Police Trackers

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Side of Authority
This page contains content from police and those who supported authority.

Importance of the police aboriginal trackers

The police used aboriginal trackers to follow the KellyGang.

Related topics include -The beginning , Murders at Stringy Bark Creek , Warby Ranges , Euroa robbery , Insp O'Connor & Queensland trackers arrive , Hare replaced by Nicolson , Second cave party , Nicolson replaced by Hare , plans to withdraw O'Connor and Queensland trackers, death of Aaron Sherritt , Glenrowan siege , Later , Royal Commission ,

Links to the KellyGang

The beginning In May 1870 Sup Hare and Nicolson arranged for an aboriginal tracker from the police station at Benalla to accompany them when they went to arrest Harry Power.A group of police trackers were based at Benalla. Murders at Stringy Bark Creek in the Wombat Ranges 26/10/1878 AssCom Nicolson had with him a good blackfellow - a Darling black tracker-who traced the the KellyGang in the area of the Murray Flats and Baumgarten's up within a quarter of a mile of Barnawatha (RC350)

Const Johnson had two trackers with him on 9/11/1878 when he found the police horse from Stringy Bark Creek in the Warby Ranges. (RC12428) They came from Coranderrk. Const Johnston said that the trackers were very slow because they had to track on foot. (RC1880) (RC12461)

Warby Ranges 6/11/1878 Local trackers were taken into the Warby Ranges. There were issues about how they worked. (RC12491)

Ass Com Nicolson said that the tracker was an old man, a good tracker, from Coriander, one of the old aboriginals, and therefore possessed of more skill than the present lot, and a young man whom the old fellow called his pupil, named Jemmy. (RC415)

The police had a problem with local aboriginal trackers. (RC2013) see also (Argus14/11/78) Euroa Robbery 10/12/1878 Two trackers were included in the police search party from Benalla (RC5964) Jemmy was one of them (RC551) They were Spider and Harry (Argus14/12/78) Harry came from

O'Connor and Queensland trackers arrive in Victoria 6/3/1879 Proposal to use trackers

Following the Jerilderie robbery in Feburary 1879, it was mooted by the press generally and by some of the Government Ministers, that it would be very desirable to have black trackers down from Queensland. Com Standish was opposed to it. He though that in a large uninhabited district, where there is a scant population and little or no traffic, the services of the black trackers, which are chiefly utilized in pursuing and dispersing the native blacks, are of use, it would be very little use in a district where there is a large traffic on all the roads, and where the movements of the outlaws were known to be wonderfully rapid. He was also concerned that the KellyGang often used to ride 50, 60, and 70 miles between night and morning. They also knew every corner and nook of the district, and had their numerous sympathizers, who would very soon obliterate their tracks. (RC47)

See also (Argus12/2/79) (Argus15/2/79) (Illustrated12/4/1879) (RC2035) (RC16133) (RC2nd reportXI) (JJK) (Argus12/12/1931) Queensland Trackers arrive in Victoria

6 Queensland trackers, a Constable and Insp O'Connor had come down to Sydney by ship. We then travelled from Sydney to Albury by train. At 7 pm on 6/3/1879. The names of my men were-Senior-Constable King, Corporal Sambo, Troopers Hero, Johnny, Jimmy, Barney, and Jack. The trackers arrived at Benalla at 2pm on 10/3/1879. (Argus10/3/79) (Argus11/3/79) (Argus12/3/79) (Agrus19/3/79) '(Agrus19/3/79) (RC1073)

See some background information about the trackers (Agrus13/3/79) (Agrus14/3/79)

Com Standish complained that the trackers were too slow. Of course they had to have a large number of pack-horses. The Queensland trackers were more susceptible of cold than the white men, and it was necessary to carry a fly or tent for them and their blankets; but they had no real trial of speed. They were very active on foot. On one occasion they had a very long trip to search for some place, and they were certainly then quicker than the local police, and in better condition. (RC11913)

Hare's view of the use of the trackers.(RC1289) (FH)

The Royal Commission described Com Standish's concern about the use of the trackers in the following terms:

"He believed them to be wholly unsuitable for tracking in broken and mountainous country, more especially as they required a considerable quantity of impedimenta, could work but slowly, and were therefore the more liable to attract observation. In a district like that in which the pursuit was conducted, and having to cope with men who frequently rode from 60 to 70 miles in one night, it was believed by Captain Standish that the trackers were utterly useless, and that their engagement was an idle expenditure of money. "

"While Captain Standish entertained this opinion of the trackers, it must be noticed that Mr. Hare, Mr. Sadleir and other competent authorities who had practical experience of the value of their work, bore favorable testimony to their abilities and usefulness." (RC2ndreportXI) see also (RC16138)

O'Connor and Queensland trackers went out on our first patrol from Benalla on 11/3/1879 and returned on 18/3/1879.

