Tuesday, 23 December 2014

THE MURDER OF POOR HORACE AIKEN AND LITTLE ALBERT PETTET

THE MURDER OF POOR HORACE AIKEN AND LITTLE ALBERT PETTET
by Dave Wheeler
   When I go off on a tangent within this post I will use green italics like I am doing now. For more yarns hit the Home button up the top.  
   This site usually contains yarns which are Canberra and districts-centric, yet the only connection this one has to the Berra is that it was told to me by my late paternal granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 3rd, when he was visiting us in the Berra in 1970. The yarn was first published in “Tales of a Canberra Boy” under another title a few years ago.   
    Why I published the yarn initially was because when Charlie told it, it had a big impact on me, as he became quite emotional. It involved the murder of his 16 year old mate, Horace Aiken, in 1906. Horace was also known as "Tos" Aiken. 
    A younger lad aged 9, Albert Gordon Pettet, known as Gordon Pettet, the son of Thomas Pettet, a dairy man of The Esplanade, Pennant Hills, was also murdered on the same day, not long before Tos (Horace). Charlie however, when telling me the sad story, focussed mainly on Tos, as they were mates.
   I could also feel myself becoming emotional at the time, which seemed ridiculous given that the murders occurred long before I saw the light of day in 1952. But, it is a very sad tale, particularly since it involves kids dying way before their time. Maybe I also became emotional because I saw how upset Charlie became and I was aware that Charlie had lived to be an old man whereas Tos had experienced a shocking death when he was a mere 16.
    Albert Gordon Pettet was known as Gordon Pettet. I will address him as Albert Gordon as he is referred to as Albert in most of the newspaper reports.
   Charlie didn't tell anyone else in the family about what happened, which was probably because he was aware that he was by nature an emotional bloke and that he could have broken down while telling the story. I suppose when he told me about it he made the mistake of thinking his state-of-mind at that moment was such that he could retain his composure.
    Before I first decided to publish the yarn I made an attempt to find out something about what occurred, other than what Charlie told me, by way of official records, but I had no success. This was because it had been so long since I had heard the story from Charlie I could not remember the names of the victims or the perpetrator and I had nothing to go on. 
    Nevertheless, I published the yarn, taking the risk that I hadn't dreamt it all up, but when doing so I had to rely entirely on my memory of what Charlie had told me way back in 1970. It turned out however, I should have looked harder, because after publishing the yarn I came across an organisation called the "Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group." And after making contact with them I found they were well aware of the event and told me the details, including the names of those involved. They were also kind enough to send me links to newspaper articles of 1906 which reported what occurred in detail. (Thanks Rod). And it was after reading the said articles I was to discover I had left out some important facts and got other important facts completely wrong. 
    Although having said that, there are certain things Charlie told me which I remember very clearly and which left a deep impression on me, and those things were not reported in detail at the time in the mainstream newspapers. I refer to how close the murderer came to being lynched by a mob. 
   In regard to sources I am using for the finer details of this yarn, other than my granddad I am using an excellent compilation of what took place by the Beecroft and Cheltenham Historic Group, as well as various newspaper reports,  mainly a report from a 1906 edition of “The Cumberland Argus Fruit Grower’s Advocate.” The links are:
http://www.bchg.org.au/index.php/en/environment/public-utilities/police
   I am therefore rewriting the yarn mainly to correct mistakes and to add details I omitted in the previously published version. I am also however, motivated to rewrite it because I recently happened upon a tragic story regarding an event which occurred, ironically, in Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, Sydney, in 2008. This is the very same street in which poor Tos and little Albert Gordon were murdered in 1906.
    The more recent tragic event I refer to which occurred in 2008 involved a father murdering his 13 year old daughter then suiciding. It was covered by the journalist, Paul Bibby, of the Sydney Morning Herald in the first link and Larissa Cummings of the Daily Telegraph in the second link: 
    I wonder if the good residents of Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, are aware of their street's gruesome past.

   Although not indicated in writing, the shaded street above with the arrow on it is Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, Sydney. Thornleigh Railway Station, where the 1906 murderer began his quest to kill, is shown by way of a blue square next to the word "Thornleigh." Stevens Street is divided into two parts by the railway line. The events of which I write occurred on the greater part of Stevens Street.
    To begin the yarn, my grandad, the late Charlie Wheeler the 3rd, who was born in 1889, grew up on one and a quarter acres in the semi bush on Copeland Road, (the side which is east of the railway line), Beecroft, Sydney. Beecroft adjoins Pennant Hills. The area at the time was semi-rural, containing many orchards and market gardens. It was nothing like it is today.
    His land had a steep drop down to a creek where the local kids swam. They lived in a hut with a bark roof, and from what I gathered young Charlie did not receive enough nourishing tucker during his childhood. Their house had no tanks, and no electricity of course, and they had to carry their water by bucket from the creek. (The boys built their dad a more substantial house in later years).
    His dad, my great granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 2nd, was a floor tiler by trade, and I was told he was lazy and irresponsible, although I stress that is hearsay, and as he is not alive he is unable to defend himself against such an accusation. I was told however, he would usually walk past his employer in the mornings, and the employer would sometimes accost him in the street, asking him if he wanted any contract work. If he was not accosted he would apparently continue his walk and spend the day at the public library escaping into books and writing poetry. He apparently had some poems published in the “The Bulletin” and he called himself “The Bard of the Bourn,” “The Bourn” being the name of his Beecroft hut in Copeland Road. In recent times I have found several of his published poems in the National Library. 
  One of Charlie Wheeler the 2nd's poems I have in my possession is entitled "The Death of Dick." It was about how he had to euthanise his beloved dog, Dick. Charlie Wheeler the 3rd told us they got Dick as a result of him following Williamson, the bread carter, to their door in Copeland Road, Beecroft. The handwritten copy was difficult to read, so I may have got a few words wrong.
The Death of Dick
With deep regret a friendly hand destroys,
The vital spark that animates poor Dick,
Our good old dog, grown aged, weary, troublesome and sick,
No more shall Dick our near approach be known,
No more respond to whistle or to call.
His honest bark is hushed and neath a stone,
He lies beneath our boundary wall.
   Charlie Wheeler the 2nd's wife, Alice, left him after their five kids grew up. She gave birth to six kids but one died of scarlet fever.
    The photo above is of Charlie Wheeler the 2nd, my great granddad, at his house, "The Bourn," in Copeland Road, Beecroft, in 1924.
   When my granddad, Charlie the 3rd, left school, probably involuntarily, after assisting his very sick brother, George, he began at the age of 14 working in the grocery section of the general store owned by Sam Higgins, for 7 shillings and sixpence per week. The store was in Beecroft Road. He was required to pack groceries and other matter and deliver it around the Beecroft area by way of horse and cart.
  It must have been a very different world when Charlie began work in or around 1903. He told me he saw his first motorcar in 1905 as a 15 or 16 year old. It was owned by a Dr Lidwell, who was the doctor who was to first examine the bodies of Tos Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet after their untimely deaths. Charlie stayed with Higgins until he was 17.
   The photo above is of my granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 3rd aged around 18. The photo was taken around 1907.
     As I have previously stated, Charlie had a mate of a similar age named Horace Aiken, who was known as “Tos,” who he led me to believe had some black ancestry. I had presumed he was Aboriginal when I last told this yarn, but I have since found out he was of partial indigenous African descent. I discovered that Tos's great grandfather, John Aiken, was born in Jamaica and came out here in 1796. He was a carpenter and a free settler. John Aiken's father in law, who was Tos's great, great grandfather, was named John Randall, AKA as “Black Randall.” He was a convict who was sent from England, although he was born in the USA and was the son of slaves. 
     John Aiken, Tos's great granddad, was granted 30 acre in "Field of Mars," County of Cumberland," by Governor Darling in 1831. The Aiken family settled in that area. Where the grant was is now bounded by Taylor Street on the west, Aiken Road on the south and across Hill Road to the west of the William Bellamy grant. Aiken Road, Pennant Hills is of course named after the Aiken family. 
    John Aiken's wife, Frances, shot through on him, and in the Sydney Gazette, in 1824, John placed the following notice:  
      "Where as my wife, Frances Aiken, had absconded from her home without any cause or provocation, I do hereby caution all persons from harbouring, or giving credit to the said Frances Aiken on my account, as I will not be responsible for debts contracted by her." 
John Aiken 26th Apr 1824'.  
   From what I have read some of John Aiken's descendants believe that one of John Randall’s wives, known only as Kitty, of whom Horace is allegedly a direct descendant through Kitty's alleged daughter, Frances, may have been Aboriginal. Others deny this and say Frances's mum was one of his other wives, and a Caucasoid.
      Tos, like young Charlie Wheeler, also drove a horse and cart for a grocer and delivered fruit and veggies. Tos worked for a grocer who serviced mainly West Pennant Hills, a Mr Turner, whose shop was in Pennant Hills. I suppose Tos and Charlie became mates because they were both grocer's boys.
    Tos Aiken’s dad, William Joseph Aiken, AKA "Black Billy," was a Pennant Hills orchardist whose family lived in a brick house opposite "Eaton's Hampden Hotel," which was on the corner of Pennant Hills Road and Railway Street, Pennant Hills. It is now called the "Pennant Hills Inn" and can be seen as it is today in the coloured photo below. The Aiken property was called "Hillside."



