A Bushranger of Note – where did Joe go?

Although this is no ‘Goldfields’ story it is one that I have always had a soft spot for as ‘Joe’ came out on the same convict ship as my husbands Gt Gt Grandfather. I had fondly thought that they may have met on the ship, both being the same age, who knows, maybe they did.

Like the late Mr.Ned Kelly of Victoria, Mr Joseph Bolitho JOHNS, of Western Australia, wouldhave lead the happiest of lives if only the confounded police had left him alone.

But you know what the police are like when they think a bloke has been pinching a few horses and cattle. They come sneaking around asking questions and if given half a chance, snapping on the handcuffs.

Moondyne Joe

Joseph Bolitho Johns (c1827-1900), bushranger known as ‘MOONDYNE JOE’, was born in Wales, son of Thomas Johns, blacksmith. He became an ironworker in Glamorganshire and on 23 March 1849 was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for larceny. He was transported to Western Australia and arrived at Fremantle on 1 May 1853 on board the good ship Pyrenees.

Granted an immediate ticket-of-leave and in 1855 a conditional pardon, Johns by 1860 was living in the Toodyay district. He set up in business finding lost cattle and horses, working from an isolated gorge on the Avon River known as Moondyne Springs, he was christened Moondyne Joe. It was said he was so good at his job he sometimes found horses before they had even become lost. Unfortunately he was arrested on a charge of horse stealing in 1861.
While awaiting trial he escaped from Toodyay gaol but was recaptured to serve three years imprisonment. Released, he was again sentenced in 1865 to ten years for killing an ox with the intent of stealing the carcass. Determined not to serve this long sentence and protesting his innocence, Johns from November 1865 to March 1867 made four attempts to escape, three of them successful. With two companions, he was once at large for two years in the unsettled Darling Range. If there was anything that Joe liked it was  a little grog and the thing he preferred was a lot of grog, thus this was his final downfall. Recaptured he was placed in irons in solitary confinement in a specially reinforced cell with triple-barred windows at Fremantle gaol. Allowed out for exercise on medical advice, he escaped again in 1867 through a clever trick and for two years roamed the hill country east of Perth. He was recaptured while raiding a wine cellar and sentenced to a further term in Fremantle prison. He was released in 1871 and gained his conditional pardon in 1873.

After his release Johns became respectable and worked in the Vasse district as stock man and timber-feller and at Fremantle as carpenter and shipwright. He is reputed to be the discoverer of one of the Margaret River caves named after him. In 1879 he married a widow Louisa Frances Hearn, née Braddick, who died in 1893 and is buried in the Southern Cross Cemetery. In 1900 Johns was finally ordered to the Mount Eliza depot for the destitute and because of increasing senility and was transferred to the Fremantle asylum where he died on 13 August 1900 aged 72yrs, he is buried in the Fremantle Cemetery.

Moondyne Joe is popularly described as Western Australia’s only bushranger of note. No Ned Kelly, he neither held up mail coaches nor attacked banks; he raided poultry runs, visited half-way houses and perhaps stole horses. Yet through his determined bids for freedom against the harsh prison discipline of the convict period he became a romantic figure in the eyes of the public. His small triumphs over authority inspired John Boyle O’Reilly, a Fenian convict who escaped from Western Australia to the United States, to write in 1887 a novel on convict life in Western Australia featuring a fictitious and highly romantic Moondyne as central character. The twentieth century has seen further romantic legends grow around his name.

Ref: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Read more @ Western Australian Vista

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http://bit.ly/2DoXooT

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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