John Fitzgerald c1912, the Wild Man of Carcoar
For some years at the beginning of the 20th century, a wild looking hairy man had been seen around the hill country between Carcoar and Blayney. This giant of a man, well over six feet tall, was John Fitzgerald, a former miner and wrestler, who became markedly eccentric but hardly posed a threat to those people who came across him.
While his origins remain unclear, it appears he was well educated. He and his brother Gus, who was a New Zealand wrestling champion, had worked at Browns Creek mine near Blayney for many years.
It was said that Fitzgerald became a hermit after an arranged marriage with a woman from England fell through. He grew his hair long and fashioned it into dreadlocks, although it was said his soft locks were the envy of many women.
He carried an enormous axe as he roamed the bush although it appears he did not use it to club animals for food. For clothes he wore an oilskin coat tied around the waist with a rope, and a pair of clogs on his feet. For food he ground corn in a little corn mill to make a sort of porridge and drank milk, supplemented with food given to him by some local families.
Although his wild appearance may have startled some people, he was in fact a gentle man who entertained the few people he trusted, such as the Cooper family, playing the flute and tin whistle while the children danced.
While Fitzgerald appeared to be harmless, if a little frightening to some people, in October 1908 local police captured him and took him to Carcoar Hospital as he was heard to be in failing health. There, with the assistance of several police officers, he was forced to have a bath, although he refused to have his hair cut.
A great crowd of locals visited him in the hospital, curious to see for themselves this strange man who spoke of Sampson, Hercules and Brian Boru.
As his fame spread, Fitzgerald was offered a place in a travelling circus and the Melbourne Waxworks wanted to exhibit him. But his strange manner and talk convinced the authorities that he was insane, a condition with which he was charged in court, as was normal in those days.
He was to be sent to Parramatta Lunatic Asylum but died in Bathurst Gaol on 1 November, apparently from heart disease. He was aged 72. His name passed into local legend, the only tangible relict remaining being a photograph showing his dreadlocks, huge hands and determined expression.