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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forward towards the stockade, carrying banners and number-
ing between 2,500 and 3,000 strong. The police were drawn
up outside the stockade awaiting their coming. The mounted
police were in two divisions, thirty in one and fifteen in the
other. These men were posted on the right and front wing
of the stockade. The footmen and others were drawn up
in front of the left wing. In all the police force numbered
less than a hundred men. For arms they had carbines and
pistols, the mounted troopers having also swords. Captain
Zouch and Mr. Griffin, the Gold Commissioner, took com-
mand of operations, under them being Sub-Inspector
M'Lerie, (the son of Captain M'Lerie of the Sydney detach-
ment), and Sergeant-Ma j or Stevenson, an officer of tried

Having come near to the stockade, the leaders of the mob
announced that they demanded the release of the prisoners.
Captain Zouch replied that this could not be done, that the
men in custody would be brought before the court in the
usual course ; and both he and Mr. Commissioner Griffin did
their best to persuade the excited miners to disperse peace-
fully. Little heed, however, was paid to their words. The



mob was bent on freeing the prisoners, and it was evident
by the free display of weapons on their part that they would
not stop at violence to effect their object. Some of the
prominent malcontents now proposed to have an interview
with the prisoners. This was granted, and a body of miners
entered the stockade under police escort. The result of
their mission was only to further inflame the crowd's resolve
to free their comrades at any cost. Wild cheers and cries
of " Have 'em out ! Burn the gaol down ! " broke out, and
the police saw that matters were approaching a crisis.

" Very well," said Mr. Griffin, " the blame may rest with
you." The Commissioner then repeated from memory the
words of the Riot Act, in answer to which the mob opened
fire with a volley. At this Captain Zouch ordered the police
to advance, whereupon Sub-Inspector M'Lerie, at the head
of his division of mounted police, charged at the crowd with
drawn swords. The miners' ranks broke before this onset,
and although constant firing was kept up at the troopers
there was no organised opposition. Behind the mounted
men came the foot-police, firing steadily at intervals and
helping to drive the rabble towards the Burrangong Creek.
M'Lerie's troopers now rode back to re-form, and the other
division, under Sergeant-Major Stevenson, galloped forward
to complete the rout. As it was now dark this was no easy
task, but by this time the miners were beginning to lose
spirit. Once more an attack was made upon the stockade,
and once more a determined charge by the mounted troopers
carried the day. Scattered in all directions, and many of
them badly wounded by swords and bullets, the rioters melted
away and by 3 a.m. the battle of Lambing Flat was over.

But although the first victory had fallen to the police
the trouble was not ended. Eight miners had been killed in



the skirmish, and the fate of these added fuel to the fire of
the mob's resentment. In the morning there was a general
roll-up. Every able-bodied man at the diggings was im-
pressed into service, arms and ammunition were secured in
large quantities, and the men prepared for an assault on the
police stockade that should be final. It looked as if there
were going to be much bloodshed, and in no little alarm the
non-combatant settlers fled with their families into the hills
for safety.

The situation was now so serious that Captain Zouch
thought it wisest to carry off his prisoners to Yass and
apprise the Government of what had occurred. This was
accordingly done. The Colonial Secretary, Mr. Cowper,
recognised the urgency for dealing quickly and sharply with
such an outbreak, and ere long a large body of soldiers,
bluejackets (from H.M.S. Fawn lying at Sydney), and police
were marching towards the diggings. They arrived to find
Lambing Flat in a state of anarchy. The mob had wreaked
its vengeance first by burning down the police station, and
had then proceeded to wreck every other Government build-
ing on the fields. At the sight of so formidable an array,
however, the miners gave up the struggle. From that time
peace was restored, and the Flat experienced no further
trouble from rioting.

On its side the Government had also learnt a lesson. It
was clear to Mr. Cowper that the existing police system was
unsatisfactory, with its numerous sub-divisions that acted
independently of each other and had no cohesion. The
outbreak on the goldfields was to be responsible for a new
order of things, for a statute which was to formulate a force
that would meet all the varied requirements of the colony.
In 1862 the present Police Act (25 Viet. No. 16) passed into law.

