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 24 of 32)
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of mounted blacks. The convict police out of sixty-three
members had twenty mounted men. In the same year
Governor Fitzgerald obtained permission to combine these

1 The earlier Governors were: Captain James Stirling, R.N. (1829),
John Hutt (1839), and Colonel Clarke (1845).


two forces into one, with power to increase the strength.
The first Superintendent of Police was meanwhile appointed
in the person of Mr. J. A. Conroy, who shortly after estab-
lished the force on a more permanent basis. The police
at this period, it should be mentioned, were paid from the
Convict Funds.

Known as the " Enrolled Force," and composed largely
of men who had served in the army or the Royal Irish Con-
stabulary, these policemen had the convict gangs par-
ticularly under their eyes. The prison parties were mostly
employed in making roads, and the troopers' duty was to
ride from one gang to another to see that all was well. Fre-
quently they had to pass on prisoners from one patrol party
to another in transferring the same across country, as, for
example, from Fremantle to Perth, from Perth to Guildford,
and so on. With the convicts also were the regular warders,
who were assisted by good-conduct prisoners deputed to act
as special constables. At times the temptation to escape
was too strong to be resisted, and convict after convict made
a vain attempt to gain freedom in the bush. Only one or
two ever succeeded in getting away to Adelaide, covering
the whole distance on foot. To the mounted police with
their black trackers fell the task of hunting down these poor
wretches, and others, known as absconders," who had been
assigned to settlers on ticket-of-leave and who similarly
endeavoured to break from bondage.

In these early years the police were regulated by three
ordinances. 1 By the end of 1861 it became essential to
reorganise the force, and a Police Act (25 Victoria, No. 15)
was passed. This statute made provision for the appoint-
ment of a Superintendent to control the force for duty in

1 12 Victoria, No. 20 ; 16 Victoria, No. 19 ; and 23 Victoria, No. 6.


different parts of the State, and for the appointment of
Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Sub-Officers and men. The
Chief of Police of this time was Superintendent W. Hogan,
who had succeeded Sir A. T. C. Campbell (the successor to
Mr. Conroy) in January 1861. The earliest consecutive
departmental records date from Superintendent Hogan's
accession to office, and there is no doubt that the force as
now constituted owed its origin to him.

For ten months, from July 1866 to April 1867, Major
R. H. Crampton held the position of Acting Superintendent
of Police, pending the decision of the Government with
regard to the next appointment. Eventually Mr. G. E. C.
Hare was selected, this officer continuing in office until May
1871. He was then succeeded by Captain M. S. Smith, in
whose reign the title of the head of the police force was
changed from Superintendent to Commissioner.

On the death of Captain Smith in 1887 the post was
offered to Lieut.-Colonel G. B. Phillips, who acted as Com-
missioner until 1900. Within these few years the colony
made great strides owing to the discovery of the rich gold-
fields at Cue, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. To cope with
these new conditions and the sudden increase in population
the force was considerably augmented, especially in the
mounted branch. Patrols and escorts for gold convoys
were supplied by the police, while a strict surveillance was
kept over the diggings. This period, however, is dealt with
in a separate chapter, and need not detain us here.

From 1900 down to the present time the Chief of Police
has been Captain Fred A. Hare, who, previous to his appoint-
ment, had been acting as Warden of the East Coolgardie
Goldfields. Captain Hare entered the service in 1882 to
become Inspector for the Southern Districts, but after a



term as private secretary and A.D.C. to Governor Sir
Frederick Napier Broome, he accepted the post of Govern-
ment Resident at Wyndham, in the north-west. Thence
he was transferred to Albany, in the south, in 1887, after
which he officiated as Resident Magistrate at York until his
appointment as Goldfields Warden.

