From the headlines…Patrick Kenniff

Patrick Kenniff

Over the past few months we have talked about the bushranger Patrick Kenniff who was executed in old number one division Boggo Road Gaol on 12th of January 1903, 115 years ago this past week.



Patrick Kenniff

This article we share here today outlines the end of the life of Patrick Kenniff but also the extraordinary lengths that the community went to in order to prove him innocent right up until the last moments.

So let’s back track a little…

What happened?

Patrick and his younger brother James Kenniff were charged with the murder of Constable George Doyle and Stationmaster Albert Dahlke at Lethbridges Pocket.

The Kenniff brothers, being expert horseman were also experts at stealing them.   Wanted for the theft of a horse, they were pursued by Constable Doyle, Stationmaster Dahlke and an aboriginal tracker named Sam Johnson.

Corporal Sam Johnson

After days of hard riding, they came across the brothers in camp; where they managed to overpower and arrest them.  Tracker Sam Johnson was sent to retrieve handcuffs from the constable’s horse, when suddenly shots rang out, Sam fearing for his life went off for help.

A later search party found the constable’s horse wandering through the scrub and the burnt remains of the constable and station master in its saddlebags.  The brothers were tracked down again and following a shootout, both were captured and tried for murder.

Throughout the trial Patrick maintained his innocence and was denied his final right to appeal to the Privy Council in London, by the Judge Samuel Griffith.

The day of execution..

A great deal of agitation was going on in the streets surrounding the gaol.  Titters and tatters on every street corner.  By the time the gaol gates were reached there were hundreds of men, women and children waiting for the dreaded moment to arrive.   The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U) and other religious organisations had tried in vain to secure the commutation of the death sentence.  They too now had to wait.

The Prison Bell Tolled

Patrick was sent to the gallows of Boggo Road Gaol, protesting his innocence to the very last. His final chilling words were saved for one man, the Chief Justice, now Sir Samuel Griffith: “I am as innocent as the judge who sentenced me.” He was swiftly executed by the deathly accurate, Hangman Samuel Hudson.

Just ten short minutes later.

 The gates opened and the Hearse containing the remains of Patrick Kenniff made its way through the crowd.  Some 60 vehicles of all kinds and some 400 people were in the cortege to the South Brisbane Cemetery. Something quite unusual in the respect to the gaol funeral of executed prisoners.  When the cortege reached the cemetery it was found that there were considerably over a thousand people present.  

The Rev. Father Baldwin took up his stand at the grave and read the usual Roman Catholic service over the dead. It was an intensely solemn and-earnest-service, and as the body was lowered into the grave hundreds of the spectators began to weep.

Altogether, it was a most remarkable spectacle, one that has probably never been witnessed here before.

James Kenniff

So what happened to James Kenniff?

James’s life was spared, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour; eventually becoming a cook in the prison kitchen. Being released in 1914, he refused visitors and lived out his life alone. Some say he was the one who pulled the trigger. He took this secret to his grave. He was the last bushranger in Queensland.

This story is still one of Queensland’s most enduring mysteries. It is the subject of numerous written and visual publications.  Most recently it was the subject of one of the episodes of LAWLESS a Foxtel Australia Production filmed in part at Boggo Road Gaol.

I link here a number of articles relating to the case for you the reader to peruse and decide for yourself.

Was Patrick Kenniff…Guilty or Innocent?


Want to hear more amazing stories about life inside Boggo Road? Our experienced guides would be delighted to lock you up for a while! Visit us for our History Tour

Do you want to make your own movie or documentary inside Boggo Road Gaol? Did you know you can? Click here  

This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd.  The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study.   Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about?  You can contact the research team here

Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol