THE CONDEMNED BUSHRANGER
A meeting of persons desirous of obtaining the reprieve of the prisoner Edward Kelly, or a reconsideration of his case, was held last night in Carlton, and a resolution was passed asking the Chief Secretary to have the case reconsidered by the Executive Council. A deputation, headed by Mr. W. Gaunson, waited on Mr. Berry at the Treasury at 10 o’clock, and Mr. Berry promised to lay the case before the Executive Council again this afternoon, but at the same time held out no hope whatever of any alteration of the decision already arrived at. A report of the proceedings appears in another column.
At the commencement of the meeting of persons favourably inclined to the reprieve of the murderer Kelly last night, two men, named respectively George McElroy, agent, and Michael Dwyer, labourer, refused to move on when requested, and were consequently arrested by Senior-Constable Leddy. They were removed to the city watchhouse, where they were charged with obstructing the public footpath. They will be brought before the City Court this morning.
“Great indignation is expressed in Ararat,” says the Ararat Advertiser, “at the action of Mr. David Gaunson in reference to the condemned man Edward Kelly. But for his unseemly interference the wretched murderer would have expiated his offences on the scaffold in peace, without being subjected to the well-merited indignation of an outraged public; in his closing hours he would not have been made the victim of delusive hopes; neither would the feelings of his friends and relatives have been wounded by the expression of popular opinion that has been called forth. Mr. Gaunson seems to have made shipwreck of his own self-respect, and when a man makes so fatal a mistake his downward course is very rapid. He has now deliberately outraged public decency, thereby disgracing this constituency as well as the House of Assembly of which he is, unfortunately for our credit as a colony, so prominent a member.”
The agitation in favour of a reprieve for the condemned murderer Edward Kelly, or for a reconsideration of his case by the Executive Council, was continued yesterday. In the evening a large crowd of persons assembled about the reserve near the gaol, it having been announced that a public meeting would be held there at 8 o’clock, to consider Kelly’s case. On arrival there, however, it was found that about a dozen policemen were on the reserve, and they warned all persons off it. By 8 o’clock there were no less than 1,500 persons near the reserve, and as some of the rough youths among the crowd began calling out to each other to rush the ground, a further body of police, numbering about 50, were brought on the reserve, and effectually kept it clear. The police were under the command of Superintendent Winch and Inspectors Montfort and Larner, and they acted under authority of the law relating to the gaol, which forbids the assemblage of any large crowd of persons within its precincts. A little after 8 o’clock, a lorry drawn by a horse was brought into Latrobe-street, and on it were seated Mr. William Gaunson, Mr. T. P. Caulfield, and a number of men and women. Several rough-looking persons bearing torches were also held by two or three of the people seated on it. The appearance of the lorry was the signal for cheers from a portion of the crowd, but it was observable both then and afterwards that the greater portion took no part whatever in either the cheers or groans that were uttered.
Mr. WILLIAM GAUNSON, after the lorry was brought to a standstill in Latrobe-street, rose and called out to the police to know whether they had received instructions to keep the people off the reserve, but the police did not answer him. He repeated the question several times, saying that they would move on to some other reserve if the police said they had orders to prevent the meeting being held there. The police still did not answer, and were groaned at by some of the people. Mr. W. Gaunson then said that as no answer was made to his question, he would go on the reserve, and moved with the lorry towards the roadway leading on to it, when he was stopped from proceeding further. He then said that as he did not wish to be taken into custody, he would move on to another reserve, and the lorry, with its torch-bearers, proceeded to near some vacant ground at the corner of Madeline and Queensberry streets, Carlton. The lorry was there drawn up on the street near the footpath, and the crowd, numbering about 2,000, assembled on the footpath and vacant ground near the lorry. Mr. W. Gaunson then addressed the meeting, repeating the arguments that were used at the Hippodrome on Friday night last. He also attacked the press, and said there was nothing to justify the lying, scurrilous remarks which had been made by it in reference to those who had endeavoured to obtain a reprieve for Kelly. In conclusion, he proposed a motion to the effect that the meeting should request the Chief Secretary to call the Executive Council together again to consider Edward Kelly’s case.
Mr. T. P. CAULFIELD seconded the resolution, which was carried by about one-third of the meeting holding up both hands in its favour.
Mr. W. GAUNSON next informed the meeting that Mr. Berry had promised to receive a deputation from the meeting that night at the Treasury, and they would therefore proceed to that building at once.
The lorry, with its torchbearers, was then taken to the front of the Treasury. The larger portion of the crowd followed it, and from about half-past 9 o’clock until 10 o’clock, when Mr. Berry arrived, there were about 1,500 persons standing in Spring-street awaiting the results of the deputation.
Mr. BERRY received the deputation, which consisted of three or four rough-looking men and three young women, in the Executive Council chamber.
Mr. W. GAUNSON said the deputation were members of the men’s and women’s committee, which had been formed to endeavour to secure a reprieve for Kelly, or a reconsideration of his case. He then related what had occurred at the meeting, and said there had been 40,000 signatures obtained to the petition for the reprieve of Kelly, and he denied the statements which had been made that the signatures were not bonâ fide. If time had been allowed 500,000 signatures could have been obtained to save the man’s life. It had leaked out that several members of the Executive Council were not present when Kelly’s case was considered.
Mr. BERRY.―I think that is a mistake. I believe the whole of the Minister’s were present on the first occasion, and on the second not more than one, I think, was absent. That one was absent unavoidably, and it was well known that his opinion was in accord with the opinions of the other members.
