Joe Byrne

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This page contains content from people who supported the KellyGang.
The Story of the Kelly Gang 1906.jpg

Importance of Joe Byrne

I am called the second in command of the KellyGang and the planner of many of our ventures. I was a close friend of Aaron Sherritt and a writer of many letters and songs. I lived at Sebastopol on Reedy Creek to the north of Beechworth. The area was an gold mining community that was being worked over by the chinese miners. Lots of people ask why an educated man like me should team up with the KellyGang.

Description - (SMH19/12/78)

Links to the KellyGang., Early Years , Teenage years , First run in with the law , Fitzpatrick Incident , Gold Mining , Deaths at Stringy Bark Creek, Escape North , Euroa Robbery , Jerilderie Robbery , Whouraly Race Meeting, Later in 1879 , Early in 1880 , Death of Aaron Sherritt , Glenrowan Siege , Royal Commission and after , Family ,


brothers and sisters Joe 1856, John 58, Kate 59, Paddy 62, Mary 63, Denny 66, Margaret 69, Ellen 71 parents Patrick Margaret uncles and aunts John and Mary Byrne grand parents Joseph and Catherine Byrne, ? Photograph

Links to the KellyGang

Early years I was born in November 1856 and grew up at Sebastopol on the Woolshed gold diggings. The area had been a rich one in the early years but for most of my time the place was being worked over again by the chinese who were prepared to go after every last once of gold. (FH) (BWC) [[[The Complete Inner History of the KellyGang and their Pursuers (8)|JJK]])

My family were Catholic and I went to school at the newly opened Woolshed Catholic school in 1862 At school I teamed up with a Protestant boy called Aaron Sherritt and we became good mates.

James Wallace was another good mate from school. (RC14722)

Teenage years Living on a Chinese gold mining site I became interested in the Chinese In their stories, culture, and ways. In a short time I was able to get by in the Chinese language Mandarin. I also enjoyed opium with my friends. Some people even called me half Chinese

First run ins with the law Det Ward claimed me. I got 6 months for sheep stealing. (BWC)

On 29/5/1872 I had to give evidence in a case about a miner in the court in Beechworth.

In September 1873 I was charged of stealing Anton Wicks' horse and had to front the court in Beechworth. Mum engaged the solicitor Mr Zincke to get me off with a fine rather than the standard 3 months gaol that we expected. We had to pay 20/- with 1/6 costs plus Mr Zincke's fee. This was my first run in with the likes of Mr Butler the magistrate

In 1876 Aaron Sherritt and I were sentenced to 6 months in Beechworth Goal for illegal possession of meat. We caught near my mother's home by a chap called Doig and were arrested by Det Ward and SConst Mullane. (OMA29/6/80) (RC13530)

In January 1877 I then got 6 months for assaulting a Chinaman Ah On who tried to stop me swimming in the Woolshed dam. Aaron was with me but he got off (Kilmore12/8/1880)

After I got out I started riding with Ned Kelly and his brother Dan and other members of the Greta Mob as they moved cattle and horses back and forth from Victoria to New South Wales. Aaron Sherritt was part of the group.

Chandler was considered to be a great sympathiser and my chief agent. (RC16317)

. Fitzpatrick Incident 15/04/1878 Some writers suggest that I instead of Bill Skillion was at the Kelly Home when Const Fitzpatrick came to arrest Dan Kelly

Well all I am saying is that at least I went off with the KellyGang into the hills for a while. See also (FH)

Gold mining and making whiskey near Stringy Bark Creek

Dan , Ned Kelly and I headed off for a base in the hills where we did some gold mining and made some whiskey and other things to stay out of mischief. I used my skills from the Woolshed to teach the others about gold mining and in a short time the rest of my mates were decent miners. We got reasonable amounts. The Lloyds boys and Steve Hart joined us from time to time when they got out of goal. The [[../../things/K_kellys/K_KellyGang.html|KellyGang]] was forming as a force. We had some good times and I was able to ride down to places like Mansfield unnoticed.

