Resources on the Wild Scotchman

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Queensland, Australiamap
Surnames/tags: McCallum Macpherson
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Contemporaneous Reports

First found report Nov 1865
BRISBANE papers to the 4th instant are to hand.
STICKING-UP OF THE MAIL The Daily Guardian of the 3rd states that some further particulars of this event have come to hand. It appears that the mail was stopped about six miles from Roma on the Condamine side, on Tuesday last, by " the Wild Scotsman." It happened that he had a pretty good haul as the mail contained a package of notes consigned to the Bank of Queensland, and also some specie, sovereigns, and silver, also for the same bank. It is not certain what the exact amount was, some say £75 others £175. It is not likely, however, that his career will he a long one, as £50 reward has been offered for his apprehension, and two constables and about twenty volunteers from Roma are out after him.[1]

1865 Appraisal of Macpherson's exploits
WE have Brisbane papers to the 23rd instant.
The Daily Guardian of that date states that the " Wild Scotsman " is still at large, and growing bolder, by experience of the inefficiency of police protection in the districts he is infesting. He is fast getting mailmen down to that dangerous state of passive acquiescence which rendered the bushrangers of New South Wales so successful. What is worse still, the gossiping prattle of newspaper correspondents who reside in the districts, is fast helping to puff the poor wretch into that notoriety which is fame with a large majority of the utterly ignorant and the half-educated portion of the community, who are always ready to admire impudence and unscrupulousness, and who, having nothing to lose, no great reverence for law and order, consider every man a hero was a bold enough to set law and order at defiance. The last news we had of him was by a telegram from Gayndah on Thursday last, to the effect that he was supped rose been thrown from his horse at a place about fifteen miles from that town, and having lost his horse, was skulking away on foot, with police inspector Murray as his heels. Should the news be true, and Murray is fortunate enough to come up with the invincible here, we have no doubt he will be able to give a good account of himself, and of the robber also. In the meantime it is the duty of every honest well disposed resident in the district to assist the police to the utmost of their ability in either capturing or ridding the colony of the presence of such a desperado. "The Felons Apprehension Act" of New South Wales was effectual in breaking up the organised band of robbers who so long held away on the main roads of that colony. The merits of the Act are that under it, any one is at liberty to shoot down a known bushranger wherever he is found. Before we can hope to effectually grapple with the evil in this colony, we must have a similar enactment, and it is a pity that such a provision was not inserted in the Criminal Statutes last session, when they were consolidated. Prevention is better than cure and if such a law were once established here, it would go far to prevent lazy and dishonest men, like Macpherson, from turning highwaymen in order to live an easy and dissolute life.[2]

£250 Reward.
THE Government has been pleased to grant the above Reward for the Apprehension, or for Information that will lead to the capture of JAMES MACPHERSON, alias 'The Wild Scotchman,' who is charged with Robbery under Arms of various of her Majesty's Mails in Queensland.
Description : About 23 years of age, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches high, square shouldered, stout build, long arms, light hair, no whiskers, small downy tuft of hair on chin, Roman nose, blue eyes, face much sunburnt, gunshot wound inside left forearm from wrist to elbow, speaks -German fluently.
Caution.— Any parties found harboring the said robber, or giving false information relative to his whereabouts, will be prosecuted under the Felons' Apprehension Act.
Information must be given to the undersigned or to any Justice of the Peace, or Police Officer;
D. T. SEYMOUR, ? Commissioner of Police;
January 1st, 1866.[3]

We have, however, at the present time, in the very heart of the colony, an individual whose name is James Macpherson, but who is better known by the soubriquet of the "Wild Scotsman," committing depredations on travellers on the highway, and plundering Her Majesty's mails. Several bodies of police are in hot pursuit of him, but they cannot effect his capture; he continues to crop up at intervals and in different places, and frequently robs the mail within one hundred and fifty miles of Brisbane. In course of time there can be no doubt but that he will be hunted down by those who are on his track.[4]

In Queensland, a similar movement is on foot in favour for the liberation of the bushranger McPherson, better known as the " Wild Scotsman." The petitioners appear to have adopted the ludicrous, although seemingly successful, course pursued by their neighbours in New South Wales, and they accordingly memorialise for the outlaw's liberation on the score that his mother is infirm and without means of support! Judging from this depraved notion of justice and mercy, it would appear that the future of these two colonies will be of an exceedingly lively nature.- If Messrs. Sullivan, Gardiner, and McPherson can effect a "junction of their forces," the must promising results may be anticipated, and the present monotony of the bush districts will be enlivened by a few more highway robberies and murders ; while the young recruits under these three experienced leaders will be afforded an opportunity of out rivalling the atrocities of such human fiends as Hall, Morgan, and Co.[5]

It is the fashion now to be very merciful to criminals, and, therefore, the news in another column that the 'Wild Scotsman' has been set at liberty will not surprise many. Indeed, if we approved of the principle— which we assuredly do not — of giving prisoners long sentences and then letting them off with short terms of punishment, we should say that in the case of MACPHERSON the lenity of the law could not be better employed. He was a very young, hot headed, and romantic, but not a radically bad fellow at the time when GARDINER, BEN HALL, MORGAN and other bushrangers in the Southern Colonies were having things pretty much their own way down there, and when their exploits were the wonder and admiration of a considerable number of honest and foolish working men, artizans, and others in this colony. MACPHERSON, ' The- Wild Scotsman,' was one of these people who were led away, only he was, by the impulsiveness of his nature, and a little more force of character led much farther away than any of his fellow workmen. He was fired with the ambition of emulating the deeds of GARDINER, BEN HALL, MORGAN, CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT, and the other popular highwaymen then upon the roads in the southern colonies — and he adopted their profession at once and tried to emulate their example. He did not commit, as many murders as his prototypes in the southern colonies, and he was not so cruel nor bloodthirsty in his robberies nor so senseless in the destruction of cheques and other valuable property, of which he could make no use, when he found. them in the mail bags of the postmen he 'stuck up' while he was on the road. But he had a long career of crime and cost the country a large sum of money from first to last. Under the circumstances the cheapest and most satisfactory mode of dealing with the culprit would have been to have hung him. As this. was not done at the time, and the man has been long enough in prison to have become convicted of the folly of following highway robbery as a profession in this colony, there seems no particular danger in letting him at liberty again now. He is not a heartless villain. his poor old father and mother are honest respectable folks—and he can, and probably will, make up his mind to buckle to hard honest work for the remainder of his days, and try to make the last days of his parents as comfortable as he can. If he gets tired of the monotony of this sort of life, and tries the .'bushranging' again — why there will be less trouble to catch or shoot him down than there was before, because the country is more thickly populated, and bushranging is not so popular and romantic a system of robbery, as it was in 1864 and 1865. The risks are great in releasing such a criminal; but the people who took the most active part in securing his release reside in or close to Brisbane, and therefore are not likely to suffer from any depredations which he may commit in the future. If he does take it into his head to 'stick them up,' tie them to trees in the lonely bush, or otherwise maltreat ; them— why they will take it all in good part under, the hope and belief that he will serve the people in the outside districts , very much worse than that, because, the latter took no active parf in securing his release.[6]

In order not to be out of the Colonial fashion our Government1 has released a notorious scoundrel called James Macpherson, better known as 'the Wild Scotsman.' It is to be hoped that the long imprisonment which this man has suffered has been the means of instilling more settled ideas in his mind.[7]

Further signs of the awful season we have been passing through, are not far to find. Carriers come in daily, with a weak team, who had a strong one last year, with one team who had two last year, and some we hear of, have lost their all-poor Black Jack (the first white man that ever crossed the Burdekin), and James Macpherson (the noted "Wild Scotsman" of former days) being among the great sufferers among the carriers, so far as I have yet learned.[8]

July 23
While returning from a funeral an old resident here, James M'Pherson known many years ago as the 'Wild Scotsman,' was thrown from his horse, and so injured that he only lived, unconscious, for 48 hours. He leaves a widow and a large family unprovided for.[9]

Historical Reflections

The Wild Scotsman By OXLEY BATMAN [10]

IN November, 1865, the Nanango bush telegraph in the South Burnett region of Queensland was humming with the news that "The Wild Scotsman," Alpin Macpherson, was in the district.

Born of respectable, hard-working parents who took part in the McConnel's historic squattage of Cressbrook Station, Macpherson's exploits reverberated from the Weddin Ranges of NSW to the Houghton River district of Moreton Bay.

Macpherson had established himself as a sort of Robin Hood-cum Don Quixote in South Burnett. With the squatters he was not popular.

