Henry Arthur “Harry” Readford

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Henry Arthur “Harry” Readford

Birth
Mudgee, Mid-Western Regional Council, New South Wales, Australia
Death Mar 1901 (aged 59)
Northern Territory, Australia
Burial Bourke Shire, Northern Territory, Australia
Memorial ID 89865159 · View Source
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Henry Arthur "Harry" Readford (sometimes spelt "Redford" in Queensland,) was a well known Australian cattle thief or cattle 'duffer'. It is widely believed that the Captain Starlight character in Rolf Boldrewood's novel Robbery Under Arms was based on Readford as Readford's 1870 cattle drive was a major story arc in the book.
Readford was the better known of two bushrangers known by the name of Captain Starlight. The other being Frank Pearson. Neither were known as Captain Starlight prior to the publication of the novel in 1889. Boldrewood himself claimed that the Captain Starlight character in his novel was a composite of several bushrangers that included Henry Readford and Frank Pearson but that the primary inspiration was Captain Midnight.
Henry Arthur Readford (b. Dec 1841 d. March 1901) was born near Mudgee in the Cudgegong District of New South Wales to a respectable family. He originally operated locally but later moved to Queensland where there were more opportunities for rustling.
In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers he devised a plan to steal some of the station's cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realising what was going on.
He knew the cattle would be recognised from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless and then sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.
Workers at Bowen Downs eventually discovered the yards, and the tracks heading south. A party of stockmen and Aboriginal trackers set out on the trail, many weeks behind Readford. They eventually reached Artracoona where they recognised the white bull.
In April 1871 Readford married Elizabeth Jane Scuthorpe at Mrs Elizabeth Nevell's home in Lewis Street, Mudgee, NSW. The couple had at least one child, a daughter, Jemima Mary Elizabeth in 1872.
Readford was apprehended in Sydney in 1872, and faced trial in Roma. However, the jury were so impressed by his achievements that they found him not guilty, whereupon the judge is said to have remarked, "Thank God, gentlemen, that verdict is yours and not mine!" In response to the verdict, the Government shut down the Roma District Court for eight months.
In 1881, several counts of horse stealing resulted in Readford being jailed for eighteen months in Brisbane. After his release, he drove cattle from the Atherton Tableland to Dubbo. In 1883, on behalf of Macdonald, Smith and Co., Readford drove 3,000 cattle which were the first mob taken to Brunette Downs near Corella Creek on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory where he was the station manager. In 1899 he became the manager of McArthur River Station.
In 1901 Readford set off from Brunette Downs to explore Central Australia but drowned while trying to swim across Corella Creek which had flooded due to heavy rain.
Readford became something of a national hero, and the character Captain Starlight in Rolf Boldrewood's book Robbery Under Arms was based in part on his exploits. An annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive commemorates his exploits as a drover. A range of riders from the city and country participate in this droving expedition for their choice of three days to three weeks.

- wiki


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  • Created by: graver
  • Added: 9 May 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 89865159
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Henry Arthur “Harry” Readford (Dec 1841–Mar 1901), Find A Grave Memorial no. 89865159, citing Brunette Downs Station, Bourke Shire, Northern Territory, Australia ; Maintained by graver (contributor 47037760) .