The Argus (6)

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The siege was kept up all the forenoon, and till 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Some time before this the shooting from the hotel had ceased, and opinions were divided as to whether Dan Kelly and Hart were reserving their ammunition or were dead. At 10 minutes to 3 o’clock another and last volley was fired into the hotel, and under cover of the fire Senior constable Charles Johnson, of Violet Town, ran up to the house with a bundle of straw which (having set fire to) he placed on the ground at the west side of the building. This was a moment of intense excitement, and all hearts were relieved when Johnson was seen to regain uninjured the shelter he had left. All eyes were now fixed on the silent building, and the circle of besiegers began to close in rapidly on it, some dodging from tree to tree, and many, fully persuaded that everyone in the hotel must be hors de combat, coming out boldly into the open. Just at this junction Mrs Skillian, sister of the Kellys, attempted to approach the house from the front. She had on a black riding habit, with a red underskirt, and white Gainsborough hat, and was a prominent object in the scene. Her arrival on the ground was almost simultaneous with the attempt to fire the building. Her object in trying to reach the house was apparently to induce the survivors, if any, to come out and surrender. The police, however, ordered her to stop. She obeyed the order, but very reluctantly, and, standing still, called out that some of the police were ordering her to go on and others to stop. She, however, went to where a knot of the besiegers were standing on the west side of the house. In the meantime the straw, which burned fiercely, had all been consumed, and at first doubts were entertained as to whether Senior constable Johnson’s exploit had been successful. Not very many minutes elapsed, however, before smoke was seen coming out of the roof, and flames were discerned through the front window on the western side. A light westerly wind was blowing at the time and this carried the flames from the straw underneath the wall and into the house, and as the building was lined with calico, the fire spread rapidly. Still no sign of life appeared in the building.

When the house was seen to be fairly on fire, Father Gibney, who had previously started for it but had been stopped by the police, walked up to the front door and entered it. By this time the patience of the besiegers was exhausted, and they all, regardless of shelter, rushed to the building. Father Gibney, at much personal risk from the flames, hurried into a room to the left, and there saw two bodies lying side by side on their backs. He touched them, and found life was extinct in each. These were the bodies of Dan Kelly and Hart, and the rev. gentleman expressed the opinion, based on their position, that they must have killed one another. Whether they killed one another or whether both or one committed suicide, or whether both being mortally wounded by the besiegers, they determined to die side by side, will never be known. The priest had barely time to feel their bodies before the fire forced him to make a speedy exit from the room, and the flames had then made such rapid progress on the western side of the house that the few people who followed close on the rev. gentleman’s heels dared not attempt to rescue the two bodies. It may be here stated that after the house had been burned down, the two bodies were removed from the embers. They presented a horrible spectacle, nothing but the trunk and skull being left, and these almost burnt to a cinder. Their armour was found near them. About the remains there was apparently nothing to lead to positive identification, but the discovery of the armour near them and other circumstances render it impossible to be doubted that they were those of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. The latter was a much smaller man than the younger Kelly, and this difference in size was noticeable in their remains. Constable Dwyer, by the bye, who, followed Father Gibney into the hotel, states that he was near enough to the bodies to recognise Dan Kelly.

As to Byrne’s body, it was found in the entrance to the bar room, which was on the east side of the house, and there was time to remove it from the building, but not before the right side was slightly scorched. This body likewise presented a dreadful appearance. It looked as if it had been ill nourished. The thin face was black with smoke, and the arms were bent at right angles at the elbows, the stiffened joints below the elbows standing erect. The body was quite stiff and its appearance and the position in which it was found corroborated the statement that Byrne died early yesterday morning. He is said to have received the fatal wound which was in the groin, while drinking a glass of whisky at the bar. He had a ring on his right hand which had belonged to Constable Scanlon, who was murdered by the gang on the Wombat Ranges . The body was dressed in a blue sac coat, tweed striped trousers, Crimean shirt, and very ill fitting boots. Like Ned Kelly, Byrne wore a bushy beard.

In the outhouse or kitchen immediately behind the main building the old man Martin Cherry, who was one of the prisoners of the gang, and who was so severely wounded that he could not leave the house when the other prisoners left, was found still living, but in articulo mortis from a wound in the groin. He was promptly removed to a short distance from the during hotel and laid on the ground, where Father Gibney administered to him the last sacrament. Cherry was insensible, and barely alive. He had evidently suffered much during the day, and death released him from his sufferings within half an hour from the time when he was removed from the hotel. It was fortunate that he was not burned alive. Cherry, who was unmarried, was an old resident of the district and was employed as a platelayer, and resided about a mile from Glenrowan. He was born at Limerick , Ireland , and was 60 years old. He is said by all who knew him to have been a quiet, harmless old man, and much regret was expressed at his death. He seems to have been shot by the attacking force, of course unintentionally.

While the house was burning some explosions were heard inside. These were alarming at first, but it was soon ascertained that they were cartridges burning. Several gun barrels were found in the debris, and also the burnt carcase of a dog which had been shot during the melee. All that was left standing of the hotel was the lamp post and the signboard bearing the following device, which, in view of the carnage that had just been perpetrated within the walls of the hostelry, read strangely-




In a small yard at the rear of the buildings four of the outlaws horses, which had been purposely fired at early in the day, were found and were killed at once, to put them out of their agony. They were poor scrubbers. Two of them were shod. The police captured Byrne’s horse, a fine animal.

About the same time that Mrs Skillian appeared on the scene, Kate Kelly and another of her sisters were also noticed, as were likewise Wild Wright, and his brother Tom, and Dick Hart, brother of one of the dead outlaws. Mrs Skillion seemed to appreciate the position most keenly, her younger sisters appearing at times rather unconcerned. Dick Hart, who was Steve Hart’s senior, walked about very coolly.


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