All posts by Red Hodge

Angela Margaret Sadleir 1888-1970

The extract below is from an unknown newspaper (possibly Buenos Aires Herald), probably around 7th February 1940, of an article published anonymously, but known to be written by Angela Margaret Sadleir .

How I Went To the Falklands

(By a Nurse)

The following article dealing with the errand of mercy carried out by the small band of nurses from the British Hospital in Buenos Aires has been written by one of the brave women who did such wonderful work in the Falkland Islands. It does not deal with the part played by the nurses. True heroism and sacrifice does not need self-advertisement, but it is instead a tribute to those courageous sailors from the British warships who fought in the battle of Punta del Este; those who lost their lives and those whose wounds and sufferings were tended to by the ( a few words missing here)

Suddenly on a Friday afternoon the call came – Can you go to the Falklands to-morrow? I am sure 99 per cent of the sisters and nurses gave an affirmative answer.

So, on Saturday night, off  we went – down the River Plate, carrying with us a wonderful example of the British Patriotic Association’s generosity; Doctors, nurses, masseuses, 270 packages containing equipment for a 100-bed hospital, a complete new X Ray manned by an expert radiologist. It would be far easier to name the things we did not take than those we did.

On our arrival at Montevideo we transhipped to the tiny SS Lafonia. How bravely her Red Duster floated in the breeze; then for the first time we realised how near we were to war. We saw the procession of wounded being carried ashore from the Graf Spee (How big she looked – how tiny we were ). Slowly, the day dragged on. President Ortiz – God Bless him – placed the Military Hospital in Bahia Blanca at the disposal of the battle-scarred Exeter. Then the question arose “Where is the Exeter?”. Hitler said, at the bottom of the sea, but the Embassy reported already she had passed too far along the coast to take advantage of (fragment missing)

At 17 o’clock we watched the Spee leave, full steam ahead for sea, her time having expired under international law; our hearts were heavy – still bravely on she went to meet the British tars outside ? Suddenly the cry went up “She’s turned” Why, she is coming back – Yes, no, she goes ahead again – what tricks they are planning. Then came the most sickening boom, followed by another, the Radio working feverishly announced that the Graf Spee had blown up, but that all officers and men were safe.

So we slipped out of the harbour in complete darkness, passing the pocket battleship’s funeral pyre in silence, and we heard the B.B.C. announce that a hospital ship had left Montevideo for the Falklands.

Meanwhile, with the grim determination of the British, The Exeter with her sides pierced, her decks awash, entered into another battle – against time, her surgeons must have been superhuman. I can add nothing to this. However, our tiny craft followed at full speed. I wondered if she had the signal flags up – D. C. (we are coming to your assistance). Frankly, I never looked, as the temperature dropped and the deck became too cold for promenading. Argentina’s sunshine seemed far away, and already a vague memory.

When we entered Port Stanley we found the place in deepest mourning. The “Exeter” was their ship – the boys had danced with them, shared their homes and hearts, and now so many had passed on.

The day before Christmas proved a dull gray day, cold wind sweeping down, the sun making feeble attempts to break through, then finally giving up the attempt and retiring gracefully.

Hitler’s last victim had died. Slowly the Church bells tolled, the muffled roll of the drums, the sombre but beautiful music of the Marché Funéraille, the measured solemn tread of officers and men as they escorted their brother along the harbour front – then came the order “Quick March” and up the hill to the wee “God’s Acre” – each victim had passed along that route, as they had lived, and died, Magnificent. So there they sleep, facing the ships, the sea they loved so well – and HOME.

Christmas Day – For once the climate of the Falklands excelled itself, the sun worked overtime, (extract ends here).

Angela Sadleir was born in Tasmania and went to Argentina along with two of her brothers. After training at Guy’s, London, she served as a staff nurse with QAIMNSR from 1915 in France (Étaples) and Italy (Taranto).

Her uncle, John Sadleir, served in the Victoria police for 44 years from 1852, and was in command of the final stages of the capture of Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, Victoria, in June 1880. She  was a second cousin of Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty (1871-1936) and of Captain William Leefe Robinson, VC.  She died in Adelaide.

Angela was given a silver salver or similar by the officers of HMS Exeter; this remains a proud family possession in Australia. Three of her brothers served voluntarily in British units in WWI, one of whom died as a result of his war service.

This extract was prepared in 2002 and revised in 2014 by her grandnephew, Ronald Land, of Glasgow, who is Scottish but whose mother was Argentinian by birth and Australian/South African by descent.

A book has been published in Canada (2011) called “Hold the Oxo”, in which three very poignant letters Angela wrote ( as a military staff nurse) in 1916 to the mother of a dying 18-year old Canadian soldier are quoted.

Sir Ralph SADLEIR, or SADLEYER (1507-1587

SIR RALPH SADLER, SADLEIR, or SADLEYER (1507-1587), diplomatist, born in 1607 at Hackney, Middlesex, was the eldest son of Henry Sadleir, who held a situation of trust in the household of a nobleman at Cillney, Essex. The son, as is shown by his correspondence, received a good education, and knew Greek as well as Latin. At an early age he was received into the family of Thomas Cromwell, afterwards Earl of Essex, whose increasing favour with Henry VIII proved highly beneficial to his ward’s fortunes.

It was probably soon after Cromwell’s elevation to the peerage, 9 July 1536, that Sadler was named gentleman of the king’s privy chamber; for on his tombstone he is stated to have entered the king’s service ‘about the twenty-six year of his reign’, not the tenth, as Sir Walter Scott erroneously relates. So high an opinion did the king form of his ability and character that in 1537 he sent him to Scotland — during the absence of James in France — to inquire into the complaints of the Queen-dowager Margaret against the Scots and her son, and to discover, if possible, the exact character of the relations of the king of Scots with France. Shortly after his return to England he was also sent to the king of Scots, who was then at Rouen, preparing to return to Scotland with his young French bride. His object was to bring about an understanding between the Scottish king and his mother. He was so far successful that, shortly afterwards, the Queen-dowager Margaret informed her brother that her ‘son had written affectionately to the lords of his council to do her iustice with expedition.’1

In January 1540 Sadler was again despatched to Scotland on a mission of greater importance. Although his ostensible errand was merely to convey a present of horses to King James, he was specially directed to make use of the opportunity to instil into him distrust of the designs of Cardinal Beaton, and his ambition to arrogate to himself supreme political power; and to advise the king to follow the example of his uncle, and, instead of ‘trafficking in cattle and sheep,’ to increase his revenues by taking such ‘of the possessions ‘ of the monks — who ‘occupy a great part of his realm to the maintenance of their voluptie, and the continual decay of his estate and honour’ — as ‘might best be spared.’2 The young king seems to have been perfectly frank. He was sincerely desirous to be on friendly terms with his uncle of England; but he had no intention whatever of adopting his ecclesiastical policy.

Shortly after his return to England Sadler was appointed one of the king’s two principal secretaries of state, the other being Thomas Wriothesley. He was knighted probably on the anniversary of the king’s coronation, and on 14 May 1542 he was granted armorial bearings.

After the rout of Solway Moss, which was followed by the death of James V on 16 Dec. 1542, Sadler was sent by Henry to reside in Edinburgh, with a view to preventing the revival of the influence of Beaton by arranging for the marriage of the young Princess Mary of Scotland with Prince Edward of England. When the Scottish parliament agreed that a ‘noble English knight and lady’ should be established at the Scottish court — for the training of the young princess for her future position — Henry proposed that Sir Ralph Sadler and his lady should undertake this duty. To Sadler the proposal was probably the reverse of agreeable, and he represented to the king not only that a journey to Scotland would be dangerous to his wife in her then delicate condition, but that, not having ‘been brought up at court,’ she was unfitted for the duties with which it was proposed to honour her. Other arrangements were therefore made; but it was soon found impossible to carry them out. All along the Scots had been influenced more by considerations of expediency than by a sincere desire for an English alliance; and Sadler discovered that no absolute trust could be placed in any of the rival parties, who were only sincere in their desires for each other’s downfall. ‘There never was (he lamented) so noble a prince’s servant as I am so evil intreated as I am among these unreasonable people; nor do I think never man had to do with so rude, so inconsistent, and beastly a nation as this is.’3 Beaton’s influence, which he endeavoured to overthrow, revived. The seizure of certain Scottish merchantmen and the confiscation of their cargoes by Henry, on the ground that they were carrying provisions to France, roused the slumbering antipathies of the nation, and compelled the governor to save himself by an alliance with the cardinal. The house of Sadler was surrounded by the populace of Edinburgh, and he was threatened with death in case the ships were not restored. While walking in his garden he narrowly escaped a musket-bullet; and, having prayed Henry either to recall him or permit him to retire to a stronghold of the Douglases, leave was granted him in November to go to Tantallon Castle, and in December he was escorted by Sir George Douglas, with four hundred horsemen, across the border. On the outbreak of hostilities he accompanied the Earl of Hertford in his devastating raid against Scotland, as treasurer of the navy; and he also accompanied the expedition to the borders in the following spring.

In accordance with the directions of Henry VIII, who died on 28 Jan. 1547, Sadler was appointed one of a council of twelve to assist the sixteen executors to whom was entrusted the government of the kingdom and the guardianship of the young king, Edward VI. Having been already intimately associated with Hertford, afterwards duke of Somerset, it was only natural that he should favour his claims to the protectorate of the realm; and he again accompanied him in his expedition against Scotland as high treasurer of the army. At the battle of Pinkie, 10 Sept. 1647, he displayed great gallantry in rallying the English cavalry after the first repulse by the Scottish spearmen, and he was made, on the field, one of three knight bannerets.

On the succession of Queen Mary Sadler retired to his country house at Standon, not intermeddling with state matters until her death; but though not a member of the privy council, he attended the meeting at Hatfield, 20 Nov. 1558, at which arrangements were made for Elizabeth’s state entry, and issued the summons to the nobility and gentry to attend it. A keen protestant, like Elizabeth’s minister, Cecil, and of similarly puritanic temper, he became one of Cecil’s most trusted agents. With the Earl of Northumberland and Sir James Crofts, he was in August 1559 appointed a commissioner to settle the border disputes with Scotland; but the appointment of the commission was merely intended to veil purposes of higher moment, of which Sadler’s fellow-commissioners knew nothing.

Sadler was entrusted by Cecil with secret instructions to enter into communication with the protestant party in Scotland with a view to an alliance between them and Elizabeth, and, in order that the support of the leading protestant nobles might be assured, was empowered to reward ‘any persons in Scotland with such sums of money’ as he deemed advisable to the amount of £3,000.4 When the arrival of the French auxiliaries to the aid of the Scottish queen regent compelled Elizabeth to take an avowed and active part in support of the protestant party, the Duke of Norfolk was instructed to guide himself by the advice of Sadler in the arrangements he made with the Scots. At a later period Sadler was sent to the camp at Leith, and thus had a principal share in arranging the treaty of peace and of alliance with England signed at Edinburgh on 6 July 1560.

On 5 Nov. 1559 he had been appointed warden of the east and middle marches, in succession to the Earl of Northumberland, but with the termination of his secret mission to Scotland, he ceased for some years to be engaged in any formal state duties. On 10 May 1568 he, however, received the office of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster; and in the same year the startling flight of the queen of Scots to England gave occasion for the employment of his special services. Much against his inclination (‘He had liever, he said, serve her majesty where he might adventure his life for her than among subjects so difficult ‘), he was appointed one of the English commissioners — the others being the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Sussex to meet with the Scottish commissioners at York to ‘treat of the great matter of the Queen of Scots.’

There can scarcely be a doubt that of the three commissioners, Sadler was the one specially trusted by Cecil. On 29 Oct. 1568 he sent to Cecil (from whom he doubtless had private advice) a précis of the contents of the casket letters, under three heads : ‘(1) the special words in the Queen of Scots’ letters, written with her own hand to Bothwell, declaring the inordinate and filthy love between her and him ; (2) the special words in the said letters declaring her hatred and detestation of her husband; and (3) the special words of the said letters touching and declaring the conspiracy of her husband’s death.’5 When the conference was in November transferred to Westminster, Sadler was also appointed a member of the enlarged commission. On the discovery of the Duke of Norfolk’s intrigues with the Queen of Scots, Sadler was entrusted with the duty of arresting him and conveying him to the Tower. He also, nominally as paymaster-general, but really both as adviser and superintendent, accompanied Sussex in his expedition to quell the rebellion on behalf of Norfolk and the Queen of Scots in the north of England; and after its suppression he was one of the commissioners appointed to examine witnesses in connection with the inquiry into the conspiracy.

Shortly after Norfolk’s execution he was sent to Mary Queen of Scots ‘to expostulate with her by way of accusation’ and on subsequent occasions he was sent on other errands to her. During the temporary absence of the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1580 he was, with Sir Ralph Mildmay, appointed one of her guardians at Sheffield; and when Shrewsbury, on account of the accusations of the Countess of Shrewsbury of a criminal intrigue between him and the Queen of Scots, was permitted, much to his relief, to resign his charge, Sadler was on 26 Aug. appointed to succeed him, the Queen of Scots being on 3 Sept. removed from Sheffield to Wingfield. He undertook the duty with reluctance, and on 2 Sept. wrote to the secretary, Walsingham, beseeching him to apply his ‘good helping hand to help to relieve’ him ‘of his charge as soon as it may stand with the queens good pleasure to have consideration of’ his ‘years and the cold weather now at hand’;6 but it was not till 3 Dec. that she promised shortly to relieve him, and effect was not given to the promise till the following April, when it was expressly intimated to him that one reason for the change of guardianship was that the Queen of Scots — whose more lenient treatment Sadler had repeatedly advocated —might ‘hereafter receive more harder usage than heretofore she hath done.’7 Sadler’s last employment on matters of state was a mission in 1587 to James VI of Scotland to endeavour to reconcile him — not a difficult task —to the execution of his mother. He died shortly after his return from Scotland, 30 May 1587, and was buried under a splendid monument, with recumbent effigy, in Standon church.

Sadler ‘was at once a most exquisite writer and a most valiant and experienced soldier, qualifications that seldom meet…. Little was his body, but great his soul.’8 He excelled rather as subordinate than an independent statesman. Although he did not attain to the highest offices of state, he amassed such wealth as caused him to be reputed the richest commoner of England; and, according to Fuller, the great estate which ‘he got honestly, he spent nobly; knowing that princes honour them most that have most, and the people them only that employ most.’ His despatches are written with such minute attention to details that they are among the most interesting and valuable of contemporary historical records.

Sadler married Margaret Mitchell or Barré. According to catholic writers she was a laundress, and he married her during the lifetime of her husband, Ralph Barré. The accusation seems to have been substantially correct; but when the marriage took place the husband, who had gone abroad, was supposed to be dead. In 1546 a private act of parliament was passed on Sir Ralph Sadler’s behalf, apparently to legitimise his children. He had three sons: Thomas, who succeeded him; Edward of Temple Dinsley, Hertfordshire, and Henry of Everley, Wiltshire; and four daughters, who all married. There is a portrait of Sadler at Everley.

Henderson, T. F. “Sir Ralph Sadler.”
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol XVII. Sidney Lee, Ed.
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1909. 598-601.


Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by John Sadleir

FOREWORD By George Gordon McCrae
I From Ireland in the ‘Fifties
II To Australia in the Great Britain
III Police Cadets in 1852
IV Ballarat in the Early ‘Fifties
The First Criminal Court
Henry (“Tony”) Foster
V Ballarat in the Early ‘Fifties (continued.)
Some Fellow Passengers
The Miners and Their Troubles
A “Digger Hunt”
VI Ballarat in the Early ‘Fifties (continued.)
Gold and Prisoners’ Escort McIvor
Gold Escort Robbed
A Mystery of the Early ‘Fifties
VII Ballarat in the Early ‘Fifties (continued.)
Growing Discontent
How Mining Disputes were Decided
More Contentious Irishmen
Russell Thomson and Duncan Gillies
The Eureka Stockade
Public Feeling in Melbourne
VIII Melbourne Police in 1854
A New Chief Commissioner
Licensing Courts in the ‘Fifties
IX Beechworth in 1856
Horse Stealing
Robert O’Hara Burke
Drilling the Foot Police
The Buckland Riots
The Burke and Wills Expedition
X Beechworth in 1856 (Continued)
Indigo Diggings Discovered
McIvor Private Escort Tragedy
A “Protector” of Chinese
Cornelius Green, Gold-Buyer
XI Beechworth in 1856 (Continued)
Some District Personalities
Long Journeys on Horseback
Beechworth, Past and Present
Billy, the Puntman
XII The Western District of Victoria
Captain Whittaker and the Bushranger
Snipe Shooting
Tracking by the Blacks
The First Coaches in the District
“Lambing Down”
The Wannon Falls
A Plucky Constable
Cuthbert Featherstonhaugh, Jr.
A Yellow Peril
The Duffy Land Act
XIII Melbourne in 1864
Unrest and Insubordination
Superintendent T. H. Lyttelton
The City Police,
1864 to 1867
The Theatre Royal Cafe
The Wrecked Passengers of the “Netherby”
The Horse and Jockey Inn
An Awkward Situation
A Charge Refused
A Military Scare
All-Night Licenses to Publicans
Dr. J.G. Beaney in the Dock
XIV Some Legal Luminaries
B. C. Aspinall as a Humorist
A Q.C.’s Longest Day
XV Gippsland in 1867
Captain Edgar Slade, R.N.
“Viking’s” Last Race
Snipe, Quail and Duck
Grant in the Later ‘Sixties
The Dargo High Plains
The Walhalla Mine
The Long Tunnel Mine
Mr. John Arabin
A Land of Floods
XVI The Bushranger, Power
Mr. Robert McBean Robbed
XVII Four Uneventful Years
The Road to Woods’ Point
Some Curious Accidents
Bishop Moorhouse as a Pedestrian
A Country Surgeon
The Jericho Diggings
Mr. J. H. Graves as Parliamentary Candidate
“Black Wednesday”
XVIII The Kelly Gang
Police Murders in the Wombat Forest
Constable Thomas McIntyre
Sergeant Kennedy
Isaiah (“Wild”) Wright
After the Wombat Murders
XIX The Kelly Gang (Continued)
“A Lost Opportunity”
A Night Watch on the Ovens
The Euroa Bank Stuck Up
“Assistant Postmaster” Flood Again
Superintendent Francis Hare
The Jerilderie (N.S.W.) Bank Robbed
XX The Kelly Gang (Continued)
The Queensland Black Trackers
How the Black Trackers Worked
C. H. Nicolson Again Takes Charge
The “Diseased Stock” Agent
Some Arm-chair Advisers
A Disturbing Element
Shortly After Glenrowan
The Police Train Leaves Benalla
XXI The Kelly Gang (Continued)
The Kelly Gang at Glenrowan
Ned Kelly’s Armour
Alleged Reckless Shooting by Police
Ned Kelly Captured
The Kelly Prisoners Leave the Hotel
How Joe Byrne Met His Fate
The Hotel Fired
Peace Reigns in the North-Eastern District
The Longmore Police Commission
An Editor Interviewed
XXII In Charge of the Metropolitan District
Disorganisation of the Police
The Police Negligent, Not Corrupt
Increase of Junior Officers
A New Development
XXIII The Detective Force
Detective John Williams
Two Brave Bank Officers
XXIV Rioting in Melbourne
Assault on Orangemen at Brunsick
The Maritime Strike
Nearly a Tragedy
The People’s Forum
XXV Chief Commissioners of Police, 1853 – 1902
XXVI Some Sergeants and Constables
XXVII Men Who Have Helped
APPENDIX. The Corps of Native Troopers List of Police Cadets and Officers



To all Old Companions, Living and Dead, who have faithfully borne the Burden and Heat of the day.


August, 1913.


By George Gordon McCrae.

The testimony of an eye-witness is unquestionably of the best; but how much more valuable is that of a man himself concerned; moving and acting in the scenes which he describes.

It is in this way that those who for the first time in their lives read the story, are brought face to face with certain of the more vivid passages of the Old Colony Days; while the ageing but still hale survivors of the period renew their youth as they eagerly follow the narrator page after page to the end, seeing once more their Victoria as she used to be; their Melbourne of the Diggings and Gold Escort days; the brave men who laid the foundations of all that is great and good among us by encouraging a law-abiding sentiment in the setting of an excellent example.

Among all those things begun in the right direction was the putting down of bushranging and the efficient policing of the country, by which peace and protection were assured to all classes of society, and life made by so much better worth the living.

Our earlier police were, of necessity, semi-military in their organization and ideals; the mounted men especially, who numbered among them both troopers and officers who had previously served whether in the Imperial Army or the armies of the Continent. It is not one whit too much to add that in this bygone organization it is, that we trace the kernel whence sprang the ever-increasing army of the Commonwealth of to-day. But the author will best tell the story in his own words and in his own way.


THIS little book is a simple and unpretentious narrative of the experiences of a somewhat uneventful life. The history of Victoria may almost be said to have begun in 1851–52. It was towards the close of the later year that the writer’s colonial experience began. From that time until the close of the year 1896, he was occupied in the duties of a Victorian police officer.

There is no attempt at the sensational in these pages; no thrilling stories of the Sherlock Holmes kind—the writer’s chief purpose is to tell something of the story of the service to which he belonged for over forty-four years; and to speak of some of the most marked personalities with whom he came in contact.

Most people do not, probably, quite realise how much a well-ordered police force, free from all suspicion of corruption, not interfering unduly with the personal liberty of the people, contributes to the easy and comfortable enjoyment of life. There having been times of back-sliding in the Victoria police service, when a few individuals brought dishonour on its good name; and there was a time too when its administration bore hardly on the people, and, as in the case of the Eureka Stockade, led to serious trouble. On the whole, however, the history of this service has not been discreditable.

It cannot be denied that there have been many faults of omission. Such faults have produced mischief; indeed, one wonders that the ill-effects were not more serious. The Victorian police force, however, is based on so sound a system that things can run on by their own momentum, so to speak, for a time at least. Officers have made the mistake of neglecting the commonplace but essential things, matters connected with supervision and oversight of subordinates. It may appear that the

writer has here and there laid too much emphasis on the obvious and commonplace. This must be his excuse—that he knows how important these things are, and how frequently they are overlooked.

As will be seen, the writer has not confined himself to matters of strictly police interest, but has attempted to treat of persons and events belonging to a wider range which have found a place in the store-house of his memory.

There has been of late a remarkable growth of interest in the records of the past in Victoria, and the writer of these Recollections has been, in a small way perhaps, one of those who has helped to kindle and keep alive this interest. It was but a few years ago that a leading literateur, who had been shown some notes of early reminiscences, thought that few people cared for matters of this sort. The publication, however, of some of these notes brought proof that a good many people were quite ready to be interested very much indeed, and were eager for a further supply.

Victoria is happy in its origin and antecedents as a State. It is not every community that can show so picturesque and clean a history. The pioneers of the ‘thirties and ‘forties, almost without exception, were very worthy fellows; and on the whole the same can be said of those whom the gold discoveries of the early ‘fifties attracted here. Victoria has been fortunate in her early leaders in religion, in commerce, in the learned professions, in politics and the press. Her Public Service as held to as high ideals, and has been as free from corruption as any similar service in the Empire, the few backsliders mentioned in these Recollections not-withstanding. All things considered it is not to be wondered at if a people with so happy and honourable a past should be interested in all honest attempts to review the years that are gone.

For nearly sixty of these years, the writer has lived in the midst of the scenes which he seeks to recall. These he describes honestly, and to the best of his ability. HE may have extenuated here and there the faults of his friends, but he has not set down aught in malice.

His thanks are due to the proprietor of The Argus and The Australasian, to the Editor of Life, and to the Historical Society of Victoria for the privilege of again using articles that have already seen the light. The article on “The Corps of Native Troopers”, published in No. 3 of the Historical Society’s Magazine, will be found in the Appendix. The writer feels under special obligation to the Hon. the Chief Secretary of Victoria, Mr. John Murray, for permission to use the list of Chief and District Constables under the old regime and of the Police Cadets and Officers under the new. This list was compiled by Mr. T. O’ Callaghan, late Chief Commissioner of Police. To many personal friends also who have helped him by lending pictures and other curious and rare relics of the past, his thanks are also due.


In the later ‘Forties’ affairs in Ireland , the early home of the writer, set young men thinking seriously of their future prospects. The losses during the famine years, 1847 onwards, had greatly reduced many a comfortable income, and left but scanty provision for younger sons. It is no wonder then that the startling news of the rich gold discoveries in Australia attracted the interest of my younger brother (Nicholas, well known later in pastoral life in Victoria and New South Wales) and myself, both still in our ‘teens.’ We were of a bucolic turn, and it was not so much the gold discoveries that fixed our thoughts on Australia , as a letter from a relative who had settled there some years earlier, and had taken to a pastoral life. The writer reported that his flocks of sheep were so numerous – he estimated them at over one hundred thousand – that his difficulty was to find men to shear and tend them. In his old home this man had been regarded somewhat as a degenerate; and with a conceit natural to our years we considered that where he had done so well, we might hope to do still better.

Any break-up in a large and united family is always a serious matter, and we brothers decided to make our preparations quite secretly, and began to hide away our boots, clothing, bits of saddlery, guns, ammunition, &c. Our plans, of course, were soon discovered. Explanations followed, and to our great joy parental approval came instead of the rebuke that we feared. Then followed the further discovery that several other young friends were taken with the same impulse to swarm off from the old hives.

At the time of which I write, early in 1852, the worst and most distressing effects of famine had passed away. The poor were no longer dying from hunger; typhus fever and other diseases resulting from insufficient and unwholesome food no longer prevailed; public and private aid had helped largely – the latter more largely than has generally been acknowledged – towards the improved condition of the people. From my own home some score of people were daily supplied with food prepared for them; and similar provision was made by other families amongst our acquaintance. Some idea may be formed of the value and extent of such private help from the following example which came to my knowledge a few years later.

The rector of a parish in Connaught where there were many poor, the Rev William Crofton spent not only all his own available money in feeding the needy, but also some thousands of pounds collected from friends on every side. Neighbouring clergymen and others were also busy in the same good work. Of the part taken by Mr Crofton I can speak with some knowledge, for I found in one of his daughters the loved partner of my life.


On August 22nd, 1852 , the Great Britain sailed from Holyhead on her maiden voyage to Australia , Captain Barnard Mathews being in command. The fine ship looked none the worse for her experiences on the shoals of Dundrum Bay ! Captain Mathews was said to have been more a maritime engineer than a sailor, but of the truth of this I am not competent to speak. He was somewhat irritable and not at all times pleasant towards his passengers, of whom there were several hundreds—two of his officers, however, Leech and Grey, made up for any deficiency in their commander. Grey (as everyone knows) succeeded Captain Mathews and remained in command of the fine old ship until his mysterious disappearance at sea many years later.

The voyage to Australia of so large a vessel, and one so dependent on her steaming power, was somewhat of an experiment, so the owners had sent forward supplies of coal to St Helena and to the Cape, with instructions if the Great Britain did not put in at either port by certain fixed dates, the coal might then be disposed of to any vessel requiring it—a capital arrangement, no doubt, but it did not work. We had passed the latitude of St Helena several days, and had run into a steady S E gale against which the ship could make little or no headway, when it was reported that she had not sufficient coal to take her to the Cape . It was said by some nautical experts amongst the passengers that no good sailor, knowing the prevailing winds in these southern latitudes, would have ventured so close in to the African coast as Matthews did. There was no alternative but to put the ship about and make for St Helena . We reached the island several days after the appointed time, to find that every ton of coal had been sold. This meant a detention of more than a week, in the endeavour to collect wood for fuel in an island on which scarcely a tree was to be seen. Having filled up with such small wood as could be collected we sailed for the Cape , there to find a like disappointment, for the coal supply sent forward had also been disposed of to the Bull Dog and others of H M vessels which had returned thither from the Siege of Lagos. The naval officers, according to their wont, did the generous thing and gave up sufficient supply to take us to Australia . It was told after, with what truth I cannot say, that when the Great Britain returned to Liverpool , several hundred tons of coal were discovered in the hold of which no one knew anything.

In making the Cape we had overrun the entrance to Table Bay during the night by a few miles. Here again another circumstance occurred that seemed to reflect on our Captain’s seamanship. We were assured by residents of the place that the ship had passed dangerously near the reef on which the Birkenhead , laden with troops, had met with disaster shortly before.

The detention at St Helena and the Cape represented a fortnight’s loss of time. The passengers soon tired of the dullness, and limited resources of the former, for after seeing the great Napoleon’s grave, and Longwood, where he ended his remarkable career, there was little else of interest. Some attempts were made to cultivate acquaintance with the officers of the St Helena Regiment, but these were soon abandoned at the instigation, I think, of some prudish people on board our ship, for these gallant fellows, and their wives too for that matter, had a somewhat shady reputation as regards the proprieties of social and domestic life.

Capetown, we found somewhat more interesting. The chief interest, however, lay outside the town itself, which was a good deal behind even those times; for example, lucifer matches had not yet superseded flint and steel and tinder. For lovers of horse-flesh the supply was excellent. Stallions only were used; and to a visitor of the old country, where such animals are commonly so vicious that they cannot be used in the company of their kind, it was a new experience to see them harnessed together, and perfectly docile. They seemed to be nearly thoroughbred and were splendid stayers, for they appeared fresh after being ridden or driven fifty miles or more over very heavy roads. My last ride to Simonstown and back brought me an experience that I had not expected to meet with outside my native country.

Mr Reginald Bright, who was also a passenger, and I were returning from a fifty mile ride on horseback, on horses as fresh as when they started. The night was just settling down when my companion’s horse, startled by something, galloped ahead. As I followed three niggers closed in upon me, one of them striking at me with a heavy stick. The blow, I suppose, was intended for my head, but it caught me on the thigh instead. It was a stinging blow, and the pain that followed it was so severe I could scarcely keep my seat as my horse sprang forward, taking me out of reach of further assault.

Some eight days spent not unpleasantly at the Cape , and a few weeks more at sea, brought us safely to our destination. Of the many hundreds of passengers, I know of only three beside myself as still living—viz., Mrs E C Bell, Sir Arthur Snowden, and Mr Reginald Bright. The best-known among the others were the late Messrs Wm Noall, George Robertson, J G Duffet, Charles Martin, and H C Staveley.

On November 12th, 1852 , the Great Britain cast anchor for the first time in Hobson’s Bay, after her protracted voyage of eighty two days. There is no need to repeat the oft-told tale of how Melbourne and its people appeared to a newly-arrived stranger in the very early ‘Fifties.’ The dust and the general discomfort rather shocked us. The dust is with us still, and as for the discomfort – this came to be accepted as amongst the inevitable conditions of life in a new country. These things, however, were soon forgotten in the stir and hopefulness of the new life under the genial influences of the Victorian climate. I can look back with pleasure to the many months spent under canvas, and to the society of cheery companions, – even if our fare was somewhat rough and we had to do our own washing.

It has been said that in the later months of 1852 there were nearly twenty thousand arrivals in a single week. It was natural, therefore, that one should run up occasionally against old friends. Amongst these was one by whose persuasion I was led to adopt the career that I followed for nearly half a century. This friend was Captain Jared Fox, formerly adjutant of the 75th regiment. The renewal of our acquaintance was on this wise. A friend and fellow passenger had laid in a stock of Cape sherry, villainously strong stuff, at two shillings a gallon. It looked exactly like the sherry that one paid forty or fifty shillings a dozen for in the old country. It was my friend who first discovered Fox, and it was at his suggestion that we went together to the Richmond Police Camp where Fox was getting together a detachment of police cadets. We carried to the camp a demi john of this sherry slung by our handkerchiefs to a walking stick. It was just the sort of liquor that Fox most relished.


The police camp was situated at the north-east corner of the Richmond Paddock, at the junction of Punt Road and Wellington Parade, where the State School now stands. There was but one house between Richmond and Melbourne , that of the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr La Trobe, at Jolimont. There was no East Melbourne; Bishopscourt stood alone, looking on an unfenced uncultivated wild, now the Fitzroy Gardens, and the Richmond of today was represented by the Star and Garter Hotel, which I believe still stands.

The Cadets, mounted and foot, were divided into detachments, each under its own special officer. Fox was one of these officers, and after some hesitation I agreed to throw in my lot with him. I found already collected on the camp various detachments – the whole body of Cadets numbered about 250 – nice, well bred fellows, for the most part, and of various callings. There were barristers, attorneys, ex bank managers, medical students; others had seen service in one or other of the continental military forces. One had been a colonel in the Turkish service, another had served with De Lacy Evans in Spain , while others had seen service in the Austrian Army, and used to tell in broken English of the fighting they had shared in.

These Cadets were the only material the Government found available at the time to do the work of the police force, and a very serviceable body they soon proved themselves. Some of them from the first, like C H Nicolson and a few others of whom I may speak more in detail later on, showed remarkable aptitude as thief catchers; some, after a longer probation, became effective and reliable workers; while others, too many of them, alas, went down before the hard living and general extravagance of those early days. There remain now but a very few representatives of the Old Brigade. Messrs John H Lydiard and Reginald Green are the only survivors known to the writer.

There was urgent need for police both in town and country. Melbourne , ill-lighted as it was, was particularly unsafe at night. The old police force, whatever it had been worth, was broken up; the town swarmed with criminals from Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales . Victoria was perhaps too young to have its own brood at the time. I fancy the criminals looked upon ‘New Chums’ as their natural prey, as being too timid and unseasoned to offer much resistance, as many unquestionably were.

Here is an instance. A young probationer at our camp had been to Melbourne to take over his outfit. He did not know how his cavalry sword should be worn, so he carried it in his hand, bound up with the rest of his equipment. It was dark as he made his way to camp, when on turning Dr Howitt’s corner at the top of Collins Street a man sprang out at him to rob him. The young probationer dropped his outfit, sword and all, and bolted. But he soon got over his first fright and returned to face the enemy. To his great surprise, and no doubt to his great satisfaction, he found the fellow had disappeared, leaving the articles where they had fallen. We all knew Stapylton to be a really plucky young fellow in spite of his sudden weakness.

A somewhat like experience happened on a stormy night about this time (November 1852) to another young man and myself as, on a very dark night, we entered what is now known as the Fitzroy Gardens . Three men came running after us, threatening and calling on us to stand. We preferred moving on, our only weapons being a couple of bottles of beer each, while the others carried sticks and possible other weapons too. We could see our foes only during the momentary gleams of lighting, sometimes fifty yards or more distant, sometimes nearer, as they made short rushes towards us. The same light served us to maintain our distance until, venturing too far, my friend and I both tumbled into the creek, smashing the bottles as we fell. The noise brought the fellows to the spot. However, we clambered quickly out again; and as we were making off we heard their curses as they too tumbled in. So ended the hunt. I know this does not sound very heroic, but what could two unarmed new chums do under the circumstances but clear out? From this digression I return to our life on the Richmond Cadet Camp.

Fox, the Commandant of the corps I belonged to, was a hard taskmaster. We had some six weeks’ stiff drill and training before we were considered fit for work in the country. Our Commandant was stern and strict during hours of duty; off duty he was altogether friendly and considerate. In the evenings he let himself go; and the self imposed task of the cadet on sentry duty when Fox returned to his tent was to help him to bed. Yet he was the first man up in the morning, and after plunging his head into a bucket of cold water he was ready for 6 am drill, just as he had had nothing stronger than tea or coffee the previous night. Only once did he fail, and that was through loss of voice, on Boxing Day, 1852. This no doubt was the result of extra deep potations the previous night. Drill, however, had to be gone on with as usual, for with our Commandant drill was a sacred duty. First one and then another Cadet was called upon to carry on the exercises. The older men were first chosen, but they happened to be some of those who had kept up Christmas as their officer had done; they failed to please him, and ended in getting the detachment into confusion, to Fox’s infinite indignation. Fortunately for me I had spent the holiday with some quaker friends, Mr. Robert Ffennell, of Abbotsford (Mr. Ffennell married a daughter of John Batman, whom, with her sister, Mrs Robert Collier, I met on several occasions. ) and his family, and when my turn came I was able to carry on the drill so entirely to the Commandant’s satisfaction that I was promoted on the spot, an advantage that held good for me throughout my service.

Our training now being fairly complete, the entire detachment was drafter to Ballarat. We met with but few incidents on the way. As we crossed the Keilor Plains on our march, we found many disappointed diggers returning from Ballarat, having found the shallow diggings on Golden Point either worked out or occupied by earlier arrivals. The disappointed ones with one voice declared that Ballarat was done; its prospects as a goldfield had passed away for ever. This was in January, 1853. What poor prophets they were!


Our provisions on the march were plentiful but very rough. The fact is there was not a single bushman amongst us, and our cooking was not a success. Crooke, the landlord of the Woolpack Inn at Bacchus Marsh, heard of our approach and prepared a royal feast for us. Fowls, joints, green peas, puddings and other dainties such as none of us had tasted since leaving “Home” were provided, for which the good old man had our thanks. It was reward enough for him that he was able to entertain those who were in the service of the Queen, and to see them enjoy his hospitality. Our Commandant showed how well he could refrain from over-indulgence when on duty, and drank very moderately of the liquor our host provided. The Woolpack Inn is now but a memory, though it is not many years since I saw some portions of the main building still standing.


Here are two sketches of early Ballarat as it was when Fox’s Cadets arrived there on January 6 th, 1853 . The artist was Mr. James Meek, whose hand-drawn maps were well known not very many years ago. The illustrations are entirely true representations of things that existed when James Meek made his sketches. There were then no other buildings on Ballarat save Mr Paddy Welch’s store, almost adjoining Meek’s store shown in the sketch. The structure shown in the police camp view was the police stables, a more recent erection, formed of slabs, with bark roof, being little more than a rough shed.

For those who might be interested in the history of Ballarat City it may be as well to say that Meek’s store faced Lydiard Street, on the west side of which it stood, near the corner of that street and Mair Street.

The view of the police camp should also be interesting to the antiquary. It represents, except in one respect, the appearance of the camp and the actual position of the Government tents precisely as I saw them on January 6 th, 1853 , the date of our arrival, the only alteration being that the tree to which the prisoners were secured had been cut down. Prisoners were still secured, however, to the trunk as it lay where it fell.


It must not be thought that the Police were guilty of inhumanity in thus securing their prisoners. They had no choice in the matter, for there was no other possible way to deal with them. Many of these prisoners were men charged with serious crime, and the Police could take no risks. Within a month or two a lock-up was erected. If its single cell was somewhat crowded occasionally, the prisoners were at least protected from the weather. It is worth noting that there had been no escapes from the very primitive method shown in the sketch, while a whole batch of prisoners, one Chinaman alone excepted, escaped from the newly-erected lock-up. This occurred not from any weakness in the new structure, but from the connivance of the military pensioners who were on guard at the time. There were some fifty of these pensioners on the camp under the command of Colonel Russell and Lieutenant Bayliss. These were old and worn-out men who had been discharged from various regiments in Van Diemen’s Land ; but, feeble as they were, the Victorian Government was glad to have them for what they were worth.

It was soon discovered that the cadets alone were fit to be entrusted with work to which any serious responsibility was attached. Their honesty was unquestionable – a virtue conspicuous by its absence in the few old-time police that still remained – they were more intelligent and obedient to instructions, and, notwithstanding their inexperience, they did really good work. Some filled confidential positions on the camp; others were placed on duty in squads of half a dozen on new ‘rushes’ in the neighbourhood. I myself saw the birth of the ‘rushes’ at Winter’s Flat and Canadian Gully – while others were told off for gold and prisoners’ escort duty between Ballaarat and Melbourne. The late George Walstab, later a well-known journalist, was one of the escort of which I had charge a little later.

The camp sentries, until the differences between the diggers and the camp officials became acute, were provided from Colonel Russell’s company of military pensioners. These old fellows were up to all sorts of tricks. It was through their connivance that the thirteen prisoners referred to had escaped. Their officers’ chief trouble was to keep them from stealing off to the grog tents on the flat, from which they would be brought back, usually very drunk, by a Corporal’s Guard. When they wanted to spite the Colonel they simply ‘carried’ instead of ‘presenting’ arms when he passed their post. The question remained an open sore to the last: Russell claiming that as Commandant he was entitled to the ‘present’; the men, that his military rank being that of Major, for he was Colonel only by courtesy, he was entitled to the minor salute only. They further irritated him by saluting some of the civilian officers – commissioner and police, who had gained their favour.

Ximenes, one of the Police Officers, for some reason not in favour with the pensioners, had occasion one night to go a few yards away from his tent. As he returned the sentry demanded the password, which ‘Ximmy’ did not know. The sentry persisted, and, as ‘Ximmy’ bolted into his tent, drove his bayonet into the tentpole close behind him. Of course it was all a bit of spite, but the police officer took good care in future to learn the password.


Whatever difficulty the Government may have in collecting material for the rank and file of a Police Force, no difficulty was experienced evidently in finding candidates for the position of Police Magistrate, Gold Commissioner and other higher offices. The staff of officers at Ballarat about this time was enormous, and consisted of: – Eyre, Police Magistrate; Fenwick, Resident (i.e. Principal) Commissioner, with Bury, Sherard, Webster, Amos, Johnston (later for many years Judge at VRC Meetings), and Wilberforce, as Assistant Commissioners; Greene, Gold Receiver; George Webster, Commissariat Officer; Heise, Camp Medical Officer; and Lane, Government Architect. The police officers were Henry Foster, Superintendent, De Courcey Hamilton, J H Lydiard, Arnold , Vernon , and Chomley, Inspectors, and Ximenes, Inspector of slaughter yards. Large as this staff may appear, there was often remarkable pressure of work for at least some members of it.  Fenwick, who was fussy, did little else than worry and irritate his fellow Commissioners; while Foster, the senior police officer, went on the opposite principle, for he tried to do pretty well the whole police work himself, much to the detriment of his juniors, who were in danger of sinking into indolent and idle ways. It was fortunate for them that calls requiring prompt attention were frequent, and thus these officers were not allowed to rust out altogether. I think, however, that on the whole this large staff found it more difficult to dispose of their leisure than of their work. Let one imagine these men without books, without newspapers, without the company of wives or female friends, and with no means of amusing themselves outside of their scantily-furnished mess room, and he will wonder that many more of them did not fall into evil ways.

During the period from January 1953 to May 1854 there were many changes in the personnel of the Government staff at Ballarat. Fenwick was relieved by J M Clow; and later Clow was relieved by Colonel Rede. The last-named had more savoir faire than his predecessors, both of whom had fallen out with the other officers. Eyre, who was the first Police Magistrate, was relieved by D’Ewes, who continued in office until the Ballarat outbreak, of which more later on.

At first Buninyong was the Government Headquarters. The first Police Magistrate, Eyre, and his clerk A P Akehurst, resided there. It was at Buninyong that the higher Courts were held, and it was in the gaol there that the prisoners under committal &c., were detained. Buninyong possessed another distinction; it was the place nearest to Ballarat where a glass of grog could legitimately be purchased, and thirsty men trudged along the 5 or 6 miles to get a glass of beer. This, of course, was before Bath ’s (now Craig’s) Hotel was opened.

It was not until 1853 that Ballarat was made the Official Centre of the district, so slow was the Government in recognising the new order of affairs. The higher Courts formerly sat at Buninyong as had been stated, and it was there that the pioneer barristers, Messrs. Ogier and Cope, the former still living at the age of 93 years, the latter afterwards County Court Judge, took up their abode. Mr Ocock, the first solicitor to practise at Ballarat, only visited Ballarat occasionally from Ballan, where he had his home. Later, the Messers Cutberth Bros came on the scene. There did not seem at first to be much occupation for these gentlemen. It was not until the general trade at Ballarat began to run on more regular lines, especially after the Eureka trouble, when a new mining code was established, that the lawyers came to their own. Hitherto all business was conducted on spot cash lines, and if the diggers had any differences between themselves, apart from mining disputes, they never thought of appealing to the Courts.


The first sitting of this Court at Ballarat attracted much interest. At all times the “Knights of the Road” on their trial have special attraction for the curious, and as a relief from the monotony of their life, the diggers were glad to watch the cases day after day. Not that they felt any sympathy for offenders of this class, for the ‘Black Douglases,’ the ‘Three fingered Jacks,’ and the ‘Scotties’ of the period were regarded rightly as pests by every bona fide digger. He dare not leave his gold or his money in his tent, nor dare he venture with his valuables into the haunts of these men against whom he had to be on his guard day and night. In other countries such pests would have been shot down at sight. Britishers, however, are not much given to take the law in their own hands.

The difficulty referred to at the head of this paragraph was a very unusual one that might have led to some very awkward results. Everything was in order for the morrow’s Court. The Judge and the Crown Prosecutor had arrived, and there was a very full calendar.

The Crown Prosecutor on this occasion was a well known Melbourne barrister; he was entertained by the officers at their mess, but finding when dinner was over, that the noise and bustle interfered with the study of his briefs, he asked that he might be provided with some place where he could carry on his work without interruption. No such place could be found, for every tent was occupied. However, Henry Foster, the Superintendent of Police, solved the matter by fitting up in the store tent an impromptu table and seat made up of some spirit cases belonging to the Mess. As the other officers turned in late they saw the Crown Prosecutor’s light still burning, and there was nothing to disturb the stillness of the night but the tramp of the sentry.

It was as well perhaps that there was a sentry. The Store tent was a sort of sacred place in his eyes, for it contained all the coveted luxuries of the camp, and was taboo to all ordinary mortals. Not knowing why light should be continued there so late into the night, and hearing occasionally the cling of glass, the sentry watched the place curiously. Later on he peeped cautiously into the tent, where he saw the Crown Prosecutor stretched full length on the floor. Foster was called up, and there was great consternation in the camp, for it seemed hopeless that the representative of the Attorney General could appear at Court. This meant, it was thought, the risk of all the prisoners being discharged. A good constitution, however, helped by various buckets of cold water averted the crisis.


It was with Henry, perhaps better known as Tony Foster that I as a Police Cadet had most to do. Foster seemed never at rest. He paid little attention to office work; allowed his juniors to do as they pleased, while he himself was dashing in and out after law-breakers, chiefly of the sly-grog selling tribe. He had a squad of special constables in whom he trusted, but these fellows played all sorts of tricks on him, with the result that all his plans miscarried. He was a simple soul who would believe no ill of his chosen men. At length constant failure wearied him, and he handed his precious crew over to my charge, nominating me at the same time for the rank of Sub Inspector. I knew the kind of men I had to do with, and went to work to the very best of my ability. But a youth of twenty had no show with such a set. They were corrupt beyond measure. I succeeded no better with then than Foster did, and grew heartily sick of the business. Towards the end of 1853 I called on the Chief Commissioner, Mr. (after Sir William) Mitchell, who, on hearing my evil report, broke up the squad, confirming me at the same time in my rank as Sub Inspector.

Foster was a most kindly fellow. He had had some medical training, and had practised for a time I believe in the Western District. It may be claimed for him that he was the founder of the Ballarat Hospital . At any rate he first made provision for sick miners on the Camp, where he set aside a large tent for their use.

I left Ballarat for Melbourne in May, 1854, and never met Foster but once again, and then under peculiar circumstances. There had been a rather extensive fire at Sandridge, which had continued throughout the night. I came on duty in the early morning, when the fire had nearly burnt itself out, and was informed by a sergeant of police named Archibald that a man who called himself Superintendent Foster was interfering with the police arrangements, and that he was drunk. I saw Foster in the distance moving about amongst the ruins, tripping and stumbling as he went, leaving me under the same impression as the sergeant. The later, who was rather an impetuous man, but an excellent policeman, then left and made his report. A little later Foster came up to speak to me, and to my surprise, and also to my great gratification, I found that he was perfectly sober. The sergeant persisted in his statement, and the matter came before a Board of Officers, who found Foster not guilty, and recommended the sergeant’s removal from the service. My evidence was confirmed by that of Mr W C Haines, Chief Secretary, who had driven Foster to and from the scene of the fire. In consideration of his general efficiency, and of the fact that he had made his report in good faith, Archibald was after a time restored to his position. In dear old Foster’s later career there was a sad falling away that brought grief to his many friends. This is however anticipating events, for I have not yet done with Ballarat of the Early Fifties.



We were such a numerous company on the ss Great Britain , and of so many classes, first and second saloons, third class and steerage, that it was no wonder many of the passengers scarcely knew each other by sight. The total number (I am speaking from recollection only) was I believe nearly 600. After landing and going our different ways, one constantly found oneself in the company of supposed strangers, who proved to be fellow passengers.

One of my earliest discoveries of this kind was a man named E—-, one of the very first batch of prisoners I escorted to the gaol at Geelong . E—- had been a saloon passenger, and was clearly one of those wastrels who had been a failure in the old country. Though well-mannered generally, he was an inveterate drinker. He was now under sentence for stealing potatoes. He pleaded guilty to the charge and stated that he had been starving, which was probably true. Instead of being ashamed of his lapse he assumed the ear of bravado of the most hardened of his fellow-prisoners and said the thing he regretted most was that his spectacles were taken from him. The two or three weeks of evil companionship while awaiting trial had done its work.

The next instance of recognition, however, was more tragic.

Early one day in February, 1853, a man came to our camp at Canadian Gully with the startling information that he had come upon a man, still alive but desperately wounded, lying in a dry watercourse behind the camp. When we reached the spot we found the unfortunate fellow rolling and tossing himself about, evidently in great pain. When asked his name he was understood to say Mossell. To the inquiry as to the person who had assaulted him his reply invariably was: “You did. You did,” no matter who it was that put the question, showing as we supposed that it was some familiar companion who had assaulted him. The marks on the ground all round showed signs of fierce struggle. The unfortunate fellow’s face and hands were covered with a thick coating of dust and congealed blood, so that he was scarcely to be recognised as a white man.

He was placed in a cart and brought to Ballarat, a kindly cadet named McKeon supporting him in his strong arms. Superintendent Henry Foster had him washed and his wounds examined. The injured man resisted every attempt to remove his trousers, gripping them firmly by the hand. I saw him after the blood and dirt had been washed off, and thought I recognised him as a young man named Maunsell, a fellow passenger in the Great Britain , but his head and face had been so battered and disfigured that his most intimate friend could not make sure of his identity. Maunsell was the son of a clergyman, I think, with whom my people were slightly acquainted, but I saw very little of him on the voyage. The wounded man lived but a day or two, and was buried in the clothes in which he was found.

In about a week or so Henry Foster received a letter from an officer named Maunsell, quartered with his regiment at Geelong . The writer had heard of the murder, and was anxious lest the victim should be a relative of the same name who had recently left for Ballarat, having a considerable amount of money in notes in his possession, with the intention of buying gold. He was accompanied by a man named Sexton, and for the sake of security had sewn the money in the lining of his trousers. Foster had the body disinterred; and sewn in the trousers that the dying man had gripped so firmly were found the notes described.

We cadets were all non-experts in those days (February, 1853), and our methods no doubt were crude and unscientific. In the efforts to find the man who had murdered Maunsell, I remember being led with several others from one place to another by Fox, our commandant. Fox had no definite plan except to rush unannounced into any tent where noisy of rowdy conduct was going on. It was night, and we had to be careful lest we should tumble into some unprotected shaft. In one very large tent we heard the sound of fighting, and could see the shadows of the men inside thrown upon the canvas walls. Fox ranged his party round the tent with instructions that at a given signal each man should cut an entrance for himself. At the signal this was done, and we found ourselves looking on at a prize fight, one of the combatants just at this moment being knocked out. The winner, whom all addressed as Yorkie, was stripped to his waist and was still shaping with his fists. He showed such biceps as I had never seen on human being before. I came close beside him and desired him to be quiet. In a perfect good humour and without apparent effort a nudge from his elbow sent me staggering away, and when I again approached him he said, in quite a fatherly way, “Young man, you’ll get hurt, if you don’t mind.” Our leader decided that Maunsell’s murderer was not one of the company. All effort failed to find the man we were searching for, who, as was discovered later, had made his way to some South American port, and was there lost sight of altogether. That he, the companion of the dead man, should have been marked down as the real culprit seemed to justify our interpretation of the words so often repeated by the dying man, and some of us felt inclined to be rather conceited in ourselves in consequence.

