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Bushrangers in Colonial Queensland: The Short Career of Peter Fagan and Gang (Rockhampton District, May-June 1864)


Native Mounted Police Contingent, Rockhampton 1864

Shortly after the arrest of Frank Gardiner and his associates in Rockhampton at the start of 1864, the provincial frontier town was plagued with a new criminal activity – forged cheques (Bird, 1904, p.255). Such a crime was of great concern to the public of Rockhampton where promissory notes were crucial to the young economy. Forgery of cheques was a threat to the livelihood of businessmen and raised the ire of a number of high profile and well-to-do members of the community. Such disaffection was sure to bring the attention of the infant police force of the new colony.

So much business was transacted by cheques that so long as a well-known person’s name was used, there was little difficulty in passing cheques. Numerous complaints were made by tradesmen in Rockhampton who had been victimised in this way but police were unable to find the culprits. (Bird, 1904, p.255)

The most celebrated incident at the time concerned the “uttering of false cheques in the name of Mr Peter Macintosh of Rio station (Grabs, 1983, p72).

At this time, Rockhampton was thick with loose groups of acquaintances held together by a common desire to frequent the public houses and billiard rooms of the town.Drinking heavily, and being “loose with their money”, these men shared a certain “flash style” and had a tendency to stray onto the wrong side of the law in the search for easy cash (Bird, 1904, p.255).  One of these “rogues” was Peter Fagan. Fagan would become the central figure in the formation of Queensland first home-grown gang of bushrangers. The gang would be rather short-lived and unsuccessful when compared to the likes of Frank Gardiner and his compatriots.

In April 1864, Fagan was arrested after making two purchases with forged cheques at the clothes store of Mr L Sandel, on the corner of Fitzroy and East Streets. These cheques used the name of Peter macintosh and immediately raised the suspicions of the storekeeper. Fagan, and a distinctively red-haired associate Daniel Webster, after a brief chase found themselves charged with uttering on the evidence of Sandel and the manager of the Australia Joint Stocks Bank, Mr Lanarch. Both were placed in the new Rockhampton lockup and were held awaiting trial. The Rockhampton gaol became the first Queensland gaol outside of the Brisbane area.

This prison was officially proclaimed open on 29 March 1864, making Rockhampton the second town in Queensland (after Brisbane) to have such a facility. Prior to the building opening as a prison (on a triangular piece of land bounded by South and Murray streets) it was used to house victims of severe floods in the area. Unlike the one at Petrie Terrace, this prison was based on the discredited ‘associated system’, whereby inmates were housed in large communal wards instead of separate cells. (Dawson, 2013)

In the smalltown lockup, Fagan and Webster became friendly with, accused horse thief, John Wright and, another man charged with uttering, Thomas Howson (also known as Hill).

Soon the four became good mates and all agreed that the lockup was not the place for them. Various plans for escape were discussed and then, by stroke of good luck, certain unexpected events made circumstances play into their hands (Grabs, 1983, p72).

As no gaoler had yet been appointed to the new Rockhampton lockup, two local men, French and Lee, had been placed in charge of the security of the rpisoners. During the afternoon of May 6, 1864, French took ill and Lee departed “into town to get him some medicine, leaving only an old man, McWilliam, available for duty” (Bird, 1904, p.257).

The prisoners were exercising in the yard when someone rushed out and said there was a snake in the big cell. The prisoners ran into the room and Fagan, or one of his confederate, closed the door and bolted the men in. Fagan and his accomplices threatened to murder McWilliam if he resisted them. They then proceded to the room where French was sick in bed to get firearms (Bird, 1904, p.257).

French weakened as he was by illness struggled to apprehend the group but was knocked to the ground. Fagan, Webster, Howson and Wright took from the room two rifles and a “fowling piece” (Bird, 1904, p.257). French was locked into Fagan’s cell and “poor old McWilliam, who was trembling in fear, was locked in the condemned cell” (Bird, 1904, p.257). Using a ladder, the four escapees then scaled the outer wall of the gaol and dropped to the ground on the other side.

rocky 1868 sm

Floor plan of Rockhampton gaol c.1868.

Meanwhile a prisoner named Dittman, who was not among those in the cell and had been threatened with death if he did anything, let out Mr French from the cell and all expedition was made in reporting the matter to the town (Bird, 1904, p.257).

Within thirty minutes of the escape, a posse made up of Chief Constable Jerimiah Foran, inspector of Excise McMahon, several constables and a small group of civilians were in pursuit of Fagan, Webster, Howson and Wright.

Within days of the escape, the escapees had “stuck up” local businessmen, the Ball Brothers near Canoona Station and had stolen “two saddle horses and a revolver. This gave each of them a firearm and mounted two” (Bird, 1904, p.257). The escapees were evidently under fagan’s leadership in the raid and stated their intention of sticking up the Woodville Hotel along the Peak Downs Road.

This threat was carried out the same day… Before reaching the hotel however they overtook Mr Robert Pacey’s drays and took two saddle horses from the drivers. At “Flash Charley’s” Woodville Hotel, they told the landlord he was stuck up with government rifles, and demanded stores and whatever they required, which were given to them under threats (Bird, 1904, p.257).


