The Melbourne Daily Telegragh (2)
The Melbourne Daily Telegraph
... part of the KellyGang story
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CAPTURE OF NED KELLY
If the veritable man in the iron mask, or even the sepuichral form of Hamlet’s avenging … unexpectedly visited the “glimpses of the moon” and appeared in all his impervious armour on the undulating slopes of those thickly timbered hills lying north west of Glenrowan, which have borne the name “Morgan’s Look out” since the escapades of that notorious highwayman, the consternation and surprise could not have been greater than was that of the police on Ned Kelly coolly walking into their midst on Monday morning. The impersonation seemed so realistic and the tall, well proportioned statue of the intruder as he calmly and deliberately advanced in and out among the trees and stumps that abound on the slopes. Down to where the troopers were in ambush, made me feel, as I looked upon the scene, that some unknown demon was let loose for evil purpose amongst us. It was easily explained. When we arrived at the Glenrowan Railway station party at once set about preparing for a journey into the uninviting scrub. where it was thought the outlaws would take refuge on hearing the train approach, and Lieutenant O’Connor and Superintendent Hare held a hurried consultation as to what was best to be done under the unsatisfactory and uncertain circumstances under which they found themselves placed, the troopers and trackers mean while getting out the horses and baggage. While this was going on a hurried step was heard coming up the gravel walls from the direction of Mrs Jones’s hotel, and three or four men stood forward and challenged the intruders with the usual military. “Who goes there?” but before a reply could be spoken a man almost beside himself with alarm, burst into their midst and gasped “They’re here” – meaning, of course, the Kellys. A scene of indescribable confusion then took place, the troopers, who had laid their rifles aside to get out the luggage, rushing to and fro to recover possession of the weapons, thinking that the outlaws were upon them. This only lasted for so many seconds as it took Constable Bracken to explain that the gang were at Mrs Jones ’s, 200 yards away, and from where, induced, he had pluckily escaped. Everything was let go by the board in an instant, and the troopers and black trackers literally flew to arms and gallantly followed Superintendent Hare and Lieutenant O’Connor up to within twenty or thirty paces of the hotel, when the gang who appeared to be on the verandah waiting for their appearance, opened a heavy fire on them. The fire was immediately returned with interest from the men, who instantly got under cover, and kept up such a rattling had of shot and ball, that the inmates shrieked in alarm. But not no the blood-thirsty assassin who led the gang. Ned Kelly stood in the verandah, in the shade, and deliberately fired five shots from his revolving rifle into the front line of the assailants, whale Superintendent Hare had posted himself, and as that officer lifted his hand to take a second shot at the braggart, a ball passed through his wrist, and he was compelled to return to the station, where Mr. Thomas Carrington, the special artist of the Australasian Sketcher, and the representatives of the morning Press, dressed and bound up his wound. A warm fire was still kept up by the police party in ambush, which caused a terrifying uproar in the besieged hotel, but the replies gradually died away, and Superintendent Hare returned to the front with the view of taking advantage of the occasion to post his men around the house to prevent escape. He became very weak, however, from loss of blood, and it was found necessary to send an engine back with him to Benalla to ensure immediate and proper treatment. When the first volley was fired at a quarter-past 3 o'clock . Ned KelIy called to the police to “Fire away you - ; you cannot hurt me,” and his companions followed his example, but after the first round it was noticed that Ned Kelly disappeared rather quickly, and after a few minutes a dead silence, only broken by the wailing and moaning of the women and children within, prevailed everywhere. This silence continued for upwards of half an hour with but an occasional shot and it imported mischief, and was certainly not pleasing. The two engines which had taken us to the scene returned to Benalla, the horses were scattered along the line, and it was not unreasonable to suppose that the outlaws would make a dash for their liberty, and probably fill some of our party in the attempt. Lying out behind dead logs, with the frost chilling us, till our teeth chattered, with no certainty of the whereabouts of the Kellys, was far less inviting than the rattle of the rifle and the whistling of the bullets around, for the latter brought the consolation that the position of the men we sought was known to us. Seeing the position in this aspect, Senior constable Kelly, who was left in charge of the troopers, made a circuit of the buildings at a respectful distance, and placed his men closer in, so as to lessen the distance between the posts till reinforcements should arrive. While this was proceeding, another scene occurred in the front. One of Mrs Jones’s children in the house had been slightly injured with a shot during the sortie, and Mrs. Reardon, who had a baby in her arms, tried to escape from the hotel, where she had been taken a prisoner by the gang, and the uproar these women and children created was heartrending to hear. They would rush out of the house screaming, followed by the men to brings them back, and as soon as the latter made their appearance, the police, fearing a rush, opened fire on them, and the women screamed all the more. Several women and children left the hotel and run down the road to the railway fence, where they were challenged, and, being found correct, allowed to pass. Some men tried to take advantage of this to make their escape, but on being challenged and covered, they thought it the better part of valour to make a hasty and even a disorderly retreat. Shortly before 6 o’clock Senior constable Kelly returned to the station for ammunition, bringing with him Ned Kelly’s soft skull-cap and six-barrel revolving rifle, which he found covered in blood and lying beside a pool of blood up