally resting peacefully. The young woman sighs with relief and begins to recalculate. She divines a new objective and proceeds to the workmen’s hut.
Alice Keenan, nurse to the MacPherson children slips into the hut and breathlessly exclaims that the family have been stuck up by Morgan the murderer and the police must be fetched at once. Keenan’s actions will draw ire from her mistress but the opportunity to ensnare the most feared bushranger of all can’t be missed. In the morning Keenan’s bravery will pay off when Morgan is gunned down on his way to the stables.


Keenan must have thought often of this accomplishment when tending to that child, Christina Rutherford MacPherson, as she grew. Christina took her middle name from her mother’s side of the family who were part owners of Peechelba Station and who were instrumental in rounding up volunteers to bring Dan Morgan to his end. The MacPherson family had a particular affection for music and Christina, who regarded herself as a merely proficient tinker of keys had an excellent ear for tunes.

Christina MacPherson

In 1894 during a visit to the Warrnambool races Christina heard a tune that was a bit of an earworm being performed by a band of musicians and when she returned home she tried to play it while the memory was fresh. The tune, as it turns out, was an old Scottish love song called The Bonnie Woods of Craigielea. Christina travelled the following year to Queensland. She went to Dagworth Station, managed by her brother Bob, to visit family members who had gathered to celebrate her sister Jean’s marriage. It was here that Christina met Banjo Paterson who was also a house guest and engaged to one of Christina’s old school friends Sarah Riley and one afternoon by and by the conversation came around to music. Christina played the tune from the races to the best of her memory on her zither for her new acquaintance and before long the pair decided to make something of it. That very afternoon Paterson wrote some lyrics to the tune based on an idea he had been playing with since he and Bob found a sheep skin on the edge of a billabong left by some mischievous swaggie who had helped himself to the sheep. The song was about a swagman who stole a sheep and committed suicide rather than be arrested and it was called Waltzing Matilda. The song quickly caught on and according to MacPherson herself “In a short time everyone in the district was singing it.”

The original manuscript for Waltzing Matilda (Source)

According to oral histories MacPherson would become the target of Paterson’s desire but no information exists to corroborate the claim that the pair had an affair but fuel to the fire is the fact that Paterson’s wife left him soon after, supposedly upon receiving word of the infidelity. Christina MacPherson returned to Victoria with her father Ewan in 1896 and would spend her remaining days as a spinster and proud aunt, passing away in Malvern in 1936. Her estate was managed by her younger sister Lady McArthur and while sorting through her effects Lady McArthur discovered several letters regarding the song from Patterson now held by the national Library of Australia.

Banjo Paterson

As an interesting sidenote, Christina McPherson also has links to the Victorian government through her great-great nephew Ted Baillieau, the former premier of Victoria. It just goes to show how people can be connected in the most unexpected ways.


“TOWN TALK” Williamstown Chronicle (Vic. : 1856 – 1954) 26 April 1941: 7.

“”WALTZING MATILDA”” Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954) 26 February 1943: 2.

“Who Wrote “Waltzing Matilda”?” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 3 September 1942: 17.

“ORIGINS OF WALZING MATILDA” Army News (Darwin, NT : 1941 – 1946) 16 April 1944: 4.

“OUT Among The PEOPLE” The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) 23 February 1943: 4.

“Memories and Musings” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 13 August 1942: 12.

“The bushranger, the beard and the baby” The World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955) 7 May 1955: 14.

Spotlight: The Ballad of the Kelly Gang


While many folk songs have been written about the Kelly gang, one that stands above the others is this one supposedly penned by none other than Joe Byrne himself. Joe’s reputation as a wordsmith would certainly be demonstrably true if this were the case, but it is just one of history’s mysteries. Many versions of this song exist with slight variations in the lyrics (many often discarding facts along the way) and sometimes being performed to a different tune. It was featured in a party scene in The Last Outlaw being sung to the tune of “The Wearing of the Green”. Below is a version of the lyrics followed by a some interpretations of the song for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The Ballad of the Kelly Gang

By Anonymous

Oh, Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that’s going round
On the head of bold Ned Kelly, they have placed two thousand pound
And on Steve Hart, Joe Byrne and Dan, two thousand more they’ll give
But if the sum was doubled, boys, the Kelly gang would live.

