As Bruce’s case did not come on for trial at the May assizes, being remanded till August, I was sent back to Braidwood, where I had no sooner arrived than I was transferred back to Sydney, to stay at the depot till my three months’ notice to leave the force had expired.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE DEPOT.
Before giving a brief account of my journey northwards after Thunderbolt I should like to say a little more about the depot at Sydney. The principal part of a trooper’s duty there is to put his time in, and make as much show to the public as possible. At almost every turn you take you meet a sergeant and they all have some order. You are taught to ride perhaps by some man that could not ride a chase for fifty yards in the bush without risk to life or limb. He is paid to teach bushmen to ride, if any happen to be there, which is but seldom, for they generally become disgusted and leave. You are stuck on a military saddle with long stirrups, and your toes nearly touch the ground. You have no power over your horse. If he gives two or three bucks you go over his head. You ride round and round, jotting away. The saddle is by no means fit for country service. The flaps are very prominent, with a small knee pad more for ornament than use, and the trooper is expected to sit in it like a forked stick over a fence. The knee pad is useless. You can only just touch the knee pad if your horse bucks. Your only chance when he begins to buck is to stick your feet well over the animal’s neck and then you might be able to get your knee to the pads. So allowing the first buck to bring your knees to the pads you are then out of the seat of the saddle. The next buck will bring you on the horse’s neck, or on the pummel of the saddle, and consequently the next buck brings you on his head.
These are the sort of saddles bought for the police to use after desperate bush riders.
Pick out one of the best bush riders and place him in one of these saddles, and send him to catch a mounted robber in some mountainous country, or other rough place; if he were on a good horse and succeeded in sticking on till he got from the top of a tier to the bottom he would have done no good but would have run a risk of crippling himself for life. Now, troopers are employed chiefly to arrest country robbers and bushrangers; at least this has been their work for a long time past. And what has been the sort of men they have been sent after but desperate and clever horsemen. Do these men use straight-flapped saddles without pads to ride in ? No. They use the stock-man’s saddle with a short flap and good knee pad, and, generally, the natives of the country are admitted to be excellent riders, in hundreds of instances as good as any in the world. Why then should these men, when taken in to capture bushrangers, be sent to the depot where it is merely pretended to teach them to ride. What good does this do? Why should one hundred men at one time or other be kept at the depot?
It’s a nice life to see the new hands tumbling in in all directions, but who pays? These new hands do not like a native who happens to join the force for the good of his country because he cannot help laughing at their awkwardness. But why should a country pay thousands of pounds on this tomfoolery when the men are totally unfit for the bush services required of them? And why should so much be expended on saddles and other things which are only fit for cavalry on a level country? What good, so far, has all this expensive cavalry drill done for the country? Has it tended to facilitate the capture of bushrangers, or the suppression of crime? I say the reverse is the fact, from the impunity with which bushrobbers can keep so long uncaptured. The employing of hundreds of men who knew nothing of the bush or country, and sergeants who know as little to drill them, is a very useless expense. It is not all prejudice with me, when I ask why are not respectable natives taken on as bush troopers? No expense is required to teach them to ride. One dozen natives in the police at Braidwood would have prevented the bushranging gang from carrying all before them for more than a week or two. I declare solemnly if I had been supplied with one good bushman as mate when I first went to Braidwood, and been allowed my own way, from my knowledge of bush manners, the country, and the people, I could have taken Tommy Clarke and Tom Connell twenty times over, before they had committed any crimes of note. This is no vain boasting.
A PLEA FOR THE NATIVES.
The fact is the natives are not required in the force. They are considered as only fit to make bushrangers, and many a promising young man has been driven to the bush by police persecutions. Do you suppose that all the young people who have taken to the bush have done so for the sake of robbing and plundering? They are usually disliked by the police and are taken on suspicion for some supposed case, acquitted, and retaken, and they are pointed at until they take the bush in disgust under the mistaken notion of recovering their self-respect. Not many are driven to this, but it is well known that two or three of the most formidable bushrangers took the bush from their self-respect being wounded by some police interference. But it is also a well known fact that many bush natives live by nothing else but rowdyism, and by horse and cattle stealing. There are black sheep in every flock, and I do not exempt my native countrymen, more especially those in the back parts of the country, where they run almost wild. But take what I call the civilised and christianised natives, and they will be found among the most loyal in the colony and the most patriotic. I could muster one hundred natives in a week that would fight to the death in a good cause, and these men would be glad to join the police from which they I are improperly excluded. But enough on this head.
THE TROOPER’S BOOTS.
You may like to know a little about the trooper’s boots. Every year there is a new issue to each man. He gets one or two pairs of pants and two pairs of boots — one pair they call Wellingtons, made of bad harness leather blackened over, with a toe nearly three inches wide and so stiff that it is next to impossible to walk in them; the other pair are Napoleons, or riding boots, often made of the belly parts of the hides. One year he may get a good issue but he will get four bad ones after it. I have been told that thirty shillings a pair are paid for these boots, but I am not sure that such is the case. If so it is much too high a charge, and it is a great oversight in the authorities to countenance such proceedings.
MY NORTHERN TRIP. — A BUCKJUMPER.
In briefly explaining these matters I have run away from my northern trip.
When I arrived in Sydney on transfer, I applied to go after Thunderbolt. My application was accepted, and I was forthwith despatched, on the promise that I should have permission to follow out my own system. I was to have two mates — one a tracker, and a first-rate man, a half-caste, and a very clever fellow in many respects. He was with our party at Ballalaba. The other chap was a young man belonging to the Braidwood district who joined the force just before the Clarkes were arrested, and as good a rider and as steady a man as could be found — just the man for the situation. These two started to Tamworth before I did, but as they missed the coach I pulled them up on the road, so we all arrived in Tamworth together, Tamworth being the head-quarters of the district.
We were to be supplied with horses, and whatever we required for the bush; but when we got there, there was no horses for us except two, and they were young things. One had only been purchased about a week previously, and had not been ridden by the police. As the sequel will show there was a good reason for this. After I had been there a few days this horse was told off to me, and the other one to the tracker. As I had brought up a new saddle with me, expecting to have a good horse, I had to get it stuffed before using it; one evening I put my saddle on him to see what he was made of. I was going out with another man to the police paddock, to bring in the horses to be fed for the night and take some out. As I took my horse out of the stable it was plain to me that he was all there for a trick or two; and I felt convinced that if he commenced to buck he would throw me out of the saddle I had. I made this remark to the men who were there, but they assured me a child could ride him, so I mounted. I was convinced then he would buck, from my experience in riding all sorts of horses since I was a child. I told the sergeant it would be better for me to ride him in another saddle, as I could get no seat in my own, being stuffed it would not sit on the horse’s back, and was a very bad saddle in every way for this horse. The sergeant and the men laughed, and said if I could not ride that horse I could ride none in the place, as the animal never gave a buck in his life. So away I went very well till the horses we were driving went off the road, and I started to turn them back. Away I went like the renowned John Gilpin anywhere the horse took me — he had no more mouth than a colt just yarded. I stopped him at last, and got on very well till on the road home again, when he bailed me up between a fence and a mud hole. Here he commenced pig-jumping, round and round, and the saddle turned half off, and I came off, but in a soft place, being about knee deep in mud. So I mounted again, and as I got into the saddle the trooper with me gave him a clip or two with his whip. Off I went again down the street, full gallop, with the horse’s head right up in the air. I tried to pull him in but it was no use. I was standing in the stirrups sawing away at his mouth when he propped short, and at it he went, but the first buck shifted me. I could not sit in the saddle. I kept on for four or five good bucks, more by maintaining a centre of gravity than anything else, till one of the stirrup leathers slipped off. I came over his head, and in falling out cut my left hand, and thus coming on the ground with all my weight on one hand on a hard metalled road my wrist was broken, my fingers touching my arm. This arm was helpless, I felt little pain, and only discovered it to be useless when attempting to rise by it. I got a saddler to twist it the right way, but he was not skilled. He straightened it, however, and ten minutes afterwards I saw a doctor, but my arm was so much swollen that he could only then put splints on and chance it being set right. I do not think it was properly set as I feel occasional gritting still.
After I was laid up the men let it out about the horse being a buckjumper, and that they all knew it — even the sergeant who told me it was a quiet horse; because the sergeant summoned the last owner of the animal and had him fined £2 in the court-house for allowing the horse to buck up and down the street and run over some children.
Now this was cowardly, and treacherous — to play a stranger such a trick, just because I had come over there to try and take Thunderbolt. If I had been in a good saddle the horse might have bucked away, but they played to get me what is termed a “burster,” and they succeeded in what they might look upon as a justifiable deception. One would have thought they would rather have helped a stranger among them to do his duty. But Thunderbolt is still at large.
Peter, the tracker, had another “quiet” horse, but having a good saddle he put the “top rail” on, and was thrown head fore-most. We were then in a nice fix, my mate with his head bound up and I with a broken hand and wrist; but during this time two more men came over, and one of them got my buckjumper. He put a blanket and a cloak on his saddle, another military one, determined not to be thrown, but he was thrown before the week was out.
PURSUIT UNDER DIFFICULTIES.
