Spotlight: Howe & Co. rob Stocker’s cart (23/11/1816)

Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821), Saturday 23 November 1816, page 1

Hobart Town;



Sitting Magiftrate for the ensuing Week,




The depredations of the Bufh-rangers continue to be truly alarming. Scarcely had we mentioned in our laft of their audacious attack on the premises of DAVID ROSE, Efq. at Port Dalrymple, then we are again called upon to relate another daring depredation, committed on Monday laft, at the residence of MR. THOMAS HAYES, at Bagdad, on the road to Port Dalrymple, by one of thofe Banditties of ruffians, who have been too long a terror to the peaceable settler & traveller.— MR. WILLIAM THOMAS STOCKER, his wife, and a cart containing property to a confiderable amount belonging to them, accompanied by MR. ANDREW WHITEHEAD, and family (the former on their way to Port Dalrymple), halted for the night at the premifes of Mr. Hayes.—Soon after, the party were alarmed by the appearance of the Bufh-rangers, headed by Michael Howe & his gang of 8 runaways, who feemed well informed of the intent of their journey; and requefted to know the reason of Mr. S’s delay, obferving, he ought to have been there the day previous.—They carried off the following articles, which had been removed from the cart into the houfe: 2 cafks of rum, one containing 11 and the other 10 gallons; 2 gallons of gin; 30 pair of fhoes; fancy ribbons to the value of £50; 2 bags of fugar, containing about 125lbs each; 1 cheft of green tea; pepper to the amount of £30; 9 pair ftays, &c – The whole is eftimated at upwards of £300 —— What added to the defperate intentions of thefe wretches, they actually fired a pistol through the head of one of the cafks of rum, by which the whole of its contents were loft.

They alfo requefted Mr. Whitehead’s watch, and, from it they regulated other watches they had in their poffeffion (no doubt part of their former booties), they then returned Mr. W. his watch; but Mr. Stocker was not so fortunate, for they compelled him to deliver his watch, which they kept.— From their converfation during the time they continued on the premifes of Mr. Hayes, it evidently appeared they were well acquainted with every tranfaction in town, relative to themfelves; and also, of the bufinefs of travellers journeying between the two fettlements.—Previous to the attack at Mr. Hayes, MR. JOHN WADE, Chief Conftable (being on his way to infpect his flock at Stony-hut Valley), accidentally joined the party at Mr. H’s, but fufpecting the approach of the Bufh-rangers, from the noise he heard while in the houfe, he made all hafte off the premises; his efcape was very fortunate, as from the threats they made ufe of, ferious confequences might have followed his falling in their way.

The property thefe wretches have plundered from the public, fince their efcape into the woods is immenfe; and with reafon we may fuppofe, that it either muft be fold to their accomplices in the two fettlements, or concealed in the woods.—Upon the whole, we may conclude, it will be attended with great rifk to individuals to convey property between the fettlements whilft thefe defperados are at large.

Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Con-artist sailor turned cannibal convict murderer.

He was referred to as “the monster”, accused of a string of horrific crimes including murder, infanticide and cannibalism. His reputation was so repulsive that the gentleman bushranger Brady threatened to break him out of prison so he could have the privilege of hanging the villain himself. But was Thomas Jeffries (aka Jeffrey) as bad as he was claimed to be?

Jeffries (or “Jeffrey” as he would write it) was a native of Bristol, born in 1791. His father was a butcher, and as a young man Thomas pursued a career in the British Navy. After three years, the harsh discipline of the Navy pushed him to abscond, which was not altogether uncommon. He then did a stint in the army before absconding again, and after discovering that he no longer fit in with his old mates back in Bristol he attempted to give the Navy another shot. This ended with him robbing the ship.

After an elaborate scheme to rob his well-to-do uncle, Jeffries found himself burning through money. To combat this he joined a gang of highwaymen. After one of their victims was murdered they were captured but released due to lack of evidence.

Jeffries was eventually transported in 1817 for robbery. Sailing on the ship Marquis of Huntley, his experience as a sailor allegedly saw the captain order his irons be struck off so he could work as one of the crew.

The “H.C.S. Marquis of Huntley” coming out of Penang by William John Higgins [Source]

Some sources suggest that he had a wife and children that were left behind when he was transported, though this is unlikely and doesn’t seem to tally with the records of him as a convict. It must also be pointed out that some sources claim Jeffries was a hangman from Scotland, which is certainly not the case. Misinformation about Jeffries goes back to at least the mid-1800s when James Bonwick cobbled together a very inaccurate depiction of Jeffries (among other bushrangers) in a book about the bushrangers of Van Diemen’s Land.

Jeffries landed at Sydney and was quickly assigned, but his misbehaving saw him handballed back to the authorities. He was allocated to a work party at Coal River, where he absconded with a party of four others. They took to the bush, but after a time their supplies ran out and two of their number were, according to Jeffries, killed and cannibalised by the others.

Jeffries was recaptured and sent on a ship to Van Diemen’s Land. He arrived in George Town, where he was sent to the prisoners’ barracks. Soon he climbed up the food chain and become an overseer. He would later brag that in his time as constable the incidence of misbehaving steeply decreased, though there is no evidenceto back him. It was here that his troubles with alcohol began to become evident.

He was stripped of his position after drunkenly attempting to stab the chief constable who had busted him breaking through the wall of the barracks with a pickaxe. Attempts to put him in irons failed but he was subdued and locked up in the George Town Gaol. He was to be transported to Macquarie Harbour but instead was considered more useful in the work party at George Town. In February 1825 he absconded from his work gang and was at large for a time, but was soon recaptured, given 50 lashes and sentenced to hard labour.

In April that year Jeffries was transferred to Launceston, where he became the watch house keeper. In addition, Jeffries was made the flagellator. In the convict world the flagellator was the most despised man. This job was usually given to inmates whose cruel streak was considered useful to the governor for keeping others in check by inflicting as much severe pain and injury on others as they could muster. Many convicts viewed the flagellator as a traitor to the convict class, as they had essentially fallen in with the oppressors to break and brutalise their peers.

Old Launceston Gaol from Wellington Square [Courtesy: Tasmanian Archives, LPIC147/4/62]

Here, even by his own admission, his alcoholism spiralled out of control, leading to reprimands. He was also fined in August for allegedly falsely imprisoning and assaulting Elizabeth Jessop. Although the witness accounts differ greatly and tend to support the idea that Jessop was heavily drunk at the time of the alleged offences and lied about what happened, she was believed over Jeffries. Later writers have tried to construe this event as evidence of Jeffries’ sexual deviancy by claiming he raped the women in his custody, which is not supported by the evidence.

Joined by John Perry, William Russell and James Hopkins, Jeffries escaped from Launceston watch house. The prison authorities had suspected this and lay in wait as the gang headed out. When they were fired upon by a guard, Jeffries dumped his kit and the gang bolted into the bush.

Jeffries was now on the run, and he and his gang were about to seal their infamy with a string of horrendous crimes ranging from robbery to murder and cannibalism.

A description of Jeffries from 1 April 1825 describes him thus:

Thomas Jeffreys, 210, 5 ft. 9¼ in. brown hair, brown eyes, 35 years of age, painter, tried at Notts, July 1817, sentence life, arrived at Sydney per Prince Regent, and to this Colony per Haweis, native place Bristol, castle, hearts, and darts, flower pots, and several other marks on left arm, absconded from the Public Works at George Town, Feb. 1, 1825.—£2 Reward.

“RUNAWAY NOTICE.” Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825) 1 April 1825: 1

The gang first robbed a hut at Springs, taking flour, a musket and ammunition. They continued towards the South Esk River, robbing huts as they went. They are said to have expressed at this time a desire to join Matthew Brady’s gang. Brady would later express that Jeffries had offered his services to him but refused. Whether or not this occurred at the same time is impossible to say.

In mid December 1825, the gang stayed for ten days at James Sutherland’s farm, Rothbury, near Campbell Town. On Christmas Day there was a shoot out and one of Sutherland’s men was killed. The gang raided a hut then continued into the bush.

Thomas Jeffrey (illustrated by Aidan Phelan)

On 31 December they raided John Tibbs’ farm near Launceston. Several people were bailed up including Mrs. Tibbs and her infant, as the bushrangers robbed the house. The bushrangers then took their prisoners into the bush, carrying the plunder. The group was split up with Perry and Russell taking one group, Jeffries with the remainder.

Tensions grew as the groups were matched through the bush, resulting in Russell shooting Beechy, a bullocky, and Perry shooting Tibbs in the neck. Despite being badly wounded, Tibbs managed to escape and raise an alarm in Launceston. Beechy would later die from his wound.

The two groups rejoined and continued to head north. During the trek, Jeffries and Russell took Mrs. Tibbs’ child from her and went into the bush where he was killed by one of the bushrangers who dashed his brains out on a tree. Jeffries told the distraught mother they had sent the child to a man named Barnard. After camping for the night the prisoners were released in the morning.

Soon after, a reward of $200 or a free pardon was issued for Jeffries and company.

Thomas Jeffries: on Trial for the Murder of Mr Tibbs’ Infant, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077014]

The gang’s next robbery was committed near George Town, followed by several days of walking in the bush with captives. On 11 January 1826, the gang encountered Constable Magnus Bakie who was robbed and ordered to guide them through the bush. When Jeffries became convicted the Constable was trying to steer them into the path of a search party he executed Bakie by shooting him.

They set their captives free and continued into the bush, where they ran out of food and became lost. Perry murdered Russell in his sleep and he and Jeffries ate their comrade’s flesh to sustain themselves. Several days had passed between Bakie’s murder and when Jeffries and Perry re-emerged near Launceston at a farm where they found provisions and slaughtered two sheep for their meat. Nor wanting to waste anything, Jeffries and Perry ate the remaining “steaks” made from Edward Russell with fried mutton.

The bushrangers camped overnight but were separated where Perry supposedly became lost while looking for water in the bush while caring their only cooking pot. Around this time the gang’s departed fourth member, Hopkins, was captured.

On 22 January, search parties went out looking for Perry and Jeffries. While one party was at breakfast at a farm near Evandale, an Aboriginal boy who had been recruited as a tracker pointed out Jeffries approaching. The party overwhelmed Jeffries and he surrendered. The creek where “The Monster” was taken was later renamed Jeffries Creek and ran under what is now known as Logan Road. The creek has long since dried up.

The successful posse took Jeffries and back to Launceston where crowds tried to attack the wagon. He was then lodged in the old Launceston Gaol. Shortly afterwards Matthew Brady would write to the Lieutenant Governor, declaring his intention to break into the gaol and murder Jeffries. Perry remained on the run until the end of the month and was captured near Launceston.

When Brady was also captured in March, he and his associates were sent by ship to Hobart to stand trial with Jeffries and Perry. Brady vociferously refused to share a cell with Jeffries, threatening to decapitate him if he was not moved to a different cell.

Thomas Jeffries on Trial for the Robbery at Mr Railton’s and John Perry, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077004]

Jeffries was tried and found guilty of murder, then sentenced to hang. He was executed alongside Matthew Brady, having confessed to his life of crimes in a self-penned memoir, but laid the blame for his criminal behaviour on his alcoholism. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Hobart Town.

Selected sources:

The following is an incomplete list of some of the sources and references used in the research for this biography. — AP


The Bushrangers, Illustrating the Early Days of Van Diemen’s Land by James Bonwick

Bushrangers Bold! by Bob Minchin

A Compulsion to Kill: The Surprising Story of Australia’s Earliest Serial Killers by Robert Cox

Newspapers and Gazettes:

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833), Saturday 17 December 1825, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 20 January 1826, page 3

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 29 April 1826, page 2

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 17 May 1826, page 3

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 24 May 1826, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 5 January 1827, page 4

Spotlight: Jeffries and Brady and company on trial (as reported)

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 29 April 1826, page 2

On Saturday, Jeffries the murderer, Perry, and Hopkins, were found guilty of stealing a gun, meat, and other articles, from the dwelling-house of Joseph Railton, near Launceston. They had been brought up on the Thursday previous, but owing to the absence of a witness on the part of Hopkins, the trial was postponed.

Thomas Jeffries and John Perry

Jeffries and Perry were afterwards arraigned for the murder of Mr. Tibbs’s child, an infant only five months old. When Mrs. Tibbs came into Court, and her eye glanced on the insatiate murderers of her babe, she was so affected as to be unable to stand. Her situation powerfully excited the commiseration of every one present. The bare recital of the dreadful journey which the monster had compelled her to take with him in the woods, was a painful addition to her sufferings. When it was necessary for her to look at the prisoners, in order to prove their persons, the suddenness with which she withdrew her eyes, and the tears with which the effort was accompanied, was an instance of detestation more strongly depicted than any assembly of spectators perhaps ever witnessed. The child was proved to have been taken away from the arms of the mother and killed by Jeffries and Russel, and its remains were discovered about a week afterwards in a decayed state, and mangled by the carnivorous animals in the woods. When Mrs. Tibbs had asked Jeffries, who called himself Captain, and was dressed in a long black coat, red waistcoat, and kangaroo skin cap, to point out the place where she might find the body, he said “it was no odds it had not suffered a moment’s pain in leaving the world,” and both he and Russel, who was afterwards shot and partly eaten by the monster, expressed themselves as regarding the life of a child as nothing. Both the prisoners were found guilty ; the trial lasted till 11 at night.

John Gregory

On Tuesday morning the bushrangers Brady, Bryant, Tilley, McKenney, Brown, Gregory, and Hodgetts, were put upon their trial for making an assault on William Andrews, a private of the 40th, at Bagdad, on the 26th December last, and stealing his gun. The jury returned a verdict of guilty against Brady, Bryant, Gregory, Tilley, and Brown, and acquitted M’Kenney and Hodgetts, their being no evidence to prove that they were present at the time.

William Tilly and James Goodwin

Brady, Bryant, Tilley, and Goodwin were then tried for having committed the crimes of felony and arson at Mr. Lawrence’s, on the Lake River, on the 26th February, when Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the charge, the former declaring that he should plead guilty to every other information that might be filed against him.

Matthew Brady and Patrick Bryant

On Thursday, Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the murder of Thomas Kenton, with malice aforethought, and at the instigation of the devil, on the 5th ultimo.

The same two also pleaded guilty of stealing four horses from Mr. Lawrence, in which charge Tilley and Goodwin were included, and, upon trial, found guilty.

