In the annals of Australian bushranging history, few events have captured the public imagination as much as the audacious Eugowra Gold Escort robbery in June 1862. Orchestrated by the notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner, this daring heist was carried out by a group of men who would become infamous in their own right. Their actions would become intertwined with the legend of the bushrangers.
When Gardiner planned the Eugowra Gold Escort robbery, he recruited John Bow, Alex Fordyce, Henry Manns and Daniel Charters mate of fellow accomplices Ben Hall, John O'Meally and John Gilbert. The robbery was a success, with the gang making off with over £14,000 worth of gold and cash. The men received equal shares of the proceeds, 300 oz gold and £335 cash.
This webpage, "The Eugowra Gold Escort Robbery: The Men Behind the Heist," will delve into the lives of John Bow and his fellow bushrangers, their audacious crimes, and the society they rebelled against. It will explore the circumstances that led these men to choose a life of crime and the impact of their actions on Australian history. (All related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured and transcribed as published.)
Prison Release, 1874.
Martin Bow was an industrious man of the soil, ran a modest farm in Penrith. The family's resilience was tested when they were met with the untimely demise of John's mother in 1851 and later Martin himself in 1858. In these testing times, John found solace and companionship in his sister, Margaret Holburid, née Bow
In an unfortunate incident in 1857, while herding cattle from the Blue Mountains, Bow found himself on the wrong side of the law. He was apprehended on suspicion of cattle stealing. The incident wasn't an isolated one; he was not alone in this supposed misadventure. Alongside him were two brothers, John and Patrick Walsh, as well as an individual named Michael Driscoll. The young stockman's life was taking an unforeseen turn, painting a stark contrast to his respectable upbringing.
His constant interaction with Gardiner's band of robbers led him down a path of criminal activities, a path that often promised a grim future of lengthy imprisonment or worse, a date with the gallows. His reputation was further marred as he was reputedly used by the bushrangers as a 'Bush Telegraph'. He was known to provide intricate details about travelers bearing valuables, as well as divulging confidential information on the movements of the NSW police.
Despite these nefarious activities, Bow continued his work as a stockman, predominantly at John Nowlan's Wentworth Gully Station. The dichotomy of his life, split between his duties as a stockman and his involvement in criminal activities, only added to the complex nature of John Bow's character.
Meanwhile, Frank Gardiner was devising a scheme that would allow him to escape the relentless pursuit of the NSW police. His plan aimed to secure a fortune large enough to provide him and his beloved, Catherine Brown, with the means to start afresh, far from their current troubles. Aware of the lucrative amounts of gold traveling along the Queen's highways, Gardiner shared his audacious plan with his close criminal associates, John Gilbert and John O'Meally.
For the plot to work, they needed additional help. John Maguire, a partner at Sandy Creek station with his brother-in-law Ben Hall, was brought into the planning phase. Bow, who had been a peripheral figure to Gardiner's group, was also extended an invitation to join the daring endeavor. Recognising the opportunity for quick riches, Bow readily accepted the offer, becoming an active participant in Gardiner's grand plan. The robbery of the Forbes Gold Escort.
|Escort Rock, Eugowra.|
In the days leading up to the heist, a certain Tom Richards, a close associate of Maguire's, was present when Gardiner arrived at Sandy Creek to strategize with the would-be robbers. However, after the heist, lured by the prospect of a £1000 reward, Richards turned informant. Leveraging his insider knowledge, he approached Sir Frederick Pottinger, a local police officer, and disclosed Bow's involvement in the raid, effectively betraying him and the rest of the gang.
However, before the coach's arrival on that fateful Sunday afternoon as Bow and the others lay in wait:
Outgunned and under a relentless spray of bullets, the beleaguered troopers managed to extricate themselves from the overturned coach and retreat into the safety of the nearby scrub. They stumbled upon Mr Hanbury Clement's farm, a short distance away. Having heard the commotion and gunfire, Clement ventured out to investigate, ultimately coming across the disheveled policemen to whom he promptly offered first aid.
Meanwhile, the armed robbers – Gardiner, Bow, and their associates – descended upon the coach, exclaiming in delight as they ransacked it. They made off with a staggering haul – over £14,000 worth of gold and cash, equivalent to around $4,162,500 in today's value (assuming the price of gold at $1300 per ounce).
Covering a distance of about sixty miles, Bow and his companions quickly retreated to the safety of their camp on Wheogo Mountain, conveniently located close to Ben Hall's property, Sandy Creek. Here, the spoils of the robbery were divided. John Bow walked away with a substantial share – 300 oz of gold and £335 in cash.
With their share in tow, Hall, O'Meally, and Manns vacated the hideout, leaving Gardiner, Gilbert, Fordyce, Charters, and Bow at the camp, temporarily safe from pursuit and basking in the afterglow of their successful heist.
|Bow's original charge|
- a capital offence
The getaway was chaotic and frantic, resulting in the loss of the gang's pack horse that carried the rest of the gold — about 1500 ounces, a hefty fortune belonging to Gardiner, Fordyce, and Charters. As they melted away into the landscape, the police, led by Sgt Sanderson, recovered the forsaken pack horse and its precious cargo.
