The Stockwhip Case – The Newsboy’s Association

© Chris Woodland

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The Stockwhip Case

On Wednesday 27 February the Narrandera Court heard what the press titled The Stockwhip Case, the defendant was William Mills (Saltbush Bill) and the plaintiff was Martin Breheny [sic] (Martini). Saltbush Bill had joined Martini’s Buckjumping Show in Sydney the previous year for £3 per week with board and lodging. He was employed as a performing whip cracker, having a collection of whips of his own and using the long one obtained by Martini for £7 10s. The length of this whip was, depending on the press report, either 54 or 55 feet in length and Martini held the receipt for its purchase.

Saltbush Bill had left the show with the whip at some stage and following the testimony of Martini and several of his employees, such as Harry Kennedy, the advance representative of the show, Billy Waite and Bennett Myers, who had shared Mills’ trap travelling around the shows, the court found in favour of Martini. Saltbush Bill was to pay the professional and witness costs of £3 7s.

Saltbush Bill (Mills) used an interesting reason for claiming the Henderson whip as his own. Kennedy had worked for Fitzgerald’s Circus for twelve years and he explained to the court that the show’s properties were often referred to as if belonging to the artist. Of course, it is common to refer to your horse or your machine, or whatever, when in fact it is the employer’s property. However, it is not common to take it literally!


The Newsboy’s Association

Sydney’s Evening News of 9 March 1907 contained a letter to the editor penned by a Mr W. Lowe, Chairman of the Newsboys’ Association. He explained that every year his association collected funds so that the 500 struggling Sydney newsboys could enjoy an annual picnic. Mr Lowe was seeking donations for the next Sydney Newsboys’ Picnic and mentioned:

Last year’s event was a gala day, for when the day’s sports were ended the whole of the boys were taken to see Mr. Martini’s buckjumping show at his kind invitation.

There were many such philanthropic contributions by Martini during his travels.

It was said that the show held on the White Tank Paddock in West Wyalong:

… was attended by one of the largest ever seen at an entertainment on this field.

That was on 16 March and they held another performance at the same venue four days later.

When the show turned up at Cobar three weeks later it received the usual glowing praises:

Martini lived up to his reputation; The seating accommodation is very good, a very large number of chairs being provided, and ladies can visit the show without fear of anything. Martini is in for a record season.

It was also announced that a Mr E. Cook was billed to ride the Kangaroo Valley colt in his own saddle.

While in Cobar it was reported that Billy Waite and another of Martini’s riders attempted to ride some of Skuthorpe’s horses, both shows having overlapped in Cobar. No doubt that the two proprietors had manufactured an evening of competition between the two well known shows. Waite sat to Skuthorpe’s famous Snips for just over fourteen seconds when he was thrown clean over his head.


Peak Hill to Albury

© Chris Woodland

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As usual they continued on presenting the show at many small villages and at larger towns such as Peak Hill, Parkes, Cootamundra (in Smith’s paddock); at Gundagai it was estimated that 800 persons were present one evening, many being turned away at the door. Some had travelled 30 or 40 miles solely for the purpose. Another night was cancelled because of rain, so it was often boom and bust for the show people. ‘Make hay while the sun shines”’ was an adage not exclusively intended for farmers.

The week following the Gundagai appearance the show performed near the Orient Hotel in Tumut. They played for two nights in Mr J Ball’s paddock in Wagga Wagga, where 1 500 people paid for admission on the Saturday night 1 December. The Wagga Wagga Advertiser claimed that Martini’s Buckjumping Show was the most Genuine Exhibition ever seen in Wagga Wagga.
The show opened for short season at Albury on December 22 where it was:

… hailed as absolutely the best of its-kind ever opened to a keenly critical Australian public. It is purely an Australian show — owned by an Australian and whose riders are principally composed of representatives of the original descendants of the soil. The distinctive feature about it is, its freedom from humbug and pretence. There is no bluff and blow … what- is advertised is carried out and the challenges thrown down are backed up by the money, men and horses.

Martini offered £10 to any local lad who could sit Bobs for a minute. There were no takers.

A Wodonga newspaper provided some details of Martini’s show saying that all the performing animals were enclosed by canvas walls about 12 feet high and that there were 14 lamps suspended across the centre of the enclosure, which gave ample light. There was plenty of ventilation and good seating accommodation. The burly Salt Bush Bill was still working wonders with his whips, while:

Mr Martini is master of ceremonies and in picturesque and pithy phraseology announces the order of events and moralises some regarding them.

