A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

. (page 10 of 32)
Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 10 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to the Exploration Committee and suggest that a search
party be sent out.

In the meantime Burke and Wills had gone forward
helplessly to meet their fate. Being too weak to think of
pursuing Brahe's party, they were endeavouring to make for
Mount Hopeless, near which was a cattle station. This
point was within a hundred and fifty miles of the Creek.
The idea of thus striking out for Adelaide originated with
Burke. Both Wills and King would have preferred to
follow their old track back to the Darling, but their leader
overruled them, and the journey by the new route was
begun. How they fared is best told by King himself,


the sole survivor. His graphic narrative carries the story
on day by day from the hour he left the Creek to his even-
tual discovery by the relief party under Mr. Howitt.

Having narrated how they worked their way by slow
stages down the creek for some miles, existing mainly on
camel meat (both animals had to be killed), and nardoo l cakes
and fish obtained from friendly natives, he describes the
attempts made to push on south-west for Mount Hopeless.
" Our rations," he says, " now consisted of only one small
Johnny cake and three sticks of dried meat daily." The
little store of water carried quickly became exhausted,
and no more was to be found in the parched, sun-scorched
country around them. " We all felt satisfied that had
there been a few days' rain we could have got through."
In the face of this set-back they returned to the creek, a
weary march of forty-five miles. Here the blacks again
befriended them, giving them fish and other food, and at
Burke's request Wills once more went on to the depot to
leave another note detailing their present position. 2

Soon after Wills' return the attitude of the blacks under-
went a marked change. They made signs that the white
men's company was undesirable, and, packing up their traps,
they left the camp. The others made a vain effort to follow
them and obtain assistance ; the natives moved too fast to

1 The marsilia macropua, a plant similar to clover, the seeds of which
are pounded up by the natives to make flour.

2 Wills wrote thus : " We have been unable to leave the creek. Both
camels are dead. Mr. Burke and King are down on the lower part of the
creek. I am about to return to them, when we shall probably come up this
way. We are trying to live the best way we can, like the blacks, but find
it hard work. Our clothes are fast going to pieces. Send provisions and
clothes as soon as possible.

" (Signed) WILLIAM J. WILLS."

In a postscript he added : " The depot party having left contrary to
instructions, have put us in this fix. I have deposited some of my journals
here for fear of accidents."



be overtaken. Nardoo collecting now became their chief
object. On this plant depended their very lives. But King,
to whom this duty chiefly fell, was failing rapidly in strength,
while Wills was even weaker. The latter recognised to the
full the extremity to which they were reduced, and at his
suggestion a quantity of the plant was gathered and made
into flour sufficient to last him eight days. " You and King,"
he said to Burke, :j" must go in search of the natives and come
back here for me afterwards. It is our only chance."
Burke agreed to the proposal, and the two men set forth to-
gether, leaving their companion hi a gunyah (a native hut)
with water and firewood within reach. We will let King
take up the story at this point.

" In travelling the first day, Mr. Burke seemed very weak,
and complained of great pain in his legs and back. On the
second day he seemed to be better, and said that he thought
he was getting stronger, but on starting did not go two miles
before he said he could go no farther. I persisted in his
trying to go on, and managed to get him along several times,
until I saw that he was almost knocked up, when he said he
could not carry his swag, and threw all he had away. I also
reduced mine, taking nothing but a gun and some powder
and shot, and a small pouch and some matches. On starting
again we did not go far before Mr. Burke said he would halt
for the night ; but as the place was close to a large sheet of
water, and exposed to the wind, I prevailed upon him to go a
little farther, to the next reach of water, where we camped.
We searched about and found a few small patches of nardoo,
which I collected and pounded, and with a crow which I shot,
made a good evening's meal. From the time that we halted
Mr. Burke seemed to be getting worse, although he ate his
supper. He said he felt convinced he could not last many



hours, and gave me his watch, which he said belonged to the
committee, and a pocket-book to give to Sir William Stawell,
and in which he wrote some notes. He then said to me :
' I hope you will remain with me here until I am quite dead ;
it is a comfort to know that some one is by : but when I am
dying, it is my wish that you should place the pistol in my
right hand, and that you leave me unburied as I lie.' That
night he spoke very little, and the following morning I found
him speechless, or nearly so, and about eight o'clock he
expired. I remained a few hours there, but as I saw there
was no use in remaining longer, I went up the creek in search
of the natives."