on the slope of “Morgan's Look-out," some 200 yards behind the hotel. This was a disagreeable surprise, and the first impulse of every one of us was to look down with an unsatisfied feeling as to their destiny. We felt that the leader of the outlaws had slipped through our fingers, and the continued silence in the hotel confirmed this suspicion, but as to the location of the other members of the gang, we were not at all uneasy. An old man escaped from the besieged hotel before day break at the risk of his life, and on being bailed up by the scouts, he threw up his hands in a manner that could not but evoke a smile of compassion from his challenger, who bade him go his way in peace. He informed me subsequently that the scene in the house during the firing was terrible, and that in the- first sortie Byrne was shot through the groin by a stray bullet as he was helping himself to a glass of brandy at the bar, the ball having passed through the side of the house, which was weatherboard, with lath and plaster inside, before it embedded itself fatally in his flesh. Ned Kelly was going out to the back room at the time, and as he turned he saw his friend reel and fall heavily on the floor. Those in the hotel had as much as they could do to look after themselves, and no time to spare to relieve or succour the wounded highwayman, and he lay there weltering in his fast flowing blood amidst the amidst the screeches of the women and the heartrending pleadings of the slightly wounded and greatly frightened children. There were at this time between thirty and forty persons in the hotel, but the women and nearly all the children, fled out, and reduced the number to some twenty odd. Our valour was considerably increased about the break of dawn by the return of one of the engines from Benalla-for even an unsympathising engine was welcomed now-with Dr. Nicholson, and at the same time a party of eight troopers, under Steel, arrived from Wangaratta, having ridden back with the constable who had ridden off for Glenrowan on the arrival of our train. Sergeant Steel and Senior constable Kelly at once made a tour of inspection to the several points, and on discovering three or four horses saddled in the rule stockyard at the back of the hotel, they shot them to prevent the gang escaping. Between 6 and 7 o'clock a large body of police arrived from Benalla, having been collected from around that district, under Inspector Sadlier, who took command of the siege, and set to work by doubling the posts, and keeping up a heavy fire at intervals of about ten minutes on the hotel, which was now, without the question of a doubt, completely. surrounded. It was a matter of impossibility for any one to put his nose outside either the front or back door without endangering its entirety. Notwithstanding this fact, occasional shots came from an old barn which stood in the stockyard, about ten yards behind the house, and also from the lean to, or kitchen. One of these random shots grazed the head of one of Lieutenant Connor’s trackers, and incensed him to such and extent that he vowed vengeance on the barn, and could be restrained with difficulty from visiting the place straight away, and inflicting condign punishment upon the audacious offender. Another of these ill-directed shots fired at some of our men lying in the drain between the station and the railway gates, penetrated M’Donald 's Railway hotel just under the parlour window, and carried away a portion of the ornamental mantelpiece. The most astounding and incomprehensible scene of the day was now enacted. A few minutes before 8 o’clock a panic appeared to have affected the scouts who occupied positions in the scrub on the Wangaratta side of the hotel, and there was evidently something extraordinary going on a little further up the hill. Scout after scout fired at some object invisible to me, and the majority of those in the field, and then returned to another shelter, a proceeding that at once attracted considerable attention. After dodging about awhile, the object of the alarm stood out in the open, wearing a long white oil skin overcoat, and having his head covered in a thick steel helmet, made from ploughshares stolen from the Greta farmers, which discovered no opening but a narrow line across the eyes, through which to see. It was Ned Kelly , in the armour in which he was reported to have clad himself, and he made no secret about his intention of walking down upon the scouts and killing them if they stood their ground. He was moving steadily down towards the railway station, through the thicket, with Sergeant Steel on his right and Senior constable Kelly on his left; but notwithstanding their steady fire, he never winced, but walked steadily on, like someone in a trance, pointing and firing a six barrel revolver, which he carried, as he saw the scouts dodge from tree to tree, but his fire never took effect. The rattle of the rifle ball was repeatedly heard on the helmet and armour, and occasionally, as Ned Kelly advanced, he was noticed to stop suddenly, or quiver, a shock evidently produced by the force of the bullet coming against the iron plating. Finding his body cased in impenetrable stuff, the order was passed round to fire low, am the wisdom of this course was soon apparent. As the shots took effect in his arms and legs he increased his pace forward slightly till within eight or ten yards of Senior constable Kelly, who gave him the benefit of a Martini-Henry ball in the face, from the effects of which he staggered visibly. The scouts were pegging away at the “man in the iron mask” with telling effect, and a few minutes before half past 8 Sergeant Steel rushed upon him from behind a tree, Senior constable Kelly coming up about the same time, closely followed by the others, and in the first flush of victory the outlaw and Steel were sent sprawling upon the green sward together. Kelly was at once secured, when it was found that his body, head, and shoulder were encased 1/4 in. steel plough share plates, the only vulnerable points being his arms and legs. The cool manner in which the outlaw walked to his doom startled and surprised everybody. He was in a most deplorable state, and on his amour-plates being taken off, he was searched, and removed to the railway station, and placed under medical treatment.
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