The Long Tailor (Novel)
Down near Dalgety they found a dead tailor. These are stories written around the mystery surrounding the supposed death of an Australian bushranger.
Book One: The story of the Long Tailor
The Long Tailor has been long forgotten. The official records concerning him are remarkable only because they are entirely inconsistent.
Unwritten memories of the man are tainted by politics and personalities.
In the absence of any historical record, I have turned to the hills to tell these stories concerning the man and those who loved and chased him.
2 Summer 1901 - Braidwood, Royal Hotel
“Down near Dalgety they found a dead tailor.”
Sounds in the pub softened as the regular patrons turned to look at the stranger. The old man coughed as he cut some tobacco to fill his pipe.
“Under the dead man’s saddle they found bags containing silk, thread, scissors, tape measures, thimbles, needles, and a light coloured colonial tweed vest, half made. They also found enough coin in his pockets to buy a couple of loaves of bread and some tea. They would have us believe he was a pauper, this bloke. Without as much as a knife to cut his tobacco.”
There was a murmur around the pub.
“They called him the Long Tailor. They suppose he died one warm Thursday afternoon near the Snowy River, on the road to the high country, in the summer of 1867.”
“They held an inquiry, on a Sunday would you believe. At a sheep station up in the mountains. The police magistrate rode down from Cooma with a doctor. He said the death was accidental.”
“But he knew it wasn’t so. I heard him say as much. Don’t believe everything you hear. The Long Tailor didn’t die the way they tell. I know what really happened, because I was there.”
“Draw close. Keep my schooner full. And I will tell you what really happened to the Long Tailor and all his gold and his woman. The man who called himself Jemmy, the warrigal”
3 Summer 1867 – Boundary of Boloco Station and the Snowy Mountains
The Long Tailor tightened his grip on the bridle, and the chestnut slowed, and came to a stop. One more day.
Ahead the land rose in front of him, in every direction. He paused, then spun the horse around and looked back across the plains from where he had come. Once more he cursed that English toff, from Boloco Station – the one who would not share a drink with him.
He winced, but held his position, carefully looking back into the distance, watching for any sign of pursuit. Finally, when satisfied there was no unexplained rise of dust or flight of birds, he relaxed and reached into his coat for a tote of rum. Drinking deep, relishing the bite of the alcohol.
He turned the horse back to address the mountain.
The morning was still, and the heat was starting to build. The horse danced and snorted from the ride from the station.
A flock of galahs rose from the line of trees and flew up, into the wisps of clouds forming around the mountain tops. For a moment the mob and the clouds formed a long trail. He shook his head, but the chance image of the Milky Way persisted.
He remembered the stories of the unseen river in the sky. The Yuin created songs and song-maps to guide them through the bush country - the legends indicated that they did the same in relation to the sky - treating the features as almost natural - identifying risks and benefits of particular paths. A bit like the mountain creeks, that image, small whirlpools of cloud forming near the peak tops. The old legends warn of the need to avoid whirlpools in the sky.
He shook his head again and let the bridle loose. The chestnut danced.
The police were all behind him now. Now, just friends and his mother’s people ahead.
He pointed the horse to trees with the surveyors mark cut deeply into them, marking the bridle path’s ascent. He laughed and said to the horse “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” On the word “knock” he kicked the horse forward.
He was on his way to meet the Irishman Kirwan at the top of the mountains and then be on his way to Gippsland and a new life. With a little luck, a farmhouse in the future. And Kate.
On his last day on Earth.
4 Summer 1867 – Ulladulla Court
John Vallentine Wareham, registrar of the Court, rode down the hill into the port of Ulladulla.
He smiled. He had good reason to. After years of argument and planning, the port now had a fine stone pier, which gave protection to the coastal traders and the small fleet of fishing vessels that were being built on the beach. Stones sourced, in part, from his own farm, sufficient to build a fine stone house from his wife and children. And now, others sought access to that same resource – the new church at Milton and townhouses and other farms being constructed nearby.
He saw the mail rider waiting for him at the court house.
He dismounted and called the boy over. News from Braidwood and Cooma was not due for a couple of days.
“What brings you here now?” he asked the young man.
“Master Dawson has sent a communication for you. He asked me to wait for your reply and ride back as soon as I can”, the young boy said. He could not be more than thirteen, and faced a couple of days riding ahead of him.
Wareham sent the boy for refreshment at the local inn, and took the mail dispatch packet into his office.
The Courtroom was small, enough space for a lock-up, a meetings room in which the magistrates would sit as a panel and his own office. He sat on his chair and wondered what could have given rise to such an urgent communication. Cooma was four days ride from here – while the court districts stayed in close contact with each other, particularly as the Irish problems had grown, communication was generally through the more sedate pace of the ordinary mail.
There were a number of letter in the package – some addressed to Sydney.
He broke the seal on the letter addressed to him and held it up to the light.
9 February 1867
John Wareham, Esq
Registrar Ulludulla Court
I am told that James Dornen, known to us both as Long Jim the Tailor, has been found dead. You are of course aware that he was outlawed and that a significant reward was offered for his discovery. I am told he was attempting a crossing of the mountains past Buckley’s Crossing half a day’s ride from here and may have been seeking the aid of Kirwan – whose brother was shot by police a little while back.
I do not know the full details as yet – I am riding there today to conduct an enquiry into the death. I am taking the precaution of writing to you to alert you and your district of the event in view of your past association with the man and the disquiet that might accompany the news. I have, of course, alerted the registry at Braidwood and Monaro.
Please advise the Magistrates of the news and arrange for the attached package to the Secretary and the Chief of Police in Sydney by the next available ship.
R. Dawson, Esq.
Wareham continued to stare at the letter for a while after he finished reading. Then with a start he picked up the package and headed down to the beach and onto the pier. How long till the steamer sails he asked. Soon, on the tide, he was told. Slowing down, his heart beating fast, he pressed the charge into the hands of the Captain and returned to the court house.
No one knows yet, he thought. I have time to think.
But the Magistrate was sitting in his chair reading the letter as he got back to his office.
“So, when were you going to tell me about this”, the Magistrate demanded.
Flustered, Wareham pointed towards the steamer.
“And why is he writing to you and not me”, Wareham could smell alcohol on the Magistrate’s breath.
Wareham tried to explain about the packet but was cut off, “Don’t ever do that again Wareham – you talk to me first – particularly about anything to do with your past criminal employees”, he spat.
“Well, don’t just stand around – get out and tell the other Magistrates. I will go try to quiet the hotheads threatening to burn down the town”.
Too late, Wareham remembered the boy. He must have told the townsfolk what he knew.
The Magistrate got out the chair, threw the letter onto the desk, said “Get out of my way” and left the office.
Registrar Wareham did not fare any better with the other Magistrates. They all looked at him with accusing eyes.
When he got back to his office, the mail boy was waiting at the door. The boy asked,
“Will you be giving me the reply please sir.”
Wareham looked blankly at the boy. The boy said, “”He told me to wait for your reply.”
Wareham told the boy to get ready to ride and readied his quill and ink. He reread the letter. Dawson had not asked him any questions in the letter, but Wareham knew what was being asked.
He wrote: “I do not know why he might be heading for Gippsland. His family is dead -he hardly knew his mother. I expected he would turn up here – something must have gone wrong.”
He sealed the letter and sent the boy on his way. He stood for a while and watched the steamer leaving port. Midday, and no ordinary work yet touched.
The future suddenly in doubt.
5 Summer 1867 – Near Boloco Station
Police Magistrate Robert Dawson rode with Doctor Lewis Davidson along the final miles to Boloco Station, ahead of the rest of the party. They were near the end of a forty mile journey on this Saturday – a long days ride for horse and men.
They were travelling towards the only hint of green on the dry dusty plain around them. Further away, in the distance, the high mountains of the alps – shimmering deep blue in the late afternoon heat.
They had worked together before. Dawson respected Davidson and, unlike the rest of the medical men, Davidson did not whine about the pay for this work. He was quiet. Dawson liked that.
Dawson pulled up his horse at the top of the rise. Boloco Station was ahead of them – a collection of buildings surrounded by tall trees nestled into a bend of the river. He looked at it for a moment, his face closed. “We will wait here for the clerk and the tracker.”
Davidson watched him carefully. Dawson was an older law man, his hair greying and home cut, whiskers catching the last of the sun, in full suit and tie despite the sun’s temper. Tall and independent, he ran this district with an iron fist.
“Been here before?” Davidson started, conversationally.
Dawson reached for a water bottle and drank the last of it before answering. “I don’t get here often. But I have been right through this country, over the mountains. All the way down the river and into Gippsland and the Southern Ocean. ”
Davidson protested, “I heard Buckley opened up the cattle track.”
Dawson responded, “I opened up the road to Mallacoota and into Gippsland along the Coast myself, years ago. Only cattle thieves like Buckley used the mountain tracks. Take care around men like him and Kirwan.”
They watched the shadows start to fly over the land towards them, as the sun set in the mountains.
“Let’s go”, Dawson said as the others pulled close. He gave his horse its head and, sensing water and feed close, the horses slipped into a trot, raising dust behind them.
Senior Constable Henry Bryan met the party a little way from the station. He gave instructions for the rest of the party to make camp at the station, but drew Dawson and Davidson to the creeks edge to water the horses.
Dawson started. “The message you sent said the Long Tailor was dead.”
Bryan nodded and told how he and Constable Ford had set off in pursuit of the bushranger but had been informed on the way of the discovery of his body. He had been found dead at the top of the rise beyond Boloco Station near Mowenbah and his body taken there.
Dawson looked at him sharply. “Who killed him”? Bryan fought the urge to look away. Dawson was twenty years in this job – the last ten as Police Magistrate of the region, No one knew it better than him, and he knew every crack and crevice Bryan might run for. “It looks as though he fell off his horse, sir.” Their eyes stayed locked tight until Bryan shrugged.
Dawson asked, “What arrangements have you made for us?”
“Master Brown has offered you accommodation and meals until the inquest on Monday, sir”.
“That is kind of him, but we will hold the inquest tomorrow, Sunday.”
“Can you do that? Master Brown said that Coroners cannot conduct hearings on Sundays?”
“I am not a Coroner. I will conduct the proceedings as a Police Magistrate once the local church service is complete and Lewis finishes the post-mortem. Where is the body and his belongings now? Is Kirwan mixed up in this? Have you questioned him?”
“I have left the coffin at Mowenbah – it is cooler up there and the body is going bad fast. I have made arrangements for the tack and horse to be brought down when needed. No-one has seen Kirwan.”
Dawson thought quickly. “There should be no excuse for the men of this District to attend the proceedings. You will be giving evidence so Constable Ford will assist me. Now, let us go and avail ourselves of the hospitality of Boloco Station.”
That evening they were treated to roast lamb, followed by fine pale imported ale. The owner of the Station, was not happy about the changed plan but put the annoyance behind as he toasted Queen Victoria, the Governor of the colony and the coming prosperity. They traded stories of the early days, Brown telling stories of heavy snowfall at his other holding at Mowenbah – on the high rise closer towards the Alps. Dawson restricted his contribution to a brief reflection about his youngest son, Percy, who was just starting to speak. He withdrew with apologies at the first opportunity and walked with his pipe to speak with the tracker in his party.
He found him a little way from the buildings, looking into the bush. “What is it, John?” The tracker was tense, hardly moving. “Someone was out there, watching you”, he said softly. They waited a little longer before John shook his head, “Gone now.” “Right-oh, I want to know who it was. Leave it now until morning.”
But in the morning, John found no tracks, “Swept clean”, he said.
6 Summer 1867 –Cooma Court of Petty Sessions at Boloco Station
After a ride up the mountain to a post-mortem in Mowembah the next morning they returned down to lunch at Boloco Station. After the meal, the dining room was cleared and the clerk arranged chairs for the magistrate, the police officer assisting and the witnesses. A number of local farmers had returned to the Station to hear the proceedings, including a young journalist from the Monaro.
Mid-morning and the sun was already hot. The land beyond the refuge of the station was baked white.
Everyone crowded into the large room.
“All rise”, said the Clerk.
Dawson sat down, nodded to the clerk and said: “This Court is now in session. A couple of you good folk may not have been in court before. I will give you one warning. If you speak, without being asked to, by me, I will have you taken outside and hung.” Suddenly there was silence, as everyone in the room stopped breathing.
