Tony Birch on 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' by Thomas Keneally for Reading Australia

Reviewed by
June-July 2015, no. 372

Tony Birch on 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' by Thomas Keneally for Reading Australia

Reviewed by
June-July 2015, no. 372

Thomas Keneally’s novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) is based in part on historical events, particularly the crimes committed by Jimmy Governor, an Aboriginal man from New South Wales. In 1900, Governor was a key figure involved in the killing of nine Europeans, including five women and children. The killings followed Governor’s marriage to a young white woman and taunts from the Mawbey household where they both worked. After fourteen weeks on the run with his brother Joe, Governor was arrested and sentenced to death for the murders. He was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 14 January 1901, days after the declaration and ‘birth’ of the Australian nation. It is widely accepted that Governor’s execution was delayed so as not to spoil the birthday party.

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