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

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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 13 of 32)
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barracks was hastily called into action. Never supposing
for a moment that the gang would attempt another robbery
in the town limits, the police dashed out along the roads
leading to Caloola or Carcoar, and thus again favoured the
bushrangers' movements. What Hall had done was to
proceed to a hotel kept by one Alderman De Clouet, at the

159 ~


far end of the town, and " stick up " the household. At this
place some small booty was secured, but the raiders failed
in their chief object, which was to secure a famous racehorse
owned by the alderman. This animal had fortunately been
removed from his former quarters. Eventually the four
took the southern road and escaped to their retreat without
meeting any of the parties who were then searching the

Bathurst had a breathing space of two days. Then, with
an audacity that amounted to bravado Hall and some of
his followers appeared again on the outskirts of the town,
plundering stores and creating a new reign of terror. This
time the police parties from Bathurst were headed by Super-
intendent Morrissett and the Inspector-General, Captain
McLerie, who had come specially from Sydney to investigate
matters in person. Owing to the methods of red tape that
existed, by which individual action on the part of inferior
officers was stifled, and owing to crass blundering by the
leaders of the police, the bushrangers were allowed to get
away when a sharp pursuit would undoubtedly have brought
them to book. So marked was the lack of generalship that
strong representations were made to the central authorities,
and the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Charles Cowper, was moved
to take action.

It will be remembered that in 1862 the New South Wales
legislature had passed a new Police Act, under which the
whole of the force hi the colony was brought under one
central control, with headquarters at Sydney. The first
Inspector-General, the supreme chief, was Captain McLerie.
In theory this scheme was admirable, but in practice it was
not justifying itself. The constant dependence on orders,
the fear of reprimand through acting on one's own initiative,



led to too much inaction, and what should have been a
mobile force was robbed of its most important characteristic
at the beginning. The fact could not be concealed that
the Mounted Police of the day were in general unfit for
the special duties they were called upon to perform. The
force was disorganised to a great extent, and jealousies
between officers were allowed to nullify whatever good there
lay in the system. It was with a view to remedying these
evils that the Inspector-General had himself gone into
the country districts and undertaken actual police duty.
But in the condition of things reform could not be instituted
immediately. And while blunder after blunder occurred,
and the authorities were forced to admit their failure to
check the depredations of the bushrangers, public indigna-
tion boiled over.

" Now," says Mr. White, " the full force of the condem-
natory blast was felt in Parliament, and the Government
were at their wits' end to stand against it. They could not
defend a force as inefficient as that under McLerie's command
had proved itself to be, but Mr. Cowper would not admit
that it was the system that was in fault. He was loyal to
his offspring, but terribly indignant at the manner in which
those in whose charge he had placed it were acting. A
bitter correspondence ensued between Mr. Cowper and the
Inspector-General, during which the Premier threatened
at one time to ' set the regular police aside and organise
another band under an entirely different arrangement,' and in
a later letter added : ' The Colonial Secretary is, however,
unwilling suddenly to withdraw the Inspector- General, but
intimates his intention of doing so if, within one month,
Gilbert and party are not apprehended. It will then become
a question for immediate determination what modification

161 M


of the police system shall be made to remedy the defects so
loudly complained of.' '

These were strong words and they show how the gravity
of the situation was realised at headquarters. Following
upon these strictures the Government issued notices of
rewards of 500 each for the apprehension of the five leading
bushrangers, Hall, Gilbert, Vane, O'Meally and Burke.
The last-named was a new recruit who had made himself
conspicuous in several affairs. To fit the police more suit-
ably for their work in the bush it was ordered that uniforms
were to be discarded and the rough bushman's outfit adopted
instead. The change from the dragoon equipment was a
welcome one. Hitherto the troopers had been conspicuous
objects wherever they went, making secrecy practically
impossible. Their heavy tight-fitting uniforms, too, while
smart in appearance, had not conduced to comfort. What
was no less important, improved patterns of rifles and
revolvers were now issued, and a better class of horse pro-
vided. A final special instruction in the Government's
minute was that the Mounted Police in future, in the area
of operations, were to be devoted exclusively to hunting
down bushrangers. They were to freely use the services of
black trackers and be prepared for continuous work in the

How these measures acted in quickening the energies of
the police will be seen as the story of the bushrangers is
followed. Rome was not built in a day, nor were these
pests of society to be destroyed by a single sweep of the arm
of the law. More stringent means had to be resorted to ere
" robbery under arms " was stamped out hi the colony and
the authority of the police became paramount.




