Saturday

Captain Starlight

bushranger Captain Starlight
Henry Arthur Readford 1841 - 1901

Captain Starlight
 
Henry Arthur Readford was born in NSW, to Thomas Readford (1790-1860) and Jemima Smith (1801-1860). His father was a convict who had been transported to Australia for stealing 4 pieces of leather and later became a publican. Henry Readford  had eight brothers and sisters and was the youngest child.

He became a stockman and drover and began his career as a cattle thief in 1870 in Queensland when he stole over 1000 cattle from Bowen Downs station where he was working as a stockman. He and 2 other men drove the cattle overland to South Australia. Readford was caught in Sydney in 1872 and sent to trial but was found not guilty as, believe it or not, the jury were so impressed by what he had achieved they let him go. Ten years earlier the explorers Burke and Wills had died attempting to cross the exact same track!

Henry Arthur Readford married Elizabeth Jane Snelle in 1871 at Mudgee, New South Wales and in 1872 they had a daughter whom they named Jemima Mary Elizabeth Readford.

Readford was immortalised in the 1892 Australian novel Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Boldrewood, when he was still alive. This is where the name Captain Starlight came from and Readford became something of a national hero.
He was one of two bushrangers known by the name of Captain Starlight, the other being Frank Pearson, who was known as Captain Starlight in 1868 before the publication of the novel. Boldrewood himself claimed that the Captain Starlight character in the book was a composite of several bushrangers, including Henry Readford, but that the primary inspiration was Thomas Smith, a bushranger known as Captain Midnight. The early chapters of the book were based on Readford's exploits, and the closing shoot out was based on the death of Midnight.
An annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive commemorates Readford's exploits as a drover. A range of riders from the city and country participate in this droving expedition.

Henry Arthur Readford died on the 12th March, 1901 at Corella Creek on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory. He drowned while trying to swim across Corella Creek which had flooded due to heavy rain.

SOURCES:
Vereker, James (2011). Harry Redford Cattle Drive. Goondiwindi: C & D Publishing
Australia Death Index, 1787-1985
Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950

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