See also the story of Bullock Creek and the [[../../things/K_kellys/K_KellyGang.html|KellyGang]].

. Deaths at Stringy Bark Creek in the Wombat Ranges !!MISSING The story of this incident is really the story of what happened at Stringy Bark Creek, Escape north On the day after the murders we went to Greta, and hung about there part of that day, Sunday. We got to Moon's on Monday night I got a bottle of grog there. On Wednesday 30th October we were seen at Marjery's, on the Murray. (RC1859)

On 30/10/1878 Parliament passed the Felons Apprehension Act. That turned us into outlaws. The police now had authority to shoot us on sight. They did not need an act of Parliament to do that.

See text of the warrant they issued (CHC)

We had a trying time up on the River Murray with water every where and the police hot on our trail. Eventually we made it out of there and I had a chance to see my family and the Sherritt's (including Elizabeth) for a while before we had to swing south west to Wangaratta. We were exhausted but still had to keep on the move.

Sebastopol Cavalcade On 7/11/1878, during the Sebastopol Cavalcade Standish tried to do a deal with Aaron Sherritt; hand over the KellyGang and Joe Byrne's life would be spared. Sadlier told the Royal Commission -

'Since you have given part of the arrangements entered into with this man Sherritt, I would like to know the remainder?- The substance of the understanding was this: it was proposed that he should have an understanding that Captain Standish would recommend to the Government that Joe Byrne's life should be saved, not his liberty, and that he should be tempted through Aaron Sherritt to lead the police on to the other three.(RC1848) see also (RC1801)

. Euroa Robbery 10/12/1878 I was first identified as being a member of the KellyGang after the robbery (Argus12/12/78) (Argus12/12/78)

I stuck up Casement and the others as they came out of the Strathbogie ranges (Argus11/8/80

On Sunday 8/12/1878 I rode into Euroa and met our friend Ben Gould. He showed me around the town and I saw the bank, the hotels, and railway station etc. Ben also told me about the funeral planned for Wednesday afternoon and the meeting of the licensing court. Everything fitted in with our plan. Faithull's Creek Station proved to be an ideal base. Our friends arrived on time and did their job wonderfully. We were able to cut the telegraph wires to stop the people in Euroa talking to the police in Benalla. Mr Gloster turned up as he usually did, the new clothes and hawker van worked to disguise Ned's arrival in town, the town was almost empty as l expected and the bank's door was left open so the station master could take his money to the bank after the 3.30 train. The plan that sent Assistant Commissioner Nicolson and Sup Sadlier off from Benalla to Wodonga was a real bonus and made the police look very silly. Apart from this every one was very polite and we did not really need to get angry with anyone. See (RC15545) and also (SMH12/12/78)


I stayed at Faithfull's Creek while others went of to Euroa.


James Wallace and Com Standish discussed the possibility of the police offering me a deal. I apparently said I was not disinclined to throw my mates overboard, provided that it was guaranteed that I was not taken up by the police and given the sum of £100 or £200 to get out of the country. Of course I would not throw up my mates.

I wrote and told them so.(RC16034)

Did I write the Cameron letter at Faithfuls Creek.(Argus14/12/78)

Did I play billards in Wangaratta (Argus21/12/78)

. Jerilderie Robbery 10/2/1879 On about 2 February 1879 Dan Kelly and I went to see Aaron Sherritt on his selection between Sebastopol and Beechworth. I also went and saw Elizabeth Sherritt. I him we were going over the Murray up to Goulbourn and I asked Aaron to come with us as a scout. He declined the offer and after about half an hour we left. I had a magnificent grey horse. (RC1270)

About this time my brother Paddy and I saw Pat Allen on the road. My mother and my brothers and sisters were vey short of food. She had to beg from Pat. (BWC) See also (SMH12/2/79)

We decided to go for a ride. The banks in Victoria were secured by the army and like was getting a bit tight. We had been up into New South Wales with cattle and horses and we had also been all around the place shearing and doing other things. We chose Jerilderie because no one would expect us to go there; it needed few trips to town to check out our plan. I wrote out all the detail and we rehearsed things so we all knew to do. It worked at Euroa. Of course we were not as familiar with the lay out of Jerilderie.