   The above black and white photo of Eaton's Hampden Hotel, Pennant Hills, taken in 1900, was opposite the Aiken family home and orchard. The hotel later became the Pennant Hills Inn, which is shown in colour directly above as it is today. As you can see, it has been drastically modified (vandalised) and it is surrounded by heavy traffic and housing. What a pity. Black Billy would roll in his grave if he knew. I don't know if the Aiken family house still stands. A reader may be able to tell me, 
    Living in Hunters Hill at the time was a 35 year old Chinese market gardener named Charlie Tye (aka John Tye). He had supposedly lived in the general area for around 20 years,  although the Goulburn Herald on the 3/9/1906 says he came from the Braidwood area, which would be where he first lived after arriving in the colony. See the link below.
   http://leathemhistorys.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/horace-atkin-15-and-gordon-pettit-11.html  
  If Tye lived in the Braidwood area he probably lived in Majors Creek or Mongarlowe, which were gold mining areas until the early part of the 20'th century. I don't know if he worked as a miner or market gardener or both. He would probably have been a  teenager at the time. There were large numbers of Chinese on the Braidwood goldfields in those days. A cobber of mine who owns an ex pub/brothel in Mongarlowe called "The Rising Sun," which operated as such until the early 20'th century, found a Chinese coin in its yard. According to the Braidwood and District Historical Society, on the following link, Mongarlowe had Chinese market gardens, which would have supplied the miners with fresh tucker. Squizzy Taylor's sisters sold themselves from "The Rising Sun" and elsewhere in Mongarlowe, and Squizzy called in to see them on one occasion. Being a responsible, sensitive and moral sort of bloke, he was probably concerned about their welfare and his family's reputation.
  The above photo shows my cobbers, left to right, Steve Kirby, Dave Yarra and Graeme Rossiter, outside the kitchen of "The Rising Sun," Mongarlowe. Graeme is the owner. The photo below, left to right, is Dave Yarra, me and Steve Kirby on its front verandah. Opposite The Rising Sun was a Chinese temple, or Joss House. Tye would have almost certainly walked within or around "The Rising Sun" when he lived in the general area. The link below tells of an opium pipe that was originally found on the banks of the Mongarlowe River. Maybe Tye left it there after having visited "The Rising Sun."The second link shows a SMH report on 27/1/1874 of the possible suicide of a Mongarlowe Chinaman named Ah Him who died from an opium overdose.
http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/silver-opium-pipe-collectors-corner.php
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1448594?zoomLevel=1   
 Tye was well-known around Beecroft and Pennant Hills. Charlie knew him, as did Tos Aiken. In such relatively sparsely populated semi-rural communities everyone usually knows everyone.
    According to Charlie, my granddad, Tye was a quiet sort of bloke who had caused no problems, but one day on the 15/8/1906 he travelled to Thornleigh Railway Station after having visited a mate, and for some reason decided to run amok with a tomahawk. 

Thornleigh Railway Station 1904   
   He tried to begin his killing spree at about 5pm by attempting to murder with his tomahawk a young girl named Leta Tomson, aged 18. Leta escaped injury by running into the ticket office and passing through another door.
     Do any readers know what sort of life Leta lived after her narrow escape?
    He then tried to murder a 21 year old bloke named John Edward Hockley, who was employed as a slaughterman for a Mr Pollard. Johnny was with about a dozen other blokes who were standing at the station. He stated in the coronial inquest, as reported in the Argus, the following:
  "About 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon I was on the Thornleigh station. I was standing with my back towards the Chinaman (who is now in Court), and received a blow on the back of the head. I ran out a little bit, and turned round, and then received another blow between the shoulders. Then I received another one on the side of the face. The Chinaman in court struck the blows. I saw him raise the tomahawk to strike the second blow. I ran to Calvert's hotel for assistance."
   I wonder how Johnny, as a slaughterman, felt after being on the other end of the blade. 
   After Johnny ran to Calvert's hotel to seek assistance the station master got his postboy, Arthur Welsh, to get Constable McDonald from Beecroft. The assistance of Constable Allen from Hornsby was also sought. 
    Apparently the crowd tried to subdue Tye at the station, but he made a run for it, and according to the Beecroft Cheltenham History Group he crossed the line still carrying his tomahawk, scaled the bank and then disappeared in the vicinity of St Joachim, (which is now the St George Maronite Catholic Church). Then, in the gully at the bottom of Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, he came upon 9 year old Albert Gordon Pettet.  At that time Stevens Street was mainly bush.      
   You can see on the map above that Stevens Street is divided into two parts, with it being separated by the railway line. If Tye crossed the railway line it could mean that he crossed onto either side, depending on what side of Thornleigh Station he was on when he set upon Johnny Hockley. We can however, conclude that he crossed into the greater part of Stevens Street to perform his murders, as it was reported that after he crossed the line he went towards St Joachim, which is now the St George Maronite Catholic Church and is on Yarrara Road, Thornleigh.
     Albert Gordon Pettet was described as a bright little lad. He was returning from Blitchford's with an empty billy can in his hand after having delivered them milk upon his dad's direction. Albert Gordon was the ninth son of Thomas Crick Pettet, a dairyman of "The Esplanade," Pennant Hills.
   Tye then set upon poor little Albert Gordon with his tomahawk. The Clarence and Richmond Examiner described the attack in part in the following way:
   "The lad was helpless before the man, who fell upon him and madly hacked him about the head. The attack was a most savage one, for when discovered by those who followed Tye, the lad was almost unrecognisable."
   Thomas Pollard, a witness, later described how he, along with others, discovered the remains of poor little Albert Gordon's body, "alongside of whose billy can lay, as it had dropped from his nerveless grasp."
    After that Tye approached Tos Aiken, who, after having delivered groceries to the Hines family in Stevens Street, had parked his cart on the road outside the Hines house. 
     What happened next was witnessed by Mrs Hines and her 5 daughters, who described how Tye walked up quickly towards Tos with his hand behind his back, which was obviously holding the tomahawk. He went straight up to Tos and said something to him which was inaudible. When Tos stooped down Tye struck him a blow to the back of his head. 
    When Tos fell to the ground Mrs Hines called out "Run Tos; run for your life Tos!" Tos scrambled up and tried to get under a fence dividing the road from William Thompson's place opposite, but Tye came upon him and chopped him with the tomahawk "as though he were chopping wood.
   After killing Tos, Tye turned around and came at the Hines women with his tomahawk dripping with blood. Mrs Hines and her daughters rushed into their dining room, bolting the door behind them, which Tye tried unsuccessfully to break into. The mother and two of her daughters escaped into the garden mistakenly leaving her other daughters in the house. A neighbour, Jim Shields, who was probably related to Tos on their mother's sides, and who, according to the Goulburn Herald (3/9/1906) had a daughter being married on that day, then broke in and rescued the smallest girl. 
   Jim Shields' mother was a Bellamy, as was Tos's. The Belamys were also early landholders in the area. Bellamy Street runs off Stevens Street. Charlie Wheeler the 3rd recounted a yarn involving his cobber, Joe Bellamy, which was later copied and published by the Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group on the following link:
 http://www.bchg.org.au/index.php/en/people/individuals/s-z/142-wheeler-family
   By then the news had spread and more people were approaching the house, which resulted in Tye barricading himself inside the main bedroom. 
   Constables Allen and McDonald then arrived on the scene and according to the Argus some forty or more people had assembled, and if ever a man was near being lynched, that Chinaman was.” 
    The crowd started to throw stones through the bedroom window, with at least one striking Tye, who had lit a fire in the room with the bedding. The people however, threw in water and doused it. 
   Charles Aiken, a relative of the now deceased Tos Aiken, battered the bedroom door open with a piece of wood, and constables McDonald and Allen then overpowered and handcuffed Tye. It was not however, without a struggle, which left McDonald with an injury. Tye was then taken to Pennant Hills Police Station and at 6.42 pm he was put on the train from Hornsby to the police cells at Ryde. 
     
   Although the Argus does state that the 40 or so people who were present at Tye's capture came close to lynching him, it seems to be the only local paper that included that detail, and it did not elaborate on the actions of the crowd. The Adelaide Advertiser on the 17/8/1906 however, went as far as to report that the crowd were yelling out "Lynch him!" They of course would not have had a reporter in Sydney and would have had to rely on what their Sydney colleagues told them. 
    
   I have recently had contact with Pat Dewey, who I believe to be the president of the Hornsby Shire Historical Society, and I was told the Hines house, where Tye was captured, was located at 18 Stevens Street, which, according to google maps, is where the large brick house with the red car out the front in the above photo now stands. Unfortunately the original house was demolished about 20 years ago, which is a great shame. If it was the Hines house, why wasn't it heritage listed?
   Tos Aiken's murder is described as having taken place while he was trying to get under a fence which divides the road from William Thompson's place, which was opposite the Hines house. As it is unlikely the Thompson's front boundary was changed when the area was subdivided, the fence Tos was trying to get under when he was being murdered probably ran where the hedge on the left of the above photo now grows, should the murder have taken place in that area. If so it means Tos was murdered somewhere along that hedge-line. I don't know if the house opposite 18 Stevens Street is the original Thompson house, but if it is it should be heritage listed. Jim Shields, who came to the Hines women's rescue and who had a daughter being married that day, is described as a neighbour. I don't know what side of the Hines' house he lived or if his house still stands. Do any readers? 
    The Argus report, as shown further down, states in part that there was a distance of about 200 yards (about 183 metres) between the bodies of Tos Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet. If the Hines house was at number 18 Stevens Street and the distance between the bodies was recorded accurately, and if, as reported, Albert Gordon was murdered in a gully at the bottom of Stevens Street, I estimate that his murder took place in a gully on the same side of Stevens Street as the Hines house within close proximity to the turnoff into Fulbourne Avenue. I don't know if Fulbourne Avenue existed at the time. Can any readers assist in regard to a precise location of poor Albert Gordon's murder?
   Maybe the Sydney media at the time engaged in self-censorship. I say this because I can recall quite clearly my granddad, Charlie, who had mates who were in the mob, telling me the mob had in its possession a rope which was strung around a suitable tree, and they were ready to "give him (Tye) an artichoke," a common expression of the time, which is the title I gave to my first attempt at this yarn.
     He also told me that the coppers found it more difficult to subdue the mob after Tye was captured than it had been to capture Tye. It was apparently not just a case of them giving the mob a verbal command to stay back. And as Albert Gordon and Tos's relatives would have been in the mob I can see why they would have behaved in the way my granddad told me. I'm actually surprised the coppers were able to walk away with Tye.
   
