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 21 of 32)
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men in due course were punished.

" The other Customs officer (?) it was found out was an
out-and-out scoundrel named Monaghan. Some time
afterwards this man was arrested at Corrella Downs Station
for horse-stealing. A trooper named Smith had to escort
him to the M' Arthur. When getting ready to shift from
their camp one morning, and while Smith was rolling up
his swag, the tracker at the time being after the horses,
Monaghan hit Smith over the head with a stick and
stunned him. He then bound him to a tree and shot the
black tracker dead when he came in with the horses. This
fair specimen of the outlaws knocking about the country at
this time then made off with horses, arms, and camp fixings.
He has never been heard of since."

Before a magistrate and a few police were sent up to
Borroloola the district round that settlement had an unen-
viable reputation. It was the haunt, or rather sanctuary,
for which criminals made from all parts of Australia. Queens-
landers from over the border found it a useful hiding-place.
The owner of a store might reckon on a lively time if he
managed to fall foul of one of these ruffians. One such, it is
said, gave offence to a certain gang, so they coolly stood off



a few yards and emptied their Winchesters into the building,
quite regardless of the fact that the proprietor was inside !
He only escaped death by crouching low behind a big gal-
vanised iron case.

Much of the population of the northern districts was of a
floating character. Cattlemen, shearers, and station hands
of all sorts, came and went, bringing with them often, fat
cheques and leaving the bulk, if not all, behind them with
the shanty-keepers. These hawks were ever on the look-
out for their prey, and had many devices to wheedle the
money out of their customers' pockets. " They were a
terrible curse," says Mr. Searcey, " not alone to the poor
bushmen, but to the squatters in whose country they settled,
for they were the means of drawing numbers of cattle and
horse thieves about the place. I knew the owner of a station
who was thus afflicted. He tried many means of getting rid
of the shanty-man and his wife a bad lot, the pair, regular
outlaws but failed. As a last resource he put a fire-stick
into the tent and brush buildings, the whole lot being
burned with the stock of spirits and ale."

Itinerant grog-shops, run by men who possessed vans
and horses, sometimes took the place of these liquor-dens.
They were similarly stocked with illicit spirits. But the
hand of the police was hard upon offenders, and the day of
their rejoicing is past. The Territory has been pretty well
cleared of these gentry. There is still, of course, the bush
pub., which is a licensed house but which so often retails
the vilest liquor, so the station hand can " blue " his cheque as
joyously as he ever did in olden time, and as he doubtless
will continue to do.

Of the Northern Territory at the present day from a
police point of view, we have a glimpse in a succinct report



submitted by Sub-Inspector Waters, the officer in charge. He
says : " The return shows a decrease of 79 in offences
reported and 66 in persons arrested, the principal decreases
being assaults, gambling, supplying opium to aborigines, etc.
The natives in the Victoria River district have been unusually
active in committing depredations, and it will require more
than ordinary activity on the part of the police to keep
them in order. It is only in rare instances that offenders
have been brought to justice, and complainants frequently
decline to prosecute, even when an attempt is made to
murder, in consequence of enormous distance to a court of
justice ; and should the suggested appointment of justices
in that district be approved I recommend that a police
prison be established at Timber Creek, to avoid the travelling
of prisoners a distance of 450 miles to Palmerston. The
lack of mail and telegraphic communication with that district
tends to the commission of crime, as persons aggrieved will
not travel such a distance to report. The coast natives
from Queensland border to King River and Cape Ford to the
West Australian border are very treacherous and speak
no English, and for the better protection of persons whose
business is there the coast should occasionally be visited by
police, but at present no boat is available. Natives are, with
but few exceptions, well treated by their employers, but for
their general protection it is sincerely hoped that a workable
Aborigines Act will be passed. I need hardly point out that
the conditions of natives in the Territory is very different
to those in the South ; consequently I submit the law for this
part of the State should be framed to meet the different
conditions. There are many old and indigent Chinese in the
Territory who subsist as best they can, and but few crimes
have been committed by them."