The lot of others of my fellow-travellers by the Great Britain was not so pitiable. Amongst them were four steerage passengers whose names I have quite forgotten, shop assistants who came to Victoria to seek their way to the goldfields. Although quite unused to hard manual labour, it fell out that their successes at Ballarat, whither they had gone, dispelled the delusion that gold deposits there were exhausted as many people thought even in the early weeks of 1853. Being unused to pick and shovel work, they chose a piece of ground on which they found an abandoned shaft some sixty feet deep. They had already learnt the art of fixing a windlass procured from another abandoned shaft, and after a few hours’ work they struck a mass of golden quartz nearly 100lbs. weight. The value of the find must have approached £4000, and the men wisely determined to ship it to London instead of disposing of it at local prices.

I happened to be on the camp when the men brought in this great nugget, and sympathised with its owners, when Mr Green, the gold receiver, refused to take delivery of it, on the ground that some quartz was mixed with it. The men dared not take it back to their tent now that the find was made public. Good old Henry Foster at length came to the rescue, and allowed the men to place their treasure in a corner of the guard-tent, but at the owners’ risk, until it could be sent away by the next escort. It appeared afterwards that these men returned to England with their treasure, and there exhibited the nugget in its rough state at the Great Globe in Leicester-square. The fact that four men, within five or six months from the time they left Liverpool, were able to show such tangible proof of their success must have given a fresh fillip to the excitement already existing at home, and had turned many eyes towards Victoria the Golden. The news here of this rich discovery brought a great crowd of wandering diggers to Ballarat, and led to the discovery within a few weeks of such leads as The Gravel Pits, Eureka, Brown Hill, Winter’s Flat, and Canadian Gully.


It must not be thought, because the diggers at Ballarat and elsewhere were not satisfied with their treatment by the Government that therefore the local officers were to blame. It was natural enough that the diggers, who felt the pressure only through the action of these officers, should regard them with little favour, not knowing that they, no less than the diggers themselves, considered the Government regulations needlessly harsh and unreasonable; and that they were doing what they could to bring the central authorities over to their views. I know that this was a common topic of conversation when the local officers met together in the evenings. I do not pretend to say that the views of one so young and inexperienced as myself were specially asked for, but neither was I excluded from any of the discussions of my seniors, nor was any officer, now matter how junior he may have been, discouraged from relating any facts bearing on the subject. There were two things that impressed one in these talks, one was that the existing order of things was bound to lead to some serious trouble; and the other that it was believed that Sir William Stawell, the Attorney General and the leading spirit in the Government, stood in the way of any relaxation of the regulations. How far this latter assumption was based on fact I cannot say.

The restrictions under which persons carried on any business on the diggings were irritating and un-British. No man of whatever calling could put foot on the goldfields without first procuring a license for which at one time a fee of three pounds per month was demanded. If he opened a store, a druggist’s shop, or started a medical practice there were further fees; no liquors were to be sold, nor was liquor to be imported by any resident in quantities of less than two gallons.

The real trouble, however, raged round the collection of the miners’ licenses. With exceedingly few exceptions every officer engaged in this work wished to do it with the least amount of friction; but circumstances were sometimes too strong for them. The ill-will of the diggers towards the police shown in offensive cries such as ‘Trap’, ‘Joe’, &c., which flew like wildfire from place to place on the appearance of a constable, no matter what business he was bent on, was very provocative, but I don’t think much harm resulted; and besides, all ‘digger hunts’ – the name given to the expeditions for the examination of licenses – were conducted under the personal direction of responsible officers, who would certainly restrain any too excessive zeal of the men under them. I speak in this matter for the Ballarat authorities only, where there were no bullies of the David Armstrong type.


Here is a description of proceedings that came under my own observation, indeed under my own direction as officer in charge of the police party engaged. Commissioner Johnstone, under whose authority the police were acting, was present on the occasion. This description in its general features stands good for every expedition of the kind that I have been engaged in.

The scene was Canadian Gully in 1853, a narrow strip of country less than a quarter of a mile in length, looking as if it had been cut out of the virgin forest. The excitement began when the diggers found themselves surrounded by a cordon of police. Some disappeared down into the ‘shafts’ where, unless they found tunnels in which to hide, they were soon discovered; others made a dash for the forest. There were touches of comedy in the proceedings. Some of the runaways seemed not overanxious to get away, for they halted behind the first tree they reached, where the pursuing constable found them so occupied that he had necessarily to wait their convenience. These men always had their licenses, but the delay enabled friends who had none to escape.

A standing rule on such occasions was, that any person was free to come within the cordon of police, but no one must pass out on the other side. The police line included a portion of the main road to Ballarat. Johnstone and I were on horseback within the police line, overlooking proceedings, when a stranger also on horseback came up and addressed us. He was greatly interested in what was going on, and asked what it all meant. He was delighted at seeing a ‘digger hunt’, a sketch of which he had seen in the Illustrated London News just before sailing for Australia, and to witness the scene in real life so soon after landing was a piece of good luck he had never expected. He told us he was a medical man who had come to join Dr Rankin of Buninyong in his practice. When he passed on I thought I saw the Commissioner wink. There was rather a large haul; not one of the victims, not even the newly arrived doctor, but had to pay his fine of five pounds.



The Government Gold Escorts were instituted in the very earliest digging days. Some were manned by officers and soldiers belonging to one or other regiment quartered in Melbourne . The Ballarat Escort was manned by police, who made the journey weekly to Geelong , thence by steamer Citizen to Melbourne . It was one of the cheeriest of sights to look on the bounding horses, the blue and white uniforms of the guard, the sound of swords as they rattled in their steel scabbards, with the thought behind it all, ‘There goes a hundred thousand pounds worth of gold’, as the Escort streamed across the Flat. It was no uncommon thing to see private gold buyers like Jock Adams, of Buninyong, with three or four hundred ounces of gold in their valise, keeping close company with the Escort. This plan saved Escort fees, and at the same time furnished all the protection required. The late John A Wallace, of Quat Quatta, regularly followed this plan, often carrying as much as two thousand ounces on a led horse. Gold buying on the diggings must at one time have been a very profitable business, for, according to “posters” on trees and tent poles, the local price was two pounds ten per oz. This was before the banks cut into the trade.

One and sometimes two opened carts carried the gold in long iron boxes, each containing perhaps two thousand ounces. In later years larger vehicles were used for the conveyance of prisoners as well as gold. The Ballarat turnout was horsed by greys driven tandem fashion and, as tree-stumps and deep ruts abounded everywhere, accidents were of course to be expected. There was one startling experience where a cart was capsized, the wheels spinning in the air, the unhappy driver underneath, one iron box lying across his neck, another across his loins, while a third lay across his legs. The first concern was to steady the horses and prevent them injuring themselves, and the next thought was, where we could find another driver in the place of him who lay prone on the ground, the cart and boxes still lying over him? Quite leisurely these were removed, when up rose our driver. In a few minutes he was in his seat again as if nothing had happened.

The escorting the prisoners to Geelong Gaol was a risky and disagreeable job that we all disliked. Sometimes the prisoners made the journey on foot, in handcuffs only, in batches of about a dozen; at other times they were taken down in a sort of German waggon hired from George Sellick, the Buninyoung innkeeper. The first system was the most risky, for the journey to Geelong took several days, a halt being made each evening at any accommodation house that was found handy. From under the charge of Mr Chomley, late Chief Commissioner, one man escaped by jumping harlequin-like through a very small window out into the night. He was under sentence for horse-stealing. I came across this man some years later at Wangaratta as a ticket of leave holder – he had been re-arrested by the late G G Morton of Labona, one of the Cadets at the time – and found him a prematurely old and broken down man. He said that Pentridge under the Price regime had been too much for him.

The conveyance of prisoners by waggon had also its risks. The men were usually a very dangerous class, and the journey to Geelong had to be made in one day; night travelling, as we had learned from experience, was to be avoided at all costs. I was in charge on one occasion, and fortunately for myself had a seasoned old sub-officer with me. All sort of pretexts for delay were invented by the prisoners, who grew sullen when they were not allowed to have their own way, and it was quite dark when we reached the outskirts of Geelong . The prisoners now commenced singing cheerfully, which appeared to me a sign that they had submitted quietly to the inevitable. The streets were unlighted, and we could not distinguish one prisoner from another in the crowded vehicle. The old sergeant knew better than I did, and whispered to me that some mischief was afoot. I called in the troopers, the whole escort riding with drawn swords close beside the waggon. I was riding immediately behind when my horse suddenly sprang aside. A chance light showed a figure lying on the ground. It was one of our prisoners. The sergeant’s suspicions were correct. Under cover of the singing the prisoners had torn the bottom boards of the wagon in the hope of dropping through, one by one, without being observed. The failure of their plans made the prisoners so furious that nothing but the drawn swords of the police troopers riding alongside prevented them leaping from the waggon.

It was a serious thing in those days to lose a prisoner. It meant suspension, or loss of position altogether. Mr Chomley had been several weeks under suspension, in the case before alluded to, although the escape in that instance could scarcely have been provided against. The Chief Commissioner, Captain Macmahon, was justified in the severity of this rule, as so many prisoners had been lost through want of due precautions.

Besides, the criminals who are most eager to get away are of a very dangerous class, and their re-capture is often a very difficult and costly business. Some thirteen prisoners escaped from the log lock-up at Ballarat; but for this the military pensioners were alone to blame. In another case a prisoner had been handed over at a police station, and a few minutes later had made good his escape. He got up a pretended fight with other prisoners in the cell, and the Watch house Keeper without waiting to call assistance went in amongst them to stop the fight. The prisoner referred to slipped quietly out, shutting the cell door on the Watch-house Keeper. He was never recaptured. The fact is, the most intelligent men were not always chosen as Watch-house Keepers, as the following incident will show.

A constable named Leary, in charge of the Benalla Watch-house, had custody of a prisoner charged with some serious offence. The constable had been a sprinter in his youth and boasted of his smartness as he escorted the prisoner to the river for a supply of water. The latter did some boasting too, for he also had been a runner. He said: ‘Mr. Leary, let me put down the bucket and I will give you fifty yards start to the lock-up for a plug of tobacco.’ ‘Measure fair,’ he called out, as Leary paced the distance, ‘and say off’ when you are ready.’ The exsprinter fell into the trap. Leary said ‘off’ and got to the lock-up first, but the prisoner never got there. Of course, faults of this sort required sharp correction.

The head of the police, Captain Macmahon, must have had his hands full on first assuming office in dealing with the many sins of commission and omission of those under his command. The irregularities were of various kinds. One rather silly, vain officer named Langley , out of love of display I suppose, had his trooper orderly always at his heels. Macmahon cured this by directing that the orderly should ride in front. Another installed a near relation, a poor half-witted fellow, as his police servant, and drew his pay. Still another, with a sporting turn, employed his police servant in training a horse for the Bendigo races, and when complaint was made, gave the servant two months’ leave of absence with full pay, so that the principal witness might be out of the way when the board of inquiry met.


Soon after the early gold discoveries in 1851-52, the police of Victoria as an effective force may be said to have temporarily disappeared. There were a few elderly men left in the city police, and, scattered at wide intervals throughout the country, were a few old fashioned chief constables and constables. Henry Dana’s small company of Native (black) Troopers were chiefly occupied with troubles caused by the aborigines and were disbanded after Dana’s death in November, 1852. Almost all the efficient men amongst the white police had long before thrown up their billets to go to the goldfields; while at the same time many thousands of adventurous men of nearly every nation were pouring weekly into Victoria; and at the same time from our own adjoining colonies came crowding in all the foul brood of criminals, our heritage from the transportation system that had prevailed for over half a century in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land ( Tasmania ). Assuredly not often before had the Government of any British dependency a more difficult crisis to meet.

I have spoken elsewhere of the raising of various small corps of cadets during the latter months of 1852; but not even of the best material can effective police be made to order. Yet raw as these cadets were it was by one of them, William Symons, that one of the chief participators in the great crime I am about to speak of was brought to justice. It is to be noted further that the gold escort which met with misadventure was a private speculation of which there were more than one, and not a police or military escort. From none of these government escorts was there a shilling’s worth of treasure lost at any time.

On Wednesday, July 20th, 1853 , there started from McIvor diggings, now known as Heathcote , a private escort for the safe conveyance of gold and treasure via Kyneton to Melbourne , some 74 miles distant. The late Captain William Le Souef seems to have been in general control of the enterprise, though Mr Robert Warner was in actual command during the trip. The charge per ounce, as I have understood, was two and sixpence, which should leave, barring accidents, a very handsome profit.

The guard on this particular trip was composed of Mr Robert Warner In command, George Duins Sergeant, Thomas Fookes Driver, Samuel Beauchamp, Davies. —–Roeswatter and John Morton Mounted Troopers

The following account of what happened is taken from The Argus of July 25th, 1853 , based I presume on Mr Warner’s report.

“The Escort had in charge a cart containing 2223 ounces of gold and about £700 pounds in money, packed up in two boxes. The troopers were armed with a sword, carbine and pistol each, the superintendent, Mr Warner, and the Sergeant having six-barrelled revolvers in addition, the cart driver only being unarmed. They proceeded on their way until they came within three miles of the Mia Mia Inn , and seven miles from McIvor, when they noticed a log thrown across the road near one of the turnings, and an apparently deserted mia mia at one side. Considering these appearances to be nothing more than ordinary, they continued their march, little expecting what was in preparation. The Superintendent and Sergeant Duins were riding some yards in advance, and the other three close by the car. When within about six yards of the mia mia they were suddenly assaulted by a volley of seven or eight shots from it, and the horses of the two foremost riders being wounded, they plunged violently forward for several yards; and Mr Warner wheeling round as soon as he could pull up his horse, the first objects that met his view were some eight or nine men standing round the cart, and all the others stretched wounded on the ground. Seeing the odds against him he was for a moment uncertain what to do, and discharged three shots from his revolver, without taking any effect. He was then compelled for a time to be a single observer of what passed, and about half a dozen of the robbers proceeded in a very cool and business like manner to unload the cart of its treasure, the boxes containing which were removed into an adjoining dense stony scrub. The sergeant’s horse received three balls in the back, but still bravely bore his rider, and Mr. Warner at once dispatched him to a Government station three miles off for assistance. He followed the others himself into the scrub, where two or three shots were fired at him, but he escaped uninjured, and discharged the three remaining shots of his revolver, wounding as it is thought one robber. Fearing that the sergeant’s horse would sink exhausted before he arrived at the Government encampment, and his own horse being injured, he started off on the same route, arriving at the encampment in safety and returning quickly with a reinforcement of troopers and a number of diggers whom he met on the road. The latter were armed and furnished with horses, and started in pursuit of the bushrangers. On returning to the scene of the atrocity, they found all the wounded men lifted into a cart and a stranger standing by them. On being questioned the latter declared that he had been looking for cattle and on coming up and seeing what had happened, had assisted the wounded men. He further offered to lead the pursuers on the track of the bushrangers, and on his offer being accepted, attempted to decoy them off on quite a different direction from that which the former were supposed to have taken. A suspicion being created that he might be in league with the fugitives, he was submitted to a cross-questioning, and from some vagueness and contradictions in his account of himself, he was arrested and still remains in custody. The wounded men were then sent off to the McIvor, and the country all round scoured to some distance. The mia mia was searched, and in it were found a double-barrelled gun, several pannikins, one of which was indented with the letters ‘W H’ ; also two peajackets and a comforter. A short distance off in the scrub were picked up four pack-horses, supposed to belong to the robbers. While operations were being carried on, Mr Langley, with a party of troopers, arrived at the spot, and lent their assistance in the pursuit. The bushrangers are supposed to have numbered thirteen or fourteen individuals, and to have been in the mia mia during the preceding night for their work of blood and rapine. We believe Mr Warner can identify three of them; and should the wounded men recover, there can be a little doubt that they would be able to recognise more. The party were dressed, some in Guernsey shirts, others in pilot cloth peajackets, and all had woollen comforters wrapped about their heads in turban fashion. They were all armed with double-barrelled guns, the number of shots fired is not known, and they are supposed to have had a relay of horses close by. All the escort party, with the exception of the Superintendent and Sergeant were wounded, as was every horse belonging to them—one of the animals that drew the cart being killed. The three guards and the driver were seriously, but it is to be hoped not dangerously, wounded. One trooper, Roeswatter, was shot in the thigh; another trooper, Morton, received a ball in the shoulder, above the region of the lungs, and the top of his nose was taken off; another trooper, Davies, was wounded in the cheek, and the driver Fookes was shot in the knee. The man Roeswatter, who was shot in the thigh, in falling from his horse dislocated his shoulder; and during the plunder the miscreants offered no further violence than one of them kicking out of his way the driver who had tumbled back into the car. All the wounds with one exception, were inflicted with balls, the exception being that one of the men was shot with a slug. As soon as the news of the “sticking-up” became known about the country, parties of police were out in all directions, as well as a large number of diggers, amongst whom the affair has caused the utmost excitement. The diggers were at their own request sworn in as special constables, and apprehensions are entertained that if they come upon the robbers under circumstances to lead to a certainty of their guilt, the prerogative of Judge Lynch will be vindicated, without waiting for the interposition of either judge or jury. We are also informed that about 50 troopers of the 40th regiment have joined in the chase, and that four men were arrested on suspicion, but subsequently discharged. When Mr Warner left, two of the wounded men were in a very dangerous state, but hopes were entertained of their recovery. Such a premeditated and sanguinary outrage has been hitherto without record in the criminal annals of the Colony, and it is to be sincerely hoped that the blood stained wretches who could plot and perpetrate an act of such daring and magnitude will soon be in the hands of justice.’

It will be seen from the above report how completely Mr Warner’s troopers fell into the ambush laid for them, by all congregating around the cart where it pulled up at the obstruction across the road, this bringing themselves under the close fire of their assailants. Mr Warner appears to have been ahead out of the zone of fire, but, as was shown later, the sergeant halted at or near the mia mia, endeavouring by signs to the driver to direct him towards another track. The lesson of this tragedy was not lost on the officers of the Government Gold Escort, for it became the invariable rule that on a signal from the advance guard, every man should halt in his place. It was not practicable therefore, in those days of short-range weapons, to ambush a line of troopers extending for two hundred yards or so.

There were considerable rewards offered by the Government and the Escort Company, and some arrests were made of men who were afterwards discharged, but it was not until some three weeks later that the Melbourne detectives got close on to the real culprits by the arrest of a man named John Francis, on August 11 th, on board the ship Madagascar, in Hobson’s Bay, about to sail for England. John Francis made a confession involving his brother George and others. This man, George Francis, was arrested at Jeffries’ Station on the Campaspe a few days later by Cadet William Symons, and, as he was being conveyed to Melbourne , committed suicide. Finally the following men were convicted before Mr. Justice Williams on September, 1853, George (better known as Captain) Melville, defended by Mr Michie; George Wilson, defended by Mr Ireland; and William Atkins, defended by Mr Fellowes, and were executed on Monday, October 3rd.


In The Argus of October 10 th, 1910 , appears an article by B G, under the title, ‘A Mystery of the fifties.’ The writer referring to the ship Madagascar , which never reached her destination, says that the vessel had a large quantity of gold on board, and goes on to relate a very interesting story: ‘A woman when dying in New Zealand called a clergymen to her bedside, and told him, years afterwards, how the ship had been robbed and scuttled off the coast of South America . She said that the captain and officers had been murdered by a mutinous crew and some of the passengers, that the ship was robbed and set fire to. Six on those on board escaped, but contracted fever and succumbed.”

One of the passengers by this ill-fated ship, but assuredly not a mutineer, was Connell W McNamara, one of my fellow cadets at Ballarat. McNamara was a Dublin attorney. He had been placed by Superintendent Henry Foster in charge of the watch-house there. Many of the prisoners who passed through his hands never took the trouble to call for any valuables left in his care, and thus all such unconsidered trifles became part of Mc’s perquisites and with his savings left him, as he informed me, with a tidy little nest-egg after a few months’ service. ‘There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.’

A few words only remain to be added. None of the guard of the escort were mortally wounded; and there were no just grounds so far as I can see for attributing, as was done at the time, want of proper spirit to Mr Warner or his



The majority of the diggers on Ballarat were English and Scotch, but there was a considerable leaven of Yankees and Canadians, many of whom had been the rough and lawless life on the Californian mines in the Forties. These later were on the whole I think self-respecting fellows, perhaps not liking restraint over-much, certainly not bearing it with the quiet patience of the ordinary Britisher. I remember that because of their aloofness they were under suspicion by the local authorities until they were better understood.

There was also the Irish element, whether native-born or Yankeefied, against the government always, but ineffective for good or ill without leaders. They were at times troublesome on account of their readiness to quarrel among themselves, and, if they had the weight of numbers on their side, to encroach on the rights of others. Taking all these nationalities together, there was a steadily-growing discontent difficult to describe. It showed itself in a sort of sullenness of demeanour, and an increasing estrangement that gave the local authorities considerable concern. The authorities, both Gold Commissioners and Police with very few exceptions, were performing all their duties with the utmost uprightness and discretion; of this the diggers have been aware. If it were otherwise matters would much sooner have come to a head. This feeling of dissatisfaction was of steady growth. I do not, however, pretend to explain all the features of the situation; I desire only to show that the local officers were between the upper millstone of a stubborn and unwise central Government, and the nether millstone of a righteously dissatisfied community.

The first display of resistance of any seriousness occurred in February, 1854, and arose out of a case in which Commissioner James Johnstone, one of the most capable amongst the officers, had awarded a certain claim to a small party of diggers after a full hearing of both sides. The defeated claimants were Irish, and they threatened, in the presence of the Commissioner, to drive out the successful party. Johnstone was a sturdy resolute fellow, and was determined that his award should stand. A squad of police, of whom I was in charge, was sent to the ground to protect those in possession at all hazards. The claim was on Ballarat flat, within easy view of the police camp—somewhere near the spot on which the Alfred Hall now stands, and as the hours passed without any sign of trouble we began to think that the Irishmen had changed their mind, rather than risk an attack so close to the Camp. They were only collecting their forces, for in the afternoon a large body of them, probably two hundred or more, rushed down upon us with shouts and yells. The men in possession picked up their tools ready to run away, but the police insisted that one at least should remain in the shaft which had been just begun, to represent the ownership of the claim. One of the Irishmen jumped into the shaft, it was only three or four feet in depth—and was arrested. Then the trouble began. The crowd did all they could to rescue him. They pelted us with clods and bottles, and we should certainly have been overpowered, the pressure on the constables being so great they could not use their batons, their only weapons, had there not been a sudden pistol shot, followed by one of the constables going down wounded. Thus so startled the crowd that they broke up and scattered, leaving the police and their prisoner alone without further interference. The explanation of the shot was this: The constable who was wounded had secreted a pistol under his tunic, and being hard pressed had attempted to draw it, and by accident discharged the weapon into his own leg.


In those early days men marked out their own claims by driving in a peg at each corner of a four-sided figure, square or otherwise, containing or supposed to contain so many square yards to each member of their party. The measurement was roughly done, and was often inexact, overlapping perhaps part of an adjoining claim. The amount of ground allowed to a party was, if I recollect aright, different on different leads. On Golden Point, Ballarat, the claims were very small, for the lead was rich, and the known run of good ground limited. Pegs were sometimes surreptitiously moved, and under the circumstances disputes were necessarily frequent. All such disputes were settled by the Gold Commissioner of the division who took evidence on the ground, and after hearing both sides gave his decision usually at once. These open-air courts generally attracted a crowd of interested listeners. Every decision was in the discretion of the Commissioner, and virtually there was no appeal. The supposed money value of many claims was considerable, but I never heard it suggested that the Commissioner ever gave an unfair or partial judgment.


In spite of a certain amiability of character that my fellow countrymen are credited with, they are capable at times of as great savagery as any uncivilized blackfellow, even against men of their own race. No one knew this better than good old Father Dowling of Brown Hill, the pioneer minister of any denomination at Ballarat in the early fifties. He often appeared heartbroken at the iniquities of his flock. The following is one of any examples of their ill-doing. Martin Dwyer, one of the early miners on Ballarat, found himself one day in the clutches of a party of his fellow-countrymen who had some grudge against him. After debating a while, they decided to drop him down a deep shaft on the Eureka flat. This they did, and then sat down and lit their pipes. It so happened that Dwyer found himself at the bottom of the shaft without any serious injury. After recovering himself a little he contrived to clamber up to the surface, and to his horror found his foes ready for him again. His pleas for mercy were disregarded; they dropped him in again and there left him to die. Dwyer did not escape so well this time, for his clothes were torn to shreds, and he was badly bruised all over. It seems marvellous that he was not killed outright. He waited until night came and then worked his way by the foot holes once more to the surface. This was the substance of evidence given before the court, at which the offenders were convicted



The majority of the diggers on Ballarat were English and Scotch, but there was a considerable leaven of Yankees and Canadians, many of whom had been the rough and lawless life on the Californian mines in the Forties. These later were on the whole I think self-respecting fellows, perhaps not liking restraint over-much, certainly not bearing it with the quiet patience of the ordinary Britisher. I remember that because of their aloofness they were under suspicion by the local authorities until they were better understood.

There was also the Irish element, whether native-born or Yankeefied, against the government always, but ineffective for good or ill without leaders. They were at times troublesome on account of their readiness to quarrel among themselves, and, if they had the weight of numbers on their side, to encroach on the rights of others. Taking all these nationalities together, there was a steadily-growing discontent difficult to describe. It showed itself in a sort of sullenness of demeanour, and an increasing estrangement that gave the local authorities considerable concern. The authorities, both Gold Commissioners and Police with very few exceptions, were performing all their duties with the utmost uprightness and discretion; of this the diggers have been aware. If it were otherwise matters would much sooner have come to a head. This feeling of dissatisfaction was of steady growth. I do not, however, pretend to explain all the features of the situation; I desire only to show that the local officers were between the upper millstone of a stubborn and unwise central Government, and the nether millstone of a righteously dissatisfied community.

The first display of resistance of any seriousness occurred in February, 1854, and arose out of a case in which Commissioner James Johnstone, one of the most capable amongst the officers, had awarded a certain claim to a small party of diggers after a full hearing of both sides. The defeated claimants were Irish, and they threatened, in the presence of the Commissioner, to drive out the successful party. Johnstone was a sturdy resolute fellow, and was determined that his award should stand. A squad of police, of whom I was in charge, was sent to the ground to protect those in possession at all hazards. The claim was on Ballarat flat, within easy view of the police camp—somewhere near the spot on which the Alfred Hall now stands, and as the hours passed without any sign of trouble we began to think that the Irishmen had changed their mind, rather than risk an attack so close to the Camp. They were only collecting their forces, for in the afternoon a large body of them, probably two hundred or more, rushed down upon us with shouts and yells. The men in possession picked up their tools ready to run away, but the police insisted that one at least should remain in the shaft which had been just begun, to represent the ownership of the claim. One of the Irishmen jumped into the shaft, it was only three or four feet in depth—and was arrested. Then the trouble began. The crowd did all they could to rescue him. They pelted us with clods and bottles, and we should certainly have been overpowered, the pressure on the constables being so great they could not use their batons, their only weapons, had there not been a sudden pistol shot, followed by one of the constables going down wounded. Thus so startled the crowd that they broke up and scattered, leaving the police and their prisoner alone without further interference. The explanation of the shot was this: The constable who was wounded had secreted a pistol under his tunic, and being hard pressed had attempted to draw it, and by accident discharged the weapon into his own leg.


In those early days men marked out their own claims by driving in a peg at each corner of a four-sided figure, square or otherwise, containing or supposed to contain so many square yards to each member of their party. The measurement was roughly done, and was often inexact, overlapping perhaps part of an adjoining claim. The amount of ground allowed to a party was, if I recollect aright, different on different leads. On Golden Point, Ballarat, the claims were very small, for the lead was rich, and the known run of good ground limited. Pegs were sometimes surreptitiously moved, and under the circumstances disputes were necessarily frequent. All such disputes were settled by the Gold Commissioner of the division who took evidence on the ground, and after hearing both sides gave his decision usually at once. These open-air courts generally attracted a crowd of interested listeners. Every decision was in the discretion of the Commissioner, and virtually there was no appeal. The supposed money value of many claims was considerable, but I never heard it suggested that the Commissioner ever gave an unfair or partial judgment.


In spite of a certain amiability of character that my fellow countrymen are credited with, they are capable at times of as great savagery as any uncivilized blackfellow, even against men of their own race. No one knew this better than good old Father Dowling of Brown Hill, the pioneer minister of any denomination at Ballarat in the early fifties. He often appeared heartbroken at the iniquities of his flock. The following is one of any examples of their ill-doing. Martin Dwyer, one of the early miners on Ballarat, found himself one day in the clutches of a party of his fellow-countrymen who had some grudge against him. After debating a while, they decided to drop him down a deep shaft on the Eureka flat. This they did, and then sat down and lit their pipes. It so happened that Dwyer found himself at the bottom of the shaft without any serious injury. After recovering himself a little he contrived to clamber up to the surface, and to his horror found his foes ready for him again. His pleas for mercy were disregarded; they dropped him in again and there left him to die. Dwyer did not escape so well this time, for his clothes were torn to shreds, and he was badly bruised all over. It seems marvellous that he was not killed outright. He waited until night came and then worked his way by the foot holes once more to the surface. This was the substance of evidence given before the court, at which the offenders were convicted


When the Eureka affair occurred I was in Melbourne , and was attached to the A Division, of which the headquarters were on the south side of Flinders Street , almost directly opposite St Paul ’s Church. I do not know that any writer of the history of those early days has at all realized the extent and gravity of the feeling of the citizens of Melbourne in opposition to the Government of which Sir Charles Hotham was the head. I have looked out from the barrack windows on a great mass of the men collected on the open ground on which the Cathedral buildings and the Gas Company’s Offices now stand. The crowd was composed of well to do people, addressed by some of the leading citizens of the time. Fortunately, these were not hot headed and reckless agitators. But they were none the less determined to make known their grievances and to demand wiser and better treatment from the Government, for town and country alike. I do not know how it came to be my lot at the age of twentyone, to be placed in charge of a large body of armed police kept carefully out of side, however, within the barracks. There probably was not one person in the whole meeting who knew that, just across the street, there was this company of armed men, ready to turn out in case of any outbreak of violence of serious disorder. Happily the meeting broke up quietly. I am unable to give from personal knowledge the full story of this movement in Melbourne, but I know that the Government regarded it very seriously. Immediately on the adoption by the Government of a new and wiser policy the whole trouble ended.


 When I took up work in Melbourne as a Junior Sub-Inspector, in May 1854, I found Superintendent S E Freeman, father of our Colonel Freeman, busy in the task of organising a police force for the City. Freeman had arrived from London some months earlier in charge of a detachment of fifty trained men from the London police service. Freeman himself had had many years training in that best of all schools. He met with difficulties from the start; he was expected to organise the City Police on semi military lines, a futile notion as he well knew; but his chief difficulty lay in the quality of the junior officers with whom he was supplied. Most of these were brought to Melbourne to be under Freeman’s control, having already proved themselves in other districts hopelessly careless and inefficient. They were all considerably older than myself. Every one of these came to grief in later years; and if it had not been for Freeman’s fatherly consideration and kindness very probably my own fate would have been no better. From his example and precepts I learned the first principles of the obligations of duty. He had brought the proper methods of police work to a fine art. Those officers who submitted to his teaching found their work no longer irksome and tedious. To be commended by Freeman made one’s duty a real pleasure.

The defining of the ‘beats’ of the city, the division of duties, the system of discipline and oversight, and almost every item of every merit in the methods of city police work of to-day, are the fruits of Freeman’s teaching. It was soon found that other states were glad to get officers and men trained under Freeman to help in the organization of their own services.


Captain Charles Macmahon resigned the office of Chief Commissioner in 1858, and was succeeded by Captain F C Standish. In a later chapter I shall attempt to speak more in detail of the characteristics of these and other chiefs. The change did not work well for Freeman. Captain Standish was a man of fashion, while Freeman was a plain man, finding his main pleasure in his daily duties. The new Chief could exercise a very sound judgment with matters which had an interest for him, but he was not interested in Freeman, and he failed altogether in estimating the good work the latter had done and was still able to do. Freeman was set aside to make room for an officer who, though a gentleman and a nice pleasant fellow, had not the knowledge of police work that Freeman had.

My relations with Freeman during the two years and over that I served under him were very pleasant. I was ready to learn, and he was just as willing to teach. His zeal for the work that he loved so well was infectious, and I spent many profitable hours with him in his own quarters, when the work of the day was over. I fancy he must have regarded this as a kind of ‘rescue’ work by which to detach an inexperienced youth from over-much association with older men whom he considered careless and indifferent about their duties. Altogether for me things were going very pleasantly, for in 1856, Melbourne had become a tolerably agreeable place, for people had formed settled homes, and much of the discomfort of earlier days had passed away. The Collins Street ‘Block’ had become an institution; and there, and at Batman’s Hill, where the regimental band played in the afternoons, one met all the elite of the period. The male dandies preponderated greatly, and the few belles of the day were of course in great request. These numbered no more than half-a-dozen perhaps, one of the prettiest of whom, in the weeds of her second widowhood, looks to-day nearly as charming as she did fifty years ago.

It was while ‘doing the Block’ one day that Mr Edmund Fosbery, then on the staff of the Chief Commissioner, in later year himself head of the New South Wales Police, informed me that orders had gone out for my transfer to Beechworth. He softened the unwelcomed news by telling me that I was selected for some specially responsible work there. This was on my old friend Freeman’s recommendation, as I found later, and was a special mark of his goodwill.


The liquor laws and their administration have always been a difficulty, and it may be worth while, before closing this portion of my career in Melbourne , to say a few words on the subject:-

The Licensing Act 13 Victoria No 29 was in force when I was first called to perform duty in Melbourne in 1854. This Act contained many strict provisions for good order to be maintained in all places where the sale of liquor was permitted. It may be that these provisions were somewhat ahead of public opinion – at any rate, they came to be more honoured in the breach than in the observance – and there were many public houses in Melbourne, at the time I speak of, and indeed for some years yet to come, into which no decent man could safely enter. I do not know that the police were altogether to blame for this. The most they could do was to summon the licensee before the justices. But a licensee who could turn over fifty or a hundred pounds in one day’s sales cared little for a fine of a few pounds so long as he felt that his license was not in danger. It was not until many years later that the powers of the police were made effective, when cancellation of the licence followed repeated convictions, and when the licensing courts were no longer conducted by honorary justices but by special officers.

I think it was in 1855 that I first witnessed the proceedings of a licensing court under the old Act. It was in the old Police Court in Swanston Street , at the time when every honorary J P had the right to vote. The whole thing had become a scandal. The bench was crowded with honoraries; some overflowed into the body of the Court and into the corridors, until there was scarce room for the lawyers and officers of the Court. In the centre was E P S Sturt, Police Magistrate, like Lot in Sodom , his righteous soul vexed at the whole proceedings.

I do not assert that the honorary justices, or any great proportion of them, were corrupt, but it is a fact that very many of them never made their appearance in the Court except on the occasion of the Annual Licensing. These proceedings were the great harvest-home of the lawyers. The late Albert Read has told me that he came away from a single sitting with seven hundred pounds in his pocket as his share of the gleanings of the rich harvest, the moneys that he did not spend in securing votes. Probably the late Frank Stephen, senior, Read’s chief competitor in the Court, made an equally good haul.

Of course, under such a system, the fitness of the applicant was not considered, neither was the public interest or convenience. Every man whose house stood at the corner of two streets considered that he was entitled to a license, and were it not that a bitter strife existed between those who already held licenses and those who did not but desired to obtain them, the Licensing Reduction Board of the present day would have a much bigger job on its hands.


It had been a season of floods, and the rivers in the North-eastern district were running very high. I had been quite ready for the journey of 170 miles to Beechworth for some weeks, but the Chief Commissioner, Captain Macmahon, decided that my departure from Melbourne should be delayed until the waters had gone down. The Chief, however, did not like to see any of his staff idle, and therefore put me to a course of mounted drill under Inspector Octavius Skinner Burton, an old officer from the Austrian service who had the oversight of such matters at the Richmond depot at the time.

The Beechworth gold escort, however, had to keep to its time-table regardless of floods, and had a very bad time amongst the backwaters of the Ovens River near Wangaratta. One trooper was drowned, and for some weeks afterwards a circuitous route via the Woolshed and Eldorado Valley had to be followed, so as to avoid the flooded country. The body of the unfortunate trooper was never recovered, but many years later, when the Shire Council were removing gravel from the flat, his boot and spur were found embedded in the bank.

In October, 1856, I started in company with the Beechworth return gold escort, of which my friend Inspector G—– was in command. It was a six days’ journey on horseback, and would have been altogether pleasant but that I found my friend G—– not so temperate in his habits as when I first knew him. The stress of those early days, as he acknowledged with tears in his eyes, had been too much for him, as it had been for too many other promising young fellows. When we parted it was with assurances that he would strive against his fault. The last I heard of my friend, some years after, was that he was found dead beside his bed in the attitude of prayer.

My first work on reaching Beechworth was to accompany the Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard Macdonnell, as a kind of police Aide-de-Camp in his tour through the district. The Governor and Lady Blanche, accompanied by Mr Beresford as private secretary, had come with the first steamer—the City of Melbourne, I think it was—that had ever made the trip to Albury. Captain Cadell had piloted them past the many shoals and snags. Cadell will be remembered as the pioneer of Murray navigation. The land tour was made on horseback, and the Governor, in his impetuous way, often dashed along ahead, leaving Lady Blanche and myself to bring up the rear-guard. Lady Blanche was a sweet, gentle creature, and seemed to me to bear with angelic patience the harsh temper of her lord.

Amongst the Beechworth police officers in 1856 was Francis Hare, in later years connected with the pursuit of the Kelly Gang of bushrangers. Hare was a native of Cape Colony , where his father, a retired military officer, had settled. When I first met Hare he looked a stripling – tall, lank, and ungainly. I soon found that he was full of enterprise and dash, clever and self confident, at this time ambitious only to excel as a police officer. Highway robberies were still frequent, and each reported case set Hare’s blood coursing through his veins as he started out in pursuit. He was seldom successful, but not through want of trying; rather, I think, through want of those practical, if less brilliant, qualities that stand for so much in every calling.


In those days, Beechworth was regarded as the Ultima Thule of North eastern Victorian. On its north-eastern and eastern sides it was hemmed in by mountain chains that extended right across to Omeo and Northern Gippsland, their few passes known only to a small band of horse stealers who had their homes in some of the rugged ranges near Omeo, and carried on their business under the leadership of a well known man named ‘Bogong Jack’ . Their methods were simple enough. They collected the best of the studs of such breeders as Edward Crook, Robert Firebrace, and William Pearson of Gippsland, drove the horses across the mountains into North eastern Victoria and Riverina, and, having disposed of them, returned, not empty by any means, but with the best mob of horses they could collect in these districts; and so the game went on. A smart sergeant of police named Reid, stationed at Omeo, managed to get a knowledge of the plans of ‘Bogong Jack’ and his friends and broke up the combine. This, however, was the work of later years.


I first became acquainted with Robert O’Hara Burke in 1854, and a little later, when at Beechworth together, we became firm friends. Although there was something like thirteen years’ difference in age between us, I was one of the privileged few (for Burke was not a man of many friends) to be admitted to anything like intimacy with him. Disparity in age had probably something to do with his kindly feelings towards me, for it seemed a pleasure to him to draw me out and listen to my simple talk about things that then interested me most.

Burke had many eccentric ways. In regard to dress and to his personal appearance he utterly disregarded fashion. I do not think he possessed a dress suit, nor even a white shirt. I know that he had to borrow from me a ‘jumper’ and other articles of uniform, when leading out an escort to meet Sir Henry Barkly, the then Governor, on his first visit to Beechworth. Although there were several old cavalrymen in the cavalcade, none looked so soldier-like as Burke. His ordinary dress was a slouched hat, short sac coat, without vest, flying open to the breeze, baggy trousers without braces and turned up at the heels, and slippers. He sometimes appeared on horseback in this fashion while drilling the mounted police, who, whatever they might think of their officer’s turn-out, soon discerned that they had a competent and strict instructor. It was this sort of thing that led many people misjudge Burke. They failed to see that, below the surface, there was much vigorous common sense, and thorough knowledge of official work.

Burke’s eccentricity showed itself in other ways. At one time he fancied he was growing too stout, so he insisted that Sarah, the very respectable middle-aged woman who kept house for him, should spend no more than sixpence a day on his food. This arrangement did not last very long. Another trouble Sarah had was how to dodge Burke when he was coming from his bath. His practice was to call for breakfast when drying himself. This he commonly did when standing at one end of the passage, while Sarah stood at the other taking his orders. Matters went all right until Burke, who was absent-minded, proceeded to rub his back and shoulders with the towel. The ordinary ‘tub’ in vogue in those days was not sufficient for Burke, who was as fond of water as a retriever and longed for room to splash about in. He persuaded a working man of his acquaintance to construct a bathing place near the camp. This was done by sinking a pit 12ft square, and about 10ft deep, when the solid rock was reached. Some two feet of water collected here, and Burke might be seen sitting in it reading a book, his only covering, like that of the African traveller, being a helmet and several mosquitoes. This luxury he had to give up after a time, as the water became slimy. I believe this pit is still known as ‘Burke’s folly.’

A burlesque opera company, in which Miss Julia Matthews took the leading part, visited Beechworth about 1858. Burke attended every performance, and ended by falling over head and ears in love with the prima donna. He made love to the mother for her daughter’s sake, and followed the company from one town to another, pressing his suit without success. Over fifty years have passed, and one cannot help wondering how many old playgoers remain who remember the buxom and sprightly actress; and, if the lady is still living, whether her pretty brown hair has turned to grey, and whether she ever indulges in a kindly thought of the hero who flung himself at her feet.

After this disappointment Burke returned to Beechworth, believing that life had no further good in store for him. He laid bare his wounded heart before his friends, who were disposed to laugh at his grief. He bought a piano and took daily lessons from a little German teacher, so that he might learn to play the airs Julia used to sing. His quarters were close to mine. I was then married. Burke suddenly remembered that an auspicious event was daily expected in my family, and that his constant practice on the piano might cause annoyance. He could not, however, give up the luxury of soothing his grief by playing the music with which his loved one was associated, so he compromised the matter by covering up his piano with all the blankets and rugs he could lay hands on. When a son was born to me, Burke was the very first to inquire after the welfare of mother and child; and when I brought the baby boy out in my arms for him to see he kissed him, and, turning away with tears in his eyes, said, ‘Ah, if I had such ties as you have, I think I should be a happier and better man.’

In spite of the disregard he commonly showed of the ways of fashionable life, Burke was a well-bred gentleman and quite at home amongst people of the best class; but he was easily provoked by pretentiousness or sham of any kind. When dancing once with a lady of fashion, who was putting on airs, and speaking disparagingly of others in the room as having come to the colony to seek their fortune, he very bluntly remarked, ‘Why, my dear Mrs. G—, did not you and I come out here because we could not get so good a living at home?’


I had gone through a special course of drill before going to Beechworth, and was in fact sent there in order to get the foot police into shape. It was considered the proper thing in those days to use strong language to men who were slow in learning the necessary movements, on the same principle, I suppose, that a bullock-driver thinks he cannot get his team to put their full power into their work unless he swears at them. At any rate, when I was drilling a squad of men, one of them, a big round-shouldered fellow, a carpenter by trade, could not ‘keep dress’ with the others. He came in for his full share of reproof that day. Walter Butler, afterwards Commissioner and Warden at Wood’s Point and Grant, was in the barrack-square looking on. When the men had dispersed he came over, and said, in his blandest manner: ‘You are a very smart young fellow; but you must find this kind of work very trying to your temper.’ I said: Yes, it is trying when one dull fellow sets the whole thing wrong.’ ‘Well’, he replied, ‘if I were that man I know what I should do.’ I said: ‘I suppose you would hold yourself up straight.’ ‘No’, said he; ‘I should give you one in the eye for the severe language you used.’ While Butler and I were having a warm argument Burke came on the scene, and, to my confusion, took sides against me. I do not think I have ever since spoken a harsh word to any man who erred through dulness. Not that this particular recruit was dull in other ways, for he afterwards proved himself to be a very efficient constable and sergeant of police, and I was glad to find him in charge of one of the principal stations in Melbourne , when I took charge of the City in 1883.

Burke was somewhat of a democrat as things went in those early days. In church he took his seat often amongst the constables, reading out of the same book with the man nearest him, for, of course, he had no prayer-book of his own.


When any important police work had to be done, calling for the exercise of sound judgment, Burke was never found wanting. Besides serving in an Austrian hussar regiment, he had had some years’ experience in the R I constabulary. I was much struck with the way in which he acted on the occasion of what was known as the Buckland riots. These disturbances, which have nearly passed out of recollection, occurred in 1857, and seemed very serious at the time. The European population at Buckland secretly made their plans for driving away all the Chinese, and chose their opportunity on a day when all the police, excepting one constable, were at Beechworth, sixty miles distant. The diggings were in a deep gorge, through which the Buckland River ran, and at the head of this gorge the Europeans – with them I include some few Americans – formed line, driving the Chinese before them as if they were so many sheep. The Chinese were so scared that, in hurrying over the narrow logs that formed the only crossings, several fell into the river and were drowned.

There had been serious disturbances in the Ovens district some time before, and when news of the Buckland trouble reached Beechworth the principal magistrate, Matthew Price, a very excitable man and exceedingly overbearing, was for proceeding against all the Europeans on the field – a thousand or more. He issued sheaves of warrants for the arrest of persons neither named nor described. Burke, who understood the situation better, stood out vigorously against this proceeding, and somewhat of a feud arose between the two officers. Burke kept the warrants in his pocket, and had only those men arrested who had shown violence towards the Chinese. It happened that I knew one, Yankee Bill, whom I found sitting in front of Wallace’s Hotel in Ford Street . Bill was big enough to eat me up, but when I put my hand on his shoulder and told him he was wanted he followed me to the police camp like a lamb. It is certain that Burke’s conduct in the affair prevented a serious conflict between the authorities and the miners. Mr W H Gaunt, later a County Court Judge, then a goldfields commissioner at Woolshed Creek, was sent to take up his residence at the Buckland, and, under his firm and judicious rule, order was soon established. Mr Gaunt not only restored order, but insisted on the Chinese, or as many of them as could be collected, being allowed to resume their claims in peace. A proclamation issued by him wound up with the words – ‘obey and tremble!’

Other difficult cases might be quoted in which Burke showed similar capacity and sound judgment. Some time after his difficulty with the police magistrate he had an opportunity of revenging himself on the latter, who continued to be unfriendly, if he had so desired. It came to his knowledge that the magistrate had peculiar financial relations with one of the district pound-keepers. The evidence was not quite clear enough for a prosecution, and Burke, instead of making the matter public, gave intimation to the magistrate that the improper practices should cease. The magistrate took fright and cleared out of Victoria .

The story of Buckland riots cannot properly be told without some reference to Constable Duffy, who had to stand alone between the rioters and their Chinese victims. With many hundreds of determined men opposed to him, and without any hope of help, a solitary constable might well have been excused had he left the rioters to themselves. Duffy, however, kept facing them through the two or three miles of gorge, exhorting, beseeching, threatening by turns, as long as the pursuit lasted; and through his evidence alone was it possible to bring any of the offenders to justice. In the subsequent trial, he underwent one of the most severe cross-examinations that I ever witnessed, at the hands of Mr Townsend McDermott, counsel for the defence, without his evidence being in any degree shaken.


No one who knew Burke so well as I did could resist his charm of manner towards his friends, nor fail to recognise his many good qualities, but though my friendship of him led me to offer to join him in the expedition he was appointed to lead across Australia, I never could see that he was fitted to be the sole responsible leader in such an enterprise. His answer to my offer was brief but decisive- ‘You have got to look after your wife and children. You cannot come.’ Burke’s qualifications were a well knit frame, a brave heart, and a chivalrous spirit that would ensure thorough loyalty to friends and companions in any circumstances of danger or difficulty; but he had no knowledge whatever of the resources by which an experienced bushman might find a living in an Australian desert. If there is any such thing as the ‘bump of locality’ , it was not developed in him, for he was continually losing his way in his short trips about Beechworth. As second in command under a bushman like Landsborough, Burke would have been in his right place. It is a curious fact, too, that his companion, Wills, was deficient in the same respect. Yet, what a marvellous journey was that from Cooper’s Creek to Carpentaria and back! It was a rash undertaking, perhaps, but with what splendid courage and endurance it was accomplished! It was easy for critics to find fault in the action of Burke’s party on their return to the depot. They arrived there naked and worn out, in the full expectation of meeting aid and welcome from friends; instead of which they found themselves, as they thought, absolutely abandoned to their fate. Their judgment might have failed them, their courage never did, when they struck out on that fatal detour towards South Australia , hoping to find in that direction the relief which they supposed their friends had denied them at the appointed meeting place.



It was during my stay in Beechworth district that the Indigo diggings were discovered. A week or two before, I had ridden over the place without seeing anyone but a solitary shepherd; and then in so short a time there had collected some fourteen thousand people there, among them, of course, the usual sprinkling of bad hats.

One morning a German gardener was found lying murdered on the road. After selling his produce, he had been seen driving his team towards his home on the previous evening. There was no clue to the murderer. Some arrests were made on suspicion, and while inquiries were being carried on a man named Ryan, known to the police as a drunken Tasmanian convict, kept coming to the police camp repeating continually that the wrong men had been arrested. This he did day after day, until Superintendent P Le P Bookey, who had taken O’Hara Burke’s place, caused Ryan to be run into the lock-up with no other purpose than to keep him out of the way. But this did not keep Ryan silent, for he would persist in repeating that the men arrested were not guilty, but that certain two men who had passed through Indigo about the time of the murder were the real perpetrators. Ryan described the men, and said that they were travelling towards McCrae’s Punt, now known as Shepparton. These men were found, and, fortunately for themselves, were able to establish an alibi. Then suspicion fell on Ryan himself, and one night while he was in the lock-up he was seized with hysteria, and, thinking that he was dying, admitted his guilt, related the whole circumstances, and in due course was hanged. Some years later when visiting the Waxworks in Melbourne I saw the figure representing Ryan there. Its extraordinarily life-like resemblance was startling.


The fortnightly escort took away as many as twenty-thousand ounces on a single trip. I have related elsewhere the precautions taken by the police against any surprise attacks. The McIvor escort tragedy has been described. This experience was not lost on the police; and though reports of intended attacks were frequent, no attempt to interfere with our regular police escorts was ever made.

Apart however from any danger of this kind while travelling on the roads, the manner of stowing away the treasure at night, at some of the halting places, was the cause of some anxiety to myself and other officers in charge of gold escorts. At Wangaratta and Benalla, both halting places for the night, the doors of the rooms in which the treasure was placed had not even a latch. The boxes containing the gold were kept in the officers’ sleeping room, and my practice before turning in, was to place a number of these against the door, so that it could not be forced without my being disturbed – scarcely adequate security for some eighty thousand pounds’ worth of treasure. One felt, however, at theclose of each trip that ‘All’s well that ends well,’ and thought no more of the matter until the next time.

Another incident in my experience in the late ‘fifties shows that an escort officer’s lot was not altogether a happy one.

The gold receiver at Beechworth, Mr Melmoth Hall, had handed me over a certain number of boxes said to contain gold, and for which he obtained my receipt. These boxes were secured by counter sunk screws, over which were placed seals bearing the office stamp. The police responsibility ceased when the boxes were delivered over at the Treasury in Melbourne , with seals unbroken. This was done, but on examination of the contents by the Treasury a parcel of about one hundred ounces of gold was missing. O’Hara Burke, who was then in charge of the district, took an active part in the inquiry, and came to the conclusion that the missing parcel had never been despatched from the receiving office. Mr Hall shortly after retired from the public service, but the gold was never traced. The Government had of course to compensate the consignor. This was the only loss of the kind of any portion of the many millions of treasure entrusted to the police, which seems to me to be a very creditable record indeed.


