Last modified on 15 November 2015, at 12:44

Archibald M'Phee's report 18/12/1880

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Maryborough

December 18 1880

Traffic Manager

Sir

Referring to explanation regarding to the capture of the Kelly Outlaws.  I would beg to state that I was awakened on the morning of the 28th July last by Mr Hollows Telegraph Operator Benalla. He informed me that Mr Stephens (Station Master) required me on duty as soon as possible. On reporting myself ready for duty I received instructions to proceed to Beechworth preceding a special police train (acting as pilot).

After making a start we went along all right till within a mile and a half of Glenrowan station when I noticed a reddish light ahead. My first impression was that the light was caused by a burning log in the bush (a very common occurrence) and what made it appear more so was through seeing the light almost at the place where the curve commenced which would lead a person that knew to suspect that the light was straight ahead. Upon getting about a quarter of a mile nearer I could see that the light was very close to the line. When about two hundred yards off I put my head out of the side window and could distinctly see a whitish object with a light in front.

I immediately applied my brakes and just at the same moment it flashed through my mind that it was a ruse to stop the train. I then got out and stood on the side board of the van until I got opposite the figure which proved to be the schoolmaster Mr Curnow. I jumped off saying “Hello mate what is the matter” He answered “Kellys” and then told me that the rails were torn up between Glenrowan Station and the Sydney Crossing. I said that must be about half a mile from the station. He answered yes and then told me that the Gang were in possession of Glenrowan.

I (still thinking it was a ruse) asked him his name. He did not tell me but said I am the school teacher. I asked him if he would get in my van. He said he could not as he had his wife to protect and that he was running a great risk of his life (this conversation did not last two minutes. I then went and spoke to the driver (Mr Alder) and told him what was the matter also that I was going back to stop the following train which I immediately did. I am confident I went back over half a mile.

Upon getting within a few yards off the train I had stopped I was met by Superintendent Hare and Senior Constable Kelly to whom I related the whole of the conversation I had with Mr Curnow. Supt Hare then took some of his men and walked up to pilot engine which by this time had rolled gently down till within a quarter of a mile of the police train. I followed up and when opposite the engine near driver Alder remarked to Supt Hare if it would suit to couple both trains together. Supt Hare considered some little time and then said he thought it would be advisable if done so and then drew up to Glenrowan station and after we stopped I was assisting the police to discharge their horses from the trucks.

Then Constable Bracken rushed up saying the Gang were in Mrs Jones and for God’s sake surround the hotel. Supt Hare then sang out “Come on boys” and he and the police made a rush for the hotel. I let go the horse I was holding and followed them over. I would be about twenty yards behind the police when the firing commenced and having no fire arm on me at the time. I though that the position I was in rather unsafe and I made for the station again which refuge I reached in a very short time.

I then watched the proceedings from around the corner of the station house until Supt Hare came up wounded. He said he required me to go to Benalla for reinforcements. Guard Bell and I then shunted my van behind the Pilot engine and made a start back for Benalla, which place we reached in about ten minutes.

I told Mr Stephens all that occurred and the orders I had received from Supt Hare and also suggested that he would send out some of the Permanent Way men to repair the line. He sent for Ganger Dick who accompanied me to Glenrowan on my second trip. After reaching Glenrowan with the reinforcements I remained on the platform till Ganger Dick came back from where the rails where torn up. He told me he wanted more men. I said I thought they were all prisoners in the hotel. Bell mentioned that I could go down the line towards Benalla and (with the engine) and succeeded in getting two platelayers whom I brought to the Station.

I then asked Mrs O’Connor and her sister if they would like some refreshments. They answered yes so I walked over to McDonalds Hotel and got a bottle of brandy and a glass and whilst there met Mr Stainstreet. I asked him to come over and open the station which he did. Upon presenting the brandy to Mrs O’Connor and sister they refused saying “Oh No we could not touch that but asked if it were possible to get some sherry and milk. I think Guard Bell got that for them. I gave some of the brandy to the reporters and others who were on the Station and then went away towards the policemen who were surrounding the Hotel intending to empty the bottle amongst them.

I had just got outside the railway fence when Ned Kelly emerged from the bush close by I though the firing too warm and retired to my old position behind the station till I saw him fall. I then rushed over arriving there about fifth or sixth and the first use made of the remaining brandy was to give Ned Kelly a glass three parts full. He was then taken to the station.

I followed and after reaching the station assisted Guard Bell to make up his train. He then started for Benalla. I remained behind until Ganger Dick came back and told me the line was all clear. I then proceeded to Benalla and told the station master the line was all right for trains to come on. I then received instructions to act as pilot for all trains during the day which duty I was engaged until 11.30pm at night having been two trips to Glenrowan and three trips to Wangaratta!

I am Sir your obedient servant.

Archibald M’Phee


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