Spotlight: The Story of Constable Miles O’Grady

Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Saturday 14 October 1899, page 2




At the top of a street in the ancient gold diggings town of Nerrigundah, N.S.W., stands this monument on a small plot of grass-covered ground, that has been reserved from the pick and shovel of the gold-seeker, although rich claims were worked just a few vards from the monument. It stands opposite the site of the old police barracks, erected after the death of the brave fellow. It is of substantial construction, and is of sandstone, enclosed with iron railings. Its height may be imagined by comparing it with the figure of the present officer of Nerrigundah, Constable Stinson, who stood by the monument as it was being photographed for our artist, who has made a drawing from the photograph.

On the column is inscribed the following, which may be taken as a heading to the short story of Miles O’Grady:

‘Erected by the Government of New South Wales, in honor of Constable Miles O’Grady, who on the 9th April, 1866, while suffering from severe illness. Single-handed attacked Armed bushrangers, and lost his life in the encounter, thus setting a noble example of bravery in the discharge of public duty.’

The town was ‘stuck up’ by the Clark gang of bushrangers, and the news was soon conveyed to O’Grady, who was lying on his bed suffering from low fever. He said, ‘I must do my duty,’ and was soon in his uniform, armed ready for action. In company with Constable Smythe (who till recently has been In charge of the Candelo Police Station, which he left, having retired on a pension, taxing up his residence in Sydney, where his death was chronicled a few months ago), he set out to protect the inhabitants. On reaching the scene where the bushrangers had ‘bailed up’ all the people that had come to that part of the town on business, and had them under guard of one of the gang in the large ballroom of Wallace’s Hotel (for in those days every hotel had its ballroom), the police soon saw that the rest of the gang were busy robbing Pollock’s store, but they could not fire at these for fear of shooting the storekeeper or his wife, who looked on as the bushrangers helped themselves. They fired at the one who was guarding the ballroom door, shooting him dead. The police then went across the street, and the gang ran out of the store and fired a volley, with the result that O’Grady was shot through the stomach. The poor fellow lingered a few hours, but said he was satisfied that he had done his duty. He died like the brave man he was, with his friends around his bed, and his sweetheart holding his hand.

Spotlight: Pat Connell Enquiry

Burrangong Argus (NSW : 1865 – 1913), Saturday 28 July 1866, page 3


The following is the evidence which was taken at the magisterial enquiry touching the death of Connell, at the Braidwood police-office by J. H. Griffin, Esq., on Wednesday afternoon.

Sergeant Creagh on oath states :— In consequence of instructions I received I started on Tuesday morning about 5 a.m. from Ballalaba after the robbers at Mudmelong. We made along the track leading from Mr. Connell’s public-house to Araluen about fifteen miles; about 10 o’clock we came to a mountain when the black tracker was placed at a pass which the robbers were likely to take, and the remainder of the party kept a little way off in the bush; about twenty minutes after the black tracker came and told us that two of the party we were in quest of had passed with a mob of horses; I at once got the men in readiness to start on the track; at eleven o’clock started and followed the tracks till 3 o’clock in the afternoon, proceeding in a walk and part of the time in a hard gallop; at this time came across signs of several horses having been feeding. Dismounted and followed these tracks cautiously along on foot; in about ten minutes the black tracker in advance put up his hands to ensure silence and pointed down to a thick scrub, in the midst of which we saw a camp and a man moving about. Left the horses in charge of the tracker and stole cautiously down to the camp when we saw three other men; our party consisted of myself, Senior-constable Byrne, and constables Kelly and Gracy; stole to within 60 yards of the camp and told the men to fire. We immediately all fired, and directly afterwards rushed on to the camp, each man drawing his revolver. Saw four men. When we rushed the camp three of them ran away making the direction of the creek which was very scrubby on the other side; Pat Connell getting a horse and making away, Constable Kelly and Gracy following him, while I and Byrne followed the three others on foot. As soon as they got into the scrub on the other side, the bushrangers commenced firing, one of them having first taken a deliberate aim with a revolving rifle at Byrne. The firing then ceased for some time till we called out to them then they commenced firing again, to which we replied, when they again ran away. After the ceasing of the fire for some time two other shots were fired by the retreating parties, and after waiting for some time we went down to the creek after Pat Connell’s body which was lying near the creek. As soon as we got his body up to the camp, we took possession of the following articles which the bushrangers had left; four saddles and bridles, three revolvers, one calico tent, one cloak, and a pair of saddle bags, besides a quantity of provisions, clothing, blacksmith’s tools, one bottle of old tom, and also some mail bags, the camp had not long been made. They were getting ready for supper when we came up to them; we sewed the body up in some blankets, and while we were doing this, I saw two of the bushrangers returning and we fired upon them, then they went back to the scrub, and as it was getting dark, we could see no more of them. The whole affair lasted about two hours. We then got two of their horses and brought the body to the police station at Ballalaba which we reached at about 12 o’clock at night. When we got to the police station found a silver watch (Flaville Brothers), two gold rings, (one horse shoe pattern and the other a Chinese ring), four one pound notes, and £1 11s., in silver in a leather clasp purse, and a meerschaum pipe. I brought the body this morning to Braidwood.

