Christine McCaffrie


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The Wild Colonials


 Christine McCaffrie


About the novel

The Wild Colonials is fiction, but based on the exploits of real people - the Clarke gang  of bushrangers who roamed the Braidwood district towards the end of the gold rush.  In the novel, the fictitious Dillon family emigrates from Ireland to meet with their patriarch, Patrick, who was transported to Australia for his part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The story relates their interactions with the earlier real life settlers of the area, many of whom are former convicts or their immediate descendants, and who have developed a strong sense of independence. Some have also developed a total contempt for the law.

This attitude is exacerbated by the differences in wealth in the fledgling society between the large landowners and the poorer small farmers.  The latter eke out a living on small, less fertile blocks of land. Cattle and horse stealing is rife, and a new, poorly skilled and equipped police force is unable enforce order in the area. The gold rush provides another level of society  – fortune seekers -  many also careless of the norms and rules of the Establishment. It is a society out of control, and one which will ensure the values of the old world will not neatly translate to the new.

Although New South Wales abolished the acceptance of transported convicts in 1840, resentment and bitterness over the nature of the colony infects those who remained, mainly the ex convicts and their offspring.  They are considered an underclass by the free settlers, but many of those free settlers, like the Dillons who came from Ireland, while relishing greater freedom in the colony, still maintain suspicion of the English rule that prevails. Hence there is considerable sympathy among the populace for those who openly flout authority.

Settlers who come to the Braidwood district in the 1860s hoping to live a peaceful and prosperous life find themselves torn between admiration for the daring deeds of the bushrangers, and fear and resentment of their power to wreak havoc in their lives. They at times loyal but are also willing to betray, especially when the rewards for capture of the bushrangers markedly increase.

Even today, mystery still surrounds the Clarke Gang, and while many questions about their lawlessness, and the Justice system of the time remain unanswered, they have become legends of folklore, and an inherent element of the fabric of the country that would become Australia.


Read the first few, exciting chapters here.





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