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3 corrections, most recently by jhempenstall - Show corrections

THE KELLY GANG.

NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD

TRAGEDY.

(By a Special Commissioner.)

THE OUTLAWRY IN THE

BEGINNING.

TRAGEDY OF THE WOMBAT

RANGES.

OUTLAWS' EXPLOITS AT EUROA.

When the four young men took to the bush Ned Kelly was 24 years old. Dan was only 17, Hart was a year older, and Joe Byrne 21. They were well equipped with arms, and were men who, from their expe- rience of the locality and particular know- ledge of the whole of the country now known as the Kelly territory, were pecu- liarly well adapted for success in the career they had chosen.

For five months they did just as they liked. It was not until October, 1878, that the Victorian authorities realised the seri- ousness of the cituation presented by these four desperate young men calmly setting

at defiance all law and authority and their administration.

When the realisation of the actual posi- tion did come home to the police authori- ties an organised search of the ranges in which the men were supposed to be conceal- ing themselves was set on foot. Search

parties, consisting of three or four men, were sent to scour the fastnesses of the mountain ranges. One of these parties was in charge of Sergrant Kennedy. This party it was that actually encountered the bush- rangers, which encounter proving so fatal to the police party set the seal of outlawry on Ned Kelly and his associates and stirred up

the Victorian Government to most elabo- rate expedients for their capture. Reward amounting to four thousand pounds were offered for the capture of the four outlaws. The New South Wales Government offered another thousand pounds a head for their apprehension.

To go back to the encounter between Kennedy's ill-starred party and the bush- rangers, it will be necessary to refer to the report of the Royal Commission which in- vestigated all the circumstances of the Kelly outbreak. This report states that

Kennedy's party behaved throughout in a manner imminently calculated to defeat the object with which it visited the Wombat Ranges where as was known, the Kellys were at that time in hiding. The conduct of the police all through this exciting and protracted man-hunt was in no sense praise- worthy. The behaviour of the constables   who were employed to watch Mrs. Byrne's house, and, whose headquarters were a cave in the vicinity, has already been described. The conduct of Sergeant Kennedy's party,   whilst not so reprehensible in other re- spects, seems to have suggested a serious lack of appreciation of the gravity of the mission on which it was engaged. It is upon record that the men were actually per-   mitted to try and shoot birds with their rifles—a piece of folly which must of neces- sity have kept the outlaws well apprised of their movements and proximity.  

The inevitable happened.

Let it be said at first that Kennedy was clever, intrepid, and determined. His chief fault lay in the extraordinary publicity that he permitted his men to give as to their whereabouts. He made one other grievous mistake. He never for a moment thought that he, the hunter, would ever in that ex- pedition become the hunted. That was an error in tactics that cost himself and two other brave men their lives.

The details of this tragic episode have been published time and again. Let it merely be said that one day, not long after the police camp had been formed, Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlan went away to scour the ranges, leaving Constables Mc- intyre and Lonergan in camp. These men appear to have kept but a poor watch, if any at all, because when, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon the four outlaws, armed to the teeth, suddenly appeared in front of the tent and covered them with rifles, they were unable to raise a hand in self-defence. McIntyre surrendered at once. Lonergan made for a tree. Two of the outlaws' rifles

cracked as he ran, and he fell dead in his  

tracks.  

Much has been written and spoken about this dreadful business, but the Kellys' plea was that they had to shoot or be shot. The presence of the police there, they claimed   was an extension of the menace to their liberty that the ill-considered conduct of  

Constable Fitzpatrick had instituted. They   said that the police made the war, and   that they, as men, had to defend them-   selves. Always throughout the whole of the

defence raised by the outlaws there rings the one note of the intolerable injustice  

of their mother's sentence, of the ruin of their home, and of the dismal prospect of incarceration as felons for long terms that confronted themselves. Always they as-   serted that they were innocent of having injured Fitzpatrick in any way. That was the basis of their defence, and it was main- tained as the groundwork and reason for the whole of their subsequent conduct till the red tragedy at Glenrowan.