Dawson continued: “All witnesses, except Barnes and Davidson, leave the room and move out of earshot of this building. You are not to talk with each other.” Senior Constable Bryan stood uneasily and looked at Dawson for a moment, then, motioning to the other witnesses, started to leave the room.
Dawson held the silence, so all could hear the urgent whisper from one of the men, as they left the house yard “I thought you said we could stay and listen?” There was a muffled sharp response.
Dawson waited for a moment and nodded to the clerk and then turned to Constable Ford. “Right, Constable, please call your first witness.”
Constable Ford stood and motioned a tall thin Irishman into the witness chair.
The clerk carried a copy of the Bible to Barnes. “Put your hand on the Bible, Mr Barnes. Repeat this oath after me.” Barnes looked like all his hells had suddenly caught up with him. The oath was repeated three times, before he got it right.
Ford asked: “State your name and occupation to the court.”
”Richard Barnes, your worshipful. To be sure, sir. From back down the road on the Snowy River. I run a.. a rest house. At Buckley’s Crossing”.
Dawson’s eyed burnt him, and Barnes stuttered, “An inn, some call it.”
“An unlicensed inn”, Dawson corrected.
After much stuttering and foot shuffling Barnes finally answered Constable Ford’s questions. His evidence to the court was summarised in writing by the Clerk. Dawson then read the evidence given aloud.
“I have seen the body of a man now lying dead at Mowenbah; I believe him to be the same man that came to my house on Wednesday last, 6th instant, riding the chestnut horse now outside; he told me his name was "Jemmy the Warrigal," and that he was going to Gippsland; he was a tall man, dark-complexion, native of Ireland; he left my house about 7 o'clock on Thursday morning last, in direction for Gippsland; I did not see him again until I saw his body at Mowenbah, about twenty miles from my house.”
Dawson looked at him and asked whether there was anything else. Barnes shook his head, and they countersigned the deposition. Dawson told him to sit with the others in the room and not to breathe while the tracker brought Brown in to the witness chair.
Ford next called the station owner. He was sworn in and asked him to state his name and occupation.
“Police Magistrate, my name is Thomas Brown, I am a farmer and the owner of Boloco station and Mowenbah station. "
After his evidence was given, Dawson read his deposition aloud.
“About 11 o'clock on Thursday morning deceased came to my house, at Boloco, riding the chestnut horse outside; he dismounted and came into the house, pulled out a bottle from his pocket, and wanted me to drink; I declined, saying "I do not drink;" deceased said "I'll make you drink," and became very abusive; he asked me the road to Kirwan's, Mowenbah, which I pointed out to him; he then galloped off in that direction; about 11 o'clock on Friday morning last the witness Phillip Primmer told me there was a man lying dead on the road between Boloco and Mowenbah; I was at the latter place; on my way home I found the man lying dead near a tree, close to the road, as Primmer had described; I saw at once that it was the man who had called at my house the day before riding a chestnut horse; I saw the horse in the bush also the saddle, bridle, and swag; round the body of the man I found a new breastplate belonging to me, and which he must have stolen from my verandah when at my house on Thursday; the body now shown to me is the same I saw dead in the bush, and that of the man who came to my place on Thursday; the chestnut horse is the same, and is branded 5 bars over HH off shoulder, and TL near shoulder; on my finding the body in the bush I left two men in charge, and left to give information to the police, which I did; I did not know deceased's name, he was a stranger to me.”
Dawson and Brown countersigned the deposition and Dawson addressed Brown, “Mr Brown, I am sure you are a very busy man. I would understand if you retired to attend to your business, elsewhere.” He added, “Please do not discuss your evidence with the other witnesses.”
The next witness sworn was a labourer, Phillip Primmer, of Coolamatong. After taking the evidence Dawson read it back:
“On Friday last, about 12 o'clock, when about four miles from Mowenbah, I saw a man lying on the ground near a tree, with his face downwards; on going nearer I saw he was dead--by the number of flies about him; I did not dis-mount to examine him, but rode on to Mowenbah and reported the matter to Mr Brown, of Boloco; the body I have just seen is the same I saw in the bush; I did not know the deceased; to me, he was a stranger.”
In short order Thomas Wite, of Mowenbah was sworn. Dawson read his disposition to the Court:
“About two o'clock on Thursday afternoon I was proceeding from Mowenbah to Boloco on horseback, and when about half-way I saw a chestnut horse with bridle, saddle, and swag on; the horse was feeding about sixty yards from the road; I saw no-one near; I hobbled the horse with a stirrup leather, and left him where I found him; I then put the saddle, bridle, and swag under a tree, and reported what I had done to Mr Brown, of Boloco; the horse, saddle, bridle, and swag produced are those I have.”
Ford turned to Davidson, and said, we will hear your evidence now Doctor, if you please.
“I am a legally qualified medical practitioner; I have this day made a post mortem examination of the body of a man whose name is said to be James Dornen, alias "Long Jim, the Tailor;" he appeared to be a strong, muscular man, of about six feet in height; the body was frightfully decomposed--the parts exposed being completely blackened; there was no blood on his person from wounds; but on carefully examining the scalp I found anecchymosed spot over the left temple, and on reflecting the scalp I found a radiated fracture of the squamous portion of the temporal bone; the brain was in a congested state, and there was effusion of the ventricles; I have no doubt that the cause of death was concussion of the brain, in con-sequence of forcible contact with a tree, or ground, or some hard substance, and very probably death was instantaneous.”
Finally Ford called Henry Bryan, senior-constable of police, stationed at Cooma, to give evidence. After stating what he knew, the clerk handed the deposition to Dawson to read.
“On Friday, the 8th instant, I received information that a man known as James Dornen, alias "Long Jim the Tailor," a description of whom is given in the Police Gazette, and a reward of £200 offered for his apprehension for highway robbery in connection with Clarke's gang, had been seen at Boloco on horseback, making in the direction of Gippsland; I immediately started in pursuit, and when about seventeen miles from Cooma, I met Mr Brown, from Boloco station; he informed me that the man I was in pursuit of had been killed the day previous between Boloco and Mowenbah against a tree; I said, "What man?" he replied, "Why, Long Jim the Tailor."
I reached Boloco station (forty miles from Cooma) that night between eleven and twelve o'clock, and next morning early I went to see the body; on examining the features I was satisfied it was the body of James Dornen, alias "Long Jim the tailor," and the man whom I was in pursuit of; the body was dressed in a dark pilot coat, light coloured colonial tweed vest, dark tweed trousers strapped with lighter tweed, brown crimean shirt with grey front, blucher boots, and felt hat with straw lining to leaf; in right hand pocket I found a broken bottle with some rum remaining in the bottom portion; in right hand trousers pocket I found two half crowns; in the left hand pocket a pocket knife, pipe and tobacco, also a piece of paper, with a rough tracing of the road to Mowenbah from the Snowy River, drawn in ink, with words "Cart road," and "Bridle-track". I left two men with the body and went to Mowenbah, where I received from Thomas Wite a chestnut horse, a saddle with red blanket strapped on, and a bridle, and new white blanket under saddle; in the red blanket I found several small bags, containing silk, thread, scissors, tape measures, thimbles, needles, and a light coloured colonial tweed vest, half made, besides sundry small articles; I left the horse, saddle, and bridle in charge of Thomas Wite, and rode back to where the body was laying, to await arrival of coffin; I assisted to put deceased into the coffin, and had the body conveyed to Mowenbah station to await a magisterial inquiry; when putting the body into the coffin I found the breastplate of a saddle round his waist under the coat, which was afterwards claimed by Mr Brown, of Boloco, it having been stolen from his place the day deceased was there; about three years ago I escorted deceased as a prisoner from Kiandra to Cooma, when he was charged on suspicion of being Lowry the bushranger, and I have since known him when he was living in Cooma for some months, and from my previous knowledge I am quite certain deceased is the man already described as James Dornen, alias "Long Jim, the tailor."
Dawson signed the deposition and adjourned the court for ten minutes. He asked Davidson to walk with him.
“So what do you think, having listened to all of that?” Dawson asked the doctor.
The doctor smiles and said, “Straight forward. He was intoxicated, his horse shied and the poor beggar fell and cracked his skull. Hard to believe he had so little money and no weapon.”
“And what of the lies and inconsistencies”? Dawson pressed.
“People forget. Memories are never perfect. These people seem decent hard working souls. They did not ask for this criminal to come into their lives and waste their time. But then, this is not my decision to make.” Davidson smiled.
“Could he have been killed any other way than a fall?” Dawson asked.
“Any hard blow to the head would have done it.”
“A glancing shot from a pistol shot?”
“Maybe, from a distance. But pistols are never accurate, why would someone take that chance”?
“A blow from a club or a killing boomerang”? Dawson persisted.
“Yes, but there is no evidence that happened.”
Dawson pondered for a while. “I am not so sure of this. I don’t like it one bit. A successful and trusted bushranger - here without a penny or his two revolvers. I know of this man, it suits the interests of too many people that he die here, now. If there was any suggestion that he was shot down in cold blood by our police officers here - like poor Kirwan - we would have problems with the Irish right through the southern districts.” He sighed.
“Better finish this off.”
Dawson returned to the court and delivered a verdict of accidental death. The pieces didn’t fit. But any other verdict, even an open verdict, would have alerted those complicit in the death to his suspicions.
While the Police Magistrate was content to play a long game, others were not.
The returning party met a young mail rider seventeen miles out of Cooma and he gave Dawson an urgent message from the Registrar at the Ulludulla Court. In return the rider was given three copies of the depositions. One was addressed to the Attorney General. One to the Chief of Police. One to the Registrar-General.
The packages travelled across the Monaro plain past Cooma, to Queanbeyan. Then across country through the Molonglo river valley to Foxlow and then onto Count Rossi’s station at the top of the mountains. The next day, down into the Braidwood valley and the risk of capture by the bushrangers. Then north east down the wool road to the port of Ulladulla.
While the mail rider was being fed, the Registrar of the Ulladulla Court put aside a certificate of birth he was completing and quietly opened one of the packages. He read it quickly, smiled, and resealed the package.
In the morning, on the tide, the packages were placed on the coastal steamer and dispatched to Sydney.
On the wharf, alert to the cargo, the Colonial Secretary for the Colony of New South Wales, Henry Parkes took charge of all three packages. As he travelled by coach to the Governor’s residence, he opened the Attorney-General's package. With the papers he found an unexpected inclusion - an incomplete certificate of birth from Ulladulla.
7 Summer 1882 - Jerrabatgully Gully
Fifteen years have passed.
Kate stands here in the cold pale moonlight. Tears well in her eyes and the old farm house shimmers.
She has been summoned here.
Light spills out of the windows. Shadows move around the house. Her heart jumps. And then the windows dim. Just a trick of the light. Stock are moving through the old yards.
She stares at the deserted farmhouse, and remembers. A tear starts to fall.
As the tear falls, the farm windows light again. This time a bonfire burns in front of the house and the sound of the fiddle and whistle fills the night air with the final bars of a local version of ‘Kelly from Killanne’. The sounds of laughter and the smells of a bush feast.
‘Katie’, he says softly, that man with the broken lip. The one she nursed back to health after a trooper shot him. The one whose face she touched, as he lay sleeping.
She does not move.
The fiddle commands silence with the first few bars of ‘The Rising of the Moon’. One of the men, Gavin starts, ‘And come tell me Sean O'Farrell, tell me why you hurry so’.
She remembers the promises he made with a smile on his face as the gathering at the farm shout their appreciation and sparks from the bonfire and the chimneys fly high into the night sky.
‘Yes! Gold – fairy dust and rings, enough for a good life, a respectable life, far from this wretched place. A life with a cottage and a garden’, he said. Gavin continues, ‘Husha buachaill hush and listen and his cheeks were all a glow’.
‘Gold enough for a fine hat and two changes of clothes a day. Two pairs of shoes. And cows in the field, chooks in the barn and a man to split wood.’ In the background, ‘I bare orders from the captain get you ready quick and soon’.
‘And gold enough for children.’ Back at the farm, mugs are beating the tables in tune with Gavin ‘For the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon’.
She stares at the light streaming from the farm. Shadows flickering in the cold pale moonlight.
Loudly now, the gathering joins in the chorus, ‘By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon. For the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon.’
She tells the farm, ‘We need nae gold, Jemmy.’
‘Katie’, he says softly, ‘come quick’. She takes his cold hand and they walk together to the brook, her moon shadow ahead of her.
