The visit paid to this district by the Wild Scotchman, alias McPherson, alias Cameron, the latest of the bushranging fraternity, has thrown every-one into the greatest excitement. There were, of course, many opinions on the subject when the fact of the first robbery became known and everyone who had anything to say had something different to tell to what the last had. It is therefore no easy task to make up an authentic narrative out of the multitudinous statements, but so far as we can we will do so; and as we have been enabled by the aid of the best information procur-able, to learn all that is known of the robber and his doings, we will give an account of his doings that readers at a distance may rely upon as being generally correct.
We shall commence with the time when the “gentleman of the road” was first known to be in Gayndah, and that is Sunday the 19th ult. On that day a tall and rather goodlooking barefaced (we use the word to express a want of any hirsute appendage, as well as in its other sense) stranger rode into town on a strong brown horse, but where he put up we do not know; he called at our office the same evening about half past seven o’clock and asked which was the way to Ban Ban and which was the way to Wide Bay; and on getting the required information then inquired “Is your name White?” Being told “Yes” he wished his informant “Good night” and proceeded towards the Mackenzie bridge on route, as it appeared, for Maryborough. There was only one man we know who had any idea that the wiry looking stranger was the Wild Scotchman, and he was not certain of this man, nor did he feel assured of it until the afternoon of Monday the 20th, when information was brought to town that a shepherd’s hut on Wetherton run had been robbed of a quantity of wearing apparel, the property of the shepherd, a German, who said the aforesaid wiry stranger had helped himself to the goods --- to some envelopes, and three copies of the Burnett Argus!!!
After this the robber proceeded farther on to the run and succeeded in obtaining a fine black horse, Tommy, the property of the Hon. Seymour Moreton and which he took away with him. He also obtained a rifle at the station, and a blackfellow named Yetty was subsequently charged with its theft and sent in to Gayndah lockup.
From this time until last Monday, the 27th ult., little or nothing was heard of McPherson, although the telegraph was at work to find him out, and it was on Tuesday the 21st the sub inspector of police was informed the Wild Scotchman was about and that officer, we believe, made such arrangements as he thought right, and could make under the circumstances.
On Monday the 27th ult., about 9 o’clock p.m., it was made known in the town that the mail horse (?) to Maryborough had been robbed by McPherson some little distance beyond Didcot, Mrs. Irwin’s public house.
The police magistrate (Mr. Bligh) with Mr. Clohesy (sub inspector) with Yetty (the supposed thief of the rifle) and another black started off immediately in pursuit.
From the mailman we have ascertained that McPherson took him off the road a little distance, where the mail bags were gutted, letters ransacked and emptied of any valuable contents.
McPherson made himself particularly agreeable to Hickey, the mailman, although Hickey refused to cut the bags open and left the job entirely to the robber.
The conversation was mainly on McPherson’s side, who made remarks he thought appropriate as the contents of the letters were pleasing or otherwise, those relating to money may be easily guessed by our readers, but on opening an envelope containing three “cartes de visits” of a gentleman in town, he remarked while destroying them “the ugly --- ought to be ashamed to have himself photographed.”
The amount of money in cheques, orders and notes that he obtained is variously estimated at 1400 pounds and 1500 pounds and quite 100 pounds of that we have heard was in bank notes. Whether he has taken away all the cheques, etc. we are quite unable to say except in so far as a cheque and promissory note of Mr. Dean’s that had some Chinese characters on the back; these he did not take.
When the letters had nearly all been sorted a slight thunderstorm came on and McPherson told the mailman to put the opened letters back into the bags and he would take the unopened with him for perusal at leisure. Hickey did this and after being told to make the fact of his being stuck up by the Wild Scotchman as public as he could, the mailman was suffered to proceed.
On arrival at the Golden Fleece, where there is a telegraph station, he reported the matter at once, and as we have previously said the police made a start downwards, and Sub Inspector Lieutenant Price with five black troopers made an early start from Maryborough upwards to the scene of the action.
The Golden Fleece is the meeting house for the postmen. He from Maryborough gives his mailbags up to Hickey at this place, and Hickey hands over the up-country mails to the Maryborough man, so the two men having exchanged parcels, away came Hickey on the Tuesday morning with the unbroached mails and as his luck would have it, the Brisbane steamer having been 2 ½ hours late in getting into Maryborough on the previous Thursday the southern letters etc. that ought to have got here on Friday the 24th ultimo, came here in the mail on Tuesday so McPherson get a bigger mail then he otherwise would have obtained.