Under Commissioner Hare's control the police force of
the colony has been brought to a high pitch of efficiency.
Despite the immense area to be covered Western Australia
embraces 975,920 square miles there are only 461 police
officers and men to undertake the work, yet it is done, and
done well. The trooper police, the mounted men, alone
number about 180, exclusive of officers. For the most part
they are distributed over the western and northern districts
where there is need for patrols. At Geraldton there is one
trooper ; Dongarra, Minginew and Yalgoo have one each ; in
the Murchison country there is one stationed at Cue, while
at Nannine there are three, at Meekatharra three, at Wiluna
two, and so on. 1 One man must watch over a whole district
and must play many parts in the execution of his duty.
Western Australia is no exception to the rule in calling
upon her police to perform a variety of roles. In addition
to the ordinary criminal work the trooper may have to
act as Clerk of Courts, Mining Registrar or Crown Lands
Inspector, collect statistics relating to stock, crops, and the
area of land under cultivation, and make inquiries in con-
nection with immigration, taxation, labour conditions, and

1 The distribution of the mounted police non-commissioned officers
and men over the twelve divisions of the State is as follows : Metro-
politan, 27 ; Fremantle, 10 ; Swan, 7 ; South- Western, 17 ; Eastern,
12 ; Western, 15 ; Albany, 6 ; N. Coolgardie, 14 ; E. Coolgardie, 16 ; Mur-
chison, 19 ; Roebourne, 13 ; Kimberley, 23. There are also 51 native
trackers employed.



in fact anything about which any Government Department
may demand information.

As is the case in South Australia and Queensland, the
trooper in the western State meets with his hardest work in
the outlands, where the aboriginal population still roams
the country. The north-western portion of West Australia
was explored fitfully by Surveyor-General Roe, by Grey,
Warburton, and Giles in the early days of settlement, but
the first expedition to really make known the value of the
northern districts was that led by Mr. Alexander Forrest,
a brother of the Right Hon. Sir John Forrest, P.O., G.C.M.G.
In 1879 the party, consisting of six white men and two natives,
explored the great Fitzroy River, discovered and named the
King Leopold Ranges, and traversed a large portion of the
country round the Ord River. The region was found to be
rich in pastoral land, and it was not long before cattle and
sheep stations were being established there. A little later,
in 1884, it received a further impetus through the discovery
of the Kimberley goldfield, which has been worked with great

In the record of mounted police work in these northern
districts of the State the natives figure prominently. With
the advent of stockmen came many opportunities to " lift "
cattle, and as the blacks grew more daring the raids increased
in frequency. The Kimberley black is as good a specimen
of his race as can be found in the whole of the continent. He
is well-developed physically, and has been a fighting man
" from way back." The police were soon called out to
check the depredations of the cattle-killers, and to protect
the scattered stations from attacks. Among the more
serious crimes of the eighties was the murder of Mr. John
Durack, a well-known pioneer of the Ord River district.


Sergeant Truslove and Trooper Strickland got out after the
blacks in this instance, and, after being nearly drowned hi a
flooded stream, had a narrow escape from dying of starvation
and thirst in the wilds. There was, too, the murder of Dr.
Vines at Braeside, in the Roebourne district. The station
was attacked by natives in September of 1889, and its occu-
pants speared. For this crime Nowarong, Dandy Jim and
other aboriginals were executed.

The killing of Stephen Grace, prospector, in 1907 will
be remembered by many people. Grace was hi camp with
three other men in the Mackay Ranges, two hundred miles
north of Wiluna, and was visited by natives, to whom food
was given. In return for this kindness the little party was
later surprised, the blacks leaping upon them with short
stabbing spears. Grace and another man were both
wounded, the former, as it proved, mortally. For the
purpose of hunting down the murderers the Government
requisitioned the services of Mr. Baumgarten, of the Mines
Water Supply Department, and several of his camels. The
country was thickly covered with spinif ex, and was unsuitable
for horses. Thanks to these valuable aids Constable Doody
was enabled to get upon the track of the culprits.

The reference above to the perils experienced by mounted
policemen in traversing difficult country reminds us of the
provision that is made, wherever possible, for a water
supply in an otherwise arid region. What are known as
" soaks " are established at various points, and no traveller
would be wise to venture any great distance without proper
knowledge of these essentials to his existence.

A " soak " is formed by digging away the sand from the
base of a granite rock, in some hollow of which below the
surface drainage water is almost sure to be found. When

-316 -


a selector looks round for water in an inland district where
he pitches his camp, his first thought is for a rock of this
description. In many cases the natives have made " soaks "
for their own use, scraping out the sand with their hands,
and they take care to keep them always open. Some such
ready-made reservoirs are now being rendered more per-
manent by Government engineers, who enclose the basin in
order to prevent any unnecessary leakage of the water.

In these same rock formations, which are met with in
various parts of the interior desert country, there are fre-
quently what are called " gnamma holes." These depres-
sions in the granite naturally vary considerably in size.
They may be one or several feet in diameter and of shallow
or great depth. A large " gnamma hole " is capable of
holding 20,000 gallons. The origin of the holes is somewhat
of a puzzle to scientists. " It looks," says one writer, " as
if their cause was the decomposing of a belt of iron-stone
in the granite, or a dyke composed of softer material, which
the natives may have helped to clear out. The rock in
which they are formed is often high above the surrounding
plains, and shows no signs of ever having been caused by
erosion from water. They only get filled by surface drain-
age when a heavy thunderstorm breaks over them."

It was by a " soak " in the Murchison country some years
ago that a grim tragedy was enacted. A party of drovers
was making northward with three hundred head of cattle
and a number of horses. After striking camp one day two
brothers named Clarkson pushed ahead of the rest and rode
in the direction of a well-known water-hole. The season,
however, had been an exceptionally dry one, and the rock
bottom stared them in the face without a vestige of moistur*
on it. One of the two men dropped exhausted by the hole,



overcome by the heat and the torments of thirst. The
other bravely struggled on in the hope of finding another
" soak," and of so saving both their lives. He found it,
but he never returned. When a search party, including
two mounted policemen, got upon the trail, they discovered
a tree to which was fastened a piece of paper with the mes-
sage : " It is 5 o'clock. Am pushing on for water. Will
come back." A little farther on, near a " soak," from
which he had filled his water-bag, was his dead body. At
the moment of success he had been speared by a hostile
mob of blacks. His brother, meanwhile, had died where he
had thrown himself down.

The searchers in time rounded up the murderers, who
were holding a triumphant corrobboree, and were offered
three boys as the alleged culprits. However, further
investigation resulted in the capture of an old black who
tremblingly confessed to the deed. He was carried off, but
was subsequently released, as the evidence against him
was deemed insufficient.

In the calendar of native crime which we are passing
under review the most sensational case, undoubtedly, is
that in which a trooper policeman named Richardson met
his death. This occurred in 1894. Richardson, who was
stationed in the Robinson River district, had been out to
arrest natives wanted for cattle-killing and for absconding
from gaol. He had collected in all seventeen prisoners,
among them " some of the worst characters on the River."
All were chained together in a line. On the way back to
Derby the constable learnt that one Eelemarra, or " Paddy,"
a notoriously bad lot, was in the neighbourhood," and he
determined to capture him. Accordingly, he detailed two
native assistants, " Pigeon " and " Captain," to carry out



the arrest. The two trackers performed their duty success-
fully, but while bringing back their man to the chain-gang
Pigeon concocted a treacherous plot. Richardson was alone
and at their mercy ; he was weak, too, having barely
recovered from an attack of fever. If the others joined him
the trooper's death would be easily accomplished and the
prisoners many of them his friends could be freed.

To win over Captain and Eelemarra to this plan was an
easy matter. Nor was it difficult to find an opportunity to
catch Richardson napping. Soon after being rejoined by
his assistants, the trooper ordered a mid-day halt at Lillma-
loora, an old disused station which was often occupied by
the police as a rest-house. The building had a long central
passage running from front to back. In this sheltered place
he lay down to rest, feeling every confidence in his boys,
Pigeon and Captain, who remained outside hi charge of the
prisoners. Pigeon, it may be said, had saved his master's
life only a few weeks previously when the two had been
attacked by some Barker natives, and the possibility of
treachery never entered the policeman's head.

So Richardson stretched himself on the cool floor of the
passage, through which a soft, pleasant breeze was blowing,
and read a copy of the Police Gazette until he dozed. Then
they killed him. Pigeon, it is presumed, stood right over
the prostrate man and shot him through the forehead with
a Winchester rifle. Captain and Eelemarra used a revolver
not that there was any need to so far as poor Richardson
was concerned, but in order to implicate them in the crime
Pigeon insisted on their firing ; he had no intention of
taking the onus of the affair on his own shoulders alone.
After the deed was accomplished the irons were struck off
the waiting prisoners, and all made off into the hills.

319 ~


With the party, be it noted, were several gins, from whom,
eventually, the details of the murder were obtained.

The next event in this aboriginal drama was the traged}
of Burke and Gibbs. These two men and another, Fred
Edgar by name, were travelling to the Upper Fitzroy with
a herd of five hundred cattle and a dray. On the morning
of November 8, only five days after the black business at
Lillmaloora, the three drovers had a quarrel. Edgar, who
knew of Richardson's murder, objected to his companions
not carrying firearms. He, by the way, rode in the dray.
Burke and Gibbs, with the help of two natives, looked after
the cattle. But Edgar's reproof would seem to have made
no impression on the others. When they reached Wingina
they were still unarmed.

At this place the cattle went into the river to drink. As
they stirred up the water considerably and muddied it,
Burke and Gibbs went farther up the left bank. Having
refreshed themselves they sat on the sand and lit their pipes.
This was the moment for which Pigeon and his comrades
were waiting. Creeping up stealthily the leader of the blacks
shot both the men in the back. They jumped up instantly to
make a dash for their horses. Gibbs succeeded in mounting
and crossing the stream, but Burke's horse became restive,
and he could only get one foot into the stirrups. Eelemarra
now ran out from behind some rocks and shot him again,
using Richardson's double-barrelled breech-loading shot
gun. At the same time another native, Mullenbudden,
drove a spear into the poor fellow's side.

Meanwhile, Gibbs was faring equally badly. On the
other side of the river the Lillmaloora boundary fence
blocked his way, and Pigeon was able to get in another shot.
Georgie, Edgar's boy, who saw everything, could not say if



this second shot hit or not ; but Georgie was in the river with
only his eyes and nose above water. He said, however,
that Captain and Eelemarra both went after Gibbs, and it
was concluded that the former finished off the wounded
man by choking him. Edgar's other boy, Nugger, rode back
to his master with the news, and the drover unyoked his
bullocks, giving a gun to his driver, Sambo. He then
galloped to Mr. Lukin's station, a few miles distant, to
procure help. Sambo and Nugger waited some time to see
if Gibbs had escaped, and on his not showing up they, too,
proceeded to Lukin's.

Down by the river Pigeon was preparing for the pursuit
which he knew was sure to follow. The bodies of the two
dead drovers were dragged into the road above the bank,
and left there in full view of any one approaching. On the
top of some hills of the Barrier Range some gins were posted
to watch for the police, a signal being arranged by which
they were to notify the other natives. When thus apprised,
Pigeon and his followers meant to creep up under the river
bank and shoot the police as the latter were examining the
bodies. But before taking up their position the blacks
visited the drovers' camp, sacking the dray and stealing
all the guns and revolvers left there, together with a large
quantity of ammunition. They took the boy Georgie
with them, in the hope of persuading him to join them,
but he refused. Pigeon let him go when they decamped,
saying that he " did not want to kill black fellow, only

The police officer at Derby, Sub-Inspector 0. Drewry,
was prompt in following up the criminals. A party of
mounted police, accompanied by Edgar, and strengthened
by several black trackers, set out on the llth. The trackers

321 Y

painted themselves as if on the war-path and carried native
weapons instead of guns, so that they might come to close
quarters with the fugitives before an alarm was raised.
They were instructed to get friendly with Pigeon and seize
their chance to smash the blacks' rifles on the rocks. If it
came to a fight they were to spear the leaders rather than
let them escape.

Pigeon's scheme to entrap the police failed, and on their
side the troopers met with ill-success. But the latter located
their quarry, who had fled into a fastness of the Barrier
Range. In accordance with a concerted plan the pursuing
party now split up into three bodies, one under Sub-Inspector
Drewry working round to the northward, while another,
under Corporal Cadden, took a southerly direction. The
third body, which included several Queensland trackers 1 and
local natives who knew the country, approached the hills
from the east side. The movement was carried out in the
hours of darkness. All went well until the blacks were
seemingly cornered. Then it was discovered that the strong-
hold was not the trap that it had been believed to be. This
particular hill was honeycombed with caves, which afforded
many avenues of escape. After a sharp engagement, in
which several of the blacks were known to be wounded, the
police made an attempt to rush the place. They reached the
top of the rocky hill safely, but found that Pigeon, Captain
and Eelemarra had slipped through their fingers. They
now saw that their shots could have done little real damage,
as the entrances to the underground passages were well

1 The presence of the Queensland black trackers is accounted for by
the objection to having armed local natives in the district without a
sufficiency of strangers among them to ensure their not joining the fugitives.
Natives taken from adjacent stations were not above suspicion if
left to their own device.



guarded by broad flat rocks. It was a position that could
have been held by an astute enemy. The only captures
made by the troopers were some gins from whom valuable
information was gleaned, and a number of stolen guns with
ammunition,, tomahawks and axes. In one of the caves was
found Gibbs' watch, still going.

To make a long story short, the mounted police kept up
the chase into the Leopold Ranges, travelling nearly three
hundred miles, and drove the natives before them. At one
deserted camp they came upon several articles that had
belonged to Trooper Richardson and to Edgar. But for
the timely warning of some gins the murderers would have
been caught at one point ; the police were able to lay their
hands only on a few of the one-time chain-gang prisoners
In this vain pursuit December passed, and in the following
month, Sub-Inspector Drewry retired to Derby, as the rainy
season was making the country too difficult for travelling.

An additional check to the hunt was afforded by the
nature of the ground over which the tracking had to be done.
The Barrier Range on the south side, where the party had
principally to work, rises sheer out of the plain like a wall of
rock. It is composed of carboniferous limestone which
takes the form of pinnacles sharply pointed and smooth-
sided. The action of water in the course of time has created
thousands of caves, passages and crevasses, among which are
water holes, all known to the natives. The limestone is of
the hardest kind a piece almost as thin as the blade of
a knife will carry a man without crumbling and tracking on
it was next to impossible. That the police were more than
ordinarily hampered in their work will be understood. For
the time it was deemed wisest to call a halt and let the
country quieten down a bit. The blacks were known to be



in the ranges and a special party was detailed to watch for
any movement on their part.

At this juncture Inspector (now Superintendent) W. C.
Lawrence was sent into the field by Commissioner Phillips,
to take command of the operations and renew the pursuit.
The band must have exhausted its ammunition, owing to
the quantity recovered by the troopers under Drewry, and
a continuous " drive " might prove successful in the end.
Lawrence, therefore, set to work to scour the Fitzroy country
thoroughly. A large force of mounted men and trackers
penetrated the hills and patrolled the Robinson and Fitzroy
Rivers, having for one of their guides a settler who had been
badly speared by the blacks in a recent raid.

By March, when the police had covered a distance of
close on 1,200 miles, a great deal had been effected. The
natives, to the relief of stockmen and other whites, were
driven far up country, while Captain and a few other lead-
ing spirits were captured. The ex-police tracker was tried
for the murder of Richardson and duly executed. Pigeon,
however, still remained at large somewhere in the north-west,
and for a long time no news of his whereabouts leaked out.
It was three years, in fact, before retribution overtook this
black desperado.

Early in 1897 the Fitzroy police reported the murder of a
man named Thomas Jasper at a station in the Oscar Range,
hi the West Kimberley district. Pigeon was believed to be
at the head of the attacking party. This surmise proved to
be correct. His tracks having been followed up by Sub-
Inspector Ord and a special body of troopers, he was cornered
in his retreat among the hills and shot down by two of the
Lennard police, Constables Buckland and Anderson. Many
of his accomplices escaped in the network of caves and



passages, which somewhat resembled those found in the
Barrier Range. But with the death of their principal leader
the blacks gave no further trouble, and the Fitzroy detach-
ment ere long was able to report that all was quiet in that
corner of the north-west.

After Pigeon, the most notorious black criminal of recent
years was undoubtedly " Major," who leapt into the public
eye in 1908. This native was a servant in the employ of

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 24 of 32)