They performed at Corowa at the town’s recreation reserve in the last days or 1906, then onto Benalla where they performed on Saturday night of January 12, 1907, in Mr Gilding’s paddock on the corner of Smythe and Bridge streets. On Monday, January 14, Ned Lloyd of Greta was promised £10 if he could sit on Bobs for one minute, but lasted only two bucks. Martini promised Lloyd that if he came back on Wednesday night he would be given £1 if he could get on the outlaw and £20 if he could stay on him for one minute. For some unknown reason Martini had the tent pulled down and there was no contest that Wednesday evening. The paper reported that: strong comments were made by members of the public. It appears that Martini, and possibly Lloyd, could see the possibility of increasing the stakes, as the contest was finally carried out in Wangaratta to a packed house. Lloyd was permitted to use his own saddle and bridle and gave a magnificent exhibition of riding before he was unseated after 8 ½ seconds of Bobs’ torturous bucking. Martini claimed that Lloyd had given the best account of any who had tried to master Bobs and presented him with £1 and a silver-mounted riding whip. He also offered him position as one of the show’s roughriders. Also, at Wangaratta a H. Mason, a well-known horseman of Everton, was hurled over Bob’s head after 4 ½ seconds of clinging to the pigskin.

At the end of January newspaper advertisements announced that the buckjumping show would be heading north back into New South Wales through Urana, Lockhart, Narrandera, Junee, Temora, Wyalong and beyond. They also announced:

TO THE PUBLIC— ‘BOBS’ the champion Buck-jumper, is a bay gelding, branded ST4 on the off shoulder. Beware of Imitations.

They opened in Urana on the first day of February to a crowded house. The attraction was to see a popular rider by the name of Sorely attempt to ride Bobs, but they were disappointed when Martini claimed that Sorely had only ridden the outlaw for seven seconds. Previous to this there had been a disagreement over the saddle to be used. The audience became very disorderly and Martini and Sorely’s arguing could not be heard over the din created by the onlookers. People were calling out for their money to be returned and shame, while others were supporting Martini. The Albury Banner reported that it nearly ended in an open brawl.

The buckjumping show was postponed at Coolamon until later in the month. The show was performed behind the convent in Narrandera where, on one night, Martin’s Buckjumpers were competing with an evening of hypnotism by Professor Bonner in the Public Hall.
Owing to the superior attractions of Martini’s Buckjumpers the Professor had only a thin house, but nevertheless went on with the programme.

Record attendances were recorded at Narrandera and drew large entries for the events. Veteran roughrider Harry Dempsey (father of the buckjumpers Jack and Arthur Dempsey) was awarded a silver mounted stockwhip by Martini in recognition of the assistance he gave the show.

In late February a 19 year old lad by the name of Mitchell met with a serious accident on Dollar Vale Station a few days after he had ridden in Martini’s buckjumping show at Junee. The lad’s future was in serious doubt.

About this time the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express reported that there had been a clash of dates at Coolamon with Martini’s show and a Scottish evening held for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church. Neither party was able to change their dates so they were both held simultaneously. Fortunately, it appears that attendances were almost equally divided.


Farewell Sydney Town

© Chris Woodland

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It is a fact of life that nothing stays the same, and so it was with Martini’s convenient and profitable venue. With the continuing alterations to the area around the new Central Station, Rawson Place (a continuation of Eddy Avenue) was to be opened up.

Martini’s advertisement in the pages of The Australian Star of Wednesday 6 May 1906 read:

22 Consecutive Weeks In Sydney. 22
A Record Reign.
owing to Government requiring the Grounds
to open up Rawson-place. LAST NIGHTS
(weather permitting). LAST NIGHTS.
Box Plan at M. H. Lazarus, Tobacconist,
Market-street. Prices, 3s, 2s, 1s.

Before Martini’s Buckjumpers left their five-and-a-half-month idyllic venue, they continued providing top quality entertainment for their patrons. The Wednesday night of 12 May saw a military contest of thirteen men compete to be the best rider in their group. All of these aspirants were thrown, but a Gunner Thompson won the contest. A special £5 amateur competition using stock saddles began on the same evening.

Billy Waite

As would be expected, a large crowd attended the Monster Farewell Programme where a Mr Lazarus, on behalf of the staff and patrons, presented Martini with an impressive inscribed diamond medal as a token of esteem. Everyone’s favourite, the gifted Billy Waite, was presented with a gold medal for defeating Lance Skuthorpe for the Australian championship and was backed to the value of £200 against any rider in Australia. The Dempsey brothers were each given a silver mounted riding whip for their spectacular exhibitions of riding. An advertisement in Sydney’s Referee stated that the horses would be rested now for some time and that the show would then travel through New South Wales and Victoria with their popular acts. This advertisement concluded with the statement: Positively no connection with any other show.

This announcement was the first in many to accompany Martini’s advertisements as deceitful competitors were claiming they had the horses and riders with the same names as Martini. Because of Bobs’ fame, Martini would soon be including the horse’s brand in such public notices.


On the Road Again

Enjoying a rest for over two months Martini’s show was back in action in early August 1906, performing for two nights at Penrith, then onto Lithgow and Bathurst, the two places he had to abandon when he learnt of the Christ Church site in Sydney. Martini had learnt the advantage of advertising and kept the press, particularly the Referee, informed of his movements by wire well before the event. Now the show was advertising that they had 500ft of new canvas for their enclosure, also:

… champion Bobs and the original Dargin’s Grey, and Salt Bush Bill, the Whip King with Henderson’s Monster Whip, 55ft long, and 40 smaller ones!

The popular Fun in a Stockyard was still advertised, as was the usual:

Bucking Horses, Mules, Ponies, Donkeys, Asses and Jennets.

While not defining the differences between a donkey and an ass.

Advertisements now had J. Martini as sole proprietor and Harry Kennedy as representative. Kennedy would travel ahead of the show spreading the good word, organising venues, and advertising the event. Local riders and horses would also be sought from local sources for the exhibitions.

News items and advertisements for the show appeared along the way: viz. Bathurst’s National Advocate (8 August), the Leader of Orange (28 August), Molong’s Argus (7 September) and the Wellington Times. Bad weather prevented one evening performance at Orange. Milthorpe had a short season at Blackmore’s Hotel and the show appeared for one night at Cumnock.

In mid-September the Molong Argus, in its report of Martini’s Buckjumpers of the previous night (13 September), commenced the article with a doggerel rhyme:

Buck-Jumping Show.

If you want some good fun, I’d advise you to go
This Friday night to the buck-jumping show.
The notorious ‘ Bobs’ at the show you will see
If there’s a horse that can buck, I’ll be bound it is he!
Some ‘live’ ponies and mules Martini has got
If you wish so to do you can mount the whole lot;
They ‘root’ with a will— never stopping to barney,
If you doubt what I say— just ask Johnny Carney!
On Thursday night, too, they lowered the banner
Of Hilary McGroder and young Don Tanner;
‘Tid’ Nelson and Herrick, ‘twixt me and you.
Could ride them all right — if provided with glue.
Martini’s run out of good glue, so they say,
But a thumping supply he’s getting to-day;
So a chance there is still for the lads of the town
To jump up on a mule, and quickly jump down!
Jack Carney rode a winner, and scooped the blooming ‘pool,’
But Martini couldn’t get him astride a frisky mule!;
Of course he could have sat one quite easily I know
But eventually ‘twould hoist him where gentle breezes blow!
Jack Kearns had a ‘mount’ last night at the show,
And it struck me at first that to market ‘twould go;
But it didn’t do that — though had it done so,
This ‘rough rider’s’ cake— well, it might have been dough!
To be candid and straight — not wishing to blow —
‘Tis quite safe to state that Martini’s horse show
Is the most up-to-date to which you can go
lf its bucking you want— and a horseman – you know!

Following the newspaper’s aspiring poet’s effort was a lengthy article giving a detailed account of the evening’s activities, mentioning Billy Waite’s and the Dempsey brothers’ splendid exhibition of horsemanship, numerous lads being thrown by the ponies Midget and Bulls Wool, concluding with:

‘Bobs’ was the last item on the programme and proved a particularly lively one at that. Mr Martini offered a £10 prize to anyone who kept his seat for a whole minute; Mr Sinclair held the coin, Mr Cecil Smith the stop watch, Mr A. D. Millar acted as judge, and a Mr Wilcox (of Oberon) essayed the task of appropriating the prize. ‘ Bobs’ wasn’t long getting to business, with the result that Mr Wilcox and he dissolved partnership within the brief space of six seconds. However, the Oberon horseman was complimented by Mr Martini on the attempt he had made, and the audience clapped him to an echo. Another feature of the show is a first-class exhibition of whip-cracking by Salt Bush Bill. His collection of whips ranges from the ordinary 12ft stock-whip to Henderson’s monster stock-whip (55ft long and weighing I5lbs.) Saltbush Bill cracks this boomer with one hand, and can make the smaller ones crack and cut to perfection. He’s worth seeing is Salt Bush Bill, [he] is a distinct feature of a real good show.

Another item in the newspaper stated that the father of the riders J. and A. Dempsey, had been a resident in the Molong and Orange districts for many years. Of course the famous, but now debilitated Dargan’s Grey, was, as usual, paraded before the audience.


Bobs Conquered – Rider Injured

One evening a fortunate Molong audience witnessed the riding of Bobs by Billy Waite who, with no one else wishing to try their luck or ability, sprang from the ground into the saddle and rode without stirrups. It was an experience that would become folklore by those who witnessed the event.

The show continued on exhibiting in Bodangora, Geurie (in the paddock behind the Perseverance Hotel), – a James Nugent broke a wrist while attempting to ride the pony Bulls Wool; a season at Dubbo, then a cancellation at Trangie because of inclement weather.

The Peak Hill Express mentioned that Bobs was insured for £800 and the Molong Argus mentioned that Dargin’s Grey was 23 years old and that the accident to his fetlock at Toowoomba resulted in a lump ‘as big as a pumpkin’. The Sydney-based Referee placed an advertisement on 11October, which stated Bob’s brand in a bid to thwart fraudulent activities involving horses similar to the champion.

after a sensational season of 22 weeks in Sydney,
is now touring N.S.W. with 60 Buck-jumpers, 12
Wagons, and 500 square feet of canvas. and will
shortly visit Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Young, &c.
TO THE PUBLIC — ‘BOBS,’ the Champion
Buck-jumper, is a bay gelding, branded ST4 on
the off shoulder. – Beware of Imitations.


On to Parramatta

© Chris Woodland

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When next we hear of Martini and his travelling show they were to perform at Parramatta on Saturday 2 December, that an eight-hands high pony known as the Midget, was the smallest buckjumper in Australia, and that Mr Menadue, the Queensland champion cornet player, will be playing solos during the evening and that he would also play the gum leaf. The Cumberland Argus said:

Local horsemen will have another opportunity to pick up £10 tonight at Martini’s buckjumping exhibition, at George Street, Parramatta. It is only a matter of sitting on “Bobs” for a few seconds.

The Lithgow Mercury named the usual varieties of performing animals, how long the show has been on the road, then interestingly informed the readers that the performing enclosure was of canvas, which is 14 feet (4.3 m) high and 240 square feet (22.3 square metres). The show was to be in Lithgow on 2 December the 4 December. They have concluded five nights at Penrith and would soon arrive at Katoomba, then Mt Victoria for performances before arriving in Lithgow.

After all that coverage it appears that the show never reached Lithgow and stayed or returned to Parramatta, where they commenced one of several nights on 2 December, the day they were to open at Lithgow.

It appears that Martini had formed a better idea than heading over the Blue Mountains. He made a decision that would make him even better known, would enhance his earnings and would offer the show a welcome reprieve from always moving along the road. Martini’s Buckjumpers would become a household name, which would pack the venues with eager spectators and those attempting to earn a name in the faculty of roughriding.

One performance at this Sydney venue would be the most advertised and best attended of Martini’s career. This was to be the match between Australia’s most famed roughrider, Lance Skuthorpe, and the notorious outlaw from Bryamine station in North Queensland with the brand ST4, the seemingly unrideable Bobs.


Martini’s Buckjumping Show was to spend over 22 weeks in the centre of the city of Sydney, from Thursday 21 December until closing night, with the Monster Farewell Programme on 19 May 1906. The area was adjacent to the Christ Church School grounds in Pitt Street, opposite the entrance of the new railway station, which was to be known as Central Station. The old Sydney heritage-listed Anglican church of Christ Church St Lawrence, with its dominant spire, was consecrated in 1845 and still stands today between Pitt and George streets.

On Wednesday the 13th December the Referee published:

The Byrimine [sic] Station (Q.) Buckjumper, with Martini’s Buckjumping Show. Martini will back Bobs for £100 to throw any rider in Australia in less than five minutes and has deposited £25 at “Referee’ Office” to bind a match. Martini is prepared also to back one of his Queensland horsemen to ride any other horse under same conditions. Full particulars at Exhibitions, given nightly, at Christchurch [sic] School Grounds Pitt Street, opposite the entrance to New Railway Station, commencing THURSDAY NIGHT, 21st DECEMBER.

The following telegram was received at the Referee Wednesday 7 December:

I will back Prof. L. A. Skuthorpe to ride Martini’s buckjumper Bobs for any part of £100; Skuthorpe to ride in his own small stock saddle. —
Sam Evans, owner Durendo Station, Q.

Martini replied that he would accept the wager under the condition that the knee pads would not exceed three inches, to which Evans wired back that the pads of Skuthorpe’s saddle measure three and a half inches on the inside of the pads and four and a half on the outside. When the night of the challenged finally eventuated in March the choice of saddle developed into a major disagreement.