These two men went out to Barraba, and I and the tracker were to go to Narrabri. They would not allow the third man to come with me. I tried to get a pack horse to carry our rations so as not to show ourselves to the station people, as a great many of the stockkeepers would screen Ward (Thunderbolt) from us; but it was no go, we were not to have much chance of apprehending this bushranger. I only brought one revolver from Sydney, being told I should be supplied at Tamworth with all I required; so I had to put up with one revolver and a small Tranter’s revolving rifle. Being unable even to get ammunition I had to send for some to Mr. Ryland at the Sydney Depot. As soon as I could move my arm I started, first to Narrabri, and on my way I fell in with a squatter on the Mucki who assisted me a great deal. He rowed us over the river, there being no bridges, and the rivers and creeks being flooded, besides the roads being very muddy.
When we came to Cox’s Creek we had to swim our horses over and go over ourselves in a canoe, very pleasant travelling for a man with a broken arm.
We arrived at Narrabri at last where we gave the horses two days’ spell as the roads would soon knock them up. At Tamworth I was told I could get a pack horse at Narrabri, but I could get nothing, I had received some very good information to work on, but to work it properly we should have a pack horse to carry rations; for to be seen on the stations in the Killarney mountains would be to draw all the friends of Thunderbolt to watch us, a thing which I wished to avoid. My intentions were to scour all the ranges, running across from Narrabri to Bingera, north and south; and from Barraba on the east to the west end of Killarney mountains, a distance of seventy miles either way, a very rocky and scrubby country, and Thunderbolt’s haunt when on that side of the country, which was very often.
This is the locality where Thunderbolt lies to after sticking up the mail, as has been proved, but why it is not scoured and the offender hunted out of it, or captured, is very hard to say.
From the Narrabri side of the mountain there is only one place to get in the ranges, so I asked the senior-constable at Narrabri which was the least scrubby part to enter, as I meant going my own road quietly. The direction he gave me — pointing to a spur of the mountain — was the very worst part of the whole ranges. I might have expected this after the way I had been served; so with a small railway wrapper, a small damper, and a piece of beef we started, though the ground was covered with water. We could carry no blankets, partly because we could not get them. I managed to get the tracker one quietly and got into a row for it. The horses would have all they could do for they were without corn except such as was as black as your hat — half rotten. The corn had got wet, as the person in charge was too much occupied in curling his moustache, and cleaning his brush to attend to it. But though the corn on the station was spoilt, the Government is rich and cannot be bothered with these trifles.
Before starting from Narrabri, I asked if the storekeepers rode shod horses or not. He said no, and that if I saw a shod track I was to be sure it was a bushranger’s, as no one ever used shod horses out there. I asked him in which direction Barraba lay. I had a pretty good idea, having passed that place myself some years previously when going to Queensland with horses. This was seventy miles below Narrabri; but the direction the officer in charge gave me would have brought me out twenty or thirty miles wide of that place. He was either trying to run me astray or else he knew no better himself, although stationed there for some time; but it was excusable seeing he had not been very long in the country and could not be expected to know much of bush matters.
I was very glad the capture of the Clarkes was all over. Here were two men who could not be arrested for months, although the district was fairly swarming with police and detectives, one party running away from the other, and both sometimes running away from the bushrangers. If it had not been for myself and another in running the young chaps in Jingera to inform on them, I believe there would have been a worse gang out this day than any that we have yet seen, and that more blood would have been shed than could be dreamt of. It seemed to me as if the police authorities wanted them out, to keep up excitement. Clarke at first did not care for shooting the police, but one crime brings on another, and he had got to that pitch that he would have shot any one who came in his road. I am confident he would have had some more mates, and it would have taken years to put them down, unless the “system” had been departed from by the formation of special bush parties. Bushrangers must be fought according to their own tactics, and a bush party must expect to undergo many privations and many hardships before they can expect to succeed. If the police had continued to work the same system as before Carroll’s party, Wright’s, and other scouting parties were formed, the Clarkes would never have been taken. I consider that system bad, so far as the suppression of bushranging is concerned. I consider it a robbery to the country as the force stands now, and worse than if fifty bushrangers were out, because they rob for a living and only rob a few individuals in one locality, whereas the police system robs the state wholesale. It takes one half of the revenue to keep up a body of men that are quite out of their place. The force is established on the same footing as the Irish constabulary. The chief part of the force consists of men from the Irish or London constabulary. Most of them taken on are men just landed in the colony, mainly from the Irish police, never having touched a horse perhaps, let alone know how to manage one; and they have no idea of the bush, nor the ways of the people in this country. But they are taken on and sent to the police depot, Sydney, where they are kept three or four months at great expense to the country in teaching them to ride. I only speak about the mounted men, and personally I say nothing against any of them, horse or foot; I know many of them to be excellent men, as men in any way you take them, but they are placed in false positions when sent after bushrangers in a bush country of which they have no knowledge. As strangers, and acquainted with police duty, they do very well in towns and villages; in fact they are better for this kind of duty than the natives of the colony by far. But when it comes to country work, catching bushrangers in the mountains, it is a different thing. There may be found an exception now and then.
Well, to return to the drill. They are learnt to ride in a sort of a way, in about three months, under pay all the while; and they are learnt the use of the sword, quite a useless article, after the fashion of dragoons. The sword is quite useless at the present time for any practical police work. It serves merely to occupy the time of the men in cleaning and keeping them from idleness. Then they are learnt the rifle drill the only useful part in it, but though they are showed how to use it they are never practised in firing enough to hit the target at 200 yards. In fact there is very few of them that ever fired a shot till they were sent up in the bush to shoot robbers, and then when they come on him they blaze away anyhow, sometimes to the sky, thinking the noise will frighten if not kill. This has been well stated in those words of poetry on the late Sir Frederick Pottinger and his eight men when firing at Frank Gardiner in close quarters. This is such a bit of truthful verse, that I will repeat it.
“His warriors then, like valiant men,
With carbines blazed away,
While the whistling lead on its mission sped
But whither none could say.
For the snow white steed at gentle speed
Bore Gardiner from their view;
While Sir Frederick Pot, and all his lot,
Tried to pierce the robber through!”
Now, I don’t suppose those men ever fired a shot before, and so it is now with most of the men. They may be better now some of them by this time, but two, three, or four year ago, they were awful. Well, the first four months they are paid for nothing. But it is not only these men who have just joined. There’s the senior-sergeant with his large cheque to drill them, and he has some one to attend and wait upon him, as he attends on those above him and so on, to say nothing about the expenses for horse-flesh, fodder, saddles, shoeing, &c., to keep it up. It surprises me that the depot has not been looked to, for there are police employed as grooms to senior-sergeants. I was brought up in the bush and can ride almost any horse that could be found, but when I joined I was kept six weeks in Sydney learning to ride on a military saddle and use a rifle, but I never fired a shot out of it till I was sent to Jingera after Clarke when he broke out of gaol; but I knew how to use it, having served some time after Ben Hall’s gang as a special constable at Goulburn. It was after this they sent me to Sydney to be taken on the force. I had no idea they were going to teach me to ride but they did, and kept me there bumping about with long stirrups and fooleries till I could hardly ride at all. My theory for bush work is this :— There is not a district in any part of the colony but there are scores of young men, the sons of respectable storekeepers, graziers, and other settlers. They are men of intelligence, natives of the colony, whose time is occupied in stock riding, or other pursuits, but who are merely so occupied for want of something else to do. As an illustration, suppose one of those men was appointed the chief trooper in the district where he had been bred and born, with power to select his own half-dozen men. Can anyone suppose that a bushranger would exist in that district for a month?
Now I was drilled and equipped in the regular way and was sent out to catch Clarke. I never had any one with me at first, though I bailed him up behind a tree on one occasion, but I had to give him up on account of my revolver at first missing. I had a tracker with me but he would not come near after the first shot. He left me to the mercy of the two of them; but though I did not take them I took all sorts of care they did not take me. When my revolvers missed I was close to Clarke, and the moment my last cap missed fire he rushed at me like a tiger and called on me to surrender. I could do nothing. I dared not attempt to take him as he had a revolver in each hand and I saw the caps on the nipples plain enough. When he found I would not stand for him he made a rush to get his horse, but I knew he would have me then, so I galloped between him and ran the horses away, and while my eye was off him for a minute he disappeared — whither I could not tell; but I will own the truth — I got very frightened then, as I expected to be knocked off from behind every tree. I had only one fresh cap on, so I pushed home with his horses. If I had had a mate with me that day there would have been an end of the Clarkes. I could always find them if allowed my own way, but my superiors would have their way, and it was only once in the first twelve months we came on them in the official way, and then we made a mess of it.
So you can see from the beginning of this tale, after I had estimated the capacities of my immediate superiors, I tried hard to deviate from the system and have my own way with one mate; but they would never let me. Sometimes I got out with the tracker but at first he was useless when it came to close quarters.
Well, it kept getting worse and worse up there. More men kept coming out and getting in one another’s way. Some smart fine-looking men, new arrivals in the colony came up in charge of a party, but they knew not what to do, where to go, or how to act. It was all chance work. Some-times they would run up against the boys, but they could always get away. One, now and then, would be taken, more by chance than anything else. There was no generalship except what was bad. Now, if two men were together who knew how to work, and were to go out their own way, two on one side of Jingera, and two on the other, taking it quiet, they would all have been taken at the commencement ; but no, that would not do. Many and many a time I could have played the boys into my hands, and with only one mate could have taken the lot of them, but that did not suit some. The fact is, I showed my cards before I was ready to play them, and so spoilt a chance for myself, for I never dreamt but it was intended to catch the bushrangers with as little delay as possible.
