Saturday, 14 December 2013

THE WHITE RIBBON GANG REBELLION

THE "AFFRONTED" GOVERNOR DARLING Source: historyservices.com

Ralph Entwistle was an unlikely lad to be leading a full scale rebellion. He was twenty-five, a bricklayer from Bolton, England and had been sentenced to life for stealing clothes.

The origins of the convict rebellion lay with Ralph and a mate having a “skinny-dip”. Ralph and his mate had been hauling wool on a bullock dray all day. It was hot and the two convicts decided to cool off in a nearby creek. Unfortunately for them, Governor Darling and his entourage were passing by on their way to Bathurst. The two nude convicts were spotted enjoying nature. The Governor was “affronted” and the two convicts were arrested. The punishment was severe. For causing “affrontment” to the Guv, each convict was flogged publicly, receiving fifty lashes each. That would have hurt.

Entwistle seethed for nine months and finally snapped. Ralph persuaded nine other convicts on the property to join him. Escaping one night, the convicts roamed the country for the next few days, stealing guns, horses and food as they went. By the end of two weeks, the gang had now grown to fifty.
 As many of the escaped convicts were Irish, they decided to wear white ribbons in their hats as a visible sign of rebellion. The convicts were imitating the Irish secret society known as the Ribbon Men. They were now calling themselves the White Ribbon Gang.

One morning, the convicts stormed a property of a magistrate seeking vengeance for his harsh treatment of the convicts. The magistrate wasn’t there but the unfortunate overseer was. When he refused to release the convicts on the property, the overseer was shot and killed.

The Ribbon Gang had now swelled to one hundred and thirty escaped convicts. The authorities in Sydney and Bathurst were expecting a full scale convict uprising. The convicts vastly outnumbered the free citizens of the colony. It would be a bloodbath.

ESCAPED CONVICTS. Source: halfacentury.

Two regiments of soldiers were dispatched from Sydney which was days away. Bathurst was closer, and the six local police troopers (Daniel Geary included) were on the spot. The police and the twelve citizen volunteers were soon on the trail of the convicts. The parties finally met at a place called Abercrombie Caves. In my next blog; the final shootout.