49 E




Their origin The " bush " Van Diemen's Land types Jeffries and
Dunne Michael Howe Repeated escapes A price on his head
Capture and death Matthew Brady The fate of a traitor Attack
on Sorell Gaol Surrender to John Batman Misplaced sympathy
" Mosquito," bushranger Martin Cash Daring escape from Port
Arthur Threat to Sir John Franklin A successful trap In New
South Wales Outbreak at Bathurst Mounted Police and soldiers
in the field The Bushrangers Act Unwarranted arrests " Farm
constables " Jackey Jackey A Norfolk Island rising.

BUSHRANGING may be said to have had its origin in
two causes. In the first place, there was the
ineradicable taint in many of the convicts which impelled
them to revert to a career of crime with or without reason.
The natural instincts of the thief and murderer de-
manded to be satisfied. Secondly, life in the road-making
gangs or under a tyrannical master was often accompanied
by tortures which maddened a man to desperation. With
the bush at their very doors, there was every temptation to
burst their bonds and try the hazard of fortune in the wilds. 1

1 As every escapee who took to the bush was styled a " bushranger,"
the term was sometimes applied to men who sought this mode of life with-
out actually staining their hands with crime. These, however, were not
in the majority. Most of the convicts who broke prison were driven to
commit robberies in order to live. In the official Gazettes of the day one
finds the synonymous terms " bolter " and " absconder " almost as freely



But very few of the convicts who thus escaped from serfdom
enjoyed their freedom for any length of time. Some were
killed by the blacks, ever on the look-out for isolated white
men ; others were shot down red-handed by soldiers and
police ; others again were captured to expiate their crimes
on the gallows, or to be sentenced to long terms of imprison-

In speaking of the Australian " bush," be it said, one is
using a term which covers a variety of country. That of
the eastern and south-eastern states is mostly characterised
by gum-trees, black-green eucalypti, more or less thickly
clustering on gently undulating plains. These level
stretches extend for many hundreds of miles in unbroken
monotony. Where the mountain ranges break the sweep of
the plains the traveller finds more attraction in the mountain
ash and the box-tree, and the thick tangle of bush and fern
which clothe the slopes. On the broad reaches of the plain
there is no undergrowth, only grass which is burnt to a dull
brown in the heat of summer. This is one kind of " bush," a
country that as a rule well repays for the labour of clearing
and cultivation. Very different is the " bush," or " scrub,"
of the interior of southern and western Australia, where the
trees are replaced by stunted clumps of shrubs and by spiny
spinifex ; where the grass gives place to dreary wastes of
sand and stone ; and where there is a scarcity of water.

It is in these vast expanses behind the mountain ranges
that the sheep and cattle stations, Australia's principal source
of wealth, are to be found. Behind them again, stretching
farther and farther back, it is still " bush " of one kind or
another, a little-known country which the busliman speaks
of as the " back of beyond," the " Never-Never land," and
of which he will tell you new and wonderful stories without


end. Such, then, is the nature of the country which is
largely associated in our minds with the gangs of outlaws
that from time to time have infested it.

Of the earliest bushrangers for this term may be applied
to all and sundry prison-breakers the most notorious were
those who were associated with Van Diemen's Land. They
were characterised by a ferocity quite in keeping with the
nature of the class of criminals for whom the island was a
special reserve.

Neither New South Wales nor Victoria ever possessed a
ruffian of the calibre of Jeffries (appropriately named " The
Monster "), who drove a white woman a settler's wife
with her baby, before him into the bush, and dashed out the
infant's brains against a tree so that without its burden she
might walk faster ! Then there was the equally infamous
Dunne, of whom a revolting story is told. Having shot a
blackfellow whose " gin " he desired, he cut off the dead
man's head and made the woman wear it hung from her
neck by a string, while he compelled her by threats to accom-
pany him to his hiding-place. The bushrangers, Michael
Howe, Matthew Brady, Mosquito, Cash and Kavanagh, were
some of them little less than wild beasts in their worst
moments, and their exploits may be set down here as typical
of the lawlessness of those days.

