First Hand Accounts Glenrowan History News Reports

David Mortimer’s Statement (9 July 1880)

The whole of the members of the gang were very jolly, and Ned told us that they had come there to settle the black trackers, and that he would be on the spot when the train ran over the culvert, and would shoot all who were not killed. We knew we could do nothing, and therefore did not take any steps to warn those in the train of the danger. Every member of the gang was then sober. They showed us their armor, and seemed to think that the police could do them no harm. At half-past two on Monday morning Ned Kelly said something to the effect that he did not think the special train was coming, and I then asked him if we could go home. He said ‘Yes,’ and I thanked him.

Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951), Friday 9 July 1880, page 1



Mr. Mortimer, a relative to Mr. Curnow, the man who stopped the train, states: “After we were bailed up we were taken over to Mrs. Jones’s Hotel, and were kept there until it was determined by Kelly to stick-up Constable Bracken. He permitted Curnow, Mrs. Curnow and myself to go with him in our buggy to the police station, which is about three-quarters of a mile from the railway station, and is not far from Mr. Curnow’s residence. Kelly permitted Mrs. Curnow to get out of the buggy in case there might be some firing when Bracken was bailed up. I was ordered by Kelly to knock at the front door and call Bracken, and I did so, but he did not answer, and then Kelly, with young Reynolds, whom he had just bailed up, went to the back door and succeeded in arousing Bracken, who came to the door without dressing. What Bracken states then occurred is substantially correct. Byrne was with Kelly, and Curnow asked Ned if he would not let him go home with his wife. Kelly replied, ‘Oh, yes, you may go home and have a sleep ; but mind you don’t dream too loud.’ Having given this warning to him, he was permitted to go home. I do not know how he heard that the line had been torn up, but I suppose he heard it at the hotel, and after he obtained his liberty he determined to warn the train of the danger. Reynolds, Bracken and myself were taken back to the hotel. We all then heard that the line had been torn up. The whole of the members of the gang were very jolly, and Ned told us that they had come there to settle the black trackers, and that he would be on the spot when the train ran over the culvert, and would shoot all who were not killed. We knew we could do nothing, and therefore did not take any steps to warn those in the train of the danger. Every member of the gang was then sober. They showed us their armor, and seemed to think that the police could do them no harm. At half-past two on Monday morning Ned Kelly said something to the effect that he did not think the special train was coming, and I then asked him if we could go home. He said ‘Yes,’ and I thanked him. We could all then have gone, with perhaps the exception of Bracken, but we foolishly stopped listening to the remarks of Kelly. Just then Dan Kelly, who had been standing outside, rushed in and said, “Ned, here comes the —— train.” Our opportunity of escape was gone. Ned Kelly rushed out, and commenced to examine his firearms. He spoke to one of the gang, and then left on horseback. Byrne locked the doors, and I believe that bracken then succeeded in stealing the key. Ned Kelly returned in a few minutes, but remained outside. He asked some of the others to come out with him, but none of them did so. Just then we heard the train stopped at the station, and it then became apparent that the gang expected they would have to fight. Almost immediately the firing commenced, and we dropped on the floor. The bullets whizzed through the weatherboards in all directions. Our feelings at that time were indescribable. The poor women and children were screaming with terror, and every man in the house was saying his prayers. Poor little Johnny Jones was shot almost at once, and I put my hands in my ears so as not to hear his screams of agony, and the lamentations of his mother and Mrs. Reardon, who had a baby in her arms. We could do nothing, and the bullets continued to whistle through the building. I do not think that the police were right in acting as they did. We were frightened of them. and not of the bushrangers. It was Joe Byrne who cursed and swore at the police. He seemed perfectly reckless of his life. But the three of them got into an inside room into which the bullets seldom penetrated. We frequently called on the police to stop firing, but we dared not go to the door, and I suppose they did not hear us. Miss Jones was slightly wounded by a bullet, and when Mrs Reardon and Mrs. Jones with their children ran out, Reardon and his son attempted to follow, but as soon as the police saw the figures of the men they fired. The boy Reardon was shot by a bullet in the shoulder, and he and his father ran back to the house. One of the men carried young Jones away, and succeeded in passing the police without being fired on. Dan Kelly told us we had better remain in the house, because the police would shoot us if we attempted to leave. Some one said to him, ‘You had better go out and surrender;’ and he replied, ‘We will never surrender, but most likely we will leave directly.’ I think they intended to do so, but shortly after five o’clock in the morning Byrne was shot. He had just walked into the bar and was drinking a glass of whisky when a ball struck him in the groin. I heard him fall, and saw the blood spurting from him. I think he died very soon. This seemed to dishearten Dan Kelly and Hart. They had been calling for Ned all night, and they renewed their calls for him. We had not seen the leader of the gang since the fighting commenced, and did not know where he had gone to. Dan and Hart went into the inside room, and I heard one say to the other, ‘What will we do?’ I did not hear the reply; but Reardon said he thought they intended to commit suicide. We prayed for daylight, thinking that we might then escape, but even when the morning broke we dared not venture out. It must have been at this time that poor Martin Sherry [sic] was shot. He was sitting on the floor of the kitchen at the time. There were two other men there with him, but they were protected from the bullets of the police by bags of oats, behind which they were sitting. During the morning Dan Kelly told them that Ned Kelly had been shot. After that one of our company held a white pocket handkerchief out of the door and we all ran out, as already described. Poor Cherry could not move, and he was left behind. He was a decent honest man.”

