Saturday, 13 December 2014

Summer 1867 –Cooma Court at Boloco Station

After a ride up the mountain to a post-mortem in Mowembah the next morning they returned down to lunch at Boloco Station. After the meal, the dining room was cleared and the clerk arranged chairs for the magistrate, the police officer assisting and the witnesses. A number of local farmers had returned to the Station to hear the proceedings, including a young journalist from the Monaro.

Looking down from Mowembah to Boloco

Mid-morning and the sun was already hot. The land beyond the refuge of the station was baked white.
Everyone crowded into the large room.
“All rise”, said the Clerk.
Dawson sat down, nodded to the clerk and said: “This Court is now in session. A couple of you good folk may not have been in court before. I will give you one warning. If you speak, without being asked to, by me, I will have you taken outside and hung.” Suddenly there was silence, as everyone in the room stopped breathing.
Dawson continued: “All witnesses, except Barnes and Davidson, leave the room and move out of earshot of this building. You are not to talk with each other.” Senior Constable Bryan stood uneasily and looked at Dawson for a moment, then, motioning to the other witnesses, started to leave the room.
Dawson held the silence, so all could hear the urgent whisper from one of the men, as they left the house yard “I thought you said we could stay and listen?” There was a muffled sharp response.
Dawson waited for a moment and nodded to the clerk and then turned to Constable Ford. “Right, Constable, please call your first witness.” Constable Ford stood and motioned a tall thin Irishman to the witness chair.
The clerk carried a copy of the Bible to Barnes. “Put your hand on the Bible, Mr Barnes. Repeat this oath after me.” Barnes looked like all his hells had suddenly caught up with him. The oath was repeated three times, before he got it right.
Ford asked: “State your name and occupation to the court.”
”Richard Barnes, your worshipful. To be sure, sir. From back down the road on the Snowy River. I run a.. a rest house. At Buckley’s Crossing”.
Dawson’s eyed burnt him, and Barnes stuttered, “An inn, some call it.”
“An unlicensed inn”, Dawson corrected.
After much stuttering and foot shuffling Barnes finally answered Constable Ford's questions. His evidence was summarised in writing by the Clerk. Dawson then read the evidence given aloud.
“I have seen the body of a man now lying dead at Mowenbah; I believe him to be the same man that came to my house on Wednesday last, 6th instant, riding the chestnut horse now outside; he told me his name was "Jemmy the Warrigal," and that he was going to Gippsland; he was a tall man, dark-complexion, native of Ireland; he left my house about 7 o'clock on Thursday morning last, in direction for Gippsland; I did not see him again until I saw his body at Mowenbah, about twenty miles from my house.”
Dawson looked at him and asked whether there was anything else. Barnes shook his head, and they countersigned the deposition. Dawson told him to sit with the others in the room and not to breathe while the tracker brought Brown in to the witness chair.
Ford next called the station owner. He was sworn in and asked him to state his name and occupation.
“Police Magistrate, my name is Thomas Brown, I am a farmer and the owner of Boloco station and Mowenbah station. "

After his evidence was given, Dawson read his deposition aloud.
About 11 o'clock on Thursday morning deceased came to my house, at Boloco, riding the chestnut horse outside; he dismounted and came into the house, pulled out a bottle from his pocket, and wanted me to drink; I declined, saying "I do not drink;" deceased said "I'll make you drink," and became very abusive; he asked me the road to Kirwan's, Mowenbah, which I pointed out to him; he then galloped off in that direction; about 11 o'clock on Friday morning last the witness Phillip Primmer told me there was a man lying dead on the road between Boloco and Mowenbah; I was at the latter place; on my way home I found the man lying dead near a tree, close to the road, as Primmer had described; I saw at once that it was the man who had called at my house the day before riding a chestnut horse; I saw the horse in the bush also the saddle, bridle, and swag; round the body of the man I found a new breastplate belonging to me, and which he must have stolen from my verandah when at my house on Thursday; the body now shown to me is the same I saw dead in the bush, and that of the man who came to my place on Thursday; the chestnut horse is the same, and is branded 5 bars over HH off shoulder, and TL near shoulder; on my finding the body in the bush I left two men in charge, and left to give information to the police, which I did; I did not know deceased's name, he was a stranger to me.”
Dawson and Brown countersigned the deposition and Dawson addressed Brown, “Mr Brown, I am sure you are a very busy man. I would understand if you retired to attend to your business, elsewhere.” He added, “Please do not discuss your evidence with the other witnesses.”
The next witness sworn was a labourer, Phillip Primmer, of Coolamatong. After taking the evidence Dawson read it back:
“On Friday last, about 12 o'clock, when about four miles from Mowenbah, I saw a man lying on the ground near a tree, with his face downwards; on going nearer I saw he was dead--by the number of flies about him; I did not dis-mount to examine him, but rode on to Mowenbah and reported the matter to Mr Brown, of Boloco; the body I have just seen is the same I saw in the bush; I did not know the deceased; to me, he was a stranger.”
In short order Thomas Wite, of Mowenbah was sworn. Dawson read his disposition to the Court:
“About two o'clock on Thursday afternoon I was proceeding from Mowenbah to Boloco on horseback, and when about half-way I saw a chestnut horse with bridle, saddle, and swag on; the horse was feeding about sixty yards from the road; I saw no-one near; I hobbled the horse with a stirrup leather, and left him where I found him; I then put the saddle, bridle, and swag under a tree, and reported what I had done to Mr Brown, of Boloco; the horse, saddle, bridle, and swag produced are those I have.”
Ford turned to Davidson, and said, we will hear your evidence now Doctor, if you please.
“I am a legally qualified medical practitioner; I have this day made a post mortem examination of the body of a man whose name is said to be James Dornen, alias "Long Jim, the Tailor;" he appeared to be a strong, muscular man, of about six feet in height; the body was frightfully decomposed--the parts exposed being completely blackened; there was no blood on his person from wounds; but on carefully examining the scalp I found anecchymosed spot over the left temple, and on reflecting the scalp I found a radiated fracture of the squamous portion of the temporal bone; the brain was in a congested state, and there was effusion of the ventricles; I have no doubt that the cause of death was concussion of the brain, in con-sequence of forcible contact with a tree, or ground, or some hard substance, and very probably death was instantaneous.”
Finally Ford called Henry Bryan, senior-constable of police, stationed at Cooma, to give evidence. After stating what he knew, the clerk handed the deposition to Dawson to read.
“On Friday, the 8th instant, I received information that a man known as James Dornen, alias "Long Jim the Tailor," a description of whom is given in the Police Gazette, and a reward of £200 offered for his apprehension for highway robbery in connection with Clarke's gang, had been seen at Boloco on horseback, making in the direction of Gippsland; I immediately started in pursuit, and when about seventeen miles from Cooma, I met Mr Brown, from Boloco station; he informed me that the man I was in pursuit of had been killed the day previous between Boloco and Mowenbah against a tree; I said, "What man?" he replied, "Why, Long Jim the Tailor."
I reached Boloco station (forty miles from Cooma) that night between eleven and twelve o'clock, and next morning early I went to see the body; on examining the features I was satisfied it was the body of James Dornen, alias "Long Jim the tailor," and the man whom I was in pursuit of; the body was dressed in a dark pilot coat, light coloured colonial tweed vest, dark tweed trousers strapped with lighter tweed, brown crimean shirt with grey front, blucher boots, and felt hat with straw lining to leaf; in right hand pocket I found a broken bottle with some rum remaining in the bottom portion; in right hand trousers pocket I found two half crowns; in the left hand pocket a pocket knife, pipe and tobacco, also a piece of paper, with a rough tracing of the road to Mowenbah from the Snowy River, drawn in ink, with words "Cart road," and "Bridle-track". I left two men with the body and went to Mowenbah, where I received from Thomas Wite a chestnut horse, a saddle with red blanket strapped on, and a bridle, and new white blanket under saddle; in the red blanket I found several small bags, containing silk, thread, scissors, tape measures, thimbles, needles, and a light coloured colonial tweed vest, half made, besides sundry small articles; I left the horse, saddle, and bridle in charge of Thomas Wite, and rode back to where the body was laying, to await arrival of coffin; I assisted to put deceased into the coffin, and had the body conveyed to Mowenbah station to await a magisterial inquiry; when putting the body into the coffin I found the breastplate of a saddle round his waist under the coat, which was afterwards claimed by Mr Brown, of Boloco, it having been stolen from his place the day deceased was there; about three years ago I escorted deceased as a prisoner from Kiandra to Cooma, when he was charged on suspicion of being Lowry the bushranger, and I have since known him when he was living in Cooma for some months, and from my previous knowledge I am quite certain deceased is the man already described as James Dornen, alias "Long Jim, the tailor."
Dawson signed the deposition and adjourned the court for ten minutes. He asked Davidson to walk with him.
“So what do you think, having listened to all of that?” Dawson asked the doctor.
The doctor smiles and said, “Straight forward. He was intoxicated, his horse shied and the poor beggar fell and cracked his skull. Hard to believe he had so little money and no weapon.”
“And what of the lies and inconsistencies”? Dawson pressed.
“People forget. Memories are never perfect. These people seem decent hard working souls. They did not ask for this criminal to come into their lives and waste their time. But then, this is not my decision to make.” Davidson smiled. 
“Could he have been killed any other way than a fall?” Dawson asked.
“Any hard blow to the head would have done it.”
“A glancing shot from a pistol shot?”
“Maybe, from a distance. But pistols are never accurate, why would someone take that chance”?
“A blow from a club or a killing boomerang”?, Dawson persisted.
“Yes, but there is no evidence that happened.”
Dawson pondered for a while, until the clerk started to walk over to him.  “I am not so sure of this. I don’t like it one bit. A succcesful and trusted bushranger - here without a penny or his two revolvers.  I know of this man, it suits the interests of too many people that he die here, now. If there was any suggestion that he was shot down in cold blood by our police officers here - like poor Kirwan - we would have problems with the Irish right through the southern districts.” He sighed.
“Better finish this off.”
Dawson returned to the court and delivered a verdict of accidental death.

