Death of Morgan, The
DESCRIPTION: "Oh, Morgan was the traveler's friend, the squatters all rejoice, That the outlaw's life is at an end, no more they'll hear his voice... But my curse attend a treacherous man who'd shed another man's blood." Outlaw Daniel Morgan is killed in an ambush.
EARLIEST DATE: 1955
KEYWORDS: outlaw death
Apr 1865 - death of Daniel "Mad Dog" Morgan
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 230, "The Death of Morgan" (1 text)
Stewart/Keesing-FavoriteAustralianBallads, pp. 28-29, "The Death of Morgan" (1 text)
NOTES [617 words]: According to Boxall, p. 258, "[Daniel Morgan] was credited with being the most bloodthirsty of the New South Wales bushrangers after Willmore." Similarly Richardson, p. 23, calls him the "vilest buhranger of his times," adding, Morgan's exploits were dashing and daring, but he wasn't one of those engagine bushrangers who inspire respect and public sympathy. He was mad, murderous, vicious and vindictive, and nobody much liked him."
Boxall says that it was in 1863 that the police realized that he was not associated with Ben Hall or his gang and set out pursuing Morgan. Eventually a price of one thousand pounds was placed on his head.
On the night of April 8, 1865, Morgan set out on a raid in Victoria on a dare from a newspaper. He came to the station of Macpherson and Rutherford, both mentioned in at least some versions of the song. (Asked why he had taken to a life of crime, he claimed he was convicted of a crime he hadn't committed and had escaped.) Morgan was tired enough after several nights without sleep that someone was able to sneak out and summoned help. One of the rescuers shot Morgan from behind a bush.
Davey/Seal, p. 192, says "Bushranger hero Daniel Morgan operated along the Victoria and New South Wales border between 1863 and 1865, stealing horses, robbing travellers, and occasionally occupying farms and stations. Evidence suggests that he may have been emotionally unbalanced, but he was not the pathological killer painted by the police and the press. In fact, Morgan had considerable support and sympathy, particularly in Victoria, where he was known as 'the traveller's friend.' The circumstances of Morgan's bushranging were brutal, ending in his death and disfigurement at Peechelba station (Vic[toria]) in April 1865.
Lindner, pp. 130-131, has an amazing back story. Born in 1830 in Appin, New South Wales, Jack Fuller (as he was originally known) was the illegitimate child of George Fuller and Mary Owen. Initially using the name John Smith, he was convicted in 1854 of highway robbery and served six years of a twelve year sentence, but once released, promptly violated his parole and vanished. He called himself "Bill the Native," but lasted only a few weeks as a legitimate station hand before stealing a horse and setting off. In the pursuit that followed, he had a finger shot off, but made his escape. They started calling him "Dan Morgan" around 1863.
A contemporary description, printed on p. 131 of Lindner, says that he was "5 feet 10 or 11 inches high, dark swarthy complexion, black hat worn down to his shoulders, black mustache, and black beard, the latter rusted about his mouth, cheeks covered up with hair to the eyes, straight nose, blue eyes, slouching gate, round shoulders, inter-lards his conversation with the words of course; insolent and overbearing in his manners."
He killed at least two men, one of them a policeman; there was a reward of £1000 on his head by the end of his career (Lindner, p. 132).
In a sense, Morgan's death contributed to the birth of another legend, that of "Waltzing Matilda." Magoffin, pp. 33-34, reports that Morgan's last robbery the one at the station of Macpherson and Rutherford, was at the home of the family of the baby Christina MacPherson, who would fit the tune of "Waltzing Matilda"; when the baby cried, Morgan allowed Christina's nurse to attend to her -- and the nurse snuck out and summoned the authorities, who proceeded to kill Morgan.
Magoffin, p. 36, has a photo of Morgan taken after his death. The body was much abused after that, with the body being decapitated and some of the skin being made into a purse (Magoffin, p. 35). Thus a man who lived an ugly life had an even uglier death. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
- Boxall: George Boxall, The Story of the Australian Bushrangers, Swan Sonnenschein & Co, 1899 (I use the 1974 Penguin facsimile edition)
- Davey/Seal: Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, A Guide to Australian Folklore, Kangaroo Press, 2003
- Lindner: W. Benjamin Lindner, Waltzing Matilda: Australia's Accidental Anthem: A Forensic History, Boolarong Press, 2019
- Magoffin: Richard Magoffin, Waltzing Matilda: The Story Behind the Legend, 1983; revised and illustrated edition, ABC Enterprises, 1987
- Richardson: Matthew Richardson, Once a Jolly Swagman: The Ballad of Waltzing Matilda, Melbourne University Press, 2006
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