The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 2 page 4

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Story of the KellyGang - the Sup Hare's book

The Last of the Bushrangers.

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Death Of Brooks

About day break a great crowd of diggers came round the police station, and begged me to allow them to lynch Brooks before he died. I told them I could not possibly allow such a thing. They became most excited, and demanded that I should hand over the wounded man to them. I saw a long rope in the hand of a man, so I closed up the door of the building, with myself and the constable inside. The diggers then threatened to break in the door and windows, but I remained firm, telling them the unfortunate man could only live a few hours. The diggers then had a meeting, and decided to burn down and destroy all the tents where the thieves and murderers resorted on the diggings. During the time the diggers were trying to get hold of Brooks, he was calling out from the agony he was suffering, and they kept mocking him. His thirst was most intense, and he implored us to keep giving him water, which, of course, we did, and did everything we could to relieve his sufferings. About ten o'clock I was told that several tents and grog shanties had been set on fire. I looked out and saw men tearing up mattresses, and feathers being thrown into the fire, and all the furniture being broken up and burnt. About this time a large force of police had been sent to my assistance, and I was in some measure able to restore order. Brooks lingered on till about three o'clock in the afternoon, when he died in the most terrible agony. Lopez was an Italian, and lived in his store by himself, and was known to be a most determined man. The doctors held the post mortem, and said death must have been almost instantaneous, as the bullet had gone through his heart. The missing handle of the dagger was found by the medical man in Lopez' clenched hand. A tragic occurrence took place at the inquest. It was held by the coroner in a place used as a theatre, the jury sitting below the foot lights. Three inquests had to be held, one on Lopez, the second on Barnett, and the third on Brooks. The inquest on the latter was not closed until nine o'clock at night, but while the coroner was taking the depositions the head of Brooks, which had been removed from the body, and put on the back of the stage, came rolling down, and fell on the ground among the jury. The coroner was anxious to keep the murderer's head, and the doctor, who held the post mortem, had placed the head at the back of the stage, forgetting that all stages slope towards the front. This skull was kept as a memento by the coroner until his death, when his widow sent it to me, and I now have it in my den.

At the Buckland River Station

I was sent in charge to the Buckland River station, about April, 1854, shortly after 'the new diggings were discovered there, and one of my first duties was to see that the diggers were all provided with licences. Having been a digger myself, I thought I would be able to circumvent the men who had no licences. The commissioner (as these officers were called in those days), named Mr. Hood, told me a few days after I arrived that he had been informed a number of men were working at the head of the river, and he proposed that we should take a party of police and explore the river some distance from the camp—at this time very little was known about the head of the river—so we arranged to take four mounted police, and go in search of diggers who were mining without licences. We followed them up to the junction of the two arms of the river. I took one side and the commissioner the other, each of us having two mounted constables with us. I was on the left side, and the commissioner with two men on the right. After going half a mile beyond the junction, I got on to a narrow track, the two men following close behind me. Suddenly I found the track getting more narrow and steep; my horse went faster and faster, until he could scarcely find ground to stand on, when away went his hind legs. I felt he was going over, and slipped my feet out of the stirrups, and as he reared or fell over, I saw a clump of grass on the edge of the precipice, and laid hold of and hung on to it. The horse rolled over and over a distance of 100 yards, until he fell into the river. He was terribly cut about, but with much difficulty we got him out, and led him home; the saddle was smashed to pieces. The commissioner on the other side of the river was amazed to see me walking down the hill. After hearing the clatter of horse, stirrup irons, and stones, the two men, who were behind me, seeing the position I was getting into, pulled up their horses, and so avoided my misfortune. The commissioner suggested that we had better return to the camp, as we saw no diggers working on the river, so we went back, considering we had run a great risk to no purpose.

The Old Woman’s Port-Wine

Another story occurs to my mind, whilst I was stationed at the Buckland. We had a most highly esteemed and worthy police magistrate, whose name I will not mention. His tent was fixed alongside of mine. It was the habit in those days for the police to be always on the alert for persons bringing liquor to the diggings, as no public houses were then allowed except in townships. My men had made a large seizure, and the persons driving the drays were brought before the P. M., charged with carrying liquor for illegal sale. The whole seizure was confiscated, and in those days, instead of selling it, the magistrate directed that the liquor was to be destroyed. This order was made with regard to this seizure. On the following day I was about to carry out the order of the court, when the official came to me, and said, "Kaffir" (he used to call me "Kaffir" because I came from the Cape), "don't you think it would be advisable to keep the cask of port wine that has been confiscated, for the poor frozen women about the diggings?" The place at that time was snowed up half the winter. I replied, "I have no objection, but where shall we keep it ?" He replied, "Between our tents." I agreed to his proposal and we fixed up the quarter cask accordingly, and put a tap in it. From time to time the old women, and sometimes the young ones, came for a jug of port wine, but one night I heard a trickle as if some one was drawing off a jug from the cask, and thinking that the sentry was having a pull at it (there was always a sentry over the gold office, which was within a short distance of our tents), I got up as quietly as I could, opened the tent, and saw our worthy official drawing off a jug of port. I called out to him, "Are you drawing off a jug for some old woman at this hour of the night?" He looked up surprised, and it was a sore subject for a long time. Some years afterwards I met him, and related to some friends in his presence the story of the port wine, and, strange to say, he had quite forgotten all about it, and tried to make mo believe he could not have been the official that I referred to.

The cold at the Buckland was intense on those days. The men were occupied half a dozen times during the night scraping the snow off the tents and off the police stables, which had merely a covering of calico, and there was great danger of the snow carrying away both tents and stables.

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