The invention of Jack the Devil – Bushranger

Before Jack became the infamous bushranger he is in “The Bushranger’s Wife”, he started out as Jack the Devil – boy bushranger.

I originally wrote Jack as a secondary character in my first Australian historical “The Girl from Eureka”. But Jack’s larger than life personality made me fall in love with him and he just had to have his own story.

In “The Bushranger’s Wife”, Jack has been terrorising the highways of Victoria for more than six years. While he still enjoys the freedom of roaming the Central Highlands, he’s starting to feel there might just be more to life when he comes across Pru and her acidic and formidable grandmother. Read the blurb for “The Bushranger’s Wife” . . .

But back in 1854, Jack had yet to turn twenty and was just graduating from petty thievery to bushranging. His close friendship with the heroine of the story Indy, meant he looked out for her and her mother. When Indy falls for British soldier Will, Jack has to push aside his own crush on her to help her and her soldier boy find their happy ending. A complete rascal Jack adds some light-hearted moments to the story as evidenced here in this scene from “The Girl from Eureka” where we meet Jack for the first time at a ball in the mining town of Ballarat.

‘Jack Fairweather! What in the name of Victoria and Albert do you do here?’
‘What?’’ he asked, holding on to the lapels of his coat and raising his nose high in the air to give off the appropriate amount of snoot. ‘A man of the highway cannot attend a ball?’
‘A man of the highway by any other name would spell bushranger.’ Indy kept her voice low, so as not to be heard by the crowd. 
‘And being so, I have money to burn,’ he said as they wandered back into the main tent. ‘Granted most of the money was theirs once,’ he said, waving a hand at the crowd. ‘But let’s not quibble over a small technicality such as that.’
‘And where did you get that suit?’ she asked, chuckling again as she looked him over. Jack was a handsome fellow, a year younger than herself. Pale brown eyes were topped with long lashes, his russet hair hung longer than current fashions dictated, but Jack Fairweather would care little for that. His inability to grow a decent beard meant his baby face gave him an edge on the highway. Who would believe such a fresh-faced young man could be a dangerous bushranger?
‘I liberated this fine article of clothing from an American gentleman coming in from Melbourne for the ball.’ Indy struggled to contain her laughter as she saw that the suit pants didn’t quite reach his ankles.
‘So it’s a little small.’ He shrugged against the tightness of the jacket. ‘I couldn’t exactly measure the man while I was robbing him, could I?

‘No, because that would be rude.’

“The Bushranger’s Wife” is available now in ebook and will be released in print in early January 2021 at all the usual bricks and mortar bookstores and you can pre-purchase now online.

You can also buy “The Girl from Eureka” in print as a bind up with Darry Fraser’s “Daughter of the Murray” called “Rebel Daughters”.





Eureka stockade – why did it happen?

In the early hours of 3 December 1854, the British Army attacked the Eureka stockade in Ballarat, Victoria with almost three hundred soldiers and police. It’s been widely argued as to whether the army or the miners in the stockade fired first.

But why did it happen? Why did the gold miners build the barricades in the first place?

If we learned about the Eureka Stockade in school I don’t remember it and I certainly didn’t remember what caused it until I began my research. Do you know why it happened?

Today, the 164th anniversary of the massacre, the basic facts are these:

  • In 1854 a mining licence rose to 3 pounds a month, which afforded you nothing but a claim, water and wood. In today’s money, and with inflation, that’s around $600. The police would raid the mines regularly and if you didn’t have a licence and didn’t carry it with you, you would be arrested in a very violent fashion.
  • The murder of a Scottish miner by a wealthy pub owner was another inciting moment, especially when that pub owner was acquitted after a kangaroo court hearing
  • Immigrants weren’t allowed to own land and had no voice in the legislature in which to argue their grievances

And with their requests landing on deaf ears, the miners burned their licences and barricaded themselves in the stockade.IMG_1501 2

The conflict itself lasted no more than thirty minutes, but in that time it’s said (although there is some discrepancy as to definite numbers) that approximately twenty-seven civilians and four soldiers were killed. Nine more soldiers and countless other civilians, including women and children, were wounded.

Over a hundred diggers were arrested and a group of thirteen miners were charged with treason. They were eventually acquitted and cheered on by thousands of Melbourne residents who had come to watch the trials and to condemn the actions taken by the British Government and military in the taking of the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat.

The diggers’ commander in chief, Peter Lalor, was shot and severely injured in the stockade battle and eventually had his arm amputated. In November 1855 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council as Member for the new district of Ballarat, a role he stayed in until March 1856.
IMG_1595The original Eureka Flag, damaged by the policemen who tore it down, is on loan from the Art Gallery of Ballarat and can be seen at the MADE Museum (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) in Ballarat, which sits on the site of the Eureka Stockade and well worth a visit.

Some say the constant petitions and battles by the immigrant miners were Australia’s first step towards an independent democracy.

As for the soldiers, who have often been portrayed throughout history in film and literature as the villains, twenty-two soldiers of Her Majesty’s service deserted between December 1854 and the early months of 1855. In total, one hundred and sixty-five soldiers threw back the Queen’s shilling in Victoria alone. Their living conditions in the government camp weren’t much better than the squalor of the diggers’ camps.

imageOf course, there’s more to it than that and if you want to learn more about those inciting events, well, you can buy my book “The Girl from Eureka”. Indy and Will’s story is a fictional one but it’s set during those volatile preceding months and culminates with the events of that morning in December.