Henry Garrett was the leader of a real gang of bandits in the 1860s and features as a leading character in Murder of the Prince of Wales 2. He was tall, athletic, charismatic, clever and in different circumstances may have been a leader among honest men. He was a bandit who brought a glamour of romance to the early gold rush days which they never lost. When Henry Garrett and his gang spent all day tying up and robbing Otago travellers, he cheered his prisoners by lighting their pipes and putting them in their mouths and giving them a nip of gin or a drink of tea. At the end of the day he left them with tents and blankets and rode off with a booty of 400 pounds.
Garrett was born in Leicestershire England in 1813 and was left to the care of a drunken and brutal father. He entered the army as a youth and in a fit of passion stabbed an officer and was transported to Norfolk Island which was known at the time as “the Hell of the Pacific”. When the convict establishment on Norfolk Island was closed, Garrett was removed to Tasmania Australia and set free. After taking part in a piratical attack on a ship, he later formed a gang of four and robbed a bank in Ballarat stealing 14,300 pounds in notes and 300oz of gold. The gang divided the plunder and parted ways.
Garrett converted his share of the gold into a bank draft and returned to England. Another robber with less wit tendered stolen bank notes for a bank draft and was arrested. This led to detectives tracking Garrett down in England. He was found living in luxury near Oxford St in London under a false name. He was so well dressed and with such a prepossessing appearance that the detective hesitated to arrest him. But eventually he was arrested and sent back to Melbourne where he served 10 more years. He was released in 1861 and set off to the Otago, New Zealand goldfields where he embarked again on a life of crime! In his later years he taught himself to write. No one would have suspected that such a hardened old convict was in his spare moments writing lines such as these: –
Dreaming, dreaming, ever dreaming
Of ideas ne’er undrest;
Mind, unlike dull matter, seeming
Feels no want of, takes no rest
In my night dreams there comes often
Gleams of joy nothing else can give
Which seems sent me here to soften
This ruined life I’m forced to live