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George King was washing, attending to a rudimentary toilet when he heard the shouting.  The morning of April 24th 1815 was still, the Derwent completely calm, disturbed only by the slice and ripple of a man in a rowboat with a worried look on his face. Tom Guy’s words carried clearly. George heard just enough to know he was in trouble.

‘Georgie! They’re here! They’re looking for you! They’re looking for George King!’

King went cold. He knew why the gang had him on their hit list. He cursed himself for letting his mouth run way too hot and then cursed James Triffitt for letting Hugh Burn escape.

The bandits arrived at Constable  Guy‘s house around seven in the morning. Tom was awake and alert, had been for hours, but not so alert he heard the horses; his house was too full of noise. Tom and Ellen still had two of their four daughters living with them; Elizabeth, twelve and Francis, nearly ten. Francis was crawling under the table, her fingers sticky with jam, when the dogs started barking. Tom looked up and out the window, saw the gang and slowly got to his feet so as not to scare the children. He turned to his wife and hissed a warning.

‘They’re here,’ was all he had to say.


Think of the bushrangers as a biker gang with its own tightly regimented code of conduct, payback and support. Stick with the gang and you are guaranteed muscular love and loyalty to death; move outside that code and vengeance is swift and directly related to the crime. Enemies of the gang were treated harshly, friends with lavish reward. Lavish because friendship with the gang brought its own punishment. Stakes were high.

All parties understood how it worked. It was their job to go out robbing, it was his job to try and stop them. The two groups were complicit in the drama, criminals and cops, playing the game; but when the game was lost each knew how to behave. Tom was on the losing team that morning; the loaded muskets pointed at his head were certainly proof of that but he was a calm sort of chap. He maintained a sanguine face, despite his beating heart, kept his cool and survived.

‘Mornin’ Mr. Burn. Come for your things?’

Payback was graded according to strict principles; a simple code for simple men:- you do this to me, I’ll do it straight back to you, but in my own way, in my own time, multiplied by a factor of five, or ten, or anything I choose. The code was as bent as it was bloody, but these men believed it with their soul, lived or died by the outcome. The gang acted as an amorphous whole. Attack any part of it and the entire being came back to revenge. In their minds, they had been provoked. They were blissfully unaware that it was their own actions that began the train of events – for the banditti the trail went much further back, for some of them, generations.

The events of this Monday morning though, had a much more recent birth; Tom was only surprised it had taken them a week to arrive.

Just as Thomas Guy, George King and James Triffitt had dropped in unannounced at the bushranger’s place, so would the bushrangers drop in at theirs – and just as these settlers had gone about their business of search and capture, so, quite reasonably, would the banditti go about theirs and burglarize a bit on the way. But, most importantly, just as these three men had treated Hugh Burn during his brief incarceration, so would they be treated in return.

First the banditti wanted their things back. These were the things that they had stolen from James Triffitt in the first place. Some glitch in their logic omitted that minor matter. To the bushrangers, once it was stolen, it was theirs. To take it back was theft – from them. Tom and James Triffitt had been silly enough to relieve the gang of what they thought was theirs. It was, of course, time to get it back. Nothing overly special; one and a half pounds of gunpowder, about four items of shot, a loaded musket and some cooking utensils – but it was the principle of the thing. To his great good fortune Tom Guy still had it all in his parlor, evidence for a future trial.

Tom Guy was a decent man. He’d been fair and firm with Hugh Burn and, in his turn, was treated kindly by the bushrangers – if having the muzzle of a gun pointed at your head, having your wife reduced to a gibbering wreck and losing all your weapons and ammunition, flour and tea could be called ‘kind’. The encounter was simultaneously jocular and terrifying but Constable Guy kept his cool. The bandits were clearly on a mission and he was relieved to find out he was just the entree. The main course appeared to be George King.


George King took just three seconds to wipe his arse and wave an acknowledgement then he was gone into the bushes, heading away from danger as fast as his dumpy little legs could carry him. The only thought in his mind was self-preservation. Robert Hay was the man he needed.

Hay was only honest cop in town. He lived about a mile away from barefoot George, but the frightened man scarcely felt the ground beneath his feet. But Hay’s house stood empty, save for a buxom nineteen year old, Maria Hopper, her five year old daughter Mary Ann and baby Billy, just ten months old.