The native question is still a great problem in the north,
although the number of the blacks is not excessively large.
Human life is held cheaply by the aboriginal when the taking
of it helps him to some of this world's goods. It is not so long
back that a couple of bushmen were murdered by blacks
simply for the iron rims upon the wheels of their van. As
elsewhere in the back-blocks of Australia, too, the lonely
selector must be on his guard against treachery, for even his
own native servants are not always to be trusted. Witness
the melancholy case of W. J. J. Ward, done to death on the
Humbert River early last year. The reports of this tragedy,
as sent in by the trooper who investigated it, make interest-
ing reading, in that they convey to us a clear idea of how
the mounted police carry out their arduous duties. They
are worth giving at some length.

In his first statement U. W. Holland, Mounted Constable,
of Timber Creek Police Station, says :

" To Sub-Inspector T. N. Waters, Palmerston.

" SIR, I have the honour to report for your information
that on the 12th inst. (March, 1910), John Yates called here
from Fraynes and reported that W. J. J. Ward had been
murdered by blacks on the Humbert River. He stated that
the information came from a lubra who was in Ward's
employ and is now in the Ord River country, and who some
time ago came into Wickham's place. On being questioned
as to Ward's whereabouts she told a very tragic story. She
stated that, getting up one morning to go after Ward's
horses, she took Ward's Mauser pistol unawares to Ward.
Whilst out she met some blacks and told them she had
Ward's only firearm. The blacks then surrounded the camp
and put in appearance to Ward, who ran inside to get his

273 T


firearm, but seeing it was stolen he made an attempt to
escape through one door, but it was too late, as the blacks
had him cornered. Seeing his position he attempted to
escape through the opposite door, where he was again met
by blacks, who stabbed him to death with a shovel-spear, or
butcher's knife on a spear shaft, torturing him meanwhile
by pulling out his whiskers. After fulfilling their wicked
deed they threw spears and stones at the body and held a
corrobboree over it, then put it in a stump and went through
the performance of spear and stone- thro wing again. Then
the body was thrown in a water-hole. Two civilised boys
then mounted two of Ward's horses and rounded up some
cattle and shot all that they wanted.

" This sounds somewhat like a romance, and I dare say
is exaggerated by Yates, and if this lubra is on the Ord
River, Constable S. C. Dempsey will most probably learn
the truth of the tragedy. Yates did not know who any of
the murderers were.

" I have the honour to be, Sir,
" Your obedient servant,

" U. W. HOLLAND, M.C."

The next report to Sub-Inspector Waters is as follows :

" SIR, I have the honour"to report for your information
lea ving this station on 13th inst. (March). From what John
Yates stated here concerning the murder of W. J. J. Ward, a
pastoralist, I arrived at the Humbert River on 16th instant
and made a careful inspection of the hut and surroundings.
From all appearances no person had been there for some
considerable time. The long grass had grown over the
stock yards and almost up to the hut doors. On making
a careful inspection of the doors I discovered a few blood



splashes on both sides of one door, but nothing further was
seen to warrant that the murder had been committed there.
A careful search for blood-stained weapons was made by
tracker and myself, but none found. A careful search in the
locality was made for the body by tracker and myself without
success. The blood stains on the door suggest that the
murder was committed therein, and if human blood, it
corroborates Yates' story as far as making the escape through
the back door is concerned. In my own personal experi-
ence with Ward, from what I could gather this back door
was never used or opened. On my examination it appeared
to have been opened in a hurry, thus leaving just about
enough room for a man to squeeze through. I afterwards
mustered Ward's horses, nine and two foals, together, all
the effects as per journal 25th instant, and brought them to
Timber Creek. I made stringent inquiries amongst the
natives at Victoria River Downs on 21st instant, and they
seemed to know nothing of the murderers. I have been
informed that S. C. Dempsey is around towards the Western
Australian border in pursuit of the murderers. Until his
return there is little or no clue to work up.

