Miss Mawbey's Guesthouse at Rose Inn

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The Mawbey Family had a very traumatic period in their lives.  The family was involved in a  tragedy  with the murders of the Mawbey Family by Jimmy Governor  at Gilgandra in 1900 which was made into a film - the Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.

Jack Mawbey  was staying at the family's property at Gilgandra  when he was a witness to the murders  of his Aunt and cousins, when Jimmy went on a rampage with an axe. He was just a child aged 14 when he hid under the bed to avoid the  massacre.  His father was George Mawbey 'who was the brother of John whose family was murdered.  (George had married Nellie Smith in 1885 and he died in 1824 and  was buried in Hartley Cemetery ) 

Ambermere Farm  had started operating as a guesthouse in 1922 by 'Miss Mawbey"  who was likely to be Violet Ethel Mawbey who was born in 1889.  Her sisters  Linda was born 1892, and Daphne was born 1897.    The advertisements from the Sydney Herald advises  that  MOUNT VICTORIA AMBERMERE FARM,  tennis, cream, Phone 1 Little Hartley Miss Mawbey.

The Mawbey family more than likely lived in 'Rose Inn and ran the 'Farmhouse' as a guesthouse. Nellie died in 1958. Jack died in 1943

MOUNT VICTORIA - AMBERMERE FARM. Comfortable Home on main Western road Poultry, eggs, milk, cream, piano, tennis, shooting Miss MAWBEY  (SMH -Wednesday 3 January 1923)

Linda married John Dignam in 1920 at Bungendore. Daphne married William Allen in 1920 at Randwick

That left Violet, Norman, George and George and Nellie at Little Hartley.

Violet married Wallace Caines in 1932.

After around 1935 the Guesthouse closed then it became the AMBERMERE PASTORAL COMPANY.


Advertisements appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald

MOUNT VICTORIA. Ambermere Farm, 3 miles from station, on Jenolan Caves-road, milk. cream, eggs, cars to all sights and Caves. Tennis, I piano. Tele.. Little Hartley (one). V. MAWBEY. MOUNT VICTORIA.

Saturday 7 December 1929

LITTLE HARTLEY.-Ambermere Farm, 3 miles from Mount Victoria. A Restful Farm House, plenty milk, cream, eggs. Cars, all sights and Caves. Morning, Afternoon Teas. 42/. Miss MAWBEY.

Wednesday 11 March 1931

Mount Victoria .AMBERMERE FARM, 3 miles from Mt. Victoria. Plenty milk, cream, poultry, shooting, tennis, log fires, and central to all sights, £2/2/. 'Phone, Little Hartley 1. J. MAWBEY._

Saturday 1 June 1935

Multiple Murders at Breelong.

Breelong, 18 km to the south-east, was the scene of an infamous multiple murder involving the licensees of the Breelong Inn, John and Sarah Mawbey, who had in their employ several Aboriginal workers, including Jimmy Governor and Jacky Underwood.

Jimmy Governor was a part-Aborigine who had worked as a police tracker before marrying a 16-year-old white woman and obtaining a contract to erect fencing for the Mawbeys. A dedicated employee who wished to prove himself to white society, he was initially on good terms with his employers and their family. However, it seems that Governor's wife, who worked in the Mawbey house, was belittled for marrying an Aborigine by Mrs Mawbey and Helena Kurz, the local schoolteacher who was residing with the Mawbeys.

Whatever the contributing factors, Jimmy and Jacky Underwood confronted the women at the new Mawbey abode while all of the males were staying at the inn. Jimmy claimed that Mrs Mawbey called him 'black rubbish' and asserted that he should be shot for marrying a white woman. Whatever transpired the two men went into a rage and brutally murdered Sarah Mawbey, three of her daughters and Helena Kurz with clubs and a tomahawk. Sarah's sister was badly injured.

Jimmy, his brother Joe, and Jacky Underwood then went on a three-month, 3200-km rampage, inflicting revenge for past grievances. They murdered five more people, wounded another five, committed seven armed hold-ups and robbed 33 homes. A massive manhunt involving hundreds of policemen and trackers and 2000 volunteers failed to capture the men who ridiculed their pursuers by advertising their whereabouts and sending satiric letters to the police.