The group were now a formidable party and took to the roads travelling as far as Marlborough, Westwood, Walloon and Banana. Successful raids in this isolated area came at their price however. Misfortune and widespread pursuit were by-products of their initial success as bushrangers. Fagan lost his one serviceable revolver in Hardy’s Hotel, Westwood. “Fagan had another weapon that misfired every time her tried it and rode off without his lost weapon”  (Bird, 1904, p.257) after being shot at by a Westwood man named Kelly. In Banana, the group were hotly pursued by three white police, three indigenous Native Mounted Police and one white Mounted Police officer. Near Walloon, the theft of horses led to a posse of squatters forming and joining the manhunt.

On the road to Rawbelle [now the shire of Gayndah], the bushrangers were suddenly come on by their pursuers whilst cleaning their weapons. They instantly dashed for their horses and fled. Fagan, Webster and Wright each secured a horse by Howson was not so fortunate and had to go off on foot. This broke the party up. Howson went off in the direction of Gladstone and was finally captured in an outside hut on Riverstone Station suffering from fever and ague. He was unarmed (Bird, 1904, p.258).

Howson was taken first to Gladstone lockup then was transferred back to Rockhampton where he was committed for trial.

Some days after the Rawbelle incident, Fagan, Webster and Wright made their way back to Westwood seemingly to retrieve Fagan’s lost revolver. Waking a man at Hardy’s farm, “a few hundred yards from the hotel”, the whereabouts of their antagonist Kelly was revealed to the gang after the sleepy man was threatened with “being shot”(Bird, 1904, p.258). They then went off to confront Kelly and to retrieve Fagan’s missing revolver. At Kelly’s residence,

Fagan went in and woke up Kelly by placing his revolver against his head. Fagan told the startled bushman that he had come for his revolver which Kelly gave him. Fagan then upbraided kelly for shotting at him as he had never done him any harm (Bird, 1904, p.258).

It’s been claimed that, at this point, Wright encouraged his leader to “blow Kelly’s brains out” but Fagan refused to do so and, after shaking hands with Kelly, the group departed (Bird, 1904, p.258). The continued to range across the central west inland of Rockhampton. It was at this time that some mythologising of the exploits of the gang began.

By June 8, 1864, the talk of Rockhampton was that the Cornish Mount Hotel, then located at the corner of Ross Street and Gladstone Road, had been held up by the gang. Supposedly staying at the hotel through the night, rumours spread that the group would be attending the Rockhampton Tradesmens’ Ball on the night of June 9. Grabs states that “Fagan remembered hearing stories of other bushrangers who had daringly attended local dances and race-meetings without being recognised” at least by the police (Grabs, 1983, p84). there is substantial doubt however that all the members of the gang visited Rockhampton at that time at all – certainly the rumours of the Cornish Mount Hotel hold-up were false. While Webster may certainly was in the area of Rockhampton at the time, it appears that Fagan and Wright were not at Rockhampton at all in June 1864. Rumours and stories were the stuff of entertainment on the frontier. The gang’s exploits at this time seem clouded by such rumours. Nonetheless,  the police were eager to follow up on any information that came to hand.

At about midday on June 9, 186, police in plain clothes converged on the Cornish mount Hotel and, after a brief spell of shooting, a wounded Daniel Webster was captured. There was no sign of either Fagan or Wright. It seems that Webster was there alone.

The hotel was full of men and the police were ordered to surround the place as well as they could. The red-headed Webster was seen to come onto the verandah and then run back again, and out the rear. He dodged about among the outhouses and then crossed a paddock, a few shots being fired after him. Webster’s revolver would not go off and it was found afterwards to have been jammed by a protruding cartridge. Mr Jardine (the Police Magistrate), getting Sergeant meldrum’s revolver, steadied it on the fence, and firing at the retreating bushranger, shot him in the knee. Webster fell to the ground and threw up his arms in token of surrender… It was said he left the others at Yaamba and came to Rockhampton in a boat (Bird, 1904, p.258-9).

A strong police party was immediately dispatched north from Rockhampton to the Yaamba district on the Fitzroy River. After a brief exchange of shots, however, Fagan and Wright escaped into the bush again after crossing the river and getting from their pursuers (Bird, 1904, p.258-9).

By June 25, 1864, numerous robberies on the road to the Peak Downs goldfields had been attributed to Fagan and Wright. Mail and horses were stolen in the area and by the time the police presence had increased in the region, Fagan and Wright had moved across the Mackenzie and Isaac Rivers and had “stuck-up” the station of a Mr Caldwell near the Rocky Water Holes outside Peak Downs on June 29. (Witnesses describe the events in the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871) of July 30 1864). Caldwell, incensed at the theft of a gold watch and £40 immediately gathered a posse of station hands to pursue the two bushrangers. It was Caldwell’s group that would put an end of the bushranger Fagan’s career.

They camped that night a few miles north of Mount Stuart… At the break of day, they were up, and one of the party recognised a horse feeding nearby as the one that Fagan had ridden the previous day. They took the horse and hid it in the scrub close by, and also hid themselves. Soon after they saw Fagan tracking his horse in the direction of the scrub. The party then filed oout with their swags on ther backs as if they were a party of diggers on the way to Peak Downs. Fagan came boldly forward and asked if they had seen a horse of a certain decription. Whilst he was talking the men surrounded him and quickly presented half a dozen revolvers to his head telling him to hold up his hands (Bird, 1904, p.260).

Fagan was quickly searched. Two revolvers (and the missing £40 which had so incensed Caldwell) were  found in his pockeets. The gold watch wasn’t recovered. Fagan protested his innocence but was taken prisoner and escorted back to the station.