" I have the honour to be, Sir,
"Your obedient servant,

In the following June considerable progress had been
made. Holland writes from Timber Creek thus :

" SIR, I have the honour to report leaving this station on
18th May in company with S. C. Dempsey, and proceeding
to Victoria River Downs in search of natives implicated in
the alleged murder of William J. J. Ward on the Humbert
River. We arrived at Victoria Downs on 25th May, and that



morning at daylight arrested George Abaduk, alleged to have
been a principal in the murder of Ward, and a boy named
Possum, pointed out by a woman, 'Topsy,'as being seen by
her on the Humbert River. I left Victoria Downs on 28th
May to search for Henry Bening, reported as being lost, and
returned on 6th June, which subject forms a separate report.
That night a native named ' Gordon,' who is really the
principal in the Humbert River murder, came into the station
and speared a boy employed there, known as Murphy, but
not fatally. All hands turned out to chase Gordon, but he
swam the river and got away in the dark. On 9th June a
party was formed consisting of Henry Bening, a Victoria
Downs stockman, myself and Tracker Charlie, with two
private ' boys ' and the natives George and Possum detained
from the 25th ultimo. All the party carried firearms, except
the last-named two natives, as the blacks in the locality are
treacherous. Gordon's tracks were found and followed that
day to a place called Whitewater.

" On the 10th several tracks were discovered and it was
surmised that Gordon had joined the rest of the tribe. Here
the country became mountainous, with immense outcrops of
sandstone. The horses were here left and the party pro-
ceeded on foot. On discovering the natives had crossed
over the mountains and were bearing westward across a
stretch of plain the party returned to the horses. The
following day (llth) the party crossed the before-mentioned
plain and there left the horses and plant in a safe and suit-
able spot. The party then proceeded across the mountains
on foot, as it was impossible to follow the tracks on horses.
The newness of tracks and camps suggested that there was a
reasonable chance of overtaking the natives in a few days.
As the ground was fearfully rough with numerous caves,



fissures and high sandstone cliffs,*the party took as few
rations as possible, so that they might not be encumbered.
After travelling about ten miles on the 12th, very recent
tracks were found in a patch of sandy ground in the vicinity
of Light Creek. These tracks, according to my native
boys hi the party, were those of Gordon, Moroun, Longanna,
Walgarra and another native, whose tracks they were
acquainted with, and who it is now alleged are the chief per-
petrators of the Humbert River crime. About 3 p.m., while
the party was following these tracks along a rough stony
creek, our attention was drawn by the barking of dogs up
on the bank amongst the high grass. On discovering that
this was a native camp, and in it some of the natives we were
in pursuit of, I gave orders to the party to retreat in case of
being discovered by the natives before we could surround
their camp in a proper manner so as to prevent any from
escaping. This was carried out successfully.

" On recognising Gordon every precaution was taken by
the party to effect his arrest or that of any other native who
was implicated in the crime. On closer observation only
two natives and three gins were seen in the camp, namely
Gordon and Mudgela, Gordon's two gins, Tapo and Lu-Lu,
and a third woman. The other natives ostensibly were
out hunting. Seizing an opportunity myself and private
boy Jimmy rose up out of the grass and called upon Gordon
to stand, at the same time George and Possum (two natives
of this tribe detained) told Gordon to sit down and no more
be frightened as they would not be harmed. Immediately
Gordon sprang up and threw a spear at Jimmy, who was close
to me. The boy fortunately just dodged the well-aimed
deadly weapon by bowing down and causing the spear to
just miss him, but by very little. This was done with keen



judgment and vivacity, so close did it go that it left a streak
of red ochre in its course along the boy's back.

" This was followed by Gordon breaking through the
party as if to make for shelter. On reaching the mass of
boulders he turned around and slipped another spear in his
woomera (thro wing-stick) and was in the act of hurling it at
me or the boy, Jimmy, when Jimmy shot him. He (Gordon)
was afterwards buried by myself and H. Bening on the spot
where he met his death. The other natives made their escape.
The gin, ' Lu-Lu,' was afterwards captured by the party and
brought to Timber Creek and detained as a witness in con-
nection with the Ward murder. The party then returned,
as Bening became ill and was unable to continue any further
search ; likewise I deemed it advisable to let the natives
settle down for awhile, and return to Timber Creek to re-
plenish supplies and shoe horses afresh for an extended
search for the other offending natives. Statement signed
by Henry Bening and the natives who accompanied me and
witnessed the shooting, attached.

