[Editor: This is a chapter from The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers (5th edition, 1946) by J. J. Kenneally.]
A DECLARATION OF WAR.
The report of the encounter in the Wombat Ranges and the deaths of valuable members of the police force soon travelled throughout Australia, and created considerable sensation. It caused the immediate passing by the Berry Government of an Outlawry Act, under which it became lawful for any individual to shoot and destroy the four bushrangers. This Act also provided penalties for any person who harboured the outlaws or withheld information concerning them from the authorities. This was a declaration of war.
Having now been definitely made outlaws, the Kellys arranged a programme, the first item on which was to be a “hold up” of the National Bank at Euroa. Mounted on four splendid horses, they set forth, and arrived en route at Younghusband’s Faithful Creek station, some four miles from Euroa. The manager, Mr. McCauley, was not present on their arrival, but they made themselves known to housekeeper, Mrs. Fitzgerald, to whom they gave assurances of safety for herself and any others who allowed them to proceed unmolested. They then commenced to intern all the station hands in the storeroom, repeating their assurances, and Byrne was posted as a “prisoners’ guard.” Addressing their captives, Ned Kelly informed them if anyone attempted to escape, “Steve Hart and Dan will shoot you down like rabbits.” This intimidating threat was an unfortunate one, as later events showed. Actually neither Dan Kelly nor Steve Hart was of a “bloodthirsty” disposition, and there is no record to substantiate these words of their leader, but these words were seized upon by the police, and, on their subsequent publication, created an impression in the public mind which was untrue, unfair and unjust.
During the afternoon, a local farmer, who had been to Euroa for men to bind his crop, was passing the homestead. He was stopped and introduced to Ned Kelly by Mr. Fitzgerald. Ned Kelly explained to the farmer that he would have to join the other prisoners. “Oh, I don’t mind, but my boy, a lad of 14 years, and Paddy Burke are down at the hut, and they’ll be expecting me home.” “We’ll soon settle that,” said Ned Kelly, “we’ll go and bring them up here where they’ll be safe.” “Very good”, replied the farmer, and he went away with Ned Kelly and Steve Hart to the hut, which was but a short distance away. They found Paddy Burke at the hut, but the boy was away. Burke said he thought the boy had gone down to the creek for a swim. They all went to the creek, where they found the lad, and his father told him to accompany them up to the station. The lad eyed the two strangers, Ned Kelly and Steve Hart, whom he believed to be two men his father had brought from Euroa to assist in binding the crop. He did not like the look of these two for “binders.” That boy, to-day a man in the sere and yellow leaf, says he enjoyed the novelty of the whole affair. No one was afraid, but all were under some restraint excepting the womenfolk, who were allowed the free range of the premises.
Late in the afternoon Mr. McCauley returned, and was formally introduced by the station foreman, Mr. Fitzgerald, to Ned Kelly and his associates. He, too, was placed under surveillance, although he was allowed more freedom about the house than the other captives.
Later still, a hawker named Gloster and his assistant, Beecroft, came on the scene. The former was ordered to join the party in the store. He refused, and made a run for his waggon, in which he had left his revolver. The Kellys did not want a disturbance; it would interfere with their plans regarding the Euroa Bank. Ned Kelly followed the hawker and caught him as he was climbing into his waggon for his revolver, and dragged him down. He and his assistant, Beecroft, a youth of about 18 years, were immediately compelled to join the prisoners in the storeroom.
The Kellys selected new suits from the hawker’s stock, as they desired to be very respectably dressed when they set out for the bank of Euroa. They offered Gloster money for these outfits, but he refused to take it.
Ned Kelly conversed freely with the prisoners, and related incident of cruelty and persecution his family had been subjected to by the police, and he seems to have convinced the majority that he and his brother had been goaded to take to the bush in order to prevent the extinction of their family. After sunset the prisoners were allowed out for a spell in the fresh air, prior to retiring for the night. The outlaws took it in turns to keep watch over the prisoners, and against any attempt to poison them — there was a reward of £4000 on their heads — and carefully avoided tasting any food until some of their prisoners had first partaken of it.
