Molesworth Jeffrey, son of Bartholomew Jeffrey and Wilhelmina Molesworth, married Eliza Rayner, daughter of William Rayner and Sophia Cullen.
I have started to transcribe letters from my gg Grandfather Molesworth Jeffery who married Eliza Rayner and lived at Bournbank, Lachlan, Tasmania a few miles from New Norfolk.
The letters are held at the National Library Canberra. I will put my draft here and it has a nice lot of info but I haven't chased it up as yet. Sorry for the length. - Heather Stroud
Transcription of letter from Molesworth Jeffery of Bournbank, Lachlan, Tasmania to his sister in England.
April 5th, 1890
Your last letter, namely of the 18th of February speaks of "Robbery under arms" as simply an amusing Tale.
Had I viewed it in that light, I would never have troubled you with it's pages.
But I know it to be truly historical. I was not personally in New South Wales or Victoria, at the time of Captain Starlight's career; but the Tasmanian Newpapers, day by day, gave us the minutest particulars of his doings. So that, where "Boldrewood" published in a connected form the whole life of the wild Outlaw, I recognised every incident recorded, & recalled each adventure as plainly as though they had happened but in my yesterdays knowledge.
"Robbery Under Arms" is not a Fiction or a Romance. It is a veritable History. As such I submitted it to you. I thought, if your aged eyes cared not to peruse our Australasian turmoils, you might give Frederick's Bairns the stirring Record - to make them more content with the peaceful surroundings of Claywood Cottage in Hampshire.
Nor let them think that Van Dieman's Land has been free from Ruffians of the "Starlight" idiocrasy.
When I first landed here in 1835, the island rang with exploits of the Bradys Gang" (or Mob as the Colonists termed his Bushrangers).
He had drawn together some twenty or twenty one Desperados - all well armed & horsed. He knew the country well &, as they were most capitally mounted on the best steeds they could steal, he easily made his raids on every District where he was least expected.
He advanced, he retreated, with equal celerity. He had confederates arriving at the Convict Population every where from whom he got constant intelligence.
At one time he headed his Troop right into the Town of Sorrell, surprised the Company of the 21st Regiment that Colonel Arthur had stationed in that Settlement; locked them all up in their own Guard House; invited themselves to the Police Magistrates table where they found a good spread prepared for His Majesty's Lieutenant of the Fusileers; Dined royally; mounted again carrying off all the "swag" they could meet with, & leaving the Red Coats to escape from their Goal how they might.
On that occasion however, I believe not much blood was spilled. I think only one man had an arm shot off & another had an eye knocked out of his head.
Afterwards Brady, knowing that the Military was scattered all over the country carried his Troop boldly into Hobart - Threatening the Banks there. They rode past the Government House, straight up Macquarie Street, till they came to the Gallows, which then used to stand in that main Thoroughfare. And then they halted - a wonderful caprice seized them - they determined to hold high revel under the fatla Beau! ??
And stop they did all night - drinking & carousing. Leaving in the morning - They placed on the spot a letter to His Excellency informing that they had much enjoyed their Banquet & hoped for his Company the next time Business called them into Hobart Town.
Eventually, I think Brady & his Braggart Bravados were by treachery amongst themselves, betrayed into the hands of the Government - Colonel Arthur hanging nine of them in one morning.
These events took place just before my landing here out of the "Vibilia".
At the close of 1835, while I was living at Chiswick with Bev & Horace?, I had occassion to ride to Launceston (40 miles off). I started with a pack horse besides my own saddle horse. We got on very well past Campbell Town & The Corners - entering Epping Forrest all right.
This Forrest is 17 miles through - having an Inn called the " Squeakers" about half way. There I intended to halt, to rest my horses for an hour.
Captain Sarjeauntson was riding just ahead. But he never fulfilled his journey. About 4 miles ere he reached the Inn a Bushranger stept from the colvert & shot him dead out of his saddle.
The deed was soon known. The neighbourhood was rapidly roused. And the "Squeakers" became for a time Headquarters of a very large force of Policeman & Privates of H.M's 21st.
Scouts were sent off in all Directions. The Chief Constable from LAunceston arrived in haste. Extra Patrols arrived from Oatlands. The Gazette flamed with a mighty REWARD! but no trace of the Bushranger. He seemed to have vanished from the earth, as completely as a ghost.
