Bathurst rebellion



The Bathurst rebellion of 1830 was an outbreak of
bushranging Bushrangers were originally escaped convicts in the early years of the British settlement of Australia who used the bush as a refuge to hide from the authorities. By the 1820s, the term had evolved to refer to those who took up "robbery under ...
near Bathurst in the British penal colony (now the Australian state) of
New South Wales ) , nickname = , image_map = New South Wales in Australia.svg , map_caption = Location of New South Wales in AustraliaCoordinates: , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name = Australia , established_title = Before federation , es ...
. The rebellion involved a group of escaped
convicts A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison". Convicts are often also known as "prisoners" or "inmates" or by the slang term "con", while a common label for former convic ...
who ransacked villages and engaged in shootouts over the course of two months. Led by 25-year-old English-born convict Ralph Entwistle, the group numbered up to 80 men at its peak, making it the largest convict uprising in New South Wales history since the Castle Hill rebellion of 1804. The rebels became known as the Ribbon gang on account of Entwistle wearing "a profusion of white streamers about his head".


Entwistle was a
Bolton Bolton (, locally ) is a large town in Greater Manchester in North West England, formerly a part of Lancashire. A former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area in the 14th cent ...
labourer convicted of stealing clothing and transported to New South Wales in 1827. After arriving in
Sydney Sydney ( ) is the capital city of the state of New South Wales, and the most populous city in both Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Sydney Harbour and extends about towards the Blue Mountains ...
, he and a few other convicts were assigned to
squatter Squatting is the action of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land or a building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use. The United Nations estimated in 2003 that there ...
John Lipscombe and sent across the newly traversed Blue Mountains to work on his land, near Bathurst. In November 1829, Entwistle and another assigned servant drove one of their master's bullock drays to
Sydney Markets The Sydney Markets are a group of wholesale and retail markets in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The Sydney Markets are located in the Inner West locality of Flemington, New South Wales, 16 kilometres west of the Sydney central business dist ...
to deliver wool, and on returning to Bathurst, in the heat of the day, stopped for a skinny dip in the Macquarie River.
Governor A governor is an administrative leader and head of a polity or political region, ranking under the head of state and in some cases, such as governors-general, as the head of state's official representative. Depending on the type of political r ...
Ralph Darling General Sir Ralph Darling, GCH (1772 – 2 April 1858) was a British Army officer who served as Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. He is popularly described as a tyrant, accused of torturing prisoners and banning theatrical entertai ...
and his party, then touring Bathurst, happened to pass by the bathing convicts, who were subsequently hauled before the Police Magistrate of Bathurst, Thomas Evernden, and charged with "causing an affront to the Governor", despite Darling not having seen the incident. Entwistle and his companion were each sentenced to a public flogging of 50 lashes. This experience left Entwistle embittered, and within a year, he had taken up bushranging and persuaded other convicts to join him.

The rebellion

In late September 1830, Entwistle and his men began raiding farms, seizing firearms and liberating convicts in the process. The gang had grown to 50 members by the time they arrived at the farm of Thomas Evernden, seeking revenge, but the magistrate was absent. When the farm's overseer, James Greenwood, refused to allow Evernden's convict servants to join the gang, Entwistle and his men threatened to shoot him dead. Greenwood still refused, saying they were "not game enough" to shoot him, at the same time baring his chest. Entwistle and two other bushrangers, Gahan and Kearney, fired immediately, killing Greenwood."Supreme Court"
''The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser'' (11 November 1830). Retrieved 9 March 2017.
When news of the murder reached Bathurst, the locals met at the courthouse to rally support for the settlement's six troopers. Twelve men volunteered, including pastoralist and politician William Henry Suttor, who was chosen as the volunteers' leader, with his brother Charles second in command."Hayseed" (30 September 1903)
"Annals of the Turf in N. S. Wales"
'' Sydney Sportsman''. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
By this stage, the Ribbon Gang had trekked to the Abercrombie River, and at Trunkey Creek, the hard core of the group, led by Entwistle, splintered off and headed for the Abercrombie Caves. Most of the other forcibly recruited convicts returned to their assigned farms. Suttor's volunteers, together with the troopers under the command of Major Donald McPherson, set out for the caves, passing through stations the gang had ransacked, and the next day near sundown, with the assistance of two Aboriginal trackers, found and cornered the gang—now reduced to 20 men. Over 300 shots were fired in the ensuing gunfight, and several men on both sides were wounded, at least two bushrangers mortally.Batman, Oxley (26 August 1950)
"Bathurst Convict Uprising"
''The World's News''. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
As night fell, the volunteers were forced to retire to Bathurst, allowing time for the Ribbon Gang to move to a more secure location beyond the caves—a bald hill, now known as Bushranger's Hill. The next battle of the Bathurst Rebellion involved a police party led by Lieutenant James Brown of the 57th Regiment of Foot. The bushrangers claimed a victory, killing two of Brown's constables and five of his horses. As Brown and his men returned to Bathurst, military reinforcements were called for; 130
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces along with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. , the British Army comprises 79,380 regular full-time personnel, 4,090 Gurkh ...
soldiers from the 39th Regiment of Foot began the march from Sydney whilst members of the New South Wales Mounted Police were dispatched from
Goulburn Goulburn ( ) is a regional city in the Southern Tablelands of the Australian state of New South Wales, approximately south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Canberra. It was proclaimed as Australia's first inland city through letters patent ...
via the convict-built Tuena Road. The Ribbon Gang continued to raid homesteads and attract recruits as they moved through
Cowra Cowra is a small town in the Central West region of New South Wales, Australia. It is the largest population centre and the council seat for the Cowra Shire, with a population of 9,863. Cowra is located approximately above sea level, on the ...
, and in the vicinity of Galong, near
Boorowa Boorowa () is a farming village in the Hilltops Region in the south west slopes of New South Wales, Australia. It is located in a valley southwest of Sydney around above sea-level. The town is in Hilltops Council local government area. H ...
, encountered the mounted troopers from Goulburn, commanded by Lieutenant John McAllister. Men from both sides were wounded in the gun battle that followed, including McAllister, who was shot in the thigh. The troopers retreated to their police barracks at Bong Bong, taking three wounded bushrangers prisoners with them. The Ribbon Gang was now exhausted and depleted of men, and once the combined military force from Bathurst and the infantry regiment from Sydney arrived, the remaining bushrangers either dispersed or surrendered.


On 30 October 1830, the bushrangers were put on trial in the Bathurst Court House by the order of Governor Ralph Darling. They were tried by a Special Commission and a jury of military officers, with His Honor the Chief Justice of New South Wales Francis Forbes present. Ralph Entwistle, William Gahan, Michael Kearney, Patrick Gleeson, Thomas Dunn and John Shepherd were convicted of the murder of James Greenwood and hanged. The remaining bushrangers— Robert Webster, James Driver, Dominic Daby and John Kenny— were hanged for plundering farmhouses. The public execution took place on 2 November in Bathurst on the site of what is now known as Ribbon Gang Lane. After being kept on display for a day "as a warning", the bodies were buried in two mass graves, five in each.


Australian folk and country singer Lionel Long included a song titled "Bathurst Rebellion" on his 1963 album ''The Bold Bushrangers''.



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Further reading

Bushrangers at Abercrombie Caves

External links

The Bathurst Rebellion
- Forgotten Australia
A Concise Guide to the Bathurst Rebellion
- A Guide to Australian Bushranging {{Convicts in Australia Conflicts in 1830 1830 in Australia 19th-century rebellions Rebellions in Australia Bushrangers September 1830 events October 1830 events