When Hickey had reached Wetherton range, about six miles of the Gayndah side of Didcot, he was again stuck up, and this time taken further off the road then before because McPherson said he had seen some “bobbies” pass.
The Scotsman again cut open the bags and somewhat a similar process was gone through with this batch of letters that was affected with the down lot. Something being said about telegraphing, the robber spoke contemptuously of the police, and said he would have cut the telegraph wire but it would only have been giving the telegraph people trouble while, as for the police, he did not care for them, they might know all about what he had done as soon as the liked; he expected Hickey to have had a policeman before him, one behind him and one on either side for the purpose of protecting him, he (the Scotchman) would have stuck him up all the same.
From both the up and down mails he took several newspapers saying he was fond of light literature, and as to a ring that was enclosed to a townsman he took that but told Hickey to carry up the invoice. In about 10 minutes after getting clear a second time, Hickey met the Gayndah force and put them on the tracks of McPherson, who had taken himself off in the direction of
At Wetherton the party heard that he had passed about sundown riding a black horse and leading a chestnut mare in the Teningering direction.
Some very black looks were directed into the opened envelopes of the letters handed out at the post office on Tuesday evening, and the second robbery caused the excitement attendant upon the first to become a perfect ferment;--- everybody talked of the mail robberies, and nothing was heard but stories of sticking up; speculations as to who the man really was and so on;--- in the midst of it all it had come out that he had committed some crime at Mackay some time ago and had got away from the police, that his name is Cameron and that he has a sister in service not far from Gayndah; but again, Hickey says the robber told him he was present when Hall the bushranger of New South Wales was shot, and that be true he cannot be Cameron; as to the name McPherson that is pooh poohed altogether, and yet the fellow uses no disguise about his person; there he is with his beardless native looking face, free from any, even the slightest, attempt at disguise. We have heard that he is Dunn, who was with Gilbert when he was shot, and the cool workmanlike manner in which the fellow goes about his business favours the statement for this fellow seems to have undergone an entire apprenticeship in his nefarious profession, and does his work like a journeyman; but we incline to the idea that it is Cameron and that this flimsy mystery that he has succeeded in throwing about his name is one of the tricks of the trade. We have heard it stated that he must have accomplices in town who give him advice one way and another, but wholly repudiate any such statement and think it a very unlikely thing indeed although we admit that it looks odd that he should know so well how to turn and which way to go to escape at the correct time but all this may easily be accomplished by a cunning, well-trained rogue of a bushman, without any accomplice whatever. Then again, let it be understood that the fellow has the opportunity of getting the latest news in the mails he robs --- from the columns of “light literature” that he so much affects and his accomplice becomes unmasked; for instance, we might become his accomplice (unintentionally, of course) were we to publish things we know that relate to further steps taken for his capture; but we refrain in the interests of justice and trust that he will be in jail, safe under lock and key, by aid of the course we speak of before the modus operandi shall become public.
The force from Gayndah followed the tracks energetically and care-fully and when Mr. Bligh’s horse knocked up he obtained a remount at Yenda--- this we heard on Wednesday evening. The same night it became known that the party had come to a place where two tracks diverged in different directions, and while Mr. Bligh followed one of them, Mr. Clohesy took the other; but before this the mare that the Scotchman was leading has been abandoned as was also the rifle and both were picked up by the P.M. who receive fresh hope from this apparent proof of their quarry being hard pressed.
Not many miles beyond Yenda, Mr. Bligh came in view of the pursued, and riding close up to him Mr. Bligh gave McPherson the challenge to surrender, but he merely smiled a negative. Mr. Bligh then attempted to fire but the pistol missed, McPherson then gallopped away and speedily placed a stony creek between himself and Mr. Bligh who on a second trial of the pistol found that the distance was too great, so he made haste to get down the steep, stony bank into the creek and over, but very unfortunately the haste was so great as to cause his horse to stumble and fall, and the immediate result of this was that Mr. Bligh had to abandon the pursuit for the time, and turning back, lead his horse to Yenda.
At this station Mr. Clohesy joined him, and after Mr. Bligh had got a remount they all started again on the trail. We know very little of the proceedings of the pursuing party after this, and less of McPherson, who however, seems to have baffled his pursuers for a time and next morning early we find him at Ideraway, a station about four miles from Gayndah.
It appears from the statement of Mr. G. C. Crawford, J. P., manager of Ideraway that he and Mr. Chapman, the storekeeper, were out on the run looking after cattle when they observed a man riding for them and towards a shepherd’s hut that was not far off. Mr. Crawford was not thinking of McPherson at the time and was therefore somewhat surprised on observing the man present a revolver and call out “stand”.
Mr. Crawford and Mr. Chapman at once pulled up and waited quietly until McPherson had examined them by riding round them at a little distance after which the following conversation ensued --- “What might ye be seeking here?” said McPherson. “Cattle” was the reply. “Oh, you are not troopers?” “No.” “And you are not looking for me?” “Certainly not.” “When did you see any troopers?” “About a month ago.” He then enquired how far it was to Gayndah, and was told the distance, in a direct line, was about three miles, and after some few observations during which the bushranger coolly replaced the revolver in his belt, unbuckled that article, hitched up his breeches and refixed his belt he said “I had a brush with the police yesterday near Teningering; that --- Police Magistrate of Gayndah pushed me hard, but I got away from him, as you see.”
This was a self evident fact apparently and was quietly assented to. McPherson then asked several questions about stations in the country, the way to Rawbelle etc., and concluded by saying he was sorry for frightening his hearers. Mr. Crawford assured him he had not been frightened, and that gentleman informs us the robber was a man over six feet in height with a frame of wire.
His horse, which Mr. Crawford immediately recognised, appeared to be as fresh as a daisy and looked as if it had been groomed overnight. Mr. Crawford was riding a fine outstanding beast and at first expected to have him taken away, but on looking at the bushranger’s horse he perceived there was little chance for a compulsory exchange at that time. McPherson further informed Mr. Crawford that in the brush with the police, or just before it, he had to abandon a gun and his favourite mare, and was very sorry to have to part with the latter.
He then got off his horse and resting his pistol on the pommel of his saddle, pointed it at his hearers and ordered them off, but in another direction to that in which Gayndah lay. As soon as Mr. Crawford got out of range, he described a semi-circle and came into town while Mr. Chapman went off to the head station for arms and men.
The last seen of the Scotchman showed him to be running the sheep tracks down to the hut where doubtless he would get his breakfast. The general course he seemed to be taking was in the direction of Mount Debateable and if he continued in it he would probably hit the Gayndah road about five miles out of town at the Hawkwood or up country side.
The two available policemen we have, immediately on hearing this, succeeded in getting horses and with each a revolver, took their departure for the tracks, but the time necessarily lost before they got to the hut mentioned, had enabled the bushranger to get a long start, and of course, the police did not see anything of him.
Mr. Crawford’s account of his adventure when related in town determined many of our townspeople and squatters to improve volunteer expeditions, and one was accordingly formed consisting of Messrs. Caswell, Major, Crawford, A. Walker and several others, but it was late in the day before a start on the up road was effected and we fear the attempt will not be successful, although we shall be glad to know ourselves to be mistaken.
Mr. Bligh returned to Gayndah about 2 0’clock Thursday afternoon and we must say he looked much better that we expected to see him, after the terrible and lately unusual excursion he has undergone during the last three days and nights. We sympathise with that gentleman in any feelings of disappointment he may have on the matter, and take this opportunity of assuring him that every one of his fellow townsmen and others who know him full believe that were it possible by skill, bravery and perseverance, to have brought the mail robber in, he, Mr. Bligh, would have done so.
In this view we must heartily concur and trust Mr. Bligh will think with all of us that the peculiar features of the country have so far favoured the pursued for the time being that no amount of bravery or energy could sufficiently subdue the natural difficulties under which the pursuers laboured as to enable them to make a capture.
Late on Thursday night we were informed that Sub Inspector Clohesy had succeeded in finding the lost tracks and had followed them towards Mount Debateable.
This energetic and able officer has a plan on which he has proceeded to act that we withhold from the public at present, as supposing the probability of being grounded on a correct estimate of certain things --- and we hope and believe it is --- the publishing of such a matter would undoubtedly render Mr. Clohesy’s efforts abortive.
The Wild Scotchman’s description is pretty well known we believe but we here take permission to give it a brief form:--- Height about six feet, slim, strong looking and rather haggard. Light hair, no whiskers or moustache; age difficult to tell but about 25. He wears Bedford cord breeches and high boots, crimean shirt and cabbage tree hat, without a band, red sash round his waist and carries a revolver. He is riding a well bred black horse about 15 hands high.
