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Side of Authority
This page contains content from police and those who supported authority.

Commissioner F C Standish

Importance of Captain Frederick Charles Standish

With Sup Hare, I took direct charge of the operation against the KellyGang after the Euroa robbery. I also spent a lot of my time having to involve myself in this affair on many other occasions. The Royal Commission involved me in their decision. They found, 'That the conduct of Captain Standish ... was not characterized either by good judgement or by that zeal for the interests of the Public Service which should have distinguished an officer in Captain Standish's position. The Commission attribute much of the bad feeling which existed amongst the officers to the want of impartiality, temper, tact, and judgement evinced by the Chief Commissioner in his dealings with his subordinates; and they cannot refrain from remarking that many of the charges made by Captain Standish in his evidence before them were disproved by the evidence of other witnesses'. (RC2ndReport)This is a good example of the type of criticism a leader must endure when things do not turn out well. The fact is my men destroyed the KellyGang. Links to the KellyGang on this page

Early Years , Fitzpatrick Incident , Murders at Stringy Bark Creek , Sebastopol Cavalcade , Euroa Robbery , Mass arrests sympathizers , Jerilderie Robbery , Arrival of trackers , Autum 1879 , Standish & Hare replaced by Nicolson , Spring 1879 Early 1880 , Hare replace Nicolson , Death of Aaron Sherritt , Glenrowan Siege , Ned Kelly's Trial , Royal Commission , Early service , Later service , Family ,

What did Standish look like

born 20/4/1824 at Standish Hall, Wigan, Lancashire, England. height ... (meters) hair ... I was described as 'an elegant, free-and-easy personality, indolent and addicted to the delights of the sideboard, the card table and the theatre.' see National Dictionary of Biography

Links to the KellyGang

Early Years I was first appointed to public service on 12/4/1854 and appointed Chief Commissioner of Police 1/9/1858. I followed Captain Charles Macmahon.

I met Mr McBean in the Melbourne Club in 1870. He told me about Harry Power stealing his gold watch and all the other problems caused by crime in North Eastern Victoria.

Nicolson stated that my relations with him altered after he left command of the detectives in about 1870 (RC666)

I got involved in a fight between newspaper men (Argus11/6/72)

Fitzpatrick Incident 15/04/1878 The Government offered a reward for the capture of the KellyGang and I arranged for Sup Sadleir send out search parties to catch the KellyGang. These men were well known to police as horse and cattle thieves (RC6) Murders at Stringy Bark Creek in the Wombat Ranges 26/10/1878 Sup Sadleir wrote to me about the use of agents and detectives to hunt the KellyGang in the Mansfield area in late August. (RC1755)

I first heard that Consts Scanlan and Lonigan had been shot dead by the KellyGang late on the evening of 27/10/1878. After communicating with Mr Berry, Chief Secretary early the next morning, I took early steps to send up reinforcements and special arms. I then caught the special train with AssCom Nicolson up to Benalla


I swore the affidavit requiring the KellyGang to surrender under the Felons Apprehension Act (Argus5/11/78)

Sebastopol Cavalcade 7/11/1878 On 6/1/1878 I came up to Benalla to see Nicolson on the afternoon train from Melbourne and arrived there at about 8pm. After our meeting we had dinner, at that time we received a telegram from Sup Sadleir telling us that the KellyGang had been at Sebastopol and that they were still there. (Argus7/11/78) (RC1768)

I immediately ordered a special train, and proceeded, with Mr. Nicolson, nine mounted constables and one black tracker, to Beechworth. which we reached soon after three o'clock in the morning. (We all travelled in a van) We started at four o'clock a.m. with these men and an additional body of men from Beechworth from the railway station, and made at once to the house of the Sherritt family, where it was stated the outlaws had been. We arrived there very early in the morning scattered our men all round, keeping them in the bush, and sent a party of seven or eight men, under Mr. Nicolson to search the house. Soon after we had searched the house we heard a shot fired. It was subsequently ascertained that it was a gun that went off by accident. We all rushed to the place, and found no traces of the outlaws there. We then rode on to Mrs. Byrne's house at Sebastopol, the mother of Joe Byrne, and Mr. Nicolson and I interviewed her; but I need not say we got nothing out of her.(Argus8/11/78) (RC11) (RC366) (RC15884)

