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Bushrangers in Stoney Creek - Jacky-Jacky

Bushrangers in Stoney Creek - Jacky-Jacky

by Jim Jauncey

(reprinted from the Stoney Creek Gazette, Volume 2 No 4, April 1991)

One summer morning 150 years ago in the vicinity of the 11 Mile Turn-off on what is now Captains Flat Road, a 20 year-old convict levelled his pistol at a hapless traveller and demanded: ‘Stand, don’t move hand or foot, or I’ll blow your brains out’. Thus William Westwood alias ‘Jacky-Jacky’ graduated from part time thievery to full time bushranging. He was to roam the highways of NSW for less than four months but his exploits and engaging personality assured him a place in local history.

Aged 16, Westwood was sentenced in the Essex Quarter Sessions to fourteen years transportation for theft. This was not his first brush with the law: ‘I entered upon evil courses when young.’ He had recently completed a year’s sentence in Chelmsford Goal for robbery. He is recorded as being fine featured, 165cm tall, of small build with a ruddy complexion, brown hair and dark grey eyes. Unlike most convicts, he could read and write. Soon after his arrival in Sydney in July 1837, he was assigned to the service of Captain P.P. King, RN, to work on the property Gidleigh, located six kilometres southeast of Bungendore. Westwood arrived in his new home soon after New Year 1838 - he did not like it.

He found the work hard, the rations poor and his supervisor overly harsh. He absconded twice in 1839 and twice he felt the award of 50 lashes. In addition to the flogging by Queanbeyan’s ‘Official Scourger’ for his second attempt, he was also sentenced to six months on the brutal iron gang building roads whilst in chains. He gave up his escape attempts on his return to Gidleigh in favour of improving his situation by means of covert theft and armed robbery under the cover of darkness: ‘… I worked for (my master) in the day, but worked for myself in the night’. His amateur days came to a close in mid-December 1840, when one of his accomplices was arrested and turned informer. Jacky-Jacky promptly fled on foot for a mate’s camp in Primrose Valley.

His mate made him welcome and not long after that same night, they were joined by the bushranger, Paddy Curran. Jacky-Jacky convinced Paddy to take him on as a partner: “… I took his hand and said ‘here is my hand and my heart to go with you if you like’”. The next morning, they robbed a traveller near the 11 Mile Turn-off of 7 quid, his horse and, at Jacky-Jacky’s suggestion, his clothes - this was to be a peculiarity of Jacky-Jacky: he frequently exchanged clothes with his victims or just ordered them to strip. The partnership with Curran lasted only a couple of days. Curran attempted to molest one of their female victims during a raid on a homestead and Jacky-Jacky objected strongly. They went their separate ways. Curran was hanged in Berrima a few months later for the rape of a Bungendore woman.

In the fortnight remaining before Christmas 1840, Jacky-Jacky was active in Woden, Black Mountain, Jerrabomberra Creek, Queanbeyan and Bungendore. On Christmas eve with money in his pocket and mounted on a good horse, he sought the company of a friend near Bungendore to celebrate the holiday. The ‘friend’ warned the police and Jacky-Jacky narrowly escaped capture. After 2-3 weeks in the Braidwood area, he returned to his favourite haunt on Gibraltar Hill in Bungendore. On 13 January 1841, he visited another friend and had more than a few drinks. Unwisely, and against his friend’s advice, he rode to within a kilometre of Bungendore township where he rode up and down the road daring anyone to stop him. A party lead by Magistrate Nat Powell accepted the challenge and it wasn’t long before Jacky-Jacky was trussed and under guard in the old Harp Inn. Three months later he was tried by the first Circuit Court to be held in Berrima and sentenced to transportation for life (to Tasmania).
His luck still held as he managed to escape en route to Sydney during an overnight halt in Picton. His second and final spree as a NSW tobyman began with the robbery of a traveller at the foot of the Razorback on 2 May 1841. After a series of robberies in western Sydney he decided to make use of his recently acquired wealth by a visit to Sydney. He booked into a good hotel and proceeded to enjoy the amenities. But he was forced to curtail his holiday after a couple of weeks when be believed he had been recognized one night at the theatre. After a quick stop in Parramatta to steal a good horse, he headed towards Goulburn. He avoided the Police by stealing fast horses and frequently exchanging clothes with his many robbery victims. He bailed up the local Magistrate, the Yass Mail and the Sheriff of Goulburn. He apologised to the wife of the NSW Commissary-General for the inconvenience of robbing their coach and allegedly asked her to dance a quick jig with him at the side of the road. He returned to his haunt in Bungendore and robbed Nat Powell, his captor of five months previous. By now the Mounted Police were in close pursuit.

He threw off his pursuers by a feint towards Gundaroo when in reality he headed northwards. He raided a homestead in Marulan to replenish his supplies for a trek back to the bright lights of Sydney acquiring there not only victuals but also a young servant girl as companion for his few remaining days of freedom. The end came in mid July 1841 when he held up The Black Horse Inn, not far from Berrima. He foolishly put away his pistols in his haste to grab the money-box and his captives jumped him. One of these was a carpenter who promptly whacked Jacky-Jacky on the head with a shingling hammer. The next morning saw him back in Berrima Goal and the end to his bushranging adventures in NSW.

His next three years in Tasmania were equally eventful - frequent escapes and highway robbery followed by flogging and solitary confinement. After his seventh recapture, he was tried for robbery and sentenced to imprisonment for life on Norfolk Island. Six months after his arrival, he became involved in the bloody Norfolk Island convict riot of June 1846, which saw 4 prison officers brutally murdered and 12 convict participants sentenced to hang. Westwood clubbed at least one of the prison officers to death, the first and last time he used actual violence. He was hanged on 13 October 1846, aged 26 years.

Opinions vary on whether he was a ‘Robin Hood’ or just a ‘born loser’. If your curiosity is aroused there is an excellent little book titled ‘The Bushranger of Bungendore’ written by local historian Mr George Dick available in Bungendore or from the Queanbeyan Library (Call No 363-155 Dic). Mr Dick not only records William Westwood’s career but also what it was like to live here 150 years ago. A farewell written by the bushranger only days before his execution provides a poignant end to this summary:
“The strong tyes of earth will soon be wrentched, the burning fever of this life will be quentched, and my grave will be a haven a resten place for me Wm Westwood.”

story | by Dr. Radut