Gavin continues, his voice fading into a quiet murmur as she moves towards the mountains, ‘And come tell me Sean O'Farrell where the gath'rin is to be, At the old spot by the river quite well known to you and me’.
Jemmy’s voice is now clear, slewed a little with hard liquor. ‘I have talked to them – I have done my part. I am going back south – along the cart track – all the way to Gippsland where we push the squatter’s fat cattle.’
‘There is a man there, who will set me up.’
‘There is a place down there – good pastures and safe.’
‘I will build us a stone house and strong fences. A place for you to practice cooking and grow hens. Enough milk for home and poddies.’
‘And I will sew you fine dresses and plant an orchard.’
She smiles at this remembrance, ‘And I will cook apple cake and serve it with clotted cream.’
‘And lots of gold’, he added.
Her heart quickened. ‘Just straw flowers is enough for me’, she says.
‘Fairy dust and rings’, he adds, ‘and a man to split wood, to two to quarry stone and a butcher. And a fine hat and two changes of clothing a day, and fine silver on the table.’
‘Fine silver on the table’, she repeated, feeling him close.
And the sounds of the creek filled the night, as the fiddle paused back at the farm as the boys retired to the men’s room and a baby was quieted by the suck
The fall of the brook, the frogs in the side pools, the sounds of an owl calling, kangaroos grazing near and the slap of stock moving through the bush.
A stone curlew cries a warning.
‘When will you go?’
‘I am ready now’.
‘When will I see you next?’
‘I will send word and a cart when the troubles end here.’
‘Oh Jemmy, don’t leave me now’, she sobs.
He presses a gold sovereign into her small hand.
She trembles and shakes her head wildly.
‘I don’t want this gold’, she cries, but he holds her hand shut.
‘I will send word and a cart when the troubles end here’, he repeats.
Her tear hits the ground, and the creek dries. He fades into drought.
And here she stands, in the pale moonlight, in front of the old farm house, with the gold sovereign in her hand.
The farm house is dark, cold and dank. The thatched roof has fallen. The sheets on the beds a decayed ruin, and the fireplace cold.
In the mountains beyond, a warrigal cries for his mate.
And then, suddenly, he is there beside her.
'I told you I would come back for you.'
She sinks to the ground.
8 Summer 1867 – Above Stony Creek, Jerrabatgully
Lucy was a cracker of a horse rider, better than most of the blokes in the Jerrabatgully.
The Hurley girls, Lucy and Caroline, had proved they could steal the two horses tethered outside the Majors Creek police station a couple of times. They would be up the bridle path in full gallop towards Braidwood before the police stumbled out of the shack.
But that was a lifetime ago, and now she was eighteen. She wore three rings on each hand and she could feel what was happening inside her. Her life was changing.
She finished the climb into the foothills to the west of the Shoalhaven River, dismounted and set up camp. She took off the mare's bridle and saddle, cleared the old camp fire of debris and started a new fire with a flint. From her bags she brought a bottle of water and eggs.
When the fire started to burn, she fired some green pick, to put smoke into the air, above the tea tree and open forest of the range. Satisfied, she turned to boil the water with a bag of fresh tea. A bag the boys had liberated from the Foxlow store.
She felt them coming before she heard them, and smiled.
Tom came into the clearing with a rush, jumping off and rolling her onto the ground with a flurry off kisses. Bruce came up more cautiously, his horse sweating and lame: “Give it a rest, Tom”, he said, and brought the horses together.
Lucy sat up and pushed Tom back onto the ground, her face blushing.
“I have some tea for you both, then eggs and scones and butter and meat.”
“You will melt my heart with your butter”, Tom said catching his rifle from Bruce and setting it up a little way from the fire. “But, I could really eat a horse”, and with her eyes locked in his, pretended to monster her unbridled horse. The mare ignored him, she had seen it all before.
“Only one mug for you, Bruce”, she said as he poured the tea from the billy. As Tom went to the fire and sat back on his heels, she went to her bags and took out her butchers knife to cut the mutton.
She felt them coming before she heard them.
She looked quickly over to the horses, standing quietly. Bruce handing her love a single cup of hot tea. For one moment, everything was so perfect and so wrong.
Bruce sang out: “Look out Tom, here comes the police!”
Three mounted police crashed into the clearing. The tea dropped onto the ground, soaking into the ground.
Tom jumped up, and crashed through the fire to seize his rifle. Ashes and burning embers spun into the dry brush.
“Surrender Tom Connell!” the leading police officer cried as levelled a rifle at Tom.
Tom ducked into the cover of a tree as two shots spun by him, and then ran for the closest horse, Lucy’s unbridled mare.
As Tom sprang on the horse the leading policeman reloaded and spun around to take chase. Tom encouraged the mare to a gallop, holding her mane tightly and leaning onto her neck, directing her through the open forest up a steep incline and towards freedom.
Lucy, on foot, jumped in front of the police horse.
She recognized the officer and screamed out at him. "Woodland, Woodland, you blasted wretch, don't shoot him!"
Woodland pushed his horse towards her, and with knife still in hand she ran at the horse shaking her dress. Woodward’s horse shied and swerved back down the hill.
Lucy turned to the other policemen and ran at them, shouting.
Smoke was rising as the fire got into the tea tree.
Woodward turned and came up the hill a second time. Tom had made some distance up a steep incline. But he was still within range. Woodland took aim and shot at Tom a second time.
Tom fell from his horse into the bushes.
Woodland slowed – he turned his horse around looking for the others. The hill side was alight.
He shook his head. Lucy had put the other police horses to flight. Bruce must have taken the opportunity to mount and quietly disappear down the hill.
Leaving his mounted colleagues to deal with Lucy, Woodland rode up the steep incline to where he had shot Tom. But, on reaching the spot and searching about he could see nothing of him.
The other mounted police joined him. "Where is Connoll?" they asked. Woodland tuned to them and snarled, “What did you do with the girl?”
They looked at each other. Smoke and fire was moving up the slope towards them.
9 Summer 1889 - The Yuin Trace
Michael Nowlan O’Connell was a bear of a man. In his last years (he died in 1903), he was snowy haired, with a square-cut white beard, prosperous cheeks and piercing eyes. He was a hardworking and genial man fond of his adopted country. Unlike his brothers, he learnt his letters and was educated. He wrote telling letters to the local papers and stood up to the quiet pervasive corruption of wealthy English immigrants.
It was in the time of Queen Elizabeth I that the Irish were forbidden to use the aristocratic prefix ‘O’ before their surnames. The prohibition was just one of a number of punishments meted out to the clans. Pat O’Connell called this the “the villainous times of Queen Elizabeth”, and always used his full name, although the press referred to him and his brothers as Connells.
Mick O’Connell, arrived in the colony of New South Wales on the ‘Aliquis’ in 1839, from Loughill, Co, Limerick, Ireland. He settled with his parents and their other nine children in Jerrabatgully on Stony Creek, a tributary of the Shoalhaven. They were not the only Irish to arrive in the district. A little north on Brick Kiln Creek near Ballalaba lived the Clarkes. It was said unkindly (but with some accuracy) that both families descended from a long line of Irish cattle thieves. Certainly the Clarkes and the O’Connells were both excellent horsemen and women and were superb with cattle.
Mick prospered. He built a store, a hotel (the Traveller's Rest at Stoney Creek), a post office and a black smithy in the Jerrabatgully. There was an attempt at tourism, with attempts to attract people to the Marble Arch and the Big Hole. A review of the area and Mick said:
"and we cannot imagine a more agreeable place for a day's gipsying ; — we recommend our friends to pay a visit. The best accommodation and a hearty welcome will be met with at the Traveller's Home at Stoney Creek, the jolly landlord of which hostelrie appears to think that he cannot do enough for the comfort of guests."
His brothers together with the Clarke brothers took a different path. They started stealing small numbers of cattle, just enough to fill their own larders. It was just as easy to steal large numbers of cattle – but they quickly ran into the problem of what to do with the herds. Some they drove down to the coast and sold to butchers there. Some they sent south, to follow the hidden paths into Gippsland. Others they took to camps high in the hills to butcher themselves and sell to miners in Major’s Creek.
Some of their exploits had a touch of high art. They ‘borrowed’ a herd running south of Braidwood, drove them down to a small coastal down far to the south east. They attended the local horse race meeting and sold the cattle in the public market place for a decent profit. While the purchaser was being entertained elsewhere, the gang restole the cattle to return them to their original paddocks. They would have got away with it, but for the effort of a First People law man - Sir Watkin Wynn.
While Mick’s brothers became outlaws and bushrangers, he pursued a different path. One by one the outlaws were shot or captured and hung. While he was arrested, he beat charges of being involved in the infamy, although he ended up with a prison term of seven years hard labor for respecting familial ties and “aiding an outlaw”
While Mick established the beginnings of a small village, he was unsuccessful in a life-long dream of establishing a modern road from Braidwood to Cooma. That road was based on one of the Yuin Trace, and would have changed the modern history of this region. One of his letters has been preserved:
To the Editor of the Braidwood Dispatch
My attention has been called to the Braidwood Dispatch of the 14th instant, by which I observe that miners and others proceeding to Kiandra by the Clyde are recommended to take the Braidwood and Queanbeyan route by a line of road through Gourack Ranges - said line, according to the Dispatch, being better than " tramping from Nelligen over the mountains and bogs winch intervene between Monga and Jingera."
Now, Mr. Editor, in justice to the mining and trading public, I feel bound to lay the true state of the case before them through your columns.
My knowledge of every inch of the country through which the line of road (at present under survey by Mr. Rowland) passes cannot be denied even by the Editor of the Dispatch, or any resident of the Braidwood district.
The line chosen by Mr. Rowland, and approved of by the Government, is not only the best that could be found, but it is also forty-five miles shorter in distance than that proposed through Braidwood.
It does not present a single engineering difficulty, nor does it pass through a bog or swamp, and the only mountain (so called) -Ballallaba-is crossed at Parker's Gap, across which I have often, with my team of bullocks and dray, taken thirty cwt., although no line was then formed.
It is besides a much better road - in fact by building ten or twelve culverts, there are sixty miles of the line at present fit for any amount of traffic, and the remaining forty-five miles could, with a few men, be made fit for temporary traffic in a few weeks.
I would also remind miners and others proceeding to the Snowy, that when they reach Monga they cannot lose the track by following the surveyor's marks, which are quite visible, every tree being blazed.
Nor are the above the only advantages secured by Mr. Rowland's line via Monga, &c, for it must be borne in mind that the road will pass along the tableland within a few miles of the productive gold-fields of the Araluen, connecting with itself the present trucks into the valley. It will also pass through or close to the important gold-fields of Bell's Creek, Bell's-Paddock, Strike-a-light Flat, Jemicumbene, Major's Creek, Long Flat, &c.
I could write much more on this subject, - but trust that the above plain statement of facts will at once satisfy the mercantile and mining community that the Major's Creek and Jingera line of road, via the Clyde, to Kiandra, far surpasses, from every point of view, any other line from the metropolis, whether through Braidwood or by Twofold Bay (Ulladulla), and must force itself on the immediate attention of the Government and the Sydney merchants, as being of the utmost importance to the mining, 'agricultural, and commercial interests of New South Wales.
M. N. O'CONNELL,
Innkeeper and Postmaster Oranmeir, Braidwood, 20th July.
Mick’s elegant proposal was based on an old North-South part of the Yuin Trace.
The First People created permanent walk-ways, the Yuin Trace, through the forests bordering on the high plains from the mountains to the West, the Brindabellas and Tidbinbillas, through to the Eastern coastal areas. For tens of thousands of years, the paths making up the Trace were protected by Law, remembered in Dreamings, described in maps drawn on rock and sand, and kept clear through regular burning and use.
The paths were later recorded on the silks used by early European surveyors to draw their fine maps, along with the names of waterways and other features, including vegetation and mountains. Much of the Trace was early designated as a road reserve, and with some exceptions, remain out of private ownership.
Early European settlers used the Trace for travel. Through the mountains, it was often the only viable path. The Trace bisects rivers and streams at fords, reasonably safe for crossing save when the waterways were fed by flooding rains.
Eventually, gravel and tarred roadways were constructed on the ancient path. Today, we travel these paths, seeing many of the same vistas as all those who came before us, for tens of thousands of years.
Some of the more wealthy graziers attempted to dissuade public use of these new public roads across their holdings, some corruptly exerting political pressure to install numerous public gates along the road (requiring users to dismount to open and close the gates) and then providing alternative roadways with no gates over land with little farming value (land frequently flooded or across hill tops). Others persuaded authorities to build new roads that benefitted private interests rather than those championed by more practical men, like Mick O’Connell.