I had a conversation with Aaron Sherritt at Mrs Byrne's and eventually did a bargain with him, in return for information about the KellyGang we would save Joe Byrne and guarantee his life. (RC1801) (RC15856)

Nicolson told me of the threat to the banks about 2 weeks prior to Euroa but he did not seem to do anything about it. (RC16) See text of my comments. (RC2925)

Euroa Robbery 10/12/1878 I first heard about the robbery when I returned home after an official dinner at the Town Hall at about 11pm. I rushed down to the telegraph office and was there most of the night telegraphing. Communication was interrupted with Benalla, and I had to telegraph through Deniliquin and Albury.(RC23)

I had to remain in town to see the manager of the National Bank, and to arrange other matters in connection with the pursuit of the Kellys. I started the following morning, the 12/12/1878 by the 6.10 a.m. train, and arrived at Euroa about l0 o'clock. I there saw Mr. Nicolson, found him very much knocked up in appearance, and his eyes bad. I instructed him to return to Melbourne to take temporary charge of the Police Department. (RC 24) (RC15891)

In Command of the hunt for the KellyGang

When I saw that Nicolson could not cope I took over the hunt for the KellyGang with Sup Hare. We were based in Benalla. When Nicolson regained his health he took over command of the police in Melbourne but made a bit of a muddle of it. On 3 occasions at least I had to go down and sort things out but I made a point of not working in the office. (RC257) see also (Argus13/11/78) (Argus14/12/78) (SMH19/12/78) (RC1105)

I was really banished to Benalla by the Government because of Nicolson's failure to deal with the KellyGang. see my dealings with the Chief Secretary. (RC1342) (RC16080)

I was gazetted a justice of the peace for all the bailiwicks, in order that I might have more power for suppressing the active sympathisers. (Argus18/12/78).

I used to go to the office and stay the greater part of the morning, and after that time I had nothing to do, and used to go back to the hotel.

I do not suppose there is anybody who had so much mental strain and anxiety and worry upon him as I had at that time. (RC16162)

I had a real problem with Insp Brooke Smith when he was in control at Beechworth. (RC11896)

I gave a number of agents a note in the following form so they could send me information by telegraph 'Permit the bearer to send any messages to me, F.C.S' (RC276)

James Wallace came in to see me shortly after I arrived at Benalla, and he told me he could get leave during the Christmas holidays, and would go out shooting in the ranges, and point out where the outlaws were, and give me information. (RC16033)

Later that day I went to see Aaron Sherritt in the bush. (RC16034)

At another meeting Wallace told me that Joe Byrne said he was not disinclined to throw his mates overboard, provided that it was guaranteed he was not taken up by the police and the sum of £100 or £200 to get out of the country.

I went up to Benalla very shortly afterwards, and Wallace came in to meet me, and we had a long talk, and he said that evidently Byrne had- declined-would not throw up his mates-thought it would not do.(Argus13/12/78) (RC16034)

I got James Wallace to send a message to Joe Byrne through Aaron Sherritt. (RC14442)

See Ass Com Nicolson's version concerning our relations during this period. (RC580) see also (RC16000) (RC16056)

Mass arrest of sympathizers 2/1/1879 The sympathizers were causing a problem so I arranged for about 20 of them to be arrested. See how this came about. (RC1266)

While this caused much public disquiet and hindered the police's ability to get useful information about the KellyGang and their movements, it slowed down the sympathizers in the short term

I left Benalla for Melbourne by special train. (Argus31/1/79)

Jerilderie Robbery 10/2/1879 I heard about the possibility of the KellyGang making a raid on a bank in New South Wales so I warned my counterpart there (RC47)

