Deniliquin and A Final Part of Family History

Jill’s grandfather was promoted to Inspector around 1931 and was posted to Deniliquin after studying and passing the necessary exams whilst he served as a Sergeant in Queanbeyan.  He retired in 1938 and moved back to Moss Vale firstly and then to Queanbeyan where he was appointed Coroner, a position in which he served until his death in 1951 at the age of 72 years..

Their home in Deniliquin was in the official  police inspector’s residence at 3 Macauley St. It is now the town’s museum.


Deniliquin is another town with a splendid courthouse. We assume that Jill’s Grandfather spent many hours in this building.


The police station here is very new and modern. We searched around for the old station from which Jill’s Grandfather would have operated and we believe that it is this building right next to the new and. modern police station.

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Jills mum lived with her parents. She and her husband were introduced by a mutual friend here in Deniliquin. Jill’s father had been seconded here as a teller with the English, Scottish and Australian (ES&A) Bank. They married in 1939 before he joined the RAAF and was posted to Darwin in WW2.

Deniliquin is an important rural service town located on the Edward River, an anabranch of the Murray River. The town is particularly attractive as it is built around the river and a series of lagoons which are surrounded by both parkland and state forest. It is the site of the annual ‘Denny Ute (pickup) Muster’. Can you imagine hundreds of Rednecks invading an otherwise quiet country town over a week to display their hotted-up cars?

We have spent the last two days meandering along a number of roads to get here from Cowra. Most of the country in this area is flat and uninteresting. It is a prime wheat and wool growing area with graziers owning large Stations. Some were readying enormous wheat paddocks for sowing by spreading fertiliser.


Towards Deniliquin, we noticed that the property fences were set back 100 metres, or more, from the roadside. This was a stock route and able to be used as a ‘Long Paddock’. The Long Paddock is the colloquial term for the stock routes that cross Australia – open stretches of unfenced land that anyone can use to move stock or feed in times of drought.

One of the characteristics of each of the towns though which we passed was a strong Roman Catholic presence. Each one had some sort of church, presbytery, school, and a home for the Nuns who taught at the school. In some of the old wayside towns, these facilities were very dilapidated and no longer used but at towns like Temora, these are still active and well cared for. I think the Roman Catholic Church made quite a significant contribution to rural education.


Along the way, there were many examples of old homes that were derelict. These had been the family homes of early settlers but now replaced with a new home on another part of the property or just abandoned. They added a lot of character to the landscape.


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We also explored some side roads that looked as if they would lead to interesting places. One road took us to a waterfall but it turned out to be as ‘dry as chips’. I ended up photographing one of the gnarled old trees in the dry creek bed as it looked so interesting.

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The big attraction in the town of Temora, where we stayed overnight, in a very humble motel, is the Temora Aviaion Museum. It showcases a great collection of historic aircraft, all of which regularly fly. Established in 1999, the Museum houses the RAAF 100 Squadron Temora Flight collection, which includes two of the three flying Spitfires in Australia as well as the only flying Gloster Meteor, Boomerang and Hudson Bomber in the world. It has the only flying Canberra bomber and the oldest flying Tiger Moth in Australia.

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We spent more than an hour there with a private tour led by an elderly volunteer( any more time and Jill would have been completely bored).

Out of curiosity, another detour took us into the little town of Ardlethan. Today Ardlethan is a sleepy little town with little more than a few shops and pleasant park but it boomed, albeit very briefly, when gold was discovered in the 19th century. Every town has an old pub that needs revitalisation and this one is no exception.


Ardlethan’s primary claim to importance is its proud role as “The Home of the Kelpie Sheepdog” which is celebrated with a bronze statue at the end of the town’s main street. It quite funny that towns can become so competitive about the slightest most interesting fact. Casterton in Victoria and Ardlethan – both lay claim to being the home of the kelpie dog. Ardlethan asserts its claim by having a bronze statue of a kelpie in Stewart Park. Casterton is home to the annual Australian Kelpie Muster. Both towns may have legitimate claims. The truth is probably that the first kelpie was born near Casterton and the refinement of the breed occurred near Ardlethan.

