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Around the dinner table Ned describes the Stringybark Creek fight and his past life of persecution by police for things he did and things he did not do and the incarceration of his mother. He denies murdering the police stating it was a fair stand up fight with his enemies who were out to kill him first. All the time Joe Byrne is writing this down as a letter to be given to Superintendent Sadlier with a warning that he will continue his war against the police until his mother and her baby are released from prison.

At the western end of what is generally described as Kelly country lies a neat little town called Euroa on the main road and railway to Sydney. It has a police station manned by a single mounted policeman, a couple of pubs, a railway station and a bank. It has a population of about 300 and is about 100 miles from Melbourne.

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Euroa Bank

The Kellys are not that well known in the town but are very familiar with the bush of the Strathbogie Ranges that sit just above and where the gang is holed up. Joe Byrne goes into town on a fact finding mission. He learns that the policeman is not overly diligent and that most of the town will be at a funeral the next Tuesday afternoon.

He studies the location of the bank. The next day he visits the homestead of Faithfull Creek station, one of the richest conglomerate runs in Victoria. He asks to see the manager but is told he is away. He goes outside and signals the rest of the gang who are watching from the nearby bush. The homestead housekeeper, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is preparing food. Ned barges in and politely asks her for a meal and feed for their horses. She calls her husband. Ned tells them who they are. The station groom attends to the horses. The rest of the station hands arrive for lunch. At gunpoint Ned bails them up and locks them all in a store room. The manager returns, Ned introduces himself and tells him all they want is food and rest and he is allowed to remain free. A hawker arrives in the evening and he too is imprisoned in the store. There are now 14 men locked in the store room.

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Dan Kelly is left to watch over the captives and the homestead while the other three take to the telegraph lines along the railway with axes and wire cutters to destroy it and prevent any quick repairs. Four fettlers come on the scene and are too taken captive and imprisoned. Leaving Joe Byrne to keep guard over the prisoners the rest of the gang proceed into Euroa to meet up with Benjamin Gould, an ex-convict friend of Ned’s who has been in town for a week studying the daily routine of the town. It is after 3 o’clock closing time at the bank. Ned knocks on the door asking if they can cash a cheque for the Faithfull Creek station. The clerk reluctantly opens the door, bursts in and bails up the bank manager. They force him to open the safe and get away with 2,260 pounds. To affect the getaway and avoid any alarm being raised, Ned persuades the bank manager and his wife to drive them in their buggy to where he wants to go. The wife takes a bit of convincing that Ned is who he claims to be because he us such a gentleman.

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The gang returns to the homestead. The 37 prisoners are released and they all sit down to dinner. Ned gives Mrs. Fitzgerald a bag of coins in payment for her trouble in feeding them. At 8.30pm the gang saddles up and departs. At the same time Nicholson and Sadlier are on a train to Albury following a tip that the Kellys are aiming to cross the Murray which is in the opposite direction. By midnight the word has got to them about the Euro hold-up. Next morning a team of police with blacktrackers descend on Euroa to follow them up but there are so many tracks around the homestead that the blacktrackers cannot pick up a track. They are not helped by the fact that the 37 captives ended up as Kelly sympathisers because of his gentlemanly and benign behaviour to them when they were captives. Nothing like the uncouth ruffian he had been reported to be.

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Superintendent Hare is out in charge of the Euroa hold-up and is ordered to depart immediately. So many reports of sightings of the gang come from so far afield that the police cannot cope with the information. Hare recruits another 58 hand picked men from police stations all over the state and by the end of December 217 police and 70 soldiers from the state Garrison Corps are stationed in the north east just to hunt down the Kelly gang. The job of the soldiers is to defend all the banks in the area. Captain Standish remains secreted in his office in Benalla not wanting to involve himself in the rough and tumble of the chase. He laments that if Const. Fitzpatrick had told the truth about his gunshot wound and if Ned’s mother and her baby had not been dealt with so harshly, none of this would have happened.

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Troopers in pursuit of The Kelly Gang

After no real sightings of the gang for three weeks after the Euroa hold up, Standish issues an order for a list to be made up of all known or suspected Kelly sympathisers. They are all rounded up and arrested in the following weeks charged under the Felons Apprehension Act. None of these people have done anything wrong but nevertheless they are shipped off to Beechworth Prison handcuffed together. There is public outrage at this treatment of innocent men and the hardship inflicted on their families for no reason. Widespread sympathy for the Kellys grows as a result. No progress is made in locating the gang and reports of sightings from very far afield continue to come in. Police in NSW are also on the alert and reports of sightings come from as far away as Goulburn.

 

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At Beechworth the police prosecutor seeks to continue the remand of the prisoners without producing any evidence simply because the magistrate sides with the police action due to the extreme circumstances but on 22nd January, 1879 he appears again and Standish still has no evidence for him to support the charges. He withdraws from the case and immediately switches sides and appears as counsel for the accused. Hare is assigned to replace him. Endless, fruitless searching goes on. One of Standish’s staff tell him they will never succeed using current methods because the police have no bush skills. They only stick to main roads. Ned Kelly is the toughest, smartest and bravest bushman in the entire colony and without knowledge of the bush no police will ever catch him. They have to change tactics.

Up in Jerilderie, the Jerilderie Gazette,on 11th January, publishes an article complaining that their sole policeman is away looking for the Kelly gang leaving their town unprotected.

