The Gilbert Brigade

Frank Gardiner on left and John William Gilbert (1842 - 1865) on right
On 15 June 1862 John Gilbert took part in the Eugowra gold escort robbery and had a £500 reward on his head. 
In May 1863 Gilbert returned to the Wedden Mountains and became Ben Hall's right-hand man although they did not always work together.

"it was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiners constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country..."
The gang was made up of leader Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, Ben Hall, John O'Meally, Daniel Charters, Alex Fordyce, John Bow and Henry Manns.  Was this the Gilbert Brigade mentioned in this 1863 newspaper report about the theft of race horses?

These lawless desperadoes are carrying on their depredations with such barefaced impudence in the district surrounding Lambing Flat, that people begin to imagine that the police endeavour to their utmost to avoid an encounter with them.  
The last exploit that has occurred, or rather that we have heard of, is the entrance of two of the gang, well-armed, upon the premises of Mr James Roberts, at Currawong, near Murrumburrah, on last Thursday evening, at seven oclock. 
They forced an entrance into the stables, and rode off with the race-horses, Mickey Hunter and Chinaman. It is only a short time since the latter animal was stolen, and subsequently recovered by Inspector Shadforth. Gilbert seems determined to have his bodyguard well mounted. ~ Yass Courier June 17, 1863. 

Ben Hall (9 May 1837 – 5 May 1865)
Copy of the only known photograph of him.


The early death of George Palmer

George Charles Frederick Palmer
George Charles Frederick Palmer (c. 1846 – 24 November 1869) was born and brought up  in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. He was named after both his father and grandfather who were both named George Thomas Palmer.  His father was George Thomas PALMER (1809 - 1889) and his mother was Selina Augusta ROWES (1820 - 1902). He was their third son. His grandfather, George Thomas Palmer, (1784-1854) was a landowner and magistrate who acquired extensive lands and stock in Australia including Ginninderra Station

History of the time.

In January 1867 the Queensland Government offered a £3,000 reward for the discovery of payable goldfields in the state. As a direct result of this 1867 saw new goldrushes in Queensland. The most important discovery in 1867 was when James Nash discovered gold at Gympie
THOSE wild and colourful days in American frontier history, when bandits infested the coach routes to the goldfield towns of California and Texas, had their Queensland counter-part in the lonely stretch of country between the Gympie gold-field and Brisbane in the late sixties. Stage robberies were so frequent in 1868 and 1869 the Brisbane newspapers ran the stories under small headings in their news columns and rarely devoted more than an inch of space to them. Gangs of robbers ranged the country in the triangle between Gympie, Kilkivan, and Maryborough. They were always well mounted on horses stolen from station paddocks, and their practice was to wait in ambush among the scrub on the side of the lonely bush track until the coach horses driven at a jog trot reached the spot where they were hidden. Then, from both sides of the road in front of the horses' heads, and also at the rear of the coach, the robbers would emerge flourishing sawn-off shotguns and pistols. 
George Palmer's Time in Queensland.
George Charles Frederick Palmer moved to Queensland from New South Wales and married Sarah Robertson in 1868.

Palmer had many adventures with the police during his brief and eventful life. He rode a splendid
grey thoroughbred named Bobby, which he had stolen from Morinish station. On this animal he
escaped from the police repeatedly.

He was an expert horseman, and the animal was a fine steeple-chaser, saving its rider from capture on many a wild chase by leaping over high fences at whichthe police horses baulked.

One evening in 1868 Palmer galloped up to the punt on the north side of the Fitzroy River, trying to make a getaway from two troopers who were after him for horse stealing. Just as Palmer dismounted at the ferry approach, and led his horse on board, the two troopers cantered along the approach and boarded the ferry, a clumsy wooden contraption worked by long sweeps.
The ferryman whispered to Palmer to help him with the sweeps. The night was dark, and the police,
thinking Palmer was miles away, bestowed only a casual glance at the man industriously working at
the sweeps in the shadows, believing him to be a ferry employee.
They told the ferryman they were looking for Palmer, and asked him if he had seen him. He denied
having done so, and when the punt reached the other side of the river the two constables galloped
away without suspicion. Palmer lost no time in escaping in the opposite direction.