In the late 1880’s, public indignation was spurred on by the wealthy owners of Foxlow Station installing five gates across the public road through the property. When the gates were declared public gates, a petition with 200 names on it protested the change. A local correspondent to the Queanbeyan Age complained: “A daily mail will run shortly, and the mailman has to get down every time, which should not be; besides, it is extremely awkward for those who have spirited horses, as there is now, and likely to be, great traffic from Bungendore to the Flat.” Public indignation did not secure a better outcome – the public road was so inconvenient to use, it was eventually shut, and an alternative track provided up into the hills to the East.
Large landholders, who provided most taxation revenue for public works, also resisted funding improvements to roads, and especially bridges, which were very expensive and were prone to being washed away.
In mid-January, 1889, heavy summer rain fell in the hills around the old volcano Palerang, swelling the Yandiguinula Creek into a raging river. The Yuin Trace crossed the Yandiguinula Creek at a number of places, and locals knew to avoid attempting crossing. When in flood, the watercourse can quadruple in size, flowing with great pace, creating swirling eddies and carrying within its water tree branches and other debris.
On the 26th of January, on a Sunday, the young blacksmith Alexander Ross was travelling the road in the company of one of the brothers Sharpe. Ross was 20 years old and hailed from over the other side of the mountains, past Harold Cross at the top of the range, from the Jerrabatgully. With no family, Ross had been befriended by Mick O’Connell who we met above - innkeeper, postmaster and one of the last surviving male relatives of the Irish Bushrangers that had roamed through the Braidwood area some 20 years before.
Without being aware of the danger, he entered the water on his horse, and his horse was immediately swept downstream. For a while, Ross was able to cling to debris in the centre of the swollen creek, but help in the form of the two White brothers came too late. They later told the inquest that they thought they might have been able to save him, had they arrived a little earlier. His body was found a mile and a half down the creek.
The Coronial Inquest was convened at the old stone Victoria Hotel at Hoskingstown. Mr T Parr, esq, rode from Queanbeyan to hear the inquest. The proprietor of the Victoria Hotel, Mrs Walsh, made arrangements for the body and was later thanked for her care by Mick O’Connell.
At the Inquest, the local jury was in no doubt who was responsible, and wanted to censure government officials for the lack of bridge building. Mr Parr talked them out of that approach, suggesting instead that the Department of Public Works would look at the question of a bridge more sympathetically.
Reluctantly, the jury found that the drowning was accidental. After the inquest, Sharpe took the young blacksmith’s body back over the mountains to Majors Creek and burial. Mick Connell published a brief memorial in the local paper, thanking all those who attended the funeral. When the dust had settled and the floods subsided, the Department of Works bent to the will of rich local landowners and declared there was no money for a bridge.
Still, questions are asked about the young man who died. Who was his mother, was she connected to the Clarkes, the O’Connells or the Long Tailor – the bushrangers and their associates – before he came into Mick O’Connell’s family.
10 Summer 1887 – Walgett
It was a blistering hot evening at Walgett. Walgett had just been proclaimed a town. Far north in New South Wales, an inland town near the border with Queensland, it is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth with day time temperatures that drive a man mad.
“Put out your pipe and come take your rest.”
“I will be there soon. I have had news. I want to sit out here and think for a bit.”
Out here there was a slight breeze from the Barwon River. The sunset was a brilliant red.
“What is it – news from Grafton?”
He tightened his grip on the paper in his hand.
“A man I once worked with.”
“I am sorry. Do you want to tell me about it?”
He was silent.
“Talk to me, Wright.”
He did not know where to start.
She sat down next to him. A young child in arms. Quietly the other children appeared, on the veranda, restless and unable to sleep in the heat.
“I do not know his name.”
“I do not know his real name.”
“What do you mean?”
“He was called Sir Watkin Wynne.”
“The Welsh landlord?” Distaste in her mouth. There were plenty of ugly stories about the rich erratic member of the British aristocracy, despised in the colonies for his treatment of the poor.
“No. The exact opposite. He worked with me a while, when I had command at Fairfield.”
She was quiet. It was an unspoken rule of their marriage that he would not talk about his work, the risks he took every day, the days and weeks he was away from home.
He relit his pipe. The older children quietly made themselves comfortable on the veranda.
The first stars started to appear.
I think he was born on the banks of the Macquarie River. He called it the Wambool. That is what the Macquarie River used to be called, the meandering river.
He would have been born about the time the first surveyors came over the Great Dividing Range onto the Western Plains.
He was eight when Governor Brisbane declared martial law and all-out war broke out between the Wiradjuri Nation and Sydney. A lot of white settlers and Wiradjuri died. It only ended when the young Wiradjuri leader Windradyne and Brisbane agreed on peace. Windradyne crossed the mountains to Parramatta to meet with Brisbane and finished the matter.
The boy grew up in the camps. He learnt all the old lore and the secrets of the bush. As the old ways changed, he learnt languages of surrounding tribes, as well as English. He learnt how to ride and worked as a stock man, travelling far.
The camps gradually faded from memory and groups moved into inaccessible places or gradually became part of the new order. He was restless. He moved around, learning, talking.
He was given the name “Sir Watkin Wynne” early – because he had a noble bearing, his people looked up to him and he looked at the land as though he owned it. He liked the name.
I don’t know what the local police command at Bathurst originally thought of the name but it was not long before they started to use it as well, with respect. When he was involved in a matter, problems seemed to work themselves out. Children lost in the bush were returned to his parents. A murderous rampage by a shepherd ended when Sir Watkin Wynne found his body near a waterhole. Able to navigate through the fractured land with ease, his bush-skills could not be bettered.
At Fairfield I asked him about those days. He just laughed. Too long ago, he said.
One of the other Senior Sergeants from the Bathurst district told me that he was not just a member of the mounted police. The tribes recognised him as kadaitcha.
On the veranda, one of the old children stifled a gasp. His mother reached out to Wright with a question. But he was lost in the past.
Before white settlement, the first people lived in separate nations with their own languages and legal systems. In desperate times, nations raised raiding parties to enter other lands and take food or captives. In happier times, some travel between nations was permitted for trade, celebration or feasting. The old law set terms and agreed timing for these occasions.
The old law also permitted travel for limited legal reasons, allowing authorized hunters to track and recover or kill those running from justice. This task fell to kadaitcha.
Kadaitcha were specialist lore holders of all the nations – particularly skilled in survival skills. Some moved between the nations, teaching and hunting. Kadaitcha were not simply herbalists or hunters. They were part witch doctor, part assassin. They dispensed justice – with spears, boomerangs and deadly magic.
The kids had heard frightening stories about the kadaitcha but never from their father. They had heard the kadaitcha become invisible when they put on their shoes made of kangaroo hide, with emu feathers glued together with blood. They can will a person to death or turn a person into a rock.
Wright paused and looked at the stars. And coughed. A long wracking cough. He cleared his throat, looked apologetically at his wife, and continued. She gripped his arm.
I don’t know if he was kadaitcha. But he was an aboriginal law man just the same. A mounted policeman and an aboriginal law man, at the same time. According to the story I was told, the two roles did not always mesh. He rode with the police from the beginning of summer to the end of winter. But in spring, he would leave, and go back to his country.
When the troubles started in the Goulburn District – and in Braidwood – the local police were quickly outclassed by the young bushrangers, Tommy Clarke, John Clarke and other members of the O’Connell family. Later, when they were joined by the Long Tailor and Bill Scott, they became unstoppable. Sub-Inspector Brennan from Yass posted the tracker George Emmott into the Braidwood area in 1864.
In short order, Emmott was joined by Sir Watkin Wynne and Tracker Thomas. Sir Watkin Wynne was older than the others - I think his status as law man allowed him to move and operate in Yuin country with great ease.
The trackers gave the police an edge. Anyone can see tracks on the ground – but these men were different. Their bush skill enabled them to go back to the point in time when the traces were left. They saw the traces being made.
In 1865 a dead man was discovered in the Shoalhaven. A coronial inquest was held and Coroner Patterson held that the remains were of a male aboriginal and that he had been shot, but was unable to identify the man. Further investigation by Trooper O’Reilly ascertained that the man was Billy Noongang, an aboriginal employee at the Doncaster Hotel, who had gone missing after he had left to hunt ducks on the Shoalhaven. The Coroner reopened the enquiry and found those matters proved. A reward of 50 pounds was offered for the apprehension of the murderer.
A woman in custody for another robbery claimed that old Jack Clarke, father of the bushrangers, had seen Billy Noongang with a gun and had thought he was the Tracker George Emmott. Trooper Duffy obtained a warrant for Jack Clarke for murder. He was apprehended by police stationed at Ballalaba, and committed for trial to the Circuit Court. He died before the trial in prison in November 1866.
The death of Billy Noongang changed things for Sir Watkin Wynne. Aboriginal law is different from ours in one important respect. There is a strong concept of group responsibility. While we attach blame to and punish an individual, under aboriginal law, responsibility is attached to the entire group. If one of your tribe unlawfully kills, then your entire tribe is held accountable. While he understood that, as a mounted policemen, old Jack Clarke was responsible, as an aboriginal lawman, he considered all the young bushrangers responsible: Tommy Clarke, John Clarke, The Long Tailor and Bill Scott and other members of the O’Connell family. I do not think he would have had any compunction about exacting aboriginal justice on any of these men, with the blunt end of a hunting boomerang.
The trackers, particularly Sir Watkin Wynne, had great success in finding the Clarkes, when the police or the magistrates let him.
Before I took command, he did something impossible, something bushmen on the Shoalhaven still talk about.
The Clarke gang ‘borrowed’ a herd of cattle running south of Braidwood, and drove them down an impossibly dangerous path to a small coastal down far to the south east. The mountains here are no place for the faint hearted. The mountain peaks drop suddenly along an escarpment of hundreds of feet. The goat tracks used by the bushrangers travelled across some of the most difficult country imaginable.
When they got down to the small coastal town, they attended the local horse race meeting and sold the cattle in the public market place for a decent profit. While the purchaser was being entertained elsewhere, the gang restole the cattle to return them to their original paddocks. The perfect crime.
They would have got away with it, but Sir Watkin Wynne with two other mounted police went in pursuit.
He paused, remembering the sheer rocky cliffs, the silven cascades of the mountain streams, the cool mountain air. He remembered being there with Sir Watkin Wynne, retracing that escapade a couple of years later, the old man teaching him the names of the birds, the plants and the cascades. He could still point to traces of the passage of the bushrangers, made years before.
They were almost a day behind the bushrangers. But they started at 5pm on the Sunday, and Sir Watkin Wynne tracked them through the mountains, across dry rocky outcrops and soft marshes. Through the night, for 24 hours he followed the tracks, sometimes on the ground leading his horse, his body close to the ground. Other times, riding fast, urging the others to keep pace.
They caught up to the bushrangers at a camp fire just before they were able to return the herd back to the home paddocks to escape detection. The bushrangers were just 12 miles from their destination.
The gang had stopped to rest their horses and were relaxing around a camp fire. When they saw the police they fled on their horses bareback without weapons or packs. By this stage the police horses were knocked up and unable to give chase.
This march is told and retold by the stockmen and the miners through the district.
Before I arrived at Fairfield, two of the bushrangers, the Long Tailor and Bill Scott, had been found dead. Both had suffered death alone in the bush. Both had been killed by a single blow to the head. The sort of blow that might have been inflicted by a fall from a horse striking the head sharply on rock or hardwood. Or from a blow from a hunting boomerang. A coronial inquest in the Snowy Mountains found that the Long Tailor had died accidentally by fall from his horse fleeing the bushrangers. A coronial inquest at Manar returned a verdict of death, but the coroner (who inspected the body with a doctor present) did not accept police suggestions that the death was caused by a gun shot.
When I was posted to Fairfield, Sir Watkin Wynne was posted to work with me. I was young – the Colonial Secretary had sent me there to get the Clarkes personally. I heard later that the police chief opposed Parkes, and had only agreed in the face of dismissal.
Sir Watkin Wynne and I understood each other from the start. When an informer told us that the gang had moved down south, Sir Watkin Wynne and three other troopers set off on foot to intercept them at Jinden.
