Chapter 144498977

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article144498977
Full Date1891-12-25
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count2144
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889 - 1930)
Trove TitleA Christmas Tragedy. An Exciting Incident of the Early Fifties
article text

STOEYfELLEfl. — ? \v'

A CHRISTMAS TRAGEM.

AN EXCITING iNOEDENT OF^HB^ -1 EARLY FIFTIES. ~ j

(Br B.F.6.) j

' (OaiQXHAL.l I

Christmas in Australia can never be like . that jolly season in OH England. This Is never bo keenly felt as on the first Christmas spent at the Antipodes. Everything is so different — the glaring son in contrast with the land clouds at home ; the parched earth

instead ot the anowcovered ground; the sweltering heat in place of tho raw cold ; the seductions of. outside pleasure rather than indoor amusements j the secular spirit in which the season is kept as distinctive from its devout observance in the old land — all these' impress .those, . whOBe recollections ol Christmas at home are of recent date. I well remember my first Christmas in Australia. I was bnt a stripling, with a keen relish for fun, a wild desire for excite ment, and vividly, pleasant memories of how that happy season was spent in the dear home of my childhood. How sadly I felt the difference between my £rst Christmas hero and my last there I cannot explain by the imagery of word or figure. Besides there were circumstances which occurred at that time which not only emphasize the manner in which Christmas is commemo rated in Australia, bat which fastened in my mind a scene which is mentally as clear to day as when it was witnessed nearly 86 years ago. 'My mates were all city men who had been wooed from the monotony of office work by the enticing prospect of fortunes held out by the attractions of a digger's life. We were camped on tho margin of a running creck, picturesquely meandering between two shapely hills, on which, and down to the very water's edge, were graceful trees which afforded generous shelter from the fierce rays of Old Sol. We were up by the first streak of golden sunlight, for had not the beef to be roasted and the plum pud ding mixed and cooked ; and for Christmas carols we had to be satisfied with the musical sounds of the bullock bells, as the hobbled boasts browsed on the slopes of the hills ; tbe noise of the woodman's axe, tbe songs of the feathered tribe, and the wild guffaw of the jackass. It was a gorgeous morning, with the sun rising majestically in the arch of a cloudlcss faky, and a soft breeze of cool on* chantment fanning the bronzed faces of the hardy diggers who, by common consent, abandoned their work, and left tools and cradles to care for themselves by the water holes. Tho culinary arrangements of our party were skilfully attended to by Wo of our number, while the balance of as strolled into tbe bush, and laydown, basking in the delicious suhshine, cogitating concerning former experiences, and calling np pleasant memories of the dead past. The glade in which we found temporary repose was ravishingly attractive, and we were loath to respond to the signal given by tbe sun right over our heads that noon was at hand, and a return to our tents and dinners desirable. Baving reached the latter,' and found our mates awaiting as with some anxiety as to tho fate of the good things they had pro vided for us, should we continue absent much longer, we soon gathered together in the largest tent, where a rough, but ampl£ re past was spread attractively before our eyes, and the aroma of which in our nostrils was highly provocative of & desire to 'set to' at once. Standing by the rude table laden with our sumptuous meal, and lifting oar ibats, while the senior member of our party «tid grace (for we had not then drifted into ithe heathen method of eating without thank fulness), we then 6at down to as jolly a meal As ever sin hungry men had placed before them. The solidities having been oonBumed to the point o( satisfaction, the dessert, con sisting of almonds and raisins, to be washed down by port wine and ' golden top,' was placed before us, and then fan and frolic ' began. Songs, loudly melodious, were sung. rude and lewd were craoked, stories of -wilt?jfe were told, to the musio of clashing jpannikfcs, as toast after toast was proposed And duly honoured. Weston, who was one -of (he'dev£P8 0wn,' bat had left the diy (hash of statute books for tbe more exhila rating life of lifo on the diggings gay, was just concluding a neat little speech, which tt-*£S a prelude to toasting' ' Our friends at ~ ihowtt,' when we were all startled by the re port ,of # gun, followed by a loud shriek and

tthe excite* ffffces ol excited men. We rushed simultaneously from the tent, and iowards a crowd of diggers assembled about IB. hundred yards away. Whep we reached ihe spot, and pushed oar way into tbe ranks, a sight at once terrible and shocking met our sight. On the ground, iu the gay and becoming colours of a lucky digger's holiday costume, lay the body of a fair young fellow fowwn &s ' Flash Yorkey,' with a gaping, fcleedigg wound in the side of his head. 3?hat he was dead was apparent, and that he «ras brutally jpwdered we soon gathered from fltteraoces of Jhosc ;ttound him. The dead man had been a general favourite witb all the diggers in , the gully, and was a fine specimen of physical manhood. He was a good athlete, and it took a good man to £hrow him, or best him in a stand-up fight. £«£ Jhere he lay now, pale and lifeless, who fi, few foments before was the life of a jolly party enjoying their Christmas dinner in jollieking fadtfop. From what we fejp&ed it appears that he *&d bis two mates were their tent, and fcad just conoluded their meal and were about io load their pipes, when a stranger, holding a gun on his shoulder, name to the tent door andasked' Yorkey' outside, as he wanted to speak to him. Anticipating and fearing tao danger, the poor fellow went out, and proceeded a little way from the tent with the stranger. ' Alter a little altercation, the latter levelled his masket, and fired point blank at his nnsaspecting viotim, with the - result already stated. ? Yorkey immediately fell, bat rose to his feet, only io be bratslly clubbed by his dastardly assassin* No sooner did the dead man's mates hear the gun shot than they rushed out just in time to see their poor mate felled by the butt-end of the musket ' held by his assailant. Quickly re

turning totheir tent, tbey expeditiously took hold ol their : revolvers ' and rush&d out to render what help they could to their fallen friend, and, ' if possible, capture his cowardly -murderer: As soon as they reaohed poor - ' Yorkey1' they saw at a glance that they could render him no assistance^ 80, ten* 4efty placing a 'scarldVer his face, they -au the difoction taken by the lujfitye, 99P in full flight. They were flHiokly jomp4 fyy £ number of stalwart *. )iigeers,'sonie of whom '^af witnessed tho ,tfagio incident, and others merely Attracted ,by iebmaotion succeeding it. Some ?twenty; men 'wjjii.ln .pursuit, and vowing yengeanop 'on the miscreants should ihey - fjwceeijfo capturing him. They rushed

which terminated lt]Bu^ thefflat; 4md np ibe.ateepddes «if : VoWoHte'^iiUj^ where they Sastoaught of the retreating figure of the ranaAas he disappeared overihe ; iWitilU and' in sreaslng speed thepJlg crowd sped on; determined, dead «rjKw *0. capture the assassin.. Panting wSieir' exertions and suppressed rage.- thejih^ Gp the hill side, and soon reach^ti summit, expect* - ing to see the rnffian 1 the . distance. In this, however, they ^elsappomtedjfornot a-dgn of him was seen. ;As they paused to hold a counci war; ana decide upon what was to be, -L to capture the fellow now they wereT the track, my mates and I, with a »4igant of several others, well-armed, turi\C ^ brief consul* taUon led to the detenniAon foc*all pre sent to scatter in twos, aily a wide circuit endeavour to head the fogL, or surrounnd him. This was no sooner than it was put into execution, cQwith wild ex citement wejall started ftgiAn pursuit. It was also determined that vS^er discovered him was to fire two shots Bquick succes sion in order to signal thefts for assis tance if necessary, and jt this final arrangement we Beparated.Aacoompahied Weston and another, as, thSbut a youth, 1 was anxious to see the tesA-{ the chace, and, to nse a sporting phrasK in at the death. It was weary workSth'the sun pouring down in full force iS qs as advanced— now rushing dowm steep ^]^e of a range, then dashing aoro^gully, and anon slowly pushing our wafflrough the thick undergrowth ; but our «1 wa8 and it was hot with the itnpt«of youth, and so on wc went, covering a ground, and apparently no nearer the q&t 0f our search. The sun was getting 9 aQ& we exhausted and discouraged, whes0 heard, apparently about a mile away, Vlrwelcbme signal, and guided by it we wereftiong in covering the distance between ntib those who gave it. Arriving at the plalLe saw two of our party — one with a tho other armed with a six-shooter— Aring a spot in the hill-side, which appear j|o be a natural recess in the earth, awjpartly covered by shrubs. Here the fogST taken refuge, and the question wa»w to take him without jeopardising lifejvhUe , considering the matter, several othelf the pursuing party came up, and it wasfreed to call upon the fellow to surrender, J(j jf he would not, to smoke him oat. times he was called apon to come forXfaut no l-e&ponse was made. Tben tw(Len volunteered to place dry leavcB and dftcd brushwood at the mouth of tbe cave aiSre ' them. We watched anxiously this prA]. ' ing, and feared tbat if great caution wejfot 1 exercised, one or other might lose theij jfe. i However, they worked with considejSp | skill, and, having gathered sufficient deoa I branches for the purpose, went on the m side above tho cave, and so worked with I parative safety. WhenaU was ready, 1-J( ! put a match to the inflammable matter tdu

waited tne result, with weapons in all laanr behind and in front, pointed at the ca. Nearly five minutes elapsed, when a figW was seen dashing through the flames a: smoke, and so soon as it was clear of tl samo^ we perceived that it was tbe man V wanted, and who immediately threw up h; hands in token of surrender. He was spec dily surrounded and, in no gentle manned fU-PI1F»1v hn « U-U

and after waiting for eome time for thej others to come np in response to several! more shots discharged as arranged, a starts back to 'Green Gully' was made. Wei reached our destination about seven o'clock, ^ and, by this time, found the whole place in wild excitement, and everyone anxiously waiting our return. The prisoner was a stranger, and looked fearfully scared, as well he might be, for many were for lynching him at once. However, wiser oonnsel prevailed, and he was handed over to Sergeant O'Keefe, and securely chained to a log and watched all night, and the next morning taken to Fiery Creek, from thence, in due course, to be 6ent to BaUarat to await his trial and his fate. Little difficulty was experienced in tracing the deed to him, but as he had maintained a stolid silence, and could not bo induced to make any statement, no dis covery of the real motive for the crime for which he was arrested and subsequently exe cuted, oould be discovered. It was, how* ever, surmised, from tbe wording of ft let^e? found on poor ' Yorkey/'thal it was jealousy, and that ho travelled all the wav from York-.

shire to kill his victim, who, it was sup posed, supplanted him in the affections of one Alice Briggs, to whom reference was made. As may be imagined, very little sleep was enjoyed by thoso at Green Gully that Christ mas night, and until morning broke, knots of men could be found discussing tho events

uiai iiaa uappenea uuriQg tne previous day. As for myself, I never attempted to rest; lu} thought of the terrible tragedy— of the dead man— of the oxcitement of the man hunt— of tho sad termination to a day of ' good will towards men,' and of the great contrast in the way J spent my last Christmas at home with that of my ffrst Pfrristmas in Acs- I tralia. |