First Hand Accounts Glenrowan History

Margaret Reardon’s Testimony

Margaret Reardon’s account of the Glenrowan siege, including her escape from the inn, from the 1881 Royal Commission.

The following is the evidence submitted by Margaret Reardon, wife of James Reardon, to the Royal Commission on 8 June, 1881. It encompasses her experience of the Kellys’ visit to Glenrowan and the siege, including her narrow escape under fire from the inn.

Mrs. Margaret Reardon sworn and examined.

10526. By the Commission.—Do you remember the time at which the Kellys tore up the railway line at Glenrowan?—I do.

10527. Do you know what time it was that the Kellys demanded of your husband to tear the line up?—It was twenty minutes past two on Sunday morning when we left our house.

10528. What time were you taken to Jones’s hotel?—I was not taken there just then; all the prisoners were left at Mr. Stanistreet’s, the gate-house.

10529. You were taken there?—Yes.

10530. What time was that?—We were taken straight from our place to there, and left there while the men were taken away to take up the rails.

10531. Were the whole of your family in the house?—Yes, there was myself and eight children and my husband.

10532. Did the Kellys say for what purpose they took you prisoners?—I begged of Kelly not to take my husband to take the line up. He said he had to do it, as the people up there told him nobody could do it but a platelayer.

10533. Did he tell you why he took the line up?—He said it was to wreck the special train that was coming after him with a lot of police and volunteers.

10534. Did he mention how he heard that?—No, he did not. I asked him how he knew they were coming, and he said, “I quite expect them.”

10535. You were in Mrs. Jones’s house about two o’clock that morning, before the special train came up?—Yes, I was in there from about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon.

10536. Then you were there all Sunday night?—All Sunday night.

10537. How many were there?—A great many people. All the rooms were full; all the front of the house was full of men, women, and children.

10538. Could you get any food there?—No, I saw no food there.

10539. Was there much drinking?—I did not see much drinking, in fact I did not see any. I did not take any notice. I was not in the bar.

10540. Did you see the Kelly gang frequently?—I never saw them in my life till that time.

10541. I mean in the house that night?—Yes, I did.

10542. What were they doing, generally speaking?—There was one of them, Hart who was not there. He remained in charge of Mr. Stanistreet’s family, and allowed them to remain in their own house. I saw Ned Kelly in the kitchen with Mrs. Jones and her daughter. The most part of Sunday night he was not in sight at all—only when they were having a dance, and I saw the other two men. I believe they were playing cards with Mrs. Jones in the little parlour; and during that time it was Mrs. Jones’s daughter was minding us with a revolver in her hand, reckoning where we women and children were, and to count the number up. She used to stand and reckon us like that—[holding out her arm]—with a revolver in her hand.

10543. Were you summoned by the police at Beechworth to give evidence of that?—No, not of that; they asked me nothing of that.

10544. Were you at the trial of Mrs. Jones at Beechworth?—Yes.

10545. Did you give this evidence there that you are giving now?—No, I was never asked it.

10546. You state that Mrs. Jones’s daughter had a revolver?—Yes, in her hand, and she carried it in the pocket of her jacket.

10547. What age was she?—A young woman—I daresay between 15 and 16.

10548. Did Mrs. Jones seemed to be very pleased the outlaws were in the place?—She seemed quite pleased and merry.

10549. Did she dance with any of them?—Mrs. Jones danced, but I cannot say with whom.

10550. Were you in the house when the police first came?—Yes.

10551. What was done inside when the firing commenced?—When the police first came the people were all going out the rooms, from one room to another, and Constable Bracken came to the room where we were in and said, “Lie down as flat as you possibly can on the floor, it is the only chance you have got,” and we did so.

10552. And did the firing commence immediately?—The firing commenced in about fifteen minutes after that.

10553. Did you see what Constable Bracken did after he told you that?—No, I did not see him after that, for we were in the back room.

10554. Can you tell us how the rooms were situated?—There were three different rooms—the dining room, the bar room in the middle, and the little parlor, at the Benalla end.

10555. How many doors in the front?—Two—one from the bar and the other from the dining room.

10556. How many rooms were there behind?—Two, and a little narrow passage.

10557. Did the passage go right through the house?—Only from the bar to the back kitchen.

10558. It was only between the two back rooms?—Yes.

10559. And in coming through it you entered the bar coming to the front?—Yes.

10560. Do you remember the time the firing commenced?—Yes.

10561. Can you describe anything you saw then in the house?—I did not see anything in the house just then, for there were very dark window blinds, and they were all drawn down.

10562. Was there no light?—No.

10563. How many windows were there in the front?—There were three windows on the front—one in each room, and one in the bar.

10564. Was there a door going from the verandah into the dining room?—Yes.

10565. And one from the verandah into the bar?—Yes.

10566. No door from the verandah into the little parlor?—No; you entered that from the bar.

10567. Was there a skillion room at the back?—There were two.

10568. And then at the back of those a small yard?—Yes.

10569. And two or three steps up to the kitchen at the back?—There were no steps; it went straight on up a little incline to the kitchen at the back.

10570. Do you remember anything of what occurred when the firing commenced?—After there had been a few shots exchanged, I heard a scream in the front room—that was the time Mrs. Jones’s boy got shot.

10571. Do you remember when the first volley was fired?—Yes.

10572. Do you remember where it was fired from?—I could not say that, but it was fired from the outside; the firing all commenced from the outside.

10573. Do you remember seeing the outlaws come into the house immediately after?—No; I did not see them, but I heard them come round the back and into the little passage, but I did not know how many came in.

10574. You were shut in the room?—Yes.

10575. Did you hear any talk of their surrendering?—No; I did not.

10576. Did you hear Ned Kelly ask any of them to come out?—I heard a voice in the yard say, “Come along boys, follow me”; but I did not know who it was said it.

10577. You did not know whether Ned Kelly went out or not?—I did not.

10578. Was it after the volleys you heard that?—Yes; after the first firing was over.

10579. You were then in the back room?—Yes.

10580. How many were with you?—Oh, the place was full of children and another woman and men.

10581. Did that room contain all the prisoners that were in the hotel?—Oh no.

10582. Which other room were they in?—They were all over the front of the house; there were some in every room.

10583. Were there any in the bar, of your own knowledge?—I could not say; I could not see it.

10584. Did you hear the Kellys offering to allow the prisoners to go?—Yes; some time after the first volley was over Mrs. Jones’s daughter came in with a lighted candle and said, “All women and children are to come out.” We accordingly did so. There were two other women, a good many children, and Mrs. Jones and her daughter and I all went out in a great group.

10585. Which door did you go out at?—At the back, round through the back yard.

10586. And went outside?—Yes.

10587. Did you get away at that time?—No. One of my children was not able to walk, and we had to wait to help her on.

10588. Had you to go back into the house again?—The others had got away while we were getting the child out.

10589. How old was she?—Thirteen years.

10590. Why could not she go?—There were a great number of them lying under the bed, and when she came out she was cramped and could not walk. That lot got away, and three of my children with them. We got close to the gate-house, when a voice called from under the bridge, “Who comes there?” and we said “Women and children”; and a little higher up in the gutter or drain there came shots against us, and we had to run back to the house again—my husband, my two biggest boys, and two little ones, and myself.

10591. What gate is that?—The large gate that goes across to the gate-house, crossing the line.

10592. Down by the station master’s house?—Yes.

10593. Where did the voice come from?—From under the bridge leading along there.

10594. There are several bridges?—The main bridge leading to the gate-house.—[The witness pointed it out on the plan.]

10595. Did the police come from the bridge nearest the wicket-gate?—Yes.

10596. Do you mean to say those shots were fired at you as you came along?—I could not say who fired them, but they were fired right across our face, and I shut my eyes once with the fire and smoke. We turned back again, and were coming to the other large gate that leads to the station-yard, and we had to return up to the hotel again.

10597. How many were there?—There were a good many gone on, but at this time there were my husband, my two big sons, the two little children, and myself and the baby.

10598. And you all went back to the hotel again?—Yes.

10599. The same way as you came out?—Yes.

10600. You came out of the hotel at the back, and came round by the chimney, at the Wangaratta side, in front of the hotel?—Yes.

10601. And then down towards the railway gates at the station master’s house?—Yes.

10602. You were then challenged, and retreated the same way as you had come from the hotel?—Yes.

10603. In what position were you at the time the firing took place—were you in front of the hotel, between the railway gates and the hotel?—We were nearer down to the corner. We were not in front of the hotel, we were nearer down to the railway gate.

10604. Could those people who fired see you?—I cannot say it was daylight, but it was a bright clear moonlight morning.

10605. Did any of the shots strike any place that would lead you to believe that they were intended for you?—I heard them strike the railway fence.

10606. That is fired towards the house?—No, not towards the house, but where the fence turns round.

10607. Did you get a bullet through your shawl?—Not at that time I did not.

10608. When did you get it?—About seven o’clock. I had to return to the house, and there was then no other woman in it but me, and the firing was kept on occasionally.

10609. Was not Mrs. Jones in the house?—No; they were all gone away.

10610. You remained in the house some time?—I remained in the house for a long time after that. I remained till about seven o’clock in the morning.

10611. From the time that you returned till you left that place did you see either of the outlaws?—No, I did not.

10612. Only the men that were prisoners?—I saw only some of the men as I passed in again.

10613. Did you go back to the same room?—I did; and there were a lot more people there—a good many men.

10614. Did you know Byrne was shot at that time?—He was not shot at that time, and at the time I left the house at seven o’clock he was standing in the passage.

10615. Was Ned Kelly in the house?—I did not know whether he was or not.

10616. How did you know he was standing in the passage if you did not see him on your return?—You shall hear it in a minute. I went straight in the house and did not take any notice, and we stood in the passage; but the police had ceased firing for a considerable time, and I said to my son I would try and get out; and I came round out of the room I was in, and I saw three of the outlaws standing in the passage, and I said, “Will you allow us to go?” I could not say which of them they were, but they were the outlaws and had the armour on. I am sure they were the outlaws. They said, “Yes, you can all go; but if you go out the police will shoot you.”

10617. Did you go out at that time?—I went out at that time. I put the little girl out in the yard, and she screamed, and I came out myself next. One of the outlaws (by the voice I took it to be Dan Kelly) said, “If you escape”—and I said “What shall I do?” and he said, “See Hare, and tell him to keep his men from shooting till daylight, and to allow these people all to go out, and that we shall fight for ourselves.” I came into the yard, and I screamed for the police to have mercy on me. I said, “I am only a woman, allow me to escape with my children”; and I added, “The outlaws will not interfere with us—do not you.”

10618. Could you see them?—I could see the men behind the trees.

10619. Did they cease firing?—A voice said, “Put up your hands and come this way, or I will shoot you like —— dogs.”

10620. What direction did that voice come from?—From a tree close behind the stable on the Wangaratta side.

10621. Do you know whose voice it was?—Not at that time I did not.

10622. Was it Sergeant Steele?—It was Sergeant Steele, but at the time I did not know who it was; I saw him afterwards. I put my baby under my arm and held up my hand, and my son let go one hand and held the other child by it, and we went straight on. The man commenced firing, and he kept on firing against us.

10623. Did he fire at you?—I cannot say he was firing at us, but against us.

10624. He was firing in your direction?—Yes, and I got close to the fence, and this tree stood at some distance from the fence of Jones’s yard, and as I did I saw a gun pointed at me. I then turned round and went down along the fence towards the railway station, and two shots went directly after me, and two went through the shawl that was covering the baby—I felt my arm shaking, and I said, “Oh, you have shot my child.”

10625. Have you the shawl now?—Yes, the shawl is here—[The same was produced and the holes in it examined.]

10626. Are there two holes, or was it from one shot?—I do not know whether it was two or one, and the holes have got a good deal larger since. The shawl was doubled and wrapped round the baby.

