Ned Kelly Interviewed (August 1880)

Glen Innes Examiner and General Advertiser (NSW : 1874 – 1908), Tuesday 17 August 1880, page 3


NED KELLY INTERVIEWED.

(Melbourne Age.)

Ned Kelly has made some very important statements to a reporter in Beechworth gaol yesterday.

Reporter: “You have said you were hardly and unjustly treated by the police, and that you were hounded down by them. Can you explain what you mean.”

Kelly: “Yes; I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another ; but the public in judging a case like mine should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side, and that after the worst has been said against a man he may, if he has told his story, in his own rough way, that, will perhaps lead them to reverse the bent of their thoughts against him and find as many excuses for him as he would plead for himself. For my own part I do not care one straw about my life nor for the result of the trial. I know very well from the stories I have been told, of how l am spoken of — that the public at large execrate my name, the newspapers can’t speak of me with that patient toleration generally ceded to men awaiting trial, and, according to the boast of British justice, to be innocent until they are proved to be guilty. But I don’t mind, for I have outlived that care that curries public favour, or dreads, the public frown. Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story might be heard and considered, not that I wish to avert any decree the law may deem necessary to vindicate justice or win a word of pity from any one. If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill-treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away. People who live in large towns have no idea of the tyrannical conduct of the police in the country places removed from camp. They have no idea of hardship or the overbearing manner in which they (the police) execute their duty and abuse their prisoners.”

Reporter: “Can you give any instance of which you complain?”

Kelly: ” I can. Mclntyre, in his evidence, said I told him Lonergan had given me a hiding in Benalla ; it is not true that I ever said this to Mclntyre, but I will tell you what the real facts quainted with. Some time ago I had been drinking, and I think I was drugged. I was arrested for some trifling offence — riding over a footpath, I believe — and lodged in the lockup. On the following day, when I was taken out of the lockup, and still dazed, I escaped and was pursued by the police. I took refuge in a shoemaker’s shop, and four constables soon came in after me. They, assisted by the owner of the shop, tried to put the handcuffs on me, but failed. In the struggle that ensued my trousers were almost torn off me. Finding me a more difficult man to manage than they expected, Lonergan seized me in such a cruel, cowardly, and disgusting manner that he inflicted terrible pain on me, but still I would not surrender. The act of Lonergan, which cannot be described, might have ruined me for life, if it did not actually kill me. While the struggle was still going on, a miller came in, and seeing how I was being ill-treated, said the police should be ashamed of themselves, and he endeavoured to pacify them, and induced me to be handcuffed. I allowed this man to put the handcuffs on me, though I refused to submit to the police. It may seem strange, but it is as true as I am here from that time up to Lonergan’s death I suffered excruciating pain from his treatment, but, from the day of his death until now I have been from that pain and the ill effects I before experienced.

Reporter : “That it is one of the examples you give of an exasperating character of the harsh treatment indulged in by the police.”

Kelly : “It was in the course of this attempted arrest Fitzpatrick endeavoured to catch hold of me by the foot, and in the struggle he tore the sole and heal [sic] of my boot clean off. With one well-directed blow, I sent him sprawling against the wall, and the staggering blow I then gave him partly accounts to me for his subsequent conduct towards my family and myself.”

Reporter : “Now, Kelly, what is the real history of Fitzpatrick’s business, did he ever try to take liberties with your sister, Kate Kelly?”

“No, that is a foolish story ; if he or any other policeman tried to take liberties with my sister Victoria would not hold him.”

Reporter: “Then what is the real story?”

Kelly: “I will tell you. I declare to you that I felt more keenly than I can express the unjust treatment meted to my mother, who was arrested with a baby at her breast and convicted of a crime of which she was innocent.”

Reporter : “Tell me the whole story of that affair.”