In the aftermath, Bow was apprehended by Sir Frederick Pottinger, not for his part in the notorious gold escort robbery, but for the relatively lesser crime of horse stealing. However, once ensnared within the system, the law had other plans. Bow was informed that the suspicion of his involvement in the Escort Robbery was the real reason behind his arrest, as stated here:
|Extracts from the Empire February 1863 of|
Dan Charter's Damning Evidence (above)
|At Darlinghurst Gaol for trial|
|McGuire, Bow, Fordyce and another implicated in the Escort Robbery, Healey through his supply of bullet moulds to Ben Hall and others before the robbery. Note John Maguire was blind in his right eye.|
As John Bow was taken to Sydney to face trial under the Special Commission into Bushranging, he found himself alongside Alex Fordyce, John Maguire, and Henry Manns. All of them were to face the shocking treachery of Daniel Charters. Charters had agreed to become an informer, turning Queen's evidence for a free pardon. He testified that Bow was not merely a fringe accomplice but was in Gardiner's direct company when Charters himself was recruited. Not stopping there, Charters added a chilling detail to his testimony: Bow was armed. This revelation painted Bow not as a mere bystander, but as an active participant in the bushranging activities.
|Bow's arrival in Sydney|
26th Jan 1863.
At the time of Bow's sentence, and with the help of influential citizens, set about gathering petitions to help save Bow from the gallows. This was achieved with nearly 15,000 signatures which were presented to the Executive (the Government) on behalf of John Bow and Henry Manns:
In a fascinating revelation, Vane's biography suggests a different narrative surrounding the aftermath of the Eugowra robbery. According to Vane, Daniel Charters and John Bow had a confrontation over the division of their spoils. While it was publicly reported that Charters lost his share along with Gardiner when the police seized the pack-horse, leading Gardiner to compensate him with £50, Vane offers a different account of events:
Supported by Dr Lang M.P., famously known as the 'Stormy Petrel', and other sympathizers, Margaret penned a plea to the Governor, imploring mercy for her brother John Bow.
|John Bow death warrant.|
New South Wales, Australia, Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879 for John Bow.
|John Bow's and Henry Manns execution date Darlinghurst Gaol.|
New South Wales, Australia, Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879 for John Bow.
|John Bow death sentence was computed following the petitions.|
New South Wales, Australia, Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879 for John Bow.
|John Bow, Darlinghurst 1866.|
|John Bow's Conditional Pardon approval in September 1873.|
|The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser Friday 5th June 1874.|
|Bow, Fordyce and Gardiner release 1874.|
Not content to just rehabilitate his own life, he was eager to contribute to the community's development. Bow, in 1889, became a crucial figure among the residents of Cargelligo, taking the lead in the establishment of the local racecourse. His transformation into a model citizen was complete, illustrating that even those who have strayed can find their way back and contribute meaningfully to society.
|NSW Government Gazette records John Bow's address and the transfer of sheep brands into his name.|
In a testament to his transformation and contribution to his community, it was noted in the local history of the Catholic Church at Lake Cargellico that John Bow had generously provided the necessary funds for the establishment of the first Catholic Church. His estate, valued at £1,640 (equivalent to $136,000 today), further underscored his successful life as a farmer.
Remembered fondly by the local residents, Mr K.W MacRae, a contemporary of Bow, had this to say about him:
|John Bow was released in 1874.|
|John Bow, Land Purchase Hillston, NSW.|
|John Bow's prison file on his release from Darlinghurst Gaol.|
|John Bow's Grave|
|John Bow's Will.|
By the late 1850s, Fordyce had begun to carve out his own path. He found employment in the Lachlan District, where he developed skills as a horse-breaker and carpenter. He began working for the O'Meally family, who leased the expansive Arramagong Station at the Weddin Mountains base in New South Wales.
Fordyce was not tall, standing at 5 feet 6 inches, with dark brown hair and striking grey eyes. He bore a mark of his early life as a horse-breaker in the form of a broken right leg.
|NSW Camden Census 1828|
Versatile and adaptable, Fordyce found employment at the public house, working both as a barman and yardman. However, during his incarceration for the 1862 escort robbery, he learned to read and write, further widening his skill set and paving the way for the next chapters in his life.
During his employment with the O'Meally family, Fordyce's path crossed with a notorious figure of the time - Frank Gardiner, who was also known as 'The Darkie'. Gardiner was a frequent visitor to O'Meally's hotel and his bushranging activities were well-known. Though Fordyce was not a central figure in these exploits, he was reputed to have hovered on the periphery, familiar with Gardiner and his dealings.
The O'Meally family, especially the sons of Patrick O'Meally Sr. - John and Patrick, had their own brushes with the law, often intertwined with Gardiner's notorious escapades in the Weddin Mountains area.
A significant incident occurred in 1861, when Gardiner committed a high-profile robbery. He targeted two merchants from Lambing Flat, Horseington and Hewitt, making off with over £1000. In the aftermath, Fordyce found himself playing a crucial role in the case. He provided an alibi for one of the suspects arrested in connection with the robbery - Downey, a cousin of the O'Meallys. Thanks to Fordyce's alibi, Downey was released, though it was later proven that he had indeed been involved in the heist. This incident drew Fordyce deeper into the complicated web of relations and activities surrounding the infamous bushrangers. (See article below.)
|Fordyce alibi for Downey, a 1st cousin of John and Patrick O'Meally.|
|Image of the Escort Coach|
Courtesy Dick Adams.
