Royal Commission report day 5 page 3

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

1112 How going to work?- Going to work in handing over the office and giving him information of everything about his time up to then. I remained some time longer in the office and then I went outside, and was joined some time afterwards by Mr. Hare. Mr. Hare and I stopped talking to one another until Mr. Nicolson came out, and then the three of us walked down to the hotel to lunch. Mr. Nicolson, a short time after lunch, asked me to dinner at seven o'clock to meet Mr Hare, and I accepted his invitation, but about 5.50 p.m Mr. Nicolson ran up to me and told me he had to go to town by the six train, and therefore would have to put off the dinner, but he was going to write a note to Mr. Hare explaining his apparent rudeness. Mr. Hare, a few days after, expressed to me that he thought Mr. Nicolson did this as a slight, but when I told him that I had been asked as well and had been put off in the same way, he said that of course made the thing look different, and from the 3rd of June to the 25th of June, the day I left Benalla, Mr. Hare was working just in the very same way as Mr. Nicolson had been doing when he was removed from Benalla. Mr. Hare, two days before I left, told me he did not know what to do; although he had carte blanche to do what he liked and unlimited money to spend, he could get no information. That concludes my evidence in chief up to the time I left Benalla. I left Benalla for Essendon with my troopers on the morning of the 25th of June 1880.

1113 This was in consequence of your recall by the Queensland Government?- Yes, I put up at Flemington. I made arrangements to take berths in the Queensland steamer that was leaving on the 29th, but on Sunday the 27th June, at half past 7 p.m., I received a note (this is the original) from Captain Standish.

1114 Were you at Essendon when you received it?- I was at Flemington: - "Melbourne Club, 27th June 1880. -My dear Sir,- I have just received telegraphic information that the outlaws stuck up the police party that was watching Mrs. Byrne's house, and shot Aaron Sherritt. The police, however, appear to have escaped. In the urgent position of affairs, could you return to Beechworth with your trackers by the early train to morrow, or by a special train, if that can be arranged. If you can oblige us in this way, could you manage to come in at once to see me at the Club by the hansom which I send out with this?" I lost no time in responding to Captain Standish's letter. I got into his hansom which brought his letter, and was driven to the Melbourne Club; there I met Captain Standish, who said- "Mr. O'Connor, in the urgent state of the case, can you manage to accede to my request?" I replied immediately- "It has always been my wish to have the chance of getting those fellows." Captain Standish, in his report, stated I "haw haw'd." I never did such a thing in my life; I was only too glad to get the opportunity. The only condition I made was, being under orders to proceed to Queensland, I was disobeying the head of my department, and therefore I must request that he would ask Mr. Ramsay to see that I was held blameless with my Government. Before leaving, Captain Standish said- "How long will you be before you are ready to start?" I looked at my watch, and I forget what time it was, but I told him I would be ready at ten that night. At half past seven I got his letter, and at a quarter to ten I was ready at the station. All my arms were packed up, and the boys' uniform and everything put away. I had to break open the cases, clean up the guns, accoutre the men in a proper way, and get back to the station by ten, and I was there at the train at a quarter to ten.

11l5 It was not a ruse to make the Kellys believe you were going?- No, I was under orders to go. I mentioned one thing to Captain Standish, that is, that my wife would accompany me to Beechworth, as in all probability this tracking would be for several days, if not a week; she would like to be near where the work was going on, and therefore I requested that he should see that there was a first class carriage on the special train for her convenience. Captain Standish referred to a memorandum which he had in his hand, and replied- "Of course there will be a first class carriage; there will be a first class carriage, a guard's van, and an engine-they always have these on the special train"; and I remarked that this was not the case, as on our special trains, when we used them, there was only a guard's van and an engine. I have a reason for mentioning this, which will appear by and by. You know by the press reports about the journey up as far as Benalla. There I arrived about 1 a.m., and met Mr. Hare with several men. They got into the train with us, Mr. Hare in the same carriage with myself and wife and my wife's sister-we all talked and chatted.

1116 There was really a first class carriage with the train?- There was. We all conversed together, and were upon the best of terms. Mr. Hare even asked me when I had got information by letter from Captain Standish. I replied- "At half past seven." He said- "I never saw such a fellow as that Standish. He does not seem to care a single rush about the work. I told him hours before about it, and I begged of him to go out and see you personally, as I knew it was a condescension on your part to come out to work again after the way he treated you." I said- "Well, he never did, he wrote." We ran on towards Glenrowan, and were stopped before we got there, by the pilot engine being seen pulled up ahead. Mr. Hare, who had a key, opened the carriage and got out upon the line, and met a porter or guard carrying a lamp, who stated to Mr. Hare about the line being taken up. Mr. Hare, after informing me of this occurrence, said- "The only thing we can do is to draw up to the platform at Glenrowan, so as to enable us to get our horses out." This was done, and Mr. Hare and I were talking and considering the advisability of mounting our horses and riding down to the place that we supposed to be a mile off, the broken part of the line, and the order was given to that effect to get the horses out. It was just in the middle of this getting the horses out that Constable Braken appeared upon the platform in the most excited state. He did not, as far as I remember, address any person in particular; but he stated- "The Kellys are in Jones' public house; for God's sake take care or they will escape." Mr. Hare turned round to me and said- "Come on, O'Connor, or they will be gone," or "they will escape," and we started, Mr. Hare slightly in the lead, Before going a few yards, Mr. Hare Said- "O'Connor, are the men coming?" As I stated before, the men were in the act of getting, out their horses and the noise was terrific, the horses coming out half rearing and plunging through the van. I turned round and sang out- "Come on, boys, come on," and I saw following me a line of men. It was just sufficient light to be able to see that some were black and some white, but not to know the names; in this form the party approached Mrs. Jones', and when about twenty five yards from the house, as near as I can remember, we were stopped by a single shot, which was immediately followed by a volley from the outlaws from the house. This I, and, by my hearing, I judge our party replied to....

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