Road Stories From South Australia: The Rainbird Murder Hut
I'd heard about the Rainbird murder hut when I used to visit Kapunda back in the mid 1980s (I had a vested interesting in visiting, but we won't go into that). This trip around Lyndal decided to visit some of her relatives in yet another haunted cemetery so I went all out to locate the Rainbird hut.
(The Rainbird hut as seen from the road)
First off, what is the Rainbird murder hut? Allow me to explain. In the mid 1800s a man named Robert Rainbird emigrated from the UK to SA and ended up with his family on the outskirts of Kapunda, living in a little two room hut. In 1861 around five or six Aboriginal men attacked Mrs Rainbird, raping and killing her in her room in the hut, the same men also murdered their two young children as they attempted to flee (Robert Rainbird, the father, was working the land at the time). They the attempted to bury Mrs Rainbird in the traditional manner but the bodies were soon discovered. Ultimately all six were captured and tried, four were found guilty and all four were hung on the grounds of Adelaide Gaol and are buried there to this day in the standard unmarked graves. I tell you, once day we'll be visiting that place at night.
The Rainbird murders were very controversial in 1861. The defence attorney for the Aboriginals was as amateur as they came, the prosecution relied on the testimony of one of the accused who, once given immunity, implicated everyone else with a story that changed each time it was told (and this was despite the fact that objects belonging to the Rainbirds was found on his person) and public opinion had tried and found guilty all involved. Looking back the poor Aboriginals were always going to be found guilty, no matter their true involvement.
(The main bedroom. This is the room where Mary Ann Rainbird was reportedly raped and murdered)
The Rainbird hut is not easy to find if you don't know where it is or what it looks like, however once you have the co-ordinates (and that's where GPS came in handy) and the visuals then you're set. Off we went to track the hut down and finally we found it.
(The second room. What appears to be the head of a bed base still remains)
The mysteries don't end with finding the hut. There's conjecture that what is generally accepted as being the Rainbird hut might not be just that. Some locals swear black and blue that another house, just over the hill, is the actual site of the Rainbird murders, and to be fair that house is in sight of the hut. I visited both sites, and the Aboriginal burial ground, and all contemporary reports describe the hut as being a two roomed hut, originally one room with another added - this description fits the generally accepted Rainbird hut perfectly, however the descriptions from the same era, of the huts surrounds fit the house on the hill. So which property is the actual hut? I tend to believe the smaller, two roomed hut is the one. There's a deep sadness at the property and here's the odd thing - there's no flies there. Everywhere we visited today was swarming, but on this land none at all that I encountered. Very bizarre indeed.
(The second house, on the hill, that some believe is the Rainbird hut. It is from the same era, but doesn't match the description given of the Rainbird hut.)
No matter which one of these places is the actual hut the fact remains that two innocent children and their mother were killed on the land nearly 150 years ago.