Bushranging Gazette #10

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Vale David Dalaithngu

Acclaimed Australian Aboriginal actor, dancer and singer David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has passed away aged 68. Best known for his prolific screen career as David Gulpilil, and his work in preserving the traditional culture, dances and music of his people (Mandjalpingu clan of the Yolgnu people of Arnhem Land), to bushranger buffs he will be known for his roles in movies such as Mad Dog Morgan, The Proposition and The Tracker. Dalaithngu was fluent in multiple Aboriginal languages and English, and first appeared in the 1971 film Walkabout. In 1987 he became a Member of the Order of Australia, and received many other accolades in his career (including AACTA/AFI awards, Best Actor at Cannes in 2014, and a portrait of him won the 2004 Archibald Prize), which continued into early 2021, when he was the subject of the acclaimed documentary My Name is Gulpilil.

Dalaithgnu was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, but he continued to act until retiring in 2019. He had many public controversies, particularly around his substance use, which he opened up about in the 2021 documentary, but it is his tremendous work in preserving and continuing the ancient beliefs and practices of his people, as well as his charismatic acting work, that he is remembered for.

Dalaithgnu in one of his earliest roles, as Billy in Mad Dog Morgan.

David Dalaithgnu’s family gave permission for his voice and images to be used to celebrate his life, but stipulated he not be referred to by his professional name, but his true name. For more, visit this link: www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-30/aboriginal-actor-yolngu-david-dalaithngu-crocodile-dundee-dies/8468524

Vale David Bradshaw

Veteran Australian film and television actor David Bradshaw has reportedly passed away, aged 74. In his illustrious career he appeared in some of Australia’s most popular films and television shows, such as The Man From Snowy River, Homicide, The Sullivans, and Neighbours. Bushranger enthusiasts will know him best as the brash and bellicose Wild Wright in The Last Outlaw, but may also have seen him in Cash and Company, Robbery Under Arms, Five Mile Creek and Eureka Stockade. Keen-eyed tourist may even have spotted him as one of the police in the animated theatre at Glenrowan.

David Bradshaw. The voice of a god. He played Wilde Write [sic] to my Ned Kelly in 1979. A fight scene took place. He dislocated my shoulder, I broke his ribs… friends for life. Unfortunately he just lost his. Every time he answered the phone he’d say in his deep voice “Darling boy”… Bye for now darling boy.

John Jarratt (via Facebook)
Bradshaw as Wild Wright in The Last Outlaw.

The Thunderbolt Mystery

Shayne and Joanna Cantly announced in early November on social media that their long-awaited documentary The Thunderbolt Mystery is on track for a 2022 release.

It’s official! The Thunderbolt Mystery Doco is to be released in 2022 at the Thunderbolt Festival in Uralla, along side a new book release from Peter Spencer. It’s been a long ride, but we’re finally going to cross the finishing line.

Via Captain Thunderbolt on Facebook

The film will explore the myths about Thunderbolt, including the persistent conspiracy theories around his death.

You can learn more about the project at the official website: www.thunderboltmovie.com.au/

‘You just don’t know who’s going to come forward’: why do police offer rewards?

The Guardian has published an article discussing the rewards that police offer and why they do it. The article makes reference to historical instances such as Ned Kelly and Ivan Milat, and contemporary cases such as Cleo Smith.

The point of reward money is to elicit new information and move investigations forward. Most often, they are deployed at the end of an investigation, when leads are exhausted. The prime target, Dr Goldsworthy said, is usually a “recalcitrant witness” who has never come forward. They may be scared, or simply not want to be involved, and the thinking is the money could push them over the line.

From – ‘You just don’t know who’s going to come forward’: why do police offer rewards?

In relation to the Kelly case, the article refers to the division of the reward money after Ned Kelly’s capture, and particularly the fact that the Aboriginal police – the Queensland native police – were actively prevented from receiving their due portions.

Read the article here: www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/nov/13/you-just-dont-know-whos-going-to-come-forward-why-do-police-offer-rewards

Grave business: The mission to find fallen police

John Silvester has written a piece for The Age discussing the ongoing research being conducted by retired Inspector Ralph Stavely into historical incidents of police dying in the line of duty. It emerges that due to poor record keeping it will be impossible to name how many police have actually died as a result of their job throughout Victoria’s history. Many of the issues raised in the article also pertain to the many difficulties to be encountered when researching other areas of history – bushrangers for instance.

Stavely’s research has proven important in uncovering some of the forgotten stories from Victoria’s police force, and highlights how different (and dangerous) police work was in the colonial era compared to the modern day.

Stavely says Miller realised the history of the force, including documenting those who had died while performing their duty, had not been recorded. “He had a real passion for the subject and said ‘let’s get the job done’. He committed the resources and opened doors that had been closed.”
After four years of research the project team came up with a list of 129 police killed in the performance of their duty. Now that number has grown to 174, with seven new cases about to be acknowledged.

From – Grave business: The mission to find fallen police by John Silvester

Read the article here: www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/grave-business-the-mission-to-find-fallen-police-20211118-p59a14.html

Archaeology at Port Arthur

An archaeological dig at the site of workshops adjacent to the Port Arthur penitentiary has yielded some fascinating and tantalising insights into convict life at the prison.

A collection of coins from around the 1850s that would be approximately equal to a week’s salary was found secreted, possibly after having been stolen by a convict. Gambling tokens, tobacco pipes and other creations such as iron nails and an anvil were also found.

The dig site in February 2021 [Photographer: Aidan Phelan]

The dig was part of an ongoing exploration and preservation effort that has been rolling out for around a decade, and has provided invaluable insights into life at the settlement that will be reflected in updated displays for visitors.

Additionally, Port Arthur tour guide Tammy Reardon is attempting to identify all of the people buried on Port Arthur’s Isle of the Dead in an effort to preserve the history, in addition to other conservation projects on the island, such as the recently added walkways that will protect the unmarked graves where convicts were buried.

Read about the dig here: www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-30/coin-stash-discovered-at-port-arthur-archaeology-dig/100541632

Read about the Isle of the Dead conservation here: www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-11/discovering-the-stories-of-those-buried-on-the-isle-of-the-dead/100527502


Captain Melville’s Appearance

Frank McCallum, aka Captain Melville, was something of an enigma. Very little is recorded about his life before being transported to Van Diemen’s Land as a child, where he was sent to Point Puer boys’ prison. Even what took place in the time following his arrival in Australia is largely unknown, and this is largely due to McCallum allowing misinformation about his life and exploits to be spread by others (when he wasn’t doing it himself). Many stories of Captain Melville are little more than folklore, if there is any substance to them, such as the story of him bailing up a homestead and making the man of the house’s daughters perform music for him. It was noted by the press of the time that McCallum enjoyed the notoriety that came from accepting responsibility for crimes he did not commit, which further muddies the waters around what he did and did not actually do.

Strangely, even the records of McCallum’s appearance are not consistent, differing on basic points such as scars and hair colour; and the death mask often attributed to him in books is actually of George Melville, one of the McIvor Escort robbers. Thus any image we have of Captain Melville, or impression of his life we are presented with, is mostly a matter of interpretation except where incidents are well recorded (which is extraordinarily rare).

Frank McCallum as he may have looked when bushranging. [Illustration by Aidan Phelan]

Christmas Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again, and there are plenty of gift options available for the bushranger buffs in your life.

There are many book options available in our own online store (here) including a bundle that combines the entire ETT Kelly Classics collection, including:

The Origin, Career and Destruction of the Kelly Gang by F. Hunter

Originally published in 1894 and one of the rarest of all Kellyana, this has been out of print in any form for over 100 years. Fully illustrated with contemporary engravings and photographs, for the 140th anniversary of the events at Stringybark Creek.

The Kelly Gang or The Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges by G. W. Hall

Produced by George Wilson Hall, the owner of the Mansfield Guardian in 1879. It is the first and rarest book on Ned Kelly, there being only four copies known to exist, with none in private hands. Hall was close to several informants and appears to have exceptional first-hand accounts of Stringybark Creek and other Kelly encounters. This new edition includes rare photographs of the participants from the period.

The True Story of the Kelly Gang of Bushrangers by C. H. Chomley

Published in 1900, this is a highly researched biography of the notorious 19th-century Victorian family of bushrangers. C. H. Chomley wrote the biography using court documents, police records and court evidence. It is recognised as being one of the most accurate depictions of the story of Ned Kelly, particularly regarding the police involvement.

The Girl Who Helped Ned Kelly by C. E. Taylor

Originally serialised in 1929, and out of print for 90 years, the book was written within the life spans of people who knew the Kellys – Taylor even interviewed Ned’s brother Jim prior to writing the book, while Ellen Kelly had died only a few years before it was published. With that in mind, The Girl Who Helped Ned Kelly represents one of, if not the earliest romanticised fiction of Ned Kelly. With original illustrations, introduced by Gabriel Bergmoser.

You can also find a range of original designs in our Redbubble store (such as those shown below), where you can get a whole swag of different bespoke items from t-shirts and hoodies to stickers, mousepads and wall art.

Outside of Australian Bushranging’s merchandise, below are some of the best gift ideas currently available.

DVD and Blu-Ray

Ned Kelly (1970) Blu-Ray

Based on the fascinating true-life story of the 19th-century Australian Armored Bandit, Ned Kelly is a powerful, action-packed adventure that thrillingly captures a bold and lawless era. When their mother is unfairly persecuted by police, Ned Kelly (Jagger) and his brother Dan earn money for her defense by selling homemade liquor. But what begins as a simple moonshine operation quickly escalates into a series of armed robberies, desperate pursuits and deadly confrontations. Soon, Ned finds himself revered throughout the country as a larger-than-life sagebrush hero even as the law closes in and prepares for an all-out war.

Rock superstar Mick Jagger gives a dynamic screen performance in this explosive tale from Academy Award-winning director Tony Richardson

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p high-definition transfer by MGM 
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin (2021)
  • Shooting a Rolling Stone – featurette (2021)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • LPCM 2.0 Mono 
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Limited Edition slipcase on the first 2000 copies with unique artwork

Available here: https://viavision.com.au/shop/ned-kelly/

The Last Outlaw DVD

An unmistakable Australian icon – a smoking revolver, two piercing eyes behind a makeshift mask of armour. But beyond the armour, behind the eyes was a man both ruthless and gentle, rugged and kind – the infamous last outlaw, Ned Kelly was his name. Both revered and reviled throughout the ages Ned Kelly (John Jarratt, Wolf Creek) was an Irish-Australian battler-cum-bushranger, fiercely independent and pushed into action by the repressive colonial authorities of the time. From the creative team behind Against The Wind, accurately presented and meticulouslyresearched to the finest detail, The Last Outlaw examines the life of Ned Kelly, and expounds the legend from early indiscretions and the formation of his gang through to the violent killings at Stringy Bark Creek, culminating in his explosive last stand and shoot out at Glenrowan. Also featuring Sigrid Thornton, Steve Bisley, Gerard Kennedy, Julia Blake, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and a throng of first-class Australian talent The Last Outlaw is a remarkable four-part miniseries presentation that deflects historical judgement and allows the legend to live on.

Available here: https://shop.umbrellaent.com.au/products/last-outlaw-the?_pos=4&_sid=4da2e4b5c&_ss=r

Cash & Company and Tandarra DVD Box Set

A true classic of Australian television, Cash & Company captures the essence of the 1850s – a pioneering era where life was lived on the land and gold was ready for the taking. Wanted by the law, likeable bushrangers Sam Cash (Serge Lazareff) and cigar smoking accomplice Joe Brady (Gus Mercurio) are men with purpose and the know-how to stay one sneaky step ahead of the authorities. Aided by trusty cohort Jessica Johnson (Penne Hackforth-Jones), the cunning bushrangers set out to capitalise on the great prosperity surrounding the gold rush. However, challenged to uphold the law, Lieutenant Keogh (Bruce Kerr) is on the case and never far behind the bandits. Featuring all 13 episodes and a Logie Award winner for best new series in 1976, Cash & Company includes a dynamic line-up of guest stars, including Terry Gill, Judith Durham (of The Seekers, performing six songs), Gerard Kennedy, Judy Morris, Michael Pate, Noel Ferrier and Tony Bonner. Driven by a lively theme from the ‘Bushwhackers and Bullockies Bush Band’ and directed by award-winning filmmakers George Miller (The Man from Snowy River) and Simon Wincer (Lonesome Dove), Cash & Company is an action-packed trip back to an era of horses, hold-ups and wild colonial boys. TANDARRA Following the next exciting chapter in the lives of Aussie bushrangers, Tandarra is the lively spin-off of the classic 1850s era television series, Cash & Company. With Sam Cash out of the picture, Joe Brady (Gus Mercurio) is still wanted by the law for his past bushranging exploits. Remaining one sneaky step ahead of the authorities, in particular Lieutenant Keogh (Bruce Kerr), Joe continues to capitalise on the prosperity brought about by the gold rush – aided by his trusty cohort Jessica Johnson (Penne Hackforth-Jones)on her homestead named Tandarra. But this time around Joe has a new concern keeping him looking over his shoulder. He has a mysterious man on his trail named Ryler (Gerard Kennedy, Underbelly), a tough as leather bounty hunter, determined above all to get his man. Including all 13 episodes , Tandarra features an engaging line-up of guest stars, including George Mallaby, Norman Yemm, Terence Donovan, Max Gillies, Briony Behets, Maurie Fields, Val Lehman, Mike Preston, Peter Cummins and Anne Pendlebury. Filmed at the picturesque Emu Bottom homestead in Sunbury, directed by Russell Haig and Simon Wincer (Lonesome Dove), Tandarra continues the exploration of Australia’s rich colonial past with a pounding sense of heart and adventurous spirit.

