ON THIS DAY – October 15, 1872

Living on the goldfields was hard and the threat of bush rangers was constantly on one’s mind. On the evening of the 15th of October three bushrangers named James Smith, Thomas Brady and William Heppanstein bailed up the Wooragee Post Office robbing them of their takings. They then rode to the Hotel next door. When John Watt, the publican of the Wooragee Hotel, opened the door he was confronted with three men with their faces covered. “Bail Up, Your money or your life”. When John refused he was shot, stumbling back into the kitchen where he fell on the floor, and standing back up he fell again, knocking chairs over. His wife then sat him up against the wall and sent a worker for the doctor. On the doctor’s arrival he was amazed that John was still alive. The exit wound on John’s back below his shoulder blade was large enough for a man’s clenched fist to fit into. Unbelievably, John lived for another nine days. Brady and Smith were charged with the murder and sentenced to hang on the 12th of May 1873 in the Beechworth Gaol. On the morning of the execution, Smith handed the Sheriff a hand written statement in the defence of both Smith and Brady. The hangman Bamford, bought up from Melbourne for the occasion, placed a white cape over their faces and the rope around their neck. Brady died straight away. However Smith struggled for minutes after his drop. It was a terrible sight, witnessed by sixty people.