Chapter 5 Dulhunty Papers

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In 1828 Lawrence Vance Dulhunty was appointed Assistant Surveyor of Roads and Bridges. The announcement appeared in The Australian on 4th November of that year:

Mr. Lawrence Dulhunty, a son of the late Dr Dulhunty, has received the appointment of Assistant Surveyor of Roads and Bridges in the room of Mr Hughes, a Lieut. in the Royal Staff Corps.

Reports from settlers who knew the Dulhunty brothers substantiate the fact that Robert and John were universal favourites, while Lawrence was not so popular. His unpopularity with the convicts at least is illustrated in a report in The Australian on 24th November, 1828:


On Saturday last Mr Lawrence Dulhunty, late Assistant Surveyor of Roads and Bridges, was proceeding about l0 o'clock in the morning on his way to Emu Plains when about a quarter of a mile from the Parramatta Toll Gate on the Western Road he saw two men coming towards the fence, one having a cutlass and a pair of handcuffs and the other a musket. He thought they were constables but on coming near them the man with the musket desired Mr Dulhunty to stop and the other secured the horse's head and desired him to dismount. They then took all the money he had; and on Mr Dulhunty saying "I suppose you will allow me to proceed" one said "No, get on your horse", and led it into the bush, adding "We have got a companion to keep you company". About 50 yards in the paddock there were two more armed bushrangers standing over Mr Blackett who had a handkerchief tied over his eyes. They then ordered Mr Dulhunty to dismount and said "You are the man that got Murton hung". "Yes", said another, "and have got many a poor fellow flogged. You are the b... that has charge of the iron gangs and we will shoot you." Keeping a musket presented towards him they handcuffed him to Mr Blackett and then proposed to flog him and cut off one of his ears. They then took all Mr Dulhunty's clothes off, at the same time saying to Mr Blackett 'We will not serve you thus, only this bloody villain". They took only Mr Blackett's boots, unloosed the handcuffs and desired them to walk on. All of the bushrangers mounted on the horses. After going a short distance, desired Mr Dulhunty and Mr Blackett to go into the bush and said "You will find the horses somewhere in the paddock". After going a short distance Mr Dulhunty and Mr Blackett thought they heard someone coming. When looking they saw two bushrangers tied on the horses galloping, and the other two holding by the stirrups running by their sides. Mr Dulhunty and Mr Blackett then proceeded to Parramatta. Before leaving them one said "Mind, Dulhunty, if you ever give information we will pull you up again and not deal so easy with you."

On the following Tuesday Mr John Blaxland was robbed on his way home from the races by bushrangers.

The story was retold dramatically in "Smiths Weekly" on 1st March,

Probably McNamara had received some information as to the movements of Mr Lawrence Dulhunty, the object of his particular detestation, for no sooner had Mr Blackett been trussed securely to a sapling, than he announced to his followers that bigger game was afoot. The band marched on to the road, McNamara shouldering the musket, Dalton swinging the cutlass and Toms jingling his only armament, the pair of manacles. For an hour, they stood at the ready, patiently awaiting events. Mr Dulhunty, Assistant Surveyor of Roads and Bridges for the Colony, and renowned throughout the land for his ability to get twice as much work from a chain-gang as anyone else, was pressing Sydney wards that morning from Emu Plains when he noticed the trio half-way down the ridge. Believing them to be constables, because of the arms they carried, he trotted briskly forward. He suspected no danger until he found himself gazing down the barrel of a musket and felt the point of a cutlass pricking at his short ribs. There was nothing else for Mr Dulhunty to do than to climb down from his horse and deliver up his valuables. When directed to remove his clothes his angry protests were soon discouraged by cutlass prods at tender spots of his anatomy. Stark naked he stood in the golden sunlight while Toms tried on boots and breeches. Then they marched him to the spot where Dr Blackett was tied. They bound Mr Dulhunty to a fallen forest giant whose limbs had shattered and spread to form the rough but ominous semblance of a triangle, He sensed the tragic danger than menaced him, and thinking of his past treatment of men in the chain-gangs hoped fervently that his captors had not recognized him, but McNamara soon shattered his hopes.

