The Argus at KellyGang 27/9/1879

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When one of the Melbourne papers shortly after the murder of the police by the Kelly gang, aeriously spoke of the feasibility of forming a cordon of police round the gang and gradually hemming them in, the writer of the paragraph knew as much about the Strathbogie Ranges as the man in the moon - miles of mountainous country, densely covered with scrub, the rocks in many parts being almost precipitous, while numerous caves offered ready shelter and concealment. This is scarcely the sort of place which a body of police, however large, could gradually surround and where mounted troopers could make use of their steeds.

I was travelling by rail the other day when at one of the station near Euroa a police ofiicial entered the carriage and enlivened the loneliness of the journey. We had a saloon carriage all to ourselves, so I took the oppoitunity of getting a little information about the Kellys ."Talk about putting a cordon round them-look here," said he;

"let them get the best general in the British army, give him the best regiment of cavalry he can have his hands on, show him the ranges where these men are concealed, and I'll give him a year to catch them, and unless through the treachery of their mates or some tre- mendous piece of luck, he won't do it

"You think they're there yet?" inquired I. "Not a doubt about it, but all that we can do is just to keep men about at various points in case anything should turn up, so that we may be ready at once to follow it up " "Of course, they must have any number of sympathisers in this district?"

"That they have, or they would have been starved out long ere this. Why, from the Upper King River, and down to the Wombat Ranges, where those poor fellows were shot, the whole country swarms with their connexions and friends. "A nice life they must be living there at present, hemmed in as they to a certain extent are so that they can t move beyond a certain distance." "Life! why, it must be worse than being in Pentridge."

" I suppose they'll be making another raid some of these days," said I, "their supplies can't last for ever, and they must be dividing   the spoil pretty freely." "Why yes, they   may break out at any time, and there are the so and ao banks (naming two or three) which would any of them be pretty handy to get at."

"Some of the bank managers must feel rather nervous just now." "Well, yes, as there's no saying where they'll come down upon next." So ended our chat apropos of the Kellys and their gang.

Walking through Benalla the stranger will not be long in coming across occasional couples of troopers jaunty and trim, with a self satisfied expression and free and easy manner about them, prancing along on their sleek, curvetting steeds. They have little or nothing of that cool determined air which would indicate their fitness for the important duties devolving upon them, but rather the look of troopers out for a holiday. I scarely wonder, as I take up one of the local sheets, to find therein a burlesque on their movements, with the title, "The Book of Keli, or the Chronicles of the Kelly Pursuers."

There is not a little dry and sarcastic humour in this production. The black trackers are supposed to have diacovered the proximity of the Kellys, and the narrative thus discourses of the pluck and dauntless bravery of the troopers: -

"And the captain of the host of Bobpeelers did call a halt, and he answered and said unto the Ethiopians, ' Art sure thou canst see the camp of the Kelites? ' And the Ethiopian did say, ' Yea, berily me see um.' Then said the captain unto him, 'In which direction are they?' 'And the Ethiopian said 'Me see um just ober to the north.' Then the captain of the host did call unto his men to see to their arms and prepare for action. So all the men took their arms and watched with much anxiety the movements of their captain.

And when the captain saw all was ready, he placed himself in front of his army, and said, 'Now, boys, the tribes of the Kebites are to the north, follow me quickly. We will go direct to the south. Quick, boys, or they will see us.' So they galloped away with great haste from the camp of the Kelites and the Ethiopians followed after them shouting, 'Dat be de wrong way.'

"Now after they had journeyed many days the Ethiopians came to the chief again and   said "Here be tracks of men, and they be camped ober against the Roibber King; come   now and slay dem.' So the chief ordered his men to fire in the direction of the enemy; and they tired and the enemy returned the fire. But each army retreated and kept in ambush, so that none were wounded in the battle. And when they had no more ammu- nition, the other party did raise a white banner in token of peace; and the two armies met, and behold, it was discovered that both were Bobpeelers, and did belong to the king's household."

This is how the search was continued :- "And as this noble army of martyrs continued their way through the wilderness among wild opossums and other savage beasts behold the Ethiopians did again discover the   tracks of the enemy, and they came and told it unto the captain, sating, 'Come now take thine enemies, for they be near at hand.' "And the captain said, 'How near are they?' And the Ethiopians said, 'About half a da's a journey right in the line of our orders.' Then the captain called a halt and ordered the men to camp where they stood. and to put on the tin pot, even the 'billy,' for, said he, ' the enemy is quite near enough for our pleasure, and we will not pursue these wretches too closely, but give them a chance this time for their lives, so that their blood shall not be upon our heads, neither shall our blood be upon their heads, if I know it.'

" So it came to pass that after the Bobpeelers had wandered about the wilderness for many months, and saw many strange things, and did shoot wild bears, parrots, opossums, and many other beasts and birds that inhabited the desert that many of them returned unto their homes without having caught the men of Greta.

"And the Kelites dwelt in the caves and in the fastnesses of the mountains, and were provided and sheltered by some of their kindred.

"And many times did the men of Greta from their hiding place watch the movements of their pursuers, and did mock at them, and ask scornfully in an undertone, 'Come ye out to seek fleas, or fools or asses? Go to, ye Bobpeelers, and get ye to your homes for we will never be captured by you but would rather die than suller you to hand us over to the executioner Gatli."

Doubtless this is rather overdrawn. Still, like a straw showing which way the wind blows, it does to a certain extent reveal the estimation in which the police are held in the district I believe, however, from what I have seen and heard, that some of the troopers, at any rate, are anxious to meet the Kellys, and that if they did so, they would give a good account of themselves.

A story is told in Benalla of Lieutenant O'Connor and his black trackers following footprints which they are sanguine of being the Kellys, and which are gradually traced until they lead to a hut. In silence and eager anxiety they surround the hut wherein the gang are supposed to have taken refuge, ready at a moment a notice to rush in and capture the whole of them on the spot, when - alas, for the futility of human wishes - they find the place empty, and that the tracks which they have been following so eagerly are those of a selector's going to and from his hut to a waterhole.

It is therefore the belief both of the police and the people in the vicinity of the ranges that the Kellys are in their old haunts, but the troopers seem to have given up the idea of anything like an active search, and to be waiting for the chapter of accidents doing something in their favour. The only chance of securing the gang seems to lie in some of their sympathisers turning traitor, and while their money lasts this is unlikely, or that they will get so tired of their enforced confinement within a certain radius, that they will break through at all hazards, and run the risk of escape to some other colony where their movements will not be so hampered.

One fact which leads to the very strong supposition that the gang are still in their old haunts in the ranges is that recently notes of the Bank of New South Wales been seen in the hands of men who are known to be sympathisers, and who have paid for goods with such notes. When men who previously scarcely ever had a pound to call their own are seen well dressed, well mounted spending money on luxuries and apparently following no honest occupation by which to earn the money they spend so freely, only one conclusion can be arrived at and that is that this money is part of the spoil of the bank robberies and has found its way to them, either directly or indirectly, through the hands of the miscreants who are still at large. It is now nearly a year since the murders were committed, and it is to be hoped that not many more months will pass over without this gang of bloodthirsty ruffians being exterminated. 

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