Saturday 5 December 2015

Prelude to Stringybark Creek

This is a Guest Post submitted by Mr Peter Newman, and I sincerely thank him for this excellent contribution to the Blog.  He has set a high standard and I look forward to more reader submissions, and a broadening of the scope of this Blog into the future. We are now setting the standard when it comes to Kelly places on the Internet. Thank you again Peter.

A letter dated 18 October 1878 was sent to Inspector Nicholson of the Police Department in Melbourne, tipping him off that "such persons as the Kellys" might be found at a cave location which, for convenience, I will simply refer to as being in the Blue Ranges (and a considerable distance from Stringybark Creek) .  The letter was therefore sent a week before the Stringybark Creek murders.  

The letter was signed by James Winter, from Tarringilo, Murchison. The letter is held by the Public Records Office Victoria and can be viewed via the following link:

The cave is well known, but not for its links with the Kelly story.  Someone named Stephen Handbury earlier this year "found" the cave in the sense that he established it as the cave referred to in the directions contained in the letter.  

The James Winter letter is mentioned in a number of books, but to my knowledge no-one has made a concerted effort to find out more about it.

Tarringilo sounds like the name of an Estate or Property, but I can't find any record of it on the early Parish maps of Murchison.  Maybe one of your readers might know? 

I also wonder if anyone might know anything about James Winter himself. Did he really exist, or was this a false name?  For what it is worth, I suspect he likely did exist, because why would you bother to request anonymity (as the writer did) if you were signing off with a false name?  A false name would also have been quickly realised and the letter dismissed accordingly.  My gut feeling therefore is that the letter was in fact written by someone named James Winter in the knowledge that the requested anonymity would be respected.  

Assuming then that James Winter was the writer's real name,  then who was he?  I have done some preliminary research and wonder if he might have been connected with the Winter family who were prominent in the Australian Natives' Association.  Murchison is in the Goulburn Valley and the Winter family had property in the Goulburn Valley, although exactly where I don't know.  One of the Winters (Samuel) also had connections with the Baillieu family (they were joint owners of the Herald newspaper) who I understand had (maybe still have) property interests near Mansfield.

If the "tip off" letter was written by a Winter connected with the future Australian Natives' Association, then this is all very interesting and you would have to wonder about that person's motivations.  Some historians such as Bill Denheld believe the Kelly family had links with families who were prominent in the Australian Natives' (could we call them early Republicans?).  If this is the case, then you would have to wonder if the letter was a genuine tip-off by someone who had become disenchanted with the Kellys (although the way the letter is written, it would appear the Kellys are not known to the writer).  Or was it deliberate misinformation written by someone who had knowledge of the impending police search to find the Kellys and who wanted to send the police away from Stringybark Creek.  In this regard, the timing of the letter (1 week prior to the shootings) is interesting given that the Kellys had by this time been fugitives for nearly 6 months (the Fitzpatrick incident having occurred on the 15th April 1878).  

Can anyone add anything of interest to this?  


  1. Is it possible that the PROV has wrongly transcribed the name of the home? Could it be Dhurringile at the top of the letter? That was the name of a home at Murchison finished in 1877 for James Winter.

  2. Wow Sharon, that was a quick response. This shows the value of a website like this, as I could have spent ages researching this further myself, whereas you have accessed the information I was after immediately. I must admit, it is very hard to decipher some of that 19th Century handwriting – it wasn’t the Public Records Office translation, it was me that interpreted the handwriting as Tarrangilo. I do note though that in the Argus obituary for James Winter they referred to the property as Turringili. But in light of the information you have provided, I accept it must be Dhurringile. Now what on earth made you think of looking up this ‘Ferguson and Urie Colonial Victoria Stained Glass Craftsmen 1853-1899’ website to get this information? And isn’t it interesting that the photos on this website show the stained glass windows at James Winter’s property should feature the kangaroo and emu that were later to feature on the Australian coat of arms!

    (Incidentally, whilst on the subject of the Ferguson and Urie website, if you type James Whitty into the search field it will bring up some interesting information on the stain glass window he donated to the Holy Cross Catholic Church at Moyhu).

    So we have established that a James Winter did in fact reside (and very comfortably it would appear) at a property near Murchison, and I think it would be reasonable to assume he was the author of that “tip-off” letter. But the other questions I asked remain unresolved. Why did James write that letter? What were his motivations? Was it a genuine tip-off? Or was it deliberate misinformation?

    Kind regards,

    Peter Newman

    1. Ok...that was funny...I guess...glad you enjoyed my article at
      There's heaps of coincidental colonial history that has never been exposed before...
      Regards Ray

  3. Peter, I was more than happy to help. You are correct in that this is how a forum should operate. While I do consider myself to be a gifted researcher, it was not hard at all to find the information. I did see that the PROV at the link you provided also had the house spelled as Tarrangilo. I have to agree that much of the handwriting was hard to decipher but finding out that the house was called Dhurringile, and comparing some of the words in the letter such as the e at the end of private which looks like an o, well, there you have it (though that is an odd D at the start!). Also, with the spelling in the paper, try pronouncing both Dhurringile and Turringili and see if they aren't close. I guess we can assume that it is the same man and that someone is not impersonating him, but surely the police checked it out. Oh, yes, I had also thought of the Whitty stainglass when I saw that about the Winter one.

  4. You Can Now add images to your Comments as follows: Its not that difficult!

    What you have to do is go to and upload your image. Select ‘Image', Select 'Resize to Message Board' then ‘Upload'.On the next screen select IMG Code for Forums and Message Boards and copy that address then enter it into your Comment on this Blog.

    And thats it! Just make sure you copy the ENTIRE URL - it most often longer than the little display box you see it in - it starts with IMG inside square brackets and finishes with /IMG inside square brackets.


    1. Thanks Dee, have bookmarked that site.

  5. Thanks Dee, I was sure it could be done !

    This is the Australian coat of Arms. Notice the Wattle blossom, the Kangaroo and Emu.
    Interesting that James Winter had these fauna in some of his lead light windows.
    Samuel Winter (if related) started the Australian Natives Association that led the push to Federation.

    The ANA logo featured these same elements under the heading Federation.


    I will now try placing one of my images between these brackets like this [IMG][/IMG]

    This is Samuel Winter who started the Australian Natives Association that spearheaded Federation.
    If they were not related it would be one huge co incidence.

    1. Thanks Bill
      The Coat of Arms came through beautifully but your second image did not. I am not sure what the reason is...try again

    2. Samuel and James Winter were NOT related. Samuel Winter was my great grandfather's brother. So a great great uncle of mine. Samuel Winter had only one brother, and his name was Joseph. They had no cousins or other relations in Australia. Their father, Samuel Snr, was a convict from the town of St Germans, Cornwall.

      Paul Hickey

  6. I was always intrigued by this James Winter, and when I first came across this map and letter on 2002 on the Prov webpage, it said the signature was un readable,
    For those interested here is my 2002 story that Peter has now expanded upon. Thanks Peter.

    If this James Winter is relation to Samuel and Joseph Winter, (both newspaper proprietors in Melbourne), Herald and Advocate, it certainly would make sense because perhaps the letter writer was in sympathy with the struggle for battling farmers and especially native born and of Irish background.

    I read an article about 'John Walshe' an Irish Nationalist fighting for evicted Tenant farmers.
    ( article by Patrick Naughton), "Tinte'an No4 June 2008 an The Australian Irish Network" magazine reads-.

    In Ireland the Walshe family had experienced evictions and other grievances of tenant farmers.

    " On 4 June 1881, Walshe arrived in Melbourne and was met by Joseph Winter of the Advocate.
    Winter was known in Ireland as a key organiser for Irish Nationalists causes and was treasurer of the Melbourne Parnell Defence Fund which became the central committee of the Victorian Land League."

    Its interesting to note that only a few months earlier in March, the Royal Commission into the Kelly Outbreak had started.

    The Land League meeting at Moyhu, (central to Kelly country), " a crowd of one hundred women greeted Walshe and formed a branch of the Victorian Ladies Land League". --- --- --- --- This provided a political experience for many hundreds of women incomparable with any previous non-religious women's organisations in Victoria, ostensibly a charity to assist evicted families.

    This connection shows Joseph and Samuel Winter's political affiliations with Irish Nationals may have had republican ideals, and I believe this led to Sam Winter to starting the Australian Natives Association to help the not so well off native born men and women of Australia a better chance of success in their own land.