Mr. W. GAUNSON then said that Patrick Quinn, of Greta, had prepared an affidavit which he was willing to sign at once before the Chief Secretary as a justice of the peace, or he was willing to sign it on the following morning. The affidavit would throw a new light on the case. It was as follows:―
“I, Patrick Quinn, of South Hansen, Greta, in the Colony of Victoria, farmer, do solemnly and sincerely declare that about two or three days prior to the shooting of the police Senior-constable Strachan, stationed at Greta, called on me at my place, and asked me if I would show the police where Ned Kelly was. I told him ‘If you get six men who are game, and will not shoot him, I will go with you at once. There are three men along with Kelly.’ He said ‘There’s a hundred pounds reward.’ I said, ‘I want no reward; let that go to the Wangaratta Hospital.’ He said, ‘All right, but I would like to keep some of it. I’ll tell the chief commissioner of your offer. I am going to Omeo after two horses. I’ll come back again in the course of three days.’ I said, ‘I will not show you were Kelly is if you are going to shoot him.’ He said, ‘I’ll shoot him down like a dog. I’ll carry two revolvers, and one I’ll place by his side, and swear that he had it on him when I shot him.’ I said, ‘Well, I won’t show you then were to find him.’ The next thing I heard was the shooting of the police at the Wombat. Afterwards Strachan and Ward called on me. Strachan told me he did not go to Omeo, but went after the Kellys, and was near the place where the shooting took place. At Strachan’s request, I called on Mr. Nicolson, who was along with Sergeant Steele. Mr. Nicolson asked me if I would assist the police. I said ‘Yes; but I don’t suppose, after what has happened, they will let me know of their movements.’ Subsequently I was asked by Mr. Nicolson and Mr. Sadleir to meet the police to show them where the outlaws were. I agreed, but though an appointment was made to meet me at my place, it was not kept by the police. Afterwards Strachan asked me to call on the chief commissioner at Benalla. I went there, but only saw M. Hare and Mr. Sadleir. Mr. Sadleir said, ‘Are you not surprised you have not been arrested as a sympathiser?’ I said ‘No.’ Mr. Hare asked me if I would show the police a place at the head of the King River. I said ‘Yes,’ and afterwards accompanied the police to the place desired, but could not see the spot in question for a bush fire. Some time after this, Strachan said to me, ‘We’ll never catch the Kelly’s until we arrest you.’ I said, ‘All you want is to get the reward raised and promotion, and to put the country to trouble and expense, all of which might have been saved but for your blundering, and threatening to shoot the Kelly’s.’”
He (Mr. Gaunson) further stated that the execution had been fixed at an earlier date than usual.
Mr. T. P. CAULFIELD also made some observations, in the course of which he said public feeling was so strong on the subject that it was his firm impression if the man was hung on Thursday, the matter would not end there.
A member of the deputation, who on being pressed for his name, replied that it was “Williamson,” said that in this case there was a link behind the chain that needed investigation.
Another member of the deputation rose to speak, but declined several times to give his name. He then said it was Patrick Quinn, and he knew all about the case from beginning to end. The case had arisen from the offer of a reward. The opinion of the people in the neighbourhood he came from was that a Royal commission out to be appointed, and if one were appointed something would come out of it. He certainly was willing to speak his mind openly and fearlessly on the matter.
Mr. BERRY, in reply, said every consideration had been given to the case, and no steps whatever had been taken by the Government to place any obstacles in the way of those who were acting to get a reprieve or a re-consideration of the case. Those persons could see the Government at any time.
Mr. W. GAUNSON.―The Governor refused to see a deputation.
Mr. BERRY.―The Governor received one deputation, and, of course, there was a limit to deputations, unless they had new facts to submit. That night no new facts had been submitted, unless the document which had been read might be considered new. If the facts, however, stated in it were within the knowledge of the person now stating them, the trial was the proper time when he should have appeared, and made his statement. He could not go into the question of whether the statement was correct know, and if it were to have had any effect on the matter they were discussing it should have been made long since. With regard to the request that the case should be again considered by the Executive, he would see that that was done next day.
Mr. CAULFIELD.―And an extension of time?
Mr. BERRY.―It was for the Executive to consider that. He did not, however, wish by a single word to raise a hope in the mind of anyone that there would be any alteration in the case. There had been no hurry whatever in the case. A long time elapsed between the apprehension and the trial. As to the remark about the execution being fixed at an earlier date than ordinary, that was not correct. The usual plan was to appoint the Monday following the day on which the Executive decided that a man must be executed as the day on which the sentence should be carried out. In this case the decision was arrived at on Thursday, and a full week was given before the sentence was to be enforced. He and his colleagues in the Ministry had gone through the petitions which had been presented in the case, and without giving any expression of opinion about the petitions he must say that whole pages of them were written by the same hand, and the names of whole families down to the young children were attached to the petition. As he said, there were no new facts in the case.
Mr. W. GAUNSON.―There is Quinn’s document.
Mr. BERRY.―That is not sworn to. It was all very well for the man to come forward now with the document when it could not be at once answered. If the statements made in it had been made at the proper time the officer who was referred to would have had the opportunity to reply to them. The Executive would again consider the case, but, as he said, he could not hold out the slightest hope of any alteration. Some people might talk about the condemned man and what he had suffered, but the many cruel murders he had committed, the widows he had made, and the lives he had destroyed, could not be ignored.
The deputation then withdrew, and Mr. W. Gaunson, from the Treasury steps, informed the crowd outside of the result of it.