Boomerang Jack Brady was one of Australia’s greatest horsemen. He had energy, horse sense and ability to cope with anything that turned up. When riding those that bucked he did not look the least like being thrown and I heard always the same from others that had seen more of his riding. “You never saw daylight between Boomerang Jack and the saddle” his seat did not rise from the saddle, whatever happened. H.M. Barker 1966
John Brady was born at Toowoomba, Queensland about the year 1865. He was a native of the Dawson, and had very little education. He learnt to ride horses by being strapped behind a man in a saddle when he was very young.
As a lad he headed for the Johnstone River in North Queensland and travelled part of the way with a drover in charge of bulls.
After leaving the Johnstone River country he was working at Fort Constantine Station (north western Queensland) and it was here that he was injured. His horse fell on him two miles from a road, and he knew if he could reach it he might be found. He pulled himself backwards over stones and spinifex until he reached the road. Here he lay exhausted, with flies tormenting him and his throat parched for want of water. He was found by a mate who carried a water-bag with him, then bringing him around, his rescuer bandaged his leg, then rode away to get assistance. Eventually he was taken to the Cloncurry Hospital in a dray where he remained for four months. After that fall his leg was always crooked, and shorter than the right, because of this bowed leg he became known as “Boomerang” Jack Brady.
By now he had a good turnout of horses and saddles
Jack was shearing at Cordillo Downs, South Australia in July 1890. A bay horse was yarded that had not been ridden since the breaker Andy Clinton passed him. A wager of £5 was made by one of Brady’s shearing mates, and taken up by Charlie Adams, the sheep overseer. The wager being that Jack could not ride the horse to a standstill without spurs, bridle or halter. The animal was roped and saddled, Brady mounted and the rope slipped off. Boomerang Brady had to have two hands free, and no holts (grip or hold) of any kind. He had a flagellator (whip) of green-hide in one hand and his hat in the other. He rode the horse until the animal sulked in the middle of the yard.
He then went to Coongie Lakes to break in horses for Norman Wilson, who owned the property at that time. While there he broke in many horses, and rode several rough ones. Mr. Wilson had £100 to say he would back Boomerang Brady to ride against any other man in Australia.
While at Coongie Lakes, “Duke” Johnny Darmody backed a notorious bucker known as “Pincher” to throw Brady in the big yard for a tenner (£10). This animal was renowned for bucking the longest. Norman Wilson was judge and timekeeper. Boomerang Brady had to ride the horse for half an hour. When bucking, the animal came down with his shoulders very near the ground, first one side and then the other, but never left the one spot. Boomerang Brady rode him with his left hand holding the slack rein. The horse would give one or two bucks with his head down, then would throw his head up, swing and land with his head between his knees. He was never ridden after Boomerang Brady left Coongie Lakes, and was used only as a pack-horse.
Boomerang Jack Brady never beat a horse on the ground, and so far as a colt was concerned he was as gentle as a woman with her baby. If a horse bucked he would pat her as soon as they stopped and talk to her. This would go on for days, but as soon as Jack was sure it was temper and not fear, then the animal got the whip every time. Jack Brady always rode in a small knee-pad saddle with the buckle end of his leathers on top so he could adjust the stirrups on the animal’s back.
When at Nappa Merrie Station, south west Queensland on the Coopers Creek, Boomerang Brady rode another notorious horse called “Grey Harry”, who had never been ridden outside the yard.
This ride formed the material for John Conrick’s verse – “Boomerang Jack from Coongie.”
One well known line was
“Born in a calf pen, reared in a stockyard and rocked to sleep on a buck jumper.”
Boomerang Brady was well over 40 when left for the Georgina River, and he was ahead of any other rider on the river at that time.
He then went to Austral Downs station in the Northern Territory in 1901 and broke in some horses for Mr. Floyd, who was then the manager. The stock was removed a little later, and then Boomerang Brady went to the Barkly Tablelands where he ran the camp for Michael Costello. The Costello’s moved in 1903, and Boomerang was brought to Lake Nash in 1904.
He left Lake Nash in 1906 and went west with Arthur Nuggleton.
In 1912-13 he took a mob of cattle from Rocklands (in the Northern Territory on the Georgina River) to the Gilpippi waterhole. Then he went further west to Wave Hill and was head stockman and breaker there.
“Old Boomerang was a bloke who could really ride.”
At Wave Hill a horse came out of the yard there once, bucking and throwing his head around and the next minute it hit something, turned turtle and broke old Jack’s leg. They turned his leg around and pulled it here and there and rumour had it that it was a compound fracture and somebody ripped a knife in his leg, opened it up and pushed the bone back in. He was about two or three months on his back and never shifted. Yet the old bugger still reckoned no one was better than him and he was still getting on colts.
They’d say “I don’t think you should get on that horse Jack.” To which he would reply “I’m all right. I’m as good as I ever was,” and he’d hit the bloody saddle and the bloody horse would fly away bucking.
Bow Hill Police Station Journal, 24 September 1918
At about 2.30am arrested John Brady Stockman at Wave Hill for attempted murder of Hunter Loder.
Shoot ups happened quite a few times out there, but unless somebody got shot nothing was ever made of it. It was just too much time and trouble to get blokes into court at Darwin that everyone just shut up and forgot about it. Boomerang Jack Brady was committed for trial on a charge of having shot and wounded Hunter Loder, manager of Wave Hill Station and Tom Simpson was made to appear as witness.
When the Judge asked Tom Simpson his version of the event, the old bushman’s answer broke the court room into uncontrollable laughter. The Judge banging the table and yelled “if you people don’t shut up I’ll dismiss the court, I’ll dismiss the court” they couldn’t and the Judge commented, “You people in the Territory, you’re all queer!”
The first trial lasted five days, and the jury disagreed. The second trial lasted five days, and Mr. Mallam, counsel for Jack Brady made a five hours address to the jury who then returned a verdict of not guilty
After the court case old Boomerang went back to Wave Hill. He had a half a dozen horses there.
A few years later he decided to hit out for Queensland to go home to see his sister, whom he hadn’t seen for over forty years.
Old Jack managed to make it to Newcastle Waters, but by then he was very sick and the policeman there, Gordon Stott, looked after him for four or five days. Jack’s legs were swollen up with beri beri (scurvy)
Several cases of beri beri, which I have treated, resulted I am sure, from personal neglect. The average bushman will not bother to boil a cabbage or vegetable when damper and cooked salt beef are available.
Dr Herbert Basedow, Adelaide Advertiser, 27 September 1922
Old Boomerang Jack had pestered Gordon so much that Gordon said “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll loan you a tracker to go as far as Anthony’s Lagoon with you and I’ll write a letter to the policeman there. My tracker can come back from Anthony’s and the policeman there will give you another tracker who’ll take you on as far as the Ranken.”
They had been out about four days and about 65 miles from Newcastle Waters, out between Number 3 and Number 4 bores on Eva Downs Station, he was very crook, he went totally blind, and the boy tracker had to lead his horse along. There was nothing but scrub where they camped the night. In the morning the boy did not want to shift him, but it was a water-less camp so they got up on their horses and headed on to Number 3 bore.
Old Jack only rode a mile that morning on or about December 25 1926, and then he asked the boy to help him down from his horse. The boy did so, and Jack collapsed and died as soon as he reached the ground. The boy pulled the body to the side of the track and covered it with old Jack’s swag off the pack-horse, then rode on to Anthony’s Lagoon arriving on the 26th December at 9pm.
Next morning Mounted Constable McCann had to go out to where the body was left and arrived at the place on the 28th December. Jacks body was still on his swag. He examined the body and recognised John Brady. There were no tracks of violence on the body and from the tracks on the ground that he noticed, he had no doubt that Jack died as described by the boy, and from natural causes. He took charge of all Jack’s possessions and dug a grave alongside, rolled the body in the swag and buried him. Posts were driven in to mark the site.
Northern Standard (Darwin, NT: 1921-1950) Tuesday 11 January 1927
Message has been received by the Darwin police from the police station at Anthony’s Lagoon which states that the police had buried on Newcastle Waters stock route, John Brady, better known as Boomerang Brady – an expert horseman, and well known as a drover in West Australia and on Wave Hill station. Deceased was about seventy years of age.
The Brisbane Courier (Qld: 1864 – 1933) Saturday 9 April 1927
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF QUEENSLAND
In the WILL of JOHN BRADY, late of Inverway Station, (Victoria River district) in the Northern Territory of Australia, Stockman, Deceased.
Notice is hereby given that, after the expiration of fourteen days from the date of the publication hereof, application will be made to this Honourable Court that PROBATE of the WILL of the above named John Brady, deceased, may be granted to ARTHUR STEPHEN SPENCER, of Corinda, near Brisbane in the State of Queensland, Stock, Station and General Commission Agent, the sole Executor named in the said Will. Any person Interested, who desires to object to the application or to be heard upon it, may file a Caveat in the Registry at any time before the grant is made.
Dated this Fourth day of April, 1927
FLOWER & HART. Solicitors for the Executor.
Adelaide Street, Brisbane
Later an engraved headstone was sent:
Died 25th Dec 1926
Erected by his sister
For years after, when drovers were going that way they’d always camp at Boomerang Brady’s grave. It was the only place for miles, where they could hang up the bridles and saddles and camp for the night.
“BOOMERANG BRADY” … poem written by Lex McLennan (1909-1969)
The ‘Boomerang’ with keen true flight sped on, nor travelled back
From the last lonely camp upon a far north-western track
The ‘Boomerang’ was dead they say, the last mad race was run
And the last scrubber yarded at the setting of the sun.
The ‘Boomerang’ will never die, north west of Charleville.
While drovers cross the purple plain and floods the gilgals fill
In dulcet tones of western drawl made picturesque with slang
They’ll tell in the bar and outback hut the tales of ‘Boomerang.’
His daring feats on cattle camps and stock routes long and lone
Will gild again the creek and plain and ranges scarred with stone
And outlaw horses long since dead will buck again in dreams
As long as bushmen meet and yarn beside the western streams.
When to the west they left at rest the mould of dull cold clay
They surely know the ‘Boomerang’ had ridden far away
Far out across the vast expanse that skirts the nebulas
That marks the last great cattle route man call the Milky Way.
And still the ‘Boomerang’ will ride, where sky-bred yearlings play
They shook his hand in welcome on Valhalla’s plain that day,
And the messages went outward to camps beyond the Stars
Where breakers mount the lightening with their flaming bridle bars.
Heigh-ho Valkyrian stockmen! Aye leave the wild cloud steers
To roam to-day unguarded out across the star grass clears.
And gather at the red camp fires that mark the comets glow
To greet the King who joins us, to the land where horsemen go.
In this harsh, inhospitable and solitary land, one wonders of how many other men have died, lonely and companion-less.