Death of Lowry The Dunn's Plains affair Burke shot Surrender of
Vane O'Meally at Goimbla station Sergeant Parry's death The
Felons' Apprehension Act Shooting of Ben Hall Gilbert and Dunn
Dan Morgan on the Southern Road Sergeant McGinnerty
Another police tragedy Morgan at Peechalba station A Chinese
bushranger The brothers Clarke Murder of the special constables
Hunted down at last Sir Watkin Wynne, black tracker Captain
Thunderbolt Trooper Walker A hand to hand fight Captain
Melville in ;, Victoria The " Moonlight " gang The Wantabadgery
" sticking up."

THE Gardiner gang were not to have an uninterrupted
career of success, although to the popular eye they
seemed to be flaunting the police with impunity. In the
spring of 1863 Frederick Lowry, one of its members, was
cornered by Sergeant Stephenson and Trooper Herbst at
Cook's Vale Creek, and after an exciting encounter shot
down. The next to suffer was Burke, the scene of his
dramatic ending being Dunn's Plains, near Rockley.

It had been arranged by Hall and Gilbert to make an
attack upon Assistant Gold Commissioner Keightley, whose
house was in that locality. One day in October, a week
after the " sticking up " of Canowindra, the bushrangers rode
out to the Plains. They were five in number, O'Meally,
Vane and Burke accompanying the two leaders. In this
instance they failed to take their victim by surprise. Mr.

- 163-


Keightley saw them coming, barred his door and windows,
and returned the others' fire with such good effect that he
accounted for one of the attacking party. Burke was seen
to throw up his hands, crying out that he was " done for,"
and though he was not killed outright his wound soon
proved to be mortal.

This fight at Dunn's Plains fortunately was attended by
no other tragedy. When the ammunition of the besieged
became exhausted Mr. Keightley surrendered. The bush-
rangers were incensed at the death of Burke, and at first
were for shooting the Gold Commissioner in revenge, but in
the end better persuasions prevailed. After a conference
it was decided that his life should be spared on payment
of a sum of 500. This system of ransoming was a new
departure for the bushrangers. To obtain the money the
exact amount, by the way, which Mr. Keightley would
receive from the Government as a reward for shooting Burke
his friend Dr. Peechey, an inmate of the house, rode to
Bathurst. He returned within the appointed time, and
their prisoner having been released, the outlaws left the

Immediately after this serious outrage the reward for
the apprehension of Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally and Vane was
raised in each case from 500 to 1,000. The'last-named
member of the gang was shortly after brought to justice
through the instrumentality of a priest, who induced him to
surrender to the police before retribution overtook him.
On being tried Vane was convicted of highway robbery under
arms and was sentenced to a long term of penal servitude.
That he chose a wise course was made evident by the fate
of his companions, each of whom died a violent death. Had
Vane continued with the gang there is little doubt but that



he would have been shot by the police or would have ended
his days on the scaffold.

O'Meally's death occurred at Goimbla Station, the owner
of which, Mr. David Campbell, had incurred the animosity of
the gang. This was in November of the same year. Making
a descent upon the station to " pay out " Mr. Campbell for
his former vigilance in joining search-parties to hunt them
down, the bushrangers set fire to the barn and stables. They
then prepared to attack the house, and Mrs. Campbell, while
pluckily crossing a verandah to obtain a gun, had a narrow
escape from being killed. It was the lady who from her
point of vantage noted where the men were under cover
in the stackyard and informed her husband. Mr. Campbell
thereupon stalked them successfully and had the good
fortune to shoot O'Meally, whose face he recognised in the
glare of the flames. As the mounted police from Forbes,
attracted by the light of the burning buildings, were now
galloping up, the other bushrangers, Hall and Gilbert, made
off without delay. It may be added that both Mr. Campbell
and Mr. Keightley received gold medals from the Govern-
ment for ridding the colony of two such ruffians.

