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Outrages by the Macleay blacks

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Thursday 14 June 1860, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser


(from the Armidale Express, June 9.)


We are again obliged to invite the urgent attention of the Government to the deficiency of protection for the settlers in New England and the McLeay district who reside in the vicinity of, or in, the rugged tract which separates the two districts.

In addition to the notices of depredations committed by the McLeay blacks which have lately appeared in the Express, it is now our duty to place before the public another list of even more daring robberies and outrages than those already mentioned.

Since our last impression it was rumoured in Armidale that the McLeay blacks had driven off several hundred sheep from Hillgrove – Mr. Richard Hargrave’s station, about 15 miles from Armidale – and taken them down the Falls. We subsequently learned that they had swept off 500. On Mr Vincent Graham, the superintendent, receiving information of the robbery, he took two of the Hillgrove blacks with him, and started in pursuit. We understand that he found nearly all the sheep hemmed in a corner on the edge of the Falls, and that he heard a party of blacks talking at the bottom of a precipice. The descent being impracticable, he and the blacks in company, by making a long detour, and using great caution, arrived within twenty yards of the McLeay blacks before being observed by the latter, who, it appears, were busily engaged in roasting five sheep for their supper. By what means the culprits were routed we are not informed, but it is evident that they must have fled, as Mr. Graham and his blacks brought back with them a gun, powder, shot, ball, &c, left behind by the fugitives. With the exception of 12 missing, the sheep were recovered. It is almost unnecessary to remark that Mr. Graham’s conduct is deserving of the highest praise, alike for promptitude, bravery, and intelligence.

We have to add that a cow, the property of Mr. E. Hargrave, was shot recently, by the McLeay blacks, within 1½ mile of the Hernani head station, and close to the road to Grafton. Mr. E. Furber’s gunyah, within a mile of the same head station, was robbed a short time back of everything he had, by the same rascals ; and, about a week ago, they stole his axes, a blue shirt, and other articles, from where be was at work in the bush.

In January last, Mr. J. Perrett, of Tyringham, was shot at, by blacks, when about a mile from his house. It appears that the McLeay blacks, whose predatory incursions are numerous and sudden, have been for some time past a pest and continual source of apprehension to many settlers on the Grafton line. They have frequently been been with a large number of firearms, and we are informed that some of their guns have a bore of an inch in diameter, carrying an ounce bullet.

Those best fitted, from their knowledge of the country and the habits of the McLeay blacks, to form an accurate opinion as to a remedy, which ought to be immediately adopted, recommend that a party of native police should be stationed at the back of the Bald Hills station. In that locality there are heads of the Nambuccra, Bellinger, and Clarence Rivers, and dense scrubs, in which the blacks are prone to take refuge, and in the vicinity, and in which only an assailing force of blacks can be effective. in that direction, a few years ago, a shepherd, his wife, and their infant at the breast, were murdered in a most brutal manner by the blacks. Their bodies were then chopped up into small pieces, and left in a heap where they were found. Subsequently, another shepherd was murdered by the blacks.

On leaving the vicinity of Armidale, a short time ago, the strange blacks were seen to have plenty of firearms. One respectable settler on an adjoining creek states that he particularly observed one gin who was loaded with no fewer than three guns.

FATAL ACCIDENT.-A man commonly known as “Jim,’ and who was in the employ of Mr. Jas. McLean as fireman at his mill, had been in the habit, it appears, of creeping into the engine furnace to sleep. On Friday week, being at the time in liquor, he crept in before the bent had sufficiently escaped, and he was almost roasted before he became conscious of pain, when his shouts brought to his assistance Constables Callaghan and Glien, who dragged him out by his feet. Dr. Markham was sent for to see the man, and wrote an order for his admittance into the hospital, whither he went after some delay, and after lingering in great agony for about 30 hours, died on Saturday evening. We have not learned deceased’s proper name.

THE WEATHER. – During the greater part of the week the weather has been stormy, with frequent showers. On Thursday morning, we are informed, there was a little snow, but it melted away immediately, owing to the dampness of the ground. A heavy fall is expected before fine weather sets in again. The influenza has become very prevalent, few escaping its influence.