Two days later King found some deserted gunyahs where-
in was a bag of nardoo. He rested here to recover strength,
and then returned to Mr. Wills. Unhappily he was too late
to save the latter's life, even had it been possible to do so.
The ill-fated explorer was lying dead in his hut, stripped of
some of his clothes, which had evidently been stolen by
blacks. By his side was his diary, in which he had written
almost up to the last moment, one characteristic entry allud-
ing to himself as Micawber, " waiting for something to turn
up." Bang buried the body and then tracked the natives by
their footprints in the sand to their encampment, where he
was fortunate in being received kindly. When he made them
understand that both his companions were dead and that he
was quite alone, the blackfellows gave him shelter and food.
But for his gun with which he shot crows, and some little
knowledge of medicine that he was able to display, Bang
would eventually have been turned adrift again. His powers
of usefulness, however, made him an acceptable guest, and
with the natives he stopped for some weeks until the relief
party came in sight.



It was the expedition under the leadership of Mr. Alfred
William Howitt that succeeded in discovering King and the
remains of Burke and Wills. This party started from Mel-
bourne, where it had been equipped by the Royal Society
of Victoria. Nearly three months after the tragic death of
the two explorers Howitt picked up the tracks of camels and
horses and found enough indications to convince him that he
was on the right trail. At last his patient search was re-
warded. In his diary he records how, at the lower end of a
large reach of water near Cooper's Creek, he learned that two
of his men had found King. He says : "A little farther on
I found the party halted, and immediately went across to
the black warleys, where I found King, sitting in a hut that
the natives had made for him. He presented a melancholy
appearance, wasted to a shadow, and hardly to be distin-
guished as a civilised being, except by the remnants of clothes
on him. He seemed exceedingly weak, and I found it diffi-
cult to follow what he said. The natives were all gathered
round seated on the ground, looking with a most grateful and
delighted expression."

Howitt next searched for and found the remains of Burke
and Wills, burying them in the bush where they lay and
carving inscriptions on trees by the graves. Later on the
bodies were removed to Melbourne, to be accorded a public
funeral. A fine statue was subsequently erected in their
honour in the Victorian capital, while another memorial
marked the spot whence the expedition started on its ill-
fated journey.

As soon as Wright's startling message had reached Mel-
bourne the greatest concern for the safety of the missing
explorers had been displayed in the colonies. In all five
separate search parties were despatched by the South Aus-



tralian, Victorian and Queensland Governments, the leaders
being, in addition to Mr. Howitt, Messrs. McKinlay, Norman,
Landsborough and Walker. Of these explorers the last-
named calls for particular mention here, as, like Burke, he
was a member of the Mounted Police.

Frederick Walker was an Inspector in the Queensland
force when he was selected for the task. He was an ex-
perienced bushman, well acquainted with the blacks, and
moreover was a man of proved courage and resource. A
writer has aptly summed him up as " one who could know
nothing of what Mirabeau called ' that blockhead of a word
impossible.' '

On arrangements being completed Walker left Rock-
hampton with the intention of making his way to the Albert
River on the Gulf of Carpentaria, taking with him in the party
a number of black troopers. His instructions reached him
in August 1861 ; on the 7th of the following month he was
at Mr. C. B. Button's station on the Dawson River, whence
he followed a pass through the mountains to the Barcoo
River. Proceeding north and north-west Walker came upon
traces of the expeditions led by Gregory and Leichhardt, and
found one or two new streams to which he gave names.
From the Barkly River he struck a tributary of the Flinders,
near which his party came into collision with the blacks,
several of the latter being killed. A little later, it now being
November, one of his troopers found Burke's return track
close to the junction of the Norman and Flinders Rivers.
That he was actually on the right scent was proved conclu-
sively the following morning, when Walker himself picked up
two leaves from Burke's memorandum book.

