A Guide to Tasmanian Bushranging (2021)

In late January through early February of 2021, followers of A Guide to Australian Bushranging on social media would have seen a series of posts about Tasmania as writer and historian Aidan Phelan travelled through many historic locations, accompanied by Georgina Stones of An Outlaw’s Journal. As well as highlighting some of Tasmania’s beautiful heritage sites, it also helped to keep track of some of the known and lesser known stories of bushranging from the island state. Most of the locations featured were from the Midlands, but even went as far south as Port Arthur. In this article we will explore some of these places together, but this is only a fraction of Tasmania’s bushranging history.

Brady’s Lookout

Located near Rosevears, and overlooking the Tamar River, Brady’s Lookout is a breathtaking view that is linked with the outlaw Brady Gang.It is believed that the bushrangers sheltered among the steep rocks and stayed close to the river so that in the event that they needed to escape they were able to steal a ship and set out to sea. It was a plan that had merit, as the Cyprus mutiny would demonstrate in 1829. However, most of Matthew Brady’s gang were not confident seamen, the majority of the group that had escaped with him from Sarah Island in a stolen whaleboat having gradually been captured or killed by the time Brady was likely to have brought his men here.

Overlooking the Tamar from Brady’s Lookout.

Notley Fern Gorge

This stunning forest is said to have been a hideout of the Brady Gang. Walking among the ferns and trees it becomes easy to see why a band of desperados would seek refuge there. A portion of the walking track leads to Brady’s Tree, an enormous hollow tree that shows signs of having been used as shelter. The interior is blackened, demonstrating that there was likely a fire inside at least once, and there appears to be a hole carved in the trunk at about head height that could be used as a window of sorts. Very probably the large opening was covered with bark or branches to conceal the occupants or simply block the wind. There is room for two adults to shelter inside, though it is unclear how many men (if any) accompanied Brady when he hid in the tree, assuming there’s substance to the claim.

Aidan Phelan stands inside Brady’s tree.


Tasmania’s second largest city is linked to about as many bushrangers as Hobart, the state’s capital. It is worth noting that at an early point in the state’s colonisation the island was to be divided into a northern and southern colony. Though this was not followed through in favour of the whole island being one colony known as Van Diemens Land (officially renamed Tasmania in the 1850s), there is still a distinct rivalry between the northern half and the southern half of the state, the occupants being viewed by their opposite faction as rubes and snobs respectively.

The site of the Launceston Gaol, where bushrangers like Matthew Brady and Thomas Jeffries were held, was demolished and replaced with the local secondary school in the 20th century. There are no visible remnants accessible to the public. This continues Australia’s time-honoured tradition of turning colonial prisons into schools.

A short walk uphill from the site of the former gaol is Penny Royal. First opened in the 1970s, in recent years it has seen a remodelling into a sort of Matthew Brady theme park. Apart from the eateries (including a restaurant called Brady’s), there are a series of rides and activities that range from a motorised brig that “sails” through a lagoon to a mock-up of Sarah Island, to a bridge walk across the top of the park. The most impressive attraction is the Matthew Brady dark ride, that takes patrons through a series of tableaux that tell the story of Brady’s bushranging adventures. Sure, it’s not historically accurate, but it is a lot of fun. Highlights include a short film clip projected on a waterfall and animatronic figures of John Batman and Matthew Brady.

Animatronic Matthew Brady at Penny Royal.


Perth is another location that features in many bushranging tales, but there is very little left to connect the town to such history.

According to some sources, Matthew Brady and his gang briefly visited this area when it was still known as South Esk.

The story goes that they had a down on Thomas Massey, the first free settler in the area. Massey would later be recognised for his role in establishing Perth and his role in the Launceston police. At any rate, at the height of his notoriety Brady sent written warning to Massey that he and his gang were coming after him. Two days later they struck, setting fire to Massey’s property. Sources conflict about whether it was Massey’s haystacks or house that were burnt down.

The story is a strange one in that the few sources that refer to it give almost no detail and are referencing other secondary sources that don’t have supporting evidence, suggesting it is merely folklore. This is a recurring problem one encounters when looking at the life and career of many of the Tasmanian bushrangers.

There is, however, one bushranging story that is indisputably linked to Perth. On 1 April, 1837, John McKay robbed and murdered a local man, Joseph Edward Wilson, just outside town. Wilson was attacked on the road three quarters of a mile out of town; he was shot and thrown from his horse, whereupon he was clubbed and his pockets rifled through. The victim survived long enough to give an account of the assault to police. Very quickly a reward of 250 sovereigns was offered for the capture of the assailant.

Police worked tirelessly to find the culprit, and eventually narrowed their search to a ticket-of-leave man, McKay, and a man named John Lamb who had a conditional pardon. Police arrested Lamb, McKay and Mrs. Ward, who had left her husband for McKay. It was Mrs. Ward who cracked first and dobbed her lover in, Lamb following suit. McKay was tried for murder and found guilty. He was hanged in Hobart on 3 May, 1837, and his dead body was brought to Perth where it was “hung in chains” on the outskirts of town the following day, at a place called Gibbet Hill. The body remained on display until that September, whereupon it was taken down and decapitated so the head could be subjected to phrenological analysis.

Gibbet Hill no longer exists, having been levelled to make way for the highway and housing. The only indicator of where it once was is a street named Gibbet Hill Rise.

The Baptist Tabernacle (the building with the dome) in Perth dates back to 1888 and was loosely based on the Hobart Tabernacle.


In May 1833, the bushranger Samuel Britton and his gang attempted a couple of robberies in Deloraine, but they were unsuccessful. In one local incident, the gang (Britton, George Jeffkins and Edward Brown) stuck up Wesley Dale, the premises of Lieutenant Vaughan. Prior to heading to the lieutenant’s house, they passed through Deloraine, where they bailed up Thomas Johnstone, a stockman for David Gibson at Dairy Plains, and compelled him to join them as a guide to Vaughan’s hut. At 8:00pm, one of Vaughan’s staff, Dan Picket, heard the guard dogs barking, and when he opened the door to find out why he had the muzzle of a gun thrust in his face and was ordered to stay quiet. Picket’s hand were tied and the other occupants of the hut were given the same treatment. The bushrangers then compelled the four prisoners to lead them to the house.

Johnstone was ordered to knock on the door and invite Vaughan to open up. This failed as Vaughan simply told Johnstone to leave him alone and come back in the morning. Britton then defaulted to ‘Plan B’, and instructed the others to smash in the windows as they ordered the occupants to surrender. Surrender was forthcoming and the bushrangers gained entry and began ransacking the house. They took provisions, as well as £3 from Vaughan’s housekeeper, and a very valuable gun made by Cavanagh of Dublin, which Britton stated that Vaughan could have back once he was cold and dead. The gun would indeed be restored to its rightful owner after the deaths of the bushrangers. They left at midnight, releasing the captives, except for Picket, who they took to Deloraine with them carrying their booty. From here, Picket was allowed to return to Wesley Dale, and the gang managed to make it to the supply mills on the West Tamar by 8:00pm that night.

Britton, George Jeffkins and Edward Brown roamed this area in the mid 1830s, though they were most often seen around George Town. The gang’s modus operandi was to either force entry to farmhouses and steal anything that looked valuable, or to attempt a ruse to encourage the occupants to open the door before they raided the interior. They often, though not always, tied up any occupants that posed a potential threat to their continued liberty. In 1835 their career was cut short. After a shoot-out at Kelso Bay, Britton was shot in the leg and abandoned; he was never heard of again. Three weeks later, Brown and Jeffkins fought police in a shoot-out at Port Sorell, during which Jeffkins was killed and Constable Thomas Smith was also killed. Brown was captured, mortally wounded from bullet wounds and died shortly after.

There were, however, a pair of bushrangers who were more directly linked with the town, named Daniel Priest and John Smith. The pair were escapees from Port Arthur, but although desperadoes were known to only take what they needed and Priest in particular was known to have a gentlemanly manner when undertaking his depredations. In May 1845, when a constable named Baldwin was robbed just outside of town as he was on his way to deliver dispatches. He was stripped of everything except his trousers and hat (which contained the messages), then ordered to move on. As he did so he was fired at to make him move faster. The dispatches arrived safe and sound and Baldwin was able to raise the alarm. In September of the same year, the pair struck again in Deloraine, bailing up two men in a hut, stripping them naked and stealing their clothes. Around this time Smith separated from Priest with all the money they had accumulated, the directive from Priest having been for his companion to find a way out of the colony. For all intents and purposes the move seems to have been successful. It was not long before Priest, who had been shot in the foot accidentally by his own shotgun when climbing rocks, was captured near Longford when attempting to enter a farmhouse. Priest had not supposed that there were constables inside and quietly entered and submitted to the officers of the law, even going so far as to compliment the party on their performance in pursuing him.

News report detailing the robbery of Constable Baldwin.


In its history, Evandale has gone by many names and is connected with many fascinating stories. It also has scores of bushranger tales associated with it. Not all are the most dramatic, but when visiting the town you certainly get a feeling that a lot of that history is seeped into the walls of the buildings and is at your fingertips.

In 1838 the body of Benjamin Ball was brought into Evandale (then called Morven) for an inquest. Ball had been part of a bushranging gang that were wanted for murdering Samuel Ely, but had evidently parted ways with the others (Fisher, Beard) and made his own way to Nile. His makeshift tent was spotted by an assigned convict named David Gow, and he fired upon the hapless man who immediately bolted to get backup. He returned at dusk with a ticket-of-leave man named Agnew, and they encountered Ball coming towards them. When they demanded Ball identify himself he instead fired a shot at the pair. Ball took cover, and as he stepped out again Agnew shot him dead.

Not far from the heart of town in Evandale, near the South Esk River, a party of bounty hunters consisting of John Batman, Anthony Cottrell, and William Ponsonby, finally managed to capture Thomas “The Monster” Jeffries. Jeffries was wanted for escaping prison with three other convicts and going bush. While on the run he and his gang committed a number of horrendous crimes including robbery and murder to rape, infanticide and cannibalism. When he was found only two of his accomplices remained as they had eaten the other one. The creek where “The Monster” was taken was later renamed Jeffries Creek and is now known as Logan Road.

The successful posse took Jeffries and company back to Evandale until a conveyance could be found. The bushrangers were soon transported from Evandale to Launceston Gaol. It was at this time that Matthew Brady wrote to the governor, declaring his intention to break into the gaol and murder Jeffries. Soon after, Brady was also captured. Jeffries was tried and found guilty of murder, then sentenced to hang. He was removed to Hobart Town where he was hanged on the old gallows on Campbell Street. He confessed to his crimes but blamed it all on alcohol.


After his capture near the Isis River, Daniel Priest, the “friendly bushranger”, was transferred to Longford Gaol. It was also at Longford that Priest had his committal hearing. In the dock, Priest was typically pleasant mannered and refused to defend himself in court simply stating, “No, Sir, thank ye! I’ll deny nothing that’s true, but if I catch them swearing false I’ll speak.” Priest was subsequently sent to Hobert to stand trial.

Longford was also on the beat of a bushranging gang consisting of Peter Haley, Daniel Stewart and William Ferns. The three bushrangers were better known by their nicknames: Black Peter, Wingy and Flowers, respectively. They were known to grace the establishment of George Walker of Ivoridge, near Longford.

