Royal Commission report day 6 page 6

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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

1285 What age is the old lady?— I am not certain; I should think between 40 and 50. Now, going back to my narrative: I stayed at that place five days after the camp was discovered, at the earnest request of Sherritt, who said to me, “It is no use going away; she has no means of communicating with the outlaws. I am the only one that can do that, and when they come I will get the news.” I said, “I did not believe it.” He said, “Believe it or not, but do not go, because she has discovered you.” I stayed five days longer, and then I thought I was wasting my time there, and I went back to Benalla, leaving my parties for, I think, a fortnight longer. By that time, I think, Mr. O'Connor had arrived with his Queensland men. They arrived on the 8th of March. After this I was nearly all my time out with search parties. I went out on information that the Kellys had been seen in a certain part of the country, or that they were likely to frequent a certain locality, and upon that information I went to search the locality. The way we used to work in the thick bushy country was this: I would put the man who knew the country in the centre, and we would, from that centre, extending our line as far as we could according to the nature of the country, in the thick country leaving a distance of about ten yards from the first man, the next man ten yards from him, and so through all the men from right to left; but as the country became open, we would leave a longer distance between, say 50 or 100 yards, and so search the whole country for miles and miles without being heard or making a noise, which was an important thing to observe. In going up steep mountains and gullies (and the ranges were very steep) we used to ride thus, the leading man would be about twenty yards ahead of the second man, which was generally myself. We kept in a line, so that if an attack was made only one man would be killed, and the others could come up immediately. I am just now coming to Mr. O'Connor and his report. Mr. O'Connor has mentioned some information about Cleary's house, that Captain Standish the information from him. This was on the morning of the 26 th of May. I will state all the circumstances in connection with what was done. On the evening mentioned, Captain Standish and Mr. O'Connor were dining at Mr. O'Leary's; I was at the hotel at Benalla, where we all lived. The letters were handed to me about eight o'clock . I opened them all. I used to open all Captain Standish's public letters and any letters giving information. I could tell what sort of writing they would be in, and I read this note that came from a certain person. I have not got the note, and do not know where it is, and Captain Standish has not got it. The information was this, “that a party of four men had been seen crossing through some country on two occasions by a farmer, and that they were going in the direction of Cleary's house. He gave us all this information. He said, “I feel certain that they were the outlaws.” He said, “I did not know them by their personal appearance, but from their manner I think they must be the outlaws.” He then added, at the bottom of the letter, an extract, which I took out with me. This is the portion of the letter which I found among my papers—[producing the same]. I have not the rest of the letter. I took out that extract from the letter that very night, as it gave me certain directions how to find Cleary's house, not knowing the house or the locality:— “If you could cross over to the 15 mile convenient near the Glenrowan station, and thus evade Greta, you could cross on to the road leading between Wangaratta and Tom Smith's; and when you get as far as John Patterson's, 200 yards in the direction of Tom Smith’s, there is a lane running due east; go up it through the first cross road right on over the hill, and Cleary's is on your left, just as you come into a piece of open ground. It is a chock and log fence. His house is at the side of the fence towards the east end; you will find it as I say, right against the east end of Wattle Hill.” That letter arrived on Saturday the 24th of May. Directly I received it I thought the information very important, and I sent over to Captain Standish to tell him that I wanted him at once. He came over within about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. He said to me, “Now I think this is good information, and you start away first thing in the morning; you had better arrange about getting your men ready at seven or eight o'clock .” I went over to the barracks and I saw my men, and said, “I want to turn out to-morrow at seven o'clock .” I told them to get pack-horses and everything ready, and gave them no further information Mr. O'Connor returned about, I think, an hour or an hour and a half afterwards, and he said, “What is the news?” I nodded my head to him as if to say, “Ask Captain Standish;” and he turned round and repeated the question, “What is the news?” Captain Standish had previously told me not to say a word about it; and I said, “Not even to Mr. O'Connor?” He said, “No, I want this to be kept perfectly quiet.” Mr. O'Connor got very much annoyed, and he said to me, “What is the meaning of this?” Up to that time I think he had pretty well known all the information we had received. Nothing had been kept from him as far as I know, and as far as I am concerned I had not a thought in my mind unknown to him. I told him everything. I did not tell him, however, in this case; as Captain Standish had bound me to secrecy, I told him nothing. I got up at six o'clock next morning, and started with my usual party; and Mr. O'Connor lent me one of his boys named Moses, whom he generally lent me when I went out. We started away about seven o'clock from Benalla, and instead of going in the direction of the place we were going to, we took the opposite direction, following the advice of my informant, as given in that memo. I have read. The direct course would hare been through Greta and straight to the house, instead of that I went in another direction, as if going over the Warby Ranges . When I got on the road that runs at right angles to the road we were going, that is from Glenrowan to the station owned by Mr. Newcomen, some of my men saw a man they recognised as one of the greatest sympathizers of the Kellys, a man named Nolan. I was at the head of the party. We were going through settled country between fences, we had not gone into the mountains. One of the men cantered on to where I was riding and said, “Mr. Hare, we have just passed that fellow Nolan.” I said, “All right.” This was on the Sunday. I said, “That is all right, he cannot do us any harm, because we are going in the opposite direction we intend to go to search to morrow.” We continued in the direction of Wangaratta, leaving the place we were going to search entirely to our right. We went over the Warby ranges to a camping place that I knew there, and when we got on the Wangaratta side of the Warby ranges we turned up to the right to a camp that I had used before. I must go back a little. I did not know the country well there, nor did any of my men, so I telegraphed to Sergeant Steele at Wangaratta, on the Sunday, to send a constable named Dixon out who knew the country there, and tell him to meet me at a certain spot. Dixon met me at that spot. When I got out of Benalla, about five miles, and got into a quiet spot, I told all the men to dismount. I never told them in the town what information I was going upon. I got them round me and said, “I will tell you now what information I am going on,” and I read them the letter that had been received by Captain Standish, and gave them all the news that I had. They were all in great spirits, and thought it was capital information. We stayed at the camping place that night, and fastened up the horses, and gave orders to the men to turn in after they had had something to eat. We made no fire or anything of the kind, and I said that I wanted to be called at one o'clock in the morning. At one o'clock we all saddled our horses, and away we went. Dixon led the way, as he was acquainted with that part of the country. We passed through Glenrowan gates, and we went down exactly as directed by my informant how to go. We got to the railway about an hour before daylight, and saw the hut, and it was exactly as described in the letter. I sat on a log in front of the house with my men around me, and said to the senior-constable, “You take three men to the back of the house, and I will keep three here; take which men you like. When you see me move from my position, you move from yours, so we will approach the house; you keep the back, and I the front.” Just at grey dawn and I could see some distance, I jumped up and told the men I had with me to follow me and also the black boy. I went to the house and knocked at the door. When I knocked some one said, “Who is there?” I said, “All right; open the door.” the owner of the house, a man named Cleary, jumped up and opened the door. I said to him, “Have you any strangers in the house? He hesitated a moment, and said “Yes.” I said, “Who are they?” very quickly, and he said, after hesitating for a moment, “A man by the name of Nolan.” I rushed into the house and called to the men at the back to come up, and we searched the house thoroughly. We searched the place. I saw Nolan, and said, “Hullo, Nolan, what brought you here?” I knew him. I had bought a horse a few days before from him for the Government. He said he thought the outlaws were going to steal it, so he sold it. I said, “Why did you come?” And he said, “I came to warn the people of the district about a funeral that was going to take place.” I said, “Where is the funeral?” He said, “Out in that direction; the other side of Glenrowan.” I then made a thorough search of the whole premises. I got the boy Moses, to take a circuit round, and see if he could find any tracks, and we remained and searched the straw-shed and every place where there was a cellar or anything of the kind, and we could find no traces whatever of the outlaws. We were all on such friendly terms, Cleary never asked what we were looking for, and Nolan said, “What brought you here? I suppose this blackfellow tracked me here, and you have come up on my tracks.” One of my men answered, “Yes, they are wonders these Queensland blacks.” He said, “Do you mean to say that they can track in the dark ?” And he said, “Oh, it matters not what tracking they do, they can track you wherever they like,” and then related some anecdote about their wonderful skill. Then we searched all round the premises to see if there were any tracks. There had been very heavy rains three days previously, and any tracks at all would be noticed as plainly as possible. We took a circuit round Cleary's place, and then returned to camp where we had stayed that day. We stayed there all that day and night; next day we went into Benalla. Those are exactly the facts with reference to this matter...

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