Fagan was taken back to Caldwell’s station, Wright having apparently disappeared. By and bye, Sergeant mcMahon and his party came to the station and the sergeant at once recognised Fagan who had meanwhile convinced some of the men that he was really not the bushranger they thought he was. The police returned in triumph to Rockhampton with the captain of the gang who joined his confederates in gaol once more (Bird, 1904, p.260).

in a little over five weeks all but one of Queensland’s first bushranging gang had been captured and returned to Rockhampton gaol.


  1. Bird, J.T.S. (1904), The Early History of Rockhampton, The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton.
  2. Boxall, G. (1899), The Story of the Australian Bushrangers, Swan Sonnenschein and Co, Paternoster Square.
  3. Dawson, C (2013), Old Queensland Prisons #5: The First Rockhampton Gaol (1864-84), Life & Death in the Sunshine State, Available at: http://boggoroad.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/know-your-colonial-gaol-history-5-first.html, Accessed: 29 December 2015.
  4. Grabs, C (1983), Queensland Desperadoes, Angus and Roberston, Sydney.




Bushrangers in Colonial Queensland: The Capture of Frank Gardiner (Rockhampton District, March 1864)

Gardiner's House and scene of his Capture at Apis Creek

An artist’s impression of the capture of Frank Gardiner

The notorious Australian bushranger, Frank Gardiner, and his common-law wife Kittie made their way to Queensland in 1862 via the New England District of New South Wales. After passing through the Darling Downs, they made their way north to the Rockhampton District where they would settle under new identities. Prior to this time, Gardiner and his gang were considered by many to be folk-heroes in New South Wales. The boldness of their feats inspired many others to take to the bush and try their hands as highwaymen. Gardiner’s background and reputation is noteworthy as an example of the mythologising of Australian bushrangers.

About 1858, a ticket of leave man named Frank Gardiner, took to the roads in New South Wales, and, by the boldness of his conduct yet absence of roughness or brutality to those he robbed, and not infrequently gifts to the poor, soon became regarded as an Australian Dick Turpin. (Bird, 1904, p.255)

Bird would argue that it is easy to understand the appeal of the Gardiner legend. His reputation held appeal for many in New South Wales and on the Queensland frontier who embraced a certain lawlessness of life and held antipathy to the newly formed colonial police forces. As a bushranger, Gardiner, riding “Darkie” – a distinctive black horse of outstanding quality, was reputed to show “no fear whatever” (Brid, 1904, p.225). Embracing the romance surrounding him, a squatter’s wife, Catherine “Kittie” Brown, in fact left her husband in Forbes NSW to become his “mistress” and was widely regarded as his wife. G

Frank Gardiner

Frank Gardiner

iven Gardiner’s reputation, Bird argues that “it is not difficult to understand that such a man would soon be regarded by a certain class as a hero, and that considerable sympathy for him” was felt throughout the regions in which he frequented (Bird, 1904, p.225).


After a reward of £1000 was offered for his capture, Gardiner evaded NSW police and left his gang who continued under the leadership of Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert. With Kittie Brown accompanying him, Gardiner crossed from New South Wales vanished into the jurisdiction of Queensland whilst the public speculated as to his whereabouts. At the time, reports were “very contradictory. Sometimes it was said that he had gone to new Zealand. Then that he had made his way to California or to South America” (Boxall, 1899, p.217).

A reward of £1000 was offered for the capture of Gardiner, dead or alive, but all at once his depredations ceased and, for a considerable time, people were wondering what had become of him. It was surmised that he was hidden away ill, or that he was meditating some big robbery. By degrees the opinion gained ground that Gardiner had escaped from Australia and that he would be heard of in America or some foreign country. At length the bushranger was almost forgotten in the depredations of other outlaws. (Bird, 1904, p.247)

The reality was somewhat different to the common speculation. By September 1863, Mr and Mrs Frank “Christie” had settled in the Rockhampton district after travelling via New England, the Darling Downs and Burnett. The Christies are reputed to have stayed overnight along their journey in “popular wayside inns, able to pay for their comfort with the spoils of former escapades” (Grabs, 1983, p.106). At Gracemere, on the outskirts of Rockhampton, Gardiner’s mount was noted, admired, and the subject much frontier conversation but it seems no-one connected the horse and the mysterious “Frank Christie” with the relatively recent disappearance from public view of Frank Gardiner who rode a similar distinctive mount. It’s understood that Gardiner, himself steered the conversation to the exploits of the Gardiner Gang when people noted his horse and given name. Perhaps this “disconnect” can be understood easily when one considers that nature of the frontier in Queensland, the type of people who moved there, and the opportunity the Queensland bush offered to those wishing to start new lives unencumbered by their past miscreants. The further north Gardiner traveller it appears, for some time, the less people cared about his background. It appears that on no occasion during Gardiner’s journey did anyone publicly recognise Frank Christie as Frank Gardiner. In the Rockhampton region, “even local policemen were friendly enough and offered him advice on the difficulties of the Old Peak Road” (Grabs, 1983, p.106).

In June 1863, is found the first recorded and confirmed meeting of a local with Gardiner and Kittie approximately 9 km west of modern Rockhampton. The local, John Jacobs, is reported to have, one evening, met a man and women camped with a dray near the Gracemere Station gate not far from Scrubby Creek. He engaged the couple in conversation as was customary. It would appear that Jacobs was one of the few in the area not to have been aware of whom the “mysterious” traveller he had met actually was.