After the loss of their allies Ben Hall and Gilbert con-
tinued their depredations by themselves with varying success
until fresh recruits were attracted to them. Of these new
bushrangers only one, Johnny Dunn, achieved any notoriety.
But little time, indeed, remained for the gang to add to their
unsavoury reputation. The mounted police were now
pressing them close, drawing the net round the two principals.

After one or two raids in which they secured some new
mounts, well-known racehorses being lifted in each instance,
there came a crime which set the seal on their fate. This was
the shooting of Sergeant Parry. In November 1864, Hall,


Gilbert and Dunn were out on the Southern Road at Black
Springs, near Jugiong, where during one day they bailed up
no fewer than fifty people of all classes. This assemblage was
kept under close surveillance in the bush while the trio waited
to hold up the mail from Albury, which was hourly expected.
With the mail when it arrived came two mounted troopers,
Sub-Inspector O'Neil and Sergeant Parry. Inside the
coach were Mr. Ross, District Police Magistrate, and a

The two mounted men received the first fire, and the
sergeant was shot dead by Gilbert. Sub-Inspector O'Neil,
using the coach as cover, kept up a spirited defence until his
ammunition was expended, as also did Mr. Ross, but both
were compelled to yield. They then joined the "camp,"
where the other prisoners were huddled together. Of the
constable the less said the better. He had been ordered
by Mr. Ross to get among the trees and open fire upon the
bushrangers from safe cover. On seeing Parry fall and the
others surrender he took to his heels. Happily for the
credit of the Australian Mounted Police such cases of showing
the white feather are few and far between. For every man
who bolted in the face of danger they can show a hundred
who stood their ground until killed or overcome.

Weeks went by, with an almost daily record of highway
robberies, now hi the Goulburn district and now at Cano-
windra or some outlying spot. Yet another policeman,
Constable Nelson of Collector, was shot down hi cold blood,
the aggressor this time being Dunn. Thereafter the gang
were heard of in their old haunts in the Lachlan, where
many stations were raided to provide fresh horses. It was
at this juncture, early in 1865, that the Government was
driven to pass an extreme measure by which the bushrangers



were proclaimed outlaws. This was the " Felons' Appre-
hension Act." Hall, Gilbert and Dunn were now to be
hunted like dogs ; it was in the power of any one to shoot
them on sight. They were to be human vermin in the eyes
of men.

" If, after Proclamation by the Governor with the advice
of the Executive Council of the fact of such adjudication
shall have been published in the Gazette, and in one or more
Sydney and one or more country newspapers, such outlaw
shall afterwards be found at large armed, or there being
reasonable grounds to believe that he is armed, it shall be
lawful for any of her Majesty's subjects, whether a constable
or not, and without being accountable for using of any deadly
weapon in aid of such apprehension, whether its use be pre-
ceded by a demand of surrender or not, to apprehend or
take such outlaw alive or dead." In this clause of the
second section was provided the necessary authority. The
Act was to remain in force for a year from the date of its

The Proclamation of outlawry and summons to surrender
was issued shortly after. But knowing full well that their
crimes of murder and robbery could only be expiated on the
gallows, the bushrangers still defied the law. That they
realised the game was nearly up is probable. The penalties
against " bush telegraphs " and harbourers had been made so
stringent as to alienate many of their sympathisers. Their
hiding-places were no longer secure, and the large bodies of
mounted police drafted into the western district kept them
in a state of continual unrest.

The first of the gang to fall into the hands of the police
was Ben Hall. Sub-Inspector James Davidson, of the
Lachlan detachment, got on the track of the bushrangers on



the last day of April. Five days later the party found two
horses hobbled in the scrub about twelve miles from Forbes.
In the evening a man was seen to take the animals some little
way off, and a black tracker was sent to follow his movements.
The native located his whereabouts, returning to inform the
police. Through the night the man's camp was watched,
and at daybreak, when he appeared in the open, he was called
upon to stand. It was Ben Hall. The hunted man turned
to run for his life, but ere he could gain cover the police had
fired, several bullets taking effect. He dropped to the
ground and died within a few moments.