Jeffries and Perry were then tried for the murder of Magnus Bakie or Baker the constable from George Town, who was deliberately shot through the head by Jeffries, as they were travelling through the woods on the 11th of January last. The circumstances were exactly as stated in our Journal of that date.

It is with great pain we state, that most of the men convicted of robbery and murder, in gaol, whose days of probation must now of necessity be very short, continue with hardened and untouched consciences, apparently insensible of their approaching fate. Jefferies is said to have been brought at last to a sense of his unhappy state, but Brady, Bryant, McKenney, and Perry, excite both disgust and compassion at their insensibility. The whirl of their late lawless and dissipated life seems scarcely to have subsided.

We understand the various criminals, now convicted in Gaol, will be brought up to receive the sentence of the law from His Honor the Chief Justice this day.

Illustrations by Thomas Bock. [Source]

Dan Kelly: An Overview

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.

Studio portrait of Dan Kelly

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.

[Source: The Illustrated Australian News, 17/07/1880]

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.

This portable lock-up was formerly used in Greta and likely was the one that held young Jim and Dan Kelly before they were transferred to Wangaratta.

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.

[Source: Melbourne Punch, 30/10/1873]

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.

1 Dan_Kelly_Colourised_2.png

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.

Tom Lloyd, Dan’s cousin [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM3061]

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.

Constable Fitzpatrick [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM2580]

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.”

[Source: State Library of Victoria]

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.

Source: Weekly Times. 16 November 1878: 17

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.

[Source: Melbourne Punch, 19/12/1878]

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.

Dan Kelly (John Ley) helps Mrs. Devine (Anne Pendlebury) prepare the courthouse for mass in ‘The Last Outlaw’ (1980)

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.

sherritt hut.jpg
Aaron Sherritt’s Hut

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.

Dan Kelly’s armour [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM1799]

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.

The bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart in the Glenrowan inferno, sketched by Thomas Carrington.

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.

Somewhat grotesque depiction of the wake for Dan and Steve. Maggie Skillion stands at the door with a shotgun while an oath of vengeance is sworn over the charred corpses. Kate Kelly rests on her knees in the foreground. It was not reported who had sworn the oath in most accounts. [Source: Australasian Sketcher, 17/07/1880]

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.

Bradley and O’Connor: An Overview

There are scores of bushrangers whose names have faded from public consciousness over the decades, a phenomenon not entirely due to the nature of their activities. Henry Bradley and Patrick O’Connor are hardly household names now but their exploits in the 1850s are nothing short of astounding and even resulted in a geographical feature being named after them: Bushrangers Bay.

Henry Bradley was orphaned at age eleven and later transported to Australia after his chosen career as a London pickpocket went awry, winding up in the specially built boys prison at Point Puer. Point Puer was a grand experiment in crime and punishment for the British government as up to that point once you turned eight you were tried and punished as an adult. O’Connor on the other hand was a free settler who had been convicted in Adelaide and sent to Norfolk Island where he first met Bradley.

Henry Bradley

When they gained their ticket of leave they were shipped to Van Diemans Land where they were assigned work near Launceston at separate farms, Bradley for George McKay and O’Connor for James Gibson. Nothing could separate them for long and they soon absconded and met in the bush on 14 September 1853.

Striking farms as they worked Northwards to Circular Head, the pair stole double barrelled shotguns and provisions. They headed to the home of John Spinks where they tied up the whole family and stole another gun, then on to Mr. Staines’ home about five miles hence where they tied Staines to another man while they raided the place. When the pair stuck up Jonathan House all they got was five shillings and in the ensuing chaos the master of the house managed to escape from a window but all shots fired at him missed. O’Connor stated coldly “We will not be disappointed.” and discharged both barrels of his gun through the neck of one of their prisoners, House’s relative Alfred Phillips, killing him instantly in front of House’s daughters. They continued to head North to Black River where they raided the Atkins farm. Mrs. Atkins, alone at home, was forced to cook the bushrangers breakfast.

Patrick O’Connor

On the 15th they finally reached Circular Head, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Stealing a boat, they rowed out to a moored schooner called Sophia and muscled their way onto it, hijacking the craft and forcing the crew to sail to Port Phillip at gunpoint. Such was the fearsomeness of the pair that the nine crew and Captain Bawdy did as they were told without question. They arrived at Cape Schanck on 19 September taking two men prisoner. This stretch of beach would thereafter be known as Bushrangers Bay. The crew’s complicity would be heavily criticised. By the time they crossed Bass Strait a reward of £100 was posted for the capture of the ruffians.

Descriptions of the bushrangers were thus:

Henry Bradley – age 23 years; height, 5’5″; fair complexion; brown hair, long and curly; no whiskers; thin face with peculiarly large nostrils; wore a light Petersham coat, and was armed with a rifle and three pocket pistols. He would later be described as having a scar on his right cheek and a great many names, initials and drawings tattooed about his arms including a tomb with the inscription “In memory of my mother”.

Patrick O’Connor – age 30 years ; height, 5′ 7″; fair complexion; red hair, whiskers, and moustachios; full face; has one of front teeth gone; wore a dark pea coat over a blue shirt, and a “wide-awake” hat; has a scar down the nose; had a blanket rolled up before his saddle, and was armed with a double barrelled gun and revolver.

Bushrangers Bay, Cape Schanck

Making their way inland the pair raided a property called Barragunda and stuck up the King homestead at Brighton.They once more tied up the family, but sent King’s young son to procure horses for them from the ploughman, Robert Howe, who informed the bushrangers that he was about to knock off for dinner and then they could take whichever they liked. This answer seemed to be insufficient and he was promptly shot through the arm, the blast pushing the arm from the shoulder socket necessitating an amputation. Taking the plough horses, the pair used the backroads to reach Morindning station.

At Morindning, they asked if there was work available. This was merely a ruse to find the man in charge and the bushrangers promptly stuck everyone up and began tying people. The wife of the gardener, Smith, managed to free herself then proceeded to liberate the others. One of the staff was shot in the back by the bushrangers as he tried to escape. Seeing things going belly-up the bandits took off. Word soon got out about what was going on.

They descended upon the residence of a man named Kane and used his lead to make more ammunition. They then bailed up Thompson’s hotel and tied up the occupants before raiding the stores and hitting the road. Just after they left a police party arrived at the scene by coincidence and freed the prisoners. O’Connor rode back and ordered the police to throw down their arms. When one of the cadets refused O’Connor shot him in the chest. Cadet Nicolson wasted no time in reeling off two shots at O’Connor as he galloped into the night, neither shot finding their mark.

The next morning the police went off to search for the bushrangers. Upon sighting them the police let out a cheer and raced towards them. Bradley ran for the cover of the trees and O’Connor hoofed it in the opposite direction. Nolan and Nicolson were determined to bring O’Connor in for the previous night’s shooting and galloped after them full tilt. The outlaw fired at the police who were armed with single shot pistols and sabres. Nolan rode in close and brought his sabre down, O’Connor parrying with his gun. Nicolson doubled back and ran O’Connor down face on coming alongside him and clubbing him so hard the bushranger fell out of his saddle. Nicolson dismounted and restrained O’Connor. Meanwhile Bradley’s game of cat and mouse in the bush ended with him subdued and in darbies.

Victorian mounted police circa 1853

The bushrangers were tried in Melbourne and found guilty of murder. The bushrangers were very open about their crime spree, admitting to no less than six murders and robbing 28 people. O’Connor defended himself and attempted to take full responsibility for the crimes, but to no avail. When judge Williams passed sentence over the pair Bradley replied with laughter, “Thank you, my lord, I’m very glad for your sentence – very glad indeed.”

On 24 October 1853 Bradley and O’Connor met their end on the gallows in Melbourne Gaol. On the gallows, O’Connor suggested the hangman, John Walsh, remove his scarf to better apply the noose. Bradley’s last words were stoic:” I am willing to die.” When the trapdoor was opened the hanging did not go particularly smoothly, the bushrangers being strangled slowly on ropes that were too long rather than being snuffed out instantaneously with a merciful snap.

Selected Sources:

“ESCAPE OF BUSHRANGERS.” The Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855) 6 October 1853: 3.

“THE BUSHRANGERS” The Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855) 3 October 1853: 3.
“Colonial News.” The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (NSW : 1848 – 1859) 29 October 1853: 2.
“THE CIRCULAR HEAD MURDERERS.” The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) 4 October 1853: 2.

Spotlight: Bushranging at the Billabong

(Police news, January 6, 1877)

This etching from 1877 may be quite crude for its time but it relates to a forgotten piece of bushranging history. In January 1877, reports of a bushranger operating near Albury began to surface. The offender was most notable for his white calico mask seemingly made from a puggaree. One report is as follows:




A correspondent at Albury sends as the following particulars of the case of bushranging in that district. On Sunday last a report was received atthe Albury police station of a robbery under arms, which had taken place in the neighbourhood of Ten Mile Creek on the previous evening. The circumstances of the affair are substantially as follows: –


About 37 miles from Albury, on the main Sydney road, and about three miles from Germantown, is a small store kept by a man named Bounds. The house is a mere roadside store, doing business principally with teamsters, the place being a convenient and favourite camping-ground. About half past 10 on Saturday night, two men rode up to the store on horseback, and one of them dismounted and giving his horse into the charge of his companion entered the house. Producing two revolvers and presenting one, he ordered the inmates of the store – Mr. Bounds and his wife, and a girl about 15 years of age – in true bushranging style to “Bail up,” a command which it need hardly be said was at once obeyed. The robber then proceeded to tie up his three subjects, a work which he accomplished in a secure and workmanlike manner. Having made all fast he inquired what money there was in the place, and ascertaining the whereabouts of the till, helped himself to its contents, which fortunately amounted only to £115, 25s in silver and a half-sovereign. To make up for the insignificance of the money booty he then proceeded to help himself to some of the store goods, but the precise extent of his operations in this direction has not yet been determined, the inmates of the store being unable to see what was going on. When, however, he had selected what he wanted, he removed the bandage from Mr. Bounds’ eyes, and forced him to sign a cheque on the Commercial Bank, Albury, for £22, a document which by the way will hardly be of much use to Messieurs the bushrangers, as the bank of course got notice of the robbery early on Monday. After obtaining the cheque, the robber quietly rejoined his companion, mounted his horse, and rode away. The man who was outside, being out of the view of the inmates of the store during the whole affair, cannot of course be described, but the robber who entered the building and performed the actual robbery is said to be about 5ft. 8in. in height, having light whiskers and blue eyes. He was dressed in a flannel shirt, printed moleskin trousers, and light felt hat; and he wore over his face a kind of mask made of dirty white calico, with holes for the eyes. A number of the mounted police force have been scouring the country ever since the news reached Albury, but up to the present time (Monday afternoon), no intelligence of the arrest of the robbers has come to hand.”
The bushranger who stuck-up Mr. Bound’s store near Germantown, on the 6th inst, was captured on Monday by the New South Wales police. The Border Post states “that the man gave his name as Richard Lauaghan. He is supposed to be identical with the Billabong robber who recently stuck-up three men near King’s Hotel. Some of the stolen clothes were found in his possession. He was committed by the Germantown Bench to take his trial at the next Albury Court of Quarter Sessions.
Of course it must be stated that the consternation around these events must have been considerable given that it was around a year before Ned Kelly would become public enemy #1 and seven years after Captain Thunderbolt’s reign was cut short at Kentucky Creek. The offenders’ capture was reported in slightly more detail in The Weekly Times:


Thanks to praiseworthy activity of several members of the police force, the individual who has recently created no little consternation in the neighbourhood of the Billabong by his penchant for committing robbery under arms (states the Border Watch), has been arrested. On Sunday, the 7th inst., Mr. Superintendent Singleton received information of a most bare-faced robbery on the Sydney road. The report ran somewhat as follows : — John Bounds, a settler, complained that on the previous evening (Saturday), about half-past 10 o’clock, two men rode up to his house, situated about three miles from Germantown, one with his face covered with a piece of calico, in which there two holes cut for his eyes. They bailed him up and robbed him, and then stayed about two hours searching the place for money, but only succeeded in finding half a sovereign and 20s in silver. Not content with this, however, they compelled Mr. Bounds to draw a cheque on the Commercial Bank, Albury, for £22. The man with the mask tied up Mr. Bounds, his wife and child, and left. He was armed with two pistols. The police were immediately in pursuit of the desperado, and effected a smart arrest on the following day (Monday). The arresting constables state that the man they captured gave his name as Lanaghan, and that he is identical with the Billabong robber who stuck-up three men near King’s hotel. Some of the stolen clothes were found in his possession. We learn, also, that his accomplice is likely to soon be arrested. Accused was fully committed, at the Ten-Mile Creek Police Court, on Tuesday last, to take his trail at the next Court of Quarter Sessions to be holden at Albury, on a charge of robbery under arms. Prisoner was identified by bounds, and also by his wife and girl.
A pith helmet adorned with a puggaree with a neck curtain much like the one Lannighan used as a mask. (Source)
The tale didn’t end there. The Australian Town and Country Journal reported on the follow up in March of that year:
At the Albury Quarter Sessions on Monday week before District Court Judge Forbes, Richard Lannighan and Lorn Pentland, the former a young man of about 25, and the latter a mere youth of not more than 20, were jointly and severally charged with having, at Three-mile Creek, on the 6th January proximo, stuck up and robbed John Bownds, a storekeeper. Mr. O’Ryan, instructed instructed by Mr. Nagle, appeared for Pentland, Lannighan being undefended.
Constable Ridout deposed: I am a constable of police, stationed at Tarrara. On the 7th instant about 2 o’clock in the morning, I received some information from Mr. Bownds, in consequence of which I went to his (Bownds’) house, and joining constable Turnbull went in search of prisoner. We met the prisoner Lannighan, on the morning of the 8th. He was riding one horse and leading another. He said “I wanted to see some of you fellows.” He then told us that he had been stuck up and robbed on the Saturday afternoon. He said he was going home when a man stuck him up and robbed him of about, £22 in bank notes and £1 in silver. He said the robber was on foot, and he was on horseback and leading another horse. The robber then tied his hands behind him, took him into the bush, and after taking his watch and chain, got on his (Lannighan’s) horse and rode away. He was unable to get loose until 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, when he managed to break the cord which bound him, and walked home with his hands tied behind him. He further said the robber was armed with two double-barrelled pistols, and wore a dirty calico cover over his face, with holes cut for his eyes. He was too exhausted to leave his house in order to give information to the police. I then asked Lannighan to show me the tree where the robber had tied him up. He showed me a tree near the road, which he said was the one where the robber had stuck him up. He then went a little further into the bush, and showed me a tree where he said he had been tied. I remarked to him that there were no marks on the tree of a cord such as there would be if a person had been tied up to it for any length of time. He then seemed confused, and we walked away a little examining the other trees, but watching his movements
Presently we saw him working the bark off a sapling with his thumb, and trampling the earth at the base. We then went up to him, and he said that that was the tree, and pointed to the mark he had made on it. Constable Turnbull then told him we had seen him making the marks pointed out a few minutes before. We then arrested him on suspicion of having robbed Mr. Bownds, and took him to the Ten-mile Creek lock-up. I previously asked him if he wore a puggaree when he was robbed, and he replied that he never wore one. I showed him the puggaree produced after his arrest, which was given to me by Mr. Bownds, and he said he believed it was his, and that the robber must have taken it from him when he stuck him up, I was also present when the prisoner Pentland was arrested at Cookardinia on the 10th instant. I did not hear what answer he made to the charge of robbing Mr. Bownds. He said he had not seen Lannighan since Lunt’s Billabong races, a month ago. Pentland was then put in the lock-up with Lannighan at Ten-mile Creek, and I overheard part of their conversation while in the cell. Pentland said, ” Lannighan, this is a nice b—-y mess we’ve got ourselves into.” Lannighan said, ” Well, it cannot be helped.” One of the prisoners then said ” hush,” and Pentland said, ” I can get witnesses to prove I was at home on that night.” Lannighan said, “It’s no b—-y use, we’re in for it, and we’ll have to suffer it.” Some other conversation ensued, but it was rather indistinct. I fancied Pentland said, “That b—-y puggaree that you left behind sold us,” or words to that effect. I don’t know that I ever saw the two prisoners in company before. I produce a waistcoat and shirt which Lannighan was wearing when arrested, and which Bownds has identified as his property. Cross-examined : I saw Constable Covenay this morning, but said nothing to him about the case. The lock-up at Ten-Mile is built of slabs, and a slab partition runs between the room where I and Covenay were in and the lock-up. I heard all the conversation that took place, and can swear positively to the words used. I took the conversation down in my note-book afterwards.
Constable Covenay gave corroborative evidence. With regard to the robbery itself, John Bownds deposed : I keep a store at Three-mile Creek on the Sydney road. The night of the 6th January, between half-past ten and eleven o’clock, a man came to my house with two pistols in his hand. His face was covered with a piece of calico, with holes cut in it for his eyes and nose. He presented the pistols first at my wife and then at me, through the window, and said ” your money or your life.” I went to the door and he told me to go inside ; he followed me and again demanded money, and I gave him a purse containing 29s. He then said “you have more,” and I replied that I had not, as I had sent it all to the bank the day before. I believe prisoner Lannighan is the man. I judge from his general appearance and his hair and voice. I saw Lannighan on Tuesday before this, the 2nd January. He called at my store and purchased a cotton shirt and some other goods. I asked him to stop all night, as I have known him for some time. He stayed, and left in the morning. After I told Lannighan about sending the money to the bank, he said I must give him a cheque, I said I would, I but it would be no use to him, as I could stop it atthe bank. He told me to tie my wife’s hands, which I did, and also the little girls. After I had tied my wife’s hands he took a puggaree from his pocket, and tied them again with it. I then drew a cheque for £22 on the Commercial Bank, Albury, and gave it him. After that he said, “I must secure you,’ and tied my hands with a throat strap, and made me go into the room where my wife was. He then went into the bedroom, and brought out the box I generally keep the cash in ; there was no money in the box. He next blindfolded all three of us with towels. He then returned to the bedroom, stayed there about half an hour, and went into the store for about the same period. He went away shortly afterwards. When he went out I heard other footsteps walking away besides his ; and while he was in the house I heard noises outside as if other persons were there. I missed a shirt, trousers, and vest, and other goods from the store. Next day I saw the tracks of two persons outside in the sand. Subsequently I examined the foot marks of Pentland behind the police barracks at Germantown, and they resembled one of the tracks I found in my paddock. The clothes produced are the ones I lost out of my store.
Other evidence was given, and after retiring for about an hour, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Richard Lannighan, who was sentenced to three years’ hard labour at Darlinghurst. Lorne Pentland was found not guilty and discharged.


Image – State Library of Victoria, Rare Books Collection; mp016674:3030866;

“Bushranging in the Albury District.” Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) 3 March 1877: 26.

“THE BILLABONG BUSHRANGER CAPTURED.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 13 January 1877: 16.

“BUSHRANGING NEAR ALBURY.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 13 January 1877: 21.

Spotlight: Captain Thunderbolt bails up two boys in Singleton


The following is an account of one of the many bizarre moments in the career of Fred Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt. Ward’s reputation as a successful, gallant and daring highwayman doesn’t hold up tremendously well when scrutinised and in fact the bulk of the time he was in the bush he kept his head down and avoided the spotlight, punctuated with small scale robberies on the roads. One such incident is that which was reported on 7 January 1864 in The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser:

CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT – This new addition to the gentry of the road, with his euphonious appellation, has played some of his freaks in this district lately. During the past week he stuck up two of Dr.Glennie’s boys, near Glendon Brook, on the road between Singleton and the Paterson. The boys happened to have nothing else in their possession but a few marbles, which he contemptuously returned to them. In letting the boys go, he enquired for the name of their father, and, on being told, he said that he knew Dr. Glennie well, and that the doctor was a clever fellow; he then rode, away. We learn that on Sunday morning last he demanded breakfast at Mr Brooker’s, at Mirannie Creek, which was given to him, but he did not molest anyone, as he was well known by Mr. Brooker as a man of the name of Ward, formerly an old hand in that neighbourhood, until, according to a colonial phrase, he “got into trouble” Ward has also been seen during the past week in various other places between here and the Paterson, and the police have not been idle in making enquiries after him.
*FYI: “euphonious appellation” is fancy talk for “pleasant sounding name”.
Source: “SINGLETON.” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 7 January 1864: 3.

Black Day at Black Springs


Between Gundagai and Jugiong in New South Wales lies Black Springs, an area with rolling hills and girt by dense scrub. It was here that Johnny Gilbert, the flash Canadian bushranger, would cement his reputation as a violent criminal. The Ben Hall Gang, consisting of Gilbert, Hall, and John Dunn, were at the peak of their success at the end of 1864. Always game to push the limits of their capabilities they chose Black Springs to perform their most audacious robbery yet.

On 18 November the gang were ruling the roost, having taken a number of men and women captive on the outskirts of Jugiong at a place known as the Black Springs. Among the growing collective were Mr. And Mrs. Hayes, Mr. Body, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Whitton, and thirty Chinese men and ten European men. Earlier in the day there was a brief clash with Constable McLoughlin who was escorting a pack horse along the road in advance of the mail coach. Without warning Hall and his confederates charged down the hill and attempted to bail the policeman up. McLoughlin was no pushover and immediately let go of the pack horse and went for his colt revolver. McLoughlin unloaded every chamber of his revolver in the ensuing skirmish, the bushrangers hardly knowing what hit them. When his ammunition was expended Dunn closed in on the constable as he retreated into the scrub to reload. With his horse wounded and his revolver unloaded, McLoughlin surrendered and was added to the throng on the other side of the hill. Gilbert proclaimed McLoughlin to have been the finest man in the shape of a constable he’d ever encountered.