The latest about McPherson,---
The storekeeper at Ideraway arrived in town yesterday (Friday) morning with intelligence to the effect that the Wild Scotchman had again doubled on his pursuers and had crossed Reid’s Creek near the Four Mile Hut, and that he was making towards Rawbelle. It is understood that the bushranger had not got any ammunition and he appears to be much fatigued by the harassing pursuit he has been subjected to.
A party, under Dr. Tymons, J. P., went out yesterday to track him from the hut, and it is understood he will be run down before long, for he is now almost hemmed (?). Several black troopers arrived in Gayndah this morning and the Police Magistrate (J. O’Connell Bligh Esq.) formed a party of them and a constable, with which he went out at once to hunt the bushranger. Mr. Bligh on this occasion carried a rifle in addition to any other arms and the chance of McPherson escaping this time is thereby lessened. The utmost excitement still prevails, and the very wildest rumours are in circulation, but we have not heard of any more sticking up.
We reopen our column to state that Mr. Bligh and party who went out today (Saturday) relieved Dr. Tymons, who was on McPherson’s track in the Banana direction. The Banana mailman says the Scotchman was about to stick him up about 28 miles out when Mr. Bligh rode in sight. The bushranger waved his hand in defiance at Mr. Bligh, put spurs to his horse, and away, Mr. Bligh being only about 100 yards behind when last seen.
Perhaps we ought as a community to feel proud that we have been so much distinguished above other communities by the police attentions of the modern Claud Duval yclept the Wild Scotchman and if such be the case, we fear as much that we are an exceedingly ungrateful kind of people; indeed for not one of us feels in the least obliged by Scotty or honoured by his late visit. Moreover, we doubt whether the very strongest objection does not exist in the minds of all to be again on such terms of robbership as we have been.
Objecting then as we do to this kind of company, we cannot but congratulate ourselves on the very short acquaintance we have had with Cameron (for that, we believe, is his name); and although he has inflicted much injury on many persons by his highwaymanlike peccadilloes, he will also have been one of the means of doing some good to those of our community who have money transactions with others elsewhere.
That the Scotchman will be taken, we have no doubt, and we form our opinion in this respect upon various grounds. Queensland is not an advantageous soil for bushrangers, because of the great extent of our territory, which is so sparsely populated as to make it a matter of downright hard work for a horse to travel from one station to another in a day, therefore, the defaulter, if pursued, would not have the opportunity of remounting any quicker, if so speedily, as the pursuers, nor would he have as good a chance of refreshment for himself.
Then again, there is no sympathy with criminals of this stamp abroad in the hearts of our squatters, as has been proved to be the case with New South Wales --- no desire to screen the delinquent from the just punish-ment of his crimes; but on the contrary, every desire to capture such ruffians as early as possible, and hand them over to the tender mercies of the Law. Also we may mention no bushranger in this colony could intimidate served (?) for the simple reason that settlers in Queensland are used to holding their own, in many instances by dint of their own bravery; and a threat from any legally proscribed villain would fall on them either as a piece of harmless pleasantry, or be calculated to call up that spirit of defiance that would certainly result in the threatener’s defeat.
Our population are likewise certain to assist the authorities in every conceivable manner, rather than by shifts and quibbles to put the police on a false scent, for the people are altogether free of any convict taint --- they have no memory of a convict father, brother or other relation having been in road gangs to cause them one feeling of sympathy with crime however blatant in assumed honourableness it may be set before them.
Crime with Queenslanders is crime, no matter in what guise it may be dressed up, and being so, it is the duty of every inhabitant to cry it down, or, if necessary, to take such other proper measures as may be found effective to crush it out at the earliest moment after discovery. It may be said also, that we are only a struggling people yet --- we have not altogether effected a good start in business, or at least, not such a one as will enable us to put up with losses on the highway on the black-mail principle, and it is this fact, taken with others, that prove indisput-ably the unsuitableness of this colony to the profession of arms a la Cameron. We think the advent of Cameron amongst us to have proved our want of some mounted men in the district as a preventive force, and the capture of the mail-robber will not, by any means, upset this view.
Let us regard our position at present. The Police Magistrate and Sub Inspector are both away in pursuit of the Scotchman, they have been away since Monday night, and we cannot tell when they may return; in the meantime, the town is left to the care of two constables, who, without direction from any head, could do little or nothing if the pursued man were to double back on his pursuers, and pay us another visit; but, if there were a couple or three mounted troopers, a division could be made in the force in such a manner as to secure the efficient following of the bushranger and protection of the town; at the same time, we have very little fear of any harm from Cameron, who doubtless finds his present position anything but pleasant; he is followed by one of the best shots in the colony, and by one of the most energetic and brave officers in the force. Mr. Bligh has determination and ability to act in extremes with firearms, and Mr. Clohesy fears no man.
