Almanac Poetry: Three Bushranger Trials, Berrima, New South Wales, September 1841

The historic Berrima Courthouse, built between 1836 and 1838. [Source: Wikipedia.]


Three Bushranger Trials, Berrima, New South Wales, September 1841


There is, sometimes,
a lack of light…


Paddy Curran, tried
for rape and murder.
Found guilty.
Sentence – death.


James Berry.
Guilty of murder.
Sentence – death.


John Wright.
The judge extended
no hope of mercy.


Wright thanked His Honour
then coolly asked
if he might have a candle,
as his cell was very dark.




Read more from Kevin Densley HERE

Kevin Densley’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE

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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (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. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose. He laments the extinction of Cascade Pale Ale and Kiwi Lager.


  1. G’day Kevin.

    Paddy Curran rode with William Westwood, aka “Jacky Jacky”. They had a fall out, “Jacky Jacky” giving Curran a hiding for his treatment of women. As per your poem Curran was subsequently hung for murder, and rape.

    “Jacky Jacky” was an intriguing character, ended up being hung after leading a riot against the inhumane conditions in the Norfolk Island penal station. “Jacky Jacky” was one of those few who may have been something ‘more’ than the common, garden variety, criminal.

    “Jacky Jacky”, Matthew Brady, Ben Hall, Frederick “Captain Thunderbolt” Ward, with of course Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne, all had active support beyond the criminal cohort. The great British historian Eric Hobsbawm spoke of social bandits, where criminals became veritable spokespersons for the grievances of their rural communities.

    Interesting. Certainly has resonance, though i’m sure more research can be done.


  2. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Glen!

    Thanks for your fine input in connection with bushranging subject-matter – as usual.

    It may interest you to know that just this morning I was reading some accounts of Curran, in newspapers of his era (via the wonderful TROVE NLA resource) – and to say he had major psychological issues seems to be an understatement. In jail, leading up to his execution, his behaviour – based upon the reports I’ve read – veered erratically between prayerful contrition in connection with what he’d done to foul-mouthed, violent rages.

    In this particular poem, though, I’ve taken a stark, minimalist approach to the subject-matter; in other words, I was trying for the effect of the poem being the tip of a very large iceberg.

  3. I enjoyed this, KD.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Smokie.

    Such feedback is always welcome!

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