6 Queensland trackers, a Constable and I had come down to Sydney by ship. We then travelled from Sydney to Albury by train. At 7 pm on 6/3/1879. The names of my men were-Senior-Constable King, Corporal Sambo, Troopers Hero, Johnny, Jimmy, Barney, and Jack. We arrived at Benalla at 2pm on 10/3/1879.(Argus10/3/79) (Argus11/3/79) (Agrus14/3/79) (Agrus19/3/79) (RC1073) (RC11877) (JJK)
I was paid by Victoria. I recieved £360 a year, and travelling expenses. (RC9828)
We went out on our first patrol from Benalla on 11/3/1879 and returned on 18/3/1879. It was a major event. The search party consisted of all the trackers and a number of Victorian police with pack horses. We could have been heard for miles. We did not get on the trail of the KellyGang. see also (RC16138)
Whorouly Race meeting 3/1879
This is part of what I had to say to the Royal Commission about this matter, " 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." (RC1096)
Com Standish questioned the way I worked, "Now, O'Connor, what is the way you work?" I said, "Well, sir, I would like to take two white men, Victorian constables; I would like them for watches at night. I can trust everything to my boys with that one exception, and they are no good for that." "Why," he said, "you take two men, you do not know what kind of men those outlaws are. If you leave your horses anywhere, they will turn round and hamstring or shoot your horses. You must not think of such a thing. I would not allow it. You must take not less than six or seven men." (RC11791)
On 16/4/1879 I took out my second search party. We went up the King River, and on the fifth day out, namely, the 21st April, arrived at De Gamaro station. - informed us of his having found on the run, near the Black range, a horse, answering the description of one of the horses ridden away from Jerilderie by one of the outlaws.(RC1081). The search party returen to Benalla on 23/4/1879. (RC1086)
In late May 1879 I became very upset with Com Standish when he would not tell me about the good information that the KellyGang were seen near Cleary's. Sup Hare took a search party there.(RC1285) (RC300) (JJK)
Com Standish would not let me go out; and when I explained his folly in refusing his permission, he replied "I will endeavor to get the KellyGang without your assistance;" and by sending this party out I considered it was conclusive evidence of his trying to do without our assistance. (RC1099)
After Det Ward reported that Mrs Sherritt Snr had had a meeting with Joe Byrne. I went up and saw her on about 29 May 1880 with AssCom Nicolson and Sup Sadier (RC71)
Nicolson decided not to follow up with the trackers for fear that the KellyGang would find out who the police informer was (RC1110)
I sent a note of mine to Mr Seymour the Commissioner in Queensland and stated my concerns about the way one of my boys had been taken from me. I also considered that Standish was simply making a catspaw of us-would keep us until he got the other men over, and then give us the kick-out.
On 14/6/1880 Mr Seymour sent a telegram "You will receive instructions from Captain Standish, who has been requested to send you back as soon as convenient. The leave you ask cannot be granted, you must accompany boys" (RC11461) After this there was futher correspondence with the Queensland Commissioner of police.
On 24/6/1880 I got from Captain Standish through Mr. Hare the order from the Queensland government to leave (RC11474)
On 25/6/1880 I left Benalla with my Queensland trackers for Melbourne on our way home. (RC11474)
Glenrowan Siege 28/6/1880
I was at the home of my father in law, Mr John Thomas Smith
at Essendon with my trackers
on the afternoon of 27/6/1880.
We were getting ready to board the ship to return to Queensland when I received
a message from Com Standish to inform
us of Aaron Sherritt's death. After
all that had happened he also requested us to return to the hunt. I met Standish
at the Melbourne Club to discuss
this matter and then went back to Essendon to get ready to board the train.
see also (Age29/6/1880)
Com Standish asked for me because Sup Hare sent word for him, and I submitted the matter to Mr. Ramsay, the Chief Secretary. (RC16253)
Standish had a different view about the carriage for my wife. (RC15780)
We caught the train at 10.15pm (Argus 29/6/1880)
Special train leaves Melbourne to go to Beechworth - follow up on death of Aaron Sherritt
Train arrives at Benalla
Arrive at Glenrowan
I arrived by train at Glenrowan at about 2.30 am with my wife Mrs O'Connor, my sister in law Miss Webb and my trackers.
