Henry Arthur Readford (Redford)Print Page Print this page

A cairn at the grave commemorates Henry Arthur "Harry" Readford (Redford) a former manager of Brunette Station who drowned in 1901. 

Henry Arthur "Harry" Readford (sometimes spelt "Redford" in Queensland) (1841 – 1901), was an Australian stockman, drover and cattle thief. 

Although Readford himself never used, and had never been associated with the moniker, Rolf Boldrewood indicated that the 'Captain Starlight' character, in his 1882–83 novel Robbery Under Arms, was a composite of several infamous people of the era, including Readford and several bushrangers. Readford's 1870 cattle drive was a major story arc in the book.

In 1869 Harry went to Queensland and set up a carrier business with four mates, transporting produce from Tambo to Bowen Downs, one of the greatest cattle runs in Queensland. This expansive run stretched for over 200 kilometres across the endless plains of Central Queensland, north of Longreach boasting some of the finest Mitchell grass in Australia.

At the time of Harry’s arrival, Bowen Downs carried over 60,000 head of good quality cattle. With so many cattle spread over such a huge property, Harry saw an opportunity. He came to the belief that the property was so large that missing stock would go unnoticed for some time – perhaps enough time for him to be long gone.

His plan was so audacious that many still consider it impossible, telling his mates that they would muster 1,000 head of cattle overland to South Australia where the Bowen Downs brand would mean nothing. They considered themselves unlikely to raise suspicion travelling over the property, given their role as teamsters. Should they be caught with some stolen bullocks in tow, they could always bluff their way through claiming they were searching for their own stray bullocks.

Harry and his team mustered 1,000 head of cattle on a 3000km overland journey from Bowen Downs to Marree in South Australia, conquering the desert that had claimed the lives of Burke and Wills. Their mistake was in stealing a huge white bull worth more than 500 pounds. They needed the bull to keep the herd quiet, but it was a decision that would prove Harry’s undoing.

On 11 February 1873, Redford and the white bull were star attractions at his trial in Roma. Surprisingly, he was found ‘not guilty’ leading Judge Blakeney to made his famous statement to the jury, ‘I thank God that the verdict is yours, gentlemen and not mine.

It is a common belief that, Redford was acquitted by the jury out of admiration for his outstanding droving skills. For a decade after, Queensland cattle were overlanded along the track the Redford pioneered.

In 1883 he moved the first herd of cattle from Queensland to the Brunette Downs station where he was appointed manager. For many years he oversaw the McArthur River station. 

He died on the 12th March, 1901 at Corella Creek on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory. He drowned while trying to swim across Corella Creek which had flooded due to heavy rain.


Address:West of Corella, number 2 bore on Corella Creek, 350 kilometres North-east of Tennant Creek, Brunette Downs
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -18.51
Long: 135.729722
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People


Front Inscription

Here Lies
Harry Redford
Captain Starlight

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au