Royal Commission report day 47 page 3

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 47)

F. C. Standish giving evidence

15995 That is a distinct answer. Now in what way will you consider your own want of success with double the means, having condemned Mr. Nicolson?— I merely say we were not successful, but did our best.

15996 Was not your conduct subject to double condemnation?— I cannot see it.

15997 How do you condemn Mr. Nicolson then?— I see by the evidence that he threw many chances away.

15998 Did you ever know where the Kellys were when you were in the district?— We had information from time to time; but they kept moving about very much.

15999 I want to bring you back to the point. What is the Commission to think of your conduct with search parties in the North-Eastern district, when you condemn Mr. Nicolson?— Condemn him for what?

16000 For riding about and not catching the Kellys?— I said he was very energetic in doing that

16001 You condemn him for that?— No; I said, after experience there, I found it was utterly useless to send those parties galloping about.

16002 You followed the same course?— From time to time, but always acting on information.

16003 Then it comes back to the old question—did you do anything more in the North-Eastern district than Mr. Nicolson did?— He was so excessively mysterious about his doings.

16004 That is not the point. Did you do anything more than Mr. Nicolson did in the district?— All I can say is, we neither caught them. I did my best. l was there seven months, and during that time I only came to Melbourne three times, for a few hours.

16005 He was there from the 27th November 1878 up till the 13th December 1878 . Now look at question No. 100— “Do you think Mr. Nicolson showed want of generalship?— I do.” You have there condemned Mr. Nicolson in the most unsparing terms for not doing things you could not yourself accomplish with double the means at your disposal?— I think you make a mistake about my having had double the means. The reductions were made by permanent transfer of a great many of the men who had been only temporarily transferred, and that made a great reduction in the expenditure.

16006 That was merely in the travelling expenses?— Yes.

16007 We were not speaking about the money power you had, but the man power. You had sixty or seventy men more than Mr. Nicolson had?— Yes.

16008 Mr. Nicolson went there for six weeks, and you say that he appeared to be galloping round the country without any object in view; now you are there with seventy more men for six months—did you accomplish anything?— I did not, and, what is more, I was not at all sanguine about success; and I remember telling Mr. Berry, shortly after the constables were murdered, that I thought if we caught them within twelve months it would be a most fortunate thing for the department. You are probably well aware that, with friends and sympathizers in every part of the country, the police are very heavily handicapped when they have not only to work against the outlaws but the numerous sympathizers.

16009 That is right, and you have to give some reasonable allowance for the man who goes first into a district. I think you proved by experience yourself that they were not so easily caught?— Certainly.

16010 Did it suggest itself to you that when Mr. Hare returned broken down, I think very considerably, with being out on search parties, that it was quite right another system should be adopted?— Well, Mr. Nicolson had carte blanche to act as he thought proper.

16011 1 think, in your evidence yesterday, you said that he afterwards kept up a “masterly inactivity” —I think that was your expression?— Yes.

16012 Did you mean to say by that that he should have rushed about the country as usual?— No, I think that would have been a most unwise thing to do.

16013 You know these things leave a curious impression on people's minds?— I only say what I think freely and openly.

16014 But when you tried the system for eight months, you yourself being there over six, with nearly a double force in the district, did you not think it was right in another officer going up to try some other system?— What system do you mean?

16015 He tried the secret agency system?— Yes, and he employed some agents who were in communication with the Kellys.....

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