    If you look at the webpage Sharon has provided (linked above thanks Sharon), you will see a stained glass picture of a Kangaroo and Emu in James Winter having respect for Australian symbols that later became part of our coat of arms with the Wattle blossom borrowed from the ANA logo.


    1. The Kellys were hardly farmers!

      Stock thieves - yes. As selectors they had not cultivated the land as required, other than a veggie patch outside the back door, no cultivation had ever taken place.

      This does not mean Ned and the boys weren't interested in land leagues or republicanism. Its just that no proof of any kind exists that they did.

  7. A quick google check shows that James Winter was not related to Samuel and Joseph Winter. Also, interestingly, Dhurringile is said to be the Aboriginal word for emu's back, which described the shape of the hill the house was built on.

    1. The entry for James Winter (1834 – 1885) in the Australian Dictionary of Biography identifies him as one of two sons of John Winter and his wife Janet Margaret, née Irving, of Lauder, Berwickshire, Scotland. The entry states that in 1841 John brought his family to Australia, settling near Ballarat and acquiring the Bonshaw estate and in 1850 the Junction station.

      It turns out Junction Station was a pastoral station near where Bonnie Doon now stands. “The Junction” was so-named by the two explorers who first discovered the Devil’s River (later renamed the Delatite River). The discovery is related in a letter to the editor in the 4 April 1931 edition of The Australasian ( which describes how the explorers came south through the Merton Gap and then followed a stream (Blanket Creek) south to where Boonie Doon now stands. Further south still this stream joined with the Devil’s River – a location which the explorers rather unimaginatively called The Junction. This name was adopted by the pastoral station that was later established at this location.

      Assuming the Winter family resided at Junction Station after acquiring it in 1850 (at which time James Winter was aged 16 years), this would indicate that James likely had personal knowledge of the cave in the Blue Ranges which he referred to in his 1878 letter to Inspector Nicholson.

      Given James’ standing in life, he would not have been a Kelly sympathiser. His tip-off letter therefore had to be genuine.

      Finally, as has already been established, James Winter was unrelated to that other Winter family which was prominent in the Australian Natives’ Association.

  8. This is what I think,
    Ok, the James link is broken but Ned's connection to Josheph and Samuel winter is not, see

    Obviously someone knew something. Murchison is 70 Km from the Kelly area but James Winter did send signed letter to Vic police.

    Maybe someone in the Winter family learned where the Kellys were, and with $ 200 reward its not a bad bet had the Kellys been caught the rewards would be granted to the informant. In this case James Winter.

    The irony is the Herald paper is owned by Sam Winter who knows too well his associate E J Gorman went to school with Ned Kelly. Ned is stirring the political pot the Irish Australians have trouble to do without getting themselves sidelined.

    I have already shown that Joseph Winter is aligned with the Irish Nationals and the Land reform League in Victoria. Joseph's brother Sam founds the ANA in 1871 and the Gorman family, who were neighbours to Quinn and the Kellys, E J Gorman is foundation member of ANA in Berrigan branch sister town to Jerilderie NSW.

    This close Quinn Kelly connection is an embarrassment to the Winters, and maybe that is why James Winter decides to write the letter of the Kelly cave location where the Kellys maybe hiding out. I notice that almost all references to news papers were in the Argus and not the Melb Herald.

    Perhaps Sharon is right there be no family connection between James, Samuel and Joseph Winter, but this would be a huge co incidence if it was not. Maybe one day we will find out that there was an old ancestral link.

    There are too many similarities, James is a high end society aristocrat that built himself a mansion. Samuel Winter owns the Melb Herald and hob nobs with other high society the Bailues', and Sam's brother Jo owns and runs the Catholic Advocate. Joseph is known in Ireland as a key organiser for Irish Nationalists causes and does this mean republican causes?

    I say, this too much lines up all the pins for my liking.

    What do you think?

    1. I used the Australian database of biography and did not go further with the search. Maybe the writer(s) of the bios had got a hold of the wrong info, or maybe they are right. That is up to others to look further.
      It would seem that James Winter was of Scottish descent

      and that Joseph and Samuel Winter were born in Australia but their father was English Protestant and their mother was Irish Catholic -

      Did just take another quick look to satisfy my curiosity and at it says that James Winter had 3 brothers - Irving, John, and William.