The traveller said he had come across from new South Wales with his wife. he had a very fine looking black horse which struck Mr Jacobs’ fancy. The traveller  said the horse had brought the dray the whole journey. The horse was in capital fettle, and eventually Jacobs offered to exchange a heavy draught horse he had for the black stating the the heavier horse was more suitable for the dray… (Bird, 1904, p248)

Perhaps  growing weary of the attention of Jacobs was giving his distinctive horse, “Christie”

… expressed regret at the trouble he had given, but stated his wife was adverse to parting with the horse which was an old favourite. After yarning on several subjects, which included Gardiner’s career, Mr Jacobs left. The next year, he found out that the man and woman he had been interviewing were Frank Gardiner and Mrs brown, and the black horse was the celebrated thoroughbred Darkie… (Bird, 1904, p.248).

Bird continues to point out that after this meeting, Gardiner/Christie and Kittie Brown/Christie moved camp to Deep Creek from where he would routinely ride to the residences of selectors of the district, often ‘yarning with the young fellows, asking if they ever heard anything about Frank Gardiner in the papers” (Bird, 1904, p248). The bushranger, in these conversations, would often “express the opinion that Gardiner was not so bad as many people thought because, though he robbed the rich, he always gave to the poor” (Bird 1904, p248).

Gardiner’s chance meeting with a fellow traveller, Archibald Craig, led to the pair building and opening a public house and store in partnership at Apis Creek some “hundred miles” west from Rockhampton not far from the Fitzroy River. Craig held the liquor licence while Frank Christie ran the store. Both Craig and Christie were well-known and well-liked by travellers on the Peak Downs road and quickly developed a reputation for honesty and fair dealing. Their “shanty establishment gained a good reputation”. The Craigs and Christies were, reportedly, “honest in their dealings, and many down-on-his-luck traveller received a free feed and accommodation and took away a bit of tea, sugar and flour in his pack when he left” (Grabs, 1983, p108). Such was their esteem in the community that “Christie had been frequently entrusted with the escort gold as it came from peak Downs whilst private persons with a big parcel of gold gave it all to Christie for safe keeping when stopping at the hotel” (Bird, 1904, p.247).

Towards the end of 1883, Gardiner travelled west to Peak Downs to explore the possibility of opening another business. In Clermont, he formed a friendship with the Gold Commissioner, Thomas John Griffin, who was considered one of the most trustworthy men of the area.

Gold Commissioner Griffin (seated front right)

Gold Commissioner Griffin (seated front right)

He also became a confidante of the manager of the local Australian Joint Stocks Bank. At one meeting with these gentlemen the incognito bushranger was left in sole charge of “six or seven hundred ounces of gold”(Grabs, 1983, p.110). Gardiner would later point to this incident as an example of his reformed character when on trial. Such esteem in the community would end not long after with his arrest in March 1864 by Sydney detectives and local police troopers.

Bird reports that in March 1864, Rockhampton was ‘thrown into a state of excitement” with news of Christie/Gardiner’s arrest. Although many in the town disbelieved the reports of the arrest at first, indeed, Gardiner was placed into the Rockhampton lock-up. Sydney based police detectives McClone and Pye took primary responsibility for the arrest. They were assisted by Queensland police Lieutenant Brown, a trooper named Wells and a number of black troopers – probably of the infamous frontier militia, the Queensland Native Mounted Police. A full account of the arrest of both Gardiner, Kittie Brown and Archibald Craig is given in the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser of Tuesday 8 March 1864 (Click HERE). Gardiner’s arrest was swift and brutal.

Mr. Larnarch JP: Did he offer any resistance?    Witness: Not the slightest.

Mr. Bellas: How did you arrest him?    

Witness: In the usual way; the same as any  other man, I arrested him fairly.

Mr. Bellas: Was he knocked down senseless?

Witness: Not senseless.  

Mr. Bellas: Was he knocked down ?

Witness: Yes. He was laid down on his back quietly, and secured.

Gardiner was widely believed betrayed to police by a Rockhampton auctioneer who Bird refers to as “Mr Smith”. Smith and Gardiner were connected many years previously when horses and cattle were stolen by Gardiner then sold by Smith as a auctioneer in Lambing Flat, New South Wales. It’s said that when Smith stumbled upon Gardiner in the bar of the Apis Creek hotel, he recognised him instantly. After some reminiscences, Gardiner warned Smith not to reveal his identity and “gave him a large sum of money for his silence… Smith could never keep money and when her was again penniless the reward which had only to open his  mouth to receive, no doubt tempted him sorely” (Bird, 1904, p250).

