John Gilbert

This section is a work in progress, and may alter with ongoing research ...

John (Johnny) Gilbert
("A Real Flash Cove")

There's never a stone at the sleeper's head,
There's never a fence beside,
And the wandering stock on the grave may tread
Unnoticed and undenied,
But the smallest child on the Watershed
Can tell you how Gilbert died.....
                                                                                                  A.B. Paterson

"Happy Jack"
Church of England Marriages
and Banns for
 William John Gilbert.
John William Gilbert was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1842. His parents were William James Gilbert and Eleanor Gilbert nee Wilson; both parents were born in England and they were married on 23rd April 1826 at Westminster St John the Evangelist, Westminster. Gilbert's father's occupation in London was a distiller and a Freeman of the City of London entitled to exhibit a family crest. Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert and their three-year-old son William Jr and one-year-old daughter, Eleanor immigrated to Canada in 1830. His father’s occupation was described as 'labourer', as declared on his immigration application. John's only sister, Eleanor was born in England in 1829 and his three older brothers, Francis, James and Charles were born in Canada. On settling into Canadian life, John Gilbert's father commenced working on Public Projects as a contractor. However, between 1837-1838, Canada experienced major unrest in many areas of the country which soon descended into open rebellion and became known as the rebellion of the Lower and Upper Canada. William Gilbert served during the rebellion as a volunteer on the British side to put down the insurrection, as elements of the native born Canadians of both English and French descent attempted, as had happened in neighbouring America, to break free of British colonial rule and bring about political reform, William Gilbert stated this about his participation; "I allude to the military character with which you are pleased to invest me. I should feel extremely proud could I lay claim to such a distinction; but I think I owe it to the good nature of my friends in recognition of the part I acted at the outbreak of the rebellion in Canada, in 1837-38. At that time, I was engaged as a contractor on the public works of the Upper Province, and though at considerable loss to myself, I entered as a volunteer in support of law, order, and British supremacy, and induced almost every man in my employment, as well as many others, to follow my example."¹
1851 Census for William Gilbert for Canada West, New Brunswick
and Nova Soctia. note John Gilbert aged 11 next birthday 1852, which would indicate his birthday either in November or December.
John Gilbert's mother, Eleanor, died in Canada through illness or complications in the birth of John in 1842 and his older brother William, also passed away in 1850. His father remarried a Canadian lass, Eliza Cord on 28th December 1846, Eliza was 25 years old and William Gilbert was 44 years old.  This union produced two boys, Thomas and Nicholas. (On their eventual arrival in Australia, the Gilbert's were to produce another six children - Mary, Jane, Louisa, Mary-Anne, Christopher and Dagmar.)
Gilbert Family arrival, Victoria 1852, onboard the Revenue.

The Argus newspaper

 report  of the arrival
 of the "Revenue" 1852.
In 1852, William Gilbert commenced immigration to Australia travelling first to New York, USA where the family set sail on-board the ship 'Revenue', arriving at Melbourne's Hobson Bay, Victoria on 15th October 1852 after a three-month voyage.

The Gilbert family first settled in the Collingwood area in Melbourne, Victoria, where they resided for a short period. John Gilbert's father in early 1853 was successful in obtaining work as the Pound Keeper at Deep Creek, 'Bulla Bulla', a distance of 28 km from the Melbourne Town Hall (the area is close to where Melbourne Airport is today), Bulla township is described in an article from the 'Sunbury News' 6th August 1910; "... Bulla is a pretty little village, situated on the banks of a clear stream called Deep Creek. In the year 1850 there were very few houses in Bulla mostly all tents. A police station was opposite Mr Hillary's house. The constable, Mr Talty, was very clever with a sword. Where Mr Honan is living now was known as the 'Troopers Bend,' as the police horses used to graze on it. There was a pound yard on the main road. The first pound keeper, Mr Gilbert, was the father of John Gilbert, the bushranger."  Work as the Pound keeper was very lucrative for John Gilbert's father earning an average income of some £515 per annum. ($43,000 in today’s value)
Victorian Gazette table of Poundkeeper returns July 1851-November 1854.

Young Gilbert was very well-educated. In the year of the infamous 'Eureka Stockade' at Ballarat in 1854, Johnny Gilbert was then only 12 years of age when it was said he had "bolted" from his father at Bulla. One family friend commented; "... soon after settling in Melbourne, young Gilbert began his 'fast' career. He was then only a growing boy; but he had even thus early apparently began his career on the road, for he was betting notes on every stroke at the billiard-table, and seemed to be possessed of any amount of money."²

W.J. Gilbert 1853.
Young Gilbert made his way to Kilmore some 25 miles from Bulla, to the home of his newly married sister Eleanor and her husband, John Stafford.  John and Eleanor had met on the "Revenue" during its passage from New York to Australia and they married on 23rd February 1854.

Gilbert's sister Eleanor's 
wedding notice 1854.
The following is an interesting extract from a gentleman's private letter on board the ship describing Eleanor, printed in the 'Yass Courier' soon after John Gilbert's death: - "...his sister, Miss Gilbert, being the only marriageable young lady on board, was quite the idol of the young men, one of whom she ultimately married."³  In 1875, Eleanor and John moved to Ireland after he had "come into some property".  Eleanor passed away 18th June 1928 at the age of 98.


However, John Stafford was employed as the Pound Keeper at the Sugar Loaf Creek Pound at Kilmore, Victoria, and a young Johnny Gilbert through the experience of working at the pound at Bulla with his father commenced assisting his brother-in-law at the Sugar Loaf Creek Pound. Furthermore, the constant handling of horses and cattle during these formative years enabled John Gilbert to develop into an excellent horseman and experienced Stockman and consequently he learnt a great deal about the value of good horseflesh. (See article right.)

At the age of 16, around the time of the first gold rush at the Ovens River gold field (Beechworth, Victoria), John Gilbert fell into the company of a number of old hands from the "Revenue" at a local public house in Kilmore, these men were in the process of crossing from the Mount Alexander goldfield to the new Ovens River gold field situated in the neighbourhood of Beechworth, Victoria. It was from the Ovens River gold field that Gilbert made his way into New South Wales surfacing in Murringo (Marengo) not far from Boorowa, NSW where he commenced stock work.

A fellow Stockman and friend, Benjamin Morgan, knew Gilbert very well.  He described John Gilbert as a thin, slightly built man and an excellent horseman. He remarked at the time, Gilbert was "...very jolly always laughing and whistling, we nicknamed him "Happy Jack.⁴ Morgan wrote in his memoirs that Gilbert was in Murringo (spelt Marengo in those times) in 1858, where he was employed as a station hand on the "Narra Allen" and "Kenne" properties, both owned by James Chisholm, "...his work being to ride amongst the horses and keep them quiet.  He worked well and was quite a good fellow, but from the time of the gold rush at Lambing Flat, in 1860, Gilbert seemed to follow the wrong path."

Australian Gold Diggings.
Edwin Stocqueler, c. 1855

Courtesy NLA.
The adjacent ‘Burrangong Station’ was owned by Mr. James White, one of the first European settlers in the district. and was situated near “Kener” Station.  Life on a cattle station in the 1860's, saw the stockman’s work blend from one long day into another as they carried out their stock duties, however, this idyllic way of life would be considerably changed for all when gold was discovered in the area at the end of June in 1860.

A stockman by the name of Michael Sheedy, in company with several other stockmen were camped at Lambing Flat (the area was used to shelter ewes at lambing time) known today as the town of Young, were looking for horses when an American, acting as cook, observed that the lay of the land was similar to that of other gold fields he had worked in America. As a consequence, a few spades fills of washed earth in a billy can (a tin used to boil water) produced an exciting amount of gleaming gold. Although, the discovery was also to be the beginning of John Gilbert’s path to destruction and, in conclusion, his inevitable short career of bushranging. 

Lambing Flat c. 1860's

The discovery of gold at Lambing Flat was published in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 4th August 1860 (see article right) and thus began one of the biggest gold rushes in Australia. The new diggings amassed not only thousands of people but it also brought the scourge of the bush, the freebooter (bushranger), associated with gold fever of the day. After the discovery by Sheedy, an article appeared in the newspaper of the reward presented to Sheedy for his lucrative find; "...for deciding on claims for rewards for the discovery of gold fields in the south-western district, has recommended that the maximum amount, £300, be awarded to Michael Sheedy, for the discovery of the Burrangong gold field." (Michael Sheedy would go on to open a new type of gold mine and reap a new harvest through a general store and hardware, in time Sheedy became quite influential at Burrangong.)

William Fogg.
Consequently, the township of Lambing Flat was created and is described in this extract from the 'Goulburn Herald', 1860; "...the "Lambing Flat" is situated about thirty-five miles north-west from Binalong, about the same distance westerly from Burrowa, and about twelve miles’ south-west from Maringo; it is a granite country, with open box-tree ranges, and forms a portion of Mr. White's run, called "Burrangong." The diggers expressed a strong desire that the "Lambing Flat" should be proclaimed a gold-field, and that a commissioner should be sent there," drawn to this new mecca of gold were various miners and merchants. One business venture, in particular, was a butcher shop operated by a William Fogg in partnership with a notorious criminal and recent 'Ticket of Leave' absconder, one Francis Christie alias Frank Gardiner, who had recently been released from Cockatoo Island prison, and was now at Spring Creek, Burrangong, Gardiner and Fogg had been long time acquaintances. The arrangement between the pair was that Fogg operated the butcher business and Gardiner would procure the required cattle.

James Chisholm Runs.
The Squatters Act
of  1846-47.
With the discovery of gold and all its riches, men arrived from all points of the compass to try their luck, Gilbert was no different and was as well swept up in the excitement, therefore, Gilbert endeavoured to end his current employment, where according to Mr. Robert 'Chipp' Thompson, Gilbert met resistance from his employer James Chisholm, as with so many men fleeing for the gold fields, reliable labour was a problem for the squatters who were reluctant to let their stockmen depart, Thompson states that he; "...used to do a good deal of horse-breaking with Gilbert, "I had finished up breaking horses and Gilbert left me. He was employed breaking horses by a squatter, who would not give him his discharge or his money. You had to have a discharge in those days or you would not get work anywhere else. I was going down to the river and saw Gilbert near the road. I asked him what he was doing. He said, "I am going to stick up that squatter and get my money and discharge." I said, "Don't do that; you are only takin your own liberty away. You'd better come with me. I have more horses to break in." "No," said Gilbert, "I'll make him pay." He did stick the squatter up, and tied him to a tree. Gilbert got a cheque from the man, and said, "If this cheque is not cashed I'll come back and shoot you." However, the cheque was cashed, but a warrant was taken out for Gilbert's arrest, and he took to the bush."⁷ Gilbert was also known to do stock work for William Mullholand who owned Stoney Creek station situated on Ready creek of 13000 acres.

In 1860, the butchering business operated by the pair of Frank Gardiner and Fogg was its own gold mine, with a reputation for a fair price for beef among the thousands flocking to the fields and the two men who due to the high demand needed more cattle to be acquired by any means, therefore, Gardiner employed his new acquaintance John Gilbert for this delicate work. Gilbert who had only recently formed a friendship with Frank Gardiner was given the job to purchase cattle for the business. In this capacity Gilbert visited the local cattle stations, where he would at one station pay for so many head of cattle and at the next duffed (stole) a similar amount. By the time Gilbert handed the cattle over to Gardiner, they had quite a number for a small outlay. Gardiner and Fogg from this advantage could then undercut the other butchers and sell the meat quite cheaply making a fortune in the process. Benjamin Morgan once more wrote of Gilbert's employment by Gardiner; "...even in those days’ butchers in a country town had price wars, and a butcher employed Gilbert to buy cattle for him. For this purpose, Gilbert visited the stations. At one he would buy so many head of cattle; at the next one he would probably take a similar number, so by the time he handed them over to the butcher, he had quite a number for a very small outlay. Of course, the butcher could then sell meat very cheaply, and he made a fortune."


The Butcher's Shop.
One of the first residents to the Burrangong/Lambing Flat rush was Mrs Betsy Toms and her husband. She reminisced in her twilight years how she knew Gardiner well and how she had held a soft spot for him in her heart and more than once declared; “...he kept the butcher's shop near to our place, and his was the only place at that time where you could get a piece of meat in reason. The prices up to then, and elsewhere, were outrageous and the fool police said he must have got his meat on the cross (stolen) to be able to sell it at the price. He was the only one willing to make a fair thing out of it. Certainly there was a lot of cattle duffing – the whole district was alive with it.”