Among the shepherds, hut-keepers, station hands and draymen, of whom a sizable percentage were convicts, he had many sympathisers; was a source of pride in the frontier district of Nanango.

Typical of his acts was when he called at an outstation of Tarong, the district's pioneer pastoral holding, and found the shepherd's hut occupied only by the shepherd's wife and a trio of emaciated looking children.

The appearance of the group changed Macpherson's visit from plunder to philanthrophy.

From his saddlebags he drew a big swag of silver which he endeavored to press upon the terrified woman.

Guessing it was the proceeds of some holdup, she declined the silver. Incensed at the rebuffing of his "charity," the Wild Scotsman rode off after lecturing the woman on the evils of ingratitude among the lower orders.

The goodwill toward the Wild Scotsman, fostered by such incidents, was not shared by Patrick McCallum, first guardian of the mails on the lonely Nanango-Gayndah run.

McCallum delivered the mails by pack saddle; it was before coach tracks were laid down in this region, inhabited by some of the most war-like aboriginal tribes in the colony.

In mid-November, 1865, McCallum, as he set out on his run, had uneasy thoughts about being ac-costed at a lonely stage of the trip about 50 miles from Nanango. But as he let down the sliprails on the common, exactly a mile from the town of Nanango, he was stopped by the demand: "Bail up!"

The mailman turned and faced the Wild Scotsman, who commanded him to move his horses into the scrub. Macpherson ransacked the bags, taking only cash.

Then he apologised for the stress of circumstances which compelled him to "borrow" the mailman's horse and rode off on it.

Left with only a packhorse, McCallum trudged the dusty mile back to Nanango township where he found a large detachment of NSW troopers in the the middle of a spree and in no state to chase the Wild Scotsman.

They greeted with alcoholic derision his impassioned statement that, within the past hour, their quarry had been at the very gate of Nanango.

Meanwhile, on the mailman's horse, Macpherson covered 40 miles before nightfall, reaching Mondure Station (afterwards owned by the late Arnold Wienholt, African big-game hunter and champion of Emperor Haille Selassie).

At Mondure, Macpherson helped himself to the best of a bunch of horses and then headed north. He was careful to free the mailman's horse at a spot where it would be easily found.

A note attached to the animal's halter thanked the mailman for the loan.

Some months later near the Seven Mile Flat adjacent to the present-day South Burnett town of Goomeri, the Nanango-Gayndah mailman heard from the rear the command: "Bail up!" Turning, McCallum looked into the barrel of the Wild Scots-man's pistol.

This time Macpherson was mounted on a well-known racehorse Black Eagle, stolen from the Hon. H. B. Moreton, of Wetheron Station.

Black Eagle had been a star performer at the Burnett Derby at Gayndah, the first organised race meeting in Queensland.

The bushranger again ransacked the mails. This time the mailman was left his horse but was relieved of his saddle. McCallum was assured that this saddle would be returned at the first opportunity.

Before he took leave of his victim, the Wild Scotsman requested McCallum to deliver an important packet to Mr. J. O'Connel Bligh, Police Magistrate of Gayndah. This packet was found to consist mostly of warrants for Macpherson's arrest.

A few weeks later, the borrowed saddle, bearing a note reading: "This is Pat McCallum's saddle. See he gets it back," was found in the stable of a shanty near the town of Taroom, 100 miles away.

A few weeks later, Macpherson attempted to attend a race meeting at Tarong station, doubtlessly with the idea of acquiring a blue-blooded stable mate for Black Eagle.

On the outskirts of the meeting he was recognised by the station's head stockman, Alex McCallum, a brother of the mailman.

Abandoning his intention, Macpherson fled to the scrubs of Tenneringering Creek.

Here he took shelter in a hut during a storm but on emerging, he found Black Eagle had bolted at the height of the downpour. The Wild Scotsman then set out on foot for Nanango.

Near Maidenwell he narrowly escaped being ridden over by a galloping police posse as he lay hidden in long grass.

Subsequently the missing Black Eagle was found by a blackboy from Tarong station and returned to his owner. Black Eagle lived to win another classic event at the famous Gayndah race meeting.

Meanwhile, Macpherson slipped through the police cordon and reached the vicinity now occupied by the Nanango District Hospital.

