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First Hand Accounts History Sergeant Steele

The Kelly Gang. New Light on an Old Tragedy. (23/09/1911)

A compilation of interviews conducted by Brian Cookson of Ann Jones, Arthur Steele and Paddy Allen.

Note: Some of the language in this article will be offensive to modern readers. It has been reproduced verbatim to preserve the language and sentiment expressed by the individual who is being quoted. With the passage of time our ideals and out understanding changes, which is reflected in the way we use language. For the purpose of reflection it is worth preserving text as it was originally published.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), Saturday 23 September 1911, page 8


THE KELLY GANG.

NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD TRAGEDY.

(By a Special Commissioner.)

There was a glint of sunshine abroad next day, and the general aspect of the place was much less dreary. Inside the cottage of the ex-licensee of the Glenrowan Inn — as it was known of old — there was nothing of brightness. The old woman was able to breathe more easily, but she was very weak. In time, however, she found speech to continue her narrative of death and desolation:—

Ann Jones

“Let me begin by saying that I was between two fires there,” she said weakly. “The police were suspicious of me, because they believed I assisted the outlaws. I did not. The Kellys hated me because they believed I gave the police information about them. I got nothing but abuse and mischief from both sides. And I never had anything to do with either. That is the truth.

“I well remember Kelly coming to my place that dreadful night. It was raining, and very wet. He took me and my dear little girl away, and locked my two little boys up in a room by themselves. He made me turn the key — said he would shoot me if I refused to do everything that he told me. I begged him to lock myself and my daughter in my own room, but he wouldn’t.

“He took me and my little girl — she was 15 then — together with seven men, over to the station. These were the men who were to take up the line and wreck the train that was coming up with the police from Melbourne. Kelly said to me, ‘I’ll show you a sight now. I’ll kill all your —— traps.’ Then they went away up the line towards Wangaratta. My daughter saw them pulling up the railway line, but I did not.

“It was very dark. We went on to the gatehouse, Dan Kelly marching along with a rifle to mind us. The men who were working there were camped near my place. That was because they had no chimney on their tents, and they used to use my fire to cook with.”

The old woman paused to make the pillow a trifle easier, and to settle the awful nightcap more comfortably.

“Oh, but I’m glad there were no police at the hotel when those wretches called that night,” she continued, in excited tones. “They’d have killed them all. They were ripe for murder. They had determined to wreck the special train and to kill everyone who escaped death in the smash. They would surely have killed any police they met that night. And if they met them in my place they would have killed me. They said so. And they would have murdered my innocent children as well.

“They found that they hadn’t the proper tools to pull the line up with, so they came back, they got the porter in charge, but he said he didn’t know how to take it up.

“‘You know how to do it!’ shouted Ned Kelly, levelling his revolver at the porter. ‘Ned,’ said the porter, ‘I tell you never worked a day on the line in my life, and know nothing about it.’ They believed him and went down to Reardon’s. They took Reardon along and the other men and made them pull up the line. The other men were platelayers.

“After the line was destroyed the Kellys took the other men to the gatehouse. They had no down on any of them — only on me and Reardon. They used to think that Reardon was spying upon them with me. My daughter came to me at the gate-house. I might say that Steve Hart was sick, and didn’t want to go out that night, but they made him. They were all strangers to me at first. I knew nothing at all about them.

“After the night’s work — it was morning when they finished — Ned Kelly asked the men if they’d like to go into their tents and get breakfast. They’d been out since 1 o’clock and said they were hungry. Dan Kelly turned to me and said, ‘Here, Mother Jones, you’d better see if you can get them anything to eat.’

“So they all went to my place — to the hotel. But there was not enough bread. The men got some from their tents, and with that and what the girls found they made shift for breakfast. My poor little daughter after having been up all night had to wait on them.

WANTED TO GET DRUNK.

