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BORN IN 1969
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IN 1949. The Reds in China could rest from their Long March, and the Reds in Australia took a battering in the pits. The rabbits ruled the paddocks, and some Churches suffered from outbreaks of dirty dancing and housie. Immigration Minister Calwell crudely enforced the White Australia Policy, so that huge crowds on the beaches were nervous about getting a tan. There was plenty of petrol for motorists in NZ and Britain, but not here, so Bob Menzies cruised to another election win over Labor.


The one item that stole the head-lines for January and February was the continuing exploits of Darcy Dugan and William Mears. This pair of violent criminals had been in Long Bay Gaol until mid-December, but had escaped in daring circumstances. They had been taken to Central lock-up so that they could answer a charge of armed robbery and, while there, had managed to cut through an iron bar over a door to their cell, which they evacuated in no time at all. They had then walked out of that illustrious police station, and disappeared from sight.

All of this was very galling to the prison authorities and the police. Dugan had been bragging at Long Bay that he would be out by Christmas, and it seemed he had made good on his promise. Then they had cut their way out using a hack-saw, and that opened up ample opportunities for all the old jokes about hack-saws hidden in birthday cakes. It was indeed a great embarrassment to everyone concerned, and the government of the day was not spared either. The police raided all the premises they could think of, and some others that they were given tip-offs about. But in the latter case, they were constantly hampered by the fact that associates of the two escapees were only too happy to call in false information to confuse the issue.

The disappearance of the pair was complete except for one phone call. It was from Mears, who rang a Sydney paper and complained that the police and newspapers were constantly referring to them as “gun-men” whereas, he said, they were not. He went on to say that the police were trying to condition the public to the idea that they were gun-men, so that when they were captured, the police could shoot them, and put a bottle of gin by their side, and claim that they committed suicide.

So, the pair remained well hidden until early January. Then, they one Saturday night they broke into the home of famous jockey Jack Thompson, and robbed him and his wife at gunpoint, and escaped with a small amount of cash. Thompson was able to run into the street as they left, and discharge a shotgun into the side of their car. But to no avail.

A week later the daring duo entered a bank at Ultimo in Sydney. They both jumped up on-to the counter, brandishing revolvers, and yelled instructions to everyone to lie down on the floor. The manager reached for the gun in his drawer, and the larger of the two gunmen (Mears) shot him in the chest. He then fired five more shots at random, and hit a customer in the arm. The second gunman shouted the question “why did you do that?”, and they appeared to panic and ran from the bank with no money. They were picked up soon thereafter by a stolen get-away vehicle, driven by a third man, that was later abandoned for another stolen car. The shooting victims were sent to hospital, and recovered.

.........On the 4th of February, they struck again. Dugan, armed with a sub-machine gun, and Mears, with a revolver, attempted to rob a pay-roll van as it moved money into dockland premises in Balmain, in Sydney. One guard carrying twelve thousand Pounds ran inside with the money, and Dugan fired at him, wounding him in the leg. The guard got up, and continued to run, taking the money with him. The three other guards fought a gun-battle with the bandits, during which Dugan fired a total of twenty five shots. The two men again got into a get-away car, and then into a stolen launch, and made their escape across Sydney Harbour. Police, now armed with sub-machine guns, continued to search for the pair across the city. 

The public by now was fully alarmed. Twice within a month these armed robbers had struck, and fired willy-nilly at the public. A SMH editorial described them as murderous ruffians, careless of whom they wounded or killed, and called for a state of police emergency; and it opined that such villains were encouraged by the fact that their necks were safe from the rope, and suggested that a complete shake-up of the police force might be necessary..........

..........But, suddenly, the jig was up. Their goose was cooked. The party was over, their dash was done, justice was served. Their days were numbered, they were lumbered. On February 15th the police were happy to report that the two men had been re-captured. Following a tip-off, thirty police had surrounded a house in Collaroy after dark........



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 ABOUT THIS SERIES   …  But after that, I realized that I really knew very little about these parents  of mine They had been born about the start of the Twentieth Century, and they died in 1970 and 1980. For their last 50 years, I was old enough to speak with a bit of sense.  I could have talked to them a lot about their lives. I could have found out about the times they lived in.  But I did not.  I know almost nothing about them really. Their courtship? Working in the pits? The Lock-out in the Depression? Losing their second child? Being dusted as a miner? The shootings at Rothbury? My uncles killed in the War? Love on the dole? There were hundreds, thousands of questions that I would now like to ask them.  But, alas, I can’t. It’s too late.

Thus, prompted by my guilt, I resolved to write these books. They describe happenings that affected people, real people.  The whole series is, to coin a modern phrase, designed to push the reader’s buttons, to make you remember and wonder at things  forgotten. The books might just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a heritage otherwise forgotten. 

Hopefully, they will spark discussions between generations, and foster the asking and answering of questions that should not remain unanswered.