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Lawrence (Larry) Cummins

Lawrence (Larry) Cummins was born at Taralga in New South Wales on 06 September 1845. His father was Joseph Commons (Cummins) who had come to the Colony as a freeman from Tipperary, Ireland, in 1840. After arival they had eventually moevd to the country and had land in the Laggan area.

He had 12 brothers and sisters, but only one other, John, turned bushranger.

* Larry and John have been described as 'typical bush louts' who made the transition to bushranging. This is probably somewhat a harsh description. Their father died in 1862, depriving them of a father figure in their late teen years. Also, they had little education, opportunity or character 'role' figures upon whom to develop their own characters other than the rough bushmen and dubious characters who inhabited the area. Also, they would have read of the exploits of the the early bushrangers and the likes of John Peisley and Frank Gardiner who were creating such havoc across the area at the time. Unfortunately, to many young men these professional bush criminals presented a life of glamour and excitement far removed from the humdrum of working life on a small farm. Because they were of Irish descent they would also have been raised with a strong anti-Protestant, anti-English and anti-Authoritan streak, many Irish immigrants still holding resentful memories of life in Ireland, rather than looking to a new future for all men in Australia. Ned Kelly had a similar bent.

Such people tended then to blame their lack of success on these circumstances rather than on their own lack of ability. After all, many men started life in the bush in circumstances worse than this branch of the Cummins family and by sheer hard work and determination overcame their backgrounds and became very successful.

Larry Cummins first came to notice as a bushranger on 13 July 1863 after being recruited by Fred Lowry who previously had ridden with the Hall/Gilbert gang for a time. However, all records indicate both Larry and John had been active in crime, mainly horse and cattle stealing for several years before this. In company with Lowry and John Foley he bailed up the Mudgee Mail coach. They got away with some revolvers, jewellery and over 5,700 pounds in used banknotes (equivalent to $250k).

Larry then seems to have decided that he liked the life and would branch out on his own. On 26 July he robbed a man named Norman McKinnon of money, a pair of saddle bags filled with various goods, a bridle, girth and riding crop. On 6 August two troopers nanmed Murphy and Malloy went to the Cummins' home to arrest John for another stealing matter. When they arrived young John tried to resist arrest by opening fire on the two Constables. They immediately returned his fire, grazing one of his legs. the battel continued until John ran out of ammunition and surrendered. He was then secured and the three men set out for the Police Station at Binda.

They had travelled about seven miles when there was a shot from bush near the roadside. The shot struck John who fell forward with a moan and died. He had been shot through the head. A horse was then heard to gallop away from the area and while the troopers endeavoured to give chase, they quickly lost the horse in the bush. Although family sources query who fired the fatal shot, it seems most likely that the murderer was Larry. attempting to rescue John. Investigations of the circumstances indicate that the shot was intended for Constable Murphy, but that Larry has missed.

Larry disappeared from view and rejoined Lowry. However, he was fated not to remain at large for long. On 29 August a police party under Senior Sergeant Stephenson, a policeman with long experience in the bushranging war, caught up with the two men at Thoman Vardy's Limerick Races Inn near Tuena. Stephenson and Lowry shot it out, with Lowry being shot and killed. However, Cummins was arrested without a fight, despite being armed. Some of the money from the Mudgee robbery was found on his person.

Larry Cummins was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour at Berrima for Robbery Under Arms. However, he escaped from custody on 27 November 1866,and, in company with another man named John Foran, returned to the bushranging game. They carried out several robberies though into 1867, although were more of a nuisance than a real menace, however, in April 1867 they endeavoured to rob the Webbs' store on the Fish River. Robert Webb shot Cummins in the face with a shotgun, while his sisters also joined with a pair of Colt revolvers. Both men were forced to retreat and Cummins recovered from his wounds.

They continued their depradations, however, on 2 May he was finally captured at the house of one of his brothers-in-law, a man named Cramp.

On 14 March 1867 he was again sentenced to 15 years' gaol, this time at Bathurst Gaol. He attempted to escape from there on 15 June and again at Parramatta Gaol on 2 February 1869 and Bathurst on 20 February 1872. He also was punished on a number of occasions during his incarceration for various relatively minor offences.

In 1874 several bushrangers, including Frank Gardiner, were released from gaol as part of a general amnesty. Possibly partly because of that and because of a number of petitions to the Government, on 31 January 1876 Lawrence Cummins was released from Berrima Gaol (where he had finally returned). His fate afetr that is uncertain. One family source believes he went to Queensland. However, others believe he changed his name to James Long. Cummins had been married to a girl named Bridget and had three children to her, Joseph, Catherine and John. Bridget died on 25 June 1876 and it appears Cummins had not returned to her. However, in 1880 James Long (Cummins?) married a girl named Olivia Cole in Victoria. They had nine children.

James Long died in Wodonga on 18 October 1909 from diseases brought on by chronic alcoholism, aged 66.

So passed Larry Cummins into bushranging history.

This article © Andrew Stackpool, 1998.

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Last Updated 25.05.00   © 1998 Hazel K Orr,