... one of the things of the KellyGang story
The first telegraph lines in Melbourne were installed in 1854. The arrival of the telegraph in 1870s meant that messages could be sent from one end of the Kelly country to the other in a matter of hours instead of days. In 1872 the telegraph linked Australia to England. While the system was expensive it meant that news of the main events of this story could be sent to the news papers so that they could inform the world.
The telegraph was also used by the police to get information about the KellyGang. For instance Mr Jefferson, the post master at Jerilderie managed to get a message out on the evening of the robbery. That message appeared in the press next morning. the Inspector-General of Police in New South Wales' response to the news of the Jerilderie robbery was to send some 30 to 40 telegrams to various parts of the State.
Extent of the Network
The telegraph line, installed at a cost of £60 per mile fom Melbourne and £55 per mile from Sydney arrived in Albury in 1858
The telegraph arrived in Mansfield in 1868 (Alexandra3/11/1868)
In 1876 There were lots of contracts in the area for telegraph poles and to repair the lines
Layout of the wires along the railway (Argus12/12/78)
Operation of the system
The Telegraph was not as fast as the telephone today but it allowed the police and others to send messages quickly. At 10/- a word it was not cheap. It would cost £100 to send it to all the police districts. The Royal Commission report and other records have a lot of references that demonstrate that the police relied on the telegraph to send messages between police stations. The KellyGang and their friends perhaps understood this better than the police and played little games. Occasionally the lines would be broken without reason. Sometimes there would be garbled messages that got operators to doubt the effectiveness of the system. see also (RC16204)
Det Ward, when in Beechworth, used to attend at the telegraph station at ten o'clock every night to speak to Ass Com Nicolson, Sup Hare, or whatever officer it might be, and communicate any intelligence, and all surrounding stations, to know if there was anything fresh. (RC13860)
The police used the telegraph to communicate with its agents. An agent was given the following note Permit the bearer to send any messages to me, F.C.S'' (RC276)
Soon after the murders Mansfield was cut off from Benalla (Argus4/11/78)
Just before the Sebastopol cavalcade Beechwortg was cut off.(Argus8/11/78)
The telegraph ran along side the railway line. On one side were the wires that carried the public lines and on the other side was the railways separate network. Faithfull's Creek Station is north of Euroa. It is between Euroa and Violet Town. (Argus12/12/78)
During the afternoon of Tuesday 10/12/1878
a lineman, Mr Watt from Benalla, arrived on a train at Violet Town
to investigate a break in the telegraph line between there and Euroa. (Argus12/12/78)
On that afternoon Sup Sadleir sent telegrams from Benalla without a problem (RC2453)
Mr Wyatt the magistrate got
on the train at Violet Town at 4.40pm to go to Euroa for a licencing court
Within 100 yards after the train left the platform at Violet Town, it had started-while it was still going slowly, Mr Watt man came along and spoke to Mr Wyatt. He said, "Look here, the lines are down, and the queer feature of it is that the Government telegraph lines cross our railway telegraph line."
Watt and Wyatt agreed to watch from different sides of the train, Watt on the railway side, Wyatt watch on the Government line side. Watt left Wyatt and went off on the foot-plate to take up his position. When they came within sight of Faithfull's Creek station Wyatt could see a quarter of a mile ahead, and as the train came near to the spot, he saw that the Government line was down. (RC2125)
Wyatt leant out of the train to telegraph to the fireman to signal but the
train had already stared to slow down.As the train was slowing, Mr Watt came
along the foot-plate to Wyatt with a small handful of telegraph splicing wires-slender
thin wires, used simply to splice one wire to another. He said to me- "Look
here, Mr. Wyatt, I cannot mend this line; what must I do? I wish you would
send a message through to Mr. Gorman,
at Euroa, to Melbourne for me." (RC2126)
Wyatt said, "All right." Watt said, "I shall want"- Wyatt anticipated his reply, "Six telegraph posts, thirty-six insulators, and a corresponding quantity of line wire," (RC2127)
The train never stopped but merely slowed. The fireman was watching Watt to see whether he would jump off the foot-plate. At the moment Wyatt had some misgivings about letting Watt get down at Faithfull's Creek station. (RC2128)
When Sup Hare news that the KellyGang were about to head over the River Murray into New South Wales on about 4/2/1879 he sent out a series of telegrams to the police officers including to Const Mullane. (RC1275)
The line to Beechworth was cut (Argus27/1/79)
KellyGang break the telegaph wires at Jerilderie in February 1879
There were two wires from Deniliquin to Sydney; the line passed Jerilderie about a mile away; thence a loop-line led into Jerilderie post-office, two wires in and two out, making four wires on the poles of the loop line. (BWC)
About 10 a.m on the Monday, a cross occurred on the lines, andPeter Dunne, the operator in Deniliquin had to cast one free to get circuit with Sydney. They could not raise Jerilderie, and all day they called without result. At about 8.15 they got news that the KellyGang had stuck up Jerilderie and cut the lines. (BWC)
Before the KellyGang left Jerilderie they visited the telegraph office and met the post master, Mr Jefferson and his staff. Joe Byrne checked all the telegrams that had been sent while they had been in town. Before they left the KellyGang cut down about 8 telegraph poles.
The police used the telegraph to spread the news of the KellyGang raid on Jerilderie and the press used the telegraph to get the story from the out back of Jerilderie to the main newspapers of Sydney and Melbourne and all over Australia.
After the Jerilderie robbery ther were a number of 'attacks' on the telegraph system. The wires were cut at Howlong. In mid February 1879 the telegraph wires at Tarawingi were cut and the KellyGang were seen in the area. In March 1879 the Wangaratta - Beechworth telegraph was jammed each night for a week
See also (Argus12/2/79)
In late 1879 when there was a threat that the KellyGang might hold up the banks in Beechworth, the postmaster, erected a telegraphic communication between all the banks and the police station, by wires being placed, and the uniting of these wires would cause an alarm at the banks and station, at any hour of the day or night that the KellyGang was likely to come. If they came to one of the banks, the station bell would ring, and police would be able to respond to the alert. (RC13584) (FH)
On Tuesday morning Mr Buckley (the S.M) and Mr Peter Dunne were near the Jerilderie line instrument, and heard Sir Henry Parkes (Colonial Secretary) and Mr Saul Samuel (PMG) instructing Mr Jefferson, the ptelegraph operator in Jerilderie would be relieved at once and sent to Albury for his safety (BWC)
Information of Aaron Sherritt's death was transmitted around the country by telegraph.
Mr Hollows sent many of the telegraph traffic from Benalla (McPhee)
The first news of the Glenrowan siege was transmitted by telegraph.
The press people got out their reports by telegraph and people stod around the offices of newspapers in Melbourne to see the latest telegraph messages.
There were no fewer than three hundred telegrams—sixty of which were from Glenrowan alone—several of them containing over a thousand words, passed through Beechworth; and we can testify to the efficient manner in which Mr Alex Thomson, the chief operator, and the staff under him performed, their arduous task. (OMA1/7/80)
By the end of the day this story had generated about 90,000 word being sent between Melbourne and Sydney
Find the hiding places and sites where the KellyGang found fame and fortune and where their friends indulged in horse stealing and tried to make a life against the challenges of the squatters and banks. Let the KellyGang show you the places where they found safety from the law in the bush.