Morgan, 'Mad' Dan

‘Mad’ Dan Morgan as he is most famously known was born on the 30th April, 1830 in Appin. Not much is known about his early life but what we do know is that Dan was the illegitimate son of Mary Owen and George Fuller. Well known characters in the area, his mother gained the name of ‘the Gypsy’ for her complexion and his father sold fruit and vegetables.

From the age of two until 17 Morgan lived with an adoptive father, John Roberts, known around town as ‘the Welshman’. Supposedly, Dan Morgan attended a Catholic School in Campbelltown. It is said that he only ever learnt if he was coerced and even at this young age was considered ‘bad’.

Although a poor student, he had a great affinity with animals, in particular horses allowing him to become a horseman with great ability. As an adult he worked from place to place as a stockman. Those he came into contact with said he had a very quick temper. The gold rush of the era attracted him to Victoria where he soon gained the reputation of a horse thief.

In 1854 Morgan was back in Campbelltown and staying at ‘the Welshmans’ hut. Idling for some months he decides to visit his mother in Ballarat and so steals two horses for the journey. He was reportedly chased for some miles by Campbelltown police but he eluded them.

Morgan was charged with armed robbery and sentenced to twelve years prison on the 10 June 1854. After just six years he gained a ticket-of–leave but broke his parole conditions by not reporting to police as instructed. Morgan instead lived by himself near the King River, stealing what he needed and duffing (rustling) the occasional horse. One of these horses belonged to a man named John Evans. Together with his neighbour E.M. Bond, who also had horses missing, they tracked Morgan down and while they wounded him he survived. Morgan did not forget.

On the night of the 2nd of April 1865, after years of crime Morgan crossed the border into Victoria determined to exact revenge on Evans and Bond. On the 6th he set alight haystacks on Evan’s station. He bailed up anyone rushing from the house but Evan’s was not home.

Morgan had heard talk of a fine racehorse nearby and endeavoured to steal it. Having had no sleep for five nights, he arrived at Peechelba Station near Wangaratta where he asked (at gunpoint) for some food and a horse to take him back over the border. The family’s daughters played piano for the bushranger while two servants went to get help.

By 8 am on the 9th April, ten police and volunteers had the homestead surrounded. When Morgan stepped out and approached them he was shot and taken to a nearby woolshed where he died later that afternoon.

The coroner had the bushranger decapitated and his head sent to a scientist for study. His beard was also cut off and became a souvenir.

Over his lifetime, Morgan had accumulated a number of aliases including: William John Owen, Bill the Native, John Smith, Dan Moran, William Morgan, Big Morgan ‘Down the River Jack’ and ‘Terror of the Riverina’ but he will be best remembered as Mad Dan Morgan.


Australian Bushrangers: the romance of robbery by Sacha Molitorisz

Bushrangers : heroes, victims or villains / written by Jill Bruce, illustrated by Jan Wade. 2004

Mad Dan Morgan Country by Greg Powell.

Dan Morgan: A definitive history of the bushranger Dan Morgan 1989 - a talk by Marie Holmes in 2011

‘Mad Dan’ Morgan bushranger by J.A. King, 1976.

Morgan the murderer by Edgar Penzig.

Morgan the Bold Bushranger by Margaret Carnegie 1974.