Howe was a seaman and shipmaster in a small way in
England before he took to evil courses. Having been con-
victed of highway robbery he was transported to Van Die-
men's Land in 1812, there being assigned to a Mr. Ingle.
A servant's life (or a " dog's life," as he put it) on a station
by no means suited his taste, and in a little while he made his
escape to join a band of bush thieves led by a man named
Whitehead. This gang, it is said, was twenty strong, com-



prising an ex-soldier, and two native women who made
themselves invaluable as spies and trackers.

The first notable outrage they committed was to attack
the settlement of New Norfolk, where they " stuck up "
the settlers and obtained quantities of firearms and ammuni-
tion. Two other successful raids followed, but in the last one
Whitehead was seriously wounded. At his leader's request
Howe killed him, and, as the most dominant of the band,
he succeeded to the command. The new chief had no small
opinion of himself. He took the high-sounding title of
" Governor of the Ranges," drew up formal articles of mem-
bership which his followers had to sign, and exacted the
strictest obedience from them.

For some considerable time Howe evaded all pursuit and
raided at will. But his own treachery was eventually his
undoing. He had become attached to a native girl, known
as " Black Mary," an adherent who served him loyally. One
day a party of soldiers ran the pair very close, and the bush-
ranger, to save his own skin, fired at his weaker companion
to kill her before he took to his heels. However, his inten-
tion to prevent her falling into the hands of his enemies was
thwarted, for the bullets did not wound her mortally.
Black Mary was taken alive, and survived to head the next
pursuit after the ruffian. By her persistent tracking Howe
was so closely hunted that he at last sent a message to
Colonel Sorell, the Governor, offering to surrender on terms.
Extraordinary as it may appear, Sorell entered into negotia-
tions, the bargain at length being made that in return for a
pardon he should betray his comrades.

Howe yielded, and was consigned to prison pending the
intercession for his liberty. But the bargain was too one
sided. Little help was afforded by him to the authorities,



and in his absence the rest of the gang continued the game
merrily. Then Howe began to weary of inaction. One
morning, while taking exercise under the supervision of a
single constable, he escaped again and was soon with his
old associates. Of these only a few remained, but fresh
members swelled the number, for other convicts were at large
in the bush ready for any enterprise.

By the treachery of one of the gang Howe was a second
time brought within reach of the law. He was disarmed and
bound and conducted along the road to Hobart Town, where
a handsome reward awaited his captors. But once again
the bushranger proved one too many for them. Getting a
hand free he drew a knife, stabbed one of his two guards, and
with the fellows gun shot the other dead. Thenceforth he
could entertain no hope of leniency on the part of the
Governor. The life of the hunted was to be his lot, and he
betook himself to the bush to play it out to the end.

In order to expedite the capture of this desperate crimi-
nal Governor Sorell offered a large reward, to which was
added the promise of freedom and a passage home if the
fortunate claimant were a convict. This bait had the
desired result. A transported sailor named Jack Worrall
got in touch with one Warburton, a former companion of the
bushranger. The two of them laid their plans carefully and
Howe's career came to an end. The manner in which this
was effected is best told in the actual words of Worrall himself.

" I was determined," he says, " to make a push for the
capture of this villain, Mick Howe, for which I was promised
a passage to England in the next ship that sailed, and the
amount of reward laid upon his head. I found out a man
of the name of Warburton, who was in the habit of hunting
kangaroos for their skins, and who had frequently met Howe



during his excursions, and sometimes furnished him with
ammunition. He gave me such an account of Howe's habits
that I felt convinced we could take him with a little assist-
ance. I therefore spoke to a man named Pugh, belonging
to the 48th Regiment, one who I knew was a most cool and
resolute fellow. He immediately entered into my views,
and having applied to Major Bell, his commanding officer,
he was recommended by him to the Governor, by whom he
was permitted to act, and allowed to join us ; so he and I
went directly to Warburton, who heartily entered into the
scheme, and all things were arranged for putting it into

