Monday, December 31, 2012

The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tasmania, Monday 23 July 1900
Sydney, Sunday. — A painful sensation was created yesterday by the receipt of intelligence of a series of diabolical murders by aboriginals in the Coonamble district.
The exact location of the scene of the outrages is Breelong, a post town 10 miles from Gilgandra, which is in the North-Western Division of New SouthWales, and nearly 800 miles from Sydney.
Mr Mawbey, a pioneer of the district and a well-to-do man, owns a large area of land on the banks of tbe Castlereagh River, and lately built a new home there.
On Friday, however, he was staying at his old house, which is the Breelong post office. ...
The Inquirer & Commercial News, Perth, Friday 27 July 1900
... The aboriginals who are supposed to have committed the murders are Jimmy and Joe Governor, of Dunson [Denison]Town, Jack Porter, Jack Underwood, and a boy of 14 years of age known as 'Crooked.'
... Mrs. Mawbey regained consciousness on Saturday evening, and was able to make a short statement.
She said that Jimmy Governor hit her with a tomahawk.
She saw Jacky.
He had a tomahawk.
She saw only two, but she could hear more outside.
She could hear all of them
... The Mawbsys were among the pioneers of the Gilgandra district, owning a large area of land on the Castlereagh River.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 23 July 1900
... In an interview with Mr. Mawbey he said -" The first I heard of the outrage was from my son Bertie, who ran down to me at the old house and told me that 'Jimmy Joe' Governor was killing everyone up at home.
I immediately woke up Reggie, my son we took our rifles and ran up to the house.
On crossing the creek I stumbled over one body, and I discovered that it was Hilda, one of my daughters.
On gaining the bank again,about 100 yards further, I struck the body of Miss Kerz, our school teacher.
On reaching the house I only just glanced in and saw what was the matter.
I left my two sons, Reggie and Bertie, armed with a rifle each in the kitchen, and made off to the camp.
When I got to the house there was no one in it.
I rushed back, and sent for Dr. Burton and the police.
You know all the rest."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Warwick Examiner and Times, Queensland, Wednesday 1 August 1900
The Aboriginal Murders.
... The Premier of N.S.W. says if it costs £2000 to capture the blacks the Government is prepared to pay it.
... The aboriginal Jacky Underwood, who was recently arrested for the Breelong murders has now been fully identified.
At the Mudgee Police Court on Friday, the prisoner was brought up.
It was stated in evidence that while the prisoner was being escorted from Qulong [Gulgong] to Mudgee he made a statement to the effect that he was in camp at Breelong with Jimmy and Joe Governor.
Jimmy Governor wanted money from Mawbey, but the latter would not give any more until the contract upon which Governor was engaged was finished, and Jimmy said he would kill Mawbey.
... Jacky Porter and the black boy, Jimmy, and Joe Governor, left the camp together last Friday night, Jimmy carrying a rifle and three nulla nullas, and Joe a nulla nulla and tomahawk. After the Governors returned to camp all left together, and when they had proceeded half a mile in the scrub, the two Governors wanted to kill Mrs. Governor and the child, but Jacky Porter and Underwood would not allow them to take more lives.
... The two Governors said they were going to Wollar to kill all the blackfellows there, and then make for the wild nulla mountains and kill all the people there.
... Various reasons are given for the committal of the murder at Breelong.
It is said that Jimmy Governor's wife was slighted for the life she led at the black camp at Breelong and this caused a bad feeling to arise with the blacks.
... Mr. Richards, M.P. for Mudgee, points out that the persons killed by tbe blacks, or threatened by them, are chiefly those for whom they have worked before or had some grudge against.
...Mr. Mawbay, the father of the girls killed at Breelong, says:—I have never seen Jimmy Governor drunk, nor have I known him to be drunk.
I have never known a drop of grog to come into the camp. I am quite positive that he was sober that night of the murder.
He never showed violent temper, nor was he of a quarrelsome disposition.
The boys Percy and Reggie had heard Jimmy Governor say he would like to be a bushranger as no police would ever catch him.
He was making about 6s a day when he was working with me.
He spent a lot of time catching rats and 'possums to eat.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Examiner, Launceston, Tasmania, Thursday 26 July 1900
Mr. A. W. Miller, of Ashfield, who owns a deal of property in the Gilandra district, on Saturday furnished a Sydney "Daily Telegraph" reporter with some additional particulars regarding the locality of the murder and the victims.
"I have known Mr. John Mawbey for about 25 years," said Mr. Miller.
"He has a large run at Breelong, and has always been regarded as a quiet, industrious, and thrifty man.
The family was large, and the home circle a happy one.
One son came to Sydney to offer himself for service in the.
Transvaal with the bushmen's contingent, but I cannot say whether he joined that body.
As far as I can judge, Mr. Mawbey must have been absent on another part of the run when the terrible crime was committed.
"I know the district thoroughly, and was surprised to hear of the outrage, as the local tribe of blacks had died out long since.
It has always been the custom for aborigines, when on the move from other districts, say hundreds of miles away, to ascertain—how, I can not explain—the whereabouts of old camps, and this may account in some measure for the appearance of these ruffians at Breelong.
"The country about Breelong is of a very scrubby nature, and the fact that the criminals will be on foot will render the task of making a capture a difficult one, for a time at least.
There will be no occasion for the natives to leave the scrub for food, as opossum and game abound in the bush.
Horsemen will be hampered in their movements by the numbers of fences that will be encountered, as the land is for the greater part enclosed.
If, however, there is another aboriginals' camp in any of the adjacent districts, this will assist to bring the culprits to justice, for the fugitives will make for their countrymen, who rarely keep a secret...
"Mr. Mawbey will be remembered about Mudgee and Coonamble, where he followed the occupation of a dealer in a large way, before he took to farming.
In the last-named pursuit he has been very successful."