After the Jerilderie robbery I understood that we had to try something different. We established standing search parties of police to watch the homes of the members of the KellyGang. Sup Hare and a party, for instance, watched Mrs Byrnes home for about a month.(RC2035)

I came down from Benalla and the hunt after the KellyGang and spent time in Melbourne from time to time. Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, the acting Chief Secretary, end me back to the hunt for the KellyGang. As time went on the Government became more concerned at our failure. (RC1105)

Autum 1879 I went and saw Sup Hare and his search party (RC47)


After the robbery it was mooted by the press generally, and by some of the Ministers, that it would be very desirable to have black trackers down from Queensland. I confess I was opposed to it, being convinced that, though in a large uninhabited district, where there is a scant population and little or no traffic, the services of the black trackers, which are chiefly utilised in pursuing and dispersing the native blacks, are of use, it would be very little use in a district where there is a large traffic on all the roads, and where the movements of the outlaws were known to be wonderfully rapid. The Queensland trackers and Insp O'Connor were brought to Victoria against my recommendation (Argus10/3/79) (RC316) (RC16133) (JJK) (JJK)

It is a well-known fact that the KellyGang often used to ride 50, 60, and 70 miles between night and morning; and knowing, as they did, every corner and nook of the district, and having their numerous sympathizers, who would very soon obliterate their tracks, I thought, as I said before, the black trackers would be little or no use, which certainly was proved. No doubt trackers can be utilised in following the traces of men on foot, but for this kind of work they are really perfectly useless, because their movements are so slow. (RC47)

I met Insp O'Connor and his men in Albury on 6/3/1879. I later went out with the first search party. (RC47)

In late May 1879 I had a problem with O'Connor. We had some good information about the KellyGang at Cleary's. (RC1285) see also (RC11877) (RC16135) (JJK)

The Royal Commission saw little value in all my efforts, preferring to complement Hare for his vigor. They described my time in charge in Benalla in the following terms:

". What Captain Standish accomplished by his personal supervision and direction of affairs in the district does not appear manifest. He was supposed to attend at the office during the day and act upon information received from scouts, but beyond having visited Mr. Hare and remained with him one night during the existence of the cave party he seems to have contented himself with rusticating peacefully in Benalla. Evidence has been given by several witnesses that the Chief Commissioner was not an ardent worker in connection with the Kelly business. He has been described as apathetic, and as seeking refuge in a novel when his officers referred to matters relating to the pursuit. Mr. Hare states that the Chief Commissioner was always willing to converse with him upon the subject, but other officers declare that the apathy of the Chief Commissioner was the subject of frequent conversation. As a matter of fact, when in July 1879 Captain Standish and Superintendent Hare returned to Melbourne, owing, as the former alleges, to the business of the head office being in a "frightful muddle," the authorities were uncertain whether the outlaws were actually in the colony or had gone northward, in the direction of Queensland. An analysis of the list of appearances during the time Captain Standish and Superintendent Hare were in charge shows that the number reported was 53. Of these, 23 are stated to have been untrue or unreliable; in five instances the news was considered too stale; in four, no steps were taken; inquiries were simply instituted in several cases, and in 13 alone were active measures adopted, without any practical outcome." (RC2nd reportX)

Standish and Hare replaced by Nicolson 6/7/1879 The business in my office in Melbourne was being frightfully muddled by Nicolson and other things were going wrong both in Melbourne and the country districts. On 26/6/1879 I obtained the authority of the Chief Secretary for my return to Melbourne and Nicolson was sent up to replace the leadership in the hunt for the KellyGang. (RC51) see also (Aurgus3/7/79)

Lancefield robbery (Argus20/8/79)

The Problem with Nicolson

On 29/9/1879 Sup Sadleir got good information about the KellyGang being sited near Oxley. He gave all the information to Mr. Nicolson. It was arranged that the black trackers and a party of men were to start away at one o'clock the next morning. Mr. Nicolson, Mr. Sadleir, and Mr. O'Connor were to accompany the party. Mr. Nicolson telegraphed to me to come up to Benalla by the early train next morning. At one o'clock in the morning the men were all ready, with their horses saddled. Senior-Constable Irwin was in charge of the men. Mr. Nicolson turned up; and gave orders for the saddles to be taken off the horses, and for the men to go back to their quarters. Shortly after this Mr. Sadleir arrived at the barrack yard, and found all the saddles off the horses, and, upon asking the reason of this, was told that Mr. Nicolson had given the orders. Mr. Sadleir then went to the office, and found Mr. Nicolson and Mr. O'Connor there. He asked him if any further news had been obtained to cause the change of plans.

