Kitty Gallagher

Kitty Gallagher, ex-convict drover, lived in northern New South Wales in the mid nineteenth century. Attempts to identify and substantiate her background in Ireland and in the colony have failed. Nevertheless William Telfer's account of the late 1830s and 1840s convincingly describes an Irish woman called Kitty Gallagher who came to Australia as a convict. She is also remembered by two place names: Gallagher's Mountain, near Scone, and Kitty Gallagher's Swamp, near Bundarra.

According to Telfer she had been a captain of the White Boys, a group of insurgents in Ireland in the late eighteenth century. She and her husband Frank came down from the Wicklow Hills to participate in the 1798 Wexford Rebellion and were transported to New South Wales. By 1839, Kitty and Frank had a small cattle run near Scone in the Hunter Valley, where they were attacked by bushrangers. With Kitty loading their three flintlock muskets, they fought them off; two bushrangers were wounded and two surrendered. After her husband died Kitty worked for three months for William Telfer's father who was running an inn at Quirindi. She also worked for about six months at Tamworth for Dr McIntosh. Telfer claimed she was the best nurse in the colony.

Later she worked for Henry Dangar, droving cattle between the Hunter Valley and his 'Myall Creek' run in the Gwydir Valley. At this stage she was married to a man with a wooden leg and they had two teams of bullocks - Kitty drove one and her husband the other. She rode a black cob pony with her blankets strapped in front of her saddle and an old horse pistol on the pommel, and with her saddle bags attached she was a fully equipped drover, followed by her two cattle dogs. She dressed as a man in a blue smock shirt, moleskin trousers, cabbage tree hat, blucher boots, leggings and spurs, and smoked a short clay pipe. She hoed to plant corn, reaped with a sickle and could plough a field of wheat and drive a bullock team 'like any man'.

She is believed to have died 'at the Bundarra' aged 96. Research has not yet verified Telfer's story but Kitty Gallagher's Swamp exists in the Bundarra district, where she probably lived the last years of her colourful life.

Jillian Oppenheimer

William Telfer The Wallabadah Manuscript 1980.