Thomas Kelly, a mounted constable stationed at Ballalaba, on oath, gave the same narrative as Sergeant Creagh of the events which took place up to meeting the bushrangers and starting in pursuit of them, when they tracked horses for about fifteen miles and then dismounted to go up a ridge. When they got on the top of the ridge deponent saw the bushrangers’ camp, which they stole up to within about fifty or sixty yards, Pat Connell jumped on his horse before the police fired. On the first exchange of shots the police separated, Sergeant Creagh and Senior-Constable Byrnes following the three men on foot, deponent and Constable Gracy rushed after the mounted man. He drew his revolver at about sixty yards distance, when Connell looked back, and said, ” Stand back you ———;” fired upon him, upon which he immediately threw up his hands, groaned, and fell backwards off his horse on his head. On going up to him he immediately recognised him as Pat Connell; he appeared to be in great agony and to live for some minutes after; seeing deceased was fatally wounded, went on to the remainder of the police to fire upon the other bushrangers, who were in a thick scrub; the firing continued for about an hour and a half; when about dusk the whole party went to the body and removed it with the things left by the bushrangers to Ballalaba as stated by Sergeant Creagh.

George John Pattison, a duly qualified medical practitioner, on oath, saith as follows : — I have identified the body lying in the lock-up as that of Pat Connell, and have held a post mortem examination. Head: Incised wound about half an inch in length over right angle of frontal bone ; face besmeared with blood and nasal cartilage bent slightly to left side; small part of tongue protruding between lips. Thorax: Over upper and anterior surface of thorax on right side found ecchymosed patch. On pressing with the fingers over 2nd rib of this side could feel a hard and moveable substance; made an incision through the skin and pectoral muscles, and found a revolver bullet in contact with the second rib; on removal of sternum and anterior parts of ribs found a large quantity of blood, partly coagulated in right plural cavity; wound in middle lobe of lung; right pulmonary vein and artery wounded and lower lateral surface of body of 6th dorsal vertebra grooved, communicating externally with a circular wound over spinous process of 6th dorsal vertebra. I am of opinion death was caused by a gunshot wound; the bullet entering by the wound in the back, passing through part of the right lung, wounding the bloodvessels already described perforating the cartilage of the 2nd rib on the right side close to the sternum, and lodging in tissues immediately above that rib. — B. Dispatch.

Spotlight: Shooting of Pat Connell

Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser (NSW : 1864 – 1867), Thursday 26 July 1866, page 2


From the Braidwood Dispatch.

INFORMATION was brought into town on Wednesday morning last of the police having, the day previous, pursued the bushrangers whose depredations at Mudmelong on Monday last were recorded in our last issue, and of the death of one of their number, Pat Connell, during the encounter which ensued. The news was brought into town at an early hour in the morning, between one and two o’clock the same day the body of the dead outlaw was brought in by Sergeant Creagh and his party from Ballalaba, where it had been conveyed and detained the previous night. It appears that the bushrangers, after their outrageous proceedings at Mudmelong on Monday afternoon, camped in the Araluen mountains somewhere about Betowynd, only a few miles from Mudmelong, that night Sergeant Creagh, in charge of the station at Ballalaba, having received instructions the previous night from the superintendent at Braidwood, proceeded, early on Tuesday morning with a party of police consisting of Senior Constable Byrne, constables Kelly and Gracy, and a black tracker, to intercept them or pick up their tracks and follow them on the route they had taken from Mudmelong through the mountains to their haunts at Jingera.