On the journey to Melbourne Ned Kelly maintained a very reticent and sullen demeanor, answering any questions which were put to him very gruffly. At each station there was a great rush of people to obtain a glimpse of him and on being asked by Senior-constable Walsh if he had any objection to their crowding round the van and looking in, he replied that he had none. He seemed much refreshed by his sleep on the previous night. Although he was unable to see any of the country through which he passed, he displayed a wonderful knowledge of each locality at which the train stopped, and at once mentioned the name of the station. At intervals he slept, but he seemed to be very uneasy, and awoke from each slumber with a violent start. In reply to questions, he was induced sometimes to refer to his companions. On one occasion he was asked if he knew where he was going, and he replied in the affirmative : and later he remarked, “My mates are all gone; it is a sad affair, but of course it can’t be helped now.” He further inquired if it was intended to lodge him in the Melbourne Gaol, and Senior-constable Walsh told him that had been decided upon. At Beveridge he said to that officer, “Look across there to the left. Do you see a little hill there?” Walsh replied that he did, and the outlaw continued, “That is where I was born, about twenty-eight years ago, Now, I am passing through it, I suppose, to my doom.” As the train passed the Strathbogie Ranges he indicated their direction. He was asked him if he thought that Hart and Dan Kelly had shot themselves, and he stated that he did not believe it, because they were too cowardly. The rumor that was at one time circulated, to the effect that Kelly visited Melbourne, was remembered by Walsh, who asked him if it was true. He replied, “It is a question which I would not like to answer’; but he afterwards told his interrogators that he would answer any questions which affected himself, but that he would not reply to any which regarded his late associates.

It was anticipated that there would be immense crowds to meet the outlaws if it was made known that he would be landed at any particular station, so the police authorities indulged in a little manœuvring in order to prevent anything like a rush to the station. Barricades were erected at the Spencer street terminus, and Sub-inspector Larner was despatched thither with a party of police. That, it was thought, was a sufficient indication that it was at that place that Kelly would be brought. A crowd accordingly gathered, but the platform and yards were cleared. Large numbers of people congregated in the street, and from the windows opposite and drays sought to obtain a good view of what was expected to occur. They were all disappointed, however, for it was decided previously that he would not be taken from the train at that place, but at the North Melbourne station. At two o’clock the ordinary train from the North-east arrived at the siding. There were two brake-vans attached to it The outlaw was in the last one, lying on a pile of mattresses, and surrounded by a dozen armed policemen. He looked terribly emaciated. His spare countenance was rendered more wan by the terrible bruises with which it was covered — the effect of the bullets having struck the helmet which he wore when he had the fight with the police. His utter helplessness was apparent at a glance, and as he laid on the floor of the van there was something horribly pitiful in his appearance. The crowd quickly surrounded the van, but the police soon cleared a passage. A stretcher was handed in and the outlaw was laid upon it. Mattresses were then placed on a four-wheeled vehicle which stood outside the reserve, and he was carried on the shoulders of the police-men thither. Very little time was lost in placing him comfortably in the trap, but there was ample opportunity afforded for the people to see his face and thus gratify a morbid desire. Such expressions as “Poor fellow,” “I am so sorry,” and other pitying exclamations were given vent to by the lower portion of the assemblage, but all further remark was cut short by instructions being given to drive on. The vehicle, which was followed by several others, proceeded up to Victoria-street, and thence to the Melboume Gaol.

