Home / Bushranging/ Arramagong

Grenfell region
It is important to understand the background of the 26,000 acre Arramagong Run near Grenfell to understand the context of bushranging activity near Grenfell around 1860

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 “.

By around 1860 the property had come under close scrutiny by the police. Patrick O’Malley (or O’Meally as he was often known) for a time ran an Inn and the police came to regard it as a meeting place for bushrangers.

There is little doubt that the well-known bushrangers of the time, including Frank Gardiner, Johnny Gilbert, and Ben Hall who owned the nearby property Wheogo, would have been frequent visitors. The press frequently reported police tracking outlaws to close to O’Malleys where the trails would peter out. A number of arrests were also made on the property. Any doubts about the attitude of the police were dispelled in August 1862 when Patrick O’Malley was charged with receiving stolen property. Captain Battye stated that He had known the defendant for a long time to be “the harbourer of the most notorious vagabonds, thieves and bushrangers in the Colony” and the country roundabout O’Malleys “infested with the worst and most desperate characters”.

Weddin Mountains, Grenfell
“Gardiner, the bushranger, and his mob are again at work. On Friday they stuck up every person between this place and Lambing Flat-teamsters, diggers, and women-no less than twelve persons at one time, robbing them all. They stopped Mr. Greig’s coach, which runs between this place and the Flat, searched the passengers, and took two packages of letters addressed to the Oriental Bank, containing a large amount of cheques (usless to them) and then allowed the coach to proceed. On arriving at the Flat, information of the robbery was immediately given, and three troopers started in pursuit of Gardiner and his mob. Yesterday, they were still on the road sticking up everyone they met.

The troopers overtook Gardiner, at Mealy’s station, his horse hanging up there. A rush was made to secure the horse, but Gardiner succeeded in eluding them all; and although upwards of a dozen shots were fired at him from revolver’s, he escaped. It is said that one of the shots took effect in his arm.

He fired two shots. Trooper King mounted another horse and followed him, but has not been seen since. A shot was heard afterwards in the bush, and search made, but King was not found. If there be any truth in one-half the reports with respect to the behaviour and equipment of the troopers, it is a disgrace to the colony, and a strict official enquiry ought to be made into the affair.”

The ownership of the Arramagong Run is very complex to trace.

The Arramagong property involved three families. The O’Malley’s, the Daleys and the Downey’s. Both Patrick O’Malley and John Daley married Downey’s and all three family were caught up in bushranging although James Downey was cleared.

John Daley appears to have been born in Bansha Ireland according to the birth record of his daughter Annie. He most likely arrived as a free settler, with transportation to NSW being suspended in 1841. This was a few years before the potato famines in Ireland.

He was living at Boorowa in 1844 when, he married Ellen Downey at Black Range, and was in the Weddin Mountains by around 1848. Around this time he went into partnership with Patrick O’Malley on the 26,000 Arramagong Run, near Grenfell. Patrick married in 1939 Ellen’s sister Julia at Gaylong, New South Wales, Australia.

The family relationship between the O’Malleys and Daleys was obviously a very close one, as reflected in the number of times they acted as Godparents to each others’ children and the Downey’s mother, Ellen nee Dwyer, was living close by.

However, the relationship between the two family patriarchs was to descend into a bitter feud after O’Malley transferred the lease, in 1861, to businessman Miles Murphy without the consent or knowledge of John Daley. It appears that, while they had shared the property costs, O’Malley had only registered it in his name. Notwithstanding the transfer, neither of the men would leave the property to the great frustration of the new owners.

The story probably would never have come to light had it not been for the burning down by the police of O’Malley’s house in September 1863, which caused a public furore. While the family’s association with bushranging was well known, with son John O’Malley being hunted by the police at the time, the principle of the sanctity of private property was firmly held by the population. The O’Malley residence was in fact the old Weddin Mountain Inn, which was described as substantial. The police apparently searched the house for bushrangers and then torched the house after O’Malley was instructed to remove his family and “chattels”.

Accordingly, O’Malley was interviewed and an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 December 1863.

The correspondent was dismissive over the value of the house describing it as a “cockatoo settler’s cabin”, being of “bark and slabs” and noted that, in any case, ownership had been disputed with Daley. He indicated that the argument had become so fierce that the John O’Malley, the bushranger, had come back to defend his father from Daley’s impassioned raids and had threatened of “doing for”. It is difficult to know how much weight can be attached to these statements as John Daley was living close by and could have been readily located. O’Malley was also to have indicated that the feud between the two men had been resolved after the police raid as Daley intended to sue the government, with any proceeds from the action being shared between the two men. O’Malley was also ascribed as accusing Frank Gardiner as leading Johnny O’Malley into trouble, as he had kept coming about and “wouldn’t be put off”.

What is known that John Daley ordered, upon appearing before the magistrate in Grenfell, to be dispossessed immediately in July 1863.

John Daley must have striven to regain control of Arramagong because in 1875 John Daley was shown as lessee of Arramagong, with Arramagong East shown separately. John died on 26 September 1876, aged 63, from cancer of the stomach following a six week illness. He died on the Arramagong property and was buried at the Grenfell cemetery two days later. Thomas Downey, his brother-in-law, certified the death register and also showed his address as Arramagong. The ownership of the Arramagong Run is very complex to trace.

There is evidence that John Joseph Daley, son of John Daley, acquired the Run from the executors of Miles Murphy in 1868 after Thomas Drummond forfeited. Apparently 9,000 acres was sold to Hector and Duncan McKensie in 1877 (which would have had to have been Arramagong East) with Arramagong West going up for sale in 1879.

Records indicate that the 18,000 acre Arramagong was under the control of Miles Murphy until it was transferred to M. Daley, presumably son Michael Daley, on 25 July 1872. It was then transferred to Kenneth McKenzie on 8 August 1879. There was said to be a forced sale to Thomas Blayney from Victoria in 1908.

Julia Downey apparently owned part of the Arramagong and she called the property Frankfields. She sold it to Thomas Carr, her son-in-law, in 1888.