Bob Hay was where George should have been, George was heading for where Bob Hay should have been. Both men were under very real threat of their life.


After taking all of Constable Guy’s weapons, retrieving ‘their’ possessions and giving him a gentle reminder to be good in future the gang headed along the banks of the Derwent to the Falls, the furthest limit of any river traffic at all. Here the riverbed rises up to just underneath the surface, below it, ‘The Falls’ scarcely a metre high, a scramble of foam and water heading downstream, a crossing point for everybody from one side to the other. The gang waded across and were moving inland when they spotted the Constable heading their way. Money for jam.

There were to be no heroics, no resistance, the whole process was swift and clean; Hay was captured with the minimum of fuss, in an almost gentlemanly fashion. They could all ride off together down the track to William Abel’s place. And so they did, their second Constable in the bag.

The fact of the matter is that for a group of murderous banditti they were all behaving very well indeed. This was no savage rampage through the bush but a carefully planned and executed raid of gentle retribution.  The gang had already proved that when they had a vengeance to enact that punishment was bloody and spectacular – pointless in monetary terms – but great theatre.

The banditti saw themselves as Robin Hood and his Merry Men, robbing from the rich, and in this case, cruel and powerful. They’d just conveniently forgotten the next, crucial part of the story, the bit about ‘giving to the poor’.


CHARLIE CARLYSLE lived a most unusual life. New boy in the district, he’d barely settled in to his shack down by the river when calamity came to town.

He arrived in the colony on the Earl Spencer in October 1813, a convict still under sentence, a new boy in a new land – yet only eighteen months later was living in his own house on property he bought from James Davis, Lot 25 – with his own Government Servant,  Pat Flaherty – a most remarkable transformation.

The two men formed an unlikely alliance. Charles liked the slight military correctness that still remained in his servant, a ticket-of-leave man, the adherence to limits, the subtle deference that underpinned their odd relationship. One was Master to the other yet, round a camp fire, with a pannikin of rum each and a full belly they were mates. Freed from the necessity to actually doanything other than spend Carlisle’s cash, the servant in full appreciation of his Master’s artistic proclivities, the two men cut a dashing figure around the district. To all intents and purposes Pat was Charlie’s butler and companion, a role that suited him well.

He was not, however, anybody’s lackey. The glint of independence in his black eyes was quite enough for Carlisle, a wiry excitable man, to know when not to push. He needed the strength and muscle of the big soldier, the soldier needed the rat cunning of the forger – together they were a formidable team.


Flaherty woke up early, rolled out of his bed and sat up with a start. He was cold. He dressed rapidly and crouched by the ashes of last night’s fire. The warmth was gone, swallowed up in the morning chill of a late April. He lit the morning fire with practiced ease and began preparing breakfast for the two of them. He heard his Master cough and roll over in his bed as he lowered the billy on to the flames, sat on a log by the fire staring into the coals, warming his legs, waiting for the water to boil.

Suddenly the door swung open. Three men slid into the hut and, with not a word each raised their musket and pointed them directly at his chest. Collyer, McGwyre and Burn stood together silently. It was an eloquent tableau; for a frozen  moment all four men stared at each other then one spoke. –

‘Not a move,’ whispered Collyer.

Flaherty nodded. His heart was thumping but that military training kicked in; he kept his cool, sat still and compliant as the men ranged around the room.

‘There’s nothing here worth worrying about, lads,’ soothed Flaherty.

We’ll decide about that,’ hissed Collyer over his shoulder and with a crash kicked at the door to Carlyle’s room. It resolutely refused to budge. They kicked again but there was a shout from inside and a disheveled man stumbled out.

Carlyle had been woken from a lurid dream and stood in the doorway blinking, naked save for a shirt. Burn and McGwyre grabbed his arms before he knew what was happening and propelled him into the main room. He stood there near the fire looking faintly ridiculous and particularly vulnerable.

‘Can I put me pants on, at least?’

Michael Howe was standing there with a musket, a pistol and a sword, telling the men inside what to do. There was no doubting who was in charge. John Whitehead was standing outside as well, looking through the open window and chatting quite amiably. The looters moved into Carlyle’s bedroom while he talked to Flaherty.

