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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the Darling Downs, voiced the opinion of many others when
he stated that his gang of twenty-two assigned convicts
were worth any forty men he had since seen. This squatter
party went still farther. Desirous of advancing the cause
of Separation they were ready to secure it, if possible, at
the cost of ticket-of-leave labour. A Northern Districts
Separation Association was formed, and a petition was
despatched requesting her Majesty to erect Moreton Bay into
a separate colony and employ it as a penal settlement.

In opposition to this section was another in which the
moving spirits were several " free " immigrants who had
reached the country under the auspices of Dr. John Dun-
more Lang. 1 Anti- transportation meetings were held in

1 The energetic advocate of encouraging artisans and other " free "
emigrants to settle in Australia. Dr. Lang was largely instrumental
in bringing about the separation both of Victoria and Queensland. In
1847 and the two succeeding years he chartered three vessels for Port
Phillip, and three for Moreton Bay, which brought out several thousand!

3 68


Brisbane, and the|agitation grew in strength. After resolv-
ing that " While we admit that there is a great want of
labour in this part of the colony, there are no terms, how-
ever favourable, that the Imperial Government could offer
us that would induce us, with our own consent, to receive
convicts from the mother country to this part of the colony,"
the protesters formally petitioned for the immediate cessa-
tion of the system. Their prayer was heard. In April 1851,
the Sydney Morning Herald announced : " His Excellency
the Governor has received a despatch from the Secretary
of jState intimating that her Majesty has been advised to
rescind the Order-in-Council making the colony a penal
settlement." Before this decision had been arrived at,
however, the transport Bangalore had been sent on her way to
Moreton Bay with nearly 300 " exiles " and their families.
She arrived a few weeks after the above official proclama-
tion, and with the landing of her human cargo Queensland
saw transportation to her shores definitely cease.

In the meantime the little colony had other troubles
to combat. The invasion of the pastoral lands by settlers
with their flocks and herds in time brought about the usual
complications with the natives. Murders of station owners
and other outrages became so frequent that the Government
sent a small detachment of soldiers to Helidon, a township on
the road to the Downs, to keep the blacks in order. This
military guard remained there for three years, by the end
of which time that part of the country had been rendered
safe. In 1848, for the protection of the squatters on the
Burnett and Condamine Rivers, a force of native mounted
police was raised, this being the first corps of its kind in

of prospective settlers. During his political career Dr. Lang was involved
in much controversy. He died at Sydney in 1878.

369 BB


Queensland. The troopers were recruited in New South
Wales by Frederick Walker, the explorer, who had as
second in command Lieutenant Marshall. The experiment
proved highly successful, and ultimately the force was
increased to allow of detachments being distributed over
the northern districts. For its upkeep a tax was levied
among the squatters generally. Then, after several years
of useful service, the police were disbanded by the Govern-
ment which was seeking to economise and which was lulled
into a false sense of security by the comparatively peaceful
condition of the country.

The folly of this step soon became evident. The Aus-
tralian aboriginal in his natural state must be ruled by
fear, and the removal of the only check upon them gave free
rein to the natives' inclinations. Tragedy now followed
upon tragedy, until in 1857 the Government was induced to
re-establish the force. Thus the Native Mounted Police of
Queensland, a corps that has been closely identified with its
development, came into being for the second time, to
commence an uninterrupted service that extended over
forty years.

The usefulness of the black troopers in preserving order
was undoubted. They did their work, in a sense, even
better than a white force could have done it. But at the
same time their methods were not always commendable.
The savage enjoyment which a native displays in killing
one of a different tribe often impelled the police to extreme
measures. In those early pioneering days an outrage com-
mitted by a black generally led to a wholesale slaughtering
of the offender's tribe. The most terrible scenes were wit-
nessed, the white officers of the corps being often active
participators in the massacres or passive consenting parties,



powerless to hold the troopers back once their blood lust had
asserted itself.