In 1855, it was reported that a bushranger named James Padfield, alias Clarke, escaped from Longford Gaol where he was being remanded on robbery charges, and was suspected of having killed a man whose body was found in the Macquarie River just prior to his capture.
Padfield had managed to dig a hole through the wall of his cell and make a hole in an outer wall to give him access to the courtyard. He then took a “long form” (a wooden bench) and climbed the boundary wall, dropping down the other side to freedom.
He was later apprehended in the bedroom of a hut near the lakes in Bothwell, but his escape had emboldened other inmates who began to break their leg irons and fashion makeshift ropes from cloth with a brick on the end, in an effort to prepare their own bold escapes.


One of the first things you notice about Cressy is their obsession with trout fishing. Between the trout-shaped street signs and the massive trout statue in the middle of town, you can tell they take their trout seriously.

Cressy was only established in the 1840s, but despite its relatively recent history it does have anecdotal links to bushranging. It is said that Martin Cash was assigned to work at a farm here before absconding to return to his mistress in Campbell Town. When, later, he was at large with George Jones and Lawrence Kavanagh, he once again came through this way ‘on business’.

A story associated with the former Bell Post Hill church is that one Sunday during the service whispers started to filter through the congregation that William Priest was coming down the road, having been captured at last. All the churchgoers went out into the street to see the infamous gentleman bushranger, leaving Reverend Brumby to preach to empty pews.

Epping Forest

This stretch of bush was a favourite hideout for bushrangers in the Tasmanian midlands. Among the many incidents that occurred here, two are worth relaying.

In 1843, Cash and Company bailed up the Launceston coach here. They ransacked the coach and took various items, mostly clothing, before heading back into the forest.

In 1883, the forest was home to baby-faced bushrangers James Sutherland and James Ogden. Sutherland was a cantankerous teen who had spent his whole life either being palmed off on begrudging foster mothers, in prison for trifling offences, or on the tramp. He gained employment as a dogsbody for a pub at age twelve but left because he was subjected to abuse from his employer. He did other similar low-paid jobs, but struggled with being demeaned by his colleagues. These experiences had left him with a chip on his shoulder, and a larger than life personality. Ogden had also been the product of a dysfunctional home, and was very much under Sutherland’s spell. The pair camped in the forest for an unknown amount of time, believed to have been several weeks, allegedly only emerging to visit a local brothel, before they committed their crimes. Late at night they roused the Wilson family who lived on the edge of the forest by pelting their windows with rocks. The man of the house, William Wilson, ventured outside to see what it was and was shot dead. Sutherland and Ogden then set fire to the house. None of the Wilsons’ neighbours were willing to offer assistance to the family. The bushrangers also attempted to kidnap one of the Wilson daughters, but she escaped.

The pair’s next crime took place a couple of days later. They ambushed a delivery driver named Alfred Holman in the bush and shot him. They then dragged the body away from the road and clubbed him to make sure he was dead. They looted from the body then stole the horse and cart. When the pair were caught they were nearby feeding and grooming the stolen horse. Sutherland openly admitted to the crimes and stated Ogden had only prepared his gun for him, and had not engaged in any other aspect of the offences. The pair were both condemned to death for murder and hanged in Hobart Gaol. Ogden was twenty years old, Sutherland only eighteen.

A glimpse at Epping Forest from the road.
James Sutherland and James Ogden pose together in their prison uniforms.


The tiny town of Cleveland is the on the edge of Epping Forest; its most recognisable landmark is the St. Andrews Inn. Local folklore claims it to be one of Martin Cash’s haunts, and it can be found on the midlands highway between Epping Forest and Campbelltown. The inn dates back to 1845, though ten years before that it was a coach house.

However, it was next door to the St. Andrews Inn that a gang of bushrangers committed a murder most foul. Cleveland House was formerly the Bald-Faced Stag Inn and in 1838 it was the scene of a brutal holdup. A gang of bushrangers, led by James Atterall, barged in at night, bailed up the staff and restrained them. Two of the men hand their hands fettered and hats pushed over their eyes. One of these men incessantly complained about being restrained until he was shot dead with a single bullet through the brain by one of the bushrangers. The bandits soon withdrew, leaving the corpse on a sofa. Some months later, after a spree of robberies and several shoot-outs, the surviving members were captured, tried and sentenced to death. They were hanged in Hobart.

Campbell Town

Though there are many, many bushranger stories associated with this historic town, one of the most dramatic was when the Crawford Gang stuck up George Taylor’s family farm, Valleyfield, in July 1824. The story goes that George’s son, Robert, was sitting in a tree watching the sheep and reading his Bible (what a good, pious lad), when James Crawford, Matthew Brady, James McCabe and five other bushrangers bailed him up. They took him back to the farmhouse at gunpoint but when they arrived the boy gave them the slip. He raised the alarm and the family and servants, who were prepared for the bushrangers, went to their battle stations. A fierce gun battle ensued, the men barricaded in the house with the women keeping the weapons loaded and primed. The bushrangers were quickly outgunned and outclassed and they made a speedy retreat, although Crawford had been captured. Only one civilian was injured; a man named Lowe, who ironically had tried to hide after declaring that they were all as good as dead. In consequence, Crawford was executed and the Taylors were rewarded with 90 acres of land near Cleveland.

No discussion of Campbell Town and bushrangers would be complete without mentioning Martin Cash and Bessie Clifford. The couple lived in Campbell Town around 1839, Bessie by then assuming the name Eliza Cash. Martin worked for a Mr. Kane and a Mr. McLeod, the latter was a bank clerk and also a Justice of the Peace who eventually issued a warrant for Cash’s arrest (though Cash would state in his memoirs that the ink had scarcely dried on the warrant before one was issued against McLeod himself for bank robbery). It is claimed that Cash helped construct the Foxhunter’s Return hotel, which was completed in 1840. In one incident in this place, the police tried to take Bessie away to the watch house. In response, Martin Cash bashed one of the offending constables in the head and effected an escape for him and his beloved. Later, Cash was accused by William Bedford of stealing a half-dozen eggs, for which Cash was sentenced to seven years in prison, including time on a road gang. As he could not tolerate this, Cash escaped custody and headed back to Campbell Town, but was again arrested and taken to Oatlands. The area was subsequently frequented by Cash and Company during the early 1840s.

One of Campbell Town’s unique attractions is a path formed by bricks that are laid into the pavement, each one inscribed with the name and details of convicts from the area. A trio of sculpted trees also depicts many notable figures in the town’s history, including Martin Cash.


While there is not really any bushranging directly connected with the township of Ross, the immediate surroundings were a hotspot for bushrangers.

One of the bushrangers that operated around Ross was William Higham. Though he was hardly a prolific, or indeed particularly notable, bushranger compared to his peers, Higham created enough of a name for himself after absconding from the Hobart prisoner barracks in May 1832. He operated around Ross, and a reward of £10 and a ticket of leave was offered for him in August 1832.

Higham’s most notable crime was his raid on Captain Davidson’s farm at Cashmere. Being 39 at the time, he was rather old by most bushranger standards. In January 1833 he was hanged in Hobart.

Another story of bushranging took place on the road from Ross to Tunbridge. On 16 March 1858, Richard Propsting was bailed up while travelling in a dog cart containing his wife and another lady, seven-year-old daughter and an infant. “Black Peter” Haley presented a gun and when Propsting refused to stop, Haley fired a shot that struck the wagon wheel. Also with Haley was “Sydney Jim” Thornton, William “Flowers” Ferns, and Daniel “Wingy” Stewart. Propsting flogged his horse to make it go faster, narrowly missing a shotgun blast from Flowers. A second shot from an unknown source struck the horse in the neck, but it continued on. Propsting only slowed when he realised his hat had blown off. He turned around just in time to see Flowers take the hat. Luckily none of the people in the cart were injured or deprived of anything other than the driver’s hat. Propsting promptly continued into Tunbridge where he inspected his wounded horse and raised the alarm.

Source: The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880) 28 November 1846: 920.


At the beginning of his career of crime, Martin Cash escaped from custody only to be apprehended by a party of soldiers and brought up to Oatlands. He was tried at the Oatlands courthouse and sentenced to an extra 9 months in chains on top of his original sentence of 7 years. Likely he would have been held in Oatlands Gaol until he was transferred back to Launceston.

These days, the Oatlands gaol sits in ruins. However, by the time construction on the gaol had finished it could house up to 270 prisoners, making it the largest regional prison in Van Diemens Land. The areas for male and female convicts, including the condemned cells and gallows yard, have since been knocked down and replaced with an outdoor swimming pool. Remnants of the perimeter wall remain, though they stand around a third the height they would have originally.

There were many minor bushrangers that would have been through Oatlands, including James Padfield, who was taken here after his arrest in 1855 and sentenced in the courthouse to ten years transportation.

In 1845, William Westwood, alias Jackey Jackey, made his way on foot to Oatlands after absconding from his assignment in Glenorchy. He had escaped with two others, but they had both parted ways with him along the way to Launceston, where they intended to steal a boat. Unfortunately for Westwood, on 21 August, 1845, he was captured in Oatlands by John Luttrell and Richard Pillinger, two settlers. Westwood was quickly escorted back to Hobart.

A couple of kilometres outside of Oatlands, on the Midlands Highway, the observant traveller will spot a sculpture on the roadside depicting the bushranger Michael Howe bailing up a horseman. Such sculptures, life sized silhouettes cut from steel, dot the highway to remind travellers of the heritage.

The remains of Oatlands Gaol.
Oatlands Courthouse.


Another of the big hotspots for bushrangers was the unassuming central highlands township of Bothwell. Here many different bushrangers, major and minor, took advantage of the area’s remoteness and small population to seek refuge. For example, William Ferns (nicknamed “Flowers”) who went to Bothwell after absconding from Launceston, working in the town for two years before he took to the bush after being spotted by someone that knew him.

One of the major gangs that utilised Bothwell area was that of Michael Howe. Throughout the region, then known as Fat Doe, the gang built huts and, after he had split from what remained of his gang, Howe returned to the area. In September 1818 he was found by a man named McGill, accompanied by an Aboriginal tracker named Musquito (who would later gain infant in his own right). There was a battle but Howe’s superior strength saw him escape from the would-be captors. Unfortunately for Howe, he left behind his belongings, which included his journal.

Bothwell was one of the various locations that Brady and his gang were reputed to have built a camp.
It was also where the gang had sympathisers in the Farquharson family. The Farquharsons were a respectable family of settlers and their involvement with the bushrangers was kept secret for a long time in order to protect their reputation.
Despite their sympathies, the Farquharson family were still stuck up in 1825 by James McCabe. Having feuded with Brady and the rest of the gang, McCabe had decided to go solo. After being busted sleeping under a tree, McCabe ran into the bush leaving his boots and supplies behind. He moved on to Bothwell and demanded entrance to the Farquharson property. He kept the old man covered with a pistol and ordered fresh clothes and boots. After much pleading, the Farquharsons complied and McCabe.

Bothwell also has links to Cash and Co, as Martin Cash and Bessie Clifford camped here for a time, before he was arrested in spectacular fashion. It was also at Bothwell that Lawrence Kavanagh surrendered to the police after badly injuring himself with a pistol, fearing he would otherwise bleed to death.

Of course, Bothwell has many accounts related to minor bushranger as well, including James Padfield. On 19 November, Padfield descended upon a shepherd’s hut near the lakes in Bothwell and ordered the hutkeeper to provide him with tea, damper and mutton, which he took into a back room and began eating. Meanwhile, two constables had set out from Bothwell, Constable Hastie and Constable Goddard, having been alerted to the bushranger’s possible appearance at the hut. The constables, upon reaching the destination, briefly exchanged words with the hutkeeper and were directed to the room where Padfield lay in wait, armed with a double-barrelled shotgun, and a revolver. He attempted to shoot the Goddard with the revolver as he entered the room, but the gun misfired and he was taken down in a struggle. He was taken before police magistrate Whiteford, who happened to be in Bothwell, then transferred to Oatlands.

