Cookson, 09 09 1911 1
9 September 1911
THE OUTLAWRY IN THE BEGINNING
TRAGEDY OF THE WOMBAT RANGES
OUTLAWYS EXPLOITS AT EUROA When the four young men took to the bush Ned Kelly was 24 years old, Dan was only 17, Hart was a year older, and Joe Byrne 21. They were well equipped with arms and were men who from their experience of the locality and particular knowledge of the whole of country now known as the Kelly territory, were pecualally well adapted for success in the career they had chosen.
For five moths they did just as they like. It was not until October 1878, that the Victorian authorities realised the seriousness of the situation presented by these four desperate young men calmly setting at defiance all law and authority, and their administration.
When the realisation of the actual position did home to the police authorities an organised search of the ranges in which the men were supposed to be concealing themselves was set on foot. Search parties, consisting of three or four men, were sent to scour the fastnesses of the mountain ranges. One of these parties was in charge of Sergeant Kennedy. This party it was that actually encountered the bushrangers, which encounter proving so fatal to the police party, set the seal of outlawry on Ned Kelly and his associates and stirred up the Victorian Government to most elaborate expedients for their capture. Rewards amounting to four thousand pounds were offered for the capture of the four outlaws. The New South Wales Government offered another thousand pounds a head of their apprehension.
To go back to the encounter between Kennedy's ill-starred party and the bushrangers, it will be necessary to refer to the report of the Royal Commission which investigated all the circumstances of the Kelly outbreak. This report states that Kennedy's party behaved throughout in a manner imminently calculated to defeat the object with which it visited the Wombat Ranges, where, as was known, the Kelly's were at that time in hiding. The conduct of the police all through this exciting and protracted man hunt, was in no sense praiseworthy. The behaviour of the constables who were employed to watch Mrs Byrne's house, and whose headquarters was a cave in the vicinity, has already been described. The conduct of Sergeant Kennedy's party, whist not so reprehensible in other respects, seems to have suggested a serious lack of apprehension of the gravity of the mission on which it was engaged. It is upon record that the men were actually permitted to try and shoot birds with their rifles-a piece of folly which must of necessity have kept the outlaws well apprised of their movements and promity.
The inevitable happened.
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