THE OBAN ROBBERY. – On Friday, the 1st instant, the prisoners Davis and Burns, apprehended on the charge of being concerned in the late robbery at Oban, were brought before the bench at Armidale. Mr. A’Hern deposed that at about 7 o’clock on the evening of 22nd May, on returning to his house he saw two men, one tall, the other short, going there before him. The big man carried a pistol, and as both were apparently disguised, he concluded they were robbers, and endeavoured to reach the house first, in order to get his gun. They perceived him, however, and the big man said, “I have got you, my lad.” He made a rush for the back door, but the robbers reached it almost as soon as he, and on getting inside his hands and those of the taller man seized the gun simultaneously. During the struggle, the robber’s face becoming partially uncovered, he recognised him as a man whom he had known by the name of Graham – now one of the prisoners in the dock. His wife came in during the struggle, and implored the robber not to kill her husband, and the man, though for some time threatening or attempting to stab him with a shear blade, ultimately promised not to hurt him, or her. The taller man then ordered the other to tie him with a rope; but this was not carried into effect. The shorter man, who was muffled in a scotch twill shirt, then proceeded to search for valuables, turning out the contents of a cash box, of his wife’s work box, and of another box in which he kept notes, sovereigns, jewellery, and gold, and the key of which his wife produced, to save violence. Whilst this was going on, the taller man’s attention being drawn for a moment to his companion, witness endeavoured to stoop to pick up a tomahawk lying near; but be was almost instantly knocked down by a violent blow from a short gun the robber held, one barrel of which was discharged directly afterwards – though not apparently at him, the ball lodging in the ceiling. After they had finished their spoliation, they went away, and he then ascertained that they had taken a parcel of gold which weighed about 10 or 11 ozs., and about £20 in bank notes, sovereigns, and silver ; among the notes there were two of £5, if not three ; they also took a lot of rings belonging to his wife, one large one of witness’s, a pair of boots, a single-barrelled gun, two red woollen shirts, tea, sugar, bread, and bacon ; the little man also took a pillow-slip to put the swag in ; a large steel purse, which contained the gold and money, witness also missed ; he saw the little man also take the boots, close from where be stood, while the robbery was being perpetrated. He identified as his property the purse produced, a note it contained, a locket and some rings, a piece of gold of peculiar shape, and the boots. The double-barrelled weapon produced, he believed to be the one with which he was struck. Burns had frequently been at his house while on the diggings, and could have seen him go to the box for change. On Saturday the 2nd the prisoners were again brought before the bench, and Constable Marshall deposed that, the boots identified by Mr. A’Hern were worn by Burns when he was brought to the look-up. The prisoners were remanded until the 6th.

The following, from the Tamworth Examiner, supplies additional information of interest :- One of the men has been well known to the Chief Constable (Armidale) for years as a notoriously bad character ; he then went under the name of Davis or Davison, and robbed the mail at Harper’s Hill some years ago. He afterwards escaped from Maitland gaol, and was recaptured on the Paterson ; and it seems that he latterly went under the name of Graham. On the 28th ultimo, Sergeant-Major Keegan and a trooper of the Northern Patrol arrived in town, after having made a diligent search through the country for the robbers, and bringing a description of them from A’Hern. Immediately on the Chief Countable seeing this document he had his old acquaintance Davis arrested, upon whose person was found several gold rings, a locket, &c, belonging to Mr, A’Hern, all of which have been identified by him. The next thing was to snare the mate, which the Chief Constable effected within half an hour after Davis was confined. This worthy goes under the name of Nicholas Burns, and is about 21 years old ; has rather a forbidding appearance, and no doubt in a little time would be equal to his preceptor, Davis. Upon his person were found bank notes and gold, belonging to Mr. A’Hern. They had outside the town two stolen horses, saddles, and bridles, a cut down double gun – a most formidable weapon – one barrel loaded and capped, all of which are in the hands of the police. The owners of the horses are known to the Chief Constable, who no doubt will prosecute them on that charge also. It is a fact that these ruffians surveyed the bank premises here with a view to robbery, but Davis said it was not to be done by two men as there were too many houses about it; but the bank at Newcastle he was satisfied he could manage. They also contemplated stopping the mail between Warialda and Tamworth. Is it not most fortunate for the public that these villains have been safely housed in the commencement of their career, and that there is little doubt of their conviction on both charges? It is rumoured that Burns has given the Chief Constable some useful information. The stolen horses before referred to belong to Mr. Barker, of Mount Mitchell, in this district, and Mr. Panton, of the Macleay River. The thieves are remanded for further evidence.

Written by macalba

December 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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