In December 1840, Bothwell was the scene of a murder connected to the so-called “Bothwell Bushrangers”. Two shepherds who were in the employ of a Mr. Broadribb were found dead under a tree. It seemed that the men had been murdered and their bodies haphazardly concealed behind a log. Thanks to the ineptitude of the local police, by the time the bodies were retrieved they were so severely decomposed, owing to the summer heat, that an autopsy was unable to determine a cause of death. The crime was attributed to the bushrangers Beard, Birrell and Fisher, but there was no certainty as to the identities of the killers. The utter ineptitude of the Bothwell police was on show during the affair and the papers were scathing in their appraisal.

Source: The True Colonist Van Diemen’s Land Political Despatch, and Agricultural and Commercial… (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1834 – 1844) 7 December 1838: 6.


Kempton is a small town that used to be a stop on the old coach road. Like most places in regional Tasmania it is full of heritage buildings and plenty of history. In its early days the area was known as Green Ponds.

In 1845, William Westwood travelled through here after escaping from his assignment at Glenorchy. He was accompanied by two other convicts, George Allum and Thomas Gillam, and they had intended to go to Launceston and steal a boat so they could sail to Sydney, but could not find one. As it turned out, none of the men knew enough about the Tasmanian wilderness to know where they were going. While camping at Green Ponds, Westwood was abandoned by the first of his dispirited comrades. The second left him at New Norfolk and he continued on his way alone.

Kempton’s connection to Matthew Brady is one of particular note. At the height of his bushranging career, Brady and his gang rode into Kempton, where they had sympathisers, and targeted the farm of one Francis Flexmore. Allegedly, this Flexmore was not exactly popular with his servants and they had reportedly informed the bushrangers of where their employer kept a secret stash of money under his mattress.

Brady bailed Flexmore up and robbed him of his money, his best horses and even his Panama hat, which he exchanged for his own. It took considerable coaxing for Flexmore to give up his hidden treasure, but when one is at the business end of a pistol, one is not in a position to argue. Afterwards, it is said, Flexmore would boast of his resistance to the demands of the notorious Brady.


Formerly known as Jerusalem, a name still acknowledged by the Jerusalem Creek, this area was part of the Howe Gang’s beat as well as being visited by other major gang’s in later years. The town was built mostly from convict labour, and currently is a small farming community. In its early days soldiers would go on expeditions around the town to hunt kangaroo and emu to supplement the town’s dwindling food supplies.

It was also here that Martin Cash was assigned to work before doing a runner to try and reunite with his girlfriend Bessie Clifford. Rumour has it he spent the night hiding in a pear tree near the police lock-up. It wasn’t the last time he would be in Jerusalem.

After their escape from Port Arthur, Cash, George Jones and Lawrence Kavanagh passed through Jerusalem and robbed a farm of a firearm and provisions.

The area around Colebrook is mostly vast, undulating plains and gullies. Most convict-era buildings are now long gone.


It was this area that James McCabe fled to after leaving Matthew Brady’s gang at Grindstone Bay in 1825. McCabe, operating solo, had several near-misses over a number of days as he robbed locals, before finally being captured at Clyde Vale (which was more than likely one of the various unofficial names given to Hamilton prior to its official naming the following year). McCabe was eventually hanged in Hobart.

Looking towards Hamilton from Glen Clyde House, aka Old Hamilton Inn.


Yet another site associated with a number of bushrangers, but most notably Michael Howe who was known to have operated here at various times.

In one such incident, Howe’s gang visited the farm of a Mr. Hayes, having walked 100 miles over eleven days from their previous outing. Lucky for them, but not so much for a hawker named W. T. Stocker, they arrived just when Stocker was staying at the farm for the night. The bushrangers plundered the hawker’s cart and escaped with a valuable haul of various goods. It’s believed they had been tipped off.

Bagdad also has a Martin Cash story to its name. When Cash, Jones and Kavanagh escaped from Port Arthur they had to cross Eaglehawk Neck. In so doing they lost all of their clothes. As they continued to move, they stuck up the Bagdad pub and acquired clothes for themselves to replace the ones lost to the sea.


Broadmarsh is a place that is off the beaten track. There are no real markers or signs to denote anything of historical significance, yet this was territory that fell in the beat of Michael Howe, Matthew Brady, and Martin Cash.

One of the more notable locations in Broadmarsh is Invercarron; an estate built on land that belonged to Lieutenant William “Wingy” Gunn. Gunn had gained the nickname”Wingy” in consequence of having lost his right arm due to injuries sustained during the Brady Gang’s infamous raid on Sorell. In 1842, a probation station was built at Invercarron, as it had previously housed convict road gangs throughout the 1830s. In 1847 it was shut down due to the deplorable conditions the convicts were kept in.

During the time the probation station was in operation, Cash & co paid a visit to Broadmarsh. Having recently escaped from Port Arthur, the gang had crossed Eaglehawk Neck and were making their way inland, collecting what they needed on the way. They came to a farm owned by a man named Kimberley and bailed the place up. They found the place locked up as everyone was in bed, and when they could not gain entrance Kavanagh shot off the lock. Upon entering the building they saw someone attempting to escape through the window. Cash tried to pull him in but only succeeded in apprehending the man’s belt, which was full of ammunition. The gang proceeded to round up the occupants of the house and then ransacked it, taking whatever they deemed necessary or desirable. After they left, they took supper in a convict’s hut where they were intercepted by law enforcement. Cash fired two warning shots from the doorway, then waited for a response but the soldiers and constables had fled in terror.

Broadmarsh is not a tourist trap by any means. Most of the land around here is farming or bush, not too different to what it was like in the days when bushrangers would haunt the area.


The oldest surviving intact prison in Australia, the Richmond Gaol, was in operation from 1825 until the 1920s when it became abandoned.
It began as a place to accommodate convicts who were working in the area, but in later years, the gaol was mostly used as a sort of half-way house for prisoners en route to the city for trial or to bigger, purpose-built prisons such as the female factory in Cascades. Disorderly prisoners were often flogged or kept in solitary confinement in one of the many tiny wooden cells. Both male and female prisoners were kept here, though males greatly outnumbered the females.

It was here in 1838 that James Atterall’s gang were briefly imprisoned en route to Hobart to stand trial for murder. James Regan, Thomas Palmer and James Atterall since they had bailed up the Bald-Faced Stag Inn at Cleveland and shot one of the staff dead, they had gone on to continue raiding and robbing, adding Anthony Banks and George Davis to the gang, until they were finally apprehended by soldiers at their hideout on Brown Mountain. Regan, Atterall and Banks were subsequently hanged in Hobart.

Richmond was also the stomping ground of James “Rocky” Whelan, thus nicknamed for his craggy, pockmarked face. Whelan and an accomplice named Connolly were camped on the outskirts of Richmond and would rob people leaving the town. The pair soon had creative differences and split up. Whelan took up residence in a cave on Mount Wellington, near Hobart, where he would conduct his business. Whelan was not one for the “catch and release” style of robbery favoured by other bushrangers, and would later admit to five murders, and hinted at having committed even more. He even went so far as to say he would murder someone for fourpence. He was eventually captured and hanged in 1855.

New Norfolk

This is the heart of Michael Howe Country. It is no stretch of the imagination to imagine him and his gang roaming the hills and mountains around here picking off farms.

It was at New Norfolk that Howe’s gang raided the farm of a Mr. Carlisle. The terrified Carlisle immediately warned another local farmer, a shady fellow named Dennis McCarthy.

The bushrangers arrived at McCarthy’s farm but were surprised when McCarthy and his staff attacked them, including a servant who set upon the banditti with a broadsword. During the exchange, some of McCarthy’s men were wounded, but Howe prevented his men from taking life. They bolted into the bush, vowing to get even.

The gang returned a short time later when they knew McCarthy was absent, intending to burglarise his house. They did not realise that McCarthy had stationed redcoat soldiers inside the homestead, and as one of the gang members, Whitehead, was scouting for a way inside he was shot dead. A brief battle ensued with the gang retreating, but not before they severed the head of their fallen comrade to prevent the soldiers claiming the reward on it.

New Norfolk is also one of the places Cash and co. ventured through after escaping Port Arthur. They stuck up the Woolpack Inn and got fresh supplies.


The Penitentiary Chapel and a portion of the perimeter wall are all that remains of Hobart Gaol. It was here that a great number of felons were held between 1817 and 1961, including some of Tasmania’s most infamous bushrangers. The chapel was created to allow the convicts to attend mass without having to walk to the cathedral with the civilians. Soon civilians that couldn’t be bothered walking to the other church demanded to attend mass at the penitentiary. Under the pews were a series of inhumane undersized solitary cells, that were considered cruel even for the standards of the convict era.

Until the late 1850s, hangings in Hobart were performed on a wooden gallows on Campbell Street. This gallows could hang six men at a time, though there was never really a need for such capability. It was here that bushrangers were put to death including, but not limited to, Matthew Brady, Thomas Jeffries, Musquito, Rocky Whelan, and Alexander Pearce. If the bodies were not gibbetted, they were generally buried in unmarked graves behind the gallows, or in the old Barracks Street cemetery. The site where the gallows once stood is now the site of Campbell Street Primary School, and the unmarked convict graves are located underneath the playground. By the 1860s, the old gallows had been decommissioned, replaced with a permanent gallows within the gaol, that still remains intact.

When Martin Cash heard that his lover, Bessie Clifford, had begun co-habiting with another man in Hobart, he ventured into the town intending to shoot the man for taking his girl, and also intended to shoot Bessie for her infidelity. Cash was immediately recognised and a chase ensued down various streets around the gaol, until Cash was cornered. In the chaos, Cash shot and killed off-duty Constable Winstanley, and disfigured another man by shooting off his nose. Cash was beaten into submission by the angry mob that had caught him, and he was taken into custody.

In earlier times, Hunter Island was once one of the most feared locations in Hobart Town. A small landmass just offshore, it was the perfect place to send a message to miscreants in the old English way – gibbetting. Convicts that were executed on the original wooden gallows that stood on the island would have their corpses “hung in chains” from a gibbet post on the shoreline. The bodies would remain in place until they were deemed to have had a suitable deterrent effect (usually when the body was so rotten it was no longer properly held in place), whereupon they were typically buried on the island. This is what happened to the headless body of bushranger John Whitehead.

During an attempted raid on Dennis McCarthy’s farm by Michael Howe’s gang, Whitehead was shot and killed by soldiers. His gang members then hacked off the head to prevent the soldiers or McCarthy from claiming the reward on it, (in those days to have a “price on your head” was a literal term; bounty hunters took the severed head in to verify the identity and claim their payout). Only a couple of years later, Michael Howe was ambushed and killed near the Shannon River, and his head was cut off. This time the reward was claimed and Howe’s head was displayed on a spike on Hunter Island. Much regret was displayed by the Governor that the rest of the body had not also been supplied for gibbetting.

The island was later joined to the rest of the waterfront by filling in the gap with dirt to create a causeway, whereupon it ceased it’s function as a place of execution and displaying corpses, and became an industrial area. It is believed that Michael Howe’s head was buried approximately where the Drunken Admiral restaurant now stands.

The clock tower of the “Tench”.
The former Hunter Island as it appears now. There are no traces of any of the grisly convict era uses for the island.

