The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 8 page 2

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

We mounted our horses and found that what he had said was perfectly correct. Aaron then said, “We are awfully late, we must hurry on to Mrs Byrne’s house,” and we again followed him in the same order as before. He commenced to go down a fearfully steep range. I said not a word but followed him, until he pulled up and said, “I am afraid to go down here to-night, it is so very dark.” I said, “Is there no other way you can get down?” He replied, “Be careful not to move from your saddle, for this is a terribly steep range, and if you attempt to get off you will roll down some hundreds of feet.” He told me to get off the horse side, he doing the same himself, and the detective also. We then led our horses round and got down another gap in the mountains. After riding about a mile Aaron told us that we had better dismount and tie our horses to a tree, and walk down to the spot he would take us to.

At Mrs Byrne

We did so, and we followed him down the ranges until we came to a house, which turned out to be Mrs Byrne’s, the mother of the outlaw Joe Byrne. Here also, as in Power’s case, we met some watch dogs in the shape of a flock of geese, and they did give the alarm, and no mistake. However, after a short time, Aaron crawled up to the house, so as to ascertain if there was any one talking inside. Everything was quiet, there was a candle burning. He returned and said, “They expect them to night. You see, they have left the candle burning, and some supper ready on the table.” He then said, “Let us go up to a clump of trees at the back of the house, where they generally tie up their horses.” I had previously been told by another agent of this clump of trees, where marks of horses having been tied up were to be seen. Aaron said to me, “Go into that clump. They often tie up their horses there, and lay down beside them and have a sleep, after having their supper at Mrs Byrne’s.” I walked into the clump, but found no horses there, and returned to Aaron. Aaron then said, “We must now wait in this stock yard, which leads up to the clump. If they come they will come through here.” It was then about two o’clock in the morning. We sat down and waited until daylight, and then, nothing happening, we started back to our horses, reaching Beechworth at eight o’clock .

A Twenty five day Watch

Aaron suggested to me that I should bring a party of men and come and live in the mountains at the back of Mrs Byrne’s house. He told me he could put me in a spot which was unknown to any one except the bushrangers, and the only danger of my being discovered was by them. He said I could stay in the mountains by day, and take up my position in the stock-yard behind Mrs Byrne’s at night, and that if I had patience I was certain to get them. I complied with his suggestion, and that evening I brought a party to the spot indicated by him. We brought our blankets and some provisions, intending to stay there until we caught the Kellys, watching by night, and laying in our camp all day. In camp I arranged that no two men should be together throughout the day, whether sleeping or at meals, so that if we were attacked by the outlaws, and some of us were shot, the others could fight.

The life was extremely monotonous, for me especially; but the excitement kept us up, and we always expected that sooner or later we should come across the outlaws.

Our daily life was as follows:- At dusk in the evening, one at a time, we used to leave our camp and make down to the stock-yard, I always leading the way, and the other men following. We had to be most careful where we trod, for fear of our tracks being seen on the following day. We each took up positions behind trees outside the stock-yard, I taking the opening into the yard myself. I had given orders to the men not to move from their positions until I called to them, no matter what happened. We were all lying about ten or fifteen yards apart. The nights were bitterly cold.

Aaron used to spend his evenings at Mrs Byrne’s with his young woman, and he obtained all the information they were possessed of, and when he left their house between twelve and one o’clock he used to lie down and watch with us. He always took up his position beside me, and used to relate all kinds of encouraging reports that he had obtained during the day as to the prospect of the Kellys turning up. Hardly a night that we took up our positions but we thought we should have some luck. As day broke in the morning we used to make back to our camp in the mountains in a very disappointed mood, walking singly, and avoiding the paths or soft places, so as not to leave any tracks behind us.

The great danger I felt was a surprise when getting into camp of a morning and taking up our positions in the evening, I felt sure that some morning or evening when we took up post the Kellys would find out our camps and take possession of them, so therefore I always went into camp first in the morning and left it first in the evening, and felt a relief when we all got into our places without being fired on. We dared not make a fire for fear of the smoke being noticed, so we had to live on water, preserved beef, and bread. I stayed in this camp for twenty-five days, and during that time, although we used to see some members of the Byrne family passing to and fro, they never discovered our whereabouts. I always kept a sentry by day over the camp, and the sentry’s position was behind a rock near the spot I had made my resting place, which was the highest, all the men.

Night after night Aaron used to go and see his young women, and bring back hopes of success. This used to keep up the spirits of the men, and we all felt sure if we could keep watching without our whereabouts being discovered we would eventually be successful.

I should have stated before this, that when I went with my party into the mountains, I also placed four men in a spot pointed out to me by Sherritt, which was one of the camps used by the Kellys. It was here they stayed for two days after the murders, while Aaron supplied them with food. It was a wonderfully romantic spot, on the edge of a precipice, and only approachable on one side. Two men could keep off a dozen. This camp was placed under Senior Constable Mayes, a bold trustworthy, well tried man, in whom I had the utmost confidence. He had a difficulty in getting water for his men, and had to send two miles for it. Sometimes the men were sent by day, but generally by night, and through an indiscretion on the part of one of these men, our whereabouts was discovered. Old Mrs Byrne was a most active old party. She was constantly looking about for the tracks of police, horses and men. She was walking along the bank of a creek where the men at the upper camp were in the habit of getting their water, when she discovered a spot where a man had been sitting amusing himself with a stick – as it is called, “whittling” it. She immediately came to the conclusion that some police were camped close by, and that night she confided her fears to Aaron, and told him he must have a good look in the ranges next day. He promised to make every effort to find out if her surmise was correct, and he came straight to the stock-yard where I was watching, and informed me of the discovery the old women had made. Aaron next day got his horse and pretended to make a search, returning next night and telling Mrs Byrne he could find no trace of anybody. The old lady was convinced there must have been some police about, because she said the footmarks were evidently those of a policeman. These people appear to know the difference between the footprints of police and other persons. However, the old woman could not be convinced she was wrong, and up to that time had perfect faith in Aaron, and so also had his young women, her daughter.

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