Category Archives: Lore and Legend

Harry Power – Australian Bushranger

Henry ‘Harry’ Power, born in Waterford in the summer of 1819, was to become one of Australia’s infamous bushrangers – an outlaw who lived in the bush.

Convicted as a young man of the theft of a pair of shoes, and a bridle & saddle, Power (under the name Henry Johnston), was convicted and sentenced to 7 years transportation, arriving at the age of 23 in Hobart (Van Diemen’s Land) in 1842, aboard the convict ship Isabella.

Having become a free man in 1848, Power now moved to New South Wales and began a career in cattle droving, exploring the mountainous terrain and becoming an expert bushman.  He also ran a horse yard out of Geelong.

harrypowerAttracted by the gold discoveries at Geelong and nearby, Power’s life was to be changed by one incident in 1855.

Stopped by two policemen while out riding, Power was accused by them of horse stealing, such was the magnificent steed he was riding.

In a later interview with ‘The GIPPSLAND Times” from 1877, Power gives his account of the incident :

—”I was going along quietly when down came the two troopers, hooting and shouting. I saw they were drunk … but they stopped me. ‘Whose horse is that?’ says one. ‘It’s mine,’ says I … ‘I believe you stole that horse,’ says the first.’ ‘You’re a liar,’ says I. ‘ You’ll have to come along with us,’ says the other. ‘I won’t do it,’ says I, getting riled. On that one of them drew his hanger, and said he’d make me. He charged at me, and I’d only just time to draw my revolver, or he’d have cut me down. I shot him, and then the other fellow rode up and fired at me, and the powder singed my coat. I shot him, and then rode off … But I was frightened, and rode across the colony, thinking to go and stay in New South Wales till the row was over. At the Murray I was stopped … They arrested me and brought me down to Melbourne, and I got 10 years. The men were not hurt much, and it was proved they stopped me without cause, or I’d have got more.”

Confined to prison, he initially was held on the prison hulk Success.  Prison hulks were ships no longer fit for sea, but converted into prisons, harsh and demeaning, even for the time, becoming a notorious way of holding law breakers.  Power served some 2 and a half years before being transferred to the prison at Pentridge, from where he escaped in 1862, taking to bush country, falling back on the skills he had learned earlier in life.

It was at this time, around the Ovens district of New South Wales, and in Victoria, that he became acquainted with other lawbreaking circles, including the Quinns and most notably, the Kellys.  It is said that the notorious Ned Kelly was his ‘apprentice’ for a time and Power was instrumental in guiding him and other would-be bushrangers in survival.

hulk
A prison hulk

Another spell in prison beckoned but Power once again escaped from Pentridge in February 1869, and turned to highway robbery, becoming very successful.

He held up mail coaches, committed other robberies and stole horses, having set up  permanent camp in the hill country behind the Glenmore Homestead of Kelly family relatives, Jack and Thomas Lloyd.  Incidentally, there is now an area close by named Power’s Lookout, named for Harry Power.

With a large reward for his capture, he was finally caught, having been betrayed for the reward by the Quinns, in 1870,  and was sentenced at the courts of Beechworth to fifteen years hard labour for bushranging, again being held at Pentridge.

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Released in 1877 on the grounds of ill-health, he returned to the property of one of his female petitioners, a Ms. Clarke, and eventually became a guide on the now museum ship Success, where he had earlier been incarcerated.

As this article shows, in 1891 Power fell into the water at Swan Hill while fishing and visiting relatives, and was drowned.

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Dunhill Castle – a poem by Tom Power

Dunhill Castle

by Tom Power, Kill, Co Waterford

Now empty and forlorn you watch the seasons come and go
But what care you for summer sun or a fall of winter snow;
The ivy now grows green around your ancient wall,
No music now or song from within your banquet hall,
No noise around you now but the lowing of the cattle.
But if I stand and listen I might hear the sound of battle.

Cromwell came and did lay siege – he attacked and attacked again,
But each attack was bravely met by your mistress and her men;
around your grounds and ramparts the sound of sword and gun.
After many days of battle they had Cromwell on the run.
But then disaster struck and all because of a drink,
no, not the alcoholic kind, but a keg of butter milk.

The chief gunner was dissatisfied, he expected a stronger brew,
So above your battered walls the surrender flag he flew,
Cromwell then gained entry; revenge was in his eyes,
He blew up the castle and your mistress bravely died;
From inside your broken walls smoke curled up to the sky,
No one loves a traitor so Cromwell hung the gunner high.

Now a ruin you gaze across that lonely Annestown bog,
where you watched them haul the turf in summers now long gone.
You tower above the winding road a reminder of the past,
below you now on that same road cars and tractors travel fast,
but you go back for centuries, perhaps you can recall,
when they were no road, but just a path through oak woods big and tall.

In this peaceful valley now the song birds sweetly sing,
The river Ann flows gently by the ruined castle of Dunhill;
And if you pass this way, going to Annestown or Tramore,
As you gaze up at castle you might see the Mistress De La Poer;
Is that her wandering there, where she fought and died so proud,
Or perhaps it’s just a trick of light, the shadow of a passing cloud.

* Tom Power published a book of poems in 2007, “Waterford In Pictures And Verse”, launched at the Arts Centre Dungarvan by Julian Walton. His novel, “The Mysterious John Grey” is available from orders@choicepublishing.ie

Dunhill Castle – a poem by Tom Power

Dunhill Castle

by Tom Power, Kill, Co Waterford

Now empty and forlorn you watch the seasons come and go
But what care you for summer sun or a fall of winter snow;
The ivy now grows green around your ancient wall,
No music now or song from within your banquet hall,
No noise around you now but the lowing of the cattle.
But if I stand and listen I might hear the sound of battle.

Cromwell came and did lay siege – he attacked and attacked again,
But each attack was bravely met by your mistress and her men;
around your grounds and ramparts the sound of sword and gun.
After many days of battle they had Cromwell on the run.
But then disaster struck and all because of a drink,
no, not the alcoholic kind, but a keg of butter milk.

The chief gunner was dissatisfied, he expected a stronger brew,
So above your battered walls the surrender flag he flew,
Cromwell then gained entry; revenge was in his eyes,
He blew up the castle and your mistress bravely died;
From inside your broken walls smoke curled up to the sky,
No one loves a traitor so Cromwell hung the gunner high.

Now a ruin you gaze across that lonely Annestown bog,
where you watched them haul the turf in summers now long gone.
You tower above the winding road a reminder of the past,
below you now on that same road cars and tractors travel fast,
but you go back for centuries, perhaps you can recall,
when they were no road, but just a path through oak woods big and tall.

In this peaceful valley now the song birds sweetly sing,
The river Ann flows gently by the ruined castle of Dunhill;
And if you pass this way, going to Annestown or Tramore,
As you gaze up at castle you might see the Mistress De La Poer;
Is that her wandering there, where she fought and died so proud,
Or perhaps it’s just a trick of light, the shadow of a passing cloud.

* Tom Power published a book of poems in 2007, “Waterford In Pictures And Verse”, launched at the Arts Centre Dungarvan by Julian Walton. His novel, “The Mysterious John Grey” is available from orders@choicepublishing.ie.

Putting Dunhill on the map

Jackie Kennedy in Dunhill

In 1967, Dunhill village was the focus of the international media when Jacqueline Kennedy came to see a play at the parish hall of Many Young Men of Twenty by John B. Keane, performed by the Dunhill Players and produced by Paddy Barron. Jackie had been widowed four years previously and was holidaying in Woodstown with her children. She declared the entertainment in Dunhill as “better than a night out in Broadway”.

What is less well known is that a few years earlier, Sir Alfred Dunhill, the founder of the luxury menswear brand, with shops in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, had been to Ireland to investigate his heritage. Unfortunately he had been told in Dublin that neither the family name nor the place name, “Dunhill” existed in Ireland. It was only when the former First Lady visited the village and Sir Alfred saw all the media coverage that he realised he’d been misinformed. As a result he decided to give his namesake’s village a visit including of course, Harney’s Pub, where he met the owner, Jim Harney.

A friendship was struck up between the two men and Sir Alfred visited again the following year, bringing with him cartons of Dunhill cigarettes as well as bottles of the branded whiskey. Jim also later visited the Dunhill shop in London where he met with Sir Alfred’s nephew. He was taken up to the store archives to be shown some letters sent from Dunhill NS to London a few years previously. A circle completed!

The Legend of the Gunner and the Buttermilk

‘The Legend of the Gunner and the Buttermilk’ is a famous piece of local folklore that is associated with the seat of the Power Clan in Waterford, Ireland.  Nobody really knows the origins of the tale that follows but it is certainly very entertaining to think on it and the events that happened to bring the villain Oliver Cromwell another lot of illgotten loot.

The legend goes that as Cromwell was attacking the castle in 1649, having pillaged his way across the entire country en route to safe havens for the winter, he came across the stout Dunhill Castle, atop a bleak hillside in Co. Waterford.  It was then being defended by the lady of the house – Lady Power.  Her husband was absent, defending another local castle from the Cromwellian forces – that of nearby Kilmeaden.

Cromwell’s men, tired and battle weary, could not take the castle easily, owing to its position and defences.  During the siege, one of Lady Power’s gunners requested some refreshments for an attachment of his men defending the battlements.  Not wanting her men to consume alcohol at the time, or perhaps from being particularly frugal, she is said to have sent the men some buttermilk instead of the beer they would have normally been expecting.  The men were apparently insensed and the afrementioned gunner signalled to Cromwell’s men, and led them into the castle, taking it !

The gunner himself was promptly hanged as a traitor by Cromwell and hung from the castle walls … or so the legend goes !