First Hand Accounts History

MR. C. C. RAWLINS’ STATEMENT. (31 July 1880)

A witness account by Charles Rawlins, a civilian who became part of the first police wave.

Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), Saturday 31 July 1880, page 6



Sir,—Having seen several letters in reference to the Glenrowan tragedy, in which the writers are strongly condemning the police, I think that, although not belonging to that force, but as one who fired into the house, I might throw some light on the subject and explain the circumstances that resulted fatally to some of the unfortunate prisoners in the house at the time.

When we heard in the train that the lines had been pulled up and Glenrowan stuck up by the Kelly gang, all the doors of the train were unlocked, and the train ran quietly into the station, and the order to unship the horses was given. We all got out of the train, and the first thing that Mr. Hare did was to give me his revolver, as I was unarmed, and went with him to the railway-gate house, where Mr. Stanistreet, the station-master, lived. When we reached there, we found Mrs. Stanistreet in tears, and on inquiring the cause of her grief, she said, “They have taken my husband away with a lot more into the bush.” How long since?” asked Mr. Hare. “Only five minutes since.” Mr. Hare and I waited for no further information, but ran back to the train, distant about 100 yards, and saw that the horses were then not all unshipped. Whilst standing there I saw a man rapidly approaching us from nearly the same direction we had just come, and when he reached our midst, he said, in a voice hardly above a whisper, “The Kellys are all at Jones’s. Be quick, and surround the house, or they will be off.” This man I afterwards found was Bracken. He was so thoroughly out of breath he could hardly speak. And whatever more he may have explained to the reporters on the platform, as to any persons other than the outlaws being in the hotel, the attacking party were at that time ignorant of it. We all made straight for the railway gate, going out in front of the hotel ; through this gate some four or five went, I amongst the number. Just at this moment I heard a sound on the verandah, which was in deep shadow, whilst we were all standing in the clear moonlight. Up to this time no sound had come from the hotel. I had only just time to say ” Look out,” when there was a flash and report, followed by several flashes and reports from the arms used by either party. I was standing about three or four yards from the line gate at that moment, and close to Superintendent Hare and Senior-constable Kelly. Only one of the bush-rangers came out into the moonlight at the far side from me, but he seemed to fire away from me, judging from his reports and flashes. I fired, I think, three shots at him out of my revolver, when my attention was attracted to Superintendent Hare, who said, “I am wounded.” I emptied my revolver, and Mr. Hare handed me his gun, as he said he was unable to load, and he gave me his ammunition. I had then loaded my revolver again and put it in my pocket, and asked Mr. Hare to go down to the station house, and I would go down and attend to his wounds. At this moment we heard a man cry out, “Surrender, you —— dogs. You can’t hurt us. Fire     away.” This was answered by a tremendous volley from us, in which I joined. After this, which we found after was a fatal volley, cries, screams, and cursing were heard, and amongst other words I distinctly heard a man’s voice say, “Lie down all who don’t want to he shot, and make no attempt to leave the building till daylight or you will be shot, and we will fire high.” This was in answer to a request from a man who cried from inside that the place was full of women and children. I also called out, “Lie down, every one of you.” There was then no more firing for a long time, in fact, at this moment the smoke was too thick to see even the hotel from where I was. About one hour after this there were fired four shots. I found out that these shots were fired by one party of police on seeing two men come out, and being taken for one or two of the out-laws, were immediately fired upon. I was then taking round a fresh supply of cartridges for the men. I met that active and plucky officer Senior-constable Kelly, and the fol- lowing conversation took place :—He said, “You have the wrong sort of cartridges for our rifles,” and then he told me he had found one of the outlaw’s rifles and cap covered with blood, and he said, “I fear they have escaped. “But,” he said, “whatever happens we must not fire into the house till we give the people inside time to get out, and they can’t do that till daylight. I have told all the men to fire if they see anyone attempting to leave, to mind and fire high ;” then, he said, ” if they keep down no one is likely to be injured.”

I may here mention that the only women in the house were Mrs. Reardon and Mrs. Jones.

I heard only an occasional shot till a few moments before daylight, when there were several shots fired by one party of police near the stable at the back. This I afterwards heard was one of the new police who had just come in from Wangaratta, and who, seeing, without any mistake, one of the out-laws run towards the stable, fired at him.

Just at daylight Mrs. Reardon came out of the house carrying a young child, and crying herself bitterly. She explained the condition of the people in the house, and told me that they were all down on their faces, or in the chimney, and that the little Jones boy was dangerously wounded. She remained in the railway compartment for some considerable time, and after my return from a ramble round the position she had disappeared. Little or no firing of any kind took place then till the outlaws were seen in open daylight firing on the men who were round Ned Kelly.

About half-past 9 or 10 o’clock I went down to the nearest trees to the house with Mr. Sadleir, and in a loud voice I called on all the persons who could leave to do so at once, as we were going to commence to fire into the building in earnest, and I said ” We will give you 10 minutes to come out.” This appeal was listened to and out they came, and as I knew about one half of the unfortunates personally, I called them up by name and ques-tioned them as to who was in the hut and as to where Martin Cherry was lying wounded. All agreed that he was not in the hotel part, but in the kitchen at the back, and that they had left the two surviving outlaws in the main building. Immediately after this the opposite side was cleared, and the building was raked with bullets, and I have no doubt, in my own mind, that by 2 o’clock they were both shot dead. But as two of the prisoners had told me that they themselves had been hiding in the [???] some bags of oats in the building, there was the possibility of the two survivors using these bags of grain and getting in the chimney, and reserving their last effort for any person entering to take them.

To sum up. It appears the only casualty that occurred was to the boy Jones, who was shot by the attacking party before they knew there was anyone in the hotel besides the outlaws, and therefore was the result of accident. In the case of the youth Reardon, he was shot after being expressly warned not to stir till daylight.

In Cherry’s case, there seems to be every reason to believe that he was shot by one of the gang, as the only wound he received was from a ball which passed downwards into his body.

From what I have stated above, the police, instead of being careless of the lives of the prisoners, were most forbearing and cautious.

Although by the first volley of the attacking party the unfortunate lad Jones was wounded, it disabled Ned Kelly and prevented him from carrying out his intentions (as he told me) of walking down with the rest of the gang to the police and shooting all they could and seizing the train and making for Benalla to sack it, as the circumstances of his capture next morning showed might easily have been accomplished.


St. Kilda, July 4.

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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