During an allusion to their fight with the police on the Wombat Ranges, Ned Kelly emphasised the fact that they had met the police in a fight for life. The police had sought them to take them back to Mansfield dead or alive. They had killed three of the four policemen in a fair fight. The one who had surrendered and was disarmed, they permitted to escape.
Next morning, Dec. 10, 1878, the Kellys were about early. They temporarily released the captives from the storeroom, and all hands had breakfast together, except the outlaws, who observed their usual caution and went to breakfast two at a time. After breakfast a party of sportsmen approached the station in a spring cart driven by a local resident named Casement. The sportsmen were Messrs. Dudley and McDougal. Mr. Tennant, another member of the party, was on horseback. Seeing them approach, Ned Kelly mounted his horse and rode to meet them, and told them to turn back, as the station was “held up.” As the party descended from the cart, Ned Kelly accused Casement of being “Ned Kelly,” and of having stolen the horse and spring cart. This evoked an outburst of indignation from Mr. Casement and his companions. Mr. Casement believed Ned to be a constable, and Mr. Dudley asked on what authority they were thus accused. “We have not stolen the cart, we are all honest men. I’ll report you to your officer”! In giving evidence at Beechworth in 1880, Mr. Dudley said that Tennant, who was a Scotchman, came up on horseback and asked: “What is the matter, Harry?” Dudley replied, “The Kellys are about.” Tennant said, “Aye, mon, get up and load your guns.” When Kelly showed the handcuffs, however, his visitors, although wrathful, submitted and were put into the storeroom, Mr. Dudley, before internment, again loudly announcing that he would report Ned Kelly to his superior officer for his conduct as an officious constable. When they reached the storeroom Ned Kelly said to Stevens, the groom, “Tell the gentlemen who I am.” Stevens thereupon introduced “Mr. Ned Kelly and his party.”
THE ROBBERY AT THE EUROA BANK.
The plan of the outlaws was to obtain a cheque for a minor sum from Mr. McCauley, and arrive at the bank at 3 p.m., just about closing time. This they secured, and, leaving a guard over the station prisoners, they proceeded to Euroa. Ned Kelly drove the shooting party’s cart, Steve Hart, and Beecroft, drove the hawker’s wagon, and Dan Kelly rode on horseback.
They reached the bank a few minutes before three o’clock. Hart drove the hawker’s waggon into the yard of the bank. This was not noticed by passers, because the hawker himself used frequently to drive in there. Leaving the waggon, Hart entered the bank from the back. As he was coming in he met the housemaid, Miss Maggie Shaw, with whom he had been at school in Wangaratta. She said, “Hello Steve!” He replied, “Mum’s the word.” This meeting was subsequently cited and established Hart’s complicity in the adventure. Ned Kelly left the spring cart on the street outside the bank. He entered the bank just on the stroke of three o’clock, and, holding Mr. McCauley’s cheque in his hand, carefully closed the bank door. Dan Kelly kept guard outside. Ned Kelly observed the entry of Steve Hart into the bank, and he then withdrew the cheque he was presenting, and presented his revolver at the astonished official. The bank officials were commanded to throw up their hands, and, being completely taken by surprise, promptly complied.
The bank revolvers having been secured, Ned Kelly asked Mr. Scott, the manager, if there were any women on the premises. Mr. Scott informed him that there were only Mrs. Scott and the housemaid. Ned Kelly inquired if Mrs. Scott was in a delicate state of health — he did not want to give her a fright if she was — and, receiving a negative reply, he then requested that Mrs. Scott be asked to come in. Mrs. Scott was called in, and introduced to Ned Kelly, who assured her solemnly that her husband’s life was in her hands. If she gave an alarm her husband would be shot, but otherwise no harm would befall him. The manager and the clerks were then required to hand over all the cash in the bank, and Ned Kelly put the money into a sugar bag. Subsequently Mr. Scott produced some whisky, and they drank to the success of their daring venture. Ned Kelly then requested Mr. Scott that, as he now had no money in the bank, and as it was after banking hours, he and his family should come out to Faithful’s Creek, and have tea with them, the Kellys. He told Mr. Scott to put his horse in the buggy and accompany him and his mates to Faithful’s Creek. It was quite a procession which then set out from Euroa to the station, Dan Kelly, with Beecroft, driving the hawker’s waggon, then Mrs. Scott and family in the manager’s buggy, Ned Kelly with Mr. Scott and Miss Shaw in the spring cart, and Steve Hart on horseback following in the rear.
