The Argus (16)
The Argus continued with its reports of the KellyGang and Glenrowan.
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With the view of gathering any fresh particulars obtainable concerning Monday’s encounter I revisited Glenrowan to day. I found the debris of Jones’s Hotel still smouldering, and a crowd of people fossicking among the ruins for mementoes of the gang. Two brick chimneys were all that remained standing, and the black ashes of the building were covered in part by the sheets of corrugated iron which had formed the roof. The iron was pierced with innumerable bullet and slug holes, and on the chimneys were also a number of bullet marks. The wrecks of two iron bedsteads and of a sewing machine and a few cans, some of which contained shot marks, were the only recognisable objects in the debris.
It may not be too late to explain here that the hotel was a wooden building of one story, and contained a front parlour and bar, and two bedroom at the back. At the rear, and separated from the front tenement, stood the kitchen, a rough wooden structure. It stood about 130 yards from the railway station, at about the same distance from the railway line on the west side, and on the rising ground which leads up to Morgan’s Lookout, which is the nearest peak of the Warby Ranges. The station master’s house stands on the line immediately below the hotel. The only other houses in the immediate vicinity are McDonnell’s Hotel and another small private house, both of which are situated on a track running about parallel with the line, at a distance of say 150 yards on the east side. The police station, post office, and state school of Glenrowan are about a mile south of the railway station, and the same side as Jones’s Hotel. On the east rise the Greta Ranges , and the township of Greta is only four miles away.
The place where the rails were pulled up is exactly half a mile beyond the station, and not a mile and a half as at first reported. It was chosen with diabolical fitness for bringing about the total destruction of the special train. The line takes a sudden turn down an incline and is then carried over a gully on an embankment. There is a little creek in this gully, and to carry it under the line a substantial culvert had been built. This culvert is situated just at the end of the sharpest part of the curve and at the foot of the incline, and it was just at this point that the rails were torn up. Had the special train continued its journey without any warning having been given, it would have been impossible for the engine driver to see the breach in the line until too late, and the inevitable result would have been that the train, with its living freight, would have rushed over the embankment into the gully beneath; if it had gone on the left side, it would have had a full of about 20ft; and if on the right, a fall of about 30 ft.
Reardon, the line repairer, who was ordered by Kelly to take the rails up, gives the following narrative:- ‘I was in bed with my wife and family, as my wife has already informed you, when Kelly called at my house. I was awakened at about 20 minutes past 2 o’clock on the Sunday morning by my dog barking and subsequently hearing a horse galloping, I thought it was one belonging to a friend that had got loose, and I therefore got up and dressed, and went out to catch it. I was met in the yard by a mate, who said he had been arrested. I asked him what trouble he had fallen into, thinking he had been arrested by the police. Ned Kelly then stepped forward, and presenting a revolver at my head ordered me to bail up and tell who was inside. I did as he desired, and all in the house were then bailed up. My children had to come out half dressed. He then told me that I had to tear up some rails, and that if I refused he would shoot me. The tools necessary were in a box which was locked up, and I pretended not to have the key. The lock was broken by some one, and I was directed to take out the necessary tools and to accompany a party down the line. I took along some tools, but not all that would be required; and six or seven other men were brought along with me to assist. Kelly pointed out the spot where he wanted the rails lifted, and ordered me to proceed with the work. I remonstrated with him, and begged to be excused, owing to my position on the railway, and on account of my wife and family, whom I would not be able to support if I lost my billet. He repeated his order in a peremptory manner, and told me I was a dead man if I refused. I then asked that the other men should do the work and said I would direct them. To this he agreed. I accordingly showed them how to unsrew the bolts, and so cut off one rail on each side. I then directed them to remove the pair of rails with the nine sleepers to which they were attached. I thought that by removing sleepers and all there would be less danger for the train. Kelly objected to this plan, and talked to me again fiercely. I represented to him that the danger would be increased if the sleepers were also …., said that if the … of sleepers and rails were pitched over the culvert, 30 men would be unable to raise them again. I also protested that I had not the tools by which the rails could be detached. He fired up on me again, and asked if I could not draw out the bolts with my teeth. I appeased him by replying that he could not do that himself, although a stronger man than me. He persisted, however, in having the rails removed singly. I then commenced hammering at them, making a great clanking noise. He at once interfered, and said he could not stand that. The rails and sleepers were then removed together and thrown over the embankment, and we returned to the hotel. My boy was shot by the police in the shoulder when out trying to escape with his mother. I have heard from Wangaratta that he is improving, for he was able to take a good breakfast this morning.’
So much for the lifting of the rails. How we received such timely notice of the plot when approaching in the special train is still surrounded with a degree of mystery. The man who stopped the train turns out to be Mr Curnow, the local schoolmaster. Mr and Mrs Curnow were stuck up at about 11 o’clock on Sunday morning by Ned Kelly and Byrne at the railway gates as they were driving towards Greta. Their horse and buggy were out up at Jones’s Hotel and they themselves were lodged in the schoolmaster’s house. When bailing them up Kelly said, ‘I am sorry, but I must detain you.’ They were detained until about 10 o’clock at night, when Kelly and Byrne took them to the hotel, requested them to get into the buggy, and then accompanied them to the police station, where Kelly told them to go home and get to bed, and to remain quiet, otherwise he would shoot Mr Curnow. How Mr Curnow heard of the rails having been pulled up has not yet been explained and it seemed strange, seeing that he had been set at liberty before the deed was done. He, however, did receive the information, and took the risk of earning the hated of the Kelly gang by utilisng it in the interests of humanity. His house stands quite close to the railway line, and he was, therefore, able to hear the pilot engine approaching. On doing so he immediately ran out with a red handkerchief, which he held up with a lighted match behind it. By this action the special train was warned, and the locale of the gang discovered. Next door to the police station is the post office of Glenrowan, and on the Sunday night Mr Reynolds, the postmaster, was interviewed by Kelly as to where Constable Bracken was to be found. Kelly, by his remarks, showed that he had a full knowledge of the constable’s habits. He pointed, for instance, to a …, and said he expected to find him sitting there. Finding after bullying Mr Reynolds that Bracken was really not there, he left without making Reynolds a prisoner. When he stuck up Bracken at the police station, he went into Bracken’s bedroom, and found Mrs Bracken in bed with her little son. He shook hands with the little boy and said, ‘I may be worth ₤2,000 to you get my child.’ He then demanded handcuffs and cartridges from Bracken who, however, defended his office where these things were by cunning evasive replies. Had Kelly got the handcuffs he would, in all probability, have put a pair on the constable, who would then have been unable to escape from the hotel as he so opportunity did. There are several tents between the railway station and the hotel, inhabited by a number of stonebreakers. These men were of course also bailed up, but in a rather startling manner. Kelly, without warning, fired into one of the tents, in which two men were sleeping. Fortunately neither of them was hurt, but the bullet passed through a potion of the blankets.
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