As will be seen by the narrative of that officer and of constable Kelly given below they proceeded about fifteen miles on a track leading to Araluen, and when they had arrived at a position the most likely to pick up the bushrangers’ tracks or to intercept them, on the side of a mountain contiguous to the valley, their efforts after waiting some short time were rewarded with success, the black tracker pointing out to them Pat Connell and another of the gang driving a mob of horses along a path leading through the mountains to a point of the table land higher up than the path along which the police party had come. The police then followed their tracks for about fifteen miles and came upon the robbers encamped in the Krawarre ranges, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. The police were made aware of their near approach to the robbers by the signs of several horses having been feeding. The black tracker having been ordered to reconnoitre in advance, while the remainder of the party having dismounted, cautiously proceeded behind him on foot, was not long in scenting them out. In about ten minutes from the time the party dismounted, the tracker put up his hands to caution his companions to be silent, and pointing down the side of the hill upon which they were proceeding they obtained a full view of the robbers’ camp down in the creek, and observed one man moving about. Leaving the horses in charge of the tracker the police stole cautiously and unobserved to within sixty yards of the camp. They then saw four men, one of them (Pat Connell) being at that moment about to jump upon a horse. The other three were engaged round the fire and were evidently preparing for supper, a pot being on the fire and a quantity of provisions strewn about. They had a tent and appeared to be quite at their ease without the most distant apprehension of being disturbed. Pat Connell it was supposed was about to ride round the camp to see that all was safe for the night and to look after the horses which he and one of his companions had been observed driving in the morning.

The police under the direction of Sergeant Creagh, gave one volley into the camp when they had approached within the distance stated and then rushed upon the robbers, each of the attacking party drawing his revolver in readiness for the fight in close quarters. The robbers fled however before their assailants, the three on foot making direct for the creek, and Pat Connell, who was on horseback, making off up the creek. The three who made for the creek returned the fire before retreating, but neither volley had any effect. The police then fired upon them again, but the robbers who had run across the creek were protected by a dense scrub at the other side, a feature of the position admirably chosen for affording an escape in the event of a surprise of this kind. Sergeant Creagh and senior-constable Byrne followed the fugitives across the creek. When retiring into the shelter of this scrub, one of the robbers (John Clarke we believe) knelt down on one knee and presenting what appeared to be a revolving rifle, took deliberate aim at Byrne, and fired, the shot fortunately missing him, but not being very far wide of the mark. As soon as the robbers got into the scrub they commenced blazing away at their two assailants, after which their firing ceased for some time, when Sergeant Creagh and Byrne called out to them to come out and face them, and make good their braggadocio at Mudmelong, and other places about themselves and the police, but the birds were not to be caught with chaff, they merely emerged from their cover for a moment to take aim, and then retreated again into the scrub.

While this was going on here, constables Kelly and Gracy had pursued Pat Connell in an opposite direction, and the luck which has hitherto attended this robber, who is said to be the real captain of the gang, he being the most powerful and active as well as the most experienced man amongst them, on this occasion deserted him. He appears to have been caught in a fix, and to have been placed at a great disadvantage in the saddle, a position in which he has hitherto been unassailable, and in which his splendid daring feats have so often carried him triumphant out of the most hair breadth difficulties. As a bush rider he, perhaps, has never been surpassed by any man in Australia, and it is quite possible he may have placed more faith in his powers in the saddle than on his legs, and mounted his horse from choice and not for another purpose unconnected with his escape. If so, however, his disappointment must have been fearful when he found that he was unable to rush his horse up the hill which he was trying to get over speedily enough to get out of reach of constable Kelly’s revolver. Kelly says that when he got within sixty yards of him he fired upon him. Just before doing so Connell all intent, apparently, upon urging his horse over the hill, looked round and said, “Stand back you —– .” These were the last words the robber uttered for immediately the words were out of his mouth Kelly’s bullet had accomplished its fatal mission, and passed through his back between the left shoulder-blade at the bottom of the shoulder and the spine. The outlaw threw up his arms, groaned, and fell backwards from his horse, with his head foremost to the ground.