Available here: https://shop.umbrellaent.com.au/products/cash-company-tandarra-the-complete-bushranger-saga?_pos=1&_sid=f11660e43&_ss=r

Mad Dog Morgan Blu-Ray

Set in gold rush-era Victoria, and based on a true story, this violent, rollicking portrayal of infamous Irish outlaw Dan Morgan, a bravura performance from an intense Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now) is a classic of Australia’s ’70s cinema renaissance. A prospector who turns to crime and opium after failing at gold mining, Dan Morgan spends six brutal years in prison before terrorising country Victoria with a young Aboriginal, David Gulpilil (Walkabout, The Tracker). Having escaped into NSW, the bush ranger and his accomplice easily dodge the police and mercilessly intimidate the wealthy land owners but wracked by madness and a lust to avenge an earlier attack from an irate squatter, the notorious Mad Dog makes a perilous journey back into Victoria. Combining an all-star Australian cast, including Jack Thompson, Bill Hunter and John Hargreaves, with a brilliant Dennis Hopper who called the role one of his great life experiences – director Philippe Mora (Communion) creates one of the great period action dramas.

Available here: https://shop.umbrellaent.com.au/products/mad-dog-morgan-ozploitation-classics-blu-ray?_pos=2&_sid=325611c2b&_ss=r

The Legend Of Ben Hall Blu-Ray

After two years on the road and with the law closing in around him, Ben Hall has gone in hiding and is considering surrender. However, he is drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend and gang member, John Gilbert. Reforming the gang with a new recruit John Dunn, the trio soon become the most wanted men in Australian history after a series of robberies that result in the death of two policemen. Ben Hall also struggles to reconcile himself with his estranged son now living with his ex-wife and the man she eloped with many years earlier. When the Government moves to declare the gang outlaws, the gang make plans to flee the colony, but they are sold out by a trusted friend.

Available here: https://www.dvdland.com.au/products/Legend-Of-Ben-Hall-(Blu-Ray).html?gclid=Cj0KCQiA15yNBhDTARIsAGnwe0XWh6yrpSi0Jt7MD00FtLF3-Jb6xZyFXTc264FLx5inhhtgRIHIGfoaAuHMEALw_wcB


Bone and Beauty: The Ribbon Boys’ Rebellion of 1830 By J. M. Thompson

October 1830

Rebelling from years of maltreatment and starvation, a band of Ribbon Boys liberate eighty convicts from Bathurst farms and lead them inland towards freedom. Governor Darling, fearing that others would also rise up, sends the 39th Regiment in pursuit. Three bloody battles follow, but to whom will justice be served?

Rich with detail, Bone and Beauty fuses archival evidence and narrative technique to tell the gripping story of the Ribbon Boys and their reputed leader Ralph Entwistle. For the first time, the influence of Irish secret societies, the scale of oppression and corruption, and the complex web of criminal and family relationships behind these events are revealed.

Available here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/bone-and-beauty-j-m-thompson/book/9780702260414.html

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy Slipcase Books 1 – 4 by Jane Smith

Join Tommy Bell and friends on their time travelling escapades that take them face-to-face with some of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers. Pack includes the first four books: Shoot-out at the Rock (Shortlisted for the 2017 ABIA Children’s Book of the Year Award); The Horse Thief; The Gold Escort Gang and Outback Adventure.

Available here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/tommy-bell-bushranger-boy-slipcase-books-1-4-jane-smith/book/9781922488206.html

Bushranger Tracks II: Beyond the Legends by Gregory Powell

There is more to Australia’s bushranging history than Ned Kelly, Ben Hall and Captain Thunderbolt. Explore and discover the haunts of bushrangers from the Highlands of Tasmania, the Tall Forests and Wheatbelt of Western Australia and the vast Queensland Outback in Bushranger Tracks – Beyond the Legends. Read about Martin Cash, the Wild Scotchman, Moondyne Joe, the Kenniff brothers and many other lesser known bushrangers, as well as the troopers who pursued them, from the colonial past of three states – Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.

New South Wales and Victoria were not the only places to experience a wild colonial history. With a keen imagination, the historic locations can transport the modern explorer back to the wild days of the early settlements when chains rattled, gold glittered, guns blazed and men and women struggled their way into the pages of our fascinating heritage. Bushranger Tracks – Beyond the Legends, follows on from Greg’s first book Bushranger Tracks (New Holland 2016) and continues his passion for Australian history and in particular, the bushranging era.

Available here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/bushranger-tracks-beyond-the-legend-greg-powell/book/9781760790141.html

Moonlite: The Tragic Love Story of Captain Moonlite and the Bloody End of the Bushrangers by Garry Linnell

A gay bushranger with a love of poetry and guns. A grotesque hangman with a passion for flowers and gardening.

A broken young man desperate for love and respect. These men – two of them lovers – are about to bring the era of Australia’s outlaws to a torrid and bloody climax. Moonlite is the true and epic story of George Scott, an Irish-born preacher who becomes, along with Ned Kelly, one of the nation’s most notorious and celebrated criminals.

Charismatic, intelligent and handsome, George Scott was born into a privileged life in famine-wracked Ireland. His family lost its fortune and fled to New Zealand. There, Scott joins the local militia and after recovering from gunshot wounds, sails to Australia.

One night he dons a mask in a small country town, arms himself with a gun and, dubbing himself Captain Moonlite, brazenly robs a bank before staging one of the country’s most audacious jailbreaks. After falling in love with fellow prisoner James Nesbitt, a boyish petty criminal desperately searching for a father figure, Scott finds himself unable to shrug off his criminal past. Pursued and harassed by the police, he stages a dramatic siege and prepares for a final showdown with the law – and a macabre executioner without a nose.

Told at a cracking pace, and based on many of the extensive letters Scott wrote from his death cell, Moonlite is set amid the violent and sexually-repressed era of Australia in the second half of the 19th century.

Available here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/moonlite-garry-linnell/book/9780143795780.html

Ned Kelly’s Last Days: Setting the record straight on the death of an outlaw by Alex C. Castles

Australia’s leading legal historian examines the chain of events that occurred between Ned Kelly’s last stand at Glenrowan and the day he faced the public executioner revealing the truth behind the drama, intrigue, and pathos of the death of Australia’s most notorious outlaw.

Ned Kelly – Australia’s beloved national icon – was once just a bushranger who had to be punished for his crimes. In 1880, everyone wanted him dead.

There are many stories that form the Kelly myth. But the side of the story rarely told is what really happened in the 137 days between Ned’s last stand at Glenrowan and the day the hangman’s noose was placed around his neck. Who was with him in his last hours, and why did he have so many powerful enemies? Ned Kelly’s Last Days exposes the blatant cover-ups, the corruption and the rampant press baying for blood that were ultimately Ned Kelly’s death sentence.

Piecing together a vast jigsaw of obscure records and unpublished material, Alex Castles sets the record straight on the highly questionable judicial processes of the time and sheds a whole new light on the life and death of the most famous bushranger of them all.

Available here: https://www.booktopia.com.au/ned-kelly-s-last-days-alex-c-castles/book/9781741145380.html

“There is a great untold Australian story of tragedy and triumph that has been covered in a mountain of myth”: Darren K. Hawkins and Leo Kennedy Interviewed

The Ned Kelly story remains one of the most popular and enduring in Australian history, but there are always multiple perspectives from which to look at it. One of the most overlooked perspectives is of the families of the slain policemen, whose spilt blood cemented the Kelly Gang in infamy. Of these men, Sergeant Michael Kennedy was the most distinguished, and now independent filmmaker Darren K. Hawkins wants to tell his story in film – and not just the tragic ending. The project is supported by Leo Kennedy, a descendant of the policeman, whose book about Ned Kelly from the perspective of law and order, Black Snake, has become one of the most popular currently available titles on the subject.

Darren and Leo both took time out of their schedules to discuss the project with Aidan Phelan, exclusively for A Guide to Australian Bushranging.

Thank you for taking some time to have a chat. To open up, let’s talk a bit about Michael.

How would you best describe what you are aiming for with this project?

Darren: It’s multi-layered. First and foremost, Michael and Bridget’s story being told to a wider audience, cinematically.  Michael Kennedy, and two other police were murdered by the Kelly gang at Stringybark. This is something that has never been disputed by history, even Ned’s own words in his trial for the murders, yet Michael has been consigned to a mere footnote of history.  I’d love that people who watch the film begin to find out about the REAL Michael Kennedy to begin with. He wasn’t the stereotype of the “bad cop” that a lot of the police in the Kelly narrative have been tarred as being. This is a narrative that has to be corrected. The community support for his wife Bridget was overwhelming too. If the Kennedys were bad people, this wouldn’t have happened. This amazing woman became a tower of strength for her young family. There’s just so much to unpack, the more you find out about them.

If I can start a conversation for people who watch the film, to ask themselves about the REAL story, for them to do the research, find out more and draw their own conclusions, then I will have achieved something special.

Leo: The [aim is] telling of Michael and Bridget’s story to a wide audience, cinematically; and also a retelling of one of the darkest chapters of the Kelly Gang. Michael Kennedy and two other policemen were murdered by the Kelly gang at Stringybark Creek. Despite the remarkable police career of Michael and life of Bridget outside of their area their story is not widely known. But the Kelly Gang story and Stringybark Creek murders have now become unrecognisable and distant from the real history. It is sad that Michael has been consigned to a mere footnote of history; and the villain of the piece is now incorrectly feted. If only people could watch a film and begin to find out about the REAL Michael Kennedy. He wasn’t the phoney Kelly narrative of a stereotypical “bad cop”. This is an opportunity to correct that narrative. The community supported his wife Bridget and family very generously and caringly. This generosity sprang from the Kennedys’ own kindness being repaid. This amazing woman became a tower of strength for her young family. She also played a large and influential part in the community. I hope the film ignites people to reconsider our history and go after the REAL story for themselves. That is one of the reasons I laid out as many references as possible in my book, Black Snake – the Real Story of Ned Kelly. People can do the research and draw their own conclusions. Between my book and this movie I hope myth can be replaced with true history.

What was it that drew you to the story of Sergeant Kennedy?

Darren: As a young boy, naturally, I was drawn to stories about our history, I was fascinated by stories of the bushrangers.  As an adult, I began to discover that not everything that had been presented to me in the past was consistent. By chance I saw Leo Kennedy on a television show talking about his great grandfather and something struck a chord with me listening to him talk.  I started researching Michael Kennedy and discovered that here was a man that was not only respected by his community and peers, but in many ways was ahead of his times. It’s in those moments that you realise what sort of a significant individual he was, that his murder, the loss of his life, well, you just feel the incredible loss of a life that WOULD have been so much more.

Leo: I grew up hearing stories of Sergeant Kennedy, the exemplary policeman and his stoic widow Bridget who raised their five children. My mother also instilled in me a great interest in history. I was drawn to stories about our family and Australian history. Going to secondary school I was confronted by others who had been presented with a fictionalised account of history; and was shocked by the awe in which they held a murderer. Unfortunately it did not stop there. The situation got even worse when places sacred to us were taken over in the name of tourism and our family members and police officers were maligned. I started to step up and called out the errors and mistruths; and restore pride in our murdered policemen. They deserved much better than to be villainised and their murderer be lauded. It is a gross travesty. Michael Kennedy was respected by his community and peers; and was both influential in his tolerance and extending the hand of friendship to all people in this fast expanding colony; and innovative in policing. A man ahead of his times.  His impact was significant. It is very sad such an individual was cut short and his family impacted so dreadfully. The violent loss of his life changed our family’s course in history; and has had ramifications for generations.

How do you see the character of Michael Kennedy, and what qualities will be at the fore in this interpretation?

Darren: An honourable man, loving, loved, respected, devoted to his duty and his community.  Michael Kennedy for my mind was not only the sort of man you WANTED to be your local police officer, but you’d want as a friend.

