Meet the people of the KellyGang story
My real name was Henry Johnstone, Johnson
I was born in Waterford Ireland and arrived in Tasmania in 1842. Some are unkind enough to say that I was really a petty crock who robbed a few travellers.
I had been convicted several times of different offences and I imprisoned in Pentridge when I decided to escape and turn into a bushranger. The other prisoners were carting rubbish in a small go-cart from the stockade outside the walls. I was one of a group of men drawing the cart. There was a large heap where they were tipping up the cart. I got under the rubbish unobserved by the sentries. The other prisoners, took no notice of me, drew the cart back, while I remained in my hiding-place until evening. After leaving the Prison I stole a suit of clothes from a farm-house and then a blade of an old sheep-shears that I turned into a weapon. I was on my way as a bushranger (FH)
They said that I traded under the names of Henry Johnson, Henry Jones and a few others. They even said that I killed a boatman called Owens in about 1856
Was I shopped to the police by the Quinns? Who was the police informer and what happened to him? (FH)
Assistant Commissioner Nicolson and Sup Hare each spent much time at the Royal Commission claiming that they were the officers responsible for my arrest. Hear what these officers had to say about my arrest at the Royal Commission:
Superintendent Hare (FH)
Com Standish told Sup Hare that Sir James McCulloch had decided that he was to be sent up to take charge of the Power businesswas. . He said, "I will give you carte blanche to do as you please and to take whom you please, and to spend what money you wish." (RC1586)
"On Friday-that was the 28th of May 1870
Mr. Nicolson and I started away from Benalla. It was before the railway was
opened; I drove Mr. Nicolson up in my buggy, and we got to the appointed spot
on Saturday night."
"At the spot where we met Mr. Montford the following day, Sunday, we obtained a blackfellow from Benalla-there were some blacks stationed there then-and we consulted and made our plans. On the morning of the Sunday following we captured Power. The capture was this way: We were looking for a hollow tree with a bed in it, and we came across it about seven o'clock in the morning. There was a narrow track from this tree up to a hill on which we were told that Power would be found.
"Mr. Nicolson stated the previous evening, "Mind you, I am senior officer of the party, I must run up and take the lead." We had some discussion about it, and I said, "All right." I do not mean to say I questioned as to his leadership, I said, "All right." We got to this tree, and there was a narrow track leading up the hill, the blackfellow was standing by the tree. He said, "Smoke up along that hill there." I did not see it, and I do not think the other two saw it, but we all started off immediately, and rushed up this narrow track in the mountain, Mr. Nicolson first, I second, and Mr. Montford behind me. I suppose we did not cover a space of more than six feet altogether, we were so close. When we approached we saw the fire and a kind of a gunyah among the trees.
Just as Mr. Nicolson got within ten yards of the hut he beckoned with his hand to me to go round to the back. I thought he meant so that Power might not escape from the back, and I fixed my eyes upon the feet of the person I saw in the gunyah. We all rushed up together, and simultaneously laid hold of this man. I put my hand on his leg, and he bawled out at the top of his voice; he was asleep at the time. We handcuffed him, and took him into Wangaratta that day, I think a distance of fifty miles, and on our arrival at Wangaratta we sent a telegram to town announcing the capture of Power, Mr. Nicolson signing the telegram. That is all I wish to say with reference to that. I merely now state that I considered myself organizer of the party. I reckoned that, in case of failure or mishap, the Government would have held me responsible and no one else." (RC1589)see also (Argus6/11/78)
"I anticipated at the commencement of this enquiry that a series of charges, both direct and implied, would be brought against me. The result has proved my expectations to be correct. I desire to review some of the evidence which has been tendered, and in so doing will deal with matters demanding attention in their proper sequence, talking first Mr. Hare's report, dated 2nd July 1880. I have only brought in names of officers where absolutely necessary to refute the charges brought against me. I will begin with the first statement to which I take exception. Mr. Hare has stated that he was directed to organize the whole pursuit of the bushranger Power.
"This assertion I never heard of, nor can I learn that other officers of police did, until it was made in that report, 2nd July 1880. Mr. Hare's duty as officer in charge of depot was to forward men and material to whatever district authority was issued to him to supply. But that is not organization. In April I was down from Kyneton on sick leave, and heard of a reported appearance of Power, near Lauriston. I immediately gave up my leave and went back to my district, about 28th April, and in company with Inspector Disney I was in search of Power, with the assistance and co-operation of inhabitants of the district, particularly from Trentham, for over a week. We ascertained that Power had passed through the north part of the district.
"He returned by McIvor to his old haunts (North Eastern District). If Mr. Hare, then a junior superintendent, had been directed to organize the whole pursuit, what steps did he take upon that occasion? I volunteered to Captain Standish to go up in pursuit of him. He accepted my offer most gladly, and upon this, or perhaps a subsequent occasion, he said, "Nicolson, as you are not strong yet, I will send Hare to drive you up instead of allowing you to travel by coach, and he, perhaps, may be of use to you." I most readily agreed. We drove up together, and upon arriving we met the gentleman who had given information of Power's appearance, as obtained from an informer. While talking to this gentleman Mr. Hare went on to speak to this informer who was then in sight. He returned, saying, "The man knows nothing; why, he is a Pentridge man," and more to that effect. I will hand in this affidavit from the gentleman referred to, the president of the shire there, on the subject.(See Mr McBean for the text of his affidavit)
To avoid making our business known we returned to Melbourne, I resuming my duty at Kyneton. About a fortnight afterwards I received letters from Captain Standish and Mr. Hare. The former said:- "My dear Nicolson,-I cannot think of allowing you to go back to this duty in your present delicate state of health; Dr. Ford says it would be injurious to you;" or words to that effect. Mr. Hare wrote:- "My dear fellow, I am so sorry to be off without you," &c. I was taken aback about those letters, and at once went to Melbourne by that evening's train, and saw Dr. Ford, who said it would do me no harm, rather good, if I felt equal to the fatigue. (I may here state that l had had an attack of fever for three weeks in the end of February.) I then insisted upon going, and went up, Mr. Hare driving me as before, met the informer, and after three or four days reached the hiding place which he indicated.
"Certainly on this occasion I said to Mr. Hare, "Remember I am in command of this party." I did so because of the attempt to prevent me going up on this second occasion after I had arranged all matters on my first visit. When smoke was pointed out to me, at a time and in a manner already made known, I ran up, leading the way, and signing to Messrs. Hare and Montfort to go to the back of the gunyah to prevent the man escaping. I ran in at the entrance, saw Power lying there; threw myself on him, seizing both of his wrists and rendering him powerless to escape. Mr. Hare and Mr. Montfort then came upon the scene and pulled Power out by his legs, as described in the Argus of 9th June 1870. I did not take the credit of arresting this man myself at all. I say that I did not make any invidious distinctions, and I did not go into these details in my report to the Chief Commissioner. We were all equally running danger, and I thought it mean to make any invidious distinction, and allowed Mr. Hare to sign the report, and I would have allowed Mr. Montfort to sign it, had he been an officer. We returned to town, Mr. Hare the invalid this time, and I stronger than ever.
" The Chief Secretary promised promotion. I have never attached or claimed credit for the capture of Power, as Mr. Winch has stated. We obtained certain information, and, in acting upon it, overcoming some difficulty and hardship, merely did our duty. Probably there was as much credit due to yourself, Mr. Chairman. Personally, I am as tired of this Power affair as every one else must be; but; as so much has been made out of this, I must now show who really captured him I must particularly call your attention to the fact that Captain Standish and Mr. Hare have, in their statements, mentioned this last pursuit of Power, but they both omitted to refer to the previous visit, which gives point to the whole story, viz., that Captain Standish endeavored to keep me out of it after I had previously arranged the whole story, matter. I may state that I would not have had such suspicions as to Captain Standish's motives in this matter; but for his attempt to place Mr. Winch over me in the list of officers in 1870. That is the meaning of Mr. Winch being over my name in 1870 that has been spoken of.
" Upon my writing to him on the subject he replied that there was no record of my ever having been a superintendent, and it was only after sending him my appointment, and after some delay, that the matter was rectified. This shows that, even ten years ago, Captain Standish endeavoured to promote some one over me. Mr. Hare has said that I and Mr. Montfort received promotion. Certainly Mr. Montfort did, as he tells you, by a "fluke." He has turned out a valuable officer; but it was unfair to all the sergeants and men in the North-Eastern District that, after their two years' hard work, Mr. Hare's clerk should have been sent up, to reap the benefit which ought to have been theirs. The ostensible reason for sending him was that he knew the district; but, although that knowledge was useful to us, it was unnecessary, as we had a guide who led us almost to the spot. Chances of this kind should not be given at the expense of the local police, if any of them were deservedly efficient. It is appearances of favouritism like the above which cause dissatisfaction and disorganization among members of the force.
"Again, if Mr. Hare had been directed to organize the Power pursuit over the heads of at least eleven senior officers, would there not be some record in the department of so important an event, and would not protest have been made by the senior officers, as was done by one of the juniors, viz., Mr. Nicolas? Of course Mr. Hare had much to do with the men, being Depot Officer, and therefore had to select and despatch the men, as in the Kelly business, and as many of the men selected were his own Bourke district men, it created considerable jealousy amongst the local police. As to the promotion which Mr. Hare says I have received since Power's capture, I may state that I was removed from Kyneton because the police in Melbourne were thought to he in a state of considerable disorganization, and there had been difficulty in filling the post of Chief of Detectives on my giving it up and going to Kyneton. Captain Standish desired me to again undertake the duties of that position, together with those of the city. I did so, doing, thereby the duties of the two offices, either of which is enough work for any man, for an extra £100 per annum, thereby saving the country at least £200 per annum.
"I was then actuated, as I have been since, not by any feeling for myself, but from a desire to promote the good of the force. My predecessors in the city had never been in charge of detectives, while I had been for thirteen years, and that was the reason I was specially asked to undertake that arduous duty again. I became Inspecting Superintendent simply because that post came to me by right of seniority, and on taking it I undertook duties which had previously been performed by two officers, viz., Messrs. Lyttleton and Bookey, thus again saving something to the Government. I may here state that Captain Standish endeavored to induce me to remain in the city and allow Mr. Hare to be Inspecting Superintendent, pointing out that I would lose the extra £100 per annum and only gain £50 per annum by promotion. He so impressed me that I consulted an old and intimate friend, whose advice was "to remember that Johnny should always keep marching on." In a short time after I heard that Mr. Winch and Mr. Hare had applied for an extra £100 per annum each.
"I then pointed out to Captain Standish that if they received this increase, one would get £25 more than I did and the other exactly what I received, besides allowances for horse, groom, &c., which I did not have. I therefore applied for an extra £100 per annum, and received £75 extra, making my salary £500 per annum. My title of Inspecting Superintendent was altered to that of Assistant Commissioner simply to compel Captain Standish to recognize my true position, which he had not done. It must not be forgotten that Mr. Hare, a junior officer, had for fourteen years been Superintendent of the Depot, the prize post, and next in importance to that of City Officer, and which had been previously filled by military men, with one exception. Even Captain Standish has acknowledged to the Commission that I obtained my present position by seniority only, and therefore Mr. Hare's assertions to the contrary fall to the ground. If Mr. Hare had claims to promotion, why did Captain Standish refuse to promote him? Manifestly because he dare not do so. Was Mr. Hare a man who would stand any refusal, if promotion was his right and he could prove it?........"(RC16862)