A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

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Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 15 of 32)
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River. Another party, under Sergeant Steele, had set out
on a similar expedition from Greta, great secrecy having
been preserved in both cases, while there was also Detective
Michael Ward, a very smart officer, at work in the Fern Hills.
It is presumable, however, that the movements of the Mans-
field police were observed and reported to the Kellys, for
it was apparent afterwards that they had lain in ambush
in readiness for their enemies.

Sergeant Kennedy and his companions left the township
on the 25th of October. Having travelled some twenty
miles into the bush they camped on Stringy Bark Creek, with
no suspicion that the gang was in the vicinity. It was be-
lieved that the latter were many miles farther up the river.
There was nothing to alarm them during the night. In
the morning the sergeant took constable Scanlan with him
to make a preliminary survey of the district, while Mclntyre
and Lonergan stopped behind. At 5 p.m. the two troopers
were busying themselves making tea when there came the
peremptory summons, " Bail up ! Put up your hands ! "



Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, and two other men, all mounted, were
at the entrance to the clearing with rifles levelled and cover-
ing them. Mclntyre had put down his revolver by the tent
door, and he had no arms upon him. Lonergan's weapon
was in his belt. Making a dash for a tree he was about to
pull out the pistol when one of the rifles cracked, and he fell

In obedience to Ned Kelly's command Mclntyre sur-
rendered and submitted to be searched. He was then
ordered on penalty of instant death to sit down and behave
as if nothing had happened. On the arrival of the ser-
geant and Scanlan he was to summon them to surrender, in
which case Ned promised their lives should be spared.
If, on their approach he attempted to warn them of danger,
he might expect a bullet through his brain. The four bush-
rangers, having collected all the police arms in the camp,
withdrew behind the trees to await the coming of the
others. Some minutes later Kennedy and Scanlan rode up.
Mclntyre now rose up and carried out his instructions.
" Sergeant," he said, " we are surrounded ! You had
better surrender ! "

Kennedy did not believe his ears. He gave a laugh and
was placing his hand on his revolver when Ned Kelly sprang
out into the open. " Put up your hands ! " he ordered.
Both Kennedy and Scanlan jumped from their horses to
take cover, but Kelly and his mates were too quick for them.
Almost instantly Scanlan was shot down, while the sergeant
fell to his knees wounded. The noise of the firing had so
startled Kennedy's horse that it promptly bolted, and as
it rushed past him Mclntyre flung himself on its back and
rode at full gallop down the creek. Two or three shots
followed him, but luckily none took effect.



For this action in deserting his officer and seeking his
own safety Mclntyre has been severely censured by some.
But who shall blame him ? Who shall say that he
would have acted otherwise in such circumstances ? The
trooper was unarmed ; he had Ned Kelly's assurance that
the sergeant's life would be spared if he surrendered and
what other course was left open to Kennedy ? Furthermore,
by seizing this chance to escape he might procure assistance,
without which they were helpless. Right or wrong in his
decision, Mclntyre soon put some distance between him
and the bushrangers. Then his horse, which had been hit,
failed him, and he crawled into a piece of scrub wherein he
found a wombat hole. Here he hid for some time, hearing
his baffled pursuers searching for him close by. While
thus concealed the trooper wrote a hasty memorandum of
what had occurred, tearing the leaves out of his pocket-book,
and placing them in the hole. After dark he started again
on his perilous journey, to reach Mansfield early in the
following afternoon.

On learning the sad news Inspector Pewtress, the officer
at Mansfield, set out for the scene with a strong party of
troopers. They saw nothing of the Kellys, but they found
the lifeless bodies of Lonergan and Scanlan. That of Ken-
nedy was discovered some days later, a few hundred yards
from the camp, with three bullet wounds in it. Over the
face of the dead man was thrown a cloak, this having been
done by Ned Kelly himself as a tribute to " the bravest
man he had ever met." The leader of the bushrangers
said afterwards that Kennedy had not given up until the
last shot from his revolver had been fired.

It was a sad reflection on the Government of the day that
the police parties despatched in search of the gang were so



poorly armed. The only two rifles Kennedy and his troopers
carried had been furnished them by a Mansfield resident,
who noticed how ill-equipped they were, and it was a well-
known fact at the time that the bushrangers were all armed
with rifles of an up-to-date pattern. The protest that was
made against this laxity was well-deserved. As a police
officer remarked to the writer, it was almost like sentencing
a man to death to send him hunting bushrangers with only
a revolver.