Leo: Michael was an honourable man, loving, loved, respected, devoted to his family, duty and his community.  Michael was held up to me as the sort of man I should aspire to be. I recall former Chief Commissioner Ken Lay reading his record and saying that “this is a remarkable record, it is what we would want all our police officers’ records to be”.

How will the other members of the Mansfield party be woven into the narrative?

Darren: Michael Scanlan in particular will play a large part.  Kennedy and Scanlan had a close bond, a close friendship . In this telling of the story too, when Kennedy and Scanlan are tasked with apprehending the Kelly’s , the first people that they think of are Lonigan and McIntrye . I want to show a fun comrade between Kennedy and Scanlan too.

Leo: Michael Scanlan should play a large part.  They were close and had a great friendship. There was a lot of fun and camaraderie between them.

How important for your vision is it to concentrate on the Kennedy family rather than simply the incident that deprived them of their breadwinner? 

Darren: His murder, and again, let’s be blunt, that’s what is was, I don’t want to dwell on it and glorify it. For too long that part has been the only time Michael was mentioned. This man was more than that. His wife Bridget was more than that.  Their story is what needs to be told. These were amazing people in quite the cultural melting pot of colonial Victoria. The community reaction to rally behind Bridget and her young family (as well as Lonigan’s widow Maria let me add) shows just how much of an effect she had too.   The fact that the community continued to rally and petition the government for years to help her, that she and Maria were the FIRST to receive a legacy pension, these men, their wives, their families, were so much more and deserve so much more.

Leo: In past tellings of his story his murder unfortunately overshadows all he was and did. For too long that event has been the only mention of him. He was so much more. And Bridget has an inspirational story too. Their story needs to be told. A story of love, doing good, overcoming grief; of pressing on. All in the cultural melting pot of burgeoning colonial Victoria. It would be fantastic to capture the community reaction and to see them rally behind Bridget and her young family. As they did for Lonigan’s widow Maria and family. The community would not let their dire situation continue. They rallied and petitioned the government for years to help her. That Bridget and Maria were the first to receive a legacy type pension, this established a precedent that has since been followed. These policemen and their wives and families were so much more than how they have been portrayed and presented. They deserve much more attention and consideration.

Given the recently released short feature Stringybark, which ostensibly covers the same ground as what you are looking at with Michael, comparisons will be drawn. What separates what you are aiming for and what has gone before?

Darren: I have to be honest, I haven’t had the opportunity to see the other short (especially with so many festivals closing their doors due to Covid), so I can’t comment on what ground it covers. If, however, it just covers Stringybark Creek, the large difference will be that Michael, while showing what happened at Stringybark Creek, aims to not concentrate upon the Kellys, and focuses upon the human side of the tragedy, the Kennedys in particular, something that I truly [believe] to be unique in any past cinematic retelling of any part of the Kelly story.

Leo: I am forever grateful to have been involved in Stringybark. It covers a section one of what Darren is covering in the life and times of Michael and Bridget. As the title indicates it covers a short lead up to the party forming and heading to Stringybark, the three murders, the escape of McIntyre; and the finding of the bodies. The difference here will be the deep dives into the lives and who these people are. Key is the focus upon the human side of the tragedy. The impact of the tragedy on the Kennedys, the Lonigans, Scanlans and the McIntyres, in particular, has never been explored or exposed before. This is quantum shift in the telling of history. The victims’ story. The story of those who carry the grief.

Leo Kennedy

Naturally, people are going to be interested in how you will portray the Kelly Gang, Ned in particular. What is your interpretation of them, and how will they fit into the film?

Darren: The Kelly gang are bit players in the film. This will be Michael and Bridget’s story. I know t.his may get a lot of the Kelly supporters upset, but I’m not going to glorify the actions of a man that, by his own words in his trial, admitted to hunting down and then murdering a wounded man who begged for his own life. Those were Ned’s own words in his trial. People can serve that up any way they want, but those were Ned’s own words.

My interpretation of the Kelly gang, and this is from a man who, when he was younger, like many Australians, saw him as some “hero fighting for the freedoms of others”; as someone who played both Dan Kelly and Steve Hart on stage; from all my research, I no longer see the Kellys as heroes.

Leo: As this is Michael and Bridget’s story; the Kellys are minor and correctly cast as the villains of the piece. I hope there is an insight provided into a young man brought up to be anti-establishment and longing for the bad old days. A man in denial of the fast growing reality that wild colonial life is coming to speedy end. He is a relic clinging to a past that he had romanticised; haunted and taunted that he was Power’s pup and only holding the horses. His cattle and horse thieving empire has just imploded and his impetuousness and recklessness now have him facing an attempted murder charge and his mother who was an accessory has just been gaoled. He is at the end of the road – but won’t surrender. There is no glory in the path he takes or his actions. This is a man who steals from the bodies of those he has murdered. He is a very low man, if a man at all. A man who murders a husband and father who has pleaded for his life. Ned’s own words and deeds make him who he is. The Kelly gang were not heroes

In the Kelly world there’s a constant tug of war between whether the story is viewed with a pro-Kelly or pro-police slant. What is your view on that, and how will it be reflected in the film?

Darren: Good question! I know that what we’re doing with this film, it will be seen as having a pro-police slant.  From the simple point of view that I’m telling the story of one of the police that Kelly murdered.  I’d like to think that what I want to do with this is to have more of a “pro-history” view and let the audience decide as to where they fit.

Leo: I am hoping there is no slant; just a straight telling of a tragic story. There are plenty of historical primary records on which to base this movie; instead of the embellishments that have been added for over a century. It is one where a man new to this country works hard to make it a better place; his life is ended too soon when he is one of three policemen that Kelly murdered. A balanced presentation based on facts. One that enables an audience to take in information and form a view.

There’s a lot of potential in telling this story to be able to create a sort of bridge between the camps. Do you believe that Michael will be able to please people on both sides of the divide and highlight the things they can all agree on, rather than pushing one perspective as the entire truth?

Darren: Yes, there will be some dramatic licence.  We don’t have any digital recordings from the people that lived through everything that happened in those days, but what we DO have are plenty of documents.  Newspapers, gazettes, hansard from parliament, written record of events as they happened. That’s where I’m taking this film’s core from.

Leo: The only camps I know of are families and non family story (all too often myth) tellers. A factual telling will heal the families and restore their confidence in media makers. When I have spoken to people about Black Snake – the Real Story of Ned Kelly and about Michael and Bridget; I have sensed a genuine interest in them and their story. The “pro-Kelly myth” narrative is tired and tarnished. The families long for the real story to be told; not a collection of embellishments and false stereotypes. The telling of real history is long overdue. It is time for the telling of Michael’s story.

You’re currently raising funds to get a short feature made, what’s the game plan like once you hit the funding target?

Darren: I’ve been very lucky that I have a LOT of very talented people that have already committed themselves to the project, so I feel quite blessed that I don’t need to do a search for the talent. A number of the locations have been scouted, so in many ways, we’re ready to roll. I have a target that will get the film made, funding past that, and like any target, we’d all love to go past the target to ensure the belt doesn’t have to be as tugged tight. Should the fundraising REALLY excel, then we can move towards the feature version, which is the endgame.

Darren K. Hawkins

You’ve had a lot of experience, Darren, in front of and behind the camera, would you say this is potentially the most ambitious undertaking you’ve pursued to date as a filmmaker?

Darren: I would have to say that it is.  This is a period specific piece too, which provides it’s own set of challenges, but something that I’m not only relishing the challenge of, but embracing. This project is something that I’m very passionate about, I don’t think I’ve worked on something that’s quite lit the fire in my belly the way this has. I suppose it’s not only because I’m a bit of a film geek, but I’m a bit of a history nerd too!

Have you got anyone earmarked for the cast and crew yet?

Darren: Indeed I do!   I’ve got a brilliant actress in Lauren Hamilton Neill already to play Bridget and a soon as the fundraiser is done, I’ll be heading to the casting director (who has been in the industry since the 1980’s) who has agreed to get onto the casting of Michael for me.

Crew wise, the amazing Casimir Dickson who was the DOP for Legend of the Five and is a multi award winning DOP and my executive producer, Sara Joyce just finished working with Alex Proyas on his latest film. These are just a couple of examples of the incredible talents that have committed to this film!

Lauren Hamilton Neill is slated to appear as Bridget Kennedy

The project has clearly been given a great deal of support by Leo – who reached out to whom first?

Darren: I tried getting in touch with Leo via Email some time before recently, but the mail was probably lost in the ether!  After my interview with 3AW, Leo reached out to me via email and I’ve been blown away by his generosity with his time since.

Will you be using Black Snake – the Real Story of Ned Kelly as the basis of the screenplay, or will you be looking to a wider range of sources?

Darren: Both. I’ve drawn on information from a number of sources for the initial screenplay. The internet has some great source material that you can find via digital records these days, records that were once only on microfiche or in the back room of a library. Newspaper articles and the actual records of the legacy payments to Bridget Kennedy and Maria Lonigan are right there for all to see. Leo’s book, Black Snake, has also been an amazing reference source too. An absolute WEALTH of first hand information, and more importantly, direct family information, how it affected their family and there’s a treasure trove of information that had just never really been presented.  His book is a MUST for anyone wanting to get a broader understanding of the narrative.

As I move towards the feature, my hope is that I can spend some quality time with Leo and other members of the Kennedy family (and indeed the familes of Lonigan, Scanlan and McIntrye). A story like this isn’t complete without their input.

Leo: I deliberately included tomes of references in my book, Black Snake, to assist anyone to undertake their own research. Many are internet references to make people’s research easier. My book addresses the many misunderstandings of the time and the people; and that is done by accurately quoting from the original sources. I have offered to assist in the research of the characters and history.

What would you say is the most fundamental message that people need to take away from this story?

Darren: First of all , to know that there’s more to the story they’ve been used to hearing. Then secondly, to see, feel and understand the greater human story and tragedy that befell those families. To be able to listen to another perspective of the Kelly narrative. To be able to walk away from watching the film and want to find out more for themselves and form a more rounded opinion on one of the most iconic stories in Australian history and culture.

Leo: There is a great untold Australian story of tragedy and triumph that has been covered in a mountain of myth. It is the untold story of the Kelly Gang’s victims. Here is but one of them. Michael.

What can people do if they want to support the project?

Darren: Go to the website, www.australianculturalfund.org.au , search “Michael”. Donations would be amazing; all donations over $2 receive a receipt that is tax deductible. Share the project on their social media, or write to us at info@lonelyhillfilms.com.au 

The project is on Facebook, “Michael – movie”, give us a follow there and you can find all the information about how to access and donate to the ACF campaign there too.

Darren K. Hawkins and Leo Kennedy, thank you very much for your time and best of luck with Michael. Hopefully we will be seeing this story play out on the screen very soon.

Ned and the Law (review)

Once again the Greta-Hansonville Hall saw droves of Kelly buffs arrive for a day of presentations exploring the history and culture pertaining to Ned Kelly. This year saw a new element added into the mix – a dinner portion held in the evening. The event, which was held on 22 February, proved to be a much grander affair than in previous years but no less of a community affair.

Replica of the Greta police station sign.

From the moment one entered the hall the tone was set. As usual it was decorated appropriate to the theme; this time featuring a mannequin in trooper’s clothes and display cabinets featuring items on loan from Adrian Younger, Steve Mayes, Tony King and Noeleen Lloyd pertaining to policing and the Kelly story. The auction table was laden with goodies to bid on and there was a table where books by independent authors were being sold. Morning tea was laid out and attendees munched away and had drinks (the tea and coffee variety; harder stuff came later) while awaiting the time to take their seats.

Kelly Smith taking names.

The first presentation was from Noeleen Lloyd and it detailed her journey as she tried to locate the site of the Greta police station. Along the way she gave a fascinating insight into the history of policing in the town and the men that took on the unenviable role of law enforcement there. Noeleen’s gift as a public speaker made the history digestible and relatable. Whether describing the conduct of policemen like heavy-handed Edward Hall, the venerable Robert Graham, or the trials and tribulations of establishing a functional police station in Greta, every topic of discussion was treated with respect and even-handedness, setting the tone for what ensued.

Noeleen Lloyd

The second cab off the rank was Dean Mayes who presented a condensed version of the life of his ancestor Joseph Ladd Mayes who had been one of the officers involved in the hunt for Ned Kelly. Mayes was an exemplary policeman whose reputation as a disciplined and effective officer of the law was well earned. Though his involvement in the Kelly story was minor compared to some more well-known police, it was clear that there was still a lot to tell, especially where Constable Fitzpatrick was concerned. Dean Mayes painted a portrait of a man driven by the desire to do the right thing at all times to the best of his ability, but who was also a man of action who wasn’t afraid to get dirt under his nails. It was clear from the way that it was spoken of that this history is precious to the family, with two generations thus far collecting as much of it as possible while they still can. The story of J. L. Mayes can be found at Dean’s dedicated blog (here) and is always expanding as new information comes to light.