Mr. Nicolson replied, "No: but I have been thinking about the matter all night and have decided not to disturb the outlaws just now." A telegram was sent to me at that hour not to come up to Benalla. There is no doubt that though Mr. Sadleir did not know of the exact spot, he could easily have obtained information from. (RC64) See also (RC15775) (RC16000) (RC16288)

I told Nicolson to stop the cave party at Mrs Byrne's. (RC842) See my letter of 18/1/1879. (RC862)

Sup Sadleir wrote to me asking that Nicolson stay (RC2474)

I think Hare is the best officer in the police force out and out, without exception. (RC16059)

Spring 1879 - Early 1880 At my request James Wallace make an arrangement with Aaron Sherritt for Joe Byrne to betray the other three members of the KellyGang. (RC14723)

I was present at the opening of the Memorial at Mansfield (Argus23/4/80)

Nicolson replaced by Hare 2/6/1880 I have ample proof here of Ass Com Nicolson's procrastination and inefficiency. That is why I supported his removal (RC16) (Argus30/12/81) (Argus5/1/82) (Argus20/2/82)

In late April 1880 I went to see the Chief Secretary Mr Ramsay about Nicolson and soon after the Cabinet agreed to remove Nicolson. I told Nicolson of the decision and he told me that he wanted to see Mr Ramsay. The Chief Secretary would only see him in my presence. On 26/4/1880 Nicolson tried to get in without me but he eventually had a proper meeting and he spoke for about three-quarters of an hour, the most incoherent nonsense I ever heard in my life. Mr Ramsay decided that he was not to remain there; but, he agreed to Nicolson's request, and with my concurrence, allowed him to remain there another month. (RC71) (See also RC920)

Insp O'Connor was concerned that I acted to try to have him removed. (RC11478)

My plans to remove the trackers (Argus22/5/80) (Argus12/12/1931)

I sent Nicolson the following letter:

'My dear Nicolson, I should be glad to see you down here on Thursday to have a chat with you. Please come down by the evening train and come to my office the following day as early as convenient. I had a long interview with - this morning. He is of opinion that the outlaws are at present between the 11- mile and the scene of the murders on the Wombat ranges. I did not gain much intelligence. He spoke very frankly to me on various matters - Com Standish' (RC296) (see also RC2nd reportXIII)

Death of Aaron Sherritt 26/6/1880 I heard about Sherritt's death from Mr Hare on the afternoon of 27/6/1880. I asked O'Connor to return to Beechworth. I went into the telegraph office discussed this matter with Mr Ramsay and then went with him to see Mr Gillies (the Minister for Railways) to arrange for a special train to take O'Connor and his men (RC77) See (RC2747) (RC15882) Glenrowan Siege 28/6/1880

I was awoken by a telegram giving news of the siege 5.40 am. (Argus12/12/1931)

After seeing Mr Ramsay he authorised another special train to take me up there. The normal train had already left. The train was planned to leave at about 9am but with all the excitement of Ned Kelly's capture and Joe Byrne's death the train left a bit later.

