The New South Wales Police Force has thrown its support behind community efforts this weekend to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apprehension of the nation’s deadliest bushranger gang.
Brothers, Thomas and John Clarke, led a gang that rustled livestock, ambushed gold shipments and robbed traders from Braidwood to Bega in southern New South Wales in the mid 1860’s.
On 9 January, 1867, the Clarke Gang ambushed a party of ‘special constables’ sent to arrest them at Jinden, 42 kilometres south of Braidwood.
Four of the ‘special’ officers were shot dead. A bloody one pound note was pinned to one of the bodies to serve as a warning to police.
The gang was also accused of the murder of Police Constable, Miles O’Grady, at Nerrigundah on 9 April, 1866.
Constable O’Grady was seriously ill with cholera when he courageously rose from his sick bed to confront the robbers, pledging “I will do my duty,” and was shot dead.
The Clarkes also killed another man they wrongly assumed was a Police tracker and one of their own gang members.
In addition to the seven murders, the gang was blamed for at least 71 robberies and mail hold-ups.
The Clarke Gang’s luck ran out in April, 1867, when troopers surrounded Berry’s Hut at Jinden Creek.
The brothers were captured after a shoot-out and taken to Sydney for a trial that lasted just one day.
Tom and John Clarke were hanged from twin gallows at Darlinghurst Jail on June 25, 1867.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the gang’s capture, the Braidwood and Districts Historical Society will stage a series of major public events on the weekend of April 29/30.
At the centre of proceedings will be a re-enactment of the shoot-out at Jinden Creek to take place at the Braidwood Showgrounds at 2.30pmon Saturday 29 April.
A series of mock trials will be held the next day.
Monaro Local Area Commander, Rod Smith, said the apprehension and trial of the Clarke Gang proved a turning point for the New South Wales Police Force.
“It’s fair to say that bushranging gangs like the Clarkes were causing huge headaches for the new police force and the government of the day,” Superintendent Smith said.
“The constant robberies in and around the goldfields were damaging public confidence,” Supt Smith added.
“The capture of the Clarkes turned all of that around and restored public faith in the constabulary.”
Above: The Surrender of the Clarkes from the Illustrated Sydney News, 1867. Photo: Illustrated Sydney News
The crimes of the Clarke Gang and others such as Ben Hall and John Gilbert forced the then government to pass the “Felon’s Apprehension Act.”
The legislation allowed citizens to kill bushrangers on sight.
“The arrest of the Clarkes turned the tide in favour of law enforcement and made the area a safer place,” Braidwood and Districts Historical Society President, Peter Smith, said.
“The Clarkes were arguably the worst and most troublesome bushrangers of all time,” Mr Smith said.
“The arrests were of major historical importance and we hope the weekend’s commemorations will highlight the police success and the heavy price paid to bring them to justice.”
For further information, contact:
President – Braidwood and Districts Historical Society
(02) 4846 4133 or 0428 118 473 Editors Note: For a very good read we recommend Peter C. Smith whose book The Clarke Gang: Outlawed, Outcast and Forgotten, the culmination of more than 50 years of research into the notorious Clarke brothers and their associates Above is a black and white photo of Smith, taken in April 1967 at the centenary re-enactment of the bushranger's raid on Nerrigundah.
Click above for larger images
Peter told Tim the Yowie Man "At the time I was just 18, so to play the part of a butcher who was robbed I had my hair sprayed grey, drew on some wrinkles and added a false moustache,"