Royal Commission report day 33 page 4

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The Royal Commission evidence for 28/6/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 33)

The Reverend Matthew Gibney giving evidence

12323 He had his revolver ready?— Yes, he had his revolver ready, and specially so it appeared to me. I laid my hand upon his arm that way, and said, “Do not fear; they are both dead.” That was at Byrne's body, he could not see the other two from there. So then I believe it was the time they rushed in, and pulled out the body of Byrne. Of course the crowd came running then quickly, and I was certain that they would have taken out the bodies. I was perfectly satisfied they would have done so, and there was plenty of time; but then I did not make sufficient allowance for appearances, or of the fact that I had an advantage over the police just then. I knew the room had not been burnt through; though burning, it was not burnt through. (JJK)

12324 Then from the way in which they were lying, with a pillow of bags under their heads, you came to that conclusion it must have been arranged before?— That they laid it out, and that they could not have been laid in such a position except by design.

12325 Did you notice if they had any weapons in their hands?— I did not see any, and I cannot say that I saw any sign of blood; in fact, my impression was that they must have laid the pistol upon their breasts and fired into their hearts; but that is only conjecture, for I did not see the wounds about then–about the bodies, or on the bodies.

12326 I think you said you went in at the front door, that is the door facing the railway line?— Yes.

12327 And then you went out at the back door?— I went out the back, after having found the three bodies.

12328 Did you come through again out of the front door?— No, I went into the room off the first room, and thence into a room off that, thinking I could get out that way without passing through the flames, because that was the end of the house fired first, and the fire was worst there, and the spirits might have caught fire, I thought; there was a sheet of fire.

12329 About how long were you in the house altogether?— I could not really say; perhaps I might have been from eight to ten minutes; I think so.

12330 Would the time not seem to be longer than it really was?— It might appear to me longer, because all that I did, when I found Byrne was dead, was to pass on then to get the others. I went into the back room, as I said, off the one that I entered first, thinking to go out that way.

12331 You could have done all that in five minutes?— I daresay I could.

12332 How far were the police from you when you came out and said the men were dead?— There were none of them I saw nearer, I should say, than between 20 or 30 paces.

12333 There was no effort made by them to come up till you told them?— No, there was no man came up with me, or that I saw, till the first man that reached me after I came out of the back, and called out to them. He was the first man I saw come to the house. I think there were three that ran up after that. That was after I came out. My great object in going, of course, was to see to get those men time for repentance; and I would have preferred much to have seen them executed rather than to have seen them destroyed in that manner.

12334 Although you saw no firearms about them, you still think they committed suicide?— From the position; I could not judge of anything except from the position in which they were lying. They lay so calm together, us if laid out by design.

12335 It had all the appearance of a pre-arrangement?— It had. I saw sometimes in the press different remarks about casting censure upon this Police Commission, that they had not given me any portion of the reward. Now I wish to make a statement on that matter. From the first I never intended to receive anything of that reward, though I might be considered entitled to it. I never thought myself for a moment that I would accept any portion thereof; and my reason for that is simply this–that it is better for society at large that we should be (the Catholic priesthood, I mean) free of any charge of taking any money that is offered as a reward because we can more readily move in the matter; we can approach them with some amount of confidence on that account. Of course I merely make the remark with your permission, that it was my own determination; and if you had not given me the opportunity of saying so, of course I would never make such a remark, because it might not be understood in the way I intend it.

12336 This is not the Commission that allocated the reward?— Indeed !

12337 That was a Board appointed for the purpose; but your object in stopping at Glenrowan that day was in your capacity as a Catholic priest?— As a priest. —

12338 Your duties as a priest were paramount to all other considerations?— It was only that that kept me there and actuated me at all. There was another thing, I thought I might also remark. I thought it strange that as I was the principal witness in finding those bodies, that I had not been in any way consulted in the matter, that I had not been referred to at all as a witness. I did not see any reason at all why I would not be at least so far consulted in the matter, or spoken to, to hear what I had to say on that. Of course I was the witness of the manner in which those bodies were found, and the first witness.

12339 We fully intended to call you, but we did not know at first you were in the colony?— I referred simply to the inquest.

12340 And you were on the ground at the time?— I went on to Albury.....

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