The Argus at KellyGang 27/4/1881
MRS AARON SHERRITT
(FROM THE OVENS AND MURRAY ADVERTISER, APRIL, 26)
As considerable interest is taken in the case of the widow of the late Aaron Sherritt in connexion with her claims for consideration at the hands of the Government, in whose service her late husband was at the time he was so foully murdered by the outlaw Byrne, a member of our staff, on Monday, interviewed her, with the object of learning the extent of her pecuniary circumstances, and how far 10s. per week would go towards her support, and also to ascertain the action taken by her on the night of the tragedy.She made the following statement—partly voluntarily and partly in answer to questions put to her:—
“My father is a miner, living at the Woolshed. For some time past he had been, owing to an accident to his arm, unable to work, but is now working in a claim at the Woolshed in which he has a share. The claim, however, has not yet been bottomed. I have six sisters and a brother, and five of the former and the latter are at home, and my father has to provide for them. It will, therefore, be seen that he has quite enough to do without keeping me. Besides, I could, and would, never live at the Woolshed, with which is connected such awfully painful associations since I was deprived of my husband and protector in life. I on one occasion went to live with my mother since my husband's death, but only remained a day, feeling quite ill at the unpleasant memories attached to the place which were recalled to my mind.
Ever since that terrible night when Aaron was slain I have been in ill-health, and at one period had two doctors attending me, owing to serious illness. I do not consider that I could live any way comfortably in Beechworth (where I am compelled from various reasons to reside) under 25s. per week. I have never received a penny from Government up to the present time; and were it not that my father, from time to time, according to his limited means, assisted me in procuring several necessary articles, I should be entirely destitute. I consider 10s. per week totally inadequate for the support of a person in my position—being in a weak state and unable to work, on account of trouble, anxiety, and illness. Moreover, I am obliged to have either my mother or one of my sisters living with me, as I am still anything but well. I was given to understand some time ago that ample provision was to have been made for me, and I now can hardly bring myself to believe that the Government really intend that I shall support myself on 10s. per week, which is just about sufficient to pay for house-rent and firewood; and how I am to obtain necessary food and clothing is a riddle I cannot solve. I had to sell my house at the Woolshed, which has subsequently been dismantled, and only get £1 for it."
When asked for a brief description of the shooting affray at the Woolshed on the night of the 26th June, Mrs Sherritt said:—As you know, my late husband had for some time previous been in the employ of the police in assisting to capture the Kellys, and had four constables in our house during the daytime, and they with Aaron used to go out at night and watch in the vicinity of Mrs Byrne's. On the night of the 26th June my husband, my mother, and myself were having our supper—the police having previously had theirs, and three of them had retired into the bedroom, which was divided from the sitting room with a calico partition, and the fourth, Duross, was sitting by the sitting room fire—when a knock came to the backdoor. I asked, "Who's there?" at the same time beckoning to Constable Duross to retire into the inner room before the door was opened, as such was the order the police had to observe. In reply to my question, a voice called out "Antoine Weeks. Sherritt, come and show me the road, I've lost my way."
It was a very dark night ; but we (my husband, my mother, and myself), laughed at the idea of Weeks losing his way, as his home was about a mile distant from ours, and he was an old resident of the locality. I advised Aaron to go out and put him on the main road in front of our house, which would take him straight to his place. Aaron went to the door laughing, and went a step outside the door. He pointed to a sapling growing a few yards from the house, but almost immediately afterwards made a movement backwards and said, "Who's that?"—having evidently seen a second person. Just as he asked the question a shot was fired into the house, and he walked, or rather staggered, into the middle of the room, where he stood still, without uttering a word. Joe Byrne, who I did not recognise at the time, came into the room, and, lifting a gun which he held in his hand, fired again at Aaron, who fell. When the first shot was fired a second one was fired almost simultaneously at the door, behind which I was standing, and the bullet passed close to my face; it having evidently been thought that someone was standing in ambush behind the door.
My mother stooped down to escape the shots near my husband, who, she said, did not live two minutes after being shot, and never spoke. I and my mother screamed out loudly. Byrne said, "You needn't be afraid, Mrs Barry; I won't shoot you nor your daughter, but I want whoever's in that room (pointing to the bedroom) out." He asked me who was in the room, and I replied a man who had come there that evening looking for work. He asked his name. I said, "Duross," as I had heard Constable Duross, who was not known in the district, and had only recently come from Melbourne , say that he had never met the Kellys, and that they would therefore not know him. Byrne then said, “Well, tell him to come out."My mother here asked Byrne if he would let her go outside, and he told her to open the front door. She did so, and Dan Kelly was standing at the door with a gun presented directly at her. She again asked Byrne if he would let her go out, and he consented to do so. All this time Byrne had a revolver presented close to my face, and threatened me. At this time he was standing just inside the back door, and reloaded his gun, a double-barrelled breechloader.
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