Skip to content
  • 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission
  • Shop


Children's book cover.

As Polly and James are playing at a local dam, they hear some bushrangers discussing an evil plan: Captain Scarlet and his gang are planning to kidnap the Governor of New South Wales when he visits Bathurst the next day. The bushrangers know that the Governor will be riding in Mr Ranken’s fine coach, and the plan involves a corrupt coach driver bringing the Governor to the bushrangers.

The bushrangers soon discover Polly and James behind a boulder, but are not able to catch them before they flee into a cave and speed home to pass on what they have heard. At home, the children are confronted by a disturbing situation. Mr Ranken is there, and has offered the children’s father the job as coach driver. Not only do their parents dismiss the children’s claims, but they also chastise them for speaking so rudely in front of an important visitor. Polly and James are horrified to think that their father must be working with the bushrangers.

Polly decides that they need a plan of action to save the Governor, and to prevent their father from entering a life of crime. With the help of two friends and some ammunition in the form of eggs, the children set off to save the day. They are able to stop the coach before it reaches the Governor and are very pleased to discover that the driver is not their father.

Their father soon comes running along the road – having been beaten by the bushranger and thrown from the coach. With their father’s help, the children tie up the bushranger and continue on as the hold-up heroes.

Discussion questions

  • What words would you choose to describe Polly? How would you describe her relationship with her brother James?
  • Why didn’t Mother and Father believe Polly and James when they tried to tell them about the bushrangers?
  • Why did Polly and James doubt the honesty of their father? Why did they decide not to talk to him about what they knew? Do you think this was the right decision?
  • What oath did Polly make her brother and friends take? Why did she do this?
  • How do you think Polly and James felt when they realised that their father was not working for the bushrangers?
  • What makes someone a hero? Do you think Polly and James were heroes?

Classroom activities

  1. In a class discussion, identify all the settings that are used in the story. Ask students to imagine the area where the story takes place, and to create aerial maps which show the locations of the key events. Remind students to create a map key.
  2. Distribute the News of the day worksheet (PDF 5.7mb) which asks students to create a newspaper story about the kidnapping attempt on the Governor of New South Wales.
  3. Use the A wanted man worksheet (PDF 3.9mb) to encourage students to explore the character of Captain Scarlet further. Students are required to create a ‘Wanted’ poster.
  4. Ask your students to write their own bushranger adventure story. Encourage them to develop their setting, characters and plot before they begin their stories.
  5. Ask students to identify, research and report on an Australian bushranger. Students could present their reports on an A3-sized poster.
  6. Students can complete an engaging interactive activity about the Ranken coach featured in the story.

Book details

The Hold-up Heroes by Dianne Bates
illustrated by Kathryn Wright

ISBN 1 876944 38 2
198mm x 130mm, 64pp
black and white illustrations

Published 2006; re-released 2014. This book can be ordered through good bookshops and educational suppliers.


Collection record – Ranken coach

Find out more about Dianne Bates

Return to Top