Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A stare into the past - Bushranger shoot out at the Show ground.

As a family historian it was fabulous to be able to have a front row seat and stare back 150 years into Braidwood’s history as the infamous bushrangers Tom and John  Clarke were recaptured all over again amid a hail of bullets and gun smoke during a faithful re-enactment at the showground.

Luke and Tom Clarke admirably played the parts of their ancestors. Everyone I spoke to wanted to tell me how they were related to the Clarkes.  These guys had cousins they didn't know existed, like cockroaches they were coming out of the woodwork, claiming kinship to them and the bushrangers.

Australia’s worst and most troublesome bushrangers consisted of the Clarke boys, their relations the Connells, and other desperate individuals who periodically joined the maundering gang.
On a modern day resume the Clarke’s occupation in the early days would have read professional cattle duffers and illegal purveyors of stolen horses.  As time went on their activities escalated; they plundered publicans, storekeepers, farmers and travellers, they ambushed gold shipments, killed a policeman and they had no hesitation in killing any member of the gang suspected of being untrustworthy.

The Clarke brothers were children of the bush; with their superior horsemanship and knowledge of bushcraft they could dissolve into the surrounding country side without a trace. This was aided by an intricate web of family marriages; many people would harbour them and help with an extensive 'bush telegraph system'. They also ensured their safety from the law with threats of personal and property damage or a share in the spoils. That was until they were suspected of murdering four special policemen who were tracking them. Finally they were betrayed by their cousin for the huge reward money. 

The recreation of Tom Berry's slab hut where the Clarke Brothers were ambushed by police after being tipped off by their cousin Tom Berry

I wanted to buy this hut for our property but then so did everyone else in Braidwood. Unfortunately for those of us wanting to snap up a nifty slab hut full of character the builder, Terry Hart, who is related way back to Tommy Clarke's wife Charlotte nee Hart is re- erecting it on his own property. 

The re-enactment begins.
During the night the police surrounded the hut. Constables Wright and Walsh took the Clarke's horses so they couldn't escape.

At 6am when the Clarkes came out to saddle their horses the police opened fire upon them.

The Clarkes beat a hasty retreat back into the hut where they held off the police, until police reinforcements arrived.

Knowing their situation was hopeless they surrendered.  

The Clarke brothers were taken to Sydney for a trial lasting only one day and found guilty of intent to kill and the wounding of police officers, an offence carrying the death sentence.  

Chief Justice Sir Alfred Stephens on passing sentence listed their record, excluding suspected murders, as Thomas, nine mail robberies and thirty six robberies of individuals of all classes in two years; John, twenty six crimes in one year. He pointed out "the Clarkes were to be hanged, not as retribution, but because their deaths were necessary for the peace, good order, safety and welfare of society. Their fate was to serve as a warning to others".
Tom Clarke as Tommy Clarke                           Luke Clarke as John Clarke