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Royal Commission report day 47 page 4

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 47)

F. C. Standish giving evidence

16016 Was that system in force all through of employing agents?— When we were there we had men in our employ to whom we made small payments from time to time; but I was very cautious, knowing so many there were sympathizers, in that district, with the Kellys; I only trusted them as far as I thought there was a chance of success.

16017 Had you anything at all to do with Wallace the schoolteacher?— Yes.

16018 During the whole time you were there you had no definite information as to where the Kellys were?— No certain reliable information.

16019 You have no doubt they were resident in the same neighborhood where they were said to be in Mr. Nicolson's time?— There was no doubt they were all about; I had reliable information on that.

16020 Events have transpired since to show they resided in the same district where they were first when Mr. Nicolson was there?— Yes.

16021 Therefore, the chances you had were equally great to those that Mr. Nicolson had during the period he was in charge?— Yes.

16022 Therefore if his condemnation was deserved, yours would equally be?— That is in your hands to say. I did my best all the time I was there.

16023 Would not that be a proper inference, the circumstances being the same in each case—would not the condemnation equally apply to each?— That is a matter for your consideration. I know I worked hard, and did my duty, and never anticipated success.

16024 Then it would be only fair to admit that the condemnation was not so really deserved as you at first imagined?— I know he threw chances away that I never had.

16025 Do you think he had better chances than you had?— I think he had. If you read the evidence you will see that.

16026 In what way had he?— He had information on one occasion from John Sherritt that the outlaws would be at his house at eight o'clock that evening.

16027 Did you always consider John Sherritt a reliable agent?— Yes, I did. There was nothing against him at any time.

16028 On what ground did you consider any other agent unreliable?— I never put implicit confidence in any man.

16029 No, but you have stated that he had agents who were telling the Kellys everything that occurred?— Yes, no doubt.

16030 Did it not occur to you that it was possible John Sherritt would tell the Kellys?— He was never in my employ.

16031 Then you had in reality, so far as we know, no grounds beyond mere opinion for saying his agents were unreliable?— I was told by private sources—the names I am not at liberty to disclose.

16032 Did you ever speak with Aaron Sherritt?— Yes.

16033 Did you ever speak with Wallace?— Yes. I may tell you, that shortly after I went up there, Wallace was schoolmaster at Bobinawarrah, and he came in to see me shortly after I arrived at Benalla, and he told me he could get leave during the Christmas holidays, and would go out shooting in the ranges, and point out where the outlaws were, and give me information. Well, of course, if you employ a man on duty of this kind, it is necessary to make enquiries. If you place yourself in the hands of men you do not know, it would be unsafe. I found out shortly after that there were reasons why I should not employ him.

16034 What did you find out with reference to him?— I will tell you. I started with a horse and a man we had employed acting as constable for Wangaratta, at night. I slept at Wangaratta, started at dawn of day with this constable, and I rode to Bobinawarrah. I had seen Wallace twice before—once, the first occasion mentioned, and the second time he came into Benalla again—and I left the constable and my horse about a quarter of a mile from the school, and went to the school, and Wallace was outside. That was about a quarter past eight in the morning, and he said, “Oh, Captain Standish , what are you doing here?” I said, “It is a perilous job—I came here to meet a man who gave me information.” Of course this was not true. It was said on purpose to mislead him. He asked me to breakfast, and I stayed there two hours, and conversed with him during the time, and he told me Joe Byrne was in the habit of coming to see him, but had not been there for six weeks or two months. Then, after that, we went on talking about the outlaws, and he said, “You are doing rather a risky thing coming here”; and I said, “I have got my revolver here, and a constable with me.” Then I said to him, “ By-the-bye, have you seen Aaron Sherritt lately? I know he is the man who is in the habit of going to your house often “; and he said, “No, he has not been here for six weeks.” The conversation ended, and I went back to Wangaratta, and thence to Benalla; and when I got there I found Aaron Sherritt had arrived, and wanted to see me. I went out in the bush to meet him, and said, “Well, Aaron , where did you come from?” and then he said, “I have just spent two days at Wallace 's, and I came away morning early.” This showed me the reliability of Mr. Wallace . After that he communicated with me, saying he had seen Byrne, and that he had a long talk with him, and Byrne said he was not disinclined to throw his mates overboard, provided that it was guaranteed he was not taken up by the police and the sum of £100 or £200 to get out of the country. I went up to Benalla very shortly afterwards, and Wallace came in to meet me, and we had a long talk, and he said that evidently Byrne had- declined—would not throw up his mates—thought it would not do.....

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