In October a 1000-pound reward was offered and later in the month they were outlawed, meaning they could be shot on sight by anybody. By the end of the month Jacky was captured, Joe was shot and killed near Singleton (q.v.) and Jimmy was captured by a group of farrmers near Wingham (q.v.) two weeks after being shot in the mouth.

Jimmy and Jacky were hung in January, 1901. In his last days Jimmy sang native songs, read the Bible and blamed his wife. The Gilgandra visitors' centre has a pamphlet detailing the pertinent sites on the old Mawbey estate, though they have all been demolished and are on private property. The four murdered Mawbeys are buried together in Gilgandra cemetery. There is a large stone monument behind a wire fence in the Church of England portion. Noted author Thomas Keneally based his novel 'The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith' on the life of Jimmy Governor and that novel has been made into a film.





Monday 23 July 1900


Mr Jack Mawbey, eldest son of Mr Mawbey of Gilgandra has been residing in Sydney for some time. He joined the Third Contingent in the hope of going to South Africa, but when that regiment disbanded went to reside with his aunt, Mrs George  Mawbey, at Surry Hills. The first intimation he   received of the awful tragedy that had been enacted at his home was a telegram announcing the fact that several members of the family had been murdered, whilst others had been  severely wounded. This was shortly followed by another wire announcing that his mother and the other injured people were not expected to live. Mr Mawbey was greatly shocked at the news, and was making anxious inquiries as to the earliest time he could leave for his home


When speaking to a " Herald" reporter on Saturday he said that there were 12 people on the selection -

Mr and Mrs Mawbey,

Reginald Mawbey, l8,

Grace Mawbey, 16,

Percival Mawbey, 14,

Sydney Mawbey, 12,

Hilda Mawbey, 10

1/2, Bertie Mawbey, 8,

Cecil Mawbey, 6,

Garnet Mawbey, 3,

George (Jack) Mawbey (a cousin), 14, and

Mr Fred Clarke, an uncle.


The selection is situated about 10 miles from Gilgandra, on the banks of the Castlereagh River and between Dubbo and Mudgee. It comprises about 1500 acres. Recently the selectlon was added to and a new homestead was built. The old homestead was about a mile away, and often in the busy season his father slept there so as to be near his work in the morning. Besides the family there was George (Jack) Mawbey, a cousin, who had gone there about five months ago on account of his health. His parents reside at Ann-street, Surry Hills.

 There was also a niece named Miss Clarke, and Miss Kerz, the provincial school teacher. She had only been there since Christmas, and was transferred from Girilambone to take charge of the Breelong West school.


Mr. Mawbey is well known in the district, having resided there for the past seventeen years. There are no blacks living in the district, but the natives who committed the outrage went there early in the year. The first was employed about January, and two others followed in March. They were engaged in fencing a run. Mr, Mawbey, speaking of the country, said he thought there was little chance of the murderers escaping, as the place was well populated. There were some good hiding places, but he thought the blacks would not have sufficient provisions to hide for any length of time.

He said it was very strange, that about this time last year a black bad been seen walking about at dusk with a tomahawk in his hand. His little brother and sister ran to the house one night and said they had seen a native wandering about with a tomahawk in his hand. The men immediately made search, but failed to discover him. On the following day he was seen, and the policemen were communicated with, but failed to find him. Mr. J. Mawbey, accompanied by his aunt (Mrs. George Mawbey), left for the scene of the murder last night. They journey by train to  Mudgee, and coach the remainder of the journey. They will not reach their destination until Monday night.

GOVERNOR, JIMMY (1875-1901), outlaw, was born on the Talbragar River, New South Wales, son of Sam (later Thomas) Governor (or Grosvenor), bullock-driver, and his wife Annie, née Fitzgerald. He received his schooling at a mission school and at Gulgong. Short, good-looking and part-Aboriginal with reddish hair, Jimmy worked at Wollar before becoming a police tracker at Cassilis from 15 July 1896 to 18 December 1897. He returned to Wollar and, after woodcutting at Gulgong and wool-rolling at Digilbar, married on 10 December 1898 Ethel Mary Jane Page, a 16-year-old white woman, at the Church of England rectory, Gulgong.

