Harry [Breaker] Morant

There are numerous stories about Harry’s heritage. He was born in Mudgee NSW. His father, Thomas Redford (in convict records as Thomas Ratford) was transported to Sydney on the ship Marquis of Wellington which left London on 1 September 1814. He was from York and stole four hides from a shoemaker. Thomas went on to become pretty respectable and established his children well, mainly with hotels and multiple land holdings (urban and rural). His wife Jemima Smith was a currency lass, born in or near Sydney N.S.W on 2 Feb 1801 and died on 5 Feb 1860 in Emu Plains, N.S.W. Thomas married Jemima, the daughter of Edward Turleigh SMITH and Jane MAHER, on 29 Jul 1834 in Windsor, N.S.W. Harry Redford was the youngest of eleven children. His family were landowners and hoteliers from the Hawkesbury River area, while his older brother was highly respected and known as ‘The Father of Warren’, a town in NSW.

In the late 1800s, cattle theft was rife in Queensland and NSW. In March 1870, Redford and four others stole between 600 and 1000 head of cattle from Bowen Downs, which stretched some 228 kilometers (140 miles) along the Thomson River and tributaries. Included in their haul was an imported white bull belonging to the Scottish Australian Company. Redford and his associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke decided to overland the cattle south to sell in Adelaide, as the Queensland brands were unknown there.

It took three months for the three men to drive the cattle 1,287 kilometers (800 miles) down the Cooper through country where Burke and Wills had perished ten years before. Two cows branded ‘LC’ and the bull were sold to a storekeeper for rations and the rest of the cattle were sold for £5000 to Blanchewater Station. Bowen Downs employees tracked the large herd to South Australia and identified the white bull.

During this time Redford married a childhood friend, Elizabeth Jane Skuthorpe on 13th April 1871. On the 11th February 1873, Redford and the white bull were star attractions at his trial in Roma. Rejecting any well-dressed men for the jury, he was found ‘Not Guilty’ and Judge Blakeney made the famous statement, ” I thank God that the verdict is yours, gentleman, and not mine”.

To this day in Australia, it remains difficult to get a conviction for stock stealing. Continual brushes with the law over horse stealing resulted in Redford being jailed for eighteen months in Brisbane.

On his release, he continued droving cattle from the Atherton Tableland to Dubbo, and in 1883 drove the first mob to Brunette Downs in the Northern Territory where he became the first manager. He is said to have pioneered his own property ‘Corella Downs’, now part of Brunette Downs, and in 1899 became Manager of McArthur River Station.

In 1901, he set out from Brunette Downs to explore Central Australia, but although a strong swimmer, was drowned in Corella Creek, which had become a raging torrent after rain. The true stories of Harry Redford and other Australian bushrangers were woven together to become the mythical bushranger ‘Captain Starlight’; immortalised by Rolf Bolderwood in his novel “Robbery Under Arms”. As a direct result of stock stealing, Mt. Cornish became a separate cattle station with E.R. Edkins becoming manager in October 1872. The registration of brands was enforced throughout the state.

Adapted from text by Lesley Cowper

Lieutenant Henry Harboard (Harry) ‘The Breaker’ Morant
Date of birth: 09 December 1864
Place of birth: Somerset, England
Date of death: 27 February 1902
Place of death: South Africa

Harry worked around the Muttaburra area for a few years – 1885–1890

Thursday January 3rd 1889

Regina v Harry Morant

False Pretences

The defendant appeared on remand from Rockhampton in custody and on the application of the Police was remanded for eight days for the production of the necessary witnesses.

Charles A M. Morris ……..

Monday January 7th 1889

Harry Morant, charged with obtaining money by false pretence was brought up in custody on remand and on the application of Senior Constable Fahey was remanded to Arrilalah where the principal witnesses reside.

Charles A M. Morris ……..

Friday January 11th 1889

Before the Police Magistrate

Harry Morant, on remand was brought up in custody charged with obtaining money by false pretences and upon the application of the Police was further remanded for a term of eight days for the production of evidence.

Charles A M. Morris ……..

Tuesday January 15th 1889

Before the Police Magistrate

Harry Morant

False Pretences
Plea: Not Guilty

The prosecutor asked the prisoner whether the piebald mare he sold to Joseph Samuels is the same piebald mare he sold to J H Grimshaw.

The prisoner admitted that the mare was the same.

Joseph Samuels on his oath states:
I am a storekeeper residing at Arrilalah. I know the prisoner. I remember the 27th day of April last year; I purchased a piebald mare branded JP near shoulder from the prisoner. I paid the prisoner for the mare £5 by a cheque, cash £2.8/- and goods £2.12/-. The prisoner gave me a receipt for the mare. [Receipt tendered Exhibit 1]. The prisoner told me that the mare was his property.
If I had known that the mare was the property of another person I would not have bought it. Since I purchased the mare, she was claimed by Mr Grimshaw of Ambo Station. Mr Grimshaw sued me in the Small Debts Court for the value of the mare, and I was ordered by the bench to give back the mare to Grimshaw or the value of it £12. The mare is now on the road up to be handed over to Mr Grimshaw.

