Cougars, Toyboys and Murderers’ Bore

September 29, 2011

Murderers Bore, Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.
Murderers Bore, Kilcowera Station, Outback Australia.

In the early 1940’s a horrific murder was carried out on Kilcowera, the murderer, James Callaghan was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment.  This fascinating case was the first one in Australia where a conviction was made solely on forensic evidence.  It was also the springboard for Detective Sergeant Bischof who later became Commissioner of Police in Qld. 

But the interest in Murderers Bore lingers on.  About 1990 some misguided soul dropped a large rock down the bore hole and effectively clogged up the bore thereby making it useless as a stock watering point.  A few years after that some Queensland Museum guys were visiting Kilcowera and seeing the original drilling rig used by James Callaghan sitting in isolated splendour alongside the borehole, asked if we would like to donate it to the museum.  So feeling very important, we agreed and in due course they came back with a truck and took it away. 

Since then we have started our tourist business and realise what a valuable asset we gave away.  And to rub salt into the wound – the rig has never been displayed but is evidently sitting in a big shed in Brisbane gathering dust. A lovely old lady tracked it down for us and took some rather blurry photos and sent them to us.

In the intervening years we have had some wonderful visitors who have given us much more information on the grisly murder.  The story made it into a book on Outback Murders, another bloke who grew up with the story gave us lots of newspaper clippings reporting the story of the murder and subsequent trial.  A few other people have made the trip out here just to see the site of the tragedy and experience the isolation of the bore.

The last of these visitors was Jean, an 84 year old cougar with her toyboy aged a mere 72.  Jean was living at Boorara Station at the time of the murder and was about 13, she met Callaghan on numerous occasions and also met the poor bloke who was killed, William John Groves.  But best of all Jean gave us her old photo album showing the bore being drilled, the trucks used to cart the equipment to the bore site and pictures of the two men involved.  She was happy to give the album to us as she said no one in her family was interested and would just throw the album out when she died.  She was also thrilled to have the opportunity to visit her old stomping ground once more and we were very grateful that she did and will treasure her photographs as part of Kilcoweras’ history.

11 Responses to “Cougars, Toyboys and Murderers’ Bore”

  1. Carolyn Fitzpatrick said

    We were recent visitors to Kilcowera Station as part of the Cobar Rotary Billy Can Bash. What a fun time we had! Accommodation, food, scenery, hospitality were all first class. I’m still raving about the fruit cake and was hoping that a copy of the recipe might be forthcoming?

    • zenonie said

      Hi Carolyn, that recipe will pop up soon so please keep us in your favourites. Been a bit busy lately and so will get to the blog shortly! The last 2 days saw Greg and me 160 kms up the road attending a course on cattle management, only got home about 7.30. Was very interesting! Cheers Toni

  2. Ken Blanch said

    Hi, I’m a retired journalist who knew Frank Bischof well. I am writing an account of the bore murder that contains hereto undisclosed information about how he really caught Callaghan. The simple method Bischof used to trap the killer, and which he told me about ten years later,would have made the evidence of his confession inadmissable had the court ever heard it.I am planning to publish the story in a small book that you might be interested in selling as part of your tourist operation. – Ken Blanch

    • zenonie said

      Sounds very interesting Ken. Are you the lawyer fellow? Davids’ father. If yes Greg says hi! We would love to see a copy of your book when finished. You might be aware that there was an Australian film company interested in doing the story too, but it all fizzled out due to lack of interest or finance, I’m not sure. Toni

  3. If this is the bore murder I am thinking of the court evidence is reported in Trove.

    My uncle was the manager at the time- Jim Cotter- he sent 2 men out to fix the bore. When they did not return, he rode out to find out why. The chap remaining claimed the other had runoff.. It was later found that the men had a huge fight. One bashed his head on a rock and died. The other burnt his body on a mulga fire until not much remained, he then crushed the bones up as best he could and stuffed everything down the bore. Both men hated each other from the start, and, although it came as a shock Jim Cotter was not surprised…as they had been trouble before

    At least thats what I was told… I hope thats the same bore!

    • zenonie said

      Hi Simon thanks for the comment. Your spot on about the bore it used to be called “Glencoe Bore” and we have many newspaper clippings about the murder. Your also spot on in commenting you hope its the only one! What is Trove please?

      When the cougar lady was here, Jean, a dear old person she said the manager at the time she was there was called Seale, there was a Mrs Seale as well. I think she said he was the manager.

      Like your post on Cobb and Co. I came across an unusual book in Bourke recently it’s called Cobb & Co Heritage Trail Bathurst to Bourke by Diane de St.Hilaire Simmonds, it’s quite a substantial publication which I got from The Bourke Riverside Motel Gallery. Cheers Toni

      • Hi Toni, you are welcome. James Henry Cotter became manager for the McGrath family on Boorara up until the late 50’s and 60’s. So I may have been a bit premature re his official title at the time of the murder which was in the 40’s. We understood him to be manager. I am trying to get in touch with Allen McGrath as I have a heap of letters and cards from the McGrath family written to him and want to confirm exact dates etc…Jim seemed to be highly regarded by the family.

        If you google “bore murder and trial” it will come up. Trove is an on line record of government, police, and newspaper reports going back to the early settlement.

        There was a piece in “The Land” re our history out there eg Thurloo Downs, Elsinora, Urisino, Nocholeche, Pirillie as well as Currawinya.. So I guess you could say we are part of the Paroo people. :o) along with the Gibbs, Dunks, and Bartons

        I will have to have a look at that book re Cobb and co!

  4. Toni- further to our conversation re James Cotter and the Bore murder.. Jims official title, according to court documents, was “Overseer” at the time of the murder. He later went on to be manager.

    Hope that helps with your history

    Cheers and Merry Christmas to you all.

  5. janelle groves said

    I have a feeling that the poor bloke that was murdered could have been a relative of mine.william john groves. I am doing my family tree, research will I hope bring something to light. my name is Janelle Groves.

    • zenonie said

      It would be interesting to know that;s for sure. If you ever come to visit I could share with you all the stuff we have about the murder. Newspaper clippings, photos etc, Cheers Toni

      • janelle groves said

        Hi mate got ur email, yeah I am working on the research madly at the moment. I would be ecstatic if it turns out to be my relative. I love skeletons in the closet or in this case in the bore!!!!! thanks for the offer to share all the info. Been trying to find something on Trove. Cheers Janelle

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