The charred remains of Dan Kelly and Hart were handed over to their friends, and taken to Mrs. Skillion’s place, Greta. John Grant, undertaker, of Wangeratta, was employed by their friends to provide coffins of a first-class description, the cost being a matter of no consequence. He arrived with them in a buggy at Glenrowan on Tuesday afternoon, and they were seen to be high-priced articles. The lid of the one was lettered “Daniel Kelly, died 28th June, 1880, aged 19 years,” and the other “Stephen Hart, died 28th June, 1880, aged 21 years.” How the remains are to be distinguished from each other is a problem that will not be easily solved.

It now appears that the platelayer, Martin Cherry, was shot by Ned Kelly and not by the police. Kelly asked him to pull up the blind when he wanted to fire from the verandah of the hotel. The old man refused, and Kelly shot at him with his rifle, adding another to the list of murders by the gang. This is denied by the surviving outlaw.

The police have played an undoubtedly silly part in the matter of the remains of Dan Kelly and Stephen Hart. When the charred bodies were taken out of the fire Richard Hart, a brother of the bushranger, requested that the remains should be handed over to him. The request was acceded to, and just at dark the Harts, the Quinns and the Lloyds carried the bodies to the residence of Mrs. Skillian, at the Eleven Mile Creek. A wake was held, the coffins were ordered, and yesterday it was suddenly determined by the authorities that an inquest was necessary. Richard Hart received intimation of this at Glenrowan, and at once said that the bodies were in their possession, and they would not give them up. Other reports came in relative to the intentions of the relations of the dead outlaws. This morning a strong party of police were ordered to go to Greta and take possession of the bodies until the inquest had been held. When they arrived at Glenrowan, however, they received intelligence, that it was unnecessary to go to Greta, as the intention to hold an inquest had been abandoned, and the necessary warrant to bury the remains had been issued. Had an inquiry been held it would have been purely of a formal nature, but the police were certainly foolish to hand the bodies over to the relatives and friends in the first instance. Probably the intention to hold the inquest was abandoned because of the desire to avoid provoking a conflict, but it is the general opinion that the police should have taken the bodies from the friends. Their threats had forfeited all their claims to consideration, if they even had any, and they should have been treated in a manner which would have shown them that the police had no fear of them. As it is they may possibly imagine that the police are frightened of them.

The history of the Kelly gang is one of a long series of crimes. About twenty years ago two families, the Kellys and the Quinns, even then notorious for their wild and lawless disposition, settled in the mountainous region at the head of the King River. The rugged and thinly inhabited country was specially suited for the vocation carried on by these people, who were noted for their skill in cattle-stealing. Amid surroundings thus tainted with crime, the outlaws were reared, and were rendered familiar from their earliest years with outrages against the law and defiance of the constituted authorities. The Kelly family consisted of the parents and six children, three boys and three girls. The elder Kelly died some years ago, but the mother is still living. The boys were — Edward, aged 26; Daniel, aged 20, the two outlaws; and James, aged 22, who did not form one of the gang, being confined in the Berrima gaol, in New South Wales, under sentence for horse-stealing, when the murder of the police at Mansfield took place. Of the three girls one is dead, another is married to one William Skillion, and the third, Kate Kelly, is the unmarried sister whose attempts to render aid to her brothers during their outlawed career have made her name familiar. Associated with the Kellys, and connected with them more or less closely by blood or marriage, were a number of other families resident in and around Greta, and who formed a strong band of sympathisers ready to shield as far as lay within their power the outlaws from the consequences of their crimes. Besides the attention devoted by them to cattle-stealing, which a peculiarly intimate knowledge of the country enabled them to carry on almost unchecked, the Kellys, and especially Ned, are believed to have been to some extent associated with Morgan and Power, who several years ago had also haunted this district. Ned Kelly, indeed, it is said, was instrumental in betraying Power to the police.

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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