ACT News


Ready to stand and deliver

Although he was shot dead by John Gilbert of Ben Hall's gang of bushrangers 148 years ago this week, Sergeant Edmund Parry of Jugiong will, in a sense, rise from the dead on Saturday.

Senior Constable Wes Leseberg, in authentic costume, is to play the courageous Parry in two dramatic re-enactments - one at about 11am and the other at 3pm - of the horror of November 15, 1864.

''Yes, I have to fall of me horse and pretend I'm dead!'' said Leseberg, who is looking forward to the theatrics in Jugiong's day-long celebrations.

The NSW Police force (formed in 1862) is 150 years old this year and several local police jurisdictions have staged or are about to stage events that mark and celebrate the creation of their essential thin blue line of resistance to lawlessness.

Jugiong's 150th celebrations this Saturday also embrace, almost 148 years ago to the very day, a re-enactment of part of that terrible day in 1864. Leseberg, a Jugiong boy (although he now works out of Yass) turns out to be a man marinated in his district's bushranging history.

He explains that Ben Hall's gang (Ben Hall, Gilbert and John Dunn) spent that whole day near Jugiong on the Melbourne-Sydney road, systematically holding up and robbing and tying-up every traveller they could. Then they stopped the Gundagai-Yass mail even though it had a police escort. That escort included the doomed Parry, who was 32.


The colourfully spoken Leseberg makes the point that we tend to over romanticise bushrangers.Even the usually reserved Australian Dictionary of Biography gushes about about Ben Hall and his gang, and of how ''Hall's gang was superbly mounted, often on stolen racehorses which easily outpaced the police nags''. But Leseberg says the 60 people robbed on that day were very probably robbed of everything they owned.

'They didn't have an EFTPOS card in those days. They carried everything, and the gang took it all off them.''

And so on that fatal day as the mail - pulled by four horses, as the authentic, vintage, 19th-century mail coach will be on Saturday - came into the gang's orbit there was a policeman aboard it and two others, Sub-Inspector O'Neill and Sergeant Parry, accompanying it on horseback.

''The three members of the gang came galloping down the hill towards them. Parry and O'Neill galloped forward of the coach to defend it. But they soon ran out of bullets in their single revolvers while gang-members each had several [stolen] revolvers each tucked in their belts. The police didn't have as much firepower as the crooks. O'Neill was captured. Gilbert told Parry to surrender but Parry shouted, 'I'll die before I surrender!' and while he was reaching for his carbine (rifle) Gilbert shot and killed him. He [Parry] was very brave, and on Saturday I've got to pretend to be as brave as him!''

Leseberg is enthusiastic about Saturday's occasion and makes it sound like everyone should roll up. Jugiong, as Ben Hall and his gang testified, is on the road between Yass and Gundagai.

From 10am there will be processions and stalls and a range of police-based events.

There will be bands and the Police helicopter, Polair, will arrive and there will be relentless action punctuated by Senior Constable Leseberg's two Oscar-deserving portrayals of Edmund Parry's gallant sacrifice.

Gang-gang thanks Cootamundra Herald reporter Jennette Lees for her generous help with this story.