Kelly remained with him a few minutes, and believing he was mortally wounded, left him to rejoin the remainder of the party. The firing with the remainder of the bushrangers continued for about an hour and a half after this, and the police party then resolved upon returning to the station, and having placed the body of the dead bushranger upon the horse he had been riding, and secured the things left in the camp, which will be found enumerated below in Sergeant Creagh’s statement, they started at about five o’clock for Ballalaba, which they reached about midnight. We may mention that it is rumoured that the names of the other bushrangers are John Clarke, Thomas Connell, and Thomas Lawler, a young man, a resident of Collector, who has for some time been suspected as connected with this gang. Thomas Clarke, the principal outlaw, was not seen amongst them at all, and it is impossible to say whether he had been with them or not. There was some talk of a fifth man being seen at Mudmelong, but whether there was or not it is hard to say. If there was it is probable that Thomas Clarke was the other man, and was absent at the time the police came upon the camp, tailing the horses. The expedition after the robbers appears to have been conceived and executed with a promptitude and decision which reflects the greatest credit on all parties. The robbers will have been now taught a lesson which they have long been in need of, viz., that an equal body of police meeting them on equal terms, doubly armed, as they are in the justice of their cause, can make them flee before them, with all their of boasting, like so many demons before their avenging angels. It will teach them that they can be hunted down in their mountainous strongholds as successful as across the stretching plains, as it is apparent that they can be taken at a great advantage by a pursuing party, who can espy their position from the surrounding hills and pounce down upon them unawares as in this instance. It is a matter of surprise indeed, that the assailants’ first volley did not do some execution amongst them, and the manner in which they escaped unharmed was a piece of luck which it is very improbable they would meet with in any attack under similar circumstances again.

The dead body of the outlaw, Pat Connell, underwent a post mortem examination at the hands of Dr. Pattison, on Wednesday, in the Braidwood lockup, when the ball was taken out from the right breast, having passed through from where it entered in his back. The body was afterwards given over to Mr. Thomas Farrell, the undertaker, by whom it was placed in a coffin and removed, at the request of the deceased’s family, to Jerrabatgully, to be interred with others of the family there buried. We learn from those who saw the body that the deceased appeared to be in a better state of physical health at the time of his death than he ever had been known to be during his life. He was about 36 years of age, and presented as fine a form as ever nature endowed mortal man with. When living he stood about five feet ten inches, and was a most compact and firmly knit, athletic, active man, and one of the best riders in the colony.

A magisterial inquiry touching the death of Connell was held at the Braidwood police-office by J. H. Griffin, Esq., on Wednesday afternoon, when Sergeant Creagh, in addition to what is stated above, said as follows :– At the camp we took possession of the following articles which the bushrangers had left; four saddles and bridles, three revolvers, one calico tent, one cloak, and a pair of saddle bags, besides a quantity of provisions, clothing, blacksmith’s tools, one bottle of old tom, and also some mail bags. The camp had not been long made. They were getting ready for supper when we came up to them; we sewed the body up in some blankets, and while we were doing this I saw two of the bushrangers returning and we fired upon them, when they went back to the scrub, and as it was getting dark we could see no more of them. When we got to the police station found a silver watch (Flaville Brothers,) two gold rings, (one horse shoe pattern and the other a Chinese ring), and four £1 notes and £1 11s. in silver, in a leather clasp purse, and a meerschaum pipe. I brought the body this morning to Braidwood.

Bushranging: A Female Perspective

Bushranger history has long been the province of male authors and historians, even as far back as 1818 with the infamous pamphlet Michael Howe: The Last and Worst of the Van Diemen’s Land Bushrangers by T. E. Wells being perhaps the first dedicated text on the subject. However, in recent years we have seen a new guard forming that is being largely driven by female authors and historians, whose unique perspectives on both an emotional and intellectual level have challenged long held beliefs and, in many cases, set the record straight by digging up information that has long been forgotten or ignored by their predecessors. The first signs of this shift in the 1970s when Margaret Carnegie wrote the first biography of Daniel Morgan, Morgan: The Bold Bushranger. It went beyond the oft-repeated hyperbole about how nasty Morgan was and returned to the source material with a fresh pair of eyes to sift through it all and get to the truth of the man rather than the infamous legend. Similarly, Dagmar Balcarek’s contributions in subsequent decades infused many bushranger stories with more feminine sensibilities and helped inject some life into what was seen at the time as stale and boring by many.

