Gunwoman of the
Lambert Thring (No. 11652,
, seven years, forgery) arrived in Sydney Cove during
the latter days of 1838, the partiality shown him by certain high-placed
officials of the system caused much bitter comment among those who
accompanied him on the voyage.
, instead of being marched publicly through the
streets in his chains, he was met by a corporal, who conducted him to a
dog-cart waiting in a side-street. In
this pretentious conveyance he was taken, not to the convict barracks,
but to the office of Mr E Deas Thompson, the Colonial Secretary.
man was provided with employment in one of the Government offices, and
given a comfortable hut in which to live.
newspaper comment at the time hinted that Thring’s crime in
had been the forging of banknotes, and that certain
rich men had contrived his transportation without the formality of a
trial, more to be rid of him than as a punishment for his crime.
the truth of the matter may have been, Thring was better off than many
free men in
at the time, and did much as he liked.
And during the course of his unimpeded wanderings about town, it
was noted that he prosecuted vigorous inquiries about a certain Miss
Isabella Mary Kelly, who was reported to own several big stations in the
Terror of the
attention was paid to his investigations along these lines, for, at the
period, all men were more or less curious about this strange woman, who,
single-handed, was said to have terrified tribes of wild blacks, subdued
savage convict servants to cowering obedience, cattle thieves who
attempted to ravish her herds.
But Thring had some potent reason for his inquiries.
Later events indicate that he had some cause to hate her with a
he settled definitely that Miss Kelly was firmly established at
and Brimbin stations, and satisfied himself that
there was solid basis for truth in the rumours of her enormous wealth,
he adopted a remarkable course of action.
morning, on approaching Mr MacLeay, the Superintendent of Convicts, as
that worthy gentleman sat in his office, Thring asked that he be
assigned to the service of the A A Company at Port Stephens.
It was not a difficult matter to complete the formalities
attending the assignment of a convict to the big agricultural
establishment at Port Stephens. So
it was that Thring went to Carrington a week later, on the company
schooner, “Lambton”, recorded on the manifest as a shepherd.
The man’s ability was soon discovered at the company’s
headquarters. Capt Phillip
Parker King, the commissioner, on learning that Thring was an
accomplished penman, sent him to Stroud to act as keeper of the
company’s stores, a position he filled with credit during the six
months he occupied the post.
the end of that time, he asked to be sent to the out-station at
, where according to his account many serious
peculations [theft of public property] would be discovered by a skilful
investigator. Thring was
sent thither, vested with powers far greater than those usually given to
a mere convict servant.
ex-forger rode to
with a light heart.
The establishment was situated in the shadow of those frowning
summits called “The Bucketts” and about a mile up the river from
where the town of that historic name stands today.
And it was within a day’s easy ride of Miss Kelly’s homestead
spent several weeks in close attention to his duties at
found that the overseer was making too free with the blacks, a fact
which he used to have that individual removed from his position and sent
back to Stroud.
given full power on the place, he began a series of activities that
astonished the shepherds and stockmen he directed.
Professing to believe that Miss Kelly was stealing the
company’s cattle, he ordered three men – James, Taylor and Gayne –
and recover what stock they found bearing the A A
Company’s brand. They
returned the next day – Gayne with a bullet in his shoulder, and James
with a nasty wound to the head. Miss
Kelly had driven them off at pistol point.
night, when the men discussing the matter in their hut, Thring announced
that he had a day of reckoning to make with Miss Kelly, and would attend
to it himself.
there was a man named George Fenning, a misshapen
creature of the system, sullen, savage and saturnine.
A year before, he had been attached to the
establishment as stockman, and there he had incurred
the full and merciless measure of Miss Kelly’s wrath.
After Thring had uttered his threat against the termagant [nagging
scolding woman] of the Manning, Fenning sought him out.
Bluntly he proposed that the two should begin reprisals at once
against their enemy.
“Let us take to the roads,” said Fenning.
“I am sick of workin’ with the fear o’ th’ lash over me
all th’ time. A flash
covey like you can make a fortune as a bushranger.”
it was that one morning the company’s establishment at
awoke to find itself without an overseer, and minus
the services of a stockman of doubtful character.
A week later the countryside knew that two armed bushrangers were
very busily engaged at their trade in the vicinity of Stroud.
first sticking-up of any note was at Telligherry, an out-station on the
Karuah, where a fine homestead had lately been erected for Mr Charles
Hall, the cattle superintendent.
Now launched irretrievably on a career of bushranging, Thring
determined to pay his promised visit to Miss Kelly, to extract from her
the revenge he apparently sought. He
put the matter to his companion, but Fenning, thoroughly enjoying his
new-found freedom and the good things he was able to steal without fear,
seemed inclined to postpone the matter.
“She be a devil,” he said, “an’ belikes she might beat us
if we bain’t careful. Us
be doin’ fine now, an’ I don’t want ter spoil it.”
“Whether she be devil or angel,” said Thring, “I am
determined to have a settlement with her before another week has passed.
If you will not come, then I go alone.”
They set out, with
Hatred in their Hearts.
days later the outlaws reined in their horses on a timbered hill
were armed to the teeth, and on Thring’s face was a scowl of deadly
hatred as he watched the spurred and booted figure of a short stocky
woman emerge from the house and walk towards the stables.
that is Miss Kelly she has changed greatly in the last five years,” he
be the old --- right enough,” Fenning informed him.
stated Thring, “We will gallop down and capture her.”
Setting spurs to his horse, and bidding Fenning follow, the
ex-forger galloped at break-neck pace down the hillside and out across
the flat. The woman hearing
the thudding of hoofs on the grass, halted midway between the house and
the stables, and waited quietly the approach of the riders.
Within a few paces of her, Thring jerked his horse to its
haunches, and leaping from the saddle, thrust a pistol into the grim
face of Miss Kelly.
“Now the tables are turned, my dear lady,” he said.
“It is my turn to laugh. You
remember me, of course, and the reason why I am prompted to call on
“Yes,” said Miss Kelly, her face set like a mask.
“I do remember you. And you have not changed in any respect.
You were always a contemptible creature, only fit to prey on
women, and to revenge yourself on the one whom you could not rob or
“Hold your tongue,” snarled Thring, his face whitening with
rage. “Walk to the house
at once, or I will shoot you.”
As the trio marched slowly into the house, Fenning showed great
uneasiness. Hoarsely he
whispered to his companion that they should truss Miss Kelly with rope
lest she outwit them in the end, pointing out that she was a woman of
marvellous resource and courage. Thring
laughed at the idea, and, instead of heeding the wise advice of the man
who had long suffered at her hands, he ordered Miss Kelly to be seated.
“I want your signature to these documents, as a beginning,” he
said, placing before her several sheets of foolscap covered with clerkly
writing. “After that
formality has been completed, we intend to rob the house and set fire to
Miss Kelly picked up the papers and glanced at them casually.
Leaning over the table she drew towards her a huge wrought iron
ink pot, and looked about as though for a pen.
don’t see my pen,” she said, “perhaps it is in the drawer.”
Quite calmly she pushed her chair back and drew out the drawer in
the table. Thring was eyeing
her intently, and Fenning had both his pistols pointed at her head.
What happened in the next split fraction of a second was an
amazing example of the courage of the woman.
With a lightning-like sweep of her arm she threw up a pistol she
had seized from the drawer, and pulled the trigger.
Thring fell across the table with a yell of agony, and as
Fenning’s weapons barked, Miss Kelly had slid to the floor out of
harm’s way. The next
instant she was on her feet, another pistol in her hand, dominating the
Fenning cowered in craven fear before the flashing anger in her
eyes. Back to the wall she
drove him, and then, in ringing tones, commanded her servants, who had
rushed in from the rear, to seize and bind the miscreant.
After Fenning had been trussed, she bent over Thring, who was
lying unconscious on the floor.
“Take this man to the barracks,” she directed.
“He will not die; he is not even badly wounded.
He is a coward, that’s all, and is insensible from far.”
A week later, with the two men tied to horses, Miss Kelly set out
for Dungog. She delivered
her prisoners to Capt Thomas Cook, at his home up the river, on
Auchentorlie Estate, and talked fiercely to the old magistrate who
feared her greatly.
you let these men escape, Cook,” she gritted out, “I’ll come down
and flog you at your own triangles.
without a backward glance the doughty chatelaine of the North rode off
over the ranges to her home at