We arrived at the police station on the Saturday evening of the 8th after the police officers had gone to bed. In no time we had them secured in their own cells. The next morning we let Mrs Devine, the constable's wife set up the church and go about her normal business. I went into town with her and no one caused us a problem. In the afternoon I put on a police uniform and had a good look around with Steve Hart. We took Const Richards with us. Later Ned and Dan Kelly got dressed up as police and came for walk around the town while Steve Hart and I rode. (JJK)

We went to the Royal Hotel where we introduced ourselves to the publican Mr Cox. I went to the back and collected all the servants, and invited them inside.

I wrote most of the Jerilderie letter and many other letters (FH)

Please see Dan Kelly for the rest of the story of the KellyGang in Jerilderie

Returning home

After we left Jerilderie we split up a bit and made our way to near my home where we all met up. (Argus1/3/79)

Soon after this Det Ward and Sup Hare set up a party of police to watch my mother with the intention of catching us if we turned up. My mate Aaron Sherritt hand joked about how it would be good fun to take money from the police as one of their agents and went alone with his plan but I was not too happy about putting pressure on mum and the family at home. Mum was even less happy when she found the police camp and could not get a straight answer out of Aaron. She also found that Aaron was talking to that Det Ward. For her that was about the last straw. She did not understand why I had bought into the Kelly's troubles and thought even less of Aaron. She order my sister Kate not to see him again. See also (FH)

Instead of trying to put things right Aaron decided to take Kate's horse. He had given her one a few years before. I suppose he thought that if she was no longer his girl he was entitled to get a horse back. It was a silly thing to do and my mother took a very dim view of things. She even charged Aaron with stealing the horse. While I would not have gone that far I could see why she was so upset.

Some time after the robbery of the Jerilderie bank by that party the whole KellyGang came to my mother's house. About fourteen days later John Sherritt said that I sent him a letter requesting that we meet at Sandy Creek, near Wangaratta. He says we met and had a conversation. (RC15216)

. Whorouly Race meeting 3/1879 Aaron made an effort to convince me that we were still mates.

I wrote to Aaron Sherritt. I also wanted him to ride my black mare in hurdle race (RC1362) (RC1096) See also (FH)

Police had lots of examples of my writing (RC1362)

This is what Const Faulkiner told the Royal Commission about this matter,

"a letter that was received by Aaron Sherritt from Joe Byrne-that he was to meet him at Whorouly races. I will tell the Commission the exact facts of the case. The letter was written in peculiar phraseology that none of us here could understand, and it had to be interpreted by Aaron Sherritt himself before we knew what it meant; but the purport of it was asking Aaron Sherritt to go over to Whorouly races-this is a small country racecourse on the Ovens-and to meet him, the writer-Joe Byrne-at a certain place, as he wanted him to ride his black mare in some hurdle race. I saw the letter, and beyond doubt it was in Byrne's handwriting, because we have seen a great many of his documents 'The reason of your doubt was that he stated that he was going to ride Byrne's racehorse, and that it was not likely they would put a thirteen-stone man on that racehorse at Whorouly?- Yes.' (RC5674) See also (RC5312)

Many of the members of by family were at the races if I was not there my self (RC1365)

There were reports that we had gone back to the old business of gold mining up in the area near the intersection of the roads linking Beechworth, Chiltern, Kiewa and Yackandandah. I had a friend at a pub on the Chiltern road who supplied me with all the local news papers so we could see what was going on. Old Mrs Sherritt reported that we were supplied with provisions from a woman that lived near Chiltern that was an old sweetheart of mine (RC13210)

. Later in 1879 Where did I stay (Argus6/8/80)

As the year wore on I became concerned about what we might do next. The police were after us and there was a continuing pressure on our friends to accept the massive reward and do the right thing by the Government. The life of an outlaw may sound grand but it is hard life. We were always on the move, sleeping in all weather and putting our loyal friends under great pressure. They may not have cared about being arrested as sympathizers, but while they were helping us they were not ploughing their paddocks and working to feed their own families. Nearly all our friends were poor selectors or landless workers and as much victims of the oppression by the powerful as we were. These issues rested on our mind as long as we had money. Later we had to respond, but how?

