Patsy Daley on his release from Pentridge, in 1872
“There was nothing in his physiognomical expression outwardly to denote the degraded villain”
The final resting place of Cobar businessman, P.B. Daley at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. He is buried with his wife, Mary Josephine Daley, nee Kelly, who married younger brother William after Patsy’s death
On 29 April 1914, Patrick Bernard Daley, successful Cobar businessman, a colonial boy hailing from the Grenfell region of New South Wales , died quietly from a heart condition at his sister’s house in the Sydney suburb of Glebe He was buried two days later at the Rookwood Cemetery The anonymity he found
in death would have suited a man whose life was too colourfully inter-woven into the fabric of Australia ‘s history.
It was over a half century earlier, in March of 1863, that he had sat forlornly before a police magistrate in Forbes This followed the detention and attempted shooting of Sub-inspector Norton, along with the notorious bushrangers Ben Hall and John O’Malley Patsy Daley was then eighteen years old, nearly six feet tall and was “a mild, youthful, whiskerless looking person, with light blue eyes, and fair complexion There was nothing in his physiognomical expression outwardly to denote the degraded villain”. Daley kept his head down during the examination, “glancing furtively around” with his eyes moving “quickly and with a sinister expression”. In September of that year at Goulburn he was convicted on two counts of armed robbery and assault and sentenced to a total of 25 years hard labour on the roads or other public works of the colony (15 years when taken concurrently) with the first year in irons.
Patsy Daley’s story contains many of the elements of life during the gold rushes of New South Wales and life in early Australia.
He was born at Black Range , probably near Boorowa, on 6 July 1844. His Irish mother, Ellen Downey, immigrated as a child with her family aboard the ” Calcutta ” in October 1838 She was at best 14 years old when she married John Daley, who appears to have arrived as a free settler around 1840 She was dead from measles at the age of thirty six leaving, as inscribed on her tombstone in Grenfell, a husband and nine children to mourn her loss.
Patsy was raised on the 26,000 acre Arramagong Run near Grenfell with his cousins, the O’Malley’s The eldest O’Malley, John, would be shot dead in November 1863 while raiding the Campbell farm at Goimbla and John’s younger brother Patrick would also be convicted of bushranging.
The Arramagong property had two important features conducive to bushranging It was in the midst of rich goldfields which were not closely policed It was also nestled close to the Weddin Mountains. One Sydney Morning Herald journalist sought to explain in 1863 that “peaceful citizens can have no idea of the immense tract of gorge, valley and dense scrub that form the superficial component of parts of these Weddin Mountains and contiguous
Abercrombie Ranges “.
However, there were probably other factors including the poor relations between many of Irish stock and the Police His Uncle Patrick O’Malley, who was in partnership with his father John Daley in the running of Arramagong, also ran a shanty pub which, at least in the eyes of the Police, attracted the criminal element.
The Yass Courier lamented in 1862 that, “Bushranging would appear to be almost organical of New South Wales . … The older colonists can recollect the time when escaped prisoners from road gangs and men from assigned service were a terror to the country. … It was to be hoped that there would be no repetition of those crimes; that while the colony had been relieved from the distinction which existed between bond and free, the circumstances of the people were such as to place them beyond the temptation of crime But it would seem that, however much liberty, and however many opportunities to do well, may be afforded, we can never root out from amongst us the propensity to live a lawless life The peculiar charm of unrestraint which invests the life of a bushranger with romance, and makes it captivating to the youthful Australian, threatens frightful danger to the young society of the colony; and nothing will bring back to the sober exercise of thought the aspirant to pages of robber history than the severest punishment … In a bygone period a country side would ‘run down’ such quarry without the intercession of the police We live, however, in a different age, and although we have treble or quadruple the number of police, there is less protection than in times of yore.”
Another commentator attributed the prevalence of bushranging to “first, the want of education and religious instruction in the interior, whereby the young men were allowed to grow up practically heathens; second, the mixed state of society on the diggings; and third, the prevalence of intemperance, and the large number of low public-houses and shanties that were scattered over the country”.
Patsy Daley appears not to have gone onto the road as a bushranger until January 1863 While he may have been involved in earlier incidents, historians agree that in February 1863 Ben Hall and Daley raided the Pinnacle police station (an “out-station some miles from Forbes”), robbing it of arms and ammunition He then openly, and actively, operated in conjunction with Ben Hall and John O’Malley By February 15 John O’Malley had killed during a robbery, one crime which Ben Hall and Patsy Daley were never to commit although not from want of trying at times.
The incident with which Daley was most closely associated was one which sent ripples through the New South Wales establishment.
Sub-inspector Norton, who had succeeded the “renowned” Sir Frederick Pottinger, had been in pursuit of Hall, O’Malley and Daley, “three well known bushrangers”, for a number of days with 20 year old blacktracker Billy Dargin He had arranged to meet ten of his men, on Saturday 28 February, at the foot of the Wheogo Mountain This meeting was not to take place because of an alleged misunderstanding by his troop Consequently, the two continued the pursuit alone.
Accounts vary but it seems that early on the morning of Sunday 1 March 1863, while they were proceeding through Ben Hall’s Wheogo property, Norton realised they were being watched by two armed horsemen at a distance of around 500 yards Norton beckoned Dargin, who was behind him, to join him but the horsemen fled into the scrub as they approached There followed a cat and mouse game which culminated in Dargin coming upon Hall near the McGuire (who was Hall’s partner) house Dargin, and not Norton as it was reported at the time, pursued Ben Hall down the paddock and fired at him with his carbine.
Norton realised the danger they were in and retreated to find help His fears were well founded as the bushrangers pursued and overtook then some three and half miles further on With O’Malley calling on them to bail up, the two policemen dropped their lead horses and started to flee Norton then wheeled around and Dargin followed suite, which placed him behind Norton. By this time, Patsy Daley had taken a position to the left, Hall was further back in front and cousin Johnny O’Malley was to the right O’Malley fired two shots
from a double-barrelled gun, at a range of some eighty to a hundred yards, but without effect The three bushrangers advanced within fifty yards and commenced firing Norton returned fire with a brace of eight-inch revolvers and although he “deliberatively levelled his irons at his antagonists, on the quiescent rump of his steed, not a single shot took effect”. The bushrangers fared no better with Norton claiming that not one shot came within fifteen feet of him When Norton ran out of ammunition Daley, armed with three revolvers, rode up and called upon him to throw down his pistols O’Malley was also ordering Norton to throw his weapons down when Hall rode by at a canter and shot point blank at Norton, just missing him Hall later indicated that he had mistook Norton for trooper Hollister, who had sworn to kill Hall.
Norton was guarded by O’Malley while Hall and Daley pursued Dargin. Soon after their return, after being held for about three hours, Norton was released and had returned to him his horse and arms He attributed this to his being a “new chum” in the district and the fact that he had a wife and children in Sydney This did not stop him from accusing the three of being “curs” and of cowardice for not coming near him while he had “shot in the locker”. Such branding of bushrangers as cowards by the establishment was a common and probably calculated phenomenon The truth is likely to lie somewhere between that and popular perceptions of daring and gallantry, as brutality and calculated risk taking was often confused with cowardice Hall, for example, was to choose death rather than capture.
The town of Forbes was said to have been “electrified” by news of the capture of Norton Captain Zouch, Superintendent of Police for the Western District, formed a party of 10 mounted police and civilians to free Norton While Norton’s release pre-empted such action, the “Yass Courier” incorrectly reported that Zouch “intended on his journey to form a police station at O’Mealey’s (sic) station (at the Weddin Mountains ) ejecting, by orders of the Government, him and his family, thus breaking up the rendezvous for bushrangers and their accomplices” The Queanbeyan “Golden Age” reported that, as a consequence of the seizure of Norton, the Government took prompt steps to dispatch by train some twenty mounted troopers and twelve foot-police from Sydney .
It was in the company of some of these newly-arrived troopers that Sir Frederick Pottinger, the scourge of many bushrangers, effected the capture of Patsy Daley on 11 March 1863 Pottinger and his troop were pursuing the suspected path of the bushrangers in the Weddin Mountains when Billy Dargin spotted fresher tracks crossing the path Pottinger switched to the new tracks and was soon rewarded with the sighting of a horseman He immediately gave pursuit, ordering two of his troopers to go around the hill to intercept
the rider’s flight Shortly afterwards, at Pinnacle Reef, they found a hard-ridden horse tied next to some deserted looking huts Billy Dargin allegedly recognised a pair of girths taken from the Pinnacle Police Station and the horse as one seen the night before in the paddock of Ben Hall On entering the huts there were three men who refused to answer any questions until threatened by Pottinger They eventually indicated that the rider was down a nearby mine shaft.
The mine shaft was about sixty feet deep with a ladder permanently affixed to it Clearly the Police were not anxious to confront Daley in such narrow confines and Pottinger repeatedly called on Daley to give himself up.
Pottinger’s threat to burn and smoke him out like an “opposum” led to Daley’s surrender.
The “Capture of the Capturer”, “one of the notorious Gardiner’s gang”, was not without its ironies While Patsy Daley was to go on and live a full life, by the end of 1865 John O’Malley was long since dead, Hall had been riddled with bullets by a police troop (of which the indefatigable Billy Dargin formed part), Pottinger died following the accidental discharge of his own weapon and Billy Dargin died on the Forbes diggings.
There was a greater irony to the capture and trial of bushranger Patsy Daley that reflected the low status with which aborigines were held at the time and tensions over the strong-arm tactics sometimes used by the Police Sub-inspector Norton, much to the surprise of Sir Frederick Pottinger, could not positively identify Daley as one of the trio who fired upon him and Dargin. On the other hand, Dargin was confident of Daley’s identity Pottinger
successfully argued that Dargin should be able to give evidence but the magistrate was not prepared to let him give his evidence under oath, a decision he subsequently had to defend to his superiors Dargin’s English was very good, he had been baptised, he understood that he would be punished if he lied, he indicated that he believed in an after-life and had heard of the “Testament” but was unable to explain adequately the meaning of an oath.
The “Goulburn Herald” was scathing of the detention of Daley by the Police and of Dargin’s credibility On 1 April it reported “late news from the Lachlan District is enough to shock the minds of all who have the least regard to the sanctity of freedom” While acknowledging that “Daley bears a bad character in the neighbourhood”, the evidence, “according to ordinary rules, would have been sufficient for his release” The Newspaper pointed to Norton’s inability to identify Daley and to the magistrate choosing to accept the unsworn evidence of an aboriginal native lad who, at the outbreak of the gunfight, “seems to have taken care not to let grass grow under his feet until he got back to the Pinnacle Police Station. .. His story would not discredit the renowned Captain Gulliver. .. So absurd a specimen of the inventive powers of the aborigines is hardly worth serious argument .. If [people] can place any faith in Billy Dargin’s yarn, [they] must have more than the average
amount of credulity” The paper went on to question whether “on such testimony as this, any magistrate ought to send a man to gaol for six months, to take his trial on anything that might turn up … They manage matters at Forbes, however, in a way that is novel to Englishmen Just as we had anticipated, police domination is extinguishing the civil magistrate, and the laws he is meant to observe”.
Leaving aside the legal issues relating to the oath, the newspaper failed to recognise the courage that Dargin was to show repeatedly in pursuing bushrangers and the possibility that Dargin’s acute observational powers, that had led to Daley’s arrest, might be similarly applied in Daley’s identification.
Although Dargin did turn to flee on the sight of the bushrangers he wheeled his horse around, as soon as Norton indicated that his horse was not able to carry him out of the melee, and joined in the gun battle After Norton surrendered, Dargin fled for over a mile but had to quit his horse when it was shot in the rump Hall and Daley must have thought Dargin was cornered but Dargin threw his empty pistol at Hall, hitting him in the right ear and scoring the only hit of the day despite some 30 shots having been fired. Dargin discarded his boots, legins and coat while the bushrangers were reloading and ran into the bush ahead of several shots that were fired at him The awkward eight mile pursuit that followed through the rugged bush was a scene of farce with the bushrangers’ fire being met by sticks and stones They had to resort to firing rocks after they ran out of shot and eventually they ran out of cartridges While O’Malley guarded Norton, Hall and Daley pursued Dargin on horseback without success back to the brink of the Pinnacle Police station.
Daley, allegedly saying on departure that “I like you, you white looking scoundrel”. Dargin claimed to have replied that he would like him better if he would get off his horse By the same account, Hall supposedly told Dargin that he was a “plucked one” and to tell the police that they intended to “stick up the barracks tonight”.
The two crimes of which Patsy Daley was convicted related to the armed robberies of George Dickenson, who ran the Commercial Store at Burrangong, and storekeeper Myer Solomon at Little Wombat, 15 miles from Young.
The conviction of the first crime, to which he pleaded not guilty, brought a penalty of ten years hard labour but was not without its controversy George Dickenson, a storekeeper, was stuck up on the night of 2 February 1863 by five men who robbed him of five pounds, 3 ounces of gold, a revolver, three watches and some articles of clothing Daley stood guard outside over him and two others but this grew to eight or nine as people passing by were
progressively detained and robbed This included a luckless unarmed plains-clothes policeman who wandered by and was relieved of his saddled horse.
These were his private property and when he resisted he was given a severe blow on the wrist which disabled his arm.
The legal issue that arose, which the Judge indicated could be the last of its kind because the law was being remedied, revolved around whether Daley was present at the robbery given that he had remained outside on guard. The Judge took the view that Daley was “constructively” present although this interpretation was not free from doubt There was no indication that the jury was bothered by this legal distinction as it delivered its guilty verdict without retiring.
Daley pleaded guilty to the second charge and was sentenced to fifteen years hard labour with two other members of the Gardiner gang, Laurence Cummins and John Jamieson.
The robbery of Myer Solomon was notable for the bravery of those robbed and the calculated manner in which the bushrangers effected the crime Solomon was clearly aware of the threat of bushrangers and was well prepared for it.
On the Saturday afternoon of 21 February four mounted and armed men were sighted approaching the store by Mrs Solomon who sounded the alarm. Solomon seized a double-barrelled gun and ordered the door closed However, his young assistant, George Johnston, mistook the men for plain-clothed troopers and ignored Solomon’s instructions to come inside and shut the door.
Two of the bushrangers rode up and pointed their carbines into the store and yelled on Solomon, who was then some ten yards from them, not to fire.
Solomon’s reply was a bullet through the coat of one of the bushrangers, grazing his neck, who immediately returned fired back which fell uselessly into a stack of Crimean shirts in the store Daley and one other bushranger then raced into the store and put themselves between Solomon and Johnston, preventing Solomon from discharging his second barrel Solomon fled and tried to seek help from a Chinese man camped nearby but, after another exchange of shots, was chased down and brought back to the store Whether as a scare tactic or in blatant disregard of self-incrimination, one of these bushrangers apparently said “it was Cirkell’s own fault that we shot him last week We don’t want anyone to show any resistance” Cirkell was a publican who was shot to death on 15 February when he grappled with one of two bushrangers during the robbery of his pub The killers were never found.
During the chase, when all four bushrangers were momentarily out of the store Johnston , “with admirable courage and presence of mind”, jumped the counter and grabbed a revolver However, he was forced to surrender his gun and lay down when he got outside as Mrs Solomon was threatened with having her brains blown out if he fired He nevertheless remained an irritant to the bushrangers because he refused to stop looking up He was then effectively challenged to a duel by a “whiskered” bushranger but was told to sit down by
another as soon as he jumped to his feet The same whiskered bushranger, and not Daley as many historians have suggested, brutally kicked him on the ground for looking up.
In riding away Daley must have looked less like a bushranger than the youth that he was He had two hats perched on his head and socks on each side of his neck filled with lollies In fact, in an almost biblical twist, Myer Solomon would subsequently identify Daley by laying his hand on his shoulder and asking him, “have you eaten the lollies yet”.
