Cookson, 05 09 1911 4
5 September 1911
THE SLAYING OF SHERRITT "I remember the NIGHT OF Sherritt's death as well as anything" said Mr Ward, "Four constables has been stationed in an abandoned miner's hut, with orders to watch Mrs Byrne's hut all night, and return at daylight. They had the most strict instructions not to make a fire or give any sign of their presence. Sherritt was with them.
"On a Sunday morning about 10 o'clock, I was told that a man outside wanted to see me. It was Armstrong one of the men from the hut. He was shrivering and greatly excited. I got from him that the Kellys had gone to the hut the night before and shot Sherritt dead. "Good God!" I cried, "what were you doing?" He could only mutter some confused explanation. "This happened last night?" I said. "Why didn't you let us know before?" You just sat there over the body, and never went for help?" I sent him back, and wired the news to headquarters.
"That was the beginning of the end. Police were gathered from all quarters. Next morning all the men available were ready, when the news came through that the gang had stuck up the Glenrowan station. You and everyone else know the rest."
JOE BYRNE'S REASON
"Do you know the reason" he was asked.
"Yes," was the answer, "and it was a good enough reason for most men"
"Was it merely because he was with the police?"
"No, they had known that for a long time, It was not that, no. I'll tell you what it was."
And he told. He said that after Mrs Byrne found Aaron Sherritt spying for the police she met him and spoke of what might happen if Joe should come across him. Sherritt then, he said, in the mother's presence, made use of a bloodcurdling threat of unmentionable atrocity, and swore to shoot Byrne on sight. Byrne was told of the threat. And Aaron perished.
Ex-Superintendent Hare, in his book, "The Last of the Bushrangers," and which shows strong police bias all through says, in regard to Sherritt's fate- "It was doubtless a most fortunate thing that Aaron was shot by the outlaws; it was impossible to reclaim him and the Government could not have assisted him in any way, and he would have gone back to his old course of life and probably spent his days in gaol. Or he might have turned bushranger, when he would have been quite a dangerous a man as Edward Kelly . . . .His widow was much better off without him."
"After the battle," resumed Mr Ward, "Ned Kelly was lying under guard at the railway station. He said it was Jones's whisky that had killed them-that it would kill at 100 yards. I said to him, 'Hello, Ned, how do you feel? You're looking well.' A spread of pain crossed his face, and he said, 'How would a man be likely to feel in this position? You ought to feel pretty well considering you were not shot'
" 'But, Ned' I replied, 'you've been saying that you were going to slay me and turn me into soup, and compel Steele and French to dink it. Why did you say that?"
"The wounded outlaw snarled savagely, 'Why did you arrest Joe Byrne ' he was remanded, 'and that little scoundrel Sherritt?"
" 'Because they were breaking the law' I answered.
" 'Well' he said, 'your lucky you're not shot anyway'
" 'You could never have shot me'
" 'Yes we could but it wouldn't have suited our purpose, and besides there's this about it, you were always kind to my sisters. Tell you what, Mrs Jones has gone down on her knees to me begging me not to shoot you whoever we did shoot. Well, it's all over now. You've done your part, but I'll remember your kindness to my sisters always.'
"Kelly was that sort of man" concluded the ex-detective. "He never forgot a good turn. I let him off in Wangaratta once when I should have arrested him for making a disturbance at a church. He never forgot that."
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