James Saunders was born at Big River, (Ouse). At 18 months old, James was left by his father with a woman at Perth. This woman raised him until he was 5 years old and he was given the name Sutherland. He was then fobbed off on a woman at Evandale, who looked after him until he was 11. James was then kicked out and left to his own devices. He tried to make his way back to Perth, but was arrested and tried under the vagrancy act. He was sentenced to 3 months in gaol.
When he got out of gaol he travelled to Hobart and worked as a dogsbody for Webb’s Hotel. He then found employment for Mr. Pedder at his farm at Kangaroo Point. He remained here for 3 years, then decided to become a miner. Despite being seen in Launceston from time to time, nothing else is known of his life from this period.
In 1883, James Saunders, now known as Sutherland, was joined by his friend James Ogden in bushranging in Epping Forest. According to news reports they only emerged from the bush to visit brothels and drink. This was followed by a brief crime spree that resulted in Sutherland murdering two men: William Wilson and Alfred Holman. The former was shot after leaving his house, which was also burnt down. The latter was shot while driving a wagon through the forest. Both crimes were as shocking in their violence as they were tragic in their aftermath.
Sutherland and Ogden were soon captured, not far from where Holman’s body was found, and tried for murder. Sutherland accepted the charges laid on him, and seemed to express little or no remorse. He suggested that because the world had been so cruel to him he saw no difference in giving a little cruelty back. The pair were found guilty and executed in Hobart. At the time of their executions, Ogden was twenty years old, while Sutherland, was only eighteen.
Forever consigned to popular culture as Ned Kelly’s little brother, Dan Kelly was a young man of only nineteen when he lost his life fighting the police. Like so many “boy bushrangers” his young life was snuffed out without him having ever fulfilled his potential, wasting his youth on a life of crime. But there was more to Dan Kelly than just having Ned Kelly as his big brother.
Daniel Kelly was born on 1 June, 1861 to John “Red” Kelly and Ellen Quinn. He was named after one of his father’s brothers and christened in the church in Beveridge, Victoria, where the family were living in a house John had built. Before Dan was born, there had been Mary Jane (died in infancy), Annie, Ned, Maggie and Jim. Dan would be followed by Kate and Grace. Dan’s infancy years were quiet for the family. John turned his hand to a number of occupations but was primarily employed doing odd jobs around the district and splitting timber. Financial strain, however, soon saw John attempting to distill his own whiskey. Unfortunately he took to drinking most of the produce himself. The difficulty saw the family relocate to Avenel, but here their problems would not only continue, they would worsen.
John spent six months in gaol in 1866 for stealing and butchering a calf. This meant that for half a year Ellen was reliant on her brothers for help around the place. The Quinn brothers were not model citizens by the furthest stretch, Jimmy Quinn being the worst of the lot. Jimmy was too fond of liquor, quick to violence and did not discriminate when choosing a target. No doubt Dan’s exposure to this would have negatively shaped his young mind. When John was released from gaol he was a broken man. Dan was barely five years old when his father died of dropsy, an old term for oedema (build-up of fluid in the soft tissues), likely linked to his alcoholism. He was buried in Avenel. The family soon found themselves frequently homeless, moving from Avenel to an abandoned pub in Greta. Here the Kellys co-habited with Ellen’s sisters, both of whose husbands were in prison at the time, and their children while they attempted to make ends meet.
The new home in Greta was short-lived. One night John Kelly’s brother James had arrived at the house drunk and his sexual advances were rebuffed by Ellen. He returned later that same night and burned the place to the ground. The children inside were asleep but the sisters remained awake, fearful of retribution. After another binge at the local pub, James threw incendiary devices at the house until a fire took hold, but thankfully there were no fatalities. The families were now homeless again and devoid of earthly possessions such as clothes and furniture. When James was tried he was sentenced to death by Sir Redmond Barry. This was later commuted to a long prison sentence by the executive council. The Greta community got together and helped the victims get back on their feet. Ellen soon gained a lease on a selection on the 11 Mile Creek. Things were starting to look up.
With his big brother Ned, only twelve himself when Red died, acting as man of the house, Dan and his brother Jim often ran wild. By 1870 things had changed dramatically for the family. Ellen had her selection but the land was not fit for crops. The family had to rely on the money they made from lodgers and travellers looking for a drink. Fifteen year-old Ned worked for a time as Harry Power‘s offsider, and then found himself in and out of gaol, eventually copping three years for receiving a stolen horse. Jim was now the man of the house in Ned’s absence. Jim was not a good candidate, however, and would coax Dan into mischief; their first arrest occurring when Dan was only ten years old.
In September 1871, Jim and Dan had borrowed horses without permission from a hawker named Mark Krafft. Krafft had been grazing his horses at the Kelly selection, as he had frequently done, and the boys had taken them for a joyride. Jim had previously been working as Krafft’s servant to get some extra money, the pudgy child being less physical than his big brother and thus less suited to splitting work. Constable Ernest Flood, newly stationed in Greta, nabbed them on a charge of illegally using a horse and took the children to Wangaratta to be kept in the logs until trial. When they went to court two days later the case was quickly dismissed on account of Jim’s and Dan’s ages (12 and 10 respectively) and the fact that Jim had been a servant of Krafft for a time. One can only imagine the impact that the experience of being taken away from their family and locked up in a cell with a bunch of strange, grown men waiting for trial for two days would have been on the children. It would eventuate that Flood was nothing but bad news for the family, allegedly stealing their horses and selling them to railway workers and sexually assaulting Dan’s big sister Annie and making her pregnant, though the truth of this is debatable owing to there being no solid evidence to back the claims.
Jim, only fourteen, ended up in gaol in 1873 with two sentences of 2 1/2 years to be served consecutively for helping shift stolen cattle. With Red gone and Ned and Jim in gaol, Ellen was on the lookout for a new man to help around the house and to protect her from her brothers or anyone else that might come sniffing around with bad intentions. She took the bold move of selling grog on the sly to travellers and seemed to think she had found her man in Bill Frost, an itinerant worker who had lodged with the family. Frost engaged in a sexual relationship with Ellen, from which she became pregnant with a daughter. Frost was apparently not keen to be a father and skipped town. Ellen, not one to be passive, tracked him down and took him to court for maintenance. After a long and bitter dispute she won but the infant died before the first maintenance payment came through. One can only imagine how this would have impacted young Dan, who had to assume the role of man of the house.
It wasn’t all gloomy for Dan though. According to some accounts, while his big brothers were doing time, Dan was lavished with affection from his sisters. Some considered this made him spoiled, but at any rate he managed to keep his nose clean during this period. It was at this time that Ellen took in George King, a 25 year-old American-born traveller, miner and stock thief. It was a remarkably short courtship as they were married in 1874, just after Ned came home from Pentridge. Within a month Ellen gave birth again. No doubt Dan, now thirteen, was relieved not to have the responsibility of being the male head of the household anymore. Between Ned and George the role was well taken care of.
Dan’s main hobbies at this time were much the same as the majority of young men in the country – riding and hunting. Dan would latch onto groups of boys who were out kangaroo hunting and took much pride in his marksmanship. He also took much joy in racing his peers on horseback. A brilliant description of Dan came from Joseph Ashmead, a friend of the Kelly family, in an unpublished memoir:
He was riding a smart black pony, and proudly told us it was a galloper and could clear any fence in the north east. The boy was alert and active with piercing black eyes that took in everything at a glance. He wore strapped trousers, a red shirt and straw hat tilted forward, secured by a strap under his nose. The back of his head was broad and covered with close cropped hair as black and shiny as a crow; his jaw was heavy, his lips thin, and when closed tightly, there seemed to be something cruel in them, but when they relaxed into a smile, he appeared to be a jovial, good-natured fellow. His name was Dan Kelly and he was a great lover of horses. I was the only one of the boys who had a horse. A bay pony. She had belonged to a clergyman and was an honest goer. Dan ran his eye over my over my horse and proposed that we should have a race, a challenge that I gladly accepted. When Dan found that he could not shake me off, he developed a great respect for me, and declared there was not a kangaroo in all the country who could get away from us, so we went kangaroo hunting, not once but many times. I left my cows to look after themselves, or bribed some of the boys to look after them for me, with the promises of some sinews out of the kangaroo’s tail to make whip crackers with.
No doubt Dan’s hunting provided much needed meat for the family, or at least was able to be sold to raise money for other goods. Seemingly Dan left home at the first opportunity to seek work. By some reports he travelled into New South Wales to work on sheep stations around the Monaro region as a shearer. He was also reported to have worked in Chesney Vale with Ned as a brick layer, but was not very good at it. It is likely that this is when Dan took up possession of an abandoned miner’s hut by Bullock Creek in the Wombat Ranges and began prospecting for gold. Sluices were later constructed along the creek and this would have provided a bit of pocket money. No doubt the seasonal nature of most of these jobs left Dan with a considerable amount of free time in between and he soon found himself adopting the larrikin culture of the day.
The fast riding, clownishly attired, skirt chasing lifestyle of the larrikin had become a widespread issue throughout the colonies. Gangs of youths in porkpie or billycock hats worn on jaunty angles, short Paget coats and jackets, bell-bottom trousers, colourful sashes and pointy high-heeled boots would loiter in public areas making a nuisance of themselves. Dan became a founding member of the “Greta Mob”, who populated the streets around Greta and Wangaratta. Apart from Dan, the mob consisted mostly of his cousins Tom and Jack Lloyd and a young Wangaratta jockey named Steve Hart, with the rotating roster of associates typical of these forms of social group. Their primary interests were fast horses, smoking, booze and chatting up girls. The boys were known to ride full gallop through the streets and challenge each other to various horse tricks. Steve Hart, for instance, could get his horse to vault over the railway gates, much to the chagrin of the gatekeeper. The Greta Mob adopted as their signature the larrikin badges of high-heeled boots, cocked billycock hats with the hatstring worn under the nose (to stop the hat flying off when riding at full gallop) and brightly coloured sashes worn around the waist. The style was clownish but that’s not unusual for teenage boys of any era. Unfortunately, Dan was still living in hand-me-downs and cut an odd figure in his threadbare, oversized, outdated outfits. The only verified photographic images we have of Dan illustrate this clearly. He wears a rumpled hat, a baggy sack coat with missing buttons and fraying cuffs as well as baggy trousers held up with a piece of rope. He was known to grow his hair long and seems to have cultivated a moustache at some point. But what Dan lacked in creole couture he made up for in his riding and his drinking. It has been written that Dan had many sweethearts but whenever they were unavailable for a night of frivolity he would employ the services of working girls, though it is incredibly unlikely that a fifteen year-old boy would have the presence of mind or the funds to engage in that lifestyle, regardless of the usual rampant libido they enjoyed.
One of the few times Dan graced the courts was in relation to a supposedly stolen saddle. In March 1877 he was charged with stealing the saddle in question in Benalla and was tried during the Beechworth general sessions before Judge Hackett. It had taken five months to lay charges against the teenager. The saddle in question was one that Dan had purchased from a man named Roberts in exchange for a different saddle and £1, and he produced a receipt to prove it, which was verified in court. Along with Jack Lloyd and his brother-in-law Bill Skillion, Ned Kelly was present during the hearing as a witness to back up his little brother. In the end the case was dismissed and Dan walked away with a sense of vindication. Judge Hackett stated that he “did not see why the prisoner was there at all” as his case was clear-cut. During this case Dan displayed a trait that distinguished him from his older brothers – he provided no resistance to arrest and complied happily with the police. This could be interpreted by some as overconfidence in his ability to dodge a conviction, but more likely Dan understood that resisting arrest was a fool’s game and further that he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused (which a trial would – and did – prove). This would not be the last time he displayed a conspicuous willingness to comply.
While he had been waiting to appear in court over the saddle charge, Dan met two boys from the Woolshed Valley named Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. They were also waiting to appear in court that day over a charge of assault against a Chinaman named Ah On. It would eventuate that the pair would not get their day in court that same day, remanded to be tried in the next session. What exactly transpired between the young men in that cell can only be guessed at, but this would prove to be a fateful friendship.
Dan’s first and only conviction came from an incident at Goodman’s store, Winton, on September 28, 1877. Dan had travelled into town to exchange meat for goods. When he arrived the establishment wasn’t open and therefore no trade took place. Annoyed, Dan went drinking with his cousins Tom and Jack then returned with them to Goodman’s store, drunk. Dan smashed in the door and took the goods he sought. A man going by the name Moses Solomon was also there and claimed he was assaulted by the rowdy larrikins. Tom Lloyd lingered and flashed Mrs. Goodman, the other two pushing Tom into her with the lights out. Dan was found guilty of wilfully damaging the property and sentenced to three months in Beechworth Gaol. Tom Lloyd was additionally charged with intent to rape but was found not guilty, yet still got six months for his part. Dan did his time in Beechworth Gaol without incident. Almost miraculously for a Kelly boy he managed to get through his sentence without incurring any additional penalties. Three months crushing granite would have given Dan bigger muscles, but also greater resolve to walk the straight and narrow once he was out. Unfortunately fate had a different plan for him.