      It will be up to someone else to try and find a family tie between them somewhere along the line. Anything that goes past the basic Kelly timeline/storyline does not really hold my interest.

  9. Sharon is quite correct in suggesting that James Winter was NOT related to Samuel and Joseph Winter. James was the son of John (Jock) Winter and Janet Margaret Irving. They migrated from Scotland and settled in what is now Ballarat. Jock made a fortune during the gold rush, not as a miner but as a land holder. James built Dhurringile, which is now a Victorian prison. His brother John, built Colbinabbin and another brother William built Noorilim. William changed his name to Winter-Irving and was a Victorian politician. I don't know what James' motives in writing the letter would have been, but given that he was a very wealthy man, I don't believe it was for the reward! Now you will ask, how do I come by this information? My husband is a great-great-great-grandson of Jock Winter. There are numerous references to the Winter/Winter-Irving family on the internet. I can assure you that I have never encountered Joseph or Samuel in the family tree.

    1. Thank you Susan,
      We can assume no reward moneys were ever claimed by James Winter.
      I always wondered if the Winter signed Cave letter was a ploy to misdirect the police party away from StringyBark Creek near where the Kellys were camped.

    2. However, there is the story of Ned Kelly's family ( yes he did have children) to an Elspeth Lansdorf. Her family owned and lived at the Morebringer hotel, while our family owned Morebringer station. The hotel was north of the town of Howlong, N.S.W, on the Brocklesby Rd, an area Ned Kelly knew very well. Now descendants of that one surviving child, are having their D.N.A checked to confirm if there's a connection with the Kelly D.N.A. I only found out about this hidden story a few months back. All very interesting, so maybe some Ned Kelly descendents do "live-on" in Queensland.

    3. However, there is another story of Ned Kelly's family ( yes he did have children) to an Elspeth Langsdorf. Her family owned and lived at the Morebringer hotel, while our family owned Morebringer station. The hotel was north of the town of Howlong, N.S.W, on the Brocklesby Rd, an area Ned Kelly knew very well. Now descendants of that one surviving child, are having their D.N.A checked to confirm if there's a connection with the Kelly D.N.A. I only found out about this hidden story a few months back. All very interesting, so maybe some Ned Kelly descendents do "live-on" in Queensland.

      And one last tit-bit. My mothers paternal great grand mother, Catherine Gorman, was the mid-wife to Ellen Kelly ( her neighbour ) for the birth of Ned, Dan and James Kelly. The Kelly and Gorman families were neighbours outside the town of Avenel, in northern Victoria. And with birth, health and and welfare, the women folk then, helped their fellow neighbours in such matters.

      Paul Hickey

    4. Hello Paul,

      Your claim that Ned had children by Elspeth Langsdorf is a new one. I have never seen this before. Are you able to guide us all to evidence that this is so? Thanks.

  10. Thank you for your comments Susan. I thought the stain glass windows with the kangaroo and emu and wattle was a sure indicator of connections with the Australian Natives Association. So it appears to be just a coincidence, or maybe indicative of an emerging appreciation for symbols of the new country they found themselves in (a nice change to the Scottish thistle!). The James Winter story is interesting enough in its own right without the connections to the republic movement. Was your family aware of James' tip-off letter to the authorities before you read this post?

    Now I wonder where in the Goulburn Valley was the property owned by the (other) Winter family who did have the connections to the ANA.

    1. Samuel Winter is my great great uncle, and he started the Australian Native's Association. He had one brother, Joseph, and they were not related or connected in any way to the Winter-Irving family. Our family are Catholic, while the Winter-Irvings were Presbyterian, and back then there was no mixing or marriage across the religious divide.

      Paul Hickey

  11. Interesting that you should bring up the idea of Ned having children because a new article is out today called "A quest is underway to discover the missing link to Ned Kelly's bloodline." I checked the facebook pages of all the Kelly sites and no one has it yet, just like with the earlier article about SBC. Not sure how fast Dee will put this up though.


1. Moderation is back on. I haven’t got time to be constantly monitoring what comments are made and deleting the mindless rubbish that Kelly sympathisers have been posting lately. Please post polite sensible comments, avoid personal abuse and please use the same name whenever you Post, even if its a made-up name.