At the end of November the expedition arrived at Morn-
ing Inlet, on the Gulf. Three days later it reached its goal,



the Albert River, after a journey occupying just over three
months. As his object was to ascertain the whereabouts
of Burke and Wills, dead or alive, Walker started back with
fresh provisions to the Flinders and took up the trail again.
Owing to the heavy rains and floods on the plains the tracks
were in time lost, and, assuming that Burke had gone off
eastward into Queensland, he struck off in that direction.
It was a futile quest, of course, for the missing men were far to
the southward, but a great deal of valuable information was
obtained about the little-known country to the north-east.
New rivers and mountains were discovered and named,
and the young police officer had every reason to be satisfied
with his trip. He returned to Rockhampton in June 1862,
having suffered no losses except a few horses.

There was no flourish of trumpets about Walker's ex-
pedition. It was a workmanlike performance carried out
in a modest yet most efficient manner. Every detail of the
journey was carefully thought out, and the thoroughness of
the organisation contrasted strongly with the laxity that
was apparent in Burke and Wills' expedition. Hewitt's
comment was : " Perhaps none of the explorers of this period
did their work more ably ; certainly none received less com-
mendation." Having completed his task Walker resumed
his police duties and dropped back quietly into official life.

Colonel Peter Egerton-Warburton, whose explorations
in the centre of the continent were of a later date, was the
well-known Commissioner of Police for South Australia. He
held this high office from December 1853 to February 1867.
After several preliminary journeys into the ulterior Colonel
Warburton, in 1873, headed a party which was commissioned
to search for cattle country to the west of the Overland
Telegraph line, in the heart of the inhospitable desert coun-



try between South and Western Australia. For a man of
sixty years of age it was no light undertaking, but no one
doubted that the veteran explorer would succeed. The ex-
pedition, which was a small one with camels for transport
work, plunged boldly into the interior and for nearly a year
remained unheard of. Then, when the gravest fears for its
safety were being entertained, a travel-stained horseman
one day rode into a station on the De Grey River in Western
Australia to report that the explorers were in camp a hundred
and seventy miles away and in dire straits.

A relief party at once set off to their assistance. They
found the Colonel and his companions almost at their last
gasp through the terrible privations they had undergone, and
with barely more than two days' store of camel's flesh to
live on. Thanks to this timely aid a tragedy was averted.
The Western Australian Government took the expedition
under its special care, and, having supplied all their wants,
sent on the members to Adelaide.

Among other Mounted Police who went exploring in the
seventies was Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone, who accom-
panied Mr. George Elphinstone Dalrymple in the North-
East Coast Expedition organised by the Queensland Govern-
ment. With Johnstone went thirteen black troopers, their
number being good testimony to their worth. Leaving
Cardwell in September 1873, the party proceeded by boat up
the coast and was successful in discovering some very valu-
able tracts of land. New ranges of mountains and rivers
were also found and named. A feature of this journey was
the marked hostility of the natives, who were mostly canni-
bals and of a warlike disposition. Johnstone and his
troopers had had experience of these before, when a vessel,
the Maria, had been wrecked near the mouth of the Moresby




River, and they had been despatched to succour the

On this occasion they were unpleasantly reminded of the
former trip. Seeing Johnstone and others of the party com-
ing up the river, the blacks gathered round a certain point,
evidently prepared to make trouble. They were painted
white from head to waist in order to look like white men,
the legs being similarly decorated from the knees downward.
To add to the effect they endeavoured to imitate white
men's voices and lure the boat's crew ashore. As this
manoeuvre failed the blacks dug up the body of one of the
murdered Maria men and went through the process of the
massacre in pantomime. The police troopers, however,
were not easily daunted by these menaces. The party
presented a bold front and passed on its way without

What excellent work the Mounted Police have performed
in more or less subordinate roles in such expeditions is for
the most part tucked away in official records . To be detailed
for exploration duty has been " all in the day's work " with
them, and nothing that any one need brag about. But
officer and trooper alike, who have faced the hardships and
perils of many months' journeying through bush and desert,
through a country as difficult in many respects as any in the
world, are deserving of a full measure of praise. The Aus-
tralian Mounted Police are a picked body of men, with a
high reputation won on many fields ; let not this less-known
side of their work pass unrecognised.




A new era of lawlessness Native-born bushrangers Causes of the out-
break False hero-worship Captain Thunderbolt's generosity
Francis Gardiner Taking to " the road " Capture by Sergeant
Middleton Trooper Hosie shot Gardiner's rescue John Piesley,
bushranger " I've come for ' Troubadour ' " A gold escort en
route Mr. Horsington and Mr. Hewitt " bailed up " The great gold
escort robbery At the Eugowra Rocks Inspector Sir Frederick
Pottinger First successes An encounter with Gardiner More
arrests Fordyce, Bow and Manns A death sentence What became
of the treasure ?

r I ^HE period of the sixties, with its continuous tale of
*- " robbery under arms," is a notable one in the annals
of the Mounted Police. It was a period that saw the birth of
a new era of lawlessness, of a reign of terror surpassing
anything of the like before. Up to this time the Australian
bushrangers had been almost exclusively convicts or ex-
convicts. How this class of criminals came into being and
flourished for many years has been told in a previous chapter.
By stern repressive measures bushranging was kept under
in those colonies where it had raged most virulently, but
although so much was done this legacy of convictism was not
to be entirely stamped out. With the discovery of the gold-
fields came a recrudescence of highway robbery on a larger
and bolder scale than heretofore, and the appearance on the
stage of a new type of outlaw. The bushranger who now
terrorised the neighbourhood, plundering wayfarers, " stick-



ing up " gold escorts or banks in busy townships, was Aus-
tralian born in the majority of instances.

The main reason for this extraordinary outbreak is not
far to seek. In the rush to the goldfields the towns and out-
lying settlements had been depopulated at first, but as the
fever of excitement died down large numbers returned to
more regular occupations, and in every direction an impetus
was given to trade. It was an unnatural impetus, however,
and the violent reaction that followed was inevitable. By
1860 there was great dearth of work and consequent distress.
This period of depression was made the excuse for defying
the law by many of the more turbulent spirits. And for those
who elected to pursue a life of crime the way was easy. In
and around the diggings rich hauls of gold were to be made
by a man with a good horse under him, and pluck enough to
cry " bail up ! " x while in the country districts were scores of
sympathisers and helpers to enable him to baffle the police.
Not a few of the small farmers scattered about in the bush
were old " lags," men who had worked out their sentences
and settled on the land. These formed a tainted class, in
whom the predatory instincts were still strong and whose
children inherited the same traits.

While there were thus several inducements to the would-

1 Mr. G. E. Boxall (Story of the Australian Bushrangers) explains the
origin of this term as follows : " The first supply of horned cattle for Aus-
tralia was obtained from Cape Town, South Africa, big-boned, slab-sided
animals with enormous horns. These animals are much more active than
the fine-boned, heavy-bodied, short-horned or other fine breeds, but they
can never be properly tamed. It is always unsafe to milk one of these
cows unless her head is fastened in a ' bail ' (a wooden barrier), and her leg
tied. When driving the cows into the bail it was the custom to order them
to ' bail up.' It was also usual for bullock drivers when yoking their
teams to call out ' bail up ' to the bullocks, although no bail was used for
this purpose. The words were in constant use all over Australia,
and were adopted by the early bushrangers in the sense of stand.' " -



be bushranger prospects of fat prizes, secure hiding-places
in the hills and ready helpers there were also a spice of
danger and a glamour about the calling that attracted the
adventurous. Most of the men who took to the road at
this time were young in years, several of them, indeed, were
quite lads. That they were old in crime is easily accounted
for by the vicious nature of their surroundings. Among the
youth of Australia the bushrangers of other days had been
invested with a false halo of romance. Writing on this point
Mr. G. E. Boxall says : " Many of the exploits of the historic
highwaymen of old were told as actual facts in the careers
of some Australian bushrangers, with just sufficient varia-
tion to adapt them to local purposes. One of the ancient
superstitions introduced into Australia by these story-tellers
was that the highwaymen robbed the rich to give to the poor.
I have no desire to raise any doubts as to the generosity and
benevolence of Robin Hood, but I can find no evidence of
any such beneficence on the part of any of the Australian
bushrangers. No doubt they got their money easily, and
spent it recklessly. But in the course of their dealings
they did not pause to inquire whether the person they
robbed was rich or poor."

