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Old Veech is next! Bill Poulos

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From Bush Tragedies, by Bill Poulos. Available now from the ARR.News Store.

Escorting convicted criminal George Lorie from Walgett lock-up to Narrabri railway station was no easy task for Carinda police constable William Noble.

Lorie was found guilty of stealing more than fifty sheep from Quilbone station, a 10,000-acre spread near Quambone in western NSW.

Quilbone was owned by well-known squatter and western districts pioneer, Patrick Veech, a son of ticket-of-leave convict, Bryan Veech.

George and Emily Lorie, and their six children, lived next door. Lorie’s selection — named Lulls Luck — comprised eight hundred acres on the edge of the Great Macquarie Marshes.

At the Walgett Quarter Sessions on 21 March 1902, Judge Ernest Docker sentenced Lorie to four years’ imprisonment for stealing Veech’s sheep in October the previous year.

The court heard Lorie employed a Chinese labourer, George Gee Sing, to dig a deep trench near his house. He told Gee Sing he was establishing a fruit orchard and would use the carcases of his poorest sheep for fertiliser.

Not long after finishing the job, Gee Sing was awoken one night by strange noises near Lorie’s sheep pens.

Gee Sing was curious. He crept across and covertly watched Lorie shear sheep under the glow of a crude lamp made from an old tin can and rag wick, known as a slush light.

Once the sheep were shorn, Lorie slaughtered the beasts, removed the heads and threw the carcases in the trench dug by Gee Sing just days earlier.

Gee Sing, still awaiting payment for the work, confronted Lorie the next day.

After a violent argument, Gee Sing went to the police. He alleged he was owed money for digging the trench and told police about Lorie’s midnight shearing activities.

Patrick Veech was notified, and a quick muster and head count of sheep in a paddock adjoining Lorie’s selection showed fifty woolly wethers were missing.

Further investigations revealed Lorie’s seasonal clip was due to be put through the Quambone wool scour. Veech identified fifty fleeces, minus tar brands, as most likely belonging to Quilbone station.

Suspicions were confirmed when pieces of the missing brands were recovered in a separate bale.

When Lorie’s land was dug up, five shorn and headless carcases were found and identified as Quilbone-bred.

Aboriginal trackers also recovered the scorched jawbones of a hundred fully-grown sheep in the remains of a fire on Lorie’s selection.

Judge Docker wasted little time slotting Lorie for four years.

As Lorie was escorted down the courthouse steps, he noticed Veech and threatened to kill the old pioneer. Apparently bad blood had been swirling between Lorie and Veech for years.

Constable Noble, tall and lean with a huge handle-bar moustache, told the prisoner to keep his mouth shut.

‘Keep walking Lorie unless you want the judge to add a few more years to your sentence.’

The next morning, Noble and Lorie boarded a Cobb & Co coach bound for Narrabri, about 120 miles due east.

The prisoner was chained and handcuffed. He wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

Once in Narrabri, they would board a passenger train and head to Maitland.

Lorie, also known by the name Sullivan, was short and wiry, with gaunt features and a tangled, unkempt beard. His face was weathered and lined, and he looked much older than his forty-two years.

He was known around the shearing sheds as ‘Chinese Sullivan’, ‘the white Chinaman’ or just ‘Chinnie’.

He was feared across the NSW western districts and outback Queensland, and notorious for his heavy drinking, short temper and incredible strength and agility.

Legend had it Lorie was so good at his craft he ‘could shear a sheep so clean the pink skin could be seen all over’.

Contemporary reports, however, suggest he was despised by fellow shearers as a morose, sullen figure who preferred his own company, rarely fraternised with workmates, and ate alone.

One newspaper suggested Lorie was given the sobriquet ‘white Chinaman’ because he only employed Chinese workers at his Quambone property.

Some shearers were a bit more creative. They said Chinese blood coursed through Lorie’s veins, all because of an apparent lack of body hair. The claim made for a good yarn in the sheds at smoko time, but is more than likely just that — a good yarn.

In 1886, Lorie famously led a shearers’ revolt at Beaconsfield station, near Longreach in central Queensland, despite being a non-unionist and not very well-liked in the sheds.