Where the Kellys and their two companions, Steve Hart
and Joe Byrne, had sought refuge no one knew no one
except their sympathisers. All four men were now pro-
claimed outlaws, for the Victorian Government, following
the precedent of New South Wales, hastily passed an Out-
lawry Bill, framed on similar lines to the Felons' Appre-
hension Act. But in vain were the rewards for the mis-
creants increased to 500 in each case ; in vain was the
country searched and patrolled for miles around. No
news of their whereabouts leaked out until early in Decem-
ber, when a station at Faithfull's Creek, near Euroa, was
" stuck up " by the gang. Mr. Macaulay, the manager, per-
tinently asked Ned Kelly why he went to so much trouble
to secure what he wanted. All the station hands had been
collected and placed under lock and key, and a great show
of force was made. " You can have everything you want
without all this nonsense," he is reported to have said :
" and as for horses, we've none here better than those you've
got." To this Ned answered darkly that he had something
else in view. What this purpose was the manager was soon
to learn. The gang knew that by the shooting of the police
officers in the Wombat Ranges they had " burnt their boats
behind them, ' ' and they had resolved on making a daring coup.



After a day's wait (four men who were returning to town
having been added to the captives), Ned Kelly announced
his intention to rob the bank at Euroa. He procured a
cheque for 3 from Mr. Macaulay, and with this the two
brothers and Hart proceeded to the township, three miles
distant. One of their prisoners was a travelling hawker,
of whose store of clothing they made use in order to dress
for the part. They also took his cart and another light
vehicle, Hart alone riding on horseback. The other member
of the gang, Joe Byrne, was left in sole charge of the station.
Before departing, however, the precaution was taken to
cut the telegraph wires by the railway line, the posts being
carried into the farm buildings to prevent communication
being re-established easily.

In Euroa the bushrangers found the bank already closed,
but after some little pressure Mr. Scott, the manager, con-
sented to cash the cheque. Once inside the building Ned
Kelly flashed out his revolver with the order to " Bail up ! "
and the manager, accountant and two clerks were quickly
in his power. Steve Hart, entering the premises from the
back, now joined his leader, to assist by securing all the
firearms in the place. Since the gang's outbreak all the
banks in the neighbouring townships had provided their
employes with guns in the anticipation of a raid.

From the Euroa bank the Kellys got in all over 1,900
in cash and notes, together with some 30 oz. of gold dust.
When he was satisfied that the haul was complete Ned
gave orders that the entire household was to accompany
him back to the station. The manager, his wife, children
and servants, with the accountant and two clerks, were
accordingly packed into the carts and Mr. Scott's own buggy,
and as quickly as possible the procession started. On reach-



ing the station they found all safe there, Byrne having only
to report the capture of a telegraph repairer who had been
sent up the line on the discovery of the breakdown.

The next exploit of the gang was the " sticking up " of the
bank at Jerilderie in New South Wales. This occurred in
February 1879, only two months after the descent upon
Euroa. The first move was made at midnight on the 9th,
when the two constables in charge of the little police station
on the outskirts of the town were roused up by an urgent
summons. " There's a big row on down at Davidson's
Hotel," shouted out this late caller, " you're wanted at
once." Constables Devine and Richards tumbled out of
bed, dressed and went out, to immediately fall into the
hands of the Kelly s. The two officers were then disarmed
and locked up in their own watch-house, while Mrs. Devine
and her children were shut up in another part of the building.

All the following day, a Sunday, the outlaws all four
being present lay low. To allay any suspicion Dan Kelly,
Byrne and Hart put on police uniforms, but there was no
real occasion for them to go abroad save once. This was
when it was learnt that it was Mrs. Devine's custom to go
into town early on the Sabbath morning to prepare the
church for service. Ned Kelly decided that she must do
this as usual, so the lady went about her duties with Byrne
in attendance, returning in due course to the station. After-
wards, during the afternoon, Byrne and Hart in police
uniforms took a walk through the town with Constable
Richards. The object was to learn the position of the prin-
cipal buildings, etc. It was agreed that if they were ac-
costed, the constable was to introduce them as new men
sent to the town from headquarters.

