The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 20 page 5

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None of these devices were, however, needed, and the cannon returned from Seymour without firing a shot, for at about three o’clock in the afternoon Senior Constable Johnston offered to set alight to the building. After consultation with Mr O’Connor and others Mr Sadlier consented. Kate Kelly and Mrs Skillion, who with numerous other sympathisers had come upon the scene, were riding about dressed in their best watching the siege, and after it was decided to fire the house Mrs Skillion wished to enter and see her brother, but Mr Sadlier refused as the fire might not have taken, and another non-combatant in the house would have put fresh difficulties in the way of the attack. Mrs Skillion, indeed, was quite capable of deliberately remaining with her brother and taking up a rifle to assist the defenders.

All things being ready, under cover of a heavy fire upon the windows from the police, Johnston ran forward and fired the building. In a very few minutes the place was in flames. Kate Kelly looked on, piteously crying, ‘Oh, my poor brother! My poor brother!’ The Rev Dean Gibney, a Roman Catholic Clergyman, gallantly rushed towards the burning building. There might be wounded men within to be saved, or dying ones to whom he could give the last comforts of their religion. Mr Sadlier tried to prevent him, but could not do so, and there was then a general rush for the hotel. From an outbuilding was removed the wounded man, Martin Cherry; from the house the body of Joe Byrne. The bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were seen by Dean Gibney, lying side by side in another part of the house. They did not wear their armour, which was, however, near them, and it may be that they shot one another rather than be taken; but the manner of their death was never known, for all of them that was ever seen again was some charred remains, discovered in the smouldering ruins of the hotel. These remains Mr Sadlier handed over to their friends for burial, while the body of Joe Byrne was taken to Benalla, where at the magisterial enquiry it was found that he was shot as an outlaw. With Joe Byrne’s body to Benalla there went that of Martin Cherry, an innocent victim of the fight, who died shortly after his removal from the hotel, while later, in the Wangaratta hospital, Mrs Jones’ little boy died of his wounds.

Over fifty police had taken part in the fight. It was not an heroic combat, and the work was sadly botched and bungled, with much resultant misery to innocent people. Still, three of the outlaws were dead, the fourth was wounded and awaiting his trial. The pestilent Kelly gang could trouble Victoria no more, and congratulatory telegrams to the officers concerned and to the Victorian Government flashed over the wires one after another from every corner of Australia .

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