Category: Australian Outlaws

The Capture of the Kenniff Brothers

The Capture of the Kenniff Brothers

Kenniff2 (1)_edited

It was April the 2nd 1902 when Queensland policeman, Constable Doyle, closed in on Patrick and James Kenniff at a rugged mountain hideout called Lethbridge’s Pocket. With the manager of Carnarvon Station, Albert Dahlke, and a tracker called Sam Johnson for company, Doyle stealthily approached the camp.

Wanted for horse stealing, Jim and Patrick had been in trouble with the law before, and both had served time. Born and raised in New South Wales, they moved to Queensland one step ahead of the bailiffs. Then, from a base in the Upper Warrego area they raced horses, ran illegal books, and stole livestock at night. When police arranged for the lease on their land to be terminated, the brothers became outlaws, and rarely rode unarmed.

Dahlke and Constable Doyle got lucky at first. Patrick managed to slip away, but they chased Jim on horseback and rode him down. When tracker Sam Johnson was sent back to fetch handcuffs he heard five gunshots. Patrick had returned for his brother, with deadly result.

Sam was forced to ride for his life, but he returned later with a man called Burke. In two pack bags they found the charred remains of Dahlke and Doyle.

A huge manhunt followed, but the two brothers stayed on the loose for more than two months before they were tracked to a ridge just south of Mitchell called Bottle Tree Hill (pictured above). Four policemen; Constables Tasker, Scanlan, Meston and Cramb surrounded the camp, and waited until sunrise when they were able to surprise the sleeping men. Patrick and Jim both fled on foot.

Patrick had no time to locate a weapon, and was easily ridden down by Constable Cramb. Jim fled with both loaded rifles, but was captured on the road back towards Mitchell, near what is now called Arrest Creek.

The brothers were placed on trial on Brisbane, and found guilty of wilful murder. Public sympathy, however, was on the side of the Kenniff brothers, in part because of a groundswell of anti-establishment feeling at the time. Jim’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but Patrick was promised an appointment with the gallows.

Four thousand people marched outside Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol to protest the execution, but the government held firm. Patrick had his neck broken by the rope on the 12th of January, 1903, still protesting his innocence.

Below are the words to one of several ballads in circulation at the time. They are believed to have greatly boosted public sympathy for Patrick and his brother, who served only twelve years of his life sentence.

THE EXECUTION OF PADDY KENNIFF
by John Creevey 1867-1912

With head erect he left his cell, he needed no man’s aid,
He walked upon the scaffold, and this is what he said:
“My name is Patrick Kenniff, I am condemned to die,
As witness of my innocence I call my God on high.
To my few friends I bid farewell, the last farewell I’ll say,
My time has come and soon I’ll be a lifeless lump of clay.
I wish to thank the warders, who have treated me so well,
And the Rev. Father O’Riley, who saved my soul from hell.”
Then forward came the noble priest, and shook poor Paddy’s hand,
“Paradise is yours,” he said, “when you quit this sinful land.”
The good priest then began to pray, he prayed ’till all was o’er,
The lever wrenched the scaffold sprung, poor Paddy was no more;
He may have died an innocent man, ’tis very hard to say,
There were other men in Killman’s Gap, upon that fatal day;
Then let’s not judge lest we be judged, by him who judges all,
And never despise your fellow man, if he should chance to fall.

 

Story researched and written by Greg Barron. Photo by Greg Barron.

Galloping Jones and other True Stories from Australia’s History now available at ozbookstore.com
Click here to view Sources used in this article

Nemarluk

Nemarluk

Idriess

Nemarluk was a fighting man of the Daly River people who would not be tamed. Born in 1911, by the 1930s he and a small band of young men were waging an effective guerrilla war against interlopers on his territory.

The Fitzmaurice and Daly River areas had never been fully settled. With the region’s jagged sandstone gorges and winding rivers, pastoral pursuits were difficult, and supply routes subject to ambush. Nemarluk grew up in a time of conflict and, according to oral tradition, swore to keep his land free of outsiders, their laws, and their guns.