It had been very wet that autumn. Sir Watkin Wynne came across the tracks of two horses travelling towards Jinden. The tracks were suspicious – they zig zagged over ranges and flats. Towards the evening, the tracks descended onto the flats, where the bush was rotten and swampy. We finally lost both the light and the tracks in a gully close to Jinden House, then occupied by Tom Berry and his family.
About an hour after sunset, it started to rain heavily and became pitch black. We took shelter and, when the rain eased, came within 300 yards of the farm, which was built on a small rise, facing Jinden Creek. There was a fenced paddock between the house and the creek with a haystack in the field from the good harvest that year.
The dogs from the farm smelt us. They started to bark fiercely. Tom Berry came out of his house and shouted at the dogs “Lie down! Lie down!”.
We crept to the haystack and took shelter until the moon rose and partially lit the scene. In the fenced paddock, near the house, were two horses. We had found the outlaws. I stole towards the horses and moved them well away from the house towards the haystack. After an hour, the horses started to move back towards the house, so I brought them back again and this time hobbled them.
Wright looked at his wife and wondered how much she knew. Her eyes were still wide open. The children as well, with stars dancing in them.
If the outlaws wanted to get away, they would have to come to close to the haystack, so I split the troopers into three groups. Sir Watkin Wynne and Trooper Lenihan were positioned at the haystack, near the horses. I went to the side of the house. Troopers Walsh and Egan went to the other side.
Just before dawn the front door creaked and, cautiously, the two outlaws came out of the farm house and washed themselves at a cask near the farm house. They went back inside and, a few minutes later, left the house with revolvers and saddles. Instead of walking to the horses they turned and walked towards the sliprails, some distance from the haystack.
The hobbled horses gave our position away. John Clarke yelled “Look out! Look out! Tommy there are men behind the stack”. They started to run. The morning was shaken by a fusillade from the trooper’s rifles. Sir Watkin Wynne’s revolver barked in fast time. The outlaws kept heading for the sliprails. Trooper Walsh stood his ground and took careful aim, firing at John Clarke with his rifle. John Clarke turned, trunk bent and staggering, badly wounded. The two outlaws turned and retreated towards the farmhouse.
Tom Clarke stood still long enough to take a fair sight on Trooper Walsh and brought the policeman to the ground with a single shot. Sir Watkin Wynne stood up and started to run for the prone police officer. Tom Clarke fired at Sir Watkin Wynne, who was hit and thrown to the ground.
Notwithstanding facing at least 30 shots, the outlaws managed to regain the safety of the farmhouse and for a moment silence fell on the scene. The farmhouse was made of hardwood slabs, impregnable to rifle or revolver fire. It had one means of entry – the front door –two small windows and a port-hole at one end.
Trooper Walsh was lying on the ground. I dragged him to safety and took stock of our position. Walsh clearly was out of the fight, but after the initial shock, could still ride and was not losing blood. I told Walsh,"They're crack shots. They got you in a second and I think they've hit Sir Watkin. There's only Lenihan, Egan and myself. It's not enough. If I patch you up d'you think you can ride for help?" Walsh nodded.
The outlaws started to fire at us from the farm house. Under cover of bush, I went looking for Sir Watkin Wynne. He was sitting behind cover, watching the outlaws firing from inside the house. He had suffered a terrible injury to his wrist, and was bleeding. I ripped my shirt to make a bandage, staunching the flow of blood with the linen as best I could.
We caught one of the bushranger’s horses, made a makeshift bridle using a strap and some rope. Although wounded, Walsh set off for Ballalaba, more than 20 miles to the north, on bareback to get reinforcements.
It was a gallant ride. He had only had a couple of hours sleep, in the rain, and now was wounded in the hip. The path to Ballalaba was treacherous, on a horse he was unfamiliar with and with the Shoalhaven River in flood. Nevertheless, he rode across the flooded creeks and swamps. Three hours later he arrived safely. Sergeant Byrne, nine Troopers and Tracker Emmott started for Jinden while Walsh was bandaged and secured a new mount.
For six and a half hours I stayed with Sir Watkin Wynne, firing at the outlaws when it seemed safe to do so. During a lull in the fighting, the family ran from the farm house and took shelter out of danger. Tom Berry came and stayed with me until the reinforcements came.
The reinforcements rode to the farm house and took up positions around it. Walsh also arrived, just minutes later.
After exchanged shouts, the outlaws laid down their arms and emerged from the farm house. I went down to secure them and they held out their hands in greeting. I shook their hands. The Chief Justice later criticized me for it, but I would do it again.
When Tommy Clarke was handcuffed, Sir Watkin Wynne went up to him and accused him: “Tommy, you shot me cowardly”. Clarke protested “No, I merely shot you in defence; you wanted to take my life.”
The troop then rode to Fairfield Station for dinner.
There they were met by Sub Inspector Stephenson, 8 Troopers and Tracker Thomas from Major’s Creek.
At 7pm they arrived at Mick O’Connell’s Inn – the Traveller’s Hotel – at Stoney Creek and the injured men were attended to by Doctor Patterson during the night. The troop spent the night at the Hotel. The outlaws were in high spirits, and entertained the police with stories of their escapades.
The troop left for Braidwood in the morning, arriving there in the afternoon. Sir Watkin Wynne had lost a great deal of blood. I expected he would be unconscious by the time we arrived in Braidwood, but he walked into the doctor’s surgery without any sign of pain. His injury turned out badly – at Braidwood his arm was amputated, at the elbow.
Subsequently I promoted Sir Watkin Wynne to Sergeant Major, and gave him a second stripe. On the recommendation of Sub-Inspector Stephenson the reward money was split between all police officers present. I received 300 pounds, Walsh 130 pounds and Sir Watkin Wynne received 120 pounds. Egan and Lenihan received 110 pounds.
Sir Watkin Wynne stayed with me at Fairfield and the mounted police until winter. In spring, he took his reward money, his wages and police pension and left. He left one of the richest members of the mounted police I knew.
He came saw me before he finally left. He shook my hand. He quietly gave his greeting, “Nguurruunggal” – until the morning comes - as if he had done nothing unusual, and then he disappeared.
He went back to his country, but the bushmen told stories about him around the Shoalhaven for years to come.
We stayed in touch. He would come out of retirement from time to time to sort out one problem or another. Problems had a habit of sorting themselves out when he arrived places. I heard he worked with the Gold Commissioner’s office on the Turon.
He got in the local papers from time to time.
I kept this one.
He opened his clenched hand and smoothed out the paper he was holding.
Hill End, 4 May 1872: "Sir Watkin," the well-known one-armed black tracker, saw a blind man standing in front of Coyle's hotel, and inquired of him if he was quite blind, and, on being assured that he was, asked if he was hungry. This question being also replied to in the affirmative, the untutored blackfellow took the blind white by the sleeve, gently led him across the street to Mr. Luff's butcher's shop, paid for 3 lbs. of the best mutton chops, which he gave to his afflicted white brother, and then quietly walked away, as if he had done nothing unusual.
11 Summer 1867 - Foxlow Station
The first time we rode down to Foxlow Station it was like a knife through fresh butter. We crossed the purple mountains along the cart track near Count Rossi’s holding.
It was the middle of summer and stinking hot during the day. But evenings in the mountains are cool. Mist hangs onto the hills at night, and a sweet dewy breeze blows gently in the early morning.
The first time we rode down to Foxlow Station the fields were gold with the fragrance of new-cut meadow hay. We caught superintendent Vallance napping. We held him up and took all the station money and six packs of groceries and drapery. We helped ourselves to station spirits and gave all a drink in honour of the day.
When we got back to the Jingera a couple of days after Christmas we hosted a meal and dance at one of the high farms. A bullock was killed for the occasion. We invited the locals, including some of the police and magistrates on that side of the range, to come and share the harvest. John O’Connell and Lucy Hurley danced a jig that night and we all sang and danced till morning light. Our generosity was not shared by some – Braidwood police came a couple of days later, like back in the old country, searching the farms for the stolen loot.
They arrested Lucy and some of the local farmers and treated the women roughly, but the magistrates in Braidwood let all bar one of the O’Connells go.
We rode down to Foxlow Station a couple of times after that. We took horses and cattle when we wanted, and drove them up into the Tinderry bad-lands to the south east. But not before we bailed up the superintendent and liberated his gold and cash, tea from China, fine hats, drapery, flour and butter.
Despite the Braidwood police, we would still hold a party a couple of days afterwards, but we were less free with our invitations. Still, it would bring out a fiddle and an Irish song. We would sit around the rough-hewn seats of the cotter and listen to stories or songs. Stories or songs of some romance or some exploit here or back home in the green country – sometimes about us. There would be smiles on the drawn faces of the scratch farmers on that side of the range. The gold would light up the eyes of the local girls and the children would stand rapt, faces stuffed with sugar and cake.
But it got harder and harder each time we came down to Foxlow.
The last time we rode down to Foxlow Station it was raining. We had word the police were there guarding the station in numbers. So we camped in an old hut, high in hills near the Yandyguinula Creek, courtesy of the old woman who lived there, and we watched the station and waited for an opportunity. We brought her real grub – a break from her scant meals of thistle and plover eggs.
The police did not know we were nearby. The bush had been cleared to 1,000 yards of the station buildings, and the police stayed close to the station. We could see there were three police, none of whom appeared to be on guard. One spent a lot of time in one of the huts courting one of the station girls. Another played cards with off-duty hands in the hut next door. The third in the barrack, cooking or getting wood and water. But they kept their repeater rifles close by, and the one in the barracks was colonial born and a fair shot.
We had some friends down in the station. They sent word of what was in the store, and when patrols would be undertaken. They told us of a heated argument between the three police – the colonial took on the others about their regimental sham and carousing. He loudly argued that they should be out chasing us instead. But the police stayed put, and the risks of riding down into the station with them there, even courting or card-playing or cooking, were too high.
So we tried to draw them out. We stole the station owner’s fat horse and some of the police mounts. We got one of the station hands to report the theft, expecting them to race out and off in pursuit. But all they did was move the remaining horses closer and feed them. They were now on the look-out, and a couple more police, including a senior constable, arrived.
So we went back to the old hut, in the rain, blankets still over our heads. We waited but, for days, the police stayed put. News from the station was grim. The police did not trust station hands anymore. The colonial policeman was reposted. The police maintained their regimental sham.
We took what cattle and horses we could manage and headed back to the Tinderry fastness. There was no gold and cash, tea from China, fine hats, drapery, flour and butter the last time we rode down to Foxlow.
12 The desolation of Jinden
Jinden lies at the extreme South of the Shoalhaven River valley, two days ride from the old administrative capital of Braidwood (South Eastern Australia).
Mountains to the West, South and East form natural barriers to ordinary commerce - and although a road now climbs through the mountains at Snowball, it remains a quiet and lonely place.
Today it is a farming location. Passing through it, the ordinary visitor will not be aware of the terrible events of early 1867 that took the colony of New South Wales to the brink of civil war. Today the area is starting to thrive. But, in 1867, news from Jinden resonated around the world with the bitter cold wind of desolation.
Farmers here need to be adaptable. The climate changes a little different each season. Extremes of heat and cold and distance made it a difficult place for early settlers. After self-government was granted to New South Wales in the mid Nineteenth Century, poor Irish settlers took up a number of small farms here and in the gully to the North and West we now call Jerrabattgulla. These small blocks provided little real scope for sustainable farming and only a few succeeded - the scrub is full of failed attempts.
While difficult farming for the early settlers, it proved a safe refuge for for the Irish bushrangers, who were protected by the Irish locals and who were shown a number of bridle paths up out of the valley. Martin Brennan was a police officer involved in the search for the bushrangers. He described the area around Jinden in fairly positive terms:
"The JINDEN Station, situated near BIG BADJA, was at this time rented by NED SMITH; it was the favourite rendezvous for the bushrangers, as the surroundings were well watered, grassy and scrubby." (Big Badja is a high mountain to the immediate South.)
From here, the bushrangers under the Clarke brothers (accompanied by the Long Tailor) attacked gold settlements to the North and the large cattle stations to the West, with impunity. The Clarke brothers chose their targets with care - none of their allies, magistrates nor police, were at risk. However, by 1867, the area had been partly militarized, much like Ireland itself, with armed police stationed at most of the larger farmsteads. Still the bushrangers, with the active assistance of Irish settlers, had free range over the rest of the country.