Cornelian Bay Cemetery

Hobart’s oldest, and most popular cemetery is home to the grave of Martin Cash, who died in 1878. Prior to this he had lived his final days in Glenorchy; his son’s untimely death having pushed him to alcoholism. Cash was 70 when he died, resulting in many crediting him as one of the only bushrangers to die of old age although it was complications from his drinking that did it.

There are many people buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery as well, mostly executed criminals, some of whom were bushrangers, and paupers, but one notable unmarked resident is Solomon Blay, the infamous hangman who rose from being a flagellator to executioner, and held the occupation for more than two decades. Many of the executed bushrangers were dangled at the end of a rope by Solomon Blay. Blay took pride in his work, but he had a reputation, and when drivers started refusing to take him where he was headed he simply walked everywhere.

Eaglehawk Neck

This isthmus was the only stretch of land that connected Port Arthur to the rest of Van Diemens Land. Across the narrowest portion there was a line of half-starved dogs, chained to kennels, acting as a deterrent to escaped convicts.Despite the dog line, numerous convicts did escape and became bushrangers. The outlaws Dalton and Kelly escaped with two others and attempted to swim around the dog line. Only Dalton and Kelly survived, the others presumably taken by sharks.Most famously, though, it was here that Martin Cash escaped Port Arthur, then after he was recaptured he escaped through here again with Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones.

Port Arthur

A number of notable bushrangers (and minor ones) did time here. Among the alumni are Martin Cash, Lawrence Kavanagh, George Jones, Captain Melville and William Westwood. Port Arthur penal settlement was referred to as “Hell on Earth” by the convicts stationed here. The regime was brutal and dehumanising, and many tried to escape – few had any degree of success.

Although Port Arthur was promoted as inescapable, the reality was a far cry from the marketing. Escapes were frequent, though if the escapees made it past the dogline they usually got lost in the bush and were recaptured within a few days. William Westwood escaped from the prison several times, on one occasion only lasting three days before surrendering. He was nude and starving, his companions having been eaten by sharks as they attempted to swim across Eaglehawk Neck. For his escapology, Westwood was rewarded with several months of solitary confinement.

The Point Puer boys prison was the first facility for juvenile offenders in the entire British Empire, and its aim was to reform the youngest criminals away from the corrupting influence of the “old hands” in the main part of the prison system.
Here the boys would learn literacy and numeracy, as well as developing trade skills such as carpentry, shoemaking and stonemasonry.
This facility ran from 1834 to 1848, and in that time it improved the lot for a considerable number of boys, but a number continued to break the law into adulthood.
One of the inmates at Point Puer was a fifteen-year-old Francis McCallum. He refused to buckle under and repeatedly escaped from the peninsula. On at least one occasion it was claimed he lived with local Aborigines after escaping. This rebellious streak could not be quelled and as an adult McCallum journeyed to the mainland where he menaced Victoria as the bushranger Captain Melville.

A Guide to Australian Bushranging on tour, 2019 [Blog]

With November 2019 seeing the 140th anniversary of the Wantabadgery Siege, the decision was made to make a pilgrimage to Wantabadgery. As no formal acknowledgement of the anniversary or notification of any organised commemoration thereof had been announced, I decided that somebody ought to fill the void — and who better than the chap that does all the bushranger stuff online? It should be pointed out before we continue that this recap is not all about bushrangers, but rather a recounting of the things that happened during the trip. Hopefully it will give you some travel ideas. That said, let us continue…

With Georgina Stones from An Outlaw’s Journal in tow, I headed up northeast of Melbourne. On the way we passed through Benalla, where Georgina added some fake flowers to Joe Byrne’s grave. Previously she had left real flowers, but this time wanted to leave something a little more enduring. Every time we go up I see if I can spot the little bust I placed on the grave. The tiny polymer clay portrait has been there through searing heat, bucketing rain and everything in between but is still looking pretty good despite being put through the ringer.

Giving Joe Byrne’s grave some TLC

Our first night was spent in The Empire in Beechworth. This heritage hotel was around in the days of the Kelly Gang and has an interesting anecdote connecting it to the Kelly story. Following the murder of Aaron Sherritt, his widow Belle and her mother Ellen were lodging in The Empire. Aaron’s inquest had been held in The Vine (no longer in existence, and definitely not the one in Wangaratta) and the pair had stayed on in Beechworth long enough to see Ned Kelly arrive for his committal. Having been convalescing in the hospital in Melbourne Gaol, he had been deemed fit enough for transportation to Beechworth via train. When being taken from the station to the gaol by buggy, he was taken past The Empire where he saw two women watching him from the balcony. He tipped his hat to them in a conspicuous show of gentlemanly behaviour, perhaps unaware that it was his machinations that had led to the brutal slaying of the husband and son-in-law of the two women he was saluting.

Upstairs in The Empire

Dining at The Empire was exquisite. Food and drink were top notch, and the service equally as commendable. That night we were the only ones in the building, which should have meant a nice, quiet stay. However, there were other occupants that were not keen on staying quiet — occupants who were not of the physical world. Disembodied footsteps and the sound of objects being shifted or dropped was pervasive throughout the night, though we did get some shut-eye. It should be added that the rooms at The Empire are nice and cosy with very comfortable beds, so if you’re looking for a place to stay, give them a look-in (the ghosts don’t cost extra).

The next morning after an obligatory visit to the Beechworth Bakery, we headed to the Beechworth Cemetery so that Georgina could pay her respects to Aaron Sherritt. While there I tracked down the grave of John Watt. Watt was the proprietor of the Wooragee Hotel on the outskirts of Beechworth. One night he answered the door of the pub to reveal three bushrangers who ordered him to bail up. Rather than comply, Watt turned to head back inside. One of the bandits shot him in the back, then they fled. It took Watt over a week to die from his wound. Subsequently, two of the bushrangers, James Smith and Thomas Brady, were hanged in Beechworth Gaol for the murder.

John Watt’s grave in Beechworth Cemetery

Upon leaving the cemetery, we began the journey into New South Wales. Our prior search for accommodation had led us to a motel in Gumly Gumly, just outside the city of Wagga Wagga. The accommodation was nice enough for the price, however our neighbours weren’t exactly the quiet type. One couldn’t help find some amusement in their loud interrogation as to whether their companions were “giving wristies” while blaring Spotify over a Bluetooth speaker right in front of our door. In fairness, they did apologise when they realised that it was actually people they had seen park and enter the room they were in front of and not a very potent hallucination.
For the next few days we were right in the heart of the territory connected to Dan Morgan and Captain Moonlite. After so many visits to Kelly Country, it was great to finally be immersing myself in other bushranger stories. The only major drawback was the threat of fire. Following prolonged drought, much of New South Wales was suffering from their worst bushfires in living memory. Though the region we were exploring was safe, one couldn’t help but think about the beleaguered fireys battling the blazes further north on the other side of the Blue Mountains. Driving through the lower portion of the state and seeing how bone dry it was and how wispy the vegetation looked, it did not take much imagination to picture it going up like a celluloid girdle on bonfire night. With the anniversary of the Wantabadgery Siege, there are no prizes for guessing where was first on the list of locations.

Wantabadgery is a small town between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai that is mostly farmland and built on a mix of steep hills and flat pasture. It was here in November 1879 that Andrew George Scott would seal his name in infamy. Having been the target of police harassment since his release from prison earlier in the year, Scott had decided to seek his fortune in New South Wales. Venturing out on foot from the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy with his companion James Nesbitt, Scott soon added Frank Johns, August Wernicke and Thomas Rogan to the mix. A few miles outside of Wantabadgery they convinced a swaggie named Graham Bennett to join them and from there they continued on to Wantabadgery station, which Scott had been told would provide them food, shelter and possibly work. When they got there they were made to wait outside for two hours to see the superintendent, who simply told them to go away. On that day 140 years ago it was cloudy and raining, but when we were there the heat was unrelenting, as were the flies. Despite the difference in climate, the immersion was easy. The terrain doesn’t appear to have altered much all these decades after the fact. It is very easy to picture the bushrangers huddled among the boulders on the outskirts of Wantabadgery station, trying to get some sleep after being turned away.

The Webb-Bowen memorial

The first stop for us was the Webb-Bowen memorial (“The hero of Wantabadgery”), which is the only real public acknowledgement of the bushranging event in Wantabadgery. The result of a wonderful community effort to honour the fallen officer, it features a metal sculpture by Max Burmeister and artworks by locals that portray Webb-Bowen as something of a pop culture figure (I personally really love the Warhol inspired piece on display there and would like to see that become a poster of some description). A simplified map is on display to indicate the significant spots in the area related to the events, which gives a decent indication of where to go and came in handy. It would have been nice to see some signage at the relevant sites akin to those placed at locations pertaining to the Ned Kelly story, but it is understandable that more of an effort hadn’t been made to draw attention to these places in that manner, especially as these are still working farms. Regardless of where you go that is connected to the Moonlite story, there is almost no acknowledgment of it or only a vague understanding of it. Captain Moonlite does not bring tourists into towns like Ned Kelly does, unfortunately.

The sweeping hills on the edge of Wantabadgery Station

Wantabadgery Station is currently a working cattle farm, concerned with raising black Angus, and by all accounts they do a very good job of it. No doubt they occasionally get visitors asking to see the homestead the Moonliters bailed up in 1879, but on this occasion I decided it was better to be more respectful than simply rocking up and asking to have a sticky beak. It must be remembered that a great many of the sites associated with bushranger stories are on private property, especially in the Riverina where bushrangers preferred to raid farms rather than rob mail coaches. One day, perhaps, I’ll pluck up the courage to get a look at the farm, but until then I must be satisfied with having stood at the gate, much as Moonlite and his boys did while waiting to see Percy Baynes.

Wantabadgery Station has much better security now than it did in 1879

McGlede’s farm was the location of the final shootout between the gang and police. While a gunfight had occurred at Wantabadgery station, there were no casualties. When a combined troop of police from Wagga Wagga and Gundagai intercepted the gang at the McGlede selection, however, a deadly battle ensued. It was here that James Nesbitt and Gus Wernicke were killed, and Constable Webb-Bowen was mortally wounded. There is nothing left of the selection now apart from the land. There are no signs pointing to it or seemingly anything at all to indicate the site. I stopped to ask some locals if they knew where to find it and they merely stared at me with the vaguely confused look cows usually give humans (Georgina did not find my bovine interrogation a-moo-sing). Having to be satisfied with having gone to the approximate location, the decision was made to head for Gundagai, where hopefully at least one of us might get enough phone reception to plot our return trip. I annoyed Georgina greatly by cranking up Slim Dusty’s version of “The Road to Gundagai” as we approached the town. It was a place that I had wanted to visit ever since I was a little boy. Some of my family members had visited back in the ’90s and brought us back souvenirs related to the statue of Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel. It became something of an ambition of mine to see the real deal myself. It wasn’t hard to find exactly what I had sought for so long. The statue is right next to the visitor centre. The familiar shapes of the popular Steele Rudd characters immediately caught my eye. We parked and walked down to the statue. It was incredible to see these strange, almost malformed figures looming over me with hollow eyes. The statue was far bigger than I had imagined, and far more detailed. It’s original location when unveiled in the 1970s was opposite the statue of The Dog on the Tuckerbox (more on that later), but in 2005 it was relocated to the reserve next to the info centre. The connection to Gundagai comes from the old radio series of Dad and Dave of Snake Gully that used the song “The Road to Gundagai” at the beginning of each episode. To get a sense of Australian culture from the turn of the century, I recommend getting your hands on some form of media pertaining to Dad and Dave. I think Dad and Dave: On Our Selection, starring Leo McKern and Geoffrey Rush in the title roles, is a great way to get an introduction to the quirky world of the Rudd family.

Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel

One of the best and newest attractions in Gundagai is the statue of Yarri and Jacky Jacky. These two courageous men are hugely important in the history of the town and more than deserving of such a beautiful sculpture to commemorate them. In the 1850s Gundagai was first founded on the flood plains of the Murrumbidgee river. Of course, the local Wiradjuri people had warned the whites about the risk of flooding; after all, the name of the place came from a word in the local dialect meaning “big water”. In 1852 the area was subjected to a catastrophic flood, destroying homes and leaving many people stranded amongst the gurgling floodwaters. Seeing that the people needed assistance, Jacky Jacky and Yarri led a rescue mission, riding out in bark canoes with other Wiradjuri men into the torrent to rescue survivors, saving 69 people. 89 of the 250 settlers perished in the flood, which left only three buildings intact when things settled. It is hard to say anything to adequately emphasise or exaggerate what is already an incredible turn of events. Happily, the statue stands in front of a series of information panels that describe Gundagai’s history. More effort needs to be made to highlight these stories of unity from our history, but this is a good start.

Yarri and Jacky Jacky statue by Darien Pullen

Antique shops have always been attractive to me, most likely because of my Dad’s hobby of looking for a bargain in any obscure place he came across. A collector of items ranging from ceramic horses to Inuit soapstone carvings, he played a big part in my fascination with collecting. Naturally, the moment I saw what appeared to be a decent collection of vintage knick-knacks I had to poke my head in. Beyond the rows of vintage clothing and antiques in Junque and Disorderly, a creaky staircase led up to the Gabriel Gallery, a collection of photography from the turn of the century by Dr. Charles Gabriel. The images were a fascinating look at the history of Gundagai and portrayed a vibrant community at the dawn of Federation. Of course, as is the way with basically every museum, big or small, there was one very unique part of the collection. In this case it was a walking stick and letters belonging to Henry Lawson, the great bush poet. If you have an interest in photography or early federal Australian history, the Gabriel Gallery is a great attraction to visit in Gundagai.

The Henry Lawson exhibit

After a brief rest to have a cool drink, we decided it was time we headed for the gaol. Gundagai Gaol is located on a steep incline behind the courthouse and is only accessible on a tour, which you can book in the information centre. The blistering heat proved not to be very conducive to getting up the hill without becoming out of breath, but it was good to tick off the list, even though we didn’t go in. The gaol consists of two small buildings around the size of camp dormitories, and was the location where the Moonliters were held after their capture. The courthouse being so close to the gaol meant that it was no effort to have a quick walk around the outside on the way back down the hill from the gaol. The courthouse is a handsomely designed and built structure that operates very rarely, but is still a functional courthouse. It was the place where the Moonliters were committed for trial, which would take place in the Supreme Court in Sydney.

Gundagai Gaol

We geared ourselves up for a visit to the local museum but a makeshift sign informed us that the opening hours had changed and we would not be getting in this particular day. Unfortunate, but not unexpected. The itinerary was subsequently shifted around and we made way for the cemetery. By this stage I was glad to be taking advantage of the air conditioning in the car. Throughout the trip the temperature rarely dipped below 30°C.

Gundagai Courthouse

The Gundagai Cemetery was a little way out of town but worth the visit. It is the one location that makes an effort to signpost anything connected to Captain Moonlite. The cemetery is surprisingly vast and open and the ground rock hard from the rigorous drought that has plagued the region. The monument marking the resting place of Senior Constable Webb-Bowen is hardly inconspicuous and juts out of the smattering of squat and crumbling grave markers, gleaming white. Next to it is the far more humble headstone belonging to Sergeant Edmund Parry who was killed by Johnny Gilbert in 1864. To see two officers of high esteem next to each other in such a way is just brilliant for the die-hard bushranger buffs.

The graves of Sgt. Parry (left) and Snr Const. Webb-Bowen (right)

To find Moonlite’s grave one must trek further uphill to the back of the cemetery. Here you will find a large rock with a plaque on it marking the resting place of the notorious preacher. Were it not for the seating heat and the incessant flies, the moment would have been quite profound – after all, this was my first time visiting the resting place of one of my favourite historical figures. I left a copy of my article about Wantabadgery on the grave, both as a sign of respect to Scott and his mates as well as the police, but also so that people that visited after us could learn something about the reason why the grave was significant enough to earn signage. I should point out that Scott would be fairly chuffed at being in such a prime location in the cemetery, looking down on the rest of the graves from beneath the shade. It was very rewarding to have finally connected with these historical figures.

Moonlite’s grave has the benefit of being the best shaded of the marked graves in Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox statue is a must-see if you are in Gundagai. This humble canine has become an icon ever since its unveiling in 1939. Inspired by a poem about a bullocky who is having a bad day, the statue depicts a cattle dog perched on a tuckerbox and is mounted on a plinth in a little pool. Recently the statue was vandalised but was quickly repaired and put back on his pride of place. There are some ruins adjoining the courtyard that used to be hotels for travellers going through the region, and there is a cafe where you can get a bite to eat and a Dog on the Tuckerbox souvenir. One of the more unexpected sights in this location is a cubist statue of folk musician Lazy Harry. Long time Kelly buffs will be well acquainted with Lazy Harry from his album about Ned Kelly, which has been on loop in Glenrowan for several decades.

The Dog on the Tuckerbox

After our jaunt through Moonlite country, we headed into Junee for a day without the focus being on bushrangers. Though Junee was on Ben Hall’s beat and was the location of a store his gang robbed multiple times, we had something else in mind.
Junee itself is quiet and pleasant, with easy to navigate streets. It wasn’t difficult to find the Licorice and Chocolate Factory, a huge brick building surrounded by gardens and gravel car parks. We were greeted by the sound of live music wafting as we walked into the premises. There were statues of sheep and dogs, the meaning of which were somewhat lost on us, and we made our way inside. Crossing through the cafe, we reached the factory where many warm and tasty smells lingered in the air – the rich aroma of chocolate mingling with the tang of licorice. There was not much to see through the big windows that kept the onlookers separated from the equipment on this day, but it would be interesting enough if we were on a guided tour, which the television display was obviously a part of. We went upstairs and looked at the homewares and knick-knacks, noting the beautiful writing sets and kitchenware. There was a lot of cast iron pieces as well, which were quite nice. We went back to the cafe and had hot chocolates, which were delicious and creamy. Georgina bought Orange Whiskey Marmalade, and although we didn’t buy any chocolate for fear it would simply melt in the heat, there was a lot of items we would have snapped up (though the chocolate boobs – yes, that’s a thing – were not on that list).

Despite my initial suspicions, this car is not, in fact, made of chocolate

Monte Cristo is one of the most spooky and well-known attractions in New South Wales and probably the best known thing in Junee. Billed as Australia’s most haunted homestead, it dates back to the mid-1870s and has many spooky stories attached to it. Restored from essentially ruins by Reg and Olive Ryan, the homestead is an impressive example of late-Victorian/early-Edwardian architecture. Though the buildings are starting to look a little shabbier than in the glory days after the restoration, one can appreciate the degree of work that went into essentially rebuilding the place. While I had believed that the property must have been remote, it turns out that Monte Cristo is right in the heart of Junee, making it super easy to find.

Monte Cristo Homestead

Though the place dates from later than the height of bushranging in the area, one can still imagine how the Crawleys who owned the property might have responded to news that the Kelly Gang and the Moonliters were close by in the late 1870s. Of course, the one thing everyone wants to experience at Monte Cristo is the paranormal, and if you’re open to it you won’t be disappointed. I personally witnessed a man’s shadow moving in “the boy’s room” when nobody was in there, and there were plenty of weird vibes in certain rooms. The Dairy Room is the most disturbing part of the property. Both Georgina and I entered thinking it looked nice and cozy, but that quickly changed. For me it struck when I realised the chain looped through a hole in the wall was not for locking the door. See, it was in this room that an intellectually disabled boy was restrained by a chain in that same spot, resulting in the extreme wear and tear on the bricks. In fact he had been in there, restrained, when his mother died of heart failure right in front of him and left there for days before someone went to investigate. It was in this building also that a caretaker was murdered by a local youth who allegedly was inspired to kill after watching the movie Psycho.

The Dairy

One must be careful not to let the spooky reputation get the better of you, as we almost gave a visitor a heart attack when he came past the original homestead and saw Georgina and I taking the weight off our feet on a bench. Certainly the place could have done without all the Halloween decorations everywhere, most of which appeared to have been left partly taken down. In the courtyard between the servants’ quarters and the ballroom were two old hearses filled with plastic skeletons. It cheapened the vibe of the place considerably. A recent addition to the site is the Doll Museum, which I knew we had to do as soon as I saw it. Though only a small building, the collection is huge and very impressive. The horror section should appeal to many visitors with replicas of Annabelle and Chucky in glass cabinets. There’s even a Ned Kelly doll in the mix. Seriously, Ned is everywhere!

The original 1876 Monte Cristo homestead (later, servants lodgings)

When our time in Wagga Wagga was at an end, it was time to head back towards the border. Of course, the Riverina was the home to many notorious bushrangers – Dan Morgan, Blue Cap, Harry Power – but our next stop put us in a key location in the Kelly story.
Jerilderie is not far from the border, but it isn’t exactly the kind of place you would go to unless you had a specific reason to, and you would be able to see the attractions in an afternoon. While trucks rumble through it at all hours, there is hardly any other traffic, and the place is so small that it really isn’t hard to understand how easy it was for the Kelly Gang to keep essentially the whole town prisoner in the pub. Alas, such is life where many of these old country towns are concerned, as infrastructure has frequently bypassed many of them, leading to isolation and a reduction in the strength of the local economy. A town like Jerilderie could definitely use the cash injection that tourism would bring, but the lack of tourism has led to many of the tourist attractions becoming little more than dots on a map. It’s a “catch 22”.

By the time we arrived, the heat was fairly intolerable. We stayed in Ned’s Studio Apartment, which was a really lovely spot. With its close proximity to everything the town offers as well as its own amenities enabling us to cook and clean our clothes, it was a perfect base during our stay. There was only one downside. At first we didn’t make much of the fact that the water tasted strange but when we washed our clothes and they smelled like they had been washed in a swimming pool we knew something was up. Sure enough, a bit of Googling revealed that Jerilderie has an issue with chlorine in the water supply. While easy to get around, it’s the kind of thing that is helpful to be aware of in advance and the sort of thing you don’t find out about unless you specifically look for information about it.

Ned Kelly dummy in the Royal Mail Hotel, Jerilderie

After our arrival in town, we stopped in at the Royal Mail Hotel, where the Kelly Gang had kept their prisoners while they robbed the bank. In 1879, this building was attached to the bank, which is now the location of a motor mechanic shop, and this feature proved useful to the Kellys. While Dan Kelly kept the prisoners guarded in what is now a dining room, Joe Byrne walked next door to the bank via a rear passage and began the work of robbing it. Where once Ned Kelly gave a speech about the circumstances of his life that led him to become an outlaw, now stand inactive arcade machines and dining tables. The walls are decorated with a mix of historical photos and framed photocopies of images from Ned Kelly: A Short Life. As Georgina had a whiskey and I unwound from driving through kilometres of parched New South Welsh farmland, the other patrons comprised entirely of a man of around his late thirties and his friend who was a “little person”. The pair added a bit of life to the bar. Perhaps we just went in at the wrong time, seeing as that night when we went there for dinner the bar room was full of men knocking back beers after a hard day’s work.