Three Japanese shark fishermen sailed their lugger into the Daly River near Port Keats. Their names were Nagata, Yoshida and Owashi. They anchored in a backwater and made contact with Nemarluk and his community, who were camped on the river bank.

Nemarluk was aware that the lugger was packed with stores, along with highly-prized iron and tobacco. He was also mindful of his oath to rid his lands of foreigners. He formulated a plan to attack and kill the Japanese without risking his people to their deadly guns.

The first step was to make the Japanese trust them. They brought food aboard, served by the most attractive young women in the group. Nemarluk then suggested to Nagata, the captain, that he might go ashore to a lagoon and shoot as many ducks as he wanted.

Nagata took up the invitation, and was delighted to find that the lagoon really was alive with ducks. He shot a great number, walking further along the banks as he went. Waiting until the Japanese captain was thigh deep in water, Nemarluk gave the signal. They attacked and killed him.

Nemarluk took the geese back to the lugger, telling the other Japanese that Nagata was attempting to shoot some kangaroos. Once they were aboard the Aborigines produced hidden weapons and killed the rest of the crew.

A frenzy of looting followed: more tobacco than they had seen in their lives, iron implements that could be filed down into spear points, along with blankets and vessels of all types. They also found guns.

It was rumours of guns in the possession of the group that provoked a strong reaction from the NT Police. Two parties were soon on the trail of Nemarluk and his comrades. The most feared of these was the mounted policemen Pryor, Birt, and the tracker, Bulbul.

Despite seeking refuge in the rugged Fitzmaurice region, most of Nemarluk’s comrades were arrested for murder and faced the death sentence. Months later their leader was also captured.

Even then, Fannie Bay Jail could not hold this wild spirit. Nemarluk escaped by swimming across Darwin Harbour to the Cox Peninsula, a distance of at least eight kilometres.
Heading back into his homelands, Nemarluk continued to elude the police for years. This article from the Northern Standard newspaper gives an account of his capture.

“Nemarluk was captured after two and a half years of continuous searching by officers and black trackers, who covered 21,000 miles of country. The capture occurred when Constable Birt was stationed at Timber Creek, in the western part of the Territory. Black trackers who were in his charge found Nemarluk at Legune Station in March, 1934. Constable Birt later escorted Nemarluk to Darwin to face a three-year-old charge of having been concerned in the murder of three Japanese at Port Keats.

“Nemarluk had been arrested after the murder, but escaped from the Fanny Bay Gaol, and was at large until Constable Birt’s trackers found him. Bulbul, the leading tracker, was also responsible for the recapture of Minemara, another escaped native murderer who had been concerned in the killing of the Japanese, and who was captured in June last year.”

Nemarluk’s exploits became the subject of a popular book by author Ion Idriess, who met the outlaw several times, and was impressed by his physical strength and demeanour.

The dust jacket introduced the book with the romantic assertion: “Here now is Nemarluk’s life story – the tragic adventures of the young chief who was a living Tarzan of the wilds.”

I doubt Idriess himself made that one up.

Story and Pictures by Greg Barron.

Get the book, ‘Galloping Jones and Other True Stories from Australia’s History’ at ozbookstore.com
Click here to view the sources for this story.

The Capture of the Kenniff Brothers

The Capture of the Kenniff Brothers

Kenniff2 (1)_edited

It was April the 2nd 1902 when Queensland policeman, Constable Doyle, closed in on Patrick and James Kenniff at a rugged mountain hideout called Lethbridge’s Pocket. With the manager of Carnarvon Station, Albert Dahlke, and a tracker called Sam Johnson for company, Doyle stealthily approached the camp.

Wanted for horse stealing, Jim and Patrick had been in trouble with the law before, and both had served time. Born and raised in New South Wales, they moved to Queensland one step ahead of the bailiffs. Then, from a base in the Upper Warrego area they raced horses, ran illegal books, and stole livestock at night. When police arranged for the lease on their land to be terminated, the brothers became outlaws, and rarely rode unarmed.

Dahlke and Constable Doyle got lucky at first. Patrick managed to slip away, but they chased Jim on horseback and rode him down. When tracker Sam Johnson was sent back to fetch handcuffs he heard five gunshots. Patrick had returned for his brother, with deadly result.

Sam was forced to ride for his life, but he returned later with a man called Burke. In two pack bags they found the charred remains of Dahlke and Doyle.

A huge manhunt followed, but the two brothers stayed on the loose for more than two months before they were tracked to a ridge just south of Mitchell called Bottle Tree Hill (pictured above). Four policemen; Constables Tasker, Scanlan, Meston and Cramb surrounded the camp, and waited until sunrise when they were able to surprise the sleeping men. Patrick and Jim both fled on foot.

Patrick had no time to locate a weapon, and was easily ridden down by Constable Cramb. Jim fled with both loaded rifles, but was captured on the road back towards Mitchell, near what is now called Arrest Creek.

The brothers were placed on trial on Brisbane, and found guilty of wilful murder. Public sympathy, however, was on the side of the Kenniff brothers, in part because of a groundswell of anti-establishment feeling at the time. Jim’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but Patrick was promised an appointment with the gallows.

Four thousand people marched outside Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol to protest the execution, but the government held firm. Patrick had his neck broken by the rope on the 12th of January, 1903, still protesting his innocence.

Below are the words to one of several ballads in circulation at the time. They are believed to have greatly boosted public sympathy for Patrick and his brother, who served only twelve years of his life sentence.

THE EXECUTION OF PADDY KENNIFF
by John Creevey 1867-1912

With head erect he left his cell, he needed no man’s aid,
He walked upon the scaffold, and this is what he said:
“My name is Patrick Kenniff, I am condemned to die,
As witness of my innocence I call my God on high.
To my few friends I bid farewell, the last farewell I’ll say,
My time has come and soon I’ll be a lifeless lump of clay.
I wish to thank the warders, who have treated me so well,
And the Rev. Father O’Riley, who saved my soul from hell.”
Then forward came the noble priest, and shook poor Paddy’s hand,
“Paradise is yours,” he said, “when you quit this sinful land.”
The good priest then began to pray, he prayed ’till all was o’er,
The lever wrenched the scaffold sprung, poor Paddy was no more;
He may have died an innocent man, ’tis very hard to say,
There were other men in Killman’s Gap, upon that fatal day;
Then let’s not judge lest we be judged, by him who judges all,
And never despise your fellow man, if he should chance to fall.

 

Story researched and written by Greg Barron. Photo by Greg Barron.

Galloping Jones and other True Stories from Australia’s History now available at ozbookstore.com
Click here to view Sources used in this article

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

Glenrowan
The Glenrowan Inn. Credit: Victorian State Library

Following on from last week’s post about Kate Kelly, spare a thought for the Jones family, who owned the Glenrowan Hotel when the Kelly Gang decided to use it as the venue for a battle with police.

Ann Jones was the owner and publican. In the battle her pride and joy was burned to the ground. Her son John was shot and killed in the crossfire. Her daughter Jane also caught a stray bullet, but lingered on for two years before dying from her wounds.

Documents found at the Supreme Court stated, in Ann’s own words:

“Brave police! They lay in the gullies, and behind the trees, and shot bullets at the house, knowing that it was full of people. My poor innocent little children suffered most. When my dead little boy was hit he stood up, looked around, and then fell down. ‘Oh God,’ he cried, in such a piteous voice. ‘Mother, dear mother, I’m shot!’”

After the siege, the distraught Ann screamed abuse at the police, and was arrested for being a Kelly sympathiser.

“The police have said things about my character,” she said later. “Most of them never had any.”

 

Written and researched by Greg Barron

Click here to view the sources for this article.

 

 

Captain Moonlite

Captain Moonlite

Capture_of_moonlite Vic state library
Capture of Moonlite: Victorian State Library

It was Saturday, November 15, 1879, and the McDonald family, at Wantabadgery Station, half way between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai, were settling down for the evening. A shepherd galloped in from further down the Murrumbidgee with the news.

“I seen a gang of horsemen coming up along the river,” he said breathlessly. “I swear it’s Captain Moonlite and his men.”

While family and employees alike took refuge inside the house, seven horsemen rode out of the night. A pounding on the door followed. Claude McDonald, the station owner, opened the door a crack, revealing Captain Moonlite himself, dressed in a dark cloak, as dashing as his reputation.

