Jimmy Governor

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Jimmy Governor
Born 1875 (1875)
Died 1901 (aged 25–26)
Criminal penalty Death
Criminal status Executed
Conviction(s) Murder

Jimmy Governor (1875 – 18 January 1901) was an Indigenous Australian one of the two Governor brothers (the other brother was called Joe), two men who committed a series of murders in the Central West region of New South Wales around the turn of the twentieth century. Jimmy and Joe Governor were the last recorded outlaws of Australian colonial governments.


Governor was born to Sam (later Thomas) and Annie Fitzgerald and had held various jobs, including that of an Aboriginal tracker. He married a 16-year-old caucasian woman in 1898, Ethel Page, who gave birth to Jimmy's child, and perhaps was carrying another child fathered by him at the time of the murders. Jimmy and Ethel had to endure criticism from other people for having their inter-racial marriage, which was not accepted kindly at that time.

In April 1900, Governor was employed by John Mawbey, fencing the Mawbey's property at Breelong, near Gilgandra. Jimmy Governor wanted more rations (basic food items like flour and sugar) from Mawbey, but the latter would not give any more until the contract upon which Governor was engaged was finished.

Jimmy and his friend Jacky Underwood (aka Charlie Brown) murdered four members of the Mawbey family, including three children, on the night of 20 July. A surviving witness, a little boy, raised the alarm, resulting in a large manhunt of over 100 constables and 12 trackers.[1] One of the most notable trackers involved in the pursuit was a friend of Jimmys, James Gillis McDonald from Mudgee, whom Jimmy actually fired a warning shot at which ricocheted off of his saddle. It was later revealed that during the terror, the woman who raised James Gillis McDonald's daughter was hiding under a bed, was shot in the leg and had it amputated. Jacky Underwood was quickly caught, but Jimmy teamed up with his brother Joe, and the two fled Breelong, committing a further four murders as they moved east towards the coast.

Jimmy Governor was shot in the mouth on 13 October, and was subsequently captured on 27 October 1900, several months after the massacre. His brother, Joe Governor was shot dead four days later "outside of Singleton." Convicted of murder, Jimmy was hanged the following year. Jacky Underwood was hanged at Old Dubbo Gaol on 14 January 1901.

The police cell in which Jimmy Governor was detained can be seen in Wingham. This cell is on display at the Manning Valley Historical Society Museum opposite Central Park and The Log in the centre of Wingham.

In Media[edit]

The life of Jimmy Governor was the basis for Thomas Keneally's 1972 novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, which was filmed by Fred Schepisi in 1978.


  • Sarah Mawbey, wife of John Mawbey (Breelong, 20 July)
  • Helen Kerz, schoolteacher (Breelong, 20 July)
  • Grace Mawbey, 16-year-old daughter of John and Sarah (Breelong, 20 July)
  • Percival Mawbey, 14-year-old son of John and Sarah (Breelong, 20 July)
  • Hilda Mawbey, 11-year-old daughter of John and Sarah (Breelong, 20 July)
  • Alexander McKay, property-owner (near Ulan, 23 July)
  • Elizabeth O'Brien (near Merriwa, 24 July)
  • "Poggie" O'Brien, baby son of Elizabeth O'Brien (near Merriwa, 24 July)
  • Keiran Fitzpatrick, property-owner (near Wollar, 26 July)


  1. ^ "BREELONG MURDERERS.". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 28 July 1900. p. 9. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 

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