The Argus (32)

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In what is known as the Kelly country, a stranger is, because he is a stranger, and no matter how he is dressed, an object of suspicion to such persons as the Kellys and their friends and they have been so much on the alert that no one would have been though to have dreamt of sending a constable in uniform to obtain particulars regarding them. Knowing this, men in uniform, when ostensibly engaged in performing ordinary routine duties, have often been able simply because they were not suspected of having any other designs to obtain genuine information as to the proceedings of the gang. The small parties of police scattered through the country received instructions to act on their own responsibility, and sometimes had to conceal themselves for weeks, when watching a place.

Prior to withdrawal of the black trackers, Mr Nicolson found them so useful that he reported, about three weeks ago, that if they were taken away the gang would be most likely to commit another outbreak. The black trackers not only frightened the Kellys, but caused them much inconvenience and hard work. For instance it is well known that bushmen of the Kelly type object to walking much, and always ride on horseback if they get a change. The presence of the Queensland aborigines in district often compelled the gang to walk. In order to avoid giving the aborigines a chance of following horses tracks, when they would otherwise have ridden.

Some time ago people used to wonder how the bushrangers, when mounted, could cross the railway line or bridges without being seen. It was ultimately ascertained that the plan they adopted was to ride up to the railway fence, say, and then dismount, hand over their horses to sympathizers and cross the line on foot. The sympathizers would ride the horses boldly through the nearest level crossing and no one would suspect that the animals were those of the gang, the members of which would receive back their horses some spot agreed upon. During the past few months traces of the gang were often discovered by the black trackers.

Some times the trace would be the marks where bridles had been hung round a tree and sometimes a gunyah. If a track was new, and had not been crossed and recrossed, the blacks could follow it with unerring certainty and their astuteness in that direction astounded and terrified Ned Kelly, than whom there are few better white bushman. Although the bushrangers were in the district, the were seen by comparatively few of their friends. There were various signals by which the gang communicated with their friends. Sometimes a couple of stones placed in a particular position, would be the signal, and sometimes an eccentric horse track. Thus one of the gang would ride in a circle near a sympathizer’s hut and then jump a fence and again ride ciroutisly and finally strike off in the direction where the others were hid.

The sympathizers on seeing this track, would carry provisions in the direction indicated. When carrying provisions for the gang, the sympathizers would adopt all sorts if disguises to avoid discovery. Occasionally they would pretend to be drunk … and make night hideous with their cries. Hearing the wild fellows about, honest residents of the district would retire into their homes; but the gang would also hear them and answer with a peculiar signal. All of a sudden when time and place suited a member of the gang would appear, take the provisions and hurry off out of sight in a moment. The precautions devised by Ned Kelly were so elaborate that some very experienced police officers doubt whether one of the gang could have betrayed the others into the hands of the police.

When they extinguished their fires, they would remove the ashes and scatter them far and wide and cover over the black spot with earth. But their fires were always small like those made by wild aborigines. As an indication of the caution with which the gang worked it may be mentioned that they used to draw up and reduce into writing elaborate details of their proposed plan of operations prior to making a raid. It is known that arrangements to be followed both in the Jerilderie and Euroa affairs were fully made beforehand and committed to paper, the object in doing so being to assist the memory. The deceased Joe Byrne, who was the best scholar in the gang, and who, when a boy, distinguished himself at school for his ability, was the secretary. For some months past the police have been gradually closing up sources through which food was conveyed to the bushrangers, and the latter were suffering from an insufficiency of food. Dan Kelly and Byrne, in particular, presented of late a very emaciated appearance.

(By Electric Telegraph)

(From Our Special Reporter)

Benalla Thursday

The bodies of Dan Kelly and Hart were interred by their friends on Wednesday in Greta Cemetery . About a hundred friends and sympathizers were present, but there was no disturbance. Etty Hart, sister of Steve was, however, very excited, and fell into hysterics.

It has transpired that the unfortunate line repairer Martin Cherry not shot by the police, but by Ned Kelly, and that intentionally. The fact was at first suppressed by those who knew it out of a fear that they might be marked men if they made the disclosure. Three of the prisoners have, however, ventured to tell the police, on the condition that their names should not be published. They were interviewed separately, and their statements all correspond. This is the fifth deliberate murder committed by the gang, and it was perpetrated under the following circumstances:- When the gang fired their first volley from the verandah of the hotel, they retired inside. Ned Kelly, as is already known, was wounded on the foot and arm. He went to the window of the front parlour to fire again on the police but the blind was down, and having one arm wounded he could not hold it aside and fire at the same time. He therefore ordered the old man Cherry to hold the blind up whilst he fired. Cherry refused, and Kelly at once shot him with his rifle in the groin, and he fell. Kelly may have intended to fire at the poor man’s legs, or being disabled, he may simply have been unable to raise his rifle higher. The fact, however remains that it was he who did the deed, and that he thus added one more fiendish murder to the black list against his name.

