Saturday, June 19, 2010


Yesterday I met a great grandson of the lawyer who defended Jimmy Governor at his trial in Sydney.
He is the president of the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society.
The solicitor's surname was Boyce.
Coincidentally I met Boyce's descendant at talk about Aboriginal artefacts, including tomahawks.
He pointed out to me that the government did not have to give Jimmy a trial because he had been declared an outlaw.
This meant he could be shot or hanged on sight.
Why the government gave him a trial is yet another of the many questions to be put and hopefully answered in this forensic blog.
The Boyce descendent also told me that the solicitor's father, a prominent member of the Anglican clergy, had been the founder of Barker College at Hornsby.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Reading about the brutal attacks on the Wiradjuri people by the white settlers and police in the Bathurst district in 1842 has helped me understand the psychological legacy carried by Jimmy Governor.
The whites had tried their hardest to annhilate his people after taking their land and its sources of food.
Unlike the whites, the Aboriginal people did not view the land in economic terms, as a means to make money and to get rich quick.
Their hearts and souls were intricately attached to it.
The land was their way of life.
The land was who they were.
But then as now, 'might' was 'right'.

I've been reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes (1987) and have gained some insights into something else Jimmy would have been up against: being perceived as second class citizen as a farm labourer.
Because all the work on country properties was done initially by assigned convicts, native born white men shunned agricultural work because they did not want to be associated with 'them'.
This was despite the fact that many of their parents would have been convicts - 'them'.
Agricultural work was generally viewed within the colony as degrading.
As a result, a stigma against farm workers developed and may have still been in existence in Jimmy's time.
I have the impression that it was hard for John Mawbey to find labour to work on his properties.

Hughes says that the native born white men were also very 'clannish' and committed to 'mateship and class solidarity'.
Jimmy would have been excluded from white male society by this cultural factor too.
And also by the English class system that put everyone in their place, and which had also been 'transported' to Australia.

Monday, April 19, 2010


When I started this blog, I knew about the Fitzgerald family because I had lived in the Hawkesbury district where they were well known.
I wondered if Jimmy Governor's mother, Annie Fitzgerald, had been fathered by one of them.
None of my subsequent research found that she was.
Several convicts named John (Jack) Fitpatrick arrived in the colony, so one of them or one of their descendents may have been Jimmy's maternal grandfather.
I discovered that the Fitzgerald family provided a very interesting snapshot of life in the early colony of New South Wales.
For that reason I have kept the information I found about them and placed it on a separate page on this blog.
I am also providing some of this information here, to save any other researchers wasting time going down the same track.
Jimmy Governor was black and white ...
Jimmy, along with his five brothers and sisters, had Irish as well as Aboriginal blood flowing through his veins.
His mother, Annie, was the daughter of a full blood Aboriginal woman, Polly, and an Irishman, Jack Fitzgerald.
Jack was a stockman, according to Annie, who died before she was born.
Annie told police in 1900 that she had been born on Caigan station owned by a squatter, Andrew Brown, where her mother was a house servant.
She was raised by Polly and a male Aboriginal house servant, Henry.
Polly is said to have been a Wonarua woman from the Hunter Valley.
Caigan was on the Castlereagh River, about 10 miles from Mendoran.
Andrew Brown became very wealthy and was praised for his charitable activities.
[See: Governor family history page]
A wealthy Fitzgerald family owned properties in the Area ...
A convict who became a multi-millionaire after being transported to the penal colony, Richard Fitzgerald (1772-1840), owned large properties in the central-west of New South Wales, where Annie Fitzgerald was born.
He had arrived in Sydney with the Third Fleet and had three sons out of wedlock to his housekeeper, a married woman and fellow convict, Mary Ford, before marrying her in 1815.
The names of his three illegitimate sons were Richard Jnr (1805-22), Robert (1807-65) and John (1812-35).
Richard Snr was adept at managing people and found favour with a succession of governors who rewarded him with land grants.
Starting in 1824, he had acquired rich pastoral land on the other side of the Blue Mountains at Tongy (at Cassilis, later the township of Uarbry), Dabee (five miles east of Rylestone) and Wollar (a village near Mudgee).
The Fitzgerald family file in the Hawkesbury Library at Windsor reveals:
* In 1825 Richard Fitzgerald purchased 5000 acres of portion 1, Tungay, parish of Uarbry on Talbragar River, county of Bligh; [Perrett says it was given to him by Governor Bourke on 3-5-1825.]
* On 2 May 1830 Richard Fitzgerald said he had been on the Wollar land for about five years. [Perrett says the 1,000 acres in the parish Wollar in the county of Philip was given to him by Governor Brisbane on 28-2-1824]
* In September 1834, the Colonial Secretary's Office in Sydney recorded the sale of 790 acres to Richard Fitzgerald at Uarbry bordered by the Talbragar River;
* In 1838 Richard Fitzgerald had 25 assigned convicts on Wollar and three other holdings;
* In 1837, his son Robert Fitzgerald had 12 assigned convicts and one free man on his property, Mogadore, situated between the Talabragar River and Turee Creek;
The Fitzgeralds appeared to have a good relationship with Aboriginal people.
According to The Australian Dictionary of Biography's entry on Richard Fitzgerald: 'His republican and liberal sentiments taught him to treat the Aboriginals humanely, and they in turn led him to Tongy.'
It also says that in 1835, five years before his father's death, Robert Fitzgerald had done the right thing by the Aboriginal people when he had paid cash for the property, Yarraman to Bonegarley, 'King of Yarraman Plains'.
Robert Fitzgerald Snr left his properties, Dabee and Tongy, to his eldest illegitimate son, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald, aged 30. [Source: Perrett].
Because he was named after his father, he would have been known as 'Jack'.
When I discovered the existence of this illegitimate son of Robert Fitzgerald in the Fitzgerald family history by Susan Perrett, I thought he might just have been the father of Annie Governor (nee Fitzgerald).

