William Fletcher was twenty eight when he joined the Clark gang of bushrangers on 8 April, 1866. William came from a respectable Moruya family, and was born in the district. William had ridden in the St Patrick’s Day races on 17 March at Mullenderee a few weeks before. William had a job at Jindel Station but was not overfond of work. He had also tried digging for gold at Araluen, Nerrigundah, the Gulph and other diggings without success. William had been arrested during the Bega Races for illegally using a horse; he was released when the owner refused to prosecute. William was in with bad company and inflamed with stories glorifying Gardiner, Ben Hall, and Johnny Gilbert and trying to imitate their actions while returning from the races with Thomas Clark, Patrick Connell, Tom Connell and two or three other young men, when Clark stuck up a Chinaman, who was travelling from the Gulph diggings. A little further along the road the group met the mail boy and Clark forced him to exchange his horse, saddle and bridle for those stolen from the Chinaman. Some miles on from here the group met Mr. John Emmott and ordered him to bail up. Emmott ignored them, wheeled his horse and galloped away as he had a considerable amount of gold and money on him. The group got very excited and several chased after him, firing their revolvers at the fleeing Emmott. Emmott fell wounded and his horse was killed. About one hundred pounds in money and a parcel of gold was taken from him. The young men travelled on leaving Mr. Emmott to make his way to where he could obtain surgical aid as best he could.
On the following day they arrived at the Gulph Diggings, stuck up Mr. Pollock’s store and stole between two hundred and three hundred ounces of gold, besides all the money they could find. On leaving the store they met Charlie Nash and Clark greeted him with
Hello, Charlie back from the Bega races?
Then fork out
cried Clark, bringing out his revolver. Nash at first thought this was a joke and began to laugh, when the remainder of the gang crowded round and pulled their revolvers in a threatening manner, he put his hand in his pocket and took out thirty shillings and handed it over with the remark
That’s all I’ve got
. He was then allowed on his way. Fletcher then led the way to the butcher’s shop owned by Robert Drew, he held a revolver to the butcher’s head telling him to
. Drew put his hands behind his head and made no reply. Then the rest of the gang crowded in and called for a light, declaring their intention to search the place, Drew told them to
. They refused and threatened to shoot him. The argument became so loud it reached the ears of Constable Miles O’Grady who was ill in bed. O’Grady got up and dressed, and went to the butcher’s shop. He inquired what the argument was about and ordered the crowd to leave the shop. Two shots rang out Fletcher fell mortally wounded. Tom Clark shot the trooper Miles O’Grady before the bushrangers rode away leaving the bleeding Fletcher where he fell. Fletcher lingered dying on the footpath for about an hour. Constable Smith who was in the police barracks and had not been able to raise a party to attack the bushrangers stayed there until some men came and told him to take charge of the bushranger’s corpse. Fletcher had been shot in the chest with the bullet entering through the upper arm and lodging there. On his body was found a number of half notes and two watches, from the robbery earlier that day of the mail boy outside town. Fletcher was buried without a service or coffin in the bush outside the cemetery fence. Miles O’Grady was buried in the cemetery, but later his body was moved to Moruya Cemetery where there are now memorials for both men.
William Fletcher’s career as a bushranger was less then twenty-four hours. He left a widow Annie and an infant daughter Adelaide.
The Bloodiest Bushrangers by John O’Sullivan 1973.
Australian Bushrangers — An Illustrated History by George Boxall.
Family research by Margaret Hardwick.