“Good evening,” the bushranger said in his cultured Irish accent. “My men and I are starving. Can we trouble you for bread and tea?”

“Ride off, and don’t come back,” came the answer. Furious, Moonlight stalked back to his men and horses. The gang members loaded their revolvers and Snider rifles. Gunfire was exchanged, and within a few minutes, Moonlite had taken control of the homestead. The gang rounded up the neighbours, twenty-five in all, and raided the Australian Arms Hotel, a mile or two down the Gundagai Road, taking all the liquor they could carry.

Moonlite and his men ate and drank into the night. To entertain themselves they forced young women to play the piano or sing, and held a mock trial of a man who tried to escape. One brave stockman attempted to charge the guns, but was knocked down and restrained.

Four troopers, arriving on the scene, had little chance of taking down the well-armed gang, who fired at them through the windows. Riding off for reinforcements, however, the troopers were soon back with five more men from Wagga Wagga. The policemen surrounded the homestead, and the Moonlite gang, seeing the odds against them, slipped out by a side door.

Fighting a rear-guard action, firing from outbuildings and neighbouring farms, Moonlite and his men finally found themselves penned in to an outdoor kitchen. Gus Wreneckie, just fifteen years old and by far the youngest member of the gang, was shot and killed. There was no turning back now. A bullet from Moonlite struck home, killing Constable Edward Webb-Bowen.

Captain Moonlite’s right-hand-man, James Nesbitt fell also, shot dead, and this was a bitter moment for Moonlite. He fell to his knees, cradling his dying mate in his arms. Constable McGlede saw his opportunity, charging the kitchen, disarming the leader and scattering the gang. It was all over.

Only Moonlite himself, and a man called Tom Rogan, felt the hangman’s noose, the other three survivors were given long prison sentences. The legend that grew up around Moonlite’s life kept the public interested for years, and the facts slowly faded from memory.

Captain Moonlite, whose real name was Andrew George Scott, was surely Australia’s strangest bushranger. The Irish-born engineer, soldier and lay-preacher, though violent at times, was more of a talker than a fighter, and had an inflated opinion of his own worth. He had a history of swindling friends and opportunistic robbery. The cape was just part of his penchant for dressing up.

His first major heist involved robbing gold bullion from one of his best friends, then leaving a note claiming the robbery in the name of ‘Captain Moonlite.’ He later caused a mass break out at Ballarat gaol by tunnelling through a wall and into neighbouring cells. After years of trouble with the law, and a second stint in prison, he formed a gang with six other slum dwellers and ex-cons and headed for the bush.

The police and public took Moonlite seriously, but other bushrangers and the hard men of Australia’s countryside did not. Legend has it that when operating in Northern Victoria, Moonlite sent a message to Ned Kelly and his gang, suggesting that they join forces. The answer apparently came back from Ned that if Moonlite or his men came anywhere near him he’d shoot them down like dogs.

Much has been made of Scott’s relationship with Nesbitt. There’s no doubt that they were unusually close. Was Captain Moonlite, with his love of the theatrical, and deep feelings for his friend Nesbitt, Australia’s only gay bushranger? We’ll never know for sure, but we do know that Nesbitt’s death broke his heart.

“My dying wish is to be buried beside my beloved James Nesbitt,” Scott wrote before his hanging, “… the man with whom I was united by every tie which could bind human friendship. We were one in hopes, in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms.”

 

Note: A plaque commemorating the Siege of Wantabadgery hangs on the wall of Gundagai’s Criterion Hotel.

Researched and written by Greg Barron.

Click here to view the sources for the story.

Learn more about Galloping Jones and other True Stories from Australia’s History by Greg Barron.

 

Ben Hall the Bushranger

Ben Hall the Bushranger

Ben_Hall_Bushranger

“Bushranger” is a uniquely Australian term for the lawless characters who roamed the fringes of civilised districts seeking out easy money through robbery and violence. The word was first used in the Sydney Gazette in 1805, referring to a wild assortment of escaped convicts, deserters from the military and disillusioned free immigrants; full-bearded, dirty, and afraid of nothing.