When two natives were reported to have murdered a
settler on the Condamine, a body of police rode out to arrest
them. The blacks were found holding a corrobboree with
the rest of their tribe, and the troopers, surrounding them,
dealt out so-called justice in a fiendish manner. Volley
after volley was fired into the crowd of painted, dancing
figures, for whom there was no escape. Then they leapt in to
finish the work at closer quarters. An officer of police, whose
name is mercifully suppressed, is credited with having cruelly
tortured a native boy who was suspected of complicity in
some crime. He ordered the prisoner to be tied by his
wrists to a beam in the verandah of the police barracks, and
then himself " flogged and kicked his victim until he was
so maimed that he died."

There are many far too many similar instances of
brutality placed on record. What has been urged on
the other side, that the subjection of the natives by force of
arms was imperative, has much truth in it. The aborigines
were warlike and treacherous, and their attacks on their
white neighbours were characterised by acts of revolting
atrocity, but their provocation was often great. The story
of one colony's black warfare is like another's. To kill and,
if possible, exterminate the natives has been the policy
mainly followed in past years. When all is said and done,
the treatment of the blacks by the mounted police and by
the majority of the squatters must ever remain a dark blot
on Queensland's page of history. 1

1 In 1861 a select committee of the Queensland Legislative Assembly was
appointed to conduct an inquiry into the working of the Native Mounted
Police force and the condition of the aborigines generally. A considerable
number of witnesses were examined and certain reforms recommended.



By 1860, the year following upon Queensland's separa-
tion from New South Wales and assumption of responsible
government, the Native Mounted Police was represented by
three lieutenants, eleven second-lieutenants, nine camp
sergeants, and a hundred and twenty troopers. The uniform
was of dark green, the trousers having a red stripe down the
side. The cap was of white drill with a peak sticking straight
out, but this was at times replaced by one of heavier mater-
ial and black or dark green in colour, with a red band.
On active service in the bush the troopers paid little atten-
tion to appearances. Trousers and caps were the first
things to be discarded, and a tunic might or might not be
worn. A Garibaldi shirt enjoyed much popularity, but
for comfort and convenience the black policeman preferred
to ride bare to the skin. In the distribution of the force
a district was allotted six or eight troopers under the com-
mand of one white officer. At first the military rank of
lieutenant was retained by the latter, but after the passing
of the Police Bill of 1863 officers were known as Inspectors
and Sub-Inspectors.

The " Black Police," as the native mounted troopers are
best known, were something of an irregular force. Mr.
E. B. Kennedy, who served for many years with them hi the
northern districts, tells us much hi his book of the corps'
earlier days. 1 No examinations were required of those
desirous to join. So long as a man bore a good record, could
ride and understand the use of firearms, he was eligible to
become an officer. As for drill, beyond a few simple
forms, or any sort of red tape, there was nothing to worry
about. There was no need for it, in fact. The true " drill "

1 The Black Police of Queensland, to which the reader may be referred
for much valuable and interesting information concerning the force.

37 2


belonged to the " boys," whose training had begun as soon
as they were able to walk. To be able to scout well, to
swim and to fight, were all the qualifications demanded of

Mr. Kennedy joined the force as Acting Sub-Inspector
at 9 a month and rations. His instructions, written out
briefly on official paper by his senior officer, were as follows :
" You will patrol the stations named in the margin, render-
ing assistance to the squatters in the event of their calling
on you for protection from the aborigines. Keep a full and
daily journal of your doings, etc." Thereafter he was em-
ployed in making trips of six or eight weeks' duration at a
time, with a patrol consisting of himself, five " boys," and
eight or ten horses, the spare ones being wanted to carry
a tent and rations. The troopers were armed with muzzle-
loading smooth-bore carbines, but not with any other
weapon. It is not counted for wisdom to trust a black with
a revolver, any more than it is deemed wise to trust him
out of your sight. The cardinal rule in the Police has been :
Keep your troopers, if armed, in front of you. Over-con-
fidence in the loyalty of his " boys " has cost more than
one N.M.P. officer his life, just as it did Mounted Constable
Richardson of the W.A. force.