Amongst the officials at Beechworth in my time was W H Drummond, Protector of Chinese. He had served with his regiment in India , and brought away from there some peculiar notions as to how people of eastern race could best be dealt with. There were many Chinese on the Beechworth diggings, who were occasionally troublesome, chiefly through fighting amongst themselves.

There was rather a serious disturbance one Sunday afternoon, to which I was called with such police as could be got together on short notice. The police began to separate the combatants, who were all Chinese, but Drummond, who was a very powerful fellow, followed his own method. He simply knocked down with a swinging blow on the jaw each Chinaman that came within his reach. When twitted afterwards on his methods as a ‘Protector’ of Chinese, he maintained that his system was the only effective one.


I have alluded on a previous page to a band of horse stealers in the Omeo district, but besides these were some others of a still more dangerous kind. Through some strange perversion of judgment the position of sergeant at Omeo was filled by one of the London police brought out by Superintendent Freeman, as already related. This sergeant had passed all his career in city work, at which he was an expert, but so far as bush lore went he would probably have lost himself in the few acres of ti-tree scrub that then covered Fisherman’s Bend. First class man as he was at his accustomed work, it was a cruel fate that set him to watch over criminals who knew no home but in the wilderness of the bush. It was precisely the same sort of error that in later days left the Kelly Gang of bushrangers unchecked in a long career of crime.

The miners at Omeo in 1859 were never so numerous as those at Ballarat or Beechworth, nor was the output of gold sufficient to require a fully equipped police escort. The local gold-buyers had therefore to take the risk of conveying their treasure to Bairnsdale, some seventy miles distant, over difficult roads and past many danger spots offering cover and concealment to an attacking party. A solitary constable was the extent of the official protection that could be furnished.

On the 4 th January, 1859, a gold buyer named Cornelius Green, accompanied by Miss Mutta, a lady returning to her friends in England, started from Omeo in the afternoon, intending to reach Burn’s Inn at Tongio Mungi, about twelve miles distant on the road to Barnsdale and Sale. Constable William Greene, a recent recruit, armed with a pair of old-fashioned single-barrelled horse pistols, constituted the sole police guard. The whole party was mounted, and Cornelius Green led a pack horse bearing about one thousand ounces of gold. He was a young man of considerable enterprise who had made Omeo his headquarters. The following is an extract from Constable Greene’s report:- ‘When we got within one and a half miles of the Tongio Mungi Hotel we had to pass through a steep gully, with scrub on both sides of the road. When within about two hundred yards from the gully three men rode out of it, named George Chamberlain, William Armstrong and George Penny. A fourth man rode in an opposite direction. I did not know any of them at the time, as I had been only a short time at Omeo. They joined our party, and seemed to be on friendly terms with Mr Green and Miss Mutta. I rode on for about fifty yards and waited until our party joined me, the others going in the direction of Omeo.

In going through the scrub that the strangers had just left Mr Green remarked to me that it was the kind of place he would be most afraid of; but that there was no danger, as he had brought down gold several times before, and was never molested.’ He also said: ; ‘This is my last trip with gold.’ In a short time after, we reached the Inn at Tongio Mungi, where we stopped for the night. I slept in the same room with Mr Green. The gold was placed on the floor between us. Mr Green remarked before we went to sleep that the man Armstrong, who was occasionally employed by him, whilst cleaning his revolver the previous day, had rendered it unserviceable.

We were joined at the Inn by a man named Somes Davis, a storekeeper from Swift’s Creek, and, as we intended going to his store in the morning to get orders, he stopped for the purpose of accompanying us to his place, about three miles distant.

We started from the hotel about nine in the morning, our party now consisting of Mr Green riding, and leading a pack-horse with the gold; Somes Davis, also riding and leading a horse; Miss Mutta, also riding; and I on horseback. Mr Green and Davis rode in advance, Miss Mutta and I about thirty yards behind. When we had travelled about two miles Mr Green called Miss Mutta to join him. She did so, and Davis joined me . . . . Immediately after I heard a shot, and, thinking it must have been Mr Green’s revolver that went off, I looked and saw Mr Green leaning forward in the saddle. I also saw a man on my right hand armed with a gun. I drew a holster pistol and fired at him, and he either fell or got behind a tree. I was then fired at from a tree on the left side, and was shot through both arms. I did not see the man who fired at me, for the tree was forked, with branches interlaced, but he must have been very near to me, as several slugs passed through my left arm, carrying strips of my jumper with them. A slug also entered my right wrist, and was held by the skin on the opposite side. Also a slug grazed the skin across my chest. My horse turned suddenly and galloped sixty or seventy yards and stopped. I was unable to do anything with him, as both my arms were useless. While the horse was standing I turned round as well as I could, and saw one man lying on the ground, and another standing over him. I saw a man present a gun in my direction and fire, when my horse galloped away and carried me back to the Inn from which we had started in the morning.’

At this stage Constable Greene became unconscious, while some good Samaritans bound up his wounds; but he was on his horse again in about a quarter of an hour, an old soldier named Cross leading the horse and steadying the constable in the saddle, while they made their way to the scene of the shooting. Cross was the only one of several men at the Inn who was game to do this. They found Mr. Green lying dead, fearfully mutilated. Later they made their way to Davis ’ store, where they found Davis and Miss Mutta, who had both been thrown from their horses. Davis had also been wounded. The horses, including the pack-horse that carried the gold, had all reached the store, and so the murderers gained nothing by their crime.

Warrants were issued for the two men Chamberlain and Armstrong, who, it will be remembered, had met the travellers in the gully leading to Tongio Mungi on the preceding evening. Armstrong was an associate of a man named Toake, a shanty-keeper at Cibbo, about thirty miles from Omeo, and to his place Chamberlain and Armstrong made their way. A large reward was offered for their arrest, and one day an aboriginal native employed by Toake came in with information as to their hiding- place. The police went out to find that the two men had left Toake’s, but the aboriginal took up their tracks, which led to a tree where the men were found concealed. They were subsequently tried and executed for their crime.

Constable Greene in another communication throws some light on a supposed tragedy connected with the disappearance of a man known as ‘Ballarat’ Harry. Again I shall allow the constable to tell his own tale. He says: – ‘Armstrong, after his arrest, made the following statement: ‘About two years ago Toake asked me to join him and a man named ‘Ballarat’ Harry, saying that Harry had £400 with him, and that they would go away prospecting, kill Harry and divide his money. I agreed, but at the last moment refused. Toake then said if you do not ‘split’ I will give you £100 on my return. Toake returned in about two weeks and gave me the money promised, and said that he had tomahawked Harry while he slept, burned the body, broke up the bones and scattered them about, and then set fire to the bush.’’ Constable Greene concludes this gruesome narrative of crime by adding: ‘It is quite true that Toake went out prospecting with Harry; that he had no money when he went; that he had plenty of money when he returned, and that ‘Ballarat’ Harry was never traced. Toake was charged with the murder of Harry, but was acquitted.” What became of Toake later I cannot say.

CHAPTER XI – BEECHWORTH in 1856 (cont.)


Beechworth, which later grew into such a pretty, well kept town, was in a very unfinished state when I saw it first in 1856. It was a long weary distance from Melbourne . It took me six days to make the journey on horseback. Our Church of England clergyman, who arrived about the same time, with wife and children, was much longer on the road, for he had to use a bullock dray.

The earliest banks were, I think, the Oriental, under the management of Falconer Larkworthy, who has been my life long friend, and is still living, and, the Bank of Victoria, under Stewart. The former did its business in a two roomed wooden cottage, and the Victoria in an equally unpretentious structure. But better banking buildings soon sprang up, besides fully equipped churches and hospital. There were no shops or private residences of any pretensions, and the Government quarters consisted of a row of slab huts lined with baize, designed in the shearers’ hut style of architecture. And yet Governors, Bishops, Deans, Judges, besides other illustrious visitors were somehow accommodated. There seemed to be no limit to the hospitality of the good people of Beechworth of those far away days.

The Government staff was not nearly so numerous as at Ballarat for economies had set in, but even then there was not work for all. There was one officer so incorrigibly idle that he could not be persuaded to do any work at all, so Satan, according to the proverb, found a job for him.

There was an elderly shanty-keeper at the Woolshed Creek commonly known as Mother Morrell. This old lady got into some trouble with the police and, not being quite sure about the solvency of the banks, handed her savings – some hundreds of pounds – to the Champion Idler for safe keeping while she was in retirement. Of course he speculated with the money; and equally of course lost it all. When, on her release, the facts were told to her she fainted, and on coming to again, picked up her bundle, and without one word of complaint started life afresh rather than bring her impudent friend into trouble. Mother Morrell’s shanty was well known in later years on Mount Lookout on the Omeo track, where it is hoped the game old lady throve as she deserved.

The country outside the mining centres was thinly inhabited, and one might ride twenty or more miles without getting sight even of any sort of habitation. I was one day travelling on the old track lying between Wodonga and Yackandandah, then very little used. It was a day of sweltering heat, and I was startled by hearing a woman’s cries for help as she rushed from the one solitary hut on this thirty-mile stretch of road. When I rode up she pointed to her husband, whose head and face were streaming blood, and told me that a few minutes before a naked man suddenly appeared at the door, stood there for an instant, snatched up a large water jug, and smashed it over the head of her husband as he sat, still weak and helpless after some severe illness. The naked man then ran through the hut, jumped the garden fence, striking the top rails with his shins, fell, and was up again and away. I followed in the direction in which the woman pointed, and after a short search found in the sandy flat the tracks of the man as he strode towards a creek; and a little farther, the man himself lying face downwards in about three feet of water. In those days people knew very little of the methods of reviving the apparently drowned. I certainly did lay the body face downwards and tried to empty it of water, but I asked myself at the time, and often thought since, what was the good of restoring a raving lunatic to life again? Had he recovered I should probably have had to shoot him to prevent further mischief. The story of this unhappy was man this:- He had been working with his mates in the early part of the day on their claim at Yackandandah; and the party, knocking off work at dinner-time, walked towards their tent. This man stopped on the way to tie his bootlace, as his friends supposed, and he was never seen again by them alive. He had stripped himself naked at the spot, and must have run stark naked in the blazing sun, in two hours, to the place twelve miles distant where he was found by me.


Judge Forbes, who with Judges Pohlman and Wrixon, constituted the County Court bench of those days, regularly visited Beechworth in the course of his judicial work. He began his circuit at Portland , near the extreme south-west corner of Victoria , and continued on through various intervening towns until he reached the north-eastern limits of his jurisdiction at Beechworth.

He invariably travelled on horseback, using, I believe, the same horse on all these journeys, a dappled brown cob. Many stories have been told of Forbes’ sardonic humour and biting sarcasm that spared neither counsel, nor juryman, nor prisoner. But he was a just and upright judge, and his sharp sayings have long since been forgotten – and forgiven too, I hope.

Judge Forbes’ brown cob, while called upon to undertake long journeys, was not required to exceed a fair average distance on any one day. The police, however, could not always regulate the work of their horses in this fashion, for they had to turn out often at unexpected calls. A batch of prisoners had escaped from the gaol at Kilmore. Constable Scanlon, afterwards murdered by the Kelly gang, and another trooper were sent out to intercept them if possible. These men, scouring the ranges about Molesworth and the Upper Goulburn , covered at least 100 miles in one day. Punch, Scanlon’s horse, bolted over the last mile on seeing another horse gallop past him. Punch became my troop-horse a little later after an attack of pleuro, from which he had apparently recovered, and noticing him one day to be distressed in going up a steep hill, I dismounted, put my ear to his windpipe, but could hear no air passing. Shortly after he reared up and fell dead. Such long journeys as I have described, and many other examples could be given, are possible on bush tracks only and not on metalled roads.


I do not know how the name Beechworth came to be applied to that granite barren ridge on which the town stands. To early diggers the place was known as ‘Spring Creek’ and ‘the Ovens’ diggings. The present population of the Beechworth municipality, estimated at 7,000, shows a great decline from the fifties, when there were some 30,000 to 40,000 persons. In 1858, besides the staff of ‘Camp’ officials – he only survivors of these being Mr W G Brett (Sheriff) and myself—there was a resident County Court Judge, Thomas Cope. Judge Forbes having at this time taken up other work. There were four barristers – Mayne, Keeffer, and two others whose names I have forgotten; there were several solicitors, of whom Messrs. Zinck and Young are the only two whose names I can recall; there were Doctors Crawford, Washington Murphy, Dempster, Hutchison, Homan. There were four banks – the Oriental, Victoria , New South Wales and Australasia . Though Beechworth presents at the present time somewhat of the ‘deserted village’ aspect, it will always have its attractions as a healthy bright summer resort. It may indeed once again recover something of its ancient prosperity, for it is difficult to believe that all its stores of gold have been exhausted by means of those shallow workings of earlier years.

The early diggers were a nomadic people. At the first report of some new ‘rush’ every man who was not on good gold, as the term was, struck tent and started for the new field. The diggers never regarded any place as home, and they moved easily from place to place, usually with all their lighter equipment such as tent bedding and their scanty wardrobe. Few had either wives nor children. Probably the average of their success as miners represented less than an ordinary labourer’s earnings at the present day. Many of those who got on good gold spent their profits recklessly enough, and so did no permanent good for themselves.

The estimated population of the mining district of which Beechworth was the centre was, as has been already stated, some thirty to forty thousand, which included few non-workers such as women and children; and taking the gold returns, as judged of by the amount sent by Government escort, to be equal to twenty thousand ounces per fortnight, which is a very high estimate, the earnings worked out at about £1 per head per week. Figures are, however, not my strong point, and I leave the matter here.

The miners did not affect church-going much, nor were they, I fancy, much given to support churches, and ministers of religion. They gave liberally towards hospitals for the sick, and were not regardless of the needs of fellow miners in distress. Beyond this no one thought of appealing to them. On the whole they may be regarded as pretty hard cases for the local clergy to deal with. There was no privacy in the lives of these men either at work or at play, nor even in their tent, for therein all the members of each party took their rest. I remember riding with the Church of England clergyman one day, when he tried to impress on some diggers the duty of church going, and the necessity of religious observance generally. The men seemed dazed; the idea had apparently not entered at all into their plan of life.

They were not uncivil, they simply stared and said nothing. A Sky Pilot like Ralph Connor might have worked his way into the hearts of these men. My clerical companion was not a Ralph Connor, but rather a high bred English gentleman, courteous but stately, who from being a cavalry officer became a parson rather late in life. He was a very rigid Calvinist, and in spite of sermons nearly an hour in length, his congregation was large; but no digger was ever seen within the church.

I regret that I cannot supply any pictorial sketches of early Beechworth, such as I have been able to give in my chapter on Ballarat in the early fifties. Not that the district was without its artist, for there was a very clever fellow named Eustace who painted some really exquisite bush scenes. He was of an easy going dreamy temperament, a student of Nature only, despising the works of men. Unfortunately his drawings were on eucalyptus leaves, the largest and roundest he could find and not on canvas, and no doubt have all perished long ago.

The sketch of Bontherambo homestead, as it was before the fifties, is the only of local historical interest that I can give. The portrait of myself in 1856, if of no other interest, shows the style of dress of a young man of the period. Everybody who was anybody used then to dress expensively, except men like O’Hara Burke and his friend and companion, Virginius Murray. Burke’s rig out has been already described, Murray ’s style was more eccentric than slovenly. He was a Gold Commissioner at Beechworth, and greatly amused the natives by riding in his kilt on a donkey through the diggings. Looking back in maturer years one’s extravagance in dress in early manhood makes one inclined to blush for money so wasted. My evil genius in this way was J B Milton, of Collins Street , whom most old colonists will remember as the fashionable tailor of the time. I never entered his shop that he did not measure me, nolens volens, for a new suit, but I must do him the credit of saying that his suits lasted good to the end, and he never pressed unseemly for payment. He had an artful way, however, of reorganising his firm in every two or three years, which meant that the debts due to the old firm had to be paid up. This sort of thing, I am certain, never troubled either Burke or Murray very much.

One has read of magistrates in olden times holding court in their stables. Murray used to hold his while he lay in bed. The parties to the suit, sitting outside his slab and baize-lined hut, having stated their respective cases, Murray, lying snug in bed, would give his decision without seeing or being seen by the persons concerned. It is said that his judgments were seldom questioned.

Henry Bowyer Lane was another magistrate and warden whom we frequently saw at Beechworth. His headquarters were at Yackandandah, some fifteen miles away, but as he had little or nothing to do at Yackandandah, he often found his way to Beechworth. He was Government Architect at Ballarat at the time of the Eureka trouble, and used to claim that the Government Camp there was saved by his skill in planing the defences. These defences consisted in lining the walls of the mess room with bags of oats and bales of hay, so that the officers could sit in some comfort and security at their meals, while being sniped by unfriendly diggers.

I have already alluded to the keenness of Frank Hare, who in my time was one of the junior police officers at Beechworth. Hare happened one day to be travelling by coach between Wangaratta and Benalla, when the mailman was found sitting disconsolate on the road side, his horse carried off and the mail bags cut open by a man who had stuck him up a few minutes before. Hare lost no time in starting in pursuit; he took out one of the coach horses and, mounting him bareback, scoured the country round but failed to find the thief, of whom something further will be told presently.

Hare had about this time another adventure which ended more successfully. He was spending the night at Dr Mackay’s house at Tarrawingie, and had just gone to bed in an outside room on the verandah, when he heard some person moving about near the front door, which was left unlocked, as was often the custom in country houses. While pulling on his cord riding pants, he saw a man enter by the door, and, as Hare followed, the man came rushing out into his arms, and then a long continued struggle between the two began. They rolled about on the flowerbeds, sometimes one on top, sometimes the other. At last Hare got his man under, and as he knelt astride of him he saw a drawn knife in his hand. Hare took hold of the man’s wrist with both hands to prevent him using the knife, when the fellow tried a grip with the free hand that would surely have ended the struggle had it come off. But the man could get no hold of the tightened pants, and Hare felt that the fight was won. Help came after a time, and the man was safely tied up. Dr Mackay used to tell that the signs of the struggle over his flower-beds were as if a team of bullocks had camped there. Unquestionably a struggle like this, carried on silently and in the dead of night, against a powerful and desperate opponent, marked Hare as a brave and determined man.


The mail robbery referred to above was traced to a rather comical scoundrel known as ‘Billy the Puntman.’ Billy used to work the punt on the Ovens River at Wangaratta, and took every possible opportunity to overcharge his customers. When any of these made complaint and pointed Billy to the authorised charges painted on the notice board, Billy’s answer was: ‘Oh, them’s out of date,’ and pulling out of his pocket some pieces of dirty crumpled paper would say: ‘Here’s the b–y act, read it for yourself.’ As no one could make out two consecutive words of the paper, the traveller had to pay and look pleasant.

Billy had the impudence to try this game on one occasion, and only one, when taking across the gold escort which, by Act of Parliament, was entitled to a free passage, and he would only submit when threatened with personal chastisement. Still he grumbled and grew profane every time. No one was sorry that he and his punt were no longer required when the new bridge was completed.

When Billy found his occupation gone he had to seek some other mode of life. The mails between Albury and Melbourne were then carried on horseback. This was, of course, a fact well known to Billy, who, in an evil hour, determined to do a little highway robbery on his own account. Curiously enough, the spot he fixed on was close to Greta, the home of the Kelly family of evil notoriety in later years – it must have been about the year when Ned Kelly, the future leader of the gang of bushrangers of 1878-80, was born. Hiding behind a tree Billy awaited the arrival of the mailman, stopped him and emptied the mail bags as already described. He made a pretty good haul in bank notes, and then hastened off to Albury for a great spree. There he was arrested, with the greater part of the plunder in his pockets.


Towards the close of 1859, greatly to my satisfaction, I received orders to proceed to Hamilton , even then more commonly spoken of by its old name – The Grange. Beechworth was not an uninteresting district, and we had made some pleasant friendships there. I say ‘we’ as I was now a married man, and the question of house keeping was a serious one where all the necessaries of life were so very costly. Apart too from this, the departure from Beechworth of O’Hara Burke, under whom it was a pleasure to serve, brought about a less congenial state of affairs. Burke’s successor was a man of good family and a zealous officer, but he was very difficult to get on with. He had married beneath him, and it was a necessary condition of peace and good fellowship that the households of his friends should be open to intrusion at all hours. Well, we were not “taking any”, and so to escape further unpleasantness were glad to get away. It was a curious thing about this officer – as long as his wife lived he showed constant devotion to her and denied her nothing. Yet on the evening of her burial, for she died not very long after I left Beechworth, he appeared in one of the theatres, and in police uniform, in the company of a female of notorious disrepute.

I have nothing to note of the journey to Hamilton , but the awful condition of the road from Portland , whither we had travelled by steamer. During the last fifty miles to Hamilton there was liquid mud up to the axle of the dog-cart. But our toils were forgotten on reaching the high bank over The Grange, where there broke upon out view the loveliest bit of pastoral scenery that we have yet looked upon in Victoria . It was spring time and everything was fresh and green. There was the village lying in the foreground, surrounded by rich beautiful plains broken only by Mounts Pierrepoint, Napier, Rouse and Bainbridge, and shut in on the extreme north-west by Mounts Sturgeon and Abrupt, some twenty miles away. The people on every side we found as hospitable and agreeable as one could desire. Messrs Cuthbert Featherstonhaugh, PM, “the Governor” as he was called, and F H Puckle, Crown Lands Commissioner, were the principal officials, and with these and their families we became friends at once. My wife and I were new chums still as regards life in the pastoral districts of Victoria , and the hospitality on every side was a revelation to us fresh from a country where visits were made only on special invitation. Here the squatters, to use the generic title of the large landholders of the period, felt hurt if one passed through their neighbourhood without putting up with them for a day, or indeed as many days as one pleased. I will try to recall the names of some of these kindly squatter friends of more than half a century ago.

Nearest to Hamilton were Achison, Ffrench of Monivae, Thomas Mackellar, of Strathkellar, and William Skene. Farther afield were S P Winter, of Murndal; John Coldham, of Grassdale, and his brother of Audley Station; and in other directions, John Mackersey, of Kenilworth, Robert Officer, of Rocklands—one of my dearest friends—Whittaker, of Longlands, near Harrow ; Daniel Ritchie, of Blackwood; Harry Eddington, of The Gums; Charles Gray, of Nareeb-Nareeb; MacKnight, and Irwin, etc.


The story is told of Captain Whittaker, the father of the Longlands family, and of his daughter, how they captured a bushranger who attempted to rob them. Captain Whittaker was sitting reading before a fire and his daughter sat in a recess behind the door, when the bushranger burst into the room and ordered Captain Whittaker to ‘bail up’, at the same time pointing a pistol at him. The old gentleman responded by mounting on a chair in order to reach his gun, which hung above the fireplace. The bushranger pressed close up to him when Miss Whittaker, whom he evidently had not seen, gripped the bushranger from behind so firmly that father and daughter together disarmed and strapped him up, and had the satisfaction of handing him over to the police. Captain Whittaker was an old Waterloo veteran, and his training and experience in war had fitted him for self defence. The bushranger came to a tragic end, for when being conveyed by boat from Portland to Melbourne he threw himself overboard, and, being weighted with heavy leg irons, he sank like a stone and was never seen again.

When I first met Robert Officer he was recovering from the effects of an encounter with a German whom he had engaged as a shearer. The German has disobeyed orders and was brought before the magistrates at Balmoral in order to have his engagement cancelled, as was the custom in such cases. When Officer returned to his home at Rocklands, he handed over charge of his horse and riding-whip to his groom. As he passed on towards the house the German sprang out upon him from behind a tree with a drawn knife in his hand. Officer defended himself with his fists as best he could, while the German kept slashing at him with the knife. So the fight continued until the groom again hove in sight, when Officer called him to bring his whip. With this he soon laid the German low. Next day the fellow showed such signs of punishment that Officer begged him off before the magistrates.


I had heard nothing about the snipe shooting the district provided, and I arrived at Hamilton without a gun, and this just at the very height of the season. It is not pleasant to be constantly borrowing a gun, more especially when the owner may require it for his own use. It happened just then that the blacks were holding a corroboree at Hamilton, and one of the mounted police named Thompson, an ex-gamekeeper, had seen one of them carrying a double ‘Joe Manton,’ and for a little over a pound I became possessed of the best gun in the district. It was certainly in a very rusty condition, but again Thompson came to the rescue, for he brought it to me cleaned and ‘browned’ as if new. Snipe were so plentiful that one’s friends ceased to care for them, and rather than carry on a useless destruction, I laid my gun aside long before the season closed. The birds were in greater multitude than I had ever seen them; and on one occasion when taking out Mr F A Powlett, Crown Lands Commissioner, who had come for a few days shooting, we saw birds in what were assuredly thousands, as they stood on the stones which formed the sides of the causeway leading across a swampy piece of road. Heavy rains had flooded their feeding-ground, and these stones formed the only dry places near. We got but a few birds, and most of these were lost on our way home. Even those we carried had fallen in the water, and as Powlett wished to take them with him to town we slung them by the necks to the hood of the trap to dry. The jerking of the trap wrung their heads off, and only those that happened to fall inside the buggy were recovered.


My first experience came to me at this time of what a blackfellow can do in a bush search where whites are hopelessly at a loss. The blacks of the Coleraine and Black Swamp (Balmoral) tribes were about to hold a corroboree at Hamilton . It was noticed that during the night they had unexpectedly dispersed, but no one thought any more of the matter until a report was received from Balmoral to the effect that a black known as Paunchy, belonging to the Coleraine tribe, had killed one of the Black Swamp men. As soon as the murder was committed the whole of the latter tribe had broken away from the camp and could not tell therefore how the body was disposed of; they could only say that if it was not burned in one of the camp fires it was certain to be buried in or near the camp. The police closely examined the ashes of every fire, but no sign whatever of human remains was found. Then the Balmoral police brought down a blackfellow to see what he could do. There was no use looking for tracks, as the whole place had been trodden for days by the police and people of the town. The blackfellow, when he arrived, made a close examination of the camp. The murder had evidently got on his nerves for he frequently looked startled as strangers began to collect and he had certainly a very scared look. Examining the camp he took up various positions to leeward, where he stood for a time, still as a statue. Then he would make a short sudden run towards the camp, when after a few repetitions of these short runs pointed to some blow flies resting on the ground where there had been one of the numerous fires. There, covered by a few inches of soil and ashes, was found the body of the murdered black.


When I arrived at Hamilton in 1859 there were no coaches nor other regular means of communication with Melbourne , or the coastal towns, Port Fairy and Portland . It was due to the enterprise of Cobb & Co., or some other Yankee or Canadian association, that the first coaches were put on the road connecting Hamilton with these places. If I remember aright, the first line of coaches was from Portland through Hamilton, Wickliffe and Ararat, and thence to Geelong and Melbourne . A later route turned east at Wickliffe , reaching Geelong via Streatham, Lismore and Rokewood. Still later when the railway to Ballarat was completed the route from Wickliffe was through Skipton, Lintons, Smythesdale to Ballarat and thence by rail to Melbourne . Portland continued to be the coastal terminus of all these routes, as it was also the last port of call for the steamers plying westward along the coast. Indeed, Portland might be considered as the only port, for in 1859 Warrnambool had not come into any prominence, and Port Fairy, then known as Belfast, was in a state of decay, the grass growing over its empty streets. One driver named Miles drove the stage between Portland and Wickliffe daily, a very remarkable feat, considering that he must have often sat on the box for 12 to 14 hours. It was said that he slept on the stage over the plain from Wickliffe to Dunkeld, and had another forty winks before reaching Hamilton . I have seen Miles half an hour after his arrival at Portland , adorned with gold chain and numerous ornaments, fresh and dainty as if he had stepped out of a bandbox. He was supposed to be wooing the landlady of Mac’s Hotel.

A branch coach ran between Hamilton and Apsley via Cavendish, Balmoral and Harrow . This coach, like that on the longer route described above, made its through journey three times a week. As showing how much more leisurely things progress in a pastoral district than in one where mining, or even agriculture, is the chief pursuit of the people there is to-day, 50 years later, scarcely any difference to be seen in such townships as Cavendish, Balmoral, etc., or along the line of road, except that there are fenced paddocks now where formerly the shepherd travelled at large with his flocks through open country during the day, and collected them into the bush yards near his hut at night. Of course every little township in the very earliest days of its existence had its wayside inn; and unpretentious in appearance as such a house might be, any settler or other traveller with his family might pull up unannounced, at the end of his day’s journey, with the certainty of finding clean and abundant accommodation and provision for man and horse.


There was one short season every year, however, in which travellers who knew the ways of the pastoral districts sought their rest elsewhere. This was called the ‘Lambing down’ season. The term had nothing to do with sheep or lambs, but with their shearers. The practice with the vast majority of these men, in those early days, was to bring the cheques they had earned by many weeks of hard work, and hand them over to the care of the publican, then after having filled up any deficiencies in their ‘swag’ , they settled down for a regular bout of drunkenness until they were told that their cheque was run out. With swag on back, and a bottle of gin to start them on their journey, away they went off into the bush to recover their sobriety as best they could. Such orgies often ended in delirium tremens, insanity and death. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was that this ‘Lambing down’ was regarded as a reasonable and proper practice on the part of the publican. The law provided expressly against it, but few magistrates would convict. When a publican was charged before the magistrates with allowing some unfortunate shearer to continue his drunken orgies for days or weeks together, the argument was used that ‘If this particular landlord did not accommodate them, some other landlord would, and it came to the same thing in the end.’

It is true enough that the shearer was a willing victim. I have seen a man so impatient to join in the orgies going on at a roadside hotel ten miles away that he would not lose time in getting off his horse, but calling for his cheque to be brought to him, rode at full gallop the whole distance to plunge at once into a long debauch of drunkenness.

One day as I rode across the Mount Sturgeon Plains, I met a man named Simpson, a resident of Hamilton and a brother of Professor Simpson, of chloroform fame. He was urging his horse along at high speed when I stopped him to ask what the trouble was. His reply was, ‘I am riding away from Hell.’ It appeared that in his innocence he had gone out that morning to take charge of an inn at Dunkeld, at the request of the trustees of the landlord, who had recently died. Simpson was a total abstainer and a very simple religious man. The scene that met him as he reached the inn must have been rather startling. It was shearing time, and he found the house in the possession of a band of drunken shearers, all the women of the place having hidden themselves in fear. He refused to let the shearers have any more drink, but they were not to be disappointed of their spree. He tried to turn them out, but they turned him out instead; and when he mounted his horse to ride away, they pursued him supposing that he was carrying off the cheques they had handed over according to custom, before they began their debauch. It was no wonder that the simple-hearted old man should have fled from them in terror.

The men who wasted their money in this way became for the rest of the year what were known as ‘sundowners,’ swagmen who travelled without any settled purpose from station to station, obtaining fresh supplies of food at any station where they might chance to find themselves at sunset. Happily new generations of shearers have sprung up since then, having small holdings of their own, in the improvement of which they spend their earnings at shearing time to better purposes.


In flood time the River Wannon is a considerable stream. When I knew it first it was not bridged anywhere along its course. At Bochara, in the fifties, better known as Quigley’s Falls, there was a causeway a little above the Falls, formed of boulders thrown into the bed of the stream until the level of the river banks was reached, the surface being made fairly even by smaller stones and gravel. This causeway, except in time of highest flood, offered a safe crossing for all vehicles, for at ordinary times the water found its way through the spaces between the boulders. I can conceive of no causeway, constructed as such insignificant cost being so effective, nor do I remember seeing any construction of the kind outside the Western District. I believe the design was suggested by Mr John Makersey of Kenilworth , one of the early members of the Dundas Road Board. I remember his pointing out two essential conditions to be observed in forming such a structure:- (1) The boulders on the down stream should be so extended as to receive the waters that poured over the causeway at flood-time, so preventing the foundations from being washed away; and (2) The upper surface of the causeway should slope a few inches against the current. With these conditions observed the highest floods passed away without any injury to the causeway, not even displacing the loose gravel on the top. This may be a small matter to refer to in these Recollections, but I have often wondered, in later years, that the municipal authorities in districts like the Upper Goulburn and others were like conditions existed, had not adopted some such simple and effective plan, instead of waiting for years until the Government supplied funds to erect bridges at greater cost, many of these bridges going down before the first heavy flood.


I have stated that the Wannon River was subject to high floods. On one occasion, when the stream was at his highest, a too venturesome carter tried to cross the causeway and was swept down stream in the rushing waters. Constable Charles Johnson – the man who took a foremost place in the destruction of the Kelly bushrangers at Glenrowan in later years – jumped into the river to the rescue of the carter. Johnson reached the man, and although there was the imminent danger of both being carried over the eighty-foot Falls, the constable held on to his man and brought him safe to land.


My friend Cuthbert Featherstonhaugh was a man of many sides. In the later fifties few men were better known or more popular in the Western District than he. He could sit a buck-jumper, ride in a steeplechase, or handle a team of half-broken colts with any man. It was said that every bone in his body – except his neck – had been fractured at one time or another. His method of breaking in young horses to harness was simplicity itself – to him. With his team of four he simply let them go, while he, seated firmly in his trap with reins in hand, guided them as best he could across the rolling downs of the Muntham Estate, of which he was manager. The country was unfenced in those days, so he and his horses could take any line they chose. Of course, the pace could not last, but it was the horses and not Cuthbert that first gave in. Then on the return journey, as he approached the homestead, the horses no longer full of go, he whipped off their winkers, and the last half-mile was made in record time.

One day, coming to the Wannon he found it in flood and the stream above the causeway too strong and deep for him to attempt to cross in his buggy. But get over he must, so lifting the buggy on to the handrails of the small footbridge spanning the river, the naves of the wheels resting on the rails, he worked the buggy safely to the other side.

Since those days Cuthbert has been many things – parson, squatter, explorer and mining prospector, and still lives, held in high regard by numerous friends.

It was in the early ‘sixties that the first Shire Councillors for Dundas were elected. Their work was new to them and to their officers. One of these officers sought my advice as to the necessary books and the manner in which they should be kept. I did not feel competent to advise him, but I showed him how my own office records were kept. He thought that with this information, and with the addition of Letts’s Diary, he could carry on. After a year’s trial the unhappy man committed suicide.


It was about this time that news was received by the police at Hamilton of the landing at a South Australian port of a considerable number of Chinese who were making their way to Victoria . Since Bret Harte first drew attention to the fact, it has been known that the ways of the Heathen Chinese are peculiar. There was no capitation tax in South Australia , but there was for Chinese landing at a Victorian port. I think the tax was ten pounds per head. There were about one hundred Chinese in the troop, and to save so large a sum, it was thought worth while to undertake the toilsome journey overland to Ballarat and Bendigo . They plodded patiently along day after day, crossing the border somewhere near Apsley under the lead of one of their own countrymen. This man had been in Victoria for some time before, and had acquainted himself with the road and marked out the stages. There were none sick or footsore amongst them, which showed how well their plans had been devised and carried out.

It was not until the Chinese reached Hamilton that the police interfered with them. There they were stopped, and payment of the tax demanded, but the only answer was, ‘No savee,’ and then they were brought before the magistrates. The sentence of two months imprisonment in Portland Gaol did not appear to disturb them in the least. They camped in the police paddock practically without guards to look after them, but they never thought of going out of bounds. Thence they were marched to Portland , where they encamped in the reserve for public gardens. This place their enforced labour turned from a wilderness into one of the beauty spots of the south. They never repined, they never lost patience, nor did they ever give a moment’s trouble; and when their sentence expired they marched away for their destination, placid and uncomplaining as if no wrong had been done to them.


It was also in the early ‘sixties that the quiet of Hamilton was disturbed by another irruption of strangers. The first Duffy Land Act, providing for free selection of Crown Lands, had just come into force, and the momentous question of parceling out the fertile lands of the Western District had to be faced. It was an anxious time for the existing occupiers – the squatters – and as the day when the balloting for first choice of blocks approached, most of the squatters of the district were represented personally or by their agents. There was another crowd, too, but of persons quite unknown in the neighbourhood, and who appeared to be acting under some sort of leadership. These people camped together close to the Court House, where the ballot was to be held, partly, I suppose, because they could not find accommodation in the town, and partly that they might be close at hand when proceedings opened. Long before the doors were thrown open, the strangers were massed round the entrance, for priority of application was understood to mean priority of choice. The office was crowded from the time it opened until far into night, when Mr Wrixon, the land officer, and his assistants had to cease work through sheer exhaustion. It seemed on this day, and the days that followed as if the strangers held possession, and the squatters were shut out while being stripped of all they possessed.

But there were wheels within wheels, the movements of which none but the initiated could see. Communications passed between the squatters and the leaders of the strange crowd, for I believe there were two leaders, one said to have been the late Colonel W C Smith, with the result that the squatters continued in undisturbed possession of their holdings, while not a single stranger was known to settle in the district at this time. It is true that when travelling through the district one occasionally saw a weatherboard hut on wheels in some lonely paddock. This was in compliance with the letter of the law, but the moveable hut did duty for many another block of land. The first Duffy Land Act was a failure.


Leopold Kabat, Inspector of Police, was my senior by a few days. We were not much thrown together at any time, but yet there were many coincidences in our careers. On several different occasions it was our lot to change places, until it became a sort of superstition with me, that when Kabat was about to be removed it was time that I, too, should prepare for a change. So it happened, in May, 1864, that, seeing mention in the press of his trouble through some ill-advised mining speculations, I took it as a warning that I too should prepare for a move. I was not surprised therefore when a few mails later I received orders to proceed to Melbourne . A journey by coach to Ballarat, occupying some eighteen consecutive hours in mid-winter, our family now consisted of four young children – was not a pleasant prospect; but our fellow-travellers were kind, especially Mr. Tom (perhaps better known as ‘Pop’) Seymour, who might be seen with a child on each arm to save them from the tossing about of the coach, as it bumped over the unformed roads.

When I reached Melbourne I found there had been many changes since I had left it nearly eight years before. Captain Macmahon was no longer Chief Commissioner. His place had been taken by Captain F C Standish; while Superintendent S E Freeman was succeeded by T H Lyttelton as officer in charge of the Metropolitan Police District; and Frank Hare, whom I first met at Beechworth in 1856, was Inspector in charge at Russell Street – the most important division in the district. Freeman had died some eighteen months before my return to Melbourne , and I soon discovered that the good work he had commenced and carried on was forgotten, and his ideals of duty altogether lost sight of.


It is necessary to go back a few years, even at the risk of some repetition, if this modest history of the Police Force of Victoria is to be in any sense complete.

In 1858 Captain (after Sir Charles) Macmahon was succeeded by Captain F. C. Standish as already noted; and about the same time, or shortly after, Superintendent Freeman began to show signs of failing powers, so much so that early in 1859 he was allowed six months leave of absence. For various reasons his illness was a grave misfortune, and led indirectly to some very serious results. The police service may be said to have been still in the making, and the withdrawal from actual duty at this critical time of the most competent officer the service had ever seen, seemed to put an end to further progress. The new Chief Commissioner lost a loyal and capable adviser, and was left in his inexperience to the influence of officers who were disloyal or incompetent, or worse. Freeman’s mantle had not fallen on any of those junior officers who had served under him. Inspector Page, who had accompanied him from London , was certainly a good useful officer, but he had not the qualities to fit him for a leading position. As for the others, they were not of the material of which anything very useful could be made.

During the absence on leave of Freeman, P H Smith, Inspecting Superintendent, was placed in charge of the city police and son after troubles began, that within a year or two ended in open insubordination, in which the inspecting superintendent himself was involved; but, as so often happens, punishment fell on the lesser fry, in the persons of some sergeants who were ignominiously dismissed from the service.

Matters were not allowed to settle down without the usual parliamentary squabble. Mr Fraser, the member for Creswick, exercising the privilege of Parliament, made use of some very fierce and uncomplimentary language, to which some one retorted in the press by calling Mr Fraser a ‘privileged ruffian.’ Backed by parliamentary influence, the malcontents in the service raked over every dustheap to find accusations against the head of the police force; and then followed successive parliamentary inquiries, as futile as these inquiries usually are. The whole proceedings furnish very painful study, and are redeemed only by the splendid ability with which Captain Standish, the Chief Commissioner, met the badgering of politicians, angry at finding themselves beguiled into a false position.

It is not contended here that these were the only troubles of the period, for there were other grave scandals. Two officers at the police depot were punished for irregularities in their public accounts, and some grave misconduct in connection with the management of the police hospital was brought to light. These matters had, however, all been dealt with by departmental inquiry before the parliamentary committee sat.

While the investigation of all these scandals failed altogether to show any personal connivance on the part of the Chief Commissioner, it cannot be said that he was wholly free from blame, for these troubles might have been avoided had he made a more careful choice of officers for positions of special importance.


The selection of T H Lyttelton as City Superintendent, to take the place of S E Freeman, was not a great success. Lyttelton by birth and education was a gentleman, and was one of the very senior officers, but he was wanting in some of the qualities requisite for so important a position. He was not careful in his conduct in private life, and he never seemed to take his duties quite seriously. There is this to be said, however, the Chief Commissioner had at the time a very limited choice, for amongst all the other superintendents there was only one, and he was junior to Lyttelton, who could be considered possible. This was Kirk, an officer of great promise, whose worth was recognised generally throughout the service.

THE CITY POLICE, 1864 to 1867

When recalled to Melbourne to take up the duties of a junior officer in the city, I found the experience I had already gained under S E Freeman of very great advantage. When I came under his command in 1854 Freeman’s powers were at their best. I had seen the planing of the police beats, the division of day and night duties, the methods of supervision and the whole system of city work as all these things came fresh from his hands; and above all I had the supreme benefit of his example and of constant intercourse with him. He would be a dull learner indeed who would not gain many and great advantages from such opportunities as thus had. I was in a position, therefore to take up with some confidence the work to which I was recalled.

I found that Hare had been wearing himself out trying to do the work of the City alone, or with the assistance of officers who, as he often said, were of more hindrance to him than help. Hare was certainly the best officer that could have been chosen for the important charge at Russell Street . He had passed with credit through the disturbances of a few years before, and was conspicuous for his zeal and diligence. He and I have often sat late into the night discussing our work in all its aspects.

To me as junior officer fell the supervision of the police in their actual work on beat duty. This is the crux of the whole business. If the constables diligently do their part there can be nothing seriously wrong in other things, and Hare therefore was very anxious to have my report, especially as regarded the night duties.

During the first night or two I occupied myself in a general oversight of the work, acquainting myself with some new methods that had been adopted, endeavouring to take stock of the sub-officers and testing the working of the system of ‘Points’ that had lately been adopted, with the result that I had nothing particular to report. When I carried on my inspections at other hours regardless of these ‘Points’ (By the term ‘Points’ it meant certain fixed points or spots of each beat or cluster of beats, where each sub-officer and constable is expected to be at certain fixed hours during his turn of duty – a very useful plan in many ways, but not without its dangers.) the irregularities were very numerous. I do not know that Lyttelton concerned himself very much with these proofs of disorder. Hare, on the other hand, took matters very much to heart, finding that in spite of his efforts, things were going very wrong indeed; and when later on he was offered some other position more to his taste, he was glad to accept it, and I then took his place.

There was, however, no need for discouragement, for when the word went out that the constables were now being closely looked after there was great improvement at once. The men were on the whole a very good lot, and responded readily to the pressure of discipline. There was specially good material among the sub-officers. There had been some slackness no doubt with these as with others, partly from the want of technical knowledge on the part of their officers, and partly from the evil influences of the disorders of a few years before. But now a fresh start was made, which, thanks to S E Freeman’s teaching, I was able to help along; and the general result was such an improvement in the conduct of the City Police as I had scarcely expected to see.

No one should expect to get through one’s life work without running up against difficulties and hindrances of various sorts. If one happens to be in advance of public opinion generally, he will find snags in his way, especially if it should be that his superiors in authority are as far behind as he may consider himself in advance of it. I have given an instance of this in a previous chapter, where I have shown that the ‘lambing down’ of shearers was generally thought to be a reasonable, if not quite lawful, proceeding. To illustrate these somewhat cryptic remarks, some further instances may be given.


The scenes in this cafe were often a very questionable kind that could scarcely be tolerated at the present day. The licensees of the Theatre Royal Cafe were Coleman and Thompson, and when after due warning the police took out summonses against them, a commotion was raised that in these more sober days in which I write can scarcely be imagined. I was pressed on every side to withdraw proceedings. My own superior officers – so I was told – also disapproved. My reply was: ‘If I receive written instructions I shall of course let the matter drop,’ but no such instructions were given. The proceedings were taken on reports from the police, who had begun to exhibit higher views of duty than had hitherto prevailed, and I could not lend myself to do anything that would tend to their discouragement.

In due course the matter came before the Police Magistrate (not E P Sturt) who presided. Again fresh difficulties were met. The Chairman knew the law well enough, but he was weak and irresolute; and the wiles of counsel for the defence, B C Aspinall, were too much for him. ‘Parson Sadleir was too good for this wicked world; and it was hopeless to make people moral by Act of Parliament,’ and the rest of it. The case was struck out with a mild warning to the defendants. The police, however, did not stay their hands, and offending licensees were driven to conduct their businesses with greater regard to decency.

Julian Thomas, from whose ‘Vagabond Papers’ I make the following quotation, was no plaster saint. Writing about the Theatre Royal Cafe, he says: – ‘I write of an immorality open as the day and known to all of the places where vice meets and chaffers and makes its bargains – the Theatre Vestibules. . . . Between the bar on the right and the entrance to the stalls the stranger will perceive two mysterious closed doors. . . . Curiosity will doubtless prompt him to enter, and he will find himself in the far-famed ‘saddling paddock’ of the Royal. It is a small bar presided over by a man. The proceedings here are too unpleasant for a barmaid to witness. Here the most notorious women in Melbourne nightly throng, and run in the companions they have caught . . . Poor devils! I have my eye on two, who, I am afraid, will become brother vagabonds before long.’

This is an expurgated version of what Julian Thomas wrote about the Theatre Royal Cafe and other like places.


When the news of the wreck of the ship Netherby in Bass’s Strait, about 1867, was received in Melbourne there was great excitement, for it was known that a great number of emigrants, male and female, were on board, bound for Brisbane. The Victorian Government acted very promptly in sending out assistance, and generously undertook to house and provide for the unfortunates until the Queensland Government could take charge of them. The trouble was to find a building large enough to receive them. The newspapers were full of letters suggesting various places, and at last the Old Exhibition Building in Queen Street was selected. Then there poured out more letters, warning the Government as to the impossibility of preserving decency, where so many men and women were to be collected in a building without separate compartments, and without means of securing privacy. The public mind was greatly exercised on these questions. It was resolved that screens in the shape of curtains should be supplied; and, as this plan greatly increased the risk of fire, it was arranged that a special staff of firemen should be employed, two of these men to be on duty outside the building; and that the police should be in charge of the entire arrangements.

In accordance with instructions a constable was placed in the porch at the entrance, within easy call of the female compartment, and with special orders that on no account was any person to be allowed to enter the building.

My amazement, when visiting the place with one of the sergeants, about midnight , will easily be understood, on finding the constable absent from his post, and hearing from within the noise of sobbing women and the sound of men’s voices. There was no response for a time to our knocking on the door. After continued knocking we heard the voice of the constable asking, ‘Who’s there?’ When told to open the door, the reply came – ‘It’s all right, Inspector.’ The order to open had to be repeated before the door was unlocked, and even then, it was only opened an inch or two and was still held firmly against us. However, the sergeant and I together put our shoulders to the door and sent the constable sprawling on the floor. A few steps brought to our view a tipsy fireman with a pannikin in one hand and a bottle in the other, trying to press the frightened women to drink. The poor creatures were sitting up with the bed clothes drawn up to their chins. The fireman was kneeling on a mattress while urging them to drink, and was too tipsy to notice the entrance of the sergeant and myself until he was dragged off by the collar. When Hoad, the Superintendent of the Brigade, to whom we had sent, arrived he dismissed his man on the spot.

As regards the constable, his position I regarded very seriously. He had failed in his trust, and he appeared to me to be the arch-offender. He was sent back to barracks under arrest, and was brought before the Superintendent next morning, when the case was adjourned for a week; and at the end of the week was again adjourned. I spoke privately to the Superintendent and pointed out the danger of his proceeding and of the affair becoming public. ‘Oh d—– Mrs Grundy; I am not going to interfere with the amusements of the men,’ was his reply. The case still stands adjourned.


Some retired members of the force who have taken to hotel keeping have conducted their places in a very shady manner. Such men do much harm to younger members of the police, and occasionally to older men who should know better. There was one inn known in the early days as The Horse and Jockey in Little Lonsdale Street when it was kept by the late George Watson. In later years, under a different name, it came under the management of a retired policeman. Sergeant W—–, who was a great favourite of the Superintendent, was in charge of that section of the City. He was in favour with the new licensee too, though I did not know it at the time.

One night, accompanied by Sergeant W—–, I was going my rounds, when we noticed some disturbance close to the inn. As we approached, some men scattered into the side lanes. One man whom we intercepted told us there had been a robbery in the house, and that there was a constable inside who he thought had some trouble on his hands. Sergeant W—– asked me not to go in—it was not a fit place for an officer, and so on, but of course I went in, and while speaking to the licensee I heard loud voices in an adjoining room, and presently recognised the voice of Constable Peter Martin. I knocked, and, as soon as Martin heard my voice, he opened the door, saying: ‘Thank God! You are just in time, or these fellows would have killed me.’ There were several men in the room whom Martin had been keeping at bay, his back to the door, with baton and handcuffs ready to defend himself. We soon had the handcuffs on the man charged with robbery. He was the licensee’s brother!

The worst feature in this business was – Martin became a marked man amongst the licensee’s friends inside the force. Sergeant W—– was sent to another section, but some ‘bad hats’ in the barracks gave Martin no peace, and as he would not reveal their names it was very difficult to protect him.


Frank Hare used to tell of a very unpleasant incident of another kind that occurred about this time. On his rounds one night, he had occasion to stop and speak to a constable in Swanson Street . They were both in uniform, and both were remarkably tall. While they were speaking together a half-drunken man lurched in between them. The constable pushed the man aside, when he stumbled and fell, and lay insensible in the channel. Hare sent the constable to fetch a cab, and stood beside the man as he lay. The streets were not very well lighted, and several men, who were standing on the opposite side of the street, rushed across and accused Hare of throwing the man down. Explanation was vain; they had seen the man thrown down by a policeman, and Hare was the only policeman there, and they were quite prepared to swear that if the man were dead it was Hare who killed him. Fortunately the man recovered, or there might have been some unpleasantness before the coroner.


It is a police rule that a watch-house keeper may, at his discretion, refuse to accept an accusation by one person against another, if the charge seems to him an improper one. It is of course expected that the watch-house keeper will use reasonable judgment; and in all cases he must record the circumstances in a book kept for the purpose.

There was at the time of which I write a rather fussy Mayor of the City. He was not quite satisfied at the way in which the police did their duty, so he resolved to attempt some amateur work on his own account. He was found by a constable one night kicking violently at the door of a not-too-respectable house in Flinders Street . As the constable approached, he saw the Mayor take hold of another man, a private citizen who had been attracted by the noise. The Mayor insisted on this man being taken to the watch-house.

The watch-house keeper, a senior constable named Coleman, knew his business and refused the charge. The explanation put on record could scarcely have been expressed in fewer words – ‘Charge refused, Mayor drunk.’


Late one night a message came to Russell Street to the effect that some soldiers had broken out of barracks, and that it was feared they meant to wreak vengeance on the late Mr George Paton Smith for having spoken disparagingly in Parliament of the Military. There was no time to be lost, so I took out a cab full of constables to protect Mr Smith’s house from the expected attack. We knew only that Mr. Smith resided somewhere in Kew . I remember the weary hours of search, with tired cab horse, ending at length in quite unnecessarily disturbing a neighbourhood peacefully at sleep. It turned out that the soldiers were found drinking themselves drunk in some shady quarter of the city while we were on our expedition.


