Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter VI page 4

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

It will be seen from the above report how completely Mr Warner’s troopers fell into the ambush laid for them, by all congregating around the cart where it pulled up at the obstruction across the road, this bringing themselves under the close fire of their assailants. Mr Warner appears to have been ahead out of the zone of fire, but, as was shown later, the sergeant halted at or near the mia mia, endeavouring by signs to the driver to direct him towards another track. The lesson of this tragedy was not lost on the officers of the Government Gold Escort, for it became the invariable rule that on a signal from the advance guard, every man should halt in his place. It was not practicable therefore, in those days of short-range weapons, to ambush a line of troopers extending for two hundred yards or so.

There were considerable rewards offered by the Government and the Escort Company, and some arrests were made of men who were afterwards discharged, but it was not until some three weeks later that the Melbourne detectives got close on to the real culprits by the arrest of a man named John Francis, on August 11 th, on board the ship Madagascar, in Hobson’s Bay, about to sail for England. John Francis made a confession involving his brother George and others. This man, George Francis, was arrested at Jeffries’ Station on the Campaspe a few days later by Cadet William Symons, and, as he was being conveyed to Melbourne , committed suicide. Finally the following men were convicted before Mr. Justice Williams on September, 1853, George (better known as Captain) Melville, defended by Mr Michie; George Wilson, defended by Mr Ireland; and William Atkins, defended by Mr Fellowes, and were executed on Monday, October 3rd.


In The Argus of October 10 th, 1910 , appears an article by B G, under the title, ‘A Mystery of the fifties.’ The writer referring to the ship Madagascar , which never reached her destination, says that the vessel had a large quantity of gold on board, and goes on to relate a very interesting story: ‘A woman when dying in New Zealand called a clergymen to her bedside, and told him, years afterwards, how the ship had been robbed and scuttled off the coast of South America . She said that the captain and officers had been murdered by a mutinous crew and some of the passengers, that the ship was robbed and set fire to. Six on those on board escaped, but contracted fever and succumbed.”

One of the passengers by this ill-fated ship, but assuredly not a mutineer, was Connell W McNamara, one of my fellow cadets at Ballarat. McNamara was a Dublin attorney. He had been placed by Superintendent Henry Foster in charge of the watch-house there. Many of the prisoners who passed through his hands never took the trouble to call for any valuables left in his care, and thus all such unconsidered trifles became part of Mc’s perquisites and with his savings left him, as he informed me, with a tidy little nest-egg after a few months’ service. ‘There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.’

A few words only remain to be added. None of the guard of the escort were mortally wounded; and there were no just grounds so far as I can see for attributing, as was done at the time, want of proper spirit to Mr Warner or his men.

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