PALMER was not seen again for several weeks, and it was commonly believed that during this
time he was operating with a gang of bushrangers between Gympie and Maryborough. One day he
returned, and lived in a hut in the bush outside Rockhampton.

Throughout much of 1868, Palmer led a gang that bailed up coaches along roads leading out of Gympie, which was experiencing a gold rush. In January 1869, he and a gang member, William Bond, attempted to rob a Cobb & Co coach travelling along Brisbane Road. One of the occupants, Bank of New South Wales manager Selwyn King, shot both bushrangers. The wounded Bond was later arrested, but Palmer escaped to Rockhampton, where, in April 1869, he and several other bushrangers were involved in the murder of gold buyer Patrick Halligan.

Four men concocted a plan to waylay and rob Halligan. George Palmer, a wild and reckless rogue of 26, and a splendid horseman, who was suspected of bushranging activities and was known as a horse thief, was the leader of this dark enterprise. His confederates were:—John Williams, known as "Old Jack," a man in his fifties, whose bushy beard and whiskers almost concealed his face, and whose reputation was that of a spieler and an associate of criminals; Alexander Archibald, a dark-complexioned man with a face deeply pitied by smallpox, a horse-breaker and horse-dealer, who was a fine cross-country rider; Charles Taylor, a man of 25, also a good horseman. From The Trove 'THE MURDER of HALLIGAN' Sunday Mail, 18th June 1939

The Queensland Government offered a reward of £200 for the capture of Palmer; the people of Rockhampton put up another £428. Palmer returned to Gympie, where his wife lived, and hid in a sandstone cave near Eel Creek. He was captured and arrested by police on 28 May 1868 and identified based on the bullet wound he received from Selwyn, on the corner of his elbow. 

We append a description of Palmer, as furnished by Inspector Lloyd :'George Charles Frederick  Palmer, stockman, native of New South Wales, aged 23, 5 feet 6 or 9— some say 10 inches high, medium or stoat build, dark curly hair, short whiskers, lately shaved,teeth project When laughing, rather good looking, scar over one of eyes, said to have marks on back of hand, also an old gunshot wound on corner of elbow.'

George Palmer and Alexander Archibald were convicted of the murder of local publican and gold trader Patrick Halligan.


George Charles Frederick Palmer was the first of the prisoners arraigned, charged with the wilful murder of Patrick Halligan, on the 25th of April, 1869.

The Attorney-General (the Hon. C. Lilley, Q.C.), with him the Hon. R. Pring, Q.C., and Mr. S. W. Griffith, appeared to prosecute. Mr R. Baird, instructed by Mr. H. J. W. Bowker, appeared for the prisoner, who pleaded not guilty. The following jury was empanelled :--- George Forman, John Rees, R. S. Davidson, John Shannon, S. N. Spong, Frederick Goddard, Luke Pike, John Gibbs, R. Camp, E. Butler, R. Irwin, and Joseph Brown.

The prisoner was allowed to sit, and the Attorney-General opened the case for the Crown. Nearly the whole of the first day was taken up in producing evidence of the finding of the body. The hat, whip, and other things found near the scene of the murder were identified as Halligan's, as were also the body itself and the clothes and boots found on it. This portion of the evidence was all very complete. The discovery of the body and the way it was bound and weighted with a bag of bricks, were fully explained, so that quite apart from the statements of three of the prisoners, there could be no doubt that the man whose body was found in the Fitzroy River, near the Eight-mile Island, was Patrick Halligan.
Then came the evidence of several persons who saw Halligan returning from the Morinish. Two witnesses stated they saw him on the downs, about three miles from where the murder took place, about half-past five o'clock.
Mrs. M'Nevin, wife of one of the prisoners, stated that she lived at the Ten-mile (or Wells) sheep station, two miles from Murray's, and knew Palmer, who had been about the Agricultural Reserve during February, March, and April. He always carried a revolver. In March,1869, she saw Palmer and said to him : "I thought you had left the district ?" Palmer replied : " I would have, only for Alick Archibald, who wishes me to remain another week." That was the last conversation she had with the prisoner.