Letter to Aaron Sherritt

Aaron Sherritt said that on about 2/7/1879 he got a letter from me asking for a meeting (RC13850)

Det Ward believed that I was the treasurer and in August money was running short as we have only £500 and the 50 or 80 ozs. of gold. There was a plan for Aaron Sherritt to go to Chiltern or Wodonga to sell the gold for us. Aaron refused, and said he was too well known to Sergeant Lynch, of Chiltern. (RC14773)

Apparently at the request of Com Standish James Wallace make an arrangement with Aaron Sherritt for me to betray the other three members of the KellyGang. I would never have done such a thing.(RC14723) (RC14773)

Aaron Sherritt told the police that he had recieved a threatening letter from a man, Jack Fox, who was a particular friend of mine. He received a sentence of nine months, some six years ago, for stealing a horse from Mr. Kennedy, of the Woolshed. (RC14791)

I may have given a letter to Jack Sherritt to post (RC15691)

I communicated with James Wallace through Aaron Sherritt about a saddle that Ned Kelly stolen from him some time previously. I offered to replace it, and stated we were sorry that he had been victimized, having been a schoolmate of mine. (RC14441) (RC14516)

On one occasion Arron Sherritt's mother said she received a letter from my mother to go and see her, and Mrs Byrne told her then that I and Dan Kelly called at the Black Dog Creek. I gave a letter to Mrs Byron to deliver it to my mother. Mrs. Byron, not being on good terms with mum, she sent the letter by her husband to Mr Batchelor, who lives next door and he delivered it to mum. (RC14190)

My mother charged Aaron Sherritt with horse stealing (OMA15/7/79)

During this time we moved around the country and Steve Hart can tell you about that.

In early September I produced a threatening letter relating to Aaron Sherritt (RC13850)

In about mid September I heard that Det Ward was involved in some plan to arrange a pardon for me (RC14646)

I responded by offering a reward of £8,000 for the apprehension and delivery in Strathbogie Ranges of Captain Standish, Sconst Mullane, and Det Ward (RC13853)

This was probably about the same time that he raped my sister Kate. (RC14669)

In October I met James Wallace one moonlight night on the Oxley road, going in the direction of Sebastopol Greta. His school was right in a line from the two places. I was by myself. Wallace was in company with others. (RC14567) (RC14620)

At the begining of November I arranged to have a meeting with Jack Sherritt (RC15244)

I arranged to meet him Thompson's, but he had left there twelve months before. I met him as he was returning home. I apparently suddenly rushed out of the bush at the foot of the hill, and called him and we had a long conversation. My boots and spurs were bloody, as if I had ridden a long distance. I asked about the Yackandandah and Beechworth banks, and that Ned and I could not agree. We would want a couple of men there with us and I invited Jack to help us and several things like that. I even said that our horses were bad, and that my grey mare was the best of the lot. On his return from Sandy Creek Jack Sherritt told Det Ward about our meeting.(RC15613)

I arranged to meet him again Evans Gap near Sebastopol after he had checked out the bank in Yackandandah but it did not happen. I made a number of other appointments to meet him. (RC15244)

On about 10/11/1879 Aaron Sherritt received another letter, stating that I wanted to meet him about twenty miles from Wangaratta or Lake Rowan. The letter was handed to Det Ward by the Sherritts, and he forwarded it on to Ass Com Nicolson. (RC13854)

I called at my mother's place and met Jack and Aaron Sherritt there on about 23/11/1879 (RC15624) See also (FH)

I arranged to meet Aaron Sherritt when he was returning back to Wangaratta. I saw him next morning and wanted to know about the banks and which ones were being protected. (RC13854)