Dean Mayes

A delicious spread was then eagerly tucked into for lunch during the break. It provided an opportunity for attendees to mingle and bid on the silent auction items that had been donated to help raise funds. Members of the NKS group posed for a group photo outside the hall to commemorate the event.

The auction table.

After the break, retired police Chief Inspector Ralph Staveley presented a talk on 19th century policing in Victoria. It was a very important insight into the difficulties faced by not only the police force as an organisation, but also into the typical lives of policemen of the period often due to political and systemic factors. The way this impacted on the hunt for the Kelly Gang was also explored, putting the cost both in monetary and human terms succinctly. Staveley’s easy manner of speaking and relaxed demeanour made his presentation a stand-out for many attendees who had not expected such a candid and fair approach to police history, especially in regards to the Kelly story.

Chief Inspector (ret.) Ralph Staveley

The final presentation was by Alice Richardson on visual representations of Sir Redmond Barry and the trial of Ned Kelly. It was a fascinating delve into the evolution of public perception of the famous judge. Looking through official portraiture to cartoons and modern art, Alice demonstrated a keen awareness of the use of symbolism in the images as well as a very powerful analysis of the factors that have morphed Barry over the decades from the wise and righteous judge into Ned Kelly’s nemesis. Perhaps the most shocking aspect for many in the audience was a legal analysis of the trial, which discussed the validity of many criticisms of Barry as judge and of the trial as a whole, challenging long held ideas of what had happened in a way that was not based in opinion, but rather in law. That it was able to bring some of Barry’s most dyed-in-the-wool critics to reconsider their stance is a testament to Alice’s insightful and unbiased approach to examining this monumental historical figure as much as her formidable range of knowledge.

Alice Richardson

With the conclusion of the first half of the event, tongues were wagging about the things picked up from the presentations and attendees discussed in a most civil manner their perspectives on what had been demonstrated by the speakers. Each presenter had allowed time for questions at the end of their presentation and remained approachable throughout proceedings, happily mixing with the crowd. Far from there being outrage or backlash about focus on the police and Judge Barry, or indeed a decided lean away from the largely pro-Kelly views held by many attendees, the predominant vibe seemed to be one of a newfound appreciation for the “other side” of the Kelly story and an embracing of these new people to the, for want of a better word, fraternity. It was a brilliantly positive outcome that was declared to have been unlikely or impossible by commentators from certain circles – of whom, strangely, there seemed no representation at the event insofar as the crowd were concerned. Surely, the fact that the sort of person who wears Ned Kelly on their shirt or skin, decorates their car with Ned stickers and accoutrements, and refers to themselves as a “sympathiser” can appreciate, welcome and embrace the opportunity to learn about the opposite side of the story is a sign that for the majority of hardcore enthusiasts on this topic it is history that is the most important thing, not digging their heels in and butting heads over the tired “hero or villain” debate.

Replica police uniform with portrait of Joseph Ladd Mayes.

After a long break to allow set-up, the majority of the attendees returned for the final portion of the event, which consisted of dinner, a presentation and the auction results. Sadly, the tyranny of distance had its casualties and not everyone was able to make it back after going off to find things to do during the recess (something that could ideally factor into next year’s event). The hall was now decked out with long tables stocked with wines for people to drink with their meal. The food (spit roast with salad and vegetables) prepared by Two Chefs and a Cook Catering of Wangaratta, was delicious, filling and well-received by the hungry attendees.

Brad Webb setting up.

Due to unexpected illness, there were slight changes to Billsons Brewery’s contribution, though they did still send staff to sell drinks both soft and a not-so-soft (which were a hit with the crowd). The intended presentation on the brewery had to be filled in at the last minute with Brad Webb talking about his website Ironoutlaw. Most people who have been involved with the Kelly community will be keenly aware of Webb and his website (Webb-site, if you will), which has been online since the mid-1990s and consistently gets high volumes of traffic – no mean feat in the modern era of social media dominating the information superhighway. Webb described the background of the site and explained much of the nitty gritty detail of website development and management, which was not to everyone’s tastes but was informative all the same.

Colt Navy revolver with holster, “darbies” (handcuffs), bullet mould, bullets, and locks on loan for the event.

With the auction winners getting their items and the thanks being delivered it was time to head off into the night with full tums and little showbags full of all kinds of stuff including promotional materials from businesses that had supported the event and booklets by Chester Eagle. Overall it was yet another roaring success, and deservedly so, and it seems the biggest question on everyone’s lips was: what’s next year’s theme?

Captain Moonlite: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

After his release from Pentridge Prison, Andrew George Scott struggled to get back on his feet. While he may have been determined to right the wrongs of his past, the police were seemingly determined to stifle those efforts. Scott was kept under constant police surveillance in the hope that at some point he would slip up. This harassment came to a head in several well publicised incidents.

[Source: “NEWS OF THE DAY.” The Age (Melbourne) 16 July 1879: 2.]

On 9 July, 1879, it was claimed that three men attempted to instigate an escape from the Williamstown battery of 19 year-old William Johnson, alias Andrew Fogarty, who was doing a two year sentence for housebreaking. Scott, Nesbitt and Johnson had done time together in Pentridge, their sentences overlapping from 5 April to 11 April, 1878, whereupon Nesbitt was transferred to Williamstown where convicts were housed in the old military barracks at Fort Gellibrand and employed upgrading the batteries. After Nesbitt was transferred, Johnson and Scott remained in Pentridge together until Scott’s release on 18 March, 1879. It was alleged that one of the men broke open a window and tried to give Johnson two revolvers to help him escape. Ultimately, the men disappeared and no escape was ever undertaken, but police immediately assumed Scott’s guilt. The press, naturally, leaped upon the story as evidence that the notorious Captain Moonlite was preparing a gang.

The Williamstown Timeball Tower c.1870s [Source: State Library of Victoria]

At the time, Scott and Nesbitt were in town looking for a venue in which Scott could give a presentation of one of his lectures on the need for prison reform. The lecture series had been a source of both pride and humiliation for Scott as audiences had responded overwhelmingly positively, but as the performances grew in popularity the police began to crack down on them, causing several events to be cancelled. There remained a question over the motivation for such a heavy-handed response to the lectures – was it merely an effort to prevent slanderous lies from being given a platform or was it censorship to obscure the truth of the allegations?

“Life in Pentridge. The prisoners’ school”, The Australasian sketcher, November 1, 1873

Scott was keenly aware of something of a smear campaign being launched against him and he was being touted as the murderer of an actor named Francis Marion Bates, who was found dead and looted in Melbourne. A man supposedly fitting Scott’s description had been seen following Bates shortly before he disappeared. After an inquest was held, it would be established that Bates had not been murdered at all, but had died of congestive heart and lung failure. Unfortunately for Scott, the general public had already been led to believe it was an open and shut case with blood on Scott’s hands. All he could hope for was that the public’s notoriously short memory would see the claim forgotten once his name was cleared in the matter.

William Johnson [Source: PROV]

The Williamstown battery was not much of a gaol by any stretch, only holding 18 prisoners at the time (one of which acted as the cook) and was merely a wooden building with plastered interior walls. The barracks had never been intended to house convicts and its rather flimsy construction had not weathered the conditions on Hobson’s Bay well at all. At night there was no guard on duty, but there were three warders on staff: Henry Steele, the senior warden; Turner and Robert Durham. At 8pm Steele headed off to his home on Twyford Street, leaving Durham in charge. The gaol was separated into three parts: the warder’s room, where the staff slept; the prisoner’s dormitory; and the kitchen, where the cook resided. Durham did the final inspection at 10pm and saw nothing awry. When Turner returned on the last train from Melbourne, he arrived at the barracks at 12:30am and went straight to bed. Durham retired soon after. At 1:30am Durham and Turner heard a knocking at the warder’s room and prisoner’s dormitory. Durham got up to investigate and was informed by William Johnson that there was rain coming in through a window about three feet above ground level. Durham got onto Johnson’s bed and saw that the window appeared to have been jimmied open, but not enough to allow a person in or out, and the fastenings appeared to have been cut with a knife. It was at this point that Durham recalled that he had seen a group of four men or boys loitering around the railway station and battery reserve at 2pm the previous afternoon, which he later asserted had looked like they were up to no good. He would swear that he recognised Andrew Scott and James Nesbitt walking to the beach and out of view. The prisoners had, at that time, been working on the reserve and Durham would recall seeing Johnson leave his cart to go to where the two men had disappeared. Durham was on it like a fly on a fresh cowpat, but could not reach them before Johnson returned to work. Durham spoke to the two men and said they had no right to speak to the prisoners, to which the man he identified as Scott replied, “This is a public road, is it not?” Durham had reported the incident to Steele when he had returned at 6pm but until the apparent attempted break in he had put it out of his mind.

With things settling down at the barracks, Henry Steele learner of the incident and reported it to the Williamstown police. The suggestion that the notorious Captain Moonlite was involved prompted a speedy response and a warrant was quickly issued. At the time the offence was being reported, Scott and Nesbitt were on foot and travelling to Clunes via Buninyong. When they arrived in town on the 17th they turned themselves in. Two revolvers Scott had allegedly disposed of had been found and were kept by the police as evidence. At the same time police had been warned to make sure their weapons were in good working order and arrangements were being made to send Johnson back to Pentridge.

Scott and Nesbitt, safely in custody, were sent to Melbourne to await trial with a supposed associate named Frank Foster, alias Croker, and kept in the Swanston Street lock-up. Foster had been named during initial investigation and was arrested at Talbot the day after Scott and Nesbitt turned themselves in. Foster had been serving a six year sentence in Pentridge for housebreaking at the same time as the others, but had gained his freedom in 1878 after a petition from the people of Talbot had been lodged to the government. Foster, it appeared, had been wrongfully imprisoned for the preceding five years after being framed. Yet, as far as the police were concerned Foster was guilty, they just hadn’t found a crime to pin on him yet. Associating him with Scott meant they finally had an opportunity to put him away without any pesky interference from do-gooders setting him free.

When questioned after his arrest, Scott’s name was cleared in relation to the Bates case when the two key witnesses actually saw Scott in person and emphatically denied he was the man they had seen. Typically, this was a fact most of the press tried to gloss over, eager to foster the image of Scott as an arch-fiend. Scott requested that he be furnished with the evidence supposedly collated against him and his associates in the Williamstown incident, but Detective Mackay, who was in charge of the investigation, refused to do so. The trio were remanded to Williamstown on Wednesday, 23 July, and a hearing was set for the Friday. No doubt it was an anxious wait for the men.

Frank Foster [Source: PROV]

On 25 July, Scott, Nesbitt and Foster appeared at Williamstown Police Court, charged with unlawfully conveying a pistol into the gaol at Williamstown battery. They were represented by Mr. Read, with Sub-Inspector Larner appearing for the prosecution. Henry Steele, Robert Durham, Edwin Robinson (son of the battery-keeper), and a prisoner named William Baker appeared to give evidence for the prosecution. Baker stated in his evidence that Scott, accompanied by Nesbitt and another man, had knocked on a window asking for Fogarty (Johnson’s alias) and was directed to the correct spot, whereupon he opened the window and gave Johnson a revolver. Johnson then allegedly refused to take it out of fear and Nesbitt spoke threateningly about the guards before they left. An interesting element of Baker’s testimony was that while all other witnesses claimed that it was raining that night, Baker claimed the weather was clear and dry.

Johnson also provided evidence. He confirmed that on the afternoon of the 9th he absconded work to speak to Scott and Nesbitt, but couldn’t confirm that they had any involvement with breaking open the window. More compelling was Johnson’s confession that his previous evidence to Detective Mackay was a string of lies that he was under pressure from his charges to swear, being constantly threatened while the investigation was occurring. He claimed that the fear of reprisals from the warders at the gaol was what motivated him to perjure himself, and it was a gang of larrikins that had jimmied his window open, and no revolver was ever passed through. As important as the evidence was, the bench determined that Johnson was an unreliable witness and he was removed from the box.

Further thickening the plot was the testimony of a fellow inmate named McIntosh, whose bed was closer to Johnson’s than Baker’s, in which he stated he could not verify who the men outside were and that the object passed through was a chisel, not a revolver. A pawnbroker named Ellis also testified that he had sold two revolvers to Scott, but they were larger than the ones produced as evidence. A lad named Patrick McMullen testified that Scott had asked for a form to give him permission to see Johnson, which had been presented when the encounter at the Battery Reserve occurred. Rev. Lewis, a clergyman from Blackwood, testified that Scott had given him a pair of revolvers, and a Blackwood Senior Constable named Young also testified that he had seen the defendants in the area on 13 July, corroborating the reverend’s evidence.

