Some in Australia, hold bushrangers in high esteem and they are often seen as political rebels - heroes to those powerless to the harshness of colonial rule. The special place these rebels hold in the hearts of Australians can be seen in the example of the Victorian Cricket Team using 'Bushrangers' as their nickname. Another example of this is the public interest which was aroused recently when the burial of Ned Kelly's remains, 132 years after his execution gained media attention.
While most Australians are familiar with the names Ned Kelly, Mad Dog Morgan, Captain Thunderbolt and Ben Hall, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), Friday 6 March 1868, page 7, reports on the activities of an unknown bushranger in the Wahgunyah, Rutherglen and Beechworth areas of northeastern Victoria. But, was he really a bushranger?
WAS HE REALLY A BUSHRANGER?
(FROM THE OVENS ADVERTISER, FEB 27.)
On Monday last the usual equanimity of one of the most philosophic of the Wahgunyah bonifaces was rather rudely disturbed by the entrance into his hostelry of a stranger with a rather Jack-Sheppard like head and face, who announced himself as being from the land of bushrangers (New South Wales), and expressed his intention of trying his hand in that way on this side of the Murray, as "sugar was scarce on the t'other side." He made inquiries as to the probability of his being able to gather a little heap on this side, but the landlord paid little attention to his vapourings as his experience of many characters - for he had studied man- kind and not books during rather an eventful life - had led him to thoroughly coincide with the Hon the Attorney-General, that it is the "still man" ( and as he naively remarked, the d-----d roguish one too) that was most to be dreaded. Perchance, however, he saw the muzzle of a pistol peeping from the stranger's pocket, and considering that further companionship with such a fellow would not conduce to maintain his character as an honest man, he left the would-be highwayman in sweet dalliance with one of the fair maids of his establishment, and went to attend to some business in the bush. He had not been long gone when the unknown made inquiries after him, and muttering threats of revenge, ordered his horse, and proceeded in the direction the landlord had gone. The landlady felt anything but easy at the strange conduct of her guest, and at once informed the police of it, and expressed her fears for her husband's safety. Senior-constable Buckmaster proceeded to investigate the matter, and, having first assured himself of our landlord's safety, whom he sent home with a whole skin, went in search of the fellow who had caused such a hubbub. A stern chase is invariably a long chase, and it was not till he reached Rutherglen that he found the party he was searching for, comfortably seated in one of the hotels of that lively and interesting township, enjoying some refreshment. At first he did not appear disposed to account for himself, but being called upon to produce a receipt for his horse he did so, and also gave his name. He was then accused of carrying a pistol, and at once admitted the fact, and produced a very dangerous-looking firearm, but a careful inspection of the article rendered it doubtful whether, when charged, it would have been more dangerous for the person who stood before or behind it. How a strange change came over the man's talk; he said no more of bushranging, even denying having done so, and finally assumed an air of injured respectability. He was then warned that such conduct as he had been guilty of would not be tolerated, even in that minor stage, in Victoria, as little sins some- times led to great evils, and he was advised to be more circumspect for the future. But, was he a bushranger? He has since given the Beechworth people a touch of his quality by trying to shoot Mr. Evans, the grocer, in the street, and in broad daylight.[The man is now supposed to be a lunatic ]
This article was of particular interest to me because my YATES family has had a family connection with this part of northeastern Victoria since 1858-59, when my 2 x great-grandfather, Thomas Alexander YATES, purchased land in the area, established a farm and raised a family. The YATES family would have been living close to Rutherglen at the time this incident occurred.