John Vane (bushranger)
John Vane (1842-1906) was an Australian bushranger who rode with the Frank Gardiner–Ben Hall gang during 1863. Vane was the only member of the gang of 1863 to survive. The other members all died by the bullet, either from the police or private citizens.
John Vane (incorrectly baptised John Vein) was born at Jerrys Plains, near Singleton, in New South Wales on 28 June 1842 to William and Ann Vane. William Vane's father, Stephen, arrived in the NSW colony as a convict in 1803. William's mother, Elizabeth Mandeville, arrived as a convict in 1809. Ann Vane's father, Thomas Miller, was a Sergeant in the 73rd regiment. After arriving in the colony the Miller family took up grants near Bathurst where the Miller and Vane families were introduced.
Around 1840 William and Ann Vane took their young family to the rich farming region near Singleton. The family stayed for six years before relocating back to the Bathurst district.
John worked as a shepherd on various properties in the mountainous Abercrombie Ranges. He often helped his father who was primarily employed as a timber cutter and splitter. By 1854 the Vane family were living on land belonging to Thomas Radburn at Neville. The property would formally be transferred to the Vane family in 1866. Many significant events occurred at the family home, 'Wattle Grove':
- Two of John Vane's sisters were married there
- John Vane was married there
- Both of John Vane's parents died there
- Infant members of the Vane extended family are buried in unmarked graves there.
There is now nothing left of 'Wattle Grove', as it had fallen into disrepair by the mid 20th century, and has since been demolished. Only a small stand of ornamental and fruit trees indicates the location of where the Vane family home once stood.
As a teenager John began an apprenticeship with a Bathurst blacksmith. He left that job after two years and went gold prospecting, spending about eighteen months on the goldfields around Hill End. He then returned home and reacquainted himself with his good mate Mickey Burke and his cousin Jim Burke. The trio, being experienced horse and cattle men, soon found themselves supplying local and neighbouring communities with stolen horses and cattle, an occupation rewarded with handsome profits.
In early 1863 Vane and Mickey Burke met John Gilbert and John O'Meally, members of Frank Gardiner–Ben Hall's gang, who had heard of their exploits. They joined the gang and took part in many robberies.
Vane left the gang after his best friend Mickey Burke was shot and fatally wounded during an ill-fated attack on a homestead at Dunn's Plains. Vane was persuaded by a local priest to surrender to police and turned himself in to Superintendent Morrisset at Bathurst. He was tried in April 1864 and received a sentence of 15 years for Robbery Under Arms and was released in February 1870.
He remained in Sydney for a few years before returning to the western districts and resuming his old criminal ways. He received five years gaol for sheep stealing at Bathurst in 1880 and was released in August 1884. Afterwards, he found work at a number of local properties in the Abercrombie Ranges.
Vane died from Illeo-colitis, or Crohn's Disease, on 30 January 1906 at Cowra hospital and was buried the following day at Woodstock cemetery. A memorial plaque has been erected at the site believed to be where he was buried. However, newspaper articles suggested he was buried in the Church of England section of that cemetery. Vane's wife, Jane (née Parker), is also buried in an unmarked grave in the same cemetery.
- John Vane at Ned Kelly World.
- The Life and Adventures of John Vane, the Notorious Australian Bushranger