It seems that immediately after this he made his escape by the back door, and got into the bush before the police got the house surrounded. The coat which Ned Kelly wore was a long grey mackintosh. It covered his armour, and is full of bullet and slug holes. Senior constable Kelly and his men returned from Glenrowan this morning, and reported that during the night perfect quietness prevailed there.

Constable Jas M’Arthur is the man Ned Kelly referred to as being an excellent shot. He gives the following interesting narrative of his experience:-


I was one of the first party of police who attacked the gang. As has been already stated, we were fired on from the verandah, and we returned the fire. Senior constable Kelly stationed our men at different places round the building. He took me round in the bush to a point opposite to the north western corner of the building. We approached by passing from tree to tree, and taking shelter at times under fallen timber. When 100 yards away from the building, we got behind one tree, and I stopped down to look round it, placing my hand on the ground. I was rather startled, for I touched a rifle, which was covered with blood. A pool of blood lay near it, and also a round skull cap. ‘Look here,’ I whispered to Kelly, and we both held our arms ready, foe we thought that one of the gang must be near. I indeed felt sure that Ned was behind the very tree we were standing at, but we soon found that he was not there. That he was quite close to us, however, there is now no doubt I crept forward, from tree to tree, and got within 80 yards of the house, finding shelter behind a fallen tree.

I fired at figures of men I saw in the hotel for some time. There were several lulls in the firing, and feeling cold I filled my pipe to have a smoke. As I was stooping down so a bullet, fired from the hotel ploughed the ground under my breast. I then changed my position going behind another tree.

After I stayed there for some time, and still feeling cold I stopped down to light my pipe in the act of doing so I caught sight of a strange figure coming down the hill. My pipe fell out of my mouth and I gazed at the mysterious being for a minute not knowing what to make of it. The figure approached steadily, and I saw it was a man with what I thought to be a nail can on his head. Thinking he was someone who intended storming the hotel under the protection of the headgear he wore, I sang out to him, ‘Keep back, you dammed fool,’ but he still advanced, and only replied by firing at me with his revolver. I could see that he was unable to hold out the weapon and take a proper aim, and the bullet tore up the ground a yard or two away from me.

I then fired at his head with my Martini Henry rifle. The bullet hit his head and jerked off. I fired a second time with the same result, and he still advanced. Seeing a slit in the helmet for his eyes I aimed at it and the bullet hit the mark, but as I afterwards found it only bruised and discoloured his eye. It was my other bullet that blackened his other eye. This he told me afterwards. By this time Senior constable Kelly, Sergeant Steele, and Constable Phillips and Guard Dowsett were also pelting away at him but with no better effect.

Our feelings may be easier imagined than described, for it seemed we were fighting with a supernatural being. Dowsett exclaimed, ‘By God, it is the devil.’ Senior constable Kelly, after having another shot at him replied, ‘No, it must be the bunyip.’ Thinking that he might have no armour on his back, I made a track round to get to his rear, and in the meantime Sergeant Steele, Senior constable Kelly, and Guard Dowsett closed upon him, brought him down, and secured him. Then, of course, we found that it was the veritable Ned Kelly.

I came down in the train with him from Glenrowan, and we entered into conversation. He said that my bullets staggered him and injured his eyes. He also stated that when, during the night, he stood within a couple of yards of the senior constable and me, that he could have picked us off easily. I asked him why he did not then do so. He replied, ‘It was not my game,’ and explained that his intention was to get near the hotel and so attract the attention of the police away from the building. It would then, he said, have been the part of his mates to sally out and attack the police in the rear. He indeed did call out, ‘Come on, I am here.’

From what has transpired, it appeared that the Kelly gang fully intended to make a raid on one the banks in Benalla had their plan succeeded in the railway train. When Ned Kelly was asked whether he intended to rob the Colonial Bank at Benalla, he said, ‘Oh no; Brock, the manager, is a decent sort of cove; we wouldn’t harm him. We should have stuck up the other bank though.’ The other bank that narrowly escaped a visit from the Kelly gang is the Bank of New South Wales.


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