Ned Kelly at Beechworth

Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), Saturday 7 August 1880, page 20


NED KELLY AT BEECHWORTH.

From the Ovens and Murray Advertiser of Tuesday, we extract the following items from an account of Ned Kelly’s arrival in Beechworth, his sayings and doings on the way thither, etc. : —

“During the whole of the journey Kelly kept up an incessant indulgence in braggadocio, and many of his statements prove what little regard he has for the truth, and that he is a great braggart. The following are a few instances of the nature of his conversation with his guards : — He asserted that he could have shot every policeman in the district had he so wished, as from time to time he had each of them covered with his rifle ; and also, that he could have shot Superintendent Nicolson and the whole of the Queensland black trackers one day, when near McVean’s homestead, near Greta, but refrained from doing so, and hid behind a log. He had, he further stated, gone to the police paddocks at Wangaratta and Benalla at night time on several occasions, and tried a number of the horses there, but found them to be nothing but a lot of scrubbers, and therefore not worth taking. Although having no idea of note or tune, as he admitted, remarking that all the members of his family except himself were musical — Kelly sang two or three bush songs extolling the deeds of the Kelly gang, and also one of “Power’s (the bushranger) poems.” He also said that he had a choice one — which he considered to be the ‘best of the lot’ — but as it alluded to Constable McIntyre, who was then present, and might hurt his feelings, he would refrain from rendering it. When asked how it was that he had permitted Constable Bracken to escape as he did from Jones’s public house at Glenrowan, without shooting him previously, Kelly answered, ‘There was something about Bracken’s look and manner that I liked ; and though I seriously thought of it several times that night, I could not bring my mind to shoot him. Bracken and McIntyre were brave men, but Fitzpatrick — he was a b— thing.’ When the train passed Donnybrook he put his head out of his moving prison, and exclaimed,’That’s the place where I was born.’ After proceeding some distance, and when near Glenrowan, he became excited, and offered to fight any member of the police single-handed, selecting Sergeant Steele (whom he advised to go to India, for safety) as the butt of his contemptuous and altogether uncomplimentary remarks — even going so far as to throw his coat into Steele’s face ; and boasted that his (Kelly’s) body was impenetrable, as his ribs were one mass of bone. He pointed out different objects and places on the whole of the way up, entering into the most minute details ; and when approaching the spot where the rails had been torn up by the gang near Glenrowan, on being, asked if he knew the place, laughed loudly and said, ‘I should b— well think I do.’ He said he could easily have got away from the police when he and the other members of the gang were bailed up in Jones’s hotel, at Glenrowan, if he had liked, but promised his companions to wait until daylight, when he intended to effectually break the police “ring,” and was confident of his ability to do so. It was shown by many of the remarks he let fall that the gang had been kept well posted up in the movements of the police when in pursuit, and he detailed many private conversations which had been overheard, and the outlaws apprised of them — proving that the outside communications which they had established were of the most complete nature. Chinamen, he stated, could keep secrets better than any white man, and he would, therefore, sooner trust them ; and they had rendered him valuable service at various times. He bragged about his skill in horsemanship, and how he could in a very short time bring the wildest animal under his control-— instancing the favourite bay mare used by him. He also boasted that he had manufactured his own cartridges, bullets, and powder, and asked Sergeant Steele if he had ever used any of the latter, and on being answered in the negative, said that he (Kelly) had never seen better, and if a person once tried it he would never use any other. When questioned as to the murder of Aaron Sherritt at Sebastopol by the gang, Kelly expressed it as his confident opinion that Byrne did not shoot him ; but although he stated that as Sherritt was nothing but “a crawler and a traitor,” and he would not scruple to have killed him if given the oportunity, he would not say who was the perpetrator of the foul deed. When asked by one of the police whether he thought that Hart and Dan Kelly had shot themselves, as had been reported, the prisoner scornfully repudiated the idea ; and when in sight of the Strathbogie Ranges, meditatingly looked upon the very familiar scene and wondered aloud as to whether he would ever be there again — an expression which caused the other occupants of the van to smile, and exchange significant glances.

When questioned with regard to his murder of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek, Kelly justified his action by remarking, ‘We were poor men and Kennedy a rich one ; and what right had he and his — traps coming out after us poor men to shoot us. Therefore we shot them when we had the chance.’

“As, while awaiting for the arrival of the train on Sunday afternoon, our representative overheard a person express a doubt as to whether Kelly had, when captured by Sergeant Steele, at Glenrowan, called for mercy to be extended towards him, as he was wounded, the opportunity was taken to put the question to that officer later in the evening, when engaged in conversation. The sergeant’s reply was to the effect that when he had Kelly on the ground, with one hand upon his throat, and the other clutching the hand containing his (the outlaw’s) revolver, Kelly exclaimed, in piteous accents, ‘I’m done ; I’m done ; for God’s sake, have mercy and don’t shoot.’ ‘ Did you not,’ our representative asked, ‘ feel inclined to give him no quarter, and there and then give the wretch his quietus ?’ ‘Yes,’ replied Steele, ‘I had for the moment ; but I afterwards considered that, having the fellow at my mercy, it would be a cowardly thing to do, although he certainly deserved that I should have extended not the slightest mercy towards him.’

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