(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
It is stated that the Kelly family formerly resided at Penwortham, a village near Watervale, in this colony. The Wrights were also living there. Both families went to Victoria when the diggings broke out.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KELLY GANG
Ned Kelly’s Condition
At a late hour last night Ned Kelly was reported to be still progressing favourably, but an increase in temperature has manifested itself, and gives rise to some doubt as to his ultimate recovery. During the past few days he has grumbled considerably at the diet supplied to him, which has been chiefly of a farinaceous nature, while he requested animal food. His wishes have been complied with as far as the opinion of the resident medical officer, Dr. Shields, would allow. He is under remand to appear at the City Police Court this morning to answer a charge of wilful murder to be placed in the dock; and Superintendent Winch, on the authority of a medical certificate to that effect, will apply for his remand for seven days. The application will doubtless be granted without argument.
THE KELLY’S AND CONSTABLE FITZPATRICK
Rumour has been busy with the name of Constable Fitzpatrick in connexion with the Kelly outbreak. A prisoner now confined in Pentridge, who was present when Fitzpatrick was shot by Ned Kelly, has made a statutory declaration which, if true, goes far to exonerate the constable from the charges made against him. At present the authorities deem it advisable to withhold the particulars set out in the affidavit.
Superintendent Hare still remains the guest of Mr. W. J. Clarke, at Sunbury. He is attended daily by Dr. Charles Ryan, and is progressing favourably. Yesterday he was doing nicely, but there now appears to be but little doubt that he will lose the use of his left hand.
CATCHING THE KELLYS
A Personal Narrative Of One Who Went In The Special Train
(FROM THE AUSTRALASIAN)
I left home last Sunday evening about 7 o’clock, with the intention of passing an hour or so, and enjoying a glass of grog, with an old friend in Melbourne. Happening to look in at The Argus office on my way to his house I found that a telegram had just been received from Beechworth with the startling intelligence that “the Kellys had broken out again and shot a man.” Knowing that I should have to start as soon as possible for the scene of the outrage, I turned up Bradshaw, and finding that I could not leave for Beechworth until 10 minutes past 6 on the Monday morning, I continued my journey to pay my promised visit. I had enjoyed my friend’s hospitality for about the space of 15 minutes, in his comfortable armchair by the side of a blazing fire, listening to some of his interesting stories of India, illustrated by his own watercolour drawings, when the following letter was placed in my hands:―
“Dear ——, ― A special train starts for Beechworth at 9 to-night. ― Yours, ——.”
There was no help for it. The invitation was too pressing to refuse, and in a few minutes I had left the cheerful fire and the hot toddy, and the comfortable armchair behind me, and was on my way to the Spencer-street station, having previously requisitioned a felt hat, a big pair of woollen gloves, and three pound notes from another friend. On the platform I met the representatives of the three morning journals. Knowing that we had a long ride before us, we organised a foraging expedition in the neighbourhood of the station, but only succeeded in annexing a small loaf of bread and a little whisky and water in a bottle. We waited a long time in the expectation that some of the heads of the police, perhaps even the chief commissioner himself, would take advantage of the special, but we waited in vain, and it was three minutes to 10 when the train―consisting of engine, one carriage, and brake-van―passed out of the Melbourne yard on its most eventful journey. We picked up Inspector O’Connor and his black trackers at Essendon, and Mrs. O’Connor and her sister. The first exciting event was dashing through the Craigieburn gates. In the press compartment we felt nothing of the shock beyond something striking the framework of one of our windows, as if a stone had been thrown with great force. Shortly after the train drew up, we then heard of the accident, and saw that the step of our carriage had been carried away, as well as the brake of the engine. Things were very soon patched up, and in a few minutes we were on the road again, dashing along at a rattling pace. The great speed we were going at caused the carriage to oscillate very violently, and at times it seemed fairly to bound along the line. The night was intensely cold, and we were delighted when we got to Seymour and found that a cup of warm coffee was ready for us, which was thankfully received. We reached Benalla at half-past 2, and Superintendent Hare and his men now joined us, together with two trucks containing the troopers’ horses. All sorts of rumours were flying about at Benalla. Some had heard that the Kelly sympathisers intended putting logs across the line; others told us that the line had been torn up, and that the Kellys were waiting to rake the train. All the persons on the platform seemed to have heard or anticipated something, and it was this that induced Superintendent Hare to tie a man in front of the engine to keep a look-out. But he subsequently changed his mind on finding that another locomotive, with steam up, was ready in the yard. This engine, with red lights hung behind, was utilised as a pilot, and went ahead of the special at a distance of about half a mile. One volunteer only joined us at Benalla, and, although there were a large number of able-bodied men on the platform, none of them seemed to care about a trip after the outlaws. This was in masked contrast to the state of things at the same place on our return journey. Then nothing was to be heard but such expressions as, “By jove, I’d have given anything to have been with you;” “I wouldn’t have missed it for a hundred pounds; I wouldn’t indeed,” &c. As the special left Benalla we had on board 24 souls, made up as follows:―Superintendent Hare and seven troopers, Inspector O’Connor and five black trackers, one volunteer, two ladies, engine-driver, stoker, and guard, and four pressmen.
