The story of the murderous Kenniff Gang.

What would you do if you learned, late in life, of a dark secret the family had concealed for years – that you were related to murderers and bush rangers and that your family name had been changed to hide this secret?  

You’d write a book!

If not for his grandfather illegally changing his name, in shame, then Mike Munro, a major figure in Australian television would be known to us today as Mike Keniff.  The information shook Mike’s sense of identity, but he realised that it was an important part of the family; he needed to embrace it without treating his relatives as heroes.  They weren’t heroes; they were lazy thieves who became murderers.

The story of the Keniffs fascinated Mike Munro for decades, ever since his father, on his deathbed, told him that his family were descendants of the Kenniff brothers, a gang of notorious bushrangers whose stomping ground was Augathella and the Carnarvon Ranges in southeastern Queensland. The Carnarvon Range is 370 to 450 km inland from the coast west of Bundaberg. Today there is Kenniff’s gang bush camp on a Cattle Station adjacent to the Mount Moffatt Carnarvon National Park.

Over 177 years ago this area was known as Kenniff country, where the Irish bushrangers made a living by stealing horses and cattle. They came from Tipperary, a town in the Republic of Ireland that is famous for horse breeding and pastureland. Mike Munro’s great uncles, Patrick and Jimmy Kenniff, were infamous bushrangers and known to be among the best horsemen in the country.

The Kenniff brothers gained notoriety as Queensland’s equivalent of the Kelly gang and, on Easter Sunday 1902, deep in the Carnarvon Ranges, they graduated from petty crime, horse stealing and cattle duffing to move on to murder, in what was a ghoulish and violent crime, resulting in the death of police constable George Doyle and station manager Albert Dahkle. The pair were incinerated and their remains placed into saddle bags.

Starving and exhausted after three months on the run, the brothers were finally captured and charged with the murders.  The wheels of justice were set in motion.  The older brother, Patrick, was hanged for the crime while the younger brother, Jimmy, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment

Mike Munro was fascinated by the story of these relatives, the last bushrangers.  Who were they?  What drove them to a life of crime?  Were they really responsible for the murder of the police constable and station manager?  

Mike Munro, at the age of 17, began his career as a copyboy on the Daily Mirror. He’s worked in newspapers in New York, Great Britain and Australia.  In 1982 he returned to Australia and television and worked as senior reporter on Channel 10. He has experience across all of the commercial stations.  He is synonymous with the biographical show This is Your Life.

In answering the questions surrounding the murder of the police constable and station manager Munro in his book The Last Bushrangers takes the reader back to the dawn of Federation, when bush skills and horsemanship could help outlaws escape the police, where remote pastoralists were targets for thieves, when race and class divide was entrenched, and brutal feckless outlaws faced the ultimate punishment.

Sally Jerapetritis

NOTE: On Saturday, 6th April at 2:00 pm at our museum join us to listen to Mike tell us a little about his life and the story of his bushranger ancestors;  a story of early Australia and a family secret that changed the identity of his family forever.


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