Senior Sergeant Andrew Cleary was born in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1839, the son of Andrew Cleary, farmer and husband of Hannah O'Mara. He served two years in the Royal Irish Constabulary, prior to leaving for the Colony. Arriving in Australia in 1859, he joined the NSW Metropolitan Police under Captain McClery for two years. In 1861 in company with soldiers, sailors, and artillery, under the Captain, he was sent to help in the quelling of the riots at Young (Lambing Flats.) Further service was with the NSW Metropolitan Police Force and then being in charge successively of the Police Stations at Forbes, Coonamble, Bourke, Narrabri, Murrurundi, Gunnedah, and rendering special aid to the Police at Mudgee.
On 20 December, 1868, whilst stationed at Bourke, Sergt. Cleary received a note from a superintendent of a pastoral station 100 miles down the Darling that the place had been stuck up by an armed man, answering the description of Captain Starlight. He was an aristocratic bushranger and when he held up the station he ordered from its store a case of brandy, to be brought out and served among the station hands.
Sergt. Cleary with Constable Johns and a tracker traced Starlight to Gundabook Station where he had already departed. They decided to search the nearby mountain. On a ledge of rock which opened onto a precipice 50 feet deep Sergt Cleary saw a leather pouch that had caught in a
crack of a rock beneath. Sending the tracker for constable Johns, Sergt Cleary took off his boots and lowered himself down to the cave underneath.
There was Starlight sitting on the ledge of rock with a revolver at his side. Sergt Cleary grabbed the revolver and pulled Starlight back from the ledge.
The bushranger was almost naked, as he had taken off his work trousers and rolled them up for a pillow. The big bull ants had been biting him, and apart from arresting the bushranger Sergt. Cleary was thankful that he had saved Starlight from torments of thirst, starvation and the ants.
On escorting Starlight back to Bourke, Sergt Cleary considered Starlight was the best company he had ever travelled with, although he was leg-ironed and chained to a tree at night for safety, but he never lost his spirits. He informed Sergt. Cleary that he was the scapegrace of a good family who had given him the first training as a doctor.
He was eventually sentenced to death for the murder of McCabe, but on the morning fixed for his execution, a telegram arrived delaying the carrying out of the sentence. Later he was reprieved and removed to the Darlinghurst Gaol where he was released. Starlight moved himself to Western Australia where he accidently poisoned himself by a swallowing a liniment.
Other exciting episodes in Cleary's career was the tracking of three notorious bushrangers to the head of the Bogan River where they were occupying Gordon's House. The evil doers were tracked along the Bogan River by Cleary, and constables Johnson and Brown, and two black trackers and were eventually fretted out. Being in the act of marauding an inn, an encounter took place. One of the bushrangers was shot by Constable Johnson, and the other two were arrested by the party. Also Sergt. Cleary was engaged to assist the Mudgee police in tracking down Owens, Dillon and others, who while waiting trial for highway robbery overpowered the warders at Mudgee gaol and escaped. Their recapture took place on the Castlereagh River, which was then in flood.
Andrew Cleary died in December, 1917, age 78 years, at Randwick. Although he had 10 children he left only one son, Andrew, also a policeman, who died in 1929 at Tamworth.