Mr (afterwards Sir) Archibald Michie was Minister of Justice from 1863–66. He was not afraid to see his Free Trade principles carried to their logical conclusion – in one direction at least. It was under his rule that it became lawful for publicans to keep their houses open all through the night. The community may well be thankful that Mr Michie did not carry his principles so far as to allow every one to start a liquor shop, with the same freedom that he might start the business of a grocer or a tailor, a view he is said to have held.

I saw a great deal of the working of Mr Michie’s new system. The privilege of keeping open-house all night was confined nearly altogether to the most disreputable and worst-managed hotels in the City, and the natural and inevitable results soon became apparent. The streets were never free from drunken men and women. There was no time since the early diggings days when there was less security for life and property in the City. The experiment was a very disastrous one. Fortunately it lasted but a short time, and it is to be hoped will never be repeated.


Dr J G Beaney was amongst the leading surgeons in the Melbourne of his day. I speak more particularly of the middle ‘sixties.’ His skill in operation was acknowledged by all, though, so unfriendly critics alleged, he was apt to fail in his care of patients after they had been operated on.

Sergeant Abraham Fenton, who is elsewhere spoken of as one of Freeman’s fifty London police, was stationed at Collingwood, when the death of a young unmarried woman under suspicious circumstances was brought under his notice. Fenton reported the matter to his Superintendent, T H Lyttelton. The post mortem examination by Doctors Rudall and Pugh disclosed the fact that an illegal operation had been performed on the unfortunate young woman, and that although there were evidences of skill on the part of the operator, yet there were also proofs that little regard was shown by him to save the life of the woman.

Beaney had many friends, as also had the man known to be responsible for the condition of the young woman, and attempts were made to hush the matter up. Fenton, however, was not the sort of man to let such an affair rest, and by formal report and otherwise pressed for full investigation, with the result that there was prima facie evidence that in an adaptation of the lines of Robert Burns may thus be expressed –

‘The lass to Beaney came
To hide her shame,
He sent her to her long hame
To hide it there.’

On his first trial Beaney was defended by Mr Dawson. The jury could not agree, and on the second B C Aspinall had charge of the defence, Travers Adamson prosecuting for the Crown. Somehow it got abroad that if there was a clear verdict of ‘Guilty’, the last penalty of the law would be enforced.

Aspinall’s conduct of the defence was astute and able. His frequent interruptions disconcerted Adamson, the Crown Prosecutor, and he finally prepared a trap into which Adamson easily fell.

Aspinall had collected nearly all the black sheep of the medical profession around him. As the trial went on he directed these men to look up various ‘authorities’ , and altogether made a great show of an elaborate defence on the various anatomical and medical questions applicable to the case. He took good care that Adamson should see and hear everything.

To meet all such questions, Adamson called leading men like Tracy, Martin and others. There were just the men to hold independent and opposite opinions, on points that really had very little to do with the main facts at issue. When the evidence for the Crown was closed, Aspinall declined to call his witnesses, thus securing the right of the final address to the jury. He enlarged on the differences of views held by the chosen witnesses for the Crown, and the accused was acquitted.

It afterwards transpired that eleven jurymen were for the verdict of ‘Guilty’, but the solitary objector, Mr Alcock, the well-known billiard table manufacturer, was so completely and honestly impressed by Aspinall’s argument, he held out until the remaining jurymen gave in. It was a near thing.



I first met Aspinall in February, 1856, at Castlemaine, where he started on his professional career. He was a bright, clever and entertaining companion, but I did not see enough of him to say whether he showed promise then of becoming, as he did, one of the ablest advocates of his day, and a most brilliant humorist. It became the fashion to credit Aspinall with every good joke and witty saying that went the rounds in later years. His deep gruff voice set people laughing before his jokes were uttered. The Crown Prosecutors had often a bad time under a running fire of interjections from Aspinall when he was counsel for the defence. Travers Adamson simply went wild on such occasions, and often lost the thread of his argument, which was the very thing no doubt that suited Aspinall. I shall give but one specimen showing the readiness of Aspinall’s wit, and the liberty he sometimes took with the presiding judge.

The late C A Smyth was one of the regular prosecutors for the Crown, and he insisted that when his name was used it should be pronounced Smythe. This was a rule that Aspinall would not observe, but persisted in speaking of the Crown Prosecutor as Mr Smith.

In a certain case in which the two lawyers were engaged, and in which the late Judge Barry presided, His Honor in the course of his address to the jury had occasion to use the word myth, when Aspinall, in his deepest, gravest voice begged His Honor’s pardon, but would he, out of respect to his learned friend, he pleased to pronounce the word, myth? It was a great liberty to take with so dignified a judge, but His Honor managed to maintain his gravity notwithstanding the roar of laughter that filled the Court.

Aspinall, however, required his audience altogether to himself; otherwise he was silent. At a dinner given to Joseph Jefferson (Rip Van Winkle) by his friends here in the sixties – the great actor was himself a man of great humour – to do him special honour both Aspinall and his rival legal humorist, R D Ireland were invited as guests. It was expected that from such a combination there would be a flow of wit to set the table on a roar. But these two did not combine. Aspinall, as he was wont, opened with a few quips and cranks, but when Ireland cut in with some of his rollicking stories that made everybody roar, Aspinall became silent at once, and so remained throughout the evening. Many of Aspinall’s most brilliant sallies are not suitable for these modest pages. As a later legal wit used to say – the best jokes are unprintable.


Doctor McCarthy was a philanthropist who started an institution, somewhere out Northcote way, with the view of helping those who found the drink habit getting the mastery over them. His institution was the pioneer of many of the same kind since established. Amongst Dr McCarthy’s early patients was Mr Ireland , who volunteered to give the Northcote institution a trial. There was some legal fiction by which patients were supposed to be bound to remain under treatment as long as Mr McCarthy considered necessary. Ireland remained but one day, leaving next morning without the knowledge or consent of the head of the institution. He went straight before a Judge in Chambers and applied in person for a Writ of Habeas for the body of Richard Davies Ireland , to the great astonishment naturally of His Honor. While explanations were going on, Dr McCarthy came upon the scene. He wanted no legal intervention; moral suasion was in forte, and, turning to his illustrious patient, undertook to lengthen his days if he would continue under his care. ‘Devil a doubt of that,’ was the reply, ‘for the day I spent in your place was the longest day I ever spent in my life.’


In October of this year I was instructed to take charge of the Gippsland district. It was joyous news, for, like Job, I was at the time covered with boils from head to foot, the outcome of over-work, and was very glad to get away from all the preparations and excitement connected with the expected visit of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. I did not feel sure that I should not be recalled to assist, until the steamer Murray (Captain Patrick) loosed from her moorings and sailed for Bairnsdale and Clydebank via Lakes Entrance. I managed to get some rest lying face downwards on deck throughout the voyage. How sweet once again was the scent of the gum trees and the odour of the bush, compared with smoky and disease haunted Melbourne .

Somehow I had come to think of Gippsland as a place so remote and so difficult of access as to be occupied by a few pioneers only, who lived roughly, and had not settled themselves in permanent and comfortable quarters. We certainly knew two families already settled there—those of W H Foster, PM, and H C Stavely, Treasury Paymaster, but it came as a surprise to find in Sale and the surrounding district several well equipped and comfortable homes, whose occupants it was a privilege to meet and to form friendship with later on.

I remember, during my first Sunday in Sale , being struck as the congregation of the Anglican Church broke up – not before, as my friend Stavely suggested – at the number of really beautiful young women, charmingly dressed, who could not fail to be attractive in any assemblage. I hope if any of these who still survive should read this veracious history they will pardon the liberty I take of recording their names here. There were, first, the representatives of the Cunningham family of Fulton , three of them married, their mother scarcely less attractive than her beautiful daughters, two of whom are now English Countesses. There were the Misses Peck, Sibbald (2), besides representatives of the families of Mewburn Park and Fulham, and of the Patterson household. I could mention others, but perhaps I have already presumed far enough.


The officer whose place I took in Gippsland was Captain Edgar Slade, R.N. Like most sailors he was a poor horseman, and, on that account, had seldom been able to visit the more remote stations in his district. He had established his headquarters at Alberton, at the southern extremity of Gippsland. He and others who had interests in South Gippsland put up a hard fight to have Port Albert made the chief town of the district. The opening of the Lakes Entrance however settled the point decisively in favour of Sale . For this reason Slade had to take up his residence at Sale , and was required also to visit his distant northern stations more regularly.

It cannot be said that Slade was a very efficient police officer. Yet it was remarkable how well his subordinates carried out their duties. These happened to be a good class of men who seldom abused the freedom allowed them; and when questions of discipline did crop up, Slade dealt with them fairly and judiciously enough.

As it is with criminals, one making horse stealing his speciality, another burglary, and in the bad old times, a few bold and adventurous spirits taking to bushranging, so it is with police—one man is specially interested in looking up horse stealers, another burglars, another forgers, another the snapper-up of unconsidered triflers. One constable named Shoebridge, whom I knew in early years, never failed to bring to account the sneak thief, the shop-lifter and others in a small way of nefarious business. A sort of instinct led him direct to pick out the right one amongst such small fry, but with higher game he was not successful. For the bush policeman, now that bushranging appears to have died out, the highest game is the horse-stealer. Horse-stealing has always been near akin to bushranging; it is but a step and often a very easy step to the latter, as the story of bush criminals in Australia shows. Happily, horse-stealing, too, like bushranging, is greatly on the wane, though there may be a few parts in Eastern and North-eastern Victoria that still require watching.

In some early chapters it has been shown that the Omeo district contained many criminals of a bad type, who, had they but a leader, such as Hawker (described by Henry Kingsley), might easily have developed into something equally bad, had it not been for the efforts of one sub-officer of police and the two or three troopers under his charge.

Omeo formed part of Captain Slade’s district, but I doubt very much whether he ever visited the place. He had the good fortune, however, to have a sub-officer there named Reid, whose qualities fitted him exactly for hunting big game. It was some time after the murder of the gold-buyer Green in 1859, as already related, that he was placed in charge. Very soon there was a great improvement; some incorrigibles were run in or had to leave the district, while others settled down as small graziers or station hands and gave no further trouble. Reid is, I believe, still living, and could, I am sure, supply many interesting reminiscences of his life at Omeo in the sixties.

Captain Slade was sixty years of age when I relieved him in 1867. He fancied that his life was drawing to a close, yet he lived on for about a quarter of a century in his pleasant home at Alberton, under the shadow of his vines and fig trees. The figs were perfect, but one cannot say as much for the product of his vineyard. His neighbour and constant friend, Captain Kelsall, used to make extraordinary faces as he sipped sparingly of Slade’s home-made wine. The pleasant smile that appeared when the whisky bottle was placed on the table instead showed clearly in what direction Kelsall’s taste lay.

There was a curious kind of religiosity about Slade; if anyone questioned his views or spoke disparagingly of certain authors that he quoted from, there was sure to be a warm argument. The special intervention of providence in human affairs, as illustrated in his own experience, was a strong point with him, a belief I conceive that no wise man would impugn. The question was – whether Slade’s belief was based on quite conclusive grounds.

He used to drive a horse named Trooper. Trooper was over twenty years of age – a horse that any child might manage. One day, as the old horse was jogging quietly along, Slade let the rains fall to the ground. The road was quite clear, but if Trooper took it into his head to turn into the timber, a most unlikely thing for the old horse to do, no one could tell what might happen. Slade in great fear clasped his hands together, offered up a short prayer and called out ‘Whoa, Trooper.’ Trooper whoad so suddenly that his master was pitched out over the dashboard.

Another standing illustration that Slade used to give related to the crossing of the Albert River . It was towards evening when he was reaching the river bank. He was wet and tired, but if he could but drive safely across he would save a mile or more on his way home. Slade again offered up a short prayer, turned Trooper into the stream, and to his great joy found the water not more than six inches in depth.

This horse Trooper had had a peculiar experience before this time. He was being ridden by a constable through the Gippsland forest near Bunyip, when a tree suddenly fell, killing the constable and pinning Trooper down into soft road. Two days later the coroner held an inquest, and then some men set to work to remove the body of Trooper, who was regarded as dead. To the surprise of everyone the old horse got on his legs again, and was soon as well as ever. The body of the unfortunate constable must have broken the force of the blow that brought them both to the ground. Trooper’s damaged wither showed where the blow had struck.

The horses bred in Gippsland in those days were of rare quality; it is no wonder that they captured the fancy of that Omeo band of horse stealers of whom I have spoken. They had strains of Harold, Littlejohn, Van Tromp, and Peter Finn. I used two horses bred by E Crooke, of Holey Plains, 22 and 23 years of age respectively, and they were as sound and free from blemish as when they were colts.


Of course Sale had its racecourse like every other country town. I saw Viking’s last race. I could understand, from seeing Viking’s style, his former owner, Lindsay Gordon’s peculiar attitude in the saddle as he approached a fence. When Viking cleared a fence, he immediately began looking out for the next, his beautiful head high in air, and his ears moving as one sometimes sees the ears of a startled hare move, one at a time; and then as soon as he sighted his fence down Viking’s head would go until his nose seemed to skim the ground, a very awkward position I should think for any rider.

A few days before his last race, Viking had ruptured a small blood-vessel in the lungs when racing at Bairnsdale. The bright arterial drops were still showing when the horse was being saddled, and many who saw him thought he should not have started. The course crossed a lane. Viking bungled at the first jump, and before he could recover himself he was into the other fence and broke his neck. This occurred on the Sale course.

The leader in district racing was the late William Pearson, of Kilmany. His notion as regards steeple- chasing was to have one or more fences so high that no ordinary jumper could face them. His horse Archy could jump almost anything; but to make things sure the laird of Kilmany secured a horse he called Baron, bought, it was said, out of a water-cart at Geelong . Baron had ring-bone, and could move freely only on the turf, but he could jump anything. The other racing people at Sale at last got tired of seeing their principal event won by a cart-horse, and insisted on the fences being lowered.

My people in Ireland joined in all local racing, but I never knew any of them to indulge in betting, and I had hitherto observed the same rule. But the Evil One is ever at one’s elbow, and in an unguarded moment I fell from my high resolve. It was in this way. Two horses, half brothers, by Warhawk, had already run a dead heat, one of them belonging to Kilmany. They were running neck and neck in the deciding heat and had covered only about half the journey, when Kilmany sang out ‘Fifty to ten’ on his colt, and I snapped up the offer. I turned away ashamed of myself of having fallen from my integrity. My horse won, and after the race I saw Kilmany searching for the man who took the bet, for the old sportsman liked to settle such matters right off; buy I lay low and did not claim it. Long years after, in the Commotion days, I spoke to Pearson of this affair, which he remembered perfectly, and instead of admiring my principles pronounced me an adjective fool.

Shooting was my special sport, and the abundance of game in Gippsland – snipe, quail, and black duck – was far beyond one’s wildest dreams. The duck-shooting was a most difficult branch of sport. Anyone who has tried to hit a pheasant or a woodcock some time on the wing and skimming down a slope, will understand. I took many tries before I got a single bird. It was the same with other novices. The Governor, Sir J Manners–Sutton, was out one day with a party of four of us, having come expressly for black duck shooting. The sport as it existed in Gippsland in those days has ceased for ever, and is worth describing here.

A reach of water, part of an old river course on the Heart Station, was the place of meeting. It lay between the lakes – where the birds in countless numbers rested during the day – and their evening feeding ground in the swamps and morasses some miles away. The birds began to leave the lakes in the early afternoon, and, no matter where they meant to feed, they invariably passed over this old river-bed, swooping in their flight until they almost touched the water. There was no occasion for the shooter to be concealed; the birds never seemed to take any notice. They could be seen far in the distance, coming in twos and threes quicker than one could reload. The swoop towards the water gave the shooter his chance, a very difficult one, for the birds must have been travelling at the rate of seventy miles an hour at least. The shooting was too difficult for the Governor, who could make no hand of it at all, and spurned the suggestion that he was shooting behind the birds. After perhaps as many as fifty shots without touching a feather, he fired at the leading one of two birds. He knocked over the second, which was quite four feet in the rear, and from that time he began to do better.


One of my early experiences in Gippsland was a ride from Sale to Omeo via Grant. I took what was called the Insolvent Track. I do not know whether this track has since been improved, but I found it the most abominable one, over broken and stony hills at every step. Next followed Bulgoback and Connolly’s Rise before coming to Grant or, as the miners preferred to call it, Crooked River . The Good Hope mine was then at its best, but with its decay later, the fortunes of the little township also came to nought. The mine was on the summit of a high range, and the trollies containing ore from the mine, were run down by wire ropes to the stampers several hundred feet lower than the mine itself. We were shown where the manager, Mitchell, made a very plucky effort to save the buildings and machinery from damage. The brake controlling the trollies went wrong, and when the brakeman lost control he could do nothing to check the speed of the descending trolly. Mitchell grasped the rapidly running rope with his bare hands and managed to get the thing under control, but at the cost of having his hands badly torn. The ‘Good Hope,’ from paying thirty shilling monthly dividends, reached zero shortly after, and all that is now left of the township is I believe only a few tumble-down sheds. No one, however, who knows the district would be surprised to see Grant restored to its former importance.

I had a narrow escape from some pecuniary loss that I could not well afford over this mine – ‘The Good Hope.’ I held several shares partly in trust for friends and partly my own. As the local director, Holmes, who was an old acquaintance of mine, was passing one day through Sale , the shareholders there, of whom there were several, asked his views about the mine. Holmes was perfectly frank in his report. He said that the reef showed as rich as ever, but it would no longer pay unless a tunnel which they had started was carried through; that the country was very difficult, and all the dividend he could absolutely promise was represented in the ore already raised. This report was not good enough for me. But others who also heard the report took my shares at ten guineas each. The ‘Good Hope’ closed down after paying thirty shillings dividend, and has been idle ever since.


The most difficult part of my journey, that from Grant to Omeo, was yet to come – some sixty miles across what are known as the Dargo High Plains. These plains seemed to be on a level with Mount Feathertop , which is separated from them only by deep ravine. On the south the plains appeared to vanish into the horizon, and were everywhere too soft to bear a horse’s weight except on the northern edge, where is a narrow strip of more solid ground. For the person journeying along the very edge of the plain overhanging this ravine the fear is ever present lest his horse should stumble or shy – a fear aggravated in my case by the fact that I was leading a spare horse. The view down into these awful depths at one’s very feet, range rising upon range striped with snow at this late season, February, took one’s breath away. Fearsome also for man and beast was the descent from the plains to the river Dargo below. The track was too steep for the riders to remain in the saddle, and yet it had the appearance of having been much used at one time, a circumstance that led to reflections later on. It was only by hanging on to the reins that we could get the horses to follow, and then the trouble was lest they could not check themselves on the slippery surface of the shelving rocks, and that we who led them should not be able to get out of their way. It took us a full hour to reach the river Dargo, where we found a clean, comfortable shanty kept by two bachelor brothers, who supplied us with a choice midday meal and a feed for horses. One peculiarity of such places of refreshment in those early days was the quality and inexpensiveness of the entertainment supplied. A shilling or eighteen-pence was charged for meals, and for horse feed about the same. One did not grudge the shilling extra – not asked for, but always expected – for the glass of grog that was placed before the weary traveller. The late Chief Justice Stawell, who did this journey once or twice from Bright to Gippsland, made it the rule to pay for his ‘refreshments,’ although none of these places were duly licensed!

The ascent from the river towards Cobungra where we spent the night, need not be particularly described. The road was very much the same as that by which we had descended from the plains, with this difference – that the horses were sent first, while we hung on to their tails. We got to the top in a series of short scrambles, horses and men stopping every few yards to recover their wind. One of our horses did not like his tail being used as a tow-rope, for he kicked out, striking his master on the knuckles.

Few men would care to undertake alone the journey just described. I had the good fortune to have the company of Mr Lewis, the manager of one of Mr William Degraves’ Omeo stations, and he had as guide a man who knew every inch of the country between Gippsland and the Murray district.

I have related elsewhere some of my early experiences in the north-eastern district in the fifties, when Bogong Jack or one of his allies made his regular appearance at Wangaratta, and when with equal regularity police Sergeant Myers ran him into the lock up. Sometimes it was Jack, at another time it was our guide on this journey, or one of his brothers, but the visit to Wangaratta was always a ‘put up job’ intended to set the local police on the wrong scent while certain valuable horses from Pearson’s, or Crooke’s, or Firebrace’s studs were being disposed of on the other side of the Murray. Our guide blushed at finding himself so famous when he discovered that his exploits were known to a stranger like myself. Our host at Cobungra was a fellow student in the same School of Art . These men had reformed under pressure of the police at Omeo, where that very active and efficient Sergeant Reid had the direction of affairs. There is a reason to believe that the track by which our party had come was the only practicable road to the heads of the King and Ovens rivers in the fifties, and that it was used by Bogong Jack and his friends in their early adventures. (When the Kelly bushrangers were ‘out,’ 1878–1880, it was thought they might find their way into Gippsland by this route. There is a narrow pass where the mountain range divides the head waters of the King and Ovens Rivers on the north, and the Wonnongatta on the south. The ridge here is but a few feet wide. Power, the bushranger, used this pass, but the Kellys never went so far afield. Still it was one of the many possibilities the police had to bear in mind during the Kelly hunt.)

Before leaving the subject of the Dargo High Plains, a story may be related here showing how a solitary constable may be called upon to undertake at times a very serious piece of business. The remains of a miner were found in the hut of another miner who was known as the Cranky German. The body had been hacked to pieces and placed in various kerosene tins in the German’s fireplace. None of the residents dared to approach the murderer, who wandered about threateningly, carrying a long handled shovel. Constable Lloyd, known in later years as orderly sergeant in Melbourne to the Chief Secretary, came on the scene. The Cranky German had taken to the plains, and when Lloyd approached, ‘went’ for him with his shovel. The constable might have used his revolver, but he preferred to capture his man alive. Jumping aside, he avoided some downward blows delivered by the German, then a sweeping horizontal blow meant to cut the constable’s head off was dodged, and when the swing of the long handled shovel brought the German round with his back to Lloyd the latter quickly had him down and the handcuffs on. The accused when tried for murder was defended by a local solicitor and, although manifestly quite insane, was hanged, while a man who was also convicted of a very deliberate murder about the same time, at Moe, was reprieved. One curious thing about this latter case was – that the reprieve was announced in the Melbourne press almost before the sittings of the Court were closed.


The Grant and Omeo mines took second place after the Walhalla group, consisting of the Walhalla, Wellesley, North Gippsland, Long Tunnel, Empress and other companies. Gippslanders in the middle and later sixties talked of nothing else but these mines. Walhalla is situated in a deep ravine along which runs Stringer’s Creek, an insignificant watercourse, the bed of which formed the only available dray track, for the ranges on either side approached quite close together. The name Walhalla must have been given in irony, for in its original state the place would have been more appropriately called Avernus. The story of the discovery of the reef is curious. A mounted constable was on the lookout for some men – one of them named Stringer, it is said – who were stripping wattle-bark without a license. These he chased into the scrub, where he could not follow. The men made their way up the creek, and after enduring some hardships came to a spot where they found a reef showing gold at the surface. The news soon spread, and a trial crushing was made by a man named McArdell, who reported 20 ounces to the ton. McArdell must have dropped upon a rich patch, or else his estimate was wrong, for further trials failed to confirm fully his report. The returns were, however, good enough to excite speculation, and the ground was quickly marked out. The shares were mostly taken up by local men – Gairdner, Pearson, R Firebrace, Clements, and others. One claim, the ‘Walhalla’, under the management of Mr Henry Rosales, one of the best known experts of the day, showed such good prospects from the start the Bank of Victoria financed it without calling on the shareholders to contribute anything, with the result that the first crushing paid all preliminary expenses. It is said that the shareholders never had to pay a single call. But this had its drawbacks, for, when the scrip was issued, although the monthly dividends reached as much as £7 per share, speculators were shy of purchasing shares with a liability of £10. It was only a matter of bookkeeping however, for by crediting the shareholders with the profits as against the liability for calls, new scrip, fully paid, was issued without a single penny being taken out of the pockets of the shareholders, and the shares jumped up to a market price of something like £250 each. One man, a mechanic connected with the mine, held one hundred shares. He gave up work and retired to city life, drawing £700 per month. When calling at the General Post Office each month for his cheque, he would be followed close by a crowd of parasites. The pace was too fast, and the lucky shareholder before long passed away into the darkness.


The greatest by far of all this group of mines, the greatest mine I believe in the Commonwealth, is the Long Tunnel. As showing how eager speculators then were, I bought some shares at £12, my first mining investment. I could have them for £10 a day or two before, and still the market price kept steadily rising. I had the singular experience, for me, of growing richer through this unearned increment at the rate of several thousands a year. For one whose normal income was strictly limited, the situation was interesting.

Then before long arose another state of feeling that I have found very difficult to get my friends to understand. As these profits appeared to progress day by day, so day by day my interest in the matter seemed to decrease. I do not suppose that if I had been say a farmer, of if I had been in any other position where I should have had to do some corresponding work, my interest would have flagged to the same extent. This was the only occasion in my life when I had the feeling that I was growing beastly rich. The experience was not of long continuance, for I sold my shares when they reached just double what I paid for them, before a single ounce of gold was raised. All is not gold that glitters; neither are all mining speculations profitable, as I soon afterwards discovered.


There was another mining centre some twenty miles east of Walhalla, known as Edward’s Reef. Here John Arabin was chief magnate and boss. Arabin was an Irish gentleman of splendid physique and as brave as a lion. He held interests in a large mine at Edward’s Reef which he worked on the co-operative system. Arabin supplied the brains, while a considerable Irish following that he ruled over did the work. All went well until it was discovered that on a renewal of the lease Arabin’s name appeared as sole lessee. This furnished some mischief-makers their opportunity; angry altercations followed, and Arabin, conscious of his integrity, became defiant.

One evening as he sat before the fire in his little hut, suddenly there broke in upon him an angry mob of his former followers ready to be avenged for the supposed injuries he had done them. Arabin, strong and brave as he was, was soon overpowered and would probably have been killed or maimed had not affairs taken an unexpected turn. The diversion was caused by his housekeeper coming on the scene brandishing a carving knife, and calling out: ‘Let me at him, boys; he has wronged me. Let me at him.’ The men made way for her, and she straightway put the knife into her master’s hand. Then followed a wild stampede of the enemy, and Arabin was free again. It was never told what execution was done by him, but more than one Irishman on the Reef carried marks afterwards that he did not care to boast of.

Some time after the troubles here described, Arabin had the misfortune to inhale mercurial fumes while dealing with amalgam from the mine. He was advised to seek rest and change, and determined on a two months trip to Tasmania . He was short of ready cash, and, before taking holiday, he got together a syndicate of friends who agreed to take shares in the Edward’s Reef Company. The preliminaries were arranged and a capable manager appointed, but Arabin was too ill to wait to see the work started. This was unfortunate, since the reef was ‘patchy,’ and, in the absence of Arabin, there was no one to advise. The manager did his best, but two months work left him without sufficient money to pay wages and expenses. Arabin’s address was not known, and before the shareholders were aware, the company was placed in liquidation. There was a large amount of uncalled capital, and, although the actual indebtedness of the company did not exceed fifty pounds, the legal adviser of the company announced that Mr Jenkins, the official assignee, was entitled to call up the whole of the capital – several thousands of pounds – levy his percentage thereon, and then, after paying debts, costs, etc., return the much diminished balance to the shareholders. For these there appeared but one way out of the difficulty—the transfer of their shares. Billy, the town bellman at Sale , rose to the occasion, and for a few shillings accepted transfer of the scrip and thus relieved the shareholders of their liabilities. The official assignee arrived on the scene, and Billy was introduced to him as the only shareholder. It was the case of diamond cut diamond; the assignee returned to his place without the comfort even of a B list – an invention, by the way, of later years.


Gippsland is a region of rivers and morasses, and many were the difficulties, not to say dangers, to travellers in time of flood. Flooding Creek, the name by which the township of Sale was known in the early days, was quite appropriate, for the place was liable to very destructive floods at various seasons of the year. Usually the heaviest floods were in the spring, following the melting of the snows on the high ranges of Northern Gippsland , where all the rivers take their rise. I have seen high floods in autumn, when Sale itself was bathed in sunshine, the rising of the waters being the result of cloudbursts on the ranges. To be caught in a spring flood was a serious matter for man or beast, for the temperature of the water was very little above that of snow itself.

It was in one of these spring floods that Mr Archie Campbell of Glencoe lost his life. He and his brother John, needing provisions, tried to work a boat across the La Trobe River, then running in furious torrent over the low ground between Glencoe and Sale . The boat was capsized, and the two brothers saved themselves from sinking by clinging to the top of a tall ti-tree. They could see the lights of the town, for it was dusk when they found themselves in the water. It was agreed that Archie Campbell should set out to swim ashore for help, but no help came. On the following morning John Campbell was seen by some residents, still clinging to the ti-tree. He was quite unconscious, and so stiff with cold that his rescuers had to break off the branch to which he clung before he could be taken into the boat. The fate of his brother was not discovered until the flood went down, when his body was found at the foot of the same tree. This is but one of the many tales of disasters by flood. In later days, when police stations were formed on the upper courses of the rivers, early notice of approaching floods was sent to the residents in the lower districts, giving time for their remove with their stock to higher ground.

As has already been said in the chapter on the Western District, it seemed to me a pity that the system of forming river crossings followed there was not adopted in those parts of Gippsland where suitable material abounded. Every Gippsland flood left bridges wrecked and culverts torn away, requiring a good deal of money to repair damages.

There is no suitable stone, however, immediately about Sale for experiments of this kind, and the piece of road now to be spoken of, between Sale and Longford, called for expedients of another kind. It was planned accordingly that a roadway should be formed across the Longford morass, consisting of heavy red gum sleepers secured to longitudinal beams so as to prevent shifting in time of flood. The Public Works Department undertook the cost and oversight of the work and placed an officer named Gibson as its representative to see that the conditions of the contract were carried out. It was a sine qua non that the timber should be red gum and none other, and yet the contractor, a man named Mac., never put one foot of red gum into the job. The work was passed, the contractor was paid, and then the rumour spread that the work was scamped. The Government proceeded against the contractor, but the case broke down through the failure of its officer to produce his books and other necessary documents. The unfortunate fellow never did produce them, but died in prison, where he was sent for contempt of court. It was an ugly business altogether.


The bushranger Henry Power gave the police a very busy time at the later sixties, until his final capture in 1870 by Superintendents Nicolson and Hare and Sergeant (after Superintendent) Montfort. His exploits were mostly confined to the North-eastern District.

Power, having escaped from the Penal Establishment at Pentridge, at once entered upon his second and final career as a bushranger. Power seemed to be ubiquitous. After committing a robbery at one place to-day, he was found the next day engaged in a similar exploit fifty miles distant. The base of his operations was in the Greta Country, as was that also of his sometime pupil Ned Kelly, the leader of the Kelly gang. Power roved further afield than the Kellys commonly ventured, for he was met as far west as Kyneton and Blackwood, and to the south-east as far as Bairnsdale in Gippsland.

After several successful cases of highway robbery, his career as a bushranger was very nearly brought to an abrupt termination by the plucky action of one or two carriers whom he attempted to stick up on the Sydney Road , near Benalla. This was on June 2 nd, 1869 . The carrier watched his opportunity, and rushing in on Power knocked him down, when he and his mate tied him up and bundled him into their wagon, an uninvoiced piece of goods, to be delivered at the nearest police station. The carriers, however, did not carry out their purpose, for on reaching the little township of Baddaginnie they exhibited the captive bushranger to a local storekeeper named Donaldson. The carriers did not know the value of their prize, and when the storekeeper at Baddaginnie told them that the captured man was a poor decent fellow with wife and family depending on him, and a man who had never harmed anyone, they were persuaded to let the captive go free – another instance of the tolerance shown to evil doers by apparently respectable residents in the north-eastern district of Victoria.

Power lost no time in taking advantage of his restored freedom, and in fact became busier on the road than ever. He stuck up the Buckland coach a few miles from Beechworth. He directed one of the passengers to go round amongst his fellows collecting all the valuables in his hat, and laying their tribute at his feet. He took a fancy to one of the leaders, and had the harness removed. A solitary traveller who had just ridden up unwillingly supplied the necessary saddle and bridle, and Power rode away triumphant, provided with good amount of cash.

Power found the sticking-up of public coaches a pleasant as well as a profitable variation to the less interesting business of stopping and robbing solitary wayfarers. Not long after the affair of the Buckland coach, he turned his attention to the coach running between Mansfield and Jamieson, on the Wood’s Point Road . He took possession of the mail-bags, and having cut them open, took charge of such cash and cheques as they contained, also taking away one of the horses. He confided to the driver, Peter Thompson, that he was about to visit Wood’s Point, and that he would see him at the same place next week. It was supposed that all this was simply intended to deceive the police. Power, however, was as good as his word, and Peter Thompson had the unpleasant experience of seeing his coach rifled a second time within a week.

Shortly after these events, Ned Kelly became a junior partner of Power in the trade of bushranger. Kelly could scarcely have been twenty years of age at the time, but young as he was he showed such great ferocity of character and displayed such readiness to shoot, that Power, who scarcely ever pointed a gun at any of his victims, began to fear that his own neck might be endangered through some indiscretion of his youthful ally, and finally brought the partnership to an end.


It was while they still worked together that they visited Mount Battery , near Mansfield , the home of Dr. Rowe, of whom mention has been made in another chapter. They were in need of fresh mounts, and wished to make a selection of some of the doctor’s horses.

Dr. Rowe was sitting in the house when word was brought to him that Power and a companion were on the hill overlooking his horse paddock. Although well advanced in years, the doctor loaded his rifle, and, while his horse was being saddled and warning conveyed to one of his sons to join him, he did a little stalking on his own account. He succeeded in getting within long range of the two men, who were lying full length in the sun. It was a near thing; his shot knocked the gravel into their faces, and sent them galloping away as fast as their horses could carry them.

The doctor and his son went in hot pursuit, but the fugitives were soon lost sight of in the forest. In these peaceful days all this may sound somewhat high-handed, but if there had been more people of the Rowe temper about, Power and all his tribe would have had shorter careers.

There were no Trades Hall rules as to eight hours work in those early days; if there were, Power certainly did not observe them. On February 2nd, 1870 , early in the day, he stopped three men—George Baker, Saul Spaling and a man named Pridmore, carriers, and relieved them of £15. This feat occurred within three miles of Avenel. Thence a pleasant canter brought him towards Longwood, where he interviewed three other carriers, whom he left some £10 poorer. Then, doubling back on his tracks, he was next seen on the same afternoon on the road between Broadford and Yea, where he rested under the shade of a brush fence.

Power’s rest was disturbed by the approach of a constable on horseback, leading two other horses. Power stood up, covered the constable with his gun and demanded his revolver. There was no resistance possible, the unfortunate man having one hand holding the reins of the horse he was riding, and the other holding the halters of the led horses. Power conversed quite affably with the constable, and told him that on the previous night two policemen pressed him very close, and added reproachfully that if this sort of thing occurred again he would have to shoot some of them. While this was going on Mr Farquhar McKenzie came upon the scene, and him Power relieved of his horse, saddle and bridle.

In relating these exploits I am selecting a few of the more notable, leaving out of account many of the less striking ones. I will add but one further case. Its special interest lies in the fact that it led indirectly to the closing of Power’s career.


Mr. Robert McBean, whose portrait is here shown, was the owner of Kilfera Station, some twelve miles from Benalla, right in the heart of the Greta Country. Here were many of the friends of Power, as of the Kelly gang in later years, but they found Mr McBean and his good wife kindly neighbours. Greta cattle and horses often found their way into the Kilfera paddocks, but there was no impounding, and altogether Mr and Mrs Mc.Bean stood well in the estimation of these Greta folk.

But Power committed the great blunder of sticking up Mr McBean one day in March, 1870, taking from him his horse, saddle and bridle and a valuable gold watch. The watch was an heirloom, and it was agreed that if Power were sent £15 by a man named Jack Lloyd the watch would be restored. The question was whether Lloyd was willing to take the trouble and incur the risks of such an undertaking, without the prospect of some substantial benefit to himself.

Shortly after being robbed Mr McBean visited Melbourne . At the Club of which he was then a member, he met the Chief Commissioner of Police, Captain Standish, who was greatly perplexed at the thought of Power carrying on his campaign for so long a time without being brought to account. He and his friend McBean discussed the matter far into the night. The latter thoroughly understood the character of the people of the Greta district and knew how ready some of the older criminals there were to do anything for a consideration. He suggested that if a sufficient reward were offered, Jack Lloyd, the intermediary named by Power, might be induced to lead the police to Power’s retreat in the mountains, under cover of the arrangement to redeem his (McBean’s) watch.

The reward was gazetted, and as soon as Lloyd was satisfied on this point he undertook to act as guide to the police. Lloyd imposed but one condition – that Monfort, who was then stationed in the N E District, should be one of the police party. He trusted probably in Montfort’s discretion, and probably in his pluck also; at all events Montfort’s presence in the party was a sine qua non with Lloyd.

When progress was reported to Captain Standish, he selected Superintendent Francis Hare as leader of the expedition. Superintendent C H Nicolson was Hare’s senior, and was then in charge of the Kyneton district. He had not been consulted about the expedition, but the affair came to his knowledge and he insisted that, by right of seniority, he should be the leader. It was finally arranged that he, Hare, and Montfort should comprise the party.

The three officers proceeded together to Mr McBean’s house at Kilfera, where it had been arranged that Jack Lloyd should meet them. It was well that Nicolson had joined the party, for Hare was soon at loggerheads with Lloyd and said that he would not undertake the search with such a ‘Pentridge bird’; but Nicolson intervened and soon smoothed matters over. He would, I believe, have gone alone rather than miss such a chance.

It was a rough journey they had before them, the weather was bad and all the creeks were full. The party had made no proper provision for food by the way, and they were reduced at last to digging up potatoes with their hands, without the owner’s permission, for it was part of their plan to keep as far away from all habitations as possible.

To add to their troubles Lloyd, their guide, began to repent of his bargain, and would have deserted under cover of the night, but for the watchfulness of an aboriginal boy whom the police had taken with them. At length, after two or three days and nights struggling through rough scrub, drenched and miserable, they found themselves at daybreak on a winter morning, at the foot of a mountain spur running into the Upper King River. Here the guide proposed a halt while he went up the hill to make sure that Power was at home, and to exchange the cash—fifteen pounds—for McBean’s watch, as had been agreed.

Lloyd returned shortly with the watch. He was in great excitement, pointed to a streak of smoke rising high up the range, and then bolted into the scrub.

The police started along an ill defined track that seemed to lead towards the place where the smoke was seen. They lost the track and were bushed for a time. Hare was disposed to give up the search, the scrub was so dense they could not see twenty yards ahead—but Nicolson insisted on pushing on, and they soon got on the track again. The police walked three abreast, and as they rounded a fallen tree, they saw a shelter of bark, open at the end and built against the trunk of the tree, and a man lying on his back asleep. Nicolson happened to be on the side nearest to the head, and Hare on that towards which the man’s feet pointed, and they flung themselves down together to grasp the sleeper.

Hare at his end was the quicker, for before Nicolson could reach the ground the other officer had pulled the man out by the legs. Power, for it was he, was for the moment to amazed to speak, and when he did find voice it was to say, ‘Oh, if I had only seen you coming.’ This came about the closing of Power’s career for ever as a bushranger.

There was always a difficulty in getting these officers – two of them in particular – to give the details of the expedition here described, especially of the last few critical moments. Montfort would scarcely speak at all about the matter, chiefly, as I think, that he did not wish to appear to be taking sides between the two senior officers, and Nicolson was little less reticent. Hare, in his Last of the Bushrangers, gives his version of the affair. Yet it is strange that during many months of close fellowship with him in after years, I never once heard him allude to the matter. The story, as I have told it here, is as accurate as anything that can now be given. There appeared, in an evening paper some years since, a statement purporting to be from Power himself, in which it was alleged that Hare, in the excitement of the moment, was about to shoot Power after he was a prisoner, but that Nicolson prevented him. In all the years that I knew the three officers, and I knew them very intimately, I never heard any suggestion or whisper to this effect, and personally I do not believe for a moment that anything of the kind occurred.

Where there are three men such as these, of proved courage, it may seem to be invidious to single out one of them for special commendation. But it is due to C H Nicolson to say that he was in a very critical state of health before and during this expedition, and had, in fact, two bad seizures during the forty-mile tramp after leaving Kilfera that would have turned back most men. They left him, however, as determined as ever to go forward. It was gratifying to me to be told by him, several years after, that he had had no return of illness, and that the excitement of his tramp after Power seemed to have acted as a cure.

The man Lloyd received the whole of the reward, the police not taking a penny of it. People such as Lloyd do not keep their secrets well, and it soon became known that he had given Power over to the police. Within a few years he was killed by falling from his horse while drunk. There have been dark hints that a friend of Power, while galloping alongside of Lloyd, pushed him out of the saddle, but no sufficient evidence of this has ever been brought out.

Mr McBean’s part in the affair was also well known throughout the district, but he was of too sturdy and independent character to be concerned. It is true that one of Jack Lloyd’s brothers, when reproved by McBean for interrupting a public sale, called out: – ‘Who received the reward for Power’s arrest?’ but he received the prompt reply from McBean as he pulled out his pocket-book: ‘I did, and here is your receipt for the money.’ This was but bluff to silence the noisy blackguard, for, as I have said, the money was paid to Jack Lloyd himself.

Among the articles found in Power’s possession when arrested was the cash, fifteen pounds in notes, which Lloyd have given him in exchange for Mr. McBean’s watch. The officers had taken the numbers of the notes beforehand, there was therefore no doubt about their identification. When Mr. McBean asked that the money should be returned to him, the Treasurer, Sir James McCulloch, refused on the ground that to do this would be ‘compounding a felony.’ The excuse was an absurdity, but the Treasurer was not to be persuaded, and Mr. McBean never saw his money again.


These were not eventful years, for me at last. A change of policy by the McCulloch Government led to the reduction of districts, and consequent to a re-arrangement of officers, in the early part of 1871, it was my lot to be told off to take charge of the Kyneton sub-district. It was a costly move, but one had learned to bear these things patiently. I found my work at Kyneton pleasant enough, and the people of the district hospitable and kind. But there soon appeared the stormy petrel of my career – my friend Kabat. For some reason that I have forgotten, he retired from the charge of Russell Street , the headquarters of the metropolitan division, and I was called to take his place. It was but a short sojourn, for promotion to the rank of Superintendent came in 1874 and my removal to the Upper Goulburn district, of which I then took charge. This district was regarded by previous officers as one of the undesirable commands, but I found it full of interest. It included such places as Jamieson, Gaffney’s Creek, Woods’ Point, Jericho and Marysville, right in amongst the mountains, besides some stations in less hilly parts. My early home had been amongst hills, and in my active days I never looked at a mountain without feeling a desire to climb to its summit. In spite of the exceeding roughness of the roads, and on occasions cold and stormy weather, the views from Matlock and other mountain tops never failed to reward one for the difficulties of the way. There were also lovely views from Mansfield , the headquarters of the district, especially the view of Mount Buller with its ever changing hues. The early traditions of hospitality still held good with the settlers throughout the district. It is true that when wearied after a long day’s ride I often preferred “mine ease at mine in”; this does not detract, however, from the kindness with which the resident settlers received one when any chance brought one to their homes. The names of Alfred Chenery, Hastings Cuningham, Dr Rowe, D T Stodart, Tolmie, and many others at once recur to memory.

The following description of one main road will give some idea of the difficulties that early travellers had to content with: –


In the early sixties when gold was discovered at Woods’ Point, an attempt was made to use what is still called the Yarra track, as the line of communication between Melbourne and the new goldfield. This track, after reaching Marysville, commenced the ascent to the summit of a spur that continued at a moderately even level until it joined the main divide at Matlock. The first six miles, from Marysville to Tommy’s Bend, led up a steep and continuous incline, and over this portion the Government had constructed a well-formed metal road, while the remaining forty or fifty miles were simply cleared of timber. But the road was never found quite practicable. The summit of the spur was composed of deep rich soil, which practically never dried – in its least sodden state, the ‘glue pot’ stage, it was at its worst – and there were so many accidents and delays that its use for general traffic was abandoned. Cobb & Co, with their usual enterprise, had put on a line of coaches, but this, too, was given up when one of their coaches and its team of horses fell into a ravine, and met with a grievous smash. The leaders shied at an old lady in a bright red cloak, as she sat by the roadside waiting to take her place in the coach, and dragged the other horses and coach into the gully.

Even the metalled road at the Marysville end had its dangers, as I learned by personal experience in the descent from Tommy’s Bend . In spite of a powerful brake, twice I was compelled to run the horses and trap into the bank on the upper side to avoid disaster. I suppose even to this day there may be found, all over the unmade parts of the Yarra track, the wreckage of vehicles that became fixed in the deep mud, or were overwhelmed in the winter snows and were left derelict.

To find a road fit for general traffic a wide cast had to be made, and finally the teamsters, for they it is who mostly decided such matters, chose the route via Longwood and Mansfield. There is no hardier and more patient and plodding worker than the genuine teamster. His horse and his wagon are his own, and he knows to a nicety what load his horses are equal to.

This new track was over firm ground, but there were some very stiff pinches, sufficient to try the mettle of both horses and men, such as the hills known as the ‘Flour Bag’ and ‘Frenchman’s.’ The actual roadway, cut out of the mountain side, was not more than eight feet or so wide, with steep unguarded precipices on the lower side. Of course, accidents did occasionally occur, but the wonder is they were not much more frequent.


The teamsters did not travel alone, for there were many places where double-banking was a necessity, and six or more horses in single file might often be seen hauling one load over some bad pinch, for the mountain roads were too narrow to admit of two horses working abreast. At a word from the driver the whole team would throw themselves into the collar and put their full power into the effort.

It was to such a team that one of the accidents of which I speak occurred. The puddles in the track were found frozen in the morning, and the whole of the combined teams were put on. Unfortunately, the brake was hard on, and instead of shifting the load the leading horses, slipping on the frozen puddles, swung themselves over the edge into the ravine, carrying the entire string of horses, dray, driver, and all, with them. Strange to tell, when help arrived, the driver was found unhurt – jammed under a log on which the dray rested, and the horses uninjured, but the cargo – cases of spirits mostly – was badly broken up. The plucky driver cleared a track from the spot where the dray had lodged, and facing the horses up hill contrived somehow to replace the dray again on the road from which it had fallen.

A more tragic accident happened on the same line of road at the place known at Martin’s Gap, between Mansfield and the beautifully-situated little township of Jamieson . Two teamsters were making their way to the diggings each with a cargo of explosives, when suddenly the leading dray, with all that appertained to it, was blown into space. Of the unfortunate driver, all that was left was a portion of one leg with boot still on, caught in the topmost branches of a tall tree, where I saw it still hanging many months after. The second team, though following quite close, escaped altogether.

The police work, too, had for me a special interest. Like all places near the outskirts of civilization, the district furnished attractions to certain classes of people who were not to particular as to the way in which they supplied their larder, and whose instincts led them to settle down in quiet sequestered spots. The neighbourhood could boast of their Isaiah Wright, ‘Wild’ Wright as he was better known, and some others who had their special weaknesses. ‘Wild’ Wright when on his trial for some offence, gave notice to the Crown Prosecutor, Mr J T T Smith, to look out lest his favorite nag should disappear, and disappear it did. Wright was associated with Ned Kelly, who later became leader of the Kelly gang of bushrangers, but he was not deemed cautious enough to be trusted by Kelly when evil days fell upon the latter and he found himself an outlaw.

There were also near relations of the Kelly family who occupied the attention of the police a good deal, besides others who took up selections in out-of-the-way places east of the Strathbogie Range, and near the back country of Tolmie’s (Dueran) property, not far from the scene of the police murders by the Kelly gang in 1878. This last was really the danger spot of the Mansfield district. It was well that, although the shady characters who resided there were united against the police, they were disunited amongst themselves in other respects.

A curious side-light was thrown on this disunion in an inquiry held at Mansfield by Mr J A. Panton, Police Magistrate, into a vamped-up story by a local resident who sought to recover some damages from the Government. The people that might have been expected to support the claimant turned out to be opposed to him, and when I asked one of them, a man named Perkins, how this was so, he replied that the claimant was altogether too greedy, that they were full up of him, for he always insisted on keeping for himself the best parts of any beast they had ‘duffed’ together from Tolmie’s herd.

On taking charge of the district, I found there two men of remarkable merit – Sergeant Michael Kennedy and Senior Constable Frank James. The former was one of the unfortunate victims in the Wombat tragedy, of which further later on. These two men kept up an unceasing watchfulness in their respective sub-divisions. They were, by a natural instinct apparently, policemen of the best class, and had established themselves in the confidence of all decent people in the district. Had it not been for the efforts of these two men, the Mansfield district might easily have become a second ‘Kelly Country’ with its own independent gang of bushrangers.


The mountains appealed to Bishop Moorhouse so strongly that he undertook the journey from Marysville to Woods’ Point, alone and on foot. He had to cover, in two days, from fifty to sixty miles of very difficult road, with the prospect of finding only one place of accommodation on the journey. The Bishop acknowledged that he was pretty well knocked out at the end, and said he would not undertake such a tour again, but his labours were fully rewarded in the wondrous views and the loveliness of the scenery on every side along the route. The charms of Tommy’s Bend , and the wide prospect from Matlock, with Baw Baw and Mount Useful near, and range upon range in the distant south and east, were something to be remembered. The Bishop reached Mansfield in time for the Sunday service. The little church was filled, and the preacher, still wearied from his journey, delivered such a sermon as was not easily to be forgotten. The only ill effect of this fine sermon, delivered extempore and without notes, was that our resident parson, a man slow of speech, for a few Sundays afterwards inflicted some very tedious extempore discourses on his people until they rose against him and insisted on his return to the use of written sermons.

Bishop Moorhouse visited Mansfield a second time, but this was after the police murders, when his sympathies for the family of the deceased sergeant greatly impressed the people of Mansfield . When he reached Benalla, where I then lived, he showed special interest in the Queensland black trackers. Their throwing of the boomerang gave him great delight. The onlookers watched the Bishop as he dodged the return flight of the boomerangs, sometimes flinging himself flat on the ground, altogether enjoying the exhibition in a very unepiscopal way, and ‘tipping’ the black boys after every throw.

Next followed an exhibition of the tracking powers of the Boys. These Boys were shut up in their hut while a constable was sent to make a circuit in the forest quite out of view of every one, with instruction to drop pipes, knives and other odds and ends. On his return the Boys took up the trail and succeeded in picking up every article dropped by the constable. I shall have more to say about these Boys in a later chapter.

To return to Mansfield , with which place I have not yet quite done. Mansfield in the seventies had its one surgeon and general practitioner, Samuel Reynolds. It was difficult for strangers to understand that one doctor should be sufficient to meet the needs of the people of so large a district, a man, too, somewhat past middle life, and who first appeared amongst them in the garb of a miner, for Reynolds had come to Mansfield helping to convey an injured mate over the rough mountain-tracks from Woods’ Point. Finding neither hospital nor practitioner at Mansfield , Reynolds came to stay. There were few men better qualified for his profession, or more successful, in surgical work especially, than Reynolds. A small hospital was started, and with an allowance of fifty pounds a year, and with the aid of Miss Quirk as matron, and Jim Kirby as wardsman, both worthy if untrained workers, Reynolds became sole medical officer. Whether it was that funds were low, or that the hospital managers were stingy, no instruments were supplied for surgical use. Reynolds used to tell how he had to perform operations with a tenon-saw borrowed for the occasion from Bowles, the saddler, and a poultry carver borrowed from the hotel. Some surgical cases coming to him were of a very serious character, cases where men were badly injured in machinery, or in accidents with horses etc. The first inquiry from Reynolds usually was, ‘Has the patient been of temperate habits?’ If the answer was ‘Yes’ , then recovery was almost certain, and friends went away relieved; but if the answer was ‘No,’ then there was an ominous shake of the head, and friends had to leave without much comfort from Reynolds.