As the morning rolled on Ben Hall kept watch over his growing collection of captives, pacing slowly and lordly with his horse with Gilbert and Dunn keeping the group covered with their revolvers. In the afternoon heat came the soft clomping of hooves in the dry earth and the rattle of coach wheels. The mail coach on its way from Gundagai to Yass rattled along with two police, Sergeant Edmund Parry and Sub-Inspector William O’Neill, a safe distance behind as escorts. Inside police magistrate Alfred Rose sweltered in the heat and up top Constable William Roche sat with the driver. Hearing the arrival Hall spurred his men into action and they rode up to the crest of a hill overlooking the track. No doubt Gilbert flashed his trademark grin as he clapped eyes on their quarry. The bandits cocked their revolvers and pounded down the hill to the coach. Blocking the road, Hall bellowed “Bail up!” while training his weapon on the coach driver. Constable Roche was encouraged not to use his rifle with the expert persuasion of Gilbert and the presentation to his person of six chambers of instant death. Rose wasn’t quite so ready to let the coach be plundered and with a cry of “Bushrangers!” he signaled to Parry and O’Neill by waving his hat out the window of the coach. Digging their spurs into their mounts the escorts thundered towards the coach.


“There’s a bloody lot of traps,” said Hall as he spotted the incoming lawmen and the gang quickly turned tail and galloped back up the hill as if retreating. Any relief the lawmen and the coach driver must have felt was short lived as the gang paused and Gilbert was heard to say “There are only two of them; Come on, let’s rush the bastards!” turned back and charged like cavalry at the mounted policemen screaming “Fight us like men!” with a revolver in each hand, their supreme horsemanship on show as they steered their mounts with their bodies like fearsome centaurs. The police were game and began to reel of shots at their opponents and calling on them to surrender. Constable Roche leaped from his perch and scurried into the scrub with his rifle. The police escorts were separated with Dunn aiming for O’Neill who fought like the devil firing a shot at Ben Hall who effortlessly dodged the bullet. O’Neill’s horse, spooked by the gunfire careened into a tree, the branch striking O’Neill and injuring his hip. Reeling in pain two shots struck him, one in the right shoulder, the other tearing at the left flap of his tunic. In desperate pain, an impotent click from his revolver informing him that he was out of bullets, O’Neill drew his carbine and tried to aim it at the approaching bushrangers. Hall unwisely came in close to O’Neill and received a bash on the skull with O’Neill’s carbine almost pushing the bandit out of the saddle. Dunn then attempted to wrestle the carbine away from O’Neill. Dunn and Hall finally cornered the sub-inspector and leveled their guns a him.

Meanwhile Gilbert had drawn Sergeant Parry away from the others and the two dueled on horseback spitting curses at each other until a blast from Gilbert found its mark. The shot struck Parry across the back of the head, but was not enough to subdue him. Bleeding from the head Parry came at Gilbert to entreated him to surrender. Parry screamed over the thunderous din of his horse’s hooves “I’ll never surrender to a bushranger, not while I have a shot left!” Gilbert was impressed by the recklessness of this lawman, which is why, in Gilbert’s mind, it was so unfortunate that he had to shoot him. Gilbert raised his pistol and fired. The bullet struck Parry in the breast and perforated his body straight through. He slumped in the saddle and tumbled lifeless to the ground. Riding over to his fallen foe Gilbert turned the body over and examined his handy work. “He’s got it in the cobra…” he said to nobody in particular. Dunn and Hall took Sub-Inspector O’Neill back downhill to the coach and demanded the mailbags from the driver. Not in a position to argue, the driver complied. Tearing the bags open Dunn and Gilbert rifled through the letters and took all they desired. As the others worked Ben Hall dragged magistrate Rose out of the coach and threatened to shoot him for signalling the police. Rose, O’Neill and the coach driver were added to the gang’s collection of captives over the hill. Gilbert sauntered up to Constable McLaughlin and scowled “How would you like a cove like me after you?” McLaughlin was unimpressed. Gilbert pressed the point, “See what that bloody fool has got for not standing? He’s the first man I ever shot; I don’t like to shoot a man, but I can’t help the unfortunate man now.” McLaughlin asked if he could attend to Parry and see if anything was to be done and Gilbert allowed him to go, fully aware that it was pointless.

Constable Roche was soon uncovered by the gang, cowering in the undergrowth nearby. His carbine was confiscated and he was forced to walk back to Yass. Before the gang left Hall proclaimed that the police would need a bigger troop than what they’d mustered that day for the gang planned to stick up an escort the next day. The gang shot off into the expanse leaving behind their bewildered captives and the body of Sergeant Parry. Parry’s body was taken into town and buried in Gundagai cemetery the next day.



“INQUEST ON SERGEANT PARRY.” The Goulburn Herald and Chronicle (NSW : 1864 – 1881) 23 November 1864: 3.

“GILBERT, HALL, AND DUNN AT JUGIONG.” Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser (NSW : 1864 – 1867) 24 November 1864: 4

“THE STIRRING DAYS OF YORE.” The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser (NSW : 1868 – 1931) 12 September 1899: 4.

“JOHNNY GILBERT like lightning with a gun” The World’s News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 – 1955) 6 June 1953: 24.

“The battle of Black Springs” The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) 24 August 1988: 27.

“STICKING UP OF THE GUNDAGAI MAIL.” The Australian News for Home Readers (Vic. : 1864 – 1867) 24 December 1864: 10.


“Bushranging near Gundagai” The Gundagai Independent (NSW : 1928 – 1939) 9 October 1930: 5.

The Hall Gang: The First Raid on Canowindra

Now well into the second half of 1863, Ben Hall’s gang felt as if they had the rule of the roost in the Lachlan. Towards the year’s end they began operating closer to Carcoar, deciding that homesteads were better targets than travellers and coaches. But it wasn’t simply ill-gotten gains the gang were interested in.

At 11.00pm on 29 September, the gang descended on John Loudon’s property at Grubbenbong. Mrs. Loudon was roused by a knocking at the door and asked “who’s there?” to which came the reply “Police”. Mr. Loudon was not convinced and asked who their officer was. The outlaws replied “Saunderson”. Still not convinced, Loudon refused the visitors entry. The gang grew tired of their own ruse and promptly fired six slugs through the door and burst in. They found Mr. and Mrs. Loudon with two men named Kirkpatrick and Wilson, as well as Mrs. Loudon’s niece. Word had reached the outlaws that police were stationed in the house of Loudon, himself a Justice of the Peace, so the men were handcuffed and taken onto the verandah and the women sent into a separate room while the gang searched the property. On discovering that there were no police in the household the gang then demanded food. Mrs. Loudon had the servants prepare ham and eggs for the bandits and apologised that there wasn’t anything more substantial to offer, though any disappointment in the fare was soon dissipated when a bottle of wine made its way to the dining table. After dinner the bushrangers smoked with their captives on the verandah, Gilbert suggesting the women might object to the smoke. The gang stayed until 3.00am whereupon they decided to search elsewhere for police and bragged that if they found them they would handcuff them and march them to Carcoar. They returned all of the objects they had pilfered in their search of the house and set off.