While Dan was still in prison a warrant was issued for his arrest. A witness saw two young men they believed to be Dan Kelly and Jack Lloyd leading a mob of stolen horses near Chiltern. They reported it to the police and the paperwork was duly issued. This was noted by Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick after reading the announcement in the Police Gazette. On April 15, 1878, Fitzpatrick was sent from Benalla to take over at Greta police station. Fitzpatrick informed his superior, Sergeant Whelan, that he knew of a warrant for Dan Kelly and intended on arresting him on his way to the station. Fitzpatrick went alone to the Kelly property and what occurred has been subject to much scrutiny and debate. The general thrust is that Fitzpatrick enquired after Dan but found he was away. The constable then asked a neighbour, Brickey Williamson, about Dan’s whereabouts before electing to return to the Kelly house and wait. He was greeted by Dan who offered to go quietly on the provision that he could finish his dinner first. After this, a scuffle broke out and Fitzpatrick was wounded in the wrist. The policeman claimed Ned Kelly had shot him, Ned Kelly claimed he wasn’t even there. Each witness account conflicted with the others in some way. Regardless, Dan and Ned immediately fled to the Wombat Ranges. Ellen Kelly, Brickey Williamson and Dan’s brother-in-law Bill Skillion were arrested and charged with aiding attempted murder.
For six months Dan and Ned hid in the ranges. A second, fortified, hut was built further up the creek from Dan’s place using thick logs, and both huts were equipped with whiskey stills. The intention was to raise money for Ellen Kelly’s defence by selling gold and bootleg whiskey. Unfortunately it was not enough and Ellen got three years, the men each received six years.
After the trial police parties were organised to bring the Kelly brothers to justice. Warrants had been issued for their arrest. There was £100 on each of their heads; Ned for attempted murder, Dan for aiding and abetting. A party was sent from Mansfield to find the Kellys in the Wombat Ranges. The party consisted of Sergeant Michael Kennedy and constables Michael Scanlan, Thomas McIntyre and Thomas Lonigan. When Ned found the police party’s tracks he sent Dan to find their camp, which he duly did. The next day the brothers, roused by McIntyre firing a shotgun while hunting parrots, went to the police camp with Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. They hid in the spear-grass and intended on ambushing the camp to take the police guns and horses. When the bushrangers emerged they held McIntyre at gunpoint. When Lonigan ran to cover and moved to fire at the arrivals, Ned shot him. There was a moment of disbelief as Lonigan struggled on the ground. Dan remarked “He was a plucky fellow. Did you see how he went for his gun?” He then seized the police shotgun and searched the tent. When Lonigan’s identity was revealed, Dan exclaimed that “He won’t be putting any of us poor buggers away again.”
McIntyre took a particular dislike to Dan, describing his nervous laughter and his “grotesque” appearance in his oversized hand-me-down clothes. McIntyre fully believed that Dan would be the one to put a bullet in him.
Dan insisted McIntyre be handcuffed but Ned refused, believing a fear of being shot was incentive enough for the trooper to obey his orders. This did not sit well with Dan who grumbled that the police would just as soon clap cuffs on them.
When Kennedy and Scanlan returned from scouting McIntyre tried to persuade them to surrender but a gunfight broke out. Scanlan was shot, McIntyre escaped on Kennedy’s horse and Kennedy fired at the Kellys with his pistol. A bullet from Kennedy hit Dan’s shoulder as the sergeant retreated into the bush after McIntyre. Kennedy was soon killed by Ned a considerable distance from the camp. The gang looted the bodies and Dan took Scanlan’s pocket watch. The salvageable items were collected and the tent burnt as the gang escaped.
As a result of the incident at Stringybark Creek, Ned and Dan were outlawed with a reward of £500 each. At this stage Joe and Steve were unidentified.
In December 1878 the gang re-emerged near Violet Town. They stuck up Younghusband’s Station on Faithfuls Creek in the afternoon and began herding the staff into a shed. They kept the staff as prisoners in the tool shed overnight and stole new outfits from a hawker’s wagon. That night the gang chatted with their captives, answering questions but with Ned doing most of the talking. Dan and Steve were overheard talking about how they’d like a lark with the female prisoners. In the morning the nearby telegraph poles were damaged by Ned, Joe and Steve. In the afternoon Ned, Dan and Steve headed into Euroa to rob the bank, leaving Joe on sentry at the station. The timing was meticulously arranged to coincide with a funeral that would keep the townsfolk occupied during the gang’s activities. Dan acted as a guard, standing at the rear of the bank, making sure that nobody escaped or interrupted while Ned and Steve robbed the place. Once the loot had been acquired the bushrangers headed back to the station with the bank staff and the manager’s family and servants. On the way Dan rode in the stolen hawker’s wagon and kept his gun trained on Mrs. Scott, the bank manager’s wife, who was driving a buggy alongside, in case she tried to escape or raise an alarm. The raid went off without a hitch and the gang escaped with thousands of pounds to distribute among their families and sympathisers. Before they left, Dan gave Constable Scanlan’s watch to Becroft, the hawker’s assistant, and money with which to repair it. It is unclear what the nature of the damage was.
In February 1879 the gang struck again at Jerilderie. They travelled over the border to answer a challenge that they wouldn’t last 24 hours in New South Wales. The gang roused the police in the middle of the night and locked them in their own cells. Mrs. Devine, the wife of the senior constable, recalled how as the gang occupied their home during their stay Dan would bounce her son on his knee but later spoke in quite a violent manner in order to make her work faster as she decorated the courthouse for mass. The gang then went through town disguised in police uniforms pretending to be reinforcements against the Kelly Gang. On the Monday Dan and Joe had their horses shod at the blacksmith and investigated the telegraph lines before the gang put their plan into full effect. Ned, Steve and Joe robbed the bank while Dan kept prisoners under control next door in the hotel. The gang had successfully managed to occupy the town for a whole weekend unmolested and rode away with thousands of pounds in unmarked notes that could not be traced. In response, the New South Wales government doubled the reward for the gang to £8000.
Upon leaving New South Wales, the gang split up to reconvene at the Byrne selection at a set date and time. Only Dan arrived on time. He stayed for dinner and questioned the Byrnes about whether the other gang members had been past. Dan seems to have had a good relationship with the Byrnes, frequently stopping by in much the same manner for a meal and a chat. Dan also seemed to be the most active gang member, being reported as having been spotted more than any other member of the Kelly Gang. It is also probable that he partook in Joe’s favourite past-time of visiting the Sebastopol opium dens for a smoke and card games.
Over the course of 1879 and early 1880, Dan and Joe Byrne tested the loyalty of the Sherritts and various other sympathisers that were suspected of turning on the gang. On 14 May, 1880, Dan paid a visit to his uncle Tom Lloyd. Lloyd’s neighbour, a police informant named Jacob Wilson, saw horses in Lloyd’s garden and began snooping. He was found behind the cow shed by the dogs and the barking roused everyone in the house. Uncle Tom sent the dog to chase the man down and he climbed up a cherry tree. Dan Kelly and cousin Tom Lloyd, who were unarmed, fetched the dog and yelled taunts to the police they assumed were nearby, before going back inside. Wilson was so terrified he stayed in the tree until morning. Incidents like this were increasingly common and the gang began to stop visiting certain people in case they were spotted.
More concerning to the gang however was the rumour that had been circulating that the Sherritts were in cahoots with the police, fuelled by the vicious game of “Chinese Whispers” that accounted for the gang’s bush telegraph. On one occasion Dan arrived at the Sherritt selection on Sheepstation Creek looking for Jack Sherritt, Aaron’s younger brother. When he was told Jack wasn’t home he pushed his way inside with a revolver drawn and searched for him. Dan said they wanted to speak with him. Unbeknownst to Dan, Jack was at that moment speeding away to speak to Assistant Commissioner Nicolson in a desperate attempt to seek protection. Nicolson told him to go to a local pub and use that as his alibi. It was clear to everyone that the gang was getting desperate and had cottoned on that something was up and Ned was determined to address it in his next big scheme.
In early 1880 a plan had been devised by Ned Kelly to escalate the gang’s activities. The banks were too heavily guarded to rob as they had done previously, so now they were struggling to find ways to keep their network of sympathisers on-side. The gang’s health was also deteriorating as the rigours of life on the run was wearing them down. Ned suffered sciatica and sandy blight, Joe struggled with withdrawals as his opium supply was cut off due to lack of funds, and Dan was described by one witness as looking gaunt and hollow-cheeked. Police parties were coming closer than before to catching the gang and even had the assistance of an elite team of black trackers from Queensland on top of a network of police spies and informants. Ned wanted to end the pursuit in dramatic fashion by luring a trainload of police and trackers to be derailed at Glenrowan. He sent Dan and Joe to create a commotion at Aaron Sherritt’s hut, where a team of constables had been allocated to protect him, as the bait. On Saturday 26 June, Dan and Joe kidnapped Aaron’s neighbour Anton Wick and used him to lure Aaron to his back door whereupon he was murdered by Joe with a shotgun. Dan guarded the front door in case the police that were hiding inside tried to escape. The two bushrangers then terrorised the party of constables as they cowered in the bedroom, Aaron’s mother-in-law and pregnant wife stuck between the two sides. Attempts to burn the place failed and the outlaws rode away two hours later. It would be midday the next day before any of the police were brave enough to see if they had gone. Initially Ellen Barry, the mother-in-law, stated that Dan had been quiet when entering the hut with a pistol. It was only later when attempts were being made to gain a payout from the police that she would describe him resting on the table as he looked at the murdered Sherritt with a grin.
Dan and Joe arrived at Glenrowan at around 5am on 27 June, 1880. Dan was immediately employed with tending the horses and carrying the gang’s armour into the Glenrowan Inn. Over the course of the day Dan guarded the prisoners in the inn and even initiated dancing to keep them entertained. He was seen to get intimate with Jane Jones, the publican’s daughter, she having been spotted sitting on his knee and kissing him, even being given one of his revolvers to use while she kept the prisoners at bay when Dan had to leave the room. As the weekend rolled on and the special train did not appear as expected, tensions began to rise. Multiple times during the gang’s stay at Glenrowan, Dan told Ned they should leave and argued the point only to be shouted down by his brother who was determined that they would stay and fight. The longer they waited the more difficult it became to keep the prisoners under control and the more they risked accidentally derailing a civilian train. Ned refused to heed his brother’s pleas. When Ned decided to release Thomas Curnow, the school teacher, Dan argued publicly with him as he knew Curnow could not be trusted. Curnow had spent the day trying to butter Ned up, a suspicious Dan watching like a hawk. Sure enough, when the train did appear in the early hours of 28 June, Curnow warned the police that the tracks were damaged and the gang was in Glenrowan. Just before the train arrived, Dan had told the prisoners to head home, however they were detained by Ann Jones who told them to wait for Ned to make a speech. If Dan’s instructions had not been countermanded a considerable amount of the tragedy that was to unfold could have been avoided.
When the train arrived the gang dressed in their homemade armour and engaged in a gun battle. Ned and Joe were wounded early on and they retreated inside. Ned soon disappeared into the bush behind the inn and Dan took control of the situation, doing his best to evacuate the women and children despite the relentless firing from police. Joe was shot dead by a police bullet early in the morning and Dan and Steve became very disheartened, believing Ned had also been killed or had abandoned them. When Ned re-emerged just before 7am the remaining gang provided covering fire from the inn, but within a half hour Ned was captured and the two bushrangers were stuck in the inn surrounded by police in broad daylight. Dan had received a bullet in the leg that shattered his knee and necessitated a retreat into the inn. At 10am the rest of the prisoners were released and Dan and Steve remained inside. As the prisoners left they shook Dan’s hand.
What happened in the inn next is unknown but it is possible that Dan was struck in the neck by a bullet while his helmet was off and killed or that he took his own life by taking poison. All that is known for certain is that at 3pm the inn was burned and while it was on fire his corpse was witnessed by multiple people, in the back room still in body armour and resting on a pillow made of sacks. The body was effectively cremated in the fire and the burnt remains released to his family. Later, Dr. Hutchison, a medic who had been called up to assist during the siege, retrieved what was believed to be Dan’s foot from the ruins and the scorched bones were handed down through the family.
Around 200 people attended the wake at Maggie Skillion‘s home, many of whom were drunk and armed. Police efforts to reclaim the bodies were scrapped in response, the risks being too high. Though there are a number of (probably deliberately) conflicting oral histories with respect to the location of the last resting place of the two outlaws, most accounts indicate Dan Kelly was buried in an unmarked double grave in Greta cemetery with Steve Hart. The location within the cemetery of the exact double grave they were interred in is a closely guarded secret in family traditions in an effort to avoid the graves being disturbed. Unfortunately, this has added fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories and in one infamous case a particularly motivated “truther” went through the cemetery plunging steel probes into grave sites hoping to prove that there were no coffins in them. When Ellen Kelly died the 1923, she was buried in an unmarked plot next to the official spot where Red Kelly’s youngest son is buried.
In the years after Glenrowan there were rumours that Dan and Steve had escaped to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. In 1911, novellist Ambrose Pratt, author behind the memoirs of Captain Thunderbolt’s apprentice William Monckton, published a book claiming to be the memoirs of Dan Kelly. In fact, many people claimed to be Dan Kelly over the years, most notably a tramp called James Ryan whose ridiculous attempt to cash in on the survival rumours were published in the press and convinced scores of people who lacked knowledge of basic facts of the story. Ryan’s story even inspired the utterly woeful film The Glenrowan Affair. Ryan was killed by a coal train in the 1933 and is buried in Ipswich, Queensland. In order to lure tourists, the cemetery even erected a memorial telling the story of the claimant. None of the alleged Dans ever had any solid case to back their claims up but the myths of a miraculous escape from the burning inn persist to this day.
Dan Kelly was, in most ways, at least as competent as his big brother. As a horseman, tracker and marksman, his abilities were perhaps even better. Certainly he was more ruthless than Ned, a pragmatism that some interpreted as callousness or even psychopathy. It must be remembered that the gang were wanted dead or alive (preferably dead) and mistakes could not be afforded. Dan was a much better judge of character than Ned and certainly better at performing under pressure. Even the Kelly matriarch was known to have held Dan in more regard than Ned in these measures.
Unlike his brothers, Dan was fairly successful at avoiding trouble. In fact, it is probably telling that the worst trouble in Dan’s life seemed to come from following Ned’s and Jim’s lead. Imagine how different the story would have turned out if Dan had been able to accompany Fitzpatrick as intended, before Ned and Ellen had attacked the policeman. A stint in the logs, a quick trial during which the mistaken identity could be proven and Dan could have gone home as a free man. Sadly, as in all things, life never pans out the way we think it should.
In May of 1870 the North-East of Victoria was abuzz as the walls were closing in on the notorious Harry Power who had been putting the citizens into quite a state of fear. The first domino was the capture of the flash young brigand who had allegedly been accompanying Power on various of his depredations, referred to in most publications as “Young Kelly”.
On 13 May, The Benalla Ensign reported:
“The Benalla Police Court was crowded yesterday to see the young bushranger Kelly, and to hear the result of the charges laid against him. The prisoner has greatly improved under the better and regular diet he has had since his incarceration, and has become quite “flash.” We are told that his language is hideous, and if he recovers his liberty at Kyneton, and again join Power—as no doubt he soon would—we are inclined to think he would be far more dangerous than heretofore.He has managed to get out of several ugly scrapes, and this success has not only emboldened but it has hardened him. Kelly was dismissed on the first two charges—that of robbing Mr. McBean in company with Power, and of the robbery near Seymour. Mr. McBean could not identify him, and the man robbed near Seymour could nowhere be found. It will be remembered that Mr. McBean did not see the face of the young man who was with Power when he was stuck-up, as he turned his back on Mr. McBean all through. But the Seymour case looks very like aiding and abetting. We shall see how the young criminal will fare at Kyneton, to which place he has been remanded, and where he will be brought up on Friday next, when it will be seen whether Murray can identify him. We regret to learn that there is no word of Power, who is believed to be in ambush in this vicinity”
The next day the Ovens and Murray Advertiser ran a brief notice in their telegraphic despatches:
“At the Benalla Police Court on Thursday, Edward Kelly, supposed to have been an accomplice of Power, the bushranger, was brought up on two distinct charges of highway robbery. He was acquitted of one charge on the score of want of identification, and on the other from want of witnesses. He was subsequently remanded to Kyneton, on a charge of robbery under arms near Lauriston.”
The Cornwall Chronicle reported on 21 May:
“Edward Kelly was brought up to the police court, on remand from the 5th, charged as an accomplice in highway robbery under arms on March 16, at Kilferd, but not being identified he was discharged. A second charge was made of highway robbery under arms at Seymour on March 25, but the person robbed was not to be found, and the prisoner was again discharged. Superintendent Nicholson then produced a warrant for prisoner’s apprehension for highway robbery at Lauriston, and asked for a remand to Kyneton. The Bench remanded him to the 20th inst.”
Evidently, progress was slow on the proceedings as The Mercury reported on 23 May:
“The young man Kelly, the supposed mate of Power, the bushranger, was brought down from Kilmore on Saturday night, and now lies in the Melbourne Gaol awaiting his remand to Kyneton, where he has to appear on Thursday next.”
The Hamilton Spectator reported on 4 June:
“Kelly, Power’s supposed mate, has been discharged by the Kyneton Bench, the police offering no evidence to justify his arrest.”
No doubt a disappointing turn of events for those wishing to get the juicy gossip on the nefarious adventures of the accomplice of the notorious Power. While the punters awaited further news of the trial there was a breakthrough – Power had been apprehended. On 5th June a small party consisting of Superintendents Nicolson and Hare, Senior-Sergeant Montford and a black tracker named Donald had captured Power at his lookout while the bushranger slept in his gunyah. On 7 June, The Kyneton Observer reported:
“The following telegram was received on Sunday evening by the Chief Commissioner of Police, Melbourne, and appeared in the Melbourne journals of yesterday:— “Power, alias Johnston, was arrested yesterday, at half-past 7 a-m, in the King River ranges, on the Glenmore run, by Superintendents Nicolson and Hare, and Sergeant Montfort, and is now lodged in the Wangaratta watchhouse.” Our readers will be glad to learn that, at last, this notorious bushranger has fallen into the hands of the authorities, and no doubt will be still more pleased to learn that Superintendent Nicolson of the Kyneton police, who is a most meritorious officer, had a hand in his capture. We are without any particulars of the event to the present time, but we entertain not the slightest doubt, from the character of the officers concerned in it, that it was brought about by the greatest energy and perseverance. Superintendent Hare has long been known for ability, and Sergeant Montfort, who for a long time was stationed at Wangaratta, has been highly esteemed by the residents of that district, and by his superior officers in the force. That the two officers will gain well merited applause for their feat need not be doubted, but we hope that Sergeant Montfort’s share in it will meet with more substantial recognition. Mr. Nicolson’s friends in Kyneton, and they are all who live here, were highly pleased yesterday to peruse the telegram which told of the capture of Power.”