Apparently the police were under the impression that I used to visit my mother's house. In December Const Alexander was instructed that, if I was found coming to the house, he was to secure me, if possible; if the other outlaws and myself were in company, they were to fire at and shoot us-Ned Kelly in particular, the tallest of the KellyGang. (RC13545)

Jack Sherritt said that on 23/11/1879 I came to see him. (RC15289)

. Early in 1880 I was reported by John Sherritt as sleeping in haystacks around home

On 26/5/80 I met up with Mrs Sherritt Sen near Sebastopol. She said she was out looking for her cows. She asked me what I was doing there, and my reply was- "Oh, we could go anywhere were it not for your sanguinary son there." I also told her that I was going to kill Aaron Det Ward. (RC13184). Standish even went further and said that I was out to shoot Hare as well. He would say anything for a good story.(RC71) A few days later she told Ass Com Nicolson about our meeting, well , perhaps we met. Again there was a report that I was seen by Aaron Sherritt in Byrne's Gully on 30/5/80, just a few days before Nicolson was replaced. (RC 789) (RC801) (RC1110) (RC15849)

See also (JJK)

On about 25/6/1880 Aaron Sherritt went into Beechworth and had a few drinks. Ian Jones in his book about us 'The Friendship that destroyed Ned Kelly' tells a story about a hotel called The Vine and a lady called Maggie who was my girl. Perhaps he's right. I don't know. (see also (MDTel1/7/80))

. Death of Aaron Sherritt 26/6/1880 Jim Kelly's answer as to why did I shoot Aaron Sherritt (BWC)

Kelly and I had a packhorse with us when we met Anton Weekes (Argus28/6/80) (RC13144) (CHC)

The other members of the KellyGang were not present. See (RC2759)

I shot Aaron Sherritt. I came up to his place with Dan Kelly and Anton Weekes, the man who first brought me before the law. I got Weekes to ask Aaron to come out and show him the way home because he was lost. I then shot him. Anton gave a good indication as to what happened in his evidence before the inquest into Aaron's death. We gave him no harm.(OMA29/6/80) (Argus29/6/80) (SMH6/7/80)

According to Pat Allen I used a double-barrelled rifle that had belonged to sgt Kennedy. I put two bullets into Aaron. (BWC)

I then asked Aaron's wife to get the policemen inside to come out. She gave some story but I knew who they were and I was happy to deal with them given half a chance. Aaron's death was enough to get the police moving. The cowards could wait until Glenrowan.(RC13230)

I gave them a fright by challenging them from the back of the house, "Come outside and surrender, or I will shoot you rotten dogs." (RC12144)

See Const Duross and Mrs Barry the details of what happened that night. See also (Age1/7/1880) (MDTel1/7/80) (OMA1/7/80)

I wanted Duross to come out. I told Mrs Barry what I though about things. (RC13396)

Hear Mrs Sherritt's version of what happened (OMA26/4/81)

The news about Aaron's death came out in the press soon after. (Argus 28/6/80)

. Glenrowan Siege 28/6/1880 After we finished up at Sherritt's place Dan and I headed off to meet up with Ned Kelly and Steve Hart at Glenrowan. We got there in time to invite Mr Curnow and his family to join us just before lunch on 27/6/1880 (RC)

Mrs McDonnell called me 'Sugar' because he was so sweet on the girls. I had been in the pub under another name many times. (Herald29/6/80)


I was at the bar in the Inn at about 5.30am safe in my armour when a police bullet got me in the groin while drinking a glass of whisky.(Argus29/6/80) (MDTel29/6/80) (Argus30/6/80) (OMA1/7/80) (OMA1/7/80) (Argus5/7/80) (RC10380) (FH)


When the hotel was set on fire my body was found in the entrance to the bar, on the east side of the hotel. It was only slightly scorched by the fire. people commmented that I was ill nourished with a thin face that was black with smoke. My arms were bent at right angles at the elbows and my joints had stiffened below the elbows. They were standing erect. By then my body was quite stiff. See also (RC12314) See also (MDTel29/6/80) (RC7188)