As Steve Hart was about to mount upon the horse the local policeman passed him. Steve said, “Good day,” but the constable only grunted, and Steve felt somewhat annoyed.
Arrived safely at Faithful Creek Station, tea was served. The prisoners appeared to regard the Kellys with amazement and admiration on account of their success in robbing the bank and bringing the manager and staff with them to join the party. So impressed was Mrs. Scott with the quiet and manly bearing of Ned Kelly that she remarked during the meal: “Surely, Mr. Kelly, you don’t say that you are the man who has been outlawed?” To this Ned Kelly replied that he was outlawed on account of the perjured evidence of Constable Fitzpatrick, who was responsible for his mother being awarded three years in gaol on a charge of which she was entirely innocent, adding, for the information of his listeners, an outline of the persecution to which, he said, he and his family had been subjected by the authorities. It is worthy of note that wherever Ned Kelly explained to the public how his people had been persecuted by the police he made very many friends.
Before bidding farewell, the outlaws gave an exhibition of horsemanship, which entertained and surprised their prisoners, and, after a strict injunction not to leave the station for three hours, the Kellys, with the £2000 they had secured, left Faithful Creek, and making their way across the hilly country, arrived in Greta Ranges long before daylight next morning, December 11, 1878. They came to their “Post Office,” a marked tree stump, and placing upon it a projecting stick, thus indicated to their friends that they had returned from Euroa, and were camped a couple of hundred yards away in the direction towards which the stick pointed. Early on the same morning Mrs. Skillion arrived at the “Post Office,” and taking the direction thus indicated, found the outlaws once more “at home”. The prisoners, at Faithful’s Creek, were so favourably impressed with Ned Kelly and his companions that they remained five hours before attempting to leave the station.
From his temporary sanctuary Ned Kelly, three days later, issued the following letter to a member of the Legislative Assembly (Mr. Cameron):—
Dear Sir, — Take no offence if I take the opportunity of writing a few lines to you wherein I wish to state a few remarks concerning the case of Trooper Fitzpatrick against Mrs. Kelly, W. Skillion and W. Williamson, and to state the facts of the case to you. It seems to me impossible to get any justice without I make a statement to someone that will take notice of it, as it is no use me complaining about anything that the police may choose to say or swear against me, and the public, in their ignorance and blindness, will undoubtedly back them up to their utmost. No doubt, I am now placed in very peculiar circumstances, and you might blame me for it, but if you know how I have been wronged and persecuted you would say I cannot be blamed. In April last an information was (which must have come under your notice) sworn against me for shooting Trooper Fitzpatrick, which was false, and my mother, with an infant baby, and brother-in-law and another neighbour, were taken for aiding and abetting and attempting to murder him, a charge of which they are as truly innocent as the child unborn. During my stay in the King River I run in a wild bull, which I gave to Lydicher, who afterwards sold him to Carr and he killed him for beef. Some time afterwards I was told I was blamed for stealing this bull from Whitty. I asked Whitty on Moyhu racecourse why he blamed me for stealing his bull, and he said he had found the bull and he never blamed me for stealing him. He said it was ——— (the policeman) who told him that I stole the bull. Some time afterward I heard that I was blamed for stealing a mob of calves from Whitty and Farrell, which I never had anything to do with, and along with this and the other talk, I began to think that they wanted something to talk about. Whitty and Burns not being satisfied with all the picked land on King River and Bobby Creek, and the run of their stock on the Certificate ground free, and no one interfering with them, paid heavy rent for all the open ground, so as a poor man could not keep his stock, and impounded every beast they could catch, even off Government roads. If a poor man happened to leave his horse or a bit of poddy calf outside his paddock, it would be impounded. I have known over sixty head of horses to be in one day impounded by Whitty and Burns, all belonging to poor men of the district. They would have to leave their harvest or ploughing and go to Oxley, and then perhaps not have money enough to release them, and have to give a bill of sale or borrow the money, which is no easy matter, and along with all this sort of work, ———, the policeman, stole a horse from George King (my step-father) and had him in Whitty and Jeffrey’s paddock until he left the force, and this was the cause of me and my step-father, George King, stealing Whitty’s horses and selling them to Baumgarten and those other men. The pick of them was sold at Howlong, and the rest was sold to Baumgarten, who was a perfect stranger to me, and, I believe, an honest man. No man had anything to do with the horses but me and George King. William Cooke, who was convicted for Whitty’s horses, had nothing to do with them, nor was he ever in my company at Peterson’s, the German’s, at Howlong. The brand was altered by me and George King, and the horses were sold as straight. Any man requiring horses would have bought them the same as those men, and would have been potted the same, and I consider Whitty ought to do something towards the release of those innocent men, otherwise there will be a collision between me and him, as I can to his satisfaction prove I took J. Welshe’s black mare and the rest of the horses, which I will prove to him in next issue, and after those had been found and the row being over them, I wrote a letter to Mr. S., of Lake Rowan, to advertise my horses for sale, as I was intent to sell out.
