My son is now eleven and thinks he’s a bit too cool for history. But not all is lost. Often I can get him interested in history without him even realising. Besides taking advantage of his confinement in the car when travelling through the Western District and imparting snippets of history to him, I know that I can take him anywhere historic if I can capture his imagination. I knew I could do that at the Port Fairy Cemetery in January. I was after some more headstone photos and the lure for Lachlan was the chance to see the grave of a bushranger.
The story of “Dick” the Bushranger unfolded just up the road from the cemetery, in front of the St Patrick’s Catholic Church on the Port Fairy/Yambuk Road, now known as the Princes Highway. We visited the church in 2014 and Lachlan took the following photo.
It was 12 February 1859 and the local constabulary had heard two bushrangers were approaching the town. With only three local mounted police, they split up to make sure all roads into town were covered. Constable Wigmore came face to face with the alleged bushrangers at 5.00pm near St. Patrick’s church. After some questioning, he attempted to arrest them and warned them he would shoot if they continued walking toward the town’s centre. One of the men refused and produced a pistol and Constable Wigmore felt he had no choice but to follow through with his warning and he shot the man. The following report appeared in The Age of 24 February 1859. Another report was published in the Geelong Advertiser of 23 February 1859.
The name of the dead man was not known. His companion, William Darcy, said he only knew him as “Dick” and said they had met at the Yambuk Hotel where they allegedly stayed the night before.
William Darcy was charged with highway robbery by Portland police in the days after, as reported in the Portland Guardian and Normanby Advertiser on 2 March and stood trial in May 1859. Darcy was found guilty and sentenced to five years hard labour for assault and highway robbery as reported by the Portland Guardian and Normanby Advertiser on 13 May 1859. Witness statements at the committal hearing published on 2 March would suggest both men were guilty and they didn’t support Darcy’s claim that he and “Dick” were at the Yambuk Inn, rather camped by the road. But many questions remain and it was only the word of the defendant against the two witnesses, that led to Darcy’s charges. “Dick” had no opportunity to give his side of the story.
A search of the Central Register of Male Prisoners at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV VPRS 515) found that William Darcy (no. 4481), a Presbyterian, was just twenty-three and had arrived in the colony alone and had no relatives in the colony. He was sent to Pentridge Prison. Beyond William Darcy’s personal information, there was little else to take from the file.
“Dick” was buried in the Port Fairy Cemetery in a grave marked with rocks. In recent years, an addition to the grave is a headstone, with the words “Did He Deserve This?”. I’ve been on one of Maria Cameron’s wonderful Port Fairy cemetery tours and she believes from her research, that “Dick” was Frederick, but the mystery remains as to his true identity.
The story of “Dick” the bushranger is unlike any other bushranger story I could share with Lachlan. As the dying man took his last breath, Lachlan’s gggg grandfather James Harman was present.
It was no surprise to learn that James and his brother, possible Jonathan Harman, were heading out of town toward Yambuk. Although I am yet to fully establish James’ movements from the time he disembarked from the Duke of Richmond at Portland harbour in 1854 until he arrived in the Byaduk area around 1861, I do know that James was first employed at Boodcarra between Port Fairy and Yambuk. I took this photo of Boodcarra from a moving car, simply because the road at that point is not good for stopping.
By 1859, James may have resided at Port Fairy, so he would be visiting Yambuk. A reason for a visit was to see good family friends and later extended family, the Olivers who were living at Yambuk around that time. Jonathan and Reuben Harman later married two of the Oliver girls. They were also church friends of the Harmans, another reason James, a Wesleyan Methodist local preacher, may have headed out the Yambuk Road. Perhaps there was a prayer session at a the home of another Wesleyan Methodist. When there was not a local Methodist church, gatherings were held at private homes, by candlelight, and often running late into the night. Whatever the reason, I am sure it was a trip James and his brother never forgot.
So mission accomplished, Lachlan learnt something of his family history and I got more headstone photos to add to my collection. You can see some of those photos in my two Port Fairy cemetery posts to date – Port Fairy Cemetery Part One and Port Fairy Cemetery Part Two.