Cookson, 24 09 1911 3

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24 September 1911


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HOW THESE ALLEGATIONS STARTED continued "The irrepressible party shot out and returned with a deputation of two men of middle age, athletic build, keen-eyed, sun-burnt, firm-featured, typical Australian bushmen, who had obviously roughed it. I had met, or casually nodded to them a score of times. I did not know them, however, as Kelly and Hart. They sat and made themselves at home.

"'Now, which is Dan Kelly?' I asked flippantly. 'Here,' replied the darker-complexioned of the two. 'But,' he added, 'you must not call me that again.' 'And don't call me Steve Hart snapped the other. 'Are you afraid? 'Well, we don't want it known,' said Kelly. He added after a pause: 'You promise never to mention this?' 'But, why did you coe to me?' 'Well, he' - pointing to the acquaintance - 'got us to come. Now you promise, or by -.' 'You needn't fear, for I have only your word for it; and, anyway, who wants to court trouble with the Kellys?' 'Well, that's all right.'

"A bottle was opened, pipes were filled, and, long after midnight, Dan Kelly, had listened avidly to stories of Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally, Burke, Vane and other earlier Australian bushrangers, combed his tangled hair with his fingers, and stated: 'I don't mind you using this, if it's worth while; but not for three or four weeks, when we're well away. Steve here, and me, and Ned, and Joe Byrne were in that pub, all right. Ned got away, and we were to foller him, but Joe was too full, and we couldn't pull him together. When he wasn't watched he went outside and was shot. After that, two chaps, strangers to us, wild with grog, were shot through the winder. They would have a go at the police, so we gave them rifles and ammunition. They fell where the firing was too hot for us to reach them, so our rifles and things were found by their remains. This is why they thought they had burnt us up. I was sorry these coves wouldn't take the tip and clear out of the pub. They'd the drink and the devil in them, and I think Joe's recklessness made them madder. Well, Steve and me planned the escape. We were in a trap, and had to get out of it. We had policemen's uniforms and caps - carried for disguises. We put them on, and you couldn't tell us from troopers. Steve in a joke wanted to arrest me, and I told him I would report him for impersonating the police. That's so, isn't it, Steve? (Steve nodded assent.) The next thing was how to leave the pub. A few trees and bushes and logs at the back decided us. We hung along the ground for a few yards, and blazed away at the pub, like the bobbies, backing all the time. We retreated from tree to tree and bush to bush, pretending to take cover. Yes, cover from Steve and me? We were soon through the scattered traps, who, no doubt thought we were funking it. But we banged away at the old caboose more'n any of them. You'd think the police would've known we didn't belong to them; but, you see, they came from a hundred miles around, and many were strangers to each other. Then the police were either mad with fear or excitement. No doubt some thought we were mad to get so near the pub. But we were getting far away from it. No, the police suspected nothing, and so we backed gradually into the thick timber, and got away. Soon we saw the shanty burning, and thanked our stars we weren't roasting. Well, we made for a shepherd's hut - a friend's. We planted for days, and the shepherd brought us the news and the papers, and we heard all about our terrible end - burnt to cinders - and all that sort of thing. We heard of Ned's capture, and were for taking to the bush again; but the old shepherd made us promise we'd quit Australia quietly. We had plenty of money and means of disguise; so, when we were ready, we crossed the border, and made for Sydney, and then Newcastle, where we boarded a ship for the Argentine. We've had a fairly good time since, in South and North America, and ain't been interfered with. We didn't interfere with anyone, either. A few years ago we crossed to the Transvaal, and, when the war broke out, we went to the front and fought for the Crown that had set a price on our heads. We've had nearer escapes, but none like we had in Victoria, and, particularly at that pub. We're off at daylight, but don't want anyone to know where. You can say what I tell you, but not for three or four weeks, and then it won't matter. Now, mind me! If you give us away, a little thing like this, in the hand of a friend of ours, will blow your lights out.' And he put the point of a revolver nearly into my eye. I looked at him sharply, and the glare in his eyes, and the rigidity of his jaw made me think he meant it. The three men emptied the bottle, and filed out. After breakfast the cable flashed to London, and the correspondents circulated the story over seas territories. Six weeks later, in Adderley street, Capetown, I encountered the two men.

"'Well,' said Dan Kelly, 'you kept' your word. We've heard nothing. You may say what you like, after t'morrer.'

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the previous day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index