The next witness to enter the box was Donald M'Nevin, a shepherd, who had been committed in the case for abetting murder. He stated he had known Palmer for about eighteen months. During the previous February, the witness was feeding his sheep around Baker's deserted house, when he saw a man sitting on the doorstep. M'Nevin walked up to the man, whom he then recognised as Palmer,
and bade him good day. He then asked : 
"Have you rented this place?" 
"Yes," was the reply. 
"Are you not Palmer ?" asked M'Nevin.
Palmer answered : "Yes : you would not have got up to the steps had I not known you." 
"Why ?" queried M'Nevin.
"Because I would have blown your brains out," said Palmer, adding, "I do not want anyone to know I am about here, and by G-- if you tell I will take your life."
M'Nevin replied : "I do not know much about you, and will not say anything."
Further conversation followed, during which Palmer said his mate was in town after rations, and he was expecting him every minute. Palmer had one revolver in his hand and another lay on the floor. As M'Nevin was going away, John Williams and Charles Taylor rode up, took the saddles off their horses and went inside the house. As M'Nevin moved off, Palmer came after him, and asked if he
could give him some sugar, as Williams and Taylor had brought none out. He told M'Nevin their names, and said they were his mates, Williams being the principal one.
A few days subsequently M'Nevin saw Palmer again, and after some remarks, asked him :
" How is it you do not go away from here when you are so frightened to be seen ?"
Palmer said : '"Well, I will tell you ; but by G-- if you tell anybody what I say to you I will take your life."
M'Nevin said he was frightened, and promised to say nothing about what he was told, and Palmer remarked : "I am put on a 'lay.' I want to wait to see Halligan to rob him !"

Nothing further was said at the time, and two or three weeks afterwards M'Nevin saw Palmer again on the open downs. In reply to a question, Palmer said he had been up country after horses. He also said he was getting sick and tired of waiting about ; but Archibald wanted him to wait for something to turn up, and meanwhile he was supplying him with food and what little money he needed.
From the 13th of March, M'Nevin saw Palmer nearly every day, and sometimes Williams and Taylor. M'Kevin's child died, and his wife went into Rockhampton. On the 25th of April, M'Nevin saw both Palmer and Williams, and they were arranging their swags on their saddles. About five o'clock in the afternoon he saw them riding in the direction of the Six-mile scrub. This was evidently the time they were watching for the return of Halligan.
M'Nevin next saw Palmer on a Tuesday night after the murder. Williams was with Palmer, but Palmer got on his horse and came over to M'Nevin, and said: "M'Nevin, do you know what it is ; I shot Halligan !"
" Good God, you wretch," said M'Nevin. 
Palmer returned : "Don't you tell Old Jack I told you, and if you split I will blow your brains out." Palmer subsequently told M'Nevin that he had to kill Halligan as he knew him (Palmer).

The remainder of the evidence was with regard to Palmer showing and giving away pieces of his gold, and his arrest at Gympie by Inspector Lloyd. Palmer's statement, in which he said it was Williams who fired the fatal shot, was put in as evidence, and then the Attorney-General closed the case. It should be mentioned that Palmer's statement was very strong against Archibald. and no doubt biased the public mind somewhat. Palmer, however, was readv to blame anyone but himself, and his statement admittedly contained a lot of lies. On the other hand, Archibald gave his evidence in. the witness box, on oath, aud was cross-examined on it, and as it was not shaken in any way what he said is certainly more worthy of credence than the story of the man who, having committed the murder, wished to throw the blame on others.

Mr. Baird, in his address to the jury for the defence, urged that it was possible if Palmer shot Hailigan, and not Williams, as Palmer had said it van, the pistol might have gone off accidentally. Archibald was the man, he contended, who detained and goaded on Palmer to rob Halligan. He believed the jury, after careful consideration of the case, would see that there were many circumstances which would tell in Palmer's favour, and how that he was not guilty to the same degree as the others.