   The above photo is of Charlie Tye aka John Tye after "the derbies had been slipped upon his wrists."   
   In retrospect I can see why the papers might have engaged in self-censorship. If they had have given a detailed description of the crowd's behaviour, such as how they strung a rope around a tree branch, it may have forced the authorities to prosecute people for behaviour which most of the locals would have thought was entirely understandable. And if they did prosecute as a result of what was reported in the papers it could have meant a boycott of the papers by readers and advertisers.
     To understand what happened after the arrest and the general mood of the community I will quote various parts of the Argus report, as follows:
   "The prisoner gave no trouble after the derbies had been slipped upon his wrists, and the journey from Pennant Hills to the Ryde lockup was entirely without incident. 
   Left behind at the Pennant Hills railway station was Constable McDonald, who had still numerous duties to perform, as a preliminary to the inquests that would necessarily have to be held next day. When seen there by 'The Argus' representative, his right hand was covered with blood. He was just as he had come out of the fray, and made light of the fact that a piece had been taken clean out of his hand at the joint of the little finger by the keen edge of the tomahawk, with which the Chinaman had committed the murders, and with which he had made a desperate attempt on the constable's own life. 
   With the warm blood still trickling from his hand, McDonald continued his duties, and in company with 'The Argus,' visited the homes of the stricken families, viewing the bodies of the murdered boys, also the scenes of the ghastly crimes, and making other calls which were necessary to piece together the narrative of that shocking afternoon's work."
 Another part of the Argus report states:
  The dead bodies of 'Tos' Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet were taken to their respective homes, where they were examined by Dr. Liddell, of Beecroft, who gave it as his opinion that death must have been instantaneous in each case. A distance of about 200 yards separated the corpses when found. Aiken was lying on his face, and had no less than seven wounds, four on the back of the head, each one of which had penetrated through the skull into the brain, causing brain matter to exude, a gash on each shoulder, the keen blade having penetrated his clothing and sunk deep into the flesh, and another on the leg. Pettet had a gash extending from the lobe of the right ear to the cheek bone, the whole width of the tomahawk blade, and a considerable depth, while the skull had been severed right across.
   The scene at both homes was heartrending, and both families have the sympathy of the entire district. This is the first occasion upon which the Ryde lockup has been used for the confinement of a murderer. The prisoner slept for a while after being lodged there. 
   He conveyed to the police that it would be better for him to be dead, and several times he asked them to shoot him. He also said he knew 'Tos' Aiken well, that he was a good fellow, and that he was sorry, but it couldn't be helped'. In explanation as to why he had killed him, he said: 'Something, went wrong here,' indicating his forehead. Incessantly he would laugh merrily ; then he would ask to be shot by the police. He also said he had knocked his head on the cement floor, and conveyed the impression that he might possibly attempt self-destruction by knocking his own brains out during the night. Asked if he had had a good sleep, he said it would be better for him to sleep under the ground (meaning the grave). 
   He gives the impression that he is now feigning madness. When seen by an 'Argus' representative in the cell about 11.30 p.m., he was lying on his back, still handcuffed, with the blankets tucked under his feet, as though he knew how to make himself comfortable.
The Argus reported the funerals, in part, as follows:
     The Coroner gave orders for the burial of the victims of the Pennant Hills tragedy on Thursday afternoon, and the interments took place yesterday (Friday). The most profound sympathy is felt and manifested for the bereaved families, and the funeral cortege was the largest ever seen in the district.  An immense number of beautiful floral tributes and expressions of sympathy were sent in from all parts of the district.
   Albert Pettet was interred at the Wesleyan cemetery, Pennant Hills, and Aiken at the Church of England burial ground, Carlingford. The arrangements in both cases were in the hands of Messrs. W. Metcalfe and Co. The victims were both sons of well known residents, the first being Albert Gordon Pettet, aged 9 years, and ninth son of Mr. Thomas Crick Pettet, dairy man, of The Esplanade, Pennant Hills.    
   The second victim was Horace Henry Aiken, aged 16, son of Mr. William Aiken, orchardist, of Pennant Hills, whose fine brick residence almost opposite Eaton's Hampden Hotel, has, for many years, been a familiar land mark. Mr. Pettet, who has a family of 12, has been a resident of the place for upwards of 20 years, and Mr. Aiken is also a very old resident, both families being widely known. 
   The murderer is also known in the district, having some years back been employed as a market gardener by Mr Hughes, of Dundas, in which capacity he was, known to many as a hawker of vegetables.
End of report
  Headstones of Horace Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet.
    Although buried in different cemeteries it appears the boys had a double funeral service.
Inscription for Horace Henry Aiken (known as Tos Aiken). I cannot read all that is inscribed on his headstone, but other than identifying him it states that he died on the 15'th of August 1906. He shares his grave with other members of his family, Charlotte and Herbert.
Cemetery:Carlingford Anglican  NSW
Inscription Id:7879634
Surname:Aiken
Given Names:Horace Henry 
Birth Date:Jul?1890
Death Date:15 Aug 1906
Age:16
Gender:M
Father's Name:William
Mother's Name:Hannah
Other People:Ada Elizabeth Aiken
Charlotte Aiken
Herbert Aiken
Remarks:son/William & Hannah
Nearby graves:Previous  Next  (may be related)Other Sources
Photographed and transcribed by: Brookhouse, Michael


Inscription for Albert Gordon Pettet - 
     As previously explained, little Albert Gordon Pettet was called Gordon Pettet. Inscribed on his headstone is, "Dear Gordon, the beloved child of Thomas and Mary Ann Pettet who was called away." It also says that he died on the 15'th of August 1906. Two of Albert's brothers were killed in WW1 and he had a sister who died in infancy.
Cemetery:Cherrybrook Uniting Church  NSW
Inscription Id:7065403
Surname:Pettet
Given Names:Gordon
Birth Date:1897?
Death Date:15 Aug 1906
Age:9
Gender:M
Portion:UC
Father's Name:Thomas
Mother's Name:Mary Ann
Remarks:son/Thomas & Mary Ann
Nearby graves:Previous  Next  (may be related)Other Sources
Photographed and transcribed by: Brookhouse, Michael
   If you click on the link below it will take you to a published copy of a letter kept in the Hornsby Library Historical Collections which was sent to the mothers of the murdered boys. It was written by a Mr Yee Sing. He expresses, on behalf of the Sydney branch of the "Chinese Empire Reform Association" and the "Chinese Merchant's Association" his abhorrence at the murders and his regret that one of their countrymen was responsible for causing such sorrow. The letters offer the mothers financial assistance. http://cdm15997.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15997coll3/id/36/rec/40
   According to the Goulburn Herald, 3/9/1906, both mothers were handed substantial cheques by the latter societies. Yee Sing (or Hing) also thanked Jim Shields for assistance. (Nomchong and Co from Braidwood were a part of the group. The Nomchongs are still in the Braidwood area).
   If you visit Nancy Leathem's excellent blog entitled "Nancy Leathem's trees and branches," on the link below, more details of the coronial inquest are quoted from the "Evening News Sydney." From what I understand Nancy may be related to both the Aikens and the Pettet's.
http://leathemhistorys.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/horace-atkin-15-and-gordon-pettit-11.html
  According to the "Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group" Tye was found unfit to face criminal charges due to a lack of mental capacity and was committed to Parramatta Lunatic Asylum where he remained until at least 1919. I have read elsewhere that he believed he had to kill three people to get to Heaven.
   I had previously presumed he would have "danced on nothing," another expression that was used at the time for hanging, but that did not happen. I wonder if he died inside the asylum.      
    Tye was unusual in that Chinamen at that time in Australia had a reputation of being law-abiding and honest. And from my observations I believe that other than the small numbers of Triad Chinese who are living here today most still are. But many people in earlier times who came to Australia without a ball and chain did not have a history of being law-abiding in their countries of origin, and I would not be surprised if Tye had a history of losing control in his home country and came to Australia to escape the consequences of his actions. Who knows?
    I also wonder what it would have been like to live in the Beecroft/Pennant Hills/Thornleigh area in 1906. One report describes the murders as taking place 19 miles from Sydney, meaning the area must have been so rural and so far from the centre of Sydney it was not really considered a part of Sydney. And although those who lived in that area in that era lived hard lives, their lives would have been far less hectic than those who live there today. 
    Last time I travelled through Beecroft and Pennant Hills I did not enjoy gazing at a world of tar, cement, too many humans, too many buildings built too close to each other, too much noise and too many cars travelling far too quickly. 
    But, next time I travel through Pennant Hills, Thornleigh or Beecroft I will probably find myself visualising a peaceful semi-rural scene with young Charlie Wheeler and young Tos Aiken driving their horses and carts laden with fruit and veggies. And, with their youthful exuberance, they will wave and call out to each other as they must have many  times many years ago.
  I may  also visualise an innocent, trusting and hardworking little 9 year old boy named Albert Gordon Pettet, carrying a billy can full of milk through the fields. 
UPDATE 31/5/16.
   I received an email yesterday from a bloke named Bob Piper. Bob is a first class military and aviation historian and professional researcher based in Canberra, (MARS). His contact details can be obtained through the following Australian War Memorial link. 
https://www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/research_agents/
   When I last had contact with Bob he solved for me the mystery of an RAAF plane crash on Mt Ainslie, Canberra, that occurred during WW2. I had asked for assistance on the matter from the Canberra Times, who did a story on it, because I could find nothing that was written about it. All I had was what my deceased maternal uncle had told me. I did however, have in my possession the plane's engine plate, as my uncle had given it to me. He had taken it as a souvenir when, as a boy, he and his mates had gone to the crash site.
    The crash was kept quiet during the war, and subsequently forgotten. Whenever I told anyone about it I was disbelieved. Bob however, after having read the Canberra Times article, managed, after a lot of work, to unearth the details of the crash, and I wrote it all up on the following link on this blog.  http://acanberraboy.blogspot.com.au/2013_03_01_archive.html
   But that's not all!! By pure coincidence Bob told me he was in Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, yesterday, talking to a lady named Pat Dewey, who is the president of the Hornsby Shire Historical Society. Bob was discussing with her the Charlie Tye murders, as Bob had grown up in Thornleigh and was fully aware of them. Bob's dad had actually written about them in the "Thornleigh Progress Association" newsletter during the 1950's. 
   Although it is unlikely my grandad and Bob's dad, being of different generations, knew each other, the chances of them having had friends in common would be virtually 100%. The irony of it all was that Bob told me that when he was in his teens and he tried to tell girls about what occurred in Stevens Street he was not believed, as was the case for me when I tried to tell people about the plane crash on Mt Ainslie. I however, did not attempt to tell girls about the Mt Ainslie crash or the murders in Stevens Street as they thought I was weird enough as it was.   
    Anyway, Bob put me into contact with Pat, and after making contact with her I now believe the Hines house, in which Tye was captured and which was located directly opposite to where Tos was murdered, was at 18 Stevens Street. That information is of great historical significance if correct, and I have every confidence that it is, because it pinpoints almost exactly where Tos was murdered. And from that information we have a good estimation of where Albert Gordon was murdered based on other recorded information.Thanks for the info Pat,and thanks for contacting me Bob.
  If you are connected to this incident as a relative of persons I have mentioned or in any other way and you believe I have got any of the facts surrounding the event wrong, or if you have any further relevant information or photos, please email me. My email address can be obtained by hitting the contact button above. You can also leave a comment below if you wish.
DAVE WHEELER
FOR MORE YARNS HIT THE "HOME" BUTTON ABOVE.

Friday, 24 October 2014

THE SEARCH FOR THE CAVE ON BLACK MOUNTAIN


    
"THE SEARCH FOR THE CAVE ON BLACK MOUNTAIN"
by Dave Wheeler  
  When I go off on a tangent within this post I will use green italics like I am doing now. When I become aware that other parts of my personality are attempting to get my attention or are arguing amongst themselves I will use blue italics. 

   Within an excellent book which was printed in 1927 entitled “Canberra History and Legends,” by the famous Queanbeyan resident, John Gale, the "father of the Berra," he wrote of a cave on Black Hill (aka as Black Mountain) in which escaped convicts from the Queanbeyan lockup lived for a while. He says that two of them were eventually arrested on the Canberra Plain after having lived in the said cave, and that a third escapee was never heard of, although he believes his bones were later found within the cave. See below. As indicated by this post's title, the whereabouts of that cave is not known and is the subject of this post.





  Dave Reid, who has the website "Dave's ACT" http://www.davesact.com, which is the best online repository there is for Canberra and districts history, did a post on the cave on Black Mountain  last year. 
    This post is a follow-up to Dave Reid's post. It contains more information I have received in the last year through research, the results of searching my memory, what I have learnt from a recent trip to Black Mountain and the latest results of my deductive reasoning.
    Although I stress I am not actually looking for the cave, I was motivated to gather as much information as I could on the subject so I could try and work out whether or not it really exists or existed or is just another myth. I was of the belief I would probably enjoy the mental stimulation of such an exercise, and I did. 
    I was also aware that whatever I came up with may be able to assist those who are interested in going further on the subject, particularly if I receive feedback, as I can pass it on to such persons.
    Many people have tried to find the cave over the years. I even made an effort as a kid in the sixties, and of course I did not find it. I will however, in due course, tell you what I did see in the sixties, as some of what I saw then cannot be seen today. 
    To give you some relevant background knowledge I will begin by discussing the history of Black Mountain's tree cover. If you click on the following link it will open a document entitled "History of Canberra Nature Park," by Sarah Ryan.
    You will find at the beginning of the document three photos of Black Mountain, one taken around 1870, another taken in 1920 and another taken in 2011. The mountain is virtually denuded in 1870, which some attribute to indigenous fire stick farming, but because the clearing is extreme I see it as more than likely being caused mainly by deliberate clearing by a European grazier/s, which was normal practice in those days. 
    Ryan seems to agree to the extent that she states that the mountain was widely cleared in the mid 1800's, and  judging by its lack of foliage in the 1870 photo, and having personally  experienced how difficult it is to clear eucalypts without a bulldozer, I would say she is probably right. Clearing that much timber with 19'th century equipment to the extent that it was cleared in 1870 would have taken many years. 
   At that time Europeans believed that denuded land produced more meat or wool per acre. They were not conscious of the fact that the removal of too many trees leads to catastrophic environmental problems which can adversely affect their bottom line. 
        
     Above is Black Mountain, referred to as Black Hill, as shown in John Gale's 1927 book entitled "Canberra History and Legends." If you look at the photo of the mountain taken in 1920 in Ryan's document you can see that it did have some tree regrowth, but it was nothing in comparison to what it is today. It is difficult to see what sort of tree cover Black Mountain had when the above photo was taken, which is presumably in or around 1927, the year Gale's book went to print. 
    Gale said that two of the convicts who lived in the cave were arrested "seventy five years ago" on the Canberra Plain, which would put the year of their capture at 1852 considering his book was written in 1927. I am not sure how much vegetation the mountain had in 1852, but if the convicts were able to hide from the law I am presuming it had enough to conceal the cave, even if the clearing had commenced around that time.
     If we presume the cave did exist, Gale maintains it was first "discovered" (by Europeans) "about sixty years ago," which would put its alleged discovery by Europeans at around 1867, as his book was written in 1927. But this would probably be when the cave's location became officially recorded. Obviously the local indigenous mob would have known of its existence and probably used it for religious practice and burials, (if it was not a 19'th century manmade cave), and obviously the convicts who lived in it also knew where it was before 1867. And if they knew where it was it is more than likely other palefaces also knew where it was, again, presuming it was not manmade.
    Whatever the case, given the baldness of the mountain in the circa 1870 photo and given that Gale indicates the cave's location was officially known in or around 1867, graziers and the law would have seen it as a potential hiding place for fugitives, even if there were no trees left around it in 1867. And with this being the case, given that very few Europeans had much respect for nature in that era, if it had a narrow entrance I'm surprised the cave was not destroyed or at least sealed-up around that time to make it harder for the criminally inclined to hide and operate.
    Gale however, obviously still believed the cave was not destroyed and was accessible when he wrote his book in 1927, as he tells us two of his cobbers examined the cave in 1915. He also states that bones of what he believed was the third runaway convict were discovered "a few years ago,"which would suggest they were found in the early 1920's considering his book was written in 1927.

   He does not say whether the said bones were accompanied by a skull, but given that he only mentioned bones he seems to imply they were not, which to my mind makes me think that the bones were more than likely that of an indigenous person, (if it was a natural cave), with the skull having been stolen. The indigenous were sometimes buried in caves, and their skulls were often stolen by Europeans. (Aboriginal remains were found in the London Bridge caves at Burra, which in relative terms is not too far away from Black Mountain). 
    If what Gale says about the bones being found a "few years" prior to him writing his book in 1927 is true we can presume the police were made aware of the discovery and there may have even been a coronial inquest if they believed the bones were non-indigenous. If not a coronial inquest, there should have at least been some sort of report written-up and filed away on the matter. And if this was the case there may be relevant documents somewhere in the police archives if someone wants to try and get them to do a search. Then again, maybe nobody bothered reporting the find to the police.
     It would have been the NSW police who examined the bones as the Berra did not have its own police force until  1927. I don't know if the NSW Police Force handed over pre 1927 records of incidents that occurred within the Berra to the Berra police force after it was formed. 
    The main clue of the cave's whereabouts comes from John Gale saying it is on the eastern side of the mountain, but the eastern side of Black Mountain covers a lot go ground.
     He also said it has only one entrance and exit and that a person needs to go on all fours to go through it, which would indicate it was on the side of a steep gully, because if it was behind flatter ground he would have said that to enter and exit one had to lower and raise oneself. And that exercise does not involve being on all fours.
     He also says the cave opens up into an area as large as an ordinary living room.
    I will now tell of my not too extensive search for the cave when I was a boy in the sixties as a result of my having read Gale's book, which I borrowed from my grandmother who knew Gale when she lived in Queanbeyan in the twenties, although she did not know him well. 
   During the 60's I can recall asking quite a few old codgers from the Berra, who are long since deceased, about what they knew of the cave and if they knew where it was located. Most told me they knew of it but I could not find one person who knew precisely where it was or who had seen it. I did however collect a few snippets of information which have gone beyond what Gale has said. The reader will have to make up his or her own mind as to whether the information has any worth.
   What led to me getting one particular piece of information about the cave began in 1962 when my parents bought me a secondhand pushbike for my 10th birthday. It may seem a bit mean, but my parents were not wealthy and good secondhand bikes were not cheap to buy in 1962, even if they were not top name brands. I will explain why.
PERSONALITY 2 INTERRUPTS MY TYPING
Hold on Wheeler! What on Earth has the purchase of a secondhand pushbike in 1962 got to do with the search for the cave on Black Mountain?
PERSONALITY 3 RESPONDS TO PERSONALITY 2
Shutup you arse and he'll tell you!
   Secondhand pushbikes were not cheap because in the sixties we had a strong manufacturing industry as we were protected by high tariffs, and we also regulated our currency. It was a clever policy because not only did it protect Australian skilled and unskilled jobs by ensuring cheap Third World labour remained uncompetitive; it ensured we did not have a throwaway mentality. I say this because as items like pushbikes were expensive we had a greater tendency to look after them and to keep them for longer periods. This caused less worldwide manufacturing and therefore less greenhouse gases. It also meant that because the items were made in Australia from Australian steel they travelled a shorter distance from manufacturer to customer, which again meant less greenhouse gases were produced on the way.
     Having said that, the pushbike I bought was one of the few in Australia that was imported. It was owned by a good-natured and cheerful Pommie bachelor migrant aged about 30 who was living in a flat in Red Hill. He had bought the pushbike in England before he emigrated, which was about the time I was born. The brand name was "Phillips" and the model was a "Vox Populi." It had 3 speed Sturmey Archer gears, which really impressed me. 
   It may seem ridiculous bringing an ordinary  pushbike from England nowadays, but England also had high tariffs, and because he would have been aware that bikes were also expensive in Australia he obviously  thought it worth his while taking it with him.
    Things went well with my pushbike for a while, but probably in early 1964, while I was dinking my mate, Slacky Baxter, down Hawdon Street, Ainslie, turning into Sherbrooke Street, the shaft at the top of my forks broke off inside the bike's frame. This caused Slacky, the forks, the rest of my bike and me to go in different directions. I scraped my knee at the time, but we laughed hysterically over what happened because we weren’t really normal kids.
    I went to Ally Nish’s sports shop in Northbourne Avenue the next day with the broken forks to buy a new set, but because it was a Pommie bike and the smashed part was longer than normal they could not help me. I was told however that there was an old bloke living in Toms Crescent, Ainslie (he was on the corner of Toms Crescent where it turned into Corroboree Park from memory) who had a large range of secondhand bike parts and that he may be able to help. So on a weekend morning I went to see him. I presumed he was an old age pensioner supplementing his income, as he looked ancient to me, probably about 80 I thought, and probably a WW1 veteran. 
    I looked into his shed and saw he had an enormous amount of pushbike parts. He also had a sign hanging up which said, “Some trust the Lord; others trust cash,” or words to that effect.  He had at the side of his shed an ancient single cylinder stationary engine with a Model T Ford buzz coil ignition system which he got going for me. And while his engine was having its morning exercise he took my broken forks and went into his shed looking for a match. 
   “Pommie bike?” he asked, and I told him it was. Out he came with what looked like identical forks. After I purchased them from him he told me to bring them back if they didn’t fit, although he also said he thought they would. They did fit and I had several more years of service from my bike.
     There was another ancient bloke there at the time, a cobber of the old pushbike man, just visiting. He looked to be about 90. So being an abnormal 11 or 12 year old kid who liked yarning to old men I struck up a conversation with him. I was intrigued by very old men because they came from such a different world to me and had lived such vastly different lives than lads of my vintage, and by yarning to them it gave me some insight into what their society was like in their youth.
     He was a nice old bloke. He told me he lived near the Ainslie shops, so I asked him if he knew my granddad, Bill Guard the  2nd, a sign writer, who also lived near the Ainslie shops. He told me they were great mates and I couldn’t shut him up after that.
   
    He talked about many things in a short period of time, including WW1, although if I was correct in guessing his age he would have been about 40 when it started and probably considered too old to fight. He also told me he had grown up in the Berra, so having read about the cave on Black Mountain where the convicts hid I asked him if he knew where it was.  
PERSONALITY 2 INTERRUPTS AGAIN-
WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU WHEELER? What you’ve said about pushbikes and tariffs was completely unnecessary. All you had to do was mention that you met an old bloke in Toms Crescent, Ainslie, with whom you discussed the Black Mountain cave. The readers couldn't give a rat's arse about your Phillips pushbike! You're just going to have to get over the fact that we are living in a global economy and are competing with Third World labour. I don't even know why it concerns you if you don't believe we have contra causal free will!
PERSONALITY 3 RESPONDS TO PERSONALITY 2
So what if he's raving on; you bastard? He doesn't take it seriously, he's enjoying himself and he's exercising his old brain to lessen his chances of getting dementia. Let him go! Don’t you know the objective of life is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain and that’s all he’s trying to do? Keep it up and I’ll drop you!
   He told me he was well aware of the cave and had known several people who had visited it, but he also told me he had never seen it and that he believed it had been sealed by the authorities. If this was true I presumed it would have occurred sometime in the twenties or a bit later if what Gale said about the bones being discovered a few years before he published his book in 1927 was correct, although I never actually asked him when the cave was sealed.
     Nor did I ask him if those people who had seen the cave still had a pulse, which I should have, but I presumed they did not and I was probably correct in making that assumption. 
    I received more information around that period from a bloke a few years older than me from O'Connor who was a mate of my older brother. He told me he was told by his grandfather that the cave was in the gully within the Black Mountain dump but buried under car bodies and other rubbish. 
    There was a  dump on Black Mountain which closed sometime in 1964. I think it first opened just after WW2, but it may have been earlier. I know it was operating in the mid 40's. The site is located behind the CSIRO and the Botanic Gardens, directly above the ACTEW Civic zone substation. 
    I had already heard that story from another kid, but he could not remember where he got the information, so I had dismissed what he had said. My brother's mate sounded much more credible.
    The dump was on the eastern side of Black Mountain, so that information was in accord with what  John Gale had said, although as I have said, the east of Black Mountain covers a lot of ground. 
    Having been told that the cave may be under the dump, and hoping for some unlikely reason we could still access it if we got under the car bodies, and hoping what the old bloke had said about the cave being sealed by the authorities was incorrect, I decided to have a look for it. 
    At an appropriate time, accompanied by my mate, Dazzle Willis, we took our pre-teen bodies through the fence after the dump had closed and walked along the bottom of the gully, which was the direction in which the rubbish was thrown and where car bodies were stacked. I can remember seeing the remains of cars ranging from the 20's to the 50's and I can also recall staring through gaps in the car bodies which indicated there were several layers of them stacked-up in places, going down a long way. 
    There were however, a few parts of the gully that did not have car bodies on it, and what I did see on the sides of one part of the gully were narrow cracks. There may or may not have been caves behind those cracks, but I was conscious of the fact that there are many caves in the Berra area. I did not however, see any evidence of a hole in the gully which was large enough for a human to crawl through, but that did not mean that such a hole was not in parts of the gully which were covered by car bodies. I was also aware that the cave could have been where I was looking but sealed and with vegetation growing over it. We did not find the cave.
     
   Another story I heard from various sources in more recent times was that the cave was in the Botanic Gardens, which virtually adjoins where the dump was, and as such is of course on the eastern side of Black Mountain and in accordance with where John Gale said the cave was. The sources of course could not tell me where it was located within the Botanic Gardens. 
    I got in touch with the Botanic Gardens around the time Dave Reid did his post on the subject and spoke to one of the staff, a pleasant and helpful young lady. She knew nothing of the cave, but was fascinated by the possibility of a cave being there, so she asked their longest serving staff member about it. He knew nothing of the cave, and given that every square inch of the Botanic Gardens has been gone over thoroughly and repeatedly by gardeners it would be very safe to say it is not in the Botanic Gardens, although there are holes in the gully in the Gardens, and one of them at a stretch may be large enough to qualify as a cave under the word's dictionary definition. 
   For the record, what the Botanic Gardens staff member did tell me was that she contacted their longest-serving staff member  who said to her something like, "I am unaware of anything that could be described as a cave. A few hollows you might be able to fit one person into, perhaps, but not a cave." 
     I also received a very helpful email from John Brush of the Canberra Spelaeological Society which this year celebrates its 60'th anniversary. If any persons know where the cave is or was you would think it would be them. John also told me of what could be described as a sort of cave in the Botanic Gardens, but he also indicated that it was "quite low and not very extensive" and as such nothing like the cave Gale describes. Its lack of size would also make it useless as a home for escapees. I will have more to say on other useful and relevant information John gave me in due course.
     The Botanic Gardens extends to a road which has on its other side the site where the dump was. If the cave is buried in the old dump site I can see how the story of it being in the Botanic Gardens arose, particularly since hollows in the gully in the Botanic Gardens gully can be seen to further confuse the issue. 
    The site where the dump was is partly fenced and now contains various objects used for landscaping. I presume the material is used for the Botanic Gardens, and if the site is leased by the Botanic Gardens it could be considered a part of the Botanic Gardens. So if the cave is buried under fill where the dump was it could arguably be said that the cave is in the Botanic Gardens, although not the garden part of the Botanic Gardens.   
    I did receive what I consider valuable information about the whereabouts of the cave in relatively recent times. I stress however, the information is hearsay, although nonetheless important and credible because it reinforces other information I have received. 
    The bloke I spoke to (I'll call him Godfrey because I've forgotten his name) told me his deceased dad had a mild obsession with finding the cave (before he became deceased) and had gone over all of Black Mountain (east and west sides) using a grid pattern, very thoroughly, looking for the cave. He found nothing! 
PERSONALITY 2 INTERRUPTS AGAIN- 
   Godfrey's dad not being able to find the cave doesn't mean much at all; does it Wheeler? Many people have looked for it without success. So what?
   Many people have looked for the cave without success, but it adds to the argument that it has been sealed and/or is under fill. It also however, supports the view of those who believe it never existed.

  The photo above which I recently took shows a portion of the back of a 1920's motorcar which I found about 200 yards from the original dump site on Black Mountain. There was nothing of any value in the area but it was interesting. You could throw whatever you wanted to into the Berra dumps in bygone days without having to fork out a penny. You could also scrounge for things as the dumps did not have recycling facilities because unlike today people were not desperate for employment. Having recycling at dumps is in one way a positive which comes out of us having to live in an unstable economy where we never have full employment or job security, although as I have said, in the 50's and 60"the high cost of manufactured items meant that such items were kept for longer periods and less of them were made, (overseas), which meant there was less environmental destruction.    
   Godfrey however, went on to tell me that his dad eventually met a credible person who told him that the cave did exist and had definitely been destroyed (his dad met the bloke who told him this after he had done his search in a grid pattern) and that it was under the Black Mountain dump site. Unfortunately Godfrey did not know if that meant it had been sealed or fully destroyed prior to it being buried in the dump or that it was destroyed because it was buried under the dump site.
   
 The above photo is of an old car part at the Black Mountain dump site.  The photo was not taken in September, even though it does show one of the first signs of "spring."
     Again I stress, that was not great information by itself, and all hearsay, and as hearsay evidence is dismissed in a court of law the reader may also dismiss the information. But, given that the bloke was not trying to impress me or show he had power over me because he had special knowledge I wanted which he was not willing to give, he did not seem like a bullshit artist. If he was a bullshit artist his story would have been a lot more dramatic, or he would have told me he was keeping the cave's location a secret. I found it valuable information because it  reinforced the stories I had already heard about the cave being under the dump site and as such supported the credibility of those stories. 
  