It will go hard, but we shall soon have a good account to render of Cameron, either to the effect that he is shot, or captured, or if not, then, that he has absolutely abandoned us and taken a speedy and permanent departure to other fields and pastures far away. We have no special desire to “improve the occasion” by pitching a list of standard grievances at the Government, but think it right to urge our claims for additional police protection in this district.
Our commercial and banking transactions are large enough, it seems, to excite the criminal cupidity of bushrangers, and, as that fact has now become public through the late robbery, it would be as well, were the fact of additional police protection being given to the district being made known, at the very earliest moment, that the inducement of our protective weakness might be done away with.
Since our last issue, every effort that could be made, has been unavailing to take McPherson. He is still at large, and although he has not committed any more robberies that we know of yet, he is free to do so whenever he sees fit. This is a state of things incompatible with all our preconceived notions of law and order, and we are somewhat in a fix to show how it can be satisfactorily explained.
Were we at a distance, instead of on the spot, where we know how energetic the heads of police have been, we would be much inclined to blame that body; but knowing as we do, nearly every particular of every movement made by Messrs. Bligh and Clohesy, it is impossible to, in any way, blame them, or either of them.
What then, is the cause of this bushranger being still at large? Some who pretend to know, say he is a superior bushman, and able to baffle any pursuit; others --- who have equal pretensions to a knowledge of the subject --- assert that he has able accomplices, whose assistance he can rely upon. We think the latter proposition very unlikely indeed; while as to the first, surely one man can follow on horseback wherever another man can lead?
McPherson is still said to be riding the horse he took from Wetherton, a horse that can be easily equalled by many in the district, and bettered by numbers more; yet, in the face of the fact of the marauder having to ride the one horse continually, while his pursuers can often remount, he is not
It is very odd, and is explainable partly by the first proposition, and they by there not being a sufficient police force in this district to enable the police authorities to keep up continual relays and a sufficient picket, the bushranger is continually doubling on those who have chased him hitherto, and after two or three days hunt, the pursuers have always found themselves within a few miles of their starting point.
Now, this could be helped by relay parties, and still further prevented by the Government offering a larger reward for McPherson’s apprehension. Why not at once, offer a good reward and induce volunteers to go out? The smallness of the present reward (50 pounds) when added to the additional cost of a protracted hunt for the robber, will become very great in time, and greater with every unsuccessful effort what may be made for a capture; while at the same time, the notoriety of the weakness of the police force will become unenviably increased to the injuring of the general efficiency of that force as a repressor of crime.
Mr. Clohesy returned to Gayndah on Sunday with the Taroom mailman, whom he had gone to meet, when Mr. Bligh left him on the previous Thursday; but Mr. Clohesy had, unfortunately, calculated wrong, for he did not meet the bushranger at all, that worthy had taken a flight up the Banana road with certain affectionate intentions of touching that mail, but it unfortunately so happened that Dr. Tymons JP, with a constable and two blacks, had gone out in that direction on Thursday, and had tracked the fellow up the road.
This news, having come to town, Mr. Bligh and a party, went out and relieved Dr. Tymons on Saturday morning, and so fortunate was this that the bushranger was prevented carrying out his amiable intentions with regard to the mailbags, for Mr. Bligh hove in sight on one side as the robber turned tail on the other.
We believe the way of it to have been this: McPherson was waiting for the mailman about 28 miles out of Gayndah; he was posed on a bald hill off the road, but commanding an extensive view, both ways. As the mailman passed, he saw the robber, who must have, at the same time, seen Mr. Bligh’s party, and have also been seen by them. The mailman, being nearest the bushranger, saw him wave his hand for the police to follow, which they did at once, but he had along start --- nearly a mile --- and when the pursuers reached the point where the bushranger disappeared, they found it necessary to begin to track him, as he was not to be seen anywhere. This occurred on Sunday, and the news of it was brought to town on the same afternoon, by the mailman.
Mr. Clohesy had just come in, and made immediate arrangements to go out again, and he started at midnight. He joined Mr. Bligh, but they never again saw McPherson, who kept to the broken country off the line of the road, and on Monday night, the police returned to Gayndah. Northern District Inspector Murray, from Rockhampton, arrived in town and now there is, in Gayndah, a sufficient force to capture any bushranger we imagine, and have an impression that a good and effective account of McPherson will be given in a very few days.
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