The actual raid was planned for Monday. At about


10 a.m. the gang set out for the town, dressed as troopers,
and accompanied by Constable Richards. In this fashion
they passed down the main street, Hart and Byrne alone
being on horseback, and, strange to say, excited little atten-
tion. It was assumed by many that Richards was showing
some friends of his round the town. Mr. Gill, the editor
of a Jerilderie paper, met the party in the road and remarked
to a companion that " those smart policemen would be the
coves to send after the Kellys ! " The newspaper man was
probably the first to scent any danger. He was then on
his way to the police station, and on arrival there, he was
told by Mrs. Devine to go away or he would be shot. " You
will hear all about it when you go down the town," she
added. Mr. Gill thereupon took counsel with Mr. Rankin,
a well-known resident of Jerilderie, and the two with
another man made their way towards the bank. But
they were too late. The Kellys were already in possession,
and of the three Gill alone managed to escape.

From the statement of Mr. Living, the accountant of
the bank, we learn how the " sticking up " was carried out.
The gang had taken possession of the Royal Hotel, which
backed on to the bank, and made use of it to enter the
premises from the rear. Mr. Living turned round on his stool
at the sound of footsteps in the passage, and found himself
looking into the barrel of a revolver. " I'm Ned Kelly,"
was the brief exclamation, " keep quiet if you value your
life ! "

The intruder was in reality Byrne, but the effect was
the same. Under the other's orders Mr. Living yielded up
what arms there were in the room, and then with young
Mackie, his assistant, was escorted to the hotel. There
were several prisoners here guarded by Ned Kelly. Mr.

193 o


Cox, the landlord, following instructions, was serving at
the bar, so that no one coming in should suspect anything
was wrong.

Ned Kelly now demanded Mr. Tarleton, the bank man-
ager, and Mr. Living went back to find him. Tarleton,
who was in his bath, was incredulous at the news, but on
joining the little company at the hotel he saw that there
was no mistake. " Ned," says Mr. Boxall in his account
of the affair, " had hitherto been walking round as a sort
of inspector-general of the proceedings, and giving orders.
He now entered the room and ordered drinks to be served
all round. Then he made a speech in which he blamed
Constable Fitzpatrick for all that had occurred. " I wasn't
within a hundred miles of Greta when he was shot," he said,
" and up to then I'd never killed a man in my life." He
went on to say that he had stolen two hundred and eighty
horses from Whitby's station, and had sold them at Baum-
garten's. He took out a revolver and exclaimed : " This
was Lonergan's ! I took it from him. The gun I shot
him with was a crooked, worn-out thing, not worth picking
up. I shot him because, he threatened my mother and my
sister if they refused to tell where I was."

After this display Ned Kelly proceeded to get to business.
From the bank safe and drawers were taken about 2,150,
the gold being thrown into a bag which the local school-
master was made to hold open. This gentleman then wrote
out a notice at Kelly's dictation, giving the school-children
a whole holiday in honour of the gang's visit to the town !
In the same braggadocio spirit the outlaws, after quitting
the bank, swaggered about the town, being desirous to
emulate the exploit of Hall and Gilbert at Canowindra. It
was during this parade that Hart robbed a local clergyman,



the Rev. J. B. Gribble, of a gold watch, which Ned Kelly
insisted on Hart returning.

As the telegraph wires had been cut, there was no means
of communicating with Conargo or Narrandera, the nearest
townships. For the time, therefore, Jerilderie was com-
pletely isolated. It remained thus at the mercy of the gang
until the afternoon of Wednesday, the fourth day from
their arrival. Then, with their booty packed on a police
horse, the bushrangers rode off into the hills, each one
taking a different route to render pursuit more difficult.
They " stuck up " Mr. Mackie's station at Wannamurra en
route, after which they quickly crossed the Murray and
got back to their Victorian retreat. The principal hiding-
place of the gang was revealed by Ned Kelly at the time of
his trial. It was an old mining shaft, about twenty-five
feet deep, at the bottom of which was a long drive affording
them ample room. The shaft was close to the junction of
three roads leading to Chilton, Yackandandah and Kiewa,
and some ten or eleven miles from Beech worth.