Cattle Duffing.
The NSW police stationed on the Lambing Flat goldfields were well aware of the large scale cattle duffing in the local districts and were at pains to seek any help to prevent the likes of Gilbert and Gardiner inflicting this serious crime, consequently, a meeting of prominent squatters was called at Bathurst in 1861 and who were feeling the effects of the stock losses totalling of over £19000, now cried out for more stringent measures for the prevention of Gilbert and Gardiner's method of the procurement of prized beef; "...meeting was held at Bathurst last week, to take steps to prevent cattle stealing in the Western Districts. The promoters of the meeting appeared anxious to kill two birds with one stone. Being persons notoriously adverse to the present Government, they very charitably charged the Cabinet with being to blame for the alleged prevalence of cattle-stealing. Mr. J. B. Suttor said the Government did not provide protection for the squatters. If Mr. Suttor had referred to the estimates, he would have seen that a very considerable portion of the public revenue is annually devoted to the protection of the squatters. So long as the face of the country is scattered over with a semi civilised race of nomads, it will be impossible to provide the protection Mr. J. B. Suttor requires; and, after all, it would appear from the records of our courts of justice that "the squatters" require most to be protected from "the squatters." History proves that all nomadic people are notorious for their disregard of the law of 'meum and tuum'. Mr. Clements stated at this meeting that within the past three months upwards of not less than £4000 worth of cattle had been stolen in three drafts from an area of no more than sixty miles’ square, and the fact set forth in the petition, that "cattle and horses of the aggregate value of £15,000 have been stolen within the last twelve months from the stock-holders on the Lachlan River alone." It is a well-known fact that numbers have grown wealthy upon this infamous traffic, and that the wages of a wide-spread profligacy and debauchery are regularly earned from this source. No wonder, therefore, that the stockholders of the squatting districts have taken the alarm, and are endeavouring to organise a comprehensive movement to stem this crying evil. With us the wonder has been that action has been so long procrastinated, and that something was not attempted years ago towards the suppression of this species of crime. The surest remedy for this state of things would be the location in the neighbourhood or some scores of honest agriculturists, whose good example might be the means of purifying the moral atmosphere of the Lachlan."¹⁰ The newspaper had little sympathy for the plight of the squatters, (who the writer claims are somewhat self-indulgent), but the government in 1861 installed Captain Battye to the Burrangong field, a daring and efficient officer who resolved to grab cattle duffing and the outbreak of the burgeoning acts of bushranging by the throat, and was one officer who also had to contend with the anti Chinese sentiment prevalent on the goldfield upon his arrival. Battye even went so far as to place a letter to stock and station proprietors in the 'Burrangong Courier' asking for the above co-operation, and called for a systematic registration of their horses and cattle by their owners for the benefit of auctioneers, a copy of which is as follows;


Captain Battye
LAMBING FLAT. -- "We have received the following letter from Captain Battye enclosing a "Notice to Stock holders," (which will be found in our advertising columns). We hope it, will draw the attention of settlers and others to the very important matter to which it refers. A little attention on the part of those to whom the "Notice" specially given, would greatly assist the gallant and energetic Captain, in his design "to check at least", if not "effectually stop the crime of cattle stealing:"

DEAR SIR,— You will oblige me by causing the enclosed advertisement that I have had inserted in the Lambing Flat papers, to be made known throughout the Western Districts.   For during the short time I have been in this quarter, circumstances have come to my knowledge, that convince me that mobs of cattle are slaughtered on this goldfield, chiefly brought from the Macquarie, Bogan and Lachlan.

I am determind to do my best to check it if I cannot effectually stop it, and I only ask  this trifling assistance from the proprietors of stock stations, who think it is worth their while to curb this growing evil.

Yours

E.M.Battye, Captain
Assistant- Superintendent of Police.
Police Camp, Young,

NSW Report of Crime
20 May 1861.
During this time, John Gilbert and Frank Gardiner solidified their friendship, where Gilbert had soon commenced participating in robberies with Gardiner as well as forming a close friendship one of the Weddin Mountain's youths John O'Meally, from the wealthy 'Arramagong Station'. Before long, Gardiner was wanted by the police suspected of cattle duffing and Highway Robbery. The following account of robbery was reported in the 'Empire' 23rd February 1861; "...there are many rogues and vagabonds prowling about. Last week Mr. Wildash, of Burrowa, was stuck up by three bushrangers one of them riding a horse known to be the property of a shanty keeper near the place where the robbery was committed. All the particulars have not yet reached me, but it seems that Mr. Wildash was stopped a short distance from the Wonanumba dam, on the road from Marengo Flat, and robbed of about £8 in cash, gold rings, watch, and even the horse on which he rode. The police have been making every effort to capture the highwaymen, but I have not heard that they have been successful." Gilbert, now his master's apprentice, continued on a downward track, where soon the police would be inquiring for him as well. Fogg, as well being afraid of arrest disappeared and returned to his old farm on the Fish River, near the Abercrombie Ranges in New South Wales.


O'Meally's Shanty
the  haunt of Gilbert.
With the end of the butchering business through the scrutiny of the troopers and a police warrant now out for Frank Gardiner, who bolted with his mate Fogg to the Fish River, John Gilbert quickly shifted his swag (belongings) to the center of criminal activity in the Lachlan district the Weddin Mountains.  It was at the Weddin Mountains where he chummed up with one of the real wild colonial boys, John O’Meally, and hung out and worked at the O'Meally's shanty on Emu Creek north of the Weddin Mountains. John O'Meally is described here by John McGuire in his narrative of 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', 1907; “...O’Meally was born and reared there and I have known him since he was a baby. He was tall, smart, and a splendid horseman.”

Extracts from the
 Burrangong Courier of
 Davis' encounter
 with police and
MaGuinness' shooting.
Gilbert, in his early forays into bushranging also came into contact with Gardiner’s closest cohorts, John Peisley, Fred Lowry, John Davis, and The McGuinness brothers, the Fogg's and the Taylor's. Note: (Johnny MaGuinness was shot dead believed to have been ordered by Gardiner for not helping Davis during the encounter with police at Brewers Shanty in April 1862. Davis was wounded four times by detective Lyons, Kennedy and Sanderson and then captured.) (See articles right.)  

In a review of robberies conducted in 1863, many of the following accounts of crime in and around the Lachlan district frequented by Gilbert and his mentor Gardiner as well as Gilbert's mate John O'Meally are recorded and demonstrate that robbery was the new game for the young tearaway. From the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 19th August 1863, and states; "In 1861.-July 2nd, at Bogalong, two men stuck up inmates of public-house; 9th, at Bogalong, three men stuck up inmates of Mr. Armour's house; Mr. Armour turned the firearms presented at him aside, and the men left without robbing, remarking "that this was Sandy's house; "13th, between Gundagai and Yass, just beyond Carberry's, three men stopped the mail, but the escort rode up, and the robbers rode off ; 19th, at Froggley's, in the Abercrombie district, an affray between two police and three bushrangers-Sergeant Middleton shot in several places, and trooper Hozie (said to be) killed; mem. Hozie recovered 20th, three men bailed up inmates of inn at Chesher's Creek; 29th, three men bailed up Mr. Mackay's station, and three several parties. August 5th, three men stuck up Fowler's Inn, on the Marengo Road, about five miles from Lambing Flat, and a tent in the same vicinity ; 6th, three men stuck up one man, near Wombat, aud another coming from the diggings; 8th, three men stuck up Mr. Murphy of Wagga Wagga, at O'Brien's, at the Levels, and took money, coat, &c , same men then robbed a dray of a gold watch, &c., and afterwards took a keg of spirits from a traveller; at Bathunga, two men robbed Mr. Hausen of money, clothes, &c. ; 17th, Mr. Pring's station visited by bushrangers, and on his refusing to supply them with rations, his stores were robbed, and he was so seriously maltreated as to put his life in danger. September 2, Forsyth's store at Tipperary Gully was stuck up on Thursday night, and two men very badly treated; on the 23rd ultimo, two men robbed Mr. Belf's store, at Back Creek, of the cash-box; 1862-January 1st, two men stuck up and robbed of £127 by two armed men (telegram) ; 3rd, the Uar station, on the Lambing Flat road, stuck up by four armed men, and the inmates robbed of about £150 (telegram); 13th, Mr. Green's station, ten miles from Wowingragong, stuck up and robbed; Dr.Temple, formerly of Burrowa, stuck-up near the graveyard at Spring Creek, and robbed of his watch, chain, saddle and bridle."


NSW Police Description.
Gilbert, by all accounts was a very handsome young man and earned a reputation as a flash dresser taking great care in his appearance, and was very intelligent with a quick humorous wit. He gave the appearance of a wealthy young squatter, and was often to be found disguised as a woman to avoid the police as described by McGuire;op.cit. “...Gilbert was smarter still, he was a handsome young chap, with a clean feminine face – no side whiskers – wore his hair long. Frequently, after he took to the roads, he used to visit the towns disguised as a girl riding side saddle.” This was also stated after a later robbery at Old Junee in 1863 of Gilbert's own comment about wearing female apparel, from the 'Freeman's Journal', 23rd September 1863; "...he met riding along the road a tall ungainly looking woman, and from what afterwards occurred firmly believes it to have been no woman at all; but Gilbert disguised as one; if so it is not the first time Gilbert has adopted female apparel, for I'm credibly informed that when he stuck up Hammond's station at Junee, one of the servant girls there was making some remarks upon his long and well-oiled hair and he laughingly observed "I'm obliged to wear it long for I've sometimes to dress in women's clothes, and I intend to escape out of the country in petticoats" It is well known that he attended the last Young races, mounted on horseback, disguised in a lady's riding habit, hat and feather. His smooth good looking face much assists him in this respect." Gilbert was also more than capable as a pugilist and could hold his own against all comers, as McGuire stated;op.cit. “...Gilbert, could use his fists well, as I knew to my sorrow, for we had had a big encounter over at the Flat, and I got the worst of it.” 

Police Gazette July 1862.
John Gilbert was also reported, as with his brother Charles and James to have Canadian accents and at times, were often mistaken for Americans. This was said of Gilbert's brother Charles in a November 1862 description; "...he is a particularly fine square-built young man, aged 23 or 25, about 5 feet 11 or 11 1/2 inches high, about 12 stone weight, fresh brown complexion, high cheek bones, brown eyes, hair dark, wiry and long, worn native fashion, large mouth, fine teeth, small downy moustache, and tuft at the tip of the chin. He described himself as a Yankee, arrived some years ago in a revenue cutter; he seems, however, more like a native. He has evidently been in New York, and was also well acquainted with the Victorian gold fields. He is very well informed, and of good address. He rode well and was mounted on a half broken three-year old. When arrested he had boils all over his hands and arms; he then gave the name of D'Arcy. He is now supposed to be with John Gilbert."¹¹ 
                                                                             
'The Darkie'
Gardiner, after fleeing Lambing Flat was soon cornered at Fogg's farm near Bigga in July 1861 by the police, and after a gunfight and ferocious brawl with his captures, troopers Middleton and Hosie, in what was a fight to the death, which saw Middleton after firing a succession of revolver shots at Gardiner without effect, Gardiner then returned fire and Middleton was hit with two of the bullets, one in the neck, the other in the left hand, the severely wounded Middleton retreated, Hosie then bravely entered Fogg's house, saw Gardiner and the two fired simultaneously. Hosie's shot missed his mark but Gardiner's bullet struck Hosie's head near the temple and he fell. Middleton on seeing Hosie drop returned to the fray and the struggle that ensued between Middleton and Gardiner who was severely beaten by the silver handle of Middleton’s riding whip, was finally handcuffed. Middleton, weak from the loss of blood then left the dazed Hosie who had regained consciousness to guard their prisoner while Middleton rode for assistance at Bigga. During Middleton's absence Gardiner escaped and after the events, it was widely reported through the press that Fogg had offered Hosie £50 for Gardiner's release...?

1862 NSW Police Gazette.
Gardiner now free after his arrest and narrow escape from the law, which he survived, followed by a long convalescence of some months, no doubt in the arms of Kitty Browne on the Lachlan, the 'King of the Highwaymen' was soon back on the road early in 1862. Gilbert re-joined with Gardiner and commenced operating closely with the 'The Darkie', the two bushrangers were reported in a number of robberies around the Lachlan and Bigga areas close to where the Fogg's farm was situated and an area Gardiner new intimately. One particular robbery on the 28th February 1862 conducted by Gilbert was the holdup of Mr. James Doyle near Reid’s Flat Post Office, Bigga (see article above) where the pair stole cash along with both men's and women's clothing. A description of Gilbert in the NSW Police Gazette at the time states; About 22 yrs. of age, 5ft 9in, fair hair and complexion, no whiskers, long visage, slender build; dressed in Shepard's plaid shooting coat, and cabbage tree hat. Can be identified. Gilbert was also at this time working a shanty with John O’Meally on the road to the Burrangong diggings as John MaGuire writes,op.cit. “...both these men at this time kept a shanty at the point of the Weddin Mountains, on the road from Lambing Flat to Forbes, Gardiner used to frequently hang out there.” The shanty that McGuire alludes to is the public house operated by the O'Meally family and which had a notorious reputation with the NSW police. During this early period John Gilbert had also made the acquaintance of a man who in the near future would become both friend and at times adversary..., Ben Hall.

It was reported in 1863, by a local squatter who knew the trio in late 1859 early 1860, of the friendship between John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Ben Hall in the days of the hunt's for Duffer's, or clean skin cattle (unbranded) and wild horses out on the Bland plains; "...it simply means clean-skinned animals, which are appropriated by whoever can get them into a yard."¹² The squatter goes on as follows; "...about four years since, whilst taking some cattle overland from my station on the Lachlan, I fell in with young Hall, who was then stock-keeping for his brother near Bundaburra. He, O'Meally, Gilbert, and some others had all just returned from their usual trip after cattle, and on my asking them what luck they had met with, they replied "they had camped out for three nights at a place called Humbug Creek, but had met with little or no cattle, only in one mob there were a few duffers."¹³

The butcher business concluded and Gardiner back on the Lachlan, Gilbert was soon to be involved in a number of robberies both with Gardiner and then with O'Meally and others as demonstrated in the 'Freeman's Journal' 9th April 1862; The Modern Claude Du-Val.— "As Gordon's coach on its down trip from the Lachlan was being tooled along a good road by Fred. Newman, about twenty-five miles from the diggings, two horsemen suddenly appeared on the road with an imperative "stop" to the driver. Twigging a 14-inch Dean and Adams' in the hands of the speaker, Fred, received orders to drive into the bush. They stopped at about half a mile and demanded the money of the passengers — £2 from one, and £30 with a watch and ring from the other, being luckily their only booty. They were exceedingly polite, and disdained to touch the silver. A number of private letters for different people in Chiltern and Rutherglen were returned to the bearer, on his saying he believed there was no money in them. It is almost unnecessary to state that Gardiner and his mate were these very polite highwaymen. The man robbed of the £30, &c., now a mate of Tom Watson's, of "jeweller's shop" notoriety, was formerly a mate of this very Gardiner's in some other walk of life. The following is -the colloquy that ensued between them: — J. M’Auley. "I did not expect this from you, Frank." — Gardiner: "I expected to get £1000, or at least £400 or £500, from you, Jim." — J. M'Auley: "Well, give me back my watch and ring." — "Not now— I will return them another time." The gentlemen of the road then shook hands with them and departed. It will thus be seen that the fact of a mate of the man that had the first 'jeweller's shop' on the Lachlan being in the coach was the cause of its being stuck up— so much for notoriety of any description." The 'Modus Operandi' of these robberies would become Gilbert's trademark for all his future engagements and where the extraction of silver coins from the victims was rarely acted upon. Gilbert would ultimately become the quintessential bushranger and to a degree became an entertainer during his robberies. Gilbert's leadership of the Lachlan bushranger's only passed on to Ben Hall after Gilbert's many long absences and the press in time referred to the 'Boy's' as Ben Hall's gang.