But I have run away from the point of expense I was bearing on. Well, too many men is one fault in the police, not only for expense, but they baffle one another when in the bush. If some smart young natives were taken in the force and found with good horses — men who could ride well — good bushmen, and men who could be depended on, as there are hundreds in every district who can be — then bushranging would cease. There is a fine lot of natives who are brought up respectably, and would go through fire and water to achieve anything they took in hand; for it must show itself to the reason of every man that a native — I don’t mean aboriginals — or a man who has been some time in the country, and had some experience in bush matters, will know how to go to work better than men just arrived in the country. The knowing of roads, the nature of the country, the haunts, and the people is very necessary. A clever bushman never wants you to show him the road. If he wants to make to a particular house suspected, he goes to it at once according to his own bush tactics. If a stranger he would beat about the bush, or he would call at some public-house or station and learn in the course of conversation that so-and-so’s hut is over at the Black Range, or some other place, on a certain creek or river. He will then ride away in some other direction and slew round and come out at this suspected place before any one knows anything about it and wait the time to strike a blow, and then strike the nail fair on the head. Then its done without any fuss or trouble. On the other hand put some of them policemen from Sydney on this duty and it takes them some time to find out who is the likeliest to harbour robbers or the person wanted. A bushman would tell in one night in a country house which way the wind blew. But your Sydney man newly arrived from Dublin or London must enquire the road, and if he finds it out he goes about his work in such a way that the people soon discover something’s up, and their bushranging friends soon hear that the police are coming, long before the police have found out which way to go. Then some of the friends keep an eye on the police to see when they start. All at once the imported policemen gets some one to show them the road — but while they are on the road to the house we will go inside and see what is doing. There is Tom Clarke — on supposition — courting the daughter and cutting a dash. The boy of the house, or some one, is up on the nearest ridge looking out. The signal is passed and some one runs inside saying, “Tommy, here’s the traps!” “All right,” says Tommy. “You watch them away, I’ll be at the little camp waiting for you.” So, just before the “traps” come in sight Tom comes out and mounts his nag and rides away. Up comes the imported police — a fine body of smart-made men — they are now full of importance, armed to the teeth, they search the house, turn it upside down — no one there — they grind their teeth, and then get some dinner and return to their station, watched all the while. And perhaps a startling telegraph is sent to Sydney full of nonsense. The “traps” then swear vengeance on Peter or Jack for running them on the wrong scent, by false information. By-and-bye Tommy hears, all from the “traps” swearing vengeance on the person by name — that Peter sent the traps out. Peter has to fly for his life, or Tommy will give him a touch up, and Tommy has friends who will give him a touch up too. Peter, or Jack, or Sam, after being thus suspected and, in danger say I’d like to crack a wood on Tommy and get him “nabbed” but them — new-chum traps let out everything you say. It gets to Braidwood and then over the country. I’ll never tell them anything again.”
But the bushman, if let alone, goes quietly out of the house, and soon sees the little game if any is going on, and comes down on them “on the quiet,” and so ends the affair; while on the other hand the play only begins, and begins with Tommy having a full knowledge of the sort of men pursuing him, and becomes gradually familiar with the stupid way in which they are commanded. A man must be stupid who persists in any line of tactics which invariably fail. Fifty men only, of the right sort, would stop all bushranging in this country, and save the expense of the hundreds of men in the force, and horses, who are now doing nothing. Some of them are right enough for large towns and for serving summonses, and general duty, on certain beats.
There is Thunderbolt in the northern districts, and he will reign until special scouring parties are formed, or until some good luck befalls the regular police. I have applied to go after him but was refused, because my system was not approved of; but the pursuit of Thunderbolt, as I have been after him once, may be the subject of future papers.
In the foregoing papers many things have been imperfectly sketched, and some mistakes have crept in, which I could have corrected if I had been able to remain in Sydney and revise; but my general object will be attained if what is written be the means of drawing the attention of those now in power to the present system of police which appears to my mind very unsuited for the bush work of Australia.
As this concludes nearly all I intended to say respecting the Southern district, the next letter or two will have reference to a little duty after Thunderbolt in the Northern districts.
Mention was made of the arrival, as secret police, of Meare’s party, Turner’s party, and the two brothers, “the natives,” as I called them. The natives did not receive much information at our station, except from myself, and I told them all I dared without compromising my authors.
Turner’s party stopped at our station one night to spell, and as I knew them to be respectable men I asked them to sit down and have something to eat. It was all right till they left and then I got my knuckles rapped for asking them. “Who were they? They didn’t want them there.” I saw the old jealousy and swore to myself if my best friend called I would rather give him a shilling to go to the store and get some dry biscuits for his dinner. We had a mess, and all the police that came had to pay if they took better. Some of the parties who came frequently got the leavings. Wright’s party often called, but they generally missed the fat. In fact, it was most disheartening for me to be on the station, and I prayed for the time to come when I could get away. The Turners tried to get a man with them from our station, but it was no go. Then the two natives tried to get me, and that was no go.
ANOTHER HUNT AFTER THE BUSHRANGERS.
One day the superintendent, Mr Orridge, was out, when word came that three of the boys, the two Clarkes and a third man, were seen near old Mrs. Clarke’s place. Mr. Orridge is a fair man generally, and acts promptly when he believes the information to be genuine; but he only believed this at times. Away we went in two parties on each side of the river.
Our party under Mr. Orridge was to come on them, while Ford went with Byrnes to watch the house at night. We got on their tracks in one place, but soon lost them, so we beat about till dark when we came down near Clarke’s house, and watched a short time. The superintendent asked me if I were to ride past the house, as if coming from some other direction, and take a good survey, whether they would be suspicious? I told him they would, most certainly, so we went home. As night came on, the other party got near the house when up came the boys, within thirty yards of them, so the party all fired at them from their ambush; but the boys turned their horses round and rode away before faces. That night old Mrs. Clarke came to the barracks and reported to me that her sons Thomas and John were at her house when the police came on them, but what police she did not know. This was a bit of policy on her part to save herself.
THE DEATH OF BILL SCOTT.
Soon after this a man was found dead near Manar, supposed to be Scott. He was found near a tree with his skull fractured. On the body was found some revolving rifle caps and this led people to believe he was a policeman or a bushranger, or someone that used such rifles. As Scott had not been seen since they stuck up Boro, on their way back from Goulburn, and his body being found on a track which the boys were known to have come by, it looked suspicious. It was afterwards proved that the body was that of Bill Scott, by the clothes he had on. It is supposed he wanted to leave the Clarkes, and they murdered him so that he should reveal nothing, or “sell them.”
MY OWN UNFORTUNATE POSITION.
As I could do no good myself I used to tell my natives — “the brothers” — all I could. They had been out in the Araluen mountains and found some of the bushrangers’ camps, and finally discovered their last camp, and followed their tracks over to the head of the gully. Then the brothers came back to our station to get some rations and letters, and to hear the news, for they had been out a fortnight scouring the mountains on foot. They told me all they had seen, and that the boys had shifted up the gully way. I knew this to be true, for my oldest and best bush friend — from the gully came to me the day before, and begged of me to come up that way and it would be right. This was the bush friend who put us on them when I was with — at Jingera, and made a mess of it. So he made it right with the boys again, and they had come back to him. He was a relative. He came to me according to his promise some time previous, when all was right. But I had to tell him it was no use depending on me, for it was all a chance, whether I could prevail on our party at Ballalaba to go out at all, or if they did, they would merely go up and back again, as a matter of form. I told him we should make a mess of it from the way our party was constituted, and that he would possibly be betrayed by their blundering, and murdered. He asked me to leave Ballalaba and join Wright’s party, and then he would put me on them. I told him I could not possibly get shifted. If the superintendent had been out there at the time I would then have told him all about it, and he would have acted, perhaps If the superintendent was out, we had to work out any information we received; but when he was away, and he only seldom came to our station, sergeant — would only work to suit himself. If I had left my station and gone up to the other party, I should have been dismissed for leaving my post. So I told my friend how matters stood, and that if I was not up on a certain day to give all the information he could to Egan, who was my old mate at Jingera and Foxlow, and was now in Wright’s party. He promised he would see Egan, but before leaving me begged and prayed of me to come out at the sacrifice almost of my situation. This chap did not like sergeant B. and would give him no information whatever, but I happened to make friends with him, and he came to me as he knew the capture of the Clarkes would give us both a good start. We had talked it over between ourselves often. He was afraid of betrayal by trusting others, for they were very incautious.
Well, I told B. that I wanted to go up the gully to work a little game. He wanted to know my author, but I refused to betray him, because I knew if I mentioned his name in the barracks, the Clarkes would have it soon afterwards, and my friend would share the fate of the big Taylor. I told him it was a man I could depend upon, and that I knew it was right. Although I spoke the truth I well knew it was the very thing to stop me from getting there – and so it did. B. said the horses were too tired to go out, and he would spell them till he got some good information. I could see it was decided against me, and I walked out of the barracks sick at heart. After all my labours – after waiting patiently for that one attack, for that best of all chances when it was known they were in —’s hut, sleeping out at nights, and to be out of it when the information came, was to me a most grievous disappointment. The only comfort I had was to learn that my friend had gone to Egan, and thus Wright’s party acted with promptitude while ours treated the matter with indifference. I told my native friends to make up the gully towards —’s and they would have a chance. They promised to start next day, but it came on to rain in torrents and they did not go, so they missed a chance. The dirtier the weather the better in these cases.
THE CAPTURE OF THE CLARKES.
