Friday, July 25, 2014

The heyday of the outlaw : Bushrangers in the Riverina

A recent query regarding bushranger Ben Hall prompted some interest in whether Wagga Wagga or the surrounding districts had produced any outlaws of note. The local studies collection in Wagga City Library provided some answers : Wagga Wagga Thrillers by Sherry Morris and Riverina Rogues by Kevin J Passey are just two of the resources available.If you are interested there are many other books available in the general collection and the local studies collection has some parish maps as well, to add to the fun of researching. Cross referencing with the places named on parish maps shows the progress of celebrity bushrangers and their gangs across New South Wales and more particularly the Riverina. For more contemporary accounts, you can search Trove newspapers online.

The main local bushranger talent was the Blue Cap Gang, headed by Robert Cottrell. Their targets included stations such as Barellan, Berembed and Berry Jerry. One of the endearing traits of the Blue Cap gang ( and indeed some other bushrangers ) was to get their captives to do odd things like play their favourite tunes on the piano, or play draughts, a welcome change from the usual fare of rape and violence associated with bushrangers and their gangs at the time. The gang's exploits across the region made it into newspapers as far away as The Argus( Melbourne) , The Townsville Daily Bulletin ( Queensland) and The Cornwall Chronicle (Tasmania). Robert Cottrell was tried at Wagga Court on 20 April 1868.According to Sherry Morris, Cottrell only served six of his ten year sentence, and was set free because "His sentence was only light as he had never actually shot or wounded anyone and had no prior convictions". (p 15, Wagga Wagga Thrillers) 
Tales of notorious bushrangers and their exploits across the region are just the thing for dreary winter days. Come into the library and explore the world of the bushranger through our collections !

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