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.
Attracted 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.
—”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.
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.
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.