James Nesbitt, alias Lyons [Source: PROV]

The hearing was over quickly with Mr. Read addressing the court by stating that as the object allegedly passed through the window could not be verified, and since the Williamstown Battery was not an official gaol in the legal sense, and there being no compelling evidence that an escape had actually been attempted, the complaint could not be sustained. The bench was inclined to agree and the defendants were acquitted. The result caused a response from onlookers that the men, and indeed the furious prosecution, could hardly have expected – applause. If ever there was a sign that the general public in Victoria were becoming disenfranchised with the police, surely this was it. Yet, however much the hoi polloi had their distrust of authority, it was incomparable to that of Scott, who had endured insult and injury at the hands of the police, and with two charges they had laid against him having fallen through he knew it was only going to get worse.

The economic depression in Victoria proved to be a sore point for the Berry government, with calls made for action to help those affected, and the press being forced to admit that unemployment was not merely the result of lazy people refusing to work. [Source: Mount Alexander Mail, 25/06/1879, page 2]

For months civil unrest had been brewing due to an economic depression that was hitting Victoria hard. Rallies in the cities were held and workers battled for their rights. Outside the cities, swagmen tramped the countryside looking for work, and now Andrew Scott – former engineer, soldier, and clergyman – found himself in that same sinking boat along with James Nesbitt, Thomas Williams and Gus Wernicke. No doubt it came as no big surprise that when a bank robbery was carried out in Lancefield, Scott and Nesbitt were blamed, despite being nowhere nearby.

“THE BANK ROBBERY AT LANCEFIELD”, Illustrated Australian news, August 30, 1879.

At 10:10am on 15 August, two men entered a branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia at Lancefield. One presented a revolver and ordered Arthur Morrison, the accountant, to stay quiet or he would be shot claiming that the two robbers were members of the Kelly Gang and had locked up the police. Morrison was then bound with ropes and gagged with a piece of wood. With one robber keeping watch, the other took as many coins and notes as he could carry. When a customer named Charles Musty accidentally interrupted the robbery, he too was bailed up. Ironically, had the robbers ordered Musty to hand over his cash they would have gained an additional £200. While all this was happening, Zalmonah Wallace Carlisle, the manager, was blissfully unaware as he enjoyed the fresh air in the garden in his way to the post office. Within a few moments the damage was done and the robbers had fled with £866 9s 4d. The initial report to the police stated that the two offenders matched the description of the outlaws Ned Kelly and Steve Hart. In response to this Superintendents Hare and Sadleir, who were in charge of the hunt for the Kelly Gang, were sent out to Lancefield accompanied by Sub-Inspector O’Connor and his Queensland native police. It soon emerged that the crime had not been committed by the Kellys at all and there were only two other men that police suspected of the crime.

Once again, Andrew Scott and James Nesbitt were hauled in by the police. They were questioned about their whereabouts during the robbery. Scott and Nesbitt had no hesitation in stating they had been in Melbourne the whole time. Upon further investigation the alibi was solid and, much to the chagrin of the police, the pair were released.

Andrew George Scott

This was the last straw for Scott. He decided that Victoria was only a place of misery for him and his companions and their fortunes lay north in New South Wales. He informed police that he intended to leave the colony in the hope that they would cease haranguing him. Taking all he could carry in a swag, Andrew George Scott, the man popularly known as Captain Moonlite, headed off in search of greener pastures accompanied by his partner James Nesbitt and their friends Frank Johns, alias Thomas Williams, and Augustus Wernicke. They would never return.

As for William Johnson, the young man at the centre of the Williamstown incident, immediately following the acquittal of Scott, Nesbitt and Foster he was transferred to Pentridge. He would remain in and out of prison until January of 1883.

Regarding the Lancefield bank robbery, it would later transpire that the robbery had been undertaken by two men named Cornelius Bray and Charles Lowe. Bray would claim he was desperately seeking work and fell in with Lowe who told him he could guarantee him employment. He then claimed he was forced to participate in the robbery on pain of death if he refused. Lowe responded that Bray was merely trying to paint him blacker than he was in order to gain sympathy. The pair were found guilty, Bray receiving five years hard labour and Lowe receiving eight years, the first to be carried out in irons.


“Numerous petty insults were given us by the police. I honestly felt I was unsafe in Victoria. I feared perjury and felt hunted down and maddened by injustice and slander. I left Melbourne with my friends, carrying my blankets, clothes and firearms. I felt rabid and would have resisted capture by the police. Though I knew I had committed no crime, bitter experience had taught me that innocence and safety from accusations were different things. My life and liberty had been endangered by perjury and … they would be endangered till I could secretly escape from those who seemed to hunger, if not for my blood, for my liberty and safety.”

– Andrew Scott

Dan Kelly: An Overview

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.

Studio portrait of Dan Kelly

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.

[Source: The Illustrated Australian News, 17/07/1880]

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.

This portable lock-up was formerly used in Greta and likely was the one that held young Jim and Dan Kelly before they were transferred to Wangaratta.

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.

[Source: Melbourne Punch, 30/10/1873]

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.

1 Dan_Kelly_Colourised_2.png

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.

Tom Lloyd, Dan’s cousin [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM3061]

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.

Constable Fitzpatrick [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM2580]

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.”

[Source: State Library of Victoria]

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.

Source: Weekly Times. 16 November 1878: 17

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.

[Source: Melbourne Punch, 19/12/1878]

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.

Dan Kelly (John Ley) helps Mrs. Devine (Anne Pendlebury) prepare the courthouse for mass in ‘The Last Outlaw’ (1980)

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.

sherritt hut.jpg
Aaron Sherritt’s Hut

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.

Dan Kelly’s armour [Source: Victoria Police Museum, VPM1799]

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.

The bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart in the Glenrowan inferno, sketched by Thomas Carrington.

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.

Somewhat grotesque depiction of the wake for Dan and Steve. Maggie Skillion stands at the door with a shotgun while an oath of vengeance is sworn over the charred corpses. Kate Kelly rests on her knees in the foreground. It was not reported who had sworn the oath in most accounts. [Source: Australasian Sketcher, 17/07/1880]

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.

Francis Augustus Hare

Forever remembered as the Kelly Hunter, Francis Augustus Hare was an intriguing man with a biography full of excitement and misadventure. From a privileged upbringing in South Africa to good fortune on the Victorian gold fields and a thrilling career as a frontier policeman, Hare is a man often maligned for his seeming ineptitude when hunting for some of the most remarkable bushrangers that Australia has produced.

Hare was born in Wynberg in the Cape of Good Hope on 4 October, 1830. One of seventeen children of Captain Joseph Hare of the 21st Light Dragoons and his second wife Sally, Francis received a good education due to his father’s good social standing. Joseph Hare passed away in 1856 after many years as a professional wine taster and warehouse-keeper at customs, as well as the owner of a farm named Oude Wynberg where Francis farmed sheep for a time with his brothers. However, the life of a grazier was not one that held any kind of allure for Frank Hare and when news reached him of the remarkable quantities of gold that had been found in Australia, he knew where he wanted to be.

Map of South Africa c.1880s. Wynberg is located within Cape Town in the south west. [Source]

On 10 April 1852 Hare arrived in Melbourne. After a jaunt in Sydney with a mate who had escaped from Norfolk Island, the 22 year old South African headed straight to the Goldfields in Bendigo where he staked a claim and later, on his claim on Springs Creek, he managed to dig up £800 worth of gold in one day. During his prospecting days he managed to avoid being nabbed for not having a mining licence, a serious offence in the days before the Eureka Stockade. Unfortunately, Hare’s constitution failed him and he fell deathly ill. Such problems would regularly plague him, but this illness was such that he ended up giving up mining in an effort to get to Sydney for treatment. At one point on his journey he found himself on a dray under a gum tree being watched by crows who he feared would peck out his eyes. Hare’s fear of death and carrion birds gave him the resolve to survive and recuperate. He soon got work with the gold escort, becoming a mounted lieutenant on 1 June 1854 and was assigned to escort the gold delivery from Beechworth to Buckland. The track upon which the escort travelled was notoriously difficult to traverse, the escort regularly having to swim across floodwaters and rivers and on one occasion a mule bearing 2000 ounces of gold broke away from the escort and bolted up a mountain pass and was shot to enable the escort to retrieve the gold as it would have been too treacherous to retrieve the mule as well. It was during this time that Hare had his first encounter with bushrangers.

At Dr. Mackay’s station on the Ovens River in 1855, the bushranger Meakin stuck up the station in search of £700 in cash Dr. Mackay had been paid the day before for horses. There were a number of people in the house that evening, the doctor’s wife bedridden and in precarious health, two women including the doctor’s niece and none other that Francis Augustus Hare, at that time a lieutenant stationed at Wangaratta. At 2am Hare was roused from his makeshift bed on a sofa by the two visiting women rapping on the French windows. They informed him there was a strange man on the deck with a gun and a large knife. Hare told the women to return to bed but they refused to leave his quarters until they were convinced he knew the seriousness of their observation. Five minutes after sending the women to bed the dogs began barking and Hare saw Meakin bolting across the courtyard for the fence. Hare called on him to stop to no avail and pursued him on foot. The chase was farcical, the hunter and the prey tripping up repeatedly as they headed for the garden fence, at one point Meakin becoming entangled in the vines in the garden. Hare took a shortcut to head Meakin off whereupon he tackled the bushranger into a mullock heap comprised mostly of rose bush cuttings. He grasped Meakin’s colt revolver in his right hand and with his left repeatedly pounded Meakin between the eyes. Of the event Hare would later recall:

The struggle was for life, and notwithstanding it was on the top of a heap of rubbish, principally rose cuttings, men never fought harder.

After wrestling for five or six minutes, Dr. Mackay finally arrived to discover the hullabaloo and Meakin surrendered. One can only imagine the sight of a 6’3″ tall South African dressed in nothing but trousers and a ripped shirt pinning a bushranger on top of a pile of rose clippings. Meakin was taken to the kitchen but made a run for it when Hare left the room to get dressed. Once more Hare was bounding after the criminal and brought him again to the ground, this time threatening to dash his brains out with a rock if he tried anything. Mackay bound Meakin with saddle straps and a constable was brought from Beechworth the next morning. Meakin was tried for burglary, having committed numerous similar offences. He was kept guarded by Hare at Wangaratta, the police station little more than a slab hut with earth floor. Despite having irons riveted to his legs, Meakin attempted again to escape custody. During the night he had fooled the sentry by getting right underneath his blankets and digging the earth floor of his cell and piling the dirt underneath the blanket to give the impression he was still asleep. Unfortunately for him the process took longer than he had anticipated and he was caught in the act the next morning. After he was transferred to Benalla he escaped through the roof of his cell, still in his irons, and was never seen again. It was not a complete loss for Hare, however, as Dr. Mackay gifted him a handsome gold watch as a token of his esteem for Hare’s astounding feat of daring. Hare would carry it with him until the day he died. Inscribed on the watch was:

Presented to Lieutenant Francis Hare for his gallant capture of an armed bushranger at Tarrawingee, the 23rd of June, 1855.

1855 also saw Hare attempt to bring justice to another bushranger known as “Billy the Puntman”. When the Ovens river had no bridges, the only way to cross was by punt. Billy, whose real name was John Hyde, was the puntman on the Ovens as well as a known stock thief. When a bridge was finally built, Billy was out of a job and turned to bushranging. On one occasion he robbed a mailman just outside of Greta, then known as 15 Mile Creek, but not far behind was a coach bound for Melbourne carrying Lieutenant Hare. When they found the mailman distraught on the side of the road and learned of his plight, Hare took one of the coach horses and rode off bareback after Billy the Puntman. Alas he soon lost the tracks and had to be satisfied with providing the information to the police at Benalla.


On 28 July 1857, Hare married 37 year old Janet Wright Harper, the eldest daughter of Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass at Raymond Terrance in New South Wales. Harper had been married in 1844 to George Mitchell Harper who had died the previous year. In the years that followed, Hare moved between stations in the roughest areas such as Back Creek, Chinaman’s Flat, and White Hills, near Maryborough. This was almost like the Wild West where murder was scarily frequent (almost weekly) and the frontier lifestyle was one fraught with danger and excitement, Hare even having to attempt placate a lynch mob who tried to break a murderer out of his cell to summarily hang him resulting in a riot. In a strange sequence of events, that murderer – a man named Brooks – died that afternoon of wounds received from his victim. The coroner severed the head as a memento and during the inquest, which was held in a theatre, the disembodied head rolled downstage and landed in front of the assemblage. The head, stripped of flesh stayed in that coroner’s possession for many years until his widow gave it to Hare who kept it as a keepsake in his den. Yet, as grisly as that place was, Hare’s tenure there also had its share of absurd moments. Hare would recall fondly the cases he was privy to in those days such as that of the drunk coroner forgetting to put a heart back into a body after an autopsy and the organ being pinched by an enterprising feline, or the coroner who got the sack for misidentifying ham bones from a fire as human remains only for the real human victim to be located dead of suffocation from the fire in a tunnel underneath the burned shop a few days after the funeral. Fortunately for Hare his time in the region was relatively safe apart from once when he had a narrow escape from being shot at Back Creek by one of his own troopers. At this time Hare was routinely referred to by some officers as ‘kaffir’, a racist term used by white South Africans in reference to black people.

