Queensland has produced a character or two over the years, but John Dacey “Galloping” Jones takes some beating. Apart from being one of the most talented rough riders of his generation, and one hell of a bare-knuckle fighter, he was famously light-fingered.
Galloping Jones got his nickname from a horse race where he and his mates prepared a ring-in. Apart from boot polish cunningly applied to a white blaze on the nose, part of the trick was to make the substitute’s tail longer. Unfortunately the glue they used to fix the tail extensions started melting half way through the race. The crowd noticed pretty quickly. Jones and his mount reached the finish line ahead of the pack, but rather than face the stewards he just kept on galloping, through the gates and into the bush.
One night Jones complained that when he walked into a pub everyone left.
Riding an outlaw: The Queenslander Magazine
“I don’t leave,” said a voice. Jones turned to see a big bloke called Treacle MacFarlane walking towards him.
“And why don’t you leave, Treacle?”
“Because I can fight just as well as you can.”
Legend has it that they fought for two hours before the bout was declared a draw.
No one could best Jones on a horse, and his freakish ability to stay in the saddle saw him recruited to Lance Skuthorpe’s famous travelling show. Jones’s fame at riding buckjumpers was such that he would ride into town and dare locals to bring out their worst horses just so he could tame them. More than once, if he liked the horse, he lived up to his name and just kept on galloping.
According to the ‘’Queenslander’’ newspaper:
“Galloping” Jones has established the fact that he is a master horseman, and he is recognised as such today. As a horseman and stockman he is recognised as one of the central figures of the Gulf districts. He could be relied on to tame any horse that any other man had failed with, and while he may not quieten him sufficient for any ordinary rider he would never be thrown himself.
Jones joined up in World War One and came back with even less regard for authority than when he left. Police gazettes list charges against him for assault, creating a disturbance and using obscene language. He robbed at least one bank and was shot in the shoulder for resisting arrest. He was known to steal, sell, and then re-steal the same cattle on the same day.
Another time, arrested for horse theft, he asked his captors for permission to head behind a bush for a “call of nature.” When they went looking for him Jones had run off, but recapturing him wasn’t hard. The police found him at the nearest pub.
Even past his prime, Jones was not afraid to stick his neck out. In 1926 the Northern Herald Newspaper carried a challenge from Jones to a boxer called Bob Smith to take him on for a prize of £25. The paper noted that, “Promoter Bob Ditton said that when he presented the agreements to Smith last night the latter seemed unwilling to meet Jones.”
One year later Jones appeared before the police magistrate in Rockhampton, charged with “using obscene language in a public place, assaulting Constable WH Langhorne whilst in execution of his duty, and resisting arrest.”
There’s a sad side to all this. Jones married in 1913 and had three children. The relationship didn’t work out, and he was often in trouble for failing to provide maintenance payments. He was a free spirit, and couldn’t stick to anything for long. That must have been hard on his family.
As an old man, in a nursing home in Charters Towers, Galloping Jones continued to cause trouble – fighting, getting drunk and wandering off to the pub. He died in 1960.
Written and Researched by Greg Barron.