The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 2 page 8

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

New South Wales Customs

When the Echuca railway was being built the New South Wales Government claimed the River Murray, and issued a proclamation that after a certain day all boats and dutiable articles found on the river would be seized and confiscated unless duly registered. One morning I was prosecuting in the police court in Melbourne , and the acting Chief Commissioner, Captain Mair, sent for me. I went to his office, and he told me Sir James M'Culloch wished me to start at once for Echuca with twenty armed policemen, and go as far as Sandhurst that afternoon. The instructions I received were but scanty, -beyond that I was to protect all boats on the Victorian side of the river and dutiable articles that might be landed on the Victorian shore. I had a proclamation, signed by Sir James M'Culloch, to the effect that I would be responsible for all boats on the Victorian bank, provided they were given over into my charge. I started for Sandhurst , by the three o'clock train, and a ballast engine was provided for me, to convey me from Sandhurst to Echuca, where I arrived at four o'clock in the morning. At Echuca the town was in a great state of excitement, fearing their boats would be seized. I had the proclamation printed at once, and posted on the trees, and at nine o'clock in the morning got introduced to the New South Wales Customs officer, who was dressed up in gold lace and buttons from head to foot.

I had a conversation with him, and he told me his orders were to seize all boats that were found on the Murray. I told him my orders were to protect these boats against seizure.

I said, "Then I think we had better bring this matter to an issue this afternoon. I will start a boat down the river from opposite Moama to Echuca, on the Victorian side, with a load of dutiable articles; you come and seize them if you can." I asked him what he would do if he were prevented seizing the goods. He replied, "I would have to shoot any one who interfered with me." I said, "All right; I will get a buggy; you accompany me up the river, previously arranging to have a boat there, and I will send up some tea and tobacco, put them in the boat, and start them down the river."

Testing a Point

I ordered my sergeant to take up a box of tea and a case of tobacco, and at three o'clock Mr. G., the Customs officer of New South Wales , and I drove up the river. I told him, whatever happened, we need not quarrel. He concurred, and away we started. When we got opposite Moama I found a boat ready for me. I ordered the sergeant to put the goods in the boat, and jumped in myself. Mr. G. walked down with a broad arrow branding iron, and said—"I seize this boat in the name of the Queen." I said, "I would strongly advise your not putting your foot in this boat. If you do I will throw you overboard." He said. "Do you mean it?" I replied, "I do." I then landed, telling the sergeant to take the boat down to Echuca and to keep away from the New South Wales shore. He did so, and was in no way molested, and landed the goods at Echuca I then said to Mr. G., "I suppose now you intend telegraphing for orders to your Government.” He said, “Yes, I do." I replied, "Let us do everything fair and above board; you show me the message you intend sending, and I will do the same." He agreed to this, and we each showed our respective telegrams, and in half an hour

I received a reply from Sir James M'Culloch to the following effect:— “So far all right; if Customs officer interferes further put him in the lockup.” Needless to say I did not show this to my, quondam friend! Mr. G. did not receive any reply to his message. I remained at Echuca for a month, but nothing further transpired. I had a sentry day and night on the boats placed under my charge, but there was no further interference from the New South Wales Government, nor do I even know what arrangement was after wards made between the two Governments. On my return to Melbourne Sir James M'Culloch, the Chief Secretary, sent for me and paid me the highest compliment on the manner in which I had conducted the business.

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