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Pronunciation: Marran-boy.

Nearby communities: Beswick, Bulman, Barunga, Manyallaluk.

Location: 70 km south of Katherine on the Central Arnhem Highway.

Patrol area: 23 000 sq km, including four major Aboriginal communities and four cattle stations.

Police in the community: Although Beswick, Barunga and Manyallaluk are Alcohol Restricted Zones under the Liquor Act, permits to drink at home are issued and police attend alcohol related incidents.

Members also attend to the general duties of motor vehicle registration, firearms licensing and regular patrols.

Services: The nearest school, health clinic and shop are at Barunga, 10 km east along the highway. Members generally travel to Katherine for supplies.

Housing: There are two three-bedroom homes and a one- bedroom unit as the Visiting Officer’s Quarters.

Recreation activities: Fishing, hunting, and bush recreational activities. Barunga has an AFL team playing local competition. The annual Barunga Festival is a major event on the Aboriginal and tourist calendar.

Nearby attractions: Beswick Falls, 55 km east. Nitmaluk Gorge and National Park. Beswick Creek is an area rich in rock art.

Population: 1500 -1700 in the area with some seasonal variation.


Maranboy, once site of one of Australia’s biggest tin mines, is today a ghost town with the police complex the only buildings and members and their families the only residents. The general topography of the district ranges from rocky, sparsely vegetated areas to thickly timbered and dense scrubby areas, well watered by creeks and springs. Cattle stations make up approximately thirty per cent of the district. The climate is northern Australian wet summer and dry winter seasons, temperatures ranging between a high of 38oC during the day in summer and as low as 40C at night in winter.


Maranboy is on Jawoyn land, traditional owners of large areas of land around Katherine, including Nitmuluk Gorge and National Park. The small tin field of Maranboy was the principal producer of tin for 36 years of mining with a 10-headstamper battery established in 1915. There was also some wolfram and copper ore.

Although a big producer the field’s isolation meant it was hardly profitable and Aboriginal male and female labour was essential to the continuation of mining.

In 1917 John Flynn of the Royal Flying Doctors Service and Australian Inland Mission established a hospital-nursing station at Maranboy, which continued until 1931. The hospital building, known as the Penola Hostel, was later used as police station, post office and police residence, but finally demolished in 2006.

In 1923 a six acre Aboriginal Reserve was declared at Maranboy. When the mine closed many workers moved to Beswick Creek. Most of the mine workers originated from Roper River and Ngukkur. World War II had a major impact on the Jawoyn people. From August 1942, Aborigines were officially prohibited from remaining north of Edith River and Aboriginal compounds were established near Mataranka, Katherine and at Maranboy. Maranboy was closed in 1944 and the start of 1945 due to staff shortages. After the war a ration station opened at Maranboy, but water shortages forced its removal, first to the King River, and then east to Tandangal in 1948.

Tandangal was designated a sacred site, and in 1951 the welfare settlement was relocated to Beswick Creek. The settlement was renamed Bamyili in 1965 and Barunga in 1984. In 1988 Prime Minister Bob Hawke visited Barunga and was presented with the ‘Barunga Statement’, calling for Aboriginal self-management, a national system of land rights, compensation for loss of lands, respect for Aboriginal identity and the granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights. The Prime Minister responded by saying that he wished to conclude a treaty between Aboriginal and other Australians by 1990 but it did not eventuate.


Also see the Larry Boy Story which involved Colin Eckert from Maranboy and members from surrounding stations.

Past Members

ABBOTT, W.L. BRIGLAND, Raymond Reece CONDON, William 'Bill' - see also Murdered in Katherine COOK, J.A. 'Jack' - followed Eckert - see gunman article DEVINY, Hugh Powell - 1931 ECKERT, Colin John GORDON, Arthur John 'John' (oral history TS 445) - see biography 'Just and ordinary bloke' HALL, Victor Charles 'Vic' (see also Citation May 2008) HEATHCOCK, Edward Joseph Aloysuis ' Ted' (see Citation Dec 2005) HOLLOW, Thomas Joseph LULLFITZ, Henry Charles MAHONY, John Joseph 'Jack' (see Citation May 2006) METTAM, Bert (see Citation May 2010) STOKES, (see Citation Nov 2008)



NTRS 226 - Oral History Interview TS 445

John Gordon was born in South Australia in 1919 and joined the Northern Territory Police Force in November 1947. After a period in Darwin, John Gordon served the Force in Tennant Creek and Newcastle Waters, before taking part in a foot patrol through Arnhem Land during the first three months of 1949. Service followed in Timber Creek. Periods were served at Anthony Lagoon, Ranken River, Roper River, and Maranboy, before John Gordon returned to Darwin in 1962. He resigned from the Police Force in 1963. The interview covered the work of a bush station policeman; some of the patrols and cases John Gordon became involved in; his attitude to Aborigines; his views on the organisation of the Police Force; and comments on some of his colleagues.

