Jimmy Governor

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Jimmy Governor
Born 1875 (1875)
Talbragar River, New South Wales
Died 1901 (aged 25–26)
Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney
Occupation Fencing contractor
Criminal penalty Death
Criminal status Hanging
Spouse(s) Ethel Page
Children Sidney Golding Louis, Thelma Reta (Violet)[1]
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 between them committed a series of nine murders, including four members of one family, in the Central West region of New South Wales in 1900. 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 was carrying another child fathered by him at the time of the murders.[1] Jimmy and Ethel had to endure criticism from other people for 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 Charles Brown) murdered four members of the Mawbey family, Mrs Sarah Mawbey and three of her children, Hilda, Percy and Grace, and school teacher Helen Kerz, on the night of 20 July. A surviving witness, 9 yo Albert Mawbey, raised the alarm, resulting in a large manhunt of over 100 constables and 12 trackers.[2] One of the most notable trackers involved in the pursuit was a friend of Jimmy, James Gillis McDonald from Mudgee, at whom Jimmy fired a warning shot that 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, committing a further four murders as they moved east towards the coast: Alexander McKay near Ulan on 23 July; Elizabeth O'Brien and her 18 month old son at Poggie, near Merriwa, on 24 July; and Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, on 26 July.[3][4][5]

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 and killed four days later on 31 October at Mount Royal near Singleton.[6] 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, 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. ^ a b "Introducing Aunty Vic Carriage" (pdf). Coastal Custodians. NSW Department of Environment & Conservation. 2 (7): 1. February 2005. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "Breelong Murderers". The Brisbane Courier. 28 July 1900. p. 9. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Merriwa Tragedy". Australian Town and Country Journal. Sydney, NSW. 4 August 1900. p. 15. Retrieved 6 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Black Horror - The Wollar Murder". Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative. 30 July 1900. p. 3. Retrieved 6 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Breelongs Blacks - Their Wanderings for Fourteen Weeks". The Murrurundi Times and Liverpool Plains Gazette. 10 November 1900. p. 6. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "Joe Governor Grave Site". Monument Australia. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 

External links[edit]