The dance at the Glenrowan Inn before the fight, by Thomas Carrington (1880) [Courtesy: SLV, 1656548; b50933]

“At this time all the gang were quite sober. Byrne had had a few drinks. He came up and snatched a bottle of brandy out of the bar. I cried, because I had very little goods, and could not afford to lose it. So I tried to get it back. I implored Ned Kelly not to let them take the liquor away. He said he wouldn’t let them, but he did nothing to stop them. They were all eager to get drunk. And they got pretty drunk! They started preparing to go away, putting their iron clothes on. But they got wandering all over the house, and some of them couldn’t get their iron hats over their heads.

“It was the liquor that caught them — nothing else. They stayed there drinking and going on with foolishness when they could have been away easily.

“They had a lot of people shut up in the hotel. But they let Curnow, the school-master, go. It was Curnow that held the red handkerchief up and stopped the train. The police said afterwards that Kelly would not have let Curnow go but for the fact that he was mates with them before. That’ll tell you the kind of things the police were.

“It was a terrible day. And when the police came and started firing bullets into the house — it was full of people — it was awful. Brave police! They lay in the gullies, and behind the trees, and shot bullets at the house, knowing that it was full of people. My poor innocent little children suffered most. My little boy was shot.”

A paroxysm of coughing and weeping convulsed the invalid for a few minutes. It was with cheeks wet with tears that she continued.

“My brave little girl was shot, too — shot with a big rifle bullet that had gone through half the house first, or it would have killed her. The bullets were coming all through the house, tearing through the walls, smashing everything, and — . . . Oh, my poor, innocent children! I shall never forget them.

“My poor little boy was mortally hurt. But no one had mercy. The police kept on shooting, and no one knew who would be the next to fall. The bullets were doing the outlaws no harm at all. They were only hurting us. The police might have rushed the place easily and captured them — if they had been men enough. But they were not men. They lay there in safety and kept firing at the house.

“DEAR MOTHER, I’M SHOT!”

Jane Jones

“When my dear little boy was hit he stood up, looked round, and then fell down. ‘Oh, God,’ he cried, in such a piteous voice, ‘Mother, dear mother, I’m shot!’ …”

The recollection of this pitiful tragedy caused the old woman to break into a fit of frantic sobbing. It was with a choking voice that she proceeded:—

“I could not get to the poor child for some time. He was lying on the floor, bleeding from a great bullet wound in his little back. . . . The murdering police! They had killed him! . . . When I got to him I turned him over. He was all blood. … I found the hole. … It was terrible. …. His life-blood was pouring out of it, and his poor little white face was turned up, the eyes looking into mine as though imploring help. …. Oh, my God, forgive those who did this thing! … I tore off part of my apron, and tried to stop up the hole in his back with it … I wanted to go out for help, but Dan Kelly would not let me, ‘You can’t go,’ he said, ‘we’re turning the prisoners out now.’

“So I could only go back to my dying boy and cry over him. There was no help. …

“‘What can we do?’ the Kellys said.

“‘Go! Go out! You cowards! Go out and play on the green. Go out and fight like men if you want to fight. Or run away, like curs if you are afraid! Go out of here. Do you want to see all my family murdered? Oh, you cowardly wretches!”

“But I couldn’t move them. They wouldn’t go. They were getting very sober and very sad by this. The police were all round the house, scores of them, and it seemed as if they couldn’t escape. And there was my innocent boy, dying on the floor, to warn them what would happen to bloodthirsty men like themselves.

“My daughter and I dragged my wounded son into the kitchen between us. Two or three got hold of him and took him out and started to carry him to Reardon’s, where we might get help. But the police stopped them and said if they didn’t go back they’d blow holes in them.

“I was frantic with anguish and anxiety — the anxiety to do something for my dying boy. I called out to the police to let us go. They refused. I said to them, ‘Get up, you wretches, and die in the road your-selves! Don’t lie down there in hiding! Stand up like men!’

“All this time the bullets were flying about thick. But I never got hit. I wouldn’t have cared if I had. I was mad with grief. I had had a daughter killed only a few months before, and now it seemed that all my children were to bemassacred. … I was mad.

