Provided by the Question Mark Collective as part of a forthcoming anthology on Australian Troublemakers to be published by Melbourne based Scam Publications.
Not only did the ruling class of the early to mid nineteenth century face opposition from the original inhabitants of the lands they were occupying, but also from the servants and convicts they employed to do their work. Much of this opposition came to the surface in everyday refusals to carry out orders properly, petty theft, drunkenness and general laziness. Occasionally more organised forms of revolt broke out including small uprisings and the murder of masters. More commonly labourers who had come to know the land would run off and become bushrangers.
The majority of bushrangers were quite clearly out for themselves and no one else. However their class allegiances occasionally came to the fore, particularly in incidents where they deliberately attacked and humiliated "gentlemen", the police and former masters. The following statement from the victim of one such attack clearly illustrates such class attitudes.
George Bruce Barting states that he left Oldbury on the morning of the 30th, to visit his farm at Belangola and some of Mrs Atkinson's sheep stations in that neighbourhood, that he proceeded about ten miles, when, in going down a steep mountain, at the time leading two horses, he was suddenly stopped by two bushrangers who sprung from behind a rock close to him, presenting, the one a double barrelled percussion gun, and the other a pistol, close to his head and in the most diabolical language ordered him to stop.
This order he complied with; they then told him to turn the horses loose, this he refused to do; then to take his jacket off, this was done, deponent thinking they intended to take it. The deponent's money was next demanded; this he gave them to the value of 21 shillings. The man who acted as leader told the man with the gun to keep it levelled at the deponent, and to fire directly when he gave the order.
He then took the deponent's handkerchief from his neck and tied him to a tree; this he would not submit to till persuaded by Mrs Atkinson, who was with the deponent at the time, deponent still thinking that the bushrangers only meant to detain him. The leader then tore out the back of the deponents waistcoat and shirt and told the other bushranger, who still kept his gun presented at deponent, to give him the cat. He immediately gave the leader an uncommonly thick stockman's whip, very short in the thong, made of green hide and exceedingly heavy.
The bushranger, a very strong man, then began to lash deponent's back with all his strength, in a very deliberate manner. In answer to the deponent who asked how many lashes he could expect? he replied "Thirty", about which number were inflicted. The rascal then said he would give deponent about ten minutes rest and then ten minutes more punishment. This through the intercession of Mrs Atkinson was not inflicted, but he directed Mrs Atkinson to untie deponent, which she did.
The bushranger then brandished his whip over Mrs Atkinson's head with one hand and holding a large pistol close to her face with the other, declared, although he had never struck a woman, he had a good mind to serve her as deponent had been served as she allowed her men to be treated so very bad in her establishment. This she denied and defied him to name any man who could complain. He said he did not have his information from servants, but from a Gentleman, a Mr Munn (who is the son of a professor of the same name in Edinburgh).
The leader then told deponent that he was not the only one to be served in that manner as he considered it his duty to go around and flog all the Gentleman so that they might know what punishment was. This he repeated twice. Deponent was then ordered to return, the bushranger declaring deponent would be shot if he attempted to proceed on his journey. Deponent further states that within these last twelve months, his own and Mr Atkinson's stations have been robbed at least ten times, and he believes by the same party, that the bushrangers are constantly shooting a bullock when they want meat, taking of the same as much as they require, leaving the remainder to spoil; that the shepherds are constantly losing their shoes and clothes and that although some of the stations are 25 miles distant, they are obliged to be rationed weekly as the huts are constantly being ransacked by bushrangers. Deponent feels satisfied there was one, if not more of the party that stopped him that did show themselves; one of whom was called Simmons.
Sworn before me at Oldbury this 4th February, 1836.
Reprinted from the Sydney Herald, 11 February 1836.