District graziers had banded together and lowered the shearers’ pay rate and Lorie was far from happy with the cockies’ cartel.

About forty men were still prepared to work for the reduced rate, however — until five hundred furious shearers arrived at Beaconsfield station to convince them otherwise.

Lorie, only aged twenty-seven at the time, stood before the angry mob and wielded a pair of rusty shearing blades high in the air. ‘I’ve had enough of this business. The first man to put shears into wool in these sheds will get these through the guts!’

The men knew Lorie wasn’t kidding and his violent threats won the day. The men packed away their blades until the graziers backed down and upped the pay rate.

The confrontation was a preface of sorts to the birth of unionism in the pastoral industry, and glorified Lorie as a working-class hero.

But sixteen years later, this unlikely hero was on his way to Maitland Gaol to sit out a four-year stretch for knocking off sheep from his neighbour’s place.

As the Cobb & Co coach trundled through the Pilliga scrub, Constable Noble dozed lightly.

Lorie saw his chance. He raised his cuffed, clenched fists and brought them down hard on the constable’s head.

But Noble was too quick. He jammed his revolver into Lorie’s mouth hard enough to draw blood. Lorie froze. The taste of cold steel against his tongue wasn’t pleasant.

Overhead, driver Tom Lakewood sensed something amiss.

He reined the horses and drew the coach to a halt.

Lakewood scrambled down and helped Noble shorten up Lorie’s leg-irons and handcuffs.

‘Looks like we’ve got us a live one here, guv’nor,’ Lakewood muttered.

Noble nodded. He was dazed but otherwise okay. ‘I’ll be glad to see the back of this bastard when we get to Maitland.’

Lorie’s desperate bid for freedom was a very real indication of what lay ahead — a pre-curser to the tragic chain of events that unfolded after he was later transferred to Goulburn Gaol and released from there in 1905.

* * *

Lorie’s family life is unclear. Newspaper reports say he and Emily lived together ‘as man and wife for many years’.

Some family trees suggest Lorie married a young girl named Ellen Alma Mahaffie at Tenterfield in 1887. ‘Mahaffie’ was possibly her mother’s surname.

When Lorie and Ellen moved to Quambone in the 1890s, Ellen became known as ‘Emily’. By the time Lorie was sitting in Goulburn Gaol in the early 1900s, Emily adopted her father’s surname and became ‘Emily Kearnal’.

Her surname was spelt several ways, including ‘Kanel’, ‘Keanell’, and ‘Kernal’. She was also known as Emily Smith, Amly Lorie and Emily Cora Capel.

Probate records refer to her as ‘Emily Kearnal’, and that name has been used for the purpose of this story.

When George Lorie walked out the front gates of Goulburn Gaol a free man on 25 May 1905 he made his way back to Quambone — and into Emily’s somewhat hesitant arms.

It wasn’t long before Lorie returned to his old ways. And he quickly worked out there was something not quite right with Emily. She was different, somehow.

Lorie discovered Emily was seeing a shearer named David Harris. The affair apparently began when Lorie was doing time at Goulburn and continued after his release.

He learned Emily had sold off most of his livestock to Patrick Veech, his arch-nemesis. She disposed of some of their furniture and personal belongings as well and was planning to take off with Harris.

Lorie, his blood boiling, confronted Emily at their Quambone selection.

Children Frank, Mary, Beatrice and George were with their mother. Oldest son, Andrew, had not long left home to seek farm work and oldest daughter, Ettie, was working as a house servant for a family at Carinda.

‘When I find that mongrel, I’ll put a bullet through his heart, and that goes for old Veech and his mangy mob as well,’ Lorie screamed.

Emily feared for her life. She and the children fled the cottage. Lorie gave chase a short distance on foot, levelled a pistol in their direction and fired several stray shots.

Emily took off to Carinda police station and reported the incident. She also gave police details about a bullock Lorie allegedly pilfered from Quilbone station and his murderous threats toward her lover and members of the Veech family.

‘He said he would hunt down David Harris and the Veeches and kill the lot of them,’ she told police.

Lorie was quickly rounded up and charged with attempting to discharge a loaded firearm with intent to do grievous bodily harm, as well as stealing the bullock — a charge he vigorously denied.

