For a week in 1929, three camps of timber getters and gold diggers near Copeland Tops lived in a state of fear. Then at dusk on 9 October their fears came true when James Herbert Curran, 47, came seeking Alfred Lawrence Edwards, 23. Finding him in a nearby hut, Curran proceeded to shoot him. The bullet missed, but Edwards who was prepared, shot back killing Curran with a gunshot wound to the head. Two hours later, Edwards handed himself in at the Copeland police station.1 An inquest found Edwards had maliciously killed Curran and was committed to stand trial.2
Two years earlier, Curran, an orchardist, had left his farm, wife Annie and ten children to look for work. On his return he discovered that his wife and young Edwards had been having an affair. Curran was furious and filed for divorce citing Edwards as a co-respondent. A divorce was secured and Edwards was ordered to pay Curran £600.3 Over the following months Curran became obsessed with the divorce. During the trial, stories of Curran violently threatening Edwards were told. The so-called duel was the culmination of months of threats. On 5 December 1929 the jury found Edwards ‘not guilty’. 4
Perhaps as a direct result of this traumatic experience it seems Edwards never married.5 He died in 1981 and is buried with his parents.6
Author: Janine Roberts
1 National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 11 October 1929, 5.
2 Ancestry.com. NSW Register of Coroners’ Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries, 1842-1942. James Herbert Curran 1929.
3 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW (Taree, NSW), 26 Oct 1929, 12.
4 Truth (Sydney, NSW), 8 Dec 1929, 22.
5 NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
6 Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle. http://sandgate.northerncemeteries.com.au.
7 Truth (Sydney, NSW), 8 Dec 1929, 22.