“The police hated me. The Kellys believed I used to ‘plant’ police in my house. It was a foolish lie — there was no room. You couldn’t hide a cat in it.

“I was wandering. …. My boy died. Died miserably and without help. And my brave little girl, who was wounded herself, never got over it. …. She died not long after… And it was her brother’s awful death that killed her! He was such a clever, quiet boy! …. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!

“She was a brave girl. …. Through all that dreadful night she never lost her head. Sick with her wound, bleeding and sore, she showed courage that should have shamed both the Kellys and the police. …. That is her picture — that one on the wall near the dark frame. …. That is her. Dear, brave little woman.

“She wanted to defy the Kellys and the police — wanted us all to run out of the house to some place of safety. When they carried the dying boy away she followed. She said she didn’t care if she was killed — if her dear brother was to die she wanted to die with him.

“Ned Kelly was most cruel to all of us all day. He said that if he could see his way to burn down the house and those who set the police on to him he’d do it.

“I have four children living. My son Owen is in Western Australia; Terry is a policeman in the West; Headington is a farmer over there; and Tom is a schoolmaster somewhere in New South Wales.

“It was that Inspector Sadleir who made them burn my place down. They hadn’t the courage to rush it and capture the Kellys.

“My character has always been good. Of course, keeping a small country inn is a rough life, but we come of a good family and have always kept ourselves decently. My father — his name was Kennedy — was highly commended to Governor Bourke when he came out here by several big people in Ireland. My father was the first white man in the Buckland. I have lived a good life and brought up a big family. …. And they shot my dear innocent brave children — oh! the cowards! And we got no compensation! Nothing at all.”

Exhausted with the strain of her narrative, the old woman lay back upon the pil-low weeping bitterly. In a broken voice she bade her visitor farewell. “I shall not be long here,” she moaned, “soon I shall see my dear murdered children again! Good-bye! God bless you for letting me shake the hand of an Englishman in this accursed place.”

And the big nightcap turned over to the wall, whilst the body of the wearer, con-vulsed with sobs, writhed under the patch-work coverlet.

“It was bright sunshine out of doors — a pleasant relief from the gloom of the musty bedchamber. Scarcely a stone’s throw away was the site of the old inn where the unfortunate woman had seen her boy slain, and where her own life had been wrecked. Strange that she could bear to live so near the scene of that great tragedy in which she had played so prominent a part. But she is not alone in the exemplification of the weird, inexplicable fascination for the place where the light had gone out of her life. Only a few miles away that other old woman is draining out the bitter dregs of a ruined life in sight of the place in which she had known the only happiness of her life and close by to where her sons met their shocking, if well-deserved, fate.

THE MAN WHO SHOT NED KELLY.

STILL HAS THE BLOOD-STAINED CARTRIDGE-BAG.

Ned Kelly’s cartridge bag on display in the former Victoria Police Museum. [Photography by Aidan Phelan.]

To Sergeant Steele belongs the distinction of having brought down the chief of the notorious outlaws during the night fighting at Glenrowan. Steele had been one of the most implacable of the gang’s pursuers — and one of the cleverest also. And they would have been pleased enough, no doubt, to have accounted for him. But he escaped without a hurt throughout the long hunt.

Sergeant Steele is living in retirement with his grown-up family at Wangaratta. His house, a commodious, well-shaded one, is at once pointed out to the visitor. It is on the top of the river bank. Below the King and Ovens rivers merge into one sluggish stream. Sergeant Steele occupies his leisure a good deal in farming. He is as keen as ever on horses — he always did love a good horse — and he finds agricul-ture an agreeable and profitable pastime.

It was in his pleasant home at Wangratta that the writer saw the man who shot the outlaw chief. Very well, indeed, was the doughty sergeant looking, carrying his years well — even jauntily. After all a hard life fits a man for the enjoyment of a restful autumn, and the sergeant is one who can appreciate the fact. His is a hardy family. Both his daughters sleep out of doors in all weathers. And neither has ever known what a cold means.

Of course the pursuit and capture of the outlaws was the principal task undertaken by Sergeant Steele in all his long service in the force. But he speaks of his exploits in very matter-of-fact vein.

He remembered perfectly the stirring events of that memorable night al Glenrowan, especially the grand finale in which he played so large a part. But he was not disposed to discuss it. “It has all been told so often,” he said.

“But, all the same, I may as well say that my success was owing to my using a shotgun instead of a rifle or pistol. It was no use trying to reach a vulnerable place in that man’s armor with a bullet. Shot was the stuff for that job — good, big shot. And that’s what I got him with at last.

“No, strange to say, I haven’t any relics of the battle — none, that is, except one. Let’s see — where is it? Ah! I know.” And diving into a room at the rear he reappeared with a dark-looking object that presently turned out to be a leather bag with a strap to carry it across the shoul-ders. The bag was of crescent shape, and the leather was stout. On the front flap was a large dark stain.

“‘That,” said the sergeant, “is Ned Kelly’s cartridge bag. That is the one he was wearing at Glenrowan. I took it off him with the other things when he fell. And that stain is his blood. He was wounded in several places and bled a good deal. Yes; it’s a grim relic — not at all pretty. Let’s put it away.” And he did.

“You know,” resumed the sergeant, as he re-entered the room. “I wasn’t down at Glenrowan when the trouble started. I was here. But it was a clear, fine night, and we heard the noise of the firing when the police sent in the first volley distinctly. We knew what it was. And we didn’t wait long. We were there in time for the finish.”

“We met Constable Bracken on the way. He was galloping along the railway line.”

“And of the other men who took leading parts in the affair — what of them, sergeant?”

“‘Well, Mr. Hare, who got shot in the hand, is dead. Constable Bracken, who so pluckily escaped from the Glenrowan Inn, and told me what was doing there, committed suicide some time ago. Mr. Sadlier is living at Elsternwick, I think. Sergeant Whelan when I last heard of him was living in Melville-street, Hawthorn. I don’t know about the others, but I believe a good number must be still on this side of the Divide.”

PATRICK ALLEN, STOREKEEPER.

HIS INTERESTING RECOLLECTIONS.

THE STORY OF SHERRITT’S MARRIAGE.

Aaron Sherritt [Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

A few weeks ago paragraphs appeared in the Sydney newspapers announcing that “Patrick Allen, an elderly man, attempted to board a moving train at Auburn, fell between the carriages and was killed.”

This was the Patrick Allen who, during the long search for the outlaws after the Wombat murders, supplied the police with stores and necessaries. To do him justice he supplied the other side as well, upon occasions. It was a condition with him that all goods should be delivered where required, and it did not matter at what time of night, or in what queer place they had to be left, they were always there.

Allen was a storekeeper at Beechworth, in a big wav of business, during the Kelly trouble. His mangled remains were, strangely enough, identified at the Auburn station by ex-Constable Fitzpatrick, the trooper whose attempt to arrest Dan Kelly at the homestead was the primary cause of the Kellys becoming outlaws.

Amongst the strange places to which this enterprising tradesman had to carry his merchandise was the hut in which the police and Aaron Sherritt were watching Mrs. Byrne’s house. Meeting with a press representative in Melbourne a few weeks ago, he related many incidents illustrative of the way in which the “watch” was maintained.

“Sherritt,” he said, “was an extraordinary man. He could stand anything — endure any hardship. He thought nothing of sleeping out in the wet and cold, and letting beetles and things run all over him. One day Constable Jim Dickson was in the hut, and he said to Sherritt, ‘Didn’t you say you could lick any man in the police force?’ ‘I can lick you, anyway,’ replied Sherritt. And he did! Dickson was wearing a white shirt, and got it covered with blood. He started running across the bridge to report Sherritt to Ward, who was in charge. He met Mrs. Sherritt. who promptly reminded him of the strict orders Ward had given them all, and said that if he didn’t go back at once he’d be sacked. So he went back.

