Henry Rouse (aka Henry Beresford Garrett) is regarded as New Zealand’s first bushranger – and has been described as our very own Ned Kelly. If his fellow Lyttelton Gaol inmates knew anything of him or his past, they may have been surprised when they actually saw him in person. Nicknamed years before as ‘Long Henry’, he was as lean as he was tall – but big-boned and considered by many as unpleasant to look at.
To add more mystery to the man, any spare time within the gaol walls was spent reading, writing and sharing his views on a huge range of subjects with anyone willing to lend him their ear for a while. For such a thinker, he made some interestedly bad choices.
Henry was born to a farming family on 8th March 1818 at Leicestershire, England.
With the early death of his mother, being neglected by his father and his lack of good schooling, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Henry received his first prison sentence for assault in 1842. Even while working as a cooper and becoming a father, it didn’t seem to help Garrett to keep his nose clean. Just three years later after his first taste of prison, he was facing transportation to Australia having been charged with theft of clothing. He did his time.
During the early 1850’s, Henry could be found in Geelong working at a cooper. Upon the discovery of gold in Ballarat, he decided to try his hand at mining and kept himself warm at night in the bed of a local saloon girl. It can’t have gone very well as, on 16th October 1854, he was a member of a gang who robbed the Bank of Victoria to the tune of £14,000.
He was arrested in England and returned to Victoria for trial. Having been found guilty, he was sentenced to 6 years hard labour.
Following his release in 1861, he travelled to Dunedin.
He headed for the goldfields of Otago but had no plans to pan for gold himself.
On a road through the Maungatua Range, he (along with others) robbed 15 miners, in a single hold up, of their gold and personal items – the take amounted to only £400.
He was later arrested in Sydney and was sent back to Dunedin to be sentenced. It was here that he met the infamous bandit, Richard Burgess, who hanged for his murderous crimes in October 1866. They both attempted to escape – but failed.
Upon his release in 1868, Garrett re-appeared in Victoria. He was kicked out of Australia and was returned to Dunedin where he, again, took up employment as a cooper.
Not one to change, Henry was soon arrested in the middle of a robbery and faced his hardest sentence yet: 20 years hard labour.
In 1881, with his health beginning to fail him, he was transferred to Lyttelton Gaol. With his sentence ending the following year, it doesn’t appear that he remained in Canterbury for long at all. He next surfaced at Wellington’s Mt. Cook Gaol, serving a 7 year sentence for stealing a bottle of wine.
He died on 3rd September 1885 of chronic bronchitis as a hospitalized inmate of The Terrace Gaol in Wellington.
*please note that the attached image is not of Henry Beresford Garrett*