Julian Ashton travelled up from Melbourne with me (SMH25/1/1934)

We got to Benalla about 2 pm. While the train was held up there for about 3 hours I went to see Sup Hare. We did not leave Benalla before we received news that the Inn had been burnt and Steve Hart and Dan Kellys bodies recovered. (Age29/6/1880) (RC77) (RC16250) (RC16280) (FH) (JJK)

I instructed Mr. Sadleir not to hand over the charred remains of the outlaws. It is just possible he may have misunderstood me but the bodies were handed over. I saw Ned Kelly lying severely wounded and the dead body of Joe Byrne. I ordered that they be brought down to Benalla. The next day I ordered that Ned Kelly moved to Melbourne. (RC77)

On the morning of 29/6/1880 all the police were paraded before me at Benalla. (RC16243) (RC16264)

On 30/6/1880 I interviewed Mr Curnow. see also (RC2898)

After the siege


McBean conducted a Magisterial Inquiry into Joe Byrne's death. I was also on the bench. We found that Byrne was shot as an outlaw. The evidence of Const McIntyre was taken, the proclamation of the Government declaring them outlaws, the whole of the official papers from the Gazette were shown and read before the magistrate. (OMA1/7/80) (RC2905)

On 5/7/1880 I produced a report and called for an inquiry.(see text) (RC79)

Mr O'Connor had been a good publicist for his usefulness of trackers during the time of the KellyGang. After that time he continued to seek to convince me of the importance of their role. He wrote to me on this subject on 6/9/1880. I disregarded his views, it was full of misrepresentations. He was an utterly unreliable a man. (RC47)

Ned Kelly's Trial I arrived in Beechworth for the start of Ned Kellys committal hearing (Age6/8/1880)

During the committal I sit on the bench next to the Magisrtate, Mr Foster.(Herald6/8/80) (Argus7/8/80)

I retired as Commissioner of police on 30/9/1880.

Royal Commission I recommended a Royal Commission (RC141)(RCAppend2)

The Royal Commission examined me at some length on my relationship with my fellow officers and in particular Nicolson and O'Connor. (RC ) After taking my main evidence on this type of matter on 23/3/1881 (RC1) they invited me back for an other go 30/8/1881 (RC15774) and 31/8/1881 (RC15960)

See the press reports of my evidence. (Argus19/3/81) (Argus24/3/81) (Argus31/8/81) (Argus1/9/81)

At one stage I was asked, 'There is a clear plan running through your evidence, and that plan is to elevate Mr. Hare and depress Mr. Nicolson. I ask any man to read that, and if he does not rise up from the reading of it with that impression I do not understand his mental power?' What could Standish say in response to the Royal Commissioners? (RC16054) See also (Argus31/8/81)

I had a clash with O'Connor (RC306), Later I mentioned that I had been concerned about the way he conducting himself with ladies when he was already married (RC322)

The Royal Commission said of my time as Commissioner of police, that it was, 'not characterized either by good judgment, or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in his position' (RC2ndReport) (JJK)

Early life After school at Prior Park College I did my officer training for the British Army at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and I spent a period on the staff of the lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Following gambling debts I left the army and England and came to the colonies.

After a time on the gold fields I was appointed assistant commissioner of police at Bendigo

I was appointed Commissioner of police on 1/9/1858 (RC1)

In the early years as commissioner I was said to have a good intellect and be a good administrator.

I was a member of the committee of the Victoria Racing Club (1881-83) and a member of the Melbourne Club and a very keen race goer. In 1861 I was one of the swtewards for the first Melbourne Cup.

Later in 1880 I was a founding member of the Victoria Club, a club for people interested in racing. On Cup Eve the Club conducted the 'call of the card'. The Caller would ask the leading bookmakers of the day would quote the odds for each horse and leading punters would say if they were prepared to accept the odds. Horses were backed for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Off course betting was illegal. I was there to join in the fun of these great nights and the expectation of a great days racing.

The Standish Handicap, run at Flemington on New Year's Day is named after him

I was a prominent Freemason. In 1864 I was appointed the Provincial Grand Master for Victoria (English constitution). But returned to the Catholic Church just before I died

I lived at the Melbourne Club from about 1872. See also National Dictionary of Biography

Later life In 1882 I was almost thrown out of the window of the Melbourne Club by Colonel Craige Halkett.

I died in 1883. See my obituary with family history. (Argus20/3/83)