Nevertheless, there was some safeguard against treachery
in the fact that the troopers were enlisted from different
tribes, among whom there was no camaraderie. A black
from the north had nothing in common with one from the
south ; in natural conditions each would have killed the other
with keen relish. There was, too, something in the status
that was given the troopers by their uniform. " To show
how they used to pride themselves on their amour propre
and position under their officers," says Mr. Kennedy, " I



was talking to a ' boy ' in a hut l one evening, when a station
hand put his head into the window with the remark : ' 1

thought I smelt a black ! ' Before I could realise

what had happened, there was a rush, the trooper seemed
to take a header through the open window and was pur-
suing the insulter of his skin, who only saved his own by
gaining the door of the main building and bolting it behind
him. I need hardly remark that all officers treated their
' boys ' with as much civility as if these latter had been the
home-bred Tommy Atkins."

There were many native raids and outrages to keep the
Black Police busy, although nothing occurred of quite so
terrible a nature as the massacre at Cullinaringo, the station
of Mr. Wills, hi 1861. On this historic occasion no fewer
than twenty-three whites perished at the hands of the
blackfellows. They were avenged by Lieutenant Cave, of
the N.M.P., and his detachment of troopers. The police,
under the able control of Mr. G. Murray (afterwards chief
magistrate at Brisbane), continued to carry out their duties
efficiently, and despite the charges of cruelty and inhumanity
that have been levelled against them, they certainly have
contributed largely towards the later development of the
colony. But " the whirligig of time brings in his revenges."
The fuller settlement of Queensland, the extension of the
railway and telegraph and other concomitants of civilisation,
in due course lessened the need for their services. In 1900
the corps was disbanded, and those of its members who
cared to re-engage were attached to the general police force
as native trackers.

1 The barracks for the accommodation of N.M.P. officers were built
of logs, roofed with bark. The black troopers had " gunyahs," or huts,
of their own outside the main building. These gunyahs, which stood in a
line, were mere sheds of bark open fio the air all round.



Following upon the constitution of Queensland as a
separate colony in 1859 a police force distinct from that of the
Native Mounted Police was established for ordinary duty in
the capital. It was several years before white troopers were
regularly stationed in the outlying townships ; the black
police were sufficient to patrol the country. One of the
first needs for a white police force arose with the discovery
of gold in the colony. The first " find " was at Canoona,
on the Fitzroy River and about thirty miles from Rockhamp-
ton. This was in June 1858. A " rush " thither ensued,
and ere long fifteen thousand miners had gathered upon
the field. There was not room for all, and while some stayed
to settle on the land and to lay the foundations of the
future prosperous town of Rockhampton, others went pros-
pecting in various directions. To encourage discovery the
Government offered rewards of large sums.

The next goldfields to be opened up were those at
Calliope, Crocodile Creek and other places in the vicinity of
Rockhampton ; at Mount Wheeler, Eidsvold, Gympie, the
Palmer River, and Charters Towers. That of Gympie proved
to be exceedingly rich hi its returns, several huge nuggets
being found there, while Charters Towers has taken its
place as the leading goldfield in the State. But all these
discoveries were eclipsed in 1878 by the revelation of the
Mount Morgan mine. Here was a veritable mountain of
gold, such as no one would have believed to exist outside the
pages of the Arabian Nights.

Its history, moreover, savours of romance. The hill
was originally occupied by two selectors, Donald and Sandy
Gordon, who came to grief through losing their cattle from
drought and other causes. They then found it necessary
to obtain fresh employment, and one of them, Sandy,



took service under two brothers, named Morgan, at Mount
Wheeler. One day a piece of gold-bearing stone was shown
to the Morgans as a specimen from the " run " owned by the
Gordons. The former were practical miners and investigated
the hill, to their satisfaction. The " find " was no ordinary
one, and they bargained with the proprietors for its sale,
eventually purchasing the selection at the rate of 1 an
acre. The portion of the hill that was outside Gordon's
fence was secured later under mining lease. In this way the
Morgans became possessed of what proved to be the most
valuable gold mine in the world. The hill which cost 640
to buy was sold within a few years for 8,000,000. A com-
pany was ultimately formed to work it, and so enormous
has been the yield that the shares have actually touched a
market value of nearly 18,000,000.

