BICYCLE BANDITS: An artist's impression of the hold-up drawn by Geoff McKinnon.
BICYCLE BANDITS: An artist's impression of the hold-up drawn by Geoff McKinnon. File

PART 1: The gun-toting Bundy bicycle bandits that shook Qld

This story was originally told by NewsMail writer Rod McAlpine on Monday, January 5, 1970.

 

BUNDABERG can boast of some high spots in its history, but two bandits on bicycles in brought the city on the Burnett fame of a different order back in 1914.

They pulled off what the headlines called "the most audacious highway robbery under arms known in Queensland" - the Fairymead payroll grab.

The drama, which began on the Fairymead Rd and moved to a climax on the Burnett Bridge, had all the ingredients - armed, masked bandits, bags of money and a carload of constabulary.

Victims of the robbery were Mr H.E.B Young; managing director of Fairymead Sugar Company and his chauffeur Archibald Clarke on their way to Fairymead from the Commercial Bank with the company payroll in their small, white Renault car.

The money, £1749/13/7 - a hefty $180,121.01 in 2018 currency - in notes, gold and silver, was in three bags in the boot.

£1344/2/9 plus £50 belonged to Mr Young in the Fairymead bag, while £177/12/10 was in a bag for Springfield and £177/18/- was for Avondale.

It was Friday, November 20, some 10 minutes after midday, when Mr Young and his driver set out.

Meanwhile, described later as having descended upon the city from the southern parts, a 25-year-old miner, Charles Farrow Blunderfield, who had been working in town as a groom, and 23-year-old Fairymead labourer Stephen Noel, were intent on robbery, carried out with what was later described as "daring coolness".

Choosing the Tantitha Gates - between the between two and three miles out on the Fairymead Rd - they waited a couple of hundred yards short of the gates until the car came in sight around Flynn's Corner, half a mile away.

The pair then mounted bicycles, rode leisurely along the side of the road towards the gates and timed their arrival to coincide with that of the payroll car.

There was nothing about the two men on bikes to warrant a second glance and Mr Young stepped out to open the gates. It was then that things really started to happen.

The bandits hopped off their bikes, pulled masks over their faces and guns from their shirts and with a "goodly sideshow of menace" demanded the money.

Mr Young and his driver could do little but raise their hands, but Mr Blunderfield and Mr Noel had some early misgivings when a search of the car came up with nothing.

With guns waving, the victims indicated the bandits should check the boot with Mr Blunderfield taking the cash while Mr Noel guarded Mr Clarke and Mr Young.

The bandits then ripped out the dynamo wiring in the in the car's motor and popped back on their bikes, setting off for town.

Mr Blunderfield was not very good at cycling and struggled with the money bags.

After making a few starts and taking a few falls on his bicycle, he handed over his share to his companion who shouldered the cash in a sugar bag.