Friday, August 30, 2013


Here are my six most popular posts on this blog, each with over 100 views.
Jimmy's murder victims 239
Jimmy Governor's hit list 184
John and Sarah Mawbey 179
Ripple effect of Governor's reign of terror 166
An Insider's Report 128
Links to Foley, Dixon, Donovan families 102

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


On 22 April 1842, an Irish-born axe murderer and serial killer, John Lynch, was hanged at Berrima Gaol.
I wonder if Jimmy Governor knew about him and was trying to outdo him?
Lynch was believed at the time to have murdered nine adults and children, but he confessed to 10.
He also, like Jimmy Governor, raped a young girl.
His alias was 'Dunleavy'.

Monday, July 8, 2013


On 20 July 2013 it will be 113 years since Jimmy Governor led a murderous attack on members of the NSW Mawbey family on their farm at Breelong.


This 1908 Coat of Arms for the City of Sydney is interesting.
It features images of the First Fleet used by the British government in 1788 to transport its first convicts to the penal colony of New South Wales.
An Aboriginal man and a British sailor stand on equal footing, but do the words of the motto, "I take, but I surrender", apply to both, or just the white man?
And what exactly does this mean?

Saturday, March 9, 2013


I have noticed in some of the books written about the Jimmy Governor story a left wing bias which explains why the white people who were murdered 'had it coming' and the black murders were their 'victims'.
The first book published on the subject was supposedly authored by Frank Clune, a tax accountant and travel writer.
But his ghost writer, the man who really authored his books, was a card-carrying Communist, Percy Reginald Stephensen.
The Queensland-born radical and political activist, had been one of the first members of the newly formed Communist Party in 1921.
He took on the Aboriginal cause when he was a student at Queensland University, turning the conservative newspaper on its head by giving it an Aboriginal name.
Unlike his fellow travellers today, he was a nationalist, not an internationalist.
He hated both business and businessmen, dismissing them contemptuously as 'bourgeosie'.
One of his contemporaries at Queensland University was another champion of the worker, 'Banjo' Paterson.
In 1924, Stephensen was made Queensland Rhodes Scholar and spent eight years in England, dabbling in publishing, including with Aleister Crowley, an exponent of the black arts.
During World War II, after his return to Australia, he was interned as an enemy alien.
John Mawbey
John Thomas Mawbey was born in August 1849 in harbourside Wooloomooloo, Sydney, and brought up in rural the fruit-growing district of Dural, to the north-west of the 'big smoke'.
His two elder brothers had died earlier as small boys, so he was effectively the eldest son of English-born emmigrants, George and Ann Mawbey, who had married in Sydney in 1838.
At the time of his birth, his father had just started working as the schoolmaster at the Church of England diocesan school at Dural.
John Thomas was baptised in the local Church of England, St Jude's.
At the end of 1860, when he was 11, the family moved back to Sydney, to the inner suburb of Newtown.
Two years later, when he was 13, his father died of a stroke leaving his mother with eight children between the ages of 17 years and three months to raise on her own.
When old enough to work, John Thomas was a carrier, transporting goods with a horse and cart, as was his younger brother, George.
He contributed some of the money he made to the fund to build St Stephen's Church of England at Camperdown.
When John Mawbey married Sarah Clarke in Mudgee in 1875, his occupation was a 'dealer', in other words, a businessman, someone who buys and sells goods.
He moved to Mudgee and ran a fruit shop there for about six years before taking up a selection of land at Breelong in 1884 when the old squatters' holdings were carved up for smaller farmers.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I have looked into the allegations made against John Thomas Mawbey that his behaviour towards Jimmy Governor provoked the murders of his wife and three of his children.
The only possible reason I could find was that Mr Mawbey was refusing to pay Jimmy and his workers any more money until the job was completed, to his satisfaction.
Until Mr Mawbey, who gave Governor the contract for a fencing job, discovered that the job was not being done properly, he appears to have been paying Jimmy a regular salary.
He claimed in court that Jimmy had been earning around 6/- a day.
This appears to have been a more than fair amount. 
A recent Who Do You Think You Are program about Australian Aboriginal Olympic gold medallist, Cathy Freeman, revealed that her grandfather was paid the same amount when he was a soldier in the army during World War I, some 15 years later.
And a former nurse recently told me that she was paid 15/- a fortnight in the 1930s (on top of accommodation and food), as was an apprentice milliner.
When Mr Mawbey and discovered that the fencing job was not being done properly, he could have sacked Jimmy Governor for failing to uphold his contract.
But it was very hard to get farm workers in those days.
The job seems to have carried a stigma because the first farm workers had been convicts, and a form of cheap labour.
So in order to attract and keep them, the employer would have had to have been prepared to pay good money.
Mr Mawbey may also have had a time limit imposed on him to have the fencing job done.
One of the conditions imposed on selectors by the government was that they had to improve the land they were leasing.
Banks may have imposed a similar condition on farming loans.
A good fence was an asset that improved the property; a poorly constructed one brought its value down.
Mr Mawbey has been criticised for taking the faulty fence posts away and giving Jimmy a crown for them.
But all they were good for was firewood.
They would not have been used for fencing anywhere else on the property.
Governor's friend, Jacky Underwood, said during his court hearing that the cessation of a regular salary as the reason why Jimmy had a grudge against Mr Mawbey.
A travelling hawker, Sam Ellis, claimed to have seen the Aboriginal men making traditional wooden clubs, weapons, at their camp after their fencing work had been rejected.
I think the truth of the matter is that they planned to murder all the Mawbey family and then take whatever money in the house that they believed was rightfully theirs.
I believe the allegations of discrimination against his wife and himself were all manufactured to create a smokescreen around the true, and much simpler, cause of the murders.
Jimmy appears to have been paying Jacky Underwood and the three other males to assist him with the fencing job.
Whether he had let Mr Mawbey know he was going to sub-contract part of the work when he was awarded the contract is not known.
However, Jimmy later made out that the others just 'turned up', out of the blue, when in fact it appears to me to have been pre-arranged.
This suggests he had not been 'up front' with his employer in the beginning.
Of the four men, only one, his younger brother, Joe Governor, could be described as 'able bodied'.
Jacky Underwood was blind in one eye and had an injured foot that caused him to limp.
Jacky Porter, was an old man, although judging by a subsequent report, fit and active.
And the 'boy', Peter Porter (aka Governor), was deformed.
It is not known if Mr Mawbey knew about or understood the kinship obligation Jimmy appears to have had to support the three men, even though they were apparently incapable of doing the job properly.


