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Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, photographed in Braidwood gaol, 1867

an unknown artist

albumen silver photograph on laid down on a section cut from a nineteenth century album page (support: 17.4 cm x 8.8 cm, oval: 7.2 cm x 5.4 cm)

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John (c. 1846–1867) (left) and Thomas Clarke (c. 1840–1867), bushrangers, grew up near Braidwood and from a young age were schooled in nefarious activities including horse-theft. John was 17 when he first went to prison and Thomas was purported to have ridden with the infamous Ben Hall. In October 1865, Thomas escaped from gaol while awaiting trial for armed robbery; thereafter, aided by various mates, he embarked on a string of depredations around Braidwood, Araluen and further south. In April 1866, at Nerrigundah, the gang engaged in a hold-up that left a policeman dead. Thomas was outlawed in May, by which time John had joined him. Reports described them as ‘well-mounted, and armed to the teeth’. In September 1866 colonial secretary Henry Parkes sent four special constables to Braidwood ‘for the express purpose of hunting down the desperate marauders’. In January 1867, the four were murdered in an ambush at Jinden. The Clarkes were blamed immediately and the authorities offered rewards of £1000 each, alive or dead. Aided by an effective bush telegraph system, the brothers evaded capture until April 1867, when they were tracked to a hideout near Araluen, apprehended, and taken to Braidwood Gaol. There, an as yet unidentified photographer took portraits that were sold by a Goulburn bookseller for two shillings and sixpence each. The brothers were later tried in Sydney before Sir Alfred Stephen, who in sentencing them to death noted the more than 60 offences, excluding murders, of which they were suspected.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2019

Accession number: 2019.32

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Thomas Clarke (age 27 in 1867)

John Clarke (age 21 in 1867)

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