As to the terrible events of early 1867, I will let Brennan continue the story, from his handwritten account of events:
“After setting out for JINDEN, the Detectives called at GALLAGHER’s Hotel, LONG FLAT, near MAJORS CREEK; they informed the proprieter they were en route to JINDEN, and asked directions; on getting them, they left, and scarcely had they done so, when JAMES GRIFFIN, who was shadowing them, called, and inquired where the Detectives were bound for? On being told, he too departed. They were seen by Serg’t BYRNE early next morning passing by the BALLALABA Station, well mounted, and carrying their rifles on their thighs, going towards STONY CREEK. When CARROLL and party reached CONNELL’s Hotel, they had refreshments, asked how far it was from JINDEN, and the number of houses they would have to pass before reaching it? Being informed, they left, and in a few minutes JAMES GRIFFIN rode up, ascertained what transpired, and went on in the same direction.
The Detectives next called at Mr AHEARN’s, where a Police Station was then established, known as KRAWARREE - made the usual in¬quiry, when Mr AHEARN pointed out the track, and told them JINDEN HOUSE was 8 miles distant. As soon as they had left, the ubiqui¬tous GRIFFIN presented himself, ascertained particulars, and then cantered off through the bush towards JINDEN. The Detectives were hospitably received at JINDEN; their horses placed in the home paddock, and beds prepared for them in the dining room. After breakfast next morning, the Detectives had a long conversation with SMITH. When for some occult reason they left the Station on foot, though it was then well known the bushrangers were camped on a range four miles distant - followed a bridle track leading to GUINEA’s Selection (Portions 5 & 6, Parish of JINDEN). Soon after their departure from JINDEN, GRIFFIN partly disguised, and riding a gray horse, was seen coming from the direction of the GANG’s lair, to JINDEN HOUSE, where he procured spirits, and then rode off to the GANG’s quarter.
The Detectives called at Mr WATT’s Selection on the opposite side of the SHOALHAVEN and had dinner, produced their rifles, and revolvers and informed Mr WATT that “ they were looking for the bushrangers to make short work of them; that the Police for the most part were cowards, and afraid to encounter them; and that they, themselves, were specially selected by the Government to do that which the BRAIDWOOD Police were incompetent to do “. After two hours delay, the Detectives left, and made their way back towards JINDEN.
After proceeding two miles, GRIFFIN was seen riding on the range observing their movements. On a spot almost in sight of JINDEN HOUSE, the GANG decided on carrying out their diabolical scheme; here the outlaw CLARKE, his brother JOHN, and BILL SCOTT, ensconsced themselves behind gum trees, close to the track, and within about 30 yards of each other. While JAMES GRIFFIN held their horses about 150 yards away. The Detectives walked two together, that is McDONNELL and PHEGAN in front, with CARROLL and KENNAGH behind.”
All four detectives were murdered by the bushrangers shortly afterwards.
Like my parents, I grew up in small settlements in the outback – far from the towns and cities of white settlement. No books: just the sky and the land.
When I was young, kids from the local camps taught me to throw a boomerang and to track snakes and lizards through the desert sand and dry river beds, and told me their stories. Camp life was hard for the kids. They grew up quick. While their parents were some of the best stockmen and women in the district, the parents were plagued by drink, disease and despair.
It was not always that way. Before white settlement, the first people lived in distinct nations with unique languages and legal systems. The nations roughly encompassed river systems, bordered by mountainous country. Vestiges of the old laws remain, in the names of valleys, rivers, creeks and mountains.
Some areas were contested or the boundaries more permeable. Sometimes, in desperate times, nations raised raiding parties to enter other lands and take food or captives. Boundary areas from which incursions might come were carefully watched and raiding parties met with as much force as could be mustered.
In happier times, some travel between nations was permitted for trade, celebration or feasting. Inter-national agreements set terms and agreed timing for these occasions.
Within the inter-national agreements, travel was also permitted for limited legal reasons, allowing authorized hunters to track and recover or kill those running from justice. This task fell to Kadaitcha.
Kadaitcha were specialist lore holders of all the nations – particularly skilled in survival skills. Some moved between the nations, teaching and hunting.
Kadaitcha were not simply herbalists or hunters. They were part witch doctor, part assassin. They dispensed justice – with spears, boomerangs and deadly magic.
The camp kids knew frightening stories about the Kadaitcha. They become invisible when they put on their shoes made of kangaroo hide, with emu feathers glued together with blood. They can will a person to death or turn a person into a rock. A decade ago, around another camp fire, I was told how Mount Palerang was made stone by Kadaitcha – and all around her, the Monaro, the bodies of her victims. Frozen as hills as they fell, their naked bodies become visible as the mists burnt away.
Kadaitcha were not all bad. They make and trade aphrodisiacs and hallucinogens, compacts for healing physical wounds and diseases and mental anguish. They also could heal or hurt people, from afar, using a form of magic. Transference magic.
We don’t hear about aboriginal law men anymore. But the early governors of the colony of New South Wales knew them– and both Governors Brisbane and Darling actively sought to enlist them into the defense of the growing colony. Later they were an important part of the early Queensland Mounted Police. The names of these law men are noted in old colonial records – Wannamutta, Werannabe, Sir Watkin Wynne and Bilecla. Over the years the names have gradually faded from memory, in later colonial times, these men were referred to as black trackers.
Perhaps that is why we don’t hear about the Kadaitcha these days – we don’t believe in magic these days. So, the memory of the walkers has gradually faded – and some have started to wonder whether they ever existed. The book-learned scholars who no longer leave their city sinecures and who spend their days and nights undermining each other, say that they never existed at all.
But when you sit around a camp fire listening to the eucalyptus crackle and retelling the stories of the dreaming, they are as real as the flames warming your face.
13.2 Ulladulla and Milton: The administration of justice in the government and private towns
Along the eastern coast of Australia are a series of protected bays. In the early days of the colony of New South Wales, small government settlements were established at the bays. Isolated by high mountain escarpments to the West and deep gorges along the coast, these settlements became important hubs of economic activity, particularly farming and forestry ventures. The settlers were dependent on travel by sea. Inland centres gradually forged bridle paths and bullock tracks to the coastal hubs - for mail, wool and, after the discovery of gold in the 1850s, mining.
The small protected harbor at Ulladulla was the location of early settlement – encompassing farmland, timber milling, fishing and ship building. The government provided basic infrastructure to support these activities – including the regulation of the port, provision of a post office, licensing of hotels and trading posts.
Core to government administration, the colony established a Court of Petty Sessions for Ulladulla in the late 1850s with the appointment of two part time magistrates, David Warden and William Hood.
In the early 1860s John Vallentine Wareham was appointed as Registrar of the Court – effectively the first full time legal administrator in the District (at that time the magistrates themselves were part time justices of the peace).
On his death in May 1912, the Sydney Morning Herald published a short obituary of Registrar Wareham:
“Mr. John Valentine Wareham, who died at Bona Vista, Waverley, last week, aged 80 years, was another of the old colonists who had exciting experiences in the goldfield days. With Mrs. Wareham, he came to Sydney in January, 1853, and qualified as a conveyancer. In 1853, with other young men, he walked to the Turon diggings, but the venture was not a success. On the return journey he tried to take a short cut over the ranges, but lost his way, and spent his first Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day in Australia in a vain endeavour to find a path that would lead him out of the rough mountainous country. It rained all the time. When found by a shepherd, Mr. Wareham was delirious, and was badly bitten by bulldog ants. In the early sixties he took up land in the Ulladulla district, and went through all the trials of floods and fires that were the lot of the early settlers. One of Clark's gang of bushrangers, known as "Long Jim the Tailor," was for a time in Mr. Wareham's employ. As the district became more settled Mr. Wareham held various Government positions, including those of Crown lands agent. Registrar of the District Court, Clerk of Petty Sessions, and Coroner, and was always helpful to new arrivals seeking advice. He left a widow, two sons, resident in Botany Bay, one daughter, 15 grandchildren, and five, great grandchildren.”
As Registrar, Mr Wareham’s duties extended to recording private sales of land and other large quasi-public undertakings, arranging for the sale of public land, recording births and deaths, licensing a range of activities (including hotels and other professional callings), conducting coronial inquests into deaths, managing the jail, fires and shipwrecks, assisting disputants settle cases and, where not possible, trying to refine the questions in issue for decision by a panel of the justices. When he was absent, his wife, Susanna Scott, discharged some of these functions in his name – including the management of the lock-up.
Initially, the court was located at the port of Ulladulla – operating as required from a room in Warden’s store. In 1862 a separate court house and lock-up were built in the town.
During that time, the port functioned by boats rowed out to incoming vessels from the beach. In 1859 a wooden jetty was built. In December 1865 a government subsidized stone pier (225 feet long and 24 feet wide) was constructed at a cost of 11,000 pounds – built on the line of a natural reef. (ref- ‘Nulladolla’ Local History MUHS (1988)).
In February 1860, John Booth sold the first 50 allotments of his private subdivision of a new, unnamed, town to the North West of Ulladulla inland from the coast, set in rolling hills. Within a short period of time, the post, trading enterprises and court relocated to the new township – which was named ‘Milton’ by the postmaster.
A flood in that month may give some indication of the problems faced by the initial settlement on the coast. Reports from the time talk of torrential rain and “fearful sea running into Ulladulla” which swept away buildings, fences and bridges.
At about this time, Registrar Wareham purchased his property of Danesbank on a commanding hill outside Milton. The property was a good source of stone – which eventually furnished his own homestead (a charming Victorian house of sandstone and cedar) and other public buildings. Danesbank homestead was built by the master mason James Poole - the stone mason responsible for the Ulladulla stone pier.
There are a large number of records about Registrar Wareham's activities. He registered all births and deaths in the district. His efforts to assist litigants resolve issues brought him to the attention of higher courts - without criticism.
During the period he was caught in the cross hairs of religious and class controversy. In her book about pioneers of the district, Joanne Erwin records that in 1870 the 'Walter Hood' sank in rough weather off the coast and fourteen men drowned. The ship was carrying flooring for St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney - and this flooring is still washed ashore in heavy weather. Wareham carried out the coronial inquest. Erwin records an oral report that:
"J.V. Wareham had wanted to bury Captain Latto in a separate grave as befitted his rank, but the surviving crew would not permit it, hinting that they blamed the captain for being drunk and causing the wreck and so had let him drown."
In 1873 a lighthouse was erected on the Ulladulla stone pier – but this was relocated to the headland in 1889.
In 1876 tragedy stuck the Wareham family, with the loss of three children. They left the district shortly afterwards.
13.3.1 Australian Badlands - Tinderry Ranges - Michelago, New South Wales
Haunt to bushrangers in the 1860s, the Tinderry Ranges rise 700m above the Michelago valley. I travelled there to scope locations described by old timers and in old papers, in preparation to riding to some of the more remote locations.
The ranges themselves have been recently decimated by bushfire. Although there has been some regrowth, the range looks even more unforgiving than usual.
Bushrangers (the Clarke brothers and the Long Tailor) took cattle and horses from stations at the bottom of the ranges at Michelago and, to the North, at Foxlow, driving them up into isolated bush camps high in the Range.
13.3.2 Majors Creek
Spent this afternoon in the magic village of Majors Creek and, for a little while, Elrington's Pub - researching the Clark Brothers and the Long Tailor. In this place, an old mining town, the usual boundaries between the past and the present flicker.
A little way from the town - absolute solitude. The clouds came down to the mountains. I spent a little time talking to the locals about their town. Sounds a sweet place to live, or visit.
All around are signs of the rush. The hotel is glorious in its age: patterned tin ceilings, a sign advising that guns need to be left with the bar keep, and a sign advertising the arrival of dancing girls from Sydney, and locals reminiscing about how the internal structure has morphed over time.
Here is a different compass: Braidwood close to the north, Cooma further away to the South, the fertile Araluen valley close by and the coast just over to the East. And suddenly to hear those magic names spoken by people who use them every day: Jinden, Ballalaba, Krawaree, Mourya, Jillamtong, Nithdale and Jerrabat Gully. The accounts of the Clarke Brothers are still real here.
Now I need to find a stock horse to get me down to Jinden.
Majors Creek may look fairly flat, but it is poised on the edge of a precipitous fall into the Araluen Valley.
The road from Majors Creek to Araluen via Mount Araluen Is one of the more difficult public vehicular assents in Australia. Restricted to four wheel driving in fine weather, it is one drive many people only do once: precipitous cliffs, a single lane dirt road with a series of switch backs that require 3 point turns.
Nevertheless, the views are superb, and the climbing interesting.
Once the only inland exit from the Araluen Valley, this point of the road saw an unsuccessful attempt by Ben Hall and the Clarke gang to hold up an armed coach bringing gold out of the valley.
The vegetation at the top of the mountain is lush.
The point chosen by the gang for the ambush has command views of the road below.
13.3.3 Boloco Station up the escarpment to Mowembah
The old bridle path has been replaced by a sealed road leading up into the Snowy Mountains (you can see a cut-away from the road about two thirds the way up) – but the bush remains as it was.
Here, in 1867, the bushranger the Long Tailor paused. He and his chestnut horse looked at the escarpment that would have taken him from the flats around Boloco Station up the escarpment to Mowembah. He intended to meet the Irishman Kirwan at the top – as part of his escape into Gippsland.
The coronial inquest found he died at the top of this rise, after a fall from his horse.
I think down of the flats it must be in a rain shadow - particularly when the mountains freeze over. A couple of miles further on and it almost felt like I was in the badlands...
He left Boloco Station at a gallop, possibly a bit inebriated, still suffering a wound from a police bullet, with stolen goods in hand.
You are probably right - here would have been a good safe place to rest for a moment and tie the goods around his waist. From here he could have seen any one following behind.
His approach could have been seen from above, and from the plains below. I spent a bit of time crashing through the bush near where he fell. The bush on the mountain has not been cleared - it remains as it was. If the accident happened today, visibility would have been 100 yards in all directions. So I still don't buy the evidence of the witnesses :) But they are all safe from me, being dead all these years...
Or at least that is what I thought until I came to the Boloco graveyard.
From the top of that rise you can see the Australian Alps - There are so many contrasts in such a short space.
13.3.4 Snowy Mountains – the Australian Alps
In the mountains, everything is fast. Especially the down-hill skiers. Even wombats, normally slow and deliberate, crash, roll and tunnel through snow at a tremendous pace. Bandicoots move like greased lightning. They need to. Up here the weather can change in an instance: one moment clear sun, the next blizzard.
When I was young, my father was posted, from the smaller Nevertire Primary School in the western deserts to the Tumbarumba Primary School a stone’s throw from the Australian Alps. There, he and I learnt to ski together, driving through the treacherous mountain passes to the slopes at the old deserted gold mining towns. In the early days we trudged up the hills for a run. Later, skiers started bringing up petrol winches with a heavy knots or tyres we could hang onto.
Today these locations have been reborn as ski resorts. The trails into the mountains have been tamed - you can drive or catch a train or fly to the peaks. This year, the state government has announced that it is spending even more money connecting its great city, Sydney, to the snow fields. Of course, out in the bush, it was not announced this way. Instead, local politicians of all persuasions, have talked unconvincingly about the great steps being taken to improve rural infrastructure (one called it a “once in a generation outcome”). Rural folk have heard this all before, these schemes simply divert scare resources away from real rural priorities.
While I started out down-hill skiing, my passion is cross-country. Nothing beats being high in the mountains, the air crisp and new, with untouched snow ahead. And no politicians to be seen anywhere.
I like it up here in winter and, when the snow melts, spring. The little streams all come alive and the wildflowers are beautiful :)
One bright spring morning, me and a friend, (whose name I will not mention for reasons which will become clear) set off on an all-day cross country from the top of the mountains. After a couple of miles, about a quarter of the way along, I hit some ice and ended upside down, one ski snapped and my shoulder dislocated.
To his credit, my friend dug me out. And while I wasn't looking, he then wrenched my shoulder back into position. Obviously torn between the prospect of accompanying an injured friend back up to the top of the mountain or spending the rest of the day enjoying himself on the trails, he chose the latter. As he spend off, he said that, if I survived, he would offer a full apology.
It was about that time that a blizzard came up...
When I was three, an older friend and I climbed a tall haystack, and spent an afternoon trying to work out what a hill would be like. Neither of us had seen one, but she was four and had been to far-off Nyngan, and thought we might be able to see one from the top of the stack.
I was a little bit worried about the adventure, because she had unexpectedly kissed me the day before. But I really wanted to find out about hills, so I threw caution to the wind. I need not have worried, When we could not see a hill, we lay on top of the stack, hand in hand, and imagined what being on a hill would be like. She never kissed me again.
Sunset near Gilgandra - just like when I was three.
13.3.6 The Snowy River
When Australia embraced the hydro-electricity after the Second World War, water from the Snowy River was diverted from the coast into inland rivers. The Snowy River was reduced to a barren rocky creek, and its surrounds dried out and died. At the coast, salt water moved into the mouth of the river, poisoning the fertile farm lands on the Victorian coast. Recently, protests from rural areas finally have been heard, and some of the flow of the Snowy River has been restored.
Back in January 1867, when the town was still called Buckleys Crossing, the river still ran deep and swift. A place beyond the law – a pathway for stolen cattle into the South. There was an inn and a punt took travellers across the river.
I sat by the river for a little while and thought about the Long Tailor, camped here, the night before his death. Risking coming into the hotel, speaking to the barkeep, seeking directions to the South – into Gippsland. Topping up his flask with hard liquor and telling the barkeeper he was called “Jemmy the Warrigal”.
The failure of the regular mounted NSW police to capture these members of the Clarke gang in the Braidwood area had serious ramifications. Back in Sydney, Henry Parkes was drawing plans to sack the police force and engage mercenaries to engage the threat he imagined.
Lucy was eventually arrested and detained but the police did take her to trial, believing that no jury of the day would have convicted her.
13.4 Background to the Long Tailor
We first glimpse the Long Tailor working for Mr Wareham at Ulladulla in a respectable position on a farm in the east coast of New South Wales, south of Nowra. Like many in the region, the Long Tailor left to follow reports of gold finds in the Australian alps at Kiandra. Reports from the time claim, that the alpine population consisted mainly of ruffians and thugs.
In height and appearance, he had the misfortune to be similar to the notorious bushranger, Fred Lowry. The colonial police arrested him in Kiandra on suspicion of being Lowry. He was moved to Cooma and in the company of hardened criminals. At that time there was significant discontent in the ranks of the Irish in New South Wales. In Cooma, local Irish complained that the police killed them with impunity.
Eventually, the police released him when it transpired Lowry had died on 30 August 1863, after being shot by police at Crookwell. He continued to live in Cooma for several months. During this time, he attracted police attention on a couple of occasions - and they took a dim view of him.
Eventually he moved north to Braidwood, perhaps to try his hand at the Araluen gold field and avoid the Cooma police. There he quickly found himself in the local Braidwood prison for robbery, and he was shortly joined by Tom Clarke who had been involved in the more serious crime of robbery under arms.
On 3 October 1864, the Long Tailor helped Tom Clarke escape:
“as soon as they reached the yard, he placed Clarke on his shoulders, and pushed him up the side of the wall, in which he had little difficulty in doing, as he was a powerful man over six feet high.” – Brennan – police officer involved in some of the Braidwood events
In 1866 he was released from jail and joined the Clarke brother's gang, the "Jerrabat Gully Rakers", in the Gourack ranges in a number of raids netting a large amount of gold and cash. The gang was responsible for killing a number of police and civilians. Tom thought highly of him, and the gang valued the Long Tailor for his bush skills. They also sought out cloth for him to sew clothes.
On 20 November the gang captured a store at Araluen, a gold mining settlement. It was just one of a long line of coach, farm and store attacks, that time taking 15 oz of gold and a large sum of money. Unfortunately for the bushrangers, there was also a large amount of alcohol, which they stayed to consume. On the way out of town, the Long Tailor was recognised by witnesses and hit by a shot fired by Senior Constable Stapylton. According to the police writer Brennan, he was “seriously wounded”. Once recognised, a substantial reward was offered for him.
Subsequently, the police received intelligence that the Long Tailor was laid up recuperating from his wound in the desolation of Jinden. In a bizarre twist, before they were able to take action on the information, their informer was arrested.
Then he seemed to disappear, until news of his death, apparently trying to escape into Northern Victoria. The subsequent Inquiry created a sensation through the colonies.
Thomas Kirwan - the man the Long Tailor wanted direction to - was a grazier at Mowembah. A couple of years earlier, he had alleged that his brother James had been shot and killed by the police (denied by the police) in relation to a warrant concerning a stolen horse on 21 June 1864. He was not called to give evidence.
There is one track between Boloco and Mowembah (at the time prominently marked with axe cuts in the trees. Today, Boloco is a locality on the Snowy Mountains Highway between Dalgety and Jindabyne – close to Dalgety. Mowembah is now close to the outskirts of South Jindabyne. About 3 miles out of Boloco the track starts to climb 150m in altitude until about 4 miles from Boloco (about half way between the two locations) the track levels out on the top of the ridge. The body was found near the top of the ascent.
Cooma is (almost) equidistant to Boloco and Mowembah. If at Boloco, you would travel to Cooma through Dalgety. If at Mowembah you might travel to Cooma through Dalgety – or alternatively (but a much more difficult path) through the mountains at Jindabyne. It seems that the meeting between Bryan and Brown occurred close to Berridale, where the two trails merge.
On 9th April 1867, another associate of the Clarke Brothers, Bill Scott would be found dead near Manar in the ranges near Braidwood. Like the Long Tailor, he had a head wound. The police formed a strong view that he died at the hands of the Clarke brothers - and thought that the head injury was caused by a bullet. An inquest returned a finding of "found murdered" but could not determine the cause of death.
The Clarke brothers had lots of enemies. The most ferocious enemies of the gang were local Aboriginal people. The enmity had started early. Father of the Clarke brothers, old Jack Clarke, had killed an Aboriginal man, Billy Noonang, fearing that he was tracking his son. In fact, Billy Noonang worked at the Doncaster Hotel and had gone to hunt ducks with his gun on the Shoalhaven. At every stage of the campaign against the Clarkes, Aborigines closely assisted the police in confronting the gang. In the final encounter, the renowned Aborigine Sir Watkin Wyne - an exceptional horseman and tracker - would be seriously wounded and subsequently had his arm amputated.
How does the evidence stack up?
The Long Tailor was wanted for robbery under arms with a substantial reward placed on him. He was a key member of a successful gang that had looted large amounts of gold and cash, had high powered weapons and were exceptional horsemen. He had helped the leader of the gang escape from prison. Yet the Long Tailor was found dead – apparently without any gold or real cash and no weapon, having been thrown from his horse. These circumstances seem inherently unlikely. it doesn't add up.
The Doctor examining the body did not find evidence of the serious wound inflicted on him two months earlier in Araluen (said by some to have been sufficient cause for him to flee the Braidwood district). The body was in a poor condition by the time he saw it - his examination may have been quite cursory - and is, perhaps, unreliable.
Thomas Kirwan, a grazier at Mowembah, was not called. Would Kirwan (whose dead brother had been previously implicated in criminality) have welcomed or feared a visit from the Long Tailor. Did the Long Tailor encounter him at or near Mowembah before his death - and, if so, how did he know the Long Tailor was on his way? Should he have been a suspect?
On his way from Boloco and Mowenbah on either the afternoon of the 7th or the morning of the 8th, Brown did not admit to seeing the body or the hobbled horse near the top of the rise, although he would have ridden close to both. He took no action on the report of the hobbled horse from White.
Further, when he attended the body on the afternoon of the 8th he found the stolen breastplate – even though the same was not apparent to Bryan until he lifted Jim’s body and removed his coat (ie, Brown had apparently searched the body and, if so, probably the other tack). In evidence, Brown claimed he did not know the Long Tailor. However, Brown's evidence that he didn't know the dead man was specifically contradicted by Bryan who said that Brown told him the name of the deceased.
A couple of obvious questions were never asked - perhaps deliberately. For example, Jim the Tailor brought grog and lodging from the Innkeeper - the Innkeeper would have noticed how whether he paid from a pouch or pocket, what denomination were used, how much was spent and what change and in what denominations the change was given. This information would have been enough to cast doubt on some of the subsequent evidence. Sometimes in criminal prosecutions, the failure to ask pertinent questions is far more telling than all the other dross otherwise elicited.
Another example of a question unasked of Bryan were questions about the identity of the unknown person who told him that the Long Tailor had been seen at Boloco on horseback, making in the direction of Gippsland. This unknown person had identified the Long Tailor and had undertaken a significant ride to Cooma to alert the authorities. The person did not accompany Bryan on the return trip (by which stage, the Long Tailor was already dead).