Hare gradually climbed the ranks of the Victoria police, soon reaching the rank of superintendent. His conduct had brought him friends within the force, none so conspicuous as Captain Frederick Charles Standish, the chief commissioner of police. It was Standish who sent Hare to north east Victoria in 1870 to help lead the hunt for the notorious Harry Power, the infamous highwayman bushranger who had been committing his depredations unhindered. Hare was not used to operating in this region in such a capacity but his ego refused to allow him to fail. While he worked closely with Superintendent Nicolson on the chase, the two would often clash due to their dramatically different approaches. Hare was a very hands-on policeman, whereas Nicolson, who had been a detective for decades, tended towards establishing a sophisticated net of spies and traitors to entrap his prey. Both superintendents were present at Power’s capture, though Hare would later suggest his own role in the event was far greater than what had been reported. Hare and Nicolson had worked closely with a magistrate named McBean to convince a man named Jack Lloyd, a sympathiser of Power’s, to assist in his capture for the £500 reward – the largest yet offered in Victoria for a bushranger at that time. Lloyd led the police to a mountain near Whitfield and after making initial contact with Power to prove his presence, abandoned the police to avoid being suspected as the informant. The journey through the bush was treacherous, torrential rain hampering the police in their quest. Nicolson and Hare were accompanied by Sergeant Montford and a tracker named Donald who was able to point out the location of Power’s camp on an outcrop overlooking the King Valley. Power was asleep in his gunyah when Nicolson pounced on him, grabbing his wrists. Hare and Montford dragged the indignant bushranger out by his feet. After Power was restrained, the police ate his rations as they hadn’t eaten for two days. The exposure took its toll on Hare’s health. Nonetheless, Hare was lauded as a hero and this led to him gaining a reputation as a force to be reckoned with.

It was business as usual until after that. Hare was a keen sportsman, taking much joy in hunting for kangaroo and fowl, often going for trips hunting ducks along the Murray river. Nine years after his famous encounter with Power he was appointed by Captain Standish as the head of the hunt for the Kelly Gang, which was to be the defining period of his life. Hare took over from Superintendent Nicolson on 2 June 1879 after public perception of Nicolson had soured after the failure to apprehend the Kelly Gang, the outlaws even managing to rob a bank in Euroa during Nicolson’s watch. Hare was equipped with an indomitable spirit and was determined to bring the bushrangers to heel.

Hare’s hands-on approach led to a dramatic change in the way the police conducted their hunt. Bush work was the main focus of the operation and Hare would take parties of men out with black trackers to search the forested haunts of the gang. Hare took to leading search parties through the Warby Ranges in pursuit of the gang, believing them to be hidden in that region rather than around the Woolshed Valley or Strathbogie Ranges. Captain Standish had headed up from Melbourne to keep an eye on proceedings and such was his obsession for Hare that he would wait at the gate of the Benalla police station fretting like a hound awaiting its owner until Hare returned safely. Hare would later express great frustration in the fact that the gang’s network of sympathisers constantly hampered his attempts to ensnare the outlaws. This combined with the police inexperience in such rugged and mountainous terrain proven to be an almost insurmountable obstacle. Hare also instituted a bold plan formulated by Superintendent Nicolson back in Melbourne to cut off support for the gang. Officers arrested anyone suspected of being a sympathiser and had them remanded indefinitely until a charge could be laid. The downside of the plan was that it required Hare to travel to Beechworth every week to apply for a further seven days remand because no evidence could be produced to formulate charges for the prisoners. The plan proved impractical with the key sympathisers, the sisters of the outlaws specifically, still supplying them with information and sustenance, and the prisoners were soon released but not before stoking sympathy among the masses. This calculated move to try and eradicate support for the outlaws seemed to reinforce a resentment of the authorities instead. It was at this time also that the police would, through their agents, start to receive frequent reports that the outlaws or their sympathisers were intending on blowing up a police train. Additionally, pressure was put on the police to investigate every reported sighting regardless of how unlikely leading to Hare allocating officers to go in pursuit of dead ends or else be forced to deal with complaints that the reports were not being taken seriously. Hare, like Nicolson before him, began to rely ever more heavily on spies and informants to get an upper hand. The most prominent of Hare’s informants was Aaron Sherritt, a young man from the Woolshed Valley who was the childhood companion of gang member Joe Byrne and a bush telegraph for the gang.

Aaron Sherritt, dressed in the larrikin style of the Greta Mob.

Aaron would supply Hare and Detective Michael Ward with information in exchange for money, which would soon become his primary income. While Sherritt’s motivations and sympathies have been debated ad nauseum, Hare believed that Sherritt was honest in his support for the police effort, aided by the fact that Sherritt’s father had been a constable in Ireland (Sherritt’s brothers would later seek employment in the police force with their father writing a letter to Hare for his support in getting them jobs). Sherritt’s information often resulted in no successes for the police, though Hare continued to rely on him. It was Sherritt who informed Hare that the gang were planning a bank raid in New South Wales, stating he had been asked by the gang to accompany them to Goulburn. However the information proved incorrect and at the time the police were preparing to strike at Goulburn they stuck up the township of Jerilderie instead. On Sherritt’s guidance Hare established watch parties at the Byrne homestead to ensnare the outlaws on their return trip from Jerilderie. The stake-out proved a farce but Hare trusted Aaron enough that in the coming months he would establish a permanent watch party to observe the Byrne farm, fed all the while by information from Aaron that he had obtained from his fiancée, Kate Byrne, Joe’s sister. During this time Aaron and Hare became very close, Aaron letting Hare in on the trade secrets from his time with the Greta Mob when he would help Ned and Joe steal and sell horses. Hare had given him the nickname ‘Tommy’ to make his involvement with the police less conspicuous and had developed a keen admiration for Sherritt’s hardiness. Hare’s search parties were bolstered in March 1879 by the arrival of Sub-Inspector Stanhope O’Connor and his Queensland black trackers. Hare was so astounded by the abilities of one tracker in particular, named Moses, that he arranged for him to be transferred into the service of the Victoria Police, much to O’Connor’s chagrin.

Hare poses with his favourite tracker Moses.

Aaron’s insistence on keeping a police watch party (known as the ‘cave party’) watching the Byrne homestead would prove to be the larrikin’s undoing. Aaron would visit Kate Byrne and while he was there her mother would express a concern that there were police about the place. Aaron’s efforts to allay her fears were completely dashed when Mrs. Byrne found the police camp and Aaron along with the police stationed there after noticing a sardine tin glinting in the sun. Her recognition of Hare’s star informant made Aaron go deathly pale and break out in a cold sweat. When Hare asked what the matter was, Sherritt’s reply was nothing if not prophetic:

“Now I am a dead man.”

Mrs. Byrne subsequently broke off his engagement to Kate Byrne and in retaliation he stole a horse he had gifted to his fiancée and gave it to Maggie Skillion, Ned Kelly’s sister. At the time this arose Hare was greatly frustrated with the lack of progress and his health had begun to fail him, further exacerbated by badly injuring his back after jumping his horse over a fence, so he was removed from the hunt in July 1879 to recuperate, Nicolson being reinstated. Nicolson had pulled strings to get Aaron off the charge of horse stealing but the damage was done and eyes were now firmly on Sherritt from all quarters.


Upon Hare’s return to the campaign on 1 June 1880 he insisted that the trackers be sent back to Queensland, stating that their presence was too intimidating for the gang to be inclined to present themselves. Meanwhile, Hare had arranged for police to be stationed at key areas where they could keep an eye on the activity of the families of the outlaws. In addition, measures were put into place to protect Sherritt. A party of police were to remain with him at all times in the hut on his new selection at the Devil’s Elbow. Alas, word quickly shot through the bush telegraph and reached the gang that Aaron was working with the police and had constables living with him and his new wife Belle. Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne would begin a campaign of testing to see if Aaron was still loyal to the gang but in the end Sherritt’s fate was sealed.

On 26 June, 1880, Aaron Sherritt was murdered by Joe Byrne in his home. News of the murder was delayed in reaching the police until the following day. Hare was notified of the event at the hotel he was staying in and proceeded to attempt communication with Captain Standish in Melbourne. After much back and forth a special train was organised to leave Spencer Street train station. The train would collect O’Connor and the black trackers from Essendon and then Hare and his police party from Benalla before going express to Beechworth for a rendezvous with Detective Ward to pick up the trail of the Kelly Gang before it was too late. There was no inkling that the police were playing right into a trap set up by the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan who were finally making good on the threats to destroy a police train. When the train arrived at Benalla it had been badly damaged by a closed railway gate. Fortunately a second engine was ready to go as a contingency if the train from Spencer Street hadn’t arrived so the locomotives were swapped over and the damaged engine was to go ahead as a pilot. Hare proposed that the civilian volunteer Rawlins be tied to the front of the pilot engine with ropes and equipped with a lantern and rifle so he could spot danger. It was promptly pointed out that Rawlins would be killed by such action and the idea was dropped. The train, carrying Hare, 5 police officers, Rawlins, O’Connor and his black trackers, O’Connor’s wife and sister-in-law, a team of journalists, the police armoury and horses, headed out from Benalla not long after midnight on 28 June. Just outside of Glenrowan the train was stopped by Thomas Curnow, the local school teacher, who explained that the Kelly Gang had damaged the tracks. Hare climbed out of the window of his carriage to see what was up and instructed the pilot engine to guide them into the station. When they arrived in Glenrowan, Hare, accompanied by Rawlins and Senior Constable Kelly visited the Stanistreet house where a distressed Mrs. Stanistreet explained that the gang had taken her husband. By the time they returned to the station Constable Bracken had escaped from Ann Jones’ inn and informed Hare that the gang was there. Hare led a charge to Jones’ inn and in the opening exchange of fire between the police and the Kelly Gang Hare was shot in the left wrist, shattering the bones and severing an artery. He managed to fire another shot while perched on a tree stump before retreating to the train station where Thomas Carrington, a press artist, dressed the wound with a handkerchief from the ladies that had accompanied them. After a failed return to the battlefield Hare retired from the siege. No doubt Hare was disappointed in not being able to capture the Kellys himself, but he was more concerned with recovering from his injury. Recuperating in Rupertswood Mansion in Sunbury, an initial assessment was that he was to lose his hand. Fortunately for Hare he was able to recover without amputation. He later gifted the Clarkes, who had helped him recuperate in Rupertswood, Joe Byrne’s armour and Ned Kelly’s colt revolving carbine.

Hare gives evidence at the 1881 Royal Commission.

After the execution of Ned Kelly there was still work to be done. A Kelly Reward Board was formed in late 1880 to assess claims for the £8000 reward for the gang. Of this Hare received £800. The following year a Royal Commission was held to investigate the conduct of police during the Kelly outbreak. The findings of the commission did not reflect favourably on many of the senior officers with a great many being demoted or recommended to be removed from active duty. One of those recommended to be removed from active duty immediately was Superintendent Hare, who was still suffering from the effects of his injury at Glenrowan. In his later years Hare worked as a police magistrate while living at Janet Terrace in Hotham street, St Kilda. In 1892 Hare’s health rapidly deteriorated. Diabetes saw him bedridden once more and he underwent surgery at T.N. Fitzgerald’s private hospital before being transferred to Rupertswood Mansion where he collapsed, slipped into a coma and died the following day, 10 July. He was survived by his wife Janet, but left no heirs of his own. Janet would pass away herself in 1896, collapsing after a shopping trip in East Melbourne. Hare’s body was interred at the Melbourne General Cemetery.


Selected Sources:

Hare, Francis Augustus. The Last of the Bushrangers: an Account of the Capture of the Kelly Gang. 3d. ed. London: Hurst and Blackett ltd., 1894. [Link]

“OBITUARY.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 16 July 1892: 43.


“DEATH OF MR. HARE, P.M.” The Bendigo Independent. 12 July 1892: 3.

