The place chosen for the robbery was a gully 5km north of Eugowra known as Eugowra Rocks. Here the coach was forced to slow down and negotiate a steep gully running down to Mandagery (Eugowra) Creek, and to avoid large granite boulders, one of which was known to the Wiradjury as “Coonbong” meaning “dead man”.
Note the dotted line indicating the course of the original road which deviated around the worst of “Escort Gully”. This map was drawn up in 1913. The fence posts marking the boundary of the old road-reserve can still be seen today.
with permission National Library of Australia
Gardiner’s gang ensured the coach would slow even further by forcing two bullock teams which happened along, to stop in the middle of the road, and making the bullockies and their men lie face down in the grass to appear drunk or asleep.
At about 3.30pm, the Ford & Co coach (Cobb & Co bought the business one month later) could be heard rumbling its way toward them up the valley, where the bushrangers hid behind the rock. As the coach slowed to pass around the obstacles, and abuse the bullockies, Gardiner gave the signal to attack and the gang sprang out, roaring, “bail up” with guns blazing.
The coach driver, Jack Fagan, and four police troopers on board to guard the gold, jumped down and ran for the bush as the horses reared and bolted, tipping the coach onto its side.
Fagan was shot through his hat, and one trooper was shot in the testicles. Fagan and three troopers made their way down the hill through the bush to Eugowra homestead. The other trooper backtracked to Lyell’s Shanty, on the Muddy Gate creek crossing near where Eat Your Greens Function Centre stands today.
Meanwhile, the bushrangers relieved the coach of 14 thousand pounds worth of gold and banknotes, loading it onto the back of one of the coach horses. They retrieved their horses which had been hidden up the hill behind the scrub, and made their way through the bush, stopping at the southern end of Noble’s Lagoon to redistribute the bags of gold, then crossing Mandagery creek where The Low Bridge is today, and camping on the northern bank of the Lachlan River.
Dan Charters, whose sister Agnes and brother in law James Newell ran a Public House on the Lachlan, was given the job of securing food and grog from them for the bushrangers’ journey.
The next day the gang made their way west, then south to Mount Wheogo, north of the Weddin Mountains, where Gardiner had his camp.
Above: Map of the area Forbes to Young, where bushrangers “worked” the roads and cattle stations, and held up the gold escort. The green line is the route taken by the bushrangers to Eugowra Rocks. The red line is the track they took after the robbery. ending near Wentworth Gully Station, where the pack horse loaded with gold was abandoned by the bushrangers.
Squatter Hanbury Clements had been out on his horse on the afternoon of the robbery, inspecting his stock, and having heard gunshots ringing out from the nearby rocks, rode in that direction to investigate. He soon came across the distressed troopers and Fagan who told the story of the raid.
Hanbury escorted the group to his homestead where his wife Edith nee Blacket, daughter of the Colonial Architect Edmond Blacket, attended to their injuries.
Hanbury then set off on horseback, riding 27 miles to Forbes in the dark in less than three hours to alert the authorities.
This early tip-off by Hanbury Clements allowed the police troopers with aboriginal tracker Jimmy Dargan to pick up the bushrangers’ fresh trail, and follow them south.
But Gardiner’s Wheogo camp had a good view of the surrounding country, and with John (The Warrigal) Walsh giving them early warning, the gang got away.
With much of the loot still loaded on the back of the exhausted coach horse, the bushrangers’ getaway was slow, and finally they abandoned the horse in the foothills of the Weddin Mountains, and bolted with bank notes only.
With the exception of Hall and Gardiner’s share, most of the gold from the robbery was recovered from the back of the abandoned coach horse.
It is generally believed there were two other men who helped with the Gold Escort robbery as lookouts and horse handlers. John McGuire and Johnny (The Warrigal) Walsh usually provided back up for the Gang – The Warrigal acting as lookout and McGuire posting money for bail, so these two were strongly implicated, but their guilt was never proven.
What Happened to the Gang?
On 14th August, 1862, just two months after the robbery at Eugowra, Dan Charters, under pressure from his sisters and in exchange for a free pardon, turned himself in to the Forbes Police. However, he didn’t squeal on John O’Meally, John McGuire, or his friend Ben Hall.
Dan subsequently worked for the police as a horse breaker, died in 1919 and was buried in Grenfell Cemetery.
Of the 8 official members of Gardiner’s gang, only one, Henry Manns, was hanged, meeting his end on 26th March 1863, and was buried in Campbelltown Cemetery.
Frank Gardiner was tracked to Queensland, allegedly through letters written between sisters Kitty and Biddy. He was sentenced to hard labour and gaoled for life, then after serving eight years of his sentence, and due to a change in public opinion, he was exiled from Australia. He went to San Francisco alone, opened a bar and allegedly fathered twin boys. He died about 1904.
Johnny Gilbert was shot dead during a shoot out with police in a paddock near Murrumburrah, on 13th May 1865, and was buried in the police paddock at Binalong.
“Johnny Bow and Alex Fordyce were sentenced to hard labour for life, but later released, with Bow ending his days in Lake Cargelligo. He is buried in the Catholic Cemetery.”
Johnny O’Meally was shot dead by the Campbells during the raid on Goimbla Station, and was buried outside the old Anglican Cemetery at Gooloogong. His father, Paddy O’Meally had moved his family away from the Weddins to Gooloogong after the police troopers burned down his Shanty and terrorized his family.
Ben Hall went on to set up his own gang and become an infamous bushranger in the central west.
He was shot full of holes by troopers at his campsite near Billabong Creek, west of Forbes, on 5th May 1865, and was buried in Forbes cemetery in a well marked grave.
During investigations into the robbery, John McGuire was arrested for possession of a nugget of gold weighing over an ounce. Kitty Brown (nee Walsh) claimed it belonged to McGuire, even though it was found in her hut and was presumably given to her by Frank Gardiner.
McGuire died in Junee in 1915, having recorded his reminiscences, “The Early Days of a Wild Colonial Youth”, a copy of which is held by his great, great, great, grandson, Jeff Freeman, who today lives in Eugowra.
The Raid on Goimbla (pronounced Go-imbla)
In November 1863, three bushrangers from Gardiner’s Gang were still on the loose; hiding out in what is now Nangar National Park. Now called Hall’s Gang, they made a night attack on the Goimbla Homestead. The reason for this attack was the strong public statements made against bushranging by Mr. Campbell, manager of the station.
John O’Meally, Ben Hall and John Gilbert decided to teach the Campbells a lesson by burning down the barn containing Mr Campbell’s prized racehorse. By the light of the blaze, The Campbells were able to see the bushrangers hiding behind the homestead paddock fence, and John O’Meally was shot dead. The other two then fled, and in the morning O’Meally’s body was found lying in the grass, and buried by troopers under a gum tree on the northern side of Mandagery creek.
On the left is Ben Hall, then John O’Meally (shot) and Johnny Gilbert. In the background is the burning barn, and beside it the homestead, where in the doorway is the remainder of smoke from the gun of the Campbells which was fired at the gang. All that remains of the old Goimbla homestead today is a stone chimney in a paddock probably the same chimney we can see in the painting. There is also a grove of poplar trees near the site, perhaps descendants of the tree seen here at the door of the homestead.
O’Meally’s father, Paddy, arrived a few days later and retrieved his son’s body, taking it to Gooloogong where the family then lived, and burying it outside the fence of the old Anglican Cemetery.
A public collection raised 1000 pounds to compensate the Campbells for their loss. David Campbell also received the 500 pounds reward for O’Meally, and later, a gold medal was presented to him by the government.
Mrs. Campbell was honoured with an electroplated silver coffee urn valued at fifteen pounds, inscribed “The ladies of upper and middle Adelong present this token of esteem to Mrs. Campbell as appreciation of her heroic conduct displayed during the attack on Goimbla by bushrangers on 19th November, 1863“. This urn is held in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
The Eugowra Hotel
Meanwhile, back in Eugowra, Hanbury Clements’ land was under threat from the selectors and the Robinson Land Act of 1862. He selected some of his own land and built the Eugowra Hotel in Eugowra Township. This was the first substantial building in the new town, and also served as the first Post Office. The original Eugowra Hotel was of timber, and burned down, and this was followed by a pise building, later dismantled. In its place a brick building was constructed and still stands today as The Fat Lamb Hotel.
Unable to satisfy the government’s demands for production from his land, Hanbury Clements and his family walked off Eugowra Station and moved to Western Australia.
About 34 years later, Hanbury’s son Edgar and his family returned to the Eugowra area, where a daughter Jean was born. Jean is alive and well in Eugowra in 2011.