Trackers were employed at Byrock Police Station from 1884 to at least 1938. The career of the first Byrock tracker, Jack Todhunter, was tragically short. He contracted typhoid fever two months after starting the job. He was transferred to Dubbo Hospital when his condition deteriorated and he passed away there on 10 March 1885. Little is known about Todhunter. He may have acquired his surname from the Todhunter pastoral family who occupied land in the Warren district on the Macquarie River [ref]Death Certificate of John Todhunter 1885/007521; Byrock Police Diary of Duty and Occurrences SARANSW 3/2985; Brennan C.J. 1988. Across the Black Soil Plains: A History of the Warren District. Warren Shire Production[/ref].
Todhunter was soon replaced by another tracker named Jack who was brought over from Brewarrina. Jack held the position from April 1885 to June 1888, undertaking a variety of roles from patrolling the railway line to delivering messages to nearby pastoral properties. He was a talented horseman, riding his mount up to 25 miles per day as part of his job. In September 1885, he was sent to the Bogan River at Gongolgon to look for stolen horses. At Christmas 1886, he helped apprehend a man suffering from mental illness who had leapt from the train. And in June 1887, he led a successful search for a boy who had gone missing on the expansive Kenilworth Run to the north of Byrock. No further trace of Jack has been found after he left the Byrock Police [ref]Byrock Police Diary of Duty and Occurrences SARANSW 3/2985[/ref].
The tracker with the longest tenure at Byrock was Frank Williams of Gundabooka. He was transferred to Byrock from Dubbo in early 1917 and held the job until April 1938 when he moved to Bourke. His most prominent local case occurred in February 1929 when he investigated the theft of cash, cheques and a fibro suitcase from a Byrock warehouse. Williams testified in the court that the footprint of the main suspect matched those found at the scene of the crime. The suspect was later convicted. Aside from police work, Williams enjoyed hunting locally for kangaroo, continuing a tradition taught to him by his Ngemba Elders whose country it was [ref]Western Herald 27 February 1929: 2 & 20 April 1929: 5; NSW Police Gazette 6 March 1929: 193; Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005. Aboriginal Women’s Heritage – Bourke. Department of Environment and Conservation, Sydney: 2[/ref].
This website explores the history of Aboriginal trackers in NSW from 1862 when the current NSW Police Force was established through to 1973 when the last tracker, Norman Walford, retired. You can read about the lives of individual trackers and some of the incredible tracking feats they...Learn More ►
There were over 200 NSW police stations that employed Aboriginal trackers between 1862 and 1973. Many were concentrated in the central-west and north-west of the state, the agricultural and pastoral heartland of NSW. This is because one of the main jobs of trackers was to pursue sheep, cattle and horse thieves. Trackers sometimes lived in small huts out the back...Learn More ►
Pathfinders book Pathfinders, A history of Aboriginal trackers in NSW, written by Dr Michael Bennett and published by NewSouth, is now available from all good bookstores. Click on the link below to order your copy. https://www.abbeys.com.au/book/pathfinders-a-history-of-aboriginal-trackers-in-nsw.do Early History Since the beginning of the colony, government agencies, explorers, surveyors and members of the general public called upon the tracking...Learn More ►