Of course in a time when news travelled slowly (and often by word of mouth) some things would be lost in translation such as the following from Mount Gambier’s Border Watch on 11 June:
“The man Kelly who was apprehended at Kyneton, Victoria, as having been an accomplice of Thunderbolt has been discharged, no proof against him being forthcoming.”
Not only was Kelly discharged on account of the lack of evidence of his being Power’s accomplice, it quickly became believed in some quarters that it was pure fiction as reported in The Cornwall Chronicle, 11 June:
“The magistrates at Kyneton have discharged Kelly, against whom the police could bring no evidence. His story that he had been a mate of Power was a pure invention.”
However, the bolt had barely been drawn on Kelly’s holding cell before rumours started making the rounds about his potential involvement in Power’s capture. The Geelong Advertiser reported:
“A rumour is in circulation that the guide, or the black tracker, who assisted the police in the late capture of Power, was no other than Kelly, who was apprehended a short time ago as being Power’s mate, and who was at last discharged by the magistrates at Kyneton because the police refrained from bringing any evidence against him. The rumour is strangely countenanced by facts.”
Kelly was, in this instance, innocent of leading the police to Power. In fact it was his uncles, prominent Power sympathisers, who had played an active role with a magistrate named Robert McBean, the man who had laid the initial charges against Kelly, helping the police strike a deal with Jack Lloyd. After McBean had his valuable watch pilfered, Power instructed him that he would be happy to exchange the watch for £15 via Lloyd at a later date. This became a vital part of the capture effort. Jack Lloyd would later pocket the £500 reward for Power’s capture, deposited via the bank account of James Quinn, Ned’s other uncle and a known Power sympathiser. Fortunately, to a degree, there was some vindication for young Kelly in The Argus, 13 June:
“A Kyneton paper, in alluding to a rumour that the black tracker who assisted in the capture of the bushranger Power was no other than the man Kelly in disguise and with his face blacked, says that this is impossible, as Kelly has never left Kyneton since he was discharged.”
This led the Kyneton Observer to hastily eat a big steaming slice of humble pie, but refused to go quietly, published a scathing un-apology on 14 June:
“In our last issue we reprinted a paragraph from The Age, without, for the moment disproving it; which contained the insinuation that the late gallant capture of Power the bushranger, was easily accomplished by those who took part in it, from the fact that all necessary information was furnished by the lad, Kelly, who a little time ago was in the custody of the Kyneton Police, charged with complicity in some of the outrages committed by Power, and who was discharged from custody last Friday week. Some other papers published in the colony have been setting up similar stories, evidently with the view of detracting, as far as possible, from the exploit which has rendered Messrs Nicholson, Hare, and Montfort, so famous. In two or three lines in its Saturday’s issue The Age admits its error, and we suppose that the other papers that have adopted a similar hypothesis will before long do the same. It does not need that we should say anything for the purpose of adding to the value of the service which has been performed to the colony, but we may at least be permitted to point out that even supposing that Kelly was for the time transformed into a “blacktracker” the merits of Power’s captors remain unimpaired. Concerning Power, we publish elsewhere a brief record of some of his ants, taken from a Beechworth journal. As our readers must by this time be perfectly well sick, both of him and of his doings, we promise not to inflict any more of his nauseous career upon them, unless something extraordinary turns up in connection with the vagabond, or unless we break through the restriction we have imposed upon ourselves, for the purpose of recording his fate.”
As for young Kelly, the damage had already been done. In his community all and sundry either knew him as the boy bushranger or the rat who sold Harry Power. Even his own family provided no comfort; his uncles, who actually had given Power away, were seemingly happy to let the fifteen year old be the focus of innuendo, suspicion and scorn while they waited for the reward money to arrive (none of which seems to have made its way to the Kellys). Ned, having had to borrow money from Sergeant Babington, wrote a pitiful letter to the police on 28 July:
I write these lines hoping to find you and Mistr Nickilson in good health as I am myself at present I have arrived safe and I would like you would see what you and Mstr. Nickelson could do for me as I have done all circumstances would allow me which you now try what you con do answer this letter as soon as posabel direct your letter to Daniel Kelly gretta post office that is my name no more at presant
This in itself, with its rough phonetic spelling, disregard for grammar and innocent tone, would be enough to indicate hardships becoming a burden on the boy, but the postscript is far more telling:
every one looks on me like a black snake send me an answer me as soon posable
Yet, as difficult as life seemed to Kelly at that moment, it was about to become a lot harder.
“The Benalla Ensign.” The Benalla Ensign and Farmer’s and Squatter’s Journal. 13 May 1870: 2
“TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES.” Ovens and Murray Advertiser. 14 May 1870: 2.
“VICTORIA” The Mercury. 23 May 1870: 3.
“BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 4 June 1870: 2.
“CAPTURE OF POWER, THE BUSHRANGER!” The Kyneton Observer. 7 June 1870: 2.
“SUMMARY OF NEWS.” Border Watch. 11 June 1870: 3.
“LATEST TELEGRAMS.” The Cornwall Chronicle. 11 June 1870: 1.
TOWN TALK. Geelong Advertiser. 11 June 1870: 2.
“MONDAY, JUNE 13, 1870.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 13 June 1870: 4.
William Brookman was not a prolific bushranger, nor was he particularly noted in most history books. He was a member of the gang of Jerry Duce, real name Williams, former lieutenant of Robert Cottrell aka Bluecap. Duce had formed his own gang after Bluecap was captured and they were high end bushrangers worthy of being counted alongside the Ben Hall Gang – at least for a while.
Teenage Brookman was with the gang when they struck at Mossgiel and robbed locals at a racing meet. They then moved on to a store where they encountered Constable McNamara. The policeman wrestled with Brookman whose pistol went off, injuring the officer. In the scuffle Brookman and Duce were overpowered and arrested but their confederates Kelly and Payne bolted at the first sign of trouble.
Duce and Brookman were sentenced to death for wounding with intent to kill but the sentence was commuted to 15 years each. Brookman was released from prison on 8 March 1875 and what he did next was not recorded.
We had no intention of being bushrangers…. misery and hunger produced despair and in one wild hour we proved how much the wretched dare. It must be seen that Wantabadgery was the place where the voice of hunger drowned the voice of reason and we became criminals. – Andrew Scott
For years Andrew Scott had been at loggerheads with the authorities in Australia and had even toured the country lecturing on prison reform. Finally tiring of being dragged in on suspicion of every offence under the sun from robbery to assault simply because of his reputation after being convicted of the robbery of the bank at Mount Egerton, Scott decided to become Captain Moonlite once more and give the police cause to rue the way they’d bullied him. Taking his companions Jimmy Nesbitt, Tom Rogan, Graham Bennett, Gus Wernicke and Thomas Williams on the road, they decided to become bushrangers and make their way North.
Tired of being unable to procure work due to the police scaring employers off hiring him, Scott decided to head north where it was unlikely that he would be recognised. The boys decided to join him, even though Scott tried to discourage them. Taking only what they could carry on their backs the Moonliters, as they would be known, set off on foot for New South Wales. Unfortunately their plans to seek work en route were foiled by police that were following the group’s movements and overtaking them to warn townspeople about the imminent arrival of Captain Moonlite and his crew. Things began to get desperate as the boys were forced to get by on damper and tea. Occasionally they would be able to shoot themselves a couple of koalas to cook up or even the odd sheep that had wandered too close to a fence. Scott soon heard of a station near Gundagai called Wantabadgery that was run by a benevolent farmer who would always help out swagmen by providing either work or rations, so it was decided they would head for there. As they approached they discovered a young man in an abandoned hut named Graham Bennett who joined the troupe on their quest. Passing through the township of Clarendon they visited David Weir’s store and purchased flour. Weir took pity on the miserable half-starved boys and gave extra than what Scott had paid for – an act of kindness that Scott would make note of.
They arrived at Wantabadgery Station on 15 November, 1879, but were unaware that the station was under new management and when they were greeted at the gate by the new manager, Percy Baynes, after being made to wait for more than two hours they were unceremoniously told to leave without any assistance. This was the final straw for Scott who stewed as the group were forced to sleep on a hill overlooking the station during heavy rain. As the night went on he devised a plan – not a good plan, but a plan nonetheless – to stick up the station and make an example of the lack of charity that had been extended to he and his poor boys.
The next morning the group descended on the station once more with pistols drawn. Scott had given the boys code-names to conceal their identities. Nesbitt was Number Two, Williams was Number Three, Wernicke Number Four, Rogan Number Five and Bennett Number Six. The gang stuck up the homestead and held the employees of the station prisoner inside while Mrs. McDonald, the wife of the new owner, prepared food for the boys. As workers were brought in Scott noticed one of the workers was Chinese, a man named Ah Goon. Scott was indignant and believed this was proof of the insolence and greed of the station management as Chinese workers commanded lesser wages than their European equivalents and thus were hired by people looking to cut costs at the expense of their fellows. He stole a watch chain from the unfortunate man and considered it a fair trade for the job he was perceived to have stolen. The food was served and the gang ate all they could and as the day went on Scott tried to keep the atmosphere light.
When the station owners, Claude and Falconer McDonald, returned Scott took a liking to one of their horses. When he attempted to mount the horse it reared dangerously and Scott began to lose control so shot the unfortunate creature in the head. One of the visitors to the property that day was Weir, the shop keeper. As Scott recognised him, he made sure that he was treated kindly. There was a moment of terror when the station manager returned from a morning outing and Scott recognised him as the man that had refused his gang charity. He attacked the man with a horrendous verbal display and threatened to gut him or hang him. Baynes was not intimidated, and his insistence on spitefully riling up Captain Moonlite began to push the bushranger over the edge. Mrs. McDonald begged for Baynes to be spared and Moonlite relented for a time but Baynes had more guts than brains. Things flared up again when he called Nesbitt a “poof” and again when he tried to coerce Wernicke into mutiny. Moonlite’s fury rose to greater heights and it was incredibly difficult to calm him down.
The day wound on and as night settled in alcohol was passed around, making everyone merry. A turkey was cooked and served to all of the prisoners (though Baynes was pointedly excluded from this). At one point Andrew Scott took Claude McDonald with him in a buggy to a nearby pub called the Australian Arms Hotel. As the publican and his wife were absent, Scott decided to steal their rifle, raid the till, take some grog and the children who had been asleep upstairs. He left a note for the parents explaining that he had taken the little ones with him to the station. When the group returned to the station festivities were resumed. A piano was wheeled into the dining room and Graham Bennett, rather a fine tinkler of keys, played for the assemblage. Soon the women and children were sent to bed, then much later the men. Baynes was forced to sleep on the floor.
Meanwhile back at the Australian Arms, James Patterson and his wife, the parents of the abducted children, returned to find the pub ransacked and their children kidnapped. Mrs. Patterson was understandably inconsolable as her husband went to seek help. Word soon reached the police in Wagga Wagga and a party comprising of constables Howe, Williamson, Headley and Johns was sent out at 9:00pm.
It was 4:00am when the police finally arrived at Wantabadgery Station. There were no lights on inside, but there was movement. Captain Moonlite had been on sentry while his boys slept inside. He sent Falconer McDonald and Percy Baynes onto the roof of the house to give him a bird’s eye view of what was happening. The police tied their horses to the fence and proceeded towards the homestead but disturbed the farm dog who began to bark at them. Moonlite promptly opened fire with a double-barrelled shotgun. Nesbitt joined in and the police attempted to return fire, but found themselves outclassed. Moonlite threatened to burn the place to the ground if the police didn’t make themselves scarce, and Thomas Rogan started a fire in the barn. Shots continued to ring out as the police retreated through a swamp. Moonlite was furious at Rogan as he stamped out the fire that had been started without his direction. As the spoils of war the gang took the police horses, Wernicke attempting to mount one and having never ridden before almost went flying as the horse took off. The police meanwhile were forced to travel the two and a half miles to the home of James Beveridge, a local squatter.
Weary after the confrontation with the police, Moonlite instructed the gang to prepare to move on. They took their supplies and loaded up horses and proceeded to take the road. With Moonlite riding with Rogan, the only competent riders, at the front of the pack it must have been a comical sight to observe these supposedly bloodthirsty bushrangers struggling to stay in a saddle.
As the morning wound on word had reached Gundagai that there were bushrangers out in Wantabadgery and the Wagga Wagga party had been overwhelmed. Senior-Sergeant Carroll decided to act and took a party of police to sort the rogues out. Consisting of himself and Sergeant Cassin and Constables Webb-Bowen, Barry and Gorman, the troopers had a wealth of experience dealing with bushrangers and other hostiles – especially Constable Webb-Bowen whose reckless bravery was well noted. The Gundagai party rode out to James Beveridge’s house where they teamed up with the Wagga Wagga police and got a rundown of the events from the previous night. As a combined force the police rode out to Wantabadgery Station to take care of the bushrangers.
As the Moonliters ventured down the path from the homestead they came upon a team of farmhands led by none other than James Beveridge. The men had heard that there were bushrangers nearby and had decided to pitch in. The portly Beveridge was surprised by the flash Irishman with the wild eyes that pressed him about the groups movements.
“What are you about?” Moonlite asked “We’re looking for bushrangers,” replied Beveridge, to which Moonlite glibly responded “Well, you’ve found them.”
Moonlite then forced the men to dismount and line up along the roadside. As they did so he explained that they were now on trial for illegally carrying firearms with intent to kill. He selected two of the farmhands and two of his own men to act as jury and the “verdict” was not guilty. Irritated by the outcome, Moonlite decided to leave with one more bit of vindictiveness and ordered Beveridge to shoot his own horse. Beveridge begged Moonlite to reconsider but the bushranger could not be swayed and shot the horse himself, wounding it and leaving Beveridge with no option but to put it down.
As the Moonliters rode awkwardly along the road, herding their new prisoners, they were alerted to the sound of hoofs approaching and saw the troopers thundering towards them. The party had found the dead horse on the road and knew they were close and had ramped up their speed. The gang opened fire, the prisoners ran for cover and the police returned fire. The gang rode to the nearest building which happened to be a farmhouse owned by Edmund McGlede. As the police continued to pursue the gang, a posse of local militia had also arrived on the scene and took up positions on the ridge overlooking the action. The gang attempted to tie up their horses as they arrived at the hut and their prisoners sought refuge in the McGlede’s underground dairy.
Spreading out around the tiny homestead and barn, the police quickly engaged the desperadoes. With the gang taking cover behind the trees and saplings around the house, Wernicke reeled off a few shots before being shot in the wrist and abdomen, his tiny, malnourished, teenage body no match for police bullets. He hit the ground crying out for his captain. Meanwhile Nesbitt, Bennett and Williams were moving behind trees around to the kitchen of the McGlede’s house. Scott was beside the chimney and Gorman was undetected on the opposite side of the very same. Scott heard Wernicke crying out but the gunfire was too heavy and he too retreated to the kitchen.
Now fairly trapped, the gang hunkered down. Bennett nursed his arm, a bullet having sliced through the flesh just below the left shoulder, with Williams clasping his pistol but making no effort to fire. Rogan was nowhere to be seen, a fact that undoubtedly played on Scott’s mind. Scott thundered up and down the kitchen cursing the police when Nesbitt pulled him aside and the men locked eyes. Nesbitt appealed to Scott’s humanity and made him promise not to kill anyone. The half-crazed Irishman did as he was told. At that moment the sound of hooves outside caught Scott’s attention and he ran to the window and fired with a revolver. The shot hit the flank of Constable Barry’s horse and the trooper leaped out of the saddle as the horse fell. Scott moved away from the window, satisfied. As he turned he saw Bennett look out the window and take aim with his pistol and reel off a shot. Outside Constable Webb-Bowen had made the poor decision to reload in the open and Bennett’s bullet struck him in the neck. The bullet tore through muscles and sinews, driving into the constable’s spine and paralysing him instantly. Webb-Bowen fell yelping “Oh God! I’m shot!” before being dragged to relative safety by Gorman. Gorman was resolute and got as close to the building as he could.
Inside the kitchen Nesbitt took Scott’s Snider rifle and positioned himself at the far end of the room near the window. Just outside, officer Gorman was positioned just underneath that exact window. He flung open the shutter and wheeled around coming face to face with Nesbitt who put up his hand defensively. In a split second Gorman fired through the window, the bullet striking Nesbitt in the temple and driving through his skull and brain and out near the base of his neck. Nesbitt collapsed as Scott bounded across the room. Scott slumped to the floor and cradled Nesbitt in his arms, kissing him passionately and trying in vain to stop the bleeding by wrapping cloth around Nesbitt’s mangled skull. Nesbitt died slowly and silently in Scott’s arms. From this moment on Scott would put no value in his own life except to try and save the boys that had foolishly followed him into the mouth of doom. It was at this time that Scott heard, through the gaps in gunfire, the Wernicke was still alive and still crying for help. Scott tore himself away from Nesbitt’s corpse and ran outside. He could see Wernicke struggling with Sergeant Cassin who was trying to take the boy’s rifle away. Unable to pry the gun away he clubbed Wernicke in the head with his rifle to such a degree that the stock shattered. Scott growled as he approached and firing intensified. Somehow dodging bullets, Scott scooped Wernicke up and cradled him as he ran back into the kitchen. The wounded fifteen year old must have taken a slight comfort in the fact that his captain had not left him behind after all, but as Scott cradled him he died with a whimper. Wernicke left the world with nobody to care about his passing except the man who had thoughtlessly engineered the situation that killed him.
With Wernicke’s death the rest of the Moonliters gave up the fight. The police burst into the kitchen with no resistance. Williams was clubbed in the face as he was handcuffed and Bennett put up no resistance. With Bennett, Williams, and Scott accounted for the hunt was on for Thomas Rogan. It wasn’t until the next morning that Edmund McGlede would find Rogan armed with a pistol and knife cowering under the bed in the master bedroom. The bushrangers and the mortally wounded Constable Webb-Bowen were transported to Gundagai where the policeman was treated in a makeshift hospital and the bushrangers given a rushed committal hearing. Within a week Webb-Bowen died of his wounds. The premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, had sent the wounded constable a letter commending his bravery that reached him just before he died. Webb-Bowen’s widow wrote back to the premier thanking for the gesture, which had given the dying man much comfort as he lay dying.
The police at Wantabadgery were instant celebrities, with the papers singing their praises and a special meeting of the New South Wales police held in Sydney to celebrate the force finally clawing back credibility after the media drubbing they had received thanks to the Kelly gang’s visit to Jerilderie earlier that year.
While many believe bushranging to have ended with the execution of Ned Kelly in 1880, this assumption could not be further from the truth. A prime example is the tragic story of Henry Maple, the “Boy Bushranger” who was allegedly inspired by stories of the bushrangers to take to the bush in 1922 and live a life of crime himself. His accomplice Rob Banks turned himself in after being on the run a week. Maple was not keen to submit himself to the forces of law and order. An ill-fated trip to the bush on the outskirts of Warragul saw him cornered in the scrub at Glen Nayook by several parties of police and local militia. Shots were fired and Maple was discovered unconscious under a fern with a bullet wound in his head. He was loaded into a car and driven to Warragul hospital where he soon died from his injury. For some time it was speculated that he had committed suicide, though this was eventually ruled out.
Unfortunately, Maple was not the last youth to succumb to the glamour of lawlessness and certainly far from the last bushranger to grace the pages of Australian history.