After his chance meeting with Gardiner, Smith was noted in Rockhampton “spending money freely in hotels”. This was noted by many as unusual in that Smith was usually one short of money and not “flush” – relying on others to buy him drinks not the reverse. After a day or two in Rockhampton, Smith departed for Sydney. A short time later Detectives McClone (sometimes recorded as McGlone) and Pye of the Sydney Police arrived in Rockhampton from Sydney and traveled to Apis Creek. McClone testified:

I came up here  from Sydney, from information which I received some time ago, in company with Detective Pye and Mounted Police Constable Wells. From Rockhampton we proceeded to Apis Creek, a place a hundred miles or thereabouts from here, on the Peak Downs Road.Here, at Apis Creek, I saw the prisoner in a store; I saw him when I arrived; I believe the store belongs to him; it was on the 2nd instant that I first saw him; I did not then arrest him, but on the following morning I saw him again, and with the assistance of Detective Pye,Constable Wells, and Lieutenant Brown, of the Queensland Native Police, I took him into custody; I apprehended the prisoner on the road  outside his own store; I did not then charge  him with any offence; I took him to Mr. McLennan’s station, which is about a mile from the place where I apprehended him, and here, at the station, I informed him of the charge against him; I confined the prisoner at the station, and have secured him safely until I could bring him down to Rockhampton, where I delivered him over into the custody of the last witness; I charged him with the commission of various robberies, and also with the escort robbery at Eugowra Creek in June, 186?; I believe it was in June last that the escort was robbed at Eugowra Creek, but do not recollect the exact date. (Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, Tuesday 8 March 1864, p2)

Taken by surprise, Gardiner stood little chance of resisting or escaping the detective and trooper. The police had come prepared in disguise as gold diggers and were armed with “a handy little pistol known as Sharp’s Repeater” – probably actually the Sharp’s Pepperbox pistol – “only about four inches in length and [with] four barrels which formed a sort  of square. After committal proceedings in Rockhampton, Gardiner was sent on the SS Queensland for trial in the NSW Supreme Court before Sir Alfred Stephen. On July 6, 1864, Gardiner was sentenced to 32 years “hard labour on the roads” (Bird, 1904, p248). His sentence was received in silence.

Sir Alfred Stephen no doubt thought that such a sentence would deter others but if so he was mistaken for bushranging was worse than ever after Gardiner’s conviction. Gardiner, by his reckless daring and absence of cruelty, had thrown a halo of romance over bushranging which no doubt led to the flash young fellows of those days to think that robbing coaches, mails and gold escorts was something to be proud of. (Bird, 1904, p248)

Gardiner's trial in Sydney

Gardiner’s trial in Sydney

Gardiner’s pleas for mercy went unheard. His documentary statements of reformed character went without sympathetic hearing. Kittie Brown committed suicide in 1868 in New Zealand after trying in vain to influence authorities to grant Frank an early release. Gardiner himself was released in July 1874 and exiled.

In 1872 William Bede Dalley, who had defended Gardiner, organized petitions to the governor to use his prerogative of mercy. Sir Hercules Robinson decided that Gardiner had been harshly sentenced and in 1874 released him subject to his exile. This decision provoked a public controversy with petitions, counter-petitions and violent debates in the Legislative Assembly, and led to the fall of Parkes’s government. (Penzig, 2015)

Gardiner  travelled via Hong Kong to the United States and is “said to have afterwards kept a drinking saloon in San Francisco where, many years later, he was killed in a drunken row among his customers” (Bird, 1904, p253) although the precise date and circumstances of his death are unknown. His life in America is subject to some conjecture and speculation.

During Gardiner’s arrest, several horse were impounded by police and brought to Rockhampton. One of these horses, Darkie, was identified as a property of a magistrate Beveridge of Swan Hill, NSW. The thoroughbred was taken to Sydney with Gardiner on the SS Queensland. “What became of the animal is not known” (Bird, 1904, p253).

The SS Queensland was owned by the Eastern & Australian Mail Steam Company and sank off the coast of Wilson’s Promontory on the 3rd August 1876 after a collision with the SS Barrabool.



  1. Bird, J.T.S. (1904), The Early History of Rockhampton, The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton.
  2. Boxall, G. (1899), The Story of the Australian Bushrangers, Swan Sonnenschein and Co, Paternoster Square.
  3. Grabs, C (1983), Queensland Desperadoes, Angus and Roberston, Sydney.
  4. Penzig, E.F. Gardiner, Francis (Frank) (1830–1903), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gardiner-francis-frank-3589/text5561, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 29 December 2015.
  5. Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, Tuesday 8 March 1864, p2, Available at: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/51561008, 28/12/2015.


Crime in Colonial Queensland: A Context for Studies in Queensland Bushranging (Part 2)

During the 1860s, Queensland was a rapidly expanding colony rich in opportunity (and sources of wealth) for those prepared to face the many risks. In the early years of the colony’s existence, European expansion and settlement on the Queensland frontier expanded far more quickly than the ability of the youthful Brisbane colonial government to provide adequate services – especially policing. The colonial government began to grapple with these issues at the very time that an urgent need for frontier law enforcement became obvious.

Between 1850 and 1900 has become known as the wild colonial days, as it embraced the goldfield and bushranging period. That time spawned not only local born criminals but inflicted [upon the colony] imported ones as well… There were bushrangers and other thieves who preyed upon those who survived by honest toil. Not for them the labour of tending stock, digging in a mine, or performing other work when it was much easier to rob at the point of a gun, or steal from the home or person or take what they wanted by physical assault. (Penzig, 1992, p.xv)

Law enforcement in Queensland during this period was rudimentary at best and violence was accepted by many in the new pioneering society as legitimate as a means by which wealth was secured. Fortunes were amassed as private wars were waged against indigenous peoples. Petty crimes went unnoticed. Some major crimes went unreported. In the combined context of…

  • a developing heritage of both officially sanctioned and other violence,
  • a societal mentality of equating of material gains in wealth (regardless of its source) with social success
  • an ethos of pursuit of wealth through individualism
  • an antipathy towards police (and even for the need for policing in the eyes of some)
  • the logistical difficulties facing police in a large colonial territory
  • increasing opportunity to commit (and get away with) crimes

… it seems surprising that bushranging, as experienced on the scale of other colonies in Australia in the same period, was so uncommon in Queensland!