Begining of the siege
Sup Hare was wounded in the opening of the battle with the KellyGang at Jones Inn.
"Come on, O'Connor, the beggars have shot me-bring your boys with you; surround the house." (RC8094) (RC11342) (JJK)
SConst Kelly and I took charge. I put my trackers and myself in a drain infront of the Inn, and we kept pelting away at the KellyGang all the morning. The trackers also stood the baptism of fire with fortitude, never flinching for one instant. (Argus 29/6/80) see also (RC6648) (RC10305)
My posion was described as being in front of Jones's Inn, up above the bridge in the drain. (RC11348)
The press reported that the ladies behaved with admirable courage, never betraying a symptom of fear, although bullets were whizzing about the station and striking the building and train.
Const Phillips thought the drain was a safe place but he did not think I could shoot anybody that came out of the house. He thought that I should have challenged Neil McHugh. (RC11351)
Arrival fo police from Wangaratta and Benalla
I saw Sup Sadleir when he arrived at the platform (RC9407)
Capture of Ned Kelly
.Mrs O'Connor given brandy (McPhee).
Burning of Jones's Inn
I was about 50 yards from the Inn on the norther side when the Inn was set on fire. I was standing with my back against a tree, with my back towards the building, and I may have been reading the Argus newspaper, and Mr. Sadleir was standing in front of me, the tree sheltered the both of us. (RC7200)
Sadlier reported favorably on my conduct and that of my men in his official report to the Victorian Commissioner of Police. (RC2880) See my statement (Argus20/7/80) (Argus20/7/80) (Argus30/6/80)
When I arrived in Brisbane, after the Glenrowan affair, I was met by a constable who handed me a letter, which was a formal communication, calling upon me to explain my conduct at Glenrowan; that I had never been mentioned in the press, and that the officers had never mentioned my name, and therefore calling upon me to explain exactly what had happened. I considered this letter was damaging, and I wrote an account of Glenrowan there and then, and I sent in my resignation at the same time.
Next morning, I called upon the Commissioner, and he said, "O'Connor, I am very sorry you have taken that step, you are riding the high horse, we never meant it like that. The Chief Secretary wished to find out from you the real facts of the case, in your opinion, of Glenrowan, and he caused me to write that letter. I request you will withdraw your resignation." After a little conversation I withdrew it, and wrote another report about Glenrowan, just dealing with my own self, and I think it was the next day the Governor sent for me, and the Chief Secretary and the Governor both had a long talk with me about the whole thing. (RC11518) See also (Argus30/6/80)
See my letter of 7/9/1880 and Com Standish. (RC11466)
Following the meetings of the Reward Board in December 1880 I recieved a reward of about £237
On 7/9/1880 I informed the authorities of my side of the story. I was surpprised that Sup Hare and the rest of them could tel sucj lies. (RCAppendix2)
A job with the Victoria police in charge of the trackers
On 4/5/1881 I informed the Royal Commission that I have been offered an appointment in the North-Eastern district, and the Government are anxious I should go to work as soon as possible, and I wish to ask if you can dispense with my presence for the future till I come down to cross-examine a few witnesses. I wish too that the secretary could notify me of that. See also (RC4206) See again (Argus18/5/81) (Argus19/5/81)
The Royal Commission replied (RC3757)
It was stated by Mr. Chomley, or rather Mr. Sadleir, that it would be very unpopular amongst the general body in the district if I was appointed to look after the trackers (RC11042)
Eventually Insp Montfort set out his views against my appointment. I could not work with people like this. (RC11058)
At the Royal Commission
I gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the following dates, 29/3/1881 (RC1066), 30/3/1881(RC1104), 31/3/1881(RC1235), 14/6/1881(RC11432), 15/6/1881(RC11541), 15/6/1881(RC11764), 16/6/1881(RC11980)
I had to continually defend the usefulness of my trackers during the time of the KellyGang. After that time I continued to seek to convince me of the importance of their role. I wrote to Standish on this subject on 7/9/1880. He disregarded my views and said my letter was full of misrepresentations.(RC47)
Correspondence between the Queensland and Victorian Governments about my appointment were tabled at the Royal Commission. (Argus30/6/81)