Horsington & Hewitt
Goulburn Herald
Wed 19 Mar 1862.
Gilbert was next involved in a daring robbery in company with the soon to be deceased John MaGuinness, John O’Meally and Frank Gardiner, when they held up and robbed two storekeepers - Hewitt and Horsington on the 10th March 1862.  The four bushrangers escaped with over £1500 in cash and gold. (See article left.) After the robbery it was noted of Gardiner and his followers in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of the 15th March 1862 that; "...last night, from information received, a party of men also started, in the hope of being enabled to capture some of the villains; but I am afraid  their endeavours will be fruitless, for no man in the colony appears to have such a perfect knowledge of the country as Gardiner, and it is believed by many that he will make his way back to the Weddin Mountains, and defy the police. Without the Government increase our police force considerably, and that without any delay, they must be prepared to hear of still further depredations, and the fault will rest on the Government, not the police, for at the present time, should any disturbance take place in the town, or any robbery be committed, the police are all away. This is holding out a premium for robbery and riot, for there is very little doubt there are parties both here and at the Lachlan who are implicated in these robberies, and get information with respect to every movement that is made here - know the police force - where they are stationed - when they are absent, and give the information to the parties who commit these robberies. If the Government do not show a determination to put down these robberies, and apprehend these perpetrators of them, the police force of this place will be made the laughing-stock of the colonies. The police force of these fields must be considerably increased." After the success of the Hewitt robbery, but as a consequence of discharging his firearm MaGuinness was banished from the gang leaving O'Meally and Gilbert to ride with Gardiner and where on the 13th of March the three struck again as reported in the 'Goulburn Herald' of the 19th March 1862; BUSHRANGING AGAIN-"...between half-past six and seven o'clock on Thursday morning, as Mr. Thomas Jackson, a resident of Yass, was returning on horseback from Burrangong, and when between the Flat and Mr. Roberts' station, he was stuck up by three mounted bushrangers, each armed with a revolver, and robbed of £18 3s., all the money he had about him." It was also reported in the 'Freeman's Journal' 9th April 1862 of Gardiner alone; "...Gardiner himself stuck up 32 people at a station, took all their money, and—their being a fiddler among the crowd— proposed a dance, selecting a lady well known on the Indigo for his partner; the company amused themselves for some time, when he took-round the hat for the fiddler, but on being reminded that he had all their money, be made him a handsome donation. Of course, before leaving, he kissed his partner. From what we hear of his dashing appearance, his noble steed, and splendid horsemanship, we should not be surprised to hear ere long of people—ladies especially—going out of their road for the pleasure of being robbed by him the same as they used to do in the days of Gardiner's great prototype—Claude Du- Val."

At this time, it was also followed by a report in the same newspaper of Gardiner's former partner Peisley and an acquaintance of Gilbert's of being found Guilty for the murder of William Benyon and Peisley sentenced to death; CONVICTION OF PEISLEY. - "...the trial of the bushranger Peisley for the murder of William Benyon at Bigga, was concluded on Thursday last. He was found guilty and sentenced to death." How Gardiner took this unsettling news is unknown.

NSW Police Gazette
April 1862.
Gilbert, who by this stage had also made the acquaintance of the previously mentioned Ben Hall and was often in company with Gardiner and John O'Meally as frequent visitors to Ben Hall's property, Sandy Creek. However, Gardiner's visits were for the company of Catherine Browne, Ben Hall's sister in law. Furthermore, on the 14th April 1862, Gilbert, Gardiner's constant companion was a party to Ben Hall's first recorded holdup when they held up the Drays of William Bacon (Benkin) not far from Forbes and stole a large quantity of goods. Ben Hall and John Youngman would both be arrested for this crime and would face court for Highway Robbery, Youngman would granted bail and flee and Ben Hall after some weeks in custody and a trial at Orange would be acquitted and releasedGilbert was now being reported as Gardiner's Lieutenant after the capture of Gardiner's good mate John Davis at Brewers Shanty, by Police officers Lyons, Kennedy and Sanderson. (see Ben Hall page.) In May 1862 Gilbert appeared in the police Gazette for robbing a Mr. William Bell a butcher from Young of 3s 9d., which was returned to the unfortunate victim, most probably as the two bushrangers either knew him from their days in the butcher's trade or more likely as would be seen in many future robberies they didn't take ones silver. Gilbert had now become a fully-fledged bushranger and was soon building a reputation as daring and game (brave) in his manner of attacks, as well as, as was reported, a very cool and collected operator when conducting these depredations. There may even be some conjecture that the mystery person in the famous photo of Gardiner and another, long believed to be John Gilbert maybe John Davis? (below)


Frank Gardiner &
 John Gilbert c. 1862.
Gilbert had along with John O'Meally, become the constant companions of Frank Gardiner, roaming the Lachlan and the Bland Plains and hang out at the Shanty of the O'Meally's at 'Arramagong Station' the vast holding of both the Daley's and the O'Meally's covering some 30,000 acres at the foot of the Weddin Mountains, where the news of Gardiner's former friend and one who had long been believed to have rescued Gardiner from Constable Hosie back in 1861, John Peisley. John Peisley took his final steps to the gallows at Bathurst Gaol 25th April 1862, whilst at Forbes on the same date Ben Hall was arraigned at the Forbes court. The newspaper reported on the 26th April 1862, of the occasion which saw Peisley ascend  to the hands of the hangman in preparation to meet his maker and where Peisley in his last words denied that he had any part in Gardiner's release from the police at Foggs' farm. The news may have had a sobering effect on Gardiner who within weeks of his friends hanging was preparing for the greatest robbery of his life whilst he read of Peisley's last moments in the ''Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal' Saturday 26th April 1862"...the last sentence of the law against John Piesley and Jackey Bullfrog, (Aboriginal) both convicted of murder at the last Assizes, was carried into effect yesterday morning, within the precincts of the gaol at Bathurst, in the presence of about fifty of the inhabitants of the town. The principal, topic here for the last few days has been the fate of Peisley. Many persons were confident, even to the last, that the Executive Government would grant the unfortunate man a reprieve. In this, however, they have been disappointed; as the criminal suffered the extreme penalty of his crimes yesterday, from the time of his conviction to his execution, the conduct of the condemned man was most becoming — in fact; exemplary. He was attended in his last moments by the Rev. Mr. Sharpe, incumbent, and was evidently impressed with the solemn and awful scene in which he Peisley was the chief actor. Before bidding an eternal adieu to earth, he said he had been represented as a bushranger and an outrageous character; he admitted that he had violated the laws of the country, but be looked upon himself as the most honourable man that ever took the bush under arms. He had never used any violence to, or taken a shilling from a woman, and there were several ladies in Bathurst now who could testify as to the treatment they had received from him when he met them; and although he had been charged with many great outrages of which he had not the slightest knowledge, he begged to assure them that he had never, until the affair at Benyon's, been guilty of using violence to man, woman, or child. A man named Walsh had been lately tried at Bathurst for murder, and had attempted to fasten the blame of that offence on him (Peisley); but he affirmed that he was not near the spot where the crime was committed, but Walsh was, who, he believed was the guilty party. With reference to the charge which had been made against him, of being concerned in the rescue of Gardiner from the hands of the police, he called God to witness, that the charge was utterly groundless, as he was not near the spot on that occasion. He knew that Fogg had promised Hosie £50 if he would let Gardiner go free, and the money being made up, the sum of £50 10s was given by Fogg. Among the money paid to Hosie, was a cheque for £2 10s, and that was the reason of his rceiving ten shillings over the £50. Further, some evil disposed person had caused a paragraph to be published; in the newspapers, intimating that he had robbed and severely ill-treated a woman at the General's Gap. That charge was also false, as he did not know anything about such a circumstance. He hoped that God would forgive all his enemies; he forgave them freely, and fully. He concluded by saying "Good bye gentlemen, and God bless you." The fatal rope was then adjusted and the white caps being drawn over the faces of the culprits, at a signal from the Acting-Sheriff, the drop fell, and the two unfortunates were launched into eternity. Peisley did not appear to suffer much nor long; but the poor blackfellow, was for several minutes frightfully convulsed. Piesley maintained to the last moment, the same calm, firm determination which characterised him through the whole of the proceedings. He ascended the ladder steadily but firmly and we did not observe the slightest change of colour or of countenance, neither was there any appearance of tremor when making his dying statement." 

"..make way for the
 Royal Mail."
John Gilbert now became involved in Frank Gardiner's most daring heist of all, the robbery of the 'Forbes Gold Escort'. John Gilbert's involvement was from the very outset, with the plan hatched at John McGuire and Ben Hall's huts, which were utilised as the rendezvous for the gang's meetings. John McGuire was fully included in the preplanning, although McGuire didn't participate in the physical robbery at Eugowra he was fully aware of who was to be involved in the attack of the Gold Escort which travelled regularly between Forbes and Orange, the heist was planned for 15th June 1862. McGuire wrote in his narrative;op.cit. "...it was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiners constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country." The audacious plan was put into effect and the gang made of Gardiner, Gilbert, Ben Hall, Daniel Charters, Alex Fordyce, John Bow and Henry Manns arrived without incident at the Eugowra Rocks, where prior to the coach's arrival on that fateful Sunday afternoon, 15th June 1862, it was reported that; "...Gardiner hid his men behind some large rocks by the roadside, having first forced a number of carriers to block up the road with their wagons. The long expected coach came in sight. "Make way for the Royal mail," cried the driver John Fagan, as he noticed the teams on the road. There was no answer, and again he repeated the order. There was no answer but the echo of his voice.”  As the echo of Fagan's voice faded, the crack of gunfire was then heard and a barrage of bullets crashed into the gold escort coach wounding a number of unsuspecting policemen including Sergeant Condell. The rapid fire startled the horses which bolted, flipping over the coach. The escorting troopers out gunned and under intense fire managed to retreat into the nearby scrub where they made their way to Mr. Hanerbry Clement’s farm as the armed robbers Gardiner, Hall and company ransacked the coach and cleared out with over £14,000 worth of gold and cash. Roughly $1,162,500 in today’s value.

The gang with John Gilbert remained together and after zig zaging their tracks, retired to Wheogo Hill, 60 miles from Eugowra to divide the spoils of their success. Gilbert’s share was 300oz of gold and £435 in cash - a fair fortune in 1862. There was a need for more capacity to carry the individual shares of the heavy gold so Daniel Charters (who would turn informer) was dispatched to Ben Hall's hut to-gather some extra saddle bags, some historical accounts place Gilbert as the rider the police sighted, but Charters lied at his future Escort trial to lessen his culpability and his testimony has been used wrongly ever since, John McGuire’s narrative of the occasion, stated;op.cit. "...it was to Hall's, not my place, that Charters, not Gilbert went. Hall had told them previously that they could get them. It was from here that the police galloped after Charters to the mountain." It made sense for Gardiner to send Charters, as he knew the terrain around Wheogo and Hall's property intimately, before long the police at full gallop tracked Charters to their hideout on Wheogo Hill, led by Sgt Sanderson, who recounts the scene at the bushrangers’ camp on his arrival and stated at the 'Special Criminal Commission' covering the Escort Trial's, February 1863;“...on the Thursday morning following the robbery I was near the Wheogo Mountains, on my search; I was near to the house of a man named Hall; McGuire’s house was about 300 or 400 yards from Hall's house; I went to Hall's house; I wanted to see one of the Hall's; he was not in; I went on towards McGuire’s house; as I went I saw a horseman coming towards me from the Wheoga Mountains, in the direction of Hall's or McGuire’s house; when he caught sight of me he turned round and bolted into the mountains; I followed him with my party; by the aid of our black tracker we got on the tracks; we followed him by roundabout course up to the top of the Wheogo Mountain; the top of the mountain was about a mile and a half from McGuire’s place; at the top of the mountain I found the remnants of a camp; there were sixteen empty bottles; some contained remnants of port wine, some of gin, some of rum, some of ale; there were biscuits about and tea with milk in it; I did not see how the robbers could have got milk on the spot without going to the stations round about; there were remnants of beef, bits of bread! pieces of green hide tied to bushes, and bits of red tape; I found the top of the hill very stoney, and consequently very difficult to keep the track; we lost it for a time; in about a quarter of an hour it was found by the black tracker, and we proceeded on it a distance of about twenty or twenty-six miles, through a dense scrub; the black tracker rode a white horse; as far as I could judge the man who evaded me at the foot of the Wheogo Mountain rode a bright bay horse; we found the track of several horses; I could not say how many; one of them was shod; we followed in these tracks about twenty-five miles; when we came upon a shod horse with a pack on his back; the pack contained a bag with 1239 ounces of gold, a bag similar to that which I saw put into the escort which started on Sunday, 15th June, from Forbes.”