" The plan was this : Pugh and I were to remain in
Warburton's hut, while Warburton himself was to fall into
Howe's way. The hut was on the River Shannon, standing
so completely by itself, and so out of the track of anybody
who might be feared by Howe, that there was every proba-
bility [of accomplishing our wishes, and thus ' scotch the
snake,' as they say, if not kill it. Pugh and I accordingly went
to the appointed hut. We arrived there before daybreak,
and having made a hearty breakfast, Warburton set out to
seek Howe. He took no arms with him, in order to still
more effectually carry his point, but Pugh and I were pro-
vided with muskets and pistols. The sun had just been an
hour up when we saw Warburton and Howe upon the top of
the hill coming towards the hut. We expected they would
be with us in a quarter of an hour, and so we sat down upon
the trunk of a tree inside the hut, calmly waiting their arrival.
An hour passed, but they did not come, and I crept to the
door cautiously and peeped out. There I saw them standing
within a hundred yards of us hi earnest conversation ; as I
learned afterwards, the delay arose from Howe suspecting



that all was not right. I drew back from the door to my
station, and about ten minutes after this we plainly heard
footsteps and the voice of Warburton.

" Another moment and Howe slowly entered the hut
his gun presented and cocked. The instant he espied us he
cried out ' Is that your game ? ' and immediately fired, but
Pugh's activity prevented the shot from taking effect, for
he knocked the gun aside. Howe ran off like a wolf. I fired
but missed. Pugh then halted and took aim at him, but
also missed. I immediately flung away the gun and ran
after Howe ; Pugh also pursued ; Warburton was a con-
siderable distance away. I ran very fast ; so did Howe ;
and if he had not fallen down an unexpected bank, I should
not have been fleet enough for him. This fall, however,
brought me up with him ; he was on his legs and preparing
to climb a broken bank, which would have given him a free
run into the wood, when I presented my pistol at him and
desired him to stand ; he drew forth another, but did not
level it at me. We were then about fifteen yards from each
other, the bank he fell from being between us.

" He stared at me with astonishment, and to tell you
the truth, I was a little astonished at him, for he was covered
with patches of kangaroo skins, and wore a black beard a
haversack and powder horn slung across his shoulders. I
wore my beard also, and a curious pair we looked. After a
moment's pause he cried out, ' Black beard against grey
beard for a million ! ' and fired. I slapped at him, and I
believe hit him, for he staggered, but rallied again, and was
clearing the bank between him and me when Pugh ran up
and with the butt-end of his firelock knocked him down,
jumped after him, and battered his brains out, just as he
was opening a clasp knife to defend himself."


I. A Mounted Police Camel Train. 2. Crossing a River.


It was a dog's death, and very far removed from the
end that Howe had pictured for himself. He kept a diary
in which he wrote down some of the ambitious dreams that
occupied his mind. It was his hope to have become the
chief of a great band and so powerful that he could set the
law at absolute defiance. He more than once asserted
openly that many of the police who were seeking him were
actually in league with the gang, and this fact it is not hard
to believe when we remember that nearly all the constables
were prisoners of the Crown and not of unimpeachable

The case of Matthew Brady is the more interesting be-
cause it serves to reintroduce to us that fine old Victorian
pioneer, John Batman. In Brady, too, we have a striking
example of a scoundrel elevated to the position of a hero and
martyr by a wave of false sentiment. Too much has been
made of the romantic side of bushranging in the past ; one
must deprecate a tendency to glorify the deeds of men who
were nothing more than despicable, hardened thieves and
cut-throats. A great gulf stretches between the well-
accoutred, somewhat dandy bushranger of fiction, with his
fine chivalry and bold bearing, and the Simon Pure ruffian
who so often killed for the mere lust of killing, who betrayed
his comrades without hesitation to save his own neck, and
who led a life of intermittent hardship and misery.

Brady's strong appeal to the minds of his sympathisers
was his attitude towards women. By official designation a
" gentleman convict," l he was scrupulous in treating them
well and in preventing any act of violence on the part of his

1 According to the loose system of classifying convicts in vogue in the
early days of transportation, they were divided into three classes as " town
thieves," " rural labourers," and " gentlemen." By this last term were
indicated those who were educated men.



followers. Whether it was actual chivalry or a mere pose
which his astute mind suggested would serve him eventually,
it was admittedly a good trait in his character. But there is
nothing else to commend him. He figures hi the " Newgate
Calendar " of Australia as a common type of criminal,
remarkable only for possessing rather more skill and auda-
city than some of his fellows.

