The Complete Inner History of the KellyGang and their Pursuers (49)

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Mr O’Connor arrived at Benalla on March 8, 1879, and boarded with the other officers at Craven’s Commercial Hotel.

He met there the sister-in-law of Supt Nicolson.  It was a case of love at first sight; but the parties were evidently not ready to make elaborate preparations for their marriage.  It was decided that they should get married quietly, and still live as Mr O’Connor and Miss Smith. One morning the happy couple appeared at the Church of England at Benalla, in company with Mr James Knox, Benalla shire secretary, as best man, and were married by the Rev Mr Scott. This marriage was a great secret, and both parties continued, as far as the public were concerned, as unmarried people. 

However, a great public wedding was arranged six months later at Flemington.  Many guests were invited.  The four who figured at the secret marriage at Benalla were there, and retired to a room in one part of the house where the marriage ceremony was supposed to be performed.  The guests were in another part, in a big room, and were waiting till the clergyman, Mr Scott, and Mr Knox, the best man, and the bridegroom and the bride would emerge and receive their congratulations.  This farce was successfully staged, and the guests, except Mr Knox and the clergyman, were in complete ignorance that the happy couple had been lawfully married six months before.

Captain Standish heard the full account of the secret wedding, and his dislike to Mr O’Connor was considerably intensified, and, when giving evidence before the Royal Commission on March, 23, 1881, he was cross-examined by Mr O’Connor as follows: -

Mr O’Connor—Do you ever remember saying to me that you would endeavour to get the Kellys without my valuable assistance? Captain Standish—I never said any such thing. (RC317)

The Chairman (to Mr O’Connor)—You had better for the present confine your questions to any personal matters you wish dealt with at this sitting.  The witness (Captain Standish) stated he had heard things about you he would not like to mention.

Mr O’Connor—He made some reflections about my private character, but I do not care a fig about it from a man of his private character, but I should like him to state what he alluded to.

The Chairman—Captain Standish referred to your letter, in which you said you have been treated in an un-gentlemanly, ungenerous, and discourteous manner by him throughout the whole sixteen months you were under his command, and he said he gave that the lie direct, and further, that he found out things that made him keep out of your company.  Do you desire to say anything about that?

Mr O’Connor—Captain Standish’s knowledge of my private character is very limited, and all I can say is that if he has so low an estimate of my character I care very little about it, considering the character of the man who judges.  He said I was not a fit and proper person; I say that of him.  (Under such circumstances it was natural that at least 85 per cent of the public took the side of the Kellys.)

By Mr O’Connor, to witness (Captain Standish)—Did you allude to my private character?—No; I said things came to my knowledge that shook my faith in you.

By Mr O’Connor—Let him say it.

By Commission (to the witness)—I think in fair play to Mr O’Connor, you ought now to state what you refer to?—You (Mr O’Connor) told several people that you were engaged to be married to a certain lady, and I remember asking what day and you said on the anniversary of your birthday, the 10th of February; and I found that you were married all the time.

Mr O’Connor—I give that the lie direct.  I say that is a falsehood, and I am ready to prove it.  On one occasion, when I dined with Captain Standish, he said, “I noticed you making love to a certain young lady”; and I said, “That is nonsense, it is only fun,” and I thought nothing more about it until I received a letter congratulating me.  I immediately wrote back and said there was not a word of truth in it.

The witness—I was driven to say this, and Mr O’Connor was married a few days after he came to Benalla.

Mr O’Connor—But everything was quite correct.

Captain Standish—May I ask for all that to be withdrawn? I request, as a particular favour, that you allow the whole of that to be expunged from the evidence.

Mr O’Connor—I am sorry for my loss of temper, and will be glad if this matter be not reported.

The Chairman observed that, as the earlier statements of Captain Standish had already been reported in the “Herald” newspaper, he did not see how the later remarks could be withdrawn.

Mr O’Connor told the Royal Commission on March 30, 1881, that Captain Standish often spoke of Mr Nicolson in the most disparaging terms. On one occasion Captain Standish, referring to the death of the Hon John Thomas Smith, said, “Now Mr Nicolson’s billet as Assistant Commissioner will soon be done away with, as the Hon John Thomas Smith got it for him; the billet is a farce, and it will be all up with him now, as he has not another friend left.” (RC1104)

Mr Nicolson was the son-in-law of the late Hon JT Smith.

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This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view

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