To really get a feel for a place, especially as a visitor, it helps to understand its history. And an important chapter in the history book of Queanbeyan-Palerang is that of Bushrangers.
The colonial history of the region shows that life in the late 1800s and early 1900s was not easy. The region’s romantic past of struggle and hard times would not be complete without the existence of some ruthless Bushrangers. Settlers were terrorised and murdered; their settlements pillaged and ransacked. The bandits stole anything of value including horses, gold, food and weapons from the settlers, miners and Indigenous communities.
Gold fever struck many parts of Queanbeyan-Palerang in the mid 1800s. This tempted more than one Bushranger to practice their craft in the area.
And whilst they were certainly not welcome, there’s a few who made quite the impression.
The Clarke Brothers: The Bloodiest Bushrangers
Bushrangers weren’t generally known for their friendliness or empathy, but these Braidwood brothers took their dirty deeds to the next level.
In fact, Tom and John Clarke – who terrorised south-eastern NSW from 1865 to 1867 , were considered to be some of Australia’s deadliest Bushrangers.
And unlike Ned Kelly, who made his way into Australian folklore, these two criminals’ actions were so abhorrent that after their deaths, people seemed reluctant to even speak about them. They were dubbed ‘the bloodiest Bushrangers’ .
The brothers committed dozens of violent robberies around the southern goldfields. They also murdered a policeman and were accused of murdering a further four constables; all found tied to a tree and shot near Jinden Station.
They were finally captured in a shootout in 1867 and later hanged at Sydney’s Darlinghurst Gaol.
Jackey Jackey, otherwise known as William Westwood, was an English convict assigned to work as a servant at a station near Bungendore. Following more than one disagreement with the station manager, and after several escape attempts, he escaped once and for all and took up a life of Bushranging .
But he wasn’t in the business for long. In fact, Jackey Jackey was a full-time bushranger for only a matter of months. But he made a name for himself because of his odd penchant for exchanging outfits with his victims.
Sometimes he demanded they strip altogether!
In January 1841, after causing mayhem across Queanbeyan, Canberra and Braidwood, Jackey Jackey returned to Bungendore. There, he astonishingly (and perhaps somewhat drunkenly) rode up and down the street, daring anyone to stop him.
Needless to say, he was stopped!
But that wasn’t the end of the adventures of Jackey Jackey. Whilst he was sentenced to life in Tasmania, he escaped once again on route to Sydney. More robberies followed, police in hot pursuit, with his NSW Bushranging career finally ending after his arrest in Berrima in July 1841.
Frank Gardiner: Father of Bushranging
Once referred to as the ‘Father of Bushranging’, Frank Gardiner was a man shrouded in mystery. He went by several names, such as Francis Christie and Francis Clarke. Where he was born is uncertain. And no-one really knows what happened to all the spoils of his large gold robbery near Eugowra, NSW in 1862.
Gardiner grew up in Boro outside of Bungendore. Much like Jackey Jackey, Gardiner’s Bushranging career is characterised by a series of robberies, incarcerations and dramatic escapes.
But it was the 14,000-pound heist at Eugowra, aided by such Bushranging associates as Ben Hall, that earned Gardiner his notoriety.
Legend has it that Gardiner had relatives living near Queanbeyan, and he stayed with them while in hiding after the Eugowra robbery. Some of the Eugowra gold was recovered in Forbes, but mystery surrounds what happened to the remaining treasure.
Could some be hidden in the hills of Queanbeyan?
Queanbeyan-Palerang: No Stranger to Bushrangers
If you enjoy Bushranger history and would like to know more, be sure to include the Braidwood Museum on your next visit to Queanbeyan-Palerang.
And watch the 1969 film Ned Kelly or The Legend of Ben Hall before you arrive … whilst Ned might not have been a local bushranger, it was filmed mostly in and around Braidwood.
So book your stay in Queanbeyan-Palerang and see these sites of Bushranger history for yourself.