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.