In April 1900, after a variety of jobs, Jimmy got a contract for fencing (splitting and erecting posts earning 10s. and 12s. a hundred respectively) from John Thomas Mawbey at Breelong, near Gilgandra. Conscientious and anxious to prove himself in white society, Jimmy was on good terms with his employer, obtaining his rations from him and playing cricket with his small sons. Jimmy and Ethel were joined by his brother Joe and Jacky Underwood (alias Charlie Brown), a full blood, who both helped in the work, and later by Jacky Porter, another full blood, and Jimmy's nephew Peter Governor. All claimed rations from Jimmy Governor.

Strains emerged in the marriage. Ethel, who did housework for the Mawbeys, grew unhappy; after a dispute with Mawbey, Jimmy and his friends talked of taking up bushranging. Touchy about his colour, Jimmy was stung by reports that Mrs Mawbey and Helen Josephine Kerz, a schoolteacher who lived with the Mawbeys, had taunted his wife for marrying a blackfellow. With Underwood he confronted the women, who were alone in the house with seven children and Mrs Mawbey's 18-year-old sister Elsie Clarke, on the night of 20 July 1900. Jimmy alleged that the women laughed at him and Helen Kerz said: 'Pooh, you black rubbish, you want shooting for marrying a white woman'. Losing all control, the two, with nulla-nullas and tomahawk, killed Mrs Grace Mawbey, Helen Kerz, and Grace (16), Percival (14) and Hilda Mawbey (11); Elsie Clarke was seriously injured.

Underwood was quickly caught but Jimmy and Joe Governor, calling themselves 'bushrangers', went on a fourteen-week, 2000-mile (3219 km) rampage, terrorizing a wide area of north-central New South Wales. Seeking revenge on persons who had wronged them, they killed Alexander McKay near Ulan on 23 July, Elizabeth O'Brien and her baby son at Poggie, near Merriwa, on 24 July, and Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, on 26 July. After committing numerous robberies as far north as Narrabri, and in the Quirindi district, they moved into the rugged headwater country of the Manning and Hastings rivers, pursued by Queensland black trackers, bloodhounds and hundreds of police and civilians. Exulting in outwitting their pursuers, the Governors blatantly broadcast their whereabouts and wrote derisive notes to the police. On 8 October the government offered a reward of £1000 each for their capture.

After several close escapes Jimmy was shot in the mouth by Herbert Byers, a hunter, on 13 October; in a weakened condition he was captured by a party of settlers at Bobin, near Wingham, on 27 October. Joe was shot dead by John Wilkinson north of Singleton on 31 October. They had been outlawed on 23 October.

Jimmy stood trial on 22-23 November in Sydney for the murder of Helen Kerz. He was defended by Francis Stewart Boyce who raised the defence of autrefois aquit and autrefois attaint, arguing that as a result of outlawry Governor had already been attainted and could not be tried for the same crimes. These pleas in bar of trial were rejected and Governor was convicted. An appeal was dismissed, and he spent his last days reading the Bible, singing native songs and blaming his wife. He was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 18 January 1901 and buried in an unmarked grave in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery; Underwood had been hanged in the Dubbo gaol four days before. Governor was survived by his wife and son; on 23 November Ethel Governor married Francis Joseph Brown by whom she had nine more children. She died in Sydney on 31 December 1945.

Jimmy Governor's ravages, in the context of Aboriginal dispossession and white racism, were the subject of Thomas Keneally's novel The chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1972), which was made into a film in 1978.

Select Bibliography

F. P. Clune, Jimmy Governor (Syd, 1959); E. C. Rolls, A Million Wild Acres (Melb, 1981), and for bibliography; Government Gazette (New South Wales), 2, 8, 23 Oct 1900; New South Wales Law Reports, 21 (1900), p 278; Sydney Mail, 28 July, 4 Aug, 3 Nov 1900; Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July, 23 Aug, 3 Oct, 23, 24 Nov 1900, 19 Jan 1901; Quirindi Advocate, 28 July, 4, 11 Aug 1944; Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 20 Apr 1980; 6/1029 (State Records New South Wales). More on the resources

Author: G. P. Walsh

Print Publication Details: G. P. Walsh, 'Governor, Jimmy (1875 - 1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, p. 62.