Cookson, 03 09 1911 1

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3 September 1911

(full text transcription)





The Sergeant Steele belongs the distinction of having brought down the chief of the notorious outlaws during the night fighting at Glenrowan. Steele had been one of the most implacable of the gang's pursuers and one of the cleverest also. And they would have been pleased enough, no doubt, to have accounted for him. But he escaped without a hurt throughout the long hunt.

Sergeant Steele is living in retirement with his grown up family at Wangaratta. His house, a commodious, well shaded one, is at once pointed out to the visitor. It is on the top of the river bank. Below, the King and Ovens Rivers merge into one sluggish stream. Sergeant Steele occupies his leisure a good deal in farming. He is as keen as ever on horses; he always did love a good horse; and he finds agriculture an agreeable and profitable pastime.

It was in his pleasant home at Wangaratta that the representative of the "Sun" saw the man who shot the outlaw chief. Very well, indeed, was the doughty sergeant looking, carrying his years well - even jauntily. After all, a hard life fits a man for the enjoyment of a restful autumn, and the sergeant is one who can appreciate the fact. His is a hardy family. Both his daughters sleep out of doors in all weathers. And neither has ever known what a cold means.

Of course, the pursuit and capture of the outlaws was the principle task undertaken by Sergeant Steele in all his long service in the force. But he speaks of his exploits in a very matter of fact vein.

He remembered perfectly the stirring events of that memorable night at Glenrowan, especially the grand finale in which he played so large a part. But he was not disposed to discuss it. "It has all been told so often," he said.

"But, all the same, I may as well say that my success was owing to my using a shot gun instead of a rifle or pistol. It was no use trying to reach a vulnerable place in that man's armour with a bullet. Shot was the stuff for that job; good big shot. And that's what I got him with at last.

"No, strange to say, I haven't any relics of the battle, none, that is, except one. Let's see, where is it? Ah! I know." And diving into a room at the rear he reappeared with a dark looking object that presently turned out to be a leather bag, with a strap to carry it over the shoulder. The bag was of crescent shape, and the leather was stout. On the front flap was a large, dark stain.

"That," said the sergeant, " is Ned Kelly's cartridge bag. That is the one he was wearing at Glenrowan. I took it off him, with the other things, when he fell. And that stain is his blood. He was wounded in several places, and bled a good deal. Yes; its a grim relic - not at all pretty. Let's put it away." And he did.

"You know," resumed the sergeant, as he re-entered the room. "I wasn't down at Glenrowan when the trouble started. I was here. But it was a clear, fine night, and we heard the noises of the firing when the police sent in the first volley distinctly. We knew what it was. And we didn't wait long. We were there in time for the finish."

We met Constable Bracken on the way. He was galloping along the railway line.

"And of the other men who took leading parts in the affair; what of them, sergeant?"

"Well, Mr Hare, who got shot in the hand, is dead. Constable Bracken, who so pluckily escaped from the Glenrowan Inn and told us what was doing there, committed suicide some time ago. Mr Sadleir is living at Elsternwick. I think, Sergeant Whelan I last heard of was living at Melville Street, Hawthorn. I don't know about the others, but I believe a good number must still be on this side of the Divide."

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