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Boy Bushranger of Clunes, Victoria

Posted 30/09/2018 in People

June 1922 - Ernest Clifford Hull was just 17 years old when he held up the Clunes Knitting Mill, getting away with about 85 pounds. He had recently been put out of a job at the mill after a dispute with one of the men. After the robbery he headed off to a hideout near Talbot which he had prepared and stocked with supplies. Along the way he encountered a wood-carter and paid him to take a note to the Mayor of Clunes, with the intention of making the public believe he had gone bushranging - he intended to return to the knitting mill as he knew the mill's pay day and the rough time the money would be out on the table. 

The following articles describe the events leading to the capture and subsequent prosecution of Ernest Clifford Hull, the self-proclaimed bushranger of Clunes, Victoria. 

Boy desperado captured.
Mon 12 Jun 1922 - The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)

Ernest Clifford Hull, a youth of 17 1/2, who caused a sensation by holding up the Clunes Knitting Mill on Friday and stealing £100 was arrested by detectives and police in a hut near an abandoned mine at Carrayalup, ten miles from Talbot, at 2.30 o'clock yesterday morning. He was taken by surprise and made no resistance. The police recovered from him £86 5s and a rifle and ammunition.

The mother of Hull states that Hull had a grievance for some time. According to her, he was put off at the mill, and a footballer put in his place, after he had had a dispute with one of the men, who hosed him. Recently he had a cyst cut from behind his ear, and he had been in poor health, being unable to sleep or eat well. The boy could not get work. This also worried him. Mrs Hull said it was true her son had been reading "Deadwood Dick" books, and had expressed an admiration for the doings of the boy bushranger, Maple, who was mortally wounded some time ago. 

After holding up the mill, Hull raised his hat to a girl acquaintance, and when near the end of Fraser-street, Clunes, he bowed profoundly to scores of interested people, who peeped out from shops and other premises. He met a carter two miles out in the direction of Talbot, and gave the woodcarter the following note to give to the Mayor of Clunes:-

"To the Public in Clunes,- Women, girls and children will not be harmed by me. The same applies to unarmed men who do not hinder me in my progress.- (Signed) Hull, Bushranger."

Thu 29 Jun 1922 - The Argus (Melbourne, Vic : 1848 - 1957)

CLUNES, Wednesday - Ernest Clifford Hull, who was arrested for the "hold up" at the Clunes knitting mills on June 9, appeared in the Police Court this morning. Mr W. W. Harris, P.M., and Mr E. Ryan were on the bench. Acting Superintendent Hood conducted the case for the police, and Mr. M. Lazarus was for the defence. Hull was charged that on June 9, 1922, at Clunes, being armed with an offensive weapon, he did rob one G. F. Cuttle of the sum of £86/17/, that he shot at one Christian Schempp, with intent to murder him, and that, being armed with an offensive weapon, he stole a watch valued at 10/6 from Albert Greenhalgh.

George Frederick Cuttle, manager of the knitting mills, said that on June 9 one of the clerks told him that a man had taken the mill money. He went outside and somebody said, "look out, he's got a rifle." Two shots followed. Witness heard something whizz past his head, and a bullet struck the wall. Hull knew the office and the arrangements for pay day. About £260 had been drawn for wages, and about £86 was taken.

Hilda Flannagan, a clerk in the mill office, said that Hull walked into the office and took some money, saying, "Don't resist, or I'll shoot." He left £5 in loose cash on the table, in addition to envelopes which contained money.

David Thompson, wood-carter, said that he met Hull near McDonald's slaughter yards. Hull said, "Will you take a note into Phil Rowe, and I will give you a tip?" Hull then gave him a note and 2/, and remarked, "I am a bushranger." He walked away, and witness thought that it was a joke.

Cross-examined, Thompson said that from the look of Hull's eyes he appeared to have been "on the beer" for three or four days.

"Pretty Good Target."

Christian Schempp, manager of the mills, said that he saw Hull standing in the middle of the road with a rifle in his hand, pointing towards the gate. He heard a shot, and retreated, and when he looked around he heard a second shot, and something whizzed past the right side of his head. There was a mark on his hat which he had not seen before, but he cound not say whether it had been caused by a bullet. 

Cross-examined, Schempp said that Hull had never threatened him or shown that he had any feeling against him. When he (witness) and others were standing at the gate, they presented a pretty good target, and Hull could have hit somebody. The first shot was fired from a distance of 50ft.

Albert Greenhalgh said that he heard a smash of glass at his shop, and, upon going outside, saw Hull walking away. Thinking that the breaking of the window had been an accident, witness said, "Come here, I want you." Hull was carrying a rifle, and replied, "Don't follow me. If you come any closer, I'll shoot. I am sorry I broke your window ; I wanted a watch. I will pay you some day." Hull was pointing the rifle at witness, and at everybody who came near. Hull seemed so excited as not to know what he was doing. 

Detective Higston gave evidence as to the arrest of Hull in a hut at an old mine near Caralulup. The police, he said, recovered 23 ten-shilling notes, £6/5/ in silver, and 68 pound notes. Hull said that it was bad luck to be caught, but good luck that no one had been shot. He also said, "I saw Schempp, but I only fired to put the wind up him, so that they would not follow me."

Hull's Statement to Police

Hull, said Detective Higston, made a statement to the police, in which he said:-

"I was 17 years of age on September 21, 1921. On June 9 I told my mother I was going rabbiting. I took my rifle and 23 cartridges, also a sugar bag, loaf of bread, bottle of sugar, a half pound tin of cocoa, and a 7lb bag of oatmeal, a small spirit stove and a bottle of methylated spirits, and a change of clothing. I took the provisions into the bush. I returned to Clunes with my rifle fully loaded. I had three drinks of beer at Wrathall's hotel. I went to the office of the knitting mills and asked to see Mr. Schempp, the manager, as an excuse to see if the employee's pay had been taken out of the safe. As I did not see any money on the table in the office, I went to the park to pass the time away. When I returned I had my rifle while I took the money. I left with the money and proceeded across the street to Mr. Greenhalgh's tobacconist shop and smashed the shop window with the stock of my rifle and took a watch. I then saw Mr. Schempp and Mr Exelby emerging through the front gate of the mill. I pointed the rifle at them. They ran up the lane and I fired twice. I did not see Mr. Cuttle standing at the gate that day. I looked round and saw Schempp standing at the gate. I pointed my rifle at him several times and he stepped back each time out of sight. On the way out I met Mr. Thompson and gave him 2/ to take a note to the mayor of Clunes. I did that to make the public believe that I had gone bushranging. I knew the pay-day at the mill and about the time it would be on the office table. I expected to get about £200. The only person I have a grievance against at the mill is Mr. Wingate."

Mr. Harris remarked that the act seemed to have been that of an unbalanced mind. Hull might have thought he was making a hero of himself but instead of that, he had made a fool of himself.

Mr. Lazarus asked if the bench would deal summarily with the case.

Mr. Harris replied that, while he was desirous of avoiding further expense, there was no way of dealing with the matter summarily and quietening the public conscience. 

When asked to plead, Hull replied "Not guilty," and added that he had nothing to say.

Hull was committed for trial at Ballarat on August 22. He was allowed bail in his own bond in £200, and one surety in £100 which his father entered into. 

Thu 24 Aug 1922 - The Herald (Melbourne, Vic : 1861 - 1954)

BALLARAT, Thursday.
At the close of the day's sitting of the Supreme Court at Ballarat yesterday, Mr Justice Cussen ordered Ernest Clifford Hull (17), the self-styled bushranger, to be detained in a reformatory during the Governor's pleasure, which, he said, meant that the prisoner would be entitled to hope for his release as soon as he showed a genuine desire to reform.

Mr Justice Cussen exressed the hope that, for the sake of the lad's mother, the fullest opportunities for reforming would be given him.


Captain Melville, Bushranger of Melville Caves
The Treacherous Black Forest of Victoria




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