‘How many parties are there out looking for us now?’ he asked. There was a dead look about his eyes. ‘Two? Three?’

Flaherty agreed on two, but he would have agreed to anything.

‘You tell ‘em that if one more party comes out after us, we’ll attack the town – see what you all do then.’

Over his shoulder Flaherty could see two more men; one he knew as the ex-fifer of the 73rd regiment [Peter Geary], the other he did not recognize. The three men exited the house as suddenly as they had entered, their knapsacks a lot fuller than they had been before. The moment he heard the horses gallop off Charlie Carlyle threw himself into his room. They’d nicked his pocket book, his pistol, his watch and several pairs of stockings.

He and Pat stared at each other, hardly able to believe what had just happened. There was a hiss from the fire and steam as the water boiled over in the billy. It was all that quick.


By barely nine o’clock the bushrangers had been through four properties, each of them raided without a shot being fired, each surprised, unaware of anything save the sudden cold chill of a musket pointed at their head.

Constable Thomas Guy had been payback. The fortuitous capture of Constable Hay was a bonus. Only George King and James Triffitt were left to be taught a lesson. All the rest, Barnes, Humphrey and Cullen had been robbed because they were on the way, a pre-emptive strike. Without weapons they wouldn’t be much of a threat. Carlisle, now trembling before a blazing fire, had been hit because the word had got around. The new man in town had money. It seemed only correct to relieve him of some of it.

Word was traveling through the district about the banditti too. Each attack sent out ripples as neighbor told neighbor, as the horses galloped from farm to farm. ‘They’re here! They’re here!’ was all that needed to be said, but, inevitably, the cows had long gone by the time the barn door was closed and barricaded.  Thomas Gay had sent out word on the Southern side of the river and those farms were in a state of siege while the bushrangers were far way. The township was largely unaware. Over the river alarm spread only as the faces of the bushrangers appeared at their door.


Carlisle had lately become acquainted with Dennis McCarty. His shadow loomed large over a town divided into those who praised his strength and vision while, incidentally, reaping the benefits and those who saw McCarty as Satan incarnate. Carlisle had no such axe to grind – he saw only a man of wealth and influence, a connection to the very top of the tree. He couldn’t waste a chance like this. Ingratiation came naturally to Charles. He must warn McCarty.

Pat Flaherty was dispatched to McCarty’s while Charles Carlyle headed over the paddock to Constable Thomas Murphy’s place to raise the alarm. Both men smelt alarmingly of rum for so early on a working Monday.

“Dennis McCarty, Settler at New Norfolk, On Oath states: ‘About 9 o’clock on Monday morning last, while at breakfast, a Manservant to Charles Carlisle came running in and informed me that a large party of Bush Rangers were plundering the Settlement, and that they were coming to my house. I called all my Servants into the House immediately, and distributed them about the house to wait their Attack. Mr. Jemott was there in the House too, who took charge of part of the Servants at one end of the House, and myself with the other Servants at the other part of the House…


By now the gang was at Cullen’s farm, just three properties away from McCarty and next door to Thomas Murphy’s house at Lot 24. They had amassed quite a stock of weapons as they headed towards his property – ‘Twelve Muskets, two double Barrell’d Guns, and a number of Pistols’, and appeared to be on a collision course with their mortal foe. They were also carrying two pairs of Carlisle’s silk stockings and his gold watch so they could be smartly dressed and on time as well.

Then, without a sound, the gang filed out of Cullen’s cottage, mounted up and rode away in the wrong direction. They should have headed east but instead Murphy and Carlisle saw them slip out of sight amongst the tree, going north. Murphy looked at Carlisle. Carlisle looked back and blinked. They both turned and ran towards McCarty’s.


9: McCarty’s house



















MARY McCARTY: wife of McCarty

WILLIAM JEMOTT: Settler, acquaintance of McCarty

THOMAS NEWBY: Settler, recently widowed



PATRICK FLAHERTY: prisoner & servant to Charles Carlysle









GEORGE KING: employed by William Abel



THOMAS FRANCIS: at Hay’s house


JAMES O’BURNE: master of the ‘Geordy’

CHRISTOPHER HACKING: mate of the ‘Geordy’

THOMAS TOMBS: servant & crewman on the ‘Geordy’

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