A big price was placed on the heads of the outlaws after
this daring robbery. The Governments of New South
Wales and Victoria each offered a reward of 3,000 for their
capture, dead or alive, the banks in the two colonies con-
tributing another 2,000. The blood-money thus totalled
8,000, a sum large enough, one would think, to have led
to betrayal. But the Kellys, Hart and Byrne, still lay
safely hidden, being loyally served by their womenfolk.
Kate Kelly, Ned's sister, and other girls more or less con-
nected with the family supplied them with food, managing
to elude observation with great dexterity. At the same time
that a reward was offered, the New South Wales legislature
re-introduced the Felons' Apprehension Act, making this

195 ~


statute permanent and so comprehensive as to provide that
any criminals outlawed in a neighbouring colony should be
outlawed in New South Wales. Every man's hand in two
colonies was now to be against the Kelly gang.

In the hunt after the outlaws there were engaged several
prominent police officials. From Melbourne came Super-
intendent Francis Hare, and Assistant-Commissioner C. H.
Nicholson of the Victorian force ; and from Queensland
Sub-Inspector Stanhope O'Connor, with a party of five
black trackers. Also in the field at various times were
Superintendent Sadleir, the officer in charge of the north-
eastern police district, and Captain Standish, the Commis-
sioner of Police. It was an unfortunate thing for the colony
that in the progress of operations a feeling of jealousy
manifested itself between certain of these officers. Through
an unwillingness to pull together amicably, and the conse-
quent miscarriage of well-matured plans, the chase of the
gang was undoubtedly unduly prolonged. That there
was gross blundering cannot be gainsaid, and there was no
little reason for the strictures that were passed upon the

One notable chance of capture that was missed occurred
early in the hunt. At One Mile Creek, near to the town-
ship of Wangaratta, a woman one morning heard the sound
of horses' feet, and looking out of her hut she saw four
young fellows on horses that were evidently blown. These
riders were identified as the Kelly gang, hard driven by
the pursuit of a police party. The creek was swollen by
the recent rains and to ordinary folk impassable, but Steve
Hart, who knew it well, led his companions safely across,
and they were last seen to be heading for the ranges.

This occurrence was reported to the inspector at Wan-


garatta, but with a dilatoriness that called for a stern repri-
mand from the Inquiry subsequently held, he lost a good
deal of valuable time in folio whig up the trail. When a
party of troopers at last set out they found a horse, which
was recognised as being that of murdered Sergeant Ken-
nedy, abandoned in a swamp. There was no doubt that
they were on the right scent, but the supine officer ordered
a return to barracks. The next day the search was again
taken up ; the Kellys, however, were by this time well
beyond reach.

Of all those who pressed close upon their heels, the
bushrangers most feared O'Connor's trackers. These blacks,
Hero, Jack, Johnny, Jimmy and Barney by name, were
men of exceptional skill who had been in the Queensland
Native Mounted Police for some years. By their quick-
ness in picking up and following a trail, the trackers kept
the gang in a continual state of suspense. The Kellys more
than once evinced their fear of these sleuthhounds, "little
black devils," they called them, being far more anxious to
shoot them than the troopers whom they could more easily
hoodwink. It is difficult to understand therefore, except
on the score of jealousy, why the Victorian Government
should have been pressed, as was the case, to dispense with
their services after a comparatively short trial.

For several months more the effective aid rendered the
band by their sympathisers paralysed the efforts of the
police. The two Kelly girls, Kate and her married sister,
Mrs. Skillian, were especially to the fore in this respect.
Well aware that their movements were watched, they en-
deavoured to hamper the police by hoaxing them whenever
possible. On one occasion Mrs. Skillian was seen to leave
the Kelly house at Greta at an early hour in the morning,



and to ride off with a bulky package on her saddle. With
all promptitude the troopers followed her stealthily into the
Warby ranges, whither it was supposed she was conveying
provisions to the outlaws. After a toilsome climb up a hill
slope they were rewarded by seeing Mrs. Skillian seated on
a log, derisively laughing at them. The bundle in her saddle
proved to be nothing more than an old tablecloth.

