Bushranger’s dark take on early Melbourne

Jan Sobye and Lance Pritchard with the 19th century handwritten document. Picture: Adem Saban

A unique piece of Australian history has come into the hands of the Werribee Historical Society.

Werribee resident Jan Sobye has offered a 105-page document, telling the story of bushranger Jim Dugmore, to the society’s president, Lance Pritchard.

Ms Sobye believes the hand-written document was penned by her great great grandfather.

It tells the life story of Dugmore, born in 1836, and his travels through Victoria.

The story begins with Dugmore’s description of Aborigines living around Melbourne in the early 1800s and their methods of hunting, their corroborees and the killing of a tribesman.

It paints a picture of early Melbourne, describing it as a few weatherboard houses and calico tents. Dugmore gives a detailed account of the circumstances of his boss, a Mr Francis, being murdered by a shearer at a shearing shed.

Dugmore said he revisited the station 54 years later and found the tree under which Mr Francis was buried.

Dugmore also told of being at a corroboree where he was almost speared, being saved by Aboriginal women. There are many accounts of his interactions with the first Australians.

One story explained Dugmore’s capture of a 16-year-old Aboriginal girl, but he later had second thoughts and let her go.

Ms Sobye remembers taking the document to school for a show-and-tell while in grade 5, but she never understood its historical significance.

Mr Pritchard said the story was amazing, but many topics covered would today be deemed “politically incorrect”. He will soon give the document to the State Library to exhibit. “This is too important to too many people for us to hold onto,” Mr Pritchard said.