Edward (Ned) Kelly First Hand Accounts History Superintendent Hare The Police

Dr. Nicholson’s Account (19 July 1880)

An account of the events at Glenrowan told by the medic who attended Superintendent Hare and Ned Kelly.

Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1858 – 1880), Monday 19 July 1880, page 3


(From the Melbourne Argus.)


DR. JOHN NICHOLSON of Benalla, gives the following narrative : — I was called early on Monday morning by Superintendent Hare, who said that he had been shot by the Kellys, and wanted me to go to Glenrowan, where the police had them surrounded in a house. He told me to follow him to the post-office and dress his wound, and he would go back to Glenrowan if I would permit him. I shortly afterwards went to the post-office, and ascertained that he had been wounded in the left wrist by a bullet, which had passed obliquely in and out at the upper side of the joint, shattering the extremities of the bones, more especially of the radius. There were no injuries to the arteries, but a good deal of venous hæmorrhage, in consequence of a ligature which had imprudently been tied around the wrist above the wound. I temporarily dressed the wound, during which he fainted. Seeing the wound, although serious, was not dangerous to life, I made all haste to the railway station, and accompanied Mr. Sadlier and a party of police in a special train to Glenrowan. We arrived before daylight, but the moon was shining. The men, under Mr. Sadlier’s instructions, then immediately spread out, having first ascertained where the guard was weakest. A party headed by Mr. Sadlier went up the line in front of the house, and were immediately fired at. Three shots were fired in one volley at first, and immediately afterwards a volley of four. The fire was sharply replied to by Mr. Sadlier’s party, and also from other quarters where the police were stationed. I did not see any one come outside, and thought the return fire was at random. The firing on the part of the police was renewed at intervals, and replied to from the house, but never more than a volley of two after this. Mr Marsden of Wangaratta, Mr. Rawlins, several gentlemen, reporters for the press, some railway officials, and myself were on the platform watching the proceedings, sometimes exposed to the fire from the house in our eagerness to get a clear view of everything, and then – suddenly remembering that we were in easy range, quickly seeking the nearest shelter. Things remained in this state about a hour, when a woman with a child in her arms left the house, and came towards the station, crying out and bewailing all the time. She was met by some of the police and taken to one of the railway carriages. From her we learnt that the outlaws were still there, and at the back part of the house. They had taken compassion on her, and had permitted her to leave to save her darling child, but she was too much excited to give any definite information.

About 8 o’clock we (spectators on the platform) became aware that the police on the Wangaratta side of the house were altering the direction of their fire, and we then saw a very tall form in a yellowish white long overcoat, somewhat like a tall native in a blanket. He was further from the house than any of the police, and was stalking towards it with a revolver in his outstretched arm, which he fired two or three times, and then disappeared from our view amongst some fallen timber. His movements seemed so deliberate and reckless that we thought he was mad. Sergeant Steel was at this time in front of him. Senior-constable Kelly and Guard Dowsett on his left, and Constables Dwyre, Phillips, and another whose name I did not know, near the railway fence, in his rear. There was also some one on the upper side, but I do not know who it was. Shortly after this a horse with saddle and bridle came towards the place where the man (whom we had by this time ascertained to be Ned Kelly) was lying, and we fully expected to see him make a rush and mount it, but he allowed it to pass, and went towards the house. Messrs. Dowsett and Kelly kept all this time stealthily creeping towards him from one point of cover to another, firing at him whenever they got a chance. The constables at his rear were also firing, and gradually closing in upon him, and we were all excitement. Exclamations of “Look out, he’s going to fire,” “There he is behind that tree,” “I can see him from here,” “He’s down,” “Look at little Dowsett, what a plucky fellow he is,” were heard on all sides ; and then we saw Sergeant Steele rush towards him, quickly followed by Dowsett and Kelly, and a general rush was made towards them. We were perfectly astounded when we discovered that he was clad in a coat of armour of a most massive description. When I reached the place he was in a sitting posture on the ground, his helmet lying near him, and a most extraordinary and pitiable object he looked. A wild beast brought to bay, and evidently expecting to be roughly used. His face and hands were smeared with blood. He was shivering with cold, ghastly white, and smelt strongly of brandy. He complained of pain in his left arm, whenever he was jolted in the effort to remove his armour. Messrs. Steele and Kelly tried to unscrew the fastenings of his armour, but could only undo it on one side. I then took hold of the two plates, forced them a little apart, and drew them off his body. Our operations were materially hastened at this time by being fired at from the house, one bullet striking close to us. He was then carried over the railway fence to the station. Senior-constable Kelly and myself brought up the rear with the armour. When we reached the station we laid him in the van, but he was shortly afterwards taken into the station-house, and placed on a stretcher. I then made an examination of his injuries, which I found to be as follows : — There were two holes in the fleshy part of the under and outer side of the left forearm, apparently produced by a revolver bullet which had passed in and out through the openings, There was a larger bullet wound about 4in. above the elbow at the back of the same arm. It had apparently entered from behind, and had not passed out, but is lying somewhere in front of the joint. There were several slug wounds on the outer side of the right thigh and leg, which had entered from the direction of his right side ; one of them, after passing superficially through the skin at the upper part of the thigh, had grazed the skin on the lower part of the abdomen, but had not entered. Another bullet wound passed in a slanting direction backards from the upper part of the great toe of the right foot, and terminated in a long slit-like wound at the sole, near the heel. A slug had also entered the ball of the right thumb, causing a wound, which he said was as painful as any of them, and prevented him holding his revolver. I dressed the wounds as well as circumstances would permit. He complained of the coldness of his feet, and said they would never get warm again. He was being questioned all this time, sometimes by the police, sometimes by the reporters, and sometimes by the general public, who were inconveniently crowding the room. He was besieged with questions, and very seldom had less than three to reply to at the same time. He was very weak, and replied in a listless way to most of the inquiries. His replies, as far as I heard, were in the main correctly given in the various reports. He said he had been lying in the same position nearly all night, and was cold and cramped, afraid to move, and unable to lift his revolver up for fear of making a noise with his armor, otherwise he could have shot some of the police during the night. None of the wounds were of a mortal character. He must have lost much blood during the night, as he said that the wound in his foot and the one in his arm were received at the first volley fired by Mr Hare’s party. As they were bullet wounds, they must have been caused by either Constable Phillips, Gascoigne, or McArthur, who were with Mr Hare when he was shot. Mr Hare had a shot gun, which was taken from him by Mr Rawlins. I attended to Edward Kelly during the rest of the day. He remained in the same listless apathetic state up to the time he was taken out of my charge.

By AJFPhelan56

Father, writer, artist and bushranging historian residing in Melbourne, Australia. Author of 'Glenrowan' and the popular website A Guide to Australian Bushranging.

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