The trackers were kept together at Benalla and sent out from there to where they were needed. (RC3071)

Hare replaced by Nicolson 6/7/1879 Trackers went to follow up on the bank robbery at Lancefield in August 1879.(Argus16/8/79) (Argus18/8/79)

There were not many opportunities to use the trackers after that (RC1109) (JJK) Second Cave Party 12/1879-4/1880 In the last week before Ass Com Nicolson left there was a good report of Joe Byrne visiting his mother. Nicolson decided not to follow up with the trackers for fear that the KellyGang would find out who the police informer was (RC1110)

Plans to remove the Queensland aboriginal trackers Plan to remove the trackers; reason (Argus22/5/80) See also (JJK)

The Queensland trackers and Insp O'Connor left Benalla for Melbourne on 25/6/1880

At about that time Sup Hare thought about moving trackers up to Beechworth to assist with the party watching Mrs Byrne's place. His plan was to have trackers at other centres such as Benalla, Beechworth and Wangaratta. These were the new trackers to be recruited from Queenslang by Sup Chomley. (RC3072)

Their pay will be 5s. a day, which will be handed to the officer in charge of the station where they stay, who will provide with food, clothing, and necessaries, giving them the balance of their pay in small amounts from time to time. (RC11478)

Two trackers and Kirkham were sent out to assist the police watching Mrs Byrne's place shortly before Aaron Sherritt murdered. (RC4733)

Death of Aaron Sherritt 26/6/1880 The Queensland trackers were in Melbourne at the time.

The Victorian government asked the Queensland Government for the return of the trackers (JJK)

Glenrowan Siege 28/6/1880

The trackers arrived with Insp O'Connor on the train from Melbourne. They had been down in Melbourne getting ready to catch the ship to sail home to Queensland when the news of Aaron Sherritt's murder came through. They arrived at Glenrowan at about 2.30am. The press reports of the battle with the KellyGang state that the the trackers stod to their post gallantly throughout the whole encounter. They also stood the baptism of fire with fortitude, never flinching for one instant. (Argus/6/80) see also (RC16250)

Sup Sadlier praised the Queensland trackers for their efforts. (Argus20/7/80)

On the morning of 29/6/1880 all the police were paraded before me at Benalla but the trackers were not included. (RC16243)


In June 1881 Const Kirkham produced a report on the efforts of the new Queensland trackers. (RC10997) He referred to the skills of Dick Brown, Monkey Brown, Peter Brown, Paddy Brown, Moses Bulla, Jim Crow, and Billy Nut. See text of report (Age5/7/1880) (Argus6/7/80) (RC10997)

The following was a description of their level of skill.

"for the purpose of testing what they really could do, and carrying out the system of practice that I intend to continue with regard to them. Not anticipating any questions on the subject, he is away, and I did not get any report. He intended to write, but he hand to go away on duty. He was away for some hours on horseback. He dismounted, and took a course on foot through farms and fences, and along the tops of fences, and pursued a course calculated to puzzle the trackers as much as possible. He then left the following day with three trackers, and accompanied by himself, having no one with him but Kirkham, so that no one should know what the trackers could or could not do, as it would be inadvisable it should be known generally. He reported to me that their ability was unquestionable, that they acted splendidly, and that everything that was expected of them was fulfilled. It was my intention to go out to-day or to-morrow with the other three myself, but, having been summoned here, of course it was not done. These are only instances at present in which I can speak personally of their knowledge and ability to track. Their conduct is exemplary, and they are most attentive and subordinate in every way" (RC10998)


The trackers, are allotted £50 each, to be handed to the Governments of Queensland and Victoria to be spent at their discretion (Argus16/4/81) '

Royal Commission The Royal Commission expressed its appreciation to Queensland and the trackers in the following terms

"17. That your Commissioners desire to record their marked appreciation of the courtesy and promptitude displayed by the Queensland Government in forwarding a contingent of native trackers to Victoria to aid in the pursuit of the outlaws. We take this opportunity of expressing our approval of the services of the black trackers as a body, and deeply regret that any misunderstanding amongst the officers in command of operations in the North-Eastern district should have led to unpleasant complications. The Queensland contingent did good service, and your Commissioners trust that the Victorian Government will not fail to accord them proper recognition."(RC2ndReport) See also (RC1stReport)

Future plan for trackers (Argus8/6/82)

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