After the death of their leader Gilbert and Dunn seem to
have thought more of their safety than of committing
robberies. But practically every former refuge was now
closed to them. In their extremity the two fled to the hut
of Dunn's grandfather, an old man named Kelly. Even
here, however, there was no sanctuary. Betrayed to the
police, they were caught like rats in a trap, and in the brief
fight Gilbert was shot. His companion escaped in the
scrub for the time, wounded in the leg, but only to wander
about the country with the police ever on his heels. He was
captured at last by Troopers McHale, Elliott and Hawthorne,
of the Canonbar force, at a station to the north of the Western
Road and not far distant from Dubbo. It began with a duel
between McHale and the outlaw, in which both were seri-
ously hurt, and it ended in Dunn being overcome and haled
off to Dubbo barracks. From this temporary prison, where
his wounds were attended to, he made a desperate effort
to escape. But within a few hours he was recaptured, and
in due time was sent to Sydney for trial. In the February
following he was executed.

The Western and Southern Roads, whereon the Gardiner


gang practised their nefarious trade, saw many other bush-
rangers during the same period. Of all who achieved any
notoriety the most striking figure was undoubtedly Dan
Morgan. He stands out prominently among the malefactors
of that day by reason of his ferocity and innate cruelty ;
there was no redeeming feature in his case to lessen the
horror with which he was regarded.

As soon as it was discovered that there was no gang to
contend against, but that he was acting single-handed, or at
the least in the company of only one other man, the police
laid their plans for hunting him down. Beginning operations
in 1862, in the Southern districts of New South Wales,
Morgan soon had a long list of robberies to his credit. That
he would not stop short of murder was to be expected, and the
death of a lonely shepherd on a station was rightly ascribed
to him. Later on there came an encounter with the mounted
police near Tumberumba, with fatal results to one of the
latter. Sergeant McGinnerty and Trooper Churchley were
on the main road when they overtook Morgan ambling along.
Not knowing whom he had to deal with, the sergeant passed
him a civil " Good-day." The bushranger turned in his
saddle with an oath. " You're one of the traps looking for
me, are you ? " he exclaimed, and drawing his revolver he
shot the poor fellow through the breast.

In the accounts of this occurrence one finds some dis-
crepancies. According to one writer Morgan's horse was
shot under him by McGinnerty and the two men came to
hand-grips ; according to another the sergeant's riderless
horse bolted into the bush at the side of the road, whither
the bushranger followed. Trooper Churchley's horse, it
would appear, bolted likewise, and its rider finally turned
back to the nearest township to obtain assistance. What-



ever the actual details may have been, Sergeant McGinnerty
was left dead on the road, another victim to a bushranger's
vengeance, l while Morgan coolly proceeded to the station at
Round Hill owned by Mr. Watson.

Here his bloodthirsty mood evinced itself quickly. Hav-
ing " stuck up " the station, he became incensed at a remark
made by one of the hands and began shooting freely. A
young man named Heriot was badly wounded in the leg
as a result, and shortly after Morgan shot one of the over-
seers, a Mr. McLean, in the back. Heriot in time recovered,
though permanently crippled, but McLean succumbed to his
injuries. This tragedy caused the police to redouble their
efforts, and Superintendent Carne, of the south-western
district, sent out several parties of troopers to search the
country. Morgan's day of reckoning, however, had not yet
come. He continued to terrorise that part of the colony
for many months.

Another member of the mounted police who met his
death at the bushranger's hands was Sergeant Smyth. With
three other troopers this officer took up Morgan's trail in the
bush and tracked him as far as Kyamba. Here the party
camped for the night. As they sat together in the little
canvas tent with a lighted candle their shadows betrayed
them to Morgan, who was close at hand. Firing through the
tent at close range, he shot the sergeant. The constables
jumped out to counter the attack, but the bushranger had
disappeared and their search was futile. Smyth never
recovered from his wounds, dying about a fortnight later.