The robbery was executed flawlessly. The gang successfully made off with the gold and cash, retreating to Wheogo Hill, some 60 miles away. Here, they divided their ill-gotten gains equally among themselves. However, not all was harmonious within the group.
Gardiner was irate with Fordyce, who, in a bout of overindulgence, had become inebriated before the ambush on the gold escort. This resulted in Fordyce being unable to fire his weapon during the heist. An angry Gardiner expressed his displeasure, hinting at potential consequences for Fordyce's conduct.
|View from the bushrangers|
camp on Wheogo Hill
Courtesy Peter C Smith.
While the gang was camped out on Wheogo Hill, close to Ben Hall's home, Gardiner decided to send John Walsh, the brother of his lover Kitty Brown, also known as 'Warrigal', to Hall's residence to fetch some saddlebags. However, fate intervened in the form of Sgt. Charles Sanderson and his police force who happened to be present at Hall's home. They spotted 'Warrigal' Walsh, and swiftly began a pursuit that led them to the bushrangers' camp on Wheogo Hill.
Thanks to 'Warrigal' Walsh's timely warning, Gardiner was alerted to the approaching police. In the ensuing chaos, the remaining gold from the escort heist, belonging to Gardiner, Charters, and Fordyce, was hurriedly packed onto a horse. The trio then made a hasty escape towards the Weddin Mountains, located about 18 miles away.
Years later, upon his retirement in 1903, Charles Sanderson gave his account of the events in an article for 'Old Times' published in May 1903. He detailed his independent search for the notorious gang, separate from Sir Frederick Pottinger, his journey to Ben Hall's home, and the climactic chase that concluded with the police securing the packhorse. His recounting provided a personal and vivid perspective on the relentless pursuit of law enforcement in the face of audacious bushranging activities.
|Alexander Fordyce's entrance record Bathurst 1862|
Daniel Charters, who had once been a part of their daring escapades, turned into the primary informer against the gang. He became the main source of evidence presented by the Crown in the case regarding the escort robbery.
On their retreat back to Wheogo, after the successful heist, the gang made a pit stop near Eugowra. This pause allowed them to transfer the stolen gold from the boxes into the saddlebags, and also to reload their weapons, preparing for any potential pursuit or conflict.It was during this interim that Gardiner discovered an unsettling detail - Fordyce's gun was still loaded. This revelation confirmed Gardiner's suspicions about Fordyce's performance during the robbery. Incensed at Fordyce's apparent lack of courage to fire his weapon, Gardiner directed a heated tirade at him. (See article below.)
The news of their sentencing sent ripples through the colony, marking a somber end to their notorious exploits. The Empire newspaper captured the poignant moment when Fordyce received the grim news. It was a testament to the harsh reality of their outlaw lives, bringing the curtain down on a chapter marked by daring heists, audacious escapes, and relentless pursuit by the law. The impending execution underscored the stark consequences of their chosen paths, ending the tale of Fordyce and his companions in a manner as dramatic as their notorious careers.
|S.A. Register, August 1874|
These petitions, driven by a spirit of humanity and mercy, were presented to the government. In response to the public outcry, the authorities decided to commute the death sentences of Fordyce and Bow to life imprisonment, with a particularly harsh stipulation of spending the first three years in irons.
Fordyce was dispatched to Berrima Gaol, where he would serve a decade-long sentence before his release in 1874. Coincidentally, Bow and Gardiner also regained their freedom in the same year, emerging from Darlinghurst Gaol. Gardiner, however, had served time exclusively for his attacks on Horssington and Hewitt in 1862, and the wounding of Middleton and Hosie at Fogg's farm in 1861. His involvement in the Eugowra Gold Escort Robbery went unpunished.
Of the entire gang, Henry Manns was the only one to face the ultimate punishment for the Eugowra Gold Escort Robbery. His execution was carried out under distressing circumstances, serving as a grim reminder of the ultimate consequence of their outlaw lifestyle.
|New South Wales, Australia, Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879 for Alexander Fordyce. Darlinghurst Gaol.|
|Alexander Fordyce leg irons were removed from his right leg. Darlinghurst Gaol.|
New South Wales, Australia, Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879 for Alexander Fordyce.
|Alex Fordyce Berrima Gaol record 1867|
|Berrima Gaol, 1868.|
|Alex Fordyce, Berrima Gaol Cells|
|The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser Friday 5th June 1874.|
In 1877, a journalist embarked on an investigation into the alleged cruelties within the prison system during the 1860s. As part of this inquiry, an interview was conducted with Alexander Fordyce, who had firsthand experience of the harsh realities of prison life, particularly concerning the infamous 1863 mutinies at Berrima Gaol.
Fordyce revealed that he had not participated in these mutinies, offering an interesting perspective on the punitive measures enforced within the prison. Despite having been a prisoner himself, Fordyce upheld the belief that the severe punishment meted out was justifiable for the more hardened or "devil" prisoners, as he termed them.
His viewpoint highlighted the complexity of the prison environment, where the lines between perpetrators and victims often blurred, leading to a tangled web of morals and ethics. Fordyce's insights provided valuable context for the journalist's investigation into the dark underbelly of the prison system in the 1860s. (See article below.)
|Alex Fordyce parents Application to Marry in 1827.|
|Fordyce and Bow's admission to prison 1863|
|Alexander Fordyce prison papers 1873.|
|Fordyce, Bow and Gardiner's discharge from prison 1874|
|Caricature of Henry Manns|
around the time of his death.
|Site of the rescue of Manns,|
My Photo, 2020.