One of the isolated instances of generosity which might
be cited in this connection is recorded of Frederick Ward
the notorious " Captain Thunderbolt." On a certain
occasion he " bailed up " a German band in a gap in the
mountains and, after making them play to him, i/ook every
penny they possessed. The leader of the musicians pleaded
tearfully for the money to be returned, as it was their all and
had been hard earned. Thunderbolt at last promised that
if he succeeded in robbing the principal winner at the

Tamworth Races, a man for whom he was on the look-out,

129 K


he would make restitution. He made the expected haul
shortly after, and faithfully kept his word to the Germans,
sending them their few pounds through the post to an ad-
dress they had given. Such an instance, however, standing
almost by itself, does not count for much. It may be set
down as much to caprice as to kindness of heart. It is only
too true that the bush robber spared none hi his greed for
gold, and as a rule was as brutal and callous in his methods
as any of his humbler fellow-criminals.

The first to gain notoriety in this second generation
of bushrangers was Francis Gardiner. It is safe to say that
no other Australian highwayman and he had many
imitators made his name so feared in his day. Possessed
of daring and audacity to an unusual degree, he carried out
some big coups successfully, and for a long time snapped
his fingers in the face of a police who were at their wits'
end to capture him. A native of Boro Creek, near Goul-
burn, New South Wales, Gardiner (his real name, by the
way, is given as Christie) first came into public notice on
the Wombat Flat gold diggings. Before this, however,
he was known to the police of his own colony and that of
Victoria as a bold horse-thief. In the early days of Bal-
larat he had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment for
this offence, a term he had shortened considerably by break-
ing gaol. Not long afterwards he was again at his old game,
and this time was sent to Cockatoo Island for seven years.
From this place he was liberated on ticket-of -leave, and to
all appearance he now seemed disposed to live by honest
work. With a man named Fogg he started a butchering
business at Wombat Flat. Unfortunately this migration
had taken him out of his proper district, and caused him
to infringe the regulations. This brought him into conflict



with the police, and Gardiner was next heard of "on the

It was not long before a gang had gathered round this
new leader. There were many kindred spirits in and around
the goldfields who were ready to try their luck at bush-
ranging, and the police were quickly made aware that they
had no light task before them. The number of the gang,
moreover, was always fluctuating. Its members could never
be clearly defined. Some of the more venturesome ones
broke away at times to act singly or in couples, and were
themselves the nuclei of fresh gangs, In their places
others were soon forthcoming. Still, in his own district
Gardiner was the leading spirit, and the authorities strained
every nerve to secure his capture.

Remembering Gardiner's close association with Fogg, the
police at last determined to watch the latter in the hope of
trapping their quarry. The expected chance came in July
of 1861, when, as a result of the " shadowing," they learned
that the bushranger had been seen at his friend's house.
Fogg was now back at his old homestead on the Fish River,
near the Abercrombie. The news came to Sergeant Middle-
ton, at the neighbouring police station of Tuena, and with
Trooper Hosie he rode out to make the capture. Everything
went well until the two appeared at the door of the farm.
Then Fogg's wife gave a cry of alarm and ran back into
the house. When the sergeant followed and was on the point
of entering an inner room he was met by a shot that happily
went wide. He guessed rightly that his man was within.

Without hesitating Middleton pluckily advanced, firing
his pistol as he drew aside the hanging at the entrance.
At the same moment the man inside fired also, and this
time wounded the officer in the mouth. Had not his pistol

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 10 of 32)