Special Constable John CARROLL
Special Constable Patrick KENNAGH
Special Constable Eneas McDONNELL
Special Constable John PHEGAN
Murdered – Shot
9 January, 1867
John Carroll (a senior warder at the Darlinghurst Gaol) was the leader of a group of four men sworn in as special constables to search for and capture the Clarke Gang of bushrangers. The patrol consisted of Carroll, Patrick Kennagh, Eneas McDonnell and John Phegan. They were well-armed and in January, 1867 had for some time been posing as surveyors in the Braidwood area in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of the bushrangers. On the afternoon of 9 January the four men were walking through an area of very dense bush on Jinden Station, having left their horses behind on that day for some reason, when they were ambushed.
Witnesses apparently twice heard shooting in the area at that time but did not investigate until the following day. In a clearing in the bush McDonnell and Phegan were found, shot to death, and about 800 metres away Carroll and Kennagh were found, also shot to death. Carroll was found lying on his back with a neatly folded handkerchief on his chest with a one-pound note pinned to it. A large sum of money he was carrying in his pocket had not been touched. The wounds suffered by Carroll and Kennagh suggest that not only were they murdered, but that they were actually “executed”. It is generally thought (and also often disputed) that their attackers were members of the Clarke Gang, however this has never been proved.
The Sydney Morning Herald of 12 January, 1867 informed its readers of the following.
BRAIDWOOD – MURDER OF THE SPECIAL CONSTABLES.
Friday: The four special constables – Carroll, Macdonald, Fagan, and Kennagh – sent here to capture Clarke’s gang, were on a visit to a station at Jinden, when they heard that Clarke would be at a place two miles distant from there, the constables went on foot with the intention of endeavouring to capture him, and, it is presumed, were met by a lawless mob and shot dead. It is said that Carroll’s legs had been broken, and his feet turned to his head. The mournful news reached Braidwood last night, and caused universal indignation, and cast a gloom over the entire population. Mr. Griffin and Superintendent Orridge are now holding an inquiry.
Like Carroll, Kennagh and McDonnell were prison warders (McDonnell was also an ex-policeman), while Phegan had been chosen for the search because, as a former associate of the Clarkes, he knew the Braidwood area well. They had been authorised by Colonial Secretary Henry Parkes to undertake a “secret expedition for the capture of the bushranger Thomas Clarke and his associates.” They had been promised wages, reward money (if successful) and significant positions in the Public Service for their endeavours. This situation, of course, was not popular at the time with substantive New South Wales police officers. A monument was later erected in the memory of these men at the Braidwood Cemetery (and inexplicably, McDonnell is referred to as Eneas ‘McDonald’).
These murders represent the highest number of police ever killed in a single incident of this type in Australian history. It is only surpassed by the spearing of patrols of Native Mounted Police in Queensland in the 1860’s. (Ned Kelly killed three Victorian police officers in a single incident at Stringybark Creek in 1878).
Special Constable McDonnell was born in 1817,
Special Constable Carroll in 1829,
Special Constable Phegan in 1837, and
Special Constable Kennagh in 1841.