Royal Commission report day 33 page 2

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The Royal Commission evidence for 28/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 33)

The Reverend Matthew Gibney giving evidence

12299 All round?— All round. It took me some considerable time to get into where Ned Kelly was lying. There seemed to be a great press of people about the windows and door, curiously trying to see him; but I think it was a Dr. Nicholson to whom I was very thankful for the manner in which he assisted me to get to Kelly, and attended to any call now and then when, as I thought, Kelly was in a dying condition–he was fainting. He was always ready to attend at any call to give me any assistance he could.

12300 Did you hear anything during the afternoon about the proceedings of the police with reference to the Kellys?— Well, there were just some few incidents came under my notice that I do not think they were stated, as far as I could see, correctly. That is, I was told that Kelly's sisters were coming on the scene. It would be some considerable time after I had attended to Ned Kelly.

12301 Some time in the afternoon?— Yes, and I was then glad to find that because I thought she could proceed to Mrs. Jones's house safely to speak to the men. I stepped forward and asked her would she go to her brother and tell him there was a Catholic priest here who was anxious to come and see him, and to ask him would he let me in. She said, “Of course, I will go up and see my brother.” She was very excited. She started then for the house but was stopped.

12302 By whom?— I could not say. I did not know any person on the scene–by some police authority, I suppose, so I was told. The officer in charge of the police was off in one direction of the semi-circle which the police formed, standing in different groups here and there behind trees. I was told he was off in that direction, so I went on from one group of police to another to find the officer in charge, and when I had gone to the extreme end there, I was told he was not there, so I was directed then on to the other end, and when I came to the last body I was told that was he–I think Mr. Sadleir; and then I sent the girl to ask (I did not go myself) for permission for her to go up to the house, mentioning that I advised her to go; and she went and she was told she would not be allowed to go. I was strongly inclined to go myself prior to that, but when I had been with Ned Kelly, after I had attended to him, I asked him did he think it would be safe for me to go up to the house and to get this man, his brother, I think, to surrender. He looked very steadfastly at me, seemingly reading me, and he said, “I would not advise you to go, they will certainly shoot you.” I said, “they would not shoot me if they knew I was a priest or a clergyman;” and he said, “They will not know what you are, and they will not take time to think.” I saw that I could not justify myself in going up as long as I did not see the probability of doing any service. That alone was what kept me back during the course of the day. I was surprised a good deal that there seemed to be no sign of truce at any time offered; there was no signal given that the men might see, that they might have the idea their lives would be spared if they came out. I was rather surprised at that, and remarked it repeatedly, but still I did not know whether it was to anyone in authority or not, because there seemed to be an incessant feeding of anxiety in the mind of those men that were around.

12303 Did they seem to be under any control?— I could not say that they were guided by any orders. I could not make a statement on that subject.

12304 Did they seem to have the appearance of being guided by orders?— I do not think they had. I do not think really that there was any disciplinary order guiding them, as far as I could be a judge.

12305 In point of fact, that there was a want of generalship?— Oh, that was evident.

12306 They seemed just to be shooting away at random?— Firing at the house was the only thing that anyone could say there was any uniformity about.

12307 Just firing at the house?— Yes.

12308 Did you hear any shots fired from the house after you arrived?— I repeatedly tried to ascertain for myself whether there were, and I could not. Sometimes there would be shots fired that I could not really say whether it would be from the house or not, but the reason of that was that sometimes, in my position, the police were above and beyond the house, and I could not really say then whence the sound came.

12309 So far as you know there was no further attempt made to communicate with them after Mrs. Skillian and the sister came?— No further attempt was made to communicate with them that I saw or heard of, only that, until the house was set fire to. (JJK)

12310 Did you feel it your duty to rush in to see them when the house was fired?— It was at that particular time that the crisis occurred that then buoyed me up to do what I did, when the house was being set fire to. My feelings revolted very much from the appearance it had, and I was wishing in my heart that it might not take fire. That was my own feeling in the matter; and then I should not have gone but that when the fire seemed to have taken well just as it seemed to break through the house here and there, there was a volley fired into the house, and I then said to myself, “These men have not five minutes to live. If they stop in they will be burned, and if they come out they will be shot.” That was what decided me, and I thought then they will be very glad to get any service now–they will be very glad to see anyone coming to them.....

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