On January 15, 1859, the Queensland Commissioner for Police commented on the difficult situation facing those who wanted to enforce more effectively law and order in the colony. Of particular concern was mail robbery in the vastness of the Queensland bush where police were at a distinct disadvantage in protecting the vulnerable from almost any who chose to accost them.

The police stations being so far very far apart, and the men generally so badly horsed, that it was not difficult for a good bushman, well-supplied with information, to continue to “stick up” with impunity for some time the solitary mailman… (in Johnston, 1992, p54)


The Commissioner continued:

I am sorry t say that the opinion so confidently expressed some time back that bushrangers would meet with no sympathy in the Colony turns out to be incorrect. The criminal can gain plenty of assistance and information – the police but little. (in Johnston, 1992, p54)

Johnston states that given this situation “the wonder is that more bushranging (and other crimes of violence) did not occur” (1992, p54) – especially in and around the gold districts of colonial Queensland such as Gympie.



  1. Johnstone, W.R. (1992), The Long Blue Line: A History of the Queensland Police, Boolarong, Brisbane.
  2. Penzig, E. (1992), Rogues, Vagabonds and Bloody Thieves: An Illustrated History of Colonial Crime 1850-1900, Tranter Press, Katoomba.


Jews loading onto trains at the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland (1942-43) from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Umschlagplatz_loading.jpg

Jews loading onto trains at the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland (1942-43) from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Umschlagplatz_loading.jpg

Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway car (by: Dan Pagis)

here in this carload
I am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him I 


This poem was found on http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/education/lesson_plans/dan_pagis.asp#5 . Dan Pagis (1930-86) was a Holocaust survivor who was interned in a Ukrainian concentration camp.

Professor Murray Baumgarten of the University of California (Santa Cruz) argues that the study of the Holocaust should be an interdisciplinary study. While  his own background is as a professor of literature, he argues that a variety of disciplines would be appropriate as companions to historical study in order to build a more complete understanding of the incomprehensible atrocities that took place during the 1940s.

When considering literature of the Holocaust, Baumgarten notes the power of the use of first person narration as writers bear witness and testify to their experiences. The use of first person is transformative for the reader and transports the reader into the context experienced by the author. First person gives a power and connection that is seldom found in the traditional genre of historical writing. By it’s very nature, literature is personal and subjective. These characteristics give Holocaust literature great power.

Dan Pagis’ poem (above) is an example of this. In Pagis’ voice, “Eve” is the mother of us all. His first person voice becomes our voice and we are transported into the place of his experience. The reader gives the voice “breath” in the present. By reading in the first person, we become one with the text as it provides testimony of the human experience of another person. Baumgarten argues that,  in this case, Pagis is testifying to his experience and therefore the reader becomes part of that witnessing. Pagis is creating a “chain of witnesses” to what happened during the Holocaust by including the reader in the experience. There is power in the words and testimony through what Baumgarten refers to, enthusiastically, as the “the magic of culture”.

The place of Holocaust literature in education is a powerful tool when one makes plain to students that the Nazis intended to make even the very memory of the Jewish culture extinct. Baumgarten argues that by allowing students to experience the power of first person Holocaust narratives, the students themselves become witnesses to the atrocities and thereby defeat the Nazi intention of a cultural erasure of European Jewry. The student, therefore, is fighting against the Nazi attempt to exterminate the memory of Jewish Europe.

A powerful thought indeed!



History isn’t what happened, but a story of what happened. And there are always different versions, different stories, about the same events. One version might revolve mainly around a specific set of facts while another version might minimize them or not include them at all”  (JQuery – JSon, 2013)[1].

In Australia, there has been a debate over our history. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, there was a major debate in the Australian media, in Australia’s parliaments and in homes across the nation regarding how our history should be told. Perhaps more importantly for us, this debate concerned also how Australia’s history should be taught in our schools. The debates between politicians, historians, journalists, teachers and others became known as “the history wars” and one of the central issues being argued over was how Australians should (or should not) teach Australia’s aboriginal history. There were two sides in these “wars” over the telling of Australian history.

On the one extreme…

There were those who wanted to tell the traditional stories of Australian history. This was generally a story of progress: of convicts,  of wool, gold rushes, squatting, Federation, and Anzacs. A celebration of Australian history. A story of European settlement and development of Australia since 1788. This was a version of  history often told in schools and textbooks. It was familiar and, for many Australians, “safe”. Often this side was accused of “not seeing” anything that wasn’t positive about Australian history and many suggested it was so exclusively European that if could even be branded racist! Some called it, therefore, the “white-blindfold” version of Australian history.

On the other extreme…
There were those who wanted to tell a new version, a non-traditional and revised Australian history. This was generally a story of those left out of the traditional story. A story of conflict and marginalisation, a story of aborigines and immigrants, a story of women and social criticism! Often this side was accused of focussing on the defeats, the dark events, the tragedies, the atrocities and the “hurts and wounds” in Australia’s history and not acknowledging the good of Australian society. It was accused of being very “political” in its version of events. For many Australians it was a confronting version of history! Some called it, therefore, the “black armband” version of Australian history.
At the conclusion of the so-called “history wars”, it was clear that the traditional hypothesis that Australia’s history was a history of success and progress had been successfully challenged by those who proposed its antithesis (opposite). Australians now accept that we have a history that is often overlooked and forgotten… sometimes it has been deliberately hidden from us!