When within half a mile of Glenrowan station the train began to draw up, and on looking out we saw that the pilot was coming back again. Our train drew to a standstill in a small cutting, the top of the embankment of which was a little higher than a railway carriage, so that, if the bushrangers had felt so disposed, they could have poured their fire through the roof very comfortably, and it would have been most difficult to return their compliment with any effect. When the pilot engine got back to us we then learned for certain that the line had been really torn up about half a mile beyond the Glenrowan station, but it was not known by whom. Superintendent Hare and two men then got onto the pilot engine and went slowly ahead. In the press carriage we did all we could in case of attack. The representative of The Argus in the pluckiest manner possible climbed out through the window, pulled the lamp out of its hole, and came back with it into the carriage. We then barricaded the windows with the four big cushions, and waited in silence for the next move. We had no arms except one little revolver, and the carriage doors were locked, so that if the Kellys had descended on the train at the time they could have shot us all without any chance of our escape. All lights having been put out, the train moved along slowly till we reached the station. Superintendent Hare at once gave orders to get the horses out, and the men had barely commenced to do so, when a man in the most excited state ran up to those who were standing on the platform, and gasped out, in a series of convulsive jerks:―
“Over there―the Kellys―not five minutes ago―stuck us all up―the four of them―quick, quick!”
Superintendent Hare at once seized his rifle, and calling out “Come along, boys,” dashed across towards the house, which could just be dimly discerned about 200 yards away. The men followed him at once, and the horses, left to themselves, bolted pell-pell into a paddock at the Wangaratta end of the platform. A second or two afterwards the first shot was fired from the east end of the verandah―instantly followed by a dozen others, until the whole of the front of the house seemed in blaze of light. The police replied instantly, but, not having time to scatter, the whole of their fire came from one spot. After two or three volleys the firing ceased altogether. We non-combatants waited at the station under cover. Presently we heard a step on the gravel, and saw a tall form coming towards us. It proved to be Mr. Hare. He was bleeding profusely from a wound in the wrist, and he said as we got up to him, “I’m hit.” We plugged each end of the wound with some cotton waste, and bound it up with a handkerchief, and Mr. Hare again essayed to start for the hotel. He had got about fifty yards, when he turned back and reeled. We ran to him and supported him to a railway carriage, and there he fainted from loss of blood. Some of the bullets from the verandah came whistling and pinging about us; one struck the train just where we were standing, and another took a piece off the top of the station fence. It must have been this ball, by the line, that passed over or through the train, and struck McDonnells hotel on the other side of the railway. The shot went clean through the weatherboards, and took a knob off the moulding of the mantlepiece. Everything remained quiet for about an hour, except an uneasy movement now and then amongst the horses in the paddock, as if some one was trying to catch one. At the end of that time, in or near the hotel we heard a woman screaming in the most heart-rending manner, “They’ve killed my child, they’ve killed my child; Oh! The wretches, they’ve killed my child.” Independent firing now re-commenced, and we heard men’s voices yelling out from what seemed the back part of the building, “Fire away, you ―, you can’t hurt us,” followed by a noise like the ring of a hammer on an anvil. About half an hour after this a woman commenced screaming again, and the screams gradually towards us, and two figures emerged from the smoke of the powder, which hung close to the ground, and came to the station. They turned out to be the guard Dowsett and Mrs. Reardon with an infant in her arms. We put her into one of the compartments of the carriage, and then learnt definite news about the outlaws. She said they were all well armed, and that the four of them were there, and that they had a lot of people bailed up in the hotel. The poor woman was almost wild with excitement, and it was at first difficult to get any clear statement from her.