The evidence from Brown and his workers is "patterned" - a practice prosecutors of all ages keenly watch for. This suggests, however imperfect, an attempt to tell a pre-agreed story. These stories fall apart when evidence is probed indirectly - for example the times seemingly irrelevant events occurred. Patterned evidence is not evidence of wrong doing itself - but it throws doubt into the mix.
A convincing illusion of death, tainted by scandal to ensure it is far spread, is the best get-away plan. Was the body found really Jim the Tailor - or some unfortunate substitute? At first glance, it seems unlikely that Jim the Tailor orchestrated his own death - such a story would have required the collusion of the police magistrate, Bryan and the other witnesses - a lot of gold - and a most unlikely scenario when so many unrelated people are involved. Still a doubt might be entertained. The unlikely story of a crack horseman dying this way spread like wildfire across the small local papers of southern NSW and Victoria. Just as quickly, after the warrants had been destroyed and the expectation of reward money was scotched, the Long Tailor started to disappear from history. In a couple of the popular accounts, accounts of the Long Tailor have been expunged. A staunch sceptic might start spinning webs from such intangible stuff.
One possible variant is that the death occurred a couple of days earlier to the Thursday. Again, this would require some collusion - but maybe this time the parties involved are reduced to Brown and the Innkeeper. While consistent with the state of the body, it does not explain why the killers chose a story designed to trigger the award of the reward - perhaps fear of retribution proved too strong a disincentive.
There are more plausible cases.
Accident death should not be discounted. A fall from his horse at the top of the rise is not beyond the realm of the real. The Long Tailor may have been intoxicated - he had been been still suffering the effect of the earlier shooting. He may have driven the horse beyond its capacity; it may have shied at a thousand things at the top of the range. Even crack riders fall occasionally. Such a death raises other questions about theft from his body and packs after the death.
A third person, possibly Kirwan or one of the other witnesses or the informer, might have been involved in the death. Earlier Cooma litigation hints of a possible association (perhaps criminal) between Kirwan and the innkeeper Barnes. Did Barnes alert the police (to establish a claim on the reward money) or Kirwan?
There is a passing similarity between the deaths of the Long Tailor and Bill Scott. They were both tall men and they both died violently from head wounds. Could they have been murdered by the same person - perhaps one of the Clarkes? Or could these deaths have been revenge killings by the local Aboriginal people, in the case of the Long Tailor, before he left their reach or by a authorised Aboriginal man - a Kadaitcha?
Finally, there is Brown himself. He probably lied to the inquiry about a number of insignificant matters and a couple of important ones. He also had motives for an attack – both the argument, the theft and, if he knew the Long Tailor’s identity, the possibility of £200 reward money. However, if reward was the motive, why not a story where he could admit the killing and take the reward. Did he find something on the body that forced a rethink - or did he fear retribution?
It is likely that the Long Tailor was carrying gold at the time of his death – possibly quite a lot of gold - to start a new life in Gippsland. At that time, the price of gold was pegged to the British standard set by Isaac Newton – at about £4 per troy oz (less if you were trading on a gold field). Is it conceivable that the Long Tailor was carrying more than 50 troy oz of gold (a bit over 2kgs)? Was he carrying something else? Did he know too much?
In the end, the police magistrate chose not to poke this ant's nest. The criminal was dead, and if someone deserving had benefited thereby, why rock the boat?
The mystery about the Long Tailor's death was about to be overtaken by a far more shocking event in the desolation of Jinden that would stun the colony and change the history of this country forever. Memory of the death quickly faded. Any gold involved has been hammered into a dozen different forms since then.
There is little value in gnawing on such old bones. But perhaps I have misled you. The mundane result of the Inquiry is not the cause of my perplexity.
The day before he died, at the Buckley's Crossing Inn, this Irish man, who practiced one of the most peaceful and creative professions and yet engaged in the most violent actions imaginable, gave himself a new name.
He called himself Jemmy the Warrigal. He named himself a wolf.
13.5 People in the Story
John Valentine Wareham: On his death in May 1912, the Sydney Morning Herald published a short obituary of the Registrar: “Mr. John Valentine Wareham, who died at Bona Vista, Waverley, last week, aged 80 years, was another of the old colonists who had exciting experiences in the goldfield days. With Mrs. Wareham, he came to Sydney in January, 1853, and qualified as a conveyancer. In 1853, with other young men, he walked to the Turon diggings, but the venture was not a success. On the return journey he tried to take a short cut over the ranges, but lost his way, and spent his first Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day in Australia in a vain endeavor to find a path that would lead him out of the rough mountainous country. It rained all the time. When found by a shepherd, Mr. Wareham was delirious, and was badly bitten by bulldog ants. In the early sixties he took up land in the Ulludulla district, and went through all the trials of floods and fires that were the lot of the early settlers. One of Clark's gang of bushrangers, known as "Long Jim the Tailor," was for a time in Mr. Wareham's employ. As the district became more settled Mr. Wareham held various Government positions, including those of Crown lands agent. Registrar of the District Court, Clerk of Petty Sessions, and Coroner, and was always helpful to new arrivals seeking advice. He left a widow, two sons, resident in Botany Bay, one daughter, 15 grandchildren, and five, great grand children.”
Mr Robert DAWSON: 1812 born at Brackley, Northamptonshire, England. 1838 arrived in New South Wales in 1838 under the care of Governor Gipps. 1839 arrived on the Monaro to take over the management of Jillamatong Station, which failed during drought 1847 – appointed clerk of the Court of Petty Sessions established at Cooma and discharged the functions of Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages. 1857 10th August. - sworn in as Police Magistrate, becoming the first professional full time Magistrate for the district and discharging all the duties of the court until 1870. 1859 4th May. Appointed Registrar of the District Court. 1859 20th August. Appointed Clerk of the Peace for Cooma and Bombala. He had a number of children, one, Percy (born 1865), was a founding partner of one of the legal firms that became Blake Dawson (a significant Australian legal practice.
Sir Watkin Wynne
Born: 1816 Wambool River (“meandering”, Macquarie River)
Member New South Wales Mounted Police, recorded in Goulburn Police District 1865 and 1867 (both from Summer to end of Winter, aged 49 and 51 respt).
Jinden 1867: Sir Watkin was with the police party when the Clarkes were captured at Berry's hut at Jinden. He was on that occasion wounded severely in the arm by a bullet from one of the bushrangers, and his arm was amputated. In receipt of a Government pension thereafter.
Hill End 1872: Reported for an act of kindness by the Hill End Observer which was reported around the colony (note that the editor of the Hill End Observer, Edward Wilton, was a former journalist working for Henry Parkes)
Turon, uncertain date: photographed with a group of men and women outside the Gold Commissioner’s office on the Turon, Holtermann’s photos (ON 4 Box 11 No 70262 ).
Died: Forbes, 1887 (aged 71) December 1887: The Braidwood Despatch: "We notice the death at Forbes of Sir Watkin, a well-known black tracker in the police force. Many residents of this district will recollect him as being with Senior-constable Wright (now sub-inspector), then stationed at Fairfield. Sir Watkin was with the police party when the Clarkes were captured at Berry's hut at Jinden. He was on that occasion wounded severely in the arm by a bullet from one of the bushrangers, and the poor fellow afterwards had to submit to his arm being amputated, since which time he has been in the receipt of a pension from the Government.
Note: The Braidwood Despatch went on to inaccurately estimate his age at between 50 and 60 at the time of his death. He was 71.
Literature: Figures in a a series of short stories
Sir Watkin goes a hunting, Howard Stacey
When Bushrangers Rode 1906 Wellington Times
Member New South Wales Mounted Police: Goulburn District 1867 (stationed at Fairfield), later Grafton
Fairfield 1867: Senior Constable stationed at Fairfield
Jinden 1867: Senior officer in charge of the police party when the Clarkes were captured at Berry's hut at Jinden. He kept fire on the outlaws for six and a half hours before the outlaws surrendered. Promoted to Sub-inspector following the capture.
Died: Walgett: December 1888, left a widow and eight children. December 1888: Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertise: Death of Mr. Sub-Inspector Wright: The friends of this gentleman will regret to hear of his decease, which took place near Walgett last week. The deceased officer was at one time stationed in Grafton, and was in the service for about 28 years. He leaves a widow and eight children. He would have been entitled to a pension after 30 years’ service; but we understand his widow will receive a substantial allowance. The late Sub Inspector was much respected as an officer and citizen.
13.6 The Law of Innkeepers
The heart of a small Australian town is often divided between its formal and informal institutions: churches, schools and shops. On sunset, a fierce rivalry emerges between hotels, or pubs as we call them down under.
There are still a fair few pubs - perhaps not so many as a hundred years ago when a Braidwood letter-writer complained that: "We shall soon have as many inns as we have inhabitants, and the publicans will be obliged to nobble with each other, or else do no business at all".
Above is a pic from one evening this weekend in Bungendore, at the Royal Hotel (which took over from the former Royal Terrace, reopened in its present pleasant location in 1880 as Macs Royal Hotel before settling into its present name in 1886). A block away from the Lake George Hotel, which is a block and a highway away from the Carrington Inn.
A little West is the old Lake George Hotel.
As the day ends, traffic slows and stops. Patrons, men and women, spill into the streets or gardens nearby. Kitchens prepare meals. Refreshment is sold from the tap. The sounds of laughter and live music can be heard.
Upstairs, cheap accommodation is available to restless travellers or workers from other towns, or those unwilling to walk or drive home (past, often entirely imagined, highway police who are just as likely to be sitting at a bar down the other end of town).
Patrons are a fickle crowd, often deserting one pub for another, without rhyme nor reason. So, there is a steady foot traffic between venues. Less frequently, a pub will get up and leave town of its own accord. Such is the fate of the small hamlet of Hoskinstown, where the old stone Victoria Hotel (run by a Mrs Walsh, and for that reason sometimes called Walsh's Victoria Hotel) got up one day one hundred years ago and walked off to Sydney town, leaving the town in the grip of two churches that glare at each other from different vantages (although, today, given falling attendances, it is more often a vacant stare).
Many years ago I spent some time studying the ancient law of Inns. Doesn’t matter what you call them – an Inn or a Terrace or a Hotel or a Motel or a Pub. They have a little chunk of old Roman law that still applies, just to them.
Inns are a fascinating subject – and I have now forgotten more than I ever knew. For a while I lectured on the subject, for fun rather than salary, at a local government training school. I enjoyed the quiet Friday afternoons after work, when student would become innkeep and teach me how to prepare different drinks and negotiate difficult customers.
Innkeepers got some bad press in Les Miserables – “as for the rest, all of them crooks… seldom do you see, an honest man like me”. Harsh words - but I am reminded of a perhaps over optimistic account of the pub operated by relative (and perhaps accomplice) to local bushrangers, Mick O'Connell in the Jerrabatgully:
"and we cannot imagine a more agreeable place for a day's gipsying ; — we recommend our friends to pay a visit. The best accommodation and a hearty welcome will be met with at the Traveller's Home at Stoney Creek, the jolly landlord of which hostelrie appears to think that he cannot do enough for the comfort of guests."
Perhaps for this reason, to this day, the common law and continental codes, impose a sharp regime on inns and their ilk. Civil lawyers like myself oft fall into the error of thinking that the law of contract or tort prevails everywhere – but when you cross the hearthstone of an Inn, you move back to an ancient legal regime of strict liability.
Some of the common law rules still attaching to Inns may seem quaint. If you are being pursued by wolves or rogues, an Innkeeper is obliged to give you shelter, at any time of day. In modern time, the rule has been invoked to hold an Innkeeper liable when he ignored a call for help or shut up early with rooms still vacant. An Innkeeper is obliged to take all comers, local or foreign, and offer succor. That out of date tub of long life milk (still, perhaps more welcome than kidney of a horse and liver of a cat) distinguishes Inn accommodation from rental accommodation partly from habit but also law. An Innkeeper must welcome and keep safe your horses, carriages and other goods. This liability is strict – and cannot be contracted away – although some jurisdictions allow an Innkeeper to reduce liability by providing a lock box or complying with some other requirement (remember that long list on the back of your last hotel room?). Some rules have waxed and waned and others are being quietly overlooked – like the rule that pre-payment of accommodation forestalled other inquiry (such as taking credit card details).
Thanks to all of you who have made suggestions (esp Indya for the concept art and Cam Sage for Irish localisation).
Palerang April 2014
Copyright 2015 Peter Quinton
Published by Peter Quinton
Illustrations by Indya
Illustrations by Indya
Indigenous readers are advised that this story contains the names of First People who have died.