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Old Time Echoes.


(By Andrew Kinross)

Whilst trying to live an independent life, and to provide for those who were dependent upon me, I have adopted occupations that were distasteful to me, and have been ceprived of congenial society. In Melbourne in 1854 my brother John and I bought two horses, dray, harness, etc., for carting, chiefly to various goldfields. At that time there was so much horse-stealing that auctioneers ch(aroed 5 per cent. indemnity, in case they had to refund the price of stolen horses. On loth April we loaded our dray for Castlemaine —about 75 miles —tit '£42 a ton, putting about 14 cwt., besides horse-feed, on each dray. Our j horses proved staunch and sound, and though the weather was very wet and roads heavy, we made a fair trip. On the 4th May we loaded for Castlemaine at £77 a ton, cartage having risen £35 a ton in three weeks. On the morning of the 7th, when camped about 15 miles from Mel- , bourne John’s leader was missing, having been stolen. W ith extra labour and delay we delivered our loads with three horses, and on our return to Melbourne John bought another leader. At this time our brother Daniel arrived in Melbourne, and John and I paid him for a time to assist in watching the horses. For a few trips when returning I left the drays about 25 miles from Melbourne, and walked home after supper. When the horses had a few dais’ rest on good tied, my brother brought in the drays with firewood on. However, in spite of our watching, on the night of 17th April, 1855, John’s leader was stolen out of the yard in North Melbourne. On both occasions the most active horse was taken. John was so discouraged with the-hard luck that he sold his shatter, dray, etc. After John left the roads I never got a regular mate, and travelled mostly alone. Da.nkl and John were younger than I, but for many years 1 have not known whether they are living or dead. As the roads to the principal goldfields got metalled many carriers got wagg'ons and larger teams, thus earning more and being more comfortable. As I was always in hopes of getting oh the roads 1 did not in vest in a waggon, but in 185 7 I bought a strong Suffolk Punch horse for £52 10s. I got a light draymade for him, and a set of good harness with close collar and open bridle. Tom proved a most sensible horse at following, and I drove two horses in one dray and Tom in the other till I left Victoria. As bettor prices in proportion were given for carting goods to out of the way places I had many lonely journeys —the longest being to a station in N.S.W., 225 miles from Melbourne. 'As horse-feed was dear, I spent only short times in Melbourne between trips, and my life was nearly all work, little play, and no poetry. On the diggings and on the roads bushrangers and other had characters were numerous, and I often heard of travellers and carriers beingstick up. I was not molested till 25th July, 1861. When returning to Melbourne I camped in the Black Forest, about a mile beyond Woodend. It was a cold, windy night, and I drove off the roads into the shelter of some scrub. When I turned into bed I kept on my trousers and socks. I was awakened, and on looking out of the tilt I saw three men leaning on the shaft of the dray. At first I thought they were travellers, but when the man nearest me asked mo to lend him some money I saw they were bushrangers. I constantly encountered difficulties and dangers, so I thought I would scheme all I could before I gave up my money, and I replied that I did not lend money to strangers. I observed the speaker put his hand into his top-coat pocket, and I guessed he had a pistol. I had a pocket-book containing £24, and I slipped it under the horse-feed. When he withdrew his hand, with a pistol in it, ho said —"If you won’t lend me money, now give it to me!" He was so close to me that he had no occasion to extend his hand with the pistol. I handed him a purse with silver, and after ho looked in it he said—" Where is the rest of your money ?’’ I replied, "In my trousers," and handed him a pair. After he searched them he said —"There is no money here,” and I replied—"lt must have jfalien out."- He then said—-

"Get me a caudle till I "look for it," to which I answered, "The candle is in the pocket of the dray," which was tacked on to the shaft. "Jump down and get it,’" said he. "Let me put on my boots," I a’sked. As he said—" Jump down quick, or I’ll give you a rap with the butt of this," I obeyed him.

I thought if he had a light he would be sure to find it. So when I got the candle I thought I would chance a shot, and instead of handing it to him I kept it, turned sharply round the dray through the scrub, and ran quickly to the police-station. When the two constables saw it was a (genuine case, they accompanied me back to the drays. I found my poc-ket-book all right, with other articles piled on it.

Just a s I got on my socks and bools we hoard a shot. We made for the sound, and soon met the bushrangers making back. The two in advance stood quite still when they saw they were covered with revolvers but the leader, who was further off, bolted, through the scrub and escaped. Ho dropped a single-barrel pistol, which the constable got. No doubt the pistol went off accidentally when he was examining it. Next 'day the two bushrangers were tried in the . police court at Kyneton, and committed to the Supreme Court. When tried in Melbourne they were both sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. The constables were rewarded, and as I had only lost about 10s I had a lucky escape, After I left for New Zealand a detective called at my house in North Melbourne and said a prisoner was in custody, who answered the descrip ;tion I had given of the other bushranger, i but I never returned to identify him.

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Bibliographic details

Old Time Echoes., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 50, 9 February 1907

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Old Time Echoes. Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 50, 9 February 1907

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