The Attorney-General showed how clear the evidence was against the prisoner.

He believed that both Palmer and Williams fired at Halligan, and that Halligan never fired at all. One of them missed, and the bullet struck the tree, and the other shot Halligan through the ' body. Palmer fired from the front and Williams from behind. He believed they intended to murder Halligan from the first, as neither were disguised, and they expected to get £300 or £600 worth of gold on him.

The Judge then summed up, and the jury retired. After an absence of seven minutes they returned into Court with a verdict of' guilty. In spite of all his cruelty and wickedness, it was hard to withhold a little pity from the now repentant young man who had been sitting in the dock, broken and gloomy, listening to a recapitulation of his great crimes. Despair 'was written on his features; for him— 'Even ev'ry ray of hope destroyed, And not a wish to gild the gloom.' During the 'whole trial he had shown no emotion. The same calm, set look on his face was maintained throughout. When asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed on him, Palmer murmured 'No,' and the Judge pronounced the dreadful sentence that he was to be hanged. FROM TROVE: The Capricornian, Rockhampton 13th December, 1902.

The night before he was hanged, at Rockhampton Gaol, Palmer made a written confession in which he stated simply. "I shot Halligan." George Charles Frederick Palmer died on 24 Nov 1869 at Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia aged 23.

I can find no reason why George Palmer moved to Queensland away from his family and started a life of crime. One can only surmise that he, like many others of the time, moved to Queensland to find his fortune due to the gold rushes in the area. As with all large gold discoveries crime grew as individuals and coaches were robbed for their gold.


Death of Captain Thunderbolt

Death of Frederick Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt)
Death of Frederick Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt)
(State Library of Victoria, IAN18/06/70/116, engraving by Samuel Calvert)
In 1870 Frederick Ward (18351870), the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt, was shot dead by police near Uralla in New South Wales. 
He was a former drover and horse breaker. He was first convicted of stealing horses in 1856. 
Between 1856 and his death 14 years later, he was in prison several times for robbing inns and mail-coaches. 
He was regarded as one of the most successful bushrangers in New South Wales. FROM MY PLACE FOR TEACHERS


Shearing in the bushranging era

Sheep shearing at Yandilla Station, ca. 1894
Sheep shearing at Yandilla Station, ca. 1894
Sheep shearers working in a shed at Yandilla Station.
A supervisor or manager in a hat, vest, shirt and trousers
and a tarboy in rough clothes pose for the photograph.
(A tarboy assists by dabbing tar or antiseptic on any cuts suffered
by the animals during shearing.
Shearers shearing sheep in the Barenya Station wool shed in 1916, Queensland
Shearers shearing sheep in the Barenya Station wool shed in 1916, Queensland.
The shed was installed on the property in 1916.                                
Shearing in the bushranging era

Shearing in the bushranging era
Shearer's Union

In the 1800's wool was one of the main industries in Australia but the shearer's worked in atrocious conditions.  John and Elizabeth Macarthur, established the wool industry in Australia in the early 1800s with rare Spanish sheep. Compared to growing crops, sheep grazing needed less labour. But the wool had to be washed, shorn and pressed to turn it into a product.

The Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australia was formed in 1887 and by 1890 they had thousands of members.

The weather has been sultry for a fortnight now or more
And the shearers have been driving might and main
For some have got the century who ne'er got it before
But now we all are waiting for the rain

For the boss is getting rusty and the ringer's caving in
His bandaged wrist is aching with the pain
And the second man I fear will make it hot for him
Unless we have another fall of rain

Now some had taken quarters and were keeping well in bunk
When we shore the six-tooth wethers from the plain
And if the sheep get harder then a few more men will flunk
Unless we have another fall of rain


Books about Australian Bushrangers

List of Books about Australian Bushrangers

Australia's Most Notorious Convicts: From thieves and bushrangers to murderers and cannibals by Barbara Malpass Edwards. Thousands of convicts were transported to Australia. This book shows what became of the most dangerous and desperate of those incarcerated in Australia, and records their deeds.


