Richard French's great great grandmother was named Margaret Pollock.
She was quite a woman. When notorious bushrangers John and Thomas Clarke approached the post office and store in Nerrigundah on the NSW south coast in April 1866, she didn't take a backward step.
"She was the post mistress who threw the keys to a gold safe into a big muddy pool and told the Clarkes to bugger off in no uncertain terms," said Richard, a former Newcastle Herald journalist.
"Apparently a young boy also used his shoes to squelch the keys deeper into the mud or clenched them between his toes and wandered away, which the Clarkes didn't see."
This prompted Richard to share his story about the day his relative faced the Clarkes.
"Family legend has it that when the gang arrived, they terrorised the locals all day and there were only two coppers there," said Richard, who credited his sister Bronwyn Green with doing the family research.
Constable Miles O'Grady was severely ill, but he rose from his sickbed to help confront the bushrangers. He shot one dead before being shot himself. He died a few hours later.
"There is a memorial to him in Nerrigundah."
The bushrangers robbed Pollock's Store, which is where the post office was based.
Author Peter C. Smith has written that the store probably had about 200 or 300 ounces of gold, which would be worth up to $815,000 today.
The Clarkes demanded the keys to the gold safe.
"Margaret, an upstanding but tough Christian Presbyterian woman, gave them her best verbal burst of fire and brimstone and a little Scots-Irish brogue-laden tongue lashing, as she flung the keys into the mud," Richard said.
After searching unsuccessfully by candlelight, the Clarkes "gave up and left without the gold".
After the murder of Constable O'Grady, the Clarke brothers became outlaws.
They were captured in April 1867 and hanged two months later at Sydney's Darlinghurst Gaol.
Richard French said Pollock's Store was "one of those wonderful old Aussie bush general stores".
It was a place where you could get "everything a kid loved from musk sticks to fireworks, and the adults bought all their essentials".
"Just like my boyhood," he said.
I remember my childhood quite fondly when Dad used to roll us down the hill inside car tyres. Those were the good years.
What's the smartest crime? Third degree murder.
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