The Age (35)

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Beechworth, Sunday 9.30pm

(See Argus)

The following embodies the major portion of a conversation with Ned Kelly in the Beechworth Gaol. In my hurried telegram despatched late on Friday night, by the substitution of one name for another, viz., the name of Fitzpatrick for Dan Kelly, the sense was materially altered. This error, however, is corrected and set right by the ample information contained in the following dialogue.

Reporter: You have said you were harshly and unjustly treated by the police, and that you were hounded down by them. Can you explain what you mean?’

Kelly: Yes. I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another, but the public in judging a case like mine should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side, and that after the worst has been said against a man, he may, if he is heard, tell a story in his own rough way that will perhaps lead them to intimate the harshness of their thoughts against him, and find as many excuses for him as he would plead for himself. For my own part I do not care one straw about my life now for the result of the trial. I know very well from the stories I have been told of how I am spoken of, that the public at large execrate my name; the newspapers cannot speak of me with that patient toleration generally extended to men awaiting trial, and who are assumed according to the boast of British justice, to be innocent until they are proved to be guilty; but I do not mind, for I have outlived that care that carried public favor or dreads the public frown.

Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story might be heard and considered; not that I wish to avert any degree the law may deem necessary to vindicate justice, or win a word of pity from anyone. If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and illtreat, my life will not be entirely thrown away. People who live on large towns have no idea of the tyrannical conduct of the police in country places far removed from court; they have no idea of the harsh and overbearing manner in which they execute their duty, or how they neglect their duty and abuse their powers.

Reporter: Can you give any instance of which you complain?

Kelly: I can. M’Intyre in his evidence said I told him Lonigan had given me a hiding in Benalla. It is not true that I ever said this to M’Intyre. But I will tell you what the real facts are, which probably M’Intrye may be acquainted with. Some time ago I had been drinking, and I think I was drugged, and I was arrested for some trifling offence – riding over a footpath, I believe – and lodged in the lock-up. On the following day, when I was taken out of the lock-up, and, still dazed, I escaped and was pursued by the police. I look refuge in a shoemaker’s shop, and four constables soon came in after me. They assisted by the owner of the shop, tried to put the handcuffs on me, but failed. In the struggle that ensured my trousers were almost torn off me. Finding me a more difficult man to manage than they expected, Lonigan seized me in such a manner – a cruel, cowardly and disgusting manner – that he inflicted terrible pain on me; but still I would not surrender. The act of Lonigan, which cannot be described, might have ruined me for life, if it did not actually kill me. While the struggle was still going on a miller came in, and, seeing how I was being ill treated, said the police should be ashamed of themselves, and he endeavored to pacify them and induce me to be handcuffed. I allowed this man to put the handcuffs on me, though I refused to submit to the police. It may seem strange, but it is as true as I am here that from that time up to the time of Lonhgan’s death. I suffered excruciating pain and inconvenience from his treatment, but from the day of his death until now. I have been free from that pain and the ill-effects I before experienced.

Reporter: That is one of the examples you give, of an exasperating character, of the harsh treatment indulged in by the notice.

Kelly: It is. In the course of this at tempted arrest Fitzpatrick endeavored to catch hold of me by the foot, and in the struggle he tore the sole and heel of my boot clean off. With one well directed blow I sent him sprawling against the wall, and the staggering back then gave him party accounts to me for his subsequent conduct towards my family and myself.

Reporter: Now Kelly what is the real history if Fitzpatrick’s business? Did he try to take liberties with your sister Kate?

Kelly: No; that is a foolish story. If he or any other policeman tried to take liberties with my sister, Victoria would not hold him.


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