[This article is still being researched – any contributions to our knowledge of Gordon Bennett is most welcome.]
The phrase – The Man in the Mask – was a non de plume that appears to have been used by a number of writers for Smith’s Weekly. One of these was certainly Gordon Bennett, son of the founder of the Dungog Chronicle and brother of Charles Bennett who took over the Dungog Chronicle and his father’s MLC seat.
Gordon Bennett was also a journalist and unfortunately for later generations of researchers often strayed into history. Like many of his time Gordon Bennett did not fear letting facts get in the way of a good story. Where Gordon perhaps differed from his contemporaries is in his greater tendency to claim impeccable evidence to give his loose and often entirely made up ‘historical’ features some credibility. Bennett’s writings have perhaps inspired more incorrect ideas about Dungog and Williams River Valley history than any one else.
Some of the many Gordon Bennett inspired myths include:
- That Magistrate Thomas Cook urged the name Dungog be adopted. [Cook did not even arrive in the Colony until the name Dungog had already been gazetted.]
- That Thomas Cook referred to himself as Captain Cook. [Thomas Cook was at least once accused of doing so but in the numerous letters we have of Thomas Cook JP not one is sign with any other title than the humble esq.]
- That the Jew Boy Gang regularly haunted Pilchers Caves. [The so called Jew Boy gang had little to do with the Dungog area and they certainly never used Pilchers Caves, nor is there any evidence that any bushrangers ever did so.]
- To be continued …