Saturday, August 18, 2012


The Talbragar River where Jimmy Governor was born is on the northern outskirts of Dubbo, around 70km (one hour's drive on the Newell Highway) south of Gilgandra near where the Breelong murders took place.
It is Wiradjuri country.
British explorer, John Oxley, arrived in the Dubbo district in 1818 and a village was gazetted there on 23 November 1849.
During the reign of Queen Victoria (1838-1901) land was granted for an Aboriginal reserve at the junction of the Talbragar and Macquarie Rivers.
This appears to have occurred in 1898.
Jimmy Governor was born in 1875.

The location of Talbragar River in relation to Gilgandra and Dubbo: TALBRAGAR-GILGANDRA MAP

Sunday, August 12, 2012


The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 7 January 1937
Outrages Recalled by Woman's Death.
The murders committed by the Breelong blacks, Jimmy and Joe Governor, 33 years ago, are recalled by the death of Mrs. Percy J. Lee, of Irvine-street, Kingsford, whose funeral took place to the Waverley Cemetery yesterday.
On the night of July 19 [20], 1900, the Governors, accompanied by two other aborigines and a black boy, entered the Breelong homestead armed with tomahawks and waddies.
They killed Miss Kerz, Hilda and Percy Mawbey, and so seriously wounded Mrs. Mawbey and Grace Mawbey that they died.
Mrs. Lee, who was then Miss Elsie Clarke, was a niece of Mr. John Thomas Mawbey.
She was struck on the head with a nulla nulla by Jimmy Governor [or one of the other murderers with him], and was thrown under a bed [hidden under a bed before coming out and being struck].
She eventually recovered, but was deaf.
Between July and November, 1900, the Governors were responsible for the murder or wounding of nearly a score of people.
They also committed innumerable robberies.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales issued a writ declaring them outlaws, and calling upon citizens to shoot them on sight.
On October 29, Jimmy Governor was shot and captured.
He was hanged on June [January]18, 1901.
His brother Joe was shot dead by a grazier, about 20 miles north of Singleton, on October 31, 1900.
[Source: NLA17308067]

Saturday, August 11, 2012


The role John Mawbey played in what happened at Breelong is becoming clearer to me.
At the time of the murders, he presented as a 'good guy', an innocent victim of Jimmy Governor.
It was the women involved, the ones who had denigrated Jimmy and his wife Ethel, who copped all the blame.
Mrs Mawbey, her eldest daughter, Grace and the schoolteacher, Ellen Kerz.
It had nothing to do with him.
But it was John Mawbey who placed Jimmy in a 'no win' situation in the first place by giving him a job beyond his ability to do on his own.
In doing so, he shamed him, made him feel inferior, just as much as his wife Sarah Mawbey did Ethel.
This is one 'take' on the story.
But on the other side of the coin, Jimmy would have known he could not make any real money out of the fencing job unless it was done quickly.
For this to happen, he needed help.
He claimed that his brother Joe and Jacky Underwood just turned up at Breelong, and it was only then that he asked them for assistance.
But they knew where he was, indicating he had told them where he was going to be after accepting the job.
So it may already have been planned beforehand, with Jimmy being more cunning than he later let on.
The plan failed because trying to do the job too quickly resulted in shoddy workmanship.
Jimmy prided himself on being cunning.
The Singleton Argus, 8 November 1900, reports that after he was captured, he 'gloried in ... his powers of cunning in outwitting the police and and the others who were engaged in the pursuit'.
He may have thought he was one jump ahead of John Mawbey, even offering the housework services of his wife Ethel to cinch the deal, but this time his scheming failed.
I think Jimmy intended to kill John Mawbey when he went to the inn before going to the house.
Unlike some of his future victims, Mawbey did not come outside in response to Jimmy's call.
He did not take the bait.
He may have been aware that Jimmy was on the warpath and was trying to placate him by asking him inside to warm himself by the fire.
Jimmy lulled him into a false sense of security by asking to have rations delivered to his camp the next day.
He then went to the house and murdered Mawbey's wife, two daughters and a son.
John Mawbey would have felt like a fool for allowing himself to be tricked by Jimmy in this way.
And like an abject failure as a husband and father for not protecting his wife and children when he knew trouble was brewing.
He may have been fooled by Jimmy's surface charm, which fooled other people.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I have just discovered that these names can mean 'friend of gold' or 'son of gold'.
When Ethel gave the name 'Golding' to her son Sidney, she was living in the gold-mining town of Gulgong.
Thomas Goulding / Golden Brown, the father of her second husband, was baptised in the gold-mining town of Aruleun.
Maybe the name was simply a good luck charm, an indicator of good fortune, given in the hope that the bearers would find gold and become wealthy.
It may have also carried the meaning that the child was as precious as gold.
This could explain why 'Goulding' and 'Golden' were the English names adopted by an Aboriginal 'royal' family.
So the fact that two of Ethel's sons, one born when she was married to Jimmy Governor and the other to Frank Brown, and Brown's father bore these names seems to be just a coincidence.