Here we will showcase some of the more notable individuals who are, at present, making a big impact on our understanding of some of the most notorious men (and women) in Australian history.

Carol Baxter

Captain Thunderbolt & His Lady by Carol Baxter (2011)

Carol Baxter is one of the most notable female historians where bushranging is concerned. Her biography of Frederick Wordsworth Ward and Mary Ann Bugg is the most definitive account to date, locking in place an understanding of the story derived from recorded facts rather than folklore and hearsay. This refusal to accept many of the long held assumptions and oral traditions has seen her looked down upon in some quarters, but respected by others. Baxter describes her situation succinctly on the website for her book:

I soon realised that the role of mediator had become my own. As a professional researcher, genealogist and historian, I had no personal connection to either Fred or Mary Ann and no pre-conceived ideas, prejudices or agendas. All I sought was the truth. And the truth was most surprising. Many of the well-known Thunderbolt and Mary Ann stories proved to be wrong. Utterly and unquestionably wrong. They were myths propagated by the ignorant and perpetuated by the gullible, and are still being voiced today – vociferously – by those with a personal, political or financial agenda.

Carol Baxter

Baxter’s background in genealogy has given her a knack for sniffing out information that is often overlooked or forgotten. Rather than regurgitating the same old stories about Thunderbolt that have done the pub circuit for 150 years, Baxter made an effort to find the truth of who the historical Ward and Bugg were. The result is a new understanding of these fascinating historical figures that has redefined how they are portrayed.

Jane Smith

Not all librarians have a knack for writing, but in the case of Jane Smith it is certainly true. A desire to write children’s books cane to Smith after working with children in a library setting, resulting in her series of children’s non-fiction books on Australian bushrangers. Since then she has written a historical fiction series (Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy), and the definitive biography of Captain Starlight.

Captain Starlight
The Strange but True Story of a Bushranger, Imposter and Murderer
By Jane Smith (2015)

While most historians and authors have been more inclined to write about the Kellys, Ben Hall or Frank Gardiner, Smith’s decision to chronicle the life of the notorious Frank Pearson has gifted bushranger enthusiasts a detailed account of a frequently forgotten figure. The ability to put her resources to use in nailing down the narrative of a renowned conman, notable for his use of aliases, demonstrates her formidable prowess as a historian.

It is also important that so much of her work is aimed at younger audiences, as it reflects a desire to ensure these stories are kept alive into the future, which is essentially the purpose of historians and authors.  In an interview with A Guide to Australian Bushranging, Smith explained what keeps her so engaged with researching and writing about bushrangers, and history in a broader sense:

I really enjoy history; I enjoy learning about how things were in the past and marvelling at the differences and similarities compared with life today. I think that knowing something of history is really important if you want to be a well-rounded human who can make informed decisions. When I was at school, however, I found history lessons boring. It seemed to me that history just meant memorising names and dates – and yet it’s so much more than that!

Jane Smith

Judy Lawson

One of the most important things a historian must do is ask questions. In the case of Judy Lawson, her journey of exploration is a series of questions that started from one key query: did Tommy Clarke really murder the special constables in the Jingera Ranges?

The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures by Judy Lawson

This question resulted in her book The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures, which explores the crimes attributed to the Clarke bushrangers and the cultural context in which they arose. The discussion around the police murders raises more questions than answers, leaving the conclusion open for the reader to interpret rather than the author feeding their opinion as fact. By providing an alternative viewpoint on the crimes, Lawson has challenged the deeply held assumptions that have made the Clarkes a taboo subject in the Braidwood district for 150+ years.

The second edition of her book goes further, examining many of the other crimes attributed to the Clarkes and their associates in the same way, bringing readers to reassess their views. Ultimately, this was all born from encountering a depiction of events that contradicted the information that she had come upon herself independently. This assumption of guilt, combined with the assumption that the crimes were the result of some innate criminality, or simply the product of work-shy laggards who simply didn’t want to follow the rules proved irksome, and were motivations to set the record straight.

Today we can sit back in our climate controlled houses, complaining about our increasing weight while planning our next overseas trip and say well if they had lived an honest life they would not have had those dreadful things happen. But is that the answer? Can the events of the 1860s in Braidwood be attributed only the the fact that the boys were seen as dishonest? They were not in this class alone.

