Royal Commission report day 52 page 15

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The Royal Commission evidence for 4/8/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 53)


Mr. Sadleir — I have the amended affidavit of Dr. Nicholson, and I now hand it in to be placed in the evidence—[handing the same, which is as follows]:— “I, John Nicholson, doctor of medicine and a legally qualified medical practitioner in Victoria, male oath and say:—I arrived at Glenrowan before daylight on the morning of the twenty-eighth day of June 1880, in company with Superintendent Sadleir and a party of police from Benalla. Three shots were fired from Mrs. Jones’s hotel in one volley on Mr. Sadleir's party, and immediately afterwards a volley of four. After Ned Kelly was arrested, Mr. Sadleir asked him if he could get the other outlaws to give in, but he (Kelly) said it was no use trying, as they were now quite desperate. After dressing Kelly’s wounds, Mr. Sadleir asked me whether I thought he was justified in making a rush upon the house; I said that to do so against men in armour, such as we saw, was certain to result in several men being severely, if not mortally wounded, and, as the day was young, it would be best to wait some time before attempting anything, as there was no possibility of their escape. I then said it is a pity we have not got a small gun with us, as their armour would be no protection to them, and the chimney would be knocked about their ears. Mr. Sadleir said that Captain Standish was starting from Melbourne, and would be up a little after mid-day, and he would immediately telegraph to him and mention the matter, but as no time could be lost, he would send a telegram at once. The telegram was sent about five minutes after the gun was first mentioned; possibly, if there was time for mature deliberation, it would not have been sent at all. Mr. Sadleir was particularly cool and collected all the time I saw him, but events were not under his control; the crowd which had collected made anything like order utterly impracticable—the position was one of great difficulty—and I do not think that any one would have managed much better. The place might have been rushed, but to unnecessarily risk men's lives would have been foolhardy, however brilliant it would have looked I have known Mr. Sadleir for several years as a painstaking, trustworthy, and capable officer. I may add that a great deal of my knowledge of his character has been obtained in my capacity of justice of the peace. And I make this declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act of Parliament of Victoria rendering persons making a false declaration punishable for wilful and corrupt perjury.—JNO. NICHOLSON. Declared before me at Benalla, on the 16th day of September, One thousand eight hundred and eighty-one—Robt. McBean, J.P.”

There are three things indicated in that:—First, that three, if not four of the outlaws were in full vigor at the time my party arrived. Second, that there were only a few minutes left for reflection when the gun was first spoken of up to the time the message was sent, and, though I was incorrect in my supposition that the reporters suggested it, it appears it was Mr. Nicholson, and one of the reporters, Mr. Melvin, has said I spoke to him about it shortly after. Third, you will see by my expression to Mr. Nicholson that I did have a rush in view, when the time arrived, from the earliest part of that day. There is a second affidavit from Edwin Rodda, clergyman, in which he says:— “I, Edward Rodda, clergyman, of Benalla, in the colony of Victoria, make oath and say as follows:—That I was a spectator of what transpired at Glenrowan, at the capture of the Kelly gang, from about twelve o'clock till half-part four p.m. Knowing Superintendent Sadleir by sight, I made enquiries where he was, and he was pointed out to me standing with Mr. O'Connor about one hundred yards on the north-east side of Jones's hotel. I saw Dean Gibney get out of the train, and in about twenty minutes he was alone with Ned Kelly. About one o'clock, I met him at McDonald’s hotel where he was taking some refreshment. Then he, I, and Dr. Henry, and another walked up the line to see the place where the rails were torn up. We stayed there some minutes and returned. It would be about two o'clock when we got back. Observing Mrs. Skillian, I suggested to Father Gibney that the police might allow her to go to the house. He spoke to her, and they moved away to the south end of the platform. I did not hear the priest enquire for the officer in charge. Had he done so there would be no difficulty in finding him. I heard no orders to fire into the building; but observed the police to fire when they thought they saw a form at the window. I saw the house fired and the woman ordered back. The priest alone went through the house, and came out proclaiming all dead. Then the place was rushed. I was with the priest about one hour and a half, and was under the impression that he knew Mr. Sadleir was at his post, as any one else could see. And I make this declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of an Act of Parliament of Victoria rendering persons making a false declaration punishable for wilful and corrupt perjury.—EDWIN RODDA. Declared before me at Benalla, on the 29th day of August, One thousand eight hundred and eighty—Geo. Sharpe, J.P.” I had that document for some time by me and did not think it necessary to trouble the Commission with it; but in reading Dean Gibney's evidence, he is very emphatic about the bad generalship, and I wish that to be compared with Mr. Rodda's statement. ....

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