Incredibly, despite his well-documented temper, a criminal history peppered with gaol time, and Emily’s detailed statement to police officers at Carinda, Lorie was given bail and listed to appear at Coonamble Quarter Sessions on 21 September.

On 10 September, he went gunning for David Harris.

Lorie found Harris with Emily at the Junction Hotel, a notorious roadside inn also known as The Shingle Hut, about thirty miles from Quambone. Harris and Emily were living nearby.

Lorie aimed a .22 calibre rifle at Harris and fired. Emily’s lover raised his arms to protect himself and a bullet pierced his hand.

‘Old Veech is next,’ Lorie yelled.

Harris and Emily ran from the pub and hid in the scrub; Harris was wounded but okay. Lorie jumped on his horse and headed to Quilbone station.

Police were quickly notified and an urgent message was sent to the Veech family to be on the lookout for Lorie, who was armed, dangerous and baying for blood.

Early the following morning, Lorie crouched in a pig pen on Quilbone station, not far from a set of workers’ huts. He was camouflaged under some strips of stringybark.

About 8.30 am, Patrick Veech’s sons, Cornelius and Barney, were making their way to the station stockyards. As they walked past the pig pen, a gunshot shattered the stillness.

Cornelius, known widely as Con, felt a bullet rush past his ear.

‘Look out, Con, I think Lorie is in with the pigs,’ Barney yelled.

Both men scrambled back to the homestead and gathered firearms and ammunition. Inside the family home was their mother, Bridget and daughters Alice, Annie and Bridget. Housemaid Martha Young was with the family.

As Con and Barney guardedly made their way through the house paddock, they saw Lorie dart behind the workers’ huts. Con mounted his horse and gave chase. Lorie aimed his weapon at Veech, who immediately jumped from his horse.

Lorie sprang to his feet and ran towards one of the workers’ huts, where 74-year-old Patrick Veech and another son, Louis, had sought refuge. Also in the hut was Michael Frawley, an elderly gentleman, long retired, but still living on the property.

Lorie ran through the door and cornered Patrick. He fired but the rifle jammed. In a fit of rage, Lorie raised the firearm and struck Patrick in the head with the rifle butt. Patrick fell to the floor, blood pouring from the wound. Lorie raised the rifle high and struck the old man twice more.

The violent attack lasted less than a minute.

Neighbour Thomas Rutledge was arriving at Quilbone station as Lorie fired at Con Veech. The shot startled him. He saw a cloud of dust rise from the pig pen and Lorie running to the hut. Rutledge watched from a distance. A few minutes later, Lorie emerged from the building and took off along a creek bed and out of sight.

As Rutledge approached the hut, Louis Veech ran out and met the neighbour.

‘Father is dead! Lorie has killed our father,’ Louis sobbed.

Rutledge ran inside the cottage and found Patrick barely breathing. The old pioneer died minutes later.

* * *

An inquest into the death of Patrick Joseph Veech was held two days later on Quilbone station. District Coroner Henry Giles Shaw presided.

Dr Thomas Bertram told the inquiry Veech died from a fractured skull and other injuries to the head. He said the injuries were caused by a blunt instrument, most likely to have been the butt end of a rifle.

After hearing evidence from Veech’s sons, Michael Frawley and neighbour Thomas Rutledge, Coroner Shaw returned a verdict of wilful murder against George Lorie.

The body of Patrick Veech was taken by special rail to Wellington, about 150 miles south-east of Quambone, and buried in the family vault at Wellington Catholic Cemetery.

The funeral was conducted by Archdeacon David D’Arcy and Wellington undertaker Christopher Shakespeare. The Freeman’s Journal reported: ‘The late Patrick Joseph Veech was a very old resident of this state and part of his life was spent in the Wellington district. He was a native of County Meath, Ireland, and came to the colony at an early age. He was engaged extensively in pastoral pursuits, and amassed considerable property. He was a kindly man of somewhat retiring disposition, and was held in the highest esteem in the locality. His kindness to the poor, and even to the family of the man who caused his death, was proverbial.’

Patrick arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1838 as a child with his convict father, Bryan Veech.

On 19 December 1837, his father was arrested in Palmerstown, County Kilkenny, and charged with being in possession of a wad of forged, thirty-shilling banknotes. The total haul was just over £11.

Veech, aged forty when arrested, claimed he received the money as payment for two heifers at Smithfield, north of Dublin.

Judge Johnston didn’t believe the story and sentenced Veech to fourteen years’ transportation. He arrived in Australia the following year on the convict ship Westmoreland, with six-year-old Patrick in tow.

On December 18, 1847, nearly ten years to the day he was collared on the streets of Palmerstown for possessing dodgy money, Bryan Veech was granted his ticket of leave and allowed ‘to remain in the service of John Gardiner Esquire at the Macquarie River for twelve months’.

The same year, his wife Bridget, and their children Michael and Alice, arrived as free settlers on the Waverly. Bridget’s widowed sister, Mary Anne, and her son, John, were with them.

They joined Bryan and Patrick at Wellington, near Dubbo in central-western NSW, and the family prospered.

Newspapers across the country weighed in on the Quilbone tragedy, with many asking why Lorie was granted bail. If Lorie had remained behind bars while awaiting trial, Patrick Veech would still be alive, they argued.

The Wellington Times pondered ‘the great wonder how such a man could secure bail’.

‘He was well-known to be a desperate character, who had already served a lengthy term of imprisonment, having only been discharged from Goulburn Gaol in May, and other serious charges were against him. It is said he had threatened a course of murder, and people were warned of his evil intentions. The principle of releasing a man until the charge against him is proved may be all right as a broad principle, but under certain circumstances it is not always to be justified.’

Shearer Harry O’Brien and Lorie were well acquainted.

‘Lorie was acknowledged as one of the quickest and best to ever shear a sheep,’ O’Brien said.

But there was a dark side to the gun shearer: ‘He had little to say to anybody, and did not associate or fraternise with the other men of the shed. He preferred to have his meals alone and to sleep away from the others. Lorie was disliked by nearly everyone, especially the unionist shearers. For one thing he was a non-unionist, but it was his irritable, disagreeable temperament that made him so unpopular.’

After murdering Veech, Lorie fled on horseback and hid out at an Aboriginal camp near Wallangambone station, owned by Joseph Green. He stayed at least one night.

A female Aboriginal elder, concerned about Lorie’s presence at the camp, walked nearly seven miles to Wallangambone station shearing sheds and told Green.

Two shearers were sent to the camp to investigate, but Lorie saw them coming.

‘Don’t tell them I was here,’ he told the Aborigines, and scrambled to his feet.

Lorie’s rifle, used to bash Veech to death, was strapped together by two pieces of timber and fencing wire. He secured a Winchester rifle and ammunition from the Aborigines and told them he had ‘a few more people to deal with’.

Lorie was now armed and desperate. He sought refuge at Pomeroy, a neighbouring property owned by Charles Wynne.

Lorie reached Pomeroy, about thirteen miles from Quambone, and asked Wynne for supplies. Wynne cautiously obliged and Lorie retreated into thick scrubland.

Inspector General of Police Thomas Garvin issued a statement: ‘A warrant has been issued by the Quambone bench for the arrest of George Lorie, charged with the wilful murder of Patrick Veech, at Quilbone, near Quambone, in the Coonamble district, on 11 September 1905.’

Lorie was described as forty-six years of age, five-feet, four-inches tall, of medium build, with dark brown hair turning grey and grey eyes.

Dubbo Sub-Insp William Moss, Coonamble Sen-Sgt Richard Francis and Constable Robert Mitchell from Warren arrived at Quambone.

There was very little to go on. However, early on Wednesday morning grazier James McLeish, from nearby property Sandy Camp, rode to town and told the officers Lorie was seen at the Aboriginal camp at Wallangambone station.

‘He told people there he was going to return to Quambone and murder his wife and David Harris. They think he might’ve gone into Wynne’s place, Pomeroy, but he could be back at the camp,’ McLeish told the officers.

Moss and his men saddled their horses and made their way to Pomeroy, where they were met by Charles Wynne’s son, Eugene. ‘We’re on our way to the Aboriginal camp at Wallangambone; we have reason to believe George Lorie might be there. He’s wanted for the murder of Patrick Veech,’ Moss said.

‘I don’t think you’ll have to go that far. Lorie was here this morning and there’s every chance he’s close by,’ Eugene said.

