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.