Judy Lawson, The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures

This assumption of guilt where many bushrangers are concerned has been all too common, but authors like Lawson are working hard to turn the tide.

Georgina Stones

Followers of A Guide to Australian Bushranging will be familiar with Georgina Stones, who has frequently contributed to the website and social media. Her work on Joe Byrne sheds light on parts of his story that had been overlooked or completely ignored by other historians, and has allowed Byrne’s story to be studied in much the same level of detail as Ned Kelly’s. Her ongoing project, An Outlaw’s Journal, is a mixture of her historical research and short stories based on, or inspired by, the recorded history. While this has, in some corners, attracted some level of controversy, Stones’ work does not shy away from some of the more taboo or risque aspects of Joe’s life and times. In her research she has uncovered some aspects of Joe’s early life not otherwise talked about such as his role as a witness in the murder case of Ah Suey, and his relationship to Ellen Salisbury.

An Outlaw’s Journal by Georgina Stones

Since then, Stones has also begun a second project titled Michael Howe: Governor of the Woods, which operates in much the same way as An Outlaw’s Journal. Her research has quickly redefined the way Howe is viewed, and is proving to be invaluable in learning the stories of his gang members, and the men that hunted them. Though the research is ongoing, the impact this has on our understanding of the early Tasmanian bushrangers is profound, and she has plans to release a book later this year.

Michael Howe: Governor of the Ranges by Georgina Stones

Stones’ interest is firmly on peeling away the myths to uncover the forgotten histories of the bushrangers, but she is the first to admit that her age and gender play a significant role in how her work is perceived. During a live stream on A Guide to Australian Bushranging’s Facebook page she explained:

Sometimes I don’t think that we’re taken seriously for our work and I think we’re dismissed. I mean, I honestly believe sometimes that if I was a man perhaps some of my work might be taken a bit more seriously and I mightn’t be sometimes spoken down to as often as sometimes I am, which is a bit upsetting but true. I think people assume we are soft on these men, like because we’re females we’re just doe-eyed, but I don’t think that’s true. I think a lot of the time people like Judy Lawson and Carol Baxter, the reason why they’ve been able to kind of shine a new light is because as females we can kind of… understand things a bit different and deeply than maybe what men sometimes do.

Georgina Stones

Spotlight: The Execution Of The Clarke Brothers As It Was Reported

Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917), Wednesday 26 June 1867, page 3




Sydney, June 25.

The convicted bushrangers, Thomas and John Clarke were executed at 9 o’clock this morning. The scaffold was erected in the yard of Darlinghurst Gaol. There were only about the usual number of officials and spectators present, and nothing special marked the ceremony.

The men bad been most assiduously attended by their spiritual advisers, and a subdued and quiet manner, with expressions of penitence for their crimes, marked their last moments. In both instances death was almost instantaneous on the fall of the drop. Their relatives and friends were in attendance, and (having previously obtained permission from the authorities) their bodies have since been removed for interment.

Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 6 July 1867, page 9


THOMAS and JOHN CLARKE were executed together within the precincts of Darlinghurst Gaol, on Tuesday, June 25, a few minutes past 9 o’clock, in the presence of about one hundred and seventy spectators, and a large detachment of city police. The execution was conducted in a very prompt and brief manner. The procession was formed exactly at 9 o’clock. Thomas Clarke was accompanied by the Rev. Father John Dwyer, and John Clarke by the Rev. Father O’Farrell. The prayers said by the clergymen were in a low tone. Both prisoners walked with their heads bowed down, and with their eyes partially closed. They looked very careworn and much dejected. They paid no attention to the presence of so many spectators, upon whom they did not so much as cast one look. Their minds seemed to be fully absorbed in meditation and prayer. On arriving at the foot of the gallows they both knelt briefly in prayer. The Rev. Father Dwyer then proceeded up the ladder to the scaffold, followed by Thomas and John Clarke, and the Rev. Father O’Farrell. The prisoners, especially John, manifested slight trepidation. John was placed to the left of his brother. When the rope was adjusted on John’s neck he looked momentarily at his brother, whose eyes remained closed. The rope was then adjusted round Thomas’ neck. A few more prayers — very brief, were said, when the Rev. Father Dwyer took Thomas’ left and John’s right hand, bid them farewell, and left them. The Rev. Father O’Farrell held the cross to each of their lips, and both kissed it—their eyes being closed. Both clergymen having departed, the hangman placed a white cap over each of the culprits’ faces, and drew the bolt. Both fell suddenly to a depth of nine feet — their necks were dislocated — and they died instantly without a struggle, and without any perceptible muscular spasm.

Drs. Aaron and Evans, and a surgeon from one of Her Majesty’s vessels, after the bodies had been suspended for about twenty minutes, pronounced life to be extinct; they were taken down, placed in shells, and given over to their sisters for interment.

Since their conviction they had been attended upon unremittingly by the Sisters of Mercy, by the Rev. Father Dwyer and Father O’Farrell; very early yesterday morning by the Rev. Prior Sheridan; and their demeanor throughout was apparently most penitent.

On Monday afternoon they were visited for the last time by their two sisters. Tears on both sides flowed thick and fast. The parting scene was affectionate and distressing. The prisoners, however, soon regained their composure. The authorities also allowed them to be visited by their uncle, Michael Nowlan O’Con-nell, who is now awaiting trial for being accessory to the murder of Carroll and party at Jinden, and also for harboring tho outlaw Thomas Clarke — now no more. The parting scene was here also of a very sad description.

There are some facts in connection with these two executed criminals deserving of notice. It is well known that their solicitor, Mr. Joseph Leary, spared no personal effort in defending them, and in endeavoring to procure a mitigation of their sentence. He procured two very eminent counsel at their trial; and when sentence was passed, moved the full Court in arrest of judgment. Failing in this he went personally on Thursday and had an interview with the Governor, in the presence of His Excellency’s private secretary, and pleaded ably for mercy, especially for John Clarke. Feeling that it would be necessary to submit his case in writing he drew up an elaborate statement, which His Excellency placed specially before the Executive Council on Monday. There was a full meeting of the Council — the further report of the Chief Justice, and the opinion of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General being considered with Mr. Leary’s statement. The result of a most anxious deliberation, however, was that the two criminals should be left to their fate.

When this decision had been arrived at and communicated to the prisoners, on Monday evening, they were visited for the last time by Mr. Leary. After some conversation, Thomas Clarke said, ” We should like to make a statement to you.” Mr. Leary replied, “It is useless now for you to make any statement to me; I have done all I can; you have but a few hours to live ; direct your thoughts to One who is just, and before whom you have soon to appear ; that is now my advice.” Thomas Clarke said, ” We have given up all hope, and are prepared to die ; but, for myself, I wish to declare solemnly that I am innocent of murdering either Carroll or his party.” Mr. Leary said, “Don’t tell me anything more about it.” John Clarke said, ” I can solemnly assure you that I am also innocent of murdering either one or the other of those detectives.” Thomas Clarke said, “You know, sir, we have written to the Colonial Secretary, and told him we were innocent of murdering Carroll’s party, and we told him we could prove that at the time they were murdered we were forty miles away from the place; we told him that Mrs. St. Germains, her daughter, her son-in-law (who had been a member of the police force some time since), and another person whom we named, could prove that at the time the detectives were murdered we were at her place. Mrs. St. Germains said to me, a few days after the report of the murder, ‘Well, Tom, they accuse you of a great many crimes, but they cannot say you murdered the detectives.’ These four people are in a position to prove that they saw us during the day, and at the hour, forty miles from the scene of the murder.” They then, in bidding adieu to Mr. Leary, warmly thanked him for the pains he had taken, and requested that he would be so good as to convey certain words to their mother, and that he would strongly advise their sisters and other relatives in the Braidwood district to lead an honest and a good life.

It will be difficult for the public to disbelieve that the Clarkes murdered Carroll and his party; but as they both, almost at the last moment, when there was no chance of a reprieve, voluntarily and persistently protested their innocence of these foul murders, it is but right that it should be recorded. They made no public confession of other crimes. — Empire.