The Birth of a Bushranger by Raymond Boyd Dunn

In Search of Captain Moonlite: Bushranger, Conman, Warrior, Lunatic By Paul Terry looks for the man behind the legend. It uses little-seen histories, a remarkable cache of rare documents, and the records of his time to rewrite the story of a man who was not what he seemed.

The Last of the Bushrangers An account of the Capture of the Kelly Gang By Francis Augustus Hare. This account is written by the Police chief who tracked them down, and is illustrated with many photographs, including one of Ned Kelly in his famous home-made armour.

The True Story Of The Kelly Gang Of Bushrangers by C H Chomley. This factual tale of the rampage of The Kelly Gang was first published in the late 1890's and reads as if the events occurred yesterday.

The True History of the Australian Bushrangers by Jack Bradshaw from 1911 - 1925.

The Adventures of Ben Hall, Bushranger: Bushranger by Raymond Boyd Dunn

Outlaws of the Australian Bush: The Bushranger Series (The Complete Bushranger Series Book 1)  By Raymond Boyd Dunn.  This is a compilation of the five books in the series.
1. Bushranger
2. Birth of a Bushranger
3. Millie and the Bushranger
4. Bushranger's Gold.
5. The Adventures of Ben Hall, Bushranger

The Last of the Bushrangers An account of the Capture of the Kelly Gang. By Francis Augustus Hare An indispensable book for all interested in the Kelly story, the history of crime and outlaws and early Australia.

Brady: McCabe, Dunne, Bryan, Crawford, Murphy, Bird, McKenney, Goodwin, Pawley, Bryant, Cody, Hodgetts, Gregory, Tilley, Ryan, Williams, and their ... bushrangers in Van Diemen's Land, 1825-1827. By James Erskine Calder

Morgan the murderer: a definitive history of the bushranger Dan Morgan. By Edgar F. Penzig

Happy Jack: The Definitive Story of the Bushranger John Gilbert
By Edgar F Penzig

By Jane (ed); Jack Larkin ( Ills.) Barnaby

The bushranger Harry Power, tutor of Ned Kelly
By Kevin J Passey

Meet Ned Kelly by Janeen Brian

Midnite: The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy.
by Ralph & STOW, Randolph. STEADMAN

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

The Gold Escort Robbery Trials by Noel Thurgood

The Last and Worst of the Bush Rangers by Michael Howe

The Sandy Creek Bushranger - A Definitive History of Ben Hall, His Gang and Associates. By Edgar F. Penzig

Uncensored Story of Martin Cash The Australian Bushranger as Told to James Lester Burke.
By Joan Dehile Emberg, Buck Thor Emberg

Australian Son The Story of Ned Kelly by Max Brown 


The Old Bush Songs by Andrew Barton Paterson A. B. Paterson

Out of the Mists: The Hidden History of Elizabeth Jessie Hickman By Di Moore Out of the Mists is by far the most accurate account of Elizabeth Jessie Hickman's unusual life, compiled with respect and honour by her own granddaughter. This is Jessie's true story-warts and all.

The lady bushranger by Pat Studdy-Clift

Harry Readford alias Captain Starlight

The Birth of a Bushranger by Raymond Boyd Dunn

Tell 'em I died game: The Stark Story of Australian Bushranging
By Bill Wannan

Australian Bushrangers: The Romance of Robbery
By Anonymous

Thunderbolts Last Hours by Russ Blanch

Clarke of the Kindur: Convict, bushranger, explorer
By Dean Boyce

Michael Howe: The Last and Worst of the Bush-Rangers of Van Dieman's Land 
By Thomas E. Wells

Stand and Deliver!: 100 Australian Bushrangers, 1789-1901
By Allan M. Nixon

Cry of the Dingo - A Study of the Australian Bushranger
By Conrad Phillips

The wild Scotsman: A biography of James McPherson, the Queensland bushranger
By Patrick McCarthy

Real Flash Cove: A Biography of John Gilbert, Bushranger
By Edgar Penzig

Ned Kelly: Bushranger by Brian Carroll From Landsdowne Press

A pictorial history of bushrangers by Tom Prior

Kelly Country: A Photographic Journey by Brendon Kelson

Wild Colonial Boy: Bushranger Jack Donahoe,...
by John Meredith 

Ned Kelly;: The life & adventures of Australia's notorious bushranger. By George Farwell

You'll never take me alive: The life and death of bushranger Ben Hall By Nick Bleszynski A ripping yarn about bush ranging in Australia in the 19th century told through the eyes of the quintessential Australian bushranger, Frank Gardiner—the only one who wasn't killed by gunshot or hanging.

Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady: The true story of bushrangers Frederick Ward and Mary Ann Bugg By Carol Baxter. This is an unputdownable story of an extraordinary partnership and a fresh retelling of one of Australia's greatest bushranging stories.

Ned Kelly by Peter Fitzsimons the author has taken the best of the research available, as well as the work of previous authors combined with official historical documentation to produce the ultimate book on Ned Kelly.

Bogong Jack : The Gentleman Bushranger by Eric HARDING

Ben Hall the Bushranger by Frank Clune

Among the Bushrangers by G.A. Henty 

Ned Kelly, bushranger by Brian Carroll

Bushrangers-Pictorial History by Nunn 

Martin Cash - The Last Of The Tasmanian Bushrangers
By Frank Clune

An Illustrated History of Australian Bushrangers
By George E. Boxall

Thunderbolt: a biography of the last of New South Wales' notorious bushrangers. By Bob Cummins

Bailup! A Pictorial History of Australia's Most Notorious Bushrangers, Including a Complete Transcript of Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter By Geoff Hocking

Wild Colonial Boys Tall Tales & True Australian Bushrangers
By Geoff Hocking

And wretches hang: The true and authentic story of the rise and fall of Matt Brady, bushranger
By Richard Butler

Bloodiest Bushrangers by John O'Sullivan

Bushrangers by Charles J. Finger

History of the Australian bushrangers by Boxall, George

Ben Hall: Bushranger by D.J. Shiel

Australian Bushrangers by Bill Scott

Morgan: The bold bushranger by Margaret Carnegie

Australian Bushrangers by Sacha Molitorisz

The Legend of Moondyne Joe by Mark Greenwood

The Last of the Bushrangers: An Account of the Capture of the Kelly Gang. By Francis Augustus Hare

The Bushrangers: Illustrating the Early Days of Van Diemen's Land - Primary Source Edition. By James Bonwick

Ned Kelly's Last Days: Setting the Record Straight on the Death of an Outlaw. By Alex C. Castles

Martin Cash,: The last of the Tasmanian bushranger; By Frank Clune

The Truth about Dan Kelly, brother of outlaw Ned Kelly: his escape from the Inferno & the hangman's Noose By vince allen, carolyn ann allen The book contains several photographs and at the end, lots of testimonies from people who had contact with Dan during his long and adventurous life.

NED KELLY: In His Own Words by Waldo Tomosky

Bushrangers of the north east by Graham Jones

Bushranger Ballads by Bill Scott; Pro Hart

Bushrangers, bandits and bastards: An illustrated history of colonial crime, 1850-1900. By Edgar F Penzig

The Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land in 1843-1844; A Personal Narrative of His Exploits in the Bush and His Experiences at Port Arthur and Norfolk Isla By Martin Cash

The bushrangers; illustrating the early days of Van Diemen's Land By James Bonwick

Bushrangers - Heroes or Villains: The truth about Australia's wild colonial boys By Edgar Penzig

Ned Kelly: A Short Life by Ian Jones

The Jerilderie Letter by Ned Kelly

Australia's Most Notorious Convicts: From thieves and bushrangers to murderers and cannibals. By Barbara Malpass Edwards

The Story of the Australian Bushrangers (Classic Reprint) By George Boxall

Mary Ann Bugg

Mary Ann Bugg (Ward)

Mary Ann Bugg (1834 - 1867)

Mary Ann was born on 7th May, 1834 in Stroud, New South Wales, Australia. Her mother was Charlotte Bugg (nee Derby) and her father was James Bugg. 

She married Edmund Baker when she was 14 years old in 1848. 

Mother: On Mary Ann Bugg's birth certificate her mother is named as "An aboriginal woman". Charlotte Derby's son William gave the information that she had had 8 children, the first being Mary Ann. Charlotte was a Kamilaroi woman.

Father: Born James Bugg in Essex, England and died Monkerai, in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. He was convicted of stealing meat and transported to Australia onboard the Sesostris arriving in NSW on 23rd November, 1825. His name was recorded as James Brigg in these records. 

James Brigg Convict Records
Hill End Family History - May Ann Bugg  - Captain Thunderbolt - Michael Ward & James Bugg Families Australia
Convict Creations - Mary Ann Bugg
Mary Ann Bugg"Captain Thunderbolt's Lady"
Coal River - Mixed-race unions and Indigenous demography in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, 1788-1850


Bushranger - Captain Moonlite

Captain Moonlight, November 1879 Gaol photograph
Gaol Photograph of AG Scott alias Captain Moonlight, November 1879
NRS 2138 [3/6043] No. 2170 p.132 
The historical gaol photograph description books at State Records were created to assist gaol staff to keep track of each prisoner’s record. The records cover c.1870-1930 and contain a photograph of each prisoner along with information such: as name, place of birth, year of birth, year and ship of arrival, occupation, religion, education, physical description, where and when they committed an offence, sentence, previous convictions and when the portrait was taken.
One of the more famous photographs in the collection is that of A.G. Scott otherwise known as Captain Moonlight (or sometimes Moonlite) who committed various crimes – bank-robbery, passing false cheques, stealing gold – and led a gang of outlaws until he was eventually caught by police, tried in Sydney in 1879 and subsequently executed in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1880. NSW Gov. Archives Outside
Find out more about Captain Moonlite here. 


Australian life in Queensland in the bushrangers time

The bushrangers roamed Australia during the 1800's. The term bushranger was first used in a newspaper in 1805. Here is are some images of what life was like in the northern state of Queensland during that time.

1878 image of police station Cooktown
Mounted Police station in Cooktown.
Barracks and police station in the country above Cooktown 1878
Australia 1800's
Hopetoun selection in southern Queensland.
Edward McDermott's grocery store
in Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, ca 1884

Bushranger era public domain image
 Family having tea in the garden of Richmond Hill homestead,
Mackay, Queensland, ca. 1890
Australian life in Queensland in the bushrangers time
Group of women having a tea party in Queensland, ca. 1887
Bushranger era public domain image
Reading the paper in a Gympie garden, ca. 1871
Blacksmith shop, Oxley Road, Oxley, Brisbane 1888.
 bushrangers era
 Gold miners outside a bark hut, Queensland, ca. 1870
Two gold miners dressed in working clothes outside a slab bark hut
with mining tools nearby
You might like to find out more about:

Moondyne Joe

Joseph Bolitho Johns better known as Moondyne Joe
Joseph Bolitho Johns (1826 or 1830 - 1900) aka Moondyne Joe.
This is the only known photo of him.
Born in Cornwall, England around 1826 
Died Western Australia 13th August 1900

Joseph Bolitho Johns was the third child of blacksmith Thomas Johns and his wife Mary Bolitho. He was one of six children in a poor family and had to work as a copper miner with his brothers after his father died.

On 15 November 1848, Johns and William Cross, were arrested near Chepstow for "... stealing from the house of Richard Price, three loaves of bread, one piece of bacon, several cheeses, and other goods".[1] He was charged with burglary and stealing, the pair pleaded not guilty. On 23 March they were tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir William Erle. Newspaper reports of the trial suggest that the pair gave an unexpectedly spirited defence, but Johns was abrasive and "contravened the conventions of court procedure". The men were convicted and sentenced to ten years' penal servitude.

He came to be better known as Moondyne Joe.  He goes down in history as Western Australia's best known bushranger known, not for his offences and crimes but, for being the person who had escaped multiple times from prison. Here is his brief history:
  • Johns and Williams were transferred to Millbank Prison 
  • transferred to Pentonville Prison to serve their mandatory six months of solitary confinement
  • transferred to Dartmoor Prison on 21 October 1851
  • Johns transferred to the Woolwich prison hulk Justitia, probably for disciplinary reasons
  • transferred to the Defence when the Justitia was destroyed by fire 
  • transported to the British penal colony of Western Australia prison ship Pyrenees to serve out the remainder of his sentence
  • arrived at Fremantle on 1 May 1853
  • Granted an immediate ticket-of-leave on arrival in reward for good behaviour
  • 1855 granted a conditional pardon
  • worked at various tasks near Toodyay, in the Avon Valley, one of the most rugged and inaccessible places in the Darling Range. The Aboriginal name for the area was Moondyne
  • arrested on a charge of stealing the local magistrate's horse in 1861
  • While awaiting trial he escaped from Toodyay gaol but was recaptured to serve three years' imprisonment
  • Released
  • sentenced in 1865 to ten years for killing an ox with the intent of stealing the carcass
  • Determined not to serve this long sentence and protesting his innocence, he made four attempts to escape from November 1865 to March 1867, three of which were successful. With two companions, he was once at large for two months in the unsettled Darling Range. 
  • Recaptured he was placed in irons in solitary confinement in a specially reinforced cell with triple-barred windows at Fremantle gaol. He was only allowed out for exercise on medical advice.
  • He escaped again in 1867 through a clever trick and for two years roamed the hill country east of Perth.
  • Recaptured while raiding a wine cellar and sentenced to a further term in Fremantle prison. He was released in 1871 and gained his conditional pardon in 1873.

The remainder of John's life consisted of periods of good behaviour punctuated by occasional minor misdemeanors and brief jail terms. In January 1879, he married a widow named Louisa Frances Hearn, née Braddick, and they spent some time prospecting for gold near Southern Cross, in Western Australia. In 1881, while exploring the countryside around Karridale, in the south-west of Western Australia he discovered Moondyne Cave.
In his later years he became known locally, in Kelmscott where he lived after his wife's death, as 'Old Mad Moondyne Joe'. He was declared to be mentally ill and died of senile dementia in the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum on 13 August 1900. He was buried, in a paupers grave, in Fremantle Cemetery , his tombstone bearing the Welsh word for freedom - "rhyddid".
 Fremantle prison and Moondyne Joe
Illustration of Fremantle prison with image of Moondyne Joe on left by Ian Coates

It was because the authorities found it impossible to keep Moondyne behind prison walls that a cell in Fremantle Gaol was specially prepared for him, and it remains today as it was when he occupied it many years ago.
The walls of the confined space are heavily timbered and appear to have been laboriously carved and patterned, but is the triple-barred window which is of special interest. Moondyne laughed at ordinary locks and bars and prison walls, but when he first saw the cell prepared for him after many escapes, he must have realised that he would never be able to break through the bars which covered the small window space.
He became a romantic figure in the eyes of the public, at the time, and after for his many escapes. 
His determined bids for freedom inspired John Boyle O'Reilly, a convict who escaped from Western Australia to the United States, to write in 1887 a novel on convict life in Western Australia featuring a fictitious and highly romantic Moondyne as central character.

[1]"Breconshire Lent Assizes". The Welshman. pp. 1849–03–30.
  Bolitho Family History
  Fremantle prison records, convict register 1853 (State Library of Western Australia)
  Australian Dictionary of Biography

A book by Mark Greenwood
These books are available to purchase at Amazon through my affiliate account*.
The Legend of Moondyne Joe by Mark Greenwood.
The Ballad of Moondyne Joe by John Kinsella and Niall Lucy.

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