Our party were all at work next morning, not in the gully or anywhere else after bushrangers, but at home. I and another were paving the doorway with brick-bats, to be able to get in the mess-room, which was almost up to our knees in mud, when in came Walsh, one of Wright’s men, full tilt with news. Word was given to saddle up, to arm ourselves, and away we went full tear. We heard something about the tracker being wounded, and something about a hut and I could pretty well guess where it was. It was no time to ask questions the way we were racing. There were twenty-four miles before us, and the pace we were going convinced me the horses would not stand it, so I slackened and followed their trail, being jockey enough to know how to ride my horse. I soon pulled them up with their horses fairly bursted, and some of them were splendid horses or they would not have stood what they did. I was then going ahead but was called back to lead them the road, for B. had galloped along till he came to the scrubby ranges. I had then no occasion to push ahead to keep pace with them for I could not get them out of a walk, except Ford, who was mad to get up to the place. He told me Wright’s party had the two Clarkes bailed up and would try to keep them in the hut till we arrived. B. said it was no use pushing on too much as they would sure to be away before we got there, and I believe someone would have been very glad if they had got away. Walsh had gone on his own way. As soon as I found out how things were I pushed on as fast as I judged my horse could keep it up. Our men began to fall behind fast. Eleven of us started from the station. When we were within four miles of the hut, I and one of the trackers took our own road and lost sight of our chaps; so we pulled in and turned after them, and it is a lucky thing we did, as they were making right away from the place. We kept together then, that is all who could keep up, for it was a race for life, seeing that the least delay might be fatal to Wright’s party.
We came straight as a line to Guinea’s hut. We were in sight of the other hut, but could not see a soul moving about. We asked the Guineas if the Clarkes were in the hut and they told us they were. So we galloped across the flat and into the river head first. We all had to swim it. There was no time to look for crossing places. As we were galloping towards the hut, Wright’s party saw us and waved their hats madly. We placed our horses in the stock-yard and stripped off our boots which were full of water. I and Brown went close up to the hut to guard it, while Byrnes and Wright were forming some plan of storming it. I saw Tom Clarke at the window twice, looking at me, but as he did not fire, I did not, and Byrnes had told us not to begin firing until we had challenged them to surrender; and we were not to call upon them till he had spoken to Wright, and to look out for the other chaps that were coming and let them know, for when we were within two miles of the place there were only five of us left out of the eleven. Even Walsh, who had got a fresh horse on the road – we five were up a long time before him. It took us one hour and fifty minutes to get our horses, arm ourselves and ride these twenty-four miles over rough country, swim two rivers, taking the bush all the way, and coming out fair on the hut.
I passed the word behind as soon as saw the others coming up. I was waiting for our chaps to get in position before calling upon the Clarkes to surrender. As soon as Walsh got up, and planted behind the fence, he called out to them to surrender, when Tommy Clarke walked out of the hut followed by his brother John, both with their arms out, except the wounded arm of Johnny. I passed the word and I and Brown walked down towards the boy so that they should not make a bolt for it but they fairly gave in.
FAIRLY IN CUSTODY
I could not bring myself to shake hands with Tom Clarke then, though all the rest of the troopers did. Tommy asked some of the chaps if I was there, and they pointed me out. He eyed me for a minute and said, “I did not think we should have met this way. I always fought you fair, so don’t keep anything in.” I replied it was better that way than if he had been shot. He said, “You were just in time or I should have been off and then there would have been a different tale to tell.” He owned to shooting the tracker, and when asked by Byrnes who carried Carroll’s revolving rifle, he replied that he did, and he said he took the other rifle from the police at Araluen, and the revolvers he took from a policeman at Collector. He said Bill Scott had left him and was gone on his own hook. Tommy seemed ready to answer any question put to him, but you couldn’t believe a word he said, for he tried to take all on himself to screen his brother.
We had started and got about a mile back on the road when we met Sub-inspector Stevenson’s party coming up from Major’s Creek, so they would have stood a poor chance fighting the lot of us in a place like that. We all came on together to the Crowarry police-station, when I and another pushed on to meet Mr. Orridge and the doctor. When seven miles off Ballalaba we met them, and turned back; went to Mick Connell’s public house, and waited there till the escort came up. What with the different parties of police all meeting we formed a fine squadron. We got a room ready at Mick’s to guard the prisoners in during the night, for it was too late and dark for us to reach our own station.
AT MICK CONNELL’S FOR THE NIGHT.
As soon as we got them in the room Dr. Patterson examined John Clarke, and found he had been wounded on the top of the arm near the shoulder, the ball passing just above the bone. Tom Clarke was wounded in the top part of the thigh with a slug, that had to be left in. John Clarke had no other wounds except the one recently done, although it was confidently reported that he had been hit several times before. Tom Clarke was riddled through the legs. I asked him where he got all the shot marks, but he refused, saying “It’s no odds.” I asked him if I ever touched him. He looked very hard at me, and said, “No”, though I believe I did. I asked him about the shot I fired at him when John Connell was with him, when I fired at him full gallop with the rifle? He said, the bullet just grazed the top of his head, and that he felt the heat of it. I asked him a great many questions; some he would answer with truth, and others he would turn off. Anything that would implicate any of his harbourers he would deny with a look you would believe to be sincere. I don’t think there was a better dissembler in the world than Tom Clarke. He would look at you as innocent as a child, and tell you all the lies imaginable. John Clarke would say very little, and put on the face of innocence. Tommy wouldn’t allow him to say much.
As soon as morning came, the sub-inspector took charge of the prisoners, the superintendent having gone to Braidwood overnight, to report the matter by telegram to Sydney. I and Ford, and some others, went back to Crowarry, there to stop till Wright’s party returned from Braidwood. As we all got ready to start, the sight was sickening to see two brothers in such a position. At first I could not shake off the revenge I felt for them, but it becomes every man to forgive as he hopes to be forgiven himself, and as we were going to part, I walked up and bid them good-bye. Tommy gave me a curious look. I don’t think I ever felt so sick of anything in my life as I did then, to see two fine-looking young men, with all hope of life gone, and all through their being led astray; for no one could believe for a moment that they would ever have led the life they did if they had not been schooled up to it. I believe old Mick Connell and his brothers ran them on a good deal.
From the few circumstances just related you will form a good idea of Carroll’s position and danger, and no doubt conclude that, as so many persons were coming in dangerous contact with the gaol, it was no difficult matter for a few lawless men to decide upon waylaying those who were hunting them to justice. Carroll’s effigy had just been burnt in Braidwood, and among the mob looking on were a senior-constable and a constable.
THE JINDEN MURDERS
The intelligence of the murders puzzled me. We heard Carroll had gone out to Jingera the afternoon previous. We knew that a certain squatter had been seen talking with him in a public-house in Braidwood for a long time, and one or two of us concluded that Carroll was enticed out; and at this period, when, the whole circumstances have been so fully placed before the public, nothing has altered the opinion previously formed that Carroll was enticed out by false representations. Carroll and his party went straight to the place at Jinden near which they were murdered. They were expected, for that vigilant telegraph, James Griffin, who had been on the look-out, saw them approaching, went to apprise those who were in the plot, and then vanished unseen. Griffin was a particular friend of this squatter and had borrowed his rifle.
It is unnecessary here to repeat in detail the particulars of the murders. Carroll was evidently told he would find the Clarkes at Guineas’, a few miles from Jinden, and advised to approach on foot the next day, as they would be seen from a long distance approaching if they went on horseback. There were two tracks, or bush roads, leading from Jinden house to Guineas’. At some distance on the right of the upper track, leading to Guineas’, and about midway between the two places, there is a ridge of land, and it is tolerably bushy. The land slopes slightly from this ridge to a considerable distance on the left of the track, the ground being tolerably clear, with a moderately-sized tree here and there. Close to the upper track, and about midway, there are three large trees, two being nearly together.
Carroll remained at Jinden house all night, and early next morning started for Guineas’. They had no sooner departed than James Griffin stepped in, and treated Smith to a drop of gin out of the bottle which he had obtained from Mick Connell. What passed between Griffin and Smith at this brief interview may never be known. When satisfied that Carroll and his party had started to Guineas’ there was some proof, so far, that no treachery existed among the conspirators. But the Clarkes wanted further security. They must know that Carroll and party actually went to Guineas’, where, being disappointed, they would return sullenly, and be to a certain extent off their guard. When the “telegraph” saw things working right, the murderers were ready at a moment’s warning. Carroll’s party went to Guineas’, and, of course, were disappointed; so they remained for an hour or two and had dinner. In the afternoon they left to return to Jinden. When half way, they were suddenly fired upon by the two Clarkes and Bill Scott, who had remained concealed behind the three trees just spoken of. Phegan and McDonald fell dead. Carroll and Kennagh fled down the sloping ground with a view to get shelter behind one of the big trees, but they were pursued by Bill Scott and Tom Clarke, the latter singing out for the horses which Griffin held under the ridge above alluded to. They were speedily overtaken and deliberately shot dead when on their knees making ineffectual appeals for mercy.
The accounts of these murders, both oral and printed, and the description of them as given in Smith’s evidence are so various, that it would be folly for me to pretend to give the correct version. Putting the odds and ends together I came to the conclusion that a certain squatter made the plan up, that James Griffin did the telegraphing, and the Clarkes and Bill Scott the shooting part.
What share Mick Connell had in it I cannot say. The above opinion was expressed by me at the time of the murders, but there were officials who could not see it. One of the parties implicated had an official friend in Sydney, and the police, somehow, still had high notions of Mick Connell. The worst of the matter was, that some of the local newspapers hinted pretty strongly that the police had a hand in it.
POLICE INDIFFERENCE TO DUTY.
In eight days I resumed duty, very much weakened by mustard poultices and medicine. As there was an escort going to Queanbeyan I went with it and met my mates about half way out. As the escort passes within five miles of Foxlow we generally come out on the road, on escort days, to hear the news; so as my mates came for news as usual, we met before I got to the station. We soon heard of the boys again. They were on our side. They told a certain friend of ours the next move would be Foxlow, and they would give Mr. Vallance, the superintendent of Mr. Hoskins’ station, and myself a pill each. This information made our senior man stop at home, Although the gang was only nine miles from us. This went on for three weeks. We never left our station. The murder of Carroll and party had frightened many of our chaps. We knew positively that the Clarkes and Bill Scott were camped within a short distance from our station, and it was clearly our duty to go out and capture them if we could, or go through the usual ceremony of firing and being fired at, and making the usual official report of a conflict.
One day we were lying about in the barracks when a man from the farm came, and gave me the wink to follow him outside when he told me he had just seen the three boys in the paddock. It was a wet day and he said they had blankets over them. They rode close past our friend as if they had not seen him. When he came near the barracks, he said he turned to look behind and saw the boys rounding up some horses in the paddock. This paddock was only 900 yards from the police barracks. Our horses were close at hand so we put them in the yard at once and reported to our senior man the refreshing news. “All right,” said he, “let’s feed the horses.” We fed them. He then told the two men, one a senior constable, who had arrived, to stop for the night. After consultation they decided on stopping inside to guard the store. Their own sense might have told them that Tom Clarke would not venture until he knew the police were all out. But we guarded the store all night, as we had done for a long time, but no Clarke came to amuse us. The next morning we mustered our spare horses and found they had taken one of ours and also one belonging to the station (Mr. Hoskins’.) This little trick could have been prevented, if we had jumped on our horses at first and charged the boys when we were told that they were in the paddock 900 yards off, rounding up horses. If we had not captured them we could have done no harm in trying. If we missed them the two men at home had a deadly chance of shooting them. Because, if the boys were only trying to draw us out and to double back to the station the two police who had come for the night could have remained and been prepared, while we who belonged to the station could have mustered the men on the farm, and supplied them with firearms belonging to Mr. Hoskins and lain in wait for them. But instead of considering any plan we let them take our horses and ride away with them before our face. We stayed at home just the same, quite indifferent, courting the girls all day long, except at mealtimes. Laziness and feeding appeared to be the order of the day at our station. To say the truth, I was becoming very uneasy, for though we were at home guarding the Foxlow station, the Clarkes could have stuck us up at any time almost for we were scattered – one in a hut courting, another in the next hut playing cards, another in the barracks cooking, or getting wood and water, with no one specially to look out. And, moreover, many men kept walking about the farm, watching and listening, that one scarcely knew friend from foe. At last we had a civil growl among ourselves, and it would be hard to say what would have been the end of it if we had not been shifted. New arrivals came, so Egan and I were sent to Ballalaba, two fresh men remaining at Foxlow with H.
NEW SCOURING PARTIES FORMED.
Although the employing private individuals as secret detectives in pursuit of bushrangers had terminated so disastrously, yet the scheme of sending men in scouring parties was worthy of approval, especially where those men belonged to the regular force. And in proportion as these parties separated themselves from the formal routine of duty to which they had been addicted under the present police system, so would be the measure of their success, the more so if such parties were under good leaders who were allowed the exercise of their own judgments. If the formation of Carroll’s party did no other good, it forced upon the country the necessity of giving up the regimental sham, and using the police in a manner more in accordance with the requirements of bush life. The present police system requires that every policeman shall do his duty. This notion of duty is something akin to the old soldier’s mechanical, without reflection, two hours on and four off — punctually at his post, punctually relieved, punctually in bed, and punctually at his meals. And when on parade it is “heads up,” and “eyes front” with him — buttons shining, boots and pouchbox well polished. Some police will part their hair straight in the centre, like many government clerks, oil and scent it, clean their finger nails and start off, in a gentlemanly sort of way after bushrangers but they’ll take care not to rough it much when out as a matter of form among safe ranges.
Well, there seemed now to be a chance. Egan and myself were sent to Ballalaba, and two fresh men were sent in our place to Foxlow. Two bush parties were formed one under Wright, the other under sub-inspector Brennan. It was my misfortune to be with Ford at Ballalaba, while my mate luckily got with Wright. Ford was acting under Byrnes’ instructions. Brennan’s party was at Crowarry, but unfortunately he was called as a witness to Yass and did not return, I told Brennan how things were going on. He said he could see, and when he came back he would put matters to the right about, and for me to say nothing. Captain Battye with his men, who bad been out all day, called one night and asked the man in charge to get them something to eat but he refused; so the captain reported him but got no satisfaction. I mentioned to Captain Battye that I could get the best of information about the boys, and that with two reliable mates I could do good. He reported and recommended this to the superintendent who came out and asked what information I had. I told him the boys had gone to Goulburn, but but he did not think so, and told me I would be placed in Ford’s party. We went out every day but saw nothing. In a few days we heard the mail had been stuck up near Goulburn.
MORE SHUFFLING OF DUTY,
One day, being in the gully, we called at a certain place. My bush friend told me the two Clarkes were back, but that Bill Scott was not with them. This was on a Saturday. The Clarkes would be at a certain place on Sunday or Monday night for certain. We decided to watch the place both nights. The first evening, about an hour before sundown, we saw smoke rising about three miles at the back of the house, in a dark scrubby mountain. We started, thinking to catch them in the camp. One sergeant refused to go. We found the embers of the fire, and followed tracks till dark, when we returned to the house where a supper was ready. We had supper, one standing guard. We were informed positively the boys would be there before morning, but we went to our barracks. Instead of going out the next night we remained at home and had the mortification of afterwards hearing that Tommy Clarke had called at the place as we were told; that he had his supper quietly; remained about the house all night, and that Wright’s party passed within two hundred yards of both Tommy Clarke and his brother. My information was from a safe source and I knew it if I had power to act, but I was under an incredulous leader, who was not over-fond of bush work, and who would act more from B’s instructions, rather than in a manner which was demanded by the necessities of the case. We once on a wet day, got safely on their tracks, knew where they were going, but instead of lying by, we actually pushed on to the house and had supper. F. asked if it was any use stopping all night? I told him no, flatly; because, the boys would soon be told by the inmates or the children, who were expert “telegraphs,” that we were about. We rode fifty miles that day and spoilt a good chance after all. This game continued day after day. A more unskilful and self-willed leader it was never before my misfortune to be under. Where a party of four or five join for a common purpose, it is obviously for each one’s interest that matters should be well considered. If one of the party had a private and reliable source of information the others should take counsel among themselves and test it. But from the “system” the man in charge is presumed to know, at least he always assumes to know more than those under him.
If I wanted to go one way F. would go another just as B. told him, and home again. This continued, and was repeated so many times that it would be wearisome to relate them. The day we followed the tracks of the boys for fifty miles in the Araluen mountain, it came on to rain hard and we rode home. In speaking to F. about his conduct before the sergeant and all hands at supper, he said the boys were not in that direction. I asked him what he meant after following their tracks all day. He said they were tracks of stockmen, looking for cattle, and persisted in this and swore they were not out in that direction, but he had only just come to the district and knew little of the Clarkes’ way of travelling. The half-caste tracker who was with us, a man who had been born in the Jingera country, and who knew the way of the people better than any of us, swore it was them. But when a senior-constable contradicts a man to his teeth, against the most palpable evidence, what can a trooper do? We had a row on the subject and I wrote out my resignation, with an explanation why I was leaving the police, in the hope of bringing about an inquiry. But the superintendent said it was a curious resignation and that he did not believe what I said in it, but he would forward it on. There were some who were very glad that I was resigning out of their road.
ANOTHER WILD-GOOSE CHASE.
Now the boys were at Bell’s Creek that morning and made across the mountains to the very house we had dinner in, and they remained in the house that night. Tommy Clarke owned to this after he surrendered.
Soon after this information came to our station that the boys were seen camping out in the Araluen ranges. We went out with a special constable with us. We made a complete circle, and crossed our track when we discovered fresh tracks following our own. We concluded these to be the boys tracks and followed them to near the place where the Araluen police had agreed to meet our party from Ballalaba. The other party after getting their dinner on the hill parted and went home before we reached there the second time. We returned to the tracks and found them also going to the meeting place. Now it seems the Clarkes had followed our trail up to see who we were, and saw the other chaps getting their dinner, watched them away, and went over to their camp and had a smoke; so that when we came up to the fire the Clarkes had only just gone. We followed their tracks for a short distance when F. said it was not them and would go home. The special constable tried to persuade him, but it was useless. I said nothing, knowing it was useless to try to convince him, so we pushed for home. Was this doing duty fairly? Tommy Clarke told us afterwards that we passed close to him after we had got about a mile from the meeting place, so that if we had followed up the trail we should have come on them, as they believed they were safe after seeing the other party go homewards; and seeing us making for home they never dreamt we should have come back to our old tracks. So here was another chance lost, and F. ready to swear we were only humbugging him as he could not see fresh tracks. The man could hardly tell a horse track from a bullock’s.
AN INGENIOUS TRAP.