At the time of the Kelly Gang’s visit, the Jerilderie Motors shop was the bank and was joined to the Royal Mail Hotel (far right)

After settling in at the accommodation, we decided to take a quick look around town. It soon became apparent that when reports described Ned Kelly and Constable Richards going through the streets so Ned could make a mental map of the town, it wasn’t quite as much effort as one might imagine. Where the gang’s plot unfolded was in a small section in the heart of the town.

The old printing shop that was run by Gill, the newspaper editor, was only a short distance away from the hotel. Gill was the man Ned Kelly wanted to publish his letter. At some stage the place had been turned into a museum but there was no way in as the place was locked up and left alone, though a peek in the windows showed there were displays set up inside still.  No doubt there would have been interesting things to see in the museum had it ever opened, but alas it was another closed door to add to the list.

The Jerilderie Printing Shop

The Traveller’s Rest is situated in the street behind the council building, right by a giant windmill. This was the location of the infamous incident wherein Steve Hart took a watch from Reverend Gribble. Gribble complained to Ned Kelly, who in turn made Steve return the watch. It was also here that Ned had his last drinks before heading home after the bank robbery. It is said that he placed his pistol on the bar and said in his typical braggadocio fashion, “There is my gun. Anyone can take it and shoot me; but if you do, Jerilderie will drown in its own blood.”

The Traveller’s Rest

The telegraph office is probably the most iconic building in Jerilderie, owing to its very conspicuous signage stating its connection to the Kelly story. In the past it was open for visitors but now remains closed. A peek through the windows reveals not only the huge cracks in the walls, but also the few exhibits that have been left out to gather dust, the plaque on the wall in the main room and a bunch of boxes and crates that were evidently used for packing up items in the building. There is also a plastic box out front that presumably used to contain maps or pamphlets of some kind, but is now empty. I left a printout of my article on Jerilderie in the box for a visitor to collect with the intention that it could help set the scene as they explored the town.

Post and Telegraph Office

The old blacksmith shop was where Joe Byrne took the gang’s horses to be shod. No longer publicly accessible, in previous years it was able to be explored for $2, and a radio interview with Andrew Nixon, one of the smithies that worked there when the gang visited, would play in the background to set the scene. Now, apart from the Kelly trail signage there is nothing to indicate the historical significance of the building.

The Blacksmith Shop

Jerilderie’s information centre doubles as a lolly shop, appropriately dubbed Sticky Fingers. In a back room you can get information about the town and surrounding areas, while in the main entrance you can buy souvenirs and lollies. As well as getting maps and useful tips, I procured some sweet treats to enjoy. The souvenirs are the usual Kelly fare with Jerilderie slapped on where otherwise it would say “Glenrowan” or “Beechworth” or whatever town the things were to represent. It would be great to have something to purchase that reflected Jerilderie specifically, but sometimes you have to be satisfied with what you have on offer.

Display of antique items in the Jerilderie Bakery

A little further out is the site of the old police complex, where once stood the barracks, stables and lock-up. All that remains is the stables, and what I took to be the adjoining lock-up cell, but the printed sheet that explained the building was long rotted by the elements so it wasn’t exactly easy to find the info. Road works were being undertaken at the site so we had to dodge earth moving vehicles as we headed up to the stables. There is something strangely poetic about the dilapidated state of the building, excepting the recently installed guttering. It was here that the Kelly Gang had their base of operations in the town after locking the police up in the cell. The original police station is long gone, now a big empty patch of dirt marks where the police station used to be.

Remains of the police stables

As was becoming a recurring theme in our travels, we started our days in town at the bakery. The food is good, the prices reasonable and the service friendly. The mural of notable figures from the town’s history was certainly… unique. Now, at the risk of sounding perhaps a smidge insensitive, I am used to seeing wall murals that adhere to artistic conventions like balance in the layout and verisimilitude in the portraits. Evidently some degree of effort went into the portraits, but there’s something odd about  seeing a depiction of Joe Byrne with what looks like an advanced case of Proteus syndrome. Fortunately around the corner is a nice little exhibit of items found on the site, including a shortened Martini Henry rifle that may have been dropped by one of the trooopers that went to the town from Victoria in search of the gang. Out the back there is also a big statue of Ned Kelly made from bread tins, which I quite liked. It gave me a few little flashbacks to my short-lived baker apprenticeship seeing all those tins.

Mural painted on the interior wall of the bakery

After a short stay in Jerilderie, it was time to hit the road again. I made the executive decision to pass through Culcairn so that I could get a chance to see some key sites related to Dan Morgan. We stopped for brunch at the Culcairn Bakery and had some of the best, freshest food we had had the entire trip. Honestly, it was tempting to linger in town a bit longer, but we had places to be and things to see.
Just outside of town is the grave of John McLean, the stockman who has the dubious honour of being the first man murdered by Dan Morgan. After Morgan had drunkenly fired his pistol into a crowd of captives at Round Hill Station, a local squatter named John Heriot had been badly wounded when a bullet struck his leg. McLean had gotten Morgan’s permission to fetch a doctor, but Morgan’s accomplices convinced him that McLean was going for the police instead. When Morgan ordered McLean to stop and the man continued riding, Morgan shot him. He took McLean back to the station and stayed with him all night. McLean died soon after and even though the grave by the side of the road has a big sign next to it to tell the story, it is in fact a fake grave. The real grave is actually several hundred metres away by Round Hill Station.

John McLean’s Grave

Round Hill Station is another example of a bushranger site that has continued to thrive beyond its infamous past. Now billed as Round Hill Homestead, it is both a farm and a perfect place for functions such as weddings. As with Wantabadgery Station, I elected not to go wandering in uninvited, satisfied with knowing I had been to the spot, more or less, where Morgan went from just another highwayman to Morgan the Murderer.
The brief spell outside the car saw me swarmed with flies and seriously wishing I had one of those hats with the corks hanging off the brim. I happily shooed the last of them out of the car before we headed off towards Walla Walla.

Morgan’s Lookout

Morgan’s Lookout was one of the few things on the list that I had positioned as a must. Located on the outskirts of Culcairn, northwest of Walla Walla, the lookout is essentially a collection of huge boulders where Dan Morgan is believed to have made a camp so he could monitor the movements of police and potential victims from afar. There is no admission fee and it opens from sunrise to sunset. By the time we arrived the heat was blistering and the moment we stood outside it hit like opening a preheated oven. It appeared that some effort had been made to create a set of signs detailing the history and ecology of the location. Walking through the huge boulders was incredible. You could easily imagine Morgan sleeping inside the overhangs or lurking between the rocks, ready to pounce. A steel staircase allowed access to the top of the largest boulder. On the way around we met another visitor that was taking photographs – the only other living soul at the spot at the time. The hike up the stairs was almost as breathtaking as the view from the top of the lookout; once up on the platform you realise just how far Morgan would have been able to see. For what seemed thousands of miles around, everything was dry, mostly flat and yellow. It was easy to see how an enterprising bushranger would find the viewpoint useful. Unfortunately the weather proved intolerable and we headed back to the car quicker than originally intended. Once inside our conveyance we spent five or more minutes trying to get the flies out before resuming the trip.

Taking in the view from the top of Morgan’s Lookout (speaking of tops, you can get one of these Dan Morgan t-shirts from here)

We returned over the border much earlier than originally planned due to a decision to power through to Beechworth. This decision may have proved to have been wise given that only an hour or so after passing back through Wodonga we heard news of fires breaking out in Albury. Once we were back in Victoria we were relieved to once again see hills and the colour green. The trip was slowed considerably by road works, but hopefully soon there will be nice new road surfaces for drivers in the area. When we finally made it to Beechworth we checked in at the George Kerferd Hotel. This lavish accommodation, especially in comparison to our previous lodgings, is situated within the grounds of the former lunatic asylum (somewhat appropriate, some may say, for someone such as I). That night we indulged in Chinese food from the Chinese Village Restaurant. Georgina probably wouldn’t have felt the trip was complete without having done so at least once.

Old Beechworth Post Office

One of the best things to do in Beechworth is to explore the darker side by going on a ghost tour of the old lunatic asylum. As an enthusiast of all things paranormal, this came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Our original plan to walk from the accommodation was vetoed by our disinclination to walk after our dinner. This proved a wise decision as the asylum grounds are deceptively huge. The winding road to where the tours operate was suitably eerie as night closed in and a light drizzle began. The Asylum Ghost Tours signs, with their ominous bloody handprints, led us to the Bijou Theatre from where the tour would begin. The theatre is decked out with a mix of historical medical paraphernalia and ghostly themed decorations of questionable taste, but you can buy merchandise from there either before or after the tour. I bought a copy of the book Palace of Broken Dreams, which is an interesting read and details the history of the site. Our guide Bronwen was excellent, leading us through the buildings and recounting the history, both earthly and otherworldly, clearly and without any forced theatricality. It should be noted that this is not one of those tacky tours where you’re led into darkened rooms where some git in a Halloween costume will jump out and scare people. No, this tour lets the history and the location do all the work. As for paranormal experiences, both Georgina and I experienced things on the tour. For myself, I saw what appeared to be a young boy with a shaved head trying to hide behind some cars parked outside of what was at one stage an arts room, as well as hearing the voice of an older male in an empty room as we entered the complex where the nursery was housed. Throughout the tour, our guide was gracious in answering questions. My inclination during such tours is always to dig deeper where possible and Bronwen demonstrated that she was intimately acquainted with the place and the entities therein, as much as the history side of things, which was very impressive. Ultimately I would rate this tour extremely highly and recommend it for anyone with an interest in the paranormal or even just in the history of medicine in Australia.

Nursery display in the asylum

One of the important things we had to do while in the region was visit the El Dorado Museum for a meeting. Georgina’s work on An Outlaw’s Journal has led to a very close relationship with the museum as they are in the process of updating their collections and displays. As small local museums go, El Dorado is a beauty. Their collection ranges through all sorts of history from the colonial era to militaria and even geology. Our work with the museum at present is super secret, but Georgina took the opportunity to give the museum a beta copy of the book she has been working on about the El Dorado cow that Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt stole. As usual, it was a fruitful meeting and an absolute pleasure to meet the committee with whom we look forward to working with in future.

Meeting the committee at El Dorado Museum [Photographer: Sue Phillips]

As in previous visits, we went to the Beechworth Courthouse, where many infamous faces had their day in court. Recently restoration works were performed in parts of the building and the historical books in the library were treated to prevent any creepy crawlies from making a meal out of them. The courtroom is basically unchanged from the era that saw members of the Kelly gang and their families on trial there and there are some very interesting exhibits. The staff are friendly and happy to have a chat about the building and its history, and even though I’ve heard the spiel a half dozen times it never gets dull.

Georgina taking up the judge’s spot in the courtroom

We also made a trip to the Burke Museum, where they are doing refurbishment to a portion of the interior where the Chinese collection is housed. The Chinese artifacts are one of the most important collections in the museum, owing to the cultural significance both to the Beechworth community and the Chinese in equal measure, many of whom travel to Beechworth specifically to connect with their heritage. In light of this, I purchased a set of postcards with illustrations depicting frontier life for the Chinese featuring artwork by Andrew Swift. We were privileged enough to get a look through some of the historical photographs in their archives in search of sites connected to Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go back and get copies as intended. The team at the museum are friendly, enthusiastic and very helpful if you are looking for assistance in your research.