About an hour and a half before this occurrence, we had sent away the pilot engine to Benalla for assistance, and it was intended that it should have taken Superintendent Hare and the two ladies, but through some mistake it went away by itself, and the other engine had to go afterwards, taking the wounded man and Mrs. O’Connor and her sister.
Just before daybreak Senior-constable Kelly came up to the platform from the east end, and told us that he had been making a wide tour round the house, and that on the top of the range he had found a quilted skull cap and a rifle near a large pool of blood. He at once came to the conclusion that the outlaws, or some of them, had escaped, especially as there had been no firing from the hotel for over an hour and a half. Daylight came at last, and with it Sergeant Steele and his men from Wangaratta. They at once joined the other police, and considerably strengthened the cordon around the inn. And now occurred the most sensational event of the day. We were watching the attack from the rear of the station at the west end, when suddenly we noticed one or two of the men on the extreme right, with their backs turned to the hotel, firing at something in the bush. Presently we noticed a very tall figure in white stalking slowly along in the direction of the hotel. There was no head visible, and in the dim light of the morning, with the steam rising from the ground, it looked for all the world like the ghost of Hamlet’s father with no head, only a very long thick neck. Those who were standing with me did not see it for some time, and I was too intent on watching its movements to point it out to others. The figure continued gradually to advance, stopping every now and then, and moving what looked like its headless neck slowly and mechanically around, and then raising one foot on to a log, and aiming and firing a revolver. Shot after shot was fired at it, but without effect, the figure generally replying by tapping the butt end of his revolver against its neck, the blows ringing out with the clearness and distinctness of a bell in the morning air. It was the most extraordinary sight I ever saw or read of in my life, and I felt fairly spell-bound with wonder, and I could not stir or speak. Presently the figure moved towards a dip in the ground near to some dead timber, and, more men coming up, the firing got warmer. Still the figure kept erect, tapping its neck and using its weapon on its assailants. At this moment I noticed a man in a small round tweed hat, stealing up on the left of the figure, and when within about 30 paces of it firing low two shots in quick succession. The figure staggered and reeled like a drunken man, and in a few moments afterwards fell near the dead timber. The spell was then broken, and we all rushed forward to see who and what our ghostly antagonist was. Quicker than I can write it we were upon him; the iron mask was torn off, and there, in the broad light of day, were the features of the veritable bloodthirsty Ned Kelly himself. We soon stripped him of his armour and carried him to the station, and placed him on a bunk in one of the rooms. He complained very much of cold feet, and we filled a kerosene tin with water, made it hot, and placed it to them, having previously cut off his boots. He fainted once or twice, but uttered no word of complaint about his wounds. I had several conversations with him, and he told me that he was sick of his life, as he was hunted like a dog, and could get no rest, and didn’t care a —— what became of him. I asked him what the armour business meant, and he said he intended to fight it out, and “paste as many of the traps” as he could before they had him. His idea was to barricade the hotel, and fight through the windows, and for that reason he had only got armour made for the upper parts of the body. He told me several times that Byrne, Dan Kelly and Hart had escaped, and that the only people in the hotel were those they had stuck-up. This, of course, was a lie, and what his object was in telling it it is difficult to say. He was dressed in the dandy bushman style―yellow cord pants, strapped with slate cross-barred pattern cloth, riding boots, with very thin soles, and very high heels indeed; white Crimean shirt with large black spots; waistcoat same material as trousers; hair jet black, inclined to curl; reddish beard and moustache, and very heavy black eyebrows―altogether a fine figure of a man, the only bad part about his face being his mouth, which is a wicked and cruel one. The doctor, who had arrived from Benalla, now dressed his wounds, and he turned round on his side and dozed off as calmly as if nothing had happened.
