Glenrowan


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The Kelly Gang felt that with the death of Aaron Sherritt, the police would send a special train from Benalla to Beechworth to take up the pursuit. In anticipation of this and the fact that no trains traveled on Sunday, it was planned to tear up the railway tracks just passed Glenrowan. Once the train was wrecked, it was intended that the survivors would be taken prisoner and used as pawns to secure the release of Mrs Kelly and their friends and also to carry out more bank robberies.

It was just after midnight on Saturday evening when Ned and Steve Hart entered Glenrowan and started carrying out their meticulously prepared plan. They first bailed up Mr. Adolphus Piazzi, a railway contractor and his employees who were camped between the railway station and the Glenrowan Inn. After escorting them over to the hotel, Steve kept guard while Ned went around to the back of the building and brought back the proprietor, Mrs. Jones, and her daughter Jane.

Ned instructed Piazzi that he wanted him to take up the railway tracks but the contractor informed him that they didn’t know how to do it. They then all marched over to the stationmaster’s house, collected the stationmaster, Mr. Stanistreet, where-upon they were all taken down to the railway station. After breaking open a box of tools, fetching two platelayer’s named Sullivan and Reardon who knew how to use them, and a crow bar, they were then marched down the line about 500 yards from the station. After two lengths of railway line were successfully removed they then returned to the stationmaster’s house were Joe and Dan, who had arrived sometime earlier, where finishing their breakfast.

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Sketch of Glenrowan showing the railway station, centre, station masters house on the left and the Glenrowan Inn owned by Ann Jones, to the north.

At around 6.30 in the morning, Ned, Joe and Dan, took the men to Mrs. Jones hotel, leaving the women and children under the eye of Steve Hart. After partaking of breakfast at the hotel, Ned and Joe rode down to the railway gates and made prisoners of everyone who came along. By late Sunday afternoon they had rounded up a total of 62 prisoners, whom they kept entertained with games and trick riding, and then in the evening by dancing and singing.

Among the prisoners was Thomas Curnow, the Glenrowan school teacher, who had been taken hostage with his wife and brother-in-law around midday. Late that evening Ned allowed those hostages who he trusted to go home. Curnow pleaded to be among those and Ned finally agreed, but only after they had bailed up Constable Bracken at his barracks.

It was around midnight when the schoolteacher and his family finally arrived home. Curnow immediately made plans to warn the authorities, but his young wife became hysterical at the suggestion and he took her to her parents place about a mile away. On arrival at Mortimers, it was found that no one was at home, so they then returned to the schoolhouse. It was while they were having a late supper that they heard the train coming. Curnow immediately took a candle and red silk scarf with him and stopped the train about 300 meters from the school. After warning them that the Kelly Gang had torn up the tracks just passed Glenrowan, he than ran back home. The police on the other hand could not unload their horses so elected to push on to the station.

Meanwhile, back at the Glenrowan Inn, the Gang had heard the train coming and some were still in the act of putting their armour on as the engine pulled into the station. The hostages had been locked in the Inn during this time but Constable Bracken had seen where the key was hidden and after obtaining it, was waiting for the right opportunity to make his escape. Before leaving he told the remaining hostages to lay flat on the floor and then slipped out and ran across to the railway platform.

Superintendent Hare, on being informed of the presence of the Kellys at the Inn, by Bracken, led the police down towards the stationmaster’s house and after going through the gate turned to the right. As they approached the hotel, Hare saw a figure standing some ten yards to the left of the building and called out: "I would like a word with you". Ned replied: "I have nothing to say to you", and raised his gun and fired at Hare, wounding him in the wrist. With that shots quickly rang out from the other gang members on the verandah and the police returned the fire.

Ned was badly wounded in the first exchanges and after the third volley, he left the site of the Inn and went to meet the sympathisers, who were gathering down near the derailment site. After turning them away, he returned to the Inn, but later left around 5 am after seeing his friend Joe Byrne shot by a stray bullet. He shortly after collapsed, from loss of blood, in a gully some 400 metres behind the hotel and was watched over by his friends. At around 7 am, he loaded three revolvers, and following a 15 minute gun battle with the police, was eventually brought down by a shotgun blast to his legs.

At around 10.15 am, the police called a cease-fire and the last of the hostages were allowed to leave the Inn. But the problem was how to get the two remaining gang members out of the hotel before nightfall as it was feared they may slip through the police cordon in the dark. After ordering a canon from Melbourne it was finally decided  to flush them out. Using a clump of straw, they set fire to the west end of the building, but as it caught alight the bushrangers did not come out. A visiting priest, Father Gibney, ran into the burning building and shortly after reported to the police that everyone inside the hotel was dead. The troopers ran in and managed to save the body of Joe Byrne while several former hostages retrieved the wounded Martin Cherry from the kitchen. However, they could not reach the other two bodies due to the fire having taken hold of that part of the building. After the fire subsided, the police raked out the remains of what was believed to be the other two outlaws, and they were shortly after handed over to their respective families.

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This suit of armour, at left, was worn by Ned Kelly at Glenrowan. It was made from mouldboards and boiler plate and weighed 97 lbs. (44 kg). It was the first of four suits made to protect the outlaws from police bullets.

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Glen Rowen Cobb & Co Pty Ltd

37 Gladstone Street, Glenrowan, Victoria, Australia, 3675
Phone 03 5766 2409 Fax 03 5766 2650
E-mail: gdean@nedkellysworld.com.au

 

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