Kelly: “I will. My mother, her son-in-law Skillion, and a man named William Williamson, were tried October 28, 1878, at Beechworth assizes, by Sir Redmond Barry, who sentenced my mother to three years, and Skillion and Williamson to six years each: Williamson is not related to us ; he occupied land at Greta. The one witness of one alleged attempt at murder was constable Fitzpatrick, who has since been dismissed from the police force. His evidence, I declare, is foully false. On the 23th [sic] of October my mother, brother-in-law, and Williamson were sentenced, and the police started to arrest my brother Dan and me on the 25th October, or 13 days after my mother was sentenced. Now, the following is a true version of the affair. I think a warrant had been issued at Chiltern for Dan’s arrest on a charge of horsestealing, of which he was quite innocent. Before this warrant could reach Fitzpatrick, he somehow became aware of it, and started out to Greta to arrest Dan. He got drinking at some place in the neighbourhood while he was watching for Dan to come home. He saw Dan outside the house, and said to him “Dan, I want you to come into town with me.” “No,” says Dan, “I don’t care to go into town ; I have no business with you.” “Oh,” said Fitzpatrick, “there is a warrant against you for horsestealing.” “Very well,” said Dan, “if that is the case I will go ; but I have just came [sic] in from a long ride, so let me have something to eat before I go.” Thereupon the two went into my mother’s place. Dan did not like to tell my mother, and Fitzpatrick was silent, but after a little time he said he was going into town with Fitzpatrick, and my mother wanting to know what for, Fitzpatrick said “There is a warrant out against him, and I have arrested him.” ” Well,” said Dan, “you have said so much about a warrant, show us your warrant.” Fitzpatrick said, “I have got no warrant, but a telegram came saying there was a warrant out for you.” “‘Well,” said my mother, who was putting some fire on the oven, in which she was baking, “I don’t see why any man should be taken on the mere word of a policeman : and Dan you need not go unless you like.” Fitzpatrick at once drew his revolver, and covered his mother, saying. “I will blow your brains out if you interfere.” My mother said to Fitzpatrick, “You would not be so ready to show that pop-gun of yours if Ned was here.” Instantly, Dan, with the view of distracting his attention, cried out, “There is Ned coming along by the side of the house.” Fitzpatrick at once fell into the ruse, and looked in the direction indicated by Dan, but I was not in fact within 200 miles of the place at the time. Directly Dan saw that his attention was taken off him, he rushed him, disarmed him, grasped his revolver, gave it him back, and let him go, not offering any violence whatever. A day or two after, my mother, Skillion, and Williamson, both of whom were not present on that occasion, were arrested on a charge of aiding and abetting an attempt by me to murder Fitzpatrick, and confined six months before they were tried. In May, 1878, a reward of £100 was offered for my apprehension for this alleged attempt at murder. At the trial Fitzpatrick swore I shot him in the wrist, and he was afterwards compelled to submit to the cutting out of the bullet. I now know the position in which I stand, and now declare to God Fitzpatrick’s statement is false from beginning to end. My version may be doubted, but there are one or two facts that help me. Fitzpatrick has been since dismissed from the force. Dr. Nicholson gave evidence that Fitzpatrick’s wound might have been caused as stated by him, but that he had not probed the wound. Since the trial the doctor has told Fitzpatrick that his wound was never caused by a bullet. I believe Fitzpatrick in order to give a colour to his story and to relieve himself for his failure to arrest Dan, inflicted a mere flesh wound on his wrist, but whether it was so or not I declare that his statement affecting me was wilfully and deliberately false, for I was not within hundreds of miles of the place at the time. At the time my mother was arrested up to her sentence, Dan and myself kept out of the way, and were earning our living quietly by digging. As soon as my mother’s conviction had been obtained in that way, the police evidently made a determined effort to earn the reward that I believe had been increased to £200. I am much indebted to apprehenders, but I firmly believe they only wanted the slightest pretext to shoot my brother and myself.”

Reporter : “I have received a letter from a lady in Melbourne, who requests me to put this question to you : ‘Did you ever come to her house and ask to see her husband;’ because the lady writing the letter says she felt convinced, from the likeness she saw in the Sketcher, that a man identical in appearance with, the likeness named, called at her house some time ago and asked for her husband. At the time he called she says she and her daughter were both under the impression it was Ned Kelly. Kelly seemed greatly amused, and said he had never called there, and expressed a desire to see the Sketcher. This evening he took him the Sketcher to look at. Last night Mr. Gaunson read to him the Age report in yesterday’s issue, on which he made careful and intelligent com-ments as the reading proceeded, pointing out whatever passages he regarded as necessary for him to make remarks upon. He was evidently much gratified by the sight of a newspaper. He intently studied the picture which has appeared in the Sketcher, and said, ” It’s a mere fancy sketch of a bushman, and in no way like me.”

This is the illustration referred to in the article. It was made by Thomas Carrington, one of the journalists who were present at the Glenrowan siege, and who had not only seen Ned after his capture but interviewed him. A portrait of Aaron Sherritt and Ned’s prison mugshot have provided the basis for the body and head respectively.

————

MRS. SKERRITT has sent in a claim for compensation to the Victorian Government. She does not name any sum, but submits that she is entitled to substantial compensation for the assistance her husband and she herself rendered to the police (For she had to cook all their meals), for the loss of her husband, and for the loss of her house, which is rendered valueless, as no one will live in it. Ned Kelly has by some means heard that she has made this application, for in the train to Beechworth he inquired if her compensation would be paid out of the reward fund. For some time before his death, Skerritt appeared to fully realise that his life was not worth much, and he sometimes remarked to his wife that some day she would hear of his being shot. On one occasion he was ordered, down to Benalla for duty on a horsestealing case, and he told his wife when he was preparing to leave that she would certainly not see him again alive, that she would hear of him being shot by the gang, and that all he desired was that she should come down and bury his remains quietly. Seeing that he was really afraid of his life the officer in charge of the police at Benalla relieved him of his proposed new duty. Detective Ward and Skerritt indeed made things very warm for the gang in the Beechworth district, and the gang vowed vengeance to both. Ward was continually receiving letters from them in Joe Byrne’s handwriting threatening his life. On one occasion he was informed in this way that if they could lay hands on him they would place him in a hollow log and roast him alive. Another letter contained a large picture of a coffin, and a third a piece of crape. Ward, however, pursued the tenor of his way undaunted.

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