Last minute gift ideas! (2018)


Stuck on what to get that special bushranger lover in your life? Here are some things to look at that might give you some ideas with links to buy online. Just remember: if you see a portly old man with a big white beard carrying a sack full of goodies it may just be Harry Power…




Black Snake by Leo Kennedy and Mic Looby [Review]

Teenage Bushranger by Kerry Medway [Review]

Ned Kelly: A Short Life by Ian Jones

Australian Heist by James Phelps

The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures by Judy Lawson [Review]



Lawless: The Real Bushrangers

Lawless: The Real Bushrangers [Review]

The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith [Review]

The Tracker [Review]

Mad Dog Morgan

The Legend of Ben Hall

The Clarke Bushrangers: A Clash of Cultures, First Edition (Review)

It always astounds that so few books have been published about the Clarkes. Of course, this likely has to do with the fact that for the longest time it was a taboo and much of the story has been lost as subsequent generations disappeared, a phenomena not suffered by Ned Kelly or Ben Hall. So it is with much excitement that one approaches a tome that tries to shed new light in the dark corners of this complex and intriguing story.

Judy Lawson’s book, may appear slim and a quick and breezy read but it is quite deceptive in this regard. In reality it is a heavily immersive and detailed exploration of the Clarkes and the various murders attributed to them that warrants careful reading. Lawson has clearly done her homework and conveys in easy to follow language and structure her impressive research that combines the recorded history with the socio-political climate of 1860s Australia. The bookncontaons several useful diagrams and lists to allow readers to keep track of people and places but if you’re expecting a wealth of pretty pictures you will be disappointed – though the writing more than makes up for it. It is clear from the outset that Lawson’s angle is quite different than what has gone before, stating her mission statement clearly on the cover: “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”.

Without going into too much detail (that’s what the book is for) Lawson breaks down the Jinden murders as well as the deaths of Miles O’Grady, Billy Noonang, Pat O’Connell, Jim Dornan and Bill Scott – all deaths that were attributed to Thomas Clarke and his gang in some respect. Each incident is presented without judgement and with all available information from witness accounts and testimony from various trials and commissions pertaining to the events to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions that may indeed be counter to the accepted narrative. Previous works have been written with the author’s judgement firmly in place, usually declaring that the Clarkes were guilty as sin. What Lawson achieves is providing a potent counter to this assessment. Many questions still hang over the deaths of the special constables: was it the bushrangers or their harbourers that pulled the triggers? Were the local police involved? None of the questions have simple answers but this book brings us closer than perhaps ever before to seeing a miscarriage of justice in the case of the Clarke brothers being hanged. By presenting each potential scenario and breaking it down to discuss what is and isn’t feasible it allows readers, especially those unfamiliar with the stories, to really understand the complexities of each case.

Lawson also discusses the Irish culture, including the roles of men and women, and emphasises the way that tension between English Protestants and Irish Catholics formed a key aspect of the Clarke outbreak. By describing historical conflict and ideological differences that contributed to the treatment of families like the Clarkes we see a dimension of the story that is not often factored into most retellings. The way that these conflicts as well as the division between upper and lower class people manifested in laws and the prevailing culture in New South Wales during the 19th century are incredibly important in understanding what may have pushed the Clarkes and their ilk into a lawless lifestyle. By looking at the larger context of this infamous outbreak of bushranging we get a feel for how situations like this resulted in similar stories in other colonies such as the Kellys in Victoria and the Kenniffs in Queensland. Lawson also highlights the unfortunate reality that the charge that sent Tommy and Johnny Clarke to the gallows was not the one that they were tried for, that there was a bigger motivation behind it and that the execution was a foregone conclusion as in the cases of Ned Kelly and Paddy Kenniff. A big part of the taboo of the Clarke story seems to stem from the concerted effort local police made to demonise their enemies. Without a means of recourse to the various accusations the bushrangers were not able to explain their own situation (and there was certainly more to it than simple disregard for law and order as evidenced by their wide syndicate of supporters and harbourers).

Lawson herself possesses a Bachelor of Arts, having studied geography and history for three years before becoming a science teacher in various states, territories and abroad. Her passion for the Clarke story has led to her researching and documenting it for almost four decades in the pursuit of truth and removing the stigma of the story on descendents and the broader community. Lawson discovered that she is in fact a descendant of the O’Connells in her thirties due in large part to her father refusing to talk about it, such was the potency of the taboo. This motivation and passion is evident in every drop of ink in this book and is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the Clarke story, a tale with so many twists, turns and mysteries it easily rivals that of the Kellys. Her aim is not to hold the bushrangers up as heroes or deny any wrongdoing, but merely to ask the questions that need to be answered and find whatever information possible to answer them.

A second edition of Judy Lawson’s book is now available, and you can procure a copy at this link: