That was the position when I came across a reference to a bushranger called Tom Hughes. In Not Your Usual Bushrangers, I had declared that the bushranging era was dead and over in 1880, following the executions of Captain Moonlite and Ned Kelly. Annoying my sense of the neatness of things, Hughes came on the scene in 1887. Here is a new end portion that I have just crafted for Not Your Usual Bushrangers.
|By 1944, The Daily News saw fit|
to illustrate O'Connell's killing.
Colonel Tom Ochiltree sat in the barroom of the Hoffman yesterday drinking champagne with a friend, when a reporter came in.
"Say, Tom Hughes has been bagged,' he remarked to the reporter. He was much surprised to learn that the reporter was not acquainted with Mr. Hughes.
"Why, he was at one time one of the first citizens of Denison and at another time of Lareda. Why, everybody in Texas and every other State must have known Tom Hughes. But let me tell you, his capture was accomplished only because of his hard luck, and hard luck was an infrequent incident in the picturesque life of one of the old-time-spirits that fifteen or twenty years ago gave a zest to life in this country."
WA's Most Desperate Bushranger Dies
Tom Hughes, only bushranger worthy of renown in that dubious trade Western Australia has known, was buried in Karrakatta cemetery on Tuesday. Many years ago he hurried over that now consecrated ground when hotly pursued by mounted troopers who wanted him for the killing of a policeman at Fremantle. For weeks Hughes had been sought around Fremantle and Perth. It was not long after he ran over the scrub lands that are now Karrakatta cemetery that he was captured and he spent the greater part of his remaining life in gaol.
It is a remarkable fact that when West Australian bushrangers are spoken of the name of Moondyne Joe is first mentioned. Moondyne never engaged in gun play. He was an expert gaol escapee and he robbed settlers' huts; but he never fought pursuing police nor fired a shot at anyone as Hughes did on many occasions. Tom Hughes was born and brought up in and about a humpy where there is now the well populated riverside suburb of Bicton. As a lad he worked as a coachman for a Roman Catholic prelate, but he quickly became a burglar. He robbed the licensee of the Freemasons' Tavern which is now the Palace Hotel in Perth. After three trials, at the end of each of which juries disagreed, he was freed.
Robberies At Fremantle There followed robberies of tools and explosives from quarries near the traffic bridge at Fremantle and a watch set by police culminated in the chasing of Hughes one Sunday evening as he sneaked away from the quarry with goods he had stolen. Lying in wait for him were two policemen named O'Connell and Franklin. That was in April, 1887, when Hughes was 21. When they challenged him Hughes dropped his bundle of stolen goods and scaled a wall into the street along which buses run into Fremantle centre today after crossing the bridge. The two policemen were so fast after him that they were able to grab his legs as he scrambled through a paling fence on the opposite side. People who had been at church were returning home when they saw the chase.
Hughes, with his knees knocking together and lower jaw drooping, kept his hands up, but they wore flopping about in a way that made the man with the pistol laugh. He couldn't help turning his head a minute to remark to one of the men with him that he 'never see sich a idjit,' but he never said anything else after that. The moment his eye got around to his companion, Hughes' shaking right hand dropped down on the butt of a revolver somewhere about his clothing, and even before the robber saw the motion, Hughes sent a bullet through his heart. He shot one of the others with the next pull of the trigger, and then told the third to hold up his hands and make tracks toward Fort Scott, which was done instanter.
And the series? I am looking at a January release of seven e-books. Stay posted.
And just an afterthought, here is a link to an earlier piece I did on another unusual bushranger.