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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Not your usual bushranger

Well, I seem to be clear of the last of my commitments for the Big History Book, so more hints, of sorts, about where I am headed.  It's not the whole story, but I am looking at bushrangers at the moment.

People seemed to have a soft spot for them, but for the most part, things ended badly for the bushrangers.

To my extreme annoyance, most studies of bushrangers do no more than scratch the surface, so I am looking for the unusual tales that surround them. Quite often, they got shot, like Ben Hall, seen on the left (above) as he was depicted in the press of the day. Others, like Ned Kelly (right, above) went to the gallows.
A shoot-out involving the Clarkes in 1866: bet you never heard of them!!
Shoot-outs, however, excited the most interest, I have found.  The amazing thing to me, though, is the huge number of bush rangers who were around, and the number who died with their boots off, reformed characters, so to speak.

For the most part, they had pretty miserable lives, and that's part of the story I plan to tell, but even those who weren't bushrangers could have a nasty time of it.  That brings me to Frederick Turner, who fell foul of the Bushranging Act in 1838—and he wasn't even a bushranger!

Frederick sailed to Hobart  in 1832 as a cabin boy on the Norval, and then left the ship with his employer's agreement, worked in several jobs before taking a 12-month post with Doctor Imlay of Twofold Bay. He completed his contract, and as workers had to do in those days, he had Imlay write him a certificate to say that he was a free man, not a runaway of any sort, and headed for Sydney looking for work.

In a statement that he made later, which was published in The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, he explained that this certificate said something like:
''The bearer, Frederick Turner, who arrived in the colony a free immigrant, has served me for twelve months at Twofold Bay, and is now on his way to Sydney to seek employment.''
Arriving in Goulburn, he was offered work as a waiter at the Goulburn Inn, at a weekly wage of twelve shillings, which was reasonable pay.  He liked the work and might have stayed, but after three weeks, a passing walloper quizzed him.

He answered frankly that he was a free man, and on the request of the mounted policeman, produced his certificate, but the law's officer dismissed it with "Oh! this will not do anybody can carry about a thing like this!" and had another constable haul him off to the watch-house, where he was locked up for the whole of that night, then taken before a magistrate called Stewart who had the "runaway reports of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land" checked, but no matching runaway was on the list.
Descriptions like these were issued for all prisoners who absconded: in those
days, with no photography, this was the best the authorities could do.
Source: The Sydney Monitor, 15 September, 1836, page 1S.
Well, said Stewart, the fellow must be a runaway from the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney Town: he must go there and be examined.  So it was back to the watch house for Frederick, where his hair was cropped close to the skull before he was thrust into a crowded cell, about 13 feet by 12 in dimension. Here, there were  some 25 to 30 convicts and felons living upon bread and water.

Each night, they were handcuffed and chained to each other in a hot cell at the end of summer (it appears). After a fortnight, nine of them were chained up, and they set out to walk to Sydney, some 200 km away.  Each night, they moved from lockup to lockup: Bargo, Stonequarry  Creek, the Cowpastures, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Parramatta and Sydney.  At the Hyde Park Barracks, Mr. Ryan, the Chief-Clerk, referred to the records, but could not find any runaway of Turner's description.

That ought to have been that, but Ryan declared that he must detain Frederick until he could produce some respectable person to identify him as a free subject.  After a fortnight detained in the Barracks, he recalled that a Mrs. Collins who had come to Australia on the Norval should be in Sydney. He named her, she came, identified him, and he was released with no money, little in the way of clothing (he had sold most of his clothes to get food on the way to Sydney), and no papers.
It occurred to me to ask Mr. Ryan for the certificate which Dr. Imlay gave me, and which I had been compelled to deliver up to the Police Magistrate of Goulburn. Mr. Ryan evinced not the least feeling for my misfortunes, though he now knew, that I had been brought down 150 miles in handcuffs innocently; for he told me rudely and roughly ''to be off,'' not condescending to say whether he or Mr. Stewart of Goulburn had my certificate in his possession.  Yet Mr. Ryan must know, that if with a certificate I had been thus imprisoned three weeks, and put in irons as if I had been in an ironed gang. I was more liable to the same treatment without a certificate.
Turner had been banged up for five weeks, and now he was tossed out on the street. Two constables questioned him, but unlike the Goulburn push, they believed his story, and advised him to see Mr. Mitchell, the Chief Constable, who they said would probably do something for him.  Instead, he went to see the Collinses, and Mr. Collins gave him shelter and found him work the next day.

This wasn't an isolated case, he said. He explained that two other free men were confined as well as himself at Goulburn, and one of them was actually flogged for what was deemed insolence to the Magistrate.

So if that was how they treated free people, who can be surprised if a few felons went, well, just a bit feral?  I have been searching for later traces of Frederick Turner, but it's a common name, and I have no traces that I can link to him directly.  But I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn later that as soon as he could raise enough for a passage, or find a berth, young Frederick Turner quitted the colonies for good.

I will, however, be looking further into George Stewart, P. M. at Goulburn, appointed in 1836, because I know a little of the magistrates in the area, and there isn't a lot to admire.

I doubt, though, that I will ever embark on a work called Not Your Usual Judges, because, to be blunt, there was no standard of normality among them, not in the early days.  There's just too much material altogether.

Now I'm going back to look more closely at that subset of bushrangers who managed to get pardons, men like Walmsley (a murderer), Frank Gardiner (a bit of a thug) and Moondyne Joe, a lovable rogue who was pardoned for being good at escaping.

Once, Joe shot through from Fremantle Gaol in his underwear, and somehow managed to acquire a suit made of "marsupial skins" (or so he claimed).  That story explains his peculiar garb in the only extant photograph of him.

That's him, there on the right.  I lifted it from Wikimedia Commons, which claims that it is in the public domain.

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