Luckily for Gilbert on hearing the troopers approach, and what soon became every man for himself, jumped on his horse and bolted leaving Gardiner and Charters to cope with the pack-horse on which the remaining proceeds of the robbery including Charters' share were placed. The police now hot on the heels of Gardiner forced him to abandon the animal which fell triumphantly into the hands of Senior Sergeant Sanderson. Sanderson would later state that he never got within five miles of Gardiner and that Gardiner panicked leaving the pack-horse. From the ‘Sydney Mail’ 28th June 1862; "...the chase down the hill again, over rocky ground, and through dense scrub, was then resumed for about twenty miles, during which, at a gallop for most of the distance, the blackfellow never once missed the track. They then come to a point where the robbers divided into three parties, and by the greatest good fortune, Mr. Sanderson selected the track that the pack-horse party had taken, and he soon overtook the horse laden with gold and firearms, completely done up. Though Mr. Sanderson never sighted the robbers once; it is certain that the scout warned them of Sanderson's approach with his men, and in their flight the robbers thought him much nearer than he actually was, as they abandoned the pack-horse without attempting to make away with the gold, though Mr. Sanderson tell me he does not think he was ever nearer than five miles of the robbers, and they would have had ample time to unload the pack-horse before he could overtake them."

John Gilbert headed for O'Meally's at the Weddin Mountains, here Gilbert laid low for a few weeks, rendezvousing with his brother Charles and prepared to commence the journey home to Victoria. After the events of the discovery of the hideout at Wheogo and Gilbert's fleeing to leave Gardiner to cope alone, it came to light that Gilbert's actions caused friction between the two bushrangers as noted from an article in a Queensland paper in 1864; "...it appears that he (Gardiner) is prepared to challenge detection by his late mates, except, perhaps Gilbert, with whom he had a difference before leaving New South Wales."¹⁴


In a little known fact of the events of the Escort robbery is that some hours before the fateful Gold coach departed Forbes for Orange there were to be two other passengers on-board as well as the police troopers and they were Police Magistrate for Forbes Captain Brown a long-time friend of Captain M’Lerie and the Gold Commissioner for Forbes Mr. Grenfell who had previously sent Ben Hall to Orange for the Bacon Dray Robbery in April of that year. The two men left Forbes on horseback. This was reported in 'The Courier', Tuesday 8th July 1862. It also reported the police movements at the commencement of the hunt; Captain Brown and Mr. Commissioner Grenfell were to have come down by the escort, but owing to special instructions from Inspector General M'Lerie, they came on horseback, and were some miles in advance of the escort when the attack was made. Early on Tuesday morning, Mr. Superintendent Morrisset, with a detachment of six troopers, passed through this town en route for the scene of attack; and on Wednesday morning a couple of troopers from Stoney Creek also set out for the same destination. On the arrival of the Forbes mail in Orange, on Wednesday, we were informed that two troopers belonging to Sir Frederick Pottinger's party had returned to Forbes to obtain fresh horses, theirs being knocked up. These men report that they had tracked the bushrangers to within a short distance of Finn's public-house on the Lachlan, and within ten miles of Forbes. The rain had, however, set in, and destroyed the tracks. The black trackers could only discover the tracks of six horsemen.” Whether or not as the gang waited for the approaching coach and prior to the blocking of the road they watched the two men pass is unknown.
  
The following telegram was urgently received by the Inspector General of Police from Mr. Morrisset, superintendent of Western District Police after the recovery of the Eugowra gold; - "Senior Sergeant Sanderson returned to Forbes yesterday with half the gold taken from the Escort on the 15th instant. It appears that when near Wheogo, Sanderson's patty saw a man at a distance riding towards them, who, when he saw the police, at once turned and rode back full gallop the police following on his track ran to the top of a high mountain, from which four others had just descended. Having one of the police black-trackers with them, the police were enabled to follow their tracks for twenty miles, and the bushrangers, finding themselves so hotly pursued, let their pack-horse go, and on him was found about 1500 ounces of gold, a police cloak, and two of Terry's carbines lost by the guard of the Escort. Sanderson's horses being quite knocked up; the party was compelled to return. I start with Sanderson to-morrow or next day in pursuit. Sir Frederick Pottinger's party have not yet returned since they started."¹⁵

It was also reported of the recovery and the efforts of the police in the pursuit of the robbers; THE LATE ESCORT ROBBERY. THE ROBBERY OF THE ESCORT. — RECOVERY OF 1500 OUNCES OF THE GOLD. — "We have already given full particulars of the cowardly attack made upon the escort on the 16th instant by a band of armed ruffians, and the few additional particulars which have come to hand shew that these men have not the slightest claim to that morbid sympathy which is sometimes evinced for men who, in the prosecution of their villainous plans, display great personal bravery. As our readers are aware the bushrangers had arranged drays across the road so as to leave only a narrow pass close to a rock by which they were concealed. As the coach passed, six of their number fired and then drew out of range, and other six or seven discharged their volley at the escort before the police could return the fire. Two of the horses were wounded, and the team started off, upset the coach, and turned out the escort. One of the constables appeared to be mortally wounded by the overthrow, and while a comrade was carrying him into the bush, they were seen by two of the bushrangers who, after uttering an obscene expression, fired upon them. One of the bullets inflicted a most dangerous wound on the already wounded and helpless man. It is remarkable that one of the balls which struck sergeant Condell tore a piece off the invoice of gold and cash transmitted under the escort— the document being at the time in the sergeant's breast pocket. This paper shows that in all there was cash to the amount of £3700, and 2719 ozs. 9 dwts. 6 grs. in gold— the cash being for the banks, and the gold for the Master of the Mint. As a matter of fact, however, the gold was also the property of the banks, but was ordered to be transmitted to the Master of the Mint in the usual course of business. It was on Monday reported to the Bank of New South Wales that 1500 ounces of the stolen gold have been recovered."¹⁶

Lachlan. — Late Escort Robbery. — "We have been furnished with the following letter, received by a gentleman in the city from his correspondent at Forbes. As it contains come particulars of the recovery of a portion of the gold stolen from the escort, it will perhaps be interesting to our readers - "Forbes, June 22, 1862. Dear Sir, Inspector Sanderson arrived Yesterday, at 4 p.m., with about 1400 ozs. ot gold taken from the robbers. He sighted one of their scouts near to Wheogo, and gave chase, but too far behind to get within rifle shot, and he soon disappeared. Mr. Sanderson and four men followed his tracks, by the aid of a black tracker, and came to the robbers' camp on the top of a very high hill. They had but lately left, and the remains of their meal were lying about, consisting of tea, milk, port wine, and other delicacies of the season. The chase down the hill again, over rocky ground, and through dense scrub, was then resumed for about twenty miles, during which, at a gallop most of the distance, the blackfellow never once missed the track. They then come to a point where the robbers divided into three parties, and by the greatest good fortune, Mr. Sanderson selected the track that the pack-horse party had taken, and he soon overtook the horse laden with gold and firearms, completely done up. Though Mr. Sanderson never sighted the robbers once; it is certain that the scout warned them of Sanderson's approach with his men, and in their flight the robbers thought him much nearer than he actually was, as they abandoned the pack-horse without attempting to make away with the gold, though Mr. Sanderson tell me he does not think he was ever nearer than five miles of the robbers, and they would have had ample time to unload the pack-horse before he could overtake them. The conduct of Sanderson is beyond praise, and he was most ably seconded by his men, consisting of senior constables Armour and Burke, constables Powell and Westhead, and not least, if last, his blackfellow Charley, who by merely sighting the scout when beyond rifle range followed the track at a gallop for twenty-five miles without a check. I from the first, with many others, was sure Gardner was the leader of this gang, and feel most sanguine that Sir F. Pottinger, who is yet out with a second party, will be equally fortunate in recovering the rest of the gold and notes, and bets are freely laid that within a month the whole of the gang will be captured. The reward offered is good, but should have been £200 each for the first four robbers taken. There is a feeling here that the Government is decidedly liable for the loss on account of want of proper precaution. If properly managed by Pottinger, who is still out, I firmly believe all the gold will be got. It is most amusing to us to see by the Sydney papers that an impression prevailed that Gardner was not concerned in the robbery."¹

The Escort Robbery. — "Sir Frederick Pottinger and the police are still in pursuit of the robbers, but after running the tracks forty miles unfortunately lost them, owing to the late rains. Up to a particular point, we believe there was little difficulty in tracking, and had not the rain interfered with the pursuit, it is by no means improbable that the scoundrels might have been hunted down. The superintendent of police of the Western districts has arrived in Forbes with the intention to co-operate with Sir Frederick Pottinger, but is for the time being condemned to inaction owing to the impossibility of ascertaining his whereabouts until some of the troopers return. Speculation has been very rife as to the personnel of the delinquents, not a few having fixed upon Gardiner and his gang as the perpetrators of the robbery, alleging that the direction of the tracks points to his beat; that his quietude of late was simply a ruse to lull suspicion; and that the present affair is his last grand feat prior to closing his accounts as a disciple of Turpin. On this score we leave the public to form their own conclusions, merely premising that as a mere speculation there appears to be some feasibility in it."¹⁸

With the much anticipated success of the NSW police the township of Forbes turned out in force for the triumphant return of the hard pressed troopers; "...on the arrival of the little band with the treasure-viz., a pack horse carrying about 1600 z° of gold, two rifles and a trooper's coat, they were loudly cheered, and surrounded by some 2000 people, eager to learn the news and see how affairs stood. The horses and men appeared knocked-up, the blackfellow who had served as tracker appearing the least fatigued, to judge by his self-satisfied and merry countenance."¹⁹

Sir Frederick Pottinger who was the officer in charge of the pursuit of the bandito's, split his force into various sections to cover a wider area, after the original tracks were leading the police towards the Weddin Mountains. Sir Frederick Pottinger himself headed south towards the Victorian boarder, as his original thought was the bushrangers were from that state, Pottinger after many days in the saddle eventually arrived in the southern township of Hay, NSW where he was reported in this article from the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on the 6th July 1862; Saturday, July 6th;- "INTELLIGENCE has been received, during the week to the effect that Sir Frederick Pottinger and his party of police had arrived at Hay (about 280 or 300 miles from Forbes), and that they were then probably within a day's ride of the escort robbers, whose tracks they have followed with great care. The bushrangers are supposed to be making towards the Victorian country, and as they make it a rule to steal fresh horses at every opportunity, they have rather the advantage of their pursuers. As, however, the Victorian police are on the 'qui vive' along the borders, there are hopes that the miscreants will be captured, together with that portion of the gold that is still missing.

The tracks that Sir Frederick were following were those of another group of miscreant's, the next telegram was sent from Deniliquin to the Inspector-General in Sydney of Pottinger's arrival at Hay, NSW; The following telegram was received on Tuesday, by Captain M'Lerie, from the superintendent of police it Deniliquin: "I have received a letter from Sir F. Pottinger, dated Hay, 20th June. He had tracked five suspicious men with two packhorses within seven miles of Narandarl, near which place three of them crossed, and he believes the other two would follow and ultimately re-join them and travel down the Yanko (a creek between the Murrumbidgee and the Murray). I shall be on the Yanko this evening with my party. I know the country well; three of the men are on foot; Sir F. Pottinger, Mr. Mitchell and detective Lyons are all who reached Hay, the remainder of the party knocked up."


John Gilbert.
Enhanced by me.
John Gilbert, as Sir Frederick was arriving in Hay, was still in the Weddin Mountains area and on the 4th July 1862, in company with his brother Charles D'Arcy Gilbert and Henry Manns, took the road to Victoria, their final destination was to be New Zealand. The three travelers who were mounted on fine horses and trailing a pack horse each with their provisions, headed south in what they had hoped would be an uneventful ride. John Gilbert's brother Charles wrote in a letter published in November 1863, an account of that day's ride and the fateful events when coming into contact with the returning Sir Frederick Pottinger. Charles also notes, of his desire to draw his little brother John away from the Lachlan and those Charles thought were of a bad influence. Some portions of Charles' statements in the letter to the editor of the 'Kyneton Guardian' are vague and misleading, notwithstanding Charles also had to be fully aware of John Gilbert's participation at Eugowra, as well as who the identity of the mystery rider really was, Charles Gilbert states in this extract from the 'Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News' 25th November 1863; "…in the month of May, 1862, I arrived at the Lachlan diggings, attracted there by the very flattering account of the richness of that gold-field. I need scarcely add that like many others who left Victoria about the same time, I felt disappointed, and therefore resolved to return to Victoria, en route to New Zealand, having been in the latter place before, and only having left it the preceding February. Previous to leaving New South Wales, I had some intercourse with my brother John, but had never while there heard anything prejudicial to his character; but my suspicions were awakened by what I heard alleged against some of his associates, and I therefore deemed it my duty to persuade him to abandon them and that colony, and accompany me to New Zealand via Victoria. lt was whilst pursuing our journey hither, accompanied by a third person (Henry Manns), with whom we had fallen in on the road, and who was known to my brother, and was to part from us a few miles further on our way, that we were stopped by Sir F. Pottinger and a posse of constables, and two of us made prisoners. John Gilbert, with affected politeness, lifting his hat, bade the worthy baronet good day."

R.B. Mitchell c. 1882
As Gilbert and his companions were riding leisurely along, what would now be the Burley Griffin Way, which in 1862 would have been nothing more than a dirt track, they met a rider approaching them from Merool Station, (known today as Mirrool, situated between Hay and Quandary, NSW), as the rider approached, Gilbert and Co. had no idea that the gentleman was Mr. R. Mitchell, (son of explorer and Surveyor General of NSW, Sir Thomas Mitchell, 1792-1855) who was a special constable attached to Sir Frederick Pottinger's tracking party and had been riding slightly ahead of the Inspector as they made their way back to the Lachlan. Mitchell on approach was the first to address the three horsemen, he asked, "how far they had come", to which Gilbert replied, "they had come from the Flat". When Mitchell first saw the three riders he observed how well dressed they were, noting, "...they were three well-dressed young fellows, booted and spurred, with close-fitting breeches, turn-down collars, and new cabbage-tree hats, all well mounted, and leading three horses."²⁰ 

Undeterred Mitchell turned his horse to ride alongside the three horsemen who gave the impression of not wanting to prolong the conversation when Sir Frederick Pottinger and detective Lyons rode up to join them. What happened next is reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' 16th July 1862 as follows;

TWO OF THE GANG. -THEIR SUBSEQUENT RESCUE.
(Abridged from the Lachlan Observer, July 16th 1862.)

"ON Saturday evening last, acting sub-inspectors Norton and Wolfe left Forbes with a strong body of police, in consequence of the receipt of intelligence that Sir Frederick Pottinger, inspector of police, Mr R. B. Mitchell, late C. P. S. of Forbes, and sergeant Lyons, had captured three of the escort robbers, with 400 ounces of gold, and a considerable amount in bank notes. Although the movement was intended to be of a somewhat private character, everything connected with it gradually oozed out, and public curiosity was stimulated in a corresponding degree. Yesterday morning Sir Frederick Pottinger and party, followed by the troopers, arrived in town early in the day, having stayed at Fenn's Inn, Wowingragong, the previous evening. From one of the pursuing party we have received the following information-

After Sir Frederick and party had bid adieu to Messrs Cropper, Clements, and the other gentlemen who so praise worthily assisted in tracking the bushrangers from the scene of the rencontre, Sir Frederick's party prosecuted their inquiries at sundry places, as far as Merandarra, and then on to Lang's Crossing place (Hay), on the Murrumbidgee, where they arrived about a fortnight ago, and stayed a day to rest. Their horses were, by this time, completely exhausted, a great portion of the country over which they had travelled being vast barren plains, without a blade of grass, apparently for hundreds of miles, and presenting nothing in the shape of herbage but salt bush. During this part of their expedition Sir Frederick frequently heard of some of the fugitive robbers being in front of him. Sometimes he would arrive at a station from which good horses were missed, poor or fatigued ones being left in their stead; and he feels convinced that three of the robbers have effected their escape into Victoria. The plan of their retreat appears to be to divide into parties, of whom three travel together along the roads, carrying the booty, while reserves of greater strength keep near at hand, concealed in the bush and resolved to retrace their steps, although tolerably certain that a section of the party had made their way over to Victoria with part of the booty. On Monday, 30th June, they commenced their retrograde movement, and on the following Monday had just left the Merool Station, where they called for refreshment, when about half-past one o'clock, and just as they had lost sight of the place, they met three well-dressed young fellows, booted and spurred, with close-fitting breeches, turn-down collars, and new cabbage tree hats, all well mounted, and leading three horses. Mr Mitchell, who first addressed them, asked how far they had come, and was answered by one of them that they had come from the Flat, having left it three days previously. As they showed no disposition to prolong the colloquy, but appeared anxious to push on, Mr Mitchell returned with them until they met Sir Frederick, who was about two hundred yards behind, and who addressed one of them to the following effect:-'' By the bye, that is a good horse you are riding; can you show me a receipt for him?" Upon this, the man addressed let go the horse he was leading, and put his hand in his pocket, as if to search for the receipt, but at the same moment, and as quick as lightning, stuck spurs into his horse, sprang over a log, and the next moment was seen dashing through the bush at a pace which defied pursuit. As two remained behind, and the pack-horse which the fugitive had cast off, Sir Frederick and Mr Mitchell drew their revolvers, and ordered the men to stand. Having handcuffed them, and secured the cast off horse, they started for the Merool; and one of the fellows on his way attempted to escape by darting underneath his horse's belly and making for his led horse, but was baulked in the attempt. Having arrived at their destination, one of the first steps was to search the swags upon the led horses, in one of which were found some tea, sugar, and clothing, and in a dirty flour bag 242 ounces of gold. From one of the prisoners £2 14s, in cash was taken, and from the other £135 in notes. The party remained at the station one day and a night, keeping guard over their prisoners, no information respecting their absconding mate could be obtained from the prisoners.

Gilbert on making his rapid escape from the clutches of Sir Frederick Pottinger, would now conduct a feat of great horsemanship by riding flat-out back to the Weddin Mountains, covering a distance of some 60 miles across plain and through scrubland, jumping creeks and arriving there in under ten hours. On arrival back at the Weddin Mountains, Gilbert quickly assembled a rescue party for his brother Charles and Henry Manns. Gilbert knowing that the police would not be in a hurry and possibly not prepared to be attacked, set about a plan to intercept the troopers along the road he judged they would travel, and with his rescue party, including Gardiner, O'Meally, Ben Hall, and others associated with the gold heist. The gang mounted fresh horses and retraced Gilbert's route back to a point which Gilbert suspected the troopers would arrive at, all this was done within thirty-six hours, the newspaper article below continues the amazing encounter and gunfight between the bushrangers and the troopers;

Temora (Timoola) Homestead.
"...on the following morning started on the road, sergeant Lyons leading, with the prisoners handcuffed, and mounted on two of the worst horses, Sir Frederick and Mr Mitchell bringing up the rear. In this order they arrived at Mr Aymer's, Quandary Station, thirty-five miles from the Merool, whence they departed on the following day with the intention of proceeding to Mr Cole's station. Nothing worthy of note transpired during the first twelve miles of the journey, but after they had travelled that distance, and when within about 200 yards of Timoola, (today's Temora) four men with blackened faces and red caps rushed out of a dense scrub, at an angle of the road, each armed with a double-barrelled gun and a brace of revolvers; and bellowing out "Bail up," almost at the same instant, pouring a volley into the party. Almost simultaneously three others similarly attired fired upon Sir Frederick Pottinger and Mr Mitchell, Lyons' horse, which had received one of the balls, reared up, and throwing his rider, galloped into the bush, with his revolver attached to the saddle, thus leaving him powerless. At this moment three of the men dashed forwards to the prisoners and released them. The contest here became fast and furious, the odds being greatly in favour of the bushrangers, several of whom crouched among the scrub, ran to and fro, taking deliberate aim and pouring shot after shot upon the party, uttering as they did so the most frightful yells and imprecations. One in particular bellowed out to Sir Frederick that he knew him and would quickly dispose of him, at the same taking a deliberate aim with his piece, but fortunately without effect, whilst he in turn wheeled round and returned the well-meant compliment with his revolver. Four or five exchanges had now taken place, until Mr Mitchell was reduced to his last shot and Sir Frederick little better off, when the former proposed that they should rush on and charge their adversaries. To this proposal, however, the principal object of which was to rescue Lyons, who had disappeared from the
Quandary Station c. 1890.
scene, and, it was feared, was in the hands of their assailants, Sir Frederick demurred, seeing its utter hopelessness against such fearful odds, consisting moreover of reckless miscreants who appeared bent upon taking life. To beat a retreat, therefore, and save the gold, appeared to be the only course open; and the two now on the field turned their horses and galloped back at racing pace to Quandary a distance of twelve miles, which they accomplished in about forty minutes, Mr Mitchell minus his hat and a richly-mounted pistol. 
In the heat of the contest, one of the bushrangers repeatedly screamed out at the top of his voice for their horses, which, it appeared, were tied up to a paling fence, near the house at the neighbouring station, but one of the balls having struck a paling and shivered it with a crashing noise, the horses took fright and ran off into the bush, and to this circumstance most probably were the retreating party indebted for the safety of their lives and treasure. In their hope to obtain assistance at Quandary they were disappointed, but the services of a man were procured, who guided them by a bush track to Timoola the scene of the late rencontre. Here they were rejoiced to learn that Lyons was safe and uninjured, and had started with Mr Sprowle, the proprietor of the station, for Quandary, to ascertain the particulars of their fate. On their way they met two travellers who had breakfasted at Quandary with them, from whom they received the important intelligence that they were hailed in their journey by a body of fine-looking blackfellow’s, who were ensconced in a scrub, one of whom beckoned to them with his rifle, asking whether the troopers were behind, and where they last saw them. Having satisfied themselves upon these heads, they ordered their informants, upon pain of immediate death, to lie face downwards upon the ground, and in this position they remained for ten minutes, before the police with their prisoners arrived and the battle commenced. From these men they also ascertained that each of the bushrangers was armed with two double barrelled guns and a pair of revolvers, and were provided with a bag of ounce balls. The party remained at Timoola until the return of Lyons from Quandary, whose safe arrival was a source of intense delight to them, and proceeded thence under the guidance of Mr Sprowle, who escorted them across the bush to Narraburra, Mr Beckham's station, where they arrived about half-past two in the afternoon, and were hospitably received. From this point Sir Frederick Pottinger at once forwarded a despatch to Captain Battye, at Burrangong, on Thursday, informing him of their position and requesting a reinforcement, and with a very creditable degree of promptitude the Captain, with a body of ten troopers, arrived on Friday evening, by a cross-country route of fifty miles. On the following morning, the party thus reinforced, took their departure for Forbes, and, as it is hardly necessary to state, were uninterrupted in their course thither by bandits or bushrangers.”²¹

Battle of Sproule's Station. 
The newspaper accounts of the audacious rescue by John Gilbert of Charles Gilbert and Henry Manns, in company with what was suspected of being seven or eight attackers, is refuted by Charles Gilbert's own brief account of the rescue;op.cit. "...before reaching the place to which they were escorting us, our custodians were attacked by, four armed men only, and not by seven, as stated in the papers on the authority of the police. (I say on the authority of the police, as I had several opportunities afterwards of hearing one of them on oath declare that to be the number.) The result of this collision was the transfer of our persons to the charge of those who were less apprehensive of our "levanting" than our guard just relieved, for they proceeded to release us at once from our "physical restraints". You must not infer from what I have just stated that I wish it to be understood that the members of the police force engaged in the scrimmage have told a wilful and deliberate falsehood. Far from that; charity to our fellow men-aye," although dressed up in a little brief authority," constrains me to say it has arisen from the suddenness of the attack, producing a slight obliquity of mental vision, by which they saw merely "double."

Det. Lyons
Below is another extract of the graphic account regarding the affairs of that day, including the departure of the attackers.

From an equally authentic source, we subjoin some further details, particularly as to the rescue of the prisoners; "The plan of the retreat of the robbers, after securing their booty, seemed to have been to divide into parties, of whom three travelled together along the roads, carrying the spoil, while reserves of greater strength kept near at hand, concealed in the bush. Having secured his prisoners, Sir Frederick Pottinger took them back to the Quandary Station, which they had just left, and sent word of what had happened to Deniliquin and Wagga Wagga. On the following morning he again started with the prisoners, who were tolerably communicative. Turner said the man who had bolted carried the arms, having two loaded revolvers, and they made him cashier. Sir Frederick marched them on quietly all that day and the next day (Wednesday), till about one o'clock, when they reached Mr Sprowle's station, on the Levels, but, the house being hidden from view by a large, clump of young gum and fir trees, they were not aware of its proximity. Mr Lyons was in advance, conducting the prisoners, both manacled, and with their horses (now the worst in the party) tackled together, Sir Frederick Pottinger and Mr Mitchell following, in double file, about ten or a dozen yards in the rear, when three men, armed with double-barrelled guns, suddenly emerged from the bush, in front of Lyons, and shouting "Bale up, you b_" fired upon him. His horse, shot in the neck or breast, reared up, and, in the attempt to manage the wounded beast and get at his revolver, Lyons lost his seat and fell to the ground- The horse made for the bush, whither Lyons followed it, minus his revolver, and being fired at by the bushrangers. Simultaneously with the attack upon Lyons, four ruffians wheeled out of their ambuscade with military precision, in front of Sir Frederick Pottinger and Mr Mitchell, and, with a similar exclamation, blazed away at them. One of them, apparently the leader of the gang, addressed himself principally to Sir Frederick Pottinger, saying, "I know you, you bl---y ba---rd, Pottinger: " I'll put a pill through you, you ba---rd," &c. Sir Frederick fired at this fellow three times, Mr Mitchell, at his side, being also fully occupied with their assailants, and discharging shot for shot. The odds against them were fearful, for besides their superior number, the bushrangers were provided with a large store of fire-arms, and no sooner discharged the contents of one piece than they threw it down and took up another. Sir Frederick and Mitchell, immediately after each discharge of their revolvers, galloped a little distance off, receiving the fire of their enemies as they retreated. The whole of the affray lasted about five or six minutes. Sir Frederick and Mitchell found their ammunition all but expended, Sir Frederick having but two charges left, and Mitchell only one. There was now a lull in the firing, and Mitchell, believing the assailants had also exhausted their ammunition, proposed to charge them. Sir Frederick, however, with praise- worthy discretion, having the gold upon his horse, advised a retreat. Accordingly, they turned their horse’s heads, and galloped away as hard as they could, to the station they had left in the morning, known as Little George's, some twelve or thirteen miles distant, and which they reached in from thirty to forty minutes. Here they remained, till evening, recruiting, and devising plans for future procedure. They expected to find Lyons seriously wounded, if not dead; but had the satisfaction of learning that he, like themselves, having miraculously escaped unhurt, had called there, and was gone out with Mr Sprowle in search of them. They waited till he returned, and, in the meantime, gleaned from the inmates that at the time of the attack there were only two women in the house, one young and one elderly person, who had been warned by the ruffians not to venture out lest they should be hurt; that outside were two travellers, who had been baled up, and were compelled to lie under the palings, surrounding the house, with their faces downward; and that to the palings were hung the ruffians' horses, which, during the affray-terrified, it is supposed, by a shot from Sir Frederick's revolver splintering one of the palings all broke away, and galloped off pell mell. Sir Frederick, who has reason to believe he wounded, at least, one of his assailants, had heard a fellow calling out impatiently for the horses to be brought, exclaiming that they would " Never be able to take the b-without them;" and, no doubt, his own safe retreat from the affray, with Mr Mitchell, is owing to the providential circumstance which occasioned the stampede of the robbers’ horses. Mr Sprowle had heard the robbers swear, by all that was impious, that Sir Frederick should never take the recovered gold to Forbes; and one of the travellers who had been baled up, under the palings, afterwards stated that orders were given by the leader of the band for some of the bullets (of 1 oz. weight), which he said he would no longer rely upon, to be cut into four, which was accordingly done forthwith, and their guns were loaded with the slugs. The band had, in addition to the guns and revolvers with which they commenced the attack, a large bag full of loaded guns; and, furthermore, a carrier, who was baled up, very soon after the retreat of Sir Frederick, by two men on horseback and three on foot, near Colwell's, for provisions, positively asserts that one of that party was Gardiner whom he knows well; from which, and other circumstances which have come to his knowledge, Sir Frederick Pottinger feels perfectly confident that Gardiner has been a participator in the whole affair."²² It could be construde that the bushranger whose verbal vitriol toward Sir Frederick Pottinger may well have been Ben Hall.

