Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Hunter Valley Bushrangers

Sullivan Bowser and Doolan

After a six day search through gullies, streams, and mountain ranges a detachment of Mounted Police with Private George Colway in the lead came across their quarry.

The three men they had been pursuing for five days had encamped in a gully between the ranges in an area known as Weary's Creek (Werris Creek). The troopers took the bushrangers by surprise and they had no opportunity to resist. In desperation the three men fled their camp however after months of living rough in the bush without adequate supplies and shelter, they were no match for the police and were soon captured.

Five days earlier on the 20th November 1837 they had bailed up teamsters at Currabubla Creek. It was a fine night with no moon, perfect for the robbers, who entered the camp about ten o'clock that night. After bailing up the four teamsters and an aborigine under the drays they proceeded to ransack the supplies which belonged to Rev. Rusden and Richard Stubbs. They stole flour, tea, sugar and tobacco and filled water kegs with eight gallons of brandy. They also stole two guns and some clothes belonging to the Rev. Rusden, and this was to prove their undoing.

The three accused of robbing the drays that night were John Sullivan, John Doolan and Timothy Bowser.

John Doolan

John Doolan arrived on the Surry in 1836. He was a Farm labourer age 21 from Co. Kildare. 5ft 6 in, ruddy and freckled complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, nose inclining to the left side. He absconded from Chief Justice Francis Forbes 21st August 1837.

Timothy Bowser

Twenty five year old Timothy Bowser arrived on the convict transport Fairlie in 1834. He had been sentenced to 7 years transportation in Middlesex in 1833 for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of James Carpenter, at the Bricklayer's Arms, on the 14th of August, and stealing therein two live tame rabbits. Old Bailey Online.

In Australia, Timothy Bowser was soon in trouble again. He was convicted of highway robbery before Mr. Justice Burton and a sentence of death was recorded against him. This was commuted to three years in an ironed gang; he was sent to Newcastle to serve his time in the iron gang. In May 1837 he absconded from Newcastle with Patrick Conlon and headed up the Valley. Bowser's description was posted in the Government Gazette at the time, his occupation was given as Plasterer's labourer. A little above average height for the times at 5ft 10 in., he had a freckled complexion and dark brown hair with dark hazel eyes. A scar on the left side of his forehead, and tattoos AB outside right arm and MT on the back left wrist made him easy to identify.

John Sullivan

John Sullivan was possibly unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - not for the first time in his life. By the age of twenty Sullivan was not only condemned as a bushranger but had also survived being ship wrecked when the convict transport Hive was wrecked at Jervis Bay. Sullivan stated in Court that he had only fallen in with Bowser and Doolan an hour before being captured at Weary Creek - and no-one at the drays could later positively identify him as taking part in the robbery. He was from Cork and seventeen years old when he arrived in the colony in 1835 and assigned to Archibald Bell junior at Invermein.

The Trial

Bowser and Dooley were clearly identified in Court by the teamsters Thomas Power who arrived on the Heber three months previously and Henry Howard. Both gave evidence in Court stating they were not ill used or personally robbed by the bushrangers.

Despite his protestations, John Sullivan along with Doolan, had a sentence of death recorded against him for the robbery.

Of Timothy Bowser the Chief Justice was not so sure and consulted with his brother Judges to decide whether Bowser was not a 'fit person to be executed'.


Bowser was later sentenced to transportation to Norfolk Island for life, the first two years to work in chains. All three were transferred to Norfolk Island on 11 March 1838.

John Doolan died at Norfolk Island in September1839.

In 1845 Timothy Bowser name appears on the convict muster in Tasmania having been tried in Campbelltown in 1838. In May 1856 at Hobart Quarter Sessions he was sentenced to 10 years at Port Arthur for house breaking. He was discharged from Port Arthur to Hobart on 22 February 1864, thirty years after he first arrived in Australia.

Notes and Links

1). Trial - Sydney Gazette 10 February 1838