    The above photo taken at the old Black Mountain dump site shows a part of a car body, which would be resting over many other car bodies, sticking out of the ground after fill was put on top of the whole area probably a year or so after the dump closed in 1964. You can see where the trees have sprung up through the bodies and fill since the dump closed. To the left of the valley and out of view is where landscaping material is kept, presumably by the Botanic Gardens. When I visited the areas as a kid while the dump was operating the area shown in this photo was a deep valley. 
    Other than asking older people during the 1960's where the cave was, in more recent times I asked several other older people where the cave may be located, although they were much younger than the people I spoke to in the 1960's.
    I asked my maternal uncle, the now deceased Bill Guard the 3rd, and his mate, the late George Tate, about the cave when Uncle Bill came to the Berra for a visit in the 70s. Bill and George, who were two knockabout Ainslie lads, would be aged about 84 if they were alive today, which meant they were too young to go to WW2 and would have spent most of their wartime preteen and early teenage years outdoors, given that the Berra had no TV or computer games in that era. 
    They had no idea where the cave was. George had not heard of it and Uncle Bill only knew of it because his mum owned a copy of Gale's book.
    I recently contacted my mate, Slacky Baxter, who was with me when I had the previously mentioned accident on my pushbike. He contacted his uncle, "Donny Shepherd," who is aged 80. Uncle Donny, also a knockabout Ainslie boy, also did not know where the cave was and had not heard of it.
      If it was a natural cave it should have been known of by the Berras indigenous folk, so I contacted an indigenous Canberran I know, Paul House, who probably knows more about local indigenous history than anyone, with the possible exception of some of his older relo’s. He told me he was not aware of there being a cave on the mountain but expressed a desire to look for it with me if I had any information on its whereabouts. He is a very honest bloke who I have previously shared information with I did not want made public and I am sure he genuinely knows nothing about the cave's whereabouts. 
   I recently contacted a lady named Leonie, a direct descendant of John Gale. She could not tell me where the cave was nor could any of her older relo's. 
   I also spoke to Dave Whitfield who is the Parks and Conservation ranger for the Black Mountain area. He did not know where it was but seemed like a nice bloke and was very interested in finding out about it.  
     In regard to the previously mentioned email I received from John Brush of the Canberra Spelaeological Society, he told me that his members did not know where it was but he offered a  couple of possible explanations. 
    The Canberra Spelaeological Society began in 1954, and as I have said, you would think that if anyone would know the truth about the cave it would be them. I say this because in 1954 some of the founding members would have read Gale's book and one would think they would have tried to find older Canberrans who could have told them where the cave is or was. Alternatively, one would think they would have tried to find folk who could have told them with genuine authority whether or not the cave story was a myth. 
    But, obviously by that stage the CSS did not come into contact with anyone who had such knowledge, because if they did today's members would know where the cave is or was or whether the story was a creation. And today's members do not have such knowledge.
      What John Brush did say in part in his email was, "To the best of my knowledge, the only limestone cave(s) that once may have existed near Black Mtn are now submerged beneath Lake Burley G.  Back in the 1960s, one of our members lived on Acton peninsula and used to poke around in a nearby cave after school.  References to that 8m long cave can be found in the Butz paper that is linked to Dave Reid’s  website." 
   The link to the Butz paper is here:
     I doubt the said cave in Acton could be the one Gale was referring to for reasons I will get to in due course.  
   As I have previously said, I am not sure of when the Black Mountain dump first opened, but I know it was well and truly operating in 1954 and had been doing so since the forties at least, which means that if the cave is under the dump site it would probably have been inaccessible when the Canberra Spelaeological Society formed in 1954. 
      On the 2/10/14 I decided to have a good look at the old dump site from the gully side and the surrounding area, which I had not done for many years. I took the preceding and following photos at the time.
    The above photo shows the previously shown vintage car body part and other stuff in a gully about 200 yards away from the old dump site. I am not sure if that area was an extension of the dump at some stage or if it is the remains of a settlement near the dump, or near what was to become the dump. 
     The part of the gully where the cars and other rubbish was thrown looks nothing like it did in 1964. That part of the gully, the part where I saw cracks going into what may have been natural caves, (but probably were not), would  have at least 15 metres of fill over it today, and since 1964 trees have grown over the fill and the old car bodies. You can see in the photos where car body parts stick out of the ground near the said trees. 
    I could see that any effort to dig down to look for the cave would be enormous and would require a lot of earthmoving machinery. It would of course not be worth the effort considering we don't know for a fact it is there, and for all we know it may have been destroyed entirely. There is also a possibility the cave did not exist. 

    I followed the gully up the mountain and past the dump site and saw nothing in the way of cave entrances or the sorts of cracks in the side of the gully which could possibly lead to caves, the sort I had seen at the dump in the 60's. I then went back and followed another gully which goes to the left of the trail up the mountain. It was an interesting walk, but obviously I did not find any evidence of the cave; not that I expected to.
The above photo shows car parts which have been buried with fill at the dump site.
         
   The dump site has a few holes like the one shown above, presumably caused by underground movement when the car bodies below ground level crumbled.
   Before I conclude this exercise I will show more very valuable feedback feedback I received in October 2014 from John Brush of the Canberra Spelaeological Society in the form of two more emails.
THE SECOND LAST EMAIL JOHN SENT ME STATES IN PART:
  From a geological perspective, I have difficulties with the notion of a sizeable cave on the slopes of Black Mtn. While I can’t claim to have walked over every square metre of it, I have seen a fair bit over the years and I have not had so much of a sniff of anything that would be likely to have ever had a cave formed in it.  In short, I have not seen any limestone outcrop at all – the nearest limestone being some distance away on Acton Peninsula.  In practical terms, limestone is the only rock found locally that is likely to have had a real cave formed in it.  By real, I mean a cave the size of a lounge room that escaped convicts could hide away in. Of course, there are granites and volcanics to the west of Canberra that have overhanging rock faces that form shallow shelter caves or have spaces between boulders that once again form simple rock shelters and the like.  But on Black Mtn???  To the best of my knowledge there is nothing but sandstone and shale up there. Maybe there was a simple rock overhang somewhere, or maybe it was the piping cave in the Botanic Gdns that I referred to in my earlier msge. So perhaps what was once a simple overhang, or rock cleft that gave an illusion of shelter to desperate convicts became larger and darker over the years as the story took on a life of its own.
  Another possibility is that there was a small lens of limestone (perhaps containing a cave) within the sandstones and shales on Black Mtn that was totally removed by quarrying for, say, lime/ cement manufacturing purposes.  And then, what better use for a disused quarry than a rubbish dump? So, even if there was once a cave on the site now occupied by the old rubbish dump, it is now almost certainly gone, definitely buried and extremely unlikely to be revealed by any remote sensing methods such as seismic, resistivity, gravity, magnetometry, or ground penetrating radar surveys all of which have a very patchy success rate in detecting caves at the best of times.    
   It would be nice to think that there might be a cave to be found on Black Mtn – but I suspect there would need to be at least some on-the-ground evidence available to generate any interest from the local caving community in looking for it.  Cavers like nothing better than searching for new caves, but the reality is that they focus on areas where there are reasonable prospects of success, which for starters in SE NSW means where there is limestone outcrop."
THE LAST EMAIL JOHN SENT ME STATES IN PART:
   "BTW, yesterday I talked with the guy who as a boy explored (and in fact partly dug out)  the cave on Acton Peninsula (mentioned in Butz and elsewhere) and he agrees with me about there being no  limestone outcrops on Black Mtn and goes further to suggest the quarry now filled with rubbish had nothing to do with limestone excavation and had no signs of limestone in the quarry faces. So, no chance of a limestone cave once being at the site now occupied by the rubbish-filled quarry.  The only cave he knows of on Black Mtn is the in the Botanic  Gdns I previously mentioned to you.  He further noted there are also early stories on two fugitives hiding out in the roomy Cotter/Paddys River caves and suggests that over the years maybe location details and so on have got a bit mixed up. The details in oral accounts can change quite a bit over the decades."


  I will now ask myself several questions and attempt to answer them based on the information I have and do not have on the cave:

1/ Could the whole cave story be a myth which Gale was sucked in by?
     Anything is possible, but I strongly doubt it. Gale had been a journalist for many years, and apart from his religiosity, it seems by his writing he was  an obvious sceptic. And yes, he does recount yarns told by others in his book which sound like bullshit, and may well be, but he does not indicate whether or not he has been sucked in by those other yarns and instead lets the reader decide if they are true. If he did not include those sorts of yarns in his work he would have been failing as a historian, because history has shown that on occasions the seemingly incredible has turned out to be true. 
   In his book he tells the well-known yarn about the Aboriginal who swallowed a diamond before being killed and then buried under a tree at Government House, along with the diamond, and he tells it with a journalist's scepticism in  a "believe it or not" manner, even though at that stage the story had not been revealed as a hoax.
    Gale also tells yarns about sitings of bunyips in the Berra area and even tells of one being captured. He does not however, describe them as monsters and just describes them as being members of the seal family. 
    Under the heading, "The bunyip explained," Tony Healy and Paul Cropper in their excellent book about cryptic animals entitled, "Out of the Shadows,"give several reports of seals being allegedly sighted in rivers a long way inland, including an alleged report of 4 of them being found living in the Mulwaree River, 5k's from Goulburn in 1947. 
    As Australia in the 19'th century had far more seals than it does today, and as the rivers had better flow due to them having fewer dams and weirs and less irrigation, reports of disoriented seals swimming up rivers for lengthy distances should not be readily dismissed.  
     When however, Gale tells of the cave, and the bones being found in it, he writes of it as fact, which means he was prepared to put his credibility on the line. 
    We must remember Gale began living in the general area only 2 years after the escapees were caught on the Canberra Plain. He arrived in Australia in 1854 and from 1854 to 1857 he worked as a Methodist minister, preaching on a circuit which included Goulburn, Gunning, Queanbeyan and the Canberra district. He married Loana Wheatley in 1857, and around that time was told by God that his services were no longer required. This resulted in him resigning from the church and becoming a tutor in Gunning. He moved to Queanbeyan and started his newspaper in 1860, which eventually became the Queanbeyan Age. 
    If the convicts were arrested in 1852, only two years before he preached in the district, and only 5 years before he began living in Gunning and only 8 years before he opened his newspaper in Queanbeyan, he would have been fully aware of their story, and if the yarn about them living in a cave was bullshit he would have known it was bullshit. He would have known it was bullshit because the local graziers and others would have been well aware of the cave at the time, if it existed, and they would have made it known that the cave did not exist if indeed it did not exist.   
    Said another way, I doubt the yarn could have got off the ground had it been a product of someone's imagination. Remember how small the Berra was in those days. It would be easy enough to make up bullshit which could not be proven or disproven, but it would have been very hard for Gale or anyone else during that period to make up a story about something as concrete and as stationary as a cave if the cave did not exist or had not existed in recent times.
     Also, as a Queanbeyan journo he would have been in touch with the Queanbeyan police who at that time were responsible for the Canberra area. They would have been well aware of the details of what occurred with the escaped convicts.
    Also, when his book was published in 1927 any person who had lived in the area all their lives who was 85 or older would have been at least 10 when the convicts escaped and were captured, and as such would have remembered the details. 
    If however, we assume that there were no people born in the district over the age of 85, there would have been plenty of people a little younger whose parents would have lived through the period, and for that reason knowledge of the convicts and the caves would have been handed down. Such people would have also known if the cave story was true or bullshit, and if it was bullshit they would have also set him straight very quickly. And given that there have always been historians occupying the area, both professional and amateur, one would think Gale would have been taken-to-task by one or more of them for mentioning the existence of a non-existent cave. 
    It seems to me he was probably not taken to task on the matter, as one would think someone would have let it be known he was wrong in print, and I have not seen such words in any of the history I have read regarding the Berra. On the contrary, although all authors have critics, because being a critic is very easy, he has not been labelled a bullshit artist or gullible. His reputation in that respect remains intact and he is held in high esteem by most Canberrans.    
     Having said what I have said, if Gale was not taken to task on the matter it is by no means absolute proof that he got the story right. But, with all things considered, I don't see Gale as being a gullible person and I believe he would have needed what he regarded as credible evidence that the cave existed before stating it in writing.