HEATHCOCK, Edward Joseph Aloysuis D.O.B. 19 December 1885

Died 28 June 1944 ‑ Aged 68 years

Joined the Northern Territory Mounted Police on 1 June 1913. He was a former Queensland Prison Officer.

Served at Timber Creek, Wave Hill, Maranboy, Roper River, Mataranka, Borroloola, Alice Springs and Darwin.

He married Henriette Ruth Sabina RAYNER on 15 November 1931.

"Sister Ruth" as she was known, a registered nurse, was well known in the Territory, and received a M.B.E. for her services She died 7 May 1995,aged 94.

During 1942‑3 HEATHCOCK was utilized by the Army for the Northern Australian Observation Unit, whilst he was stationed in Roper River and the Borroloola areas.

Following Leave from Roper River early in 1944, HEATHCOCK was transferred to Alice Springs. He did not enjoy good health,

and was admitted to the Alice Springs Hospital. He died from a perforated gastric ulcer and shock.

ECKERT, Colin John D.O.B. 2 October, 1938

Mount Barker, South Australia

Died 9 June 1970 ‑ Aged 31 years

Sergeant ‑ Registered Number 171 ‑ Collar Number 166

Joined the Northern Territory Police 14 August 1962

Served: Maranboy and Alice Springs

The recently promoted Sergeant was returning to his station from a Prisoner Escort to Darwin when he was involved in a head on collission with another vehicle near the King River, south of Katherine. He died instantly of severe head and internal injuries.