Charles and Eugene Wynne took the officers to Pomeroy homestead to work out a strategy.

‘Lorie had a cup of tea this morning and is in the scrub not far from here,’ Eugene said.

Charles Wynne offered to go to look for Lorie. ‘I’ll persuade him to come up for dinner. Failing that, I’ll try to get the rifle from him and convince him to surrender.’

Wynne set out in search of Lorie. He called him by name, stressing he was alone and unarmed.

After about an hour, Wynne found the wanted man hiding in thick undergrowth.

Lorie trusted Wynne — to a point.

They spoke at length, at times quite amiably, but Lorie refused to surrender.

‘I still want that wretched woman and the man she’s tied up with, as well as that bastard, Con Veech,’ Lorie said angrily.

Wynne eyed Lorie’s rifle, but the fugitive held it tightly.

‘Giving yourself up is the only way out of this, George. Surely, you can see that. The courts will be lenient when they hear your side of the story.’

Lorie was unswerving. ‘If there’s no way out, I’ll shoot myself and my bondsman can do what he likes with my body.’

Wynne returned to the homestead and told Moss what had happened. He gave the officers Lorie’s exact location.

Lorie knew Wynne would tell the police everything and was convinced there were already officers on the place looking for him. He was dead right.

Lorie quickly packed up his gear. He retreated deeper into the bush and found shelter under a fallen tree.

He wrote furiously in a pocketbook. The pencil was worn to a stub. Lorie knew his time was up but wanted the world to know the circumstances that led to Veech’s murder.

Police and Aboriginal trackers searched the area for the next two hours. The day was closing in on them. They heard what sounded like a muffled gunshot, or large tree branch snapping, and gingerly headed in that direction.

Sub-Insp Moss was mindful of Lorie’s threat to commit suicide but told his men to take every precaution. ‘Keep your rifles at the ready; Lorie is a desperate man capable of doing anything.’

But they had little to worry about. George Joseph Lorie was already dead.

Less than a hundred yards away, his body lay under a low, thick clump of wilgas. His throat was cut from ear to ear. A damaged rifle lay nearby. The cartridge was struck but had failed to explode.

When the officers found Lorie’s body, blood was still flowing from the gaping neck wound. His clenched fist held a bloodied knife. His lips were grimly pursed and his eyes shone brightly against the setting sun.

Lorie’s body was taken to Quambone and an inquest into his death was held before District Coroner Henry Giles Shaw who, two days earlier, headed the inquest into the death of Lorie’s victim, Patrick Veech.

Sub-Insp Moss told the coroner Aboriginal trackers led them to Lorie’s body.

‘When we reached the spot, Lorie had just died. His throat had been cut from ear to ear with a sharp pocket knife,’ Moss said.

A pocketbook with an account of Lorie’s murderous ways and a full confession was found. Lorie made entries right up until his death.

Coroner Shaw returned a verdict of suicide.

Lorie’s lengthy, handwritten confession was detailed and precise. He laid the blame for his troubles squarely on the shoulders of Emily Kearnal.

Years later, William Noble, the young constable tasked with escorting Lorie to Narrabri railway station in 1902, recalled his brush-ins with ‘the white Chinaman’ in a 1953 Sydney Morning Herald article headlined ‘Miscreant of the marshlands’.

‘I was a young trooper temporarily in charge of the little settlement of Carinda on the Marthaguy Creek in the police district of Walgett,’ Noble wrote.

‘After taking stock of my new environment, I became interested in a mysterious character who roamed around every Saturday night, leading a good horse and closely followed by two well-trained sheep dogs. He was a sullen sort of individual who seldom spoke to anyone.

Close on midnight he would mount and disappear.

Bush Tragedies cover

‘From inquiries, I learned he was George Lorie, nicknamed ‘Chinese Sullivan’ and also known as the ‘big gun shearer’.   ‘Lorie was a notorious character. He thought I was asleep and tried to bash my brains out with the handcuffs, but I thrust my revolver in his face. In forty years’ service with the police, I did not encounter a more ruthless or vicious criminal than Lorie,’ Constable Noble said.

Bush Tragedies, by Bill Poulos, is available from the ARR.News Store.


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