About this time there was a call made on us to go over the range, as a woman out there had lost her child the evening before and could not find him. So out we went about twelve miles away, and beat about looking for the child till night, but could see nor hear anything of the lad. It was just dark when we got back to the house, and found a whole squad of horsemen who were looking for the boy. We noticed two or three of the Clarke’s “telegraphs,” and suspected there was something up. At first we thought it was a draw, to stick up our station, or some place about; but we went inside, and between tears and groans the woman asked me if I carried a revolving rifle, and who else did; and then she wanted us to put the horses in the paddock and stop till morning; then she wanted us to try a nobbler — a drop of real good stuff — but we saw through it all, though we pretended not. We told her we were going to have another turn round, and then we could come and stop for the night. As soon as a chance offered I told F. there was a plan concocting to shoot me and the only chance we had was to give them all the slip till daylight, and then come back and see if the child was at home. As soon as we started to go away, they wanted to know where we were going to camp, and they would go with us right or wrong; but we told them we were going down the side of the range, and would meet them down on the creek at the old hut.
They did not seem to believe it, but when we told them we should be sure to be there they appeared satisfied. There was a farmer there that put in a word for me, and so we parted. This farmer told me privately he knew there was something up, and to look out sharp, for the old woman was up to some mischief. The questions she put about the rifles made me think we were about to be stuck up in earnest. She would have poisoned me if I had drank anything. Those with me knew little of the bush dodges, and as to F. he foolishly believed all she had said and would have stopped in the house for the night with all the mob around us. But F. agreed to take my advice for once, and it was a lucky thing he did, or the world would not have troubled him long; but it was me the Clarkes specially wanted, and I knew I had only myself to depend upon, to keep my wits clear, and my arms always ready.
So we started away in the direction we told them we should go until out of hearing, and then turned silently over the range, and up the other way, and came round to the next house and had some supper. Then we made another double; and at last camped in the creek, about two miles from the aforesaid house of corruption. We tied our horses to trees in the creek, and laid down till morning, without a fire, and then made down to the old woman’s house again, when lo and behold, there was the child, said to have been found at daylight that morning about four miles away. The child it was said had been out two days and nights with-out anything to eat, but still was as fresh as a daisy. It was all a sham. When they found we had given them the slip they brought the child home. He was over at the next house all the while; so we got some breakfast and went home; but you may depend upon it if I could have got a chance at the coves about there I would have touched them up a bit. Some of them joined us going home; and one chap told me confidentially not to trust the woman, and to keep an eye about the place as the “boys” were there sometimes, and also at the back of his place where they kept some horses. He said he would get me one of the horses in the yard, along with some of his own, and he would let me know, so that I could take the horse on suspicion, without throwing any down on him and he would do more for me. So he sent word to the station, but the sergeant said he didn’t believe in any flash natives, nor would he work with them. The chap let the horse out again and shortly after Clarke came and took it.
I know this person meant working honestly. In fact he told me one of his brothers was very thick with the boys, and was afraid he would get into some trouble, so the sooner the Clarkes were taken the better. By working quietly with him he would put us on them. The two brothers came to the station one day to give us information, and I was positively ordered to send them away.
Now the country was crying out about us not doing our duty, and the people not giving information to the police. It was no use giving us any information for we took no notice of it if they did. If I had had two mates at this time, and my own way of working I could have taken the two Clarkes simply enough, but that would not suit others. It was no odds. Our pay was going on, and what matter to us if it cost the Government ten thousand pounds a month. Our wise senior men were hoping some more smart men would join the gang and keep the play up.
Such was the state of things when a lot of secret police came out — Meares’ party, and Turner’s party, and two brothers whom I will call the natives — two as smart men as any in the country for that sort of work.
P.S. I regret to trouble you with a slight correction in paper VII. Some part of my letter appears to have been omitted. It was John Carroll, who is now alive, and a warder in Darlinghurst gaol, who was with Flynn’s party. The deceased Carroll, at the time of which I was speaking, was also a warder belonging to Darlinghurst gaol, but detached to Parramatta gaol where he was employed for a while as acting gaoler. Again, it was not McDonald but Phegan who wrote the petition for the Clarkes, and who perpetrated the disguise. Phegan was a native of Tasmania. His father, I believe, was a soldier in H.M. 12th Regiment. Phegan served his apprenticeship as a compositor on the Hobartown Advertiser, was well informed, a good violinist, and was at one time connected with a Sydney newspaper called the People’s Advocate. He got into some scrape at Narrigah, otherwise he was a respectable man of reputable parents.
McDonald was also a man of excellent character. He had been in the army for many years and left with high testimonials. He had been a police trooper in the district in which he was murdered, and had been a warder in two different gaols where his ser-vices were muoh appreciated.
After leaving Lucy Hurley at Mick Connell’s I went home to the barracks, thinking how I should nail the lot of them the next night, as Lucy had not the least suspicion that I was aware what was up. Who should I find at the station but senior-constable X. and constable W. with the news of the Gulf affair. I knew then that as the boys had been there they would be back the next night. I told X. this, but he shook his head and handed me a letter from the superintendent to the effect that I was to hold myself in readiness to start at a minute’s notice with X. who would receive further instructions before morning. This was a clincher. I could not disobey orders, but did not like giving up all my dreams of wealth. Here were all my castles knocked over as soon as I had built them. When you hear that a store has been robbed it is mere folly for a swarm of police to go to that store next day, in the hope of capturing the robbers; but this is frequently done. Well, senior-sergeant C. brought out these instructions and told us to push for our lives as soon as reinforcements arrived. They were not long in coming.
Sergeant H. had sent word that if a party of police went post haste to the Uram-beyan mountains, the boys could be all shot coming up the track from the Gulf affair. Well, X. was senior, so I asked him if he would push up the nearest road — that was, up the gully, and past the Jinden station, but old X. told me to leave it all to him, not to bother about grub, and to carry nothing on the saddle. So out we went to Wild Cattle Flat, had dinner, and then went to within four miles of Animbo, a cattle station, and camped by a log. We had nothing with us. We had made up a pretty good fire as it was raining heavily. We had a quart pot and sufficient tea and sugar to make a quart, and a bit of dry damper.
THE GONG GONGS.
We had all been asleep when we were started up and thought we were attacked. The alarm was caused by the gong-gongs hitting old X.’s cape with a loud crack. These gong-gongs are a large sort of moth, almost the size a small bat, and on a dark, wet night swarm like bees. The fire dazzles while it fascinates them. They will come as far as they can see the fire and fly straight into it. If they happen to hit the ground before they get to the fire, they will crawl into it.
As soon as daylight came we were on the road again till we came to the station where we had breakfast on grub as black as your well-coloured pipe — unfit for a dog to eat. We jogged on again till we came to Big Badger station, belonging to Mr. Smith — not the Jinden-station Smith. Here we got splendid quarters. This was our second day’s travelling from Ballalaba and not at our destination yet. I thought much but said little. I could have started from Ballalaba and reached the place we wanted to go to in about half a day. At any rate in thirty-six miles. The third day came and we got a man to show us the road to the track leading down the mountain. He came with us till within half a mile, and even showed us part of the track, but we had to go down one spur and cross the creek, and then go up the next spur before coming on the track. We went down the spur, but instead of going up the next, went along under the range for twelve miles out of our way. Old X. said we were going right until he got frightened and owned he was lost. Here we were after “the boys” for shooting O’Grady! We had travelled right round Smith’s station at Jinden and were making down for Araluen; so I wheeled about and made for Smith’s place, X. saying it was too late then for us to do any good with “the boys” who had crossed long before now. This was the third night from our station. When within half a mile of Smith’s house I pulled up and asked X. if he knew where he was. He had no idea, and constable W. who was with us, said he could not tell as he had been put out. Yet this X. would tell the superintendent he knew every house, road, and track in the district. He could not believe his eyes when we came to Smith’s house at about dinner time.
THE JINDEN STATION.
Smith came out as big as two men and wanted to know our little game. We told him kangaroos—that we were hunting. He said he had sent for the post and if we waited half-an-hour we should get the news, so we let our horses out in the pad-dock. He said he had no grog, or he would offer some. We told him a good feed would do us better. He at once got us food, but never let on about the Gulf affair, or of Fletcher being one of his stockmen, though he knew all about it as well as he, and more. After dinner we started for home and camped about a mile from his house. We took with us some potatoes out of his paddock and roasted them for supper and breakfast. It was raining all night. We were wet through. My coat was under the saddle to save the horse’s back. We came to a farm at about dinner time.
A WOMAN’S HATRED.
The master asked us inside but the mistress being a little excited told us to go to Bath. She said she would poison that —– so-and-so, meaning myself, and commenced abusing my gallant mate W. To keep her tongue off myself, and her poison too, I told her so-and-so was no chop. “Oh, the rascal”, she said, “I know him by his curly hair”. Now W. had curly hair and this led her to believe he was me. W. was getting a little frightened, and that made her worse. She gave him tongue pie in earnest. The others asked me to take no notice as she was abusing me so much. For my life I could not then have taken in anger what she was saying to W. of me, for we had a stunning feed before us and were cold, wet, and hungry. After dinner, and as soon as W. got up she rushed at him and seized his rifle, and then you would have seen some tugging. She said old X. was quite welcome, but W., meaning me, should never have a meal in peace in her house. She was a sister to the Connell’s, and so had a down on me for shooting at them.
AT MICK CONNELL’S AGAIN.