The police dragged my body outside after Rev Gibney had left the Inn. My body described(Argus29/6/80) (RC7262) (RC12323)

Like the rest of the boys I was dressed to meet my fate. I had on a blue sac coat, tweed striped trousers, Crimean shirt and my best boots, altough I agree that they were a tight fit. I also had a ring on my right hand which had belonged to Constable Scanlon. (Argus 29/6/80))

Read about my last conversation with Ned Kelly and hear about my wounds (RC17786)

. After the Siege When the siege was over Com Standish ordered that my body be brought down to Benalla and put in the lockup overnight. The next day they nailed me to the door of a police cell and Mr Burman, of Melbourne took my photograph to add to their collection. Later that day the authorities had some sort of inquest into my death. (Argus30/6/80) (Argus30/6/80) (SMH30/6/80) (RC77) see also (RC2249)(RC2890).(Age12/8/80)

The artist Jullian Ashton saw me up against the door (SMH25/1/1934) (SMH30/1/34)

My horse was found at McDonnell's in Glenrowan. It was the one I had when I shot Aaron Sherritt. It had been stolen from Mr Ryan (SMH30/6/80)

McBean conducted a Magisterial Inquiry into my death. Com Standish, the police Commissioner was also on the bench. This great team found that I was shot as an outlaw. The evidence of Const McIntyre was taken, the proclamation of the Government declaring the outlaws, the whole of the official papers from the Gazette were shown and read before the magistrate. (RC2905) See also (Argus30/6/80)

See other witnesses. (OMA1/7/80)

Com Standish instructed that I be buried straight off (RC77)

But not before the person from the Waxworks did his thing. (Argus1/7/80)

At 4 o'clock on that Tuesday afternoon they buried me in the Benalla cemetery. That was done by a constable, my body being wrapped in calico and interned in the pauper portion of the cemetery. They said that no one came to claim my body. (RC2880) Who was left to do so?

Was I really like that? (Herald30/6/80)

A representation of me was put on display at the wax works in Melbourne within a few days of my death. (Herald3/7/80)

Note from one of our friends - can you help?

"Our Ellen Byrne was born circa 1870-71 in Victoria although on her marriage certificate she has written Victoria for her birthplace then crossed it out and put down New South Wales, her husband also crossed out Victoria but we know that he knew he was born in NSW.

Ellen married Leonard Bulpit in October 1890 in Melbourne and she had to get special permission to marry from a justice of the peace ,she has put her age as 20.On the Certificate she claims that Patrick Byrne was her Father and that her mother was " Ellen Unknown".When our Ellen died in 1955 she was known as Ellen Margaret.

Ellen never spoke about her family to her children and claimed that she was brought up in a convent but we don't know where .Although she was married by a Church of England Minister she regularly went to Mass at the Catholic church .Her children were brought up as Catholics..

She was a very strict Mother, secretive but quite intelligent. Ellen and Leonard had 7 children..

Ellen's Granddaughter lived with us for 8 years and she was very upset when we started delving into family history.She claimed she knew nothing much about Ellen except going to church with her sometimes and we believe her, but she had a very distinct fear of us finding out stuff about the family . We have tried to disprove our suspicions but have been unable to do so as yet.We have looked on the NSW births deaths and marriages but no one comes close.

Another strange thing is that there are no photos of Ellen within the family . We were hoping that someone on your site could help us with some more info about Ellen Byrne ,Joe Byrnes sister. There are several Patricks down through the years in Philip's family and yet the children of Ellen seemed to not know about Patrick, Ellen's father. All these things add up to a person who is denying their past and therefore it makes it a possibility of our Ellen Byrne being Joe Byrnes youngest sister but Philip would like to do further research into it yet as it is not definate. Perhaps we won't be able to find the truth.

We are still hopeful of finding a photo of her somewhere as all her children married and there just may be a photo of her at one of the marriages, who knows .We can only try. We hope you can help us with some more information.' [1]

What happened to the Byrne family