THE LATE ESCORT ROBBERY.—CAPTURE OF TWO OF THE GANG.—THEIR SUBSEQUENT RESCUE.
|Sydney Morning Herald, 12th December 1862|
|Henry Manns Bathurst gaol entry book, December 1862|
Many influential Sydneysiders strongly believed that the death sentence was unjustified. Ben Hall continued conducting a new wave of bushranging culminating in the capture of inspector Norton at Wheogo three weeks before Manns was due to hang. Some held a thought that the capture may have swayed the resolve of the Government to press the Governor to abandon any reprieve and to drive home Mann's own complicity in evading the law and send a message to the bushrangers:
The Empire newspaper reported Manns' reaction to his hearing the terrible news:
|Manns' Admittance to Darlinghurst Gaol, note Manns was entered as a Protestant, he converted to the Catholic Faith just before Execution, which caused much argument after his death.|
|Goulburn Herald, 11th March 1863|
Article on Henry Manns; his age is incorrect.
The officer to whom is deputed the duty of performing so solemn an act of retribution is surely entitled to all honour, but so far from this being the case we find that the public executioner is, and always has been, looked upon as a loathsome unclean thing, cut off from society, and certainly in most cases exiting greater feelings of aversion than the criminal whom he is paid for launching into eternity. Is there any man who would be proud to claim the hangman as a friend, to sit at his table, to live under his roof? or rather should we not shrink with horror from a wretch whose very touch would be pollution?
|Gallows at Darlinghurst|
|Darlinghurst Gaol Morgue: Following Manns execution at Darlinghurst Gaol, his body was held here before being claimed by his family.|
He declined to exercise the prerogative of mercy in this case, as he had done in that of Bow; as, to his mind, there were marked distinctions in the two cases. He would, however, lay the petition before the Executive Council, which was to meet at 4 o'clock that afternoon. You would hardly believe the amount of excitement that existed during that afternoon. Almost all persons - men, those who would have hanged all the prisoners - agreed that the selection of this young man as the single victim was unjustifiable. By-and-bye it was said that one or two members of the ministry had stated their determination to vote for a reprieve. This was the general impression at about 4 o'clock. At that time, I went up to the gaol. Poor Manns was just going into his cell. He knew that great exertions were being made for him, and had some hope, but he was resigned to die. He told his mother his chief grief was for her, and if they hung him next morning, they would hang the least guilty of the whole party. This, I believe to be the fact. I shall never forget that afternoon.
Following Henry Manns' execution, his Mother through a supporter, Mr. Plunkett, expressed her appreciation of the sympathy and the comfort of those who tried through petitions to save her son, published in the 'Empire' on the 30th March 1863 as follows;
Wednesday, April 8th
|New South Wales, Australia,|
Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879
for Henry Manns.
26th March 1863.
Note: The death of Henry Manns and its manner was still causing debate in the NSW parliament well after Henry Manns' demise. The evidence of Daniel Charters was still being brought into question by many members of the house. One parliamentarian, in particular, a Mr. Harpur was constantly attacking the Cowper government over the speed in which the executive through the Governor had approved the execution of Manns when they had granted clemency for Bow and Fordyce. In Parliament on the 21st August 1863, during the debate on the failure of the new Police Act, Mr. Harpur made this sensational statement, as follows on an unpublished element of the execution of young Manns, taken from the 'Empire' of that date:
Father Tim McCarthy had a long career in the bush towns on the Western Districts of NSW and was well acquainted with Ben Hall, John Gilbert and was responsible for John Vane and young Dunleavy's surrender. In the 1930s, an article appeared on Fr. McCarthy's life and his noble work, along with this extract on the execution of Henry Manns taken from the 'Freeman Journal':
Daniel Charters, this
photo was most
probably taken at
Daniel Charters stated about his early life in NSW whilst giving evidence as a crown informant during the Special Commission into the Eugowra Gold Escort Robbery of 15th June 1862 as well as bushranging in general February 1863; "I was born in the north of Ireland. I first lived in Sydney; at seven or eight years of age I went to the country; I have lived since in the Bathurst and Burrowa districts; My father is dead about three years (actually five years), but my mother is living, I have four sisters but no brother. One of my sisters is living with my mother, one is living at the Pinnacle, another lives on the Lachlan, and another at Carcoar. They are all residing in the two districts I have named. My business is that of a stock-owner, looking after my own and my sister's cattle. I have never been employed as stock-keeper by anyone, and have never in my life received wages from any person. My sister's station at the Pinnacle is a large one. She has a good many people employed there and has about 2000 head of cattle. I have about 500 or 600 head of my own. I can read and write, but not very well. I was at school for twelve months in Sydney, and have since been taught by a private master at my father's and my brother-in-law's. There is a place of worship at Carcoar, and my mother's place is near there. When I was there, I attended worship regularly every Sunday, when it was fine. As a child, I was taught my prayers. I believe in God firmly and sincerely. I believe that the Almighty knows all that crosses in my mind, and will reward me or otherwise, as I speak the truth.” (Evidence suggests that Daniel had one brother b. 1832, although denied, named Thomas as per their arrival. Thomas died, reputedly at St Leonards, Sydney in 1918. His splitting from the family is unknown. Furthermore, three other members travelled to NSW as well. They were Sarah Jane, 19, Margaret 15 and Elizabeth 21, all single, occupation was nursemaid. The family were Presbyterian.)
