[Editor: This is a chapter from The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers (5th edition, 1946) by J. J. Kenneally.]
ROBBING THE BANK AT JERILDERIE.
Mrs. Devine prepared breakfast for all hands, and in order to give the outside public the impression that the Devines had gone out for the day the blinds at the police station were drawn down, and everything appeared to be going on as usual. No one missed the police, Devine and Richards. People saw the new relieving police, Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne, and fine types of police they were, too. Dinner was served by Mrs. Devine, and everything in connection with “police protection” at Jerilderie seemed to the outside public to be in “order.” During the afternoon Constable Richards was brought out of the lock-up, and, accompanied by the two new uniformed constables, Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne, patrolled the town. Richards was instructed to introduce Ned and Joe as visiting police to anyone to whom they chanced to speak. Ned took particular notice of the position of the Bank of New South Wales and Cox’s Royal Hotel. The bank and the hotel were under the same roof.
It was fortunate that no one wanted police help that day, but if anything cropped up the four new constables were prepared to attend to it in an effective and intelligent fashion. They were determined to see that order was maintained. Senior-Constable Devine was kept in the lock-up. He was a determined character, and could not be trusted to “go quietly” if he were taken out to patrol the town. He was regarded as a man who would put up a fight and so disturb the peace as to imperil the success of the Kellys’ mission to Jerilderie. For business reasons, therefore, it was considered safer for everybody to keep him in the lock-up.
The Kellys were about early on Monday morning. Joe Byrne, dressed as mounted trooper, took two of the Kellys’ horses to the blacksmith to get their shoes removed and replaced with new shoes. The blacksmith promptly attended to this customer. The police horses were always shod there, and the blacksmith knew that his money was sure. He was struck by the superior type of these two “police” horses, and as he was looking over them took notice of their brands. These horses showed breeding. The horses were shod, and the cost charged to the New South Wales Government, whose police force had boasted what they would do with the Kellys. Joe Byrne took the horses back to the police station. Preparations were now made for the return to Burramine, but before starting they had to see the manager of the Bank of New South Wales. Senior-Constable Devine was still kept in the lock-up. Constable Richards was taken out, and accompanied Ned and Dan Kelly on foot to Mr. Cox’s Royal Hotel shortly after 12 o’clock midday. Joe Byrne and Steve Hart rode on horseback. When they arrived at the hotel Constable Richards informed Mr. Cox by way of formal introduction: “This is Ned Kelly and this is Dan. That is Joe Byrne and the other young man is Steve Hart.”
Ned informed Mr. Cox that he wanted the use of one of the large rooms of the hotel for a little while to have a “meeting.”
The large dining-room was selected, and Cox was told to go in with Richards, the local constable. Everybody about the place was required to attend the “meeting” in the dining-room. The barmaid was told to remain “on duty.” Dan Kelly went out to the backyard, where the servant girl was washing the clothes. She had not been long out from home, and had the company of a young man, who considered he was doing a “mash.” Dan joined them, and, after a few remarks, invited the girl and her admirer to come in and have a drink. “No,” replied this recent arrival from the old land; “I don’t drink with strangers.” “But,” persisted Dan, “your friend here will come with you.” “No, I won’t drink with strangers,” protested the girl. Dan Kelly could now see that his attempt at diplomacy had failed, and said, “Well, you’ll have to come in; I am Dan Kelly; we have this place stuck up, and we must trouble everybody to come into the dining-room.” At the same time Dan produced his revolver. The girl nearly fainted; she wiped her hands with her apron, and, with her admirer, walked into the dining-room, where they joined Mr. Cox and Constable Richards and many others. Dan now took charge of the bar, and talked to the barmaid. Joe Byrne went out the back, and, looking over the fence which divided the bank from the hotel, saw the bank teller, Mr. Living, enter the bank through the back door. Joe vaulted over the fence and followed the teller into the bank. Mr. Living heard someone coming in from the back, and was somewhat incensed with such rudeness, and said in a rather autocratic tone: “You have no right to come in that way; you should come in through the front door.” Joe Byrne presented his credentials by covering Mr. Living with his revolver with a much more autocratic demand: “Bail up! Throw up your hands! We’re the Kellys.” Mr. Living promptly obeyed, and so also did Mr. Mackie, the junior clerk. The shock caused Living to stutter and it has been alleged that he stuttered for the rest of his life. Ned Kelly had already entered the bank by the front door. Ned and Joe collected the firearms and ammunition of the bank and demanded the cash. There was something like £650 in the bank’s drawers, and this was secured by Ned Kelly. Mr. Living put up a splendid defence on behalf of his employers, and tried to bluff Ned Kelly into the belief that that was the total amount the bank held. Messrs. Living and Mackie were taken next door to the hotel. Ned wanted to see the head, and inquired for the manager, Mr. Tarlton, who so far could not be found. Mr. Living was required to come back to the bank and search for the manager. After a little while Mr. Tarlton was discovered in the bathroom. He was requested to dress and come out, as the bank had already been stuck up by the Kellys.
Mr. Tarlton would not credit this statement, but, nevertheless, he hastened out of the bathroom, and was confronted by Ned Kelly holding a revolver levelled at him. Mr. Tarlton produced his key of the safe, and with the other key, secured from the teller, Ned opened the fireproof safe and collected the balance of the bank’s cash, which made the total of £2300. The money was put into a seventy-pound sugar bag, and securely tied up. Ned now thought he would do a good turn for the poor struggling settlers in this district. He secured a package of mortgages held by the bank, and, taking them out the back, burnt them. He was not aware that copies of these documents were held by the Titles Office in Sydney. While Ned was in the bank, the local newspaper proprietor, Mr. Gill, and Mr. Rankin came into the bank, and were called upon to bail up. They did not wait to think, but ran out in great fear. Rankin ran into the hotel, and was secured. Gill ran in a different direction, and hid himself in a creek. Rankin was threatened with the supreme penalty, and in order to show the other prisoners what they escaped by their ready compliance with “orders,” Rankin was stood apart from the others to be shot.
There was a general cry from the crowd not to shoot him, and with somewhat of a show of reluctance, Ned Kelly acceded to their request, and let the trembling Rankin off with a caution.
Ned now inquired who the other fellow was who had got right away. He was told that the runaway was Mr. Gill, who ran the local newspaper. Ned said he was sorry he got away, as he wanted him to publish a written statement which he (Ned Kelly) had prepared. Ned said he would pay Gill for publishing this statement. At this stage someone of the prisoners suggested to Constable Richards that a rush should be made on Steve Hart, who was guarding the prisoners, and overpower him. The constable replied that that would be too risky, as they were also covered by Dan Kelly.
The constable knew that so long as they “went quietly” no one would be hurt. A search was then made for Mr. Gill, so as to place an order for printing Ned Kelly’s reply to police and press libels and misrepresentations. He was accompanied by Mr. Living. They went to Mr. Gill’s home, but he was not there. Mrs. Gill did not know where he was. The bank teller then undertook to see Mr. Gill, and get Ned Kelly’s side of the argument published. Ned said he would pay for it. Ned entrusted Mr. Living with the manuscript, on the promise of the latter to hand it to Mr. Gill. Mr. Living did not carry out his promise, but he handed the document to the police instead, and it was published in a very distorted and mutilated form after Ned Kelly had been executed.
In the meantime Joe Byrne attended at the post office, and compelled Mr. Jefferson, the postmaster, to cut the telegraph wires and also to cut down six or seven telegraph poles. Mr. Jefferson and his assistant were then taken to join the company at Cox’s Hotel. After leaving Mr. Gill’s house Ned and the bank teller called at McDougall’s Hotel. Ned “shouted” for a crowd of about thirty people, and paid for the drinks. He then took McDougall’s race mare out of the stable. McDougall protested that he was a comparatively poor man, and could not afford to lose the mare. Ned’s socialistic principles came to McDougall’s rescue, and the mare was handed back to her owner.
Dan was in the bar of the hotel, when a flash-looking young man, carrying a bowie knife in his belt, entered. He inquired of the barmaid when dinner would be on. The girl nodded towards Dan Kelly. The young man turned and looked at Dan and said, “What have you got to do with it, anyway?” Dan sat on the form, with his revolver in his right hand on his knee. He covered the revolver with his left hand, so that the newcomer did not see it. Dan replied that he had a great deal “to do with it.” The flash man was becoming somewhat argumentative and defiant, when Dan stood up, and covering this insolent fellow with his revolver, said, “You go in there, and don’t have so much to say.” The knife man promptly obeyed, and, as they say in Parliament, the incident closed. Constable Richards was taken back to the lock-up, with the postmaster and his assistant, and lodged in the lock-up. Mrs. Devine was instructed not to let anyone out of the lock-up before 7 p.m. that day, Monday, February 10, 1879.
Ned Kelly made a speech to the prisoners at Cox’s Hotel before leaving. He told them of the way in which he and his family had been persecuted by the police, and how he himself had been sentenced to fifteen years by Judge Barry before he was arrested or charged with the alleged offence. He explained that any of his people who were arrested were treated in a prejudiced manner, and convicted without a trial. When any of them were tried it was really formal, as nothing could alter the verdict given before the case came into the court.
It was arranged by the outlaws that they should divide on their way back from Jerilderie, and meet on the bank of the Murray at the crossing place opposite Bourke’s public-house, near Burramine.
Ned and Joe Byrne gave a splendid exhibition of horsemanship over stiff fences, and, then, waving a farewell to the crowd, left Jerilderie some time before Dan and Steve Hart. The latter got into some disgrace in the eyes of the other members of the gang by taking a watch from the local parson. Ned was angry with Steve, and ordered him to return the watch to the Rev. Mr. Gribble, from whom it had been taken. Dan and Steve rode about the streets before leaving, and threatened the prisoners with pains and penalties if they left the hotel before the time stated. The prisoners were told not to move for three hours. Dan and Steve left at 4 p.m. The lock-up was to be opened at 7 p.m.
The town was excited after the Kellys had left, and the wildest stories and rumours were in circulation. It was alleged that several of the Kellys’ friends from Greta were in Jerilderie. Every strange face was supposed to be one of the Kellys’ friends from Greta. From whispered conversations it would appear that Greta had migrated to Jerilderie. With this belief the townspeople were as circumspect in their words and actions, in reference to the Kellys, after the latter had departed as when the gang were in supreme command of the affairs of that town.
In addition to the £2300 taken from the bank, the Kellys also took the two police horses, revolvers and ammunition. These horses had been bred by Mr. John Evans, of Red Camp, near Moyhu, Victoria, and carried the breeder’s well-known brand. Mr. Evans lost these horses some time previously. Of course, the New South Wales police department were not accused of stealing them. The Kellys brought the horses back to Greta, and turned them out at the head of the King River.
Some months later a cousin of the Kellys found one of the horses and identified John Evans’ brand. The horses also carried the New South Wales Government brand, but the brand was on the neck under the mane, and was not easily seen. The Kellys’ cousin returned the horse to the breeder.
The feelings of Senior-Constable Devine were so grievously wounded by the indignity of being locked up in his own prison cell at Jerilderie that he disliked to hear any reference to the Kelly Gang and their visit to Jerilderie. He afterwards went to West Australia, and obtained the position of racecourse detective. He remained in this position up to his death in 1927.
He was a spirited man, and was generally regarded as a man who would rather fight then run. It was because the Kellys recognised his courage that they did not take him out of the cell to parade the town. On the other hand, Constable Richards was much more docile, and would “go quietly” rather than take risks.
THE WELCOME HOME.
The gang met, as arranged, on the banks of the Murray, where they had left the publican’s boat in the early hours of the previous Saturday morning.
To their dismay, the boat was gone. They were unable to get across without a boat, and were forced to camp in a bend of the Murray all day Tuesday, February 11. They had six horses and the custody of £2300, and, therefore, they had to be careful. Joe Byrne strolled up the river, and discovered the boat used by the Boomanoomanah Station.
This boat was booked for their use, but it was not safe to commandeer it until after dark. Joe returned and reported his discovery. It was arranged that, after nightfall, Joe would go up for the boat and bring it down to their camp. The outlaws were anxious not to disturb or terrify the police, who were watching the crossings over the Murray.
During the day (Tuesday) Ned Kelly took a walk down the river,. He met a hawker who had camped there, some distance from the outlaws’ resting place. Ned entered into conversation with him, and, as is the usual custom among country people, inquired if there was any news. The hawker instinctively took Ned to be a constable, and talked freely, especially about the Kellys, and replied, “Yes, the Kellys have been to Jerilderie, and robbed the bank, and terrified the people by threatening to shoot them.” He said that he knew the Kellys well, and knew how they could be caught. He would go into their camp, he said, with two bottles of whisky, one bottle containing poison, and the other — the one the hawker would use — would be all right. Ned said that was a very good idea, but he, himself, could not give him permission to use the poisoned whisky. It would be necessary for him to get that from the sergeant at Mulwala. The hawker then went on to denounce the Kellys as a bad lot, and even said that their womenfolk were no good, either. Ned’s blood was now boiling, yet he tried to restrain himself. He thought of putting a bullet through the head of this traducer of his family, and then asked him if he were married. The latter said, “Yes,” but that he had lost his wife over a year ago. He had, he said, six children; the eldest was a girl, 14 years old. “A little mother,” Ned thought as he decided that he could not deal with this slanderer in the drastic way that at first occurred to him.
At first Ned represented himself as a plain-clothes policeman, but now he decided to make known his identity. The hawker stated that he regularly visited Glenrowan, and bought cheese from a well-known dairyman in that district. He therefore enjoined Ned not to mention a word that he (the hawker) had said about the Kellys, because if the Kellys knew what he had said about them they would follow him up and murder him. Ned now told the hawker that he was “Ned Kelly,” and that at first impulse he had intended to put a bullet through his head for slandering him and his people.
The hawker was visibly affected on account of the seriousness of the position in which he found himself, and begged for mercy. Ned said it was because of his little children, with that “little mother,” that he had decided to let him go. He would not do anything that would make their lot harder than it was then.
Ned cautioned the hawker not to say a word to anyone that he had seen him there, and never again to speak disrespectfully of his family.
The hawker felt thankful to escape. The thought uppermost in his mind was that Ned Kelly was not such a bad fellow after all. Ned returned to his camp, and related the above news to his mates. After tea Joe Byrne went up the river for the station boat.
The Kellys got the six horses and themselves safely across the Murray, while the police of New South Wales and Victoria watched the public highways and bridges to intercept them. Before daylight on Wednesday morning, 12/2/1879, they arrived at Greta.
It is not possible to actually describe the heartiness of the welcome that greeted the Kellys at Greta. Their friends were illegally imprisoned without charge or trial, and some, who were not even known to the gang, were also illegally imprisoned as sympathisers. The satisfaction felt at the coup at Jerilderie and their safe return home was general among their friends and admirers throughout the North-Eastern district of Victoria.
The imprisonment of sympathisers did not prevent the successful operation of the Jerilderie bank by the Kellys, and the police were now more than ever subjected by the public generally to ridicule and contempt. The money was required to help the sympathisers and friends when they were attacked by the Government through the police. The gang went out to the hills for a few days’ rest after their trip. Then they prepared for their accommodation at the old home, where, in spite of the army of police on “double pay,” they rested in peace for over twelve months.
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 136-148
[Editor: Corrected “stuck up.” to “stuck up,”; “go in there.” to “go in there,”; “greviously” to “grievously”.]