Royal Commission report day 6 page 10

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The Royal Commission evidence for 31/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 6 )

Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence

1302 What time did that occupy?— I arrived in the district on 12th December 1878, and I left Benalla on the 7th July 1879, and during all that time, as I have stated, I was out with search parties off and on. I used to be sometimes four or five days in Benalla recruiting men, horses, and myself. I found it very hard work upon my men. They were all young active fellows; and we found that the work of that sort told upon the men over 40, and many of them had to leave.

1303 Were most of your men experienced bushmen?— No, not in that sort of country. I have stated I had two excellent men—Bellis and Canny—but some were very bad, others fair; but you must remember this was new country to all of them except myself. I was there in 1854, 1855? and 1856— Wangaratta, Buckland, and Beechworth—and knew pretty well the whole district.

1304 Can you inform us how you carried your provisions?— On pack-horses.

1305 How did you procure them when you ran short?— We went in to get them. I have got bread and meat from some of the farmers, but we generally stayed out as long as the provisions would last, and then went in.

1306 Did you make yourselves known to the parties you got provisions from?— We were as well known as the town clock, such a large body of police mounted, our horses, and everything were as well known as if in uniform in Melbourne. We were known by everybody in the district.

1307 That you were out?— That we were out. We could not hide it from them—we must leave our tracks behind us.

1308 If you were so generally known as belonging to the police force, did not it lessen your chance of capturing the Kellys?— Not a bit, because we were as much as possible in uninhabited country. Frequently we had to go between fences and show ourselves, but we avoided as much as possible all habitations, and only when we were compelled did we go between fences; then we were known as well as the policemen in Collins street .

1309 Did you go searching this place from private information received?— Information of a varied character; one account being that they were in one part of the Warby ranges, and another in another part, and so I thought we would give the place a thorough searching. All those stories we heard we were obliged to enquire into, because perhaps the very one we omitted would have led on to them. Even if we did not send out a party, we would have to make some enquiries as to the truth of the report.

1310 When you were leaving the district—recalling your memory to the facts of the case—do you take upon yourself to say that you then had more authentic information or general knowledge of the Kellys than when you went up on the 12th December?— Most undoubtedly.

1311 Do you think they were in that dissect all the time?— Most undoubtedly.

1312 Did you ascertain what those traces were on the Warby mountains?— No, never to this day; and I believe it was the men flying before us. They were as wonderful men as everyone said they were; they could fly before us; but if we had had some of Mr. O'Connor's men on that day we could have got them, I believe

1313 That was the time you found the tent?— Yes.

1314 How far were those places, to the best of your knowledge, from the residence of the Kellys— where they had been from childhood?— I suppose about twelve miles.

1315 That is from Greta?— Yes.

1316 Would the twelve miles include all those places?— Very nearly all.

1317 There is one thing about the surrounding of Cleary's hut—did any of your men at any time enter the hut?— I did; three of my men did. I searched it thoroughly.

1318 Do you consider the men in your force were fully armed and were well acquainted with the use of firearms?— Thoroughly—my men were. I will come to that subject hereafter as to what Mr. Nicolson has said. My men were as well acquainted as I was, and I have had a gun in my hand since six years old; and we allowed the good shots to take rifles and the indifferent shots to take double-barrelled guns, which will cover so much more space—they were loaded with large pellets, sixteen to the charge.

1319 Were your plans ever interfered with by any superior officer?— Never, not in any way. Whenever any information came we used to discuss it in the office —that is, Mr. Sadleir, Mr. O'Connor, and myself; and I think, with the exception of that one instance Mr. O'Connor has mentioned, I think that was the only instance to my knowledge; that there was not an instance throughout the whole time in which everything was not told to Mr. O'Connor, and in that cave I was told not to tell him by Captain Standish, and I then referred him to Captain Standish. Mr. O'Connor, Captain Standish, Mr. Sadleir, and myself were all on the most intimate terms possible all the time we were at Benalla, and all the ill-feeling that has been shown before this Commission has arisen since the capture of the Kellys....

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