10627. How many holes were there together when you first looked at it?—Those were all that were at first.

10628. How many holes are there together?—Two.

10629. Were those two distinct holes?—Yes.

10630. You are satisfied it was a bullet?—I could not tell whether it was a bullet or what it was.

10631. But it was from the police firing?—Yes, it came from a gun, for I was very close to it.

10632. Where was your son at this time?—My son was close beside me, coming about a yard away from me, and he said, “Mother, come back; you will be shot”; and I said, “I will not go back; I might as well be shot outside as inside”; but I said, “I do not think the coward can shoot me.” My son turned away and walked back towards the house, pulling the little child by the left hand, and with the right hand up. I looked round and saw him going, and that was the last I saw of him.

10633. At that time were there only yourself, your son, and two other children making your escape from the hotel?—I believe the father was also, but I did not see him.

10634. If the father was there, there were no others?—Not that I knew of.

10635. Was it clear enough daylight to see?—It was quite bright; I cannot say whether it was daylight or moonlight.

10636. Sufficiently light to tell a man?—Yes; I heard the police call to Sergeant Steele, saying, “Do not shoot her; you can see it is a woman with a child in her arms.”

10637. Was that from the house?—No, it was from a policeman close beside him.

10638. Do you know who said that?—I found out afterwards that it was a constable named Arthur. I did not know at the time, for I did not know any then.

10639. Was your son close to you?—About two yards from me.

10640. If the man had been firing at your boy, could he have struck you?—I could not say.

10641. How many shots were there?—Just as I turned two shots went past me. I did not see my son shot. He got shot when retreating to the hotel. He said it was just as he was going in the door, and he fell against the door.

10642. Did any one, before the shots came, call out to you to stop, or they would fire?—No, they did not. Only one called out what I have said, “Put up your hands, or I will shoot you like —— dogs,” and we went where the man called us.

10643. It was either moonlight or daylight, so that it was not possible for you to have been mistaken for a male?—I could not be.

10644. You dressed in your ordinary female attire?—I was; and, not only that, but they had been firing from the station at me. There was a gutter along there; and, when Steele commenced shooting at me, they all commenced shooting at me from the other place.

10645. Do you recollect the exact words Constable Arthur used?—I cannot say exactly, but I heard him say at the first set out, “Do not you see it is a woman with a child in her arms”; and when those two shots were fired at me, I heard him speaking very angrily, and then the firing ceased. I could not say the exact words, but I heard him say about “shoot” and “her.”

10646. Do you know whether Ned Kelly had been captured before or after this time?—I know he was captured after what I am now relating. I walked straight on to the slip-panel, and I got behind a tree, and, when all the firing had ceased, I called out again for them to spare my life—that I was but a woman, and for a long time nobody spoke. And then Guard Dowsett came out from the railway station, and, as I was not able to get there alone, he helped me to the station. I do not know how he got me there, whether it was over the fence or through.

10647. How long after you arrived at the station; was it before you saw your son?—I did not see my son until about ten o’clock in the day.

10648. He remained at the hotel, after being shot, until the male prisoners were released?—Yes.

10649. And then for the first time, you knew he had been shot in the morning?—Yes.

10650. Has the attempt to extract the bullet been unsuccessful?—There has been no attempt made yet to extract the bullet.

10651. Has he suffered much in consequence?—He is suffering very much at present.

10652. What age is he?—He will be nineteen on the 17th of November next.

10653. What medical man has seen him?—Dr. Fitzgerald, of this town.

10654. What was this lad doing prior to the Glenrowan outrage?—He was working on a piece of ground his father selected.

10655. What has he been doing since?—Nothing; he has not been able to do anything.

10656. In consequence of the injury he sustained that day?—Yes.

10657. Have you the means to provide him with the requisite medical or surgical attention?—We provide him with the best we can.

10658. Are your means sufficient?—No, they are not.

10659. Did you apply to the Government for assistance at all?—His father did.

10660. To whom?—I cannot say to whom.

10661. Have you a certificate from Dr. Fitzgerald?—It is at home.

10662. Has anything been done to afford surgical assistance, in consequence of your husband’s application?—No, nothing.

10663. Has Dr. Fitzgerald expressed any opinion on the lad?—Yes; he said the weather was too warm just then, but when the cold weather would come he thought he would be able to extract the bullet, though he said there was a good deal of butchering attached to it.