It was in 1824 that Brady reached Van Diemen's Land
as a convict. He made up his mind to escape from the
rigours of the Macquarie Harbour penal settlement at the
earliest opportunity, and not many months had gone by
before he was in the bush with half-a-dozen companions.
By reason of his unusual height and strength, coupled with
an air of command, he assumed the leadership of the band.
His followers were sworn to obey him implicitly, and were
impelled to keep their oath by the certainty that Brady
would have killed them ruthlessly on the least suspicion of

As an illustration of his merciless treatment of an enemy
the following story is told. He was once betrayed by a
member of his gang and caught by the soldiers while asleep
in a hut. As he lay helpless on the floor, with arms well
bound with rope, he asked his two guards for a drink of
water. Very foolishly both men went out to fill a bucket at
the stream. It was night time and a fire blazed near the
hut door. Brady rolled quickly towards it, held his hand
out over the flames and burnt his bonds. When the soldiers
returned their prey had escaped. It was only a week later
that the informer fell into Brady's hands. The bushranger
was at his supper when the traitor was brought before him.
" I will give you while I eat my meal," he said curtly ; " you
can say your prayers." After he had finished he ordered



the doomed man to walk to a tree some yards away, but
ere the other had taken many steps Brady put a bullet
through his head.

After several minor escapades raids in which they
plundered settlers, burnt down houses, and incidentally shot
several people Brady and his gang conceived the bold idea
of attacking the gaol at Sorell, near Hobart, and freeing
the prisoners. The plan was carried out successfully. The
bushrangers descended on the district, made some prisoners,
lay by until night, and then took the soldier-warders by
surprise. Most of the latter, with the other captives, were
locked up in the cells, the original inmates of which had now
been given their liberty. As a final artistic touch before
departing, Brady dressed up a log of wood in a soldier's
tunic, set a cap on it, and left the effigy propped up against
the gaol door with a musket alongside.

This deed of daring put a bigger price on Brady's head,
and set police and self-enrolled thief-takers eagerly search-
ing for his whereabouts. But the band had a safe retreat
in the fastnesses of the hills ; they knew every path and
gully, and laughed at the efforts made to run them down.
To show his contempt for the Governor, who offered a
tempting reward for his capture, the bushranger retorted
with an insulting notice that was posted publicly in Hobart.
It read thus

" Mountain Home, April 25. It has caused Matthew
Brady much concern that such a person known as Sir George
Arthur is at large. Twenty gallons of rum will be given to
any person that will deliver his person unto me.

" (Signed) M. BEADY."

However, Brady had to face the common end of such evil


doers as himself. Stragglers from the gang were cut off and
caught, others deserted. Gradually his followers decreased
in number, until at last the bushranger leader found himself
alone in the wilds, with the hue and cry concentrated upon
him. He had been badly wounded in the leg in one encounter
with his pursuers, and he must have realised that the game
was about up.

To John Batman of Launceston belongs the credit of
capturing Brady single-handed. The settler, who was an
experienced bushman, spent many days searching the hill
country and in time got upon the other's tracks. Then one
morning the two met. The bushranger, a pitiable object
in his ragged clothes, haggard and dejected, covered Batman
with his gun. " Are you a soldier ? " he called out, observ-
ing that the settler had on a military forage cap. Batman
reassured him on this point and revealed his identity.
" You'd better surrender, Brady," he said, " there's no chance
for you." The bushranger lowered his gun, and after con-
sidering for some moments replied : " You are right, Bat-
man ; my time is come. I will yield to you because you are
a brave man."

That was the end of Matthew Brady's career. The last
scene of all was the scaffold whereon he paid the just penalty
of many atrocious crimes. And, remarkable as it may
appear, there were foolish sentimentalists in plenty to make
a hero of him and endeavour to secure his pardon. Bonwick,
in his history of bushranging, says : " Petition followed
petition for his deliverance from the halter. Settlers told
of his forbearance, and ladies of his kindness. His cell was
besieged with visitors, and his table was loaded with presents.

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 5 of 32)