arrival in 1840.
|Daniel Charters' father's Inquest record.|
|Daniel Charters Land|
In 1860, his close friend Benjamin Hall obtained his own lease, 'Sandy Creek', where Daniel could often find stock working alongside Ben Hall. Charters agisted some of his own herd and horses on Hall’s station. (Sandy Creek is situated near the township of Grenfell and is accessible to visit. See video below.) Charters commented on his relationship with Ben Hall in 1863; "I have known Ben Hall for six or seven years; I used to be at his place when I was gathering cattle for myself and for my sister..." Charters and Ben Hall had established a close friendship and was often seen at the districts' local musters and dances.
|The Charter's residence|
Henry Hall, now
Courtesy, Carcoar Historical Society.
|Frank Gardiner and|
The Rocks at Eugowra was an area Gardiner was unfamiliar with, but Ben Hall knew fairly well through Daniel Charters. (Eugowra Rocks were situated close to the main road from Forbes to Orange and were ideal at the time for providing perfect cover and surprise for Gardiner’s hold-up of the coach. I was there in 2013 and as I stood on the rock, and in the quiet, you could almost hear the gunfire and raucous yells of Gardiner's men.) Ben Hall related to Gardiner of Daniel Charters' knowledge of the area, as they had often visited Charters' sister Agnes and brother-in-law James Newell who operated a public house close to Eugowra township at Bandon. The location for the robbery came from Ben Hall. As a result, according to his future testimony, Charters seconded into the gang for his local knowledge of the country which was invaluable for Gardiner’s plan. Although Charters' stated secondment is not true, as Ben Hall's influence, Charters seemed keen for the bold once in a lifetime get rich quick heist. However, Daniel Charters was not short of a quid through ownership of valuable properties and cattle. Charters prospects were exceptional. Ben Hall was on the downward slide after an earlier brush with the law in April 1862 and was widely acknowledged to have fallen in with Gardiner. No doubt exacerbated by a failed marriage. (see Ben Hall page.)
|Eugowra Rock today; |
Gardiner's viewpoint as the
the coach would have
The hold-up site.
After the purchases and en-route to the Rock, they robbed Mr. Green's station, 'Uar', outside Forbes of fodder and food, Mr Green would later state at the second Escort trial; "I am a grazier living at the Uar station. It is about seventeen or twenty miles from Mr Cropper's place. In June last I kept a store. About 12 June I was away from home - I was away from 11th to 16th. When I came home, I found that the house had been robbed. I missed some oats, amongst other things, about a bag and a half. Bags and all were taken. I also missed one case of lobsters, about two dozen tins, less two or three I had taken out of the case myself..." Charters, as guide proceeded to lead the group to Eugowra Rocks arriving on the morning of 15th June 1862. Gardiner then paced out the firing range from The Rocks to the coach's prospective position at the hold-up time. About midday, Gardiner bailed up two bullock drays approaching the hold-up site. Gardiner placed the drays across the track as an obstacle for the coach to negotiate. As the gang waited for the coach to arrive, one of the men suggested someone should go and mind the horses hidden just over a rise from the rocks - Charters volunteered. After some thought, Gardiner agreed, stating; "very well, you go; you're bl--dy frightened of your life, and you're the best to go..."
|Extract of Daniel Charter's|
statement of events
of the robbery (above).
Following the robberies, success Charters led the gang back to Wheogo Mountain close to Ben Hall's property, 'Sandy Creek', some 60 miles from the robbery site. Under Gardiner’s instructions, Charters took the gang on a zigzag course to confuse the black trackers. "Go as crooked as you can, so as to bother the trackers." Arriving at the hill, the proceeds were divided equally, and Hall, O’Meally and Manns departed.
|"Here come the police, boys!"|
|Bathurst Free Press Report, 28th June 1862|
Recapture of the gold and police pursuit.
Courtesy Peter C Smith.
|Charters and Hall's|
During this period Charters
made his decision to turn
|Charters' Bail Granted|
(The amount set demonstrates the
wealth at his disposal.)
|Sir Frederick Pottinger|
Charters became the principal witness for the crown and was conveyed to Bathurst for the court's next sitting, with John Bow, John Maguire and Alex Fordyce. John O'Meally would be released on bail soon after their arrival. The hearings conducted at Bathurst were closed to the public for the protection of Charters, who at this point implicated Maguire as a supplier of goods to the gang. The court found sufficient evidence for a trial, and all but O'Meally was remanded at Bathurst Gaol. In December 1862, Henry Manns was recaptured by Sir Frederick Pottinger after an earlier escape and lodged at Bathurst. In January 1863, the four prisoners were transferred for trial to be held in Sydney. The trial would become known as the 'Special Commission' and would also incorporate the trials of several other felons; The list of cases was reported in 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' January 1863; SPECIAL CRIMINAL SESSION.--The special session for the trial of certain cases of crime from the interior, will commence at Darlinghurst, on Monday, the 2nd February. At present there are seven cases for trial, but it is possible that one or two may yet be added to the calendar. 1. Charles Mackay, robbery with firearms. 2. George Williams, robbery with firearms (sticking-up Bathurst mail). 3. George Willison and Frederick Britten, robbery with firearms (robbing the Bathurst mail and taking large quantities of bank notes). 4. Charles Foley and John Brownlow, robbery with firearms. 5. John Healy, robbery with firearms (near Goulburn). 6. Alexander Fordyce, John Bow, John Maguire, Henry Mann (alias Henry Turner), robbery with firearms and wounding (robbery of Lachlan escort). 7. Alexander Ross, Charles Rose, and William O'Connor, robbery with arms and wounding (attempted murder of Mr. Stephens). As far as present arrangements are made, we believe that one court only will sit for the trial of the prisoners.
