As promised, here are the details surrounding the first 'sticking-ups' in Otago.
Dunedin, prior to the discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully in 1861, was a quiet little village with an almost total lack of crime. The one small gaol was used primarily for the incarceration of runaway sailors and the Gaoler, Mr Johnny Barr, often released his prisoners for the day with strict instructions to return before nightfall or they would be locked out! It would seem that the prisoners were obedient.
Along came the advent of gold and the sleepy village became a seething mass of newly arrived diggers from Victoria, California and further afield. Although most of the miners were hardworking, honest men, there came with them a criminal element.
One such criminal stands out: Henry Beresford Garrett. A tall, strong man who was reportedly good natured and humorous. Transported from England to Norfolk Island in his youth, he went on to lead a life divided between spells in prison and outlaw pursuits. A more in depth look at this man's fascinating life can be found in THE FIRST NEW ZEALAND BUSHRANGER by David McGill. I haven't read this book as yet, but it promises to be a good read.
The very first 'sticking-up', which has been attributed to Garrett or one of his gang, occurred on the track between Gabriel's and Tokomairiro. The robber, with blackened face and pistol, relieved his victim of 3 pound.
It is the second 'sticking-up' which has caught my imagination and provided fodder for a short story. This robbery was executed on a much larger scale with Garrett's gang of seven men.
The trail from Gabriel's came through the township of Waipori, crossed the shoulder of Maungatua (almost 3000ft high) and dropped down through bush to the Taieri Plains and on to Dunedin. On a lonely spot on Maungatua, near Woodside, Garrett's men laid a daring plan.
At the bottom of a gully, by a creek surrounded in trees, they accosted passing travelers. Holding them at gun point, they robbed them, then tied them up. By the end of the day, the victims numbered fifteen and the gang had amassed four hundred pounds in stolen cash and gold.
The good natured Garrett cheered the prisoners as the day wore on, lighting their pipes, holding cups of tea to their lips and imparting nips of gin. Toward evening he told them he was leaving, but would send someone along soon to release them. His parting gift was to wrap them up warmly with tents and blankets, before the gang mounted their horses and galloped away.
Only two men were ever brought to trial for this crime. A Mr Anderson who was nabbed from a local hotel and Garrett himself who was caught in Sydney and shipped back to Dunedin where he was imprisoned.
But for me the most interesting and humorous event of the day is the large shipment of gold that escaped Garrett's gang.
Sixteen year old George Calder from the North East Valley quarry, in Dunedin, was transporting 200 ounces of gold in the back of a dray, when he came across two of Garrett's men. Posted at the head of what is now called 'Sticking-up Gully', these men were charged with advising travelers to take the short cut down to where the gang lay in wait. Ascertaining that the track was too steep for Master Calder's dray, they offered him a drink of water and sent him, and 800 Pounds worth of gold, on his way!