The Wild Scotsman was so confident that on several occasions he entered the bar of the old Star Hotel, close to the headquarters of the NSW police detachment.

His confidence in the loyalty of his Nanango sympathisers was vindicated by a warning of a belated raid on his hideout on Hospital Hill. Macpherson was miles away when the net closed, although he was travelling on foot.

The Wild Scotsman, however, knew where to find a horse. Near Meeandu Creek, on the Jondaryan-Nanango run, the mailman, Pat McCallum, heard the now familiar demand: "Bail up!"

At the subsequent airy announcement: "Pat, I want your horse," the maddened mailman danced with rage as he declared: This is too much! People will think I'm working in with you."

Macpherson was insistent and departed with the horse, comforting McCallum with: "Don't worry, Pat. I'll return it to you on Saturday."

On Saturday, Macpherson, having used McCallum's horse to catch another mount, left the mailman's animal by a path where he was certain to find it.

To honor his promise the Wild Scotsman had run the gauntlet of a much reinforced police body.

Despite his widespread band of sympathisers, the South Burnett was getting too hot for the Wild Scots-man. He lay low till March, 1866, when he successfully stuck up the Maryborough - Port Curtis mail coach.

Then he made into the ranges, and thumbed his nose at the police parties which rode unobservingly within a hundred yards of his hide-outs.

Macpherson made his fourth holdup of HM mails near Gin Gin Station in April, 1866. This time the mailman was acting as a decoy in a plan devised by a party of squatters who had become impatient at the futility of the police.

When the mailman halted at the bushranger's demand: "Bail up," the concealed squatters converged. Macpherson fled, scorning the fusillade which followed him, but after a long chase his mount foundered.

The Wild Scotsman surrendered quietly and said: "Good work, boys! The police could never have done it!"

Macpherson escaped twice during the month he was awaiting trial, robbing the Peak Downs-Rockhampton mail coach during one period of liberty, but he was eventually recaptured.

On September 13, 1866, he was sentenced by Judge Lutwyche in Brisbane to 25 years imprisonment.

The fact that in all his escapades the Wild Scotsman had never discharged a shot at a man paid dividends.

A representative body of citizens, among whom were the Rev. B. G. Wilson, an influential Brisbane clergyman, and Mr. J. H. McConnel, owner of Cressbrook Station, on which Macpherson had been born, approached the authorities. As a result, Macpherson was released on December 22, 1874.

His subsequent career vindicated the granting of his parole. Till his death after a fall from a horse near Burketown, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 1895, the Wild Scotsman's record remained clean.

The WILD SCOTSMAN ROAMS the RANGES When Queensland Bushrangers Rode— No. 4. By CLEM LACK [11]

QUEENSLAND'S most picturesque bush-ranger in the sixties was Alpin MacPherson, known as the Wild Scots-man, who attempted to emulate the deeds of Ben Hall, Gilbert, and other highwaymen of the Southern States.

He was not of the desperado type, and seems to have taken to his lawless profession in the spirit of adventure rather than that of an outlaw indulging criminal instincts in a wild career of robbery, violence, and sudden death. His activities were sufficiently astonishing, and the pattern of his wild life so colourful as to place him among the select company of Australian bushrangers, although his exploits were not on the same scale as those of Gardiner, Thunderbolt, and other more notorious characters of the road. Twice he was captured, twice he escaped in dramatic circumstances; and after serving a term in prison he was released before his sentence was completed. Thereafter he lived a peaceful, orderly life, and died prosaically of a broken neck when a horse which he was riding to a funeral threw him to the ground.

MacPHERSON was born in Scotland, and came to Queensland with his parents as a child. His father was employed on McConnel's station at Cressbrook. Young MacPherson went to school in Brisbane, and on leaving was apprenticed to John Petrie, the stone mason whose workshops were situated on the corner of Queen and Wharf streets. He was popular with his employers and workmates, and bore a good reputation as an intelligent and industrious work-man. He was a diligent reader and took a keen interest in the debating classes held at the Brisbane Mechanics School of Arts. One morning he failed to appear at work, and the people of Brisbane town were astonished and shocked to learn later that the amiable, well-mannered lad, who had gone to the rescue of a leading citizen when toughs attacked him one night at the Valley, had taken to the roads, with two other wild young spirits from the shearing sheds who were fired with the ambition to become bushrangers.

