|Alissa Callen, author|
Outlaws – Australian Style
Australia and America might occupy different hemispheres, but their history, at times, went hand in hand. Whether someone lived in the Old West or the outback, their experiences were often similar. It was just the frontier that differed.
It was thanks to the Californian gold rush that a town called Orange, not far from me, came into existence. Edward Hargraves, drawing on his experience from the American goldfields, saw that the terrain and topography of Ophir were similar to the gold mining areas he’d left behind. In April 1851 gold was discovered and Australia had its first gold rush.
Where there was gold there was also lawlessness. Just like the Old West and its iconic outlaws, the Australian frontier also possessed its share of bushrangers. Names such as Ned Kelly, Captain Thunderbolt and The Lady Bushranger are all woven into the tapestry that is our colourful past.
Ned Kelly is Australia’s most notorious and famous bushranger. Resourceful and ingenious, he made a suit of armour out of mouldboards, the metal components of a farm plough. (View a video that explains exactly how the armour was made.)
Despite his criminal activities Ned Kelly had many sympathizers as he was seen to be an underdog taking on the authorities. Before his capture and death by hanging, he dictated an 8,000-word letter outlining why he’d turned to crime after believing himself and his family unfairly targeted by police.
Captain Thunderbolt is another notable Australian bushranger. Renowned for his horse skills and avoidance of violence, he was termed the ‘gentlemanly bushranger.’ Outside of the town of Armidale, where I went to university, there is a huge rock called Thunderbolt’s rock where he used to hide and wait for the approaching mail-coach. Even to this day mystery surrounds his death. For pictures and more information please visit the Uralla website.
The Lady Bushranger
Just like in the Old West the Australian frontier also had female outlaws. In my local area, Elizabeth Jessie Hickman was known as ‘The Lady Bushranger.’ The horse riding skills that she perfected in a bush circus held her in good stead for cattle and horse stealing. An account of her exploits and life, written by her grand-daughter, can be found at Open Writing Web Magazine.
So, despite Australia and America being hemispheres apart, a common historical denominator joins them. Whether panning for gold in California or Ophir, or whether someone was an outlaw or a bushranger, one thing remains the same, the life lived was a frontier one.
Alissa Callen lives in Australia and writes Australian contemporary romance as well as American western historical romance.
She penned Beneath Outback Skies, a rural romance (contemporary, set in the outback). To learn more about the author and her latest release, read her interview and the excerpt of her book.
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