But he did not die young.
Perett says he was one of the first graduates of the University of Sydney and was admitted to the Colonial Bar in 1860.
He never married and when he died in 1910 aged 74, left a fortune of $76 million (2003 exchange rate)!!
If Annie was born in 1844, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald would have been 9; in 1850, 15; and in 1857, 22.
Perett says he spent his life managing the 15 station properties the family owned.
It is possible he may have worked as a stockman for his father when he was a young man.
It seems that the only way of ascertaining whether or not he was Jimmy's maternal grandfather would be to DNA test descendents of the Fitzgerald and Governor families.
BUT ...
On the death certificate of ANNIE FREE (nee GOVERNOR) it is recorded that her father's name was JOHN.
Was it 'John' Fitzgerald, not 'Jack'?
Deaths of two men bearing the name John Fitzgerald are recorded in 1846 and 1854 in New South Wales.
Neither of these dates agree with Annie's story about him dying within the nine months before she was born (1844, 1850 or 1857).
In November 1840, a John Fitzgerald was a stock-keeper on a station called Yarrabembarra owned by a Mr Oakes.
This property was about 40 miles from Bathurst and 70 miles from the Lachlan River.
He had been a witness to a murder of the other stock-keeper there, John Dillon, by an Aboriginal man called 'Neville's Billy'.
Dillon, 31, had been speared while trying to shut the door to his hut to prevent the perpetrator from coming inside for food.
Perhaps Fitzgerald had decided to look for another job after this and found one at Caigan.
In October 1848, a John Fitzgerald had a property called Mylora (aka Grylora) on the Lachlan River.
AND ...
Richard Fitzgerald had a son named John, but he died in 1835 aged 23.
Annie died at Brewarrina in 1915.
She and her family had been forcibly moved there from Wollar near Mudgee during the murderous rampage of her two sons in late 1900.
Authors, Moore and Williams claim that she is buried on a property where the young Governor family once lived, with her young daughter.
This may have been Alice, Jimmy's older sibling
The NSW Births Deaths and Marriages has recorded in its registry a death of an ANNIE D GOVERNOR at Cootamundra in 1917.
The given name of her father is JOHN.
I do not know who she is, where she fits into the big picture.
Reference: From Convict to Millionaire - The Story of Richard Fitzgerald and family (2003), by Susan Perrett, self-published, Victoria.