"So you're Dulhunty", said the outlaw-leader in bitter tones. "You're the covey that got Murton hung. You're the wretch that has charge of the chain-gangs and got many a poor devil flogged as didn't deserve it. Well, by, you'll pay for it now. I'm going to shoot you!"

As he was speaking McNamara had lashed himself to a white fury, the deadly threat he uttered being screamed through a slaver of foam that spattered his lips. So fierce was the paroxysm of his rage that the musket shook in his hands like a sapling in a gale. When the gun belched forth its roaring charge, the bullet sped harmlessly above the head of the harmless man, although to miss at such pointblank range seemed impossible. McNamara was maddened to frenzy by his unhandy shot. Wrenching at his powder horn he was preparing to re-load when the amiable Toms, who up to that moment had regarded the affair as a rare piece of humour, suddenly asserted himself. Leaping forward he tore the musket from his leader and clubbed it ready for defence.

"Lay off that murderin"', he said, "there bain't goin' to be blood spilt without we're fightin' man to man. It's you an' me for it if yer bent on doin' this covey mischief." McNamara cursed, cajoled and pleaded with his follower to hand back the musket, but Toms remained obdurate for once. Dalton, his rats' eyes darting from one to the other to determine where victory was like to lie, decided the issue by seconding Toms.

"Ye can be after floggin' the divil if ye choose," he squeaked, "but no more shootin' at him."

With sullen acquiescence, McNamara nodded his head. Then unbuckling his belt he flogged his victim until he tired. Even when Mr Dulhunty swooned, the savage flagellator was not satisfied. Unsheathing a knife he rushed at the limp, unconscious man, yelling fiercely that he intended to cut off one of his ears He was actually sawing at one when Toms sprang on him and bore him to the ground. Half-an-hour later the outlaws prepared to leave They dragged their naked victims to the roadside, handcuffed them together, and advised them to stroll down the ridge into town, McNamara mounted one horse and Dalton the other. With Toms clinging to a stirrup they made off at top speed.

Just at noon, near Haslem's they met Philip Wood, an assigned servant of Mrs Reiby's, driving a gig laden with merchandise belonging to his mistress. Wood was not subjected to any violence. In fact, after depriving him of the vehicle, the outlaws presented him with a florin to buy rum. Toms was greatly elated at possession of the gig. While the others, regarding it as somewhat of an embarrassment, suggested abandoning it in the bush, he stoutly asserted his determination of keeping it and conducting all his future marauding operations from its lofty seat. Freedom was beginning to stiffen his character. Finally after much debate it was decided that Toms should drive the gig and make a cache of the merchandise in the bush somewhere near Liberty Plains.

Toms set out blithely. So hugely did he enjoy the novelty of driving his own gig that he kept the horse trotting briskly until he found himself driving down George Street, in Sydney itself, that same afternoon.

Unluckily for him Mrs Reiby, bustling through the streets on some of her many pressing affairs of business, recognized the gig and horse, and called the constables. Toms thus ended his bushranging career, and would have gone to the gallows later but for the appreciative testimony at the trial, of Mr Dulhunty.

At this time Lawrence Dulhunty was a pawn in the controversy that was waging between Governor Darling and Surveyor-General Mitchell.

Mitchell had, by the end of 1830, plotted new roads to Parramatta and Liverpool; had marked out the line of the great south road; and had found a new route for, and had constructed, the road down the Blue Mountains. The south and west lines of road laid down by him have remained without material alteration, and are the present main roads. This was a period of increasing tension between Darling and Mitchell, Darling had received a despatch from Sir George Murray, Minister of State for the Colonies, about the end of 1829, placing the control of roads and bridges under Mitchell; and he wrote to Murray stating that he could not conceal his apprehension that this arrangement would materially interfere with the general survey of the colony; that Mitchell already had more duties than he could conveniently perform.1

In January, 1830, the Department of Roads and Bridges was abolished, and the duties formerly carried on by that department were transferred to the Surveyor-General's. Lawrence Dulhunty was continued as an assistant surveyor at Parramatta pending his replacement, but was eventually appointed an assistant surveyor with the Surveyor-General's Department,

