Cookson, 19 09 1911 1

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19 September 1911

(full text transcription)




The bushrangers' stronghold occupied the space of fully half an acre, which was thoroughly cleared of scrub, logs, or stumps. At intervals were standing gigantic gums. The whole of the clearing was protected by an almost impenetrable fence, erected on the chock-and-block system-strong. The fence was constructed of saplings, of young trees, which had been felled and the trunk cut into the required length, and by their size and weight it was evident that they had been hauled into position by horses or bullocks. The hut or dwelling was built about the centre of the clearing, and stood cross ways-that is, the door or entry facing one side of the fence, and the back at the other. At each end, and at the back of the hut were look-outs, or sliding windows. The door was formed of one immense sheet of iron, and let into a groove, top and bottom; necessarily working on the sliding system. How this door was conveyed there was a mystery. Its weight and dimensions were too much for a pack-horse, and it was a matter of impossibility for a wheeled conveyance to get over the ranges. The hut, which was constructed of immense logs, was built on the same principle as the fence, all crevices being stopped with wattle and daub. The roof was of bark, fastened with wooden pegs, and further secured with green-hide ropes thrown over, and kept in position by logs made fast at each end. That its resistance to bullets had been well tested, and that the iron door was bullet-proof, was evident from the number of plashes on the outside. The door was not fastened, but it took the united strength of the two brothers to slide to open. When they had opened the door the horses were unsaddled and let loose.

They now led me into the hut, and I was not impressed with the amount of comfort I might anticipate from the furnishing of the interior. In the centre stood what was used as a table. It was composed of a sheet of bark supported by four staked driven into the ground. On it stood a billy and two dirty pannikins, also an empty jam tin, evidently converted into a drinking vessel. Near the billy was what appeared to be the remains of a piece of meat-roast beef-burnt almost to a cinder on the outside, and nearly raw where it had been cut. There was also some kind of bread, which appeared like a cross between a damper and a johnny cake. A bottle about three-parts full if whisky stood with the viands, and completing what appeared to be the remains of a not-distant meal. In each corner of the hut was a bush stretcher of bark. Underneath one stood a flour bag, apparently recently opened, as traces of flour were visible from the bag to the table. Beneath another stretcher was an old gin case, in which were plainly visible the backs of several books of the blood and thunder type. There were blankets and clothing thrown indiscriminately on the stretcher. There were several short blocks of wood lying on the floor. These were evidently used for seating purposes. There was no fireplace in the hut, but just outside the hut there were three uprights standing triangle-wise. A chain with a hook attached hung from the centre one. Beneath was the remains of a charred log. The lookouts which one of the gang opened on entering, slid in a groove frame, which were well greased, no doubt to facilitate their sliding easily. When closed, they were secured by a green-hide loop on a peg. Dan Kelly's first action on entering was to take up the whisky and drink a good nip, raw, handing the bottle to Byrne, who did likewise, and enquired of me if I would have a nip, offering to hold the bottle to my mouth. I was still strong in the determination to take matters with assumed good-natured indifference, and replied that I would be happy to drink their health, but I could not take it neat. Byrne then took a pannikin, held the bottle over it, and looking at me said, "Say when." He then poured some of the spirit into it, adding some water. Though I was not given to imbibing, I found the stimulant very acceptable. I noted with surprise the leader did not touch the liquor. It was evident from their next movement that the gang intended preparing the evening meal. I was allowed to sit outside with my back against the building, and Dan, with the ever-ready rifle, mounted guard over me.

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the previous day / next day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index