Reynolds had never possessed the sense of taste or of smell, and yet he used sugar, mustard, pepper, salt and all other usual condiments and flavourings with his food, and smoked his pipe regularly like other men.

The deprivation of the sense of smell was not all loss to Reynolds, for on one trying occasion at least it left him proof against odours that others could not stand. A Chinaman had come to the hospital whose leg had been broken some days before. The unfortunate man was brought on horseback from Jericho , some seventy miles over mountain roads, and gangrene had set in. Dr Rowe then resided at Mount Battery , near Mansfield ; and although he had retired from practice, he assisted Reynolds when required in any difficult operation. Reynolds decided on amputation in the case of the Chinaman, and at once set to work. A very few minutes of the sickening odour from the mortifying limb of the unfortunate patient was too much for Dr Rowe and the other assistants, and Reynolds was left alone to complete the operation, and the patient made a good recovery.

There was a curious sequel to this. It is, of course, well known that most Chinamen desire their bones to rest in Celestial Land . The particular Chinaman upon whom Reynolds had operated was no exception. He had saved sufficient money to maintain him for the remainder of his life, and resolved to return to his home in China . He could not die happy there without the severed portion of his limb, and so it happened that he appeared one day at the hospital requiring that it should be restored to him. In his blandest manner he made his wishes known to the wardsman Kirby, ‘Please, Mr Kilby, let me have that leg back again.’‘What leg?’ replied Jim Kirby, ‘Is it that rotten old stump the doctor cut off to save your life? Did you suppose I was going to keep a thing like that all this time?’ The Chinaman pleaded his best, but Jim lost temper and told the man to go home and not to be bothering people about a stinking old thing like that. The Chinaman next hunted up Reynolds, who was more tolerant than Kirby, and knew also more about Chinese superstitions. He suggested privately to Jim that he should collect the most likely looking bones he could find in the dust heap, solemnly hand them over to John, and take a formal receipt for them.

As I have said there was no intrusion of other medicos into Reynolds’ domain. The reason was not far to seek. Reynolds was not only a skilful practitioner who never refused any call by day or night, but he scarcely ever made a formal claim for payment for his services. Agriculturists are proverbially long-winded in the matter of payment, probably owing to the nature of the business. If a client had had a good season he might remind Reynolds of his own indebtedness to him. If payment was to be in cash the amount was fixed by the client; in other cases a milch cow, a side of bacon, or some horse-feed was accepted as payment in full of all claims. Reynolds‘ bill to me for three years service, delivered only after much insistance, almost made me ashamed, but he would accept no addition to it. It is no wonder that he was without competitors.


I have already made reference to Jericho , which lies at the southern base of Matlock, close to where the Thompson River takes its rise. I found it, in 1875, a decayed mining hamlet occupied by Chinese fossickers, with a sprinkling of poor whites who seemed to have neither money nor energy to seek a living elsewhere. One can only guess that the name Jericho was given to the police for the reason that ‘it was a hard road to travel,’ as sung in the well-known nigger melody. The roads to the place were steep and rugged, and one wondered how the first explorers found their way there. The soil is wonderfully rich, as it nearly always is on the southern slopes of the mountain ranges, but it was not land hunger that led the people there, but rather the thirst for gold. There were some very rich alluvial claims before the time I speak of, especially some ground worked by Gaffney, the reputed discoverer of Jericho , who later discovered the creek bearing his name, on the northern watershed. The mines at Gaffney’s Creek still appear occasionally on the brokers‘ lists, while Jericho is now but a name. It may be, however, that the rich soil of the latter place may yet attract cultivators for whom there is no room left on the lower plains. It may even happen that Jericho will come again as a goldfield, but not yet, as I think the mining district of Woods‘ Point, which embraces Jericho, has had a bad name with investors from the very first, and much has to be forgotten before men will care to venture their money in the district again.

My first visit to Jericho was, as I have said, in 1875. I found a solitary constable there, Studholme Hodgson by name, a man on the whole of the better class, though he did find himself in a difficulty during his residence at Jericho that might have ended very seriously for him. The affair to which I refer also showed how ready Orientals are to embelish facts, even when there is very little gained by doing so. Finding on my visit to Jericho that there was no police work to be done there, Constable Hodgson was instructed to close up the police quarters and remove to Mansfield . Hodgson was held in much esteem by the few Britishers in the place, who determined on giving him a send off. Some days later a Chinaman came into Woods’ Point to report to the police there that on the night of the Jericho festivities he had been stuck up and robbed of some two pounds in silver by a white man, and that the constable took part in the affair. Fook Sing, a Chinese detective, was sent to investigate, and in due course he sent in a report somewhat to this effect: – Hodgson’s entertainers, finding that they had run short of grog, and having no ready cash for the purchase of a fresh supply, deputed one of their number to endeavour to raise a loan. It was a bright moonlight night, and the first person invoked was the complainant. John’s reply of ‘No savee’ was no accepted; his pockets were turned out and all the money he had was taken. The noise brought out Hodgson, who, according to the complainant, took part in emptying out his pockets. It was further alleged that a Chinese who accompanied the complainant to Woods’ Point was roughly run into the lock-up there.

Detective Fook Sing could say nothing about the lock-up incident, but he reported that the complainant had his money taken from him alright; but instead of the larger sum named, his loss was but five shillings, the balance of some thirty-five shillings, money belonging to his employer, having been previously lost at fan tan. When proceedings were taken against the two accused men, Hodgson and his friend, before the police magistrate, Mr Ogier, it was, of course, my duty to make known the fact that, while some money had been taken, the amount was overstated.

There was a further discrepancy in the evidence. The Chinese friend who was run into the lock-up gave a very dramatic description of the incident, and going to the door of the court house showed how the door of the lock-up was drawn outwards to shut him in. The fact was, the lock-up door was hung on the outside, and not as described by the witness. Mr Ogier, quite properly as I think, regarded these discrepancies as fatal to the prosecution. If the Chinese had told an unadorned tale the result might have been different.

Besides the beauty spots on every side and the grandeur of the view from Mount Matlock , it is interesting to note that the township of Matlock is the highest in Victoria , probably in all Australia , being, I believe, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. The principal store, Donaldson’s, stands exactly on the line dividing the two water sheds of Victoria . When the Bailiwicks Act came into force it became necessary to decide whether Matlock was north or south of the central line of the Great Dividing Range . I accompanied Messrs W G Brett and H C Stavely, Sheriffs of the adjoining Bailiwicks, to Matlock to enquire into the question. The solution was an easy matter. The time was winter, and the melting snow on Donaldson’s roof was seen to pass from one side into the southern watershed, and on the other side into the northern.


It was while I was quartered at Mansfield that the momentous elections of May, 1877, took place. The former member for the district, Mr William Witt, was opposed by Mr J H Graves. In those days the police had no vote, and I was therefore somewhat surprised when Mr Graves called upon me in his canvas. It was to no purpose that I reminded him that I had no vote, and that the police took no part in such matters. He persisted in explaining his political views and in reading the address to the electors that he intended to publish in the next issue of the local newspaper. I took very little interest in his address, which was a very involved piece of literature, except to notice that he was a pronounced free-trader. He laid his views also before other residents. Within a week his address was published, but with a difference – he now posed as a stiff protectionist. It was one of those lightning changes that Mr Graves afterwards became famous for in his political career. An expose followed, but Mr Graves stoutly denied any charge of front. I kept quite clear of the discussion, of course, and refused to be drawn into it in any way.

Another instance of the very variable views of the same candidate was much spoken of at the time. Mr Graves found the Broken River in flood, and he had to carry on his canvas down one side, and having crossed the river at Benalla, he worked his way up the other side. To the Protestant folk on one side Mr Graves was a strict Orangeman – no Popery for him. On the Roman Catholic side he would not deny that he was a Protestant; it was the creed of his forefathers and naturally he followed it, but Protestant bigotry was most contemptible. He did not take into account that the river was not always in flood; and that religious differences did not prevent neighbours from discussing the views of the new candidate, which they did very much to his disadvantage. At Jamieson, where Gleeson, the local political boss, was a Roman and rather shy of Freemasonry, the candidate would have nothing to do with secret societies; he was a plain man who always spoke the truth. At Woods’ Point he was a leading light amongst the Masons, and could not see why any one should object to so ancient and noble an institution. I cannot say whether a majority of the electors loved a lie or no, but Mr Graves was brought in at the head of the poll.


After the May, 1877, election ‘Black Wednesday’ followed. One need not enlarge on this foul blot in the history of Victoria . The police department which the Berry Ministry had determined to disband, was one of the few branches of the public service that was not broken up. A strange chance saved it at the last moment; and at the same time saved the whole community from the unspeakable evils that would have followed.

The secret of the story of this chance, as I have called it, has been well kept. Why it should be so is not easy to understand, for the central figure in the affair deserved no such immunity, nor do I see why, in these Recollections, the true story may not now see the light.

A high officer of the State in those evil days, a man notoriously of unclean life, was found late at night under ambiguous circumstances on the private premises of a gentleman residing in one of the suburbs. The owner of the premises did not wait for an explanation. He took the law into his own hands and severely punished the intruder, finally kicking him out of the place. Partly to safeguard himself, this gentleman called early on the following day on the Chief Commissioner of Police, related the circumstances and sought advice as to what proceedings he should take. Then followed such negotiations and interventions of friends as might have been expected, with the result that the matter was hushed up. The high official recognised, of course, that it was the intervention of the head of the police service that saved the situation. It saved also the police department, for when the schedule for the disbanding of the service came before him he promptly vetoed it.

While I write, a discussion is being carried on and complaints are being made as to the insufficient number of police magistrates in Melbourne . What would be said by people now if they were suddenly to find that there were no police magistrates in town or country? This was what actually happened on January 18th, 1878 , the Black Wednesday of which I have spoken, when every such officer in Victoria was dismissed. While on this subject I intend to deal only with results as I found them. Neither do I desire to speak in any sweeping condemnation of the unpaid magistracy. The unpaid justices were not all incompetent nor corrupt, neither were all the stipendiary officers strong and skilled administrators of the law. This only I will say, that during the interval between the dismissal of the stipendiaries

and their restoration, the administration of the law in the lower courts was in a very unsatisfactory condition. Local men, storekeepers, traders, etc., apart from their ignorance of law, lie to often under the suspicion of favouritism and partiality, to satisfy the public sense of right. Moreover, the honorary justices themselves felt that the burden was more than they could bear. At the first Police Court which I attended after the ‘restoration,’ the honoraries, the lawyers and the police joined in one paean of rejoicing that the old order had come again.


Mr A L Haydon, in his Trooper Police of Australia, speaks of the ‘false romantic glamour’ with which the highwaymen of Australia have been invested. The true picture of the bushranger shows him as a very poor and sordid thing indeed. The Kellys, in spite of a few successful enterprises, were as poor and unheroic as any of their kind. The more one reflects on the circumstances of these enterprises the more one wonders at the timidity and faint heartedness of the people they had to do with, and that made these successes possible. That the Kellys should be able to round up like sheep large numbers of men at Faithfull’s Creek and Glenrowan, and, worse still, a whole township as they did at Jerilderie, is not a pleasant subject for reflection. I doubt if such attempts would have succeeded against the men who came to Victoria in the early days of the gold discoveries, or indeed against the people who were here before them. Messrs Dowling and Percy de Grut, when attacked in the early sixties by four armed men – the same number, by the way, as the Kelly gang consisted of – showed how brave and effective some at least of the men of those early days could be.

There was nothing heroic in the attack on a solitary constable, Fitzpatrick, nor in the slaughter of the police whom they ambushed in the Wombat Forest and whom they had practically in their power. If the Kellys were not such savages, if they were men more confident in their own courage, what kudos they might have earned for themselves! They might have sent these police back to their barracks bound in their own handcuffs. Such an exploit would have largely extenuated all their past misdoings.

It is not my intention to inflict upon the reader of these Recollections a fresh version of the story of the Kellys. It has already been told accurately enough, and told more vividly than I could tell it, both by Dr. Fitchett and Mr. Charles Chomley. To me, writing from the police point of view, the Kelly outbreak has this one moral – prevention is better than cure. The whole cost of this evil business, in life and treasure, might have been avoided by a better administration of police affairs in the north-eastern district. I have shown how effective were the efforts of a few specially zealous and competent police in other places. The true Kelly country, however, was neglected; police stations were broken up, or else constables quite unequal to the task of keeping evil doers in check, were placed in charge. Mr C H Nicolson, Inspecting Superintendent, had been through the district not long before the Kelly outbreak, and had sounded a note of warning, but no notice was taken. There is this to be said in extenuation – the shadow of Black Wednesday was still over the service, no officer felt secure in his position under the Berry regime. Indeed, Mr Berry made no secret of his view that the police service could be carried on altogether without officers, whose names were never mentioned in the courts as having arrested any one. All things considered, the man at the head of a department so threatened needed to be a very strong man and one possessed of a true sense of duty to enter upon any far-sighted policy. Captain Standish, the Chief Commissioner of Police, was not such a one, and the saving of a few hundred pounds bore as its natural fruit that great and costly trouble—the outbreak of the Kelly gang of bushrangers.


It was while this trouble was impending that I was called to take charge of a new and much enlarged district, with headquarters at Benalla. My place at Mansfield was taken by Sub-Inspector Pewtress, a thoroughly good officer unacquainted, however, with bush work. It is due to him to say that in spite of this drawback, his zeal and diligence proved him then, as indeed I found him at all times, a really efficient helper.

Before entering on my new charge, I had arranged with Sergeant Kennedy to take out a party of police to make search in the Wombat country for the two brothers, Ned and Dan Kelly, against whom warrants had been issued for the assault on Constable Fitzpatrick; and another party of police was to be sent from the Greta side in conjunction with Kennedy’s party. Sergeant Kennedy had been in communication with a selector in the Wombat forest from whom he expected useful information, a man who was likely to be well informed of all that was going on of a criminal kind in this little-known territory. But this man was not doing his part, so at least Kennedy thought, and at the sergeant’s desire he and I rode out to the selector’s home in the hope that I might use my influence with him. Our journey was in vain, for the selector was not at home. The latest communication I had from Kennedy was to the effect that the selector had furnished no information to him. I am quite sure also, that the sergeant had no definite information from any source that the Kellys were in the Wombat country when he and his party went out on this disastrous search.

I was at Dookie, some 25 miles from Benalla, on the morning of Monday, 28 th October, 1878 , when the report reached me of the murders of the police on the previous Saturday. The particulars of this great crime are too well known to need repetition here, further then to state that the police surprised by the Kellys consisted of Sergeant Kennedy, Constables Lonigan, Scanlon and McIntyre. The last-named constable was the only one who escaped.

Immediately on hearing the news I hastened to Benalla, where I found the Inspecting-Superintendent, C H Nicolson, just arrived from Melbourne . The prevailing impression at the time was that the Kelly gang, now increased to four, were likely to be still somewhere near the scene of the murders. I did not share in this view, for I was satisfied that men new to crime of this character would get away from the scene as far and speedily as possible, and I urged that police parties should be despatched to watch the crossings on the River Murray, then in high flood. Events proved that I was right. Mr Nicolson was, however, my senior officer, and the decision in the matter was in his hands. He was influenced by the thought that public feeling, so greatly shocked as it was, would demand that search should be made in the first instance near the scene of the outrage, and thither accordingly the bulk of the available police were at once sent.

After conferring with Mr Nicolson, I proceeded at once to Mansfield , some 40 miles distant. So great was the alarm on every side that the carriers on the roads halted on their journey, fearing lest they should run up against the Kellys; and each man I met was astonished that I should ride through the country without an escort, some of them imploring me to turn back. My answer to then was – ‘The Kellys are hundred miles away by this time.’

On reaching Mansfield I found that Sub Inspector Pewtress had done all that was possible under the circumstances. Although he was far from well, he had collected a party of local residents to proceed to the Wombat, where the bodies of Constable Lonigan and Scanlon were found; and a second party was now being prepared to make further search for Sergeant Kennedy, whose fate was still in doubt. This was no easy matter to accomplish, for the people of Mansfield were possessed by the fear that the gang would raid their town, and apart from this there was the danger of their being ambushed by the gang as the unfortunate police had been. It was agreed that the searchers for Kennedy should go out unarmed in proof of their inoffensive purpose should they come in contact with the Kellys. It was told, however, that on some sudden alarm arising during the search, every man pulled out a weapon of one kind or another, ready to defend himself in case of need.

One of the saddest duties that ever fell to my lot when I reached Mansfield was to visit the wife of Sergeant Kennedy and to offer such condolence as I could in her dread uncertainty. Her grief was piteous to witness, and one dared not venture to buoy her up with the hope of her husband’s safety.


It was a stupid and cruel thing to speak of McIntyre’s escape out of the hands of the Kellys – from the very jaws of death – as desertion of his comrades. The members of the Longmore Police Commission, in their inquiry which followed later, seemed to feel unkindly towards him, but these gentlemen are entitled to a chapter to themselves. At any rate when I met Constable McIntyre, the second day following the police murders, I shook him warmly by the hand and endeavoured to set him at ease, on this point. His story, as he then told it to me, was this:—

‘Our party arrived at the camp on Friday, October 25 th, 1878 , and next morning Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlon went out on horse-back, leaving Constable Lonigan and myself in charge. We had no idea that any danger was to be expected, and we occupied ourselves in doing the cooking, fixing up the camp and looking after our horses. About five o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday, while I was at the fire cooking our food for the evening meal, suddenly Lonigan and I heard the call to throw up our hands, and saw four armed men, partly concealed by the timber, covering us with their guns. I had no weapon but a small table-fork, and I threw up my hands. Lonigan was sitting on a log, and on hearing the call to throw up his hands, he put his hands to his revolver, at the same time slipping down for cover behind the log on which he had been sitting. Lonigan had his head above the level of the log and was about to use his revolver when he was shot through the head. Then the four men rushed in on me and searched me for arms but found none, as I had left my revolver in the tent when I went to the fire. While I sat with them they questioned me about the other police, when I begged of them to spare their lives, and I would try to get them to surrender.

After a time we heard the sound of the horses approaching, and I went forward to speak to Sergeant Kennedy. The four men were then hidden behind the logs, and when I told the sergeant that we were ambushed and advised him to give himself up he took it as a joke. Constable Scanlon, however, appeared to have realized the situation, at the same time unslinging the Spencer rifle which he carried. He threw himself from the saddle, and took a step or two towards a tree, when he was shot down. The sergeant by this time had dismounted from his horse on the offside and began returning the fire of the gang, resting his revolver on the saddle. The sergeant had evidently lost hold of the reins, for the horse moved towards him (McIntyre), leaving the sergeant exposed.” This was the position of affairs when McIntyre mounted the sergeant’s horse and made good his escape. But there were a few critical moments before McIntyre was out of the zone of fire. This horse had a trick of rearing up when the spurs were suddenly applied, and of starting off when the rider leant forward over his mane. It so happened that when the horse reared McIntyre lost his stirrup, and as he bent forward on the horse’s neck to recover it the animal bounded away, carrying his rider at once into the surrounding scrub. It is probable that while the sergeant was occupying the attention of the gang, McIntyre’s movements were not at once observed, but now the men turned their fire on him, and as McIntyre bent forward over the horse’s neck they took it as proof that he was hit, and a loud shout of exultation followed. Thus far McIntyre’s story carries us.


What occurred after McIntyre’s escape has come to us through statements made to their friends—to Aaron Sherritt more especially—by the Kelly gang some time later. These told how Kennedy continued firing his revolver as he backed away from his assailants, and how he was disabled just as he was about to discharge another shot, his arm dropping helpless by his side and blood pouring from his coat-sleeve. Then, seated on the ground leaning against a tree the gang sat round him while he pleaded for his life. Dan Kelly, ferocious little savage as he was, wished to kill him straight away, and several times the sergeant pushed aside the gun as its muzzle was laid against his chest. The others were undecided what to do, but Dan Kelly finally settled the question by putting his gun against the unfortunate sergeant’s body and killing him instantly. It appears further, that before leaving the scene of these murders, Ned Kelly insisted on each of his companions discharging their weapons into the dead bodies of the three police, thus fully implicating, as he thought, each and all in the crime that had been committed.

As I talked with McIntyre on the Monday evening after these events, I could see that he was still nervous and excited. He told me that while he was kept a prisoner by the gang, and while any hope remained of saving the lives of his two companions he found himself cool and collected. McIntyre was a devout man, and his faith I have no doubt sustained him. I speak thus from my own knowledge and observation of the man, not from any direct statement by him. He admits, however, that a great dread fell on him as soon as he found himself fleeing through the forest, believing as he did that he was being pursued. His horse stopped suddenly at a little open glade in the forest, and there McIntyre dismounted, supposing the horse to have been wounded. Thence he made his way towards Mansfield as best he could throughout the night. When I spoke with him on Monday evening he had just returned from the long day’s search that discovered the bodies of Constables Lonigan and Scanlon, and it was not a matter for surprise that he should be somehow unnerved after all he had passed through.


From many years experience of bush criminals, and from my knowledge of the features of the north-eastern districts, I was led at once to recognise that in the work now cut out for the police the aid of scouts was a prime essential.

Finding ‘Wild’ Wright detained in Mansfield lock-up on some trifling charge, I was in hope of inducing him to do some serviceable work. Wright was in great fear lest some serious charge was hanging over him and was disposed at first to listen to my proposals. He undertook to go amongst the friends of the Kellys, so as to ascertain if possible the fate of the missing sergeant. Beyond this he would not be persuaded. Intimate as he had been with Ned Kelly in the past, no consideration would now induce him to approach Kelly in any of his haunts. He knew the fierceness of his disposition so well, he assured me, that he would be risking his life in going near him. The past relationship of the two men had been such that I could not, at first, appreciate ‘Wild’ Wright’s diffidence. He related how that one night, when he was a prisoner at the police station at Milewa, Ned Kelly crept up silently to the lock-up and proposed to release him. The plan he (Kelly) suggested was, that Wright should call out and attract the attention of Constable Arthur, so that when the constable appeared Kelly might shoot him down and release Wright. The latter, to his credit, rejected the offer, preferring to be left to his fate. What precociousness in crime, for Ned Kelly at the time was barely twenty years of age! With later knowledge one came to think that ‘Wild’ Wright may have done wisely in keeping away from his old ally, now with a rope round his neck.

Amongst others, proposals were made to old Tom Lloyd, Kelly’s uncle, but he also declined, partly on the same grounds as Wright, and added that the Kellys would trust no one who had been through Pentridge. This suggested a further argument – that as he, Lloyd, was sure to find his way into Pentridge again, it would be well for him to have some friends at court. His only answer was: ‘Pentridge is hell, and no one will ever find me there again.’

When Scott, alias Captain Moonlight, got together later his band of amateur bushrangers, he sent word to Ned Kelly that he wished to join forces with him. Kelly sent back word threatening that if Scott or his band approached him he would shoot them down.

Scott, with his youthful followers, was shepherded to Bethanga by the Victorian Police, who there passed on the further care of the party to the New South Wales authorities. While passing through Victoria, Scott represented that he and his party were out on a ’possum hunting picnic, but the affair at Wantabadgery soon after, where they came so badly to grief, showed that they were after larger game. I have often thought that if Kelly and Scott had joined forces, there would have followed a very lively time for the police. The bold stand of Scott when he fought the police at Wantabadgery, showed that he was a man of different mettle altogether from the Kellys.


There was difficulty at first in establishing the identity of the two men who were associated with the Kellys in the killing of the police in the Wombat Forest , but it was soon discovered that they were Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, two young men belonging to families residing in the North eastern District. Though young in years they were old in crime. Still it is certain that they did not contemplate being implicated in murder; and their first feeling was of the nature of a shock when after the excitement of the encounter with Sergeant Kennedy’s party was over, they saw the gallows waiting for them.

From information that came to hand, too late unfortunately to be of any use to the police, it is possible to trace the early movements of the Kelly gang after the Wombat affair.

They spent the night of the murders at a place since called Kelly’s stronghold. This stronghold was within a mile or two of the scene of the murders. It was a hut with walls of thick slabs, quite bullet proof and loopholed. The door was lined with a sheet of stout iron cut from a ship’s iron water-tank. The timber had been cut down and removed for a radius of about 100 yards round the hut. The trees that stood nearest the cleared space showed numberless bullet marks. It was discovered by a police search party under Sergeant, afterwards Superintendent James, but it was no longer used by the Kellys.

These four young criminals must have had a bad time while they tarried for the night at this hut. It was all very well that they should have prepared its defences against possible attack by the police, and have talked bravely of selling their lives dearly if need be, but it was a different thing altogether now to find themselves actual murderers with the gallows awaiting them. The two Kellys were of a very brutal nature, and it would not be worth enquiring what their thoughts were. With their two companions the case was different. We know now that they had not started out that afternoon deliberately to take life, and that the shock of finding themselves involved in so dreadful a crime was very great. So great was it in Byrne’s case he would probably, had an early opportunity offered, have given himself up to the police in the hope of saving his own neck. However this may have been, the whole party were now in flight, terrified at their crime, and they would not have halted at the hut had they not found there one of their Greta friends. He happened to reach the place just as they were starting off in their wild fright, and undertook to keep watch for them through the night.

On the next night, Sunday 27th, they reached Everton, on their way towards the river Murray . Then there is a gap of three days, after which they were seen near Howlong on the river Murray . This information reached the police on November 2nd, two days later. It was clear that they were stopped by the flooded state of the river, and were besides shut in by the backwaters, which were rising rapidly. They appeared at a farmhouse, the owner of which was at the time under sentence for horse stealing, in which the Kellys were associated with him. Then followed the nearest chance of their arrest ever offered to the police, but defeated by circumstances over which they (the police) had no control.

The Kellys had left the farmhouse only a very few minutes when a party of police under Detective Kennedy and Sergeant Harkin arrived on the scene. The woman of the house, who blamed Ned Kelly for getting her husband into trouble, told her story to the police, and pointed out where the Kellys had forded one of the anabranches of the Murray . Harkin’s party started in pursuit, but found the crossing no longer fordable, for the waters were rising rapidly, and they headed for another ford that the sergeant knew of. Standing up to their necks in the water were the four bushrangers concealed by the reeds, and not many yards from where the police turned away. Their weapons under water, and they themselves benumbed with cold, the gang could have offered no resistance whatever had it been the fortune of the police to see them, but they did not. Immediately the police were out of sight the Kellys got out of the water, picked up their horses, which were hidden in the scrub, and took a different direction from that taken by the police. So far for November 2nd. This was the very country that I had urged that the early police parties should be sent into, as already related. Mr Nicolson, the Inspecting Superintendent, had by this time come to see with me that this locality offered the best promise of a successful search, and, collecting a few police, he took the matter up at the point where the search by the Kennedy and Harkin party ended. It was then too late, however, for Mr Nicolson found that the bushrangers had headed back towards their own (the Greta) country. Without competent trackers it was impossible to carry on this particular search, and Mr Nicolson returned to Benalla.

Following the sequence of events in this most interesting period in the Kelly pursuit, the next reported appearance of the gang was at the home of the Sherritt family at Sheep Station Creek, a few miles west from Beechworth, where they were seen on November 3rd, men and horses pretty well worn out. Here again begins another series of misadventures. The man who saw the bushrangers rode directly to Beechworth, intending to give information to the police there. He felt that he was on a serious business, and thought that a little Dutch courage was required. He took several drinks, so many in fact that he had to be carried to the police lock-up in a speechless state of drunkenness. In the town he had hinted that he knew where the Kellys were, but made no mention whatever of the matter to the police. On the 4th, 5th and 6th he continued drinking in the town, and it was not until the last-mentioned date that his first communication to the police was made. Had this information reached the police on the 3rd or 4th of November something might have come of it, for, as was afterwards ascertained, the Kellys remained at or near Sherritt’s house, not leaving it until the night of the 4th, passing through Wangaratta before daybreak on their way back to the Greta country.

Late on the evening of the 6th I happened to reach Beechworth. Senior Constable (afterwards Superintendent) James had joined me in the afternoon and rode with me to Beechworth. It was bright moonlight as we entered the camp, and we were surprised at seeing the place overrun with armed men. I knew there were but one or two police on the camp, and I called in a low voice to James to ‘look out’ , not knowing what we had before us. We were both armed, of course, but as we advanced James recognised the men as residents of the town. We then discovered that Constable Keating, one of the two men of the station, acting in a very prompt and creditable manner, had collected this party of young townspeople to follow up the information the man from Sherritt’s house had brought. After interviewing this man I was satisfied that he had seen the Kellys right enough, and that it was desirable a search should at once be undertaken. Having arranged by telegram for additional police to be sent up to Beechworth during the night, I thanked the volunteers for responding so readily to Constable Keating’s call, and let them return to their homes.

A large party of police answered to my summons, including the Chief Commissioner and Mr Nicolson. The press reporters who happened to be in the district at the time had also joined the party.

A very early start was made under the guidance of the informant, with blackened face to help towards his incognito, and at dawn we came within view of Sherritt’s house. Here Mr Nicolson took charge of the attack. He picked out a few constables who stood near and desired me to do the same, and approaching the house on opposite sides we galloped up to it. There was a fence on my side which my horse refused, but on the second attempt he got over. This gave Nicolson, who found no obstruction, a few yards’ advantage. As I came up with him he and one of the constables of his party, Constable Bracken, were putting the shoulders to the door of the house to force it in, when a shot was fired. For the moment I thought that the shot was from inside the house, for the light was still bad. Then the door gave way, and we found ourselves inside a rambling sort of building without windows, and so dark within that nothing could be seen for the first few moments. The room in which I found myself was lined with bunks, the top row of bunks so high that one could not see whether they were occupied without climbing up. I passed round the bunks, with my hat placed on the point of my rifle level with the upper row, preferring that the bullets which were momentarily expected should find my hat when my head was not in it. These precautions were unnecessary, however, for, as we discovered after, the gang had already passed through Wangaratta on their way to the mountain country around Greta. If they had been at home, most of the attacking party would have gone down before we could have used our weapons. Naturally one would like to have a fair show in a fight, and when discussing the affair afterwards with Nicolson he said what I believe was true enough, that he had been doing this sort of thing all his life without coming to any harm. It certainly was a plucky bit of leadership on his part.

It was hard enough to bear disappointments such as these arising from what may be called bad luck, but the next piece of intelligence that came to the knowledge to the senior officers was of a different sort, reflecting very gravely on the efficiency of one of our junior officers. The expedition to Sherritt’s house that I have just described, took place on the 6th November, on information two or three days old, and neither Nicolson nor myself had any knowledge of any later appearance of the Kellys than that of the 3rd, when they were seen at Sherritt’s house by our Beechworth informant.



Very early on the morning of the 4th or 5th November—there is some difficulty about the precise date—four men on horse-back were seen galloping through the outskirts of Wangaratta. They were not identified positively as the four members of the Kelly gang, but those whose judgment was best worth having felt satisfied that the men were the Kellys, as subsequent events proved them to be. Inspector Smith, who was then at Wangaratta, received prompt information. The Inspector was so dilatory in starting and so bungled the whole business that the pursuit, as he conducted it, was hopeless. He appears not to have taken the information seriously, for he made no report to headquarters at all. His failure of duty was most unfortunate, since the gang and their horses were at the time completely knocked up, and prompt pursuit could scarcely have failed to effect the breaking up of the gang within a week of the murders at the Wombat range.

For some weeks, nothing further occurred of special interest in regard to the gang, who soon obtained fresh horses. Attempts were made once or twice to follow their tracks, but the only natives available were altogether useless for the purpose. The chief reliance had to be placed on scouts—persons who lived in localities likely to be frequented by the Kellys. Search parties were, however, sent out on the slightest information. Night parties watched on roads and at river crossings, but timorous travellers, who tried to bolt when challenged, had so many narrow escapes of being shot by the police that these night watches had to be greatly reduced. I was on one of these parties myself in the very centre of the Kelly country, when some travellers rode into our lines, but fortunately they halted to our challenge. Had they tried to ride away I hardly see what the police could have done but fire on them. Nothing could exceed the zeal of the men who were sent out on these night parties. The work was particularly trying; there was not only the strain of eager watchfulness through the long hours of darkness, but there was the fear lest some of the police might be too precipitate and do injury to innocent persons; or, by over-caution, they might let the men they wanted pass through and escape. The officers had no doubt about the good sense of their sub-officers and men as a whole, but among so large a number some act of indiscretion was to be feared.

Here, to anticipate events a little, is an instance in which an entirely unexpected and indeed blameable act of imprudence spoiled a very promising night’s work.


A sub-officer named Flood, stationed at Hedi on the King River, a locality near where some very special friends of the Kellys resided, reported that a letter had passed through the local post office, containing particulars of an arrangement made for a meeting of the Kellys and a Chinese gold-buyer, on a certain night at a place known as Spink’s Crossing on the Ovens River, a very retired spot and seldom used. How Flood became possessed of this information was, I think, never particularly enquired into. It was said that he was very intimate with the local postmaster, and that he even on occasion took charge of the Post Office. Joe Byrne, one of the members of the Kelly gang, had lived much with Chinese and had picked up their language, and the particulars in the letter Flood had the privilege of reading were supposed to have been suggested by him. This was after the robbery of the Euroa Bank, from which, besides notes and coin, the Kellys had taken an ingot of gold. This gold they had found a difficulty in turning into cash, hence the proposed meeting with the Chinese gold-buyer.

I reconnoitred the place a day or two before the time appointed, and then, with superintendent Francis Hare, who at this time had relieved Nicolson, arranged to collect a fairly strong party of police at Spink’s Crossing at sunset on the day indicated by Flood. The men were to approach the place in ones and twos, to avoid observation as much as possible, and there await Hare and me. When we reached the spot from another direction just at sunset, we were astonished to hear a tumult of voices from the river, and we immediately rushed forward, assuredly believing that some fight was on. As we hurried forward a Chinese, who had been concealed in some bushes overlooking the river, ran across our path, but we paid no heed to him in our eagerness to get to the scene of the tumult. There to our confusion we found several of our men, regardless of all caution, ducking and splashing each other in the water. By this time the Chinese could not be found, and, with diminished hopes, we settled down to watch throughout the night—a fruitless job, for the Kellys did not turn up.


I just now made allusion to the robbery of the Euroa Bank, the story of which is told in a very spirited manner by Dr. Fitchett in the October, 1909, number of Life. He describes how that about mid-day on December 9th, 1879 (not on December 8th, as is erroneously stated) the Kellys stuck up Younghusband’s station, a place situated about three miles from Euroa. It was harvest time, and there were many workers on the place, besides several travellers who happened to call. All these men, to the number of about thirty, were shut into a storeroom from the afternoon of the 9th till late on the evening of the 10th. Of all these there was only one man, a hawker named Gloster, who made any show of resistance, if such it could be called. He refused to leave his cart, but against four armed men threatening his life he could do nothing single-handed; nor should it be expected, I think, that as long as these four desperadoes were there together any effective resistance could have been offered by the prisoners. But a time did come, on the afternoon of December 10th, when the prisoners, if there had been any sprinkling of enterprising men amongst them, could easily have asserted themselves.

At this time only one of the gang, Byrne, was on guard, the other three having gone to Euroa. Byrne was but a stripling compared to most of his prisoners, and was overloaded with weapons, carrying a rifle in each hand. Amongst those who came upon the scene at this time was one of the telegraph staff, a man over six feet high. Although he saw Byrne was so nervous that he could scarcely fix the key in the lock, yet he submitted without a word. This sort of pusillanimity on every side during the Kelly pursuit made the work of the police much more anxious and difficult than it need have been.

There was one man, however, amongst this crowd of timid prisoners who would have led a sortie, an ex-constable named Stephens. He had noticed that Byrne sometimes stood with his back against a small window in their prison house, and Stephens searched amongst the tools that were about for a hay work, with which he hoped to reach Byrne through the window, but none could be found; then he took an axe, but the window opening was too narrow to allow an effective blow. When the other prisoners discovered what Stephens was after, they simply mobbed him and threatened to hand him over to the Kellys. The story of this exploit by the bushrangers closes with the return to Younghusband’s station of the remainder of the gang, bringing with them as prisoners the manager of the Euroa Bank and his family, together with some £1800 and an ingot of gold, the property of the bank. As the evening approached the Kellys took their departure, carrying the spoil with them.

Dr. Fitchett, in his account of these events, when relating how Mr. Wyatt, P.M., had seen the telegraph wires cut away near Younghusband’s station and informed Mr. Nicolson and myself of the fact later, has fallen into error. It was eight o’clock at night when Mr. Wyatt met Mr. Nicolson and myself at the Benalla railway station, and the Kellys had already got out of reach of immediate pursuit. I did not hear Mr. Wyatt’s story at all, for in his excitement he shut me out of the room into which he took Nicolson. I could see, however, that something must have happened along the railway line, and made inquiry of passengers, and of the guard and driver of the train, but there was not one word of information to be had from them. This reticence was due to Mr. Wyatt’s silly injunctions to the guard and others not to make known to anyone that the telegraph line had been interfered with.

Mr. Nicolson, who heard Mr. Wyatt’s story, was not impressed by it, and one can scarcely be surprised at this, for the narrator must have been almost incoherent in the few moments that he had to tell his story, nor had Nicolson time to weigh it before the train continued on its way, bearing him and me to Albury on what at the time appeared a very important mission.


The river Murray still continued high in early December, and all bridges and crossing places were receiving special attention from the police, especially from those on the New South Wales side, for their desire and that of the police on the southern side of the river was to keep the bushrangers in Victoria. In those early days, and before the police came to have better knowledge of the tactics of the Kellys, it was feared that the members of the gang might separate and endeavour to find their way singly to some remote parts of New South Wales or Queensland; and possibly leave the country altogether. Undesirables as they were, this latter alternative would have been regarded, by the police at least, as a great misfortune. It was not known then that the members of the gang distrusted each other too much to separate in this manner, so when fresh news came from Flood at Hedi of certain plans on foot by the Kellys to make their way into New South Wales, it was taken seriously.

Flood had seen a letter, a copy of which reached me a day or two before the robbery of the Euroa Bank. It was to this effect: Arrangements were being made by the editor of one of the small newspapers on the New South Wales border, to provide a boat and fresh horses, to enable the Kellys to make their way across the Murray into New South Wales. The place of crossing was indicated, and it was clear that the date was near at hand. When this communication was received, Nicolson was out with a party of police. What added point to the communication was the fact that the newspaper man referred to was well known to be one of the few cranks who had taken up the cause of the Kellys. I had arranged to go to Albury and consult with the police there, in order that a special watch should be kept up on both sides of the river.

Later on the same day, December 10th, Nicolson returned from his expedition and, though very tired, he considered the information from Flood important, and determined to accompany me. It was when we reached the Benalla railway station to join the Albury train that Mr. Wyatt made the communication to Nicolson that Dr. Fitchett has referred to. There was no pressing reason why Nicolson and I should both proceed to Albury, but there was little time for reflection, and there was no possibility of returning, once the train had started.

We had scarcely reached Albury when the news was flashed to us of the robbery of the bank at Euroa a few hours before. It might appear unfortunate that the two principal officers should be absent together from headquarters at such a crisis, but as we returned by special train during the night and were out with our several parties at daybreak—I from Wangaratta, and Nicolson from Benalla—the public interests suffered no loss. Nicolson’s party started from Younghusband’s station on the tracks of the Kellys, but the blacks he had with him would not follow, and after a vain but strenuous search he was forced to return. My own party also found traces of the Kellys, as we believed, but our “scratch” trackers failed us also. In the face of so many misadventures and failures, it is well again to remind the reader of the character of the forest country, into which each pursuit by the police led. Every part offered hiding places for fugitives such as the Kelly gang, and all search seemed hopeless unless their very footprints could be traced.


This last expedition left Nicolson worn out and suffering from inflamed eyes, and Frank Hare took his place as principal officer in charge of the Kelly pursuit. Both officers were my senior in rank, and were men with whom I could readily co-operate. I felt Hare gave too much attention to the sending out of search parties on the mere hope of their coming across the Kellys. He certainly did not spare himself, and he shared with his men all the discomforts of camping out, but his fault, as I have always thought, was in confining his efforts to this one line and dispensing with the use of secret agents. He did indeed use Aaron Sherritt, if Sherritt did not use him, but he had none of the skill and patience of Nicolson in handling aids of this sort.


As I have related, it was while Nicolson and I were conferring with a New South Wales officer at Albury that the news of the Euroa Bank robbery reached us. The New South Wales officer could not conceal his satisfaction that the exploit had occurred in Victoria, and not in his own territory. Not that he boasted of any superiority; he simply rejoiced at his own good luck, and attempted to offer us such sympathy as decency required. The robbery of the bank at Jerilderie, however, more than equalised matters, for on the night of Saturday, February 8th, 1879, the Kellys by a ruse got hold of the two police stationed in the town, and locked them up in their own cell. They had called the two police out of their beds late at night, saying that a murder had just been committed. The police came out undressed and unarmed, and were an easy prey to the four armed bushrangers. It was a clever piece of strategy, no doubt, but one might ask—What of the two or three hundred residents of the town? Were not they to be reckoned with?

The Kellys moved about amongst these people all through the next day, Sunday, but remained incognito until Monday morning. Then they declared themselves as the Kelly bushrangers and proceeded at once to rob the local bank, the manager of which they found in his bath naked and unarmed. Then they shut up a few of the town people in a room in a public house, leaving the other inhabitants free to do as they pleased; and, having cut the telegraph wires, felt themselves free to frisk about the town, not as a united band, but singly, enjoying the sociability of the good people of Jerilderie and entertaining them with stories of their prowess.

We are told in Bible history that the patriarch Abraham, when pleading for the cities of the Plain, asked—that if there were fifty righteous men therein the cities might be saved; step by step reducing the numbers until he thought he got near enough to zero to make things safe. So we might imagine some Britisher in his pride of race saying there are in Jerilderie fifty, forty, and so on until he reached below Abraham’s minimum, saying surely there are five men of sufficient pluck to resent the indignity of having their town laid under tribute by four hooligans who moved carelessly to and fro. The fact is that one bold man, armed with say a double gun, could have picked them off one by one. Jerilderie had not that one man within its bounds that day!

There was, however, one person who stood manfully to his special line of duty—the telegraph officer at Jerilderie. I regret that I cannot give his name. The Kellys kept a watchful key on him, and time after time, in spite of threats, he endeavoured to get his line into working order, until they broke up his instruments altogether.

It is not very likely, perhaps, that such a tribulation as the Kelly outbreak will fall on the people of Australia ever again, but, should such a thing happen, it might be well to remember, that a crowd of persons submitting themselves as easy victims to lawlessness of the kind run a very serious risk should an armed body of police come upon the scene. The terror suffered a year later at Glenrowan by those who so feebly submitted to the Kellys furnishes an object-lesson that ought not to be forgotten.



As I have noted elsewhere, the story of what had been done by trained and disciplined aborigines in Victoria in the early days had been forgotten. The body known as Henry Dana’s native troopers was broken up in 1852, and the police of 1878 had forgotten or probably never heard of the doings of Dana’s men. That two banks should have been robbed in broad daylight, that the bushrangers should be able to put away from their thoughts all resistance on the part of the average citizen, together with the difficulties of pursuit through hundreds of square miles of forest country, compelled the police officers to cast about to see what addition could be made to existing methods. Hare was the first to suggest that we should get the services of a body of Queensland black police. He did not believe that they could do any better than our men had done, but he had heard that the new Governor, Lord Normanby, who had come fresh from Queensland , had been known to speak favourably of the native troopers there. Hare’s purpose was to anticipate any suggestion that Lord Normanby might make. The Chief Commissioner, who was with us in Benalla, agreed, and a party of six native troopers, with a white officer, Sub Inspector Stanhope O’Connor, and a sub officer reached Benalla about March, 1879.

The effect on the movements of the Kellys were remarkable; in a sense indeed much beyond what was desired. Hitherto the bushangers made their appearance pretty frequently, fearing only to be seen by the police. Now their fears were lest they should be seen by any private person who might lay the Queensland boys on their tracks. They put away their horses altogether, for they knew that once the police found their horses it was the next step to finding themselves. They went about on foot, moving cautiously through the night only, resting for the day in any patch of scrub where the dawn found them. During the fifteen months that followed the arrival of the black trackers, the Kellys were never seen on horseback, nor did they once willingly show themselves to anyone whatever, except to the two or three persons whose loyalty they could trust. In this they were wise, though it does not greatly add to their reputation as bold and adventurous outlaws.


Before attempting to describe the work native trackers could do for the police, it is necessary to consider for a moment their manner of life before they were drawn into the service of the white men.

One of the very earliest impressions of an aboriginal child living amongst its savage surroundings must be – that enemies threaten on every side who can be guarded against by continual watchfulness only; and the next impression must be – that the life of the tribe depends on the skill exercised in the pursuit and capture of the wild creatures that provide its food. In their wild state each and every individual is continually on the look out for signs for which he or she may draw useful – perhaps vital – information, for the women within certain limits are as keen in these things as the men. A mob of blacks in an enemy’s country will not camp for the night until some of its members have made a circle around their camp with a radius of half a mile or more from the spot where the camp is to be, hunting for opposums or other wild things as they go. No enemy can be within this circle without being discovered. One of the most disturbing thoughts with parties of white police, in search of a strong band of criminals like the Kellys, was the fear lest the enemy might be near at hand, ready to fall on them when busy about the work of the camp and off their guard, as happened more than once to police parties in the neighbouring colonies. Our early search parties, in order to avoid this danger, used to choose the site for their camp after darkness had set in, with the result that when they lay down to sleep, they could not rest with any comfort, with she-oak apples, stones, bits of broken stick, etc, beneath their under blanket. With black trackers the camp was formed in daylight. Men could collect ferns, rushes, or whatever material the place afforded, making for themselves a comfortable resting place.

Then, as regards their horses, there was constantly recurring difficulty to the police working without trackers. If the horses were tied up for the night they could not feed, while if let loose they strayed, and much time was lost next morning in hunting for them. When trackers were used there was no trouble of this kind. While breakfast was being got ready on the camp, a couple of black boys carrying bridles in their hands quickly got on the first horses they found, then rounded up the others; and, if any were missing, the black boys followed up the tracks, and had the missing ones back in the camp without delay. The difference in the condition of men and horses returning from a tour conducted under the differing circumstances described was very manifest. Without the help of the black boys, men and horses came in quite worn out after a comparatively short trip, while those who had the blacks with them, were fit to continue their work for weeks if necessary.

In other respect to the presence of these black boys added to the safety of the party, and to the expedition with which the work could be done. It has been related already how the ‘scratch’ trackers failed the police in the early days of the Kelly pursuit, even on tracks that any bushman could follow. These blacks did not fail because of losing the tracks, but because the tracks led towards cover where danger might be concealed. This was a very natural feeling, only had we understood these blacks and they had understood us as well as Sub Inspector O’Connor and his Queensland boys understood one another, there would not have been those early fiascos. Our scratch trackers would not tell us of their fears, but preferred taking us off the track altogether. Mr O’Connor’s boys were just as apprehensive as were the others of running up against the Kellys unawares, but on approaching a danger spot when following the enemy’s tracks, they were allowed to adopt their own tactics. One on each side of the cover would make a wide cast. If the tracks continued on the far side, a short whistle brought the rest of the party cantering up; if the tracks did not continue, then the enemy was marked down, and was likely to be himself ambushed.

The first time I saw the Queensland boys at work was when a police party went out, making a wide circle on the north side of the Wombat range. The hope was that we might cut the tracks of the Kellys passing to and fro between their various haunts. Some stale tracks were found which were difficult to follow. In some places the fallen leaves, blown about by the wind, covered all traces; in others where there was stony country, tracks were few and far between, and then little more than an occasional scratch of a horse’s shoe on a surface rock was to be seen, but these difficulties were overcome. It soon became evident that we were not on the tracks of the Kellys, but on those of men collecting stray sheep in the ranges.

On another occasion a respectable resident on the Upper King river sent word that he had come across traces of a horseman who, he thought, must be one of the Kellys. A forty mile ride brought us on the scene. In this instance the boys could follow without any trouble, though the signs were not easily to be seen by the white police. A sweat mark where the man had shaken a loose rail was visible to us whites only after long examination, the mark of a spur strap where he had dismounted to drink from a creek and other signs, these were all clear to the trackers. As the work proceeded the finding of a sheath-knife, of a horse-dung still warm, and other signs showed that we were coming close up to the man. It was time now to leave our horses and follow on foot. It was interesting to watch the movements of the boys, their nostrils distended with excitement as we crept close on their heels. Then one of the leading boys suddenly drew back, beckoning to the rest of the party to follow. On hands and knees the whole party came up and saw a bark hut some sixty yards distant. A few whispered words, and then a silent rush of police through the door of the hut, and a sleeping figure was soon held down by some eight pairs of hands. ‘By—-, it is Dan Kelly,’ called out one of the police, but he was mistaken. The man was Mr John Morphy, the son of a Goldfield’s Commissioner whom I had known in former years. Of course it was rather startling for him to be thus suddenly pounced upon by a body of armed men, but my young friend soon recovered and shared with his visitors a junk of corned beef that he had prepared for his own dinner. When his lost sheath-knife was handed to him, and every movement of his recounted to him he was greatly surprised. Of course, matters of this kind came to the ears of the Kellys and added to their feelings of terror, lest the black boys should ever get upon their tracks.

The power of vision in those trackers is not confined to things near; they can see long distance objects with great acuteness, and they are always on the look out. They pointed one day to the opposite side of a swamp more than a mile wide, where, they said, were two horses with saddles on, tied up to a fence. To talk of seeing a saddle on horse’s back, when none of us whites could see either horses or fence, sounded like a joke. Further looking with a pair of good glasses showed post and rail fence and two dark spots in the line of fence; and as one watched further, the glittering of the sun on the saddles revealed to us after careful scrutiny what the boys discovered at a glance.

It is strange that Hare, although urging that these trackers should be obtained, showed no interest in their work and failed altogether to appreciate their useful qualities. At a later crisis he felt keenly the disadvantage of being without their help, but as a rule he looked forward to the Kellys being captured by the white police alone.


The usual police parties were continued by Hare. He took charge also of a party that continued for weeks, day and night, on watch near the home of Mrs Byrne, the mother of Joe Byrne, one of the Kelly gang. He returned to Benalla disheartened and worn out in June, 1879, and left for Melbourne after handing over the conduct of affairs to Nicolson. The Chief Commissioner also returned at the same time to Melbourne .

Nicolson had been for many years Chief Officer of the Detective Police. He was by no means as brilliant in some respect as Hare, but he was an expert in dealing with criminals, an art that Hare knew nothing of; and he possessed a higher sense of duty without the element of self-seeking. The part he had now to play had become more difficult than before, for a considerable number of police had been withdrawn from the district against his judgment and mine. However, their withdrawals did not substantially add to our difficulties, though it did to our anxieties in regard to some remote banks. It was found, now that speculative search parties were discontinued, there was a great saving in men and horses.


Nothing about Nicolson was more remarkable than the way in which he inspired confidence in the men whom he desired to employ as scouts. It was dangerous work that he asked them to undertake, but they seemed instinctively to trust him. Amongst several men so employed I single out one who was known as the ‘Diseased Stock’ Agent. He was always spoken of under this title, and his written communications were so signed, and the plan lent itself easily to the use of expressions such as ‘pleuro is about’ , or ‘disease is on the increase,’ etc, that no one expect those in the secret could understand. This agent was first brought under the notice of the officers by Sergeant Whelan of Benalla, one of our staunch and loyal helpers, and the choice did him credit, for this agent’s services were worth more than those of all others put together. He held on to the work from about June, 1879, until a day or two before the final outbreak, twelve months later, when he brought in his last words of warning.

This ‘Diseased Stock’ Agent, to be called hereafter the DSA for the sake of brevity, had a professional standing in the district that brought him into contact with all classes of people; the talk and family gossip of the place came to him without seeking; he moved about without suspicion even amongst persons who favoured the Kellys. But there was an inner and more secret circle that he found it difficult to reach. It was something, however, that he could assure the police that the Kellys were still about, and that while the money, taken from the banks held out, no further outbreak need be expected.