Most people are familiar with the rest of

the details of the encounter in the Wombat   Ranges. No one could feel anything but   sympathy and admiration for the brave Kennedy, who, on returning to camp with Scanlan, found the outlaws in possesion. Ned Kelly told him to surrender—told him   that his position was a hopeless one. Four  

levelled rifles in the hands of the outlaws  

emphasised the fact. There is not the  

slightest room for doubt that had Kennedy realised the absolute futility of resistance

in such desperate and fatal circumstances,

and accepted the inevitable, there would have been no bloodshed. But he did not. He was brave—too brave, even McIntyre's advice to him to surrender was disregarded. Kennedy threw himself from his horse and   opened fire with his revolver upon the out-  

laws. Scanlan, who had promptly decided to follow his leader's example and precept was shot as soon as he had alighted on the ground. Kennedy was putting up a good fight, with his horse between him and the rifles of his enemies, but to make his posi- tion hopeless where before it was desperate,

the horse sprang away and bolted, leaving him exposed to the fire of the bushrangers. McIntyre, who does not seem to have been handicapped with that special species of desperate courage that animated Kennedy saw the horse coming, and took the oppor- tunity to escape that offered. He sprang on to the animal, threw his arms round its neck, and was carried away to the bush.

Kennedy's body was found a quarter of mile away from the camp. The outlaws admitted that they had given him the cou.   de grace, when, seeing that he was so des- perately wonnded that he could not survive

many minutes, he pleaded for a chance to see his family before he died. Several ver- sions of this dismal business have been   circulated. What actually occurred was only known to the outlaws themselves and to their victim. But Ned Kelly and Byrne, at least, expressed the most fervent regret

for the nrcessity which Kennedy put upon them of shooting when the situation could have been saved by surrender. Their own position, they claimed, was desperate, and the police knew it. They had to shoot or be shot. They never anticipated that, in the face of such fatal odds, and with one of his comrades dead and another captured Kennedy would show fight. It was matter for the bitterest regret, from this to the end of their career, that poor Kennedy did not accept the position and save his own and his comrades' lives.

But, as Ned Kelly told one of his closest friends after the tragedy, Ken-   nedy's resistance upset all their plans,   well laid, as they were. They in- tended the police no harm whatever and when the sergeant and Scanlan, scorn- ing the injunction to surrender, lay hands upon their weapons, the issue at once became one of life or death on both

sides.

One thing is certain in connection with Kennedy's death—that is, that Ned Kelly declaring that he was the bravest man he had ever heard of, put his own overcoat over the body. The coat was still there when the body was discovered two or three days afterwards.

A Popular Outcry.

When the news of this dreadful encoun- ter reached Melbourne there at once arose a tremendous popular outcry for the adop- tion of most strenuous measures to bring the outlaws into subjection and to avenge the men who had been slain. But the police force was found very indifferently equipped for organised warfare upon a force of even four hostile men. They had no firearms, to speak of. The revolvers then used by the police were of obsolete pattern. A few rifles were got from the military authorities, but these also were

obsolete and old-fashioned. Finally the  

Government invested in shot-guns, and   armed the police with these. Then began   one of the greatest man-hunts known in   the history of the world.  

It was the tragedy of the Wombat that impelled Byrne and Hart to throw in their

lot for good and all with the Kellys. Both  

these men told their friends afterwards that when they started to the police camp on that fatal day they had not the slightest intention of shooting anyone. Ned Kelly said that all he intended to do was what Power had done often before—that is, to bail up the police and secure their firearms and ammunition. The outlaws at that

VIEW FROM THE NEW WING, SHOWING THE NURSES' HOME AND OPERATING THEATRE.

time wanted both firearms and horses. The  

police were well supplied with both.

The Escape at Wangaratta.

The outlaws were next heard of passing through Wangaratta at daylight on the morning after the encounter. They were plainly seen passing under a culvert on the

railway, and the report of the Royal Com-  

mission of Enquiry makes the fact of their

having been allowed to do this without in- terference grounds for strong condemna-   tion of two of the police officials directing

the chase. This was one of the worst

instances of police incapacity disclosed throughout the history of the outlawry.

For two months the gang were only heard of occasionally. There were inter- mittent reports of isolated cases of bailing up, cattlestealing, &c., but though a very strong force of police was employed in the hunt, the bushrangers easily managed to elude them. Then, in December, 1878,   came the celebrated visit of the robbers to Euroa, which is about 100 miles from Mel- bourne on the main Sydney line. What

happened there is history, but it may be well to epitomise it briefly.

It was midday on December 18 when Ned   Kelly, walked into the homestead of Mr. Younghusband's station, assured the people here that they had nothing to fear, and asked for food for themselves and their

horses. An employe named Fitzgerald, who was eating his dinner at the time, had one look at the bushranger, and one at the large revolver that he was noncha- lantly toying with, and said, "Well, if the gentlemen want food I suppose they have got to have it." The other three outlaws, having attended to the horses, joined their  

chief, and the four of them imprisoned all the men on the station in a spare build- ing used as a store. No interference was  

offered to the women. Indeed, there was much of the rough chivalry that charac-    

terised Power about the manner in which Ned Kelly treated the womenfolk whom he encountered on this visit. He assured the male captives time after time that they had nothing whatever to fear.

Late in the afternoon the manager of the station, Mr. Macauley, returned and was   promptly bailed up. He told Ned Kelly that it was not much use coming to that station, because their own horses were bet- ter than any he had. The outlaw chief-

tain, however, told him that he did not want horses, did not want anything but food for themselves and for their cattle. Having refreshed themselves, the outlaws bailed up a hawker who was travelling with   a horse and cart, and made merry with his stock. All four of them behaved with

consideration to the people whom they had imprisoned.  

The New Gold Mine.

Next morning four other male visitors were intercepted and stuck up. During their stay at this station the outlaws can- didly informed their prisoners that they   were going to stick-up the bank at Euroa. Accordingly, on the afternoon of the second day, leaving Byrne in charge of the pri- soners, the other three started out to work what they called their new gold mine.  

First of all they cut the telegraph wires ; in fact, they chopped the posts down, to make sure, and were careful to rip off more wire than an ordinary repairer would carry with him. Three or four railway men who saw them at work endeavored to inter- fere ; but in a few minutes they joined the other prisoners in Younghusband's store- room.  

Carrying a cheque drawn by Mr. Macau- ley on the National Bank for a few pounds,   the three bushrangers, all heavily armed, went to the bank. In the meantime Byrne   had apprehended a telegraph-line repairer, who had begun to make trouble. It was after closing time when the others reached the bank, to which they travelled in the cart taken from the hawker. Ned Kelly knocked at the door and persuaded the clerk to open and cash the cheque he had. No sooner had the bushrangers stepped in than he closed the door, and the unwise clerk found himself looking into the

muzzle of the big revolver that was Kelly's   favorite weapon. The manager, Mr. Scott, was next bailed up. The robbers took £700 in notes, gold, and silver. Ned Kelly insisted to the manager that there was more money there, and eventually com- pelled him to open the safe, from which the outlaws got £1,500 in paper, £300 in gold, about £300 worth of, gold dust, and nearly £100 worth of silver. The be- haviour of thee outlaws to Mrs. Scott was polite and considerate ; indeed, it was some time before that lady would believe that the tall, kindly-mannered man who was speaking to her was the notorious outlaw chief. Mr. Scott, before he left the bank, invited the outlaws to drink whisky with him, which they did. They drank each other's health cordially. Then the whole party went to Younghusband's where the rest of the prisoners were. The evening seems to have passed quite pleasantly. At half-past 8 the outlaws warned the prisoners       not to move for three hours, informing them that they were going. Just before they left Ned Kelly noticed that a Mr. McDougall was wearing a watch, and asked for it. McDougall replied that it was a gift from his dead mother. Kelly declared that he wouldn't take it under any con- sideration, and very soon afterwards the four of the outlaws left.

It is a remarkable thing that all these   stirring events happened without the people in the town knowing anything that was going on.

(To be continued.)

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