Cookson, 09 09 1911 3
9 September 1911
A POPULAR OUTCRY When the news of this dreadful encounter reached Melbourne there at once arose a tremendous popular outcry for the adoption of most strenous measures to bring the outlaws into subjection and to avenge the men who had been slain. But the police force was found very indifferently equipped for organised warfare upon a force of even four hostile men. They had no firearms, to speak of. The revolvers then used by the police were of obsolete pattern. A few rifles were got from the military authorities but these also were obsolete and old fashioned. Finally the Government invested in shot guns, and armed the police with these. Then began one of the greatest man hunts known in the history of the world.
It was the tragedy of the Wombat that impelled Byrne and Hart to throw in their lot for good or ill with the Kellys. Both these men told their friends afterwards that when they started to the police camp on that fatal day they had not the slightest intention of shooting anyone. Ned Kelly said that all he intended to do was what Power had donee befire - that is, to bail up the police and secure their firearms and ammunition.
The outlaws at that time wanted both fire arms and horses. The police were well supplied with both.
THE ESCAPE AT WANGARATTA
The outlaws were next heard of passing through Wangaratta at daylight on the morning after the encounter. They were plainly seen passing under a culvert on the railway, and the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry makes the fact of their having been allowed to do this without interference grounds for strong condemnation of two of the police officials directing the chase. This was one of the worst instances of police incapacity disclosed throughout the history of the outlawry.
For two months the gang were only heard of occasionally. There were intermittent reports of isolated cases of bailing up, cattle-stealing, &c., but though a very strong force of police was employed in the hunt the bushrangers easily managed to elude them. Then, in December, 1878, came the celebrated visit of the robbers to Euroa, which is about 100 miles from Melbourne, on the main Sydney line. What happened here is history, but it may be as well to epitomise it briefly.
It was midday on December 10 when Ned Kelly walked into the homestead of Mr Younghisband's station, assured the people there that they had nothing to fear, and asked for food for themselves and their horses. An employee named Fitzgerald, who was eating his dinner at the time, had one look at the bushranger, and one at the large revolver that he was nonchalantly toying with, and said, "Well, if the gentlemen want food I suppose they have got to have it." The other three outlaws, having attended to the horses, joined their chief and the four of them imprisoned all the men on the station in a spare building used as a store. No interference was offered to the women. Indeed, there was much of the rough chivalry that characterised Power about the manner in which Ned Kelly treated the womenfolk whom he encountered on this visit. He assured the male captives time after time that they had nothing whatever to fear.
Late in the afternoon the manager of the station, Mr Macauley, returned, and was promptly bailed up. He told Ned Kelly that it was not much use coming to that station, because their own horses were better than any he had. The outlaw chieftain, however, told him that he did not want horses-did not want anything but food, for themselves, and for their cattle. Having refreshed themselves, the outlaws bailed up a hawker who was travelling with a horse and cart, and made merry with his stock. All four of them behaved with consideration to the people whom they had imprisoned.
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