Police and Bushranger descendants tour bushranger sites in district

Early Saturday morning at Garan Vale Woolshed, just prior to the departure of the 80-strong group on their day trip to tour the significant sites of the Connell and Clarke bushrangers.
Early Saturday morning at Garan Vale Woolshed, just prior to the departure of the 80-strong group on their day trip to tour the significant sites of the Connell and Clarke bushrangers.

Braidwood was overflowing with people during the weekend from visitors who had come to town for all sorts of events and celebrations.

The Police and Bushrangers Descendants who travelled from all over NSW and some from QLD came to enjoy the company of like-minded people and to learn more about the local Braidwood bushrangers and the policeman who were involved in their capture in April 1867.

The group was lucky to have many distinguished historians and authors who facilitated as commentators, guest speakers and experts.  This was a well-run event.

The group would like to thank Paul and Annette Briggs and family who spent many long hours scheduling and organising the experience. As a result, all of the participants enjoyed their time in the Braidwood District. Paul Briggs is a descendant of Lionel Pottinger, one of the Special Police sent after the Clarkes.

The group gathered at the Braidwood Services Club on Friday night for dinner followed by a briefing on the weekend and guest speakers from within the group before their early start the next morning.

About 80 people, including local guests, gathered at the Garan Vale Woolshed at 8.15am on Saturday morning ready to depart for their day tour of the significant sites of the Connell and Clarke bushrangers in the Ballallaba, Krawarree, Jinden and Kain areas of the district.

The first interesting site was the Clarke residence on the Cooma Rd adjacent to Brick Kiln Creek where Jack and Mary Clarke (parents of Tom and John Clarke) lived.  Peter Smith and Paul Briggs spoke and recited information about this site. Along the way Paul Hart provided information about several curious sites along the road, including Mrs Appleby’s store and house, the Willis homestead, Bendora and bridle tracks including the Rugby Track. 

The group viewed the Nithsdale homestead and the surrounding property where the oldest of the Clarke children were born, during the 1840’s. This was also the location of the local Ballallaba police Station. Along the road, the tour mangers pointed out the Coles, the Church, the school, the Berriman and Connells family home sites.  

The areas and locations of the Griffin brothers were also pointed out. These three brothers had substantial involvement in the Bushranging episode during the 1860s. 

The site of a well known and notorious landmark, ‘Michael O’Connell’s Traveller’s Home Hotel,’ opposite Jim O’Connell’s house was pointed out. A few stories were told and a visit to the Gundillion cemetery provided a few photo opportunities of Michael O’Connell’s gravestone. 

Morning tea was abundantly provided by the good hosts of the Deua Tin Huts. A few more stories were exchanged and were appreciated by all. 

The group was eager to travel to Khan Yunis to locate the site of Berry’s Hut where the Clarke bushrangers were finally taken by a small but dedicated group of troopers in 1867.

A substantial luncheon was provided by the Gundillion Progress ladies at the local hall. After a delicious lunch, the group travelled to Jinden to visit the property of Janette and John Hindmarsh where the temporary burial site and the site of the killing of the four unfortunate Special constables was pointed out to the large group.

On travelling back to Braidwood the tour travelled along the Jerrabatgulla Road visiting the house site of Michael Connell senior and ‘Gilston‘, the family home of the Hart family. This is where Charlotte Hart, the wife of Tom Clarke grew up and lived.  The group was bailed up by a couple of bushrangers who travelled on the bus to Braidwood ensuring that all travellers behaved themselves. 

On arriving in Braidwood a quick stop at the local Braidwood Cemetery allowed the group to visit the final resting place of the Four Specials. The large memorial that was built to remember them was regarded with much interest. 

On Saturday night a marvellous dinner and singalong was had at the Garan Vale Woolshed. Peter Smith led the vocals on several songs from the bushranging era to demonstrate how the community supported and even sympathised with the bushrangers during that chapter of Australia’s history, like this verse from the Kelly’s Byrne and Hart “..As high above the mountains so beautiful and grand, Our young Australian heroes in bold defiance stand, In bold defiance stand, my boys, the heroes of today, So let us stand together boys, and shout again, "Hurray!"”

The weekend was topped off on Sunday with an interesting tour of the local Historical Museum and a tour of the Bedervale Homestead.  Many thanks to Jill Clarke for her notes from the tour.