To this early period of Queensland's mining days belongs
one of the saddest and most tragic events in the annals of
the trooper police. This was the murder of a sergeant and
constable of a gold escort while travelling in the Peak Downs
district. The leading figure in the drama was John Thomas
Griffin,who held the important positions of Police Magistrate,
Gold Commissioner, Commissioner of Crown Lands, and
Inspector of Police at the town of Clermont, two hundred
miles to the north-west of Rockhampton. At this place
there was a newly-opened goldfield, which was being worked
very profitably. Every month or so a consignment of gold
that had been purchased by the local bank was sent down
under escort to the Australian Joint Stock Bank at Rock-
hampton, the escort then returning with the equivalent
value in notes and bullion. The police*guard consisted of a
sergeant and two troopers.

Inspector Griffin at the time had got into pecuniary

I. A firing party t 2. In the " gunyah" lines.


difficulties, but no one probably connected this fact with the
circumstance that he one day decided to accompany the
gold escort on its trip. He gave out, as his reason for doing
so, that he suspected an attempt at robbery on the part
of some bushrangers. The sinister design which actuated
him, as was shortly after revealed, was now thwarted by the
officer in charge of the escort, Sergeant Julian. When his
superior ordered him to camp at the Mackenzie River Cross-
ing on the way down the sergeant refused. He condemned
the spot as unsafe, owing to the thickness of the scrub.
Griffin thereupon made no further effort to interfere, and
the party rode into Rockhampton to deliver up its charge to
the bank.

On the following day the escort, with its fresh pack of
specie, started on the return journey. The Inspector accom-
panied it to its first camp, which was made near a lagoon
not many miles out of the town. He had intended to leave
the troopers here and to make a visit to his fiancee, who
lived in the neighbourhood. But, as things fell out, this plan
miscarried. In the evening, while the three members of the
escort were busy with the horses, Griffin set the billy boiling
for tea and had all ready for them when they came in.
That he had tampered with the pot was clear to at least one
of the party. The bitter taste of the tea, which caused them
to spit it out instantly, aroused Julian's suspicions, and he
told the Inspector that he wished to resign his post. There
had been bad blood between the two men for some time,
the sergeant standing in some dread of his superior.

The escort now returned to Rockhampton, where
Julian remained behind. When a fresh start was made one
of the troopers was appointed acting-sergeant in the other's
place, so that^the party consisted of three all told. All



went well on the journey until the crossing at the Mackenzie
River was reached. Then, in accordance with the Inspector's
instructions, a camp was formed in the scrub. He himself
purposed going no farther than this point, having left his
horse at " Bedford's," a public-house which they had passed
a mile back on the road. With Bedford he had arranged
to ride into Rockhampton early the next morning.

The public-house proprietor received his visitor at the
hour named and could not help remarking upon his haggard
appearance. The Inspector protested that he was quite
well and that nothing had happened beyond a scare from
bushrangers. He had fired off his pistols in the night to
frighten off the intruders. The two men then mounted
and went on their way, but at the lagoon already alluded to
Griffin left his companion and turned his horse in the direc-
tion of his lady-love's house. That was all that was seen of
him until three or four days afterwards, when a mailman
brought the startling intelligence that the two escort
troopers had been found dead in the bush at the Crossing.
They had evidently been "stuck up," robbed and murdered,
as the camp was in great disorder and the specie bags had

In Rockhampton there was the utmost consternation.
Griffin at once came forward and formed a party to inquire
into the matter, the other members being Sub-Inspector
Elliott (the police officer stationed in the town), the bank
manager, and two doctors. To these was added a black
tracker. All the way to the scene of the tragedy the In-
spector betrayed unusual nervousness. He was seen to be
suffering under a great strain, especially after they had
passed Bedford's place. Sub-Inspector Elliott, remembering
particularly the strange story told him by Sergeant Julian,

-378 -


put two and two together and came very near to guessing
the truth. His suspicions received confirmation at the camp,
where the doctors' examination of the dead men proved
that they had been poisoned by strychnine. As they had
evidently shown signs of recovering from its effects the
murderer, or murderers, had given them their quietus by
putting a bullet through the head of each.