" I have the honour to be, Sir,

" Your obedient servant,


" To T. N. WATERS, Esq.,
" Sub- Inspect or of Police,
" Palmerston."

In the light of corroborative evidence the following are
interesting :

" Statement made by Jimmy, Aboriginal.

" I savee Gordon, him come along Station and spearum
Murphy. I bin hearum him kill Buglow (W. J. J. Ward).
I follow him up longa Mr. Holland, four fellow day me and



allabout bin find that one Gordon and Mudgela longa camp
longa Light Creek. Mr. Holland say ' round em up, catch
that one Gordon.' Bye and bye him bin say no more run
away. Then I yabba sit down quiet fellow to Gordon, him
then throw one big fellow shovel spear at me, close up catch
me, him run longa back. Him cheeky fellow, him put
nother spear longa womra close up throw him when I bin
think it might him finish us up altogether, and I bin shoot

him then.

" JIMMY x His mark.
" Witnessed by Henry Bening."

" Statement made by Possum, Aboriginal.

" I savee Gordon him come alonga Wickham Station
one night when I bin there alonga Mr. Holland, I bin hear
row and allabout boy bin talk Gordon spear Murphy that
one be bin kill Buglow too (W. J. J. Ward). I bin leavum
station longa Mr. Holland and go follow up Gordon. We
been follow um track up for four fellow day. Me and
allabout find Gordon and Mudgela longa Camp on Light
Creek, some fellow gin there too. I bin savee Gordon track
and allabout blackfellow, and when we close fellow Mr.
Holland bin talk. ' We go back quiet fellow and round um
up.' Bye and bye we bin round em up, allabout talk sit
down quiet fellow, no more be frightened, no more run away.
Gordon then jump up and throw spear longa Jimmy close
up kill him, him make um mark longa back. Him have
nother one spear longa womra close up throw him and
Jimmy bin shoot him then.

" Possum x His Mark.
" Witnessed by A. J. A. White, M.C. 2nd Class."

In the end Trooper Holland was successful in arresting
Mudgela and two other natives, Walgarra and Longanna,



who were implicated in the deed. Longanna regained his
freedom by breaking the lock of his chain, but his companions
in crime were in due course tried and sentenced to death.
The promptness with which this murder was investigated
and avenged was not without its result on the Victoria
River tribes, and the Palmerston judge who heard the
case very properly commended the two officers concerned
for their energy. On this duty Trooper Holland travelled
about 1,000 miles.

Sub-Inspector T. N. Waters, to whom reference has been
made, is an officer who has seen long and varied service in
the far north. Of him many stories are told. Not the
least troublesome of the floating coastal population are the
pearling crews whites and Japanese and Manila men
and Port Darwin has witnessed some great pitched battles
between these and the representatives of the law. At the
head of his troopers the big burly sergeant (as he then was)
would sail in like a whirlwind, and the number of broken
heads bore ample testimony to the prowess of the police.

" I have seen Waters," said one old resident, " pick up a
prisoner by the scruff of his neck and walk off with him at
arm's-length, the man's feet trailing on the ground."

Another well-known mounted police officer of the Terri-
tory is Inspector Paul Foelsche. Probably no one knows
the northern native and his ways so well, and certainly no
one has inspired them with so much respect. In times of
unrest he has been a power in the land in the restoration of
order. The Cape Brogden massacre of 1892, when a Malay
proa's crew was killed by blacks, saw him energetically to the
fore. After a fairly long chase the murderers were cornered
and the tribe taught the lesson that retribution inevitably
follows upon escapades of this nature.