Sir Frederick
Pottinger.
Furthermore, with the excitement of the gunfight soon behind the Inspector and the vigorous battle to free the prisoners lasting over ten furious minutes as volley after volley rained down upon the police from Gilbert and Co, Sir Frederick Pottinger seeing retreat as the better part of valour retires and on reaching the safety of the nearest station, fired off a series of telegrams to Inspector General M’Lerie, in Sydney and awaited for the response, the press remarked; "...the telegraph wires to the metropolis were busily employed sending information to the Government and to the Press,"²³ these telegram's out-lined Pottinger's predicament and an urgent requirement for reinforcements, the telegrams and those of Pottinger's relief column lead by Captain Battye read as follows, the first dispatch is from Sir F. Pottinger, Lachlan, to the Inspector-General of Police, Sydney, and is as follows: "...were attacked (myself. Mr. Mitchell, and Lyons) yesterday about 1 pm, at Sprowle’s station, by seven men, with black faces, red shirts, and armed with guns and revolvers, who rushed out on us in two parties, of three and four, with a volley, and finally succeeded in rescuing prisoners whose capture by myself and party was noted in last telegram. Lyons' horse was shot, and his rider thrown, at the first volley, and one of the bushrangers seemingly wounded. Finally, after ten minutes’ hard work, losing sight of Lyons in scrub, prisoners being released, and all that could be done under the circumstances being done, Mr. Mitchell and myself made back to next station (George's), whence, being unable to procure any offensive reinforcements, we, with the aid of a guide, made way through the bush, under cover of the night, again to Sproule’s, and, there finding Lyons, came on here this morning at 2 a.m. I have sent to Lambing Flat for reinforcements. I shall not stir till I receive them, as any party less than eight is quite useless in this district as a gold escort. Indeed, the mounted force at Forbes and the Flat must, at least, be trebled, to be, in the least degree, effective in these times and in each a district. Full particulars from Forbes, where (D.V.) I hope to arrive on the 13th."²⁴


The next telegram is from Captain Battye, at Young, to the Inspector General, as follows: "Received dispatch from Sir F. Pottinger, 3 p.m. Have only five troopers here. Have sent for Marengo and Stony Creek troopers to come in. I will start this evening, with eight troopers and two trackers, to Sir Frederick's assistance, from whom I send you a telegram explaining all. He is forty miles from this, and his position is a critical one. Reinforcements he must have."²⁵

The third message is also from Captain Battye, at Young, to the Inspector-General; - "Report of an attack on Sir F. Pottinger has been sent to Forbes, also to Bathurst. I have suggested that a party move out from Forbes to patrol the neighbourhood of the Pinnacle, and orders have been sent to Bogolong troopers to be on the look-out, as Sir F. Pottinger expects to be attacked again. - I hope not before I reach him. I leave this night, with sufficient to form two parties, leaving but one trooper to take, charge of stables, &c-."²⁶

'The Empire'
 newspaper reported this article below in regards to the escape of John Gilbert, who at the time was not mentioned by name as the escapee, but was revealed in due course, the article below also reports Captain Battye's departure as well as a mention falsley, of Frank Gardiner's involvement at Eugowra;  "...it is stated that one of the attacking party is the man who escaped at the time of the capture of the two robbers by Sir P. Pottinger, and it may be supposed that he made arrangements for the rescue. On riding off with the men who were prisoners, the leader of the gang intimated that the party would return and fight for the gold and money that had been secured by the police. Sir F. Pottinger has entrenched himself and await the arrival of assistance from our camp. It ¡s confidently believed here that, in the event of an attack, Sir Frederick will hold the gold and money, and beat off the bushrangers. Captain Battye and all the available force left here at one a.m., yesterday, Friday, to succour him at Beckbram's station, about four miles off. The bushrangers are in the vicinity of Gardiner's old haunts, and it is believed by many that he headed the rescuing party. At the same time, few suppose that he had anything to do with the cowardly attack-volley after volley having been fired from behind rocks upon the comparatively defenceless troopers."²⁷


NSW Police Gazette 1862.
On the 24th July 1862, seventeen day's after Gilbert freed his brother, the following article appeared in 'The Empire', written by a Wag correspondent (sarcastic jokester) based on his view of the amazing gun battle between bushrangers and police, and how with bullets reportedly flying everywhere, not one scratch, except for Lyon's horse, was inflicted. The article is heavily laced with sarcasm, but is also a subtle criticism of the new police system which had only been in force for a mere four months; "...the conclusion we have come to is, that revolvers, rifled carbines, double-barrelled guns, and firearms in general, are the most harmless, things in existence - especially in the hands of those who know how to use them. Trooper LYONS'S horse did not appear to have been aware of this, for he "galloped off into the bush," and has not since been heard of. This, however, is not the worst of it, for we are gravely told "he carried off the bank notes (£135) with him!" Are even the horses in league with GARDINER? What particular reason there was for intrusting to equine care the bank notes which "are said to have been taken from the "young men with boots and spurs, close fitting breeches, and turn down collars," we are unable to say. The four-footed thief, however, got clear off with the money. Also, he succeeded in taking away Sergeant LYONS'S revolvers, - a matter perhaps of little consequence, as they were not very likely to be of any use to their owner. We feel rather pleased than otherwise that the horse ran away, for, if he had remained, the return of the killed, wounded, and missing would have been nil. As it is, the absence of the horse affords a certain amount of corroborative evidence, however slight, that something actually did occur at the place and time stated.

Another very remarkable feature in these extraordinary encounters is the unlimited quantity of firearms possessed by "the enemy." We are told that on the occasion of the rescue of the "smart young men with boots and spurs, close fitting breeches, and turn-down collars", "the enemy wheeled out of their ambuscade, with military precision," "each armed with a double barrelled gun and a brace of revolvers;" and that "the odds against the police were fearful, for, besides being superior in numbers, the bushrangers were provided with a large store of firearms, and no sooner discharged the contents of one piece than they threw it down and took up another!" Also, that "the band had, in addition to the guns and revolvers with which they commenced the attack, a large bag full of loaded guns!". These are stated to have been charged with slugs, consisting of ounce bullets cut into four parts; and yet at the conclusion of the fight- volley after volley having been fired from them by men "taking deliberate aim"-nobody is hurt!

In all seriousness, the state of the south western interior is a disgrace to Australian civilisation. The notorious fact that thousands of people, otherwise well-disposed, look on the police with dislike, and treat them with contempt, is sufficient to show that there is something radically wrong in the whole system. The people have no other feeling than abhorrence for the desperadoes who are setting the laws at defiance; but nevertheless they will neither succour nor assist arrogant, overbearing, self-sufficient officials, decked out in semi-military costume, many of whom figured in the famous retreat from Burrangong, (Chinese riots of 1860) and who, whenever occasion has arisen, have failed to display that contempt of danger which is calculated to merit the respect of the rough and ready miners and others of which the digging population is mainly composed."  


John Gilbert
Coloured by me.
However, the rescue by John Gilbert consequently released the two captives, Henry Manns and Charles Gilbert, the success of which then saw the men involved in the successful attack long believed to be Frank Gardiner, John O'Meally, Ben Hall and Patsy Daley quickly disperse, commencing different routes back to their home turf of the Weddin Mountains. Furthermore, in the melee and the loss of three horses the assailants soon procured new mounts and retreated without, as they had threatened to fight for, the gold held by Sir Frederick Pottinger. As quickly as the attack begun the band dispersed with John Gilbert and his brother Charles boldly continue their originally planned trek back to Victoria, eventually arriving in Victoria, to an area known as the 'Coliban', a gold field on the outskirts of Bendigo, situated on the historic Coliban River. Here the two brothers were also joined by their elder brother James Gilbert. Henry Manns returned to his former haunt near Borrowra, NSW.

The Gilbert's now laid low for a number of weeks on the 'Coliban' visiting family members residing in the Kyneton district some 40 miles from Bendigo, prior to sailing from Port Phillip Bay for New Zealand's South Island and the Otago district of Dunedin, then on to the Dunstan Goldfield, 135 miles west from Dunedin, known today as the township of Clyde. John Gilbert's brother's, James and Charles were both attempting to dissuade John from continuing the path of lawlessness and hoped to commence a new beginning for themselves and at the same time strike it rich on the Central Otago Goldfield. Charles wrote in an extract from the earlier letter, of their escape from Sir Frederick Pottinger, their arrival home in Victoria and then the move to New Zealand;op.cit. "... continuing our journey to Victoria, J. E., (James Gilbert?)., J.G., and I, when we arrived, at the Coliban, I immediately wrote to the postmaster at Forbes, requesting him to forward to me a registered letter which had reached the office subsequent to my leaving that place, and it was not till I had written repeatedly that it came to hand; so you can gather from this fact that, had I felt conscious of having violated the laws of that colony, or had suspicion of criminality on the part of J.G., I would hardly have taken a more effectual, method of publishing my whereabouts. After staying, here five or six weeks, we proceeded to New Zealand, where we were engaged in mining, for some time."


NSW Police Gazette 1862.
The Gilbert brothers, together again in Victoria, set about the preparations for the move to New Zealand, a country that Charles had departed from earlier in February of 1862;op.cit. "...I therefore resolved to return to Victoria, en route to New Zealand, having been in the latter place before, and only having left it the preceding February." After five to six weeks in the Bendigo area, where no doubt, John endeavoured to see his Father, Sister and extended family, who all resided within a day or two's ride from the Coliban, a reunion which would see John Gilbert admonished by his Father, who in a later letter wrote this about his son; "...I will here avail myself of the occasion to say that I am well advised that John Gilbert was too fully sensible to the extent to which he had already outraged parental feelings when he first entered on so vicious and reprehensible a course of life, and knew therefore in so far as I was concerned his conduct was barely susceptible of aggravation. But whatever may be the nature and extent of his lawless aggressions on society, he abstained from the solicitation of his parent to participate in his ill-acquired gains, the acceptance of which would have made me the abettor of his crimes. I have the melancholy consolation of holding him guiltless of this atrocity."²⁸

Steamship, City Of Hobart
 c. 1862
With preparations completed, the brothers arrived in Melbourne at the end of August 1862, possibly after a short stay at their Father's residence at Lauriston prior to booking passage for the 9 to 10-day voyage to Dunedin's, Port Chalmers. At the time of the Gilbert's shift to New Zealand, the Escort Robbery in NSW, was still major news and rumours of the culprits whereabouts were still rife in the newspapers, there were stories of Gardiner in South Australia, masquerading as a minister of the cloth, or at his sister's residence at his childhood home of Portland, Victoria or even that he had fled the country to California, this speculation was also rumoured to be true of John Gilbert, where it was reported in the Victorian Police Gazette October 1862; "...he is reported as having gone through Meroo Creek towards Victoria, and to be about Kilmore where he has been before," just where were they! The reward for Gilbert of £500 was still a fortune in 1862 and the brothers would have had to take great caution in their movements. John Gilbert's journey to New Zealand was recalled in 1916, with an interesting twist, a lady by the name of Mrs Sarah Musgrave, 86 yrs. old at the time and who was living at Burrangong Station, Lambing Flat in the 1860's, during the time when Burrangong Station was a favourite retreat of the bushrangers, reminisced of her time living there and of her encounters with Gilbert and others. Mrs Sarah Musgrave gave an interesting account of John Gilbert's trip to New Zealand, where Mrs Musgrave claimed in the following conversation, recounted here, and recounted it as straight from the lips of John Gilbert regarding his move to New Zealand, that is, that John Gilbert made the crossing disguised as a woman.
Sarah Musgrave c. 1920's.
Courtesy Junee Historical
Society.