The gold rushes of the 1850s saw the heyday of these bushrangers, but they had pretty much disappeared by the late 1880s as better police tactics, technology and burgeoning population made it harder for them to hide out in the bush for the long periods necessary.

The most famous bushranger was certainly Ned Kelly, but Captain Thunderbolt, John Gilbert, and Frank Gardiner are still well-known. Most interesting of them all, perhaps, was Ben Hall, who became a bushranger for reasons of passion, not lust for wealth or an easy life.

Ben was working as a stockman just out of Forbes, New South Wales. He was strong, reliable and honest. He had no time for bushrangers or lawlessness of any sort, and soon saved enough money to buy a small place of his own.

He married a local girl called Bridget in 1856, but she proved not to return Ben’s steadfast love and loyalty. Falling in love with a flash young stockman, she took hers and Ben’s child to be with her lover. Ben was heartbroken, but that wasn’t the end of it. When she was seduced and bedded by a policeman Ben swore vengeance on that “trap” and all his kind. Ben Hall took to the bush he knew so well, the remote Wedden Mountains, and became one of the most feared men of his generation.

Despite this reputation, he robbed only from the rich, mainly mail coaches with their rich burden of gold. According to folklore Ben Hall never killed a man, right up to that fateful day in 1865, when police found him alone at his campsite at Billabong Creek.

According to the testimony of one of the policemen in the party that killed Ben Hall, Sub-inspector James Henry Davidson:

I levelled a double-barrelled gun and fired one shot. I believe I hit him, for he halted and looked back. Sergeant Condell and Billy then fired. I think they both hit him; we fired pretty close together.

Condell and Billy were running a little in my rear, about fifteen yards to my left; Hall ran about sixty yards to a few saplings, and caught hold of one. I think he was then mortally wounded. The four constables and tracker then came across. I think Hall saw them coming, for he changed his course; they fired; I was then within thirty yards, when Hipkiss fired his revolving rifle.

I noticed Hall’s revolver belt fall to the ground. Hall, still holding to the sapling, gradually fell back; altogether, thirty shots were fired. Several were fired after Hipkiss fired; I fancy he was shot in the head after that. He spoke afterwards. He said, “I’m wounded, shoot me dead.

When they carried Ben Hall’s corpse into Forbes he had nine bullet wounds, four of which might have been fatal.


 

Researched and written by Greg Barron. Click here to view the sources for this story.

Charlie Flannigan and the Auvergne Station Murder

Charlie Flannigan and the Auvergne Station Murder

Flannigan
Sketch by Charlie Flannigan (Photo courtesy South Australian Museum)

 

September 1892. The game was cribbage for a stick of tobacco each hand. Four men whiling away a long night by the light of a slush lamp on Auvergne Station, near the NT/WA border. Even today, Auvergne is an isolated and dramatic locale; rugged mountains cut through by the Bullo, Baines and Victoria Rivers.

Among the men playing cards in a lean-to behind the kitchen that night was Sam Croker, the acting manager. Croker was an experienced stockman, having arrived in the Territory droving a mob of breeders from Queensland to Wave Hill Station for Nat Buchanan. A stockman called McPhee and a Chinese cook, Joe Ah Wah, were also at the table.

Another man playing cards that day was an Aboriginal stockman called Charlie Flannigan, also called McManus. Charlie had been raised by his white father in the Richmond Downs area in Queensland, and had also learned his trade with Nat Buchanan. He had arrived at Auvergne one week earlier, with just a horse, saddle, perhaps a few of the sketches of bush life he loved to draw, and a rifle.

Before the game started Joe Ah Wah told Flannigan that he didn’t feel like a game that night.

‘Best you play now,’ said Flannigan bluntly. ‘For you can’t play cards when you are dead.’ Joe agreed to play a couple of hands, and when they cut the cards to choose partners, Ah Wah and Flannigan teamed up.

Some reports of what followed cited an argument over the card game, but Joe Ah Wah’s testimony did not mention it. According to Joe, part way through the evening, Flannigan took a drink of water from a cask, then went out to the shed in which the men slept, a crude structure of poles with branches piled over the top. He came back carrying his rifle.

