Our district was one of the biggest wool producers in Australia but it's the history of our local cattle industry that has made Aramac famous. The infamous Harry Redford (Captain Starlight) was a drover and cattle duffer who stole cattle from the Aramac area and drove them to South Australia.
Among the cattle he stole was a white bull from Bowen Downs which nearly proved to be his undoing.
Harry faced court in Roma Queensland on cattle stealing charges after the white bull was recognised by staff from Bowen Downs. The story of his daring escapades has been retold in many forms but in Aramac we have our own way of celebrating this historical event. We have a statue of the white bull in Gordon Street and when weather permits visitors can join us on our own droving trip to celebrate our connection to Harry.
The story of Harry Redford
Harry was born in 1842 as Henry Arthur Redford, the son of an Irish convict father and a “Currency Lass” in Mudgee, New South Wales. The youngest of eleven children, he grew to be a massive man, nearly two metres tall, described as bushman born and bred.
In 1869, Harry went to Queensland and set up a carrier business with four mates, transporting produce from Tambo to Bowen Downs, one of the greatest cattle runs in Queensland. This expansive run stretched for over 200 kilometres across the endless plains of Central Queensland, north of Longreach boasting some of the finest Mitchell grass in Australia.
At the time of Harry’s arrival, Bowen Downs carried over 60,000 head of good quality cattle. With so many cattle spread over such a huge property, Harry saw an opportunity. He came to the belief that the property was so large that missing stock would go unnoticed for some time – perhaps enough time for him to be long gone.
His plan was so audacious that many still consider it impossible, telling his mates that they would muster 1,000 head of cattle overland to South Australia where the Bowen Downs brand would mean nothing. They considered themselves unlikely to raise suspicion travelling over the property, given their role as teamsters. Should they be caught with some stolen bullocks in tow, they could always bluff their way through claiming they were searching for their own stray bullocks.
Harry and his team mustered 1,000 head of cattle on a 3,000km overland journey from Bowen Downs to Marree in South Australia, conquering the desert that had claimed the lives of Burke and Wills. Their mistake was in stealing a huge white bull worth more than 500 pounds. They needed the bull to keep the herd quiet, but it was a decision that would prove Harry’s undoing.
On 11 February 1873, Redford and the white bull were star attractions at his trial in Roma. Surprisingly, he was found ‘not guilty’ leading Judge Blakeney to make his famous statement to the jury, ‘I thank God that the verdict is yours, gentlemen and not mine.
It is a common belief that, Redford was acquitted by the jury out of admiration for his outstanding droving skills. For a decade after, Queensland cattle were overlanded along the track the Redford pioneered.
Visit the Harry Redford Interpretive Centre to see photos of the Harry Redford Cattle Drive and learn more about Harry’s escapade.
Aramac QLD 4726