Alexander Ross and Charles Ross (not related) were both convicted of the wounding of a Mr. Stephens of Caloola, and both were hanged. Another interesting person to be charged was John Healy, at whose place the escort gang prepared and loaded the guns for the heist and who also had been involved with Frank Gardiner as reported in 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', January 1863; "Healy, one of Gardiner's companions, who was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the escort robbery, was brought up on Saturday, for highway robbery under arms, on the Lambing Flat road, Jacobson, a jeweller and storekeeper in Forbes, was the prosecutor, he recognised the prisoner in the bar of a public house on Friday. A good deal of stolen property was produced. Healy's wife was insane from drink. Gardiner is reported to have been seen, mounted and well-armed, between Lambing Flat and Forbes..." Healy was found guilty of bushranging and sentenced to 15 years on the roads, the first year in irons.
The 'Special Commission' trial for the escort four was set for 2nd February 1863 and was the hottest ticket in town for the entertainment starved populace. The prisoners were arraigned in court on the 3rd February 1863 and presided over by Justice Wise. Also attending were some of Sydney's elite in the form of politicians and celebrities of the day to see and hear of the daring deeds of the wild colonial boys. "Not Guilty" was the cry of the accused, and the courtroom hushed over as Daniel Charters was called to give evidence. At the commencement of the proceedings, an observer wrote of Daniel Charters; "...Charters, who is a very young man, of quiet demeanour, and has evidently received an education superior to that generally given to bush lads; he is, however, a thorough bushman, and well acquainted with the country and the mode of travelling adopted by men who desire to mystify persevering "trackers." He gives his evidence with extraordinary fluency and is very particular as to minor details. His description of the country through which he says he led the gang of robbers is vivid in the extreme, and anyone acquainted with the bush of Australia will readily realise the scenes described by him. When Charters stepped into tho witness-box, he reminded one of Sheil's description of the "approvers" in the celebrated Clonmel trials, "an informer, but not a common informer."
Charters was the one who sat the filled courtroom onto the edge of their seats as Charters commenced to drop the defendants in it upon his appearance. Charters commenced his testimony which was long and laborious and as history has proved was full of misleading falsehoods, extracts of his testimony follow, Charters stated; "I lived at Humbug Creek, on the other side of the Lachlan; in the beginning of June last I was within twenty-five miles of Forbes; It was on the 15th June; I know the prisoners; saw John Bow and Fordyce on the 12th June; they were within a quarter-mile of Mrs. Feehiely's station, called the "Pinnacle"; I was driving some horses; I met Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, and the two prisoners, Bow and Fordyce; Gardiner is a bushranger in that part of the country; they were coming towards me; Gardiner rode up to me about fifteen yards in advance of the others; he asked where I was going to? I said to my sisters; he then said he wanted me to go with him for a few days; I said I could not, for if seen with him I should be thought as bad as him; he said I must go, as he wanted me to show him the road to someplace that he did not name; Gardiner was armed; he had a double-barrelled gun slung to his horse, and two revolvers on his person; Gilbert was armed, and Fordyce also was armed; when I declined going with him, Gardiner put his hand on his revolver, and said, "I've come for you, and you must go." I then went with him." [The witness here identified the prisoner Manns as one of the men concerned]
Charters continues; "...We camped again, and Gilbert went into Forbes; I heard Gardiner tell him to fetch six double-barrel guns, some rations, an American tomahawk, some blacking, some comforters, and some caps, and also a flask of powder. The men were at this time camped at a fire, lying down. Gilbert returned about one or two in the morning; he had three other men with him; one of them, " Charley," I had some knowledge of (this was Ben Hall). One was called 'Harry,' and the other " Billy(this was John O'Meally);" I saw him (Harry) in the Sydney Police Office since; Gardiner said shortly after that no man's name was to be mentioned, but it did not matter about him." When the men come, they had six guns, and the other articles which were sent for; they had some rations also, and we consumed part of them. Heard Gilbert say he had great trouble in getting the guns and the axe, as there was only one store where he could get one. One gun with a rifle barrel, and nice carved stock. Gardiner chose for himself. On the Saturday morning, Gardiner said, "Go on to the Eugowra Mountain." As we reached the river near Robert's station, I saw a gentleman on the other side of the river whom I knew to be Mr. Rutherton; I was not armed; I was mounted, and led a horse -, we cantered across a piece of clear ground towards the river, and in doing so Gilbert lost his revolver; he wanted to return to look for it, but Gardiner would not let him, saying there was no time to lose; Gilbert cut down the fence at Roberts', and we went on towards Eugowra; Gardiner rode mostly behind the others; I asked him where we were going; he said he'd tell me by and bye; we camped on the Saturday night between Eugowra and Campbell's. On the Sunday. Gardiner rose early and ordered the arms to be loaded; I asked what he was going to do, and he said " We'd see; that if he was lucky he meant that day to stick up the Escort," "we tied our horses up by direction of Gardiner; we each had a gun then; we then went to the large rocks overlooking the road; we remained a short time: Gardiner went down to the road, stepped the distance, returned, and said, "That will do." At about three o'clock someone said, "It would be a bl---y lark to get the escort horses to take them back; "it was then suggested that someone should go back and look to the horses we had left tied. I proposed to go back, and after Gardiner studied for a while, he said: "Very well, you go; you're bl---y frightened of your life, and you're the best to go." I said I had never done anything of the kind, and did not like firing on men who never did me any harm. I then went away, leaving Seven men at the rocks, of whom Fordyce and Bow were two; Fordyce was under the influence of drink, and two or three times Gardiner said ."If he didn't wake up and look sharp, he'd cut his rations bl---y short." I went and found the horses all right.
