WILD SCOTCHMAN - LIFE AFTER JAIL
James McPherson was released from St. Helena Prison on 22nd December, 1874.
He arrived at Mount Marlow, along the Barcoo River, eighty miles southwest of Isisford, early in 1875, to become head stockman. He became firm friends with Henry Plantaganet Somerset, who had been sent to develop the new property at Mount Marlow.
McPherson saved Somerset from drowning, when he had a sudden attack of stomach cramps, whilst swimming in a stream, and over a period of time, was able to pass on to Somerset many of the skills essential to handling stock in the bush. Fifty years later Somerset was still able to pay tribute to McPherson's generosity, fearlessness and endurance, and was a lasting admirer of McPherson's ability to run cattle in timbered country, and swim stock across flooded rivers without the loss of man or beast.
Some of Somerset's memories of McPherson include, camping on the Barcoo with James Tyson, the millionaire grazier, and on another occasion, Marshall Douglas Gadsden, who had helped in capturing McPherson at Monduran in March, 1866, came to buy stock at Mount Marlow. McPherson controlled his temper, and kept out of sight; their second confrontation within a decade, was avoided by a narrow margin.
McPherson's love of horses remained with him, and Somerset gave him a top quality mare, named Ince's Farmer. McPherson rode her at numerous race meetings, and he and Jack Miller entered a string of grass-fed horses in the Blackall races during Christmas week of 1876.
In 1878, Mr. McConnel sold Mount Marlow, and as the new owner brought his own staff to the property, McConnel's men were forced to find other employment.
Somerset returned to Cressbrook, married, and went to England, whilst McPherson sought work around Isisford and Blackall.
It was while he was employed at Ruthven Downs as a stockman that the 37-year-old bachelor met his future wife, Elizabeth Ann Hoszfeldt, who was working as a domestic at Isisford.
Her father, Georg Hoszfeldt, had migrated from Germany some time before 1860, and had married an Irish girl, Ann Garrett, at Rock- hampton early in 1861. Elizabeth was their first child, born in Rockhampton on 16 Nov., 1861. Some time later the family travelled to Isisford, where Georg was engaged as a carpenter and cabinet-maker.
McPherson and his 17-year-old bride, eloped the week before Christmas, 1878, and were married at the Blackall Registry Office on 21 Dec., 1878. The bride put her age forward four years, so that she could marry without her parents' consent.
Elizabeth's Mother was drowned at Isisford on 30 Dec., 1878, in the flooded Barcoo River, nine days after Elizabeth and James were married, and her body was never found.
James worked at Ruthven Downs till Feb. or March, 1880. When he left he was accused of stealing a chestnut gelding called Serenade, which belonged to Hugh Moor, one of the staff on the property. No charges were laid, but the ex-bushranger was under constant police surveillance, so he decided to move north to the infant settlement of Hughenden.
Their first daughter, Elspeth Ann, was born at Hughenden on 2nd April, 1880, soon after their arrival in Hughenden, and during the next eleven years, five sons, and another daughter, were born. One boy died as an infant. McPherson worked as a drover and stockman, and, for a short time between 1884 and 1886, as a stone-cutter.
As the family grew larger, McPherson stopped droving, and started a carrying business, between 1889 and 1892. The family moved to Burketown, and he turned again to stone-cutting in an effort to provide for his wife and family.
He was hard-working and honest, and the townsfolk knew of his past, but did not worry him about it.
McPherson became friends with John Daniel Sullivan, the local saddler and harness-maker. On 17 July, 1895, Sullivan was driving a watercart along the road, when the horses shied and he fell off.
In the melee which followed he sustained severe internal injuries and although Dr. J. McNish, the local medical practitioner, was in attendance soon after the accident, he could not arrest the internal haemorrhage.
Sullivan's condition gradually worsened, and he died on the morning of 19th July, 1895. He was buried the following day, and his mate, James McPherson was present at the graveside, in sorrow at the passing of his friend.
After the funeral, McPherson rode away from the cemetery, not knowing that within minutes he too would be involved in an accident that would lead to his death.
Mrs. McPherson related the story to her children many times over the succeeding years.
James was riding a flighty thoroughbred mare, which had taken part in bush races. As the people were returning from the funeral, a young fellow raced by, and as McPherson turned to someone and mentioned that this was not the right thing to do at a funeral, his mare took off. She was rearing and prancing and when she came to the brow of the gully, she stumbled and fell back on her rider.
McPherson was knocked unconscious, and simultaneously sustained a fractured skull and severe internal injuries. He was moved to his house, but did not regain consciousness.
Again Dr. McNish could do little besides giving injections of morphine and McPherson died four days later on 23 July, 1895.
For the second time in a week, Jim Mahoney the local blacksmith and coachbuilder was called upon to provide a coffin.
After McPherson's young widow and their six children paid their final visit to bid farewell to their beloved husband and father, he was buried that same day beside the newly turned soil of Sullivan's grave.
As they left the Burketown Cemetery, the Mother knew, and the eldest of the children suspected, that they were destitute and that their future was a bleak one.
A Colonial Telegram, printed in the Maryborough Chronicle, on Wednesday, July 24th, 1895, stated:-
"Burketown. July 23. While returning from a funeral of an old resident here, James McPherson, known many years ago, as the "Wild Scotsman", was thrown from his horse, and so injured that he only lived, unconscious, for 48 hours. He leaves a widow and large family unprovided for."
Elizabeth and her six children travelled overland, from Burketown to the east coast of Queensland, in an old wagon.
It was a gruelling trip, and for most of the way, they were followed by an aboriginee, who guarded them from harm, saying a word that meant "poor fatherless children".
Over the years the family remained faithful to the memory of the bushranger - they never denied that were the kinfolk of the "Wild Scotchman", but would never comment on his earlier life. Nor did they themselves wish to gain notoriety from his erring.
Elizabeth Ann (Horszfeldt) McPherson married again in 1897, a man named Joseph Voss, but she didn't stay with him long. There were no children of the marriage.
Nothing remains in the Burketown Cemetery to indicate the last resting place of the "Wild Scotchman". He lies in an unmarked grave, whose exact position has been lost to posterity! Due to floods and fires in the area, records were lost over the years.
Until his death, McPherson recalled that he had hidden money he had robbed from the mails somewhere in the Wide Bay area. The money was secreted in an old kettle in a cave at Musket Flat about twelve miles north of the present day township of Aramara. Searches of the area met with no success.
McPherson claimed that he told the story of his life to Sylvestor Browne, Rolf Boldrewood's brother, who told the author, who used it as a basis for his story "Robbery Under Arms".
Although the legends surrounding McPherson are highly romantic, at least two geographical features in the Wide Bay area of Queensland bear his name.
"The Wild Scotchman's Knob" or "Scotty's Knob" is located about three miles on the Abercorn side of the township of Rawbelle; it lies close to the road on a grazing lease. This outcrop, which lies near the Nogo River, was supposedly used as a look-out by McPherson, when he was lying in wait for mailmen and teamsters.
Again, in the Musket Flat area, north of Aramara, the cave where McPherson supposedly left a thousand sovereigns in an old kettle, is still known as "Big Jim's Cave".
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