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John Peisley

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Old Court House at Bathurst
Bathurst Gaol about 1880

John Peisley (1835 – 1862) was an Australian bushranger. Peisley was born in Bathurst in 1835. He is believed to be the first bushranger born in Australia.[1] His name is often found spelled as "Piesley".[2]

Early life

The Peisley family were believed to be thieves.[3] Peisley got caught stealing cattle and had go to gaol on Cockatoo Island. There he became a friend of Frank Gardiner. After his gaol time was over he was given a ticket of leave. In 1861 the two men robbed people traveling along the road between Bathurst and the Lambing Flat goldfields. They also robbed people around Yass.

Gardiner was arrested by the police on July 16, 1861, near the Fish River. On the way to the town of Bigga, the police said they were attacked by Peisley, and Gardiner was able to escape. A reward of £175 was offered for the capture of Peisley and Gardiner.[1] In September 1861, Peisley wrote to a newspaper, the Bathurst Free Press, and said that he had nothing to do with Gardiner's escape.[4] He said that one of the policemen, Trooper Hosie, had been paid a bribe of £50 to let Gardiner go.[1] In the letter, Peisley said he must be the Invisible Prince to do all the things that people said he had done.[4]


On Christmas Day in 1861, Peisley sat in the hotel at Bigga and drank for three days. After this he rode to a nearby farm, owned by William and Stephen Benyon. William's wife Martha hid Peisley's guns. She said she would not give them back unless he left. Peisley agreed but came back one hour later and shot Stephen in the arm and William in the throat. William was badly hurt and died six days later.[5] Peisley was caught by the police near Tarcutta.

He was tried in the court at Bathurst on March 14, 1862, for the murder of William Benyon and given the death penalty.[6] His sister and brother came to visit him in the gaol.[2] He was hanged on March 25, 1862,[7] in the gaol at Bathurst[8] in front of about 50 people.[2] An Aboriginal man, Jackey Bullfrog, also charged with a murder was hanged at the same time.[2] Peisley made a long speech just before he was hanged. He tried to explain why he had shot Benyon, but did not get time to finish. He told the people there that he had nothing to do with Gardiner's rescue. He also said that apart from Benyon, he had never hurt anyone or robbed any women. He said he was the most honourable bushranger. His last words were "...Goodbye gentlemen, and God bless you."[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hocking, Geoff (2002). Bail Up: A pictorial history of Australia's most notorious bushrangers. Noble Park, Victoria: The Five Mile Press. ISBN 1865039136 .
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Execution of the Condemned Criminals.". Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 26 April 1862. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  3. "John Peisley" (htm). Ned Kelly World: Australia's Famous Bushrangers. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "To the Editor of the Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal.". Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 14 September 1861. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  5. "Binda, New South Wales". Sydney Morning Herald Travel. February 8, 2004. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
  6. "Bathurst". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 4. 14 March 1862. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  7. The Australian Encyclopaedia: Volume 4. 1958. p. pg.241.
  8. "Bathurst, New South Wales". The Age Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-13.