Almanac Poetry: Photograph of Bushranger and (Alleged) Multiple Murderer Tommy Clarke, of the Notorious Braidwood Clarkes, Aboard the Stolen Racehorse Boomerang, circa 1865



Tommy Clarke aboard the stolen racehorse, Boomerang, c. 1865. [Source: A Guide to Australian Bushranging website.]



Photograph of Bushranger and (Alleged) Multiple Murderer Tommy Clarke, of the Notorious Braidwood Clarkes, Aboard the Stolen Racehorse Boomerang, circa 1865



According to a contemporary,
journalist Charles White,
the Clarke brothers, Tommy and John,
were of ‘vicious stock’.
He then offered evidence
from various parts of their family tree:
a father who died in jail,
under a charge of murder;
an uncle charged with being accessory
to the killing of a police party;
yet other uncles,
convicted highway robbers;
an aunt, a receiver of stolen goods …
anyway, here’s a photograph
of Tommy, smiling,
easy in the saddle,
aboard the fleet-footed thoroughbred
– just picture a crim of today
at the wheel of a Ferrari …



(Acknowledgement: poem previously appeared in my fourth poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, published by Ginninderra Press in 2020.)



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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, was published in late 2020 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Yes Kevin, the Clarke brothers were not the most pleasant of the home grown breed of outlaws. The father a former convict who selected land , though made his living on cattle duffing, whilst alo sly grogging, set the tone.

    Their cousins/uncles by marriage, the Connells, were cut from the same cloth.

    The concepts of social banditry, or the noble highway man who’d been wronged, didn’t sit comfortably with this gang of brigands.


  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Glen, for your comments – always welcome.

    And yes, this poem is much more about White’s depiction of Tommy and John Clarkes’ family background, as opposed to the staggering amount of crimes they most likely committed. (Also, in a clearer, larger version of the ‘Tommy on horseback’ photo than the one at the head of this poem, Tommy Clarke does look like he’s smiling!)

  3. Kevin, I got a Xmas present in 1974: The Bloodiest Bushrangers, a book on the Clarke brothers. They didn’t seem as appealing as Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, Captain Thunderbolt, Mathew Brady. However I’ve always wanted to visit Braidwood; one day.

    Thomas Clarke had a son to his wife Charlotte Hart. The marriage ended when he was outlawed, the child was then given another name. The boy was 4 when his father was hung. What ever became of the kid?


  4. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Glen. I’ve read extracts from the book you mentioned.

    Regarding the child – according to a genealogical website I’ve seen, Thomas and Charlotte Clarke (nee Hart) had a daughter and a son.

    Also, there are various news stories around (which I’ve read online) that Clarke relatives were involved in a Braidwood 2017 re-enactment of the Clarke brothers ultimate capture by police in April 1867. (These relatives played Thomas and John Clarke, and looked eerily like them, based on comparing photographs.) The relatives concerned in the re-enactment were actually directly in the family line from the third Clarke brother, James, who was in jail at the time of the capture of his two brothers.

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