The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 10 page 3

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Aaron Sherritt married

After I had found out all I could concerning the movements of the outlaws at Benalla, I started off to Beechworth and saw Aaron Sherritt. I found he had married during my absence, and his family and his wife's relations did not get on together, as she was a Roman Catholic and he a Protestant, and his family were vexed with him for marrying, Aaron had taken a cottage on the road from Beechworth to Eldorado near Woolshed, where he and his wife resided. I had a long interview with him, finding out all that had taken place during my absence, and the different interviews he had had with the outlaws whilst I was away from the district. He expressed himself very pleased at my return, and told me he did not get on as well with the inspecting superintendent as he did with me, and he would set to work with fresh zeal and endeavour to find out where the outlaws were to be found. He told me that a fortnight ago they were at his mother's house looking for his brother Jack, whom they wanted to join them, and four constables had been sent to his house in hopes that they might call on him; but when the inspecting superintendent was leaving the district, these men had been removed, and he was of opinion that it would be as well to send them back.

Watch parties

I ordered them back, and directed that they should stay indoors all day and watch Mrs Byrne's house by night, as Aaron lived about three quarters of a mile from her. I also made arrangements to have the Harts' house watched from Wangaratta, and for a party to watch Kelly's house from Glenrowan, The orders to the men were, that after dark every night they were to leave their abode singly, and walk away to the watching place, so that if any of them should be met, no notice would be taken of a man walking alone. They were to take up their positions within view of the houses, but not near enough for the inmates to discover their whereabouts.

Watching Mrs Byrne

I kept moving about and working hard. Rumours were coming in from all directions that the sympathisers were very active, that something was about to happen. Old Mrs Byrne was very jubilant, and she told a person—who repeated it to me—that the gang was about to do something that would astonish not only the colony, but the whole world.

Horses were reported as being stolen in several directions, all supposed to be by the gang, Constable Bracken, who was in charge at Glenrowan, reported that the four men who had been watching Kelly's house were completely knocked up, being out night after night in the wet, and asked me to let them be sent to Benalla to recruit themselves for a few days. I consented, but I had no other men to replace them. I paid another visit to Beechworth, saw Detective Ward, and told him I was not at all satisfied with the way the men were conducting things at Aaron's house.

Two or three reports came to hand, informing me that Paddy Byrne had saddled his horse at his mother's place at two o'clock in the morning, and started off into the ranges, and instead of the men accompanying Aaron to endeavour to follow him, they let him go alone. I decided to go down that night to visit the party at Woolshed. Ward and I started away from Beechworth about eight o'clock, and reached Aaron's house about 9.30. I stood in the road whilst Ward went to the house to find out from Aaron's wife where the men were to be found, as they should have been out watching. We found one of the men at the hut, and he told us the others were away with Aaron watching Mrs Byrne's house. I left Ward at the hut, and got this constable to show me where the men were watching. He purposely lost his way, and kept me fully an hour going one mile. I believe he kept me all this while in the bush to gain time for the men to take up their positions, as it turned out that none of the men there watching Mrs Byrne's house but Aaron.

When I got to the watching place I met the constable who was in charge of the party. I asked him why he had left one constable behind at Aaron's house? His reply was, "That man has deceived you, Mr Hare; we were all of us at Aaron's house when you called with Ward," he said. "I was collecting wood on the hills—Aaron alone was watching." I severely reprimanded the constable for misleading me. I then spoke to the constable in charge about matters in general. He appeared to be a smart, intelligent man. I asked if he had made up his mind what he would do if the outlaws came to Mrs Byrne's. He said: "I would shoot the lot of them if Aaron said they were the men." I told him to be careful not to make a mistake and shoot any one else. I left them, and Aaron walked back with me to his house to pilot me across the diggings.

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