The Royal Commission evidence for 29/3/1881
(see also introduction to day 4)
Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.
1094 How are you able to say that?- Because I was quite conversant with all the working, with the exception of two or three times Captain Standish withheld knowledge.
1095 To your knowledge?- Of course I am speaking of myself.
1096 Were you with the parties?- Only on two occasions. I used to hear him say when he came back, "I will go out in the mountains in a couple of days' time," and so on. Mr Hare went upon the chance of dropping across the outlaws. I may remark that this, I say, was his usual plan-of course once or twice he got information. The man, Aaron Sherritt, was employed by Mr Hare, and Mr Hare firmly believed in him. On one occasion a letter was written and sent to Aaron Sherritt from Joe Byrne, asking him to, meet the writer at Whorouly races to ride his (Joe Byrne's) horse. It told Aaron where to meet the writer. Mr Hare and several men went to the races, but Captain Standish would not allow myself and party to go. Mr Hare returned, stating that Aaron Sherritt said he could not meet the outlaws. I cannot give the date of that occurrence. On another occasion, of which I cannot give the date either, Captain Standish received a note about eight p.m. from a man, stating that without doubt the four outlaws were in a certain hut, which he described, and informing the Chief Commissioner he could easily capture them by sending out a party. Captain Standish sent out Mr Hare and a large party of men, as near as I can remember, consisting of eleven.
1097 Can you say in which direction they went to identify it?- No; I have forgotten that. Captain Standish admitted the letter the other day in his evidence.
1098 Was it after the Whorouly races?- After this he admitted remembering getting the note while he was dining at O'Leary's.
1099 Is that the date?- Yes. After Mr Hare had proceeded some distance on his journey, the party met a man whom Constable Falkner and another constable of the party recognized; this man rode away. Mr Hare and party surrounded the hut in due time, and the door was opened by the same man as the party had met on the road, but there was no sign of the outlaws. It was upon this occasion that the Chief Commissioner would not let me go out; and when I explained his folly in refusing his permission, be he replied "I will endeavor to get the Kellys without your assistance;" and by sending this party out I considered it was conclusive evidence of his trying to do without our assistance. In Captain Standish's evidence he says the Queensland police had such a train of men and baggage horses, and that we would be so s1ow. Now Captain Standish would not let us go out without six or seven Victorian police; and as to our slowness, that is not correct, as Mr Hare will remember that, upon one occasion, he and his constables could not get up to one of the trackers, who at the time was following some horse tracks, before the tracker had gone a distance of four miles. This was on account of the great pace the boy was going.
I100 Was he on horseback?- Yes. Mr Hare told this, not only to me but to Captain Standish and Mr Sadleir; and I may mention that the trooper that Mr Hare had then was not a man that I relied on, as I only got him in Victoria, from Coranderrk, after the death of Corporal Sambo, had he had no experience in tracking
1l01 Was this a Victorian tracker or was he a Queensland man?- I believe he was originally from Queensland, but he had been at Coranderrk since he was a youngster.
1102 What was the special duty of the black trackers in Queensland-the same as here?- Just the same as white police in one branch, as we have a large district of blacks to deal with; on the other hand, to arrest bushrangers, horse stealers, and cattle stealers, travelling sometimes sixty and seventy miles a day. I have done it myself in arresting a horse stealer, going at the rate of forty miles u a day, and arrested him successfully. You can read in the papers about our going thirty and forty miles a day in tracking.
1103 The other charge was as to baggage and that kind of thing. Is it a fact that the black trackers require a lot of baggage, or do they go with the least possible thing they can go with?- With nothing at all in Queensland. They strip there and go with only their cap and ammunition and rifles; but it must be borne in mind that those boys and men came over from a tropical climate. I lost one from congestion of the lungs, and I only wanted sufficient covering for them at night. If we had been on actual information we could have gone without a pack-horse or anything-when the good information came in we could have done it. The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to to-morrow at Eleven o'clock
[See report of Proceedings 29/3/81] ..
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