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


It has taken me just over a year to be able to write a review of the theatre performance and installation, Posts in the Paddock, that was staged for the first time in Sydney last November.
The production elements – sounds, sights, sets and symbols – were very sophisticated and stimulated all the senses, sometimes all at once.
But because there was so much going on production-wise, it was difficult to focus on the plot, the elements of the story.
The problem with this play as I see it is that it is not honest.
It claims to be about the family of one of the performers in the play, Clare Britton, who is an indirect descendant of the O’Brien family, two of whose members were murdered by the Governor brothers.
The heavily pregnant Elizabeth O’Brien and her 15-month-old toddler son, James, were slaughtered in their home while husband and father, Mick O’Brien, the real target of Jimmy’s revenge, was out collecting firewood.
But this story, the O’Brien story, was never the focus of the play.
Instead my ancestors, Sarah and John Mawbey, were depicted as the villains, and the posts meant to be fence posts on the O’Brien property, conveniently became those Jimmy and Joe were constructing on the Mawbey selection at Breelong.
This play twists the truth, distorts the real story, and implicates my family as exponents of an evil empire spawned by colonial invasion and missionary zeal.
The story lacked basic integrity in that it was not what it was supposed to be about.
Instead it victimised and vilified the Mawbey family, still traumatised by Jimmy Governor’s brutality towards them more than 100 years ago.
We have been used for political purposes, and I object to that.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Brisbane Courier, Thursday 25 August 1900
SYDNEY, August 22.
At the Gilgandra Police Court to-day, the aboriginal Jacky Underwood was brought up on the charge of 'murdering t/he members of the Mawbey family at Breelong. 
When Mr. A. F. Garling, who had taken Mrs. Mawbey's dying depositions, had finished his evidence, which disclosed no new facts, Underwood was asked if he had any questions to put to the witness. 
He at once said, "Jimmy hit the boy. The woman was lying on top of the boy when I came. 
Jimmy told me to go outside and see if'anybody went outside through the windows. 
I saw two girls go through the window and come back, but did not tell him."
Later on the accused made a statement in which he said Jimmy Governor did most of the murdering. 
He (accused) hit one girl, and he put her back in one of the rooms in the house. 
He saw one of the boys lying under the bed, but when Jimmy Governor asked him if there were any more in the room he said they had ail gone away. 
Jacky Underwood also said he saw Jimmy Governor kill Miss Mawbey near the creek, and Miss Kerz. The night before the murder Jimmy Governor had a row with his wife, and he intended to kill her. 
They went to the hut where Mr. Mawbey was staying, intending to kill him, but they were too frightened when they got there. 
The prisoner Jacky Underwood was committed for trial.


(continued from previous post 'Breelong homestead ruins')

Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Wednesday 25 July 1900
... Mrs. Governor, wife of Jimmy, a white woman, then gave evidence. 
She said her name was Ethel Governor, and that she was the wife of James Governor, a half blood aboriginal. 
They resided three miles from Breelong, up the creek. 
She was willing to give all the evidence she knew about the crime. 
Last Friday night she was in the camp with her husband, also Joe Governor, Jack Underwood, Jacky Porter, and a little black boy, Peter Governor, who is Jim Governor's sister's son
At the time she had quarrelled with her husband, because he thought that she and Joe Governor were 'sweet' on each other, Jimmy said he would leave her and the others could do the fencing if Mawbey liked to give it to them. Jimmy then said good-bye to Joe and Jacky Porter, and left the camp, accompanied by Jack Underwood. Jimmy said they were going to Mr. Mawbey's, and would see him. 
They wont towards Mawbey's. 

(to be continued)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


A Mawbey family reunion was held over the last October long weekend at Wongarbon near Dubbo. 
It included a trip to the Breelong homestead site and a video was made by young family member and put on YouTube.
It can be viewed at Breelong homestead ruins.
Seeing the distance little Hilda had run before being brutally clubbed to death is very moving.
I have just found the most detailed account so far of what happened at Breelong on that fateful night when doing a newspaper search under the spelling 'Mawbery'.
It contains more first-hand information than the version given at the trial of Jimmy Governor, and highlights something that was subsequently hidden from public scrutiny.
This was that the fight Jimmy and Ethel had at the camp before the Mawbey murders was over his brother, Joe Govenor.
According to Ethel's testimony at the inquest, Jimmy thought she was 'sweet' on Joe and had told her he was leaving her as a result. 
I knew from what I had read in recent published accounts of the 'true' story of Jimmy Governor that Jimmy had been devastated by something.
There were hints that Ethel was keen on Joe, but it was never confirmed.
Until now I have thought Ethel had told Jimmy she was leaving him because he could not properly support her, and would not stand up to the Mawbey women for abusing  her. 
Jimmy would have been like a wounded bull that night, and appears to have taken his rage out on the Mawbey's instead of his brother. 
After the murders he did tell his brother he would kill him if he did not accompany him on a subsequent rampage of destructive behaviour.
He then concocted a story, possibly with the help of his lawyer, to make what he did sound like provocation, a crime of passion, which it was, but not triggered solely by the Mawbeys.

Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Wednesday 25 July 1900
The Breelong Murders.
The following additional evidence was taken at the inquest of the Breelong murders : John Thomas Mawbery, owner of the place where the tragedy was enacted, said he saw the bodies of Miss Kerz and Grace, Hilda, and Percival Mawbey.Miss Kerz lived at the place as a boarder, and the three others were his children.
He last saw them alive at midday last Friday.
Witness was sleeping at his old house on Friday night.
About 11p.m., Jimmy Governor and another man, whether white or black he did not know, came to within eight or nine feet of the back door, and sang out : 'Anyone there ?'
Witness said : ' Hello there, who's that ? '
Jimmy Governor said: 'It's me, will you bring me up a bag of flour in the morning?'
Witness, who had just gone to bed, replied: 'I will bring it up in the morning or some time to-morrow.'
Witness had opened the door and gone out 'to them, and he said : 'You had better come in and have a warm.'Jimmy said: ‘We won't come in, we'll go home.'
They went away, and witness went to bed.
About 20 minutes or half an hour afterwards his son, Bertie, came running and said, 'Jimmy Governor has shot Perc, and is killing him on the floor’.
Mawbey then gave similar evidence to that already reported.
After crossing the creek they heard someone crying out, and running up, [Robert] Clark, his son Fred, and himself found his daughter Grace and Miss Kerz close together, on either side of the track.
He carried Grace up to the house.
Going into the house by the back door he saw Mrs. Mawbey lying across Perc's body, just outside the sitting-room back door.

Witness shifted Mrs. Mawbey and placed her on pillows. He thought she was dead.
After Fred [Clarke] had gone for the doctor and the police, witness went with Reggie and little Jack [his nephew George Mawbey?] and brought Miss Kerz in.
Then he stationed Reggie in the fireplace and lit a lamp on the table.
He opened the back door and told him if he saw any black fellows to let them come in and then shoot them.
Witness then went in search of Hilda, and in about half an hour found her in the creek, dead. He could not carry her up, and came to the house and got Reggie, but heard a noise in the bushes, and would not let Reggie go out.
He carried Hilda into the house, and then went to the bed room off the kitchen, where his wife, himself, and the little ones usually slept, and found the children fast asleep.
He then went to old Johnnie Owen, who was camped over the creek, and got him to go for Julius Amberwho was camped a little higher up. They came, and witness then covered the bodies.
Elsie Clarke was lying in her bed groaning, badly wounded, and covered with blood.
Mrs. Mawbey was terribly wounded, and unconscious. Grace was wounded in the forehead, and groaning. As soon as witness saw the wounds he was sure they were not shot.
He was not aware of any money being in the house last Friday, and had not missed anything.
All the blacks in camp wore boots except Jacky Porter.
It was very dark when they came down to the old hut, and he could not see anything in their hands.
They slept in the old house that night because they were soaking wheat, and it was very late. His family know he would not be home. He often slept there when he was busy. Reggie or Percy always slept at the house. 
Percy always brought his rifle to the new house, but forgot it on Friday, and left it at the old place, but the blacks could not have [known] that.
Jimmy Governor had an old rifle and wanted to sell it to his boys. 
He also had a tomahawk, similar to the one shown in court.
It is a peculiar make, and rather uncommon in shape. Jimmy said he bought it. 
Witness could not swear positively that the tomahawk in the possession of Constable Berry was the same he saw in Jimmy Governor's hand, but thought so. 
He never saw a tomahawk like it before.
He thought it had not the same handle.
They heard no screams as they ran up.
He knew no other aboriginals about.
Jacky Porter came about a fortnight ago.
Jimmy was the leader and head man in the camp.
Witness had not seen the camp since Joe Governor and the others came, but was there when Jimmy was about.
He had not seen any aboriginal weapons. 
Edward John then gave evidence, but it was of no consequence.
Mrs. Governor, wife of Jimmy, a white woman, then gave evidence... 
(to be continued in a later post)


I have recently made the remarkable discovery that I was in the same class at school as a descendent of the Garlings who were at the Breelong homestead on the night of the murders.
Mr A F (Arthur Frederick) Garling and his wife attended the dying Sarah Mawbey and her three dead children, Grace, Percy and Hilda.
He was at the time the district coroner.
Mr Garling also took Mrs Mawbey's dying depositions.
There is a post of a recollection of this tragic night written by their daughter, Jean Garling, already on this blog under the heading, 'An Insider's Report'.
The recollection was published in the Melbourne Argus newspaper on Saturday 21 July 1934.
Jean has a room dedicated to her memory at the Mitchell Library for the support she gave it when she lived in Sydney.

Mr. A. F. Garling, a prominent and well-known business man, was found dead at breakfast time this morning. He was 64 years of age, and was a native of Mudgee, where in his early days he was employed by James Loneragan, Ltd. Later he opened a storekeeping business on his own account at Tooraweenah, and about 20 years ago shifted to Gilgandra, where he established a very lucrative business, which grew to large proportions. Five years ago he sold out to the Western Stores, Ltd. For a number of years he was prominent in all progressive movements for the welfare of the district. The funeral will take place to-morrow.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 5 May 1924
The estate of the late Mr. Arthur Frederick Garling, retired storekeeper, of Gilgandra, who died on February 22 last, has, for probate purposes, been valued at £42,797, the whole of which the testator left to his widow and children.
Mr Garling's father, A. C. Garling was born in Sydney and left the employ of the Bank of New South Wales to try his luck at the goldfields at Gulgong.