Location: Coorong, South Australia, Australia
The town of MeningieSouth Australia wanted to get more people interested in the area after the devastating 2006 to 2010 drought. They ask the locals if they had any stories on the area, the story of James Francis Peggotty was told when a decades old magazine article titled Birdman of the Coorong was found. A story about the most bizarre bushranger ever, is this a true story or myth.
John Francis Peggotty was born in 1864 in Limerick, Ireland he was three months premature. When he turned eighteen year old he was the size of a seven year old child, he left his home in Ireland and travelled to South Africa, being very small he was the right size to learn how to ride ostriches which was actually sport in South Africa. He didn’t stay long and he went back to England. He started robbing houses, and because he was so small he could go down chimneys where he could steal what ever he wanted. He eventually got caught but he was only in prison a short time, most likely the authorities thought he was a child. In 1890 he moved to Australia and lived with his uncle in New South Wales.
He wasn’t with his uncle very long before he left and went to South Australia where he started stealing again this time with a gang of young boys most of these boys were caught by the police, Peggotty escaped, after this nothing was heard from John Peggotty for a few years. He eventually turned up in the Coorong area again where there were wild Ostriches, several farms had bred them to harvest their feathers. He was often seen stripped to the waist and wearing stolen gold jewellery whilst waving his two ornamental pistols in the air and riding an ostrich.
Peggotty was involved in over dozen hold ups and murdered a number of travellers. At first the police did not believe the stories of travellers being held up by a very small man on a ostrich wearing gold jewellery, until the body of a man was discovered, surrounded by large bird prints. In 1899, a party of mounted police officers found Peggotty on his ostrich. They opened fire and gave chase, but the ostrich ran over a sand hill that their horses could not climb. In 1899 Henry Carmichael a fisherman was held up by Peggotty who was once again wearing jewellery and riding a ostrich, Carmichael chased him on his horse Peggotty was wounded and the ostrich killed. By the time Henry Carmichael found the dead ostrich Peggotty had escaped he had 2 bullets in his body and was bleeding badly. Carmichael left to report his death to the authorities. Peggotty’s body was never found neither was the 1 million dollars worth of gold and jewellery.
- Coorong Country.com - The Birdman of the Coorong. Thought to be South Australia’s only genuine bushranger that roamed the Coorong on an ostrich.
- Bold, Bad and Ugly - Australia’s Wild Colonial Bushrangers 2019 coins featuring Australian Bushrangers including The Birdman of Coorong