The Morven Outrage April 1859

The Launceston Examiner of 26 Apr 1859 had the following interesting story which it referred to as the Morven Outrage.

A correspondent has sent us the following account of the attack on the Rev. Mr. Taggart to remove the incorrect reports current respecting the outrage:-

“About 10 o’clock am on Monday, the 18th inst., the Rev. Mr. Taggart left the Manse, Evandale, for the purpose of visiting Logan Falls, intending to return in the evening to Evandale, as he was expected to preside at a congregational meeting of the members of the Scotch Church. When about a mile from Mr. Ralston’s, at the time leisurely walking his horse, he saw a man a considerable distance in advance on the right hand side of the road with a gun in his hand.

This circumstance did not cause him the slightest alarm, as he thought the person might be fowling; nor did he for a moment dream of bushrangers, as he thought that in this part of Tasmania such an employment was among the things of the past. However, when he had unsuspectingly approached to within a distance of a gun’s length and a half of the bushranger, as we may now justly call him, the latter commenced operations by presenting his gun with deadly aim at Mr. Taggart’s head, using the words “your money or your life.”

Though taken somewhat by surprise, he represented to the man how foolish such an action would be, as the murderer of any clergyman officiating in a parish was likely to be easily discovered, and that his death by hanging was only a question of time. To this the bushranger replied by saying that he did not now care for his life, and again taking aim, and with horrid oaths repeating his former demand, he added that if not immediately complied with he would blow out the Rev. Gentleman’s brains.

Mr. Taggart had now his mind fully made up for death, and was expecting it momentarily, but whilst the bushranger’s hand was on the trigger and his eye looking along the barrel, by way of diverting his attention he said to him, ‘Why do you not come and take my money’, but to this the bushranger only replied by saying that it must be laid along with his watch on the road. As this was said by Mr. Taggart only to gain time, it failed in its effect; and he saw that the only recourse left was to rush as quickly past the desperado as possible, and trust to providence. The moment he attempted to do so the villain took deliberate aim.

Mr. Taggart bent his head and trunk as much as possible alongside the horse’s neck so as to protect the vital parts, and the desperado discharged at a little more than a gun’s distance the contents of his piece, loaded with large shot, into the fleshy part of the left thigh, grazing in its course the wrist.

I may here mention that Mr. Taggart had neither whip nor spur, otherwise it was his intention to have rushed on the villain and attempted to overpower him. He was quite defenceless, and was obliged, moreover, to keep his eye on the bushranger and to sit perfectly emotionless. The strength and nearness of the discharge paralysed for the time being his limb: the horse at the same time shied to the one side, and he fell to the ground and the reins slipped from his hand. The bushranger’s attention was now diverted from the Rev. Gentleman to his horse – to steal the latter and make off with it without further violence appearing his most advisable course. He accordingly did so.

Mr. Taggart’s watch and purse, containing a considerable sum of money, owing to this circumstance he did not wait to rifle him of, but having caught the horse with some difficulty made his way into the interior with all dispatch. Mr. Taggart with difficulty limped along the road in the direction of a shoemaker’s hut which he had passed, but before arriving there being overcome with extreme fatigue and pain, he was obliged to throw himself down on the road.

While in this position a man passed by him at full speed in the direction of the same but, and without stopping to make any enquiries, he continued his course till he reached it. Mr. Taggart supposed from his conduct, especially from his not stopping to render him any assistance, that he was in league with the bushranger; and it was only after some time that he replied to Mr. Taggert’s many calls for assistance by bringing him a cup of water and helping him as gently as possible into the hut.

This man then told his own story, and it was to this effect:- That he had been met by an armed man in the bush and ordered to give up his money, which he agreed to do. He was tied to a tree by the bushranger, who then said to him, ‘I shall leave you here until I stick up the shoemaker at his hut.’ But before proceeding to do this, his eye was arrested by the unexpected appearance of the clergyman: he then said, ‘ I see a cove, I will tackle him.’

Immediately after the report of the gun, the man stuck-up managed to make his escape from the tree, and ran to the hut in the manner just described.

Subsequently, The Courier of 2 May 1859 reported “We regret to say, hat the Rev. Mr. Taggart, who was wounded by the ruffianly bushranger near Evandale, in still in a very precarious condition. On Monday he was very unwell and slightly delirious We understand that upwards of twenty double B shot were extracted from the reverend gentleman’s thigh. The ruffian is still at large.

By the 10 May, a reward of £50 and a free pardon for any colonial prisoner had been offered.  However, there are no newspaper reports of the perpetrator being bought to justice.