The first exploit of MacPherson and his companions was to "stick up" the public house and store of a man named Willis at Houghton River, North Queensland. During the scuffle, Willis attacked MacPherson with a tomahawk, and was slightly wounded by a shot fired by the Wild Scotsman or one of his companions. For some time after this occurrence, there is very little definite record of his movements, and the material available to the historian is somewhat vague and contradictory. It appears, however, that thereafter, the Wild Scotsman preferred to work alone. He is sup-nosed to have boasted his intention of going to New South Wales to fight a duel with Sir Frederick Pottinger, head of the police force in that colony. There appears to be fairly conclusive evidence that he actually was in New South Wales for some time, that he en-countered Sir Frederick Pottinger and some troopers and exchanged shots with them, and was slightly wounded during the affray. He has also been credited with having joined the Hall gang of bushrangers, and he frequently claimed afterward that he staged robberies and hold-ups in company with Gilbert and Hall.

SOME time in the early sixties the Wild Scotsman returned to Queensland, and speedily became a notorious character, robbing the overland mails, sticking up travellers, stealing racehorses and other-wise endeavouring to establish him-self as the standard ideal of the Australian bushranger. The records in the Oxley Library are vague and contradictory, and it is difficult to outline his career in chronological sequence, but it appears that he had not been opera-ting for many months when he was captured by the police. A warrant had been issued for his arrest for his attack on Sir Frederick Pottinger, and he was extradited to stand trial in Sydney on a charge of shooting with intent to do grevious bodily harm. Before the trial opened Sir Frederick Pottinger was killed in an accident, and the charge against MacPherson was not preceded with. He was returned to Queensland in charge of the police to stand trial for the Haughton River hold up and other charges. At Brisbane he was remanded to Rockhampton, and was placed aboard the steamer Diamantina. To ensure the safe custody of his prisoner, Constable Mailer chained him with leg irons, handcuffs being a useless precaution. MacPherson, a big, well-built man, had remark-ably small hands and could easily slip them through the ordinary handcuffs. He boasted freely that the handcuffs that could hold him had never been made. Nevertheless, in spite of the leg irons. MacPherson managed to escape. During the voyage up the coast he had been so quiet and sub-missive that the constable allowed him to stay on deck during the day, and MacPherson would sit near the cook's galley reading a book for hours at a time. While the ship was at Gladstone he took advantage of the hustle and confusion at the wharf and the relaxed vigilance of his gaoler to make a desperate bid for liberty.

Probably, his hands being free, he had managed to secrete a file, and loose himself of his leg irons. In the dusk of the evening he slipped quietly overboard, swimming through shark-infested waters to the shore. His escape was not noticed till about half an hour afterwards. The Wild Scotsman was never again captured by police, and he roamed at large for three years more be-fore he was caught by a party of bushmen.

ONE day at dusk, seven or eight miles past Barambah, he stuck up the mailman, carrying her Majesty's mails between Nanango and Gayndah. McCallum, the mailman, was astonished to hear a loud, penetrating voice

roaring from the shelter of some trees: "Pull up! Pull up!" Immediately afterward a power-fully built man, about 24 years old and 6ft. in height, emerged, leading a handsome jet black horse. This was identified later as the racehorse Black Eagle, stolen from the Hon. B. B. Moreton, of Wetheron. Pointing a six-chambered revolver at McCallum's head, the stranger exclaimed peevishly: "You've kept me waiting! I've been on the look-out for you for a long time!" "Are you the Wild Scotsman?" asked McCallum. "They call me that?" replied the huge, bearded rider, who made no attempt to conceal his identity. He forced the mailman to turn off the load into the bush and dismount, but McCallum courageously refused to take the mail bags off his horse. MacPherson, picturesque, with a red girdle round his waist, tied his mount to a near-by tea-tree, and taking a long knife from his girdle, ripped the mail bags open, swiftly abstracting everything of cash value. He also took the mailman's saddle and helped himself to some cigars the mailman had in his pocket, adding insult to injury by offering him one. He then handed the mailman a packet and asked him to deliver it to J. OConnel Bligh, police magistrate at Gayndah. The package contained a number of valuable papers which MacPherson had taken in previous robberies, and which he said were of no use to him.