I left Kelly and went outside, when I heard the police giving the remaining members of the gang and all who were in the inn their last warning. I don’t know who it was called out, but these were the words, “All those inside there had better surrender at once; we will give you 10 minutes to do so; after that time we shall fire volleys into the house.” Instantly a white handkerchief was seen to wave from the doorway, and at the same moment some 25 persons rushed out towards the police line with their hands held high up above their heads. They rushed towards us, crying out in piteous accents, “”Don’t fire! For God’s sake, don’t shoot us; don’t, pray don’t!” They were here ordered to lie down, which they obeyed at once, all falling flat on their stomachs, with their hands still in the air. It was a remarkable scene, and the faces of the poor fellows were blanched with fear, and some of them looked as if they were out of their minds. The police passed them one by one, in case any of the outlaws should be amongst the crowd. They handcuffed two young fellows named McAuliffe, known as active sympathisers with the outlaws, and the rest were set free. The 10 minutes’ grace being up, the police commenced to rake the hotel, in which I joined. From east, west, north and south we poured in volley after volley, and yet no sign of surrender. We learned from those who left the house that Byrne was dead; that he had died leaning over a bag of flour, reaching for a bottle of whisky at the bar; that a ball had struck him in the abdomen, and that the blood spurted out like a fountain, and that he fell dead without a groan. We also heard that Dan Kelly and Hart were standing side by side in the passage between the two huts, looking cowed and dispirited, without the slightest sign of fight left in them. In fact, as one informant said, they looked “for all the world like two condemned criminals on the drop, waiting for the bolt to be drawn.”
At a quarter to 3 o’clock a sharp rattle of rifles was heard, and a man was seen advancing from the west end of the house with a large pile of straw, which he placed against the weatherboards and lighted. The flames quickly ran up the side of the house and caught the canvas ceiling. In about 10 minutes the whole of the roof was in a blaze. Just at this moment a priest was seen going up quickly to the front of the house. The crowd closed in after him, and in a few moments the door was burst open. Four men rushed in, and soon reappeared, dragging out the body of Byrne, who still wore his breastplate. He had a number of rings on his hands, and had boots made after the style of Ned Kelly’s. In the meantime, the unfortunate man Cherry, who was wounded to death, was drawn out at the back of the house, and the priest anointed him, and in a few moments after he calmly passed away. The bodies of Dan Kelly and Hart could now be plainly seen amongst the flames, lying nearly at right angles to each other, their arms drawn up and their knees bent, and I feel perfectly certain that they were dead long before the house was fired. Mrs. Skillian and Kate Kelly stood at the railway gates watching the inn burning, and when the charred remains of their brother were brought out, howled loudly and lustily over the blackened bones.
At a quarter-past 3 the roof fell in, and the flames whirled up to heaven, and myriads of sparks danced through the air as if with delight at the thought that three as cold-blooded murderers as ever walked the earth since the days of Cain had expiated their crimes on a fiery altar, and that the fourth was lying waiting for the rope to be put around his neck by Citizen Gately.
As the conduct of the police has been freely commented on, I may say that the rank and file behaved with great coolness and pluck, but when Superintendent Hare was shot they were virtually without a leader, and they seemed at a loss what to do next. It is true Superintendent Sadleir was on the scene, but he kept in the room with Ned Kelly most of the time, and he did not take any active part outside. There is not the slightest doubt that the hotel should have been rushed after the surrender of the twenty- five prisoners, as it was from them we learned that Dan Kelly and Hart were beaten and cowed. Had the police then any one to lead them they would, I feel sure, have followed at once. No extra rifles were taken up in the special train, and the four reporters on the platform were quite at the mercy of any of the outlaws or their pals. We quite expected to be attacked from the rear, as there was a perfect nest of sympathisers on the opposite side of the line, in and about McDonnells Hotel, where the Kelly’s horses were stabled. However, all’s well that ends well, and if I am ever called on to go again on a similar trip I shall take good care not to go unarmed. To be shot without having a chance of reply is not a very pleasant thing to contemplate, and I trust it may never be my experience again to be in a position rendering me liable to any such unpleasantness.
I am sure Hart and Dan Kelly did not shoot themselves. When the 25 prisoners left the inn they told us the outlaws were still alive, and there was no shot fired from the inside, or inside the hotel again. My idea is that they stood together until the one was shot, and then when the other received his quietus he fell by the side of his mate. The dog, it must be remembered, was killed, too, by the bullets from outside.