Thursday

Australia’s largest gold robbery

stage coach hold up in 1862 in Eugowra NSW Australia
Stage coach hold-up, Eugowra Rocks, oil on canvas, 137.5 x 183 cm
by Patrick William Morony (1858-1939) painted in 1894.


It was at Eugowra, on the 15th June, 1862 that Frank Gardiner, and his gang of bushrangers, robbed the Ford & Co. coach on its way from Forbes to Bathurst in New South Wales. It was Australia’s largest gold robbery - 14 thousand pounds worth of gold and banknotes.
The rock, in the painting, above, where the bushrangers waited to ambush the coach is now called Escort Rock after the fact that the coach was a gold escort meaning it escorted or carried gold from one place to another.
Gardiner's gang included Ben Hall, John Gilbert, Henry Manns, Alex Fordyce, John Bow, John O'Meally, and Dan Charters.
"...the greatest achievement of Gardiner's gang, the Lachlan escort robbery; at Engowra Rocks, about forty-five miles distant from the town of Orange. Here the escort coach, carrying a sergeant and two troopers, was impeded by two bullock teams, without drivers, drawn across, the road. The driver made a circuit round them to pass, and when the coach neared a clump of rocks four men rose from their shelter. They were attired in red shirts, their faces were blackened, and they were armed with rifles. They dis charged their rifles in a volley at the coach. A bullet pierced the driver's hat, and another perforated his coat skirt. The constables in the coach were not hit. Then four other bandits stood up, and fired a second volley, whereupon the horses bolted, and the coach was upset. The gang rushed upon it and fired again. The sergeant was wounded in three places, and Trooper Horan in two. Trooper Haviland was uninjured, and he fled into the bush with the driver. The robbers carried away the escort boxes, two rifles, and the coach horses. Haviland and the driver ran to Clement's Station, and re turned with a party of men, who found only the scattered contents of the mail bags. These they gathered up, and, after obtaining fresh horses, proceeded on the road to Orange with the wounded police. They also discovered the bullock drivers, who had been bailed up by the gang,  ordered to draw their teams across the  road, and hide themselves in the bush, with, their faces on the ground. The coach arrived at Orangeat six o'clock   on the following evening. Shortly after it left the post office, a bullet struck Constable Haviland in the head, and killed him instantly. Doubtless it came from the rifle of one of the gang, who must have been lingering on watch in the   neighbourhood unseen. The robbers'  booty was heavy ; the escort boxes con tained 5509 oz. of gold, representing £22,000 in value, and £7490 in Oriental Bank notes. The gang consisted of Gardiner, Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Mally, John   Bow, Alexander Fordyce, Henry Manns, and Daniel Charteris. They divided the booty into eight shares. Gardiner, For dyce, and Charteris put their gold on one of the coach horses, and proceeded towards the Weddin Mountains. The others took their shares separately, and went on other tracks. On ths following day Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was district superinten dent of police, set forth in pursuit of the bandits with eleven troopers, twenty   armed volunteers, and two black track ers. They followed the trail of Gardiner  and his two companions, whose pack horse became exhausted at the foot of the Weddin Range. While they were engaged in removing the gold they caught sight of their pursuers approaching, and fled into the hills, leaving behind 1239 oz. of gold, which fell into the hands of the police. Some time after Charter is turned informer. Manns, Fordyce, and Bow were arrested; Manns was hanged, and the other two were sentenced to life imprisonment. Gardiner disappeared. Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally went on their way of blood and plunder for three years longer in defiance of the police.

The huge escort robbery was Gardiner's final exploit." TROVE: The Capricornian Newspaper. Rockhampton, Qld. Saturday 14th October 1905.

Read the details of the robbery here.

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