The main witness Daniel Charters, once more recounted his earlier evidence, and although some aspects were slightly contradicted, the bulk was enough to send the jury out to consider a verdict, which they did and on the 27th February 1863, returned a verdict of Guilty against Bow, Manns and Fordyce and Not Guilty for John Maguire as reported in the 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle';
Daniel Charters' character was brought into question. Public opinion soon manifested in a belief that the trial of the robbers was fixed and if Charters had received his share of the proceeds, the outcome of the events might have been completely different as reported in the 'Empire'; "the excitement of the crowds congregated at the trials arose out of a common dislike to the evidence of an approver. The popular mind detests this kind of testimony, not merely because it is seldom to be relied on, nor indeed from any other reason as such, but from a sort of instinctive feeling that rushes at once to conclude that it is an augmentation of villainy. He is regarded as infinitely worse than those against whom he testifies. He is not only a thief but a traitor. His accomplices are punished through his means, but it is at the expense of a deeper dip into crime. He saves himself, but to do that probably sends his own companions in guilt to death. What is called justice is supposed to reap some advantage; but even this is only apparent, for whilst the law wreaks its vengeance on the condemned, it lets loose the greatest villain of the mob to prey upon mankind, and the imagination pictures him as drinking the blood of his accomplices. But this particular approver endeavoured to screen himself under a declaration that he was coerced into the scheme. It would have been more creditable for him not to have urged this, as he entirely failed to make it so appear. He was disappointed, not from his associates' unfairness towards himself, but from the loss of the grand booty. If he had received 22 lbs. weight of solid gold, and £3000 in notes as his share of the spoil, would he have delivered it up to the authorities and turned approver then? Of course, this is not exactly what Government cares about, but it is the popular reasoning; most men believe that it would be better for the accused to escape than the accuser to have his revenge."
|Darlinghurst Gallows c. 1863|
Daniel Charters was 6ft tall and a handsome man and had a reputation along with his closest friend Ben Hall of being quite the ladies man; this reputation was highlighted during the Escort trial by defence lawyer Mr Issacs, in an attempt to bring the veracity of Charters' erratic evidence into question, under intense pressure from Mr Issacs who had constantly attacked Charters version of events, would bring into question Charters relationships, and at the same time question the fidelity of John Maguire's wife, Elen. Ellen's relationship with Charters during his initial bail period at Forbes whilst Maguire was still incarcerated. The tactic was an attempt as part of Maguire's defence to show a motive for Charters to attempt to 'lag' Maguire, as there had been raised by the defence an impression that Charters was having an affair with Ellen Maguire whilst staying in Forbes during the time of his confession to Inspector Pottinger.
The defence questioned Charters; "Didn't you stay at the Harp of Erin Hotel", Daniel Charters responded, "When I was liberated, I went to my brother-in-law's James Newell's; I was staying at Forbes, afterwards at the European Hotel; I did not stop at the Harp of Erin; I had no particular friend with me at that time", the defence shot back, "But you stayed at the Harp Of Erin Hotel with the wife of the accused, McGuire", as Charters commenced to elaborated, the Sheriff's Officer of the court shouted towards the public gallery "Silence! Silence! Silence in the court" as the observers reacted to this sensational proposition, "I will swear I did not stop at the Harp of Erin with McGuire's wife; I have seen her at the Harp of Erin but did not stay with her", Charters continued, "I never on any occasion said, if I could "lag" McGuire, that I would then be able to sleep with his wife." On this unsavoury news, it was recorded that John Maguire grabbed the railing of the dock firmly. Sadly after the trial and Maguire's acquittal, his marriage to Ellen would soon come to an end, and Ellen went to live at Ben Hall's ex-home as an illegal squatter. Maguire and Ben Hall had lost the Sandy Creek station to John Wilson.
Coloured by me.
Charters still held incognito by the government, the press rampant about the deeds of Frank Gardiner wrote this in regards to Gardiner's possible capture; "if the Government is particularly anxious to have this freebooter alive, let them send their late approver under a strong escort to find him, for if anyone in the colony knows Gardiner's haunts, "flash Dan Chartres" is the man; but he would want a strong escort, and even then I don't think he would be game to visit this district, as the fate of John M'Guiness must be yet vividly impressed upon his mind; therefore the best thing he can do is to get his "blood "money and go to America, for, so long as Gardiner lives, his life is not worth a month's purchase."(M'Guinness was believed to have been shot dead on Gardiner's orders after another bushranger John Davis was captured by police and M'Guinness and another instead of fighting, fled in April 1862.)