[1] JQuery – JSon. (2013, January 28). History is a weapon. Retrieved from History is a weapon: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/



A map from 1566. Australia is still unmapped.

A map from 1566. Australia is still unmapped.

Until the 15th century, Australia was largely unknown to Europeans however belief in an unknown south land (terra australis incognita) had existed since ancient times. The coastlines of this “mythic” unknown southern landmass were, however, only gradually uncovered by many explorers of many nationalities until the 18th century. Who these explorers were and when they arrive still remains the subject of ongoing historical debate. While throughout much of the 20th century, Australian primary school children that “Captain Cook discovered Australia”, it is now widely accepted that this is such a simplistic observation as to be inaccurate. Some historians and archaeologists  have argued that groups as diverse as Chinese naval explorers, Arab traders, Malay fishermen, Portuguese slavers, and Dutch traders, missionaries and explorers may have all visited Australia prior to Cook’s arrival in 1770.

Perhaps the most controversial of all claims regarding Australia’s early exploration was made by English writer Gavin Menzies in 2002. Menzies hypothesized that expeditions led by Chinese Admiral Zheng He “discovered” Australia’s northern coastline during the 15th century. Claims have been made that these early Chinese explorers landed near the site of present day Darwin in 1432 however these claims are widely disputed by Australian (and other) historians. Menzies has had significant difficulty in supporting his conclusions with suitable primary or secondary evidence. Certainly Arab and Chinese texts referred to an unknown land mass south of present day Indonesia but no undisputed evidence has been uncovered to support the idea that explorers from these regions landed in Australia. The earliest record of the discovery of land in the region of Australia was by a Frenchman, Bigot Paulmier de Gonneville. In 1504, Gonneville claimed that he and his ship the “Espoir” were swept off course away from the Cape of Good Hope, and was forced to land on an unknown shore. He called this land Terre Australe – the southern land.

The early 17th century was an important epoch of exploration as rival empires sought the wealth and prestige that new discoveries could bring. It was at this time that exploration in the region of terra australis incognita accelerated and became much more systematic. Interestingly, at this time, it was religious fervour that brought the first significant European explorer to the pacific region. In early 1606, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, a devout Catholic Portuguese mariner with the support of Pope Clement VIII, leaving Peru in the hope of discovering Terra Australis. Quiros reached the New Hebrides  and Vanuatu which he named La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo  (the southern land of the Holy Spirit) in the false belief that he had achieved his objective before sailing for Mexico. Quiros’ second in command Luis Váez de Torres would return to explore the region further however.

It was Torres who in late 1606 who would sight the northern most point of Australia, Cape York Peninsula, as he sailed along the southern coastline of New Guinea. He would map this passage between the Indian and PacificOceans. In 1769, a Scottish cartographer would name this strait in his honour – Torres Strait. These charts would be used later in the voyages of Captain James Cook. Torres however would never land on the shores of Australia.

Certainly, despite periodic suggestions to the contrary, evidence strongly supports the notion that it was, in fact, the Dutch who first landed on Australian shores in the early 1600s. In 1606, Willem Jansz, searching for a passage in what is now referred to as Torres Strait, landed at Cape Keer-Weer near Wepia (Queensland) on Cape York Peninsula. Cape Keer-Weer (Keer-weer is Dutch for turnabout) is regarded as the first non-Aboriginal place name in Australia. Tragically, it was on Jansz’s arrival that the first recorded aboriginal deaths at the hands of Europeans also took place.

“Accidental” Dutch contact with the Australian mainland would continue for some time after Jansz voyage. As Dutch ships sailed on trade missions to their bases in present day Indonesia encountered the West Australian coastline. In October 1616, Dirk Hartog and the crew of the vessel Eendracht found themselves at SharkBay, in present day Western Australia. Hartog left a small engraved pewter plaque as a reminded of this visit. In turn, other early Dutch visitors to the area added their own inscription to the plaque. The new land that these early explorers from Europe discovered would become called new Holland. In 1642, in response to Dutch orders for further exploration of New Holland, Abel Tasman mapped the South Western coast of Tasmania (which he called Van Dieman’s Land) and then continued to sail eastwards to discover New Zealand before sailing north and mapping areas of the New Guinean coastline. Tasman’s second voyage of discovery lep him to map the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Arnhem Land region of North WestCape. Many of the place names given by Tasman reflect a Dutch influence as was typical of his time.

The next area of Australia which received substantial exploration during the 17th and 18th centuries was northern areas of what is now called Western Australia. In 1688 and 1699, William Dampier, an English adventurer and buccaneer, landed repeatedly on Australia’s western coast to carry repairs and locate supplies. The most famous of these landings was somewhere near the Buccaneer Archipelago, north of Broome. This area was to become famous for its pearling during the 19th century. Season landings became common in this area after 1700 as small fleets of Macassan boats came to the area to collect lucrative trepang (sea-slungs), sea cucumber and bêch-de-mer. These luxury foods were prized in China where the Macassans sold their catch.

James Cook and the voyage of the Endeavour on Australia’s Eastern Coast:


For generations of Australian history students until approximately 1980, it was clear who “discovered” Australia. Until that time, most history studied in schools celebrated the achievements of the British in the colonization of Australia. Attempts to revise this historical approach was met with a great deal of controversy especially when some historians claimed that Australia was not “settled” by the British but “invaded”.

