Royal Commission report day 3 page 13
The Royal Commission evidence for 25/3/1881
(see also introduction to day 3 )
Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence
855 I want you to see that Captain Standish was very specific; on more than one occasion the word that he used was that you had carte blanche, and did exactly as you liked-that you yourself took the responsibility?- I did take that responsibility until any occasion he interfered with me, when I had to submit.
856 Is this the position of affairs-you are now complaining of what Captain Standish did in 1879, countermanding orders you had given?- Yes.
857 He did so on other occasions?- Yes, he did so on other occasions.
858 You are not prepared at present to give that information, but you will do so later on?- Yes.
859 Did you let Captain Standish know that you had these men in the cave?- Certainly, I did, and soon after I received that letter.
860 Captain Standish says this matter was known in the depot?- Yes.
861 Were your men bound to any secrecy?- Yes, they were.
862 Then the matter must have been communicated from your men to the depot at Richmond?- Yes, I have no doubt he had been informed from the depot. [The extract from the letter referred to was read, under date 15th January 1880, as, follows":-] "It would be better to have this work done by them (that is the -) if the - are to be depended upon, even if we had to subsidise them occasionally. As to the secrecy which you believe has been observed about this watching party, I may tell you that the existence of this party and even the names of the constables employed are known all through the depot." That was the position then when I received peremptory orders to retire.
863 Did he give you instructions, in addition to that, to stop it?- He did, on more than one occasion, till at last I had to give it up.
864 Were the instructions in writing?- I cannot remember; a number of Captain Standish's letters I did not keep.
865 I take it that you put in this letter to show that you were carrying out certain arrangements in this district, and they were unfairly interfered with by Captain Standish?- Yes.
866 Had you, after receiving this letter, positive instructions to discontinue this party?- I had; I wrote back to him, telling him, whether it was secret at the depot or not, I could not say, but it was a dead secret up there, and for months afterwards.
867 Is it not perfectly credible, in fact, that it would be known at the depot and not there?- Yes, but if it was known at the depot, it must have been known by the men in my district; the men serving in Benalla and Beechworth did not know of it.
868 Have you the next letter of Captain Standish's, imperatively commanding you?- No, I cannot say whether he wrote or ordered me verbally. He frequently visited me at that time.
869 Can you fix your memory now, not fixing absolutely to time, is it on your mind that on any other occasion he absolutely issued an order to you which, in your opinion, was contrary to your duty and interest?- Yes.
870 So that it interfered with the efficiency of the duty that you were then doing?- It did, and I can satisfy you of that. At the same time, whilst those men were out on this cave duty, I had a man travelling amongst the population all round who did not know the men were there, but his orders were, "Find out what is the talk about the Kellys."
871 The point really is that your arrangements there were unfairly interfered with by the head of the department. He has sworn you had carte blanche, and yet it appears he interfered?- I ultimately, from his persevering and ordering me on this subject, had to break up this party.
872 Were there other occasions of the same sort?- I will come to another occasion. I can bring witnesses also to prove these things.
873 Is it not a fact that nearly all the statements made by you, the same as Captain Standish's. will be corroborated; the official documents will put them right?- Yes, I am quite confident of that. When I took charge of the district, casualties arose; men, from one thing and other, had to withdraw from the district; a man with a broken leg, a man suffering from sunstroke or fever, and the meagre skeleton of the force I had was often reduced by about twelve men, and I could not spare a single man. One man died up there as the result of the work. I used to write very strongly, several times, about those vacancies being filled up. Here is one instance. There were all these men absent at one time-[handing in a return, return was as follows:-]
NORTH EASTERN DISTRICT. RETURN
showing Unfilled Vacancies in the District on 24th March 1880. ..
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