Taking up position at a tree near the lean-to, Flannigan raised the rifle to his shoulder and aimed it at Croker. The men at the table were oblivious to what was about to happen.

This, it has to be said, was not the first or last time violence had boiled over at Auvergne. The station had a chequered history in those days. As Charlie Gaunt later wrote:

In recording sketches of the olden days I cannot pass Auvergne Station on the Baines River, where more tragedies have been enacted than any station in the North.

I was stock-keeping on that station when Jack Skene was managing it. The manager before Skene, Hardy by name, was speared to death at the old station, down the Baines on the opposite side of the river from where the present station now stands. For years after you could see the stone spear head sticking inches in the door post where it passed through Hardy as he rushed through the door for his rifle.

But men weren’t the only hazards on Auvergne, according to Charlie.

Alligators … came up through the garden, tearing up pumpkin vines and into the beef house, once taking a quarter of beef off a hook.

Charlie went on to list a litany of tragedies, including more spearings, fatal riding accidents and murder. Most bloody of all was the day Charlie Flannigan took aim at his boss part way through a game of cards.

Flannigan fired once, and Croker slid to the floor, mortally struck in the chest.  According to the eyewitness report of Barney, a black stockman who was in the shed at the time, Croker called out ‘I am dead,’ after being shot the first time.

Flannigan walked up and finished Croker off with a second round to the head.

Joe ah Wah ran off into the bush, while McPhee helped Charlie wrap his victim in a blanket. Thirty-six tense hours with Flannigan in control of the station followed. Fearing reprisal he searched for and confiscated any firearms. He also forced the others to help bury Croker’s body.

So how did a normally inoffensive stockman come to commit murder? He was a good worker, generally popular, and loved to draw pictures.

Gordon Buchanan, who worked with Flannigan on cattle drives as well as on Wave Hill Station, described him as “… a fair horseman and stockman, and an expert in the drafting yards and branding pen. Illiterate, but fairly well spoken, he seldom swore.”

The key might be in something Flannigan said to Joe just after the shooting. “I have let him run long enough, six months now.”

Also, the next day, viewing the bloody, blanket wrapped body, Flannigan appeared to address the dead man directly.  “Well, old fellow, I’ve had the pleasure of sewing you up instead of you sewing me up”‘

So if this killing was just a disagreement over a card game, why did Flannigan later tell Joe Ah Wah that he had waited six months to kill Croker. Was this the result of a long-running vendetta? On the other hand, if there was an open grudge between the two men, why would Croker have allowed Flannigan onto the station. Let alone given him a job. The answer, it seems, is lost to history.

In any case, within two days of the murder, Flannigan extorted a cheque for his “wages” from McPhee and rode hard for the Western Australian border.

Flannigan2
Sketch by Charlie Flannigan (Photo courtesy South Australian Museum)

Friends at Ord River Station, however, convinced Charlie to give himself up in Hall’s Creek. Burdened by manacles that weighed close to ten kilograms, he was taken on horseback to Wyndham, then on the steamer, Rob Roy, to Palmerston.

In prison, Charlie had the time and the materials to pursue his love of drawing. He sketched sad images of the bush, the things he had seen. Even though he was illiterate, Flannigan copied words and letters, and some of his pictures seem to spell out words. He drew stockmen and steamers, homesteads and bush scenes. The full collection of these sketches is now held by the South Australian museum.

A newspaper article described how white man’s justice was served on Flannigan, the first man to be hanged in the Northern Territory

The execution of Charlie Flanagan … took place at the Fannie Bay Labour Prison at 9 o’clock to-day. Since his conviction the prisoner had maintained a cool demeanour throughout. His chief expressed desire was that he should not show the white feather. Although admitting the crime for which he was sentenced, he showed no contrition or desire to avoid the death penalty. He slept well last night, and breakfasted and smoked this morning, and mounted the scaffold alone. The whole arrangements for the execution were carried through successfully, and death was instantaneous.


Written and researched by Greg Barron. Sources here.

Whistler’s Bones by Greg Barron, the story of Charlie Gaunt, is out now. You can find out more about it here,  purchase a paperback copy here, or buy the ebook version here.

 

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