bush telegraph n.
1. a member of a bushranging gang whose task is to keep his colleagues informed of the whereabouts of potential victims or efforts to capture them.
|in Bell’s Life in Sydney 23 Apr. 2/5: Two or three noted ‘bush-telegraphs’ were among the crowd who had come [...] to obtain one more look at the robbers [AND].|
|Australian i 507: The police are baffled by the false reports of the confederates, and the number and activity of the bush telegraphs [F&H].|
|Robbery Under Arms (1922) 2: Our ‘bush telegraphs’ were safe to let us know when the ‘traps’ were closing in on us. [Ibid.] 240: A bush telegraph, you see, is mostly worked about the neighbourhood he was born in [...] Within twenty miles of where he was born and bred he knows every track, every range, every hill, every creek, as well as all the short cuts and by-roads.|
|Out Back 74: A hint dropped in this town set the bush telegraphs riding in all directions. [Ibid.] 188: What’s the name of the bloomin’ bush wire as told yer?|
|(ref. to late 19C) Aus. Lang. 75: The original bush telegraph was a confederate of bushrangers who warned them of police movements.|
|(ref. to late 19C) I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 231/1: bush telegraph – those who supplied news of police movement to bushrangers.|
2. (also blackfellow telegraph, bush telegram) a network of gossip and rumour that brings news, often inaccurate, before the official sources [SAusE blackfellow (now derog.), a Native Australian].
|Sydney Punch 13 Aug. 91/1: The following correspondence has been forwarded to us for publication. It was carried through the medium of ‘Bush Telegraphs’.|
|‘Black Joe’ in Roderick (1972) 255: The nearest squatter’s wife [...] arranged (by bush telegraph) to drive over next morning.|
|Kate Meredith, Financier 152: ‘By the way, Slade, have you been in touch with the bush telegraph?’ ‘Oh, I heard that the usual vague rows and horribles were going on in Okky City.’.|
|AND].Five Months at Anzac 35: Bush Telegraph [...] is a tortoise in its movements compared with a Beachogram [|
|Hibiscus Heart 199: They felt secure enough, for they had had word by their special bush telegraph.|
|African Odyssey 30: The hardy runners and native drums — the latter the ‘bush-telegraph’ system of the Africans — have been supplanted by both telephone and telegraph.|
|Aus. Lang. 75: Bush telegraph [...] became synonymous with any rumour or false report.|
|Come in Spinner (1960) 43: Now then, bush telegraph, lay off the staff here.|
|I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 231/1: bush telegram – a rumour or a report which probably isn’t true [...] bush telegraph – [...] the source of an unfounded report. Sometimes the expression is modernized to bush radio.|
|Moleskin Midas 95: There was blackfellow telegraph that there’d been throuble here, and I’ve come from town.|
|Mr Love and Justice (1964) 164: The news of the arrest of Frankie’s girl had already spread by the ponce-prostitute bush telegraph.|
|Banking under Difficulties 87: The ‘bush telegraph’ was at work [in] the billiard-rooms of the bars of the principal hotels of Burrangon.|
|British Prime Minister 79: The private secretaries of Whitehall constitute the ‘bush telegraph’ of government.|
|Lingo 50: Related to these activities is the term for those who brought news of what the traps or troopers were doing to the bushrangers with whom they sympathised – bush telegraphs. bush telegraph and the even more evocative mulga wire are still in use to describe mostly, though not exclusively, rural rumour networks.|
|Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.|