Regardless of the debates that raged over the perspectives used to study Australian history, the place of James Cook in history is certain. One of the greatest navigators and seamen of British history, Cook had an astounding desire to explore and chart unknown regions of the earth. In August 1768, Lieutenant James Cook (Royal Navy) took command of a small ship in Plymouth, England. He had orders from the British admiralty to use Her Majesty’s Bark Endeavour on a scientific voyage to (i) sail to present day Tahiti to record the transit of Venus across the face of the sun (an important piece of astronomy that assisted in navigation) and (ii) make a search for the eastern coastline of the terra australis incognita referred to by the Dutch as in the vicinity of New Zealand. A genuine scientific voyage of discovery, Cook’s Endeavour carried a total of 92 crew (both navy and civilian). Included in his crew were Charles Green (an astronomer), Joseph Banks, James Matra, Charles Solander and Herman Sporing (botanists) and John Reynolds, Sydney Parkinsonb and Alexander Buchan (artists).

On April 19, 1770, the Endeavour and its crew, after mapping coastlines of New Zealand, reached the east coast of Australia close to a headland in the state of Victoria now named Point Hicks (after Lieutenant Zachary Hicks who first sighted land from the mast of Cook’s ship). Reminded of the landscapes of the southern Welsh countryside, Cook named the land he discovered New South Wales. On April 30, 1770, Cook spent a week replenishing supplies and allowing the artists and botanists aboard Endeavour to record their discoveries in a location referred to at first as Stingray Harbour. Due to the large number of botanical discoveries made at this location, he would later rename StingrayHarbour, Botany Bay. At the entrance to this Bay he located  numerous freshwater points protected behind two small points of land which he named Point Banks and Point Solander. He noted that Botany Bay might in fact become a suitable site for future settlement by British colonists.

Leaving Botany Bay, the expedition traced the coastline of New South Wales north noting heads of stone protecting what Cook considered a location for a possible safe anchorage. Cook called this located Port Jackson (in honour of a high ranking naval official of the time) but did not sail between the heads to explore the waters behind them, therefore failing to see the waters inside what is now know as Sydney Harbour.

Cook’s Endeavour and crew continued on their journey north noting landmarks and locations still well known today. Just south of MoretonBay (originally spelt MortonBay) the sire of present day Brisbane, Cook noted the peak of MountWarning (now a national park in northern NSW). Indian Head (on Fraser IslandQueensland), and the Great Barrier Reef were also among the locations mentioned by name in Cook’s journal. On his journey north to access Torres Strait, the Endeavour would strike reef and land once more for a period of time at the shallow EndeavourRiver at present day Cooktown, far northern Queensland. Finally, on August 22 1770, Cook landed at PossessionIsland, north of Cape York and, in a short ceremony, claimed the entire east coast of Australia for Britain in the name of King George III.

The French Voyages:

While the British role in exploring the coastlines of Australia during the 18th century is well known, perhaps less familiar is the role of those navigators from Britain’s great rival at the time – the French. Their discoveries are clearly reflected in the many French place names along the coastlines of Western Australia and Tasmania.

De Gonneville’s reports of Terre Australe led many other French naval figures to consider the exploration of the southern oceans. Records of the achievements of Tasman and Dampier, as well as de Gonneville, were published in French in 1756 inspiring a wave of French explorers to sail to Australia’s region. In 1768, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville narrowly escaped shipwreck on the yet to be named Great Barrier Reef and is recognized as the first European to sight the north eastern coast of Australia. Bougainville’s expedition was followed by another expedition into the same vicinity in 1769.

In 1772, French explorers played a significant role in further charting the coastline of Western Australia. Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Tremarec two ship expedition led to the discovery and naming of firstly CapeLeeuwin and then SharkBay in Western Australia. It was at SharkBay that Kerguelen buried an Act of Possession which claimed the entire west coast of what he called New Holland for the King of France, Louis XV.

French exploration of Australia’s coastline would continue even after British settlement in new South Wales. During the last decades of the 18th and first decades of the 19th century, Jean-François de Galaup, Comte La Pérouse, Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni d’Entrecasteaux ,Nicolas, and Louis de Freycinet between them explored areas vast stretches of what is now the Western Australia, South Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian coastlines. Such French expeditions continued until the 1840s.



The Renaissance was a period of European history following the Middle Ages. It took place between approximately 1350 and 1600 but many of its key features were less developed until about 1450. The term “Renaissance” is a French word meaning “rebirth”. This period of history can be considered as a period of rebirth in European culture after the so-called “dark age” for learning during medieval times. It is worth noting however that, in many respect, the medieval period of European was hardly a “dark” period of technological development.)

 The Renaissance saw developments in:









 During the Renaissance there was a “rebirth” of the classical cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome.

While some aspects of medieval life continued, many other aspects of life saw refinement and improvement especially for the wealthy and those who could be considered nobility.

The period known as the Renaissance can actually be divided into two important parts:

  1.  The Italian Renaissance
  2. The Northern Renaissance

The Renaissance began in Italy in the 1400s and spread to Northern European countries (such as Germany, Holland, France and England) during the 1500s. While there were many pressures to change, it is helpful to try to map this process of change.

The rise of ideas during the Renaissance.

The rise of ideas during the Renaissance.

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