The Argus at KellyGang 20/10/1881 (5)

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Royal Commission's report- summary

“The assistant commissioner takes no pains to conceal his opinion that his removal in June, 1880, although ostensibly the direct act of the Executive, was in reality the result of official intrigue. What- ever may have been the influences at worst-whether, as Mr Ramsay declared, the decision of the Government meant no more than a desire for a change of bowlers, or, as has been insinuated, Captain Standish, for reasons of his own, was responsible for the move-of this there cannot be a doubt, that there was thereby revealed the existence of acrimonious feelings amongst the officers-of jealousy, distrust, and personal rivalry, of which nothing previously had been positively known, although perhaps suspected. There is no gainsaying the fact that the recall of Mr Nicolson implied dissatisfaction, if not censure, but the fact of his having received a month's grace at a time when, according to his own account, he was in daily anticipation of capturing the Kellys, indicates some consideration for his feelings. Public servants are not always the best judges of the motives which actuate a Government in adopting a particular policy, and, unfortunately, private interests and individuals must often be sacrificed to public expediency."

Mr Hare succeeded Mr Nicolson on June 2, 1879, and the circumstances attending the interview which occurred on that occasion between those officers have been the subject of frequent reference during the examination, and are thus adverted to in the report -

"The interview between Mr Nicolson and Superintendent Hare on the 2nd of June, 1880 , when the latter took over charge, is variously described by the witnesses who were present. Superintendent Hare emphatically declares, and inserted a statement to the same effect in his official report after the affray at Glenrowan, that the interview lasted only 10 minutes, implying thereby that Mr Nicolson withheld from him all the necessary information. Mr Sadleir speaks of a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes, but, in cross examination, goes further. Mr O'Connor thinks that the interview lasted much longer, while Mr Nicolson insists that Superintendent Hare remained with him in the office nearly an hour; that during that time he gave him all the information he possessed, and, in conclusion, asked Mr Sadleir if he thought he had omitted anything. Mr Hare, in support of his allegation, produces hi diary, and Mr Nicolson relies to a great extent upon the corroborative fact that the train by which his successor arrived reached Benalla at half past 11, that it took him about half an hour to reach the police station, and it is admitted upon all hands that the interview did not terminate until 1 o'clock, when the officers adjourned to their   hotel for luncheon. A more serious charge than that levelled by Mr Hare against Mr Nicolson it would be difficult to define, amounting as it does to disloyalty to the service and the country, and meanness and treachery to brother officers, and if Mr Hare at the time considered Mr Nicolson guilty of such conduct, it was his duty to have at once reported the circumstances. He wrote, it appears, a private letter to Captain Standish informing him of his impressions, but such a course was not calculated to meet a case of such grave significance as Mr Hare represents in his official report and evidence. The assistant-commissioner indignantly repudiates the charge under which he had been allowed to labour for over 12 months, and appeals to his long service, and the respect entertained towards him by his brother officers and men, in refutation, urging that he would be even more criminal than the Kellys themselves if there were the least foundation for the charge."

The action of Superintendent Hare during the month he was in charge prior to the destruction of the gang is referred to briefly, but stress is laid upon the murder of Aaron Sherritt and the conduct of the constables who at the time were on duty in the hut. The report thus deals with the constables is question.

“The names of the police present were Constables Armstrong (in charge) Duross, Dowling, and Alexander. Never was there a more conspicuous instance of arrant cowardice than was exhibited by those men on the night of the murder. Instead of attacking the outlaws, or at least making some effort out of sheer regard for their manhood, if not for their official responsibility, they sought the protection for themselves which they should have afforded to others. Two of them-Armstrong and Dowling- lay prostrate on the floor, with their bodies partly concealed beneath a bed, under which they had thrust the wife of the murdered man, with their feet resting against her, so that she could not possibly escape, in the hope that her presence would deter the outlaws from shooting them, or attempting, as they had threatened, to set fire to the place. Their conduct throughout was characterised by shameful poltroonery, which, in the army, would have been punished by summary expulsion from the service with every accompanying mark of contempt and degradation."

The Glenrowan affray is treated circumstantially, but there runs throughout apparently a vein of irony, the reverse of complimentary to the officers in charge. Superintendent Hare's sudden disappearance from the scene of action, Inspector O'Connor's self-immurement in a drain, the seeming nonchalance of Superintendent Sadleir, and his grotesque determination to bombard the wretched hut which the outlaws defended for nearly fourteen hours, are referred to in terms that imply something approaching to contemptuousness.


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