Superintendent Hare and the Kelly pursuit


Having successfully liberated the bank in Euroa of its wealth, the Kelly Gang went into hiding. The pursuit for the bushrangers was intensified and soon Superintendent Nicolson (who had been in charge of the hunt since the tragedy at Stringybark Creek) was replaced by Captain Standish. Standish felt that the perfect replacement for the cranky Scotchman was the man who helped Nicolson nab Harry Power in 1870, Superintendent Francis Augustus Hare. Hare was a towering, 6’3″ South African with extremely limited experience of bush work, almost no knowledge of the country the gang were hiding in and an ego big enough to convince him that these factors were irrelevant. Hare hand picked his troopers and held them in high regard for their temerity and their restraint in the face of grueling and unrelenting weather and terrain. Hare was also devout in his belief in the superior tracking abilities of the Aboriginals and had a Victorian tracker attached to his party named Moses who Hare adored then later another named Spider. Believing that he had the best task force the police could offer, Hare headed into the wild. The team would soon encounter significant obstacles in their pursuit. Hare went into detail in his memoirs about how difficult it was to find the gang:

There were peculiar difficulties connected with this undertaking… Firstly these men were natives of the district… They knew every inch of the ground, bushes and mountains; they had hiding places and retreats known to few, if any, but themselves, and they were acquainted with every track and bypath. Secondly, the sparseness of population. These men might disappear into the bush, and with their knowledge of the locality, ride hundreds of miles without coming near a dwelling-house, or meeting a human being…

Certainly this was a considerable setback for investigation. Kelly Country is an incredible patchwork of geography made up of softly undulating hills punctuated with heavily forested mountains in the Strathbogie and Warby Ranges in particular where the police knew the gang were reputed to be hiding. Ned Kelly would later brag about his ability to track the police without being noticed, even getting close enough to read and memorise the brands on their horses. When recounting details such as how many troops tended the horses or brewed the tea it was noted to be eerily accurate according to Hare. Ned of course used this to emphasise that he was no cold blooded cop killer because he could have picked off the police without setting a hair out of place if he had desired to. Yet, it was not only the geography that the troopers were struggling against.

Ten Men with Rifles.jpg

Superintendent Hare towers over his party. Among the men in the image are Conststables Thomas Lawless, Alfred Falkiner, Joe Mayes, John Milne, Tom Kirkham, William Canny and Daniel Barry. Moses the tracker is crouched at Hare’s feet. [Source]

Perhaps the most significant obstacles came from the people. Many reports that were made to the police about gang sightings were either misinformed or stale by the time police could reach the area.

And lastly – what aided them more than anything else – they commanded an enormous amount of sympathy among the lower orders. It was a well-known fact that they had friends and adherents either open or semi-veiled, all over the colony. The families of the Kellys, Harts and Byrnes were large ones… The Kelly family are the most prolific I have ever met in my life. There was no part of the colony from which we did not receive reports of them; in every part the Kellys had a cousin, an aunt, or something… And outside their family the sympathy they obtained was almost as great, though it was more of a meretricious order… If they had not a relation they had a sympathiser who was always talking in their favour and picking up the news… The gang was lavish with its money. They subsidised largely, instituted a body of spies known as ‘Bush telegraphs’ who kept them fully informed and aided them on every possible occasion to avoid capture. Apart from the money consideration the gang never behaved badly to a woman, but always treated them with consideration and respect. In like manner they seldom, if ever, made a victim of a poor man. And thus weaved a certain halo of romance and rough chivalry around themselves…

One could be forgiven for assuming from the way Hare spoke of the syndicate of sympathisers that he viewed the gang with a sort of admiration. Certainly Ned Kelly had learned some very important lessons from his time with Harry Power about the value of maintaining sympathy via the distribution of the proceeds of crime. Of course, robbing banks proved a short-lived solution as the raid on the banks at Euroa and Jerilderie prompted the government to supply banks with armed guards. This resulted in the gang disappearing for the majority of 1879 while they devised a plan. During this time the police made moves of dubious moral substance, first arresting anyone they suspected of being a sympathiser and holding them in indefinite remand until they could find something to pin on them, second there was a rumoured blacklist that prohibited members of the Kelly, Hart and Byrne clans to buy property in the district (this included relatives such as the Lloyds). This attack on the relatives and associates of the gang, in conjunction with the £8000 reward for their capture dead or alive (£4000 each from Victoria and New South Wales) meant that the gang were becoming desperate. Ned seems to have interpreted these as acts of war of a sort and began devising a plot to escalate things to a level that would truly reflect a war between the outlaws and their supporters and the forces of the law.

Having observed Superintendent Nicolson’s success with hiring spies and informants, Hare had set about recruiting his own spies. Most significant of these was Aaron Sherritt, who Hare considered the best chance they had of nabbing the gang. Sherritt kept the police at arm’s length from the gang at all times until things began to heat up and Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne began to put pressure on him and his brother Jack. Byrne would summon the brothers to meetings in the bush but wouldn’t always be there, or when he did would look very unwell. Meanwhile Dan was prone to calling on Jack Sherritt at home, on one occasion raiding the house with a pistol in his hand. This made Sherritt understandably edgy and constables were stationed at his place around the clock to protect him. Hare had taken a particular shine to Sherritt, as had Detective Ward, and the two lavished their star informant with gifts of silverware and clothing. As well-intentioned as the constables were, they would prove to be more of a liability than insurance.

Aaron Sherritt.jpg
Aaron Sherritt posing in a jacket and boots gifted to him by Hare.

Hare’s attempt at active duty in the field resulted in poor health and he was replaced briefly by Nicolson but was quickly re-instated on the orders of the Chief Secretary Robert Ramsay who gave Hare Carte Blanche to tackle the pursuit however he wished. When Hare resumed work as leader of the hunt on 1 June, 1880, he took dramatic measures, arranging police to watch the domiciles of the Byrnes, Harts and Kellys (posting Constable Hugh Bracken as the lone policeman at Glenrowan to facilitate ease of spying on the Kellys in nearby Greta) then seeking to have the Queensland trackers sent home as he believed their intimidating presence was stopping the gang from emerging. When the gang re-emerged in late June 1880, Sherritt was the first domino in Ned Kelly’s master plan to land a decisive blow against the police and launch a war against the authorities. Hare had been trying to tackle seemingly deliberate inefficiency in his subordinates, namely the constables stationed with Sherritt, as their shirking of their duty was at risk of allowing the outlaws to go about unperturbed. It was in the midst of this attempt to force his constables to shape up that Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly murdered Sherritt and then threatened the other occupants of the hut – Sherritt’s wife and mother-in-law as well as the four assigned constables. This was to lure a train full of police to Beechworth to investigate while the trail was hot, only to be derailed at Glenrowan. The exact nature of Ned’s plan here was subject of much speculation, though based on comments he made to people over the course of the weekend they held Glenrowan captive, we do know he planned to destroy the train and kill all the police and black trackers on board, though his later claims contradicted this. Unfortunately Joe and Dan did such a good job of terrorising the police and then their sympathisers, clearly not understanding the plan, did such a good job of intimidating messengers that news of Sherritt’s death was unable to leave the hut until daybreak. Hare and Superintendent Sadleir would subsequently spend most of the day in the telegraph office in Benalla trying to reach Captain Standish in Melbourne in order to establish a course of action.

When things eventually fell into place for Hare, he and a party of police as well as Sub-Inspector O’Connor and his Queensland trackers headed for Beechworth via a special train. The hunt for the gang was shortly to be brought to a violent end when the police besieged Ann Jones’ Glenrowan Inn. In the fray Hare’s left wrist was shattered by a bullet from Ned Kelly – a wound that almost resulted in an amputation – and his absence from the field left a power vacuum until Sadleir arrived with reinforcements later in the morning.

Hare’s last act as head of the hunt for the gang was to lead the charge against them at Glenrowan.

Hare’s recovery was prolonged but he was healthy enough to visit Ned Kelly in the hospital of Melbourne Gaol and remain active in the aftermath of the Glenrowan siege. He gifted Joe Byrne’s armour and Ned Kelly’s Colt revolving carbine to the family who looked after him as a way of thanking them. Hare would be brought into the 1881 Royal Commission as a champion of law and order but come out the other side with his tail between his legs and a recommendation from the commission that he be redeployed away from active service. He spent the rest of his career as a police magistrate, during which time he compiled his memoirs before succumbing to diabetes in 1892.

Selected Source:

Hare, Francis Augustus. The last of the bushrangers; an account of the capture of the Kelly gang. 3d. ed. London, Hurst and Blackett ltd., 1894.

Charles Hope Nicolson: Nemesis of the Bushrangers

History is filled with tales of remarkable lawmen and women who were formidable in the pursuit of law and order and, by extension, justice. In America the most famous lawmen of the Wild West were just as roguish as the criminals they pursued – Wyatt Earp and “Wild” Bill Hickok spring to mind. In England the creation of Scotland Yard produced some of the finest officers in the world including Inspector Abberline who spearheaded the investigation into the Whitechapel murders using pioneering forensic approaches . In Australia we had many great officers of the law but of course very few were conspicuous in the way the Earps and Abberlines of the world were. Where bushrangers were concerned most police only gained particular attention for either being on the giving or receiving end of a lethal bullet, or for their notable inefficiency in bringing outlaws to heel. In light of this, one Charles Hope Nicolson stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries as the nemesis of the bushrangers.

Nicolson was born in the Orkney Islands, Scotland on 7 October 1829 to Thomas Balfour Nicolson and Hughina Forbes, and was baptised in Dundee. He travelled to Australia in 1852 aboard The Chance as purser. The voyage was dangerous and many died en route then there was a break-out of smallpox as they arrived in Hobson’s Bay. They were quarantined off St. Kilda Beach before coming ashore, which didn’t sit well with many of the crew who undertook a plot to escape the quarantine. When the escape went belly up and a man was stuck in the bay floating on a table calling for help, Nicolson was the only one clued in enough to realise that any attempt to rescue the men floating around the ship would result in mutiny and the rescuers having their boats stolen. Nicolson ordered the men to climb back aboard at gunpoint and the man on the table was towed back. In 1852 he joined the Victoria police as a cadet. The police force was only in its infancy at the time and had been created as a response to the Gold Rush and the incredible spike in crime that came with it. Nicolson was a fit, wily recruit with a passion for upholding the law and maintaining order. His new found skills as an officer of the law were about to be tested in a big way.

Mounted police at the time Nicolson enlisted.

In 1853 the bushrangers Bradley and O’Connor absconded from their assigned areas as per their tickets of leave. They created chaos through the north of Tasmania before finally hijacking a schooner and forcing the crew at gunpoint to sail for Port Phillip. When they landed they proceeded to continue their mayhem and a party was sent to tackle these bandits and restore order. Among the party led by Sergeant Nolan were cadets Nicolson, Ostler and Thompson who were all bristling with anticipation. Setting out from Jackson’s Creek on 25 September, the police party searched the bush all day and all the morning of 26 September and decided to stop for dinner at Cain’s Station at dusk. When they arrived they found the occupants tied up and released them. It was ascertained that the bushrangers had only lately left the premises. Nicolson went outside upon hearing hooves and saw who he thought was a colleague named McCullough and asked for verification. Inside one of the residents recognised O’Connor’s voice as he replied to Nicolson’s interrogative. Thompson drew his pistol and joined Nicolson. O’Connor ordered Thompson to throw down his gun but was refused so O’Connor shot the trooper in the chest. Nicolson reeled off two shots at the escaping outlaw with no effect. The Bushrangers returned, Bradley on foot, and were again met with fire from Nicolson. The offenders turned and fled into the night but next morning Nicolson had reinforcements.

Upon spotting the bushrangers the troopers cheered. Bradley dismounted and hid, Ostler went in pursuit. Nicolson and Sergeant Nolan turned their sights on O’Connor. Armed only with single shot horse pistols and sabres there was not much gunplay between the police and the outlaw but a shot from O’Connor hit Nicolson’s horse in the neck and another ripped the flesh of Nicolson’s cheek (it would leave a prominent scar thereafter). Sergeant Nolan rode close to O’Connor and nearly sliced the bandit’s weapon in half with his sabre. Meanwhile, charging headlong towards O’Connor, Nicolson got within arm’s reach and landed a heavy blow, wrenching him out of the saddle. As the offender bit the dust Nicolson dismounted and they grappled. As much of a brute as the bushranger was he was powerless against the righteous fury of Nicolson who landed a powerful punch that knocked sense into the rogue who immediately surrendered. The two outlaws were soon shuttled off to Melbourne where they were given their just desserts on the end of a rope. Nicolson had cemented a reputation as a man not to be trifled with and was widely lauded for his conspicuous bravery.

Nicolson led a good life as an officer, swiftly climbing the ranks and working as a detective. In 1856 he became Superintendent of Detectives working alongside Captain Standish. In 1861 he married Helen Elizabeth Smith and together they had eight children: Rupert, John, Robert Balfour, Helen Fairlie, Charles Hope, L’Estrange Disney, Shirley and Gladys Fairlie.

As the 1860s rambled on with bushrangers running amok in New South Wales and making the police a laughing stock under Sir Frederick Pottinger and his ilk, Nicolson seemed to make a mental note about how to tackle the same problem in Victoria.