I’ve been reading a bit about fencing lately, and have realised that John Mawbey ought not to have employed Jimmy Governor and his young wife to do his fencing job in the first place.
Fencing is a job for two able-bodied men.
It involves heavy lifting and teamwork.
So it was not suitable for just one able-bodied adult male and his teenage female wife.
Ethel would have been exhausted as a result of helping Jimmy with the fencing, plus doing housekeeping for Mrs Mawbey three days a week, plus caring for her toddler son.
The child may have spent a lot of time unattended and alone which would not have been good for his future psychological wellbeing.
In giving the Governors the job, John Mawbey appears to have been looking for ‘value for money’, what the pair could provide, and ‘driving a hard bargain’, instead of taking their ability to get the job done into consideration.
Doing the job on his own without another male helper meant that money would be coming in very slowly for Jimmy, and that he would  have to be at Breelong for a long time in order to complete the job.
So it is not surprising that Jimmy was struggling and pleased when his younger brother Joe and their mate Jacky Underwood turned up and agreed to help him.
But under the terms of Jimmy’s contract with Mr Mawbey, Joe and Jacky were not allowed to help him.
In giving them the work, and paying them with part of his own rations and possibly his wages, Jimmy was effectively sub-contracting them, thereby breaking his contract with Mr Mawbey.
The failure of Mr Mawbey to step in here and nip the situation in the bud suggests he was willing to overlook this in favour of getting more cheap labour.
But he eventually paid the price for this.
As the owner of the property, he had the right to tell Joe and Jacky to leave on the grounds they were trespassing.
He had not authorised them to work for him, so they had no right to be there.
When many of the fence posts were found to be not up to scratch, probably because of poor workmanship by Joe and Jacky, Jimmy’s workmates would have been shamed and offended when their work was rejected.
Mr Mawbey ought to have been supervising the fencing work more closely, particularly once he knew that Joe and Jacky were involved, so he could have picked up on any shoddy workmanship much sooner than he did.
Jimmy may have felt he needed to take a job that was too much for him because he now had to provide for a wife and child.
He ended up fencing himself into a corner, and made his wife Ethel feel fenced in too, so much so that she wanted to leave him.
In a way, Jimmy was 'set up' by John Mawbey to fail.
Being placed in a 'no win' situation can make anybody feel very angry.
And to have this done in front of family and friends would have been even worse.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Both of Ethel Page's husbands, Jimmy Governor and Frank Brown, had Irish grandfathers.


The father of Thomas Goulding Golden Brown was Patrick Brown, an Irish convict, who arrived in Sydney on the Marquis of Huntley on 30 January 1828.
He was aged 20, single, could read and write and was from Tipperary.
On 20 March 1827 he had been convicted of abduction at Limerick and sentenced to transportation for life.
After arriving in Sydney, he was fortunate to be assigned to George Wyndham, a wealthy young pioneer vigneron in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney.
George and his wife Margaret also arrived in Sydney in 1828 and bought a 2,000 acre property on the Hunter River.
Wyndham, who was only 27 himself at the time, later became renowned for being very kind to his assigned convict workers.
Patrick Brown was assigned to him as a servant.
[The Wyndham Estate is still in existence as a working wine-producing operation.]
On 23 September 1839, Patrick Brown, aged 31, was granted permission by Rev. John Fitzpatrick of Goulburn to marry "free emigrant", Catherine Rourke.
But just two weeks later, on 7 October 1839, this permission was withdrawn on the grounds that not enough information had been supplied about 'Cath'.
It would appear that the information withheld was that she, like Patrick, was a convict, not a 'free emigrant'.
Catherine Rourke arrived in Sydney on 23 April 1837 on the Sarah & Elizabeth after being sentenced to 14 years transportation at Lancaster, Liverpool Quarter Sessions.
That same year, Patrick had a son, Thomas, by an Aboriginal woman.
In 1844, Patrick Brown was granted a conditional pardon.
At that time he was assigned to Mr Campbell JP, the manager of a squatter's run on the south side of the Moruya River, near Broulee.
This was 'Gundary' owned by William Morris and located across the river from the farm of the first settler in the area, Francis Flanagan.
Patrick Brown was under the jurisdiction of three local magistrates and landholders: Francis Flanagan, John Hawdon and one other.
There is no marriage record for Patrick and Catherine, but in 1848 they appear to have had a son, John, and in 1859, another son James born at Broulee.
At this stage, it is simply speculation that Ethel knew Frank Brown before she met Jimmy Governor. And that Brown may have been the father of her first child.
More evidence is required to establish whether or not this was the case.