To the Prisoner
I remember seeing you in Muttaburra and asked you if you had a harness horse for sale. You said you had a piebald mare; you could sell me running at Ambo.
I went out to Ambo the same night. The horses you spoke to me about were not in and I rode on the next day.
You waited a day after me at Ambo but I do not know what your intention was
I was at Ambo about two months after that. I was in Muttaburra during the race times. On neither occasion did Mr Grimshaw claim the mare.

I did not have the piebald mare on either occasion when I was in Muttaburra.I did not tell Mr Grimshaw that I had purchased them are from the prisoner.

The prisoner delivered the mare to me himself at Arrilalah.

Joseph Samuels

Taken and sworn before me at Muttaburra fifteenth day of January 1889
Charles A M Morris Pros.

John Henry Grimshaw on his oath states:
I am overseer at Ambo Station.
I know the prisoner
I remember the 20th March last year I purchased four horses from the prisoner that day and received delivery of two. There was a piebald mare amongst the horses I purchased from the prisoner and the one I took delivery of. I paid prisoner ₤20 by cheque on QN Bank Muttaburra.
The prisoner gave me a receipt for the horses. [Receipt tendered Exhibit 2]
I afterwards heard from the Police at Arrilalah that prisoner had disposed of the piebald mare to Mr Samuels of Arrilalah.
After I received the information, I laid claim to the mare as my property.
Mr Samuels refused to hand on over the mare on the grounds that he had purchased the mare. I afterwards summoned him for the mare or the value of ₤12 and the Bench ordered the mare to be handed back to me.
I never authorized the prisoner to sell the mare to Mr Samuels or any other person.

I could not swear that I sent you a wire asking you to return Loan.
If I used the word ‘Loan’ in the telegram it must have referred to the ₤20.
I remember you coming to Ambo with three horses. You said you had lost money and asked me for ₤20 for the horse.
I was aware that it was your intention to join George King at Isisford and going South with him. I don’t recollect your leaving the horses as security for ₤20.
I was aware you did not go South.
I remember your saying that you had a chance of selling the piebald mare.
You were to have both the piebald mare and the brown buck on the understanding that you were to purchase them.
I was lead to believe that you would purchase them immediately they were brought in for you. I sent Ryan out to get the horse in for you. I remember you putting the piebald in the harness that day and I jumped beside you. You drove the mare away with my knowledge and consent.
I did see you again until you returned to the races in June.
I do not remember seeing Samuels during race time. On your return from Arrilalah you told me you had sold the grey and had lost two or three others.

The sale of the horses to me by prisoner was a bon-a-fide sale. I considered the ₤20 was fair value for them as I did not want them.
I bought the horses from the prisoner only to oblige him than because I wanted them.
I got the horses into the yard on the understanding that the prisoner would purchase them before he would sell then to anybody else.
The prisoner had no authority to sell the piebald before completing the purchase of her.
The prisoner did not purchase from me the piebald mare or the other horses mentioned on the receipt.
I would have sold back the horses to prisoner and have given a receipt for the ₤20: I allowed the prisoner to take the horses to Maneroo where he said he had work. I next saw the prisoner on the 18th of June. The prisoner did not tell me he had sold the mare to Mr Samuels – he led me to believe that he had lost the piebald mare. I did not see any receipt for the mare, besides the receipt to Mr Samuels, after he had sold him the mare.

When the prisoner dove the horses away I did not consider he had purchased them.
When I saw prisoner at the races he said he would pay me for the horses.

J H Grimshaw

Taken and sworn before me at Muttaburra fifteenth day of January 1889
Charles A M Morris Pros.

Three months in Rockhampton goal with hard labour.
Charles A M. Morris

January 23rd 1889

Harry Morant was brought up in custody on remand charges with Larceny as a Bailee.

The evidence of Charles William Laver was taken and the accused was further remanded on the application of the Police, for a period of eight days for the production of evidence.

Charles A M. Morris

January 29th 1889

Before the Police Magistrate

Harry Morant was brought up in custody charged with “Larceny as a Bailee”.
The evidence of John Henry Grimshaw was taken and Morant was committed to take his trial at the next Criminal Sitting of the Central District Court to be held at Muttaburra on Wednesday July 3rd 1889.

John Henry Grimshaw was bound over in Recognizance for ₤40 to appear to give his evidence

Charles A M. Morris

Extract – ‘Bench Deposition Book’ – Police Court Muttaburra