Cookson, 23 09 1911 2
23 September 1911
THE GENISIS OF THE TROUBLE
EX-CONSTABLE FITZPATRICK'S VERSION
DENIES INTERFERING WITH KATE KELLY continued "I replied, 'If I don't, Mrs Kelly some body else will. I don't know whether there is sufficient evidence to convict Dan. All I've got to do is to arrest him.'
"'There's no saying what the police will do,' retorted the old lady, who showed a good deal of temper.
"Just at this moment Ned Kelly rushed in, revolver in hand.
"'Out of this you -.' He exclaimed, and he fired a shot at me. The bullet went through the left sleeve of my jumper, and as I backed out I tried to draw my revolver Dan, who was still sitting at the table, jumped up and prevented me. Two more shots were fired at me. One of Ned's bullets struck me on the left wrist, and the bullet entered just on the edge of the knuckle bone where the mark still shows, as you can see. Almost at the same moment Mrs Kelly hit me on the head with a shovel, and I went down unconscious.
"I owe my life to a lucky circumstance. Some time previously I had arrested Ned Kelly for drunkenness, and I looked after him at the lock-up, and treated him kindly. When I regained my senses he told me that if he had known who I was he would not have fired at me. They let me get my horse and ride away. I at once reported the shooting to the sergeant at Benalla, and warrants were issued charging the principals with attempted murder. They took to the bush to avoid arrest, and that is how they became outlaws and set Australia ringing with their deeds.
Fitzpatrick then referred to the allegations that were made against him. It was stated that he had precipitated the shooting by making offensive advances to Kate Kelly.
"The stories that were circulated about me," he said "were of a ridiculous description. They are entirely false, but were believed by people who at that time were ready to believe anything against the police. The Kellys had a tremendous number of sympathizers, and a good many people, who did not come out into the open, ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds. This made matters worse for me. It was entirely to the interests of the Kellys that I should be misrepresented. But in the name of commonsense, was it likely, when I told them that I had come to arrest Dan Kelly, that they would permit me to be even friendly towards Kate Kellys! They all showed me bitter dislike from the time that I rode up. Their whole attitude to the police force was one of intense hostility. It was only natural that they should try and blame me for causing the trouble that led to the gang defying the law.
"One of the proofs that I acted the straight part came from Ned Kelly himself. When he stuck up the bank at Jerilderie the question was put to him while he was talking with some of the townspeople, "What about Fitzpatrick." Ned answered, "If he had done what they say he did the country would not have been big enough to hold him. Ned Kelly clearly meant that if I had molested his sister Kate he would have shot me no matter where he found me. But I was made a marked man. Even when I was out of the force, some two years afterwards, the trumped up story followed me. A man was arrested for drunkenness or some other minor offence at Korong Vale, in the Bendigo district, and he said that he was ex Constable Fitzpatrick. A Bendigo newspaper printed a paragraph, reflecting on my character, and I issued a writ for £1000 damages. My legal advisers, however, said that I would have to show that I had suffered some loss in consequence, such as the position that I then occupied, before I could succeed, and, reluctantly, I had to abandon the action. Every now and again, for years afterwards, I had to stand up and defend myself against unjust accusations. Even in the theatrical productions I have been libelled. The first story of the Kelly gang, produced in Melbourne. I think on the night that Ned Kelly was hanged, depicted me as making insolent advances in Kate Kelly at the Eleven mile Hut. I attended on purpose to watch it, and promptly took steps to have that particular scene modified. You can understand that these things affected me very deeply. The startling and dramatic nature of the events that followed upon the incident that I was connected with focussed attention upon me. The easily gullible public, as curious as children, and ever hungry for pitiable gossip, listened greedily to any tale at that time, and my position was most unenviable. But I can always say this: I did my deed, fairly and squarely, though I was then little more than a lad.
"Ned Kelly," said Fitzpatrick in conclusion, rises before me as I speak. Considering his environment, he was a superior man. He possessed great natural ability, and under favourable circumstances would probably have become a leader of men in good society, instead of a gang of outlaws."
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