Minute No.5 to Colonial Secretary, January, l830, contained the information:

Let it be notified that, the Department of Roads and Bridges has been abolished and that the duties hitherto carried on by that Department have been transferred to the Surveyor-General's from the 1st instant,

3rd Assistant Surveyor Nicholas to succeed Major Lockyer and to be stationed at Parramatta until an Assistant Surveyor shall be selected for the Duties at present performed by Mr Dulhunty. As Four Assistant Surveyors appear to be necessary for the Superintendence of the Northern, Western and Southern roads, and those which radiate from Parramatta, that number will be continued, as also Mr Dulhunty at Parramatta until an Assistant Surveyor can be selected to undertake the duties of that place.

Sir George Murray wrote to Governor Darling on 13th July,-1830:


I have to acknowledge receipt of your Despatch No.2 of 11th January last.

In consequence of the representations contained in your Despatch No. 98 I was induced to add one Assistant Surveyor to the number which at first it was my intention to assign to the Department of Roads and Bridges, with which additional 3 officers, instead of 2, were entrusted with that duty, a number which I was in hopes would have been found sufficient. From your present despatch however as well as from the Report of the Surveyor-General it would appear that a number not less than four will be necessary to superintend the Parties employed upon the Roads at the principal Stations. Notwithstanding the objection which I entertain to any further augmentation of Establishment, I feel that I cannot, consistently with the interests of Public Service, refuse to sanction the increase which you have recommended; and I have accordingly to confirm the appointment of Messrs Simpson, Lambie, and Dulhunty as Assistant Surveyors.

Colonial Secretary McLeay wrote to Surveyor-General Mitchell on 3rd January, 1831:

I have the honour by the direction of His Excellency the Governor to inform you that in pursuance of the recommendation of the Surveyor of Roads, His Excellency has been pleased to approve of Assistant Surveyors Lambie and Dulhunty immediately relieving Messrs Finch and Elliott at the stations at Mount Victoria and on the Wolombi respectively instead of awaiting the arrival of Assistant-Surveyor Rusden as ordered by my letter of 27th ultimo.

I have, etc,
Alex McLeay

New South Wales Returns 1837 showed:

Lawrence V Dulhunty appointed 1-2-1831 by the Secretary of State as Assistant-Surveyor - Salary 280.

On 25th April l834 Lawrence Dulhunty was appointed a Commissioner of Crown Lands, and an Assistant Surveyor attached to the Roads Department at Parramatta. In l834-5 he was surveyor in charge of road parties building the Great Western Road between Hartley and Rydal. New South Wales Returns 1837 show that on 1st February he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Wellington Valley at a salary of 365. On 8th April, 1839, his name was added to the list of Magistrates of the territory of the Wellington Valley.

A Magistrate's duty in those days consisted of something more than presiding over Courts of Petty Sessions and trying cases of drunkenness, theft, and assault. It included also the command of the mounted police in their untiring efforts to control the bushrangers who haunted the area.

On 2nd May, l839, the new line of road from the Green Hills to Maitland was reported by The Australian to have been commenced under the superintendence of Mr L. Dulhunty, the Inspector of Roads and Bridges for that district. On 26th January, 1841, the same newspaper carried a report of a new bridge which had been erected under the supervision of Lawrence Dulhunty at Wollombi Brook.

Between l830 and 1850 Lawrence Dulhunty was associated with his brother Robert in pioneering ventures on the Macquarie. His name frequently appears coupled with that of his brother in the stories of old Dubbo that follow.

In l862 he was appointed Police Magistrate at Carcoar, where he spent the rest of his days. He died on 23rd October, 1871, in the Australian Club. The Registrar General's Department gives the following particulars:

Lawrence Vance Dulhunty, formerly squatter, lately Police Magistrate, age 68 or 69 years, after many months illness. Son of John Dulhunty, Doctor of Medicine, Buried 25th October 1871 at Necropolis. Born Paignton, Devonshire, England. About 45 or 46 years in the colonies.

Of the three sons of this family, two had died unmarried.

1 Cumpston, J.H.L., Thomas Mitchell. Surveyor-General and Explorer.

CONTENTS, Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, (452kB), (1341kB), (860kB),