Monday, 25 August 2014

The desolation of Jinden

Jinden lies at the extreme South of the Shoalhaven River valley, two days ride from the old administrative capital of Braidwood (South Eastern Australia).  

Mountains to the West, South and East form natural barriers to ordinary commerce - and although a road now climbs through the mountains at Snowball, it remains a quiet and lonely place.  

Today it is a farming location.  Passing through it, the ordinary visitor will not be aware of the terrible events of early 1867, that took the colony of New South Wales to the brink of civil war. Today the area is starting to thrive.  But, in 1867, news from Jinden resonated around the world with the bitter cold wind of desolation.

Looking North, towards Braidwood, from Jinden

Looking West, towards Jinden and the Jerrabattgulla

Farmers here need to be adaptable. The climate changes a little different each season. Extremes of heat and cold and distance made it a difficult place for early settlers.  After self-government was granted to New South Wales in the mid Nineteenth Century, poor Irish settlers took up a number of small farms here and in the gully to the North and West we now call Jerrabattgulla.  These small blocks provided little real scope for sustainable farming and only a few succeeded - the scrub is full of failed attempts.

While difficult farming for the early settlers, it proved a safe refuge for for the Irish bushrangers, who were protected by the Irish locals and who were shown a number of bridle paths up out of the valley.  Martin Brennan was a police officer involved in the search for the bushrangers. He described the area around Jinden in fairly positive terms:

"The JINDEN Station, situated near BIG BADJA, was at this time rented by NED SMITH; it was the favourite rendezvous for the bushrangers, as the surroundings were well watered, grassy and scrubby."  (Big Badja is a high mountain to the immediate South.)

From here, the bushrangers under the Clarke brothers (accompanied by the Long Tailor) attacked gold settlements to the North and the large cattle stations to the West, with impunity. The Clarke brothers chose their targets with care - none of their allies, magistrates nor police, were at risk. However, by 1867, the area had been partly militarized, much like Ireland itself, with armed police stationed at most of the larger farmsteads.  Still the bushrangers, with the active assistance of Irish settlers, had free range over the rest of the country.

Looking East towards Jinden Creek

Looking West, up Jinden Creek

As to the terrible events of early 1867, I will let Brennan continue the story, from his handwritten account of events:

“After setting out for JINDEN, the Detectives called at GALLAGHER’s Hotel, LONG FLAT, near MAJORS CREEK; they informed the proprieter they were en route to JINDEN, and asked directions; on getting them, they left, and scarcely had they done so, when JAMES GRIFFIN, who was shadowing them, called, and inquired where the Detectives were bound for ? On being told, he too departed. They were seen by Serg’t BYRNE early next morning passing by the BALLALABA Station, well mounted, and carrying their rifles on their thighs, going towards STONY CREEK. When CARROLL and party reached CONNELL’s Hotel, they had refreshments, asked how far it was from JINDEN, and the number of houses they would have to pass before reaching it ? Being informed, they left, and in a few minutes JAMES GRIFFIN rode up, ascertained what transpired, and went on in the same direction.

The Detectives next called at Mr AHEARN’s, where a Police Station was then established, known as KRAWARREE - made the usual in­quiry, when Mr AHEARN pointed out the track, and told them JINDEN HOUSE was 8 miles distant. As soon as they had left, the ubiqui­tous GRIFFIN presented himself, ascertained particulars, and then cantered off through the bush towards JINDEN. The Detectives were hospitably received at JINDEN; their horses placed in the home paddock, and beds prepared for them in the dining room. After breakfast next morning, the Detectives had a long conversation with SMITH. When for some occult reason they left the Station on foot, though it was then well known the bushrangers were camped on a range four miles distant - followed a bridle track leading to GUINEA’s Selection (Portions 5 & 6, Parish of JINDEN). Soon after their departure from JINDEN, GRIFFIN partly disguised, and riding a gray horse, was seen coming from the direction of the GANG’s lair, to JINDEN HOUSE, where he procured spirits, and then rode off to the GANG’s quarter.

The Detectives called at Mr WATT’s Selection on the opposite side of the SHOALHAVEN and had dinner, produced their rifles, and revolvers and informed Mr WATT that “ they were looking for the bushrangers to make short work of them; that the Police for the most part were cowards, and afraid to encounter them; and that they, themselves, were specially selected by the Government to do that which the BRAIDWOOD Police were incompetent to do “. After two hours delay, the Detectives left, and made their way back towards JINDEN.

After proceeding two miles, GRIFFIN was seen riding on the range observing their movements. On a spot almost in sight of JINDEN HOUSE, the GANG decided on carrying out their diabolical scheme; here the outlaw CLARKE, his brother JOHN, and BILL SCOTT, ensconsced themselves behind gum trees, close to the track, and within about 30 yards of each other. While JAMES GRIFFIN held their horses about 150 yards away. The Detectives walked two together, that is McDONNELL and PHEGAN in front, with CARROLL and KENNAGH behind.”

All four detectives were murdered by the bushrangers shortly afterwards.  

The handwritten account is published here.

Peter Quinton
August 2014

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