Some nine months afterwards a shepherd, living on the Eastern Marshes about 50 miles from Epping Forrest, was surprised one day by a very haggard stranger entering his Hut & demanding food. Not liking the company of this gaunt Visitor, the Shepherd demurred - as he had rations only for himself & wife. Whereupon an altercation - a struggle ensued. The stranger, hungry as a mountain Wolf, had the Shepherd by the throat in a minute. Down they rolled - Bushranger above, Shepherd below. And ill would it have fared with the latter, had not his wife ( hearing the scimmage) returned to the Hut, in time to see the Ruffian throttling her Husband.
Quick as lightning, the woman seized a log off the firewood & smashed in the intruders skull - so beating the gallows. For the man proved to be the Bushranger "Hunt", the murderer of Captain Sarjeantson.
Thus the Shepherds Wife at one saved her husbands life; avenged a murder; frees the Colony from a Terror; & got for herself an honest Hundred Pounds.
But, by & by, a new Gang of Bushrangers sprang up under the guidance of three scoundrels named "Cash, Kavanaugh & Jones" two of whom, at any rate, were Roman Catholics -pleading on their Trial that it was Religion that had caused all their troubles. For the Barbarous Government had insisted on their attendance at places the Herriticks called Churches - a thing Sacreligious to as true Catholic conscience. So out of pure principle, they took to the Bush to escape such vice. Though being in the Wilderness, Nature prompted them to obtain the necessaries of life wherever they could find them. And if policeman or other impediments pursued & molested them , they naturally defended themselves with such weapons as they proposed ? , & shot their imprudent pursuers & Prosecutors. Hence they argued that they were Martys to their Religion !!
But the Chief scene to their exploits was the District of New Norfolk. They had their Head Quarters up in the Hills bordering the Derwent. They were well furnished with firearms - & a Telescope ! Which latter weapon served them in this wise. Having some knowlege of the surrounding territory & of the various Settlers therin, & having fired on the Homestead they desired to "Bale Up", they took care to reach some eminence over looking the doomed residence by daybreak. Then lying down,adjusting their optical glasses, they patiently watched the ascending smoke and judged most accurately of the strength of the household by the number of extraling? chimneys.
So instructed, Captain Cash descended with his mates a little before the usual time for breakfast. And taking a station at the farmyard gate, as each man (whether cowherd, thrasher, plowman or teamster, straggled home for his midday meal) put a rifle to his breast; bound his hands; & drove him into some barn or stable.
So in this manner they "Baled Up" a farmer named Thomas Showe?, living about 4 miles from New Norfolk.
On the eventful morning Showe? himself chanced to be last of his household returning for his breakfast. Immediately ??? through his garden gate, he found an armed man from ? him, while a man from behind each gate post sprang out at him, seized him, bound him & marched him off into a large kitchen - where he found twenty one like himself, all fast prisoners.
Captain Cash bade the whole of his captives stand in a row against a wall, stationed one of his gang with a rifle loaded and cocked at one end of the room- & after ordering him to shoot the first of the lot that moved an inch - he took himself to visit Showes? wife.
Her he compelled to give what money, watches, spoons, ammunition, Bacon, Hams, or flour etc in the house. He requisitioned also a good supply of tea and sugar.
Then packing all this "swag" in corn sacks, he sought the stable, loaded up a couple of the best horses in there, & returned to his "Prepped"? men as his captives were called- to whence that his visit was over- wished them a good morning- cautioning them not to look out to see which way he traveled - he made off.
Showe? soon released himself & his fellows in trouble, caught a stray horse & galloped into the town of New Norfolk.
Burning with indignation at the insult put upon him & furious at the great robbery of his property he rode straight to the police Office to demand an interview with the Magistrate there.
He burst into his Worships presence, fiercely denouncing the utterly useless Constables ???men who he said did nothing but sit in their Barracks & smoke their pipes - while he and all the quiet farmers about were being threatened & robbed in broad daylight.
Hold with your abuse Mr Showe? quoth his Worship. The Police cannot be everywhere at the same time. And as you have stated that you had twenty one men at your back to help you, you have only to blame Your Own Cowardice in not standing up against Cash & his Confederates.
(The insulting Magistrate omitted to mention the fact that all the "Said twenty one men" were separately corded - & that at least two thirds of them were convict servants, much enjoying the amusement of a little murdering).
