The prison identity photo of James Slattery.

The Penshurst Bank Robber

James Slattery (also known as James Ryan) was born in 1859 at Bendigo. He worked at various jobs which included labourer, coach driver, sometimes stock and share speculator, and secretary of the Shearers and Workers' union at Casterton, before taking to a life of crime.

This is what some of the newspapers of the day had to say about James through the years. 

The Argus (Melbourne) Tuesday 26 July 1892.



A meeting of the Victorian Homestead League was held here last Saturday, Mr James Slattery in the chair. Although the meeting was highly pleased that the Ministry had introduced the Homestead Bill, yet they thought it was not quite liberal enough and Mr Slattery was appointed a delegate to interview the Minster of Lands with a view to getting the bill improved in the direction required petitions are also to be forwarded to the Minister to the same effect.

Western Herald (Bourke, NSW), Wednesday 22 July 1896.


Sydney, July 21.

James Slattery arrested in Melbourne in connection with the forgery of the Broken Hill junction scrip, has confessed; the detectives have recovered 3 thousand pounds worth. The accused states he was alone in the transaction.

The Argus (Melbourne), Wednesday 22 July 1896.



Melbourne Gaol, July 21, 1890

“I James Slattery of my own free will, make this statement without any threat or favour being held out to me “I admit that I went to Ballarat and got the forged Broken Hill Junction North scrip printed by Niven and Co I also got the stamps in the names of Wharton, Goodall, and Nasmith. They were made by Mr Leveret. I also got the Broken Hill stamp made by a man in Little Collins Street whose name I cannot remember. I have destroyed all the stamps.

After receiving the scrip. I placed the stamp on them and filled in the names of the Directors and mangers. I then proceeded to Adelaide, stayed at the Coffee House in Hindley Street under the name of E, Long and I put off the forged scrip on Williamson, Harrison and Porter sharebrokers of Adelaide. I then deposited £1500 in the Bank of Australasia, received a draft on the Melbourne office and I carried with me £1300 in cash besides 100 Broken Hill Junction shares which I sold to Letcher for over £400. I left Adelaide on the Friday and arrived in Melbourne on the Saturday morning and immediately cashed the draft. On the same day I went to the races and must have lost about £100 of the money. I handed to a Young lady £400, which she banked in the National Bank, Melbourne. I also paid £200 into my account in the Bank of Victoria, Melbourne, for transmission to Casterton account. I also paid £100 for transmission to the Casterton branch for the ANA. I paid £29 odd to Clarke and Co, share brokers for shares. I also paid to Andrews, printers, of Newport, about £80.

I sent bank draft and £225 to a friend to whom I owed money (This person has been communicated with and the money is now on the road to the Detective office). I handed to a friend whose name I will not tell a bank book in the Post Office Savings Bank showing £300 credit, also a deposit receipt on the London Bank Bourke Street £700 on the Union Bank Collingwood £500. I also put £100 to a lady as her share of interest in a mine, and on being searched when arrested £235 was found on me.

The reason I did not give every assistance in the first place was that I handed part of this money to respectable people, but as part of it has been traced I intend now to give every assistance in the matter in trying to trace the balance of the money viz; £400.

I admit that all the amounts set out in my statement were paid by me out of the obtained on the forged scrip from Wilkinson, Harrison and Porter. I have never been in trouble before, I have always led a respectable life, but on this occasion I have made a mistake.

The reason of my doing this was that I held 1,100 shares in the Broken Hill Junction North Mine, and I called at the office to pay a call on those shares. They would not take the money, because I did not have the scrip with me. As this was the last day of paying the call I had to go to Casterton to get the scrip. I forwarded it on with the amount of the call, and it was refused. I then took action against the company, and having no money to go on with the thought came into my head to do what I have done, at the same time thinking if I was not found out I would benefit to the extent of what I reckon I lost in the company, and they would not lose much, as it would only enlarge the company by about 2000 shares.

As I may add that about three years ago, it came to the knowledge of the shareholders, that certain scrip which should have been cancelled, but got placed on the share market again. They deemed it advisable to enlarge the company by some thousands to make up for the transfer scrip getting on the market, and no attempt so far as I know of, was made to bring anyone to justice in this transaction”.


James Slattery

Slattery will be brought before the City Court tomorrow, and will then be removed to Adelaide, detective Hampton acting as escort.

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA) Saturday 25 July 1896.


Melbourne, July 21.

James Slattery, who is in the Melbourne gaol on remand, charged with forging scrip of the Broken Hill Junction Mining Company and uttering the same on an Adelaide firm, was interviewed today by Detectives Hampton, Ward, and Macmanany. They informed him that they had recovered his deposit receipts for £1,200 and a Post-Office Savings bankbook showing a credit of £500. When this announcement was made Slattery said he would make a full confession of his guilt. His statement was taken down and signed by the accused. He first of all admitted that the stamps were made by Mr.Leverett to his order. A stamp was also made in Little Collins Street which the detectives are unable to trace. All the stamps were destroyed after he had used them. He then told the story of how he had victimised Messrs. Wilkinson, Harrison, and Porter, share brokers, of Adelaide, by means of the forged scrip, under the name of E. Long. He came to Melbourne with 1,300 sovereigns and a bank draft for £1,500. He stated that he had made a lady a present of £100, and mentioned the £400 he gave to the young lady who handed the money over to the police. He also paid in £200 into the Casterton branch of the Bank of Victoria for the A.N.A., and £100 to the Casterton branch of the National Bank for the Shearers' Union. He admitted that he lost £100 at the Grand National meeting, and that he made a present of £200 to a lady who resides in the country. Altogether he accounts for all the money except £18, which is put down to travelling expenses. Slattery states that the reason he committed the forgery was that he held about 1,100 shares in the Junction North Company, and that when a call was due on them and he went to pay it the money was refused as he had not the scrip with him. He had to go to Casterton for the scrip, and when he returned the money was again refused, as it was too late. He then commenced an action against the company in connection with the matter, and, as he had no money, decided to forge the scrip to supply him with funds to carry on the action, while the only result, he said, would be the enlargement of the company by about 2,000 shares. He will be brought before the City Court on Thursday, and will be remanded to Adelaide.

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 25 July 1896.

Melbourne, July 19.


Irregularities have been discovered in the cash books held by Slattery, the alleged forger and utterer of Junction North scrip, as secretary of the Casterton branch of the Australian Natives' Association. On July 15 Slattery paid £100 into the National Bank to the credit of the A.N.A., but the Melbourne office has since ordered the entry to be reversed and that sum to be placed to the debit side. The examination of the books has not yet been completed, but it has been discovered that numerous sums received by Slattery have not been handed to the treasurer.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic), Friday 5 August 1898.



ARARAT, Friday.

The accused, who terms himself John Ryan was identified late last night as James Slattery, a man well known in the Western district, and formerly secretary of the Shearers Union at Casterton. Slattery was at one time a most prominent figure in the labour movements of the Western district, his connection with the Trade Unions and Australian Natives Association standing him in such stead that he contested one election against Mr Shiels, and polled well. In the middle of July, 1896 Slattery came to the front as the perpetrator of very clever series of frauds on shareholders by means of forging shares of the Broken Hill Junction North Company, and selling it openly in the market. By this means he sold shares to the value of £3000 various stockbrokers among whom were Messer’s Wilkinson, Harrison and Porter of Adelaide. Ultimately Slattery left Adelaide for Melbourne with 1300 sovereigns and a bank draft for £1,500

Within a few days the fraud was discovered in consequence of a purchaser who desired his scrip divided into parcels forwarding his scrip to the office of the company in Melbourne. Detective Sergeant Ward and Detective McManamny arrested Slattery in Melbourne through cashing his draft and 965 Pound was found in his possession. Of this 400 Pound was lodged to the credit of a young women to whom Slattery was engaged to be married but directly she learned how it was obtained she renounced all claim to it

Detective McManamny subsequently a full confession from Slattery and he was extradited to Adelaide receiving 3 years and a half hard labour at the Adelaide Criminal Sittings on August 3rd 1896. Though this sentence would not expire till 3rd February 1900. Slattery was by some means or other released in July last. And had apparently has lost no time in getting into mischief again. He is a native of Bendigo 35 years of age and prior to his arrest for forgery was always regarded as an honest and trustworthy man.

The Mercury (Hobart) Thursday 6 August 1896.


James Slattery, who pleaded guilty to forging and uttering scrip of the North Junction mine, Broken Hill, has been sentenced to three year and six months with hard labour.

Kalgoorlie Miner (WA), Friday 12 August 1898.


James Ryan, alias James Slattery, was charged at the Penshurst Police Court to-day with robbery under arms at the local branch of the Bank of Victoria. The accused was fully identified. He reserved his defence and was commuted.

Western Star and Roma Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld), Wednesday 17 August 1898.