‘Twas in November, 78 when the Kelly Gang came down
Just after shooting Kennedy, to famed Euroa town:
To rob the bank of all it’s gold was their idea that day,
Blood horses they were mounted on to make their getaway.

Ned Kelly marched into the bank, a cheque all in his hand,
For to have it changed for money then of Scott he did demand,
And when that he refused him, he, looking at him straight,
Said, “See here, my name’s Ned Kelly, and this here man’s my mate.

The safe was quickly gutted then, the drawers turned out as well,
The Kellys being quite polite, like any noble swell.
With flimsies, gold and silver coin, the threepennies and all,
Amounting to two thousand pounds, they made a glorious haul.

“Now hand out all your firearms”, the robber boldly said,
And all your ammunition – or a bullet through your head.
Now get your wife and children – come man, now look alive,
All jump into this buggy and we’ll take you for a drive”

They took them to a station about three miles away,
And kept them close imprisoned there until the following day.
The owner of the station and those in his employ
And a few unwary travellers their company did enjoy.

And Indian hawker fell in too, as everybody knows.
He came in handy to the gang by fitting them with clothes
Then with their worn-out clothing they made a few bonfires
And then destroyed the telegraph by cutting down the wires.

They rode into Jerilderie town at twelve o’clock at night,
Aroused the troopers from their beds, and gave them an awful fright.
They took them in their night shirts, ashamed I am to tell,
They covered them with revolvers and they locked them in a cell.

They next acquainted the womenfolk that they were going to stay
And take possession of the camp until the following day
They fed their horses in the stalls without the slightest fear,
They went to rest their weary limbs til daylight did appear.

They spent the day most pleasantly, had plenty of good cheer,
Fried beefsteak and onions, tomato sauce and beer,
The ladies in attendance indulged in pleasant talk,
And just to ease the troopers minds, they took them for a walk.

On Monday morning early, still masters of the ground,
They took their horses to the forge and had them shod all round.
Then back they came and mounted, their plans they laid so well,
In company with the troopers they stuck up the Royal Hotel.

They bailed up all the occupants and placed them in a room,
Saying, “Do as we command you, or death will be your doom”
A Chinese cook, “No savvy!” cried, not knowing what to fear,
But they brought him to his senses with a lift under the ear.

All who now approached the house, they shared a similar fate,
In hardly any time at all, they numbered twenty-eight.
They shouted freely for all hands, and paid for what they drank,
And two of them remained in charge, while two went to the bank.

The farce was here repeated, as I’ve already told,
They bailed up all the banker’s clerks and robbed them of their gold.
The manager could not be found and Kelly, in great wrath,
Searched high and low, and luckily, he found him in his bath.

The robbery o’er they mounted then to make a quick retreat,
They swept away with all their loot by Morgan’s ancient beat
And where they’ve gone, I do not know. If I did, I wouldn’t tell
So now, until I hear from them, I bid you all farewell

Spotlight: Over the Border

Usually referred to as the “Mad Dog Morgan song”, this anonymous poem was sung a capella over the closing credits of the film Mad Dog Morgan. The poem is about Morgan’s fateful decision to cross the New South Wales border into Victoria where he would meet his end thanks to a bullet in the back.


OVER the border to rifle and plunder,
Over the border went Morgan the bold,
Over the border, a terrible blunder,
For over the border bold Morgan lies cold.

Over the border, why, why did he wander
‘Midst cold-hearted strangers all friendless to roam?
Was it that absence might make him grow fonder
Of those he had left in his own native home?