Com Standish referred to my letter in which I said I had been treated in an ungentlemanly, ungenerous, and discourteous manner by him throughout the whole sixteen months I was under his command. He said he gave that the lie direct, and further that he found out things that made him keep out of my company. My response is that Captain Standish's knowledge of my private character is very limited, and all I can say is that if he has so low an estimate of my character I care very little about it, considering the character of the man who judges. He said I was not a fit and proper person; I say that of him.(RC322) See (RC11770)
The reason why Com Standish took this view was that he understood that I had told several people that I was engaged to be married to a certain lady while all along I had been married. This happened on the anniversary of your birthday, the 10th of February.(RC324)
I recieved from Sup Sadleir a number of very positive statements about my service with the Victoria police. (RC11866)
Some saw that my trackers would only take orders from me. They said thay if any other person told one of my trackers to do this, that, or the other, or gave him any instructions at all, he would say, "Oh, I am not going to attend to you, you are not the boss." (RC11018)
I did not want any redress at all from the Royal Commission. I only wanted it to be plainly seen by the public and everybody else that Captain Standish, from the time he refused me to go out to the hut business, treated me, officially, most discourteously, up to the time of the Glenrowan business. (RC11515)
Findings of the Royal Commission
The Royal Commission stated at one stage while examining me,"We find that each officer has quarrelled with every other officer, and they have all indicated that they have quarrelled; and it is the intention of the Commission, I think, to get to the very bottom of that quarrel, so far as it affects public business." (RC11770)
On 10/5/1881 the Royal Commission's terms of reference were widened to see if I should be appointed to the Victoria police (RC2ndReport)
On 6 July 1881 the Royal Commission issued its First Report. Thay found that I should not be appointed to a position in the Victoria Police. (RCApp20)
My role with the Victoria police was never made clear. This is what the Rouyal Commission had to say about this problem;
". Mr. O'Connor's instructions were that he was to obey the orders of Captain Standish, and co-operate with the members of the Victorian or New South Wales police, with whom he might be required to serve, while at the same time he was to communicate as opportunity arose with the Commissioner of Police in Brisbane. In fact, however Inspector O'Connor may have been regarded, he never held the position of an officer in the Victorian police. He stood in the relation of a volunteer, subject to the regulations and discipline of the force for the time being, simply holding the rank of an officer in a foreign service, his commission being recognised as a matter of courtesy by those with whom he was co-operating. In Mr. Seymour's memo., Inspector O'Connor was expressly informed that "he merely went as an assistant and that the conduct of affairs was entirely in the hands of Captain Standish and his officers; and that, in obeying orders, he freed himself from responsibility for anything beyond his own acts." Mr. O'Connor was not appointed to any particular position in the Victorian police; he was sworn in and remained exclusively in charge of the Queensland trackers. The arrangement was anomalous, and much of the difficulty and misunderstanding that afterwards arose might have been avoided had Mr. O'Connor been gazetted an officer in the Victorian police." (RC2ndReportXI)
I responded to the Royal Commission's report (Argus23/12/81)
I had been in the Queensland police for about 8 years. I joined as a sub-inspector of the native police of Queensland on the 1st January 1873. I was originally at Conway Barracks near Bowen and later on the Palmer gold fields.
My salary, before I came to Victoria was £180 per year. My travelling allowance as a sub-inspector was £20 a year, and I recieved a ration allowance of £100 a year, with free quarters and a servant or an orderly allowed. If I was sick I would have been able to retire after twenty years service on two-thirds of my salary; after twenty-five years, three-fourths; and after thirty years, upon full pay. All those are with a certificate; but if I, as an officer had reached the age of sixty years of age and had served fifteen years, I would have been able to have retired without any certificate.(RC11432)