The Age (6)

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Release of the Prisoners

At various times during the morning more police arrived, but the bushrangers could not be dislodged; and what was more perplexing still, the prisoners inside could not be persuaded to leave, although the police repeatedly called upon them to come out. At twelve o'clock , however, the people inside, consisting of about thirty men and youths, suddenly rushed out of the front door, carrying their hands aloft. The police told them to advance towards where they were located, but many of the unfortunate people were so terror stricken that they ran hither and thither screaming for mercy. They then approached the police and threw themselves upon their faces.

One by one they were called on, and having been minutely searched, were despatched to the station. When the turn of two youths named M'Auliffe came, Superintendent Sadleir directed Constable Bracken to arrest them as Kelly sympathizers. They were accordingly handcuffed, and taken with the others to the railway station. Young Reardon, who with his father had been confined in the hotel, was severely wounded in the shoulder by a bullet fired from a ride in the hands of one of the police. The unfortunate youth was at once attended to by the doctors already named. Although the wound was a serious one, it was not considered such as would prove fatal.

The police after this kept up a constant fire on the place, Dwyer and Armstrong in front of the house, Andrew Clarke, sen, and Constable Kelly getting very close in at various quarters of attack. It was noticed that the fire from the besieged bush rangers was not returned after one o'clock , but it was believed that Dan Kelly and Hart intended to lie quiet until night, and, under cover of the darkness make their escape. The police for a time also ceased firing. A consultation was held amongst the officers as to what was to, be done next. During the cessation of hostilities I visited the locality where the line had been torn up; it is about three quarters of a mile on the Wangaratta side of Glenrowan. Several lengths of rails had been wrenched from their places at a curve terminating at a rapid decline, and had not timely warning been given, the pilot engine, followed closely by the special, would have inevitably toppled over an embankment into a defile over thirty feet in depth. I arrived back at the station in time to witness the most tragic and exciting scene of the day. The police had telegraphed for a field gun from Melbourne , but fearing it would not arrive in time to be of any use, it was determined to adopt another made of dislodging the remaining outlaws.

Just as they were about to put this newly conceived plan into operation, Mrs Skillian, sister of the Kellys, dressed in a dark riding habit trimmed with scarlet, and wearing a jaunty hat adorned with a conspicuous white feather, appeared on the scene. Father Tierney earnestly requested her to go to the hotel and ask her brother and Hart to surrender. She said she would like to see her brother before he died, but she would sooner see him burned in the house than ask him to surrender. This, in fact, was the procedure which the police had decided upon in order to bring the outlaws from their cover. Some 700 people by this time had arrived on the platform.

The police opened up a heavy fire on the hotel from the front and rear. This was done in order to cover the operations of Senior constable Johnstone, who rapidly approached the house on the north side with a bundle of straw, which he placed against the weather-boards and set fire to. It was known that Martin Sherry, an old man, was still in the house, and when the last prisoners had escaped he was alive, though badly wounded. The thought that the unfortunate man would be sacrificed, and perish in the flames with the determined bushrangers who had made so long a stand, caused a feeling of horror to pervade the crowd.

Kate Kelly at this juncture came upon the scene, but the only expression which escaped her lips was the one uttered in heart-broken accents, "My poor, poor brother." Mrs Skillian exclaimed, "I will see my brother before he dies," and then sped towards the hotel, from the roof of which by this time tongues of flame were beginning to ascend. The police ordered her to go back, and she hesitated.


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