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The story of death gin

a beautiful
sacrifice

On the outskirts of Rutherglen,

You might come across Distillery Road, an unsealed scar cutting through the yellowing fields.
Continue down and you’ll pass a small graveyard, nothing to write home about, the usual dust rectangle with the names of some poor souls written on scattered stones.

However,

If you’re looking for a tale, you’ll need to look past this unassuming graveyard.
Over the back fence, amongst the trees and shrubs you’ll find, if you look hard enough, two letters, M.M.,
scorched into the bark of one of the tired eucalypts.

These aren’t initials, this is the last resting place of Patrick Black.

Now,

Bushrangers hold a special place in Australian folklore.
From the flamboyant characters like Captain Moonlight all the way to the near mythological men of the Kelly Gang.

But Patrick Black was a little-known bushranger whose story is seldom told, but no less important.

It’s not widely known, but Distillery Road is named as such due to the fact it housed an illegal gin still during the 1860s.

Unfortunately,

The still was discovered and partially burnt down by local authorities in 1867.

As chance would have it however, this site later became the hideout of Black, who, upon discovering the abandoned and burnt encampment, managed to get the still up and running.

Originally

a local undertaker in Rutherglen, Black objected to the high tax rates that the authorities were forcing on immigrants, which prompted this letter to the constable:

And thus,

Black was declared an outlaw. Throughout his career, Black only stole from those who he knew were getting fat off the back of these taxes and gave all his spoils back to the local townsfolk.

He even became known for trading his gin to the local shop owners, which gained the nickname Death Gin, due to Black’s undertaker past.

Unfortunately,

On February 13th, 1875, Black was ambushed by the constabulary on the outskirts of Rutherglen. He managed a daring escape back to his hideout but as fate would have it,caught a single shot in his stomach.

Now,

Not much is known about what exactly happened next, but the story goes that
Black was visited by a strange vagabond draped in rags and carrying a scythe.
Black knew instantly that this was Death, come to take him over the threshold.
Since Black had no next of kin or indeed anyone he could call a close friend,
he asked one last favour of Death – to bury his body after he departed this world for the next.

Having given away all his riches, Black offered Death his last earthly possession

– a bottle of gin

Now, Death wasn’t accustomed to these sort of requests, but just because he doesn’t have a heart, doesn’t mean he’s heartless.So, Death agreed, and these two unlikely companions sat and drank
and told tales until the first rays of sunrise touched the treetops and Black finally succumbed to his wounds.

As he had promised,

Death buried Black under a gumtree behind a nearby graveyard and with his scythe scorched ‘M.M.’ into the trunk.
This stood for Memento Mori – Black’s motto in life.
Having been an undertaker, Black knew better than most that whether you’re a prince or a pauper, everyone’s fate is the same.

So
don’t fear death,
embrace it,

Only then can you truly live.
From that day onward, on the anniversary of Black’s death, a mysterious veiled woman could be seen visiting the tree, carrying a bottle of gin. She would drink one single shot, in honour of the shot that took Black’s life, and bury the rest for Black and Death to enjoy once again while telling tales until the sunrise hit the treetops.

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