VAULTING into the saddle, MacPherson then made off at a gallop. The mail man reported the hold up to the police at Boonara. Next night he arrived at Gayndah, and thirty police and trackers were sent in search of the Wild Scots-man, a price being put upon his head. MacPherson narrowly escaped capture many times. One day he was lurking around Tarong Station. A race meeting was to be held on the following day, and MacPherson was trying to "lift" a race-horse or two from one of the pad-docks. But he was discovered and had to dash off with a hallooing posse of well-mounted young squatters at his heels. He managed to give his pursuers the slip, and travelled toward Cooyar, camping on Tenningering Creek. A thunder-storm broke, and he sought shelter in an old shack, leaving his horse nearby. When he returned, his horse had gone, and he was forced to travel on foot through country that was stirred up against him like a dis-turbed hornet's nest. He was nearly caught by a search party in the Maidenwell district. He was actually lying down, with some blade grass as his only cover, when several mounted police rode past him only a few feet distant.

AS a sequal to the robbery near Boonara, an escort of mounted police accompanied the mailman from Gayndah to Boonara, but no escort was provided for the journey from Nanango. Neglect of such an obvious precaution met with its due reward shortly afterwards. McCallum was again held up and robbed by the Scotsman, this time just out-side Nanango in broad daylight, on the Old Barambah Road. Seemingly, all this time, the bush-ranger had been wandering about on foot. Walking quietly from behind a tree, he pointed his revolver at McCallum and demanded his horse and saddle as well as other valuables. After slitting the mail bags, and making a leisurely selection, he rode off on the stolen horse. He apologised to the mailman for taking it, and promised to return the animal as soon as he could. He reached Mondure in the dusk of the evening, and choosing one of the best horses he could find, made for the Wide Bay ranges, leaving be-hind him the "borrowed" mailman's horse, which was subsequently retrieved by its owner. MacPherson worked his way further and further north, occasionally varying the robbery of mailmen and road travellers with a raid on a lonely settler. In March, 1866, the mailman who carried the overland mail between Maryborough and Port Curtis was "stuck up" and robbed by MacPherson about seven miles from Waroo Station at Baffle Creek. He was not heard of or seen again for a month.

On March 31 the mailman, on reaching Gin Gin station, was warned that a strange man riding a horse and leading another had been seen riding through the paddocks, and that later he had made inquiries of station employees as to the date and time of the mailman's arrival. Suspecting that the stranger was the Wild Scotsman, plans were made to trap him. Two of the men rode swiftly to Munduran Station, eight miles away, to put the manager, W. Nott, on his guard, and ask him to organise a pursuit party. The nearest police station was at Maryborough, 100 miles away. It was arranged that the mailman should go ahead of the party and act as a decoy. Near the Kolan River, the two men from Gin Gin saw in the distance on the far side of the river a man riding on horse-back and leading another, evidently making for a bush shanty some dis-tance along the road. They recog-nised him as the suspicious stranger, and warily the party followed their quarry. THE mailman, as arranged, can-tered leisurely ahead of the party, who were all well armed, and rapidly overhauled the traveller. Continued on next page.

" After slitting the mail bags, and making a leisurely selection he rode off on the stolen horse . . .

WHEN THE WILD SCOTSMAN ROAMED THE RANGES (Continued from previous page.)

MacPherson, as he proved to be, was walking his horse slowly along the road, when he heard the mailman galloping along behind him. Some sixth sense must have warned him that all was not well, and just at the moment his pursuers broke from cover, he dug his spurs into his mount, dropped the halter of the animal he was leading, and wheeling his horse round, galloped recklessly down the steep side of the gorge below the road. He probably would have escaped them had not his horse foundered. His pursuers, mounted on strong, fresh horses, speedily caught up with him ere he had reached level ground at the bottom of the declivity. Hurriedly the Wild Scots-man began to unstrap the double-barrelled gun he carried across the pommel of his saddle, but he was too late. He found himself staring down the barrels of four rifles, and Nott exclaimed: "Put up your hands, or I'll fire!" The Wild Scotsman shrugged his broad shoulders, and slowly reached up his arms. "All right, he growled, "I give up." After he had been searched and relieved of a collection of pistols, his legs were strapped to his stirrups, and his hands tied behind his back. "I knew you weren't policemen, he said, addressing Nott, "by the way you galloped down that ridge, but you would not have got me if my horse hadn't been done up." In the pack of the horse he had abandoned was found a well-equipped case of surgical instruments, with a supply of lint, and other necessaries for treating wounds. The party and their prisoner returned to the station. The police at Maryborough were advised, and two constables took the outlaw into custody. MacPherson was committed for trial at the Supreme Court, Brisbane, on the first charge of robbing and shooting Willis at Haughton River. Evidently he had plenty of sympathisers on the jury, for he was acquitted on the ground of doubtful identity. He was defended by barrister Pring, afterward Mr. Justice Pring. The Crown Prosecutor told the Chief Justice (Sir James Cockle) that there were many other charges pending against the prisoner. At his request the venue was changed to Maryborough. At the Maryborough trial, on two charges of mail robbery, the Wild Scotsman was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years' penal servitude.