10664. Does your husband apply for any portion of the £8,000 reward?—No.

Mr. Graves.—The papers, together with Dr. Fitzgerald’s certificate, are presented by me on behalf of Mr. Reardon to the Chief Secretary, who told me he would forward them to the Reward Board.

10665. By the Commission (to the witness).—Is your son in town now?—Not just now.

10666. From the appearance of your son every day, do you think he is failing in health or that he is getting stronger?—He is getting weaker and failing in strength.

10667. Can you yourself tell where the bullet is, by feeling?—He can.

10668. Where is it?—Dr. Fitzgerald stated that it was buried in the muscle of his breast bone.

10669. Are you and his father anxious for the operation to be performed?—Of course anything his father thinks will do him good.

10670. You want him treated properly by some surgeon?—Yes. Dr. Fitzgerald stated that the boy wanted quietness and good nourishment, that he was very weak; his certificate stated that.

10671. Were you very much excited when you attempted to leave the house the second time?—I was, when I got into the yard, and found how I was treated by the police.

10672-3. Did you think your life was in danger?—Yes, indeed it was.

10674. About your being shot—you stated that there was a constable behind a tree—how do you know it was a constable?—I knew it was a constable, for there were no others there.

10675. How do you knew who it was?—I found out who it was by enquiring.

10676. Remember you are speaking very strongly against that man?—I am.

10677. What  is  the  evidence  on  which  you say it was that particular man?—I found out particularly  that  same afternoon. Sergeant Steele told my second oldest boy, some sixteen years of age, that it was he who shot him.   Another lad from Winton—I think a son of Mr. Adhearn’s—was speaking to my second boy about the shooting affair.   The latter said, “My  brother  was  shot,”  and  the  other  lad  asked  by whom, and Sergeant Steele made answer and said, “It was I who shot him,” so I think that is plain enough.

10678. But whoever shot him was behind the tree?—Yes, that one particular large tree, close to the fence at the Wangaratta side—it might be a couple of yards or three. I never looked at the place since.

10679. You have also stated that Constable Arthur remonstrated with him for shooting—how do you say that?—I did not know him at the time, but two months afterwards I saw him and recognized him, and enquired as to his name, and found it was Constable Arthur.

10680. By Mr. O’Connor.—You said when Sergeant Steele was firing at you the police at the station commenced to fire at you, and then you explained you meant the police in the trench in front of the house?—I could not say it was at me, but it was in the direction of the house.

10681. I understood by what you said that the police commenced to fire at you?—If they had fired towards the house from the platform while I was in front I would have been shot, but the firing towards the house at the time came from the front.

10682. You say now the platform?—No, from towards the station, between the gate-house and the station.

10683. You said those people were in the trench?—I mean they were in the trench; it was from the trench.

10684. You say that persons or the police commenced to fire from the trench?—I could not say who they were, but it came from the trench.

10685. By the Commission.—What time were you fired at by those in the trench?—When we went out first we were driven back by the fire from those parties, but, on the second occasion, when Sergeant Steele commenced firing up there, the parties in this trench answered.

10686. By Mr. O’Connor.—Have you any idea how far the persons in the trench were from you?—I have no idea.

10687. Would you be surprised if the persons in the trench could not possibly have seen you at the time?—I would not, because I stood in the open, not far from the slip-panel in the open yard; but perhaps they were not looking.

10688. By the Commission.—Have you been there often since?—No.

10689. You do not know whether it was the black trackers?—I could not say who it was, but it was the party in the gutter between the fence and the railway station.’

10690. By Mr. O’Connor.—Will you look at this plan, and show where you were?—[The witness did so.]

10691. Could a person from a position in that drain fire at you there?—I did not say they fired at me, but I said they fired towards the hotel.

10692. Then you are not positive they fired at you?—No, I am not. I only say they fired at the hotel at the same time.

The witness withdrew.

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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