TELEGRAPHIC ADDRESS IN REPLY PLEASE QUOTE “INTERIOR” CANBERRA NO. S.50/1438 COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA. ----------------------- Northern Territory Affairs, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. BH CANBERRA, ACT 12th December, 1950. Dear Sir, Approval has been given to your appointment, as Constable, Northern Territory Police Force. The office of Constable is classified with salary scale, £400-480, which is subject to adjustment in accordance with cost of living variations. Your salary on appointment will be at the rate of £554 actual per annum, i.e. the minimum of the range plus the current cost of living adjust­ment of £154 per annum. In addition, district allowance is payable according to the locality in which you will be stationed. A uniform allowance is also payable. Free quarters are provided by the Administration. At the present time, single accommodation only is available. Your appointment will be on probation for an initial period of twelve (12) months but the probationary period may be extended to a maximum period of eighteen (18) months. The date of your appointment for all purposes, i.e. seniority, salary, leave and furlough will be the date of your departure for Darwin and you will be paid full salary from that date. Fares to Darwin will be paid by the Administration but not freight on furniture (if any). I n the event of your not remaining in the Service for at least twelve (12) months, you may be required to refund the cost of fares paid on your behalf. Upon confirmation of your appointment, you will be required to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund for a pension at a retiring age of sixty (60) years. Your appointment has been made under the Police and Police Offences Ordinance, the Public Service Ordinance and the Police Arbitral Tribunal Determination wherein all matters affecting your employment are prescribed. Form of acceptance hereunder should be completed and two (2) copies of the letter and acceptance handed to the Property Officer, Department of the Interior, M.L.C. Building, 303-309 Collins Street, Melbourne, who will then arrange air travel to Darwin. Yours faithfully, C. R. LAMBERT D i r e c t o r. Mr. J.A. Cooke, 21 Omar Street, CAULFIELD. S.E.S Vic. S.50/1438 I accept the appointment on the conditions set out in this memorandum, dated 12th December, 1950, from the Director Northern Territory Affairs. Struggle With Armed Man (from the AGE) DARWIN, Wednesday.--The succes­sor to a policeman who was murdered last month, today struggled at Maranboy with an armed man who is alleged to have Pointed a rifle at him. The constable, Jack Cooke, succeeded the late Con­stable William Condon as police offer in charge of isolated Maranboy Police sta­tion, 260 miles south of Darwin. Condon was shot dead last month in the main street at Katherine. After struggling with the man on the ground, Cooke managed to put the handcuffs on the man and disarm him. Cooke said that today a woman had complained about the behavior of a man. The man was under a prohibition order, but had been drinking. Cooke found a heavily bearded man talking to two other men. The man was carrying a .303 rifle and a .22 rifle. He told the man to hand over the rifles. Both rifle breeches were open, disclosing bullets. Cooke attempted to take the .303 rifle from the man, who then is aIleged to have threatened: "Don't start anything with me, copper, or it will be your last thing." Cooke said the man let this rifle go, stepped back three or four paces, grabbed the .22, closed the breach, cocked the rifle and jabbed it in Cooke's stomach. Cooke said he knocked the rifle and struggled with the man on the ground until he was able to handcuff him. Later, Donald McNeil, 30, a miner from Yeuralba tin field, was charged with drinking. Police say a more serious charge will be preferred against him later. Armed man in struggle with constable (local Darwin paper) A bearded tin miner from Yeuraclba has been charged with assault with intent to commit a f e 1 o n y following a struggle with a police­man for possession of a rifle at Maranboy yester­day. The policeman concerned is Constable Jack Cooke, who went to Maranboy only a month ago after Constable William Condon had been shot dead in Katherine. Constable Cook said today that yesterday morning he spoke to a man against whom a prohibition order had been issued, but who had been drinking. The man, with another miner and a Maranboy resident, were at Shepherd's sawmill until mid­ afternoon, when a woman arrived at the police station and com­plained about behavior. Constable Cooke said he went to the sawmill and saw a man carrying two rifles, a .303 and a .22. He asked him why he had been drinking and then told him to hand over the rifles. He could see that both breeches were open but there were bullets in them. Constable Cooke said he made an attempt to take the .303 from him but the man allegedly said, "Don't start anything with me, copper, or it will be the last thing you ever do." The man, according to Constable Cooke, let the .303 go, jumped back three or four paces and grabbed the .22. He closed the breech, cocked the rifle, and pointed it at the policeman's stomach. Constable Coolie knocked the rifle aside and closed with the man. They fell to the ground where the policeman was able to gel a pair of handcuffs on the man's wrists. Policeman takes two-gun man (The Sun) DARWIN, Wed. - A policeman at isolated Maranboy tinfield, 260 miles south of Darwin, today told of a struggle on the ground with an armed man after an alleged threat to shoot. While they w e r e struggling the police­man, Constable Jack Cooke, managed to flick handcuffs on the man's wrists. A miner has been ar­rested and charged with drinking. He` was under a; prohibition order. On the telephone from Maranboy today Constable Cooke said that the miner stopped at a sawmill at 11 a.m. and at 3.30 p.m. a woman came to the police station complaining about his behavior. The constable went to the sawmill and saw a !man with a .303 and a .22 rifle. Constable Cooke said he I told the man to hand over the rifles. When he tried to take the .303 away the man said: "Don't start anything with me, copper or it will be the last thing you ever do." The man let the .303 fall and jumped back three or four paces. Constable Cooke said he knocked the .22 rifle aside and struggled with the man. They fell down where he got a pair of handcuffs on. Gordon John GORDON’S full name Arthur John GORDON The following was taken from Mr W.J.McLaren’s books:- On the 21 November 1947 John was sworn in as a Constable. At the beginning on 1952 John was a Constable stationed at Timber Creek. Constable A.J. Gordon who had been stationed at Maranboy since 27th September 1955 was involved in a search for a crashed aeroplane in 1956. At 6pm on 5th October 1956 he was notified that an aeroplane had crashed approximately 28 miles, south west from Mataranka. The pilot was Roy Moffatt. Constable Gordon proceeded to Mataranka and at 5.30am on Saturday 6th October left Mataranka to search for the lost plane. At l0am on Sunday 7th they located the wrecked plane. The port wing had hit a tree. There was no sign of the pilot. They continued the search throughout the next day without success and at I0.30am on 9th October they found the pilot Mbffatt. He was naked and in a very exhausted state. His mind was clear. He was taken to Mataranka Tourist Resort where an aeroplane landed and took Moffatt to Darwin Hospital. When Constable Gordon commenced the search he found that the police were very ill equipped for such an occasion. He had to muster volunteers to assist in the search and had to borrow nearly all the equipment they used. He complained in very strong terms to the Superintendent regarding the lack of equipment. On 6th December 1956, Constable Gordon handed over charge of the station to Constable N.J. Owen who became ill shortly afterwards. The following month Constable Gordon returned and took charge of the police station again for a further six months before departing on 18th September 1957 on transfer to Timber Creek. Gregory's Bottle Tree was brought to notice in a report of Constable A.J. Gordon of Timber Creek Police Station on 12th March 1958. He reported:- I made a patrol to Gregory's Bottle Tree yesterday which is about fourteen miles down river from here. It was near this tree that the explorer A.C.Gregory made a depot during his exploration of the Victoria River country. Markings on the tree indicate that he arrived there on 13th October 1855 and departed on the 2nd July 1856. All these markings are still clearly visible. Near this tree is a wooden post standing in a cairn of stones. This post has been squared off with an adze and on-one side of the post is carved the words "Gregory's Camp" and on the other three sides of the post it shows-the ­Latitude, Magnetic variation, and the broad arrow­ brand. This camp was made quite close to the bank of the Victoria River, and I noticed that the bank of the river is gradually eroding away and it will not be many more years before this whole camp site will have floated down the river and a very valuable historic landmark will have gone forever. To prevent this from happening I would respectfully suggest that this report be forwarded to the Northern Territory Reserves Board, with a view to having this campsite taken over by the Board, and also to have a stone wal1 built against the crumbling river bank to prevent any further erosion. At the present time there is no road into the site, but it is only about three miles from the main road and it would be a simple matter to have a road put in.

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