The Hold-Up at Eugowra Rocks
A.L. Lloyd sang The Hold-Up at Eugowra Rocks in 1971 on the Topic LP The Great Australian Legend with Trevor Lucas and Martyn Wyndham-Read singing chorus. This track was reissued in 1994 on the Australian CD The Old Bush Songs. Lloyd wrote on the former album's backside:
Francis Christie, alias Frank Gardiner was born [see the note below - ed.] in Boro, about midway between Goulborn and Canberra, in 1830. The neighbourhood was one of smallholders, many of whom eased their economy by “duffing” (annexing) unbranded cattle and horses from the big squatters. At the age of twenty, Gardiner was imprisoned for horse-stealing, and escaped after a few months. Four years later he was re-arrested for a similar crime, and stayed in gaol till 1859. For a while he ran a butcher's shop on the gold diggins at Wombat Flat (Burrangong), but he abandoned the shop, took to the hills, and organised a bushranger band. Many youngsters joined Gardiner “for a flutter”, then left to start outlaw gangs of their own. The Eugowra hold-up was his greatest exploit, but not till two years later did the police catch up with Gardiner. According to the police, the amounts stolen by Gardiner added up to £21,000. Public outcry secured the release of the outlaw after ten years (his sentence was for thirty-two) and like many Australian criminals he made for San Francisco, set up as a publican, and died comfortable. There are several ballads of Gardiner's exploits. This is probably the best. The origin of the words is obscure; it doesn't seem to have appeared in print. The tune, fitted by me, is that of the old immigrant-navvy song The Shores of Botany Bay.
and in the accompanying booklet:
On January 15, 1862 the New South Wales government's armed escort started from the diggins at Forbes with fourteen thousand pounds-worth of gold and currency. At the Eugowra Rocks, seven men in red shirts, with blackened faces, held up the escort at pistol-point. Their leader was Francis Christie, alias Frank Gardiner, who called himself the Prince of Tobymen. When Gardiner was caught two years later, and sentenced to 32 years penal servitude, public agitation for his pardon was such that the government was nearly brought down; under pressure, the sentence was changed to one of exile. The exploit at Eugowra Rocks move a bush song-maker to produce one of the most mettlesome of all outlaw ballads.
Frank Gardiner's great grand niece Jan Visinko corrected this in an e-mail to me:
[Gardiner] was not born at Boro Creek. He was aboard the James with his mother, father and siblings in 1834. Francis was born in Scotland.
A.L. Lloyd sings The Hold-Up at Eugowra Rocks
It's all about bold Frank Gardiner, with the devil in his eye,
He said, “We've work before us, lads, we've got to do or die.
So blacken up your faces before the dead of night,
And its over by Eugowra Rocks we'll either fall or fight.”
Chorus (after each verse):
You can sing of Johnny Gilbert, Dan Morgan and Ben Hall,
But the bold and reckless Gardiner, he's the boy to beat them all.
“We'll stop the Orange escort with powder and with ball.
We'll shoot the coach to pieces and we'll down the peelers all.
We'll lift the diggers' money, we'll collar all their gold,
So mind your guns are killers now, my comrades true and bold.”
So now off go the rifles, the battle has begun.
The escort started running, boys, all in the setting sun.
The robbers seized their plunder so saucy and so bold,
And they're riding from Eugowra Rocks encumbered with their gold.
And as with savage laughter they left that fatal place.
They cried, “We've struck bonanza, boys, we've won the steeplechase!”
And Gardiner their leader, he shouted loud “Hooray!
I think we've made our fortunes at Eugowra Rocks today!”
Lyrics copied from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs.