A young Englishman, Harry Heathcote, had leased 120,000 acres of bush from the Australian government, on which he ran 30,000 sheep. With him at Gangoil lived his wife, two small sons and his sister-in-law Kate Daly. Giles Medlicot was his nearest neighbor, but the two men had not become friends. Medlicot had purchased land that lay between Gangoil and the river for a sugar plantation and had erected a sugar-mill. The loss of the river frontage was a serious matter to Heathcote and he considered its acquisition by his neighbor a personal affront. This was the more unfortunate as Kate Daly and Medlicot had already fallen in love. Heathcote, high-tempered and imperious, had made many enemies, not only of some of his own workers whom he had discharged, but also of his lawless neighbors, the Brownbies, a father and six sons, whose cattle range bordered on Gangoil. In December when the bush was very dry and fires frequent, the Brownbies, joined by two of Harry's discharged sheepmen since employed by Medlicot, attempted to burn out the entire range. Heathcote and his men spent day and night in the saddle and were later joined by Medlicot - who helped him control the fires, and to win in a pitched battle with the Brownbie gang.