Our History: Shootout at the inn | Cooksvale Creek

WILD RIDE: Publicans Thomas and Catherine Vardy, and one of the bushrangers that enjoyed their hospitality at the Limerick Races Inn, Fred Lowry.
WILD RIDE: Publicans Thomas and Catherine Vardy, and one of the bushrangers that enjoyed their hospitality at the Limerick Races Inn, Fred Lowry.

Thomas Vardy was born in Wexford, Ireland, and arrived in Australia on the convict ship Parmelia II in 1834. He had been sentenced to seven years for a firearms offence.

In 1843 Thomas married a widow, Catherine Hogan, nee Rogers.  Catherine had been previously married to Michael Hogan in 1826.  It is believed that by 1834 Michael and Catherine were living at Carrabungla. 

It was in 1841 that Michael died after being kicked in the groin by a bullock in the grounds of the Shamrock Inn. He was moving stock from Carrabungla to the Tuglow Black Springs area. Michael and Catherine had 12 children. 

Catherine was born at County Clare, Ireland, in 1801, and came to Australia free on board the ship Janus in 1821.

In 1857, Catherine purchased 33 acres of land on the Cook’s Vale Creek and in 1858 both she and Thomas were operating the Limerick Races Inn. 

The Limerick Races Inn was described in a newspaper report as rendering accommodation of a description not to be surpassed by any house this side of the country. The inn offered the best food and wines. Horse racing was a regular activity at the inn. 

Charles McAlister in his book “Pioneering Days of the Old Sunny South” describes Catherine Vardy as “the embodiment of kindness and hospitality”.

The inn was famous also for having visits from bushrangers and it was from here that the bushrangers Fred Lowry and Larry Cummins were captured. There are no photographs or drawings of the inn, however, the vacant paddock where the inn was situated has been identified.

The Cummins brothers had committed robberies within the local area and were well known, however it was the Mudgee mail robbery that led to their demise.

Former site of the Limerick Races Inn. Photo: Q20 Pics.

Former site of the Limerick Races Inn. Photo: Q20 Pics.

Fredrick Lowry was born in Sydney and moved to the district of Young; his partner in crime was John Foley. They stole horses and were wanted for attempted murder after shooting two men at the Oberon races. After spending time riding with Ben Hall’s gang, the two robbed the Goulburn Mail just outside the town. 

It was around this time that the Cummins boys joined them and on July 13, 1863, they robbed the Mudgee Mail Coach. Lowry’s gang had heard that Mr Kater, a Mudgee bank accountant, was to take the coach to Sydney with £5,700 in old bank notes that were to be destroyed. Lowry thought that he could put the notes to better use than being destroyed.

Mrs Smith was another passenger on the coach and when she screamed with fear Lowry assured her “We never rob women, Ma’am,” Mrs Smith had £200 in her purse that they missed out on adding to their haul. After robbing Mr Kater of his pistol, watch and gold chain they unharnessed the horses and headed for the bush leaving the passengers to find their way into Hartley for help.

It was not long before the police were on the trail of the bushrangers. On August 6, 1863, Senior-Constable Murphy, stationed at Binda, accompanied by Constable Molloy, went to the home of Mrs Cummins searching for her two sons who were suspected of having robbed some settlers near Taralga. 

They found John Cummins hiding in the loft. Shots were fired and Cummins was apprehended. Taking Mrs Cummins’ horse they headed towards Binda, Murphy leading the prisoner’s horse and Molloy following a few yards behind. A shot rang out and the bullet hit John Cummins on the back of the head behind the ear. The shot was intended for Murphy but killed John Cummins instead. The sound of a horse galloping away was heard. It was supposed that Larry Cummins was trying to secure his brother’s release and accidentally shot him instead.

As John was dying, the troopers took him to Paddy Berrell’s’ Rose, Thistle and Shamrock Inn and placed him on the floor of one of the rooms; it was here that he died. John was 18 years old.  (In 1971 John Williams purchased the Berrell land and dismantled the inn using the floor boards for the floor of his shearing shed. You could still see where the blood stains had soaked into the floor boards.)

Bushranger Larry Cummins.

Bushranger Larry Cummins.

On August 29, 1863, acting on information, Sergeant James Stephenson and a party of police arrived at Vardy’s Limerick Races Inn at Cooksvale Creek, north of Crookwell. Posting his men around the inn Sergeant Stephenson entered the building. A shot rang out from inside the building and hit the policeman's horse outside. Fred Lowry appeared from one of the rooms and fired, just missing Sergeant Stephenson’s head. The Sergeant also fired but hit the doorknob. Lowry fired again and the bullet hit Sergeant Stephenson in the hand but Sergeant Stephenson was able to fire a shot which hit Lowry in the throat. A struggle continued until Lowry was overpowered by the other policemen. On searching the other rooms they found Larry Cummins and he was apprehended. Lowry was placed on a dray and the party headed towards Goulburn. The prisoner was choking and in much pain when the party stopped off at Pratton’s Inn at Woodhouselee and a doctor was sent for. Lowry died of his wound the next day. His lasts words were “Tell ‘em I died game”.

Postscript: Thomas and Catherine were to have two children, John and one child that died. John was to marry Florence Lucy Hogan and they were to have nine children. Thomas Fardy died at the Limerick Races Inn on March 14, 1878. The inn was to close in the early 1880s. Catherine Fardy died in September, 1883, at her son Henry Hogan’s property at The Springs, Laggan. John Fardy’s story continues with him holding the licence for the Peelwood Inn from 1884 to 1886 and the Kingsdale Hotel from 1886 to 1888. John was to return to Peelwood in 1888 to open the Royal Hotel.

Senior Sergeant James Stephenson.

Senior Sergeant James Stephenson.

  • Please note: This family name was originally spelt Vardy but over the years they were to be known as Fardy. The publican’s licenses for the Limerick Races Inn appear in the name Vardy, also advertisements in newspapers.


Discuss "Shootout at the inn"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.