Friday, December 16, 2011

The Mudgee Guardian & Gulgong Advertiser has a recent report about an Aboriginal man who has been eluding police for around six years for alleged murder and rape, and who was recently sighted in an area in northern NSW where Jimmy Governor hid out.
It's a place called NOWENDOC which is near the town of Walcha.
The main road through the area is called Thunderbolt Way, named after another elusive 'bushranger' called Captain Thunderbolt.
The present day 'bushranger', Malcolm Naden, shot a police near his camp, wounding but not killing him.
Jimmy Governor and his brother Joe did the same when they were on the run.
A comparison with Jimmy Governor, who raped and murdered in 1900, is made in the Mudgee Guardian & Gulgong Advertiser story and can be viewed by clicking here:
Aboriginal man, Malcolm Naden, likened to Jimmy Governor
There is a reward of $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars, for information leading to Naden's capture.
Jimmy Governor had £1,000 on his head.
He was captured by a group of civilians, not the police, aided by the local 'bush telegraph' of farmers who were on the lookout for him.
Click on this link to see a Google Map showing what a perfect place NOWENDOC is to hide out Nowendoc, NSW
See the very good Wikipedia website on Nowendoc too at Nowendoc, Wikipedia
Please donate some money to Wikipedia if you are able.
They do a great job, sharing knowledge with the world for free.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


The State Library of NSW has kindly given me permission to establish a link to their slide show of a selection of photographs from the Holtermann Collection. Go straight there and take a look at them by clicking on the link in the left sidebar of this blog.
This photo of 'a girl's instution' taken in Gulgong in the early 1870s appears to me to be that of a home for very young unmarried mothers.
Some of the girls with small children, and others who appear to be pregnant, look like they have barely reached puberty.
The condition of the girls can be seen more clearly in the original photograph on the State Library of NSW's Holtermann Collection website.
They were all housed in a slab hut with a bark roof.
At the time this photograph was taken, Gulgong had a population of around 10,000.

Group outside a girls instution, Gulgong
Holtermann Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Australia
Digital order no.: on4_39062
Not to be copied without permission from the Mitchell Library

A bark house like this one was the cheapest form of housing in Gulgong during the early 1870s goldrush.

Bark house, Gulgong area
Holtermann Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Australia
Digital order no.: on4_38934
Not to be copied without permission from the Mitchell Library
This is a photograph of the hotel where English author, Anthony Trollope, stayed when he visited Gulgong in October 1871 - Selff's Sportsman's Arms Hotel.

Mayne Street showing group outside Selff's Sportsman's Arms Hotel
Holtermann Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Australia
Digital order no.: on4_39875
Not to be copied without permission from the Mitchell Library

Herbert Street, Gulgong
Holtermann Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Australia
Digital order no.: on4_38863
Not to be copied without permission from the Mitchell Library

Monday, December 5, 2011


I gratefully acknowledge permission from the Mitchell Library and State Library of NSW to publish some photographs of the NSW goldmining town of Gulgong from the Holtermann Collection taken during the goldrush in the early 1870s.
They were taken by English photographer Henry Beaufoy Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss, and commissioned by successful goldminer and merchant, Bernard Otto Holtermann.
Fortunately they had the foresight to see the importance of documenting such an important event in Australia's history.

Panorama of Gulgong from Church Hill
Holtermann Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Australia
Digital order no.: on4_38955
Not to be copied without permission from the Mitchell Library
Ethel Page's parents moved to Gulgong some 20 years after this picture was taken, between 1893 and 1897.
Good quality gold was still being found in Gulgong in October 1889, and payable gold was discovered there in May 1896.
In September 1895, there was a goldrush at nearby Yamble.
This may have been what made Ethel's father move to Gulgong, plus the greater prospects of work for a labourer in a rapidly growing town.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Back in the early 1870s, an English travelling photographer set out to photograph every town in New South Wales.
His name was Henry Beaufoy Merlin (aka Murlin) and he lived up to his namesake in the magical way he portrayed his subjects.
In 1872 he was commissioned by wealthy goldminer and merchant, Bernard Otto Holtermann, to document the goldrush town of Gulgong.
At that time Gulgong was just three years old but already a boomtown with numerous hotels, several theatres, a circulating library, coffee rooms, a Chinese boarding house, and a 'shaving, shampooing and hairdressing salon'.
This wonderful collection of glass plate photographs is held by the State Library of NSW and I am hoping to obtain permission to publish some of them on this blog.
The photographs of the housing stock clearly demonstrate the socio-economic pecking order that existed in Gulgong from its earliest days.
Ethel Governor (nee Page) said she lived in a 'house' with her parents and siblings there.
This was a step above living in a tent which some families did, particular labourers like her father.
The lowest form of housing was a bark hut followed by a slab hut made out of rough hewn pieces of trunks of trees.
Next came the weatherboard with the house made entirely from wooden planks.
If the owners of bark or slab huts came into the money, and did not want to move, they could have a weatherboard facade placed around their original homes.
The next step up was having a house built on pillars which raised the floor and helped keep snakes out and cool the inside in summer.
The poshest house in Gulgong was on pillars, rendered, and with a shingled roof and verandah.
Fences also appear to have been status symbols with a picket one the most desirable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another poem by Henry Lawson indicates how Aboriginal people were viewed by white Australian society in 1897.Here are some excerpts from a poem about the first school Henry attended near his home at what is now Eurunderee (formerly Pipe Clay Creek) when he was 9.

The Old Bark School
by Henry Lawson
And we learnt the world in scraps from ancient dingy maps
Long discarded by the public schools in town;
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook
Our geography was somewhat upside-down.

And Ireland! that was known from the coastline to Athlone,
But little of the land that gave us birth;
Save that Captain Cook was killed - and was very likely grilled -
And "our blacks are just the lowest race on earth".


It has just struck me that Ethel Governor must have been heavily pregnant when she was verbally abused by a woman at the Gulgong Show.
According to newspaper reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the show was held on Friday and Saturday, 7-8 April 1899.
Ethel gave birth to her first child, a son Sidney, on Sunday 9 April 1899.
Being conspicuously pregnant to the part-black man she was with at the show, and at age 16, would have drawn more attention to her than normal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Henry Lawson, one of Australia's greatest poets and a voice of the 'common man', wrote a poem about snobbery which seems very relevant to my recent posts.
Coincidentally he grew up in the Gulgong area, on a 'selection' owned by his parents at a place now called Eurunderee, 8km north of Mudgee.
He left the district in 1882 when he was 15.
This was the same year Ethel Governor (nee Page) was born at Gloucester near Kempsey on the north coast of New South Wales.
If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine
by Henry Lawson
If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine,
If you hint of higher breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you're proud because of fortune or the clever things you do --
Then I'll play no second fiddle: I'm a prouder man than you!

If you think that your profession has the more gentility,
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I'm shabby while your clothes are spruce and new --
You have only got to hint it: I'm a prouder man than you!

If you have a swell companion when you see me on the street,
And you think that I'm too common for your toney friend to meet,
So that I, in passing closely, fail to come within your view --
Then be blind to me for ever: I'm a prouder man than you!

If your character be blameless, if your outward past be clean,
While 'tis known my antecedents are not what they should have been,
Do not risk contamination, save your name whate'er you do --
`Birds o' feather fly together': I'm a prouder bird than you!

Keep your patronage for others! Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal -- let me see that you are true,
And my wall of pride is shattered: I am not so proud as you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Retta Dixon, whose name Ethel Governor gave to her and Jimmy's second child, appears to have been a missionary with the Australian Inland Mission.
In March 1899 it was reported that she had been on a trip to Shoalhaven with Mrs Timbury, and it appeared that both of them were connected with the La Perouse Aboriginal Mission.
AIM was very active on the south coast, and it is possibly through Retta that Ethel met her second husband, another part-Aboriginal man, Francis Brown.
Retta Dixon ministered to Ethel's first husband, Jimmy Governor, while he was in Darlinghurst Gaol before being hanged.
One of the female members of the Long family who started the Australian Inland Mission was also named 'Retta'.


In the play, Posts in the Paddock, Ethel and Jimmy, like most newly married couples, just want to be together all the time and live happily ever after.
But the negative attitude towards a white woman marrying a black man which prevailed in Victorian times worked against them. 
This was not just the case in Australia, but in the USA as well.
Katherine Ellinghaus, in her book Taking Assimilation to Heart (2006), devotes an entire chapter to white women married to Aboriginal men, in particular Ethel and Jimmy Governor.
She starts out by quoting from an Australian book on marital advice published in 1900 which advises its middle class readers against marrying a man from 'a lower race'.
This includes a 'Negro, a Hindoo, a Chinaman' and 'an Australian black'.
In parts of the United States at that time it was illegal for a black man to have a sexual relationship with a white woman.
While being from different racial backgrounds was not an issue for Jimmy or Ethel, it was for many of those who came into contact with them after their marriage.
Dr Ellinghaus is currently a Monash Fellow in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University in Victoria.
She has a PhD from Melbourne University and is currently doing further research on assimilation in Australia and the USA.

Monday, November 21, 2011


In The Breelong Tragedy by Alan Sinclair, the author claims that a woman at the Gulgong show in April 1899 called Ethel a 'slommack' for marrying a 'darkie'.
I had never come across that word before, so I just looked it up on the internet.
The first reference to it I found was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary which defines it as 'an awkward, uncouth or slovernly person'.
Then I discovered the word had been used by our own Australian feminist, Germain Greer, in a piece about gender roles in house-cleaning in her book The Whole Woman.
She says that a man who is slovenly and untidy is considered normal; the woman who is, either a slut or a slommack or a slovern or a slag. [Source: Daily Times, Pakistan, 27 January 2010]
I can see why Jimmy reported the woman at the show to the police, and had her make a public apology to Ethel in the local newspaper.
The website Legends of suggests 'slommack' is a word from the Old West meaning 'prostitute, floozie, slut or dirty untidy woman'.
There were American miners at the Gulgong goldfields and they may have introduced the word into the local vernacular.
Internet Archive ( reveals that the word 'slommack' was part of the south-east Worcestershire dialect in England in the 1890s as a verb meaning 'to shuffle along in an idle ungainly manner'. Another reference on that website suggests it was also one of the dialectic words of the counties of Northampton and Leicester.


Gulgong, the gold mining town where Jimmy married Ethel in 1898, had a distinct social pecking order.
A unique insight into this is given by the British novelist, Anthony Trollope, who visited the town in 1871, 27 years before Jimmy and Ethel married there.

Gullgong [sic] was certainly a rough place ... but not quite so rough as I had expected.
There was an hotel there, at which I got a bedroom to myself, though but a small one, and made only of slabs ...
Every habitation and shop had probably required but a few days for its erection ...
Everything needful, however, seemed to be at hand.
There were bakers, butchers, grocers, and dealers in soft goods.
There were public-houses and banks in abundance.
There was an auctioneer's establishment ...
There was a photographer, and there was a theatre, at which I saw the 'Colleen Bawn' acted with a great deal of spirit ...
After the theatre a munificent banker of the town gave us an oyster supper, at a supper-room ...
I was charmed to hear that a few nights before there had been a most successful public ball.
But I was distressed to find that there had been some heart-burning.
Where was the line to be drawn in reference to the ladies?
The postmistress would not attend the ball unless the barmaids were excluded. The barmaids - I think very properly - were admitted, and the postmistress, who enjoyed the reputation of being the beauty of Gullgong, remained at home.

Ethel bore the brunt of this social snobbery after she married a black man, Jimmy Governor.
But that's the way things were, and still can be, in Australian country towns where people appear to be more concerned about their social status and reputations than in the city.


Peak Hill is directly west of Mudgee, and roughly half-way between Parkes and Dubbo.
Tomingley, the site of a gold rush in the 1890s, is north of Peak Hill.
It would have been Wiradjuri country.
See Google maps


When the elderly Jacky Porter was apprehended by police at put in a lock-up for the Mawbey murders, it appears that it was subsequently decided that he was too old to have been involved.
But the following newspaper article sheds new light on his level of fitness.

The Peak Hill Express, 31 October 1902
Jacky Porter who was acquited in connection with the Breelong murders is now among the shearers in Tomingly [a black's camp] who have been enjoying a high old time there for some weeks past.
It was reported during the week that a blackfellow had been murdered there.
On enquiry, however, it was found that the supposed murdered man was "Jacky" who had been quarrelling with another blackfellow, and had been rather severely dealt with.
[Source: Australian Indigenous Index, State Library NSW]


Yesterday while doing research at the Mitchell Library I found Peter Porter, a brother of Jimmy Governor's father or mother.

Our Aim, 1 December 1921
God Answers Prayer - Peter Porter
Death of Peter Porter, "the poor little deformed uncle of Jimmy Governor".
[Source: Aboriginal Inland Mission, Australian Indigenous Index, State Library NSW]

Earlier that year, Peter Porter had accompanied one of the female missionaries as her assistant on visits to Dandaloo and Taree.

Jacky Porter, an old man, was at the Governor camp at Breelong at the time of the Mawbey murders.
So was Jacky Underwood was also recorded as a 'Porter' in a police report.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Posts in the Paddock is a new play about Jimmy Governor which includes the Aboriginal perspective for the first time.
The idea came from a descendent of the O'Brien family, three members of which were murdered by Jimmy and Joe Governor at Merriwa in the Hunter Valley.
Three years in the making, it sounds like it will be a fabulous production and well worth seeing.
Posts in the Paddock will be staged at the Performance Space at Carriageworks (the old railway workshops near Newtown) from Wednesday 9-19 November.
Tickets are $30, concessions $20 and are available now.
For further information see

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My old computer, a HP Compaq, died two months ago after seven years of faithful service.
It was like an extension of my brain which shut down too.
I seem to have lost several IQ points since.
Hopefully they will return once I start blogging again.
Lots of very interesting news to report.
Be back soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I have now read all the major books written about Jimmy Governor, beginning with the one written by Frank Clune in 1959.
I will be reviewing each one here over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, July 4, 2011

This is the latest book about Jimmy Governor, published in 2009.
Each book that has been published about him since Jimmy Governor - the true story by Frank Clune in 1959 has revealed more information.
It is my view that there is still more to come out.
See other book titles about him under 'XTRAS' on this blog's sidebar.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


This poster of a ghostly Aboriginal figure is on the back of the door leading outside into the area where Jimmy Governor was hanged in January 1901. 
It depicts the Aboriginal painting technique of 'x-ray art' showing bones and joints, and the figure's head is painted white which is a sign of mourning.
When I saw it I was shocked, like there was something paranormal about it being there.
Had it been put there by someone who knew about Jimmy Governor as a tribute to him, or was it simply 'coincidence'?
For the last couple of months I have been haunted by the ghost of Jimmy Governor at home.
The first time he came he was angry about me putting pictures of the tombstones of all those he murdered on my blog for the world to see.
He also expressed remorse for what he had done to my ancestors, the four he had murdered at Breelong.
I smoked my house with eucalyptus leaves to try and remove his spirit, and this seemed to work for a while.
Then on the night after I took the photo of this Aboriginal figure, he came back.
He was angry like before.
There is definitely something 'karmic' happening between me and him.
Hopefully it is to do with healing.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Before Jimmy Governor went to the gallows at Darlinghurst Gaol, he was regularly visited by the resident Church of England chaplain, Retta Dixon.
The gaol's place of worship was a chapel located inside a round building in the centre of the radiating residential and service 'arms' of the prison.
Its centrepiece was three leadlight windows depicting the New Testament story of the prodigal son who after confessing his wrongdoings and repenting was forgiven by his loving father.

The words written on an open scroll at the top of each window are:

I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentence.

Above the three windows is a painted white dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the words:

Glory to God in the highest.

Prisoners at the gaol attended church services in this circular building.
It originally had an extra floor which was used to segregate the prisoners on the basis of gender. The female prisoners were seated on one level and their male counterparts on the other.
The Prodigal Son with his Heavenly Father

While incacerated in a condemned man's cell, Jimmy had angrily complained that the chaplain was trying to 'push' him instead of 'leading' him to his Heavenly Father.
But his wife Ethel must have liked the chaplain because she gave her daughter who was born about six weeks after Jimmy's death her name: Thelma Violet Hazel Reta Governor.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


While wading through stacks of newspaper articles about the Jimmy Governor story, I've come across points that have not been examined by other authors writing about this subject.
One that struck me was a statement Ethel Governor made in her evidence at the inquest into the deaths of Ellen Kerz and the three Mawbey children held at Gilgandra.
Ethel said:
Jimmy never accused me of being familiar with any of the Mawbey boys.
At the time I read this, about six months ago, I thought: Why would she say that?
She was obviously sexually precocious, judging from her under age pregnancy with Jimmy, and her competitive behaviour towards other girls who were interested in him.
Then yesterday I found a book I had d heard of but had not yet read: The Life of Jimmy Governor - The true story behind The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith by Brian Davies.
This author provides some information I have not come across before, that in view of Ethel's comment at the inquest, appears very relevant.
Davies reports that on the day of the murders at Breelong, Ethel had gone to the Mawbey home to ask for rations.
She arrived at the back door around midday, just at the Mawbeys were sitting down to lunch. Politely or provocatively one of the Mawbey boys suggested, to Ethel's astonishment, that she should join them. Sarah Mawbey rounded on the boy fiercely, outraged. [Source: The Life of Jimmy Governor by Brian Davies, Ure Smith (div. Paul Hamlyn), Dee Why West (Sydney), 1979, p55.]
Mrs Mawbey and the schoolteacher, Ellen Kerz, then turned on Ethel and she left the house empty-handed, without the flour and sugar so desperately needed back at the Governor camp.
An armed Jimmy equipped for murder and on the warpath went back to demand these rations again later that night.

So who was the boy who invited Ethel to lunch in the presence of his mother?
The Mawbey's eldest son, John, 20, was in Sydney and he was smitten with the schoolteacher who had been at Breelong before Miss Kerz, Mary Edwards.
The second eldest boy, Reginald, 18, was the same age as Ethel.
Percy, 14, was the next in line and he was the only boy in the family who was brutally murdered.
The boy who made the lunch invitation to Ethel may have simply felt sorry for her because she had no food.
Ethel may have mistakenly read sexual connotations into the invitation.
She claimed that her husband Jimmy had never accused her of flirting with any of the Mawbey boys, but this does not mean that she was not doing so.
Unfortunately Mr Davies does not provide the source of his information about what happened at the Mawbey house at lunchtime on the day of the murders.
But this aspect of the story is supported by another author.
Knowledge of this incident makes what happened later in the day more understandable.
It confirms that the Breelong murders did not just happen out of the blue - that Jimmy simply lost his head in a fit of rage on that fateful night - but were part of a sequence of related events.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 23 July 1900
Victims Horribly Mutilated.
Terrible wounds were inflicted on the victims.
Hilda Mawbey, who was killed, has a bruise on the corner of the left eye, a bruise on the forehead and over the left eye, and her skull is broken in behind the left ear.
Percy Mawbey, also killed, had a cut through the right ear and a cut 3 inches wide across the right side of the neck, penetrating the vertebrae column to the neck.
His skull was also fractured to the right ear; he has a wound on the back part of his head, a fracture on the crown of the skull, a cut across the back part of his head and a bruise on the forehead.
Miss Kerz, also found dead, had two bruises extending from the left ear to within an inch of the mouth, and both jawbones were broken.

There was a bruise across the right eye extending back to the ear, a wound on the left temple, and the skull was broken in about 5 inches over the left ear.
The other victims who are still alive are Mrs Mawbey who had the back of the skull fractured and head and arms hacked about with a tomahawk, a large gash across the back of the neck and several other wounds.
Grace Mawbey is unconscious, and has her forehead broken in over the eye, and other wounds.
Elsie Clarke has several wounds about the head, and is also unconscious.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 23 July 1900
Tragedy Near Gilgandra.
Family Attacked by Aboriginals.
Four persons brutally murdered.
Horrible injuries to others.
Recovery regarded as hopeles.
Lucky escape of a child.
Scene of the murder.
Fiendish cruelty.
Gilgandra Saturday ... Later.
The scene of the murder baffles description.
Percy Mawbey's head is nearly severed from his body by a blow on the neck, apparently from a tomahawk.
Miss Kerz was wearing a flanelette nightdress, and the stick that she was killed with, which is an aboriginal weapon not unlike a nulla-nulla, is covered with blood and the fluff from the night dress.
The door of the room where the females slept was smashed in with a tomahawk.
As soon as the inmates woke and saw the blacks, Miss Kerz and Grace Mawbey rushed outside towards where the men were sleeping, about three-quarters of a mile away.
The two girls were probably running hand in hand when they were overtaken and knocked down with sticks and a tomahawk.
The little boy, aged about 8, who was concealed under the bed, heard some of the blacks say, "There is one more boy yet: we must get him."
A black who was posted outside the door then sang out with an oath,"Sail into them, Jack: don't give any of them a chance: bash all their brains out."

Saturday, June 4, 2011


John and Sarah Mawbey
John Thomas Mawbey had run a wood store in Mudgee for six years before taking up a selection of farming land at Breelong in 1883.
He had met Sarah Clarke there and married her in the local Anglican church in 1875.
Coincidentally this was the same year Jimmy Governor, the Mawbey family's future nemesis, was born further north near Denison Town.
John had been born at Castle Hill, a farming area on the north-western outskirts of Sydney, in 1849.
Sarah had been born at Castlereagh on the Nepean/Hawkesbury Rivers, another farming district about twice the distance north-west of Sydney as Castle Hill, in 1856.
John and Sarah were what had been known in the early days of the convict colony as 'currency' lads and lasses in that they were the first generation of their families to be born in Australia.
Both had English parents.
John's were George Mawbey and Ann Williams and Sarah's were Robert Clarke and Elizabeth Smith.
Gold was discovered in the Mudgee area in 1851, when John Mawbey was two, and it is said his parents moved there because of that.
But none of his five siblings born between 1851 and 1862 are registered as being born there.
So how and when he arrived in Mudgee is still a mystery.
What is known is that in 1878, three years after his marriage, he began leasing a wood store in Market Lane.
His surname is recorded in the rate books as 'Mowby'.
He operated this business for six years, then moved with his family his farm at Breelong on the Castlereagh River.
John and Sarah's first child, John Thomas Jnr, was born in Mudgee in 1880.
The next, Reginald, was born there in 1882 and Grace, the first of their two daughters, in 1884.
Their other six children, five boys and one girl, were born at Breelong with their births registered at Coonamble.
The youngest child, Garnet, was born in 1896.
When Jimmy Governor, his wife Ethel and their eight-month-old son, Sidney, arrived at Breelong in January 1900, the Mawbey family had just moved into their new house.
Until then they had been living in an old inn about a mile away.
Mr Mawbey, two of his sons, and a brother of his wife were sleeping over there on the night of the murders.
One of the neighbouring farmers had applied to have a school established in the area in 1884, around the time the Mawbeys moved there.
Eight years later, in 1892, the local families had finally been sent a teacher, but she taught 'house to house', not in an actual school.
Four of these teachers, all female, boarded with the Mawbeys, including the last one, Helen Kerz, who was murdered by Jimmy Governor.
The parents had built a schoolhouse in 1893, but it had been rejected by the Department of Public Instruction.
It had been upgraded with the addition of a verandah and a 400 gallon water tank which hopefully would gain it approval just before the murders.
So it would appear that the Mawbey family were very busy.
Sarah was running a household consisting of a husband, nine children ranging in age from 21 to 4, three relatives (her younger sister who she was bringing up after their mother died, a brother and her husband's nephew) plus a boarder (the schoolteacher).
She had to prepare food, cook, wash clothes, do the shopping, clean the house - all without the benefit of today's modern conveniences.
Sarah also appears to have been in charge of paying the bills and keeping the family's accounts.
Then there were other everyday hassles a wife and mother, daughter, sister and aunt had to deal with like when the children got sick, and when her widowed father drowned in the river while he was staying with her.
The availability of Ethel Governor to assist her with the housework three days a week must have been very welcome.
It has been said that Ethel was not paid for this work, but I have seen nothing official either way to confirm or deny this.
I would have thought it was up to her and Jimmy to negotiate a wage for this work.
They were in a superior negotiating position because Mrs Mawbey very much needed domestic help.
John Mawbey would have had his work cut out running the farm.
Labour was hard to get, and most of his sons were still too young to do farm work, so he would have had to do the bulk of it.
I am not sure what crops he was growing, but I think it was wheat.
It has been said that John Mawbey held a publican's licence for the old Breelong Inn where his family originally lived, but I have not been able to find any evidence of that.
He was, however, the receiving officer for the post office at the inn which was established there in 1894.
This meant having to get the mail ready every Sunday to go to the nearby town of Mendoran.
He also appears to have had a store in one of the rooms of the inn.
The reason he was sleeping at the inn on the night of the murders, and not in the family home, was that he wanted to get up early the next morning, a Saturday, to start bagging the wheat.
The only workers he had to assist him were members of his family - sons Reginald, 18, Percy 14, Sydney, 13 and brother-in-law, Fred Clarke, 28.
His eldest son, John Jnr, 20, would have been there too, but he had allowed him to go to Sydney to enlist in the army to go to the Boer War.
It seems to me that both Sarah and John Mawbey would have been far too busy with their own affairs to have any inkling or understanding of what was going on in the minds of Jimmy and Ethel Governor and their four Aboriginal visitors at their camp some three and a half miles away.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I'm starting to wonder if Jimmy was being paid enough for his family to live on by his employer John Mawbey.
According to Moore and Williams (p.25), Jimmy was to be paid 10 shillings for cutting and sizing 100 fence posts, 10 shillings per 100 for boring the holes and 12 shillings per 100 for erecting the posts.
By the end of June, when he had been working there for six months, he had erected 1000 posts.
If he was getting 320 shillings, or one pound 12 shillings sterling, for 100, he was owed 3200 shillings, or 10 pounds 12 shillings, for 1000.
There were 20 shillings to a pound and 12 pence to a shilling.
Six months work translates to 24 weeks and when 3200 shillings is divided by this amount, he would have been earning around 133 shillings, or 6 pounds 7 shillings a week.
A member of my family history group told me that when the basic wage was was set in 1911, it was 7 pounds 7 shillings.
This amount was deemed to allow labourers to live in 'comfortable poverty'.
So the amount of money Jimmy was being paid by Mr Mawbey 11 years earlier appears to have been a fair wage.

Update 5-6-11
I ought to have divided the 3200 shillings by 26 weeks instead of 24.
This result gives Jimmy 6 pounds 15 shillings a week and 320 pounds per annum.
But this does not add up, is not correct, because he was only entitled to 21 pounds 4 shillings for the complete job, no matter how long it took him.
Maths is not my strong point so I will have to get someone who is more mathematically literate to look at this.
I will also find some wage comparisons, like the one below, and examples of the cost of living, to put what Jimmy was getting into context.
In 1898, the Department of Public Instruction (Education), had made a provisional school's teacher's salary 9 pounds per annum, plus 4 pounds 10 shillings per pupil.
Mrs Mawbey had taken umbrage with the teacher who was at Breelong at the time, and wrote a letter to the department asking how much she was meant to be paid (see below).
The amount of 63 pounds she mentions would be the teacher's base salary plus additional payment for 14 students.
If there were less than 14 students, the parents had to make up the difference to her salary.
The previous school teacher who was there from 1892-1897 had only been paid 5 pounds per annum.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Prior to committing the Breelong murders, Jimmy had responded to personal slights by using the white legal system.
When a woman had put he and Ethel down at the Gulgong Show, Jimmy had gone to the police about it.
The offender was then made to have an apology published in the local newspaper.
And when Mrs Mawbey began putting he and Ethel down at Breelong, Jimmy spoke about taking her to court.
So why did he resort to the Aboriginal customary law of pay back instead?
He may have been pressured into doing so by his full-blood 'uncle' and elder, Jacky Porter.
The word 'pride' is oftened used today by Aboriginal people and appears to be very important to them.
Jimmy's Aboriginal pride had been dealt savage blows by both Mr and Mrs Mawbey, by the former's token payment for 100 unsatisfactory fenceposts and the latter's putdowns of him as relayed by his wife, Ethel.
Jacky Porter may have pointed out that it was not only Jimmy's pride that had been trampled upon, but theirs too as part of his family, and also his 'tribe' (clan) and his nation.
Porter's presence at Breelong may have had something to do with the death of Jimmy's father.
Tommy Governor died in May 1899 and Jimmy's younger brother, Joe, together with a full-blood Aboriginal man, Jacky Underwood, came to visit him in June.
The purpose of their visit may have been to bring Jimmy the news about his father.
They then planned to go to Coonamble to see an 80-year-old 'uncle', Jacky Porter, possibly to do the same thing.
Jimmy invited them to come back and stay with him for a while, and to bring the elder tribesman with them.
Coonamble was roughly half-way between Gilgandra, the closest town to Breelong, and the place where the Castlereagh River joined the Barwon River.
It took about eight days for the return trip on foot.
While Jimmy may have not wanted to rock the boat with the Mawbeys because they were his employers, Jacky Porter would have seen the situation from a very different perspective.
So too would have Jacky Underwood whose real name according to a police telegram was Jacky Underwood Porter.
In 1900 he was said to be aged 38, so he could have been the elder's son or grandson.
Jacky Porter Senior brought with him Jimmy's young nephew, Peter Governor, said to be aged 10 or 11.
One newspaper article said he was actually 15 but small for his age.
Peter may have been the son of one of Jimmy's three older siblings, possibly the eldest, Tommy Jnr, who was no longer living.
Perhaps he had been sent to the old man when his father died, or for initiation.
An elder charged with upholding the respect of his people may have had no hesitation in urging Jimmy to avenge his family, his clan and his country.
In my view, this is the best explanation so far of why the murders occurred.
But it is just speculation, and there were other factors involved ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011


On the surface, Jimmy appears to have been on a pretty good wicket working for the Mawbeys.
He had guaranteed 12 months work which would earn him over 52 English pounds.
[Update 5-6-11. He could earn a maximum of 21 pounds 4 shillings, not 52 pounds.]
In other words, more than one pound a week.
On top of that he was given free regular rations of sugar, flour and meat.
He did not bother much with the latter, prefering to catch his own.
Other food like milk, butter, tea and fruit and vegetables had to be purchased from the Mawbeys in advance of his first salary which was due to him after half of the job had been completed.
Mr Mawbey had extended the hand of friendship to Jimmy, inviting him to play cricket with his sons, on the cricket ground near the old Breelong Inn.
He also lent his wife a horse and saddle to ride to Dubbo to collect her infant son from her parents and bring him to his new home.
But there was a constant underlying tension created by the uppity women in the Mawbey household.
They openly discriminated against the young couple, giggling at Jimmy, and at his infant son, and asking Ethel very personal questions about her husband's sexuality.
Ethel was constantly whinging to Jimmy about it, but he had turned a deaf ear.
It appeared that he did not want to have any confrontations with his employer that might result in him being sacked.
Then the four Aboriginal men arrived in the camp and things suddenly changed dramatically.
In less than a month they had eaten Jimmy out of house and home.
They were there at his invitation so he had to extend hospitality to them.
But his salary was only designed to feed two people, not six.
He had only invited them to stay for a couple of weeks and their time was almost up.
Meanwhile, Mr Mawbey had found fault with 10 per cent of the 1000 fence posts Jimmy had installed and at first refused to pay for them.
He then relented and paid him a crown (5 shillings) instead of the 32 shillings he would have received otherwise.
This has been decried as being mean, but Mr Mawbey was in a bind himself.
If he had paid for the unsatisfactory work, it would have continued.
As it turned out, it would have been much better for him and his family if he had taken a less punitive approach and paid Jimmy at least half, 16 shillings, or even three-quarters, 24 shillings, for the condemned fence posts.
He was going to use them anyway.
And that would have been enough to warn Jimmy to do the job properly next time.
Jimmy would have received around 24 English pounds for the work he had done correctly, yet he had no money.
This meant he could not afford to buy any food, and had to go begging on a cold winter's night for more basic rations from the Mawbeys.
It appears that Jimmy had already spent all his earnings in advance on food and other provisions during the six months he had been at Breelong.
He was a heavy smoker so would have been buying tobaccco too.
Mr Mawbey's rejection of Jimmy's work is said to have occurred before his kinsfolk arrived.
But if it was after, then they may have been the ones at fault.
Nonetheless, there was a grievance among the Aboriginal men about it according to a hawker who used to park his cart near their camp.
He saw them making nullas nullas and boondis, clubs carved out of wood, weapons of war designed to kill.
Their sense of honour had been affronted and this meant payback had to be enacted to restore it.
Unfortunately, Mr Mawbey did not seem to know anything about Aboriginal culture and customary law, so he would not have seen it coming.
The hawker, Sam Ellis, only picked up on it after the murders.
I doubt if Jimmy would have ever contemplated murdering the Mawbeys on his own.
It would have been physically impossible without the support of others.
And Jimmy claimed that he only did it because the others were urging him to do it.
Both his wife and his kinsmen were placing pressure on him to prove that he was a man.
But this was not the case with the subsequent five murders he committed, so there was more to his motivation than that.
The rest were revenge killings, as were those at Breelong.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I've been wondering about the role of Jacky Porter, the 80 year old Aboriginal 'uncle', who arrived at Jimmy's camp at Breelong not long before the murders there were committed.
Porter appears to have been dismissed by the authorities at the time as an old man incapable of participating in the killings, or making any contribution towards them.
But within Aboriginal society, he would have been a respected 'elder', and a very important person in Jimmy's eyes.
It is possible his role in what happened has been overlooked.
In July 1841, the wealthy squatter, Edwin Rouse of Guntewang pastoral run near Mudgee, was asked by the authorities about his experience with employing Aboriginals.
He stipulated that any prospective Aboriginal employee had to be beyond the control or authority of the Elders and Chiefs of the district.
Otherwise, whatever kindness was shown towards them, or however attached they became to a family, the connection would never be sustained so long as they came under the influence of their native rulers. [Source: Rouse Hill and the Rouses (1998), Caroline Rouse Thornton, p.290]
The attack on the Mawbey family as a whole, not just the individuals perceived by Jimmy as the main offenders, was traditional tribal behaviour under customary law.
'Payback' was meted out by the members of one family on the members of another, not individual on individual.
This was particularly so if the individual who had done the injustice had fled or been put in gaol.
If payback was prevented, justice was not done, so the family feud continued to fester.
It is for this reason that some Aboriginal legal circles are arguing today that the customary law of payback be respected by Australian lawmakers, and that the perpetrators of payback not be charged with a criminal offence or gaoled.
In their eyes, the traditional form of justice restores the natural order and the matter can be dropped, while intervention by our legal system just perpetuates it.
So it would seem that from an Aboriginal perspective, Jimmy was quite justified in killing innocent children because it was part and parcel of family payback.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Doorway at the gallows
Last Thursday I went to the place where Jimmy Governor was hanged at the old Darlinghurst Gaol (now the National Art School and previously East Sydney Tech) in inner Sydney.
It is still a sinister place, even though the gallows, its ropes and trapdoors, have long gone.
A book about the place, Hope in Hell by Deborah Beck, says the spot is said to be haunted at night.
I can well believe that.
It's the place where the spirits of around 50 people left their physical bodies and some of them might still be hanging around.
Jimmy was hung in January 1901 at the gaol's new 'model' gallows built in 1869.
The killing device was located between the Y section of E wing which housed condemned prisoners.
It runs parallel to Burton Street and faces Darlinghurst Road.
The gallows consisted of two trapdoors in a wooden floor with two nooses overhead.
Many of those hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol were buried inside the grounds.
But Jimmy was buried at Rookwood Cemetery.
This suggests someone paid for his plot there, as well as transportation of his body by train from Central Station to Rookwood.
If this is so, it may have been his childhood friend and, in adulthood, legal defence at his trial, Mr Boyce.
My great grandfather's younger brother, George Mawbey, 42, attended the hanging.
According to the Sands Directory, George was living in Palmer Street, close to the main road, Oxford Street, just a couple of blocks from the gaol.
It was not one of the better parts of town.
In 1894 he had been living on the other side of Oxford Street, in Ann Street.
At that time, aged 36, he was fined one pound after being taken to court by the equivalent of today's RSPCA for making his horse work when it was lame.
His occupation was that of a contractor.
My grandfather, 21-year-old John Mawbey Jnr, the eldest child of John and Sarah Mawbey, was staying with his uncle in the Palmer Street house when his mother and three younger siblings were murdered at Breelong.
He was trying to enlist to go at fight for the British at the Boer War in South Africa.
Little did he know that a much more important battle in terms of his own life was being waged on a cold winter's night inside his own home at Breelong.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


After Jimmy was captured near Wingham, a constable in charge of him told The Evening News that he had said:
"The next scene will be the rope. I would not mind if it were this minute. I've made a name for myself."
Was 'making a name' for himself something he was proud of?
Was it what he had wanted all along?
Was it one of the reasons he married a white girl?
Or did it only become important to him after he had committed his first murders at Breelong and knew that his time as a free man was almost up?
His friend and 'fall guy', Jacky Underwood told police that after these murders, Jimmy wanted to kill his wife Ethel and son, but that he had prevented it.
Jimmy had responded with defiance saying:
"That's nothing. I don't care whether I married to her or not. I want to be the greatest murderer in New South Wales. I'll do for the first man I come across, either man or woman. I don't care a ____." (Source: Moore and Williams, p.45)
At this time he had already murdered the two women who had put him down, shown him disrespect, for marrying a white woman, Mrs Sarah Mawbey and the school teacher, Ellen Kerz.
They had been his two prime targets at the Mawbey household at Breelong.
It was him they had blamed for the socially unacceptable interracial marriage, not his white wife, Ethel.
When Jimmy and his brother Joe turned up at the abode of his next murder victim, 70-year-old Alexander (Sandy) McKay, who they despatched brutally in the backyard before approaching the house, Jimmy boldly announced to its occupants: "We are murderers."
There was something childlike about this boastful statement.
When McKay's wife asked him not to kill her, he agreed and kept his word.
Yet he had shown no mercy at Breelong and would not show any at his next destination, the O'Brien home at Merriwa.

Friday, May 13, 2011


There are many tragic aspects to the Jimmy Governor story, including what happened to him.
He was good looking and athletic, talkative and sociable and worked for his own keep instead of relying on the government for food rations.
Young white women found him very attractive and Ethel was not the only one to fall pregnant to him out of wedlock.
What I find particularly touching is his tendency to spontaneously burst into song.
It suggests he was an emotional, passionate man, ruled more by his heart than his head.
On the steamer bringing him from Taree to Sydney for his murder trial, he was singing Scottish songs, 'Bonnie Mary of Argyle' and 'Annie Laurie'.
And while he was in gaol he was singing what his goaler called 'native songs'.
It's a pity more information about them was not recorded.
This may have helped determine what 'tribe' he was from.
A journalist on the steamer who reported the songs Jimmy was singing, also said he was a heavy smoker and good at four-handed euchre (card game).
He was very chatty and open, but also had 'a quiet reserve which seems to be natural to him'.
The reporter said:
The outlaw has no trace in his speech of the usual dialect of the Aboriginal.
His language is just the same as that of any white Australian, native-born or of English descent.
His grammar is not, of course, of the most elegant description, but his only dialect is the dialect of the average bush labourer.
He is a master of the latest slang terms and freely uses 'flash' talk and slang in his conversation.
He never says he ran away.
He always 'slithered'.
'Slithered' is a favourite words of his.
Jimmy's totemic animal, the goanna (large lizard), would also have 'slithered'.
The journalist also observed that Jimmy did not seem at all anxious to hide a single detail of his days during the period in which his name was a terror to thousands.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


It is said that the Governor family were of the Wiradjuri tribe, noted for its warriors.
They were once the biggest tribe in New South Wales with the town of Mudgee within its northern border.
The territory further north was occupied by the Kamilaroi, and it is to this tribe I am starting to suspect the Governor family belonged.
The Kamilaroi were the second biggest tribe.
Its people occupied the land around Singleton in the Upper Hunter Valley and further north around Tamworth.
They also were on the Barwon and Namoi Rivers, the places where Jimmy Governor's father, Tommy, claimed to have been born.
Jimmy's maternal grandmother was a Wonnarua woman from the Upper Hunter area.
My reasons for thinking this are:
1) When Jimmy and Joe were on the run from the law, they initially stayed within Kamilaroi territory.
One of the reports I have read about Jimmy's capture said that he could give all the details of the country he travelled through until after he left Cobark, east of the Barrington Tops and west of Gloucester.
This could have been because he was now out of familiar Kamilaroy country and in that of the Kuringgai people (see Fraser's map).
Jimmy would have been educated about his country during his initiation at puberty.
2) Being Kamilaroi could explain why the Governors, Tommy in particular, did not mix with other Aboriginals in the Gresford, Paterson and Vacy districts.
They would have been of a different tribe or tribes.
The territory around Gresford, Maitland and Dungog was that of the Kuring-gai people, a sub-group of the Wonnarua.
Tommy was said to have been downright aggressive towards some of them.
Maybe this had something to do with his wife Annie who was half Wonnurua and half white.
Maybe the full-blood Wonnurua rejected her because of this.
She was self-conscious of her red hair, inherited from her Irish maternal grandfather, and used to wear a hood to hide it.
3) It was observed that Jimmy used to carve the shape of an iguana (goanna) into the ground.
This has been taken as an indicator that he was Wira djuri.
But the Kamilaroy also had a goanna as a totem for one of its four 'skin' groups.
4) Jacky Underwood, the friend of Jimmy and Joe Governor, was born in the vicinity of Idaville Station near the town of Cassilis in Kamilaroy territory.
5) Mudgee was in Wiradjuri country, but Gulgong where the Governors lived, was on the other side of the ranges, in Kamilaroy country.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have just found on the internet a thought-provoking article about the importance of 'culture' in all societies, with particular reference to the Aboriginal one.
The article was published by Dr Anthony B Kelly on 28 July 2000.
Coincidentally, this was the same month, and two days after the last of the Governor's 10 murders were committed 100 years earlier.
The article talks about the breakdown in both black and white societies in Australia, and the associated escalation of violence.
It is long but well worth reading.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


In all societies throughout the world there are class differences based on family background, occupation or wealth.
Jimmy's parents were no ordinary blacks.
His mother, Annie, was the daughter of a house servant working in the homestead of a wealthy squatter, Andrew Brown, Esq., JP.
She was born on his pastoral property, Caigan, on the Castlereagh River, about 10 miles north-east from Mendooran.
In June 1847, Caigan was one of eight pastoral runs in the Bligh county for which Brown had despasturing licences.
Another wealthy squatter, Richard Rouse, held nine runs in the district, including Breelong which was also on the Castlereagh River, 20 miles west of Mendooran.
Brown and Rouse were both know for their benevolence towards indigenous people, although the latter had whipped his convict workers.
They let them live on their properties and gave them food, shelter and work.
This was the very least they could do when they had stolen the land from the Aboriginals and left them without any way to survive on their own.
People who work for important people generally feel important themselves by way of association.
This could have been a reason why both of Jimmy's parents did not like mixing with other Aboriginal people.
When Annie's Irish father had died before her birth, her mother Polly had raised her with a male house servant at Caigan.
The Rouse family claim that Jimmy's father, Tommy, was born on one of their pastoral properties on the Barwon River.
In later life he asked Mr Rouse to act as intermediary for him in his dealings with white officialdom to assist him to get food rations.
When Tommy discovered silver in 1887, he was not allowed to make a claim for it, but instead was given the use of 10 acres of a common at Wyaldra Creek on the northern outskirts of Gulgong.
He built a house for his family, but it appears they only lived there together briefly.
When Tommy was not working, they were forced to move onto Aboriginal reserves where they could get food rations.
There also might be something in the fact that the English surname they adopted was that of the top white official in the land, the governor.
It is said that when Tommy had encountered the real governor of New South Wales, Lord Jersey, at the Mudgee show, he had introduced himself to him as 'the other Governor'.
Tommy had chutzpah!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


There is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy loved his young white wife, Ethel, or 'Mrs Jimmy Governor' or 'Mrs James Ethel Governor' as she was commonly known.
The prospect of her leaving him on the night of the Breelong murders made him want to die.
Ethel was probably the only person in his life who had truly made him feel good about himself.
She thought he was special and took pride in the fact that she had won his heart in competition with other girls.
And he had asked her to marry him.
No other man had done that.
Jimmy had shot through when faced with a previous shotgun marriage, but he was happy to stay with Ethel when she became pregnant out of wedlock.
He even dressed in white cricket clothes and borrowed a sulky for their wedding so they could marry in style.
But then their romantic bubble was soon burst by the pointed looks and remarks of the townsfolk who objected to the marriage of a white woman to a black man.
To them it was shocking, confronting, unacceptable.
Jimmy and Ethel were shunned, by both blacks and whites.
This was the tragedy of their times, as well as their relationship.
Their love match had no chance of succeeding under such negative public scrutiny.
I think they would have struggled to gain public acceptance today in certain quarters, even in these relatively racially enlightened times.
They would have been a source of curiousity, as have other Aboriginal men married to white women who have been written about in magazines in more recent times.

Friday, April 29, 2011


The Melbourne Argus, Saturday 21 July 1934
The Breelong Murders
YESTERDAY was the 34th anniversary, of the most ghastly crime in the history of Australia - the Breelong murders.
Breelong is a settlement several miles from Gilgandra, New South Wales, about 350 miles from Sydney.
The Mawbey family were the chief settlers there.
On their property camped the Governors, a widely known aboriginal tribe [family], who worked for various landowners.
At the time they were working for the Mawbeys.
About 10 p.m. on Friday, July 20, 1900, Mr. Mawbey was camping with his elder sons a few miles from the homestead [at an inn, their former home].
In the natives' camp were Jimmy and Joe Governor, Jackie Underwood, Mrs. Governor, a baby boy, and an aged blackfellow [and what appeared to an adolescent Aboriginal boy].
Jimmy and Joe Governor and Jackie Underwood first ascertained that the Mawbey menfolk were absent.
Then they went to the Mawbey homestead.
Immediately the door opened they began killing.
Tomahawks were used, and the skulls of the victims were cleaved open.
In the home were Mrs. Mawbey, two daughters, a niece [younger sister], a governess, and three [five] boys, the oldest aged 14.
The oldest boy, the governess, and one of the daughters were killed at once. The other three women were mutilated shockingly.
The only one to recover was the niece.
The two youngest boys [were left unharmed asleep in the kitchen while two older boys] escaped.
One hid under the bed and the other contrived to carry the news to the father.
The blacks fled.
Help was obtained from Gilgandra, and soon on the scene were the doctor, Sergeant Lewis, Mrs. Lewis, and my father, the late Mr. A. F. Garling, then distict coroner.
My mother's aid was sought, and, assisted by Mrs. Lewis, the terrible home of death was put in order, the bodies were laid out, and help was given to the living victims.
It is a great tribute to the courage of these women.
The night was bitterly cold, everyone was panic stricken, and the drive to Breelong was through several miles of rough country in a horse and sulky at midnight.
This night marked the beginning of a manhunt famous in Australian history.
Everyone able to do so assisted in the search for the fleeing blacks, as well as the police, who never left the chase until the capture, three months later, of the criminals.
The blacks committed a series of murders and robberies during the time that the chase took the pursuers over desolate country and rugged mountains for hundreds of miles.
The Governors and Underwood [he was no longer with them] murdered [the wife of] Michael O'Brien and his child in the Liverpool ranges, near Wollar; Alex McKay and his wife, and Kevin [Kyrien] Fitzpatrick.
Jackie Underwood, being older and less agile, was soon captured.
The natives of this tribe would sooner risk capture than separate, except in extreme urgency, and Jimmy and Joe Governor kept together until the end.
Landowners were in terror throughout the State.
The ruses adopted by the natives to trick the pursuers made their tracks extremely difficult to follow.
They would climb trees and slide on to adjoining trees, progressing like this for miles.
They would wrap their feet in bark or rags, leaving no footprints.
Skilled Queensland black trackers and bloodhounds were employed, and a reward of £1,000 for the capture, dead or alive, of these aborigines was offered.
It was not until October 21 that Jimmy and Joe separated.
Jimmy was captured and Joe attempted to go home.
On October 30 John Wilkinson found Joe asleep on his property, and shot him.
He, with the other murderers, had been outlawed.
Jimmy Governor and Jackie Underwood were hanged.
Mrs. Governor was a white woman, good-looking and intelligent [both of these attributes were contradicted by other commentators at the time].
It was said that she had been stolen as a baby and brought up with the blacks [completely false].
The Governors were grotesque, having full aboriginal features, but vivid red hair.
The most widely held opinion of the cause of the murders was that the Mawbeys taunted Mrs. Governor for having married an aborigine.
Other theories were that there were disagreements over the inferior work done by the blacks, and that they ran amok.
The old Breelong homestead is standing today, with the bloodstains still apparent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Jimmy Governor was under a lot of pressure from his own family, both immediate and extended, before he snapped and murdered five women and children at Breelong.
Firstly, he had four extra mouths to feed that had not been included in his original fencing contract with John Mawbey.
By inviting these additional Aboriginal men to stay with him, he had brought this difficulty onto himself.
Two of them, an old man and a young boy, would not have been able to contribute much to the job at hand.
They were probably offloaded onto Jimmy by his relatives who thought he was making money so he could support them.
As an Aboriginal man, he was obliged to do so.
Then there was Jacky Underwood with one eye missing and a limp who would not have been much good on the job either.
The only able-bodied male among the four was Jimmy's younger brother, Joe.
When Jimmy realised he could not feed the extra four mouths, he tried to push Mrs Mawbey into requesting government rations for the two full-bloods, Porter and Underwood.
They were entitled to these, but only if they were living on Aboriginal reserves.
Jimmy must have become angry with Mrs Mawbey when she refused because after this incident she told her husband she did not want the Aboriginal man coming to the house any more.
In hindsight, she had been warned of what was to come.
The biggest stumbling block for Jimmy was that he could not accept responsibility for his own actions.
It was his fault the four extra males were there, and that he could not support them, not the Mawbey's.
He had invited them to come.
It must have been lonely, living with his wife and small child in a lean-to beside a creek in the middle of nowhere.
He probably wanted some male company, and there may have been kinship obligations.
He either did not consider the consequences in terms of his fencing contract, or thought he could force the Mawbeys to accommodate his changed circumstances.
Secondly, there was Ethel, his wife, constantly complaining to him about being put down by the women at the house.
And about there not being enough food, not even the basics like flour and sugar.
If he had not invited the four men to stay with them, there would have been enough food.
He already knew that he and Ethel had been ridiculed by other people in both Gulgong and Dubbo because of their socially unacceptable inter-racial marriage.
And that the negative comments being made about it by the women at the house was nothing new.
He had been so mad about comments made about him and his white wife at the Gulgong show, he had complained to the police about it.
The female offender was made to have a retraction published in the local newspaper.
Thirdly, there was the criticism and rejection of some of his work by his employer.
All employers want the job done properly because they're paying for it.
Mr Mawbey would have been no different.
Ten percent of the 1,000 fence posts had not been cut to the right size.
Jimmy was digging the holes for the posts, so this must have been the fault of his fellow workers.
But his loyalty to them and his pride in his own workmanship made him defensive.
After bad experiences with previous employers, Jimmy was a ticking timebomb just waiting to explode.
What happened with his wife on the night of the murders - her badgering him about being a man or a mouse in his dealings with his employer - pulled the pin.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Sarah Mawbey (44) and three of her nine children,
Grace (16), Percival (Percy) (14) and
Hilda May (11), brutally murdered at their home
at Breelong by Jimmy and Joe Governor and
Jacky Underwood at 10.30pm on Friday 20 July 1900.
Buried in Church of England section at Gilgandra.

Helena (Ellen) Kerz (21), brutally murdered by
Jimmy Governor at Breelong on 20 July1900.
Buried in Roman Catholic section at Girilambone.

Kyrien Fitzpatrick, brutally murdered by Jimmy
and Joe Governor on 26 July 1900 at his home.
Buried at Wollar.

Alexander (Sandy) McKay who was brutally
murdered by the blacks on 23 July 1900
aged 70 years. Buried at Gulgong.

ELIZABETH O'BRIEN, her 15-month-old son
James and her unborn child, murdered by Jimmy
and Joe Governor in July 1900 at their home at
Merriwa. I have been told by a descendant that
they were refused burial in Catholic consecrated
ground at the local cemetery because the child
had not been baptised. But Moore and Williams
say they did have a Christian funeral service.
Buried Roman Catholic section at Merriwa.

[Source of photos: Australian Cemeteries Index]