Friday, February 22, 2013


During my recent visit to NSW State Records I found a book Ships' Deserters 1852-1900 by Jim Melton.
Therein I discovered that a Charles Page, an able-bodied seaman, had jumped ship from the Harriet in Sydney.
The official notice was dated 1 September 1853.
If this was the same Charles Page who was Ethel Governor's father, he would have been aged 14 at the time.
The village he grew up in, Wrangle, was a shipping port, so it was highly likely that he would have gone to sea.
The Harriet, a three-masted sailing ship, had left London on its maiden voyage to Sydney in February 1853, arriving at its destination on 30 May that year.
The crew had been fractious and mutinous throughout the journey and five had jumped ship in Sydney.
Because one of the children on board had come down with measles, an infectious disease, the ship was placed in quarantine at the Sydney Quarantine Station on North Head.
Passengers and crew had to remain there until given the all clear on 11 June 1854.
They did not disembark at Farm Cove until 16 June.
A descendant of Charles Page has told me that his great grandfather is said to have jumped ship in New Zealand and lived with the Maoris for three years.
The story goes that he then returned to New South Wales, jumped ship again, and then lived with the Aborigines.
Having jumped ship, being a deserter, he would have been constantly on the run from the law.
This suggests that his trips to NZ and back to NSW were as an anonymous stowaway.
Maybe it was not a mistake that his name on his marriage certificate was spelt 'Paye' instead of 'Page'.
He did not marry until he was aged 42, in 1881.
This suggests he may have been previous relationships in NZ and NSW, and that these may have produced children.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Today at NSW State Records I also looked at the reports of prison guards keeping watch over Jimmy Governor at Darlinghurst Gaol.
I discovered that any previously published discussions I have seen of this subject have been far too cursory and general.
There were three warders doing rotating shifts: R Keirnan and H C McLean, both 3rd class warders, and John Dwyer, probationary warder.
In the first entry, made on 7 December 1900, Mr Keirnan says 'he seems to treat everything as a joke'.
The following day, Mr McLean says he was doing a lot of boasting, big-noting himself, for outwitting the police.
He also says he is half Irish and half black man and that this accounts for his smartness.
A week later he is saying he is afraid they are going to give him a life sentence.
[This may harken back to his trial when his barrister, Frank Boyce, was trying to get him charged with manslaughter, instead of murder, on the ground of provocation.]
The warder records that Jimmy Governor 'talks a lot about getting a light sentence and how he will go to America after doing his time'.
There is talk of his getting off [his death sentence].
Jimmy is also laughing at his own jokes.
He hates being in a cell and says he is a [caged] lion at the zoo.
On 16 December 1900, the warder on duty reports that Jimmy Governoris talking of hanging himself in his cell.
He wants to go into one of the yards during the day.
Said he would hang himself and the warder wasn't to stop him.
The warder would have his brains knocked out [if he tried].
The warder comments that Jimmy is cheerful at times, and very bad tempered at others.
On 17 December 1900, he is visited by the Comptroller General [of the prison], the Church of England chaplain [clergyman], and Miss [Retta] Dixon.
The warder writes that Jimmy has given up all boasting and laughing and pays great attention to his bible.
By 8 January 1901, Jimmy is praying on his knees.
He had already stated that he had 'made his peace with God' before Miss Dixon, a young Baptist missionary, arrived on the scene.
But her constant ministering to him appears to have had a major calming effect on him.
On 11 January 1901, Jimmy Governor weighed 162 lb.
He was hanged seven days later.
I felt very strong emotions while reading these Darlinghurst Gaol warders' reports.


Today at NSW State Records I found the notebook used by Justice Owen who presided over the Jimmy Governor Supreme Court case.
He took copious notes of the testimonies of witnesses, and the defendant, and highlighted matters of law he needed to explore further.
In particular, the 'double jeopardy' argument used by Jimmy's barrister, Frank Boyce, that his client had already been tried and convicted by being declared an outlaw, and therefore could not be tried for the same offences again.
Justice Owen's handwritten and difficult to read notes on this case fill 55 size A4 pages (pp.95-150).
His notes on Ethel's evidence say that she and Jimmy arrived at the Mawbey farm at Breelong in April 1900, around the time of their son, Sydney's first birthday.
And on John Thomas Mawbey's evidence,that  there were four males in the old inn on the night Jimmy Governor came a'calling before the murders were committed.
They were himself, two of his sons, Reginald, 18, and Sydney, 13, and his brother-in-law, Frederick Clarke.
Justice Owen observes that Ethel is 'short of stature' and that John Thomas is 'a small, pleasant-faced man'.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Today Saturday 26 January is celebrated throughout the country as Australia Day.
A special song called I am Australian, written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley (words and lyrics) and Dobe Newton (words), sums up our history in a moving way.
Here is the link to the You Tube version of the song - I am Australian.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

For the last week a fierce bushfire has been raging at Condoblin near the Warrumbungles, destroying homes, livestock and wildlife.
This newspaper report reveals that something similar was happening in 1888, on land owned by the Rouse family, and on Breelong, owned by Mr John Mawbey.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 23 October 1888
Gilgandra, Monday. Extensive bush fires are raging on the Warrumbungle Mountains, Rouse's country; and also on the Castlereagh, on BREELONG, Mr Mowbray's (MAWBEY'S) country.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


This blog is now coming to an end.
I will shortly write a post containing all the new information I have found that sheds a different light on the Jimmy Governor story.
The purpose of this blog was to tell the true "true" story of this Aboriginal man, and hopefully this will have been achieved.