HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN BUSHRANGING. BY CHARLES WHITE. CHAPTER XIX. THE KELLY GANG. THE EXECUTION. On the day preceding that upon which it had been decided the public hangman should perform his duty the gaoler visited Ned Kelly in his cell and informed him that be must prepare for the worst, as there was not the slightest hope of a reprieve. The outlaw him- self had made frequent written appeals for clemency, protesting that he had never intended to shed blood, but had been compelled to do so in his own de- fence; and knowing what his relatives and friends had been doing in his be- half outside, he entertained sanguine hopes of reprieve. Every hope was abandoned, however, before the fatal morning dawned, and he made an ap- pearance of being resigned to the in- evitable. After sentence of death had been pro- nounced additional precautions were taken by the authorities to ensure the safe custody of the condemned man. He was placed in one of the cells of the old wing, and irons were rivetted upon his legs, leather pads being placed round his legs to prevent chafing. The cell had two doors — an outer one of solid iron and an inner one of iron bars. The outer door was always kept open, a lamp was kept burning overhead, and a warder was continually outside watching the prisoner. During the day he was allowed to walk in the adjoin- ing yard for exercise, and on these oc- casions two warders had him under surveillance. He continued to maintain his indifferent demeanor for a day or two, professing to look forward to his execution without fear, but he was then evidently buoyed up with the hope of reprieve. When he could get anyone to speak to, he indulged in "brag," rec- counting his exploits and boasting of what he could have done when he was at liberty if he had pleased. Latterly, his talkativeness ceased, and he became morose and silent. Within the last few days of his life he dictated a number of letters for the Chief Secretary, in most of which he simply repeated his well- known garbled version of his career, and the spurious reasons he assigned for his crimes. He never, however, expressed any sorrow for his crimes. On the con- trary, he always attempted to justify them. In his last communication he made a request that his body might be handed over to his friends — an applica- tion that was necessarily in vain. At his own request his portrait was taken for circulation among his friends. The mother and sisters paid him a farewell visit on the evening of the last day of his imprisonment, but not in com- pany. The old lady, who was still an inmate of the gaol, was brought to his cell, and her last words to him were, " Mind you die like a Kelly, Ned !" He was hanged the next morning at 10 o'clock: the formal inquest was held a couple of hours afterwards, and tihe body was then coffined ready for burial by the authorities on the following day. An immense crowd of persons had con- gregated outside thie gaol, but there was no disturbance. A few of the more dangerous sym- pathisers with the Kelly gang were prosecuted uinder the Felons' Appre- hension Act ; but the great end of police effort — the destruction of the gang — having been compassed, the authorities did not trouble very much to bring to account the men and women who, while the outlaws were at large, acted as their "scouts" emissaries and providers. Mrs Jones, the licensee of the house at Glenrowan which formed the last tem- porary shelter of the murderous quartette, was prosecuted, in company with one or two others, for harboring; but the case was not pressed so severely as it would have been had the charge been preferred before Ned Kelly and his companions had been brought to their account. And the fate of the gang was a far more powerful deterrent of lawlessness in the district than any amount of police ac- tivity would have been. Within a week from the execution, the colony, so far as bushranging was concerned, was at peace. The peace had certainly been purchased at great cost. Under proper administration in the police force, it should have been won more easily and at far less cost to the State. But although expressions of disfavor were heard in the Victorian Parliament when a return was submitted showing that the capture had involved an ex- penditure of about £40,000 — not count- ing the pay of those engaged in the search, and which amounted to an ad- ditional £75,000 — there was little com- plaining among the people from whose treasury the cheques had to be drawn ; for they saw that the necessity for cap- turing the ruffians who were working such terrible mischief in the community could not be weakened in the slightest degree by any monetary consideration. The preservation of the morality of the community, the protection of the people's lives and property, and the vindication of the law, were matters of so high im- portance that they could not be weighed in golden scales. Nevertheless, the fact remained that had the police force of Victoria, in its higher grades particu- larly, been more efficient, there would have been less expenditure of public money, and, what is far more important, less sacriice of human life. THE BLACKTRACKERS AND THEIR WORK. A brief reference to the Queensland blacktrackers, who were feared so greatly by the Kellys, and their work in this connection, will doubtless prove interesting to the reader. They were called native troopers in official circles, and they had been engaged by the Vic- torian Government for the purpose of tracking the bushrangers to their haunts. They were six in number, and were placed, as I have already stated, under the direction of Sub-Inspector Stan- hope O'Connor, of the Queensland Native Mounted Police. Their names were : – Hero, Johnny, Jimmy, Jack, Barney, and Sambo, the latter being corporal to the corps to which he was attached. Each man was armed with a
Snider and a revolver, and wore a blue uniform with red facings. They were members of various tribes located in the south and north of Queensland res- pectively, and were enlisted for five years when they were quite young by Mr O'Connor. The oldest wes only 24 years of age, and the youngest about 18, and some of them had been in the force seven or eight years, during which they had seen some very active service, and over and over again demonstrated their capabilities as trackers. They were, indeed, the best of the kind that could be selected, and had frequently followed horse-stealers and cattle-duffers to their haunts. Their bravery was undoubted, for it was proved by conflicts with the Chinese rioters in the north of Queens- land, and with mobs of predatory and murderous aboriginals, when these were attacked in their strongholds. It might seem an easy thing for troopers armed with rifles to attack and defeat a mob of aboriginals, but the spears of the aboriginals of tropical Qureensland, with the aid of wommeras, were most terrible weapons, and carried with them almost certain death at a hundred yards. It required no small amount of courage to face a shower of them, or to chase through long grass or thick scrub those who were capable of hurling them with almost scienti[fi]c precision. The pay the troopers received was £3 a month each, with uniform and quarters, but out of the money they had to con- tribute something towards the cost of their rations. Those who were engaged in the Kelly campaign received £3 per month, and had every neccesary pro- vided for them. These men could fol- low fresh tracks of men, horses, or cattle at a gallop, but unfortunately in Vic- toria their powers of discernment were not frequently tested in the requisite di- rection. Notwithstanding this, their eagerness for pursuit remained unabated, and on one occasion they were instru- mental in bringing marauders to jus- tice. They were dreadfully sea-sick on the voyage to Sydney, and during his voyage to Victoria Corporal Sambo contracted congestion of the lungs, from which he died. This poor fellow was kindly attended to by one of the police of Victoria, with whom he was a great favorite, and was buried at Benalla. It speaks well for all of them that no complaints were made against any of them in Victoria, but that, on the con- trary, they were described as a credit to any force. They seemed to be favorites with everyone who knew them except the Kellys. After reaching Sydney, the troopers proceeded direct by way of Wagga Wagga to Benalla, where their head- quarters were established. Captain Standish met them on their arrival there, and two days after Mr O'Connor had been sworn in as a sub-inspector of the police force of Victoria, they were set to work, as the place in which they were located was in the midst of the Kelly district and populated with Kelly sympathisers. It was thought on their arrival that the gang were moving about in the district, and what were confidently supposed to be their tracks were fol- lowed for four days, when they ran into a hut in the King River Ranges. Rain then fell and obliterated the tracks, and the troopers returned to Benalla in consequence. Whether the tracks were those of the gang was not proved. The troopers were placed on numerous other tracks, which, however, all turned out to be those of ordinary travellers. Every mark that had a suspicion of the Kellys about it was scrutinised with the deepest interest, but it could never be stated with confidence that the men were ever in pursuit of the outlaws. If they were they were set to work too late — when the tracks had become too weatherworn to be read distinctly. Unfortinately for the cause of justice they could not move out of their quarters without creating a sensation. Their movements were at once telegraphed to the Kellys, who were quickly off to the fastnesses. The value of their aid was promptly recognised by the Victorian authorities, and on one occasion they had a slice of luck which compensated them for many disappoint- ments. It transpired in connection with the Lancefield bank robbery. The troopers proceeded by special train to Kilmore, and then rode to Lancefield. Here it wra stated that the two robbers had gone to a publichouse and bought some provisions. Their tracks were quickly picked up, and followed along highways and byways and through pad- docks to where the robbers had made a meal, and then on until it was ascer- tained that the men had hired a spring- cart and been driven to Sandhurst. A telegram explainiing this was sent to that town, and the robbers, on arrival, found themselves in the hands of ex- pectant police, who took care of them un- til they were tried and convicted. The troopers returned to headquarters, and were again subjected to false alarms. In one instance they travelled to a spot where it was said that the Kelly gang were taking down the telegraph wires, but they found only a company of reapers, whose reaping machine had got foul of a telegraph pole. Ned Kelly and his associates made no secret of the fact that they were in con- stant dread of the trackers, whom they designated "——black devils," and yet for some reason that has never been satisfactorily explained, Sub-Inspector O'Connor and his charges were in Mel bourne and on their way home when the news of Sherritt's murder reached head- quarters. Mr O'Connor, however, was at once requested to proceed to Beech- worth and thence to Sherritt's house, with the view of picking up tracks, and he obeyed, with the result already known. It was intended to make Beechworth the temporary headquarters of the troopers, and it was to that town the special train so fortunately stopped by Mr Curnow was proceeding. This ac- counts for the presence of Mr O'Connor and another lady in the train, and con- sequently their presence at the annihila- tion of the gang. The ladies intended staying at Beechworth until the labors of the trackers were completed, but the services of the latter were no longer re- quired, the tragedy at Mrs Jones' public- house a. once putting an end to the career of the Kellys, and opening the way for the return of the trackers to their headquarters in Queensland.
When the reward money of £8000 was divided, each of the trackers re- ceived £50, and Sub-Inspector O'Connor £237 15s. THE END OF THE BUSHRANGING. With the Kellys there died gang bushranging in Victoria. Isolated cases of bushranging there have been since, it is true; but a run of a week, or a month at most, has invariably brought the solitary ranger to the last of his exploits. To say that Ned Kelly was the last of the bushrangers is not literally cor- rect; yet in the sense that he was the leader of the last gang, that term may be fittingly applied to him. Australia has outgrown its days of bushranging such as that followed by the characters imperfectly sketched in this story; al- though like countries of larger experience and greater age, it is still troubled with criminals of other types. With these, however, I have nothing to do, and in bringing this history of Australian bushranging to a close, I am assured the reader will join with me in an ex- pression of thankfulness that this par- ticular phase of criminality, together with the conditions that gave it birth and promoted its growth, has disap- peared, never more to be revived in the "sunny Southern land." THE END. Siconn SCWOINO MIACHINE OIL at 6d. iper bottle andl Needles at 1 d. each, or 1/ per dozen, can now be obtaiined at the 'News' office, the local agency for Ithe world-renowned sowing machinies.