After returning from the Euroa bank robbery, the first thing was to pay out some of the proceeds of the Euroa trip. The farmer who found the four young men in his crop, and who was willing to sacrifice his crop rather than expose the Kellys to the risk of being discovered, was not forgotten. He received a very practical mark of the outlaws’ appreciated of his friendship. They moved about freely in the hills, and frequently visited their home. While in the ranges they indulged in rifle and revolver practice tosuch an extent that all of the four mates were first-class marksmen with any kind of firearm.
They saw, however, that twenty of their friends had been arrested and unlawfully kept in gaol without even a shadow of a prima facie case against them. But under war conditions ordinary laws were usually scrapped. The Kellys declared that the authorities were outlaws, and the latter returned the compliment.
Some of the men arrested as sympathisers were not known to the Kellys, but evidently they had been watching the police. These men had been deprived of the rights of an ordinary cat. It is said that a cat may look at a king, but evidently that privilege was not to be enjoyed by free men in a so-called free country. The friends of the Kellys may not look at the police.
When the twenty-odd men were arrested and imprisoned in Beechworth gaol, the methods pursued by the police fell in for more and more public condemnation. Even those who had no time for the Kellys expressed themselves as being thoroughly disgusted with the methods of the police. Of these sympathisers some were not on friendly terms with others who were arrested, and the police canvassed the prisoners every day for news of the whereabouts of the Kellys. After being in prison for six weeks the police visited one of the most active and open of the sympathisers, and requested him to tell them (the police) where the kellys were then hiding.
The prisoner replied: “I’ve been in this cell for the past six weeks, and I can give you my positive assurance that the kellys are not here, and have not been here during the past six weeks.”
The police were convinced. They knew by the prisoner’s manner and earnestness that he has telling the truth; they therefore ceased to make further inquiries from the prisoners, and shortly afterwards the sympathisers were liberated.
The sympathisers were not a happy family. On one occasion “Wild” Wright and John McIllroy had a fight. Wright was leading on points, although his opponent was putting up a great fight, and when the former was about to deliver a deadly uppercut, his hand was seized by one of the other sympathisers, who, while holding the “Wild” man’s hand, struck him a very heavy blow on the jaw and laid him out, and the result was declared a draw.
It was the rule of the prison authorities to let the prisoners out in the big yard to wash and exercise. There was only one washing basin provided for all the sympathisers. The prisoners were let out in turn. Frank Harty was first out, then followed Ben Gould, with “Wild” Wright close on the latter’s heels. Harty had just started to wash, while Ben Gould was getting ready. “Wild” Wright was a young man, 6ft 1in in height and weighing thirteen and a half stone without any spare flesh, and possessed a thorough knowledge of the “noble art.” Wright made it a practice to walk up to the washing basin, and, laying one hand on Harty’s shoulder and the other on Ben Gould’s, pushed them aside, saying, “Men first, dogs come last.” This offensive treatment rankled, and both Harty and Gould decided to resent this insult in a practical fashion. They interviewed some of the leaders of the sympathisers with the request that they should not interfere when the two outraged prisoners turned on “Wild” Wright.
It was all arranged, and next day as Harty came out, followed by Ben Gould, they both got ready, stripping ostensibly to wash, but in reality to fight. “Wild” Wright, as before, pushed them aside with the usual remark, “Men first, dogs last.” The other two flew at him. The suddenness of the attacked surprised Wright, who first made a hit at one and found the other attacking him from behind. He would then turn to the one behind him, then the other would deal Wright a blow from the rear. At last Wright got a heavy blow home on Harty and laid him out for a few seconds. He then caught Ben Gould by the right shoulder with his left hand, and dealt the latter a heavy blow on the ribs, knocking him yards away. In yielding to the force of “Wild” Wright’s terrific blow Ben Gould left his shirt in the “wild” fellows hand. Ben sustained a fracture of three ribs and was therefore out of action. Wright then turned to Harty, who, nothing dismayed, was making a vigorous rear attack. The situation looked ugly for Harty, but the others then interfered and called time, just as the warders rushed on the scene. “Wild” Wright was afterwards placed in a separate division from the rest of the sympathisers.
As public opinion was getting more and more pronounced at the illegal and unlawful treatment that law-abiding citizens had been subjected to by the police, on April 22, 1879, all the remaining sympathisers were released from Beechworth Gaol without money, and without any compensation, or means of returning home except to walk and beg their way. Some of these men had to go 25, 30, and even 50 miles. Their prison experience made them extremely bitter against the police and very determined to help the Kellys more than ever.
This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. 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. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view