The question is often asked : But is not the Australian
black dying out ? To this the answer is emphatically yes.
At the present time the southern portion of the continent
contains very few natives. In New South Wales and
Victoria together there are only about eight thousand ;
South Australia numbers some three thousand. Queens-
land and Western Australia, on the other hand, have re-
spectively about 20,000 and 30,000, for in these States are
greater areas of unsettled, still wild country. The figures
given can only be approximate. The nomadic population
of Cape York Peninsula in the north-east, and of the
Kimberley districts in the north-west, cannot be exactly
estimated. And this is much the case in the far north.
Driven thence by the expansion of settlements, the aborigines
range over the Territory at will, living on the game and
natural products of the land what time they do not raid
their white neighbours' cattle. They are several thousands
strong and admittedly of a savage disposition. But in
noting this fact one need not take a too alarmist view.
Such troubles as arise can be dealt with satisfactorily by the
small force of police available. The blacks rarely gather in
large numbers, and there is no cohesion among the different
tribes. That they are steadily decreasing is the natural
sequence of conflict with civilisation ; it is only in accord-
ance with the general law that governs the contact of a
black race with a white one. 1

In the meantime, having regard to the circumstances

1 The annual increase of half-castes is relatively large and is an un-
doubted factor in determining the elimination of the race. In New South
Wales last year the aboriginal population consisted of 2,123 full-bloods
and 5,247 half-castes. In South Australia the nine years 1901 to 1910
show a decrease of 576 blacks and an increase of 171 half-castes ; there
are about 800 of the latter now in the State.



of life in the wilder regions, the isolated settler and the
traveller who does not take the precaution to ally himself
to a party must run the risk to which they are exposed.
It may not always be a big risk, but it exists as surely in
savage Australia as it has existed in South Africa or any
other colony where similar pioneer conditions have obtained.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The " old hand,"
when he pitches his camp in what is termed " bad nigger
country," will sling his mosquito net, light a fire and set
the billy a-boil over it, and then find a safer sleeping-place
some distance away.

The experience of a couple of bushmen known to the
writer will serve to illustrate this point. They were up-
country on the western border and on camping one night
they both turned in under one net in the bush, leaving the
other in position by their waggon. In the morning they
woke to make an unpleasant discovery. They had been
robbed of their stores by some natives, whose tracks on the
rough ground were plainly discernible, and they had had a
narrow escape from death. Close by the mosquito net
under which they had slept were tracks which told a startling
story. A native had stood on guard by them, with spear
poised in his hand, the while his fellows were stealthily pur-
loining their goods. Had they roused at any noise the
spear would have descended instantly, for the keen eyes of
the black must have been watching for the bulge in the net
that would have been caused by a raised head.

Chasing horse-thieves and cattle-duffers, not to mention
worse criminals, and keeping in order unruly natives, re-
presents the dark side of a mounted policeman's life in the
north. But to a man to whom the free open-air life appeals
there are compensations. The Territory is tropical country,



magnificent in its vegetation and prolific in animal life. It
is a country where everything is on a grand scale and where
nature is continually unfolding a new wonder before one's

Of this other side to a policeman's life Mr. Searcey writes :
" Still they (the troopers) had glorious times. Just imagine
starting out on a patrol for three or four months, with a
dozen good horses well-packed with necessary stores, and
plenty of arms and ammunition. They did the journey in
their own time, and were their own masters in every way.
There was abundance of food and water for the animals,
and a standing authority from the station owners and
managers to shoot any of the cattle if beef were required.
There was the certainty of a hearty welcome at such stations
as they might call at. It was a charming and entrancing
country to ride over, the scenery being almost too beautiful
for description. This was especially so in the early morning,
when the sun as it rose lifted the mantle of mist and disclosed
a magnificent panorama of fine trees, amongst which were
the pandanus, cabbage palm, Leichhardt pine, paper bark
and fig. The large lagoons teemed with game and fish, and
were always covered with lilies. The big winding rivers,
well defined by giant trees growing thickly along the banks
as far as the eye could see, the beautiful waterfalls, the grand
valleys, the extensive, well-grassed plains, formed pictures
which can only be properly appreciated by those who have
been fortunate enough to behold them. The bounding
kangaroo, the mobs of brumbies or cattle disappearing across
the plains or into some valley, all lent enchantment to the
scene. It is no wonder that men become attached to such a
country. A free and independent life once experienced can
never be forgotten."



South Australia's rule over this vast extent of country
has now ceased. Within the past year the Northern Terri-
tory has been transferred to the Government of the Common-
wealth, and in future it will be under a separate administra-

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 21 of 32)