“They used to play all sorts of pranks in that hut. One day — they had a case of porter that day — they held a mock court. They tried Sherritt and Dickson for the fight. Dickson was adjudged guilty, and the sentence of the court was that he should be tied to the bed firmly till all the liquor had been consumed.

KILLED WITH KENNEDY’S RIFLE.

The shotgun believed to have been used by Joe Byrne to shoot Aaron Sherritt on display in the museum of the former Glen Rowen Cobb and Co. The gun is now on display in Kellyland Glenrowan. [Photography by Aidan Phelan]

“I was at the inquest in connection with Sherritt’s murder. There were two bullets in his body. It was a double-barrelled rifle that Byrne killed him with. It had belonged to poor Kennedy, who was shot by the outlaws in the Wombat Ranges.

“The police did behave with cowardice that night. If they’d been soldiers on a campaign there’d have been a drum-head court-martial, and they’d have been shot. Had they shown themselves that night, however, they’d have been killed, no doubt of that.

“I remember Sherritt’s marriage. I had a good deal to do with it. He used to tell his girl he had plenty of money. Well, I knew that there was some due to him from the Government, but not what might be called plenty. One day he came to me — there was a fire brigade demonstration on, and all the shops were closed.

“‘Allen,’ he said, ‘what am I to do? I’m going to be married, and I haven’t a cent; and she thinks I’ve plenty. Can you help me?’ Well, I gave him about £20, and went to the Presbytery with him. I may say that I gave him stores besides the money. ‘How much shall I give the priest?’ he asked me. I told him that was a thing that had to be done properly. Well, he wanted to hand over £15, but I think the fee paid was less than that.

“Then he drove off to the Woolshed with his wife, and started married life. I don’t know what’s become of her, but her mother is keeping a public-house in Melbourne.

“Sherritt was a man who would do anything — all was the same to him, so that it paid. I used to have a pair of big knee boots that he badly wanted to get. I told him I had an execution out against a man at the Woolshed, and that if he’d run in enough of the man’s cattle to satisfy the judgment the boots were his. He did it, at once.

A MURDER AND A CORPSE THAT WALKED.

Jack Sherritt

“Aaron and his brother Jack didn’t agree. Once there was trouble over a saddle, and as a result Aaron rode to his father-in-law’s place, four miles away, to see Jack about it. Jack, it appears, saw him coming, and left. There was a long chase. They were both fine horsemen, but Aaron caught him, plucked down a big heavy sapling, and laid Jack out, leaving him for dead in the road. Then he galloped into Beechworth and rushed into my store. He looked so terrible that I called out to him, ‘What’s the matter with you?”

“I’m after murdering Jack,’ he said, and his face was white and drawn, and his voice trembled ‘I’ve come to see Mr Ward and give myself up,’ he said.

‘You fool,’ I told him. ‘Clear out of this — get over the border! Don’t waste time!”

“But he wouldn’t move. So I gave him a big tumbler full of, whisky, and he drained it — it just slid down. Then he had another. Then he started to tell me all about it, just as I’ve told you. And whilst he was at it who should come walking into the shop but the murdered man himself, no less. Well, you can believe there was dismay. He looked dead enough to have been buried day before yesterday. Pale he was, like a ghost, and the blood not yet dry on him. After a while the corpse looked hard at Aaron and said, ‘You —- wretch, you thought you’d murdered me!’ Well, I thought, he came pretty —- near doing it, anyway.

“Well, for a while it looked like there was going to be ructions. But they were both pretty sick of it — Aaron with the mortal fright that was put into him with his brother lying up there dead on his soul; and Jack with the lick he got across the skull with the sapling And there’s a lot of real friendship in whisky, anyway. I sent for a doctor, and he sewed up the hole in Jack’s head almost like new. Then Ward came in and give them both advice that they never took, and never intended to. Then there was more whisky — nothing like whisky for a broken head, you know. And they went away as loving as two turtles.

