Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Breaker Morant in the Hawkesbury - Trove Tuesday

Much has been written over the years about the larrikin, Harry 'Breaker' Harbord Morant (1864-1902). A mischievous rogue, Harry was born in England and arrived in Australia and spent many years working in the Australian outback. A "charismatic roustabout made a name for himself as a hard-drinking, womanising bush poet and gained renown as a fearless and expert horseman." But a little known fact is that he spent several years in and about the Hawkesbury district.

His remarkable feats of horsemanship were well-known, like the excerpt from 1898, when the Windsor & Richmond Gazette reported a story from The Bulletin. "Harry Morant ("The Breaker") was last week jumping his horse Cavalier over a 4ft. rail filling a gap in the fence at the rear of the old Racecourse Hotel, Clarendon."  Apparently the "horse swerved and, going too fast to stop, cleared the 7ft palings!" The horse (a five-year-old gelding) was bred by Phillip Charley from an imported trotting mare which was originally "owned by the late Andrew Town, of Hobartville." It was noted that the jump was witnessed, "done in the presence of Mr. Kelly, of Clarendon, and some half-dozen others; and the measurement is well-authenticated." 

He was recorded as playing polo in Richmond and riding in the Hawkesbury Show. According to local newspaper reports he worked in various positions throughout the Hawkesbury.

His bush ballads, including Who’s riding the Old Horse, Now? appeared in various newspapers and magazines, as well as the Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 1 May 1897 p. 7, under his byline 'The Breaker' see the ballad in full below. One of the popular verses reads:

A demon to handle! A devil to ride!
Small wonder the surcingle burst;
You’d have thought that he’d buck himself out of his hide
On the morning we saddled him first.
I can mind how he cow-kicked the spur of my boot,
And though that’s long ago, still I vow
If they’re wheeling a piker no new chum galoot
Is a riding old Harlequin now!

One of his old friends, editor J. C. L. Fitzpatrick wrote a memorable piece for the local newspaper, his memories of Morant, when news of his death reached the Hawkesbury.

Vale Harry Morant. Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 5 April 1902 p. 6.  

The Breaker was executed 27 February 1902 at Pretoria in South Africa. The debate about his life and death continue, a century after his death. 


Who’s riding the Old Horse, Now?

Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 1 May 1897 p. 7

1 comment:

  1. Just shows how much I don't know - didn't realise the Breaker was a poet. Thanks for enlightening me. Enjoyed the post.