THE Wild Scotsman disappeared from public view behind the wall of St. Helena prison in More-ton Bay. He had served nine years of his sentence when he determined to escape. The prison authorities carefully guarded the boats on the beach, but MacPherson had made other plans. Sugar cane was then cultivated on St Helena, and prison labour was employed in the growing and manufacture of sugar. One dark night MacPherson broke out of his cell, taking a "sugar cooler," a shallow wooden box about 8ft. square and a foot deep, he dragged it to the water's edge. In this frail craft, with a pair of crude paddles, he faced the peril of choppy seas and the menace of sharks, and succeeded in reaching the mainland. But he was soon recaptured. Two years later he was more fortunate. The Rev. B. G. Wilson, of Brisbane, interested himself in the Wild Scotsman, and through his influence the authorities suspended the remainder of the sentence. MacPherson, on gaining his freedom, justified the clemency extended him by leading a quiet and exemplary life. He met his death some years later at Barcaldine, falling from the horse he was riding and breaking his neck.

Other Sources

  1. The "Wild Scotchman" : Queensland bushranger James MacPherson Pt.1. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Online blog. 25 May 2016. Accessed on 28 Mar 2022 at
  2. The "Wild Scotchman" : Queensland bushranger James MacPherson Pt.2. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Online blog. 25 May 2016. Accessed on 28 Mar 2022 at
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "James Alpin McPherson," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed March 28, 2022).
  4. Basil Shaw, 'McPherson, James Alpin (1842–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 28 March 2022.
  5. Blog: James McPherson - The Wild Scotchman. Queensland's only Bushranger.
  6. Moreton Bay and More Blog
    1. A Brief History of Bushranging in Queensland. Part 1.
    2. A Brief History of Bushranging in Queensland. Part 2.
    3. A Brief History of bushranging in Queensland. Part 3.
    4. A brief history of Queensland bushranging: the Wild Scotchman
    5. The Wild Scotchman – Life on the Run – 1865-1866
    6. The indictment of the bushranger “The Wild Scotchman”
    7. The ‘Wild Scotchman’ gets sent down – 13 September 1866.
    8. The Wild Scotchman’s Life after Crime
  7. Murphy, J. E.; Eston, E. W. Wilderness to Wealth: Being a History of the Shires of Nanango, Kingaroy, Wondai, Murgon, Kilkivan and the Upper Yarraman Portion of the Rosalie Shire 1850-1950. W. R. Smith & Paterson Pty. Ltd., 1950. 1974. pp. 51-54.
  8. Grimes, Judith A. Pioneering into the Future: A History of the Nanango Shire. Wise Owl Research Publishers, 1998. pp. 401-404.


  1. The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 9 Nov 1865. p. 3. QUEENSLAND.
  2. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 27 Dec 1865. p. 5. QUEENSLAND.
  3. Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, Sat 13 Jan 1866. p. 3. Advertising.
  4. The Brisbane Courier, Wed 17 Jan 1866. p. 2. SOCIAL.
  5. The Mercury, Thu 28 May 1874. p. 2. THE MERCURY.
  6. The Telegraph, Wed 23 Dec 1874. p. 2. No title.
  7. The Telegraph, Fri 25 Dec 1874. p. 2. THE WEEK.
  8. Morning Bulletin, Sat 8 Apr 1893. p. 7. WINTON.
  9. Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, Wed 24 Jul 1895. p. 2. COLONIAL TELEGRAMS.
  10. World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), Saturday 24 February 1951, page 6. THE BAD OLD DAYS.
  11. Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 - 1954), Sunday 14 May 1939, page 13.


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