THREE people were primarily responsible forthe genesis of Goulburn.
Two of them were magistrates who lobbied forthe establishment of the police garrison, court house and gaol that became the nucleusof the town. Their names were Lachlan Macalister and Andrew Allan.
The third was the leader of the bushranginggang that created the need for those establishments. His name was John Tennant.
Lachlan Macalister was an energetic dynamo whohad served as a junior officer with the 48th Regiment in Van Diemen’s Land andNewcastle. When the Regiment announced that it was downsizing, and leaving New SouthWales for service in India, it offered “redundancy packages” to some of theofficers and men. Lachlan accepted a grant of land near Taralga and a half-paypension, and became a country squire.
He soon found the lifestyle too quiet for hisadventurous spirit, so he accepted the position of Justice of the Peace. Inthose days, that title meant much more than it does now.
As the only government representative in thedistrict he wielded the power of a magistrate, sheriff and feudal Laird allrolled into one. For a time, he was the solitary representative of law andorder between Bungonia and Bathurst.
He revelled in the excitement of hunting downarmed gangs of escaped convicts that infested the wild mountain countrysurrounding remote homesteads, swooping down to plunder and terrorize theirex-masters. Lachlan pursued them energetically for hundreds of kilometres,spending weeks in the saddle, enjoying himself so much that his hearty laughand his booming musket became his trademark from Camden to Twofold Bay.
Andrew Allan, on the other hand, was a wealthysocialite from Sydney who had married the beautiful daughter of one of the richestmen in the colony. As the eldest son of the Commissary General [the head of Governmentstores] he had enjoyed a stellar career in that Department until his father wasdismissed from office for alleged shady dealing.
Andrew and his bride relocated to his grant at“Strathallen”, and built a pretty cottage on the site now occupied by thePolice Academy, thus becoming the first settlers of any consequence in the vicinityof Goulburn.
He, too, became a magistrate, and evidencesuggests that he probably billeted Mounted Police patrols there from time totime. It was he wrote to the Colonial Secretary recommending the establishmentof a “lockup” at Goulburn Plains.
The two magistrates became firm friends. Theysat together on the bench at the first hearing of the Goulburn Plains PoliceCourt, probably held at Strathallen, in November 1827.
Among their first cases were those of JohnTennant and various members of his gang. Tennant was an escaped convict who wasdubbed “the Terror of Argyle.” He was an Irish rebel who carved “Death orLiberty” on the butt of his gun. But he deserves to be remembered for much morethan that – if not for him, Macalister and Allan would not have sent a barrageof letters to the Governor, recommending the establishment of a gaol, a court-houseand a garrison at this place which would later be called Goulburn.
So what happened to them? Andrew Allen livedso lavishly that he borrowed too heavily, went bust, and had to leave the townthat he had created.
Lachlan Macalister became first commandant ofthe Mounted Police in the Southern Division, oversaw the erection of thegarrison, and went on to a spectacular career that will see his name mentionedoften in these pages. John Tennant, whoas a convict had been one of the three pioneers to drive the first flock of sheepto the Canberra plains and establish the first white settlement in the ACT,later committed the first crime recorded there.
Mount Tennant, his hide-out, is named afterhim. He escaped the death penalty four times, and is one of the few bushrangersto die in the comfort of his own bed. Surely his record is unique. Can youthink of any other bushranger who was instrumental in founding not only a city,but a Federal Capital as well?
If you want to learn more about these men andtheir times, come and see the whole story at the St. Clair Museum Archives.
This image of Lachlan Macalister was reproduced from a miniature painting on a ceramic, set on a velvet background, which has been passed down through his family. With kind permission of Max Macalister.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.