But it suited Thomas Mason securely seated on the Magisterial Bench to lecture the wronged & plundered Showe? in his timidity. So the Apellant merely bowed & retreated - but not for far, or long! He walked only into High Street- brought there a pair of pistols, examined them & loaded them & capped them & returned to the Police Ofgfice in time to find His Worship, who had retired from the Bench, in his private room.
Immediately opening the door, Showe? strode unceremoniously up to the table at which Mason was sitting, & placed his weapons thereon. Now Sir, said he, let us see who is the coward. Take your choice of these pistols - step out with me into the open Court, which is mere 10 paces long - & in two minutes the people before whom you have abused me will see which of us has the least courage.
Pooh! Pooh! replies Mason; ?? mend? your Duty. Turn this fellow out of the building.
But Showe? shouts, No occasion for silence my man. I am going. Good Morning, Mr Coward Mason! In future be ashamed to call braver men than yourself coward!
So ended that Police Office scene.
Afterwards Cash, venturing into Hobart Town to see his sweetheart was recognised as he quitted her house and the man identifying him, instantly shouts "Cash" & tries to effect a capture. But Cash, having long legs, was an exceedingly swift runner & rapidly increased the distance trist himself & his pursuers who perceiving this, sent his voice before him, loudly, bawling out "Cash, Cash, Stop him!"
The the Bushranger, fearing the people at the far end of the street would close that exit against him, drew a pistol & shot his tormentor through the head - so securing his escape for a time.
Jones in an encounter with the Police had both his eyes shot out & was captured, tried, & hanged; along with his partner Kavanagh.
Cash eventually was taken Tried & acquitted ( by a puzzle of LAw - which pronounced that, as the man whom he murdered in the street was not a Constable & proposed no Warrant, he had no right to stop the Bushranger & that Cash shot him in self defence!! Oh ye Judges & ye Lawyers!! Had this scoundrel been a Protestant, ye would most surely have hanged him till dead! As it was, Cash died peacefully in his bed at the advanced age of 78 years.
We now come to the Ruffians " Hill & MacKay". They had committed many robberies in the Lake Country; & last had murdered two of Mr Brsadribb's?? Shepherds. This outrage roused up the Authorities to offer a Reward of 500 pounds for the apprehension of the ????ius. But they for a time disappeared wholly from the neighbourhood of the Lakes. They plunged into the silent Wilderness, carefully eschewing all robbing of small huts, that their trail might not be heard of and, after threading the Forrest for some 150 miles in a circuitous direction, They at the end of many weeks found themselves in the Lachlan Park, adjoining the Lachlan Village. There they for the time halted in a secluded hollow (since known as the Murderers Glen).
But a man in my service named Grant ( a Deserter from the 42nd Highlanders) met them; misliked their aspect & determined to learn more about them. He learned their lair & was told by them that they had just escaped from Port Arthur. (exactly the contrary direction from that in which they had really come), that they were very foot sore, tired, hungry, & miserable ( quite true).
Grant cheered them up by promising to bring them in the evening, if they would remain quiet in their bivouac, a piece of salt pork, a damper, a fig or two of tobacco, & a Bottle of Rum- adding that, should any accident prevent his return, he would send them the provisions by his mate, whose name was "Riley".
(This he said to lull their suspicions, when he had to reappear with a second man).
The Grant posted away to me,obtained leave of absence for a couple of days, brought 2 bottles of rum, 2 bits of rope and an old Schi???am bottle (with a very little Gin in it just to make it smell plausable- the rest being pure water, & a small vial ( easily concealed in the cuff of his jacket, & the promised meat, & bread , & tobacco.
Towards night Grant duly accompanied by his ? Riley who seemed to be there merely to assist in carrying the large damper, & made his appearance in the Glen.
The eatables & drinkables were produced at once. And after carefully placing their fire arms within instant reach, the hungry Bushrangers set vigorously to work on the Pork and Damper. Nor did Grant forget to supply his guests with Rum ( which was of the strongest). While he and Riley ( affecting to prefer Gin) joined their ?? by drinkin their coloured water.
Presently when Grant saw that the frequent draughts of pure Rum were obfuscating the brains of the Bushmen, he adroitly turned the conversation to sporting affairs & asked what game his friends had met with in their long tramp from Port Arthur. Then he lamented that the Lachlan Park there was little running worth getting, save one ocassional wallaby & a few quail - where of he could ? secure any, being an indifferent shot, & ??? but a poor game?
Doubtless however, they had better luck, as their Double Barrels seemed of first rate quality. Then carelessly strolling, as if to examine the weapons he indifferently handled them one after another - craftily pouring into the mouths of each a spoonful of water from the little vial up his sleeve.
Presently a " cooey" was heard in the neighbouring Bush - answered by Grant with a corresponding "Cooey". And while the muddled villans in amazement started up seized their guns- Grant & Riley rushed them &, assisted with their third man, who now came into sight over powered & bound both the Tramps - without a drop of blood being spilled.
Grant & Riley placing the muzzles of the guns to the backs of the stupified villain who knew they were well loaded - but knew not that the charges were soaked - So drove them to Bournbank, 4 miles, & then to Goal 1 1/2 mile further.
The next morning they were presented to his Worship - Their guns & everything found in their pockets. They were in the first instance charged simply with being illegals, at large with having arms in their hands; & having intent to rob. They were on the point of being relocated to Hobart Town, & thence to Port Arthur on this comparitivly light charge, when Doctor Hall, the Government Surgeon of Hamilton, chanced to look in at the Police Office & gazing at the miscelanious scraps taken out of the prisoners pockets, his eyes were attracted by a Razor Case that he fancied he had seen before. On examination he remembered that it had belonged to one of Broadriff's men whom he had ?? attended for illness.
So the clue was at last obtained. Hill & MacKay had been in the comapny of the unfortunate shepherds. I was sitting on the Bench at the instant Doctor Hall made the discovery of the razor case. Hill & MacKay had been sullen, but part full og brag. But at that instant they saw " The handwriting on the wall" & their countenances fell. Their features became ashy pale.
They were at once committed on the charge of MURDER - ironed, hand cuffed, marched off between two loaded muskets to the Supreme Court in the Metropolis; there Tried, convicted, sentenced.
Yet even on the scaffold these Ruffians seemed determined to die "Game". While waiting for the Hangman to adjust the fatal noose, they by a preconceived signal broke into an Irish jig- Jigging and singing at the same time. Cheer mate! Cheer! we shall know the great secret yet before before any of these staring fools! ( alluding to the gazing crowd)
So perished Hill & MacKay. John Grant & his two chums got their 500 pound reward- & drank themselves out of the world!
The next Bushrangers that annoyed Bournbank were under the control of a man named "Hopkins". He with two others, contemplated a raid on these premises. But the Government knew they were out & believed they were in my neighbourhood. And so they sent a Constable to warn me.
Now it happened that Hopkins & his Gang were lying couched in some tall cutting grass close to my gates when the messenger arrived. They doubtless saw him and guessed his errand, & haply heard what ????
I asked him have they firearms? He did not know. Well, I said we will be ready for them. Probably these words made them cautious.
But I immediately repaired to the House, told my wife & children that we might have trouble, cleaned, loaded, & caped my rifle & pistols; skirred all through the orchard & garden & outbuildings; Then waited for the nightfall. I had every light carefully concealed & every door bolted - save a small postern, at the back of the premises - where I took my stand. I kept a small terrier at my feet, to assist me in looking out.
But the night wore away quietly, till half past 12. Then my little dog began to be uneasy;
& I had difficulty in keeping him from yelping. Then I became aware of stealthy footsteps near my station, & I thought the struggle was sure at hand. Buy - the marauders, seeing me on guard, altered their minds & resolved to bivoac?? on a small island in the river running below.
They had previously "Baled Up" my neighbour; robbing him of everything he had that was movable - money, ammunition,flour, meat, tea, sugar. & clothes. And, in then after traversing Bournbank in the dark, thay from time to time dropped portions of such plunder. The which fragments caused m3e to discover their trail. And I came to the solitary ait?? on which they had rested & caroused through the night. In the early morning where I found their bivoac, their camp fire was still burning.
I immediately gave account to the Police, who took up the pursuit and in a week the scoundrels were over taken, captured, tried, convicted, condemed, & sent to Port Arthur.
I fancy, if a clever Historian like "Boldrerrood" were to string together the doings of Brady, Hunt, Cash, Kavanagh, Jones, Hill MacKay, Hopkins, he would make for Van Diemans Land as startling a legend as "Robbery Under Arms" for Australia is all acknowleged to be.
Now farewell, dear Tired Sister ! I see you are weary of my murderous memories & experiences. But I trust you are not weary of receiving my assurances of my sincere and continued affection.