Royal Commission report day 26 page 13

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The Royal Commission evidence for 7/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 26)

Mr John McWhirter giving evidence

10298 By the Commission— What are you?— A reporter on the Age.

10299 Were you in here during the morning?— Only occasionally.

10300 The best way for you to do will be to give a short narrative from the time the first notice was that the Kellys were in the Glenrowan hotel?— In order to prevent my going over it again, I may say I heard a portion of Mr. Carrington’s evidence, and he seemed to be under the impression when at Benalla, when the special train reached Benalla, that the lines were torn up; such was not the case Constable Kirkham was present in front of the engine in order to watch the line in advance of the train, but it was afterwards resolved to send on a pilot engine as a precaution against surprise.

10301 In other words, we understand that the pilot engine and all those precautions were taken not from any specific information, but to prevent any accident from the outlaws, or their firing into it?— Yes. When within about a mile from the Glenrowan station we were stopped. I saw the pilot engine in front waving a red light. Some men got out of the train and some of the policemen got out of the train, and met the pilot engine. Mr. Melvin, of the Argus, got out of the window of the carriage which I was in and obtained a key from the guard, and opened the door for Mr. Hare. Mr. Hare followed the other men and went up the line towards the pilot engine. We then heard that the Kellys had taken the people of Glenrowan, and had torn up the line half a mile below the station—that is on the Wangaratta side. I heard Mr. Hare giving orders to run on to the platform of the Glenrowan station quietly, and a few minutes afterwards we started again. On reaching the platform the reporters at once got out of the train. We had opened the door prior to that, and I then saw Mr. Hare with Mr. Rawlins go down the line towards the station master's house. In a few minutes they returned, and I heard from some one that the Kellys had been on the station a few minutes before and had taken the station master off in the direction of the Warby Ranges . Mr. Rawlins was speaking to Mr. Hare, and told him that he knew the Warby Ranges well and would take the police party that way. I asked Mr. Hare for firearms for the reporters, as we had none at that time, and told him we would help him to carry on the fight, and he told me in a few minutes he would give me some. He left with two other men, I think, and walked in the direction of Jones's hotel. He had not gone far when a man came running towards them and called out, “They are there; surround them.” Mr. Hare at once started to run, calling out, “Come on, boys.” He had crossed the drain between the station and the hotel, in fact was on the outside of the fence, when I noticed three figures coming into the verandah of the hotel and fire. Some of the men were still on the platform, and they picked up their arms and ran towards the hotel.

10302 Will you describe at this stage who went with Mr. Hare from the station?— I think Mr Rawlins went with him from the station, but I was under the impression that it was Senior Constable Kelly, but I cannot say it was.

10303 How many left with him?— About two when he went first.

10304 I mean after you heard some man say, “They are in Jones's hotel, surround them” ——had many left with him then?— The greater proportion of men—nearly all of them, but there were some of them engaged at the time taking out horses who did not hear, I think, Mr. Hare call out to them to come on.

10305 Did you see Mr. O'Connor leave then?— I heard him say something to the ladies in the train and run off, preceded by some of his black trackers.

10306 How far was Mr. Hare from the station, should you think, before Mr. O'Connor left?— A very considerable distance. He must have been seventy or eighty yards. Mr. Melvin called on me to come on, and I ran with him—he ran straight towards Jones's hotel whilst I ran more in the direction of the station master's house.

10307 Could you see the direction Mr. O'Connor took?— Yes, I came to the drain and jumped into it—I saw some one jump into the drain and I jumped into it, and I saw Mr. O'Connor in the drain.

10308 Will you show where that is on the map?—[The witness examined the plan.] —I could point out the position on the ground. There were two black trackers further up the drainthan Mr. O'Connor, to his right.

10309 Then it was one of the drains near the wicket gate?— Yes.

10310 What time was it you saw Mr O'Connor there?— Only on the starting of the firing, the firing was then continued, the first volley. The police were firing and the outlaws were firing also. I suppose I had not been there an instant before I heard that Mr. Hare was wounded, and having no arms, I thought it was better for me to go beck to the station. I ran back at once. The next thing I heard was Mr. Hare who has a peculiar voice, which I knew well, call out, “Cease firing.”

10311 Could you tell about where he was?— Outside the fence when he called out that, between the house and the fence. I may tell you it was a very clear night, we could see far and hear well, because it was frosty and the atmosphere perfectly still. The firing stopped, and we heard one of the outlaws using very bad language to the police, telling them to come out or they could fire away, as they could do them harm.

10312 Could you indicate where the outlaw was that made use of the bad language?— Yes, I should say very close to the Wangaratta corner of the hotel.....

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