Mrs Musgrave talks of her conversation with Gilbert, where Gilbert tells her about giving up the 'Game' and how he travelled to New Zealand; "...I have tried twice to give the game up," he said, "but there is no hope. No matter how I disguise myself, the law finds me out, and l am only safe while sinning in the shelter of the bush. The first time I tried to reform I went to New Zealand dressed as a woman. I let my hair grow long and did it up like my mother used to do hers, full of hairpins and with a knob at the back, I wore a fashionable net, fastened to my hat and drawn under the chin, just like she used to do it; but after being there a time, people were beginning to say funny things about me, so I cleared out and came back here,"²⁹ the use of a woman's disguise is a point John McGuire made about Gilbert in his 1907 narrative, McGuire states;op.cit. "...he was a handsome young chap, with a clean feminine face – no side whiskers – wore his hair long. Frequently, after he took to the roads, he used to visit the towns disguised as a girl riding side saddle.” This also implies from the articles above that the ruse was used at Dunedin. (Mrs Musgrave died in Auburn in 1937 aged 108yrs and it was noted; "...few women have had a life so closely packed with stirring events as Mrs. Sarah Musgrave, who died at Auburn last week in her 108th year. But, in spite of the many trials she passed through, Mrs. Musgrave always looked back on her outback days with pleasure. "They were the happiest days I ever spent," she used to say.")

S.S. Gothenburg c. 1862
During the time that the Gilbert's shot through, ships sailing to New Zealand were becoming more frequent as the reports of gold finds ran through the newspapers, this instigated another mass exodus of men from both the Victorian and New South Wales diggings, the Gilbert's soon joined the throng of men awaiting passage, using the crowds for anonymity for their younger brother John, who was not as well known for his daring deeds in Victoria as in New South Wales.


Shipping Advertisment
 1862.
John Gilbert flushed with cash from the proceeds of the Escort robbery, amounting to £435 ($32,ooo), as well as the proceeds from the gold that had been fenced off, enabled John Gilbert and his two brothers to travel comfortably to New Zealand. In late August 1862, the shipping traffic to Dunedin was brisk with a number of ships capable of ferrying the three Gilbert brothers, they included, The Aldinga, The City of Hobart, The Gothenburg and another The Ringdove, all possible means of the Gilbert's mode of transport, and all ships sailed from Melbourne in the final week of August 1862, with full complements of passengers. (A search of ships passenger lists unfortunately only cover 1st class cabins, and a search of passengers travelling as two men and a woman of the same surname are noted, but too numerous to decipher, as well as with so many arrivals identification documents were rare and in many cases not required), but on the 28th August 1862, 'The Ringdove' arrived with the following report of her passengers from the 'Otago Daily Times', 29th August 1862; "...the arrival in Dunedin of the greater proportion of the 300 gold or prospective gold-getters, who were brought from Melbourne to Port Chalmers by the ship Ringdove, caused a marked addition yesterday, to the number of those who were busily pushing about the city, purchasing picks, shovels, and tin dishes, or laying in a store of provisions, more or less approaching the minimum quantity recommended by the Government to be taken by each of those who are determined at once to move off for the Dunstan diggings. We fear however, judging from the size of various biscuit bags, that very few came up to the precautionary standard officially suggested—that is, sufficient for at least a fortnight. A good many parties came up from Port Chalmers in boats, in some cases stepping direct on board one of the steamers for Waikouaiti, all of which were we believe well loaded. Of course, wet weather could never deter your true steady-going miner, much less a hot enthusiast who starts eagerly, if not happily, because he is ignorant of the privations he will have at present to undergo while tramping up the country; but certainly the bright, brisk, invigorating weather we enjoyed yesterday seemed to add wonderfully to the spirits of those who plodded in strings, swag-laden, out of the city." The Gilbert's were also in need of mining supplies as Charles had previously worked the Dunstan goldfield it would not be unusual for him to already have a lodged claim to return too and to then purchased relevant supplies to commence the well worn track to the Dunstan field. How much equipment the brothers brought with them is not known. 

Dunedin Harbour, 1862.
This Extract from 'Otago Daily Times', 24th September 1862 again refers to the Gilbert's destination 'The Dunstan Goldfield'; "...the Dunstan gold-field is situated on the Clutha River, at the south-western base of the Dunstan mountains, on the opposite bank of the river, which has here worn a passage through the solid rocks. The workings are principally confined to the shallow beaches and river bars, where fine gold is found intermixed with magnetic iron sand. The melting of the snow has lately caused a "fresh" in the river, in a great degree preventing the pursuance of the mode of operations, Parties have commenced tunnelling from the banks, on a very limited scale, and large gold has been found. It is believed that, if properly worked, a rich harvest will be the result.
'Dunstan Goldfield' 1862.
Unidentfied Artist.

There are about 4,000 miners on this field. These appear to have done well. Six thousand ounces have been brought down by escort, 2,000 ounces have reached town by private hand, large quantities still remain in the hands of the miners owing to the want of cash on the field for purchasing. A fortnightly escort service has now been established." This piece of information may have stroked the bushranger in John Gilbert, but there is no evidence of Gilbert committing robberies whilst in New Zealand,op.cit."...the climate of this district is described as mild, and dry in the winter, although snow covers the surrounding mountains."


The timing of the Gilbert's return to the Dunstan was perfect, with winter in retreat and the milder spring weather breaking through, the Gilbert brothers re-joined the hustle and bustle of the goldfield and settled down to mining for the riches of the earth.

The dress of a typical miner
for New Zealand goldfield.

James Ansell & John Mcpherson,
c. 1860's.
Courtesy OGHT.
The brothers having arrived at the Dunstan field commenced mining, and as with the majority of their fellow miners were living in rough tents erected along the foreshore of the Cultha River, where the bulk of the search for the yellow metal was ferociously sought after, the following comment in the 'Otago Daily Times', in October 1862 stated; "...at the Dunstan proper the people are every day becoming more and more settled, and as the season advances it is generally believed it will be found that the locality will turn out as good a diggings for summer as it is known to be for winter."³⁰ how successful the brothers were in the finding of gold is unknown but many diggers were having strong luck in their efforts. John Gilbert it could be believed, continued to disguise his appearance in the form in which he had travelled to New Zealand, and that was in the female disguise, at least in public, how long this facade could be acted out, it would appear to be only for a short period. Women were a scarce commodity on the majority of the diggings and those who were, were often tarnished with the unsavoury title of 'loose' as commented on here in a letter from a Mr. James Fisher defending their honour; "Sir—lt was with great surprise and indignation, that I read the evidence given by Detective Howard, in an assault case, tried at the Supreme Court on Monday last, October 20, wherein he states that all females on the diggings are of loose character. Never was there a more foul slander ever uttered, for to my certain knowledge there are plenty of most respectable females on Tuapeka and Whetherstone Diggings, and I only feel surprised that Detective Howard should have made use of such expressions. We all know amongst a large population all cannot be good—even look to your good city Dunedin, and are all the respectable ladies of that city to be calumniated because there are some frail ones?".³¹


James Gilbert c. 1870
It would not be uncommon for fellow diggers living in a world of male dominated hard yakka and an enviroment short of the sweet fairer sex, to be intrigued with the "sister" of the Gilbert's, this intrigue and attention to Gilbert's attractiveness had created the need for the handsome young man to depart the Dunstan field, as John Gilbert himself stated; "...but after being there a time, people were beginning to say funny things about me, so I cleared out and came back here."³² John Gilbert's departure from New Zealand brought him back to the port at Dunedin in the company of his brother Charles and where the pair parted company. The New Zealand diggings and her ports were contiuously being inundated with steamers and windjammers, filled with miners ready to strick it rich on the Otago Goldfields, therefore, many ships were returning to Victoria, and other Australian ports low on passengers. Accordingly, John Gilbert took return passage to Australia in early January of 1863. However, his brother Charles, indicated that John's departure was under the auspices of John Gilbert's poor heath and not his attracted disguise, stated;op.cit. "...but J. G’s health declining he parted from me, having expressed his intention of going to a place the name of which I must be excused mentioning, but to prevent any misconception as to the withholding of it, I say most truly it was not New South Wales. Since that time, I know nothing of his movements, neither does any member of his family, farther than what may be gleaned from the papers."


Dunstan on the Clyde River
 c. 1862.
Courtesy CHS
New Zealand behind him, Gilbert would make his way back to NSW, arriving back in the old haunts of the Weddin Mountains by January 1863, reteaming with the old firm including John O'Meally and a new member and old friend Ben Hall. Gilbert whilst sitting on the banks of the Cultha River at the Dunstan goldfield would of been appraised of the news coming out of NSW and Victoria in regards to his former comrades as the Dunedin newspapers the 'Otago Daily Times' and the 'Otago Witness' carried constant reports of the activities of the NSW police and bushranger's via the influx of papers and published telegrams arriving by the heavy traffic of steam ships pouring out new miner's almost daily and no doubt saw the reports of the police efforts in progress for those involved in the escort robbery and may have been surprised to learn that; "The Goulburn Chronicle, believes that within a very short period the colony will have the satisfaction of knowing that the whole of the escort robbers will be in the hands of the authorities, some of the parties implicated having given information."³³ Frank Gardiner's movements were noted as well with one in particular which may have induced Gilbert's return is as follows from the 'Otago Witness' in early October 1862;op.cit. "...it is reported by some parties, who profess to have known Gardiner well, that this noted bushranger sailed some time ago for California, and that the party now personating him has done so with the view to facilitate his escape. The vessel in which the real "Simon Pure' took his departure curiously enough is called the 'All Serene'." Whether or not Gilbert received word that the 'Darkie' had actually fled to Queensland with Mrs. Browne soon after Gardiner's close encounter with Sir Frederick Pottinger in August 1862 is unknown but in late January 1863, John Gilbert surfaced in NSW and was soon being hailed in the press as the new leader of the Weddin mob.

On the evening of the 30th January 1863, Gilbert emerged near the small township of Marengo, his old stockman patch, which was thrown into turmoil when paniced word was delivered on horseback by messenger, which set the towns heart's racing by its troubling contents and that was; "...to be on the 'qui vive' and plant our money or valuables, as a body of armed bushrangers were in the neighbourhood ransacking the stations and plundering all before them.”³⁴ Marengo was familiar country for John Gilbert, as on first arriving in the late 1850's, Gilbert worked as a stockman on some of the local cattle stations and was well known to locals, especially the ladies. Gilbert with a band of seven or eight bushranger's including John O'Meally, Patsy Daley, Patrick O'Meally and Ben Hall robbed the station Bentick-Morrell owned by Mr George Tout, followed by a roadside accommodation house run by Mr. G Harcombe, the robbery was reported in 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle';op.cit. "...there are many rumours afloat as to the number of bushrangers in this affair, and the number of stations "stuck up," but I know for certain of two places being ransacked by them, viz, the Bentick-Morrell station (Mr George Tout's), and a roadside accommodation house (G Harcombe's). At the latter place they only got £7. The house was entered by three robbers, but six others were counted waiting at a short distance within call as a reserve if necessary, apparently with the plunder from the Bentick-Morrell station strapped upon them. The rascals were under the leadership of one Johnny Gilbert, a henchman of Gardiner's. This is an undoubted fact, because a sister-in-law of George Harcombe's was present, and distinctly recognised him, she is a native of Marengo, near which place John Gilbert was stock-keeper for some time. None of the desperadoes took the trouble to mask themselves." 


Mounted Police. 
Within hours of the robberies the police under the command of Captain Battye arrived at Marengo, as reported, in full police regalia, once more from the 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle',op.cit. "...about two hours after, the distant sound of rapidly approaching horsemen was heard and the first thought was, "Here they come," but almost simultaneously was heard the jingling sabre accompaniment, which sound gave us considerable relief, clearly foretelling who was approaching. Really this long sword and steel scabbard ought to be dispensed with, particularly upon night marches and attacks, where silence and surprise is half the battle, for when the men are in active equestrian motion, the aforesaid instrument creates such a loud jingling sound as to be heard a quarter of a mile off, thus giving all her Majesty's subjects that are encamped on or near the road ample time to strike into the ranges or remain, at pleasure. After a short conference our patrol joined that newly arrived, and they proceeded to the appointed rendezvous (Stewart s Gap) there to meet others, all being under the personal command of Captain Battye, and there to proceed to the stations of some well-to-do settlers, who were thought most likely to be honoured by a call from the robbers."

William Hollister
 c. 1870's
On the morning of the 7th February 1863 two of the companions of Gilbert robbed the police station situated on the Pinnacle Station owned by Daniel Charters' sister they were Patsy Daley and Ben Hall taking a number of weapons and police clothing which would be utilized by the gang in the near future. Before long the two bushrangers were spotted departing a known hangout of undesirables, Allports Inn on the Forbes road and close to the Pinnacle by trooper Hollister who with his trackers give chase and where shots were exchanged. Hollister in his diary wrote of the day’s events; Diary entry for Saturday 7th February 1863; on Saturday 7th instant the Pinnacle barracks were broken into and robbed of one rifle one carbine 10 rounds of rifle ammunition one pouch and bridle one pair of saddle bags belt one gunnysack one flask of powder two pair of handcuffs two Crimean shirts.LC Ben Hall was tracked from the barracks to Uar by constable Knox. Diary entry Sunday 8th February 1863; With Dargin (Tracker) from this station to Uar from Uar to Pinnacle reefs from reefs to this station. Myself and Dargin from Forbes met constable Knox at Uar and took up the tracks and ran them for about 12 miles and came upon Ben Hall and Patsy Daly within about 3 miles of the Pinnacle reefs and chased them about one mile when my horse ran me against a tree Daly tried to shoot one of the Black Trackers McFenns black fellow was with me through me getting the fall Hall and Daly escaped came to Pinnacle Police Station. When I met Knox I sent him back to this station.



On the 12th February 1863, a reward notice was reprinted in the NSW Police Gazette for the capture of Gardiner and Gilbert; - Reward for Gardiner's Capture. --Yesterday's Government Gazette contains the offer of a reward of £500 for such information as will lead to the capture of the notorious Gardiner, and a like sum for the apprehension of Gilbert, one of his companions. 

Furthermore, as John Gilbert settled back into the familiar surrounds of the Weddin Mountains and the wider Lachlan district, the newspapers in Sydney commenced the coverage of the ‘Special Commission Trials’ into bushranging and more importantly the now infamous escort robbery at Eugowra in 1862. The trials commenced in February 1863. John Gilbert as with the whole of the colony would follow the proceedings closely, including the testimonies of Daniel Charters and Tom Richards both of whom had turned Queen’s evidence, Charters for the pardon on offer for a participant and Richards for the large reward offered. Consequently, much of the evidence saw Gilbert implicated as one of the main instigators of the robbery, but Gilbert may have been somewhat amused at the evidence of Charters who deliberately avoided the implication of both Ben Hall and John O’Meally, either way the dye was cast and Gilbert resumed the leadership of the Weddin Mountains mob and dived straight back in to lead robberies in and around the Burrangong and Marengo area. Therefore, Gilbert now began to appear regularly in the newspapers and where as reported below the bushrangers were soon in full flight and viciously assaulted a policeman.


DARING ATTACK OF BUSHRANGERS IN BROAD DAY-LIGHT. – “It is this week our province to record two most daring attacks of robbery committed in broad daylight, on Monday, the 2nd instant. The victims of these acts of bushranging were first: - Mr. Dickson, of the Commercial Store, Spring Creek, Burrangong, and Mr. Dalton, innkeeper, of the same place. We may add that the robbers are well-known, and can be identified. Two of them are from the Wedden Mountain, two from the Levels, and one from the Abercrombie. The thieves tied up their horses outside of the gentleman's store previously mentioned, two remained on guard, and three entered the establishment. While the premises were being ransacked, a policeman happened to pass. He was stuck up also, and his horse, saddle and bridle, were taken away. The horse was the constable's private property. He consequently offered resistance, when one of the villains struck him a severe blow on the hand and wrist, quite disabling the limb; they kept him in durance vile until their unlawful work was accomplished; they then allowed him to proceed. He made his way with all possible speed to the camp, and Captain Battye mustered all hands, and started immediately in pursuit. The men also stuck-up the adjoining inn, Mr. Dalton's, known by the name of the Golden Fleece. They are supposed to have obtained about £60 in cash, and several guns and pistols. The latter were taken from Dalton's. The robbers are supposed to be the same who stuck-up the Bendick Morrell station on the 29th ultimo.”³⁵

Gilbert's long association with Frank Gardiner was a constant reminder to the NSW government of the short comings of the newly formed police force which after one year was seen as helpless in the fight against bushranging and the apprehension of the principle offenders John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Ben Hall amongst others, this saw the NSW government led by Mr. Cowper offer large amounts of money as an inducement which for the poorer of the cockatoo squatter's would have been quite a windfall for dobbing in the bushrangers. As a consequence, Cowper placed advertisements in newspapers throughout NSW in hope of some to give information to the police; “…Cowper is getting quite convinced of the inclemacy of the grande idee about the New Police, for he has just offered a reward of £500 for the apprehension (without conviction) of Gardiner, and another £500 for his mate Johnny Gilbert. The only chance of capturing these ruffians seems to be by offering a large reward.”³⁶


Colonial Secretary Cowper’s use of reward for Gilbert and Gardiner was quickly ridiculed in the newspapers with this comment the very next day; THE REWARD FOR GARDINER AND GILBERT. - A SPORTING OFFER. - "The very unsatisfactory apportionment of the reward of £100 originally offered by the Government for the apprehension of the parties engaged in the Escort Robbery, which was to be meted out at the ratio of £100 per head, having failed to tempt any nibblers, we are glad to perceive that a more enticing douceur has now been proclaimed, of £500 each for the bodies of Messrs. Gardiner and Gilbert. We believe that this will accomplish the much to be desired object; and that ere long General Gardiner and his Lieutenant will be introduced to the admiring gaze of as crowded an audience as that which on the occasion of the late trial thronged the Darlinghurst Court House. In the event, of the "hero" of the roads being betrayed into the hands of the authorities, we would willingly give the Government £1000, simply for the loan of him for three months; guaranteeing that he should be returned "in good order," making fair allowance for the "wear and tear," which his public exhibition as "the greatest man in New South Wales" would entail. Should this proposition be accepted, we shall immediately enter into negotiations with the Chief Justice for his appearance on "one occasion only" for "our benefit," conjointly, with that of the public."³⁷ Of course, how John Gilbert viewed this flattering reward by the NSW government is unknown suffice to say his good natured character and quick wit, and theatrical disposition would cause him much merriment and would make him one of the most intriguing of the gang who were to take the western and southern districts of NSW by storm. John Gilbert as such however, and unlike his compatriot Ben Hall who’s foray into lawlessness could be derived from a number of self-perceived and self-inflicted brushes with the police, particularly Sir Frederick Pottinger, a merciless enforcer of the law and one officer whose suspicions of Hall’s fraternization with the lawless element including Gardiner and Gilbert had much foundation, whereas Gilbert from his early days as a boy was seen as to love the fast life and the easy money attributed to that lifestyle, had become a fringe criminal and on drifting into NSW soon came under the spell of Frank Gardiner. Gilbert in reports of his activities was always noted as being smartly dressed and was one to take great care in his appearance with long fair hair and good looks bordering on feminine, Gilbert was very humorous and enjoyed himself whenever the occasion presented itself and good spin a very good yarn to his often captive audience.


The success of Gilbert and the ever changing gang of accomplices many of whom are unknown having joined in for a lark and then in many cases returned to the role of bush telegraph saw the officers of the law often ridiculed by the press as the bushrangers mounted on the best thoroughbreds and armed to the teeth with the most up to date weaponry, lead the troopers a merry dance through the vast and often boggy and densely wooded bush so much so that Sir Frederick Pottinger brought about the new idea of troopers no longer wearing police uniform in the bush but the clothes of a miner or squatter which consequently saw the bushrangers having difficulty of identifying friend from foe. However, the early weeks of 1863 saw the core of the gang made up of John O’Meally, Ben Hall, Patsy Daley, John Gilbert with O’Meally’s younger brother Patrick often implicated in robberies and before long a new comer and murder who escaped in February 1863 from Bathurst Gaol, Fred Lowry. For the next few months these men would set alight the goldfields of NSW.

Once more the colony was swept up with the proceeds of the Escort Trial and its forthcoming conclusion and on the 14th February the newspapers carried the news of the end of the trial of Fordyce, Bow, McGuire and Manns and the citizens waited with bated breath for the outcome and where it was reported of objects secreted into the gallery incase of an adverse finding, as reported, which eventuated with a hung jury and the prisoners not released but returned to Darlinghurst as the Chief Justice Sir Alfred Stephen sort direction from the government, who directed a new trial to be held. The government were to have their pound of flesh and Charters and Richards as informers became the target of the public's disgust. Furthermore, following much of the evidence regarding the Escort robbery coming to light would make John Gilbert a bushranging celebrity out on the vast plains and small hamlets of the western districts; "...the escort robbery case lasted over three days, and was brought to a close by the jury not being able to agree. The parties indicted for the offence, including the wounding of James Condell, were Alex Fordyce, John Bow, John M'Guire, and Henry Manns alias Turner. Manns objected that he had never been known as Turner, and after discussion that name was struck out of the indictment. The trial of Manns was then postponed. Mr. Martin and Mr. Isaacs ably defended the other prisoners. The principal evidence in support of the charge was that of two men named Charters and Richards. Charters was one of the escort robbers. and Richards appeared to have been connected with them in a more indirect way. Gardiner was the leader of the robbers. Evidence of respectable parties was given in corroboration of some points of the approvers' testimony, hut the case rested on all its main points upon the evidence of Charters and Richards, men of admitted bad character, at least in some respects. It being a capital case, the jury were locked-up each night until it was finished. On the third evening, prior to the jury being locked up to consider their verdict, about 1000 persons were in or about the court, in anticipation of hearing the verdict. An extraordinary circumstance occurred in the Supreme Court, Sydney, on the morning when the jury on the escort robbery case was discharged. The Herald says; - His Honor, addressing the officer of police in charge, directed that three extra constables should be stationed in the gallery and a like number in the body of the court, and that this precaution should be followed up by the arrest of any person attempting a disturbance. He was informed that early this morning a number, of stones, brickbats, and missiles were found in the gallery, and that they had evidently been conveyed there for some purpose unknown, it was not shown how they came there; suffice it to say that they were found there. Constables would, therefore, be stationed in the gallery and the body of the court on each day till the session closed." [The impression of the officers of the court regarding these missiles is, that they were intended to be thrown at the informers {Charters and Richards) in the event of the case closing on the Thursday night. The presumption is that they were left where found by some of the friends of the accused.]³⁸

The press were quick to address the plight of bushranging and stated this of its commencment and held Gilbert equally in the same company as his two mentors, Gardiner and Peisley, and also pointed the finger at the sealing up of the large fertile tracks of country by Squatters who also dominated, for their own means, parliament; "...let us not lose sight, however, of another fruitful cause, concurrent in its effects with the foregoing, of the prevalence of highway robberies in the bush. The pastoral system had been raising a set of wild youths whose whole habits and training threw them on the first temptation into a career of lawless adventure. Of this character and origin are each and all our notorious highwaymen. PIESLEY, GARDINER GILBERT, are all bush natives,-all stockmen, drovers, horsemen-all the natural products of the squatting system. They are precisely of that class, who, it has been long foretold in this journal, would be brought forth by that system by way of retribution for its selfishness. Such are the chief causes, plainly and truthfully stated, of the present prevalence of highway robberies in the country districts.³⁹ 

On the 19th of February the government placed a discription of Gilbert once more in the newspapers; DESCRIPTION OF JOHN, alias JOHNNY GILBERT. Between 22 and 24 years of age, boyish appearance, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, between 9 and 10 stone weight, slight, light brown straight hair, worn long in native fashion, beardless and whiskerless: has the appearance and manner of a bushman or stockman, and is particularly flippant in his address and appearance.⁴⁰

The news soon reached Lambing Flat, and the commanding officer there, with his usual impetuosity and zeal, arms and mounts all his available force, consequently leaving those diggings contiguous to Flat, by the ubiquitous captain of "free lances,'' who instantly musters five or six of his most stalwart and unscrupulous men-at arms, and in broad daylight rides up to one of the largest stores in Spring Gully, (one mile from the Flat) coolly tie up their horses, and leaving two men outside to prevent awkward intrusion, march in, 'bail-up' the inmates, and obtain considerable booty, including ammunition,revolvers, and about £60 in cash. Of course, they experienced no interruption from the authorities, as the villains were well aware that the police were on a wild-goose and previously cut-and-dried chase miles away — which was the case, with the exception of one unfortunate constable, who happened to be serving a warrant in the neighbourhood; he was ordered by the taller of the two rogues outside the store, to "stand and deliver.'' He, being what is called a foot-constable, was unarmed, consequently he had no other alternative but to comply, with the disgusting requisition; still, he slightly hesitated, and so received one or two very severe blows from the butts of thier pistols, and when the store was thoroughly gutted and the operators mounted, he was condescendingly told to go to that place the antithesis of cool and comfortable— taking the precaution, however, to deprive him first of his horse, saddle, and bridle, which being his own property, made things still more disagreeable. The station-owners around here have been so often plundered, that they now keep scarcely anything on the premises that would be considered available by the bushrangers; therefore when they are visited by the robbers, the attack is only a ruse of the junior part of the rascals to draw, or decoy the police protection away from a wealther place.,— previously spotted. And another thing that greatly counteracts the strenuous efforts of the mounted police, is the system of "bush telegraphy" which I will explain. Of all the numerous settlers on the Fish River, Abercrombie Ranges, or the Levels, scarcely half are true subjects; only five settlers on the levels are considered by the police to be truly loyal and free from the taint of harbouring; and directly or indirectly encouraging bushrangers. For instance, some two or three months ago, the patrol were on the Bland Plains (the Levels), in pursuit of some well-known desperadoes, who they know were not many miles off, and they called at a slightly suspected station, but being unsuccessful, they proceeded to the next station, the residence of a truly loyal man.— a gentleman, though boasting of no great birth or education — no scion of aristocratic tree, yet still a gentleman; 'for honest men are the gentlemen of nature." He gave the officer in command all the information in his power, but while doing so he suddenly exclaimed: "Haste! or you'll be too late; for by Jove there goes the 'telegram' from Mr.— — — 's place you passed last." The officer looked in the direction pointed out, and there was, straight across one of the highest ranges at a stretching gallop a finely-mounted youth. No time was lost by patrol, but when they got to their destination, they found the residents calmly awaiting their arrival, having been evidently on the look-out for some time. Of course, everything was found correct and square; so the police had to return, sadder, but inslightly one sense (i.e., bush- telegraphy) wiser men. There is a strong suspicion that a "bush telegram" exists in this very township; for upon the day that Gardiner despatched his junior corps upon the above mentioned strategetic expedition to Bentick Morrell, and some other stations, after the plundering, they camped in the evening in a secluded part of the bush, near Marengo, not very far off the old sheep station, and were visited by some two or three members of a certain family here.
 





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