'The papers, they call us bushrangers:
That would be their style, I dare say,
Bushrangers on foot, with our axes.
It sweetens the truth, anyway.
They don't like us killing their women.
Their women kill us every day.'
from 'The ballad of Jimmy Governor' - Les Murray
When Jimmy Governor, known as a hard worker who played a good game of cricket, married Ethel Page in 1898 he was challenging a code. For Ethel Page was a white women and Jimmy Governor's skin was black. Two and a half years later, the cost of that challenge was nine murders and three judicial executions.
Jimmy and Joe Governor were the last proclaimed outlaws in New South Wales. With their friend Jack Underwood they killed five people at Breelong on 20 July 1900. In the following days they killed another three adults and a child and went on an armed rampage. They committed at least one robbery on most days of the rampage, laid false trails for their pursuers, and contrived close encounters from which they retired with guns blazing or simply vanished.
It took three months, a manhunt involving 2000 civilians and police, and a 3000 km chase through rugged country on the Queensland border, to stop them.
What prompted such violence, such thirst for revenge? Who were the Governors and their pursuers? And what really happened during the largest manhunt in Australian history?