They next appeared at Limestone Creek at 11.00am. Sticking up the property of the aristocratically named Mr. Montague Rothery just as Rothery was sitting down to lunch. They restrained him and proceeded to eat his food themselves and called for champagne while partaking liberally in Rothery’s supply of brandy. Their bellies satisfied, they took to the piano and attempted to have a singalong before Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally and Vane  went outside to check out Rothery’s horses, intending to select the best of the three and a couple of saddles to take with them. Burke keeping watch over Rothery meanwhile showed him a breech loading rifle that he had pilfered from the police at George Marsh’s in a previous encounter. Hall and his companions made themselves at home and conversed freely with Rothery, informing him that they intended to find a magistrate named Icely and take him to task over his officiousness. Icely would reach Coombing on the Sunday afternoon, having luckily missed the gang and whatever mischief they intended to carry out upon him. The gang stayed until 2.00pm when, having completed all they desired at Rothery’s farm, they rode to Canowindra.


News of the stick up of Rothery reached Superintendent Morrisett at 5.00pm on Saturday and he immediately sent a party of five to follow the lead into Canowindra. The party was ordered to stop in at Clifden en route but instead arrived in Carcoar, where they stayed until 9.00pm gathering information that made it clear the outlaws were headed for Canowindra, which they already knew. The police were resolute and set off but without any sense of urgency.

Meanwhile, the first place the gang visited in Canowindra was the store of Pierce and Hilliar where they took £3 in cash and £30 in goods all the while bragging about their other exploits. Moving on, the gang called in at Daley’s Inn where they apparently found nothing of value, then they proceeded to the establishment of Mr. Robinson. They spent the night carousing at Robinson’s, playing piano and dancing. Mickey Burke got himself thoroughly intoxicated and flaked out on a sofa where he was abruptly roused by Gilbert at 8.00am. The gang paid for all they took except for Robinson’s horse. O’Meally spent the afternoon visiting relatives and the gang rode away from Canowindra without a care, having sent a strong message to the police and the locals that Ben Hall’s gang went wherever and did whatever they pleased.


At 11.00am the police party arrived in Canowindra only to be informed they had missed the gang by three hours. The police were much criticised for their tardiness, having taken fourteen hours to undertake a journey that should have taken eight. They had passed a series of teamsters on the road to Canowindra that informed them that the gang had indeed gone that route, yet for reasons unknown they dawdled and missed a golden opportunity. The affair in Carcoar was such an affront that the Sydney Morning Herald bewailed:

In brief, we may state that during the time specified, this band of freebooters have, in the most public and deliberate manner, been preying upon the inhabitants of this district – despoiling them of their property, laughing the authorities to scorn, and in every practicable and possible way, insulting the sacred form of justice! Were the thing not gravely serious, it would be absolutely ludicrous. If our social life and commercial security were not involved, the whole thing would be a huge joke. And where, pray, whilst all this melancholy farce has been enacting, were our police detachments – superintendents and inspectors to boot? Whilst these reprobates were leisurely pursuing their infamous traffic through the country, with their ten or dozen horses, which, owing to the softness of the weather, could be easily tracked, where were the men who are paid to protect our property – Echo answers where? – and the one universal impression is, that they were looking for the bushrangers and praying that they might not find them! We have no desire to deal unjustly by the police, but the whole business is now approximating to a crisis which can neither be ignored by the Government nor the country.

“THE REIGN OF TERROR.” The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 October 1863


“TELEGRAPHIC INTELLIGENCE” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 1 October 1863: 2. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <>.

“BATHURST.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 30 September 1863: 4. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <>.

“(From a Correspondent.)” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 9 October 1863: 3. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <>.

“THE BUSHRANGERS IN THE WESTERN DISTRICTS.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 7 October 1863: 5. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <>.

Blood and Gin: Morgan at Round Hill Station 

In 1864 “Mad Dan” Morgan was at the peak of his career, terrorising the homesteads in the New South Wales Riverina. Some believed that the terror he struck into the settlers meant that they were too afraid to turn away travellers asking for accommodation and gave Morgan the moniker “the traveller’s friend”. Perhaps the most important single incident in Morgan’s career of crime was his bailing up of Round Hill Station, a colossal blunder that resulted in grievous bodily harm to two men, the death of another, and Morgan being declared an outlaw wanted dead or alive.

About 40 miles from Albury was Round Hill Station, owned by a Mr. Henty. The superintendent was Mr. Sam Watson and the station was also attended by Mr. McNeil the overseer and John McLean the cattle overseer. On Sunday 19 June the station was visited by John Heriot, the son of a neighbouring squatter, Elliot Heriot-Watt.  Heriot, Watson and McLean were relaxing in a room of the homestead when Mrs. Watson noticed someone looking in the front door about one o’clock in the afternoon. Mrs. Watson immediately suspected that the visitor was none other than the notorious Morgan. He cut a striking figure with his flowing black beard and hair in long, raven-black ringlets tumbling over his shoulders under a rumpled felt hat. He looked to Mrs. Watson and asked with his deep, drawling voice where her husband was and she gestured to the sitting room. Morgan introduced himself and presented a revolver before asking where the grog was. Within moments Mrs. Watson and her husband, Heriot and McLean were mustered up at gunpoint. The group marched to the apartment where the grog was kept.

“How many bottles is there?” Morgan asked. Mr. Watson replied “Six bottles of gin and one that’s been broached.” This appeared to be all Morgan needed to hear. Once inside, Watson poured a glass from the broached bottle for himself and Morgan. Before taking a drink Morgan gave a wry smile behind the voluminous beard and curly moustache, “you must drink that yourself, as you may have had it ready for me.” Watson obliged and the pair proceeded to dig into the supplies. Morgan called for one of the female servants to bring him dinner and asked that his horse be fed and stabled. He ate his dinner with a pistol ready at each hand, his prisoners seated in the corner of the room. When his plate was cleared away he sat and chatted amiably with his captives, a cocked revolver in each hand and four more pistols in his belt.

After dinner Morgan took the initial four and rounded up the station staff bringing the number of prisoners to eleven. Making the crowd wait at the stable door Morgan checked in on his horse. Satisfied that his horse had been well looked after the crowd moved to a cattle shed and Morgan sat everyone down on benches before sending Watson back to the stores for more gin. Morgan ordered the gin be passed amongst the staff and himself. In total, four bottles were consumed.

Now intoxicated and looking for amusement, Morgan went back to the stable and mounted his horse, stashing a gin bottle in his saddle bag. Watson allegedly shouted that Morgan’s horse was kitted out with stirrups stolen from a Mr. Johnston who had recently been robbed. It is unclear if Morgan heard the remark. Heavily intoxicated, he was less than elegant in mounting and one of the loaded, capped, and cocked revolvers went off unexpectedly. The bullet whizzed past the crowd and grazed the temple of one of the prisoners. Morgan was furious and began shouting “Who shot at me? Somebody shot at me!” evidently believing it was one of the prisoners firing and not his own gun. Morgan aimed deliberately at the prisoners and fired. The unfortunate Mr. Watson was directly in the line of fire and as he put his hand up reflexively the bullet passed through it cutting across his head (later accounts would state that Watson had been shot through the palm or had a finger blown off by the shot, the latter claim seems less likely given the weight of evidence indicating the former). Watson ran and hid behind a barn, cradling his injured hand. John McLean emerged and sternly addressed Morgan “No, Morgan, nobody shot.  It was your own revolver that went off!”