A Notorious Thief,


THE man James Slattery, now under arrest for the robbery of the bank at Penshurst, near Ararat, Victoria, is not unknown to the police. Prior to June 15, 1896, he was known only to fame as a rising political aspirant, who had "been expected by many to wrest from ex-Premier Shields his seat in the Legislative Assembly”. At Casterton he was a prominent and well respected man, who took a keen interest in public affairs; but it was as secretary of the Casterton Shearers' Union that he was best known locally. And an excellent secretary to the shearers' society he made. It was a complete revelation, even to those most immediately connected with him, when on the date given Detective Sergeant Ward and Detectives Mcmanamy and McMannus arrested him at a hotel bar in Bourke Street and charged him with forging and uttering scrip. He had been passing under the name of "E. Long," and admitted to the detectives that he was the person of that name whose accounts in various Melbourne banks amounted to a large total. I beat the ' books' badly at the Grand National meeting' he said, in explanation. This proved of no avail, as his identity was soon established beyond doubt.

The forgeries perpetrated, by Slattery were in respect of 4000 shares in the Broken Hill Junction North Company. In nearly every instance this company's shares were made out in parcels of l00 each, and when the forger prepared a parcel of 500, he made, in an otherwise excellently developed scheme, the error which led to the early detection of his crime.

When this parcel came to the hands of Mr. J. L. Wharton, the legal manager of the company, in Melbourne, he at once saw that it was a forgery. A reference to the register confirmed the fact. The shares were made out in the name of the legal manager, in trust, such as many more, and for the signature was written" John L. Wharton per P. S. Wood, acting manager." The names were written in very good imitation of Mr. Wood's writing, but the other words seemed to be written without attempt at disguise. Mr. Wharton had become aware of Slattery's handwriting, through his having brought an action "against the company for forfeiture of shares. In a visit to Adelaide, Mr. Wharton and one of the directors obtained information which resulted in the arrest of Slattery. The circumstances of the company were such that only on comparatively rare occasions did the scrip reach the hands of the manager, when sales were effected.

The case was unlike that, say, of a company making frequent calls. Hence had the parcels all been made of the regular denomination, the crime might long have remained undiscovered, and Slattery might even now be living in luxury abroad. The scrip was apparently printed on the same class of paper as the genuine article, and the signatures were such an inexperienced forger must feel a pride in; Stamped in crimson ink were the names of two share brokers, to demonstrate that the shares were not new. One of these was a good copy of the original, but a shade too large; the other was an exact reproduction. On the back of the scrip, however, a mistake had been made in the .signature of a receipt for payment of a call, "A. M. Fielder'' appearing instead of " H. M.. Fielder." The printer's name also appeared in the wrong place. Slattery got the scrip printed in Ballarat, stating that he was an officer of the company, and rubber Stamps were made for him in Melbourne.' The victims of the forgeries were Messrs Wilkinson, Harrison, and Porter share brokers, of Adelaide, who lost about £3600. It was ascertained that Slattery paid £400 to a young lady to whom he was engaged to be married, and whom he had known for five years. The case against Slattery was tried in Adelaide, and he received a sentence which expired a few days ago. It was the fact that he had a toe missing which went to confirm the Ararat police in the opinion that the man they had arrested for the bank robbery was the dealer in scrip. Members of the Shearers' Union were not aware that there was anything wrong with Slattery until he was arrested. They surmised not altogether incorrectly that he was "away on business." So did the members of the local branch of the A.N.A., whose secretary he had been, and whose accounts “wouldn’t add up." It was between two and three years after his defeat by Mr. Shields that he was arrested, and in the time intervening he developed a craze for share speculation, which was the beginning of his downfall.

James was convicted of “Robbery Under arms” for the Penshurst Bank robbery on the 22nd September 1898. No 28455 James Slattery (alias James Ryan) was sent to the Ballarat Prison on the 24th September 1898 he was later removed to Pentridge prison in Melbourne on the 3rd October 1898 to begin his 10 year sentence with hard labour.

His description in the prison records showed that he was 5ft 7’ tall, fresh complexion, brown hair, blue eyes, medium nose and mouth with a narrow chin and fair eyebrows. He had the end of his big toe missing (this was how he was identified to be James Slattery and not James Ryan.) His nose has also been injured and inclines to the left.

His 10 years of hard labour was also served on the proviso that he served the first week of the year in solitary confinement beginning Jan 1899. He was released on the 6th April 1906.

Source:  Thanks to the Public Records Office of Victoria and Trove Newspapers Online for the sources of this article.

by Ron Heffernan, Mount Rouse & District Historical Society Inc. 2014

© Copyright 2022 Mt Rouse & District Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Made with ‌

Offline Website Software