THE CONDEMNED ESCORT ROBBERS.
The following memorial has been transmitted to his Excellency the Governor in reference to the case of Manns and Bow, now under sentence of death, for the escort robbery. — "Statements connected with the escort robbery and the prisoners Manns and Bow, brought under the notice of the undersigned, which they think deserve the earnest attention of the Executive.
"1. Chartres, the approver, was not the compulsory guide he represented himself to be; but took a most active part in planning and carrying into execution the escort robbery.
"2. On the Friday night preceding the robbery, Chartres, in company with Gilbert and another, bought at least five of the guns used on that occasion: two guns and American axe, at Baldwin's; one gun at a bowling alley, Main-street, Forbes; two guns and tins of oysters at a grocer's shop, also in Main street, Forbes —two men were serving in this shop.
"3. Same night Chartres and Gilbert moulded the balls in the house of a woman named Healy. Her husband is in Cockatoo.
"4. There were five men and a boy with the teams. Immediately after the firing and while the escort and mail bags were being robbed, Chartres and Manns stood guard over the men. Why were none of these men produced at the trial?
"5. Chartres not only received his share of the gold and notes, but procured the scales (from either his sister's or Ben Hall's) with which the gold was weighed.
"6. Chartres was previously a mate of Davis, now in Cockatoo.
"7. Chartres' criminality with Maguire's wife, we understand, can be proved by Healy, now in Cockatoo; and also by a publican of the name of Cannon, on the Lachlan.
"8. Chartres was confined for a considerable time in the lock-up at Forbes, in company with Ben Hall and J. O'Mealy, when his statement was concocted; he agreeing, in consideration of the sum of £200 cash, to be paid by Hall and O'Mealy, to swear that they were not connected with the robbery, he well knowing that both of these men were actively engaged in it.
"9. This is the first offence with which John Bow has been charged, having served one master, as stockman, for six years previous to his apprehension. John Bow can neither read nor write.
"10. Henry Manns was a carrier, engaged, shortly before the escort robbery, in carrying goods to the Lachlan, when he was stopped and robbed by Gardiner, who, perceiving a degree of courage and determination in Manns, resolved, if possible, to secure him as a mate. Gilbert (who had known Manns when a boy) and Chartres were sent by Gardiner to Forbes to invite him to the camp. He at first refused to go because be had no horse; but Chartres, having brought one, took him to the camp and introduced him to the escort robbers for the first time on Saturday, the day preceding the robbery. Henry Manns can neither read nor write. This also is his first offence.
"11. We are informed that none of the first jury wished to bring in a verdict of guilty of wounding, but simply guilty of robbery.
(Signed) " RICHARD SADLEIR,
"J. BOWIE WILSON,
"JOSEPH J. HARPUR,(Son of Ben Hall's former stepmother-in-Law)
"Sydney, 16th March 1863."
On the 28th March 1863, 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' again reported Ellen Brandon's efforts to have Charters before the court; THE APPROVER'S DESERTED FAIR ONE.-The case of Miss Ellen Charlotte Brandon v Daniel Charters also appeared on Thursday's sheet, but the lady's solicitor is still unsuccessful in his endeavours to bring the defendant into the magisterial presence, and the matter lapsed in consequence of his non-appearance.
Charters requirement to frontcourt was that Miss Brandon was pregnant. Daniel Charters was the father from a relationship that the pair had consummated back in the Lachlan district about the time of Charters becoming involved with the Escort Robbery, and Miss Brandon was attempting to have Daniel Charters met his responsibilities by providing funding for the upkeep of the forthcoming child and acknowledgement as the father. Unfortunately, Charters avoided his responsibility to Miss Brandon as the government hid Charters away in a witness protection scheme, and he was not heard of for some time to come. There was a report in the papers at the time of this prospective court appearance that "referring to Daniel Charters, the approver in the escort robbery case, and who, by the way, as I hear, has gone back to the Lachlan under charge of a mounted police escort..." The outcome of Ellen Brandon's lawsuit against Daniel Charters is unknown. Miss Brandon gave birth to a baby boy named Henry William Brandon, who survived 12 months and died on the 10th March 1864. Miss Brandon would marry a Sea Captain, Sheppard Giles; GILES—BRANDON—At the Scots Church, on Wednesday, the 1st February 1865, by the Rev. Dr Lang, M.P., Mr. Sheppard Giles, shipmaster in the intercolonial trade, to Ellen Charlotte, daughter of Mr. Richard William Brandon, tobacconist, both natives of London.
Daniel Charters' whereabouts following the completion of the 'Special Commission' in February 1862 was a closely guarded secret kept by the government. Where even the solicitor representing Miss Brandon with a writ of 'Habeus Corpus', which compelled a prisoner to be presented to the court, had failed due to the government's procrastination with Charters and where they were able to keep Charters incommunicado. Daniel Charters was actually employed by the NSW police and held at the Longbottom stockade, situated at Canada Bay along the Parramatta River, boarded today by Burwood and Croydon suburbs. The stockade was situated on Concord Oval, where Daniel Charters worked as a horse breaker.
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