Georgina examines a photograph of The Vine Hotel

We also went to the Ned Kelly Vault, one of Beechworth’s best attractions. The small building houses the best singular collection of Kelly related relics in the world, spanning the whole story and it’s cultural influences. As a big enthusiast of film, it is always a hoot to see armour worn by Mick Jagger, John Jarratt and Heath Ledger on display, among the various other exciting items such as Ann Jones’ table, helmets and weapons used by Victoria Police, and a range of photos of people involved in the story, including an image purporting to show Ned and Dan Kelly prior to their outlawry (which can only be viewed in a specially constructed box). The volunteer-run museum has thousands of people going through its doors every year and hopefully things will continue to grow.

Replicas of Dan and Ned Kelly’s armour

Another spot we visited in Beechworth was the remnants of the old hospital. Essentially, all that remains of the busy frontier hospital is the stonework from the front wall. As impressive as it is, there is something rather melancholy in the absence of the rest of the building, but that’s progress for you. Once upon a time, this would have been bustling with nurses and doctors going about their duties, attending to patients from the town and the goldfields. Now, it’s just a bunch of carved stone leading onto an empty lot.

The dramatic remnants of the old Beechworth Hospital facade

The following day we started with a trip to the El Dorado Pottery, a favourite of mine. After making a few purchases, we headed through the Woolshed Valley. Although the speed limit along the trail is 100km p/h, the road is covered in fine dust and gravel – not exactly prime conditions in case of a need to stop suddenly at top speed. We briefly stopped at Reedy Creek so Georgina could dip her toes in the water. As we were leaving there were already locals coming down in their swimmers to cool off. It’s a beautiful spot to have a swim and no doubt Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt did as much back in the day. As we continued, we stopped at the site of the Sebastopol Flats, where Joe Byrne used to work and socialise with the Chinese. Georgina made a series of videos for her Facebook page covering aspects of the story related to the locations we were visiting, the last of which was The Devil’s Elbow, where Aaron Sherritt lived at the time of his murder. The trail is conveniently signposted throughout and you can read up on the history as you go. Unfortunately there is not a lot of structures left to see, so the signs do a fantastic job of explaining what things were there and their significance.

Reedy Creek

We then made our way back to Beechworth where we managed to get in on a tour through the Beechworth Gaol. Despite some factual inaccuracies on this occasion that only big nerds like myself would pick up on, the tour was lively and engaging. The gaol itself is in excellent condition, owing to the fact that it was only fifteen years ago that it was decommissioned. If you are in Beechworth, try and get on the tour, which operates twice daily. There are many links to not only the Kelly Gang (all of whom had served time there), but also more recent high-profile criminals such as Squizzy Taylor and Carl Williams. To drive home the Kelly connection, a set of dummies dressed in replica armour stands between the corridors of cells. For some reason Joe Byrne’s helmet had been swapped with a second Dan Kelly helmet, but not everyone is as pedantic enough to notice as I am. Hopefully there will be more attractions at the gaol soon to encourage visitors beyond the tour, but as in all things it requires money and time, which is often in short supply these days.

Dummies representing the Kelly Gang in armour

That night we returned to the Beechworth Gaol for an evening hunting for ghosts. The Beechworth Gaol is the location of the four hour long paranormal investigations hosted by Danni from Paranormal Prospectors. Entering the gaol with the lights off, after dark, was a confronting experience itself, but this was heightened by the fact that the electronic temperature gauge that had been set up in the aisle of the male cell block appeared to be floating when we entered, though it may have been an optical illusion caused by the dramatic change in lighting. Regardless of whether or not it was, this has to be hands down the single most paranormally active place I’ve ever been. We got EVPs, Georgina was poked in the back by a disembodied finger (with an EVP capturing a voice describing exactly that), the laser grid was manipulated to go brighter and duller, there were intelligent responses where whistling patterns were being repeated by a disembodied voice in various points in the prison, there were disembodied footsteps, and intelligent responses on the spirit box. One of the most incredible things was the table tipping, where the group lightly rested their fingertips on the edge of a small table and it began to tilt and spin. It spun so fast we were all running in a circle and it tipped so intensely it fell over several times, and yet nobody was gripping the table at all – I have no conventional explanation for it. Overall, it was absolutely exhilarating to experience and as a ghost buff I feel like I definitely got my money’s worth.

Interior of the gaol at the conclusion of the investigation (that’s not a ghost standing at the end of the corridor)

On the return trip we popped into the Beechworth Galleries, where we examined the bric-a-brac and marvelled at the welded sculptures. The statues, of which a considerable number depicted Ned Kelly in armour, are made by a South African artist and range from the whimsical to the absolutely astounding. Any garden or deck would be immediately improved by having one of these amazing artworks on display there – just don’t ask me how you’ll get a life-size elk made of steel home. A keen observer might recognise the artist’s work on display outside of the Billy Tea Rooms in Glenrowan.

A trio of welded Neds

We also made sure to visit Glenrowan. For me, this is where it all began in 1998 during a stop on the way to Beechworth for my grade six school camp. Of course, in some ways it was a very different place back then. For one, back then Bob Hempel was still fit enough to charge out of the animated theatre ringing a bell to attract visitors whenever a session was due to begin. Nowadays, he’s far more subdued but you still hear the crack of the “gunfire” echoing through the main strip to remind you of the attraction’s presence. Kate’s Cottage hasn’t really changed, though the pet birds are dead now and the re-created Kelly house is starting to sag like an under-baked cake, but they still play Lazy Harry on loop, and you can still get your Ned Kelly tea towels and ciggie lighters from there. The site of the siege has recently had the stolen wooden replica of the inn sign replaced with a metal one that is hopefully harder to pinch, though the metal sculpture approximating Ned’s armour at the capture site has already had the helmet stolen, having been there for only around a month.

Site of the Glenrowan siege

We had our brunch at the Vintage Hall Cafe, which is both a cafe and a shop that sells a mix of souvenirs and second hand items. It was here in 1970 that the Mick Jagger film had it’s Victorian premiere, and some local brainboxes decided to set off explosives around the building in protest (surprisingly this act did not somehow stop the film from existing). I managed to pick up a copy of the Monty Wedd Ned Kelly comic strip in a hardcover book, which was something I had been wanting for a long time. Then Georgina and I did our usual trip to Kate’s Cottage to browse the books. If you’ve got a decent wad of cash on you, you can pick up some really great titles from the range of second-hand books. I was very tempted by a number of the titles but decided to save up. Then it was a quick sojourn at the Billy Tea Rooms, which provide a lovely spot to have a bite to eat. We walked to the site of the siege where we had a moment of contemplating. It probably would have been longer than a moment if it wasn’t so hot that we could feel our skin baking.

A token of affection for an infamous pioneer family

After this we made our way to Greta to visit the cemetery, but ended up going to Moyhu and buying a fake plant centrepiece because we couldn’t find anywhere nearby that we could get flowers from. The volunteers that have been working to maintain and upgrade the facilities in the cemetery have done exemplary work and it is a pity that more of the smaller country cemeteries don’t get as much TLC. The Kelly graves are not marked, though with some research you can find out where the plots are. While many people complain that the graves are unmarked, it is very unlikely that it would make much of a difference. The marker at the gate is a tasteful memorial to the whole family, unified in the afterlife. Of course, having visited three quarters of the gang, we had to visit Joe Byrne one more time as we returned via Benalla (I doubt Georgina would have forgiven me if we hadn’t). From that point it was just a straight ride into the sunset on our way home where I hoped the cat hadn’t baked to death in my heat-trap of a house. Fortunately my mum had been an angel, as always, and made sure that the cat was looked after in my absence. By the time we got home we were both exhausted and decided that it was time to order a pizza now that we were somewhere that it would actually get delivered to.

It was indeed a very eventful trip. To experience the places where these incredible stories unfolded is always wonderful and exciting. It was good to see so much of the history preserved, but at the same time the amount of attractions that were poorly maintained or not maintained at all was disappointing. Australia’s heritage may not be full of Roman hippodromes or Greek amphitheatres, but what we do have is valuable and it is disheartening to see so much being lost because people either can’t afford to restore and maintain, or just can’t be bothered. Ideally, a town like Jerilderie could be thriving with frequent visitors coming through to visit the Kelly sites, if it wasn’t for the fact that they are so small and off the beaten track. Towns like Beechworth, in comparison, embrace their history and perhaps it could even be said that they take it for granted along with their accessibility due to proximity to the highway. It’s sad to see, but the reality is that it’s getting harder and harder to keep these things up and running in Australia, and these attractions will exist only as long as the people owning them are physically able to be there. Some young entrepreneur with a bit of cash behind them could revolutionise the tourism industry in bushranger country, but it would require real passion for the history as much as a fat bank account. These sites are our history and our culture and deserve to be maintained and cared for. Perhaps in the not too distant future, they will get the attention they need. Only time will tell.

A trip through Kelly Country

On the weekend of the 11th of November I went on a trip through the Kelly Country in North East Victoria. Ostensibly I was going up for a meeting of Kelly enthusiasts on the Saturday night but one does not simply go into Kelly Country for an evening! The following is an abridged account of some of the things that occurred during the trip.

Starting from the Melbourne region, it takes a few hours to get to the heart of Kelly Country. On the way up you will pass through Beveridge, where you can see the dilapidated remains of the old Kelly house where Red Kelly and Ellen Quinn started their family. An interesting example of 1850s bush carpentry, years of neglect and vandalism have left the building as little more than a husk. For many years various people have made a pledge to preserve and restore the house but the most that appears to have been done is the installation of a sign telling visitors what they’re looking at. Nearby you can also visit the old church where the Kelly children went to school. It’s a handsome bluestone building with boarded up windows that is kept safely removed from visitors by fences and gates.
As you continue you’ll pass Wallan, where Ned’s relatives, the Quinns, once resided. You will also pass Avenel where the Kelly family lived after Red lost the selection in Beveridge. The family likely had few positive memories there but for one that has become an integral part of the Kelly legend – Ned rescuing Dick Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek. For this act he received his green silk sash, which is displayed in Benalla. Avenel is also where Red Kelly is buried (there is some speculation as to whether his grave is in the same location as the marker due to cemetery boundaries being shifted).
Further on, Euroa was the location the gang chose for their first bank robbery, though the original building is long gone. A sign marks where the bank once stood. It is a small town perfect for a quick stop on your journey (though this time there was no stop there).


A must-see whenever I go to Kelly Country is Benalla. It is one of the more “modern” towns in the region boasting lots of shopping and art. Various buildings throughout Benalla are painted by local artists depicting all manner of scenes ranging from Ned Kelly holding his helmet to a pair of bright green ninja turtles. Like Melbourne, Benalla has cafes and laneways where you can procure a cuppa. For Kelly buffs, Benalla is home to the Costume and Pioneer Museum where several important artifacts are housed: Ned Kelly’s sash (mentioned earlier), the old lockup doors (one of which was the one that Joe Byrne’s body was strung up on for photographs) and an exact replica of Joe Byrne’s armour made from molds of the original suit. The museum is also home to a great display of militaria and old clothing from the 20th century.
Benalla is also home to King’s bootmaker shop, which Ned Kelly sought refuge in while running from the police after being arrested for drunkenness. Across the road is the old courthouse where Ned appeared immediately after that incident, but where he was also briefly held in the lockup cell after his capture.

Joe Byrne’s grave.

