The Wild Scotchman in New South Wales

It was at this time that another villain appeared on the scene in New South Wales. He was James McPherson, who as a lad had emigrated to Queensland from Scotland with his family, arriving in Moreton Bay on the ship “William Miles” on January 16, 1855.

By the time young James had reached adulthood, he had fallen in with the wrong type of friends, and after stealing some horses, he and two mates, named Dawson and Morris, rode up to Willis’s Cardington Hotel at Houghton River in Queensland, and bailed up the customers and the owner. When Willis tried to grab a revolver he had under the counter, McPherson fired at the man’s head, putting a ball (or bullet) from his revolver through Willis’s cheek, which lodged in his jaw-bone. While the wounded owner lay on the floor the bushrangers ransacked the dwelling taking fourteen pounds of flour, two pairs of riding pants, one pair of Wellington boots, a Crimean shirt, three cabbage-tree hats, a bottle of whisky, a shotgun, and Willis’s revolver. They then rode away.

Assistance was fetched for the publican, and the projectile was removed from his jaw-bone. A few days later he coughed up out of his throat the remains of the leather wad which had been used a packing between the gunpowder and the ball or bullet used by McPherson in his revolver.

Evidently McPherson then parted company with his two partners in crime and rode down into New South Wales. Nothing more was heard of him until August 1 when he stole a horse near Forbes. It appears that he had made his way to the Lachlan area in an attempt to contact Ben Hall and his gang.

Two days later, on August 3, McPherson was on the stolen horse when he was spotted by Sergeant James Condell, and a black-tracker. Several shots were exchanged between both parties, but unfortunately the police were on foot at the time so the Scotsman escaped.

The following day McPherson was seen near Bowler’s station, and then thought to have ridden towards Goolagong or Cowra.

On August 17 McPherson the Scotsman appeared again. This time he was located by Sir Frederick Pottinger and Trooper Dominick Towey in the vicinity of the Walsh homestead at Wheogo, which is further evidence of the types which gravitated to that area of the Weddin Mountains.

Pottinger and Towey were riding through the bush when they came upon McPherson, and recognized him from the description given by Condell of his assailant. The two policemen rode up to him and called upon him to stand, but McPherson ran about fifteen yards, and turning, drew two revolvers from his belt, and then opened fire at his pursuers. Pottinger and the constable then leapt off their horses and took cover. With his third shot Sir Frederick Pottinger wounded the Scotsman in the left arm, just above the wrist. McPherson then ran away through the scrub, while the policemen re-mounted their horses and followed.

However just as they were gaining on him, the bushranger ran into a swampy area, which almost immobilised the trooper’s horses. This fact, combined with Pottinger and Towey having to stop to reload their revolvers, enabled McPherson to escape. 

The day following McPherson’s escape, Ben Hall and his two cohorts had an encounter with three troopers named Boyan, Caban and Battye of the Forbes police, near Bogolong. (Boyan and Caban were later to be involved in Hall’s capture).

On October 12, the Scotsman, James McPherson, came to light again. Dressed in a cabbage-tree hat with a velvet ribbon around the crown, a grey Crimean shirt, tweed trousers, and armed with a Callisher and Terry carbine, a revolver, and two powder flasks, he entered the hut of a Mr. Charles Blayden in the Gallagher Mountains, near Scone. McPherson boasted to Blayden that he had “ridden with the Hall gang”, and showed the man his freshly healed wound in the wrist, as proof of his statement.

However the reader will remember that this was received in the shoot out with Pottinger and Towey. Still, I personally believe that McPherson must have come into contact with Hall and the others, owing to the fact of him being in possession of a Callisher and Terry carbine, several of which the gang had stolen from captured policemen.

On the afternoon of October 27, McPherson appeared again, this time bailing up the mailman sixteen miles from Scone, and rifling the bags. 

February 11 saw the capture of the Scotsman, James McPherson, by a party of police from Forbes, consisting of Sergeant Condell, troopers Hollister, Boon, Feney, and the black-tracker Charley. McPherson was located on Strickland’s property near the Billabong Creek. He was sitting in his camp reading a newspaper, with the Callisher and Terry carbine fully loaded and capped, beside him, when the police surrounded him, dismounted, and closed in on foot. McPherson was taken completely by surprise, and surrendered without any show of resistance. The bushranger at first gave the name of John Bruce, but later admitted to his real identity, and admitted that it was he who had shot at Pottinger and Towey back in August, 1864.

After hearing about the charges he was wanted for in Queensland, the New South Wales Government decided to extradite McPherson back to that state. This was eventually carried out, with him being escorted by Detective Lyons. However before he could come to trial McPherson escaped from custody, and for the next nine months carried on a career of stealing horses and robbing the mails until his capture in March, 1866. Convicted of two counts of robbery under arms he was sentenced to 25 years in goal.

In April, 1870, he was involved in an escape attempt, but was recaptured within twenty minutes. After two petitions presented by his father, McPherson was finally released on 22nd December, 1874. He later married, sired a family, and ended his life when his horse fell on him in an accident on July 20, 1895.



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