12 September 1911
BETWEEN THE ACTS
INTERLUDE AT "THE CHRISTIAN" There are many people alive to-day who were present when that dramatic scene, the passing of the sentence of death, was enacted in the Criminal Court. Amongst them are Mr Edmund Duggan and Mr Bert Bailey now playing in "The Christian" at the Palace Theatre. Last night those gentlemen re-enacted in their dressing-room at the theatre the tragic episode. Both gentlemen were in clerical garb, and their impersonation of the solemn scene was wonderfully impressive.
"Ned Kelly," said Mr Duggan, 'had behaved with wonderful fortitude and calmness all through. There was just the sigh of a tremor in the strong frame when the verdict was announced. But the man remained calm. I shall never, as long as I live, forget what followed. When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Ned Kelly thought for a moment, and then, speaking quietly and slowly, said that his life had been rejected by Constable Fitzpatrick. At the time he was alleged to have assaulted that officer he was working as a digger, 200 miles away. He said that he did not pretend to have led a blameless life. Nor would he say that the fault of one man could be accepted as justifying a wrong action on the part of another. But he did want the public. In judging him, to remember that the darkest tale might have its bright side, and that, after the worst that could be told had been spoken against a man, he might, though only a rough, uneducated man, tell the public a story that would soften their hearts somewhat towards him, and induce the public to find excuses for acts that might otherwise appear inexcusable.
"Then," said Mr Duggan, "Kelly went on to speak about his life, which he said he did not value at the estimation of a straw. He knew that he was doomed, he said, knew from the stories that had been told to him that the public had been educated to execrate his name. He knew that the newspapers had nothing but ill to say of him-that none of the papers could speak of him with the tolerance commonly extended to men a waiting trial. But he declared in firm tones that he did not care, and that he would be the last man to curry favor with anyone, or to dread a hostile frown, He knew what he had done. And he knew the reasons. And his conscience was easy. If his fate were to teach the public that man might be made mad by ill-treatment, and if it let the public know that it was possible to exsperate to the verge of madness men who, left alone would be good citizens, his life would not have been thrown away. People who lived in large towns could not have any idea of the tyrannical conduct of police officers in remote country districts - could not have any notion of the harshness, overbearing manner in which some of them carried out their duties and abused the powers they were possessed of.
"Then," concluded Mr Duggan, impressively, "came the final scene. Mr Justice Barry put on the black cap and pronounced sentence of death. The court was intensely silent. Two women - one of them was Kate Kelly - shrieked aloud as the unfortunate man's doon was pronounced. Other cries pityingly arose from the great crowd, in the building. But Ned Kelly remained calm. As the closing words of the judge -
'May the Lord have mercy upon your soul' - spoken, he leaned forward and said to the judge, very quietly, 'Yes, I will meet you there!' "
Three weeks later, as is of course well known Mr Justice Barry died. This incident is only mentioned as interesting as a coincidence. There was nothing of menace in the prisoner's tone. But the judge's death left a profound impression on the public mind.
"At the conclusion of the sentence," said Mr Duggan, "two warders seized the prisoner to take him to the cells behind the dock. Kelly raised a hand in quiet deprecation. 'Just a minute,' he said. Then with a quiet motion, full of tenderness, he kissed his right hand softly to where his sisters, almost frantic with grief, were being supported by their friends. Then he was hurried out.
Extraordinary efforts were made to obtain a reprieve for the doomed man. But they were all hopeless from the outset.
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