The black tracker, meanwhile, was busy searching the
ground all about the camp, and the only tracks he could find
were those of a man with a small boot. Into these footprints
Griffin's foot fitted exactly.

" My God ! " exclaimed the Inspector, putting up his
hands to his face. " I can't bear this any longer ! "

Elliott came forward and touched him on the shoulder.
" I arrest you for the murder of these two troopers," he
said. And, producing a pair of handcuffs, he took his senior
officer prisoner.

The end of this miserable story is that after due trial
Griffin was convicted of the crime and executed. Under
cross-examination it was elicited from him that he had
appropriated certain police funds, among other peculations,
but nothing could induce him to disclose the whereabouts
of the gold escort's treasure. The secret was revealed
only at the last moment to the warder who attended the
condemned man, and then the bundle of notes and gold was
found to have been stuffed inside a hollow log close by the
old lagoon camp. It had been carried there by Griffin on
the morning that he and Bedford had ridden back towards

This tragic tale of treachery is fortunately without
parallel in the police records of Queensland or any State.
The other crimes which stand out prominently in the New-



gate Calendar of the colony are associated with native
raids, cattle-stealing and the like. Among these there is
the case of the Kenneths, that will be remembered for
the sensation it caused.

The Kenneth family, comprising the father and two sons,
had a cattle " run " on the South Australian border. In
their district they enjoyed an unenviable reputation for
" duffing," being very justly suspected of driving off other
people's unbranded colts and steers and adding them to
their own herds. It was impossible to see, otherwise, how
they could have got together such a large stock as they
possessed. One day a branded bullock belonging to an
adjacent station was found on their " run," and a mounted
constable went up to investigate the case. On his way
to the Kenneths the trooper called at the station in ques-
tion, and, against his will, was joined by the manager of it.
The latter, as was well known, " had his knife into the
offenders," and the policeman feared that there would be
trouble. He was right. The presence of the station manager
precipitated matters.

What happened was described by the native tracker
who made the third of the party. He was not on the spot
at the first moment of the encounter, but as he was bringing
in the horses he heard the men quarrelling and, turning the
corner of the house, saw the manager knocked down. One
of the younger Kenneths then fired at the fallen man.

" Shoot the blankety nigger ! " was the shout that
greeted the tracker as he stood surveying the scene. The
next instant a bullet whizzed past him, burying itself hi the
woodwork of the building. But though he was pursued and
again fired upon the " blankety nigger " escaped to ride
to the nearest mounted police station and spread the news.



A police party searched the Kenneths' station in vain for
traces of both the manager and the constable, and interro-
gated its inmates with like ill-success. The Kenneths said
the two men had ridden on after the quarrel. They had
promised the bullock should be returned. It wasn't their
fault that it had got on to their run, to begin with. As for
the shooting, the " nigger " had lied. There had been no
" gun trouble." This was all very plausible, but there were
some tell-tale shot-holes in the wall of the station house.
The police renewed their search with greater zest, and at
last happened upon a clue.

In the remains of an old camp fire, at one end of the
" run " they found three or four policemen's buttons. That
was all left to tell of the fate that had befallen the missing
men, but it was enough to hang the Kenneth brothers. The
father, against whom the black was unable to directly
testify, was acquitted.

Of the many mounted police officers whose names are
inseparably linked with Queensland's history of D'Arcy
Uhr, Poingdestre, Aherne, and their famous contemporaries
it is impossible to speak here. Their deeds, for the most
part, are chronicled in stray books of reminiscences, hi the
pages of De Satge, Edwin Palmer, and other pioneers, but
they may yet be gathered together and so be given the
wider audience which they well merit. We must pass on

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 28 of 32)