Royal Commission report day 8 page 4

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The Royal Commission evidence for 5/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 8)

Francis Augustus Hare giving evidence

1484 About what date was this?— Exactly the Saturday before the outlaws were at Aaron Sherritt's house.

1485 Was the Outlawry Act then in operation?— Undoubtedly. Perhaps the Board are not aware how it became inoperative as soon as Parliament dissolved. The Governor gave the dissolution on the Saturday, and on the Monday morning the outlaws were shot; it was in operation up to that Saturday morning, and directly the House dissolved that Act expired.

1486 It was on the following day the affray took place?— On the following Monday.

1487 You consulted Aaron Sherritt as to the qualifications of the men—did he express any opinion as to the others?— He implied as much, he did not think much of the other three, they were all equal in rank. I thought Armstrong was a good man, and I did not think much of the other two, deceiving me in the way they had done. This was the night I referred to in my former evidence. I spoke to Aaron Sherritt and subsequently to his wife about lying out in the cold without his coat. He was lying under a tree, and would lie there until four or five the next morning. The ice was on the water that morning, but still he was lying there from eight in the evening till that time. I made him (Aaron) walk back towards his house, which was about a mile or a mile and a half from Mrs. Byrne's, in an opposite direction from where you have heard so much about of the other Sherritt's house. It was towards the Murray way, the other was towards the Beechworth way, where he lived previously—near his mother's house. He walked back with me, and I had a long conversation about affairs, and he seemed very confident about the result if we only stuck to it, and I told him what we were doing about the other houses—Hart's and Skillion's. He seemed very confident of success, so much so that when he brought me up to the river in going to his house, I made him walk through the river because the river was full of holes, and he took me across. I said to him then, “You had better, Aaron, come up and get a cup of tea at your wife's.” I told her to have some hot tea for me when I returned. I asked him to go to the house with me. He said to me, “No, Mr. Hare, this is Saturday night, and I must go back at once to the men.” I thought to myself, here is a man who has been working for the last eighteen months—is this put on or is it reality—so I sat on the bank of the creek to see whether he did return afterwards, and remained there, I suppose, about a quarter of an hour just to test him, and I could hear his steps going further and further up in the direction of the ranges, and I felt confident that his whole heart and soul were in the work. I went back and found Detective Ward, and I had a cup of tea myself. As I said before, this was on the previous Saturday, the very time that Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly were at Aaron Sherritt's house. I do not think it is known whether the four outlaws were at the murder of Sherritt. The police reported it so, but it is generally believed that Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly were the only two, because Ned Kelly and Steve Hart were at Glenrowan at three o'clock that morning. They might, of course, after they had left Aaron Sherritt's house be at Glenrowan, galloping all the way, if they left say at ten or eleven o'clock; the distance is, I should think, about 25 miles between Glenrowan and Aaron Sherritt's house. I complained to Ward about the behaviour of Duross and the other constable, and he told me that immediately after I had left with the men that took me down, Armstrong appeared, and he told him to tell the truth at once, and what he was doing. Well, I took no further notice of the matter; I gave them a good blowing up, and I thought that was sufficient. When men are on that sort of duty you cannot be as severe as in the office in town here, because you have not men to replace them, you must make use o£ the material you have.

1488 Armstrong was not with them in the first place with Sherritt?— No, Sherritt was watching alone. As regards the shooting of this man, I have heard the evidence of Captain Standish, but I think there was great blame attachable to those four men, and I do not think there ever was an enquiry into the matter beyond the coroner's inquest. I was wounded the next day. I am only speaking from what I have heard and seen since. Another thing those men did. The information never reached Beechworth at twelve o'clock on the Sunday, whereas they were stuck up at between nine and eleven p.m. I think the men should have done more than they did. I do not think they ever fired a shot.

1489 That is certain?— Is it. They got into the bedroom, a part of the building that is divided by a bit of canvas, and they remained there without doing anything.

1490 Do you know if it is true that they secreted themselves under the bed?— I do not know at all what they did; I know merely from the report they gave they were in the chamber that was used as a bedroom.

1491 Did you ever hear such a thing?— I am not certain that I did; in all probability the bed was a most rustic one, and it was probably what they would do.

1492 Is it true they were not with sufficient arms?— No.

1493 What arms had they?— Double-barrelled guns each of them, and revolvers; we allowed the men to select their own arms. They were well provided with arms in my opinion, and I fancied at one time that they could have knocked out the bark at the back of the house, but I found out afterwards, as I have stated above, that the house was weatherboard, not bark. The door was running right through like that—[indicating the same]—here is the fireplace, here is the bedroom.

1494 There would have been no difficulty in forcing their way out of the hut under those circumstances?— I should think not, under those desperate circumstances.....

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