“The mystery of the saddle was cleared up later. No one had ought to leave a saddle loose in those parts — a saddle or a horse. There were folks there that would never think of taking anything else who couldn’t see a horse or a saddle wanting someone to look after it. Strange the fancy they had for horses.

THE CREDIT SYSTEM

Joe Byrne (post mortem)

“The Byrnes used to be pretty hard up sometimes. They ran in a long score with me,” resumed the old storeman reminiscently “Then things got worse and worse, and they had no tucker at all. So one day Mrs Byrne came along and said she was ashamed, but they had nothing, and would I just let her have a bag of flour. Well, I knew she had cattle running in the hills, and she said she’d sell some of them and pay me. Of course, a man had to keep sweet with the people there when they got in on him at all. He had to keep them going if he wanted to get his own back. So I packed the cart with a bag of flour and about 12 cwt of other food, and started off.

“Along the road, about dinner time, I met Mrs. Byrne’s two sons, Joe and Paddy. They said, ‘Hello, where are you going with all that stuff?’ I answered ‘I’m taking this to your mother.’ ‘What,’ said Joe, ‘My God, we owe you £45 now!’ ‘Well,’ I said ‘never mind, here’s another £20 worth.’

“Joe, he seemed astonished. He thought for a while, and then he said with a big oath, to his brother ‘Look here, I’m going to pay this man if I have to rob a bank!’

“Two days later the Bank of New South Wales at Jerilderie was stuck up and cleaned out.

“I got paid. Oh yes. And after that the Byrnes always paid cash for what they got.

“When they robbed the bank at Jerilderie Joe Byrne sent Aaron Sherritt £100 by another man. But Aaron says he never got it. Joe thought he did though, and there was always trouble between them after that till Byrne went down and shot Sherritt. And when he shot him Byrne firmly believed that Sheritt had got the money. But I know he never did.

“All the Sherritt family were in the Government service. I know, because I had to give them their money and stores. I used to pay them all with Government cheques. Of course, they daren’t go near the police. I used to do very well out of both parties. Business was good and brisk, for that while.

“There was a time when the police wanted Joe Byrne to turn Queen’s evidence against the other fellows. And they let him know about it. But all they got back was, ‘No; I’m in it, and I’ll stick to it!’

“I used to take stores to that cave where the police were hidden so long. It was a fine hiding-place. The police had powerful telescopes that they could watch nearly all the surrounding country with. This cave was close to Mrs. Byrne’s place. It was full of bottles and tins and things. They were not allowed to light fires, and lived fat — and cut it thick. They had plenty of liquor, and they had fires when they wanted. It didn’t really matter. They were watching Mrs. Byrne to see if any of the gang came to see her, or if she went out to communicate with them. The police thought she didn’t know they were there. But I know that she did. I know that she knew it all the time. They were surprised that they didn’t find out anything. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in their hopes. I just served them with stores.

A HOLD-UP — AND A PARTY.

Ned Kelly, the bushranger, by Thomas Carrington (1880) [Courtesy: SLV; 1656571]

“People were badly scared of the Kellys those days, for all the heaps of police that were about, and there were some funny things happened at times. One night a magistrate heard the cook drop a saucepan on the floor in the middle of the night, and he ran out and climbed a tree and stayed there till he saw the woman come out to get water for the kettle in the morning. And people driving after dark always had their hands ready to throw up if anyone on a horse came by. If you stopped a man on the road and asked him the way or the time, or anything, he’d hold his hands up before he’d tell. You see, that gang was pretty sudden, in general. It didn’t do much thinking — just did the thing that it happened to be thinking of at the time. Lots of people who met the outlaws saved themselves from being shot by pointing out things about the business that the Kellys hadn’t thought of. Once Ned Kelly met a fellow who wouldn’t put his hands up quick enough. He was just looking along the barrel of his pistol for a good place to let the life out of him, when the man said, “Here, you — fool, if you shoot me, who’s going to take Father — home at night?” Ned hadn’t thought of that. It seemed that the man worked for Father —, and when the rev. gentleman felt more timid than usual was in the habit of giving him a shoulder home. Ned said he supposed the father wasn’t to stay in the street all night, so he let the man go. But he told him next time he got any instructions to get busy on them quickly, or else his head would jump off before his hands got going. The man promised he would.