The Sydney Morning Herald observed, “Some idea of the extent of the robbery and of the cool, deliberate manner in which it was perpetrated, may be formed by the fact that it was commenced about four o’clock in the afternoon, and the robbers did not leave the premises until nearly seven o’clock in the evening, when they departed in peace having four horses, two of them which they stole from Mr Solomon, heavily laden with booty to the tune of about 200 pounds”.
The Burrangong correspondent to the Yass Courier was to indicate sarcastically that he had been informed that “a contract has been made by Gardiner for some bullock-teams to clear the stores out!”.
There was an ambivalent attitude towards the Police as they tried to cope with demands for protection of limb and property and face the ridicule over their lack of success Such feelings were ignited by their burning down of O’Malley’s house in September 1863 One paper noted that “Yet the people around here naturally, and, therefore, reasonably, ask why – in setting old O’Malley out of the question – should the robber’s mother, sister, and all his
younger brothers, be turned homeless and clotheless into the wild bush; for, except what they stood in, everything was destroyed. .. Everything in times of peace particularly should be done dispassionately and legally The margin between excess of zeal and positive cruelty is a narrow one and should not be overstepped” John Hughes published an article in the Bathurst Times in November 1863, entitled “How Bushrangers are Made” He writes that “Of Gilbert personally I know nothing, but I believe that the authorities at Forbes made Ben Hall and O’Maley (sic) bushrangers”, going on to detail police harassment and corruption.
Daley served ten of his fifteen years, first at Darlinghurst and then on Cockatoo Island , and was released on 15 October 1873. He probably returned to his father’s Arramagong property in Grenfell The death of his father in 1876, and the resultant breaking-up and divestment of the property by 1880, would have seen him set loose again with a reasonable stake.
Around 1882 he married Mary Josephine Kelly at Hay The Kelly’s were prominent in the Cobar region and members of the family were to acquire the huge Booroomugga and Sussex runs This may have been the attraction of Cobar but, in any case, he was licensee, and probably owner, of the Wrightville Family Hotel in 1891 In 1896 he had the Booroomugga Government tank, one of the many Government tanks which were the lifeblood of the old
bullock routes The tanks were spaced every 14 miles or so and normally came with over 600 acres of land, yards, a cottage and sometimes an inn. He acquired the Cobar “Terminus Hotel” in early 1911 for a sum of 2,265 pounds, the hotel being described at the time as one of the best beer houses in Cobar.
The Cobar Herald in 1914 referred to “P.B. Daley” as a man of “great physique … [who] was able to withstand the inroads of his complaint longer than men less strong”. He died a wealthy man, with an estate of over 6,000 pounds He left the “Family Hotel” and mining shares to his brother William, who had run the Royal Hotel at nearby Illewong, cottages to his daughters Ellen Theresa (Fardy) and Mary Josephine (Thompson), with the balance of the estate going to his wife In a final twist, William would marry Patsy’s widow three years later only to have her die from cancer in 1922 in his newly-acquired Sunbeam Hotel at Surrey Hills in Sydney .
Cobar had contracted significantly by the 1920s with the closure of the mines.
While there were probably around 20 hotels when Patsy was in business, an internal Tooth and Company’s letter in March 1930 indicated that “There were three hotels in Cobar, 1 free (The “Empire”), and 2 tied to Tooheys limited”. It also said that “There is at present very little mining being carried on, and the town depends mainly on the pastoral industry” By September 1923 the hotel was being “dismantled” and the furniture was sold for 41 pounds, consisting as it did of “nearly all rubbish” according to the agent.
In this respect Daley’s luck stayed with him to the end But perhaps the greatest favour he owed was to Pottinger and Dargin who ended his brief run before he was forced to kill or be killed.
I have been researching the Daley family for some years and would be happy to discuss my findings and would be very interested in receiving further information on the Daley’s or other family members.
The birth of Patsy Daley is not in the BDM. I discovered that in Church records. The greatest challenge was finding out what happened to him when he was released from Jail as he consistently avoided the public record, if only because the mispellings of his name.