MR CURNOW’S STATEMENT
The chief commissioner of police has received the following report from Mr. Curnow, late schoolmaster at Glenrowan, of his proceedings in connexion with the Kelly gang:―
“On Sunday morning, 27th June, at about 11 o’clock, Mrs. Curnow, my sister, brother-in-law, and myself were out for a drive, when, in passing through Stanistreet’s railway gates, we were bailed up by an armed man on horseback, who turned out to be Ned Kelly, the outlaw. Another armed man was behind him, and I was told that he was Byrne. After a while Ned Kelly gave directions for the horse and buggy to be taken into Mrs. Jones’s yard. Mrs. and Miss Curnow went into Mrs. Stanistreet’s, and my brother-in-law and I stayed at the gates, taking part in the conversation going on there. We had not been bailed up many minutes before I was informed by Mr. Stanistreet that the outlaws had caused part of the railway line to be torn up, with the purpose of wrecking a special train which they expected would pass through Glenrowan. Some one―I forget who―also told me that the gang had been at Beechworth during the night before, and had shot several police. I doubted this, but afterwards ascertained from Dan Kelly that they had actually been in the vicinity of Beechworth, and had done ‘some shooting.’ The gang afterwards told me―in fact, they made no secret of it―that they had caused a part of the line to be torn up at a dangerous part beyond the station, in order to wreck a special train of inspectors, police, and black trackers, which would pass through Glenrowan for Beechworth, to take up the ‘Kelly’ trail from there. They stated that they would shoot down all those who escaped death from the wrecked train, and that if any civilians were in the train, they should share the same fate, as they had no business accompanying the police. The outlaws affirmed that they were justified in doing this. On hearing their intentions I determined that if I could by any means whatever baulk their designs, and prevent such a sacrifice of human life, I would do so. This purpose governed the whole of my sayings and doings while I was with the outlaws. On reflection I thought it best to inspire them with confidence in my sympathising heartily with them, and, if I could do this, I thought that they would allow me enough liberty to be able to do something to frustrate their intentions. In the early part of the afternoon the outlaws proposed a dance, and came and asked me to join in it. I objected on the ground of having on nailed boots, when the thought flashed through my mind that if I could induce Ned Kelly to accompany me to the school for a pair of dancing boots, on the journey there in passing the police barracks, Bracken, the trooper stationed there, might see him and would be able to give the alarm. I felt sure that as Bracken had been stationed at Greta he would know him. So I said to Ned Kelly, after being pressed to dance, that I would do so with pleasure if he would accompany me to my home for a pair of dancing boots. He agreed quite readily to go with me, and we were getting ready when Dan Kelly interfered, and said that Ned had better stay behind and let him or Byrne accompany me. Some one else also urged Ned Kelly to stay back, and said that the house was near the police barracks. Ned turned and asked me if it was, and I replied, ‘Yes; we shall have to pass the barracks. I had forgotten that.’ He then said that we would not go, and I consented to dance with Dan. Shortly after Ned declared that he would go down, and bring Bracken and Reynolds, the postmaster, up to Jones’s. I laughed, and told him that I would rather than a hundred pounds that he would so, and asked to be allowed to go with him. He gave me no reply then. I had ascertained from Mr. Stanistreet that his revolver was still in his possession, and to gain the consent of the outlaws to my going home and taking my wife, child, and sister with me, and thus being at liberty to make a dash for Benalla, I told the gang in strict confidence that Mr. Stanistreet possessed a loaded revolver from the Railway department, and that though I knew he would not use it against them, some one else might get it and do them an injury. I advised them to demand it of him at once, and I believe they did. With the same object in view, and after hearing Ned Kelly solemnly assert to Mrs. Jones and others that he would not shoot Constable Bracken, I told him that he had better take Dave Mortimer, my brother-in-law, with him to call Bracken out, as the trooper knew his voice well, and would suspect nothing. I always kept warning them to keep a sharp look out for enemies, and did my utmost to ingratiate myself with them. On obtaining a suitable opportunity I asked Ned Kelly again would he allow me to take Mrs. Curnow, the baby, and my sister home when he went for Bracken, and I assured him that he had no cause for fearing me, as I was with him heart and soul. He then said that he knew that and could see it, and he acceded to my request. I think it was about 10 o’clock on Sunday night before the outlaws started for the police barracks, taking with them a Mr. E. Reynolds, Mr. R. Gibbons, Mr. Mortimer, myself, wife, and sister. We reached the barracks, and Constable Bracken was taken by the outlaws without bloodshed. Ned Kelly then told me that I could go home and take the ladies with me. He directed us to ‘go quietly to bed and not to dream too loud,’ and intimated that if we acted otherwise we would get shot, as one of them would be down to our place during the night to see that we were all right. He had previously declared that they would wait at Glenrowan till a train came. When we reached home, which was about 200 yards from the police barracks, I put the horse in the stable with the ostensible purpose of feeding him well, as he had starved all day. While supper was being got ready I quietly prepared everything, including a red lama scarf, a candle, and matches to go to Benalla, intending to keep close to the railway line in case of a special coming before I reached there. In overcoming Mrs. Curnow’s opposition to my going, for she was in a state of the utmost terror and dread, and declared that both I and all belonging to me would get shot if I persisted in going, and in securing the safety of my wife, child, and sister while being away, time passed, and just as I was about to start I heard the train coming in the distance. I immediately caught up the scarf, candle, and matches, and ran down the line to meet the train. On reaching a straight part of the line, where those in the train would be able to see the danger signal for some distance, I lit the candle, and held it behind the red scarf. While I was holding up the danger signal I was in great fear of being shot before those in the train would be able to see the red light, and of thus uselessly sacrificing my life. The train, which proved to be a pilot engine, came on, and stopped a little past me, and I gave the alarm by informing those in it of the line being torn up just beyond the station, and of the Kelly gang lying in wait at the station for the special train of police. On being told by the guard that he would go back and stop the special which was coming on, and seeing him do it, I ran home to appease my wife’s anxiety and terror, and to protect them as far as I could. We had not the least hope of an escape from being shot dead, for we felt certain that the outlaws must have heard the whistling and stoppage of the pilot engine near our place, and would divine that I was stopping the train, as we were the only ones liberated, to our knowledge. We therefore felt sure that at least one of them would ride down and take revenge for my betrayal of their trust in me. Though I represented myself to Edward Kelly as a sympathiser, my sole motive in doing so was to save life, to uphold justice, and of course to secure as far as possible the safety of my family.
“Late of Glenrowan S.S. 1,742.”
MR. C. C. RAWLINS’ STATEMENT
To The Editor Of The Argus
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 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 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 bushrangers 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 be 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, everyone of you.” There was then no more firing for a long time; in fact, at this moment the smoke was to 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 outlaws, 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 following 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 outlaws 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 outlaws 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 questioned 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 told me that they themselves had been hiding in the chimney, and that there were 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 police 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.
CHAS. C. RAWLINS.
St. Kilda, July 4.