Over the border not long did he plunder,
Swift is stern justice as slow she is here,
Bold are the men o’er the border, no wonder,
When even the women know nothing of fear.

Fiercely they hunt him the cruel marauder,
Quickly they follow him, dead on this track,
Line with their troopers the river-side border,
Over he may come, but never go back.

Never—from far and near gathering quickly,
Stern faces watch him all night through the gloom,
Nought can avail him now sympathy sickly,
Sealed is for ever the murderer’s doom.

Shot like a dog in the bright early morning,
Shot without mercy who mercy had none,
Like a wild beast without challenge or warning,
Soon his career of dark villainy’s run.

Honour the brave hearts there over the border,
Great was the lesson they taught us that day;
Oh! that each other bushranging marauder,
Over the border would venture to stray!


Spotlight: The Ballad of Martin Cash

The Ballad of Martin Cash

by Frank the Poet

Come all you sons of Erin’s Isle
That love to hear your tuneful notes,
Remember William Wallace and
Montrose of sweet Dundee–
The great Napoleon played his part,
But by treachery was undone
Nelson, for England’s glory bled
And nobly fought by sea–
And Wellington, old Erin’s son,
Who Waterloo so bravely won,
When leading on his veteran troops,
Bold faced his daring foes–
But Martin Cash of matchless fame,
The bravest man that owns that name,
Is a valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

By treachery as it was said,
This hero to a gaol was led,
‘Twas Bedford who, in Campbell Town,
Had got him seven years.
Which sent him to the settlement
In misery and discontent,
But soon he made his foes repent,
As you shall quickly hear,
He left Port Arthur’s cursed soil,
Saying “No longer will I toil”,
And soon he reached the Derwent’s side
In spite of all his foes.
He made the settlers crouch in dread
Where’er that he showed his head;
This valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was once when near the old Woolpack
His enemies they did attack;
The number being three to one,
They thought their prize secure.
But Martin to his piece did cling,
And three of them did quickly wing,
Saying, “Down, you cowardly dogs,
Or I nail you to the floor!”
It’s loud for mercy they did cry,
But no one came to their reply,
While Martin, with a smiling eye,
Stood gazing at his foes.
Then through the bush he took his way,
And called on settlers night and day,
Did our valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was on the Salt Pan Plain
He faced his enemies again,
There were Sydney blacks and horse police,
And well-trained soldiers too;
But at the time when they drew near,
Cash hailed them loudly with a cheer,
And let them have it left and right,
His colours were true blue.
Bravely did he stand his ground,
The bullets flying thick around,
And like a fearless general
He faced his firing foes.
“Surrender, Martin !” loud they cry,
“Never till the hour I die
Said this valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Brave Cash, not caring for his life,
To Hobart came to see his wife,
The constables who lay in wait
Cried, “Martin is in view !”
Some cowards tried to block his way,
But one of them soon lifeless lay,
Their numbers were increasing,
And still did Cash pursue.
And in the street a man rushed out,
Who tried to stop him in his route,
But with a pistol in each hand
He clean shot off his nose.
“Surrender, Cash !” was still their cry,
“Never, till the hour I die
Said this gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

O’erpowered and wounded, bleeding, pale,
The Bobbies marched him off to gaol,
And when his trial was brought on
Some hundreds listened by.
And when the Judge, with panting breath
Had told him to prepare for death,
He calmly heard the sentence
With a proud, unflinching eye.
We all have hopes that we shall see
Bold Martin yet at liberty,
That shortly he will be as free
As the ocean wind that blows.
He’s of a good old valiant race,
There’s no one can his name disgrace,
He’s a noble son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

He’s the bravest man that you could choose
From Sydney men or Cockatoos,
And a gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Source: The Adventures of Martin Cash: comprising a faithful account of his exploits, while a bushranger under arms in Tasmania, in company with Kavanagh and Jones in the year 1843 by Martin Cash, edited by James Lester Burke. (page 122-123) Hobart Town: “Mercury” Steam Press Office, 1870.