Still mounted despite his intoxicated state, Morgan fired again into the crowd. This time the projectile struck Heriot in the leg fracturing his shin and cutting through the calf muscles before grazing the leg of another worker. Everyone scattered in a blind panic, Heriot dragging his shattered leg around for thirty yards before collapsing. Morgan leaped down from his mount and held a pistol to Heriot’s head. “Don’t kill me Morgan. You’ve broken my leg.” gasped Heriot, reeling from pain and exhaustion. Watson, seeing Morgan with a pistol to the young man’s head emerged from hiding shouting “For God’s sake Morgan, don’t kill anyone!”

(Source: The Australian News for Home Readers, 25 July, 1864)

Morgan at that instant became inconsolable and withdrew the firearm. Trembling, he searched furiously around hollering “where are all the damned wretches gone to?” pleading for help in the only way he knew how, screaming “I’ll blow the brains out of every man in this station if they don’t come and help!” but none came. Morgan took a knife he had concealed about his person and used it to cut the boot from Heriot’s foot to allow easier treatment for the wounded leg, then Morgan scooped the injured young man up and carried him to the homestead where he demanded McLean and James Williamson Rushton, a carpenter from Albury, take him inside. Once Heriot had been placed on a bed Morgan cut the other boot off and, apparently overwhelmed, left him there to be treated by Rushton and McLean. He tied a handkerchief around Watson’s wounded hand and apologised profusely. It was apparent that the intensity of the situation had cowed Morgan into repentance.

In the chaos two men, unknown to the staff and suspected to be confederates of Morgan appeared, one a half-Aboriginal man, and spoke at length with Morgan. During the conversation John McLean approached Morgan and suggested he could ride to fetch the doctor from a neighbouring station. Morgan, desperate to make amends for the injuries he had caused, allowed McLean to go. McLean told Heriot he was leaving to fetch Dr. Stitt and Heriot told him to take his horse for the task. McLean mounted Heriot’s horse and galloped off at top speed. However, Morgan’s paranoia got the better of him, perhaps spurred on by further conversation with his confederates, and he mounted his own steed and rode to overtake McLean, believing he was going to rouse the police instead of the doctor. Cutting him off, he called on McLean to stop but McLean apparently not hearing the command rode on. Morgan screamed “You bloody wretch! You’re going to give information!” and fired at McLean’s back. The bullet struck opposite the tenth rib and tore through his hip and out three inches above his navel. McLean tumbled from his mount but was still alive. Morgan rode up and after assessing the situation gave McLean grog then slung the fallen man over his own saddle and rode back to the station with him.

When Morgan arrived back at the station, just under two hours after McLean had left, he dismounted and cradled McLean in his arms as he proceeded to the homestead. Rushton emerged to see who the arrival was and upon seeing Morgan was told “Come here, young fellow, come and assist me,” McLean was taken indoors by Morgan’s half-Aboriginal mate and Rushton and laid on a bed. Morgan sat by Heriot’s bedside for two hours and intermittently checked on McLean. After a while the bushranger went off and raided the grog supply with his friends. The three men drank and caroused well into the night in spite of the chaos and carnage that Morgan had just incurred. Perhaps Morgan was drinking to forget the pain he had caused with the other men drinking just for the bragging rights of saying they had drunk with Morgan the bushranger, but the details of the carousing were not documented, the staff of the station rather more concerned with the injuries to Watson and Heriot and the precarious state of McLean. In the early hours of morning Morgan and his friends rode away from the station. Five minutes later a police party arrived at the station led by Superintendent McLerie.

A medical man, Hugh Scott, was summoned on the Monday and attended to McLean who was in severe pain and vomiting convulsively. Scott would come back to McLean several times, noting peritonitis had set in from the wound and made a request that McLean send for anyone he especially needed to see or speak to. While Scott was absent McLean was attended to by Dr. Stitt, the man McLean had been going to when he was shot, who had previously been a victim of Morgan himself. Heriot was taken to Albury where he was looked after by his father in Botterill’s Imperial Hotel. When Scott returned to Round Hill on the Wednesday he was informed that McLean had died. An autopsy was conducted by Joseph Knight Barnett who noted that as the bullet had entered the body it has smashed a rib and that the projectile, as well as splinters from the rib, had perforated McLean’s pancreas. The projectile had moved between the stomach and intestines and perforated the peritoneum and caused considerable inflammation, which was in the end the cause of death. The charge now leveled at Morgan would be murder.

The newspapers expressed community outrage and a sense of dread if the scourge of the Riverina were not to be brought to justice promptly and made an example of:

Can any man after this ride a mile from Albury without expecting a bullet through his head? No remarks of ours can fire the train, if this simple but hideous narrative does not. The whole country should be up in arms, and swear as one man, that they would never rest until this demon is brought to justice.
Already Albury has been moved to action, and volunteers, men who will not throw away a chance, are at work. Perhaps something may be done, and if the one life which has as yet been sacrificed will be the means of ridding the world of such a scoundrel, it is providential, but the country itself has this life to answer for.

 (The Age, 27 June 1864)

If New South Wales was not afraid of Morgan already, they now had reason to be petrified; McLean’s was the first life taken by Morgan.

It would not be the last.


Carnegie, Margaret. Morgan: The Bold Bushranger. 2nd ed., Melbourne, Vic, Angus & Robertson, 1975.

“MORGAN AT THE ROUND HILL STATION.” The Australian News for Home Readers (Vic. : 1864 – 1867) 25 July 1864: 12. <;.

“MORGAN AT ROUND-HILL STATION.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 25 June 1864: 5. <;.

“MORGAN’S OUTRAGE AT THE ROUND HILL” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929) 29 June 1864: 3. <;.

“THE MURDEROUS OUTRAGE AT THE ROUND HILL STATION.” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 27 June 1864: 6. <;.

“THE LATE OUTRAGE AT THE ROUND HILL STATION.” The Farmer’s Journal and Gardener’s Chronicle (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1864) 15 July 1864: 4. <;.

“RANGER MORGAN” The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951) 8 August 1930: 3. <;.

“MORGAN’S CRIMES.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 14 April 1865: 5. <;.

“THE BUSHRANGERS” The Farmer and Settler (Sydney, NSW : 1906 – 1955) 31 August 1915: 9. <;.

“MORGAN, THE BUSHRANGER.” The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929) 18 July 1916: 4. <;.

“MORGAN’S CAREER.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 15 April 1865: 9. <;.

“MORGAN, THE BUSHRANGER.” The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929) 18 July 1916: 4. <;.

“MORGAN, THE BUSHRANGER.” Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931) 11 April 1903: 1 (EVENING NEWS SUPPLEMENT). <;.

“BUSHRANGING IN THE 60’s AND 70’s” The Gundagai Independent (NSW : 1928 – 1939) 24 March 1932: 1. <;.