Sure enough, on 8th February two men appear at the bar of the Woolpack Inn, two miles out of town, having come from the direction of the Lachlan River.

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Woolpack Inn 1843 - 1887

They strike up a conversation with the barmaid/owner. The topic of the Kelly gang comes up and she tells them that they are widely admired by the populace in the district as very brave men. They also get information about the current state of police presence in the town then finish their drinks and head off south. Just down the road they meet up with Dan and Steve. The two are Ned and Joe Byrne.

There are two police on duty that night. They sleep in the police barracks about a quarter of a mile out of town. Just after midnight there is an urgent knocking on the door. A big black bearded man reports that there is a severe disturbance at the Woolpack Inn, several badly drunken men are playing havoc and the police are needed immediately. The man says “Are there only two of you?” The police confirm tat they are the only ones. The man draws his pistol and announces “Throw up your hands. I am Ned Kelly.” The police are locked up in their own cells and the wife of one of them proceeds to cook them a meal while Dan attends to feeding their horses. They retire for the night and at dawn the wife again prepares breakfast for all. It is Sunday and the wife, Mrs. Devine, says she must go to church because her absence will create suspicion. Every Sunday she arranges the flowers on the altar because on weekdays the place is used as the Court House. Ned agrees and Dan dons a police uniform to escort her to the church. She does her tasks and they return to the police station. In the afternoon Joe Byrne and Steve Hart take the more docile of the two constables on a tour of the town and study the Bank of NSW and the telegraph office.

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Over the time that the gang have been at the police station, Ned and Joe have been writing a 56 page letter setting out his side of the story against the police. This letter will become known as The Jerilderie Letter and he wants Samuel Gill, editor of the Jerilderie Gazette to publish it.

Early Monday morning Dan and Joe, dressed in police uniforms, take their horses to the blacksmith to be shod. They return to the police station around 11.00am and the four of them, plus Const. Richards, go to the Royal Mail Hotel, next to the bank. Ned tells the hotel owner, Cox, that he wants a room and for him to put everybody who comes into the hotel into this room and lock them up. At the same time Dan and Steve round up the rest of the hotel staff, take them into the parlour and keep guard over about 30 prisoners. Joe Byrne enters the bank via the back door and rounds up two staff who he takes into the hotel to be with the others. They then try to find the bank manager and after some difficulty do find him in the back room of the bank having a bath. Just as the manager is about to hand over his keys a customer comes to make a deposit. It is William Elliott, the schoolmaster, with the previous day’s church collection.

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Bank NSW Jerilderie

What occurs next is described in the first episode of my story on John Monash. Before the gang departs Ned burns all the contents of the deed box and the ban’s books in his belief that banks are an enemy of the common man and he wants to relieve these people of the burden of being beholden to the bank.

Samuel Gill, a newspaper man always on the lookout for news, heartened by the four new troopers in town thinks that his earlier editorial may have borne fruit. He goes to the police station and finds the real police locked in the cell. Mrs. Devine quickly tell him the story and he rushes back into town. On realising what has happened he starts to run to the next town where there might be a working telegraph. Realising that Gill is the one man he needs to publish his 56 page letter, Ned searches for him without success. He goes to Gill’s house and speaks to his wife telling her he wants the letter printed and published. Nothing more. Mrs. Gill cannot do it so Ned leaves the letter with the bank clerk with instructions to get Gill to print and publish it. The gang then go to the post office, check the outgoing cables from that morning, smash the Morse key beyond repair, cut down eight telegraph poles and cut the wires into little bits. They ride off cutting down more telegraph poles as they go. Their haul is over 2,000 pounds but Ned has not been able to get his letter printed or published.

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Jerilderie Post Office

Living, the bank clerk, and his manager took the letter to Melbourne and delivered it to the head off ice of the Bank of NSW who then passed it to the Chief Secretary of Victoria, Cameron. Cameron loaned it to the police for use in Ned’s trial. They copied it and that copy remains in the Public Records Office. The original was returned to Living and it remained in private hands until 2000 when it was donated to the State Library of Victoria where it remains today.

As the gang with their two packhorses ride south a deluge swamps them and the surrounding country. This is a happy event because the heavy rain will obliterate their tracks and foil the use of blacktrackers. They eventually reach the Murray River and ford it just before dawn. After the telegraph lines are repaired the word gets to Superintendent Hare that the bank at Jerilderie has been held up by the Kelly gang. He orders all river crossing stations to be on the alert but nobody sees a thing.

The police in both states are furious with the people of Jerilderie. It is inconceivable that four men could capture and hold up an entire town without a finger being raised to oppose them but the same thing happened at Euroa. The courteous behaviour, of Ned in particular, and the burning of the bank documents gained the outlaws a lot of sympathetic support. No shots were fired in anger and nobody was hurt. Added to that, the newspapers were derisive of the failures of the Victoria police in particular. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser which circulated throughout north eastern Victoria was scathing in its editorials.

Next time, as Politicians and Victorian Police become increasingly frustrated, Ned Kelly faces his Last Stand. 

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Further Readng:

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1340-ned-kelly-part-one-the-beginning-of-the-legend

https://patriotrealm.com/index.php/1246-sir-john-monash-the-early-years

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