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The Complete Inner History of the KellyGang and their Pursuers (48)

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CHAPTER XII

continued

It is interesting to know that as the result of the report of the Royal Commission, held after the execution of Ned Kelly, Captain Standish and Supts Hare and Nicolson and Inspector Brook-Smith were retired from the force.  The £8000 reward offered for the capture of the Kellys had a very demoralising effect on the “Board of Officers.” The capture of the Kellys was desired by these officers, but they were very jealous as to where they themselves would come in when the reward money would be allotted.  This led to very serious quarrels among the heads, and, as the Kellys were not then stealing horses and were not injuring their neighbours, there was no local demand for greater police efficiency or activity.  The results of these quarrels increased the public contempt for the valour of the police.

In those days the favourite game played by school children was “the Kellys and the police,” and it happened that the Kellys invariably won.

After the arrival at Benalla of Inspector O’Connor and his party of blacktrackers a fresh start was made.  The “Board of Officers” now comprised Captain Standish, Supt Hare, Supt Sadleir and Mr O’Connor.  These officers were now stationed at Benalla and the employment of an increased number of police spies was a special feature of the Board’s activities.

On March 11, 1879, Mr O’Connor and his party of blacktrackers went out after the Kellys.  They were accompanied by Supt Sadleir and about six or seven Victorian police, making a party of about fourteen in all.  Mr O’Connor objected to so many being in the party.  He wanted only two Victorian policemen who knew the country to accompany his party of trackers, but Captain Standish insisted on at least six or seven Victorian police going with the backtrackers every time they went out.  This large party could not move quickly, and the pack-horses required were a considerable hindrance.  After being out for a week the whole party returned to the barracks on March 18.  They did not come across the Kellys or their tracks, though they went up the Fern Hills and Holland branch of the Broken River.  They came across some tracks which the trackers followed, but these tracks turned out to be the tracks of local stockmen in search of sheep and cattle.

The party returned on account of not being sufficiently supplied with necessaries, and one of the blacks—Corporal Sambo—had become very ill.  The necessaries were food, blankets and clothing.

The next move by Mr O’Connor and the blacks was not made till April 16, when they were accompanied by Supt Sadleir and five or six white police.  The whole party numbered sixteen men.  This party went up the King River, and after being out for five days came to De Gamaro Station.  Mr O’Connor was there informed that one of the police horses taken from the police at Jerilderie had been discovered on the Black Range.  The trackers were about to search for the tracks of this horse when a constable galloped up with a letter from Captain Standish, saying that if they were not on “anything good” it would be better to return.  Mr O’Connor and Supt Sadleir conferred, and they decided to follow up the tracks of the Jerilderie police horse. They advised Captain Standish to this effect. Next day Captain Standish sent yet another message recalling the party to Benalla.

Mr O’Connor and Supt Sadleir both complained of the lack of interest taken by Captain Standish in the Kelly hunt. In May, 1879, Captain Standish in official matters began to show his dislike to Mr O’Connor, and wanted to take the blacktrackers from his command and place them in different townships—to split up the blacktrackers. Mr O’Connor would not agree to this, and received the following wire from the Queensland Government: -

To Sub-Inspector O’Connor:—The Colonial Secretary desires that you will not separate yourself from your troopers, nor allow any to be detached from you.—C H Barron, pro Commissioner, May 13, 1879.

Shortly after this there was a breach between Captain Standish and Mr O’Connor.  The leading officers took sides.  Captain Standish and Mr Hare were on one side, and Supt Nicolson and Mr O’Connor were on the other side.  Supt Sadleir tactfully took a neutral position.

The Kellys also adopted a neutral attitude and successfully evaded contact with either of the two factions in the police force.

As a result of official disagreements, Mr O’Connor and his blacktrackers were not allowed to go to the races—the Whorouly races, where Supt Hare’s “Bookmaker,” “Spieler,” and “Yokel” were doing good business to the immense enjoyment of the friends and sympathisers of the Kellys.

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