But there came a sudden drying up of the sources of information when for a period of some weeks no news whatever of the Kellys could be had. That they had actually fled the country seemed the most likely explanation. The DSA was sorely perplexed, and so also were the police. Possibly a raid into some remote town in Gippsland or elsewhere was being planned. It was a relief to our anxiety when the DSA was able to report again signs of the return of the gang to the district.

The explanation of this strange interruption in our scout’s work came later, and it was on this wise. Two Wangaratta youths were out opposum shooting one night in the Warby ranges, when they were suddenly set upon by the Kelly gang. Ned Kelly believed, or pretended to believe, that the two youths were police in disguise. After much talk he allowed them to go to their homes, first swearing them in dramatic style on the butt of his pistol not to mention for one month to any person the fact of their meeting, and promised that at the end of that period they would each receive ten pounds. Both parties kept faithful to their contract. One of the youths left Victoria altogether through fear, the other brought the money, that had come to him through the post, to the police asking for their advice. The Kellys had not trusted the fidelity of the lads, for they went immediately into hiding somewhere near the head of the Buckland River , where they had a very bad time, and were nearly starved. It was during this time the DSA lost the run of them altogether.

During the months that followed there offered but one possible chance of putting the Queensland trackers on the genuine track of the Kellys, and unfortunately it was not accepted. It was in favour of using the opportunity, and so was Nicolson at first, but without consulting me he changed his mind. Shortly after, when, with some warmth, we discussed the matter again and I pointed out fresh reasons for my views, Nicolson was greatly put out, but comforted himself in the hope of another chance that never came.


During this period of quietude on the part of the Kelly gang the people of the district began to think the gang had left the country. The Chief Commissioner of Police, who was informed of the news brought in by our scouts, professed to be anxious, but had nothing practical to suggest. Mr John Woods, Minister for Railways, was one who was specially impatient of delay. Some advisers, men who should have known better, submitted a plan that was expected to make short work of the Kelly pursuit. The plan was simplicity itself. Each mountain was to be surrounded by a cordon of several hundred police and military, who would then march to its summit, where – it was assumed the gang would be waiting capture. It was admitted that it would take some days to move the men into position, then would follow the ascent to the top where the Kellys, looking on at all these preparations, would kindly remain rather than more away to one of the many scores of other mountain ranges within their reach.

Though the police did not see their way to following this sage suggestion, it must not be supposed that they were inactive in other directions. On the contrary, as the news brought in became more definite as to the Kellys running short of money, and the consequent urging of their friends to make fresh haul, so also the police became more on the alert, their plans more definite and complete, and the more sanguine became the local officers that a crisis was approaching which, they hoped, would be the beginning of the end.


The news coming in from the scouts was, as already said, regularly communicated to the Chief Commissioner of Police in Melbourne . It is strange that as matters became more critical, and the long-hoped-for success of Nicolson’s plans grew more and more promising, this particular moment should be chosen for a change of leaders. Mr Robert Ramsay was at this time – June 1880 – Chief Secretary, and therefore ministerial head of the police department. For some reason he resolved to send Hare to Benalla to take the place of Nicolson as senior officer in charge of the Kelly pursuit. In this he was supported by the Chief Commissioner of Police, who was an admirer of Hare. His regard for Hare had become an infatuation, a mild form of insanity, it may even be said. Hare had before tried his hand at the Kelly business and failed very badly. He declared later that his being sent this second time to replace Nicolson was not of his seeking. This may be true in the letter but not in the spirit, and the change of officers at this very critical time was a dangerous experiment that quite easily might have led to very injurious results. I was so convinced of the imprudence of making any change, that I wrote privately to Hare as soon as the report reached me, begging of him to keep out of the business by any means. He took all I said in good part, but persisted in following the line of his own ambition.


On June 2nd, 1880 , Hare took up his work at Benalla for the second time, but seemed sorry that I had not approved of his coming. This did not however prevent our working together in perfect good will. Sub Inspector O’Connor and his Queensland boys were still at Benalla, but their position was made so difficult that Mr O’Connor applied to his Government to be recalled, with his boys, and on June 24th they left Benalla. I had nothing but admiration for Hare’s zeal, yet there were matters on which we had opposite views. For instance he placed four police in Aaron Sherritt’s hut, not far from the home of Joe Byrne, one of the gang, in the expectation that they could remain there week after week, without being discovered. I was quite sure that any such expectation was futile, and I endeavoured, but in vain, to dissuade him from the undertaking. Men could not I knew be kept concealed in a two-roomed hut which was already occupied by Sherritt and his wife, especially as the place stood open to a main road. The end was – Sherritt was shot dead at his own door, and the four police found themselves under fire from the bushrangers and in a trap from which there was no escape. The four police finally got away unhurt, but they were branded with a disgrace that they did not quite deserve. This, however, is anticipating events by a few days.

On the afternoon of June 24th, the same day on which Sub Inspector O’Connor and his Queensland boys left for Melbourne on their way to Brisbane , the DSA made his appearance at the police camp at Benalla. He had not heard of the change of officers, and he was somewhat put out at finding Hare, whom he did not know, in the place of Nicolson, for whom he had been working so long. He had a very important, not to say startling, story to tell. The Kellys were now entirely out of funds and their ‘friends’ , who had been sharing in the loot from Euroa and Jerilderie, were putting pressure on them, and a fresh exploit was to be expected immediately. The Kellys had provided themselves with bullet-proof armour which they had tested with their own riffles, and part of their plan was to effect something that would cause the ears of the Australian world to tingle. Further questions brought out the statement that the breast plates of one of the suits of armour had been shot at on its concave side, and it stood the test, showing only the dent where struck by the bullet. I do not quite know what the man thought of the reception he met with. Hare treated him with scorn, dismissed him from all further service, and, turning to me, remarked: ‘If this is the sort of person Nicolson and you have been upon, it is no wonder you have not caught the Kellys.’ This occurred three days before the Kellys appeared in armour at Glenrowan.

On the afternoon of Sunday, the 27th, a messenger came to me from Hare with news of the killing of Aaron Sherritt and the discomfiture of the police in this man’s hut. I found him greatly disturbed, and expecting evidently the natural ‘I told you so’ from me. It was not a time, however, for any personal feeling of this kind, and we together set to work. The first thing I proposed was to get O’Connor and his boys, who were still in Melbourne , back again. The Chief Commissioner was at the Melbourne end of the telegraph line, but neither he nor Hare, both of whom had had differences with O’Connor, cared to ask him to return. I then sent a request from myself personally, to which O’Connor at once responded, as he would no doubt, had the others appealed to him.

Later in the day, finding that Hare was suffering from a cold, I proposed that I should take his place, but he was then as always too eager for the fray to consent, and determined to go to Beechworth himself, there to pick up the tracks near Sherritt’s. By this time the DSA’s warning was having more meaning for us. What was most to be feared, as I thought, was the wrecking of the train conveying the police party. I recommended the use of a pilot engine. Hare did not understand the term at first, but on its meaning being explained he at once assented.


To enable Hare to have a few hours’ rest, I attended to all necessary matters until the arrival of the special night train from Melbourne , with sub-inspector O’Connor and his Queensland boys. This train reached Benalla after midnight , and contained besides these Mrs. O’Connor and her sister, as well as Messrs Melvin, McWhirter, G V Allen, Carrington, and another whose name I have forgotten, all representatives of the Melbourne press. I do not know how these gentlemen came to know what was afoot, but there they were. The plan was that the police should leave the train at Beechworth and take up the tracks at Sherritt’s hut, as already stated. Sergeant Steele, at Wangaratta, was instructed to report to me by telegraph the arrival of the special train there, and similar instructions were given to the police at Beechworth, and after seeing Hare’s party off from Benalla, about 2 am , I turned in, first arranging that any messages received at Benalla should be at once brought to me.

The first message to come in was from Wangaratta, saying that the police train was approaching; then followed another message soon after to say that this was an error; the train the police heard approaching was a special coming from Beechworth to Wangaratta. The next message, which reached me some little time later, was also from Wangaratta, to the effect that the police train had not yet reached that town, adding that the sound of rifle firing was heard from the direction of Glenrowan, a station about eight miles distant from Wangaratta towards Benalla. Before I was fully dressed followed still another report—that the Kellys were shut in at Mrs. Jones’s hotel at Glenrowan, that Hare was wounded, and that nine of the police were knocked over. This last piece of news was brought by the driver of an engine that had just returned to Benalla, bringing Hare back for medical attention. Serious as this piece of news was, my first impulse was to kneel down beside my bed and thank God that He had given the enemy into our hands. It was not that I thought less of the loss of these police, but rather that I thought of the prospect at any cost of ending the horrid uncertainty that had oppressed us all so long.

As I was hurrying to the railway station at Benalla I met Hare just as he reached the telegraph station. I saw that he was bleeding from a wound in the wrist, and after a few words urging me to see that Mrs Jones’s hotel was surrounded by the police, he fell fainting on the floor. And no wonder, for the kindly pressman who bandaged his wound on the ground, had made the mistake of placing the ligature below instead of above the severed artery. It was clear that in the condition in which he then was, Hare could take no further part in the fight.



For those readers who may not have seen the more detailed accounts that others have given of events that occurred from the time the police party left Benalla until Hare received his wound at Glenrowan, I wish to give here this short report of what happened.

The police train with its pilot engine met with no interference until it began the ascent of the bank approaching Glenrowan, when there suddenly appeared, in front of the pilot engine, a man holding a red cloth behind which he held a light, giving warning of danger ahead. He spoke but a few words – ‘The Kellys are in Glenrowan, the line is torn up’ – and instantly disappeared into the darkness. Hare promptly took what precautions he thought best to meet any attack upon the train as it travelled slowly ahead. The carriage lights were put out, and without further adventure the party reached Glenrowan station. Glenrowan at this time – June, 1880 – had but a few scattered houses, none of which, except the railway buildings, were clearly visible from the platform.

At this early hour, some time before 3 am , while Hare was still debating what course to take, there rushed in amongst the police party the local constable, a man named Bracken, who had been held with others as a prisoner by the Kellys and had just escaped. He called out: ‘The Kellys are in Mrs Jones’ hotel. For God’s sake, don’t let them get away,’ and then he too disappeared. Hare acted quickly, and, calling on the police to follow him, took the direction leading to the hotel, which was some 150 yards distant. Hare did not know the locality, or he would probably have approached the house in a different manner. His men were clustered together with him as they all approached within some thirty yards of the hotel, when they were received with a volley from the verandah. Hare’s left wrist was shattered by a bullet and he was forced to retire, but not before calling on his men to surround the house and keep the bushrangers from escaping. None of the other men were hit, but, in accordance with previous instructions as to what they should do in case of ambush, they threw themselves flat on the ground and returned the bushrangers’ fire from that position. This it was that gave rise to the report already mentioned, that nine police had been knocked over. After Hare’s departure to Benalla the police under Senior-Constable Kelly took measures to surround the building, from which there proceeded repeated volleys. This was still the position of affairs when I reached Glenrowan an hour or so after. By this time there had been an addition to the original police party, Sergeant Steele and his men having galloped the eight miles from Wangaratta. It has to be remembered that all these things occurred in the darkness of a midwinter night. The police and the bushrangers only caught sight of each other in the momentary flash of the rifle shots.

It was still dark when, with such police as I had been able to collect at Benalla, I arrived at Glenrowan. The firing was still kept up for, as I stood with these men while hearing from Senior Constable Kelly how matters stood, we were fired upon from the house, a bullet striking the ground, splashing the gravel up against us.

The report I received was that the Kellys had some thirty armed supporters with them in the hotel. It was not until the morning had well advanced, and some of those who had been held prisoners by the Kellys had escaped, that we learned the real facts. It was stated at the same time that breastworks from bags of horse-feed lined the wooden walls of the hotel. As the event proved, neither of these reports was true, but in the light of our first information there appeared to be a pretty serious piece of work before us. It was while I was considering the situation that Dr Nicolson, of Benalla, approached me. The question of the police rushing the hotel came up, and he very vehemently spoke against it, and urged that a small gun should be requisitioned from Melbourne to knock the building to pieces. To this I assented without giving the matter much thought then or during the subsequent proceedings. Hare, while lying wounded at Benalla and without any communication with me, appears to have anticipated me in the matter, by sending a telegram to the same effect. The proposal was quite justified under the circumstances, with the information that we then had. Under the same circumstances to rush the building would have been an act of folly, although in view of what might be done later on I told off a party of five police to accompany me, should a rush be determined on. Amongst the men selected was Constable Armstrong, one of the four police in Sherritt’s hut when Sherritt was shot dead by the bushranger Byrne. I knew Armstrong to be a sturdy, resolute fellow, in spite of all that happened on that occasion.

It has been said that a great opportunity of gaining kudos was lost by not sending a party of police to rush the building where the bushrangers were. But I was not looking for kudos. I was determined only that the outlaws, whom we held as rats in a trap, should be captured or destroyed without needlessly risking the life of one good man.

I remember conversing on the subject a year or two later with Sir Charles Macmahon, at one time Chief Commissioner of Police. He said I might have sent in a sergeant and four or five men, who, he thought, would probably be knocked over; then another party, and so on. It has never appeared to me the right thing to have done in the case of men so completely in our power as the Kellys were at Glenrowan.


I asked Ned Kelly whether he would send any message to the remainder of the gang in the hotel, now that there was no hope for them to get away. But he answered sullenly that there was no use in trying, they would not mind anything he could say, and he added something disparaging about them which I did not quite understand. It was after this that the police learned the true position of those innocent men shut up within the hotel, the women having been already passed out.

I directed the police to cease firing while I approached the front of the hotel. I called to the innocent people to come out and assured them that they would not be injured. I stood alone at first, then a Mr Charles Rawlins, who had been on the ground all the morning, joined me, and presently a few of the police who were posted near. Rawlins asked to be allowed to call out as he had, he said, a voice like a bull. He had scarcely repeated my words when the entire body of prisoners came rushing out to where we stood, and threw themselves prostrate at our feet. A short examination showed that they were unarmed, and without any molestation from the bushrangers within we went back together into the police lines. We certainly offered an easy target while so many of us stood in a quite open place not many yards distant from the hotel. This is the more strange, for the firing from the place soon recommenced.


One item of news from the released prisoners was that Byrne was lying dead inside, shot by the police shortly before. We were told that Byrne had been firing, and was in great spirits, boasting of what the gang were going to do. The work was hot, and he went to the counter for a drink. Finding that the weight of his armour prevented him throwing back his head to swallow the liquor, he lifted the apron-shaped plate with one hand while with the other he lifted the glass to his mouth. In this attitude a chance bullet struck him in the groin, and spinning round once he fell dead.


We now had but two of the gang to deal with, and they were called on to give themselves up. To this there was no response. Looking at the matter in the light of later knowledge, it is possible that a sudden rush in upon the two men might have been effected without serious loss, but at the time the view I took was different. I knew that there were several rooms in the hotel through which we should have to search; that while we might be under fire from the bushrangers our fire would be ineffective, and that until the police had actually laid hands on them and disarmed them they were still in a position to use their weapons. I had actually selected the police I should take with me as already stated, should a rush be determined on, but in view of all the circumstances I resolved instead to burn the building over them.

This building, though of wood, did not appear very inflammable on the outer side, and the task did not appear too safe, since the weatherboard walls were perforated with numerous bullets, and any person approaching could easily be seen. The first man to offer to take the risk was Senior Constable Charles Johnston, a man spoken of in the early part of these Recollections, and whose courage I well knew. He was a married man with several children, and his wife had formerly been in the service of my family. Johnston persisted, and urged the right as the first to offer for the work. With some reluctance I gave consent, on condition that he would strictly follow my instructions. These instructions were very simple. He was to procure a bottle of kerosene and a small bundle of straw, and come back to me without allowing any of the great crowd that had by this time assembled to know what he was about.

Johnston made a wider circle than I intended, and one that brought him face to face with a new and unexpected danger. While passing round on the west side of the hotel, far outside the police lines, Johnston came up against four armed men, not police. They were men, as we afterwards learned, who were waiting to join the Kellys in further raids had their plans not miscarried. Fortunately for Johnston he had laid aside his rifle, or these men would not have allowed him to pass with the few simple questions they put to him.

When Johnston rejoined me, I instructed a small party of police to direct their fire into that part of the hotel nearest to where it was to be set alight. Johnston soon had his work done. The other police had formed a line between the hotel and the crowd congregated near the platform. As the building was seen to burst into a blaze one man broke through the police line – Father Gibney, afterwards Roman Catholic Bishop of Perth . He strode forward to the building in spite of repeated calls to stop. I myself tried to intercept him, and overtook him just as he entered the door, when a great sheet of flame fell between us. I felt certain that his life was sacrificed, but was greatly relieved on running round the end of the building to find him coming out without hurt. His was a worthy and courageous act, done with the purpose of administering spiritual aid to those wretched men, who he supposed might be at the point of death. But all were dead except a man named Martin Cherry, who was wounded at the beginning of the fight, and whom the police carried away out of the reach of the fire. They also bore out the body of Byrne, but the other two they could not reach. After the fire the bodies of these two were found lying close together. The appearance of the bodies showed that the iron breastplate and aprons had saved the trunks from the scorching effects of the fire, while their heads and feet were burned almost to cinders. These two, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, must have died in their armour.

While the events just related were going on, Ned Kelly lay in a state bordering on collapse, in the station building where we had placed him. He would have died, but for the care of Dr John Nicolson, of Benalla, who steadily supplied him with stimulants. It is quite true, as Dr Fitchett relates, that Ned must have swallowed two or three bottles of whisky why he lay between life and death, but towards evening he was able to bear the journey by train to Benalla. All those who saw Ned Kelly while he lay helpless on a mattress were struck with the gentle expression of his face. It was hard to think that he was a callous and cruel murderer. But the old spirit, half savage, half insane, was there notwithstanding, for while talking to him the same evening as he lay swathed in bandages, there passed suddenly over his face a startling look of wild passion as he called me to send away the black b—- who was leaning over him. It was the fireman with his face blackened from his work on the engine, whom Kelly took to be one of the black trackers. ( It was known by all his family that it was dangerous to approach Ned Kelly when he was in anger; he then seemed to lose all control over his actions, and was quite ready to kill his nearest friend at such a time. He was once seen to knock over one of his near relations, one of the few who stood by him in his later troubles, and, as the young fellow lay insensible Kelly tried to drown him in a deep waterhole. Of the men and women looking on not one dare to interfere. It is, I think, very probable that savage and ferocious criminals, such as Melville, Morgan and many others were, like Ned Kelly, more or less insane under excitement or opposition.)


For some time after the Glenrowan business there were rumours of a fresh outbreak. The material was plentiful enough, and the wrath and disappointment of those who had been living on the spoils of the Kelly gang were great. The bodies of Hart and Dan Kelly were handed over to their friends, and there was much talk, and many threats were indulged in. But wiser thoughts prevailed.

One of the Kelly relations, the prospective leader of the new gang, sought an interview with me when matters looked most threatening. New police stations had been established, covering as it were the lines of communications of any fresh gang, and this no doubt had a sobering effect on the turbulent spirits that were about. My interviewer was pretty frank, not to say impudent at first. When he was reminded of what had happened to the Kelly gang and, that though a constable here and there might be shot yet the police went on for ever, he became more reasonable, and asked only that those of the Kelly circle who had taken up land should not be dispossessed. I was able to promise that no one who continued to obey the law would be interfered with, but that no further selections would be allowed to doubtful characters.


The Police Commission, with Mr Francis Longmore as Chairman, opened its inquiries in March, 1881. I have already had occasion to refer to the work of the Commission. I am disposed to think that this Commission had all the faults of other like bodies that our short history has brought into being. The characteristics of its Chairman were peculiar. Mr Longmore was eminently honest and conscientious, but he went relentlessly for scalps.

Mr (afterwards Chief Justice) Higinbotham was, some twenty years before, a member of a similar tribunal, and he found that its methods generally were altogether repugnant to all ideas of justice and fair play. This precisely is what may be said of the Longmore Commission. Accusations were received against officers and men behind their backs, while all opportunity of cross-examining witnesses was curtly denied. One officer heard, by mere chance, that at a secret meeting of the Commission some very slanderous accusations were made affecting him, and when he demanded, and with difficulty obtained, the right to reply, the commissioners were so ashamed of the whole proceeding they ordered the evidence to be struck out of the records. But it was not struck out of the minds of the commissioners, as their report manifestly proved. Every decent member of the service felt that he was under a veritable reign of terror. Foolish or disaffected witnesses were free to make any statements they chose, and the more extravagant these statement were, the more they appeared to suit the taste of Mr Longmore and his fellow commissioners. To make matters worse, the press seemed to take no notice of these unfair methods.


I remember discussing the situation at the time with both Nicolson and Hare. They were dismayed at the turn things had taken, and were ready to throw up the sponge altogether, but this I felt should not be, and I determined on seeking an interview with the Editor of The Argus.

I began my interview with Mr Hadden somewhat maladroitly, by questioning the competency of the Argus reporter, but we soon got on to firmer ground. I was an entire stranger to the Editor, and he was not altogether disposed to accept my representation without proof. This was easy to find, and, when I saw him again on the following night, we discussed the whole business from 11 pm to 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Then followed a series of articles on the work of the Commission. I wrote several letters, pointing out fresh items of complaint, which brought a formal explanation from the Secretary to the Commissioners. This was left to me for reply. The Secretary, through inadvertence probably, gave incorrect references to the evidence and offered some very lame excuses for the exclusion from the proceedings of the officers concerned. This offered an easy opportunity for effective reply, and was made the occasion for some remarks on the personal conduct of the Secretary.

While this controversy was going on, I was called late one night by a messenger from The Argus office, to come to see the Editor. I had used a nom de plume in signing my letters, and when I reached the Editor’s room he handed me a lawyer’s letter demanding the real name of the writer. This was rather a staggerer, for, in the time of the Berry regime, any public officer who made any complaint to the press might expect but a short shrift. The Editor, however, had already refused to give up my name, and nothing further was heard of the matter.

The campaign thus opened by The Argus was soon taken by other newspapers, with the result that the report of the Commission became a discredited thing that no one gave heed to. It is true that Nicolson and Hare were called upon to retire from the police service, not perhaps an unwise proceeding, seeing how strained were their relations, but they were at the same time appointed to the higher office of Police Magistrate. It is due to Nicolson to say, that it was not he who was responsible for the unhappy relations between these two brother officers.


Before the Longmore Commission had completed its inquiries I was placed in charge of the Ballarat District, and after a year or more of work there, I was called upon to take the superintendence of the Metropolitan District, the most important post in the service after that of Chief Commissioner. In fact, it often fell to my lot to take up the duties of this latter office also during the absence on leave of Mr Chomley.

I entered on my new work towards the close of 1833. Every street and right-of way was known to me from my service in previous years and, I might also add, the qualifications of almost every sub-officer doing duty in the city. Better still, I was familiar with every branch of city work as designed by my old friend S E Freeman, the most competent superintendent the Victorian service has ever seen. It was with some confidence, therefore, that I entered upon my charge.


But all that glitters is not gold. Instead of finding, as I hoped, that some speeding-up was all that was required, and some straightening out of ordinary mistakes, it soon became apparent that the city police had sunk to a depth of degeneracy and decay they had never reached before. I knew that the officer who had had the oversight of the Metropolitan District for several years, up to about twelve months before I took charge, was one who had a tarnished record. I also knew that before his time the control of the city police had often been in the hands of careless and unsuitable men, without any alarming falling away; but now, in 1883, I found myself face to face with the almost complete cessation of all effective work on the part of the great bulk of the sub-officers and men. There were, of course, as there always have been, some honourable exceptions, but the majority of sub -officers and men had ceased to do any real work. They mustered at the barracks, marched out to their beats, which they left to look after themselves until the time arrived for the return to barracks. How long this kind of thing had been going on I never found out; but some two or more years earlier a medical friend in Collins Street informed me that his family could not open their windows on a summer night, lest they should hear the chaffering and bargaining of men and women in the street, and that he never saw a constable on a beat. I advised him to send to Parliament House, where a constable was always to be found. My friend said that was not what he meant, for by sending his groom across the street to Martin’s Brewery, at any hour of the night, he could get half a dozen.

The position of police affairs in Melbourne in 1883 was this: Many of the sub officers had compromised themselves to the full knowledge of the constables, and thus lost all control of them, and the chief officer of the district paid no heed; rather did he put discouragement in the way of the few sub officers who made any honest effort to correct abuses. He had, in fact, so notoriously compromised his own position that he was no longer free to enforce discipline. How the evils I speak of were tolerated so long by the community I cannot explain.

When I took charge I had no suspicion that the trouble was so extensive, and it took some time to get at the facts. Inspector Henry Pewtress was in charge at Russell Street, and, competent as he was, could say no more than this – the great bulk of the police of the city were not doing their duty; and that with his limited staff of junior officers no improvement was possible. Altogether the position was very serious. It was clear that the sub-officers were failing in their duty; and, this being so, it followed that the constables—the men who actually do the real police work in the community – were shirking theirs.


The reader will observe that in all that has been said there is no suggestion that these men were corrupt in the sense that the police – say, of New York , U S A – are often said to be corrupt. I really do not think they were built that way at all; they were negligent and idle, so idle and negligent that the classes most open to be preyed upon held them neither in respect nor fear.

Had the police been really corrupt, the only remedy would have been to make a clean sweep of them. But they were worth saving; they had started on the downgrade, probably not considering whither it led. The best of them, as I had come to know, and probably the whole lot, had learned to regret their faults, for the way of transgressors is hard always. My chief concern, therefore, was to win the sub officers back to the collar again, knowing that in due course all else would come right.

The situation was really very serious, but matters could not be allowed to continue as they were. I sent for some of the principle sub officers separately. My earlier interviews with them were somewhat barren of results, but, step by step, they made a clean breast of their faults, hoping that I should find for them some way out of their difficulty.

I do not know whether any of my readers will be interested in these details, but they were full of interest to me, and to Mr Pewtress, who was my willing helper all through. But the difficulty – how to find a way out for these sub officers – since what they feared most was that counter-charges might be made against them – still remained. It was not in my power to refuse any such charges by any constable on his defence if he wished to make them. However, it might, I thought, be possible to place difficulties in the way by making it risky for men taking this line.

It was at this point that the Chief Commissioner, Mr Chomley, was approached, and a definitive proposal made. Mr Chomley had been made aware, all along, of the trouble that existed, but had not been able to suggest a remedy. Now, however, that something practicable was suggested, his good sense at once approved. It was this – That a new regulation should be issued, making it punishable for any member of the force to bring a counter-charge against a superior, relating to facts that had been within his knowledge for a certain time – three days, if I remember aright. This had been the unwritten law for years, so far as the higher ranks were concerned, one, Inspector D D Chambers, having felt its lash many years before; but the rule had never been applied to the lower ranks.

The new regulation duly appeared in the Gazette, but in an obscure corner of it, and seemed to have been unnoticed except by those on the look-out for it. The results were admirable, the sub-officers went back straightway into the collar again.

I remember the first cases brought before me. There were some four or five constables concerned. To their infinite astonishment the sub-officer had followed them into the brewery, or wherever else it was they were enjoying their dolce far niente on the previous night, and, taking down the names, ordered all the men to appear before the superintendent next morning.

The first constable of the batch walked into my room with the air of one who was going to provide some good fun. He did not take the trouble to defend himself from the charge against him. He asked the sergeant whether he remembered last Cup night, a month or two before. The sergeant turned towards me, looking as if he were about to faint. He thought, no doubt, that now had come upon him the very trouble that he feared. He was told not to answer the question just yet, and I then asked the constable what the question had to do with the present inquiry. He insisted on his right to put the question, and added that he and others could prove certain facts which they themselves had witnessed. The new Regulation was then read out to him, and I proceeded to add a fresh charge against him. He saw that the case was going against him and straightway took his punishment without another word. As he rejoined his fellows waiting their turn he was heard to say – ‘Boys, plead guilty; the game is up.’ These took his advice. So came in sight the end of the trouble, all the more speedily since these sub-officers and men were, for the most part, well-meaning fellows in spite of all their past faults.


Now that these subordinates were set to work again, it became necessary to devise means to keep them going. Here, again, I had to face a fresh difficulty – this time from the Chief Commissioner of Police himself. It took his breath away when I proposed a large increase of junior officers to the city and suburban staff. The existing staff provided only for office and court duties, while there was no effective oversight of the most important branch of all – the working of beats, a duty on which probably eighty per cent, of the entire force is always engaged. However, after the matter was made plain to Mr Chomley, the additional officers were appointed and a fresh start made. Most of these officers were recently promoted, and proved efficient, for at this time the head of the department was free to select men on their merits, and was not tied down by that injurious system of promotion by examination that later came into use. On the merits and demerits of this system I shall have something to say later on.

Many persons think that a policeman’s lot is an easy one. It really is nothing of the sort, and especially trying and uncomfortable is the work of a constable on night duty, for not only is he on his feet nine hours at a stretch and in all weathers, but a large share of his time is spent in walking through empty streets – a very dreary form of toil.

The work of the sub officer supervising his batch of, say, ten constables, is perhaps more exacting still, for he has to move about more quickly, to keep the record of the night’s events, to instruct his men in their duties if needed, and to bring them before his superiors if their mistakes are such that he cannot deal with them himself.

No one need suppose for a moment that the average man will do work like this if the rule is to be— Go as you please. The disastrous effects of such a system were too painfully manifest at the particular time I speak of, to allow any mistake on this point. Therefore it was, now that a sufficient staff of junior officers had been provided, that a method of supervision was enforced that extended right down the line to the ordinary constable on his beat. This particular method, like almost everything else that was good in city police work, had been derived from S E Freeman.

Freeman had introduced a system of daily reports that showed how officers and men doing duty in the streets were employed. It is not necessary to describe here in detail these reports; but they were of such a kind that a complete safeguard was provided against any serious or continued neglect of duty. The effects of these simple measures were all that could be desired. A few inept junior officers might occasionally give trouble, but the old difficulties with the sub officers and constable had ceased altogether, and the uniform police of the city returned to the highwater mark of its best days.


Amongst the many strange things that occurred in ‘The Boom’ period – 1888 to 1891 – there was nothing stranger than the appearance of a number of young women – hawkers of trinkets and such like wares – going about from one place of business to another. They were got up in the attire of nurses, and were exceedingly pertinacious and forward. Complaints even of improprieties of a serious kind reached me, but there was a difficulty in getting evidence. Inspector Joe Brown was at this time doing uniform duty in the city, and all licensing business was in his charge. I desired him to announce that all hawkers should provide themselves with the necessary license from the Court of Petty Sessions. There was immediately a long list of applicants. Brown was instructed to oppose them all on the ground that it was reported that the applicants were not genuine traders, and that in any case the police required time to make inquiries as to character, etc. I remember that Brown did not quite like the job, but he carried out his part so well that there was a sudden stampede from the court of all applicants, and the trouble came to an end.



I first made acquaintance with ‘Jack Williams’ in the early fifties, and he had then been already some years a detective. He was very illiterate, but a first-class man in his own special lines. He understood the ways of the old time criminals as no one else in the service did. He had great natural shrewdness, and his eyes and ears were always open. When any important or obscure crime was reported his counsel was always sought. ‘Dog-nosing,’ as he called ‘diagnosing,’ was an essential preliminary in every case, but his best results came from his alert and constant watchfulness.

In 1853, a retired officer of police named Brice was sitting one evening in the Rainbow Hotel, which stood at the corner of Swanston and Little Collins Streets, just opposite the old police lock-up. He was interested in the movements of a very flashily dressed man, whose manner was in keeping with his appearance. This person went stamping to and fro, cursing at landlord and servants because they could not change a twenty pound bank note. The banks were all closed, but still the man fumed on. Brice had no money of his own, but offered to try to get the note changed, if possible. He led the way across to the police-station, where he was known. Moving along the passage between the rows of cells, they brushed past Detective Jack Williams, who was making his usual survey of the prisoners in the cells. Jack took no special notice of the stranger, but his quick ears caught the sudden exclamation of one of the prisoners who was looking through the opening of his cell door: ‘By G—, they’ve got Dalton!’ Jack followed the two men, and, giving a signal to the watch-house keeper, flung himself on the stranger, who was armed with pistols all over him. The voice from the cell was right. It was the famous bushranger, who had been guilty of so many deeds of violence.


As will be seen, Williams, the old detective, played an important part in connection with the following very interesting story, for had it not been for his skill and knowledge, three out of the four criminals concerned would almost certainly have escaped justice.

For the principal facts in the scene now to be related I am indebted to the kindness of one of the two participators- Mr P de Jersey Grut-in a remarkably plucky defence, unarmed as they were, against the very determined attempt of four armed criminals to rob the bank of which they were in charge.

I am glad to be able to revive this story for the most part in the words of Mr de Jersey Grut themself. It was only by persistent and long continued appeals to that gentleman that he could be persuaded to speak of the affair at all. In response to my importunities, Mr de Jersey Grut says: ‘ Instead of giving you a set description of the attempt to rob the branch of the E S&A Chartered Bank, near the corner of George and Gertrude Streets, Fitzroy, I give you . . these few notes. At the moment of the attempt . . the only people in the office were John Dowling the manager, and myself the ledger-keeper. The bank revolver was not in the office, having been left upstairs in Dowling’s bedroom.

‘At about 20 minutes past 10 in the morning of 14th June, 1864, four men rushed in the bank – or, perhaps, it would be more correct to say three, as one of the men remained at the door (though in full view by me) to act, no doubt, as guard, while the business inside was being carried out. One man made for the manager’s parlour behind the public office, but was seized by Dowling as he entered the doorway of the room, fortunately in such a way that his wrist holding a revolver was so held that the revolver could not be pointed at Dowling. Dowling was unable, at the moment, to see the other men. At the same moment, one of them pointed his revolver at me . . For a few seconds I looked into his muzzle. Unhappily for the success of the enterprise, this second man took his eyes off me, and partly turned his head for a moment to see what the third man was doing. This gave me my opportunity, and I immediately flew at his throat to garrot him. Most fortunately for us the third and fourth men, seeing resistance, lost their nerve and fled. My man was very strongly built fellow; but I also, though only 19, was strong built, with a fairly good knowledge of wrestling as well as boxing. I had worked myself behind him, partly to avoid his pistol and partly to get the proper garrotting purchase . . A few seconds more and I would have strangled him, but at last he managed to fire over his left shoulder, full at my head, which, however, I very promptly shifted a fraction of a second before the shot was fired. The detonation so close to my ear was stunning, and I momentarily relaxed my grip, so that he was enabled to burst from me and rush for the door only a few feet off – with me after him, but he was through before I could seize him.

‘This closed what I might call the first phase of the fight, which cannot have lasted a minute, perhaps, from the first rush.

‘All this time, Dowling and the first man were struggling inside the manager’s room, and at the moment that the second man escaped from me I saw Tom Dowling (a pastoralist on a visit to his brother) enter from the private part of the building. Before going to assist the manager, I locked and barred the outer door so that the man inside should not escape, and almost at the same moment heard a shot fired inside. The robber, though unable to bring his weapon to bear on John Dowling, was able to do so on his brother. The bullet passed through the soft part of the palm of his hand. Then the two men secured the man’s wrist. At this moment I entered from the outer room and seized the blade of a long dagger held in his other hand. The fellow sagged the weapon back and forwards so that my hand was cut . . Turning to a table near by I took a long, heavy brass candlestick . . And hit him on the head. That finished the fight. Just then noises were heard at the door and on opening it several people came in, attracted by the firing, headed by a neighbouring grocer named Ross, armed with his cheese knife. The fact that the fight was then over does not detract from the courage he showed.’

Three of the four would-be robbers having escaped, it is at this point that Detective Jack Williams’ part comes in.

The man made prisoner by the bank officers was entirely unknown to the detectives, and so they were without a clue as to his confederates. Every detective and, I suppose, every policeman in the city who felt any special interest in criminal work made it his business to see the prisoner, Williams excepted, for he was engaged at the time in work in the country. On his return he amused himself by making jokes at the cost of his fellow detectives; and when his turn came to see the prisoner, a puzzled look passed over Jack’s face for a few moments; but presently, turning to one of his companions, he said: ‘I have seen that chap before. I think I can get the others,’ and then told this story to his chief, C H Nicolson:

‘A few nights before the attempt on the bank, he (Williams) on his way home passed a shoemakers shop in Spring Street, near where the Princess Theatre now stands. He noticed that as soon as he came into the light from the shop window, the shoemaker, who was still at work, gave some signal to a man standing near. This man ducked behind a screen, but too late, for Williams keen glance had already taken a mental picture of him. It was the man captured by the bank officers. The shoemaker was himself known as one of the criminal class, a fact, no doubt, that impressed the circumstances more effectually on the old detective’s attention.

‘The rest was easy. Nicolson, the same evening, after quietly closing up with his own men the right-of-ways behind, drew up a body of uniform police opposite the shop window. The result was that the men who were wanted rushed into the arms of the detectives at the rear.’

On the following day, Superintendent Nicolson and some detectives captured two of the other men in a house in Little Bourke Street; and immediately after Detectives Williams and Powell arrested the remaining man in Romeo Lane .

Mr De Grut continues:
‘At the trial Travers Admanson prosecuted for the Crown. Woods, the first man whom we captured, was defended by Dr Sewell; Carver, who shot at me, by Aspinall; Phillips, the third man, by Dawson; and Anderson, the fourth man, by Howard Spensley. Woods and Carver were hanged (Woods singing a comic song on the scaffold), and Phillips and Anderson got 15 years hard labour each.’

The sentences were severe . . The fact is, owing to special circumstances, the affair excited a great and really a disproportionate amount of interest . . The papers at that very time had frequent reports of the successful doings of Hall’s gang of bushrangers, of Gilbert and Morgan (in New South Wales ), and Victorians were rather pleased at the contrast furnished by Victoria . Howard Willoughby’s letters from Western Australia on the convict system there were appearing in the Argus. (These letters made his first reputation as a journalist).

The Argus, referring to the prompt capture of three of the robbers, said that it showed in a remarkable manner the efficiency of our police force, and that it was ‘a matter of general congratulation to learn that so daring and unprecedented an attempt had been frustrated, and the principal ruffian captured by the courage and prompt presence of mind of two or three private gentlemen; and it will be not less so to-day to know that by the unwearied energy, the skilful management, and the well-directed efforts of our efficient police force, the rest of the band have been traced to their dens and brought out to the daylight. We have a sound and well-organised police force.’ ( The Argus was too general in its praise. The detective police under the direction of C H Nicolson were very efficient, but, as I have shown elsewhere, the uniform police in Melbourne were in a very parlous state in 1864.)



Many Melbourne people will no doubt remember a disturbance, some twenty or more years ago, at Bruswick, between Orangemen and Roman Catholics. The Ulster men came off rather badly, some vehicles were upset, several Orangemen were assaulted, and their procession hindered or altogether broken up. The police on the ground were too few to maintain order. They managed, however, to prevent the tumult extending.

The trouble occurred on Sunday, and, when Parliament met on the following Tuesday, there was a tremendous outcry by the friends of the Protestant party that the police were shamefully remiss – they knew what was to be expected, and made no provision – the aggressors in the affair must be brought to justice etc.

Then followed peremptory instructions from the Minister that the officer responsible (myself) for the failure in the police arrangements should be called upon to explain; and that no effort should be spared to bring to justice the persons who attacked the Orangemen.

I found it difficult to explain my own failure in the matter, except that it arose through a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding was in this way. On the day before the riot (Saturday), one of the local Roman Catholic clergy, very considerately and very wisely, came to inform me that if the Ulster men determined on a procession next Sunday there was likely to be trouble. When the priest left I searched the newspaper for an Orange advertisement or other notice of their intended proceedings, but found none. There was an advertisement of a somewhat cryptic kind, asking Hibernians to meet to discuss some abstract question. I thought that my informant, speaking inaccurately as my countrymen are apt to do, meant not ‘to-morrow,’ or he surely would have so expressed it, but the following Sunday. Fortunately, the officer in charge of the division, Inspector John Gray, had collected all the men he could on short notice, and thus prevented further evil. My explanation might be summed up in the one word peccavi.

As regards the discovery of the offenders against the Orangemen – more especially those who had upset one large vehicle full of men and women—thanks to the smartness of plain-clothes constable O’Sullivan of the Brunswick division I was able to send in a much more satisfactory report. Although O’Sullivan belonged as I knew to the Church of Rome, I sent him on this inquiry, and within a few hours he was able to furnish the names in full of the chief culprits. The most notable of these has since provided himself a good citizen, and has done good work for the Empire in South Africa . My ‘explanation,’ with Constable O’Sullivan’s report, was sent to the Minister, and I never heard another word about either.


It is a little over twenty years since the people of Melbourne had their first experience of a great strike, when all waterside workers and seamen ceased their labours. Few, except those directly concerned, took the matter very seriously at first, not even those ‘lions led by asses,’ as someone has called the strikers. It was not a pleasant sight to see some of these later coming away from the Trades Hall swaggering and tipsy, as was the case with many amongst them who had just received their first weeks strike pay. They swung round the street corner where an old sergeant of police happened to be standing. I cannot forget the look of wonder at the sight that first spread over his face, followed by a sad, pathetic expression as he turned away. I have often thought that good old soul must have recognised someone dear to him in that unseemly crowd. A few weeks, however, brought to these high spirits a chastened and sober look. Their leaders might be seen making their way daily at luncheon time to the Maison Doree, where they were sure of an excellent repast; but how fared it with the lions who were led by them?

Such an extensive strike caused a flutter in police circles, as a strike always does. No one can tell what may happen on these occasions, and this particular strike was not without its incidents. These were not, numerous, however, nor did they, as might easily have happened, lead to any grave results.


Until towards the close of the strike the hands of the police were strangely tied. A considerable body of mounted police and of infantry cavalry were brought from the country, but they were strictly confined to their barracks. These reinforcements were hardly needed, for I think the local police would have been sufficient to keep order, if they had only been free to act. One of the first essentials was to keep the wharves and their approaches free from idlers and loiterers likely to interfere with persons coming there on lawful business. Instead of this the wharves were often taken up by a noisy crowd, who were ready to hoot and roughly handle anyone towards whom they had a grudge. The police, who were kept in small squads, had their time taken up hurrying to and fro at any sign of turbulence, but beyond this they were not free to act. The victims in these troubles might be safely conducted off the ground, but no one who caused the trouble was brought to book.

The natural result followed. The police were held in little respect, and the more dangerous members of the crowd grew bolder. A squad of some dozen police, standing quietly on the wharf, suddenly found themselves being forced by a mob of rowdies towards the river-edge of the wharf. A few moments more and every policeman would have been pushed into the river had not another squad, under Sub Inspector John Gray, seeing the peril their comrades were in, rushed to their relief. They used their batons to such effect that unmannerly persons no longer cared to come to too close quarters with these police squads. Yet a solitary policeman wishing to pass from one place to another had to run the gauntlet of threats and jeers. At last the police, being quite full up of this sort of thing, took matters into their own hands, and kept the wharves clear of all intruders.

I fancy the great Maritime Strike would have shortly fizzled out of itself, but the end came about more suddenly than was expected, and in a quite unlooked for way.

I happened, one day, to have luncheon with Mr C H Nicolson, who was then a police magistrate and had been told off, in case of any serious tumult, for the duty of reading the Riot Act. It will be remembered that Nicolson had been for many years an officer of police, and he was greatly interested in the story of our troubles as police. He was more than interested, he was alarmed and, as I afterwards learned, he held a consultation with a fellow-magistrate. The latter happened to drop in on the Mayor, Mr William Lang, whom he found chatting with some city friends. The story must by this time have received some additions, for a deputation to the Government was decided upon on the spot.

These gentlemen must have told something very sensational to the Minister whom they interviewed, for he declared that, if the Cabinet did not take instant action, he would send in his resignation and table a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet.

While this was going on, I had visited the wharves, where I found everything quiet and no sign of any interference by the strikers, and had just returned to my office. Here I found an urgent call to the telephone. The order came that all available police should be taken to the wharves to quell the disorders going on there, and I was instructed to summon the whole of the mounted police at the Victoria Barracks at the same time. I replied that I had just come from the wharves, where everything was quiet. The order was imperative, however the police must go at once.

In a few minutes every tram passing by the barracks in Russell Street was boarded by squads of police, and as we reached Flinders Street some forty troopers came at the gallop over Princes Bridge . Not a single striker was to be seen anywhere near the wharves; it was a false alarm.

The Government, however, had now taken up the matter seriously. A formal Proclamation was issued, forbidding all unlawful assemblies, etc, and people waited to see what would follow next.


Great was the anger of the strikers and their leaders. A monster meeting was held on the Sunday following the Proclamation, at which there was a vast concourse of strikers, sympathisers, and sightseers. Of course, a goodly number of police were also on the ground. The Yeomanry cavalry, who had been drawn in from the country some weeks before, were at their barracks with easy call if required.

It is never possible to tell beforehand what turn things may take in the case of such large gatherings as this of which I speak. A few hot-heads or a small lot of drunken rowdies may start a serious disturbance. The police, too, require to exercise prudence, and not be too officious in their interference. On this particular occasion they were kept in sections of 20 or 30 on the outside of the crowd. We were on the ground in good time and watched the streams of people in their Sunday best, as they approached their meeting-place, the Friendly Societies ground. They streamed in from all sides, wives and sweethearts mingled together with their male friends, a very certain sign, in the case of Melbourne assemblies at least, that no serious disorder was expected.

There were several platforms from which the leaders of the strikers and others spoke. Of course, there was the usual denunciations of tyrant rules, and other tall talk, but it all somehow seemed to fall flat, and when the speakers began to compliment the police on their non-interference with the right of free speech, it was plain that the whole affair was becoming a fiasco.

I do not know what news was being conveyed to the military authorities in the barracks, but I was continually receiving messages from the officer in charge there. He must have received some curious intelligence, for he evidently was greatly excited, and asked repeatedly where he should draw up his men. My answers were at first verbal, but as he grew more and more urgent, I scribbled a note in pencil, telling him that everything was going on quietly, and begging him to keep his men out of sight altogether.



Mr. (afterwards Sir) William H F Mitchell, was the first Chief Commissioner. He held office about one year only from January 1st, 1852. He was a man of good business capacity, but he had no previous experience of matters police or military. He did probably all that could be done in so short a rule, and under very trying circumstances, as I have already shown in an earlier chapter. He was better known in later years as President of the Legislative Council of Victoria.


Captain (afterwards Sir) Charles Macmahon, who succeeded Sir William Mitchell in 1854, had had a different training. He had served in a British cavalry regiment, and he brought to his work a knowledge of discipline that his predecessor did not posses. Sir Charles Macmahon was a diligent and painstaking worker, a strict disciplinarian, a high minded and honourable public servant. These all were qualities that the time specially required, and he exercised them effectively for the public good. He found the police force of Victoria in a state of chaos when he took charge in 1854, and left it, when he resigned office in 1858, started on right lines and in a very promising condition generally.

Sir Charles had, however, some of the vices of his military training. He was too much of a martinet and, what was more mischievous still, he did not trust his most capable officers sufficiently, not recognising that during these four or five years they too were acquiring practical experience. The fact is that many of them had a better knowledge of their work than their Chief had, occupied as he was in the general business of organisation. The mere show of activity, of fussiness even, had too great attraction for him, and led him into the error of exhibiting partiality for men like P H Smith, P le P Bookey, and a few others who were not at all deserving of his favour.

It must be admitted, however, that our chief was not without excuse. A very large proportion of those early officers were so self willed, so idle, or so unsteady, that it was a hopeless task to get any good service from them. A wiser man, possessing better knowledge of police work, might have weeded out these ‘bad hats.’ It happened to him, as it also did to Freeman, to find his authority weakened by want of support. Sir John O’Shannassy, the ministerial head of the service at the time, refused to carry out a very proper rule of discipline regarding an officer who was greatly in fault, and Sir Charles Macmahon resigned.


Captain Frederick Charles Standish was the next Chief Commissioner, and was appointed in September, 1858. His short service previously in the Royal Artillery did not seem to have left its mark upon him, for he showed few evidences of military training. He belonged to a high class English county family, had received a liberal education, and possessed many natural gifts that might have placed him in a higher position in public respect and favour than he ever reached. He was a man of wider views than his immediate predecessor and of fairer judgment. I doubt, however, whether he possessed as high a sense of duty. He was too much a man of pleasure to devote himself seriously to the work of his office, and his love of pleasure led him to form intimacies with some officers of like mind, and to think less of others who were much more worthy of regard. From the first, this mistake led to trouble, and lowered the tone and character of the service. It is a curious fact that those whom he most favoured were the men who at all times showed him least regard and who clouded the reputation of his later years. On the whole, however, he was regarded with a certain affection throughout the service generally; and in the early troubles in the sixties, and until towards the close of his official career the whole service, with few exceptions, was loyal to him.

Captain Standish was a strange mixture of weakness and of strength. His weakness I have already indicated. His strength was shown first in the ability with which he met, in 1862, the secret conspiracies and open attacks of malcontents in the service, supported by certain politicians. He stood intellectually on a far higher plane than his assailants.

I did not know him intimately until the later seventies, but some years earlier I noticed a certain unreliability, a disregard of voluntary official undertakings difficult to understand. His friends noticed, too, about this time a very peculiar irritability of temper inconsistent with his usual demeanour.

I have spoken of evil friendships, but his devotion to Frank Hare was of another kind – it was like the love of Jonathan for David. It was almost pathetic to see, during the months Captain Standish spent at Benalla in the Kelly time, how restless and uneasy he became were Hare out of his company. I have seen Standish on the top rail of fence watching anxiously for Hare’s return from a short ride of a mile or two. He said to me that he was in constant fear lest some accident should happen to him. Looking back on those days, I think I see in this exaggerated affection another symptom of that mental trouble under which he quite broke down a very few years later. Not that I desire to deny that Hare had some very fine and attractive qualities, but this inordinate affection had its ill effects in increasing Hare’s already too pronounced egotism, and in the case of Standish himself it led him into the most ill judged action of his career, the superseding of Nicolson by Hare at a most critical point in the Kelly pursuit.


Mr H M Chomley was the next Commissioner of Police. He had passed through all the grades of the service from the position of cadet, to which he was appointed in 1852. Had Frank Hare been wise enough, after the capture and destruction of the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan, to abstain from unjust reflections on Nicolson and others, he would, no doubt, have been appointed to the post with acclamation. But his mistakes made this impossible, and Mr Chomley was appointed in 1881.

Mr Chomley’s qualifications were not the same as those of his predecessors in office. These all possessed I think higher intellectual powers, but he had in a remarkable degree that which has been called the genius of commonsense and had had too, what they had not had, a long apprenticeship to police work. His career and his private character had been without blemish. His experience had all been in country work; of city police work he pretended to no special knowledge, and seldom interfered with the officer in charge of that particular branch.

Like other men, Mr Chomley of course had his limitations. He loved to get along peacefully, for he was of an easy-going disposition, and was ready occasionally to sacrifice a good deal as long as things went smoothly.

For example, when he was appointed Acting Chief Commissioner, an office senior to him in the service was supposed to be plotting against him in the hope of being himself appointed to the post. Mr Chomley should have known that this officer was an impossibility, for he was the one answerable for the disorganisation of the city police in the early eighties, as I have elsewhere endeavoured to described. I was shocked when Mr Chomley told me of his proposal – that this officer should be associated with him as Assistant Commissioner, and I strongly opposed anything of the kind. I said it would be a dishonour to the service; that the officer was so notoriously of ill repute that he should rather be called upon to retire from the service altogether. This was the course finally taken, fortunately for the interests of the whole police force.

I have elsewhere treated of the system of promotion by examination, and have shown its many unhappy and injurious results. This system had but one thing to commend it – it relieved the Chief Commissioner of all trouble and responsibility in the choice of persons to be promoted. The head of the department had simply to run his eye over the list of men who had passed the exam, perhaps years before, and, without regard to the fitness or unfitness of the senior man on the list, the appointment was made. No one knew better than Mr Chomley himself the danger inherent in such a system, of bringing about a dry-rot in the service. Now that more than a quarter of a century of the system has created what may be regarded as vested interests, a change might be difficult, still in my judgment a stronger man would long ago have brought the iniquitous thing to an end.


It is said that it is the drill sergeant who has made the British Army, and so, in a sense, it may be said that it is the sub officer of police on whom the efficiency of the police service depends. He it is who gets or should get the best results out of the constables who, as I have pointed out elsewhere, are those who actually do the work.

I have helped in the training of some first class sub officers. Some I have found ready to hand; some I have helped to recover lost ground who in evil days and under adverse circumstances failed to maintain their first estate. I know well how hopeless many a hard task would have been for me, could I not have reckoned on the aid of such men. These good fellows went about their work as if they loved it, as I am sure they did. Many of them were men of quite brilliant natural gifts; and all of them, with the reasonable support of their superiors, could be relied on to do their work well. Without this support – like Samson without his locks – they became like other men. There is indeed no better work a superior officer can set himself, than that of perfecting his ‘subs,’ and inspiring them with confidence in his support.

In the following short sketches I speak only of those men whom I knew best, all of them members of the Uniform Police, for with the Detective branch I have had little more than a nodding acquittance, so to speak.


When I came across Power in 1856 he was then stationed at Wodonga. This town, by the way, has not fulfilled its early promise, but has been left far behind by Albury just across the river on the New South Wales side, the advance of the latter town being due no doubt to the benefits of Free Trade under Sir George Reid’s regime.

In 1856 Power was a busy man, for he was policeman, sub officer of Customs, and I know not what else. He has been already mentioned in these Recollections, but, at the risk of repetition, I venture on this short summary of his character as it appeared to me.

To look at Power one might easily take him to be a commonplace, perhaps even a dull man, but in reality he was most acute and observant. In his day Wodonga was the junction of many lines of communication between Victoria and New South Wales , and was the crossing place for wandering diggers, cattle-men and other travellers. On these wayfarers he kept a constant eye. News travelled slowly in those days, for there was no telegraph and a weekly mail only, but when tardy information of some crime did reach him, Power was usually able to say with confidence whether suspects had or had not passed his way; while as regards Customs affairs Hannify, the chief Custom officer, seemed to rely altogether on him.

In my sketch elsewhere of O’Hara Burke I have mentioned a case in which a Police Magistrate, one of the very few black sheep of the public service, and a local pound keeper were found to be dividing between them moneys that should have passed into the State Treasury. It was Power who made the discovery. The scheme was entirely outside the lines of ordinary police observation, but Power knew no such limits when he was on the scent of any kind of roguery, neither did he fear to impeach so great a magnate as a Police Magistrate when he found him tripping. It is still a mystery how Power came by his information. He had never seen the magistrate, who held his court thirty miles away, where he was supposed to check the pound keeper’s books, neither, one may be sure, did the pound keeper confide in him, yet he was able to place before his Superintendent, O’Hara Burke, full details of the wrongdoing of both. It was not Power’s fault that there was no formal prosecution, for the Magistrate fled the State and the records and books were destroyed before Power could secure them. After 1859, having left the North-Eastern District, I quite lost sight of this very able sub officer.


It was in 1856 also that I first made acquaintance with Du Vernet. He was a dashing handsome man of 25, a scion of a French-Canadian family that has produced more than one man of mark. He had joined the Victorian service as a cadet in 53, but when the cadets ceased to be a separate corps Du Vernet, instead of leaving the service as so many cadets did, elected to remain with the rank of Sergeant.

I have not selected Du Vernet as a sample of the strict disciplinarian, for his forte did not lie in this direction. Indeed, it has to be admitted that it was his disregard of discipline, being tempted in an evil hour by some Delilah, that led to his downfall.

Du Vernet had a natural instinct for police work of nearly every kind. The common thief, the horse stealer, the highway man, and the military deserter all received his best attention, and learned to respect and fear this young and capable sergeant of police.

The Woolshed diggings, near Beechworth, in 1856 was a very busy place, the rich alluvial discoveries attracted very many thousands of people, with the usual company of camp followers, men and women, who did not work but lived instead on the industry of others. It was here that Du Vernet first made a name for himself. He was the means of bringing more criminals before the Courts than any other half-dozen police throughout the district, Sergeant Power excepted. He did more. He made his work profitable to himself in a perfectly legitimate way.

At the time of which I write, the Beechworth gold mines were among those most remote from the metropolis, and it was for this reason, as I suppose, that military deserters made their way thither. The military authorities found it difficult to keep able-bodied men at a shilling a day, when an ordinary laborer could earn a pound, and the leakage became something serious. The two regiments – the 12th and the 40th, if I remember correctly – were the sufferers. With the view of checking this evil a standing reward of five pounds was offered for the arrest of each deserter. I have known Du Vernet to bring into camp as many as five of these in one week, representing the sum of twenty-five pounds, his honest earnings for extras in that short time.


Many who knew Dalton have spoken of him as the greatest policeman the Victorian service has ever seen, greater than Summerhayes even. He was not as brilliant and showy perhaps, but he had some very solid qualities that the other did not possess.

Dalton began his service rather badly, but fortunately his officers, knowing his many good points, were forbearing and did not deal hardly with him, and their forbearance was amply repaid. He proved himself during his long career the staunchest and steadiest of men, until he died in harness in 1888. Had Dalton and some others that I think of as I write had a liberal education, and were their natural gifts cultivated and trained, it would be difficult to fix a limit to what they might have achieved. Faithful always to duty, truthful, of clear understanding, and diligent, they might have accomplished great things.

Dalton, though a keen thief-catcher, never pressed a point unfairly against his victims, no matter how bad they might have been; his testimony was accepted without question by Judges and Magistrates; lawyers like Ireland and Aspinall learned to leave him severely alone. Clever and quick witted as these advocates were, Dalton was equal to them on their own ground, and his dry humour and racy wit enabled him to score every time. It would be idle to try to reproduce in print such encounters as these. The man’s rich Irish brogue and his solemn expression of face while uttering something specially humorous and piquant, could only be reproduced by gramaphone and cinematograph.(Note. – The word ‘Larrikin,’ as applied to youthful rowdies, and now generally adopted throughout the Empire, can be traced back to Dalton . It first appeared in print in a police court report furnished by ‘Barney’ O’Hea, an Argus reporter, in the sixties. ) After all, it was not in this direction that Dalton’s best powers lay, but rather in the earnest and unfailing attention to his daily task. Just a few words further in illustration. A few hours before his death in 1888, I had occasion to visit his station at Royal Park . I saw him in uniform, and on his ordinary patrol. When he came into the office he looked deadly sick. I insisted on his sitting down and telling me of his condition. He said he had been feeling badly for several days, but thought he would do better by keeping at work. I urged him to go to bed; and cutting short my inspection, I sent an express request to the police surgeon to visit him. He found that Dalton had typhoid fever, from which he died very soon after.

I had intended adding many like sketches of other members of the Old Brigade, men not quite so picturesque perhaps, but still fully entitled to special mention in these simple annals. I find, however, that what has been already written does but feeble justice to those whose memory I should greatly desire to make permanent. My further sketches therefore will be short.

Men such as Sergeants (afterwards Superintendent) Pewtress, Fenton, and Manson, three of S E Freeman’s importations, were the salt of the service. Trained in the very best school, the London Metropolitan Police, they thoroughly understood their work and were alive to all the obligations of duty. The first-named, Mr Pewtress, is, I believe, the only one of the three still living. I have had occasion to mention him more than once in these Recollections. Sergeant Fenton was an interesting personality in other respects. He was a very devout man, and held public religious services regularly in his divisions. At one time I felt lest he should become so absorbed in this work as to give insufficient attention to police duties, and spoke to him on the subject. At first he seemed to think that I was attempting to interfere with his liberty of conscience, but he soon understood, and thanked me for my advice and warning. Fenton, on retiring from the service, had the ill fortune to enter into some sort of partnership with the notorious Dr Dowie, in connection with the Zion tabernacle in Fitzroy, through which he suffered serious loss.

To Sergeant John Manson might also be applied the term mutatis mutandis, ‘a devout soldier,’ that was applied to the messenger sent by the centurion of Caesarea to St Peter. By the way, how well spoken of in the New Testament were these Roman officers, so generous and courteous on occasion. So it was with many others besides Manson, who were all the better and all the more reliable for being devout. As for Manson I cannot imagine his scamping any duty that he might have to do. His daily work began at 4.45 in the morning and ended at 9 at night.

In 1864 at a time when there was serious disorganisation in the city, I found sub officers of mark, viz., Sergeants Fullarton (afterwards an Inspector under the City Council) and Perry (afterwards Superintendent), and two senior-constables named Flannigan. Fullarton and Perry were above the average in regard to education. The special forte of these two men was their reliability as disciplinarians, while the qualities of the Flannigans were best shown in their unceasing diligence. They all deserve mention as striking exceptions to the many ‘men on the job’ that were then about. One of the Flannigans was very keen after thieves. Originally a cabman, he had given so many proofs of this quality that the officer in charge, Frank Hare, induced him to join the police service.

Sergeant George Ellis, afterwards Superintendent, has been already referred to in these Recollections as one of the reliable sort, and such also was Sergeant T Curran, who well deserved his promotion to the higher rank.

There were three other sub officers whom I have already mentioned in connection with the Kelly bushranging troubles, but they deserve more particular notice here. These are Sergeants A L Steele, James Whelan and Michael Ward, afterwards Sub Inspector. Steele showed himself to most advantage when any dangerous or difficult piece of work had to be done. His conduct at the capture of the bushrangers at Glenrowan showed what he was. Without waiting for instructions he took up a position so close to the hotel where the gang were sheltered as to be in danger, not only from the Kelly fire, but also from the fire of his police comrades.

Sergeant Whelan’s qualities were of a different kind; modest and unassuming, he was a perfect encyclopaedia of all useful knowledge relating to the bushrangers, their habits, their associates and friends. His diligence, his fidelity, his wisdom in counsel, for he was being consulted continually by Nicolson, Hare and myself – were amazing. He had the oversight and ordering of numerous police coming and going, as well as the feeding of their horses, a business that in other hands might easily have fallen into confusion. If the officers wanted him at any time between daybreak and midnight , the mere mention of his name brought Whelan to their side. It was through his intervention that the serviced of the ‘Diseased Stock Agent,’ whose story I have elsewhere told, were secured. Yet Steele and Whelan, men of such proved efficiency, and of educational attainments above the average of their rank, were barred by a stupid system from advancement, and dunces were sent to take command over them. No wonder they were glad to retire from the service.

Sergeant, afterwards Sub Inspector, Ward was another of the men who proved themselves so useful in the Kelly campaign. Before the actual outbreak of the Kelly bushrangers, Ward had been for many weeks beating up their haunts. He probably did not realize the risks he was incurring, for it is very certain that if the Kellys had run up against him they would have made short work with him. Still more useful was his work in the Beechworth division of the Kelly country. Like Whelan, he seemed to know more of the people who might be serviceable to the police than anyone else. And he knew the ‘cronks’ too, those plausible fellows who could not be trusted. Officially, he was rated as a detective, but during the Kelly troubles he worked with the uniform police. When a scout was wanted, or a sharp reliable man was required to test some doubtful piece of information, Ward seemed to have the person fitted for the occasion always ready to hand. I do not know why it was, but Mr Longmore and his fellows on the Police Commission of 1881, made fierce efforts to do damage to Ward and Steele, but happily without success.


One of these, a man named Robinson, passed out of my ken as far back as 1854; the other, Dowling, some ten years later. They differed in many ways from the others I have mentioned, and from each other.

Robinson was a Canadian by birth, and was remarkably tall. I think he must have come from gentle folk. I am not sure that he was not one of the early cadet corps, but he was too moody and silent to speak much about himself. He found the company in the Ballarat barrack-room distasteful and took his pleasures, such as they were, alone. These were the days when they were very strained relations between the miners and the ‘Camp’ – a word meant to represent the government officials who were gathered together in their special quarters.

I do not know what it was about Robinson that aroused the interest of his officers. Perhaps it was his remarkable height, perhaps it was his reticence and a certain air about him having seen better days. Not that he was a degenerate by any means, for he was a fine steady young fellow, who did whatever work was required of him in a ready if not quite cheerful way.

‘What has Robinson been doing to day?’ was a question often asked in the messroom, until the novelty of the thing wore off, for he was constantly doing sensational things, in a way peculiar to himself.

After the lapse of nearly sixty years, it is only the small things than I can call to mind, for the reason, probably, of their frequent recurrence. Here, for instance, is one of the ways in which Robinson filled in his spare time. It was his practice to saunter out of camp, in uniform of course, and stroll along in an absent-minded sort of way among the diggers, and, of course, the cry of ‘Joe,’ ‘Joe,’ was soon raised. Robinson understood nothing of the affront intended, and went on unheeding. It was some time before it broke in upon him that he was the object of derision. When at last he asked what was meant, there were fresh insults. He enquired how he had offended, but there was again the cry, ‘Joe!’ Robinson was about to turn sadly away, when one of the miners came up and offered some fresh rudeness. Even to Robinson’s forbearance there was a limit, and, taking hold of the offender, he began to lead him towards the camp, when the man’s mate interfered. There was a short scuffle, and out of the melee emerged Robinson, holding two subdued and astonished diggers at arms length as they reluctantly headed towards the old log lockup. This kind of thing became a sort of daily entertainment with Robinson, in spite of warning as to the danger of such exploits single-handed. But in time the miners learned due respect for the man, and left him severely alone. Robinson after a time was removed to Carngham, and I lost sight of him, as I have said.

Some twenty-eight years later, I happened to visit the late Mr Philip Russell at his home near Carnham, when Robinson’s name cropped up. Mr Russell had a long list of similar exploits to relate about him, and seemed to have formed a special personal regard for him. He considered Robinson the most efficient policeman he had ever known.


Constable Patrick Dowling was one of the Melbourne City Police in the sixties. He was a quiet, easy-going fellow, roughly built and of awkward gait, although he had served, if I remember aright, in the Royal Irish Constabulary. The official records of those early days were so badly kept that they furnish little or no help, and one has accordingly to speak from the recollection chiefly. There is one bald record, viz, that Dowling had received a reward for stopping a runaway horse. He was one of the police who wore down the Collingwood cabbies of those days whose delight it was to drive down the long slope in Burke Street , from Spring to Elizabeth Streets, at a furious pace. The driving was absolutely reckless, especially at night, when there was the least chance of the driver being recognised. The driving was like what one sees in the progress of a fire brigade detachment hurrying to a big fire, the driver shouting, the foot-passengers crying out with alarm as they fled before the reckless cabby.

This evil practice had to be corrected, and to that end Frank Hare, who was then Inspector in charge, selected a few resolute plucky constables, to whom he gave charge of the business. Dowling had already given proofs of fitness for this particular work, and would most certainly be one of the first to volunteer for it, for there was just the spice of danger in the work that had attractions for him. However this may have been, the work was done effectively. As cabby approached at his best speed, the constable by a short quick run alongside managed to get hold of the horse’s bit and succeeded usually in stopping the horse so suddenly that the driver, who was generally half drunk, found himself flung out over the dash-board, followed by a night’s lodging in the police lock-up or in the hospital.

Dowling had a weakness – the attractions of the many Bourke Street drinking shops were too strong for him. But it was worth while to save him from temptation, and he was moreover quite willing to be saved. Hence it was that he took kindly to the most dismal work in the whole service perhaps-the patrol of the lower wharves on the Yarra River .

At this time the police on night duty wore the old Long Tom overcoat, and carried a bull’s-eye lantern and handcuffs slung in a broad waistbelt, with baton in a special pocket. Thus burdened, Dowling leaped into the Yarra at the time of its highest flood – December, 1863, I believe it was to the rescue of a tipsy sailor, and brought him safely to land. Time after time he displayed the same splendid courage and made a name for himself as an heroic fellow, whose memory should not be lost. The Government thought so much of his conduct that they rewarded him liberally. While his cheque lasted nothing was to be seen of Dowling, and when he did turn up for duty in a week or so, his officers seemed to be strangely forgetful of his fault.

These simple annals of brave deeds done, and of work well and faithfully performed by men in humble position, might easily be extended to include such men as David Marks, Millea, Moran (Sergeant-Major), Crisp, Joyce, Lyhane, Bysonth, and many others, not one of whom received the advancement in the service he had honestly earned. The last named, best known as Jimmy Bysonth, was a short, bow legged man, always at high pressure, and constantly engaged in fierce encounters with larrikins. He was by trade a coach builder, and it was ever a source of satisfaction and pride to him that he was the constructor of the first ‘Black Maria’ used in Australia !


A youth of 19 finding himself in 1852 at the antipodes straight from a quiet, well ordered home, without friends, may well be regarded as greatly in need of help and guidance. If he is self-assertive and conceited, wisdom might say that such an one stands most in need of help. My besetting sin, in those early days at any rate, was not in this direction.

The help I speak of was not of the social kind, though of this I received more than I deserved or hoped for, limited enough as some more socially inclined persons might regard them, but exactly of the kind that suited my own tastes and circumstances. I shall not, therefore, speak particularly of those who treated me to hospitality and kindnesses in this direction. These good friends hold a very warm place in my affections. But I prefer to speak, rather, of those whose goodwill and kindly wisdom were directed towards the building up of the character of a young man greatly in need of their good offices.

My first help came from the Commandant of the Cadet Corps I joined in 1852, Captain Jared Fox. It was not much to boast of, either on the part of the giver or receiver. The time was the morning of Boxing Day, and my only merit was that I had not got drunk the night before, as all the rest of the corps had, including the Commandant himself. The latter was too seedy to carry on the morning’s drill, as were also the several cadets he called upon to take his place pro tem, and when he found that I succeeded in the work, he promoted me on the spot.

My next benefactor was Sir William Mitchell, Chief Commissioner at the time. I had been appointed acting Sub Inspector – still on the pay of a cadet – in order to take charge of a squad of scoundrels, called detectives, who took tips under my very nose. Sir William agreed with me that the charge was one no gentleman should be required to undertake, and he immediately disbanded the squad, and appointed me to the full rank and pay of Sub-Inspector. This was on January, 1st, 1854 , yet I was not happy. With increased authority came greatly increased responsibilities. It is seldom that a man of 21 can be considered wise, yet I found myself wise enough to know that I was not wise. There were few, however, of my seniors of whom there was anything worth learning, though some of these, by self-assertion, made a brave pretence of knowledge. Probably they were inwardly as uncomfortable as I was, but for all I could see they appeared in my eyes at the time much more wise and competent than myself. This feeling helped to reduce the very slender stock of self-confidence that I possessed, and added to a natural diffidence that I had not the art to conceal.

This leads me to the relation of the next incident in my callow days that gave me considerable gratification and encouragement. Inspector Robert McCulloch and I were chatting together one day, when another officer, T E L —–, senior to myself joined us. McCulloch had had some police experience in South Australia , and was one of the two or three officers then in the Victorian service who had any practical knowledge of police work. L—- was one of the bumptious and pretentious sort. He began to banter me somewhat rudely on my diffidence and what he styled my over-modesty, when McCulloch cut him short by saying very bluntly, ‘You are an ass, L—, not to see that Sadleir has twice the good sense that you have.’ I hope McCulloch was right, for I soon came to learn that L— had no good sense at all. My champion did not stop at that point, but poured out into my willing ears a valuable flood of wise and wholesome counsel. Youthful diffidence and simplicity make their appeal to all good and considerate men of riper age. Such, at least, has been my experience.

It was a night of great festivity very early in the fifties at our mess at Ballarat. There were several illustrious visitors, amongst them Captain (after General Sir Andrew) Clarke and Captain Pasley, both holding high professional office under Government. As I have said, the evening was a festive one and there was much license in song and speech. Those who were ever much in the company of John D’Ewes, Walter Brackenbury, or Gordon Evans, all camp officials of the time, will easily understand.

There were some of the company, however, who preferred the fresher atmosphere outside the mess-room, amongst these, Captains Clarke and Pasley. I well remember the fine intellectual appearance of Captain Clarke’s face, and especially the fine expression of his lustrous eyes as he looked in the fading light over the striking scene on The Flat to Mount Warrenheip in the distance. It was at about this hour that the miners discharged and reloaded their revolvers according to their custom, filling the evening air with reports as if the skirmishers of an army of soldiers were at work.

It was not Captain Clarke, however, who was my good Samaritan, but his friend Pasley who took a seat beside me, and after a few preliminaries, alluded to the scene we had just left. He hoped that I would never learn to like such scenes, and spoke to me of some of the aims that a young man should set before himself in life. I met Pasley but once or twice after, and found that he still took an interest in my welfare. He had seen much of the world in comparison with myself, and though what I have related may seem of small account, yet I can say with the wise man, ‘A word in season, how good it is.’

Of the men who have helped, Samuel Edward Freeman, Superintendent of Metropolitan Police, deserves a prominent place. Henry Foster, my ‘Super’ at Ballarat, kind and good fellow that he was, was not helpful in the training of men just beginning their work in life, though he could be exceedingly active himself. With Freeman it was different. He not only loved and did his share of work, but he understood every detail of it. Further, if his junior officers did not do their share there was a row. There were many rows, for with one exception-that of Sub-Inspector Martin Page, one of the London police brought out under Freeman–all the juniors were in constant trouble. They were careless, stubborn or unteachable. I have seen some of these officers suspended from duty twice in a day. Freeman did not regard me as stubborn or unteachable, but I was one of the careless ones. He tried sharpness, which had its effect, no doubt – Freeman could be severe and stern – and he also tried kindly and fatherly counsel, to my great gain. For I count it a very great gain to anyone starting in the work of life, to learn something of what the term Duty means, to learn to like his work, commonplace as it may seem, and to be placed under one who is a past-master at the work, and is ready to communicate freely all he knows.

The benefactors of whom I have spoken came into the first three or four years of my official life, a very critical time for many reasons. If I except a friendship with Robert O’Hara Burke, and later with C H Nicolson -the latter an example of men who love their work – during the ensuing forty years or so I had to play a lone hand, sometimes against very adverse influences. Not that I have any grounds for personal complaint, since my advancement in the service was quite as rapid as I had any right to expect. It is true, nevertheless, that during those forty years I learned as much from my juniors in the service as I did from any of my seniors, so few there were of these seniors really interested in their work.


By J Sadleir (ex Inspecting Superintendent)
(Read before the Historical Society of Victoria.)

I begin by inviting you to come with me in imagination to a spot on the banks of the River Yarra, where a group of three men are seated on a fallen tree discussing eagerly some subject of interest to them all. The date was 17th February, 1842 . The group consisted of two whites and an aboriginal chief, and the raising of a body of native troopers was the subject of their discussion. The two white men were William Thomas, Protector of Aborigines, and Henry Pulteney Dana, an enterprising young Englishman, who, a few years before, had emigrated to Tasmania , then called Van Diemen’s Land , with letters of introduction to the Governor, Sir John Franklin. Finding life in Tasmania too dull, Dana had migrated to Port Phillip, where Mr La Trobe, the Superintendent, who had known him in England , employed him in the work of raising a corps of native troopers.

The third man of the group was Billabellary, chief of the Yarra tribe, and to him the two white men had made their proposals for help. Billabellary is described as being a very remarkable man – one far above the average of his race in good feeling and understanding. Mr Thomas says that Billabellary had saved his life and the lives of many white settlers, forbidding his followers to avenge themselves for any wrongs the settlers might have done them. Having heard what his companions had to say, he stipulated that he should be allowed a week to think the matter over. The Superintendent, Mr La Trobe, was always a good friend to the blacks, and no doubt Billabellary took this fact into consideration, for at the appointed time he returned, bringing with him sufficient recruits for the new service. The chief himself was the first to be enrolled, but finding the goose-step and other elementary exercises of the drill-ground derogatory to his position as chief, he was excused from actual service. Thus came to the birth the first organized branch of the police service of Victoria .

Henry Dana took command of the new corps, and established his headquarters at the spot still known as Stud Paddock, near Dandenong. Later on he was assisted by his younger brother, William Pulteney Dana, and by another officer named Walsh, a man of violent and jealous temper, of whom we shall hear further by and by.

I find that the duties of the native troopers were very diversified. They conveyed the mail and the Government treasure from place to place; they punished native outrages when occasion arose, but always under the direction of their white officer; they escorted the Superintendent of the province, Mr La Trobe, Bishop Perry, and other high officials, on their frequent tours through the country, and they kept a sharp look out for escaped prisoners from Van Diemen’s Land, who seemed for the most part to have favoured Westernport as a landing place.

Mr La Trobe was a humane man, and kept watch over the interests of the aboriginal population. He made many attempts to train up native children in the ways of civilization, but always with the same result – the youngsters ever found the bush ‘a calling’ them, and they yielded to its call. Mr La Trobe required, also, that all encounters between the aboriginals and Henry Dana’s troupers should be reported to him in full. Here is a specimen of one of these reports: –

‘ Melbourne , 23rd July, 1845 .
‘SIR,—I have the honour to report for your Honour’s information that, on Thursday, 11th inst., the natives attacked Messrs. Baillie and Hamilton’s station, on a lake about 15 miles from Mt Arapiles, and succeeding in driving off 600 of their sheep. Mr Baillie immediately proceeded to his station, and sent to me for assistance. I accordingly started in the night from Major Firebrace’s station with the detachment of my men stationed there, and arrived at Messrs Baillie and Hamilton’s station on the morning of the 12th inst.

‘After some difficulty we found the track of the sheep that the natives had driven away, and followed a distance of about 30 miles through extensive heath and scrub. At about this distance the advance of my party came up with a number of sheep with their legs broken, and at a distance of a mile found 200 sheep in a bush yard, and a little further came up with the natives with a number of sheep in their possession.

‘Upon our appearance the natives uttered a yell and commenced threatening us with their spears, and threw a number of waddies and other missiles at us. Finding my party in some danger, I ordered the men to fire, when three of the natives fell, and some were wounded. Mr Dudley, overseer to Major Firebrace, received a severe blow on the head during the struggle, but none of the rest were hurt. It is with very great satisfaction I have to report that the conduct of the men merited great praise for their coolness and determination on the occasion. The ringleader of the natives was cut down, after a long resistance, by Yupton, a corporal of the native police. The prisoner is badly wounded.

‘I have the honour to be,

‘To His Honour the Superintendent.’

It is a curious fact that the capabilities of the native as a tracker became a lost tradition in later days. Henry Dana held the powers of the natives in this respect in high esteem. He died, however, in 1852, before the police service was finally reorganized, and the tradition appears to have died with him. At any rate, some 27 years elapsed before native trackers were again employed in Victoria . This was when the Kelly bushrangers were ‘out.’

His younger brother assisted in the management of the corps. William Dana was a tall, fair-haired, handsome fellow of about 20 when he joined his brother at Dandenong, and he soon made a reputation for himself, if tradition is to be believed.

The ‘old-time’ bushranger was prepared to run risks that the more modern highwayman is not ready to take. In that fine Australian story, ‘Geoffrey Hamlyn’ , you will find an illustration of what I mean, where Captain Desborough and his police fought a pitched battle against Hawker and his gang of bushrangers. The William Dana of whom I speak is said to be Captain Desborough, the hero of the fight.

An entry in the records tells of the native troopers searching for a child, never to be recovered, carried off by the Westernport blacks. I made the acquaintance of the father of this child many years later. He never quite got over the horror of so cruel a loss. I find three such cases recorded at Dandenong alone. The thought of such perils must have pressed heavily on many a lonely family in those early days.

Another entry tells of an officer and party of troopers being sent to Flooding Creek to inquire into the reported killing of some blacks. The name Flooding Creek suggests that perhaps some may not recognize this place as the modern Sale , in Gippsland. Other old names have been changed, viz., ‘The Grange,’ ‘Maiden’s Punt,’ ‘Broken River,’ ‘The Ovens,’ etc, etc, that might very well have been allowed to stand. (‘The Grange,’ Hamilton; ‘Maiden’s Punt,’ Swanhill; ‘Broken River ,’ Benalla; ‘The Ovens’ Wangaratta ) Well, the killing of blacks just referred to occurred in this wise. Three brothers – Archie, Malcolm, and John Campbell – had made their home at Glencoe, near Flooding Creek. They had been always kind – perhaps injudiciously kind – to the blacks, and had allowed them to come freely about the homestead. The local chief was not a Billabellary – he was not a peacemaker – and he plotted with his tribesmen to loot the homestead, and, of course, to kill the occupants. The Campbells prepared for them, and when the attack began they let fly their solitary weapon, a small brass ship’s gun, loaded with powder only, for the Campbells did not desire to kill if they could avoid it. But when the blacks recovered from their fright, and prepared for a second attack, the Campbells did not care to take further risks. They loaded up with broken bottles, and whatever they could find handiest, with the result that the blacks never troubled the homestead at Glencoe again.

These records are not wholly given up to such tragedies. There is an entry dated 11th May, 1847 – I give the precise date so that any curious antiquary may look up the directory of the period if he so cares – referring to a sick trooper who was sent to Melbourne for medical treatment. It could not have been a serious case, for the trooper returned to his station without treatment, reporting that ‘all the faculty were drunk.’ This fact points to the great improvement that has taken place in this respect in later years. Our Melbourne doctors do not now all get drunk together on the same day.

As early as 1850, coming events began to cast their shadow before. On 5th January I find that Mr La Trobe, who is now Lieutenant-Governor, visits the Pyrenees with a party of police. He pays other visits to the same place, the purpose of which is not stated. Now the name Pyrenees stands for the modern Ararat and district, one of the earliest places where gold was found. It is only conjecture, but I fancy these visits had something to do with those rumours of gold discoveries that were then in the air. We know that the Government were anxious to prevent rumours of this sort spreading about, to the unsettlement of business. Circumstances, however, proved too strong for them, for we find in the following year, 1851, police stations formed at Pyrenees, Buninyong, and Castlemaine diggings. In fact, what I take to be references more or less explicit to the Castlemaine goldfields appear in January, 1851, six months, before the people of Melbourne fully recognized what was happening.

On the 13th of this same month appears, in the hand-writing of Henry Dana, this short entry: – ‘Mr William Dana shot on parade ground by Mr Walsh.’ This is the Sub Inspector Walsh already spoken of as one of Henry Dana’s assistant officers. Jealousy was the trouble, but the circumstances of the moment appear to have afforded no justification for so violent a deed. Mrs Walsh had just returned to camp on horseback with her husband, and it was as Dana was helping her to dismount that Walsh shot him. A plea of insanity was set up for Walsh, who was lucky enough to get off with seven years imprisonment. William Dana got out of a sick bed to say what he could on behalf of the accused. Dana carried the bullet to his grave fifteen years later. He had been shot through the chest, and, strangely enough, after a year’s rest he seemed to suffer no very ill effects.

During this year – 1851 – there is frequent mention of the goldfields, of the white police having caught the gold fever and leaving the service, of the great increase of bushranging, and of the landing of escaped convicts from Van Diemen’s Land , so that Henry Dana and his troopers must have had a very busy time.

The last entry from the Dandenong records is dated 24th November, 1852 , and is as follows: – ‘ The Commandant of the Mounted Patrol, H E P Dana, Esq, J.P, departed this life at the Melbourne Club at 2 am. Deeply regretted by the officers and men of his corps.’ Henry Dana died of pneumonia, the result of exposure while he was in search of a gang of bushrangers. With this death, or very shortly after, came to an end the Corps of Native Troopers.


 No.    Name Date of Appoint-ment Date of Leaving Force
1 a’Beckett, F. W. 10. 1. 53 22. 1. 53
2 a’Court, Frank 4. 3. 53 6. 2. 56
3 a’Court, William 4.11. 52 —. 4. 56
4 Acres, Charles 28. 1. 54 21. 7. 55
5 Adams, Henry 1.11. 52 5. 6. 53
6 Agassiz, Rodolph 13. 3. 54 2. 1. 56
7 Alexander, H. A. 14. 4. 53 30. 9. 53
8 Algeo, William B. 3. 3. 53 6. 3. 55
9 Allison, Richard 1.12. 52 31. 5. 53
10 Anderson, James 14.11. 52 30. 4. 54
11 Arnold, T. Graham 13. 9. 52
12 Ashton, G. J. 1. 1. 53 20. 1. 53
13 Austin, Frederick 1. 6. 53 3. 4. 54
14 Banks, James 20.12. 52 3. 4. 54
15 Barber, Michael 29. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
16 Barclay, Hugh Ross 4.10. 52
17 Battye, Richard 1.12. 52 20. 7. 53
18 Beaver, Arthur 17.12. 52
19 Bell , Robert Home 1. 3. 53 6. 7. 71
20 Bilton, George 12. 7. 53 31. 3. 54
21 Bluett, F. W. A. 21. 1. 53 31. 3. 54
22 Bohun, Henry W. F. 21. 3. 53 31. 1. 54
23 Bohun, Martin B. Emden 19. 2. 53 13. 8. 55
24 Bolton, Alexander G. 8. 2. 53 27.10. 53
25 Bolton, Stuart 18. 1. 53 31. 3. 54
26 Brett, Richard 19. 1. 53 25.11. 53
27 Brice, Arthur A. 1. 1. 53
28 Brice, Frederick H. 9. 3. 53 31. 3. 54
29 Bruce, George E. 1. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
30 Bruce, Jonathan 3. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
31 Buckley, John 1. 1. 52 27. 9. 53
32 Bull, Robert N. 19. 1. 53 30. 4. 54
33 Burne, William H. 27. 3. 54 11. 3. 55
34 Burton, Christopher 10. 9. 52 31. 1. 53
35 Bushe, Robert 3. 2. 54 19. 4. 55
36 Bushman, James C. 18. 2. 53 10.11. 53
37 Campbell, Robert E. M. 8.11. 52 20. 7. 53
38 Chapman, George 6.10. 52 24.11. 52
39 Christian, Thomas K. 1.12. 52
40 Chomley, H. M. 19. 9. 52
41 Clarke, Alured 14. 9. 52 24. 4. 54
42 Cleary, Henry 4.12. 52 13. 3. 54
43 Cocker, Frederick 18.11. 52 14.10. 55
44 Coffin, Charles 14. 6. 53 28. 2. 54
45 Colclough, Charles J. W. 13.10. 52 31. 5. 53
46 Connor, Richard S. 1. 6. 53 31. 3. 54
47 Costin, Edward Thomas 10. 8. 53 9. 4. 55
48 Costley, John W. 1. 1. 53 4. 2. 53


49 Creen, Thomas A. 8. 2. 53 22. 4. 53
50 Culkin, John F. 19. 4. 54
51 Curtain, Michael 1. 1. 53 27. 4. 53
52 Davies, Richard S. 19. 1. 53 20. 5. 62
53 Dawson, Henry H. 21. 2. 53 19.12. 53
54 Dee, Thomas H. 20. 5. 53 6. 3. 56
55 Denham, Thomas B. 3. 8. 53 8.11. 54
56 Dennis, Charles 1.11. 52 30. 4. 54
57 Denny, Edward 1. 2. 53 28. 2. 54
58 Dickey, Adam 1. 1. 53 3. 2. 53
59 Disney, Robert 22. 1. 53
60 Dodds, George H. 21.12. 53 16. 4. 54
61 Dowman, James 11. 3. 53 8.11. 53
62 Duigan, Henry V. 1. 2. 53 30. 6. 53
63 Duigan, Samuel A. 3. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
64 Durant, Lionel 13. 3. 53 31. 3. 54
65 Du Vernet, George 27. 7. 53
66 Ekins, Henry 6. 9. 52
67 Elder, Alexander 1. 2. 53 19. 1. 54
68 Ellis, Edward D. 6. 6. 53 31. 8. 56
69 Evans, Robert C. 26. 1. 53 31. 1. 54
70 Fayrer, Richard 7.12. 53 17. 1. 54
71 Feely, Henry 1. 1. 53 31. 3. 54
72 Ferguson, Don Paulo 17. 9. 52 31. 1. 54
73 Fish, William S. 2. 3. 54 28. 3. 54
74 Fosbery, Edmund W. 10. 2. 53 1.11. 53
75 Fosbery, Matthew Deane — — 53 14. 5. 54
76 Foster, Alfred 1. 8. 53 2.10. 55
77 Foster, William Henry 21. 1. 53
78 Fraser, William 1. 1. 53 31. 3. 54
79 Furlong, Thomas G. 7. 5. 53 31. 8. 53
80 Furnell, S. S. 15.12. 52
81 Gabbett, John H. 16. 4. 53 23.12. 54
82 Gardiner, William P. 6. 6. 53 10. 1. 54
83 Garnett, John Cope 23. 5. 53 31. 8. 57
84 Gascoigne, Bamber 4. 9. 53 30.11. 63
85 Gill, George 1. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
86 Gillman, Hill John 1. 4. 53
87 Gisborne, John P. 1. 6. 53 30. 8. 53
88 Gould, John Henry 22. 1. 53 9. 9. 54
89 Goulding, Harloe T. 1. 4. 53 16. 5. 72
90 Gower, John William 15. 8. 52 16. 4. 54
91 Graham, Michael 1. 1. 53 31.12. 53
92 Graham, Spencer 1. 1. 53 31. 5. 54
93 Green, Reginald 16. 9. 52
94 Grierson, Henry 12. 7. 53 31. 3. 54
95 Grover, Harry 26. 4. 53 28. 2. 58
96 Grubb, Archibald 11. 6. 53 30.11. 56
97 Haines, William J. 2.10. 53 24. 4. 54


98 Hammond, Seymour H. 5. 8. 53 21. 8. 53
99 Hawkshaw, Benjamin 4. 7. 53 15. 4. 57
100 Haxthausen, Louis 11.12. 52 30. 9. 53
101 Hayes, George 3. 3. 53 15. 5. 54
102 Herbert, John B. 17. 2. 53 31. 8. 54
103 Heysham, Robert T. 26. 7. 53 7. 1. 54
104 Hooper, Edward 18. 9. 52 16.12. 52
105 Hoppe, Ivar J. W. 1.11. 52 19. 6. 54
106 Howard, Richard 24. 9. 52 11.10. 53
107 Howlett, Horace W. 15. 9. 53 16. 5. 56
108 Howlett, Charles J. 5. 8. 53 18. 8. 53
109 Hulme, William 22. 1. 53 31.12. 53
110 Hunt, Charles 1. 1. 53 14. 3. 53
111 Hunt, John T. 21.11. 52 30. 4. 53
112 Hutchings, Samuel R. 1. 2. 53 5. 1. 58
113 Hutton, Charles 1. 6. 53 29. 2. 56
114 Hylton, John C. 3. 3. 53 28. 2. 53
115 Inge, George 1. 1. 53 30. 4. 53
116 Ireland, William 15. 9. 52 14. 7. 53
117 Jackson, Sydney 1. 1. 53 31. 5. 53
118 James, William 1. 2. 53 28. 2. 53
119 Jeffreys, Alleyn 1. 4. 54 11. 4. 55
120 Jobson, Robert 19. 1. 53 31.12. 54
121 Jones, William P. 22. 1. 53 6. 3. 54
122 Joy, William 1. 1. 53 2. 3. 53
123 Judge, George 1. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
124 Kabat, Leopold 7.11. 52
125 Kennelly, Patrick 1.12. 52 31. 3. 54
126 Kidd, Thomas 1.10. 52
127 Kilgannan, Patrick 1. 1. 53 31. 3. 53
128 King, Joseph 1. 6. 53 26.11. 53
129 Knight, Frederick 1.11. 52 20. 2. 56
130 Kossack, Ladislaus 7.11. 52
131 La Barte, J. M. 1.11.52 31. 1. 52
132 Lane, Denny 10. 6. 53 31. 5. 57
133 Lawrence, Peter 5.10. 52 14.12. 52
134 Lord, John H. 1. 6. 53 31. 3. 54
135 Lydiard, J. H. 1. 4. 52
136 McCrae. Alexander G. 25.12. 53 23. 3. 55
137 McCulloch, Thomas 1.12. 52 29. 8. 53
138 McDonald, Charles 9.12. 52 17. 1. 53
139 McGregor, John G. 1. 1. 53 14. 2. 53
140 McKenzie, Alexander 9. 3. 53 22. 6. 53
141 McKeon, Joseph 1.12. 52 30. 6. 53
142 McNamara, Connell W. 1. 1. 53 8. 7. 53
143 Macnamara, F. J. 18. 6. 53
144 NcNeill, Nathan 20. 9. 52
145 McPherson, Frederick 10. 9. 52
146 Madden, William J. 6. 6. 53 30.11. 58


147 Magee, William S. 26. 2. 53 10. 4. 56
148 Mansergh, Henry 27. 6. 53 19. 4. 55
149 Mansergh, John 11. 1. 54 14. 4. 55
150 Mason, Joseph 4.10. 52
151 Mills, William J. 1. 8. 53 31. 3. 54
152 Monk, Michael 9. 3. 53 9. 3. 54
153 Moore, Henry 7.10. 52
154 Morton, George 1.12. 52 4. 4. 55
155 Morton, William N. 27. 9. 53 28. 8. 61
156 Nason, Arthur 1. 3. 53 18. 1. 56
157 Nason, Joseph 7. 2. 53 7.10. 59
158 Nicolson, C. H. 1.12. 52
159 Norton, George 1. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
160 O’Connor, William P. 27. 1. 54 21. 4. 55
161 Ogilvy, John 7. 5. 53 31. 8. 55
162 Owgan, Joseph 20. 7. 53 5. 5. 54
163 Palmer, Henry S. 21. 7. 53
164 Parks, Hamilton C. 28. 3. 53 27. 7. 53
165 Paschen, Charles O. 25. 6. 53 31. 1. 54
166 Peard, Francis W. 19.12. 53 1. 4. 56
167 Peard, William H. 21. 1. 53 30. 6 55
168 Pendleton, Henry 20.10. 53 11. 5. 54
169 Perrin, Goolden 1. 1. 53 30. 6. 53
170 Pinchin, Morris F. 3. 3. 53 14.11. 53
171 Pocock, Edward J. 1.12. 52 31. 7. 53
172 Powell, Henry W. 22. 3. 53 31. 3. 54
173 Powell, Murray 20.12. 52
174 Powell, Richard 11. 4. 54 5. 9. 55
175 Power, Robert G. 15. 1. 53
176 Quinn, Johnston 5. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
177 Ralph , Harrison 1. 3. 53 8. 8. 56
178 Rawlins, Arthur 1. 1. 53 30. 4. 53
179 Reed, Richard, J. E. 8.11. 52 30. 6. 53
180 Reford, Frederick 26.12. 53 8. 1. 54
181 Rickards, Prideaux 1.11. 52 1. 3. 56
182 Robinson, Frederick 23. 7. 53 31. 7. 57
183 Robinson, William 1. 1. 53 6. 3. 56
184 Roddy, Thomas F. 1. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
185 Sadleir, John 1.12. 52
186 Sevier, George 19.11. 52
187 Seymour, Henry 18. 7. 53 24. 7. 55
188 Sharman, Horation 10. 9. 52
189 Sharpe, Frederick W. 5.11. 52 13. 6. 54
190 Simmonds, John 1. 1. 53 31. 1. 53
191 Simmons, James G. 1. 2. 53 9. 5. 53
192 Smith, Alexander B. 5.11. 52
193 Smith, Frederick 17. 9. 52 28. 2. 53
194 Smyley, William 24. 2. 53
195 Snee, William H. 9. 3. 53 23. 4. 53


196 Souter, William H. 1. 1. 53
197 Spiller, Edmond 11. 3. 53 31. 8. 53
198 Stack, Oliver 26. 3. 53 23. 3. 54
199 Stapylton, Henry 1.12. 52 17. 4. 54
200 Stewards, George 5. 4. 54 11. 4. 54
201 Stewart, Matthew 22. 1. 53 28. 2. 53
202 Stewart, Robert F. A. 20.11. 52 18. 6. 53
203 Stoney, Isaac H. H. 1. 4. 53
204 Stratford, Samuel H. 12. 1. 54 28. 2. 56
205 Strong, Francis H. 20. 5. 53 11. 4. 55
206 Strong, Leonard 19.10. 53 14.11. 53
207 Symons, William 9. 3. 53
208 Taswell, Henry 8. 6. 53 21.12. 53
209 Taylor, Arthur E. 1.10. 52
210 Taylor , G. M. 25. 9. 52 19.11. 53
211 Taylor, Robert C. 23.11. 52
212 Thompson, Edward 22. 1. 53
213 Trelful, Henry 20. 4. 53 31.10. 53
214 Tracey, George S. 13.10. 52 15. 1. 52
215 Vance, William 1. 1. 53 16. 3. 53
216 Vernon, Thomas E. 1. 1. 53
217 Vincent, Robert 1. 1. 53 28. 2. 53
218 Virett, Edward M. 1.12. 52 24. 7. 55
219 Wake, Philip A. 13. 5. 52
220 Walcott, Stephen 22. 1. 53 8. 2. 56
221 Walker, Charles 1. 1. 53 17. 2. 53
222 Walker, William 1. 2. 53 31. 3. 53
223 Wall, William 1.11. 52 28. 2. 53
224 Wallace, George 3. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
225 Wallace, John B. 1. 3. 53 28. 2. 54
226 Walsh, Michael W. 1.11. 52 31. 1. 53
227 Walstab, George A. 1. 2. 53 8. 6. 54
228 Warren, Augustus 3. 3. 53 —. 4. 56
229 Warren, Thomas 3. 3. 53 31. 5. 54
230 Webb, Henry 9. 5. 53 12. 6. 54
231 Weldon, Thomas K. 1.12. 52
232 Weston, Charles 1.11. 52
233 Wheeler, George Joseph 11. 7. 53 27. 4. 54
234 White, John B. 1. 3. 53 4. 4. 54
235 Whitefoord, Caleb 21. 9. 53
236 Wigmore, Richard P. 19.11. 52 31.10. 53
237 Williams, Henry P. G. 24.10. 52 15.12. 53
238 Winch, Frederick A. 8. 9. 52
239 Wooley, George W. 22. 1. 53 2. 4. 55
240 Worsley, Charles B. 16. 5. 53 18. 3. 54
241 Wrixon, John H. 26. 5. 53
241 Ximines, M. F. 8.11. 52
243 Yardley, William 22. 3. 53 6. 6. 74
244 Young, Daniel 1.12. 52 31. 8. 53



Reviews of Away from Tipperary

Review by Ian Doyle:

Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman

by Robert Hodge

Robert Hodge was always going to write this book. He had no choice. The story was in his bones and he had to write it down…and what a cracker of a yarn it is.

You’ve heard a hundred times before ‘you should write a book’. Very few of us take up that challenge and commit the time, passion, and energy needed to deal with the hurdles and frustrations along that journey to see the project through.

Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman is a result of years of thinking, and writing ..and talking ..and researching and arguing and contemplating and rewriting …and doubting (and drinking too much red wine) and regretting missed opportunities – and finally getting to a point where he is 95% happy with it ..but he’d like to have another go at parts of the publication because he knows if he had more time he’d make it better! Robert has learnt that it is never finished!

Robert Hodge has done a lot of things with his time on this mortal coil. He can now add the title of writer / author – one with a critical eye for detail, a loving sense of history and a clear understanding of the elements that make a story within a story riveting.

His observational writing and clarity of historical perspective ensures the reader is carried along with his journey to chase down many rabbit holes and connect the threads of his extended and extensive family around the world over the past 180 years – and what a tale it is!

His mates call Robert ‘Red’ for obvious reasons. The hair is now grey but as storyteller in Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman he has adopted an interesting and engaging approach. The book is largely a well-structured chronological long form conversation between two men – Red, appropriately renamed ‘Blue’ for the story (by Nicholas) and his long dead great-grandfather Nicholas Sadleir. It’s a simple and effective way of breathing oxygen and life into what could have been a weighty and well-meaning family history. As a result, as a reader you feel part of the story – and it’s an enjoyable and engaging read.

The starting point for the story is a conversation Red has with his great grandfather while sitting in his car outside the Mungerannie pub on the Birdsville Track (You need to read the book). His great grandfather Nicholas Clarke Sadleir was born on Boxing Day 1834. Nicholas married Anna Georgina Sturgess in February 1874 and he died on April 7th 1904. They parented fifteen children. That summary is a bit like suggesting the short version of ‘War and Peace’ is ‘Napoleon fell in love and died’.

In Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman there are many close and distant relationships identified in the stories. This happens when someone takes the time and commits their waking hours to doing the research, get lots of help and ask the right questions of the right people – wherever they live. Robert has done this exceptionally well.

One such distant sort of family connection he discovered is that of Diana, Princess of Wales and Australia’s national rogue / murderer / bushranger Ned Kelly. Who knew these two were very distantly associated. If Robert had published online thirty-five years ago (obviously before the internet had been invented), Her Majesty may not have been amused. This scandalous information may have changed the course of history! (You need to read to book).

There are ordinary, epic and heroic stories of paddle steamers, drovers and property management, sheep, horsemanship, camels, gold, bushmen in the back country, back ground stories to the Burke and Wills expedition and the impact white settlement had on aboriginal people.

Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman provides a wonderful and at times detailed snap shot of life in Ireland and Australia in the nineteenth century.

Nicholas’s adventures and day-to-day life experiences allow the reader to connect with his experiences, emotions, successes and tribulations. The stories are accessible, engaging and easy to read.

As a journalist and storyteller I strongly commend this important work to you. Unlike many stories of families that only work if you are on the inside and a family member, this work is for everyone.

You need to read the book!

Ian Doyle B Ec. DipEd

Journalist & documentary maker

Adelaide, SA

August 2014

Free First Chapter- Away from Tipperary


A Long Way from Tipperary

The author, a retired 70-year-old, starts a quest for the story of his great-grandparents on the Birdsville Track by talking to his great-grandfather who has been dead for 107 years.  It is the best season for 50 years.  They rejoice in it as the great-grandfather describes his drovers grazing the channel country as they walked cattle for months to the railhead at Marree for shipment to Adelaide.  They talk of sheep and cattle runs the great-grandfather had.  The great-grandfather talks of his privileged childhood in Ireland, insurrection and the potato famine before he leaves with his brothers for Australia.

Mungerannie, August 2011 – I sat in my car parked on gravelly clay outside the hotel opposite the fuel pumps talking to my great-grandfather.  Mungerannie was on the Birdsville track between Marree in South Australia and Birdsville in Queensland.  The place was a waterhole on an abandoned desert stock route where cattle walked from Queensland cattle runs for months to the railhead at Marree for rail transport to Adelaide.  Only tourists, geologists and stock transporters use it now.  The pub was a commercial gamble and my great-grandfather, who had been dead for 107 years, said it was when he was alive too.  He told me about Mungerannie:

‘We walked the stock route to the railhead at Marree for several drives of cattle we sold in Adelaide.  The South Australian government sank a bore here, if I remember correctly in about 1900, but there was a well here long before that, with a hotel of sorts and our drovers used to water our cattle here on the way down from Queensland.’

Pam rapped on the window.  She was smiling at me tentatively – middle-aged – she had the friendly and tolerant look of someone who was used to motorists chatting to a windscreen.

‘Are you okay?  Can I help you?’

I started, blushed, got out of the car, looked at her with a silly grin, looked at the ground and muttered.

‘Sorry.  I was sort of talking to myself.  Yes.  I hope you can help me.’

I asked her humbly for a room, a meal, and said, almost casually, ‘I have a small hole in my fuel tank and I wondered if anyone here could help me fix it.’

‘Well there’s no problem with the room or the meal, Phil’s out the back, if you can wait five minutes, I’ll get him to have a look at the problem, he’s pretty handy.’