But every camp has its possible traitor, and in the case of
the Kellys, the possibility became a certainty. One Aaron
Sherritt, a confederate of the bushrangers and the more
closely allied by reason of his attachment to Byrne's sister,
was won over to the police side. By the help of this " out-
rageous scoundrel," as Hare termed him, the Superintendent
shadowed several known allies of the gang, and came very
near to surprising his quarry. Among others, Mrs. Byrne's
house, a solitary building in the hills, was kept under close
observation, but a little carelessness on the part of the
troopers revealed their proximity, and Hare had the mortifi-
cation to see the old lady one day walk right into the police

Of these days of toilsome plodding through the bush,
of long journeys, and wakeful cold nights, during which they
frequently lay out in the open without fires, Superintendent
Hare writes feelingly. He gives the troopers under his
command high praise for their pluck and endurance.
Every man of them, he says, was " keen as mustard " to
go for the Kellys, and ready at any moment, night or day,
to up saddle and ride off in pursuit. As an instance of the
personal bravery of the men, in striking contradiction to
the charges of cowardice levelled at the force by outside
critics, he cites the following.

Information, apparently from a reliable source, had been


received to the effect that the gang were lying hidden in
a haystack near a certain house. The troopers surrounded
the place, and when a large hole in the haystack was
discovered, the Superintendent called for a volunteer to
crawl inside. There was a chorus of " Let me go, sir ! "
Each of the party wanted the honour. In the end Trooper
Johnson was commissioned to undertake the task and,
revolver in hand, he disappeared in the aperture. He came
out a minute or two later, saying that he heard a noise inside,
and that they had better keep " a sharp look-out all round."
" I started him back," says Hare, " and told him to send
the fellows out. He had hardly been away more than a
few seconds when he came out again in a great hurry. " Lor,
sir," he said, " there's an old sow in there with a lot of young
ones, and she did go for me ! "

It was a ludicrous ending to the episode, but one can
pay a just tribute of praise to the trooper who went in not
knowing what was before him, but fully expecting to meet
four armed and desperate outlaws.

That Aaron Sherritt ultimately would have given the
Kellys into the hands of the police is possible, but all chance
of this was destroyed by the sudden murder of the spy in
June of 1880. Since the contretemps at Mrs. Byrne's hut
Sherritt had incurred the suspicion of the gang. His rela-
tions with Byrne's sister were broken off abruptly, and he
felt that the shadow of death was over him. This foreknow-
ledge of doom was soon to be realised. Sherritt was shot
one night at the door of his house at Beechworth by Byrne,
who with Dan Kelly had boldly ventured out from his lair.

In this desire for revenge, the outlaws threw discretion
to the winds. Their whereabouts were now proclaimed.
Soon after their departure the intelligence was flashed along



the wires from Benalla to Melbourne, and instant pre-
parations were made to corner the band. Sub-Inspector
O'Connor, who had retired from the search by order, was now
commanded to proceed to the scene of the outrage with his
black trackers, while Superintendent Hare (then in Mel-
bourne) and other officers lost no time in following suit.
In the meantime, Ned Kelly and Hart had taken steps to
check pursuit by tearing up the railway line some distance
from Glenrowan station, selecting a part where the track
ran over a high embankment. The object was to derail any
special train that the authorities might send up towards
Beech worth.

The railway gangers commandeered at point of pistol
to perform this devilish work were afterwards kept prisoners
at the station-master's house at Glenrowan, where many
others were detained. When Byrne and Dan Kelly joined
their companions, having ridden over from Beechworth, all
the prisoners were removed to the hotel. Among them was
the one constable that the little township possessed. To
some extent every one was free to move about the place
between the hotel and the station, but clear warning was
given that any attempt at escape would be punished by
immediate death.

It was on a Saturday night that Sherritt had been killed.
The next day, Sunday, was given up to preparing for the
stand against the police which must inevitably come. All
had been carefully arranged, Glenrowan having been chosen
as the most suitable spot for their purpose. The only flaw
in the bushrangers' scheme was the escape of one individual
from the company under surveillance, and the consequent
warning of the police. The hero of this incident was Mr.
Curnow, the school-master at Glenrowan. He had gained



Ned Kelly's confidence sufficiently to obtain permission

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 15 of 32)