Ovens and Murray Advertiser at KellyGang 24/7/1880 (15)

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We on Thursday were intimated of the following few interesting particulars with regard to the capture of the gang, which had escaped the cognisance of the public; but which show the prominent part displayed in the affair by Constable Robert McHugh, stationed at Beechworth, who throughout the trying time in which the police were engaged in fighting the bushrangers acted with remarkable coolness and bravery: When walking over the ground about 120 yards distant from the public-house in which Daniel Kelly and Hart were lodged and kept at bay by the attacking party, about one o’clock in the afternoon, the constable stumbled across a revolver lying on the ground, and covered with blood., in the vicinity of the spot where the capture of Edward Kelly was effected.

This he picked up, and later in the day, when examining the weapon made the discovery that it was a Webley revolver, and had at some time been issued by the Police Department—it bearing the number of the member of the force to whom it was issued—viz., 730. It, when found, was loaded in each of the six chambers with a cartridge too large for it, and which had been cut down (evidently with a knife) to the required size. The murderous weapon being without a holster at the time, a young man named John Sherritt, a brother of the unfortunate man who was on the preceding Saturday evening foully murdered by the outlaw Byrne at Sebastopol; and who had proceeded to Glenrowan with the determination to avenge his brother’s death — produced two or three leathern holsters which had become detached from the belt (now in the possession of Detective Ward, at Beechworth) worn by Ned Kelly at the time of his arrest. From these, one bearing a corresponding number to that stamped on the revolver was selected; and when yesterday we examined the articles we found that a shot had pierced the holster, and struck the pistol with such violence as to break off a piece of the iron in the vicinity of the breech.

A few days afterwards, Constable McHugh ascertained that the revolver and holster must have been taken from the person of Constable Lonigan, after that officer had been shot down by the bloodthirsty gang, when the latter surprised a party of police, camped in the ranges near Mansfield, in October, 1878; his police number having been that above mentioned. At about half-past three o’clock in the afternoon of the day on which the concluding tragedy wherin the outlaws were concerned, Constable McHugh was apprised of the fact that a pack-horse belonging to the gang was tied up in the bush a short distance from McDonald’s hotel.

On proceeding to the spot it was found that the animal, having been frightened by the incessant firing kept up for some hours in the neighborhood, had dislodged the pack-saddle and its contents from her (for the beast was found to be a mare which, it was subsequently learned, had been stolen from a farmer named Symonds living near Benalla) back.The pack, on examination, was found to consist of miscellaneous articles—including an old broken gun, an almost useless pistol, a collection of empty cartridge-cases, about thirty yards of fuse and a large oil-can.

As may be supposed, McHugh was considerably puzzled as to the nature of the contents of the last-named portion of the outlaws’ impediments; and being unable to open the can, reported the “find” to his superior officers, who had the articles removed to a place of safety. Subsequent examination proved that the can contained a considerable quantity of blasting-powder, evidently procured by the outlaws with a view to complete their diabolical scheme of wrecking the railway line; and there is not the least doubt but that a mine would have been laid by them had other circumstances not intervened. We may also mention yet another circumstance that occurred on the day in question, and for which Constable McHugh has not yet received credit. That officer, who appears to have displayed no little amount of judgment, noticing a number of horses, saddled and bridled, hitched up in the hotel yard, and thinking that at any moment the bushrangers might make a dash for them and effect their escape, suggested that the animals should be destroyed, and instantly put the idea into execution by shooting two of them down. The facts above detailed were brought under our notice on Thursday last in the course of conversation with a person who was an eye-witness of the fight; and is now presenting our readers with them, we do so with the object of according credit to a person to whom it is certainly due; and where any particular officer distinguished himself, as did Constable McHugh, on such a memorable occasion his conduct should not be overlooked—which has up to the present time been done, owing doubtless, to the fact of his not having (unlike many other members of the force whose names we could mention) made a boast of his actions, which most assuredly deserve recognition.


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