Morgan's undoing was the acceptance of a challenge that
he dared not venture into Victoria. It had been boastfully
asserted that if he crossed the border he would be captured

1 See Appendix D for list of police killed and wounded by bushrangers.


with little delay, the implication being that the Victorian
police were capable of performing what evidently was beyond
the power of the New South Wales force. If this boast
were actually made it was certainly unjust, for no charge of
ineptitude could be levelled against the police of the elder
colony. For months they had worked unremittingly to
track their quarry, and only the inferiority of their horses
robbed them of success. Indeed, so close did they run the
bushranger that fear of capture had not a little to do with
his change of venue.

So into Victoria went Morgan, crossing the Murray River
at Albury. His first exploits met with no check. Two or
three stations were robbed, and then he ventured upon
what proved to be his last raid. On the 8th of April, 1865,
only a few days after his appearance in this new field,
he reached Peechalba Station, near Wangaratta, which
was owned by Messrs McPherson and Rutherford. With
revolver in hand he forced all the inmates four men and
eight women into one room, where they ranged themselves
against the wall. Then, his weapons on a table before him,
Morgan sat down and gave instructions for tea to be made
for him, the while he chatted freely with Mr. McPherson.
At intervals Mrs. McPherson played to him on the piano.

Among those who were thus bailed up was a servant
named Alice Macdonald, a plucky and quick-witted girl.
On the pretence that one of her mistress's children was crying
for her, she insisted on leaving the room, and even went so
far as to smack the bushranger's face when he objected.
She had her way, however, Morgan being in the mood to
admire her audacity. Once outside, the girl found one of
the station men who had escaped notice in the round-up,
and told him to ride off at once to Mr. Rutherford's house, a



quarter of a mile away. She then returned to take her place
in the line with the other prisoners.

Mr. Rutherford, on receipt of the news, sent a messenger
to Wangaratta to summon the mounted police. In the
night a number of troopers surrounded the house, and, with
a few civilian volunteers, waited anxiously for the dawn.
Contrary to their fears Morgan did not work himself into a
frenzy for bloodshed in the meantime. The night passed
without incident. Soon after daylight, having partaken of
breakfast, the bushranger prepared to leave, and bade Mr.
McPherson get him the best horse in the stables. The
station owner and three men started to fulfil this request,
with Morgan following close in the rear. This gave the
watchers behind the fences their opportunity. From his
position a station hand, John Quinlan, easily covered the
bushranger. He took careful aim, and Morgan dropped with
a bullet through his shoulder.

As he fell he cried out angrily : " Why didn't you
challenge me ? You didn't give me a chance ! "

" A lot of chance you gave those other fellows, Morgan,"
said one of those who now came forward to carry him into a
wool shed close by. " Remember McGinnerty and Smyth ! "

A few hours later the dreaded bushranger was dead, the
news being quickly flashed to New South Wales where, as a
matter of fact, the police werejstill seeking him hi the ranges.
When the reward of 1,000 that had been offered for his
death or capture was distributed, Quinlan received 300,
Alice Macdonald 250, the remainder of the sum being
divided among others who had taken a notable part in the

Next in the list of New South Wales bushrangers come
the brothers Clarke and Frederick Ward, alias " Captain



Thunderbolt." In the late sixties these held high sway in
the south and north respectively. That they had many
imitators was only in the natural order of things, for no
individual outlaw leapt into notoriety without starting a
wave of bushranging in his own particular section of the
country. Of the numbers thus attracted to " the road "
there is no need to speak in detail ; they were mere high-
way robbers, with little distinction between them. In this
connection, however, it may be noted as a curious fact that
this period witnessed the only case of a Chinaman turning

Sam Poo, the individual in question, deserted the diggings
at Mudgee to try his luck at " sticking up ' wayfarers. This
promptly brought the police on his track, and he was con-
fronted by Trooper Ward, of Coonabarabran. The latter,
not crediting the Chinaman with boldness enough to fire,
called on him to surrender, but Sam Poo had no intention
of doing things by halves. He levelled his gun and shot
the policeman. Ward died on the following day, to be
avenged a fortnight later by Troopers Todd, Burns and
Macmahon, who with the assistance of a black tracker ran
the miscreant to earth in the scrub. After a sharp fight

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 13 of 32)