The pieces didn’t fit. But any other verdict, even an open verdict, would have alerted those complicit in the death to his suspicions.
While the Police Magistrate was content to play a long game, others were not. 
The returning party met a young mail rider seventeen miles out of Cooma and he gave Dawson an urgent message from the Registrar at the Ulludulla Court. In return the rider was given three copies of the depositions. One was addressed to the Attorney General. One to the Chief of Police. One to the Registrar-General.
The packages travelled across the Monaro plain past Cooma, to Queanbeyan. Then across country through the Molonglo river valley to Foxlow and then onto Count Rossi’s station at the top of the mountains. The next day, down into the Braidwood valley and the risk of capture by the bushrangers.

Then north east down the wool road to the port of Ulludulla.

While the mail rider was being fed, the Registrar of the Ulludulla Court put aside a certificate of birth he was completing and quietly opened one of the packages. He read it quickly, smiled, and resealed the package.

In the morning, on the tide, the packages were placed on the coastal steamer and dispatched to Sydney.
On the wharf, alert to the cargo, the Colonial Secretary for the Colony of New South Wales, Henry Parkes took charge of all three packages. As he traveled by coach to the Governor’s residence, he opened the Attorney-General's package. With the papers he found an unexpected inclusion: together with the depositions, each tied with a pink legal ribbon, an incomplete certificate of birth from Ulludulla.

>  Autumn 1872 - Jerrabatgully 

<Return to the Start of the Story

Peter Quinton
December 2014

No comments: