The Breelong Murders
WORST ATROCITY IN AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
By JEAN GARLING
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.