Royal Commission report day 1 page 10

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The Royal Commission evidence for 23/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 1 ) Captain Standish giving evidence

71 You gave evidence of what occurred on the 25th and 26th of March, before the outlaws were captured, and you see Mr. Nicolson was in charge on the 20th of May, but Mr. Hare succeeded him early in June, therefore it is most important that you should fix the dates, because you see Mr. Hare succeeded him a couple of days after?- About a week before Mr. Nicolson was removed from Benalla, Mrs. -got up early to look for cows, and when passing an unoccupied house, about six or seven miles from Beechworth she saw Joe Byrne getting on his horse. She said "What are you doing here Joe" and his reply was, "Looking for Hare, to shoot him". She had some further conversations with him and he rode away, and Mrs. - made her way into Beechworth and informed Detective Ward, who telegraphed the fact to Benalla. The result was that that night Mr. Nicolson. Mr. Sadleir, and Mr. O'Connor to Beechworth without the trackers, saw Mrs. -, who stated what she had seen, and decided it was no use going after him, and they returned to Benalla next day. Towards the end of April 1880 I had some conversation with the then Chief Secretary Mr. Ramsay, on the Kelly business. He asked me my opinion how things were going on. I said I thought that nothing was being done now, and that, beyond employing unreliable spies, I did not see what good Mr. Nicolson would ever effect. Mr. Ramsay told me he intended to consult his colleagues on the subject, and a few days afterwards sent for me and informed me that the Cabinet had unanimously decided that Mr. Nicolson should be removed from his position, and that Mr. Hare should be sent in his place as they were of opinion that Mr. Hare was the most able and efficient man for that duty. I was requested to communicate the decision of the Government to Mr. Nicolson.

72 What position did Mr. Nicolson occupy at that time?- He was in charge. I sent him after I returned to my duties.

73 Was he next in charge to yourself in the force?- Yes.

74 You said he was removed by the opinion of the Cabinet; the question asked you is this, what position did Mr. Nicolson occupy in the police force?- He was Inspecting Superintendent of Police with the honorary title of Assistant Commissioner. It was a title conferred on him by request of Mr. John Thomas Smith. without my being consulted.

75 You gave in evidence that in conversation with Mr. Ramsay, he said he would lay it before his Cabinet, and that they unanimously arranged to remove Mr. Nicolson from his position?- From charge of the district.

76 You said from his position, and I then asked you what you meant by the position?- They unanimously decided to remove him from the charge of the Kelly operations. I at once communicated the decision of the Government to Mr Nicolson, and got in reply a request that I would arrange with the Chief Secretary that Mr Nicolson should have an interview with him. I met Mr Ramsay at Government House that day, and I told him and asked him if he would accede to it. Mr Ramsay said he did not see any necessity for seeing him, but if Mr Nicolson wished it he would see him, but he would only see him in my presence. I communicated this to Mr Nicolson, and he came down, and we had fixed a certain hour next day-I think 10 30 a.m. -to see Mr Ramsay, and I told him of this. I also told him that Mr. Ramsay only wanted to see him in my presence. I went to my office, as I always did, at nine o'clock, and had occasion a few minutes afterwards to go and see Mr Odgers, the Under Secretary, when I saw Mr Nicolson trying to force his way into the Chief Secretary's office. I am not certain whether Mr Ramsay was in or not. We went and saw Mr Ramsay in the course of the morning, and Mr. Nicolson spoke for about three quarters of an hour the most incoherent nonsense I ever heard in my life Mr. Ramsay decided that he was not to remain there; but, at Mr Nicolson's request, and with my concurrence, he was allowed to remain there another month. Mr Nicolson came down to my office afterwards, when I asked him, "When are you going back ?". He said, "I am going back by the next train-the afternoon train". He not only did not do that, but he remained in Melbourne, and went to Sir James McCulloch to ask him to go and see Mr Ramsay, and intercede on his behalf. Sir James McCulloch went there, but after a few moments' conversation with Mr Ramsay he withdrew his request. Shortly afterwards Mr Nicolson forced his way into Mr Ramsay's private business office, and, as Mr Ramsay told me, spoke of me in a very nasty way, and abused me, whereupon Mr Ramsay said, "Mr Nicolson, supposing you were head of a department, and one of your subordinate officers came to me and abused you behind your back, what would you think ?" That day a telegram marked "Very urgent" was sent to Mr Nicolson; it was addressed to the detective office.

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