Great-grandfather Nicholas Sadleir remained silent.  I imagined him smiling.  His awkward 70 year old great-grandson, daydreaming and ill-prepared, had been rushing about and getting into trouble in Ireland, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and now in South Australia.  He spoke in a familiar way to unreliable people of uncertain political stances and he seemed to believe what they told him – Australians, it seemed, had become more ill-mannered and independently spirited.  The questions about Sadleirs in Ireland and Australia made Nicholas Sadleir reflect on his life and times – his 15 children and the fortunes he had and lost, but it was strange to be talking to a great-grandson who was older in years, had lived in the luxury of the 20th and 21st century (he even had a motor car with a telephone and interrupted conversations by taking calls on it and used it to photograph a couple of dingos on the track) and asked so many questions about Ireland and Australia in the 19th century.  The great-grandson spent extravagantly.

Dingos on the Birdsville Track

He posed questions about blackfellows, money, marriage, crime, affection, friendships, politics, nobility and class, law keeping and religion in Australia and Ireland.  His journey down the Birdsville track served no purpose.  The track was for drovers with cattle, or mailmen, not for lone motorists.  What was the point?  He, Nicholas, had never travelled south of Boulia on it.  There was a family to care for, stock to buy and sell and stations to manage.

Nicholas Sadleir wasn’t there.  Neither were his siblings who came to Australia:  Richard, a Melbourne surgeon, Marshal, a Mansfield lawyer, famous John, the policeman who supervised Ned Kelly’s capture at the siege of Glenrowan, nor Nicholas’ twin, Helena, who vanished.  I’d imagined them from stories about them and the history of the times they lived in.  I thought they were noblemen.  History, photographs and imagination drove me.  He and his brothers and sister had been real.  I wanted him real again but there was nothing spiritual about it.  He simply made a good travelling companion.  With 15 children, he had to have been a reasonable parent.  That made him a useful great-grandfather and storyteller.  We were on our way south from cattle stations he had in Queensland.  The country was looking wonderful.  It had had good rains for two years.  Before we got to Mungerannie we’d got to know each other better.   Nicholas knew I was his daughter, Georgina’s, grandson.  I’d told him that when I’d started the conversations we had on the way to Queensland but we were awkward with the way we talked.  He called me Robbie at first to not confuse me with his son Robert and I called him Great- Grandfather.

‘Robbie, it seems we are getting to know each other.  Great-grandfather seems too formal, and, in the scheme of things, you are my senior. I died when I was 68 and you are 70. You address me as an old man and I address you as a child. What do you your friends call you? ‘



‘Because I had red hair.’

‘Had? Are you grey now? I went grey in my forties, but I had a redheaded daughter.’

‘No. It’s still red.’

‘Why aren’t you called Blue.  I had several redheaded coves we called Blue on Albemarle. We had a Menindee Blue, a Booligal Blue and a Victoria Lake Blue. They were reliable coves although one was a bit quick-tempered and spent a lot of time in the Wilcannia lock-up after a spree whenever he went to town.’

‘When I went to boarding school there was already a Blue there before me so they called me Red, Great-Grandfather.’

‘Well I shall call you Blue henceforth, but please desist from calling me Great-Grandfather. Call me Nicholas.’

“No. If you choose to call me Blue, you will be Holas.

“Holas! I’ve never been called that.”

“And I’ve never been called Blue.”

‘A hard bargain Blue.’

‘Yes but Holas isn’t a bad name. It’s dramatic with its oratorical beginning, dignified and soft-sounding and it gets rid of Nic – the devil in you – if there is any.   I believe you were something of a church administrator in Tasmania.  To support that, Holas sounds holy.  And it’s ideal for somebody who’s dead because there isn’t a living soul I know who answers to that name – so nobody will get mixed up and answer for you when I’m talking to you.’

‘You’re planning a long conversation, Blue?’

‘I reckon you may have a hell of a story, Holas.’

‘What do you want to know Blue?’

‘Everything.  But to begin, how did you learn enough to manage one of the biggest sheep stations in Australia less than 10 years after your arrival from Ireland as a raw teenager?’

‘Teenager, Blue?’

‘It means someone between 13 and 19, Holas. It’s the TEEN in the word that helps to classify them – someone moving to adulthood from childhood.  Did you not call them that? ’


‘Well what did you call them, your children, when they were at that stage?’

‘Youth!  Blue.  We called them Youth.  We spoke the Queen’s English. ’

‘Yes well I suppose you did at home Holas.  But what about in the goldfields or the stock camps?’

‘Yes well – perhaps that was another matter – but no one ever called anyone a TEENAGER’.

‘Well what did you call yourself when you arrived in the colony? Surely you didn’t call yourself a youth, Holas.  Did you call yourself a young gentleman?’

‘Well yes.’

‘You’re bloody joking.’

‘Usually I left out the young.

‘Did you call yourself that all your life?’

‘It became a slightly more awkward to use it by the time of the federation of the colonies.  People wanted to seem slightly more equal, and we didn’t normally use it in conversation – it came up mainly in correspondence or newspaper reports.  I was often called Nicholas Sadleir, Gentleman.  Other people used it.  One didn’t usually denote oneself a gentleman even if one was.’

‘Nowadays being a gentleman can literally mean keeping one’s unwelcome hands off females – or, with more refinement, good manners, opening doors, making people feel less shy in new circumstances, and so on.  I think it has changed a bit.  In your day Holas, it was a rank, a position even an obligation.  It placed you as a wealthy man who did no work?’

‘Yes. You described it correctly, Bluey.  Gentlemen worked, but not manually.  They directed and planned and invested.  They commissioned professionals.  They led good order.  That sort of thing.’

‘Were you ever called a shearer, Holas?’

‘Never, Bluey.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because I wasn’t.  In its own way it denoted an occupation and standing – just like gentlemen.

‘I was in hospital with a shearer, who was laid up with pleurisy because he had been shearing wet sheep, and he read out a newspaper report saying that two men and a shearer were involved in a serious road accident at a rail crossing.  He was furious that the shearer had not been awarded the rank of man by the newspaper’s editor.’

‘Blue, that ranking I can understand.’

We were near Boulia in Queensland going to South Australia when we agreed on our names.

‘Was it as good as this when you were here, Holas?’

‘I can’t see what you can see, Blue.’

‘I’ll describe it.  I think this is the best the country has looked for at least 50 years.  It’s rolling Mitchell grass plains.  The trees are sparse; we’re getting close to the Channel Country.  The cattle are sleek, fat and shiny.  There is probably enough feed for five times the stock that is here.’

‘But it doesn’t last.’

I knew that.  In a year or two, the cattle would be leaner and the ground barer.  This plenty wasn’t normal, austerity was.  It was why I had come this way.  I was unlikely to see seasons like this again.

He expanded.  ‘I managed Albemarle on the West Darling in New South Wales from 1862 to 1904, and I’d been in the district for four years before that.  We kept good records.  In this arid back country there is no such thing as a normal year.  We had droughts from 1864 to 66, again in 1868, again in 1877 and then good years before a run of poor seasons from 1882 to 1886.  We had a terrible drought in 1889 but the centenary droughts continued for about four years.  That finished me.  In the early 1860s we had bounteous years and we ran up to 200,000 sheep.  Then back to 75,000 in the 1880s.  The worst run was from 1898 to my last years.  We got down to less than 5,000.

I can’t see this country now, but even if you described it, I can’t compare it with my memory of it.  I never took this track south to Bedourie and Birdsville but we certainly knew about this Channel Country.  This was the fattening country we could use but not own.  It often bloomed after a flood when our country further north was dry so we put stock on the road with drovers.  Sometimes we sold them in Adelaide, and occasionally, if we had good rains back at Cloncurry or on the Templeton, we would get word to our drovers to turn our herds around and bring them home.  They were often on the road for six months.’

Water from here was on its way to South Australia.  When the rivers ran (they were more often dry than wet) they flowed inland to Lake Eyre.  But mostly Lake Eyre was barren with a salty crust.  The inland rivers didn’t usually get to it – they filled billabongs and lagoons along the way and petered out.  Lake Eyre had filled only four times in my lifetime, and it had flooded last year and would get Queensland water from more than 1000 miles away again this year

Map of the Lake Eyre Basin

As we went south the country changed.  Tall red sandhills governed the course of the road and the streams and waterholes beside it had pelicans.  I wound through, over and beside the sandhills.  Most of this country had not flooded and it looked parched.  I pictured turbaned Afghans leading groaning camel strings plodding beside sandhills carrying bundled sheets of galvanised iron on either side of their humps for buildings on stations.


‘Did you use camels, Holas?’

‘Oh yes, Blue – for Albemarle and Bingara.  There were Afghan families in Broken Hill with camels and they helped us cart wool when the paddle steamers sat in a dry river when we needed to get wool to the Adelaide auctions.  The camels carried two bales each (some of the big camels carried four) from Albemarle to Broken Hill and the wool went by train down to Adelaide for sale.  And of course we used contractors with camels to take things out from the paddle steamers to parts of the station away from the river.  We carted coils of wire out to fencing contractors that way.  Some of our back paddocks were more than 50 miles from the river.

Camels carted stores and fencing wire a couple of times from the wharves at Wilcannia to our cattle station Bingara east of here, close to Eulo, near the New South Wales-Queensland border.  That was a big trip.  Probably more than 300 miles.  And remember, most of the goods came from England via Melbourne – by train to Echuca – then on to paddle steamers going down the Murray River to Wentworth and then up the Darling to Wilcannia.  Some of those coils of wire might have been travelling for nearly a year!’

More broad, long sandhills, less waterholes as the country became more desert-like as it led to Birdsville.  Overall, the country ran flat but sandhills sometimes made it mountainous.  There were fewer trees – sparse stunted shrubs instead.  I saw no one.

I reached Birdsville in four hours from Bedourie.  An aeroplane had landed from Brisbane with the mail and the pilot was having lunch at the pub before he continued his round.

‘It’s a milk-round mate.  We service Boulia, Bedourie, Mt Isa, Charleville, Quilpie and Windorah and we connect with Brisbane.  It’s a good service.  This is a day/night airstrip so we can get in and out reliably.’

Considering the size of the town (about 20 buildings) and the population of the district it supported (probably less than 200) Air Atlanta Icelandic gave luxurious service.

I wondered why an Icelandic airline was flying in outback Queensland and the pilot shrugged.  ‘Dunno mate, it probably just made commercial sense at the time.  The whole thing is more or less an Australian operation; it just works under the banner of Air Atlanta Icelandic.  We run a service to most of inland Queensland, it’s a more or less regular service – a sort of cross between that and a charter flight – if there is a mail run, we have a regular flight but on the others, if there are not enough bookings, we don’t go.  Passengers may have to wait a day or so.’

‘Have you anything to say about Birdsville, Holas?’

‘Hardly a fair question, Blue.  As you know, I’ve not been here, but in my day fellows called it a wild and dangerous place.  There was always a pub for drovers to get into trouble, and there was a police and customs post to maintain some semblance of order.  We had to pay duty on goods passing into South Australia, and I can remember one of our drovers complaining about his bags being searched in case he was smuggling Queensland rum or Chinaman’s opium.  Strange!  Of all the drovers we had he was the only teetotaller.’

The Diamantina River south of Birdsville had receded enough to let me cross it on the road south to Marree – the famous Birdsville track – ‘the loneliest track in the world’.  It had been officially ‘open’ for a week or so.  It was flooded for weeks before that. This was the ‘outside track’.  The ‘inside track’ was shorter but it would be closed for months.  Goyder’s Lagoon flooded it with water from Queensland’s rivers.

The sandhills grew taller as I drove in dust beside them.  I crossed into South Australia but the country stayed beautifully harsh.  It had proper roads only in the last 40 years.  Before then, motorists carried sheets of metal to lay a temporary road to get them over sandhills.  Often they made less than 50 miles a day.

At first, the mail service to Birdsville came from Marree in South Australia.  Mail contractors used packhorses and camels or horses hauling buggies and stagecoaches – depending on the track.  Entrepreneurs tendered for the Royal Mail contract (usually, the cheapest bid got the job) but they made money out of goods and passengers too.  The mail contract formed the skeleton and freight put on flesh.

As I headed south a rock the size of a watermelon crashed into the fuel tank leaving a split and a dribble of diesel.  I looked, knew I couldn’t mend it, calculated the distance to Mungerannie Bore, tried to guess the fuel I was leaking, declined to speak to my great-grandfather about it, leapt behind the wheel and sped to this halfway hotel.

And so Holas and I talked outside the Mungerannie pub until Pam stopped us and Phil mended the split in the fuel tank.  It was the end of a travelling quest.

Nicholas Clarke Sadleir and Anna Georgina Sadleir were talented Australian colonists.  I’d learned about them and their children in Ireland, Australia and Scotland.  Sadleir brothers came from Tipperary in Ireland following the potato famine.  They prospered in Australia.  They had large families.  Descendants live in Argentina, Australia, England New Zealand and Scotland.  Some had been, or nearly became, wealthy members of the British aristocracy.

It was time to tell their tales from the beginning.

There were many Australians looking for ancestors in Ireland in 2010.  I was one of them.  I had just left Brookville House, south of Tipperary town.  Nicholas Sadleir was born there.  There were no Sadleirs there now.  The Crowe family had it.  Mr Crowe bought it from the estate of Marshal Sadleir in 1964.

I read this aloud:

Containing 117 acres 0 roods, two perches or thereabouts,

This most desirable property is situate on the Road to Glen of Arherlow, within one and a half miles of Tipperary town, it is well served for marts, creameries and all other amenities.

The lands are excellent limestone quality, all under pasture, entire without waste, well fenced and sheltered and have a never failing supply of water from springs, streams and the River Ara, which forms part of the boundary.

There is a very substantial Georgian residence, approached by a short avenue, and the accommodation comprises large hall, large dining room, study, two reception rooms, kitchen, scullery, and hot room and bathroom on the ground floor; large landing, six large bedrooms, one smaller bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, French window in reception room leads to a wall in the kitchen garden and orchard at the rear.  The outbuildings contained in two independent yards and are all stone built and slated.  Yard number one has independent entrance from the road and contains a cow house (partially lofted) to tie 40 cows; machinery house (lofted); dairy; two standing stalls; harness room (lofted): feeding house, fuel house and four column hay barn.  Yard number 2 which is attached to yard number 1 contains large barn and fuel house; storehouses: large garage and machine house (which is the only building covered with iron).  Galtee supply laid on to residences, yards and concrete tank in lands E. S. B. Installed throughout.

There is also a two-storey residence (in need of repair) which will be sold as a separate lot.

The special attention of those in quest of the most outstanding and attractive dairying or fattening holding is directed to the sale of this very valuable property, or to those requiring an ideal hunting residence being situated in the centre of the Scarteen and Tipperary hunting country.

‘Can you hear me, Holas?  Do you know what I’m describing?’

‘I believe I do.  Where does the description come from?  Could it be my old home in Tipperary?’

‘It’s from a Tipperary newspaper, an advertisement to sell Brookville House from the estate of your nephew Marshal Sadleir.  He was your oldest brother James’ son.’

I waited.

His voice had changed.  ‘Yes.  We had news of Marshal’s birth.  We got letters from home.  But have you seen the house, Blue?  Are you there?  Please tell me what you observe?’

‘I’m at the end of the drive leading to it on the edge of the road south of Tipperary town.  I can see the house and I’ve just been in it.  It’s a large two-storey house with an archway at the side leading into yards, stables and farm sheds.  It has an elegant reception hall with a skylight and a staircase, large dining room to the left, and a sitting room or salon – perhaps you called it a drawing room – to the right.  A large kitchen leads off the dining room and there is an entrance to the kitchen coming from the side yard as well.  External stairs lead to the front door which has an ornamental glass arch above it.  How does that serve?’

Brookville House, South of Tipperary Town

‘Well done, Blue.  I remember it well from your description.  I left this house for the colony of Victoria when I was 17, in 1852 but I had a lovely childhood.  Respectable Christian parents.  Loving household staff and a tutor before I went off to school at Midleton College in County Cork.  Children from tenant farms to play with.  Older brothers, a twin sister.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby.  And friends from families of the other big houses for church, levees, hunting, horse racing, balls, serious discussion and deeper friendships. [footnote]James Sadleir (born 1792, died 1867) married Elizabeth Hare Clarke (born 1799, died 1889). They lived at Brookville House, Tipperary and had the following children: James Robert Sadleir( born 1820) Richard Sadleir (born 1822, died 1822, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia. Alicia Sadleir (born 1825) Marshal Clarke Sadleir (born 1827, died 1903, Mansfield, Victoria, Australia. Robert Sadleir (born 1831, presumably died as an infant) John Sadleir (born 1833, died Melbourne Victoria 1919) Nicholas Clarke Sadleir (born 1835 as a twin to Helena, died 1904, Menindee, NSW, Australia) Helena Sadleir (born 1835, there is some indication she died in Australia) Elizabeth Bolton Sadleir (born 1845, died 1872, Brookville) Mary. E. Sadleir (born 1862, died 1950, Brookville)[/footnote]

I didn’t always think so then, but we had a good life.  Sadly, I never repatriated.  I wanted to, but I never contrived to do it.’

‘What is your first memory at Brookville house, Holas?’

I waited.

‘It was a funeral.  Our mother and father left us in tears in the care of our nanny to go to it and my sister Helena pleaded with our mother to be allowed to go.  At first, I sided with my mother.

“Girls may not go to funerals,” I said.

“Nor may boys,” my mother said and she started weeping too.

I must have other memories, but it was the first time I had seen my mother cry.  I forgot about it quickly because Cook and Nanny bribed us with apple pudding as my mother and father drove off with coachman Liam in the carriage in their black clothes, but I connected with the story later in life because it was the funeral of my mother’s brother, Uncle Patrick Clarke.  Some of his tenant farmers shot and bayoneted him.  It caused an outrage at the time; two people were hanged and another escaped to America.  I think my mother grieved for him all her life.  She was very fond of him, and he was kind to us, but all sister Helena and I thought of at the end of the day was the apple pudding.  I can still taste it.  Mrs Ryan was an accomplished cook.

We had fine horses to ride – and we raced them with lighter jockeys in local meetings.  Brothers James, Marshal, Richard, John and I joined in with the local hunt club when we could.  I used to play football with some of the tenant family boys, but Pater didn’t encourage fraternisation so I stopped when I went to Midleton College.  We played English games there.  I enjoyed tennis and cricket and we had a few games on stations in Australia – I was a host at tennis competitions in Northern Tasmania.

The next thing striking my memory was my getting ready to board the stagecoach in Tipperary town to go to Midleton when I started boarding school.  I suppose I was about 13.  Helena was weeping.  She was my twin.  I think because we were babies of the family (there was a younger sister but she was tiny), the brothers, the servants, and even Mater and Pater, allowed us more comforting affection than would normally have been allowed between brothers and sisters.

Helena was angry too.  “You are going off to Midleton, Nicholas, just so I will have to do all of the Greek and Latin verb conjugations by myself.  And who will pick all the flowers for Mrs Nicholson or look to the hounds?”

We were in the hall.  Mater held out her arms to comfort her, but brother Richard, who was down from Dublin between courses at Trinity College, started to tease her:  “Little Hellie, the gardener’s maid doesn’t know what will become of her.”  Helena ran up the stairs furiously.  I looked to my father.

“Best you just go now, Nicholas.  Leave her.  She will be better soon.”  And he glared at Richard.

Liam took me in the buggy and pair to the coaching station in town.  It was raining and we both wore hats and heavy woollen coats.  We didn’t utter a word on the way.  The coach was waiting in the cobbled main street.  Liam tossed my bag to the coachman who strapped my trunk atop the coach with leather ties.  “This young gentleman is for Midleton via Cork.  Have a care he gets there safe.”  And he got down, turned to me, took my hand and said “Good luck, Master Nicholas.  We will look after Helena.  I’m sure you will do the family proud.”

So off I went in the dripping coach.  Brother John was already there as a pupil.  He was waiting for me.  It was evening and I connected to the Dublin mail coach and travelled all night to Cork city in the rain.  We had four stops for refreshments and to change horses and I had to wait in Cork for half a day for a coach out to Midleton.  Two ruffians tried to rob me twice but I drove them off while I was waiting at the coaching station in Cork city and I remember being admonished for being late by an under-master when I walked to the college with a barrow boy pushing my travelling trunk from the coaching station, but John came to my aid.  I had an interview with the headmaster, the Reverend Turpin, a plain dinner in the long noisy refectory with the rest of the boys and masters, settled into my dormitory and slept all night.  I was exhausted.’

‘And did you do the family proud, Holas?   Cups?   Medallions?   That sort of thing? ’

‘I was a fair scholar Blue, but John was the outstanding sportsman. I stayed for two or three years.  I expect I conformed to the standards set by my brothers – and please don’t laugh, Blue – I won an exhibition for my scholarship in Divinity.

‘I’m not laughing.  I got one too.’

‘Really!  You’re a distinguished theological scholar too, Bluey?’

‘No.  I reckon the school chaplain wanted to encourage me in continuing life so he changed the marks.  I hated boarding school.  Did you Holas?’

‘No.  I really was good at remembering and reciting the scriptures so I didn’t need to be bribed to continue.  In the end I had to conceal my talent.  The family aspired to holy orders for me.  I didn’t seek life as a clergyman!  Australia saved me.  Perhaps it would have been better for you Blue.’

I declined to answer. He went on. ‘Like me, Marshal and Richard qualified for entrance to Trinity College, Dublin, but only Richard attended as part of his medical studies.  Marshal was an apprentice attorney with our uncle Nicholas in Dublin – he qualified as a lawyer without going to Trinity.  John was an excellent sportsman, but he didn’t take the entrance examinations – I think he looked to a career in the military.  I qualified for Trinity College entrance but I never enrolled.  Fortunes had changed in the family.  Money for fees was scarce.’

‘What happened?’

‘Surely you know of the potato famine, Blue?’[footnote]Thousands of people died. A “Poor Law Union” operated. Owners and occupiers of land paid tax for relief for the poor. In 1845, the famine exhausted reserves. One third of people starved. Tipperary’s poor law union could not cope. It dissolved and the central government from Dublin took over. More than 21,000 people relied on it as thousands died.[/footnote]

‘I know a bit.  A disease killed the crop for several years in a row.  But tell me more; I had always imagined the Sadleirs in Ireland with independent incomes.’

‘We had been comfortable until the potato famine and a few of the other branches of the family could be called wealthy, but the potato famine ruined everyone’s livelihood – from the highest to the lowest.  Tenants lost their land, labourers lost employment, and some of the large estates were broken up and sold.’[footnote]Between 1849 and 1856, landlords evicted 22,000 people from South Tipperary. Emigration saved many. For Ireland, 75,000 left in 1845 increasing to 250,000 by 1851. About 18,000 people left County Tipperary then. And some of the “Ascendancy” went broke. Some landed families lived extravagantly and the famine was “the last straw.” Their debts exceeded income. In 1849 Dublin Castle set up the Incumbent Estates Court to allow rapid land sales. [/footnote]

‘How was it for you and the rest of the family?’

‘We had sufficient, and we gave food to our tenants and other local families in difficulty, but it was terrible for many ordinary people.  When I was at Midleton College I saw dead people on the side of the road with green slime coming out of their mouths.  They’d been eating grass.  The college always had enough food for the masters, pupils and servants.  At first the housekeeper and cooks armed themselves to guard the food, but the headmaster intervened and from then on a line of people waited in the kitchen yard for scraps from about midday onwards.  Dr Turpin espoused and practiced Christian charity.’

‘Did you go without?’

‘No.  But we were made to think that we were sacrificing something for the good of the poor.  And we prayed for them a lot, and there were many sermons about the need for Christian charity and care.’

‘Why did you go to Midleton College?  Wasn’t your grandfather, Marshal Clarke, headmaster of the Abbey School at Tipperary?’

‘Yes he had been a headmaster and clergyman, but at about the time we boys needed a school (we had a tutor at home) the army purloined the school buildings to use as barracks.’


‘Politics, Blue.  Rebellions were starting.  I’ve never had much time for the Fenians.  Probably one of the benefits of the potato famine (it is probably unwise of me to promote this opinion) is that it extinguished many of the rebellious tendencies held by supporters of the Papacy and Irish independence.  Not to joke about it – but they lost their stomach for it, and many of their leaders left for America or Australia (I met several there and they had started a new and reformed life).  But I never paid much attention to the detail, Pater and Marshal debated it vigorously, there were reading rooms in town, but I could not maintain an interest.’[footnote]There were three ‘news and reading rooms’ – a Clanwilliam club for Tories, the Repeal room for O’Connellites, and the moderate Subscription room.  Daniel O’Connell championed Roman Catholics  – 85% of the people.  He persuaded the British to let Roman Catholics enter Parliament in 1841.  He opposed tithe taxes for the Church of Ireland (and nothing to the Roman Catholics).  His ‘monster meetings’ for an Irish parliament made O’Connellite thinking part of the Irish psyche.[/footnote]

‘I was probably too young when the rebels were most active.[footnote]Before the famine, Tipperary people took violent action in disputes about farming land.  Eighty-five per cent of the people had no votes.  Tipperary residents killed 11 landlords, nine employees of landlords and eight farmers.[/footnote]  Brother John told me about rifle balls coming through our front window when we were small boys, and one of our cows was shot, but John didn’t think this had much to do with the general revolution or religion.  It was about threats to Pater who was giving evidence against somebody who had assaulted someone on a road to a market.  Pater never mentioned it, and John told me about it after we had arrived in Australia.’

‘Did your family think of itself as Irish, Holas?’

‘I think we did.  Sadleirs had been in the country for about 200 years.  We sometimes denoted ourselves Anglo-Irish.  The Sadleirs in Tipperary, Limerick and Cork counties came down from Colonel Thomas Sadleir who arrived from Stratford-upon-Avon in England with Oliver Cromwell to crush an Irish revolution and to outlaw Popery.  He was granted land here but it wasn’t extensive.[footnote]Colonel Thomas Sadleir got about 5,500 Irish acres (8,923 ordinary acres) in Tipperary for his work in Oliver Cromwell’s invasion.[/footnote]  The Sadleirs didn’t have titles like others of the ascendancy, and most of our land holdings were modest.  Many family members were clergymen in the Church of Ireland and there were lots of military men and barristers and solicitors and magistrates.  We were listed as gentry in government lists – the families had income from land and capital.’

‘Why did you go to Australia?  How did you know about the opportunities there?’

‘Yes.  Well there’s the rub Blue.  James, the eldest, was to assist with the estates and he was to inherit the lands.  That was settled.  It was normal.  Richard, John and I had to think about our futures.  Marshal was to become an apprentice attorney with Uncle Nicholas in Dublin.  Pater and Mater encouraged us to contemplate the professions and callings (I think they guessed family investments and lands could no longer support us although they were too gentle to mention it).  John and I hoped for bucolic pursuits but our hopes of being able to purchase or lease additional land and livestock in Ireland were fading.  When a letter came from a cousin who had been in Australia for more than 10 years with his brother, investing in sheep and land, telling us his flocks exceeded 100,000 head we started to imagine ourselves immigrating.  This cousin was from a Limerick branch of my mother’s family.  He was not a Papist but nor was he from the Church of Ireland.  He was a member of the Society of Friends – a Quaker, and we considered him somewhat degenerate.  In our conceit, we thought that if he succeeded we could surpass his efforts.  And there was the gold in Victoria.  There was news of it in abundance in all the news sheets.  Many of our friends planned to go and urged us to join them.

We started to prepare secretly.  Kathleen, the upstairs maid was the first to catch us.  “Master Nicholas, why ever are you storing pistols, saddlery and riding boots beneath your bed?  To be sure are you after thinking of riding out with the Young Irelanders?”[footnote]An Irish nationalist movement whose uprising in Tipperary was defeated in 1848.  Several of the gentlemen ringleaders were transported to Tasmania.[/footnote]

I blushed.  I was fond of Kathleen, but she was much older than I.  I knew she would be hurt by what I planned to do but I resolved to make a clean breast of it.  “You must not be teasing me about the Young Irelanders.  They are a frightful lot.  They challenged our Queen and the good order of things here.  And anyway, they lost and are dispersed.  That equipment’s for adventures in Australia, Kathleen.”

“Never!” she said and collapsed on the bed staring at me.  She rose and started pacing.  “So it’s come to this.  Is gold more important than us?  Do the master and mistress know of this?  This seems to be a crime worthy of punishment by transportation[footnote]Transportation to Australia was a punishment second only to hanging.  Many Irish were transported.[/footnote] and you seem set on punishing yourself by arranging that very thing.  I have two cousins transported there two years ago.  They do not report happy prosperous times on government road gangs!  Think on it, Nicholas.  What of your friends and your mother and father?”  She rushed off down the stairs towards the kitchen.  She clearly thought it her duty to inform all members of the household of my imminent desertion.

Dinner that evening became an ordeal.  We still maintained formal service – glittering glass , shining silver – everything coming to one’s plate from serving dishes brought from the kitchen by servants – a formal and solemn ritual, and we wore our best clothes.  Kathleen helped with service (our footman was away visiting his sick mother in Golden) and she kept glaring and smiling at me by turns.  I faced the front and ate fitfully.  After Kathleen cleared the dessert things, Pater relieved my tension.

“Nicholas.  What’s this I hear of your plans to go to Australia?”  Brothers Richard and John started and stared at me.  I flushed.  I was not afraid of my father, but his tone was unusually confronting.

John responded before I could reply, “Nicholas is not acting alone, Pater.  I plan to go as well and Richard is pondering the idea.  It isn’t just the gold (although that is immediately attractive) but you will remember the letter from Mater’s cousin, John Phelps, with news of the flocks of sheep he has accumulated.  It seems Australia is a continent of opportunity.”

Mater frowned, looked to Kathleen, nodded and Kathleen withdrew.  I sensed we were to be admonished but not in the company of servants – but that is not how events ensued.

“But Richard, you have not completed your medical studies.  Please explain your thoughts,” my mother said.

“John was right when he said I am not firmly decided, Mater, but I fear that the practice of medicine or surgery here in Tipperary or in Dublin or Waterford or Cork will not be well rewarded.  People have little money to employ professional healers.  The talk in the Medical School is that I may be able to profit from my skills more easily in the colony of Victoria.  All reports are of profligate prosperity.  Opportunities for medical men seem to be without limit on the goldfields.  We as brothers also propose to care for each other if we undertake the adventure together.”

My father looked to John.  “And you John.  What are your arguments?”

“I suggest respectfully, Pater; the family is not in a position to buy me a commission in the Suffolk Regiment in the way that we talked about as a possible career for me after my schooling at Midleton.  There are several chaps who were keen on military commissions and have given up the idea as I have, thinking that there may be careers in colonial leadership in Australia.  There are British regiments there and we hear that their numbers are depleted with men and officers deserting for the gold diggings.”

“And Nicholas?”  Pater turned to me.

“I want to make my fortune in gold or wool, Pater, return here and restore our family’s fortunes and standing.”

Pater and Mater smiled.  They seemed to be indulging me.

“Noble aspirations, Nicholas. Your reports from Middleton suggest that you should thrive in a world of scholarship – holy orders, or a life of letters, perhaps even the law.  My brother Nicholas already plans to apprentice your brother Marshal in his chambers in Dublin.  I could make representation to your Uncle Nicholas on your behalf?”

“Thank you Pater, I do not wish to appear ungrateful but I do not admire Dublin.  It seems its main purpose is to harbour rogues and thieves.”

“Yes.  And I imagine you would be at home there, Nicholas”.  Pater’s eyes twinkled and my brothers chuckled; only Mater and Sister Helena lowered their eyes.

“I am determined to go, Pater, but I do seek your permission and blessing.”  I turned to my mother: “and, Mater, may I seek your good offices as well?”

My mother slowly smiled.  The tension dissipated.  Only Helena stared stonily into the garden beyond the window facing her.

Our parents looked to each other.  It was a serious sad look.  Then they looked at us with gentle smiles.  Pater said, “We will not stand in your way, any of you.  We are pleased to have had the means to educate you to enhance your endeavours wherever you go.  And Helena, look up, be joyful.  One day you may feel inclined to visit your brothers in Australia.”  And the door burst open and Kathleen came into the room with a tray of wine glasses and a decanter of port.  “Madam, I thought the family might be after needing this for a celebration.”  She must have been listening at the door.

Mater told me later that Kathleen had reported our early conversation and she responded to Kathleen by telling her she knew John, Richard and I were contemplating going to Australia, she and Pater approved, and they planned to tell us that evening.  In many ways, it was a kind and intelligent household.

We had cleared the air.  In hindsight, I think the finances of the household may have been far worse than we knew.  Perhaps, with our going, Pater could see a way to keep the household and the lands.

For John it may have been the greatest wrench of all.  The following day he took a coach to Sligo to visit his sweetheart, Isabella Crofton, at the village of Skreen.  Isabella’s father was the Rector.  John was away for more than a week and he returned looking sad.  He said nothing to me but steadfastly planned to get to Liverpool and on a ship to Port Phillip Bay.  He never told me he and Isabella planned to marry later (perhaps they didn’t then) but she came to Australia and married John five years after he immigrated.

Richard and I had no such ties beyond the family.  To soften the hurt I spent a lot of time in Helena’s company talking about Australia.  Sometimes we walked through oak groves to Tipperary town and back or we sat in the dappled sunlight of the walled kitchen garden with a pot of tea peeling potatoes for Mrs Ryan.

“Nicholas, promise me you will not compromise your safety by moving unguarded through native forests.  I’m told the native black people of Australia are cannibals, and there are more tales of heathen Chinese who infest the lives of native tribesman and equip them with foul poisons and pagan spells.”

“Helena, whoever informed you so?”

Helena stared at me forthrightly, “Kathleen.  Our housemaid.  She has two cousins there, in Van Diemen’s Land.”

“But I’m not going to Van Diemen’s Land, Helena.  We are bound for the new colony of Victoria.  The reports from London deem it the most prosperous colony in the Queen’s Empire.  There will be Christian colonists and miners of all descriptions, strengthening company in numbers, and it is a lawful and orderly outpost of Great Britain.  I believe from my reading that Melbourne, the main town of Port Phillip Bay, is larger than Tipperary.  I do not believe there is anything to fear, but I will be mindful of your cautions, dear Helena.”

Later we talked of kangaroos.

“And what of the huge hopping rats?  The animals called kangaroos.  Do you think them dangerous, Nicholas?  May they transmit disease?”

“Not that I know of, Helena.  But I’m reliably informed they are tractable and when treated kindly and well-nourished with honey they make excellent draught animals.  Horses are in short supply in the colonies.  I believe that many of the best families use kangaroos to draw their buggies.  I’m told their hopping gait aids digestion.”

Helena roared with laughter.  We embraced.  “I shall miss you Nicholas,” she lisped.

I simply grinned.  I had not yet attained the wiles of flattering sophistry.  Helena arrived much later in Australia.  She was unhappy and she disappeared.  But that is a tale for another day.’

Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman


Nicholas, of the Irish gentry, lives as a miner, pastoralist, brother, husband and parent in Australia after the potato famine.

In 1852, after unrest and the potato famine, Nicholas Sadleir leaves Ireland’s Protestant ascendancy with two brothers for Victoria when he is 17. He finds gold to start his life in farming and grazing in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania but loses his thousands of sheep and cattle in the depression of the 1890s. His brothers thrive in law, medicine and policing. One supervises the end of the Kelly gang. Nicholas marries Anna Sturgess. Anna promotes their 15 children’s nobility, citing her links to the Earls of Oxford, only for her first son to refuse a baronetcy – he thinks it nonsense. The children prosper in Australia. Four move to Argentina and Sadleirs still breed Merino sheep there.

Nicholas Sadleir speaks to his great grandson, describing cattle drives from Queensland for rail shipment to Adelaide.  He talks of his sheep and cattle runs, a privileged Irish childhood, Tipperary insurrection, the potato famine and sailing with his brothers to Melbourne in 1852.  He is 17 when he arrives.

Nicholas mines gold.  His brothers disapprove – they want him as a lawyer in Melbourne.   He resists, finds gold and joins Irish cousins with their livestock on the Darling River.  Nicholas runs a station there for them for the rest of his life.  He adapts to new country.  He manages Aboriginal and European people and invests in buildings, fencing and stock water. They call the station Albemarle.  It spans more than a million acres with 200,000 sheep, several thousand cattle and hundreds of horses and people.

His siblings replicate their Anglo-Irish advantages too.  Richard has a hospital in Melbourne.  John is a senior policeman and supervises the capture and arrest of bushranger Ned Kelly and Marshal practises law.  A twin sister starts an academy for the children of gentleman to later lose touch with her brothers. They never find her.

Nicholas regrets the demise of Aboriginal people on the Darling. Paddle steamers and the Telegraph help to colonise the inland rivers.  He profits in a Queensland cattle station. He meets his future wife, has a homestead built, marries Anna Sturgess, regrets her loneliness on the Darling and persuades his cousins to buy the opulent Quamby Estate in Tasmania for him to manage.  He, Anna and their firstborn move there.

Anna Sadleir thrives in Tasmanian motherhood, the sociable spread of culture and Christian charity from the endowment of her liberal education in England. Nicholas commutes between Quamby, Albemarle, his stations in New South Wales and Queensland and his cousins’ farms and urban investments. He and Anna host guests generously.  The family luxuriates.  Nicholas has a salary of £2000.  Servants abound.  He ends a partnership in Queensland and starts new stations.  Anna explores her noble roots in Ireland and England to advance her children’s prospects.  Ten more children arrive before Quamby is sold and everyone moves to Adelaide in South Australia.  Four more children arrive.

A depression strikes and banks fail.  Nicholas loses his stations but his cousins keep Albemarle.  Prices for wool and livestock fall.   Nicholas lives at Albemarle as austerity and rabbit plagues demand.  A son kills himself with a shotgun at home in Adelaide because he is in trouble at school.  Anna and Nicholas grieve in separateness.

Shearers’ strikes follow. Nicholas manages the strikes to shear 100,000 sheep in successive years, but returns are less.  Anna starts a wholesale cloth business, she moves the family to a smaller home and Nicholas struggles with a four-year drought that reminds him of the Irish potato famine.  He dies at 68 at Albemarle.

Anna persists in the care of her children and claims for their nobility.  She seeks, but cannot afford, university study for them.  Some find work in banks and with commercial agents. They progress.  Another suicides.  Two marry.  Four migrate to Argentina. Four serve in the Great War.  Anna holidays in Great Britain with a daughter and visits relatives in Ireland and England. She dies in Liverpool.

Years later, James, the eldest son, is offered a baronetcy.  He rejects it as a lot of rot.  The fraudulent offer probably comes from agents of a British Prime Minister seeking funds for election expenses. Tales of family aristocracy persist in South Australia long after James’ death, and perhaps for the Sadleirs of Argentina.  They still raise Australian Merino sheep there.

When did Australian riverboats cease being commercial?

It’s hard to believe that Australian riverboats lasted commercially to cart wool away from inland sheep stations along the rivers for only about 80 years – from the 1850s till about the 1930s. Motor lorries started then and by the 1960s the riverboats had lost their wool carting trade entirely.

Does anyone know when the last riverboat carted wool from a Riverina sheep station to Echuca or Morgan or another railhead?

Steamer and Barges loaded with wool.

Belfast bombs and Oliver Cromwell

I got my first dose of Irish history when I was teaching at Loxton High school in about 1962. Sean Campbell, a senior public servant from Belfast, came to the school to teach commercial studies, suddenly. He and I shared a boarding house. He was pretending to be on the run from the Royal Ulster Constabulary – it wasn’t he that was on the run, but rather, a delinquent son, but Sean had fled to Australia to make the police and Interpol think that it was he and not his son who owned a cache of hand grenades hidden in his attic.

It was then that I learned about Oliver Cromwell. Sean told me that when Cromwell led the Parliamentary army from England to ravage Ireland he told the Irish to go to “Hell or Connemara.” The Irish went there from their rich lands in central Ireland to the barren rocks of the West Coast. The way Sean told it, it could have happened yesterday and formed the basis for most of the political ills in Ireland for the next 300 years. It wasn’t that simple – nothing really is – but it’s still not a good idea to mention Oliver Cromwell in an Irish pub.

The Kelly gang

This is an interesting conversation. It’s between ex members of the Irish gentry about the ordinary Irish in Australia:

Nicholas reminisced about entertaining two of his brothers at Quamby.  ‘In 1882 my mother sent me a strange letter from Tipperary:

Brookville House


14 March 1882

My Dear Nicholas,

To begin I must thank you and your darling wife Anna for the pretty photographs of your children you sent me.  Photography is a wonderful thing and we must give thanks for it.

We are approaching a grand spring and our farmers look forward to renewed activity and prosperity as the days grow longer and the weather gets warmer.  James is installed here with his new wife Emma and they help to fill what was previously an empty nest.  Most of you, my darling children, have left for Australian colonies.  Have you news of Helena?  I have not had a word from her for some time. 

All seems normal here but I fear it is not.  The Church of Ireland has already been disestablished.  Insurgency in this beautiful country seems ever present but its evil tentacles seem to be spreading to London – Irish emigrants from America who call themselves Fenians are dynamiting buildings in London as a means, they say, of persuading Prime Minister Mr Gladstone to restore a separate Irish Parliament.  They disrupt ordinary life with a method they call Terrorism.  So far, their activities remain in London but I fear they may cross the Irish Sea to wreak their mischief here.

I am concerned about this so-called Terrorism emanating from the Irish in the colonies and I worry particularly about John and his role in the Victoria police force in struggling against what seems to be a similar development in Victoria.  We have recent news of the so-called Kelly gang and their martyrdom at a place in Victoria called Glenrowan.[footnote]This was the site of the famous Last Stand of the Kelly gang.  Three members of the gang died and Ned Kelly was arrested.[/footnote]  I have written to John and to Marshal seeking their opinion about this burgeoning colonial menace but they have not responded.  I imagine perhaps they dismiss my entreaties as the imaginings of a silly old woman, but please Nicholas, I beg you to report to me on the perils to the British Empire of this new Australian Fenian development and of the hazards to John and his family’s safety in attempting to dismantle it and Marshal, as an attorney, may be menaced as well.  I believe he resides in the district harbouring this turmoil.  But equally importantly, I beg of you to use your influence as an honorary magistrate and gentlemen to see this evil menace is countered and cancelled.

I beg of you Nicholas, respond quickly.

Your loving mother,

Elizabeth Sadleir.

 I asked Anna to read it and explain it.

“Your mother is clearly disturbed, Nicholas.”

“You mean not of sound mind?”

“No.  From the construction of the letter I do not judge her to be feeble-minded.”  And she looked at me and ducked her head.  “I think she is genuinely concerned.  She is appealing to you to correct matters.”

“But what does that mean, my dear Anna?  I have never heard the expression Terrorism.  Does Mater believe supporters of the Kelly gang are plotting to blow up a railway station in Melbourne, and that I should rush to prevent it?  Are you concerned Anna?  Do you really believe the good horse-stealing folk of Greta in Victoria are conspiring with American Fenians in New York?”

“No, my dear Nicholas, but perhaps your mother does.”

I left the letter in my writing desk.  I talked about it later with John and Marshal who had flitted across Bass Strait on a steamer from Port Melbourne to join me and the Northern Tasmanian Coursing Club in two days of fun at Quamby judging the speed and proficiency of greyhounds and wagering on their combination.  Neither were accompanied by their families (Marshal had come from Mansfield alone to join John in Melbourne) and they had the spring and swagger of single men.  John looked especially unbound.  He had just been through an ordeal of a police commission enquiring into conduct concerning the detection and capture of the Kelly Gang and he had fought strenuously to defend himself and his colleagues.  He had prevailed but he was exhausted and looked forward to two days of coursing.  He had brought a greyhound bitch with a litter of pups with him as gift for me.

Richard had not been able to come.  He was encumbered with the conduct of an accouchement hospital, and when he complained, we reminded him of the encumbrances of the profits as well.  He had become a rather sensible and dull fellow.

At the end of the second day we were toying with our brandy after a fine dinner.  Madam had left to attend to the children and I raised mother’s letter.

“Gentlemen, have you received a letter from our mother fearing a connection with the Kelly gang here and the American Fenians who are dynamiting London?”

They said they had.  “But the Kelly gang are gone.”  John said.  “Ned has been hanged.  Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne perished in the hotel fire we lit at Glenrowan – or they died of their wounds before the fire overwhelmed them.  We were never certain.”

Marshal intervened, “Concerning our letters from Mater.  She is obviously less bold than we remember her.  I think she is imputing more in the activities of the Kelly gang than perhaps we might concede.  I believe some of the Irish press have painted the Kelly gang as activists in a worldwide movement encouraging the emancipation (and that is probably an incorrect term) of Ireland.  I think that has alarmed Mater, she remembers some of the Tipperary bloodshed before the potato famine – remember Uncle Patrick – and, as a mother, she worries about us.”

I passed them my letter from my mother.  “How does this differ from the letters you received?’

“Well I don’t think we received the lofty flattery that Mater heaped on you, Nicholas – honorary magistrate indeed!  And she was not to know that the judiciary function applied to New South Wales and had no currency in the colony of Victoria, or that you are a resident of the colony of Tasmania without Kellys, but even so, you should lead us in formulating a plan to defeat this evil menace.”

“All right, gentlemen.  You have the better of me.  I would love to see the letters you received, but clearly I may not.”  I passed them the brandy decanter and poured more coffee.  “John, I remain curious.  I am sorry to raise this.  I’m sure the whole Kelly business and the subsequent police commission has exhausted you, but was there anything political in the actions of the Kelly gang?”

“A difficult question, Nicholas.  As you know, I spent months hunting them after they had murdered our comrade.  The Kellys had a great deal of support from members of their class and that support was mixed with genuine affection and with collaboration in the distribution of the proceeds of crime.  And the gang was betrayed – so the motives were mixed.  Some of the Kelly gang supporters were able to quote the exploits of Irish patriots but I think many of them were just struggling to make a living and stealing livestock was just one of the ways.  Certainly most of the small farmers envied the wealth of the larger landholders.  But…”

Marshal interrupted.  “I think there is still a marked divide, John.  It is mostly in people’s heads, but it is Protestant versus Catholic, landed versus landless, just as it was in our old country.  But if our Roman Catholic countrymen bothered to look, when they become free men in these colonies (and remember many of the first generation came as convicts) they have far more rights here than they had at home.

John resumed.  “I agree, Marshal.  I think if there had been someone like you, or a useful priest, or even sufficient police constables to maintain law and order to show say, for example, the Kelly family, that they did have rights, they would be treated fairly, and that the rule of law applied equally to everyone, then things may have been different.  I suppose it is natural that I would, but I think deterrent to crime is the best defence against it.  Had there been sufficient fair constables in the Greta district when Ned and the others started their small affairs in stealing horses, they would have been dissuaded.  I’ve listened to stories about the Kellys and I think some of the early encounters the family had were not with the best members of the Victoria police and they were treated grimly which soured them.  But I always thought of them as ordinary criminals (and remember, I did not know them from the beginning, I came to the investigation late).  And, in the end, I thought of them as murderers of a policeman.  I think they elevated themselves to appear as revolutionaries later on.  It may have been a mixture of self-delusion and a sort of madness that came with the belief that they were beyond arrest and could continue being merry bushrangers forever, with no safe home or haven. Going on from that – the armour they wore – attacking us by hoping to derail a trainload of police and capturing people in the Glenrowan Hotel led to a tragedy that should never have been.”[footnote]He wrote about it in his book: Sadleir, J. 1913. Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer, 1913, George Robertson & Company Propy Ltd, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and London. [/footnote]

Marshal said, “The gang did have a lot of popular support, John.  Things were nasty in the district for a while after Ned was hanged.”

“Oh yes Marshal,” John responded.  “One of the leaders of an inner circle of sympathisers approached me and told me they intended to go on with things, but he paused a little in his bravado when I pointed out to him what happened to the Kelly gang, and that he could not eliminate a total police force – perhaps a constable here or there may be shot – but a police force would go on forever.  He became more reasonable at the end of the interview.  He ended it by asking that those of the Kelly circle who had taken up land not be dispossessed.  I was able to promise him that nobody who kept the law would be interfered with, but I went on to say that no further selections would be allowed to doubtful characters.  We formed an important truce.

Marshal nodded.  “I still spend much of my time defending my people against the police.’

And John said, “And so you should Marshal.  That’s your calling.  Police need to be kept to the straight path.  The difficulty in this police commission I’ve just been through was that many of the police were being treated in the way that you say many of your clients are.  There were all kinds of uncorroborated evidence and it was a kind of witch-hunt without proper cross-examination.  I had to work very hard to defend colleagues and myself.

May we talk about something else?  No one is going to dynamite buildings in Melbourne.”

I said, “Well what do we say to Mater?”

Marshal said, “I shall write to her on behalf of us all.  Richard has a letter as well that he doesn’t know how to respond to.”

Marshal sent us copies of the letter:



1st of June 1882

My Dear Mother,

Thank you for your last letter sending us your good wishes.  I am pleased to report that we are thriving at Mansfield, two of my sons are working with their Uncle Nicholas either at Albemarle or on a station he shares further north in Queensland called Bingara and all the children are well.

Since I received your letter, I seriously considered the grave concerns contained therein and I took the opportunity of discussing it with Nicholas and John during a recent visit to Quamby.  Nicholas invited us to coursing matches there.  John and I stayed for two nights and it was a grand family reunion.  It was a pity Richard and Helena were not present.  Richard could not absent himself from his hospital duties and Helena did not respond to Nicholas’s invitation.  We believe Helena is in a remote district of Western Australia and the mails are slow and unreliable.  John has made enquiries of the Western Australia authorities in search of Helena’s exact location and he hopes for a favourable response soon.

To the matter you seek our advice about – colonial conspiracies of insurrection.  Since you told me of the North American-based Fenians and their work with dynamite in London, I have found copies of English newspapers to read brief reports of the carnage left after the explosions and attributed to Fenians.  It is indeed a grave threat to the good order of things and we can only hope that Prime Minister Gladstone will remain steadfast in opposing this extortion.  We do not believe there is any connection between the North American Fenians who are active in London and the Kelly gang who have recently been defeated at Glenrowan in Victoria. The Kelly Gang were criminals, not political revolutionaries, and that is the way most people here remember them.

As for our safety, Mater, there is no hazard from revolutionary people or tendencies.  Richard continues to thrive as a surgeon.  Nicholas delights in his duties as a steward to your cousins, the brothers Phelps, with their large agricultural and pastoral holdings in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, as well as developing enterprises with a partner in Queensland.  John now has major responsibilities for the police force in Melbourne and I continue with my modest practice of law in the beautiful Mansfield district of Victoria.  I expect we will report on Helena’s progress soon.

 As a rule, we delight in the company of happy, just and healthy people who thrive in these new colonies.

Your loving son,

Marshal Sadleir.

Marshal made a fine effort to mollify our mother.  But I doubt she was convinced.  I smiled when I read in a newspaper several years later that Prime Minister Gladstone had had agreed to an Irish Parliament and planned to introduce a bill to the House of Commons.  Perhaps my mother was right about the influence of Fenian dynamiters from New York but I hoped brother Marshal had convinced her that the Kelly gang were not responsible.

A lot more came from that conversation in the Quamby dining room.  John told us of the theory he developed using a modern term, paranoia, to describe the unusual fear the Kelly gang had for the members of the Queensland Native Mounted Police he had recruited to track them down.  “It seemed to change them.  They became more fearful and reckless at the same time.  When Ned was lying wounded after we had captured him at Glenrowan, a railway fireman stooped over him to offer him comfort and Ned screamed get away you black bastard, with rolling eyes.  He was terrified.  The railwayman’s face was blackened with soot.  Ned thought he was a black tracker.”

Victoria police with Queensland black trackers. John Sadleir is on the right wearing a bowler hat.

Marshal reminded me that Redmond Barry, who had condemned Ned Kelly to death and died soon after Ned hanged, had tried to persuade me to a legal calling when I was newly arrived in Victoria.  “It could even have been you on the bench, Nicholas.”  And we talked about how John, the arresting officer, and Ned’s father had come from Tipperary, and Barry from neighbouring County Cork.  And we compared our differing circumstances.  Ned’s father, the convict Roman Catholic, arrived in the colonies from Tipperary for stealing pigs.  We, the Protestants, came as free men looking for gold or new vocations in a developing paradise.

This is from Chapter 4 of Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir ,Australian Gentlemen