James & Patrick Kenniff

James & Patrick Kenniff

Patrick Kenniff (1863-1903) and James (1869-1940). Patrick was born at Main Creek, near Dungog, New South Wales, on 28 September 1863. James’s birth was not registered. After convictions for stock stealing in northern New South Wales, they overlanded in 1891 with their father to Queensland, where their younger brothers Thomas and John later joined them. Living by bush work, they also raced horses and opened books on the local race meetings.

Moving to the Upper Warrego in 1893, they occupied blocks of land in the Hoganthulla and Killarney resumptions and later the Ralph block. With convicted cattle duffers Thomas Stapleton, John and Richard Riley and others, they launched a reign of ‘mild terror’ from their base on Ralph, stealing cattle from Carnarvon and other neighbouring stations. During this period both brothers served prison terms.  They developed a special animosity towards the manager of Carnarvon, Albert Christian Dahlke.

When the charred remains of station manager Albert Dahlke and Constable George Doyle were found in Lethbridge’s Pocket, strong suspicion fell on Patrick and James Kenniff. Despite a reward of £1000 and a large police manhunt, they were not arrested until 23 June at Arrest Creek, south of Mitchell.  Found guilty of wilful murder, both prisoners were sentenced to death.  Patrick was executed on 12 January 1903 and buried in South Brisbane cemetery with Catholic rites; the sentence of James was commuted to life imprisonment.