 2/Could Gale be the deliberate creator of the cave story because he wanted to make his book more interesting in the hope he would sell multiple copies, and to do so he was willing to risk his reputation?
   I doubt he would have been willing to damage his reputation by deliberately creating the story about a cave for the sake of sensationalism for the reasons I have just stated. 
    I also doubt he would want to create a sensational story so he could make more money by selling more books because I doubt it would have amounted to greater sales. I say this because like the rest of Australia in the mid 19'th century the Berra area was wild and eventful due to its isolation and the convict and indigenous presence. There was plenty to write about without having to make things up. 
    Also, he would have realised that by telling bullshit which was obvious bullshit to local readers his book sales would have been small because his credibility would have plummeted.


3/As Gale was around 95 when he wrote the book could he have been suffering the early stages of dementia and simply got muddled at the time and confused the cave story with another one, such as the Cotter/Paddy's river caves?
   Although possible, upon reflection I don't see it as likely, as I have had a lot of contact with those who have suffered various stages of dementia. For a start, if Gale was affected by dementia when he was writing his book it was obviously very mild as it was very well written. And although dementia begins with subtle signs, the last thing that goes is longterm memory. For that reason I see the possibility of him confusing one story with another as highly unlikely, particularly since he would have learnt of the convicts and the cave when he was relatively young. 
    Also, in 1927 he would have had plenty of people around him with local knowledge who I presume would have looked through his book, picking him up on things prior to it going to print. And such people would have had knowledge of local caves considering the Berra/ Queanbeyan area was so small and insular. As a journo he would be well aware of why editing is extremely important and I doubt he would have allowed his book to go to print without it being properly edited. 

4/If the cave was not officially discovered by Europeans until 1867 and the convicts were captured in 1852 how did the story of the cave come about?
    If we presume it existed, and I believe it probably did, it is probable many palefaces knew about it before 1867. But even if they didn't, and the authorities did not discover it until 1867, knowledge of the cave's existence would have come by way of the testimony of the escaped convicts after they were captured.      
   The above photo is a hole at the Black Mountain dump site where you can see car parts and air going down a long distance. 

 4/ Could the cave have been destroyed by quarrying?
    What I would like to discuss in light of John's emails  is the Black Mountain quarry, as it would seem John's mate may have been referring to a different area of the mountain I was referring to when I discussed the Black Mountain dump, which is where the cave is alleged to have been. 
   To begin, I always presumed there was a quarry on Black Mountain before the dump opened, as there was a large scar which could be seen on its eastern side right throughout the 60's, and possibly the early 70's. I had never looked for information on the quarry as it did not interest me.
     I have since read Dave Reid's post on the link below, entitled "Black Mountain Quarry," which suggests the quarry was established in or around 1840, as it was used to supply stone for buildings around that period. The post also shows where it was.
http://www.davesact.com/2010/05/black-mountain-quarry.html     
    There is also an article on the quarry, entitled "Black Mountain Quarry," in the 10/7/46 edition of the Canberra Times, which can be read on the link below.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/2689977
    The latter article says, in part, such things as the quarry being in full time operation, it being extended to become the largest in the Berra and it getting an extra crusher. It was probably after that period the scar became visible.

    That quarry however, is nowhere near where the dump operated, in relative terms. It is also separated by bush, and there is no sign of the ground between the two locations having ever been disturbed. 
    The locations of the old quarry and dump sites can be seen on the google map Dave Reid shows on his post. The old dump was just above where the ACTEW Civic zone substation is located, and the quarry site is further up the mountain. 
     I don't think the dump, which is where the cave was allegedly located, was ever quarried, although at one stage I thought part of it may have been. But going on my memory of walking through the gully where the car bodies were thrown when I was a kid, and in recent times, it looked like a natural gully which carried on from further up the mountain past the dump. It had no signs of excavation.
     But, it is possible that the quarry Dave Reid writes about was used as another dump at one stage, although from what I have seen of the quarry I strongly doubt it. If they filled in a hole the quarry may have had they may have used rubbish as fill, as John suggests in his email, although having seen the quarry I don't see any evidence of it ever having had a hole. It looks like the ground was quarried entirely from the side of the mountain.
    Trees have been planted at the base of the quarry which hides the scar that could be seen in the sixties.
   
   
  The photo above is of the site where the Black Mountain quarry existed. As you can see, trees have been grown at its base which hides the scar of the quarry face that could be seen for many years from a distance. I could see no sign of any of the quarry being used as a dump at any stage.   

     In regard to the gully at the dump I walked through as a kid where I observed cracks in its sides which I thought may or may not have led to caves, I have no idea whether that area was, or was near, a small limestone lens which could have contained a cave. John Bluff refers to that small possibility in his second last email. 
    If however, there was a small limestone lens at the dump site, I doubt it would have been removed for quarrying because I strongly doubt that area was ever quarried, as previously stated. Nonetheless, again, as previously stated, if a limestone cave is buried under the dump site it would be under a large about of car bodies and fill and hardly worth looking for.

5/Could the hollowing/cave in the Botanic Gardens have once been the entrance to the cave in question and could it have been sealed by the authorities?
   It is possible. I will elaborate on that possibility in due course.

6/Could the cave on Black Mountain described by Gale have been the Acton cave which was referred to as the Limestone Plains Cave or the Lennox House cave, which is now under water, which John Brush referred to and which Mark Butz described in his paper on the link below? 
http://www.markbutz.com/Butz%201987%20Karst%20and%20caves%20in%20the%20Canberra%20area.pdf

     I doubt the convicts used the now submerged Acton cave, which from my understanding was of a semi-perpendicular nature.
     One reason would be the fact that the now submerged cave was on the Acton Peninsular and close to Lennox House, which is on the other side of Sullivan's Creek and far too far away from Black Mountain for it to be considered a part of Black Mountain. 
    Another reason it would be unlikely to have been used would be because the employees of one Joshua Moore built a house on what is now the Acton Peninsula in 1824, which was very close to the cave, as was the property of the Kaye family, which was near where we can now see Springbank Island. (The Kayes purchased "Springbank" from John McPherson in 1844).
According to the site, 
there were about 2,500 people living in the general area by 1851, which was a year before the convicts hid in the cave. For those reasons the convicts would probably have made sure they stayed a good distance from the Kayes' and Moore's staff and/or the authorities and others. And as I have said, the Acton cave was in close proximity to their houses. 
      Also, although the Acton cave may have made a good temporary hiding place, it would not have offered much shelter from the weather if it was of the semi-perpendicular nature I am led to believe it was. 
    And if that was the case the Acton cave could not have been accessed from the horizontal as Gale believed was the case with the cave the convicts used. Nor did the Acton cave open up into a living room sized room as Gale believed was the case with the cave the convicts used.
  Surely the ANU archeologists and/or geologists examined and photographed the Acton cave properly before the lake filled given that it was so close to them? If so are there any reports of what they found? 
    Was the Acton cave of significance to the indigenous? Did they ever do an archaeological dig at its bottom? If they didn't examine it properly and photograph it they should be severely punished despite their advanced years.   
   I quite liked walking along the Molonglo as a kid. I am one of the few Canberrans who would prefer the Berra without the lake. 

6/Do you think the cave is buried under the dump?
    I don't know for a fact but several sources have told me it is, and on that basis I would say it has more chance of being there than elsewhere.
    
7/If the cave is extant would it still be accessible?
   Again, it is possible, but I strongly doubt it. Many people have methodically looked for it and could not find it, and the mountain has had thousands of bushwalkers going all over it over the years. If it was still accessible someone would have found it by now. 
   Remember the old Queanbeyan saying, "And again I say unto you, a camel has more chance of passing through the eye of a needle than a human of finding an accessible cave on Black Mountain that opens up to a chamber the size of an ordinary living room." 
     It would seem from what John Bluff was saying that  at this stage the latest remote sensing devices are still too technologically primitive to be of much use in assisting to locate caves. I would say this would apply particularly to the old dump site where the devices would probably be confused by large pockets of underground air caused by fill being placed over car bodies.

8/Do you think the cave was sealed, or destroyed entirely, irrespective of whether it was buried under the dump site?
   I'd say what the old bloke in Ainslie told me about it being at least sealed is probably right. It may have even been destroyed entirely before it was buried under the dump site, presuming it was buried under the dump site. My guess is that it was sealed or destroyed entirely after the bones were found in it "a few years" prior to Gale's book being published in 1927.
   I will elaborate on what I have said in the previous paragraph when I sum things up and give my own theory.

9/DO YOU THINK IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THERE ARE PERSONS AROUND TODAY WHO KNOW THE FULL HISTORY AND LOCATION OR PREVIOUS LOCATION OF THE CAVE BUT ARE EITHER NOT PREPARED TO REVEAL IT OR NOT AWARE THAT THERE IS ANYONE INTERESTED IN GAINING SUCH KNOWLEDGE?
     We can be almost 100% sure that if the cave did exist, and I believe it probably did, it has either been destroyed or is no longer accessible. But, if I am wrong and it can be accessed with minimal work, I would say any person who could reveal its exact location would probably have died many years ago.
    If this is the case, any persons who have knowledge of its location handed down to them would have vague knowledge of its location and it would be the sort of hearsay evidence of its location, or existence, I have already presented regarding it being buried under the dump site. 
     As to anyone being able to prove the cave never existed, maybe someone at some stage spoke to the particular convicts who told them they never lived in a cave on Black Mountain, but those persons would of course be long since dead. And any information they handed down about such conversations would of course by now also be hearsay.
    As to individuals or government or non-government organisations having knowledge of the cave but keeping it secret, I again strongly doubt it. My understanding of human nature makes me believe secrets of that nature cannot be kept for long periods. Somebody would have told someone since Gale's book was written, and the secret would have got out. 
      The Berra is still small enough for people to be able to get hold of information by way of people one knows directly, or by way of mates of mates. I have gained a lot of information held in government departments and other places that way.
    As an example, when I was living in a group house in London in 1974 with a group of other ratbags from the Berra, where people came and went, I found a flick knife which was previously owned by someone who had gone back to the Berra. I kept it near me because I wasn't sure what to do with it. After I flew back home one of my former housemates thought it was mine and that I had forgotten it. He thought he would do me a favour by sending it to me in the post. It was opened by Customs and I eventually received a letter from them telling me they had it in their possession, although they did not prosecute me seeing it was not me who posted it.
    However, several of my ratbag mates who worked in Customs told me my flick-knife had been taken and that someone had put it on display, labelling it, "Mr Wheeler's flick-knife." I thought that was a bit rough considering I never owned it and never wanted it. If any senior Customs officials are reading this email I can tell them my cobbers are long since retired and they were probably their bosses at one stage. 
   


