DESCRIPTION: "Frank Gardiner he is caught at last; he lies in Sydney jail...." The song details the deeds of this daring bushranger, then tells how he was taken after the death of fellow bushrangers Ben Hall and Gilbert
EARLIEST DATE: 1954 (collected by Meredith from Ina Popplewell); fragments are reportedly found in Bradhsaw's _The Only True Account of Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and Gang_ from before 1900
KEYWORDS: outlaw prison
1830 - Birth of Francis Christie in New South Wales. He later took the name Frank Gardiner, and was known as "the Darkie" for his part-Aborigine ancestry
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, p. 30, "Frank Gardiner" (1 text, 1 tune, with a confused ending)
Anderson-StoryOfAustralianFolksong, pp. 126-127, "Frank Gardiner" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 86-87, "Frank Gardiner" (1 text, 1 tune)
Manifold-PenguinAustralianSongbook, pp. 58-59, "Frank Gardiner" (1 text, 1 tune)
Paterson/Fahey/Seal-OldBushSongs-CentenaryEdition, pp. 84-86, "Frank Gardiner He Is Caught at Last" (1 text)
Stewart/Keesing-FavoriteAustralianBallads, pp. 27-28, "Frank Gardiner He Is Caught at Last" (1 text)
cf. "The Morning of the Fray" (subject of Frank Gardiner)
NOTES [750 words]: According to Nunn, p.113, Frankie Gardiner was "the illegitimate son of a Scottish free settler and an Irish-Aboriginal servant girl, Born Frank Christie at Goulburn in 1830, he was befriended by an old man from whom he took the name Gardiner." He turned to crime in his teens, was caught, was sentenced to five year in Pentridge in 1850, escaped, was caught again, and was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. According to Boxall, p. 193, he served half the sentence, was given a ticket-of-leave, and once again fled.
Manifold, pp. 47-48: "Frank Clark or Frank Christie, known as Frank Gardiner [was] also known as The Darkie and as The King of the Roads. Bradshaw, who claims to have known him personally, says, 'As for Frank Gardiner, I have not much to say in his favour. He was a dirty terror to poor travelles, and the King Gee villian who led astray all the other good Australian lads who might have been a credit to their country if Gardiner was never born.'" On p. 48, he mentions Gardiner's "double handicap, socially, of illegitimacy and aboriginal blood." Supposedly he went to the bush at the age of ten! It took him a few years to drift into crime, but eventually joined a gang of horse-stealers, was caught and sentenced to five years, escaped, was caught again and sentenced to seven years. Eventually released, he started robbing gold miners. He was joined by "John Gilbert, a handsome Canadian-born scallywag," plus one John Piesley, whose name doesn't seem to have appealed to the makes of folk songs.
In 1861, a price was put on his head (and Piesley's; Manifold, p. 49). He apparently became involved with a married woman, Kitty (Walsh) Brown. He also impersonated a clergyman in Adelaide.
Davey/Seal, p. 134, say that in 1862 "at Eugowra Rocks he masterminded Australia's most spectacular robbery of the ineteenth century. With eleven others (one of whom was probably Ben Hall), Gardner robbed the Forbes Gold Escort of [4000 pounds] in cash, over 200 ounces of gold and the royal mail. Most of the loot was recovered fairly soon after the robbery and in 1864 Gardiner was captured in Queensland, where he was living under an assumed identity.
According to Fahey, he also claimed higher morals than most bushrangers; an 1862 newspaper published a letter in which he claimed never to have taken the last of a poor man's money, and to have discharged those from his gang who did such things! The letter was signed,
Fearing nothing, I remain, Prince of Tobymen,
Francis Gardner, The Highwayman.
(Boxall, p. 201, prints the whole letter and notes the misspelling of Gardiner's name but believes it an error made by the paper.)
Manifold, p 50, dates the Eugowra Rocks robbery to June 15, 1862, describes the inadequate protection of the coach (no outriders; the guards were inside), and says that the total value taken, in gold and notes, was £14,000, although some of this was later recaptured. The incompetent Sir Frederick Pottinger (for whom see also "Ben Hall") "then made arrests far and wide of every man known ever to have spoken to Gardiner." He also tried to ambush Gardiner at Kitty Brown's home, but Gardiner evaded capture until they gave up, then took Kitty off to Queensland, where he lived with her as his wife (although apparently they did not actually marry) and resumed the name of "Christie." He apparently went straight, being a partner in a grocery store for two years (Manifold, p. 51).
Somehow, Gardiner was betrayed (Manifold, pp. 51-52), and ended up being sentenced to 32 years (Manifold, p. 52).
Ben Hall (d. 1865; for whom see "The Death of Ben Hall" and "Ben Hall"), who also disdained violence, was associated with the Gardiner gang. Other members included Johnny Dunn (d. 1866), Johnny O'Meally (d. 1863), and John Gilbert (d. 1866). These were among the leaders of the gang that the Eugowra Rocks robbery.
Despite the implication in some versions of the song that Gardiner would be executed, he was condemned to prison. (The confusion may arise from the fact that many versions are reconstructed from fragments.) Having served 10 years of a 32 year sentence, he was released in 1874 (known as the "year of clemency"; Nunn, p. 117; Manifold, p. 52, credits pressure from his family and others for inducing the judge to give in). He went into voluntary exile in America (he is said to have opened a saloon in San Francisco).
Gardiner himself was much longer-lived than most of his gang; legend says that he died in a poker game in Colorado in 1903. - 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
- Manifold: John S. Manifold, Who Wrote the Ballads? Notes on Australian Folksong, Australasian Book Society, 1964
- Nunn: Harry Nunn, Bushrangers: A Pictorial History, Ure Smith Press, 1979, 1992
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