“One night there was a party at Father X—’s. Most of us were there. It was a fine time. Also, afterwards, nearly everyone got swamped. While it was on Sam Maud came up with the news that the Kellys had stuck up and robbed the bank at Euroa. Sergeant Whelan was at the party. He and I left in my cart for the police camp. I said to him as we were getting there. ‘Say, sergeant, wouldn’t it be a joke if we found the Kelly crowd in charge of the police-station?’ Whelan said he couldn’t see any fun in it at all. ‘But they may be here,’ I said. ‘I shouldn’t wonder,’ he replied; ‘but I’ll do my share. I’ll mind the old grey mare and see no harm comes to her, while you go in and see if there’s anyone there.’

“‘You’re afraid of getting shot,’ I said. “I’m not,” he said.

“Well, it was getting on to daylight now. I felt someone catch me by the leg. It was Mr. Wyatt, P.M. He wanted to know if there were any police there. There weren’t. That was the fact.

“There was a lock-up keeper down there who was very anxious to get the reward for the capture of the Kellys. One night someone told him that a man had been seen climbing over the fence of one of the banks.

WATCHHOUSE-KEEPER’S DILEMMA.

The Courthouse at Beechworth, Victoria, where Ned Kelly twice stood trial, (1970) [Courtesy: National Archives of Australia]

“One time there was races on down there in the Kellys’ time. A whole lot of prisoners were put in for being drunk, a nigger amongst them. The watchhouse-keeper in the morning went to search the cells. No nigger. Rushed for whisky, and sent me all over the place. Called the wife to substantiate the escape. ‘Nell, didn’t you see a man going over the fence?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And you tried to pull him back, and he was running?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did he search all the cells, Nell? Got someone.’ ‘Yes; and when he opened the door the blackfellow jumped on him, and knocked the poor old man down.’ ‘Did you try this cell?’ a man asked the watchhouse-keeper. ‘Oh, what’s the use. Didn’t Nell see him killing me? Ask her. She knows more about it than I do.’

“Well, they opened that cell, and there was the nigger, where he had been all the time. He hadn’t escaped after all. Nell got a reputation after that.

“There were stirring times, those, and there was a lot of real sympathy for the Kellys when they were caught. They were good fellows apart from their crimes. And they would have made splendid soldiers. It’s a pity they got a bad start. But I suppose we’ve all felt at times that the laws are not big enough to do us the even handed justice that we are entitled to, and that the only way to get our rights is to lay down special laws of our own to fit the special occasion, and to enforce them with a shot-gun or something.

“But they were good business days. Look at these books.”

AN OLD LEDGER.

Aaron Sherritt

And the jovial old storekeeper produced several ledgers, obviously old, but marvellously well-preserved, and the entries, all in his own handwriting, were like copperplate.

Very interesting indeed were many of these entries. Much light they threw upon a great deal that has been allowed to remain uncertain as to who were and who were not agents of the Police during the last 12 months or so of their campaign against the outlaws. Every payment on account of the Government to those in the pay of the police is shown in these books. And from the individual accounts much may be learned respecting the taste and predilections of the individuals. All of them seem to have been partial to alcohol. Aaron Sherritt’s account shows a decided fondness for lollies. Many of the entries read mysteriously. They were meant to do so. Cryptic entries cover the larger payments to the spies. Small disbursements appear as merchandise of various descriptions. But all the books have been kept with a neatness and method that are very rare in town or country.

(To be continued.)

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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