However, the most significant stop in Benalla for Kelly buffs has to be the cemetery. Here you will not only find the grave of gang member Joe Byrne, but also several other graves related to the story including Martin Cherry, who was killed by police fire at Glenrowan, and William Reardon, who survived the Glenrowan siege as a toddler. Finding the Kelly-related graves can be quite an undertaking if you don’t know where they are and I found myself wandering through row after row of graves reading the lecterns where the names of those buried are listed. I found Cherry’s by accident as he is buried separately to the other graves in his section. Joe’s grave, however, is easy to find under a huge tree that is perpetually adorned with ribbons and tinsel. The grave itself never seems to be without some kind of floral adornment or a cup to hold an “eye opener” (Joe’s expression for a drink of whiskey first thing in the morning), something that no doubt would be seen as bad taste by some. I made a mental note to save up for some flowers to lay on old Cherry’s grave next time. It is a charming and well maintained cemetery and worth a wander.

My hub for the weekend was Wangaratta, a town I’d only been through a handful of times. It is not a town that soaks itself in the Kelly history, rather it reminds one very much of most any outer suburban town with its variety of supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Not knowing much about the layout of the town the info centre seemed to be a logical stop-off to look for a map of some kind. Alas, no map, however there was a nice little section about the Kelly Gang and a fascinating life-size statue of Ned Kelly that appears to be wearing Steve Hart’s helmet from the 2003 Ned Kelly film. In a case in the info centre is also the replica of Ned’s sash that Heath Ledger wore in that same movie. Wangaratta is definitely a good spot for a “city mouse” to use as their hub for a North-East trip.

Life size statue in the Wangaratta info centre.

Of course, the key part of the weekened was the trip into Beechworth for the meetup. It began with a visit to the Ned Kelly Vault. The Vault is one of the most remarkable collections of Kelly artifacts you are likely to find anywhere. Ranging from firearms used by the gang to Mick Jagger’s replica armour used for the 1970 film, the collection incorporates elements of the history and the influence on popular culture. No doubt the collection could benefit greatly from a larger space, but as it is the Vault is fantastic.
Director of The Legend of Ben Hall, Matthew Holmes, was present also and got a chance to hold an original reward poster (with protective gloves of course).

Joe Byrne’s surcingle and a replica of Ned Kelly’s sawn-of carbine used in The Last Outlaw.
Film director Matthew Holmes poses with an original reward poster.

The meetup then moved to the Hotel Nicholas, a significant site for local Kelly history. The interior is adorned with framed imagery of all things Kelly and Beechworth including portraits of the gang and their sympathisers and archival imagery of the hotels that populated Beechworth. The site was reputed to be where Joe Byrne’s armour was fashioned by Charles Knight (though there are accounts that would disagree), as well as being where Ned Kelly and Wild Wright had their famous bare-knuckle boxing match. The food was delicious and the drinks – well, it’s hard to get that wrong in a pub – all complimented by live music. As the meetup occurred during the Celtic Weekend there was a lot of Celtic music playing throughout the night.
It was a great chance to meet a few people from the community, many of whom are readers of A Guide to Australian Bushranging. The group was also lucky enough to get an exclusive update on the in-development film Glenrowan. I made sure to stay sober for the drive back to Wangaratta.

The graves of Margaret and Anton Wick, neighbours of the Byrnes.

The next day some of the people from the previous night met at Beechworth cemetery where we visited several graves including Anton Wick (neighbour to Aaron Sherritt and the Byrnes who was used as a decoy to lure Sherritt to his demise) and Aaron Sherritt. The exact location of Aaron’s grave was somewhat disputed but based on the description of it being sunken with a brick border, it seems to have been the right one. For me it was strange visiting the Beechworth cemetery as it was the first time in 20 years I had been there, the first visit being part of the school camp that stoked my interest in Ned Kelly.

Aaron Sherritt’s grave in Beechworth Cemetery.

The rest of the day was very eventful. In the blistering sun I was accompanied by Georgina Rose Stones (whose writings on Joe Byrne you can find here, here and here) on a visit to Greta cemetery where we visited the graves of a great many of the key players in the Kelly story including Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart, Ellen Kelly, Tom Lloyd and Kelly siblings Jim, Maggie and Grace. It was a profound experience to visit the final resting place of these people I’ve read and written so much about. To know that under a dry, dusty patch of earth under my feet lay the remains of Australia’s most notorious outlaw was humbling. The Greta Cemetery Trust are doing incredible work maintaining and restoring the graves and one can’t even begin to thank these dedicated volunteers enough.

Graves at Greta Cemetery.
Marker at Greta Cemetery listing members of the Kelly family who are buried in or near the cemetery.

One of the best parts of the trip was driving through El Dorado – Byrne and Sherritt Country. Following the path on the Heritage Route, which starts in town and ends near the Woolshed Falls, we saw the site of the Chinese Gardens where Chinese miners grew and harvested vegetables; Reedy Creek; Buttrey’s Rock where a gold escort was allegedly bailed up in the 1850s; Sebastopol Flat, a former mining town where Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt frequented; and the site of Aaron Sherritt’s hut at the Devil’s Elbow.

El Dorado
Site of the Chinese gardens.
Reedy Creek.

The dryness of the area resulted in incredible clouds of dust that completely engulfed the car when people drove ahead of us, forcing me to drive slowly to avoid a collision. The views were beautiful and you certainly feel like you’re in another time and place as you move through the dense forest or witness the sunlight hitting Reedy Creek in just the right way. I highly recommend this self-guided tour (look out for the blue markers on the roadside to find points of interest).

Buttrey’s Rock
Sebastopol: Once a hive of activity during the gold rush, now an empty field.
The site of Aaron Sherritt’s murder

The eeriest location on the tour was the site of Sherritt’s hut. Nothing of the hut remains, it is merely a patch of dirt behind a barbed wire fence, however the echoes of that terrible tragedy still resound. The events that transpired here signified the end for the Kelly Gang. One is certainly inclined to consider the knock-on effects for the Byrnes and Sherritts after such a terrible twist of fate. It is important to look out for the info on the side of the road to locate the site as it has no street address you can jaunt off to.

No traces of the hut exist now.

As we drove through Beechworth we stopped at the former site of The Vine Hotel, where Joe Byrne would visit his girlfriend. The hotel is long gone, now the site of a house. It’s unlikely the residents know that where they live used to be the pub most frequented by the Kelly Gang. A hotel called The Vine still exists in Wangaratta and is considered to have some connection to the gang but it is a different hotel altogether.

Ford Street, Beechworth

No trip to Kelly Country is complete without swinging by Glenrowan. Leaving early in the morning meant getting the chance to grab breakfast in the town from the Glenrowan Vintage Hall (though the Billy Tea Rooms are a must for a bite if you’re in town). After breakfast and a look around the eclectic collection of new and second hand wares, a trip to the siege site and the site of Ned’s capture were necessities. It seems so bizarre that the site of the most famous shoot-out in Australian history is now little more than an empty lot, yet, as is a recurring theme with Kelly sites, the history is there even if there’s nothing tangible left.

“The Kelly Gang”
An intriguing array of items.

There are other things to do in Glenrowan of course. You can visit Bob Hempel’s animated theatre (we chose not to), visit the museum in the basement of Glen Rowen Cobb and Co, and to pop in to Kate’s Cottage to browse the second-hand books and see the replica homestead. You can also go to the Mount Morgan Store and get a portrait done in old time clothing. I personally nabbed a very reasonably priced copy of Superintendent Sadleir’s memoirs that was published over forty years ago, though there were many more I would have snapped up if I had the money.

The site of Ned Kelly’s capture.

As we left we swung past Joe Byrne’s grave one more time so Georgina could pay her respects. This was, perhaps, my most eventful trip to the North-East yet. To have covered so much is an incredible privilege (there were things that I didn’t cover here, you got the edited highlights). I can’t wait for my next trip!

A final view of Joe Byrne’s grave.

John Francis Peggotty: The Birdman of Coorong

The story of John Francis Peggotty is one of the most bizarre in bushranging only made more bizarre by the fact that it seems to be nothing more than an elaborate urban myth perpetuated by an enthusiastic tourism board. South Australia can’t lay claim to many bushrangers, and certainly none of the calibre of those found in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania so why did this story capture the imagination? The short answer is novelty.

According to the stories John Francis Peggotty was born three months premature in Limerick, Ireland in 1864. As an eighteen year old he travelled to South Africa where he learned to ride ostriches (ostrich racing being a popular sport there). Peggotty’s tiny, underdeveloped frame was ideal for the pursuit of riding large flightless birds and he became wildly proficient. For reasons undetermined, Peggotty left South Africa for England where he went on a crime spree, his tiny body effortlessly sliding down chimneys to give him access to homes where he could pilfer all he desired like some sort of strange reverse-Santa Claus. Getting nabbed and doing time in gaol did nothing to deter the tiny Irishman and he set his sights on Australia and joined his uncle’s farm in New South Wales. Farming proved to be unappealing to Peggotty and he took his leave and went to South Australia where he soon took up a life of lawlessness.

Peggotty resumed his crime career with his unique modus operandi but it wasn’t long before Peggotty in a Fagin-esque manner began recruiting urchins to join him in his exploits, teaching them his tricks for stealthy break and enter. Peggotty would not trade his ill-gotten gains for cash as many would presume, but rather took much pleasure in wearing the stolen jewellery and was frequently seen bedecked in gold chains of various sizes, glimmering rings and jangling bracelets. Adorned in jewellery and little else, Peggotty was a weird figure indeed.


Tiring of the break-and-enter business Peggotty decided to take inspiration from the likes of Captain Thunderbolt and Frank Gardiner and go bush and become a highwayman. Unable to mount a horse because of his size Peggotty took advantage of the birds brought to South Australia for the lucrative ostrich feather trade, liberating a bird and riding it like it was a gallant steed. Peggotty bailed up travellers throughout the Coorong on his ostrich, liberating them of anything that crinkled or tinkled before word began to spread that this impish outlaw had become a veritable menace. Choosing to haunt the region by the shores of Lake Albert with its towering walls of sand, Peggotty atop his fowl steed was irrepressible. The police soon set out in search of the so-called “Birdman of the Coorong”.

Gallant Steed: Peggotty preferred avian mounts to equine ones

In a short time Peggotty had numerous robberies and two murders to his name and a sizeable reward on his head. Things came to a head when the birdman attempted to rob a fisherman named Henry Carmichael on 17 September of 1899. Carmichael was not in the mood for such nonsense from who he thought was no more than a juvenile delinquent at first but soon realised from the bushranger’s quirky steed that this was the infamous Birdman. Grabbing his rifle and levelling it at Peggotty, Carmichael was determined to claim the reward. Peggotty knew not to mess around and took off, the ostrich leaving Carmichael in the dust. As bullets whizzed past him, Peggotty ducked and weaved but the fisherman was far too proficient and a bullet struck the ostrich and brought it down. Peggotty tumbled to the ground and another bullet penetrated the delicate frame of the bushranger who crawled into the undergrowth and seemingly vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. Some say that beneath the mountainous sand dunes is a tiny skeleton wearing a small fortune in gold and jewellery waiting to be found.

In all probability the lack of records and contemporary news articles indicates that this is in fact pure myth. That Peggotty is a name plucked straight from the works of Charles Dickens also gives it away. That hasn’t stopped the powers that be from using the tale of the Birdman to foster tourism in the Coorong in a bid to help the district recover after a particularly nasty period of drought that caused quite a lot of pain to the locals. The tale is a cracking yarn full of adventure and humour that aims to connect South Australia to the great bushranging tales of the Eastern states. It is also a fantastic way of creating a bit of legend around the wild ostriches of the Coorong, large flightless birds imported for their feathers but let loose when they were either released or escaped. it may not be the truth but it is a cracking good yarn.

Tourist Attraction: Have you got what it takes to be a Birdman?