I sold them afterwards at Benalla and the rest in New South Wales, and left Victoria, as I wished to see certain parts of the country, and very shortly afterwards there was a warrant for me, and as I since hear, the police sergeants Steele, Straughan and Fitzpatrick, and others, searched the Eleven Mile and every other place in the district for me and a man named Newman, who had escaped from the Wangaratta police for months before April 15, 1878 . . . I heard how the police used to be blowing that they would shoot me first and then cry surrender. How they used to come to the house when there was no one there but women, and Superintendent (Brook) Smith used to say, “See all the men I have out to-day. I will have as many more to-morrow, and blow him into pieces as small as paper that is in our guns,” and they used to repeatedly rush into the house, revolver in hand, and upset milk dishes and empty the flour out on the ground, and break tins of eggs, and throw the meat out of the cask on to the floor, and dirty and destroy all the provisions, which can be proved, and shove the girls in front of them into the rooms like dogs, and abuse and insult them. Detective Ward and Constable Hayes took out their revolvers and threatened to shoot the girls and children whilst Mrs. Skillion was absent, the eldest being with her.
The greatest murderers and ruffians would not be guilty of such an action. This sort of cruelty and disgraceful conduct to my brothers and sisters, who had no protection, coupled with the conviction of my mother and those innocent men, certainly make my blood boil, as I don’t think there is a man living could have the patience to suffer what I did. They were not satisfied with frightening and insulting my sisters night and day, and destroying their provisions, and lagging my mother with an infant baby and those innocent men, but should follow me and my brother, who was innocent of having anything to do with any stolen horses into the wilds, where he had been quietly digging and doing well, neither molesting nor interfering with anyone, and I was not there long, and on October 25 I came on the track of police horses between Table Top and the bogs, and crossed them and went to Emu Swamp, and returning home I came on more police tracks making for our camp. I told my mates, and me and my brother went out next morning and found police camped at the shingle hut, with long firearms, and we came to the conclusion our doom was sealed unless we could take their firearms. As we had nothing but a gun and a rifle if they came on us at our work or camp, we had no chance only to die like dogs. As we thought our country was woven with police, and we might have a chance of fighting them, if we had firearms, as it generally takes forty to one. We approached the spring as close as we could get to the camp, the intervening space being clear. We saw two men at the log. They got up, and one took a double-barrel fowling piece and one drove the horses down and hobbled them against the tent, and we thought there was more men in the tent, those being on sentry. We could have shot these two men without speaking, but not wishing to take life, we waited. McIntyre laid the gun against the stump, and Lonigan sat on the log. I advanced, my brother Dan keeping McIntyre covered.
