Royal Commission report day 8 page 1
The Royal Commission evidence for 5/4/1881
(see also introduction to day 8)
Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence
The Hon. F. LONGMORE, M.L.A., in the Chair;
J.H. Graves , Esq., M.L.A., G.R. Fincham, Esq., M.L.A.,
W. Anderson , Esq., M.L.A. G.W. Hall, Esq., M.L.A.,
E.J. Dixon , Esq., J.P.
1465 By the Commission. —I think you complained that Mr. Nicolson had withdrawn all the agents in that part of the district?— Yes; the Beechworth district. This is from the Benalla Railway Telegraph Station to Senior-constable Armstrong:— “Benalla Railway Station, June 2/1880. Send Constable Armstrong back to his station. Withdraw the watch party, and send them to duty. Any further orders from Superintendents Hare or Sadleir. Detective Ward already instructed that no further authority for money or supplies to Tommy or his friends. —(Sd.)- C.H. Nicolson, A.C.P.” 1466 Have you seen this before?— I only saw it yesterday.
Mr. Nicolson asked to give an explanation at this point.
Mr. Hare protested against such a course.
The Chairman stated he thought it would do for Mr. Nicolson to give his desired explanation later on.
1467 The Witness. —I wish to point out that I never saw this telegram till yesterday. I made a statement that Detective Ward came down to me and said that Senior-constable Mullane had received instructions to pay off all the agents, and that Ward said he thought it was an extraordinary thing that Mr. Nicolson had communicated with Mullane on the subject, while he had the full charge of all those things.
1468 By the Commission. —Having seen the telegram, does it contain the inconvenient instructions that you gave it credit for?— Not to the extent that Detective Ward led me to believe.
1469 There is nothing in it that was damaging to you as officer in command of the force at the time?— I think when this telegram was sent, after things were handed over to me, and no record of it left in the office, it was an unusual course, and of course I believed what Ward told me, that he had received those instructions from Mullane.
1470 Having seen that now, is there anything in the instructions calculated to damage your position there at the time?— Here is the thing most extraordinary for Mr. Nicolson to give instructions to withdraw the watch party that was watching a certain place.
1471 What was that watch party—where was it?— I do not know; I got no information from Mr. Nicolson, as I have already stated. You see he tells Ward to withdraw the watch party at six in the evening, whereas he handed over everything to me at one o'clock .
1472 Will you now resume your narrative?— Yes. For the first two or three days of my stay at Benalla I occupied my time reading up the papers in the office, and obtaining all the information I could possibly get on the subject of the Kellys. I had a long conversation with Mr. Sadleir the first afternoon, who assisted me in every possible way, and gave me all the information in his power. I conversed with the different non-commissioned officers and constables I came across, and obtained their views on the duty upon which I was engaged. Most of Mr. Nicolson's communications with his agents were by word of mouth and not in writing, and the information I obtained from documents in the office was very scant and of not much service to me. I now go to the letters on the “diseased stock.” Amongst the letters in the office handed over to me by Mr. Nicolson were a number of letters written by the “diseased stock” man I cannot say for certain the number, but, as far as my recollection goes, I should fancy there were at least ten or twelve. There is one letter here I never saw. It is addressed to Mr. Nicolson after the Glenrowan affair, that is July 13th; and the other three, dated February, March, and May, I may have seen—I have no recollection of having seen them, because I went through numbers of letters and papers within those three days.
1473 What is the date of the one you did not see?— July 13th; a letter addressed to Mr. Nicolson in answer to a communication of his. There were a large number of other letters from different agents. There were some from Joe Byrne to—, and Ned Kelly to , and from the outlaws to Detective Ward.
1474 Are those letters obtainable?— I presume so; I left them in the office when I came away, together with letters of this description—whether they are there still I do not know. There were also some letters from another agent that Mr. Nicolson wanted to take away when he left, and I begged him to leave them for me to peruse, and take them after when he thought fit. His communications were very voluminous. He is not mentioned here.
1475 Did you see them?— Yes. I saw them and read them all. I then started round the district to see the non-commissioned officers in charge of the principal stations, and I had long talks with them on the state of affairs, and informed them that I intended stationing black trackers, whom I expected from Queensland , at Benalla, Wangaratta, and Beechworth. I also told them at each of those towns that I would have a full party of men stationed, so that if any information was received about the Kellys they would be in a position to go in pursuit at once, and all I wished them to do was to communicate by telegram with me previous to their starting off, so that I might know in which direction they had gone.....
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