Australian History: Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan was born in Campbelltown, New South Wales, in about 1830. His mother was an Irish convict. Even as a teenager, Morgan was in trouble for attacking policemen and stealing. When he was twenty, he left for the Victorian goldfields. Four years later he was charged with robbery and sentenced to twelve years' hard labour. Morgan served only six years before he was allowed to go free with a ticket of leave. He fled back to New South Wales and started robbing travellers and farms. Unlike many bushrangers Dan Morgan was brutal and often attacked people for no good reason. But he was a good bushman and, like other bushrangers, relied on the bush telegraph to tell him who was travelling and where the police were.

In 1864 Morgan became more reckless and more brutal. In June he shot and wounded a bush worker near Albury. Morgan sent another worker to get help, but when he thought he was going to the police instead, Morgan shot him in the back. Later that year, two policemen passed Morgan on the road. They did not recognise him and one said 'hello' as he rode past. Morgan shot him dead.

On 2 April 1865 Dan Morgan crossed the border into Victoria. He was answering a challenge that said he would not survive more than two days out survived for six days. On 8 April he held up Peechelba Station near Wangaratta. He ordered everyone into the dining room and forced the owner's wife to play the piano while he ate. After several hours Alice MacDonald, the nursemaid, asked to be allowed to leave to comfort a crying child. Morgan let her go and she ran to a neighbours' home. The neighbour rode into Wangaratta and within a few hours forty policemen had surrounded the Peechelba of New South Wales. In fact he homestead.

When Morgan went outside to get a horse and leave, he was shot by a stockman and carried to a woodshed where he died the next afternoon. His body was taken to Wangaratta and put on display. A local photographer made postcards showing the dead bushranger's body. Then Morgan's beard and hair were shaved off for souvenirs. His head was cut off and sent to Melbourne where a professor at the university wanted to examine it.