Before the Clarke gang burst onto the public stage most people thought the worst of the bushranging menace that had plagued rural New South Wales since the beginning of the decade was a thing of the past. They soon found they were wrong. The Clarke gang became arguably the worst or most troublesome bushrangers of all time.
The gang terrorised an area stretching from present day Canberra to the coast from 1865 to 1867, intimidating, assaulting, robbing and murdering police and civilians alike. At the heart of the bushranging outbreak was an entrenched network of harbourers and sympathizers whose support for the bushrangers eclipsed all other gangs. Family ties and loyalties bound a community accustomed to petty crime, where horse stealing and cattle duffing was the norm.
The Clarke Gang, Outlawed, Outcast and Forgotten explores the root and cause of the bushranging outbreak, the outlawing of Tommy Clarke and Pat Connell, the murders that made them outcasts and asks the question, why they have been virtually forgotten while another bushranger, Ned Kelly has become the most well-known figure in Australian history?
Peter Smith’s imagination was fired up as a child when his father showed him the monument to brave trooper Miles O’Grady shot by the Clarke gang in1866 at Nerrigundah. In 1963, at 15 years old, he became a foundation member of the Wild Colonial Days Society and took part in centenary re-enactments of bushranging events throughout New South Wales. On researching the details for the re-enactments Peter became dismayed in finding many of the available books were as much fiction as fact. From that time he set about collecting the true facts and becoming an author. His other books include Tracking Down the Bushrangers, My America’s Cup Adventure and The Deua River Track, but his main field of study extending over a nearly fifty years has been the Clarke gang and their associates. In 1980, Peter was awarded a Fellowship in Australian Institute of History and Arts for his contribution to furthering knowledge of the Australian heritage.
During this time he was also busy running his successful printing and display business. He served a term as president of an international group of companies, Global In-store Communication (GIC) and in 2003 was awarded Life Membership in Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) for his work as founding Secretary of the Australia and New Zealand Chapter.
Peter met his wife, Robyn, through their mutual interest in colonial history and love of the Australian bush. On retirement from industry they moved to their rural property at Araluen. It was the ideal place to finish the book on the Clarke gang, within easy reach of where it all happened.