Jimmy GovernorTo People
Jimmy Governor was born in Talbragar to his white father who was a bullock driver and his Aboriginal mother in 1875. This then socially unacceptable pairing would affect Governor for the rest of his life. Mission schooled at Gulgong, he worked variously as a police tracker, wood cutter and as a farm hand until 1898 when he married Ethel Mary Jane Page. After gaining a fencing contract on a large farm in nearby Breelong owned by John Thomas Mawbey, the newlyweds moved to the property with Ethel taking up work as a maid in the homestead.
Keen to prove himself, Governor was a reliable and hard worker, eventually bringing in his brother Joe and friend Jacky Underwood to help him with the fencing. He was well liked by his employer yet Ethel was unhappy, reportedly subjected to taunts from the Mawbeys and their school mistress lodger Helen Kerz for marrying a black man. This news clearly distressed Governor who had always been sensitive about his Aboriginal heritage and as his relationship with John Mawbey deteriorated Governor and his brother talked about leaving to become bushrangers.
In July 1900 Governor and his brother went to the homestead with the intention of confronting the women regarding their treatment of Ethel. When the women allegedly laughed them off referring to the pair as 'black rubbsh', Jimmy and Joe Governor reacted violently, viciously murdering Kerz, Grace Mawbey and her two young children and seriously injuring Mawbey's 18 year old sister Elsie Clarke. Fleeing from the farm, the brothers embarked on a killing spree, avenging every wrong they felt had befallen them in their lives.
Although calling themselves bushrangers, their murderous intents put them at odds with the robberies and hold-ups carried out by other bushrangers at the time. Jimmy was eventually caught in October with his brother Joe shot in pursuit a few days later. The Governor Brothers murder tally stood at 9 lives and Jimmy was sentenced to hang in November. This provocative story would be the inspiration for New South Wales writer Thomas Keneally's novel 'The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith' which was made into an AFI award winning feature film in 1977. Joe Governer's life has become something of a moral tale for the intensity of Aboriginal dispossession in the face of white racism at the turn of the century.