Cookson, 08 09 1911 3

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8 September 1911

(full text transcription)

"WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN" Whilst the four outlaws were at large the Mr Foster, blacksmith, of Forbes, who ? believed by some people to have made the? armor for the bushrangers, but who had nothing to do with it. (How and where the? Armor was manufactured will shortly be told.) New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier" offered prizes for the best suggestion as to "how bushranging could be stamped out." The first prize was awarded to a suggestion that had a vast amount of common sense to support it. It was, in brief, that the best way to deal with men like Ned Kelly and his confederates was to enlist them in the service of the Government. There is precedent for this in the history of the development of America, when the overland stage proprietors made the most desperate ruffian in the whole region-a desperado named Slade-manager of the worst and most lawless section on the transcontinental route. The suggestion awarded the second prize was almost on the same lines. It concluded:- "When a man shows an inclination for a bushranging life he should be at once offered a bonus to enter the mounted police force, for which such men are presuminently qualified; falling which, he would be kept under strict surveillance, without, however, being worried or harassed, which might have the opposite effect to that intended."


In the light of the unfortunate events that sent the Kelly outlaws to the bush, the wisdom in the concluding sentence of the second prize suggestion, just quoted, is luminous. Here were men, born and bred in the bush, with minds untrammelled by the nicer considerations of meum and tuum that prevail in strictly policed and civilised centres, possessing all the essentials to success as either stock thieves or thief hunters. They were given to understand by the police, from their childhood, that they were looked upon as enemies to society. They accepted the position, which is not surprising. Neither is it surprising that they should, on growing up to manhood, have given practical demonstration of their acceptance of the position. All the police reports concerning the happenings of these earlier times allege that the members of the gang were thieves from boyhood. But it must also be remembered, in passing judgement on them, that it was not the custom in those days and in that part of the Commonwealth, to regard the killing of another person's sheep or the lifting of a stray beast or two as at all a serious crime. It was rather, looked upon as something to be proud of, usually. In Gippsland, today, cattle duffing is extremely common. There are farmers there who have built up substantial competencies through smartness in finding cattle that were never lost. The author was at a well known sale yards one morning when a farmer, looking over a pen of poddy calves inquired to whom they belonged. Having been informed by a clerk he sought the man out and said angrily, "Here, you-scoundrel, those poddies

got my brand on," he said. "Anyway, they are no more like your calves than those two heifers that you sold down at - last month were like the two that unlocked my home paddock gate and walked away one dark night." The claimant for the calves grinned at this. It was all that there was for him to do. The double "deal" was considered at the yards to be rather smart. There is not, of course, anything to be gained by detracting from the criminality of theft of this or any other kind. But it is fair to many of the outlaws to point out that the misdemeanours which brought them into conflict with the police possessed non of the elements of seriousness in the eyes of the culprits, that must ? ?invest them upon contemplation with the strict understanding of the purist.

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