We bought some rolls for lunch in the bakery at Narrandera and eventually ate them in a park in a little village just off the main road. We crossed the Murrumbidgee River at Narrandera and stopped for a look at the old timber bridge across the river and its flood plain. The railway came to Narrandera in 1880 – the days when every town of any size was connected by rail. The railway line came from Tocumwal in Victoria and was closed in 1988. We sat by the bridge for a while looking to see if a train might come – but not today, or any other day! 


Before arriving at Deniliquin, we spent an hour searching through the history of Jerilderie, just to the north. We have swapped from the Ben Hall Gang of Outlaws around Cowra with Ned Kelly and his Gang at Jerilderie. This was the furthest north that Ned Kelly travelled in his time as a bushranger. Some of the buildings that form part of his story are still standing.

This town was the subject of Ned Kelly’s most daring and “profitable” robbery.  The raid on the town was at the height of Kelly’s brief period of prominence. By the time the gang – comprising Ned and Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne – arrived in Jerilderie they had a £1,000 reward on their heads. They had killed three policemen and successfully robbed a bank.

The gang arrived in town on the afternoon of 8 February, 1879 and went to the Woolshed Inn where two of them had an evening meal. The events unfolded at a leisurely pace. During the evening the gang went to the local police station. Ned yelled out that there had been a murder at the Woolshed Inn. The two officers on duty, Sergeant Devine and Constable Richards, rushed out and were grabbed by the gang and locked up in their own cells. Amusingly Dan Kelly then assisted Mrs Devine to prepare the Court House for Sunday mass.

Sunday was uneventful. The town was unaware of the unfolding events. Two members of the gang dressed up as policemen and wandered around the town unnoticed.

The robbery took place on the Monday, once the bank had opened. At around 10.00 am Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne rode to the local blacksmiths and had their horses reshod and cheekily charged the cost  to the NSW Police. . 


The gang then rode to the Royal Hotel. At one end of the building the Bank of New South Wales had its premises. There were about 30 people in the building and they were all herded at gunpoint into the hotel.

Kelly and Byrne entered the bank. While Joe Byrne bailed up the clerk and the teller, Kelly robbed the bank. It was a remarkably profitable exercise for a small country bank. He managed to get £690 which he shovelled into a bag with the assistance of the local schoolteacher who had been taken prisoner,  Then he found the bank manager and obtained a key to a “treasure drawer” which contained a further £1,450. He also found the bank’s books which he burnt and the deeds to the town’s allotments which he threatened to return to the owners.

It was while holding up the bank that Kelly passed his famous “Jerilderie Letter” to the teller, Mr Living. It was a fascinating account of his life and has a mixture of humour and outrage which explains his actions and recounts his deep hatred for the Victorian police. Kelly argued that his family had always been treated badly by the police and offered this as an explanation of why he had taken to a life of crime. He insists that his only crimes had been horse stealing.

While the robbery was in progress Samuel Gill, who owned and operated the local printery and newspaper office, managed to escape and, according to rumour, after drinking a large quantity of whisky to calm his nerves, headed off to raise the alarm.

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A merchant, James Denny Rankin, tried to escape but was caught by Kelly who raised his revolver and was about to shoot him when the captives in the pub begged him not to fire. At the same time Steve Hart rode to the post and telegraph office where he tried to cut the wires preventing the robbery being reported outside the town.


Kelly and Hart then moved on to the Albion Inn where Hart stole a horse and a watch which Kelly forced him to return.


Having successfully robbed the town of  £2,140 they headed south into the bush. The postmaster repaired the lines and telegraphed the news. The result was that the reward for the capture of the two Kellys, Byrne and Hart was raised to £2000 per individual. £8,000 for all four.

Public criticism of the police and townspeople caused Sergeant Devine to quit the force. He was so humiliated that he moved to Western Australia.

2 thoughts on “Deniliquin and A Final Part of Family History

  1. Marvelous travelogue Bruce as always thank you very much.

  2. What a great slice of history you’ve given us this post. I keep using the word, but “fascinating” is the best word to comment on your post. Lovely old buildings, churches and pubs. Great stuff Loved the shot of the gnarly old gum in the river-bed. And the facts about the infamous Kelly.

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