In 1869 the most troublesome bushranger in Victoria was Harry Power, a middle aged bandit who had a most remarkable capacity to cover vast distances in a very short time. Nicolson was picked to help spearhead the pursuit for Power who was reportedly working with a young man described as being twenty one and very aggressive towards the pair’s victims. Nicolson was joined by a recent arrival to the Victoria Police, a towering South African named Frank Hare. Both he and Hare were superintendents by this stage and were able to work together reasonably well. Within a short span Power’s mate had been arrested and identified as a fifteen year old named Edward Kelly, better known as Ned. Nicolson and Hare interrogated Kelly in an attempt to extract information about Power’s location. Kelly was tight lipped but did let a few nuggets loose. While Kelly was being remanded in Kyneton, Nicolson took a keen interest in him, believing that he still had a chance to get back on the straight and narrow path and even tried to find him work away from the perceived negative influences of his family.

Nicolson used his experience as a detective to great effect in the pursuit of Power, luring in an informant in the form of a former prison mate of Power named Jack Lloyd. Lloyd, it emerged, was responsible for some of the crimes attributed to Power but struck a deal with Nicolson and Hare that not only meant he would not be prosecuted but would be eligible for the £500 reward for Power. Lloyd helped guide a party of police consisting of Nicolson, Hare, Sergeant Mountford and a tracker to the approximate location of Power’s hideout. The tracker led them the rest of the way. When they reached the upper slopes of Power’s Lookout they saw wisps of smoke and ascertained they were in the right place. Nicolson led the assault, hanging up his coat and then leaping on Power as he slept in his mia-mia, dragging him out with much protest. Nicolson was quietly proud but Hare couldn’t resist taking advantage of the bragging rights at the first opportunity – something that made Nicolson sour towards Hare.

When Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was wounded in a bungled arrest attempt in the Kelly home in Greta, two Kelly Brothers, Ned and Dan, became bushrangers. A party was sent into the Wombat Ranges to find them but were ambushed by the Kellys and their mates Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. Three of the police were killed in the event. Nicolson was promptly given orders to head to Benalla as Assistant Commissioner of Police where he would be in charge of the pursuit for the gang alongside Superintendent Sadleir who was in charge of the police in the region. Nicolson wasted no time in creating a network of spies and informants and trying to get any information on the bandits possible but his underestimation of the support the gang had in the country impeded the investigation. False leads and stale information hampered the hunt and when the Kelly Gang robbed the bank at Euroa it was too much. Nicholson’s increasingly poor health and perceived ineffectiveness saw him taken off the case by Captain Standish and replaced with none other than Frank Hare who proceeded to make a dog’s breakfast of the barely functioning system Nicolson has already established. Nicolson was not subtle in his disapproval.

Hare and his men were not equipped for such demanding bush work but Hare had also learned some tricks from his time with Nicolson and believed he could do a better job. Weeding out many of Nicolson’s spies and elevating many of his own, including Aaron Sherritt, led to months of endless stake outs and following more bad leads. These took their toll on Hare’s health and a rejuvenated Nicolson was put back in charge. Unfortunately many of the spies Hare had employed refused to cooperate with Nicolson as they had not been paid for their previous work. When reports of stolen ploughshares began to trickle in Nicolson effectively dismissed them but did send a party out to investigate possible camp sites where evidence of a bush forge was found. Alas, Nicolson could not make satisfactory headway with the disaster he’d inherited and was booted off the case just as he was beginning to get the investigation back on track. Nicolson was no doubt particularly displeased that he was once more replaced with Hare. Within a couple of weeks desperation had seen the Kelly Gang murder Aaron Sherritt and attempt to derail a train full of police who they had a gun fight with dressed in armour made from the stolen ploughshares. The gang was destroyed and the leader, Ned Kelly, captured. Naturally Hare received more than his fair share of praise for the result. Nicolson subsequently resigned from the police force.

Superintendent Hare, Captain Standish and Acting-Commissioner Nicolson during the 1881 Royal Commission (Australasian Sketcher, 23/04/1881)

After Kelly’s execution a Royal Commission was held into the conduct of police. Among the many recommendations was that Nicolson be redeployed and in 1882 he became a police magistrate and remained in this role for years. Nicolson was very well respected within his community and profession, earning a reputation as a fair, calm and just magistrate, until dying at home in South Yarra from a sudden illness in July 1898. He was buried in St Kilda cemetery.

Selected Sources:
“CHARLES HOPE NICOLSON.” The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954) 3 August 1898: 2.
“ABOARD “THE CHANCE.'” The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954) 30 September 1898: 5.
“THE LATE MR C.H. NICOLSON. P.M.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 6 August 1898: 14.
“PEERYBINGLE PAPERS” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 6 August 1898: 21.
“BRADLEY AND O’CONNOR.” The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) 5 October 1910: 1
“MELBOURNE SUPREME COURT.” Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 27 October 1853: 2.

Spotlight: Capture of Power the Bushranger

capture of power

By May 1870 bushranging was almost completely wiped out. Captain Thunderbolt met his inglorious end and all that was left were the odd copycat and the last of the highwaymen: Harry Power. Harry Power was a legend in his own lunchtime whose limited notoriety was on a scale comparable to the most infamous of his contemporaries so of course news of his capture was very well received. This is how it went down according to the news of the day… 


By the mail which arrived yesterday morning from Beechworth, came to the chief commissioner of police an official account of the gallant capture of Power, the bushranger, by Superintendents Nicolson and Hare and First class Sergeant Montford. Much of the information supplied is, in the opinion of Captain Standish, matter which it would be wrong to publish ; but being naturally desirous to make public the leading features of the affair, he has communicated the following, which is substantially the same as the account telegraphed to us by our correspondent at Wangaratta. The account of the actual capture is a little indistinct, and we supplement it by a passage from a private letter from Mr. Hare to a gentleman of this city, which throws a little more light upon the way in which the encounter took place. It may be surmised that the attack was, in fact, made pell-mell. There was no previous observation — no reconnoitring. As soon as signs of smoke were visible, the party started at full speed to the spot, and we may suppose that Mr. Nicolson, being first, fell upon his man, who awoke suddenly to find Mr. Hare and Sergeant Montford also arrived, so that he was covered with three revolvers. The handcuffing followed, as a matter of course.

The following is the statement :—

Superintendents Nicolson and Hare and first class Sergeant Montford arrived at Benalla on the 29th May, having been sent on special duty in connexion with the search for the bushranger Power. They proceeded to a station in the neighbourhood, and were engaged several days in prosecuting inquiries. On the 1st inst., they proceeded, accompanied by a black tracker and a guide, whose services they had secured, to the head of the King River. The same day they reached Table Top Range, and camped there, turning out their horses. They carefully avoided all roads and tracks while travelling through the bush. At daybreak on Thursday last the party proceeded through the mountains till they reached a spot within 14 miles of the Glenmore Range. Here they camped in a secluded gully, and remained prosecuting their inquiries till the afternoon of the 4th inst. During the whole of this time they were compelled to watch their horses, so as to guard against being discovered by any persons in the neighbourhood. At half past 5 p.m. on Saturday last they started on horseback, and proceeded for a mile or two, when the darkness become so dense that the guide declined to go any further, stating that he had lost his way, and that the ranges were so steep that he feared an accident. He suggested that the party should wait till daybreak, having evidently miscalculated his knowledge of the natural features of the country. He was, however, prevailed upon to proceed, and with the assistance of Sergeant Montford, whose previous knowledge of the country was here found to be invaluable, a track was discovered which led to the part of the King River which they desired to reach. They remained here for about an hour, as it was undesirable for many reasons that they should reach the point for which they were making before midnight. In that neighbourhood was the house of a settler named Quinn, which is so situated as to prevent access to the Glenmore Range without passing within a few yards of the door ; the King River being on one side and several deep and dangerous lagoons on the other. These lagoons terminate in a creek, the only bridge over which is exactly opposite Quinn’s premises. There was reason to believe that Power’s usual camping place was not far distant from Quinn’s house, and as the latter kept numerous watchdogs, the greatest possible caution was necessary to pass the place without giving any alarm. At midnight the party made a start, and after going for half a mile, and crossing numerous watercourses, which they were compelled to wade into to ascertain their depth, the guide was once more at a loss, and the party found themselves in a labyrinth of lagoons from which it appeared almost impossible to extricate themselves. However, by the assistance of the black tracker, they succeeded in retracing their steps to the place from which they had started four hours before. The darkness at this time was so great that it was with the utmost difficulty the party was kept together, and the horses at last refused to face the creeks. The night drawing to an end, they proceeded in all haste in the direction of Quinn’s house, but keeping on this this occasion along the banks of the river, encountering by the way many obstacles such as log fences, dead timber, rivulets, &c., till they reached a paddock a quarter of a mile from the house. The party here dismounted, and leaving the horses in the care of the black tracker, crept cautiously along the lagoon at the back of Quinn’s house, which they fortunately succeeded in passing without alarming any of the numerous dogs. For the third time the guide stated he was quite incapable of leading the party to the point they wished to reach, and  appeared to be suffering from extreme fatigue and cold.

After a short consultation the party decided on risking the loss of their horses and sent Sergeant Montford for the black tracker who had been left in charge of them. The sergeant returned with him after a delay of about 20 minutes. By this time it was broad daylight, and their anxiety was much increased lest their presence should become known. They then made a fresh start, spreading out in a line, and systematically  searching spurs and gullies. About half-past 7 a.m., when about half a mile up Glenmore Range, they came upon a hollow tree, which had evidently been used as a sleeping place, and which led them to conjecture that they were on the right track. At that instant the black tracker saw smoke about 300 yards further up the mountain. They proceeded silently and speedily in that direction, and when within about 30 yards of the smoke they perceived a fire in front of a quantity of gum bushes which screened a gunyah. This the party immediately rushed, and discovered inside of it the bushranger Power, lying with his clothes on, with a revolver by his side, and a gun close to his head. The party covered him with their revolvers, and calling on him to surrender, dragged him outside and handcuffed him without his making any further resistance. To the remark made that he had given the police a great deal of trouble, he replied, ” I am sorry I did not hear you coming—I would have dropped one of you,” and added that he would have preferred being shot dead to being taken alive. Sergeant Montford was then despatched for the horses. On searching the gunyah the party discovered a large supply of bread, meat, tea, sugar, and vegetables. The revolver and the double-barrelled gun were both heavily loaded. In the gunyah they also found a purse containing £15. The whole party having been without any food for 24 hours, and on short allowance for the previous two days, gladly availed themselves of Power’s hospitality. The black tracker, who was extremely exhausted by hunger, fatigue, and cold, exclaimed on seeing the store of provisions, “My God, what a feed we shall have.” After this welcome repast, and having taken possession of all the property found in the gunyah, they placed Power on the black tracker’s horse, and rode off to a hut nine miles distant, where they obtained a cart, and ultimately reached Wangaratta, distant 40 miles, at 7 o’clock on Sunday night, after being 25 consecutive hours in the saddle. The prisoner was most communicative as to his exploits. He complained of the many persons who reported having been robbed by him, for which statements he said there was not the  slightest foundation. He admitted having committed numerous robberies, and stated his intention to plead guilty to those brought against him. During the whole time the hardships the party underwent were considerable. With the exception of Thursday it rained incessantly, and their difficulties were considerably enhanced by the caution they had to observe, which necessitated the adoption of the most difficult and secluded routes. They had only taken provisions sufficient for two meals per man, and were unable to obtain further supplies, and were moreover without any kind of shelter for the whole period, while the idea of lighting a fire was of course out of the question. Their success was in a great measure owing to the thorough knowledge of the country which Sergeant Montford possessed, he having formerly been stationed at Wangaratta for some time.


Mr. Superintendent Hare, writing to a gentleman of this city, thus describes the affair. His narrative commences shortly after daybreak on Sunday morning :—

“However, on we went, hoping almost against hope, when suddenly we came across a tree which bore indications of having been inhabited. At this moment the blackfellow at once made signs of ‘smoke ahead.’ Off the three of us started in the direction, Nicolson first, myself next, Montford behind, and the blackfellow bringing up the rear, with a Snider rifle at full cock, ready to shoot the first man who showed himself. We had to go a couple of hundred yards, which, I can assure you, did not take many minutes — Nicolson all the time taking off his coat as if going to have a stand up fight with someone—when we beheld a kind of habitation before us, not a stir about the place. Our joy was beyond description, when the first thing we saw was two feet sticking out, and in a few seconds Power, the man of whom we had heard so much, and who had been in our minds for months and months, stood before us handcuffed. Oh that we could have telegraphed to town at that moment! Our happiness was complete ; we sat down to a billy of tea, and I ate the best breakfast I ever had in my life. You will see that the poor blackfellow, who had really had more grub than any one of us, was almost dead with cold and hunger. He called out at the top of his voice directly he saw what was in the gunyah, ‘My God,won’t we have a feed !’ Nothing but his belly was in his thoughts.”

We have not been indulged with a view of the rest of this vivid description of the proceedings.

“CAPTURE OF POWER, THE BUSHRANGER.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 9 June 1870: 7. Web. 29 Nov 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5822539&gt;.