In order to discover who the real Jimmy Governor was, I must find out more about his Aboriginal ancestry.
Jimmy is said to have been a Wiradjuri man.
The Wiradjuri are described as 'warriors' by Aboriginal people I have spoken to recently.
The only information I have been able to find about the Wiradjuri so far is on the Mudgee District Local History website
After perusing this website, I have learnt that the Wiradjuri nation covered a vast area in the central west of NSW.
Their first contact with white settlers was in the Bathurst area, who began to arrive in their territory after the crossing of the Blue Mountains.
At first the Wiradjuri people were peaceful towards the new arrivals.
But after they realised the intruders were taking their best hunting land and being disrespectful towards their sacred sites, they turned on them.
By 1824, an outright war between the blacks and whites had broken out with many retaliatory killings on both sides.
The then Governor, Thomas Brisbane (successor to Governor Lachlan Macquarie), declared martial law and permitted the Wiradjuri to be killed with impunity.
This 'open season' on Aborigines went on for four months, from August to December 1824.
This was the beginning of the end for the Wiradjuri.
By the time Jimmy Governor embarked on his own retaliatory 'pay back' campaign some 75 years later, his Wiradjuri relatives were living on a mission at Wollar.
But his battle was not about land rights.
It was about 'pay back', righting the wrongs done to him by other people, including members of his own extended Aboriginal family.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's a fact of life that we can all rub somebody else up the wrong way.
And that a group of women living together under the one roof can be bitchy, particularly towards other women they view outsiders, and not one of them.
Jimmy Governor's wife, Ethel Page, complained in court that she had been subjected to that type of mistreatment by the Mawbey women and the school teacher, Ellen Kerz.
These women had behaved badly towards a couple of other female school teachers who had boarded at Mrs Mawbey's house before Miss Kerz arrived.
In the case of Ethel Page, being a white woman living in a blackfellow's camp beside a creek would have been well and truly beyond the pale for women who viewed themselves as being well brought up 110 years ago.
But a couple of other female school teachers at Breelong had complained to the Department of Public Instruction about their ill treatment by Mrs Mawbey.
The first, who had boarded in Mrs Mawbey's house, had resigned on the ground of ill health because of difficulties she had experienced.
The second, a Miss Squires, moved out of Mrs Mawbey's house and went and lived with another family, much to the chagrin of Sarah Mawbey.
She was so put out, that she refused to supplement the salary paid Miss Squires by the Department of Public Instruction, as she and the other parents with children at the school were required to do.
The next school teacher, Mary Edwards, did not board at the Mawbey's at all and only stayed at Breelong for a short time.
I have been in a similar situation myself.
At the retirement village where I live, there is a small group of women who look down on me because they think I am not of the same social class as them.
They make it very obvious and therefore very hard to ignore.
So I can put myself in the shoes of Ethel Page, and to some extent, her husband Jimmy, who had to constantly bear these slights.
In those days there were no counsellors to go and talk to about it like there are now, to alleviate some of the resentment that builds up around being treated in this snobbish way.
Like Jimmy, I am part of a group that is generally looked down upon in Australian society, a public housing tenant, so this too gives me some understanding of his situation.
This is thought to have been the tomahawk that Jackie Underwood used to murder Sarah Mawbey and her son Percy, 14, and to permanently injure Elsie Clarke, 15, Sarah's younger sister. Percy's head was almost severed from his spine, and his mother's head was smashed in and part of her brain exposed.

The two Mawbey girls who were murdered by Jimmy Governor, Grace and Hilda, had their heads smashed in with an Aboriginal club called a nulla nulla. The school teacher who was boarding with the Mawbey family, Ellen Kerz, met with the same fate.

Update 30-3-11
Authors of The True Story of Jimmy Blacksmith (2002), Moore and Williams, say that before the murders at Breelong, Jimmy and Joe Governor had bought two tomahawks from a trader, Sam Ellis.
One was used around the camp, and the other remained in the possession of Joe.
The tomahawk in the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney is the one used around the camp.
It has marks indicating it had been used as a hammer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


In July 1900, an Aboriginal man, Jimmy Governor, embarked on a killing spree of women and children and old men that left the Australian populace shocked and terrified.
The killings were a form of 'pay back' aimed at his former employers whom he believed had mistreated him and ripped him off.
Around half a dozen books have been written about the 'true' story of Jimmy Governor, but the truth is in fact as elusive as the man himself . Jimmy led his hunters on a merry chase for three months after the first murders were committed, taunting them and treating them with scorn.
Three of the four people he initially murdered were my ancestors - my great grandmother Sarah Mawbey and three of her children, Grace, Hilda and Percy.
This early 21st century re-examination of what actually happened 110 years ago is dedicated to them.
May they rest in peace.
And may their killers, Jimmy Governor and Jacky Underwood, rest in peace too.
The story is not black and white.

Pamela Mawbey