LET'S SUM IT UP
    We have John Brush and his older cobber, who  present as very knowledgable spelaeologists, telling us that the geology of Black Mountain makes it very unlikely there was ever a natural cave on it of a similar size to the one Gale described, because of the mountains lack of limestone. As a non-spelaeologist I cannot challenge them on that. If they studied a pseudo-science like economics that would be a different story, but my ignorance of spelaeology, which is based on real science, is unlimited.
     John and his mate also offer possible explanations as to how the story of the cave and its size may have resulted from exaggeration or confusion, and again the possibilities they present may be right, although for reasons I have already given I doubt it.
    For reasons I have already stated I concluded that it was my belief that it is highly probable the cave did exist.
PERSONALITY 2 INTERRUPTS
Okay Wheeler, we know all that. Spit it out! What do you think now? 
     Although I believe the cave probably existed, I am keeping in mind what John Brush has said about the lack of limestone on Black Mountain making it unlikely the mountain has or had a natural cave. And with this being the case I have come up with what I regard as the probable explanation.
     I will diverge before giving my theory and tell you how since the first draft of this yarn was published I assisted a surveyor cobber, Tony Quinn, (who authored the ”Canberra boy in Thailand” yarns which can be viewed on this blog), to try to find a survey control mark about 150 metres from the  Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa. 
     He gave me line and distance with his instrument as I held a reflective prism, but I was to find that the position we were after was in the middle of a large hole about 3 metres by 2 metres and about 2 metres in depth. It was dug by wombats, and we have no idea what happened to the control mark.
    At the bottom of the hole the wombats made a larger than normal wombat hole which disappeared into the earth in a trajectory parallel to the ground above. The hole was big enough for me to crawl into but I did not attempt it. Knowing my luck there would have been a very large wombat on steroids, or even a diprotodon, waiting for me in the hole, and he would have wedged himself between me and the side of the tunnel then squashed me with his powerful legs and the bone armour wombats have on their backs.
    I suppose the armour wombats have evolved to cope with attacks by thylacines, Tasmanian devils, marsupial lions and bodgies from Narrabundah and Queanbeyan who were wanting to eat them. Had I have been squashed it would not have been a pleasant death and there is a good chance I would have regurgitated my lunch during the procedure.
   Seeing the amount of earth that was moved by the wombats made me think there is a possibility the escaped convicts made their own cave on the side of a gully on Black Mountain, maybe by enlarging an  existing wombat hole, although not necessarily.
   I realise the ground on Black Mountain is rocky and would have been much harder for wombats or convicts to dig than the area where the control mark was removed, which was relatively sandy soil close to the Murrumbidgee River. I have however, seen wombat holes in very hard, rocky ground, and history tells us there are many examples of desperate prisoners digging their way to freedom through rocky soil. 
    I can imagine a couple of desperate convicts getting hold of digging equipment and digging a tunnel into the side of a gully which was just large enough to crawl into. They could have then made a living room sized space for themselves at the end of the tunnel, which would have even allowed them to bring sheilas home if they wanted to, who would have been really impressed.
   The convict's efforts at digging their own cave would not have been as great as the efforts many famous prisoners have made when tunnelling their way to freedom.
   Obviously a manmade cave would not have initially been known about by anyone other than the persons who excavated it, and for that reason it would be a perfect hiding place. A passer-by would think it was just another wombat hole in the side of a gully. If I were an escaped convict without bush skills, which many of them did not have, and I needed to live not too far away from a settled area to procure food but also needed to be able to hide from the law, I couldn't think of a better hiding spot than in a cave in a gully which looked like a wombat hole. It would offer complete shelter and excellent security.
     Also, if it was a dirt cave, with perhaps some props to keep the cave from collapsing, it could have been easily sealed or completely destroyed by the law or others sometime after it was discovered. A few explosives could have done the job and/or it could have been easily rammed, and dirt on dirt would make it look like a cave was never there. A natural limestone cave could not be sealed or destroyed and made to look like it was never there nearly as easily.
    If the cave was manmade there is also a possibility that Gale was right about the skeleton he said was found in the said cave a few years before he published his book being that of the 3rd escaped convict and therefore not an indigenous person.
   The indigenous were often buried in natural caves whereas a manmade cave would not have been of any interest to them at that stage. Other than that, if the cave was natural it is highly likely my indigenous mate would have known about it. 
    Yes, it's just another theory, but one which I believe has a  greater chance of being correct than others.
     If we presume the convicts did make a cave, as to whether it was in the Botanic Gardens, where there still exists a small hollow in a gully, or it was buried at the dump site, either place is possible. Actually, it could have been in any other gully on the mountain, although probably on the eastern side.
    Again however, based on what I have been told the cave or the cave site is probably buried under the dump site.
   
HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE A PERSON INTERESTED IN LOOKING FOR THE CAVE TO GO ABOUT IT?
    I would advise people to not waste their time doing any physical searches for the cave, because as I have said, if it existed, and I believe it probably did, it would probably have been manmade or man/wombat made and would probably have been destroyed or sealed many years ago.
     And if it did exist it is/was probably somewhere under the dump site and as such impossible to find. And if I am wrong and it was elsewhere on the mountain, given the amount of pedestrian traffic on the mountain and the amount of people who have searched for it without success, it would be virtually impossible to find. 
    There may be yet to be discovered limestone caves in the very rugged mountains within and near the ACT, as some of these mountains could not have been  explored in detail. If I was wanting to spend my time looking for caves I would look in such places before looking on Black Mountain.
   If however, a person wants to simply get more information on the Black Mountain cave, even if the cave has been destroyed, it may be worth contacting the police to see if there are any reports of bones being found in a cave on Black Mountain in the early 20's, as described by Gale. 
    After that one could try to get information from old Canberrans, although as I spoke to quite a few long since deceased Berra residents during the sixties, who would be aged 130 plus if they were alive today, the chances of finding anyone who had any firsthand knowledge of the cave would be close to zero. 
A good potential hiding spot?
    But, you never know, an interested person may get valuable hearsay information from someone, and there is always the possibility that somewhere in some library there is further information about the cave which was written by someone who actually saw it, even if that person became compost many years ago.
FINAL MESSAGE
   Personally speaking,  I have never been motivated to conduct a serious search for the cave and I only researched the subject for the purpose of this post to keep myself off the streets and to try and prevent dementia. I will not deliberately seek further information, but if by chance you have any useful information about the cave please don't hesitate to email me by clicking on the contact button above. I will pass it on to those who want to continue to research the subject.
UPDATE 28/3/15
  I took another stroll around the Black Mountain area recently after posting this yarn, not far from the dump site, and saw some more holes in the side of a gully I had not previously noticed. They could have been used by escaped convicts with a bit of modification. The one immediately below could shelter two adults without any modification, although not comfortably.
   The photos that precede show entrances to small shallow holes/caves that are not seen as out-of-place by anyone walking past. There are plenty of such holes/caves around the mountain's gullies and it would be assumed by pedestrians they were made by water or wombats. With some extra digging however, they could offer a long term hiding spot and good protection from the sun, wind and rain.
  Readers may find the comments that follow this yarn interesting. There is also another update below the following photo.
 

UPDATE 30/4/15
   In the comments section below I received a comment today from a person who signed off as hemz, which I very much appreciate. He or she sent me the link to a Trove digitised QBN Age newspaper report dated the 18/7/1916, which described the discovery of human remains "in the vicinity of Black Mountain." It is worth reading hemz's comment. He or she suggests it would be a good starting point for someone wanting to examine QBN police records in relation to the location of the cave. 
   I agree, even if the remains that were referred to in the article were Aboriginal and not convict. I say this because the police report may have discussed the possibility of the remains being that of the third escaped convict and may have referred to the event and/or the location of the cave in the said report, presuming the cave existed. 
    In Gale's book he refers to two of his mates examining the cave in 1915. For that reason if someone had the motivation, which I don't, reading every edition of the QBN Age from early 1915 to the time Gale published his book may yield further clues, as would examining QBN police records should they have not given those reports related to the Canberra area to the Canberra police force when it was formed in the twenties.
     Maybe the said remains were those Gale referred to as belonging to the third convict, although it may have also been a case of him theorising they were convict remains as opposed to having hard evidence they were not those of a deceased Aboriginal. Then again, maybe the remains referred to in the article were nothing to do with the remains of the third convict Gale referred to. Who knows?
   The  link to the article is below. I have written what the article states below the link. 
DISCOVERY OF HUMAN REMAINS-QUEANBEYAN AGE-18/7/1916.
   Recently some rabbiters setting their traps or digging out in the vicinity of the Black Mountain, Canberra, came across some human remains lying underneath a shelving rock. The find consisted of merely a much decomposed skeleton and some very rotten calico, apparently all that was left of a shirt or other inner garment. The bones, including the skull, had crumbled to fragments. Still, it was plain to see that the remains were those of a human being-whether male or female it was not possible to ascertain. The gruesome find was taken, in the first instance, to Dr Thomson of Canberra, and by him later to Sen-Sergeant Wood of Queanbeyan. In due course the latter officer reported the find to the Coroner, who considered that no useful purpose could be served by holding an inquest, as it was clear that the remains had lain where they were found for half a century or more. In all probability the bones were those of an Aboriginal, who had died where they were found, or had been deposited there by the members of his tribe at the time of his decease.
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