The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 7 page 1
CHAPTER VII - THE RATS’ CASTLE FIASCO
On November 6 Captain Standish went up from Melbourne to Benalla to talk over the plan of campaign with Mr Nicolson, who had just returned from his fruitless expedition to Wodonga, and on the same day there arrived an urgent message from Mr Sadlier at Beechworth: ‘Very positive information that the Kellys are concealed in a range near here. My informant is not quite sober and has been talking rather openly, but I am convinced his information is genuine; but it may be too late a day or two. I have but two constables here and the place is most difficult to approach. I have endeavoured to communicate with Steele’s party of thirteen men, six of which I can be sure of coming, but I think you should send all you can by special to reach here before day; mounted and of course armed, and bring tracker. Reply.’
Mr Sadlier had just returned from a ride to some out lying places in the hills to give instructions to parties of police, and on his arrival in Beechworth at half past ten at night found the place as he says, ‘over run with armed men’ - not police for the most part, but enthusiastic civilians, eager to go Kelly hunting. They had heard the report mentioned by Superintendent Sadlier in his telegram, and Superintendent Sadlier, having for his safety’s sake placed the informant in the lockup, questioned him closely. He was a bark stripper by occupation, somewhat intoxicated at the time, but he succeeded in convincing Mr Sadlier that he had seen the four bushrangers two days previously not far from Beechworth, ‘somewhere in the rocks, where it would take fifty men to get them out.’ In this neighbourhood, known as ‘Rat’s Castle,’ resided the Byrnes and Sherritts, close friends of the outlaws, and though it was not certain at that time that Joe Byrne was one of them, Mr Sadlier thought the information worth vigorously acting upon. Hence the telegram to Mr Nicolson already quoted. The answer came promptly: ‘We are coming up as desired by special train. We shall leave about midnight. Meet us. Standish accompanies me.’ With Mr Nicolson’s party were also, though his telegram did not mention it, two or three pressmen eager to be in anything that might be going.
Beechworth is distant by rail some fifty miles from Benalla, and the special train conveying Mr Standish, Mr Nicolson, the police, the tracker, and the Press, arrived at the latter place before daylight in the early morning. A great number of police and armed civilians were already gathered together ready mounted, and after a start had been made, about two miles out of Beechworth the cavalcade was still further augmented. Both the search parties with whom Mr Sadlier had endeavoured to communicate had received his message, and, thirteen men in all, they joined the party, which moved across country, like a squadron of cavalry, some fifty strong. The extraordinary part of the affair is that no one seems to have been in command. Mr Sadlier had organised the party. Mr Nicolson was chief Kelly-officer in command of the district, while Captain Standish was head of the Victorian Police, and among so many conflicting claims for leadership of the party, each officer seems to have resigned his own, tacitly assuming that the command had been taken by someone other than himself. All, however, apparently knew that they were proceeding towards Sherritt’s hut, and, in no particular order, they advanced, crossing on their way some very rough country, great ranges of granite, with the result, says Mr Nicolson, that ‘the rumbling noise the party made was simply just like thunder, and the people heard us a mile off.’
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This document gives you the text of the report about the KellyGang for this day. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. This document is subject to copyright.