I called on them to throw up their hands. McIntyre obeyed and never attempted to reach for his gun or revolver. Lonigan ran to a battery of logs and put his head up to take aim at me, when I shot him, or he would have shot me, as I knew well. I asked who was in the tent. McIntyre replied, “No one.” I approached the camp and took possession of their revolvers and fowling piece, which I loaded with bullets (swandrops) instead of shot. I told McIntyre I did not want to shoot him or any other man that would surrender. I explained Fitzpatrick’s falsehood, which no policeman can be ignorant of. He said he knew Fitzpatrick had wronged us, but he could not help it. He said he intended to leave the police force on account of his bad health. His life was insured. The other two men (Joe Byrne and Steve Hart), who had no firearms, came up when they heard the shot fired, and went back to our camp for fear the police might call there in our absence and surprise us on our arrival. My brother went back to the spring, and I stopped at the log with McIntyre. Kennedy and Scanlan came up. McIntyre said he would get them to surrender if I spared their lives as well as his. I said I did not know either him, Scanlan or Kennedy, and had nothing against them, and would not shoot any of them if they gave up their firearms and promised to leave the force, as it was the meanest billet in the world.
They are worse than cold-blooded murderers and hangmen. He said he was sure they would never follow me any more. I gave him my word that I would give them a chance. McIntyre went up to Kennedy, Scanlan being behind with a rifle and revolver. I called on them to throw up their hands. Scanlan slewed his horse round to gallop away, but turned again, and, as quick as thought, fired at me with the rifle, and was in the act of firing again when I shot him. Kennedy alighted on the off side of his horse and got behind a tree and opened hot fire. McIntyre got on Kennedy’s horse and galloped away. I could have shot him if I chose, as he was right against me, but rather than break my word I let him go. My brother advanced from the spring. Kennedy fired at him and ran, and he found neither of us was dead. I followed him. He got behind another tree and fired at me again. I shot him in the armpit as he was behind the tree. He dropped his revolver and ran again, and slewed round, and I fired with the gun again and shot him through the right chest, as I did not know that he had dropped his revolver and was turning to surrender. He could not live, or I would have let him go. Had they been my own brothers I could not help shooting them or else lie down and let them shoot me, which they would have done had their bullets been directed as they intended them. But as for handcuffing Kennedy to a tree, or cutting his car off, or brutally treating any of them, it is a cruel falsehood. If Kennedy’s ear was cut off, it has been done since. I put his cloak over him and left him as honourable as I could, and if they were my own brothers I could not be more sorry for them. With the exception of Lonigan, I did not begrudge him what bit of lead he got, as he was the flashest, meanest man that I had any account against, for him, Fitzpatrick, Sergeant Whelan, Constable Day, and King, the bootmaker, once tried to handcuff me at Benalla, and when they could not Fitzpatrick tried to choke me.
Lonigan caught me by the . . . and would have killed me, but was not able. Mr. McInnes came up, and I allowed him to put the handcuffs on when the police were bested. This cannot be called wilful murder, for I was compelled to shoot them in my own defence, or lie down like a cur and die. Certainly their wives and children are to be pitied, but those men came into the bush with the intention of shooting me down like a dog, and yet they know and acknowledge I have been wronged. And is my mother and her infant baby and my poor little brothers and sisters not to be pitied? More so, who has got no alternative, only to put up with brutal and unmanly conduct of the police, who have never had any relations or a mother, or must have forgot them. I was never convicted of horse-stealing.