We then went to Mick Connell’s, and on the way were informed that “the boys” had got back, but X. knew better, and went to Mick’s for a nobbler, and it was hard to get him away. The tracker got screwy, and after we left Mick’s, about a couple of miles, fell off his horse. Old X. told me to leave him and come on home; but bad as I wanted home, and a change of dry clothes, I dared not leave him, as I knew he would go back to Connell’s, and as the “boys” were about they would soon have made a tracker of him, and taken his firearms and horse. To leave him there without firearms would have been as bad, as I knew we were being watched home, and he would certainly have been murdered. So I remained with him, and got him close home once, when he gave me the slip, and it took all I knew to follow him in the dark and catch him after a gallop of a mile among saplings. He swore he would shoot me but I did not believe him until I heard him cocking his carbine behind me. It was so dark that I could not see him. There was no road. We had to bush it for seven miles. As soon as I heard him cocking his carbine I turned round sharp and knocked him off his horse, and gave him one, two, for falling. I put him on the horse again and made him ride beside me. This sobered him, and he came on all right. When I got home X. had just got in. I think they had been lost. Sergeant B. was at home, so X. returned to his station. He told us not to let on about missing the track and no one would be the wiser. I believe he reported he was there but am not sure.
Now we had left Smith’s station that morning and stopped at three or four places on the road and then reached home early that night. Why should X. take three days to ride round the other road? It seemed as if he wished to avoid meeting them — though he was called the smartest man in the force at the time. The Superintendent believed he was the best man he had.
A DISCOVERY OF RACEHORSES.
Sergeant C. was stationed at Ballalaba at this time, in charge, and another active constable named G. They asked me if I thought there was any chance of coming across “the boys”—and I replied that there was. My impression was they had a camp out the Molongo way. Sergeant B. also had been told of some horses having been seen down Molongo way, below the station, so off we all went. This was my fancy spot for a camp. B. was put on the scent to find the horses. We found twelve of them, mostly racers, amongst them being Fireball, Deception; and Astronomer — all first-class horses. While I was mustering them up, the others caught them and took off their hobbles. We scoured all round but could find no more. Tommy Clarke saw me ride close to him, and he lay down behind a log, with his brother Johnny, till I passed. They told me this afterwards, when they surrendered.
We took the horses to Ballalaba and reported the matter. The superintendent came out and ordered a search to be made for a camp, so we packed up three day’s grub.
We started out in the night this trip and went properly to work, and reached the place where we got the horses, pitched our camp there, and let our horses go. As soon as we got dinner we started on foot, having a better chance that way of picking up foot prints and running them to a camp. The superintendent, Mr. John Wallace, senior-sergeant C., I and the tracker went out, leaving sergeant B. and constable G. at the camp. We were all walking abreast of each other, about a mile from the camp, I being on the left and sergeant C. next to me. In this way we approached a fern swamp. These swamps are pretty dry to walk in, but very scrubby. The tall tree-fern grows from 8 to 12 feet high, and is intersected thickly with a sort of wild rose vine and covered with small thorns. When near one of these places I heard a footstep and signalled to C. whose place it was to signal to the next man and so warn the rest of the party. But the step being so near, sounded as if it was coming out of the swamp on towards us. We were so intent on listening that the remainder of the party had not been warned by C. and went on out of sight. The invisible owner of the foot step stood as if listening for about ten minutes, and then turned short back and went on. We concluded the invisible had either seen or heard us. C. and I consulted; he was for going after the party and cooeying them back, and as they could not be found without calling, we knew that by making the least noise it would scare away the boys if near. Our only way was to pick up the track and follow it to the camp. If we went after our party we should have been again unable to find the track. To pick up the track of a man in the bush is no easy matter. Even then we should have to return to where we heard the sound. We came to bare ground and there saw a small wellington boot track. This being followed, led us on to what appeared at a distance a deep creek, but on coming to it, we found it was a basin or deep swamp with a stream coming out at the side of the mountain. Here it was difficult to follow the track as the ground was covered with dead fern leaves. Suddenly the track made down to this den of ferns, but C. would not let me follow it down. We went up a little further and went down into the basin and crossed to the other side, making no more noise than a cat.
TOMMY CLARKE NARROWLY ESCAPES.
When we came out we heard some one walking ahead. We both (senior sergeant C. and myself) stood behind a tree. Tommy Clarke came out and stood listening about twenty yards from us. I was levelling my rifle at him, and wanted C. to call on him to surrender, but he would not, and told me if I dared to speak, or make any attempt to take him, he would suspend me from service. I could easily have put a bullet through his thigh, but was obliged to obey orders. Before coming out I had been told that Tommy and John Clarke were there, and Tommy’s wife, and that Tommy was sick. Tommy stood listening for about five minutes, and then went back again. Now, here we could have taken Tommy Clarke, or have shot him, and Johnny would have run for his life when left alone. We could have done a clean, clever trick that day, and even if John Clarke had stood to fight we were as good as they, and our camp was hardly a mile below us, and they would hear the shots. The scouring party would have come; at all events we could have taken up a good position where we were, so as to have kept off half-a-dozen men; but no sooner had Tom Clarke disappeared to his camp — for we saw the smoke — than C. wanted to run for his life to our camp. Well, Tommy had heard us as we came along steadily, and to have run over the stony ridge then in front of us would have merely invited his bullets among us: at any rate it would be bidding good-bye to our camp. I pointed this out and told him he would be shot, so this made C. remain behind the tree until I climbed the rocks and had a good view on both sides to see all was clear. I motioned for C. to come up. This was our only danger, for if they had heard us they would either have fired or waited till we had got out of sight when they would have shifted.
As soon as out of hearing we ran full split down the hill to our camp and got sergeant B. and G. We were exhausted with running, and stripped, planting our clothes in a log, and then returned, with few clothes on, the way we had come. But C. would have it we were going wrong and so we got wider than we ought. Finally we turned short and got near their camp when we ran over a track quite fresh — a horse track, shod. We began to think it was all up. We followed this track till we came across three or four more — all fresh — so we stuck to them till they led us round to the head of the basin to the other side.
A BUSH FIGHT WITH THE BOYS.
When near the place where we first heard the footsteps, we found ourselves near the bushrangers’ camp and heard them laughing and talking quite loud. I crept on and listened to what they were saying. I saw the tent for the first time, and heard Pat Connell say, “Come, look sharp, and let’s get away or that — (myself) and mob will soon be on us, for they’re about somewhere. I tracked them to here.” As soon as I made out what they were up to I returned and told the rest, and we all crept up to a big log about thirty yards off, and fired into them without calling upon them; it would have been folly to do so considering the shelter they had. As soon as we fired one of the Clarkes fell. Constable G., a plucky fellow, wanted to rush them but was overruled. They at once fired back upon us from all points, cursing and swearing like savages, and we at them. We were behind a big log so they could not hit us. Their bullets went into the log, and some whizzed over our heads. I just popped my head up to get a good shot at the man who was cursing me so, but he was behind a tree twenty-five yards off. The lower part of the tree was hid from view by the ferns, but I could see the smoke rolling out from it. While thus looking two or three bullets swept past my head, so I squatted down. This sort of work lasted about an hour, when they began to surround us, at least they threatened to do so. Some began to whistle, others to sing, and swore they would shoot every d—l of us. This made C. order a retreat, for we were doing no good, beyond firing in the air. B. would put his revolver over the log and fire haphazard. Our only safety lay in parting out a little, and charging the camp resolutely. If they had escaped we should have taken their camp and horses, and cooking utensils, and been deemed the conquerors, but C. wanted to go to the camp for the rest of our party. B., however, said he would stick behind the log. Ultimately we all retreated about twenty yards behind a big tree, and had a “barney” over it, so I filled my pipe and had a smoke on the strength of it. When it came to my vote — whether we should run to our camp or stop — I said the minute we left our present position the affair was over, and therefore proposed to rush their camp, but B. would not agree, and ordered a retreat to our camp and consult the superintendent. So we ran away from “the boys” like men and left them masters of the field.
It seems that after we left the other chaps at first, the tracker came on some tracks from the same direction, and they ran them to the enemy’s camp also, and had gone down below the camp a couple of hundred yards, and sent the tracker to our camp for us, or whatever men there were there. When the tracker came to our camp no one was there, so he returned to his mates. When he got back we were attacking the enemy’s camp higher up. They could hear us swearing at one another but could not tell one lot from another and on that account did not like to approach; so they stopped for about an hour and then made for our camp, where they all were when we returned.
SLEEPING IN THE BUSH.
The superintendent inquired if any of us were shot and seemed quite surprised that we should have escaped. It was resolved to go back at once, so we caught our horses and pushed up, but it was dark before we got there, and raining gently. We went up on the side the boys were, and when near hung our horses up and crept along on foot. B. would have it that we were on the same side then as we had been firing from, and so put us out from finding the place for some time. At length we came to the spot and I had to be careful, for the boys were there. B and I went to where we thought the tent was and lay down till morning, with the superintendent and Mr. Wallace just above us, and the remainder of the party above them. Morning came and found us all frozen with cold. It cleared up in the night and commenced freezing, and we being half wet through, and lying still all night, we were frozen to that degree that “the boys” could have easily shot every one of us. The tracker could not stand at all. The superintendent and Mr. Wallace put a rifle between his arms and led him about till he got warm. We searched, but saw no trace of blood about the camp. We had hit the right place and lay down in the dark, but everything was gone, except half a bullock that was hanging over our heads, some milk, potatoes, bedding, clothes, and pumpkins. As soon as we found the tracks we ran them on some eight miles, still the superintendent decided that we were getting further behind, so we returned home and got a feed of which we were badly in need. There was another “fluke.”
We had then orders to take a packhorse with provisions for three days. We had information “the boys” were camped about six or seven miles further out, in an empty hut. I had the party within two miles of the place when sergeant C. galloped up to me and asked me if I knew where the hut was. I told him I could find it by my directions, as the country was just the same as I had been told, but he said, bullishly, he was not going to follow me where I liked, and he would go to the nearest house and inquire. I told him he would make a mess of the whole affair if he did. ” Mind your own business,” said he. “I’m in charge and wont be dictated to. Be civil or I’ll put you under suspension.” As he was so impertinent I let him go his own road. We camped close to “the boys” that night, and it took us till night the next day to find our road home again. Of course I was reported for incivility. These men, when promoted are very touchy. The superintendent told me I was only an ordinary trooper, and was not supposed to know if C. was right or wrong. This was doing our duty, if you like. He was frightened to tackle them again, so he kicked up a row with me to get out of it. As anticipated I led the life of a dog and tendered my resignation, but the superintendent told me I was too hasty and a fool to give up the regular force to join a parcel of volunteers, as I had threatened, as no volunteers should ever take them.
From what I saw around me, and from my knowledge of the bush and the people about Jingera, I had determined to go to Sydney, obtain an interview with Mr. Parkes, who I knew was going the right way to work, and join a party of volunteers. If I had my own way of working I could have found them in a week. I spoke to the superintendent about withdrawing my resignation, and he said if I wrote an application he would tear it up. I was stationed in Braidwood then for about a week.
Sergeant C. and B came in. Here was a barrack full of police and civilians from all sides, blowing a houseful about “the boys” being cowards, and that they would not come out and fight fairly. I got up and told them plainly they ought to be the last men to speak, as it was only the other day they ran away when “the boys” challenged to fight like men. Up some of them jumped and went to the superintendent and reported me again for speaking to civilians about police matters. This was the only point they could get a hold of — speaking the truth in the barracks. I was sent out to Wild Cattle Flat, then to Jingera. I and Egan, a plucky constable from Maitland, took it very easy here for about three weeks.
PAT CONNELL SHOT DEAD.
A man came from the gully and told us that Tom Connell was drunk there every day, so we went over and had a look at Mick Connell’s and came back again. About this time “the boys” mustered and went down again to Araluen. Information was sent to the Ballalaba police, that the boys would come up at some particular point of the range, so the police pushed out and saw them going along. The tracker watched them till they camped, and then the police crawled up, and fired a volley into them. It appears the boys did not expect anyone up there for they had stolen a lot of horses in Araluen, and Pat Connell was going round them when our chaps fired. The boys had hung up their firearms by the fire to dry. When the police fired the boys all jumped up in alarm and made for the first shelter. Pat Connell galloped back to get his firearms. The police had all taken up their positions behind trees, except Tom Kelly, a Goulburn constable. Pat Connell came close by Kelly and told him to stand back; but Kelly was not a man for nonsense, so he let fly at Pat Connell and shot him dead. The dead bushranger, the notorious Pat Connell, was then strapped on a horse, the police took what arms and things that were near the fire, and returned home. For this gallant action senior-sergeant C. was promoted sub inspector. B. was promoted sergeant, and Gracy was made a senior constable; but Tom Kelly the hero of the contest, was sent back to Goulburn, as his reward, and glad he was to get away safely.
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.
Since 1861 Johnny Gilbert had made a name for himself as one of Australia’s most notorious and prolific bushrangers. Beginning his career as one of Frank Gardiner’s lackeys, Gilbert inherited the position of public enemy number one when the self-proclaimed “prince of tobeymen” fled New South Wales. In his time working with John O’Meally and Ben Hall he had built a reputation of being formidable and unpredictable. His predilection for fancy clothes earned him the moniker “Flash Johnny”, while others knew him as “Happy Jack” due to his well reported jubilant and outgoing nature. By May 1865, however, things had taken a nosedive.
Gilbert was wanted for the murder of Sergeant Edmund Parry, whereas his mate John Dunn was wanted for the murder of Constable Samuel Nelson. Ben Hall, the only other remaining gang member, had so far kept his hands clean of blood, but there were other charges to be laid against him on top of the robberies they had committed. A failed gold escort robbery had left the gang demoralised and for a period they split up. On 5 May, Ben Hall was ambushed and summarily executed by a party of police. Around thirty shots were pumped into him and his body was taken to Forbes and exhibited. He had not drawn a weapon or fired a shot.
In the meantime Gilbert and Dunn had been on the run, attempting to find shelter with sympathisers. They had remained active in their depredations, bailing up a grazier named Furlonge as he was herding sheep on Friday 12 May. The pair stole his horse in exchange for one they had stolen from a paddock in Murrumburrah the previous night. Word soon raced through the grapevine that the pair were in the area, camped at Rieley’s Hill, two miles out from Binalong.
That evening, news reached Senior Constable Hales in Binalong that Gilbert and Dunn had been seen in the area. A search party was formed and began scouting. Hales knew that a nearby farmer, John Kelly, was Dunn’s grandfather and his hut was the likely destination of the bushrangers. The police rode there at once, got into position and watched the hut through the night. By 1am there had been no sign of an arrival so the police headed back to town to get some rest.
Gilbert and Dunn arrived at Kelly’s on the morning of 13 May. Kelly had been a sympathiser of Gilbert for some years prior to Dunn joining he and Hall, and was considered trustworthy. It was likely that it was Kelly that had introduced Gilbert to John Dunn originally to act as a bush telegraph. Gilbert and Dunn’s trust in the patriarch, it would seem, would prove to be misplaced.
Information got out that the bushrangers were at Kelly’s, the news reaching Hales at 8am in the police station. It would never be publicly disclosed how the information reached the police or by whom. Hales immediately formed a party with Constables Bright, King and Hall. Not wishing to spook the fugitives, Hales directed the party to approach Kelly’s hut on foot. As the troopers fanned out to surround the dwelling the heavens opened and rain fell heavily. For an hour they sat in waiting.
While the bushrangers were in Kelly’s hut, the old man wandered outside where he paced for a time and then went back inside. His wife immediately did the same. It seemed as if they knew there were police coming and were anxiously awaiting their arrival. Kelly’s seven year old son Thomas ventured out to tend the stock where Hales accosted the child and interrogated him about Gilbert and Dunn. Thomas refused to answer in the affirmative to Hales’ questions and ran back to the house. The troopers got closer to the house and alarmed the dogs. Kelly emerged and made a point of yelling “Look out, the house is surrounded with bloody troopers!”
Immediately Gilbert and Dunn grabbed their weapons and ran for a bedroom, slamming the door just as Hales breached the building with King covering the door. Shots were exchanged and the building promptly surrounded. Hales rejoined the constables outside and bellowed at the bushrangers that if they did not surrender he would burn the house down. As this was happening the pair climbed out through a small window and ran towards their horses, which were hobbled on the other side of a creek. The movement was noticed by Constable Bright who began to chase them. Shots were fired in their direction as the other police joined the pursuit.
They bolted through the bush, Gilbert reeling off several shots as he ducked from tree to tree, dodging bullets. Dunn fired wildly as he bolted across the paddock at the edge of the property. The bushrangers breached a fence and ran down an embankment towards the creek. Without hesitation, the lithe Dunn crossed but Gilbert paused to take aim at the police from behind a tree. He pulled the trigger three times but, much to his frustration and dread, the Tranter revolving rifle misfired every time. Seeing no other option, Gilbert broke cover and headed after Dunn, but as he did so a bullet from Constable Bright’s carbine tore through him, smashing through the ribs at the back of his left side, perforating his lung and heart as it passed through the body and out through his chest. Gilbert died instantaneously, landing awkwardly on the prized Tranter revolving rifle that had failed him when he needed it most, cracking the stock. The police continued after Dunn, preventing him from reaching his horse and shooting him in the arm for good measure. One of Dunn’s shots struck Constable King in the ankle. Despite his own injury, the fleet-of-foot Dunn escaped capture.
Desperate to put distance between himself and the police, knowing his mate had bought the farm, Dunn continued to Julien’s station at Bogolong where he stole a horse and gear. Dunn went into hiding and was arrested nine months later.
The body of the slain bushranger was taken to Binalong where an initial inquest was held in the courthouse. Apart from his revolving rifle, Gilbert was carrying two Colt Navy revolvers, both purloined from New South Wales police, as well as a myriad of bullets and other ammunition; twenty pounds in bank notes; two gold rings and a gold charm. True to character, despite being on the run in the bush, Gilbert was well-dressed in a pilot coat, bright Crimean shirt, cord trousers and tall boots.
The body remained in Binalong while it was autopsied by Dr. Campbell and the inquest was concluded on 14 May, determining the death as a justifiable homicide. For two more days the body remained on display, several gawkers reportedly taking locks of hair. A cast was allegedly made of his face, according to reports, but as nothing has been seen publicly, this seems unlikely.
In the following days John Kelly was arrested for harbouring Gilbert and Dunn but was quickly released without any follow up. Rumours began to circulate through the community and newspapers. When the reward for Gilbert’s capture was doled out, not only did Hales, Bright, King and Hall receive portions, but so did John Kelly.
Quietly and unceremoniously the body was stripped and buried in an unmarked grave in the Binalong police paddock on 16 May. What equated to a funeral was not attended by mourners but rather representatives of the police force including Constable Bright. Thus ended the story of the Canuck highwayman who had thrilled and terrified in equal measure.