Cookson, 07 09 1911 3
7 September 1911
THE OUTLAWRY AND THE MAN WHO CAUSED IT
OFFICIAL OPINIONS OF CONSTABLE FITZPATRICK Though there were other contributory causes to account for the Kellys taking to the bush, there can be no doubt that it was the attempt of Constable Fitzpatrick to arrest Dan Kelly at the homestead on April 15, 1878, that set the formidable quartet at was with society, and inaugurated the long reign of robbery, murder, and terror that was so tragically terminated at Glenrowan. The story told by Fitzpatrick concerning his visit to the Kelly homestead was that he was attacked by the whole Kelly family, that Mrs Kelly hit him with a frying pan, and that Ned Kelly shot him in the wrist. This story was positively denied by the members of the family, who alleged that Fitzpatrick tried to take liberties with Kate Kelly, and that in a struggle that followed his pistol went off and shot him.
It is interesting, seeing what weighty and direful consequences depended upon the result of the prosecution in this matter, what sort of man the young trooper was. Interesting information in this regard is furnished in the report of the Royal Commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the Kelly outbreak, and in which the following passage occurs:-
The incident, however, which seems to have more immediately precipitated the outbreak was the attempt of Constable Fitzpatrick to arrest Dan Kelly, at his mother's hut. This constable appears to have borne a very indifferent character in the force, from which he was ultimately discharged. Mr. Fosberry, the Inspector-General of Police, New South Wales, and Captain Standish express in strong terms their adverse opinions of Fitzpatrick, while the present (1881) Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chomley, writes a valedictory memo. on his papers, describing him as a liar and larrikin. To this man was entrusted, in April 1878, the temporary charge of Greta, the very focus of crime in the district. He had been stationed at Benalla, and prior to starting for Greta he appears to have had an interview with Sergeant Whelan, the sub-officer in charge, relative to his duties. Whelan, in his evidence, is somewhat contradictory upon the point as to whether Fitzpatrick was justified in attempting to arrest Dan Kelly under the circumstances. In almost the one breath he states that the constable was wrong in going to the Kellys' but, and then urges that it was his duty to act as he did. The arrest was attempted to he made in consequence of a 'Gazette' notice to the effect that a warrant had been issued at Chiltern against Dan Kelly and Jack Lloyd, on a charge of suspected cattle stealing. Sergeant Lynch, at Chiltern, considered that the men alleged to have been seen driving certain horses through the township answered the description of those men, and warrants for their arrest were issued accordingly. Fitzpatrick's efforts to fulfil what he may have considered his duty proved disastrous. . . . . The alleged severity of the punishment inflicted upon the mother of the outlaws has been the subject of comment in the course of the inquiry, and Captain Standish considers that it formed one of the many causes which assisted to bring about the Kelly outrages. One point in this matter should not be overlooked. Jack Lloyd, who was implicated in the alleged case of horse stealing for which Fitzpatrick sought to arrest Dan Kelly, was subsequently taken into custody, and, the charge having been investigated, he was discharged. There can be little doubt that Constable Fitzpatrick's conduct, however justified by the rules of the service, was unfortunate in its results."
"Disastrous" is not too strong a term. Witness the results:-
Dan and Ned Kelly take to the bush, and later organise with Byrne and Hart, a gang of robbers which terrorised a huge area of country for two years, and set the whole authority of the State at defiance.
Wholesale depredations by members of the gang and their friends, which the police were powerless to prevent or punish, and which the owners of the stolen property were afraid to complain of.
The murder, in the Wombat Ranges, of three brave troopers-Kennedy, Scanlon, and Lonergan.
The looting of the bank at Euroa.
The "sticking-up" and plundering of the Younghusband's station.
The capture of Jerilderie and looting of the bank of New South Wales there (£3000 was secured by the robbers on this occasion)
Murder of Aaron Sherritt.
Tragedy of Glenrowan and loss of five lives.
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