I was once arrested by Constable Hall and 14 more men in Greta, and there was a subscription raised for Hall by persons who had too much money about Greta in honour of Hall arresting “Wild” Wright and Gunn. Wright and Gunn were potted, and Hall could not pot me for horse stealing, but with the subscription money he gave £20 to James Murdock, who has recently been hung in Wagga Wagga, and on Murdock’s evidence I was found guilty of receiving, knowing to be stolen, which J. Wright, W. Ambrose, J. Ambrose, T. H. Hatcher, and W. Williamson and others can prove. I was innocent of knowing the mare to be stolen, and I was once accused of taking a hawker by the name of McCormack’s horse to pull another hawker named Ben Gould out of a bog . . . At the time I was taken by Hall and his 14 assistants, therefore I dare not strike any of them, as Hall was a great cur, and as for Dan, he never was tried for assaulting a woman. Mr. Butler (P.M.) sentenced him (Dan) to three months without the option of a fine for wilfully destroying property, a sentence which there is no law to uphold, and yet they had to do their sentence, and their prosecutor, Mr. D. Goodman, since got four years for perjury concerning the same property. The Minister of Justice should inquire into this respecting their sentence, and he will find a wrong jurisdiction given by Butler, P.M., on October 19, 1877, at Benalla, and these are the only charges was ever proved against either of us, therefore we are falsely represented. The reports of bullets having been fired into the bodies of the troopers after death is false, and the coroner should he consulted. I have no intention of asking mercy for myself of any mortal man, or apologising, but wish to give timely warning that if my people do not get justice, and those innocents released from prison, and the police wear their uniform, I shall be forced to seek revenge of everything of the human race for the future. I will not take innocent life, if justice is given, but as the police are afraid or ashamed to wear their uniform, therefore every man’s life is in danger, as I was outlawed without cause, and cannot be no worse, and have but once to die, and if the public do not see justice done I will seek revenge for the name and character which has been given to me and my relations, while God gives me strength to pull a trigger.
The witness which can prove Fitzpatrick’s falsehood can be found by advertising, and if this is not done immediately, horrible disasters shall follow. Fitzpatrick shall be the cause of greater slaughter to the rising generation than St. Patrick was to the snakes and toads of Ireland, for had I robbed, plundered, ravished and murdered everything I met, my character could not be painted blacker than it is at present but, thank God, my conscience is as clear as the snow in Peru, and as I hear a picked (packed) jury, amongst which was a discharged sergeant of police, was empanelled on the trial (of Mrs. Kelly), and David Lindsay, who gave evidence for the Crown, is a shanty keeper, having no licence, and is liable to a heavy fine, and keeps a book of information for the police, and his character needs no comment, for he is capable of rendering Fitzpatrick any assistance he required for conviction, as he could be broke any time Fitzpatrick chose to inform on him, I am really astonished to see Members of the Legislative Assembly led astray by such articles as the police, for while an outlaw reigns their pocket swells: “’Tis double pay and country girls”; by concluding, as I have no more paper unless I rob for it, if I get justice, I will cry a go. For I need no lead or powder to revenge my cause, and if words be louder, I will oppose your laws. With no offence (remember your railroads), and a sweet good-bye from
EDWARD KELLY, a forced outlaw.
This letter was addressed to Mr. Cameron, M.L.A., on December 14, 1878, and its most striking feature is the appeal the outlaws make for a fair deal. He asks nothing for himself, and frankly admits how he got even with Whitty and others by stealing and selling their horses. Another feature of the letter is the charitable outlook of the outlaw in pleading the cause of the “poor man.”
J. J. Kenneally, The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers, Melbourne: J. Roy Stevens, 5th edition, 1946 [first published 1929], pages 95-110
In Ned Kelly’s letter to Mr. Cameron, as reproduced in this chapter, a policeman is referred to in two places, although his name is omitted.
1) “He said it was ——— (the policeman) who told him that I stole the bull.”
2) “along with all this sort of work, ———, the policeman, stole a horse from George King”
In both instances the name missing is “Farrell”.
See: “Edward Kelly gives statement of his murders of Sergeant Kennedy and others and makes other threats” (VPRS 4966 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 3 Record 1 Document: Euroa letter), Public Record Office Victoria, http://prov.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/ned-kelly/the-kelly-story/euroa/edward-kelly-gives-statement-of-his-murders-of-sergeant-kennedy-and-others-and-makes-other-threats
Berry = Sir Graham Berry (1822-1904), Premier of Victoria (for three terms: 1875, 1877-1880, and 1880-1881)
en route = (French) on the way (used when travelling or when on a journey)
mon = (Scottish) man
mum’s the word = a phrase meaning to not tell anybody a secret, to keep a secret, or to keep silent (to “keep mum” is to keep quiet, to say nothing)
P.M. = Police Magistrate
[Editor: Corrected “boy as away” to “boy was away”; “Wonbat Ranges” to “Wombat Ranges”; “closing time,” to “closing time.”; “own brother” to “own brothers”; “laws with” to “laws. With”.]