The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare
I joined the police force on the 1st January, 1854, as a lieutenant. I was sent off at once to the Ovens district, and my first duty was to take charge of the gold escort from Beechworth to the Buckland. In those days there were few roads and no bridges, and the creeks had to be crossed the best way we could manage. The gold was carried down on pack-horses and mules, each horse carrying from 1500 to 2000 ounces in saddle bags. Frequently we had to swim the rivets. Some of the streams were very tepid, and when flooded were most dangerous to gross. On one occasion I lost two pack-horses; they were washed over a log below the crossing place of the Buckland River, and we never saw them again, although we searched for them for some days. Fortunately there was no gold on their backs. The gold used to be placed in saddle-bags, and sealed up, and we generally had four pack-horses or mules to carry it.
On one occasion, on our return journey, we found one of the creeks so flooded that it was quite impossible to cross without the danger of losing some of the men and gold. I took the men half a mile higher up the creek than the usual crossing place, and opening the saddle-bags containing the gold (the gold was always put in small chamois leather bags inside the saddle bags), gave a few bags to each of the men to put inside their valises, telling them I expected each man to do his best to cross the stream, which was about fifty or eighty yards wide. I gave instructions that they should unbuckle their swords, and carry them under their arms, so that, in case they were washed down the stream, they could get rid of them. I had with me a Mr. Morphy, one of the Wardens of the gold fields, whom I had picked up on the road, between two rivers. He put himself under my charge. I told him to follow me, but to keep at a respectable distance, so that if my horse came to grief he might avoid the difficulty. Neither of us could swim, so we were a pretty pair to cross a river fifty yards wide. I started into the water first, telling my sergeant to remain where he was till all the men had got safely over. I had not gone ten yards when my horse, which was a very small one, got his fore legs across a log, and was unable to get his hind ones over. It was no enviable position for me, on a horse playing a kind of see-saw in a roaring torrent.
Morphy followed close on my heels, and his horse whilst swimming put his fore leg on my shoulder, as nearly as possible pulling me into the water. I leant forward, and in getting clear of me, the horse's foot caught the hilt of my sword, which tipped up the scabbard. It fell into the river, and there lay for more than a month before I recovered it. The men got across safely. One of them struck a log in the same way I did, and, the horse falling over, he swam ashore. The pack horses, having no weight on their backs, were washed down a considerable distance, but all landed safely on the other side. The gold being replaced in the saddle-bags, we started off for Beechworth.
Later on, one of the pack mules got away from the man who was leading him, and bolted off with 2000 oz of gold on his back! We halted; and I sent two men off in pursuit, but after half an hour's chase. one of the men returned, and said it was impossible to follow the mule, which had got into an impassable place in the mountains. He wanted to know what he was to do. I told him if he could not catch the mule he must shoot it, and secure the gold. The trooper galloped back to the place he had left, the other man watching the mule, and in less than twenty minutes I heard a shot in the mountains, and shortly afterwards the two men returned with the pack-saddle and gold on one of their horses, they having shot the mule, and I was obliged again to divide the gold amongst the men. About four hours after the usual time of arriving we reached our destination, Beechworth, and I never was more glad to get rid of the responsibility of anything placed under my charge than I was of that gold!
In 1855 I was staying for the night at a station owned by Dr. Mackay, on the Ovens River . Mrs. Mackay was very ill, and the doctor, who was a tall, slight man, was by no means strong.
The doctor had sold a number of horses, and had received cash for them. He had this money, some £700, in his house, and in some way this fact had become known to, amongst others, a most notorious burglar named Meakin. There were other visitors staying in the house on this night, a Mrs. H. and a Miss D., the latter a niece of Dr. Mackay. I had a bed made up on the sofa in the dining room. The front rooms opened with French windows on to the verandah. My room was between Dr. Mackay's and that occupied by the two ladies before mentioned. The house was away from the road, and no other building within miles of it. At about two o’clock in the morning the two ladies came to the door of my room and awoke me, calling out there was a man outside in the verandah examining his revolver. They said they saw him put a large knife belonging to the doctor, which was lying in the verandah, into his pocket. At first I thought the ladies had been dreaming, and I told them to return to their rooms, and I would go outside and see who was there. I hastily put on some clothes, and opening the French windows went outside on to the verandah, but could not see or hear any one. I went back to my room, telling the ladies I could see no one, and I thought they must be dreaming, and I begged them to return to their room, promising to keep watch, and listen if I could hear any footsteps. The ladies impressed me with the fact that on no account was Dr. Mackay to be disturbed, because Mrs. Mackay was so ill that any fright might cause her death.
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