Aaron Sherritt: A Forgotten Life (Part One)

From the time of his murder on the night of June 26 1880, and indeed the months before, the man Aaron Sherritt truly was has very much been blurred, and to an extent, lost. As with the ignorance that often consumes people’s knowledge and understanding of Joe, this same cloud of half-truths, coupled with the inability of many to analyse and question long held beliefs, has meant that the truth of Aaron’s life has become largely forgotten.  For the most part, Aaron’s memory has been separated into two ideals, ranging from those who see him as little more than a traitorous ‘rat’, to others who see him almost in the guise of a saint, with both parties blind to the twenty four year old standing before them. Although very regretful of it now, there was a time when I was firmly of the opinion that Aaron was a traitor and I did not care to acknowledge, or see him, as anything else. However, since beginning my journey of seeking both justice and the truth for Joe, I have been compelled to write and research in greater detail the life led by Aaron. This, as a result, has allowed me to appreciate and understand the complexities of his life, and is something that I hope may be triggered in other people’s understanding of him after reading this piece. While I appreciate I cannot forcibly change an individual’s overall view of Aaron, I wish to offer the laughing eyed larrikin from Sheepstation Creek a voice and a chance to be heard.

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Bray portrait of Aaron, colourised by Aidan Phelan.

Aaron was born on an unknown day in August of 1855, to parents John and Anne Sherritt of Reid’s Creek. The first surviving child of the protestant couple, Aaron would go on to have ten siblings, Elizabeth, Jack, William, Anne Jane, Julia Frances, Esther, Mary, Maria, Martha and Hugh. While the meeting of Aaron and Joe has long remained a mystery, what is definitively known is that in the years after the Sherritt’s move from Reid’s Creek to Sheepstation Creek in 1864, young Aaron left the mundane classes of Eliza Scott at Reid’s Creek School to attend the Woolshed Common School with Joe.

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This quaint photograph of Reid’s Creek School and its students, taken in 1865, may show Aaron as a ten year old. (From the permanent collection of the Burke Museum, Beechworth.)

It is tempting to imagine the two boys, Aaron eleven and Joe ten, sitting up at their benches, with Joe working hard to copy out the chalk written words of Cornelius O’Donoghue onto his slate board while Aaron rocks back on his stool, cheekily trying to catch his attention. Despite the change in teachers, it did little to capture Aaron’s overall interest in his education, and his time spent within the classroom did not increase. This was possibly due, at least in kind, to the studiousness and pride Joe had in his own learning. (Mucking about is never as worthwhile if your mate won’t join in and cause trouble too.) However, it cannot be denied that while never being a scholar himself, Aaron always applied himself to jobs and life on the farm, and no doubt John would have seen this as being of a higher value than what any form of education could bring. Of course, outside of school hours mucking about was warranted, and the orchard of Antonio Wick was always an easy and desirable target, and it is easy to picture Aaron clambering up an apple or pear tree, tossing the ripened fruit down to Joe, with Wick shouting at them in his thick German accent. Whatever the two boys got up to during this time in their lives, many years later, an old school friend would recount they were “good cobbers, and scoundrels with it.”

Despite the differences in their personality and background, Aaron and Joe would go on to form a strong brotherly bond which would be tested and challenged in many ways. These tests would come in the form of six cold and damp months spent breaking rock in the Beechworth gaol, a stifling two days sweating in the holding cell and later the endless whispers of betrayal and hatred that rang in both young men’s ears. Before the darkness that would eventually blur the lines of friendship, Aaron and Joe were virtually inseparable, with Joe spending days, sometimes weeks, away from his home in Sebastopol, to help Aaron fence and clear his selection. In 1873, Aaron had applied, and been granted, one hundred and six acres situated between Byrnes Gully and the Sherritt farm. By the following year, he had begun work on his new selection, building a rough slab hut with a small stone fireplace to appease the Land Act’s requirement that he lived on his land. In five years time, Belle would come to speak of the hut as a “squalid den”, with the interior consisting solely of a large bunk, rough table and a stool. In these earlier times, however, it was all the comfort Aaron needed, and it isn’t hard to picture him and Joe drinking gin from smudgy glasses and smoking their pipes by the fireside, with Aaron relaying the dreams he held for this portion of the Woolshed. Whatever his future aspiration for this land, it could only be attained with the appropriate changeover of coin, which occurred every six months, with the total amount being five pounds and seven shillings. This money was only accepted if Aaron was able to satisfy the Land Act’s condition that he was adequately cultivating, improving and living on the block. Meaning that in the same way that paying off the debt owned on the selection was imperative to keeping it, so too was improving the land, or at least making it as viable as possible, through the cultivation of crops, or the running of beef or dairy cattle. Aaron decided on the latter, grazing a heard of roan coloured Shorthorns, branded distinctively ‘A and S with a half circle’.

When land wasn’t being cleared, and fences built, Aaron and Joe spent their free time in the Chinese Camp at Sebastopol and the granite township of Beechworth, where they were equally known and respected. After the death of his father, Paddy, in late 1870, Joe worked a variety of jobs within the camp, which ranged from running errands for local shop owners to working in a Chinese store. No doubt this would have attracted Aaron to spend greater lengths of time here. Within the confines of the camp, they were known as Ah Joe and Ah Jim, because the Chinese couldn’t pronounce Aaron. It is likely that both young men experimented with opium at the same time, no doubt as an act of fitting in with the Chinamen they had befriended. For Joe, these visits to one of the many opium dens that dotted the camp would result in him becoming deeply dependent on the drug. Whether Aaron used it often is not known, but given there was never any importance attached to it I am inclined to believe that it wasn’t something he took up, or overly enjoyed. Further to this connection to the Chinese, Aaron would go on to start a gold claim with Ah Fook, Ah Loy and his brother Jack. Given his interactions with the Chinese, I am of the opinion that Aaron would have spoken and understood a little Cantonese. While it may not have been as polished as Joe’s, he certainly would have known enough to get him by while conversing with Ah Fook and Ah Loy. Adding further to Aaron’s association with the Chinese in the Woolshed, particularly in reference to Ah Loy, I found that Aaron had been granted a slaughtering licence in September 1872. This may seem insignificant, however, later in November, I found where he was applying for the licence again, but this time under the name of a Chinaman. The name he used being, of course, Ah Loy. The following is a snippet from the Ovens and Murray Advertiser which details the ruse.

‘Report from Constable Ward, inspector of slaughter yards, to the Superintendent of Police with reference to Ah Loy’s application for a slaughtering licence at Sheepstation Creek. The report was to the effect that Ah Loy was simply a dummy for Sherritt who had improperly used his name; the application of Ah Loy was attached to this report. The council unanimously decided not to grant the application.’

I don’t believe this is something that has been given much, if any, recognition before, and it is easy to imagine Joe raising an eyebrow and shaking his head at Aaron’s rash and poorly thought out plan.

In Beechworth, Aaron and Joe were well known to townspeople and shopkeepers alike, with many remembering the pair long after their boots had echoed over the cobblestones.  One such shopkeeper was James Ingram, who owned a bookshop and news agency in Camp Street, next door to the post office. It is known that Joe was a frequent visitor, and no doubt on occasion Aaron would join him, with the two of them chatting to Ingram in the backroom of his shop. Other haunts for the two young men may have been Dunlop’s Scotch pie shop, the store of Paddy Allen, Fletcher’s Bookshop in Ford Street, and Gray’s sale yards. The Public Library and Burke Museum was a favoured place of Joe’s, and on the times that he succeeded in persuading Aaron to visit with him, it is easy to picture Joe showing him the Samurai armour and famous collection of taxidermy that lined the arched walls. Richard Warren, whose father was the proprietor of the Ovens and Murray Advertiser, would recall Aaron being “flash as Lucifer, dressed up to kill”, adding “anyone seeing him coming down Ford Street would ask, ‘Who the hell’s this? Some advance agent for the circus?”

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When looking at the Bray portrait of Aaron above, we see him dressed proudly in a spotted shirt and waistcoat, his sash is tied at his waist and his rough boots, turned slightly up at the toes, adorn his feet. Positioned jauntily on his head is a pork pie hat, with the chinstrap placed under his bottom lip. This portrait shows Aaron dressed as he would have been on most days when he and Joe ventured into town, and it isn’t difficult to assume that his clothing choice was based heavily on whatever clothes he had scruffed from the floor. This brash and self assured quality that defined Aaron’s character was quite at odds with Joe, who was more reserved and modest in both character and dress, preferring to be seen in his town tweeds and polished blucher boots. However opposite these two young men were in appearance and personality, they were brothers in all but blood, and when one walks under the shopfronts of Ford and Camp Street, it is easy to imagine them swaggering along, Joe with his pipe clamped firmly between his teeth, while Aaron tips his hat with a cheeky flourish at those that gaze too long at his jumbled assortment of clothing.

By now, Aaron and Joe were romantically linked to each others sisters, with Aaron  noted to be ‘traveling with’ Kate Byrne, while Joe and Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Sherritt were sweethearts and would become unofficially engaged.  Kate worked as general servant at the Black Springs Hotel on the outskirts of Beechworth, owned by James and Margaret Feely. She lived in the servants quarters during the week, returning home to Sebastopol at the weekend, where no doubt Aaron would be waiting for her with open arms. 

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During these earlier years, Aaron, like Joe, regularly found himself within the granite confines of the Beechworth Courthouse, both as witness and as the accused. His first court appearance was as a witness to the sheep stealing case between the Kelty’s and the Mackay’s, and his evidence was reported in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser as follows:

I am a selector and cattle owner at the Sheepstation, about 150 yards from where prisoners live; I was at their place last Monday morning, about 10 o’clock. Dan Kelty, and his mother, and Jim Kelty were there. I saw Daniel sharpening and I asked him “What for?” And he said, “I’m going to kill two or three billy goats for the pigs”. When I went into the stable, there was a sheep, dead, with the skin off. He asked me to take the inside out, as I was a good hand. I did what he asked, and while I was doing so, he hauled out another and killed it. He took it from a small lot – some nine or ten. I recognised the second sheep, and told him they were Mr Mackay’s weaners. He said, “Are they?” “Yes,” I said, “they are”. “Well,” he said, “we’ll knock the ‘jimmy’ off half-a-dozen of ’em.” The ‘jimmy’ is the hide. I then said, “You may knock away, I’m off to look for my mare.” The sheep he hauled out had the red dagger brand. I went away after telling them they might be caught. (The witness left the court to inspect the sheep, skins, and heads, in the possession of the police.) I have seen the sheep outside the court, they are the same I saw at the prisoners’ place on Monday last.

Daniel Kelty knew I was a good hand at taking the insides out of sheep, by seeing me do it. The stable had a sort of division, but it has been knocked down. The small lot of sheep were not in the same place as I was, they were in a place on one side attached to the stable. I have been in there twenty times before on business, after harness or one thing or another. I could not see the little lot of sheep without going up to look at them. I cannot recollect whether there is a partition, when I said “These are Mr Mackay’s weaners” on seeing one, I saw some others’ and went and looked over at them. The stable is lighted by the sun shining through the cracks. When I saw what they were about, I cleared out. Then I went into the bush, looking for my mare. The prisoners and I are good friends, I have never been in court against them before.

The outcome of the trial found both Daniel and Jim Kelty guilty of the theft of the sheep, with Daniel ordered to spend three years at a reform school and Jim sentenced to four years hard labor. No doubt this incident was the precursor for Aaron’s second appearance in court, where he was called before the judge on a charge of assaulting John Kelty. On a summer day in late 1874, some Sherritt goats had strayed onto Kelty property, which resulted in an extremely heated argument between Aaron and John. The hostile John Kelty may have confronted Aaron when he came to heard the goats back, or he may have turned up at the Sherritt house threatening to kill the goats that had strayed. Living on a farm myself, having neighbors threatening to shoot any animals that stray on their land is certainly not uncommon. Whoever initiated the trouble, Aaron  found himself fined 1 pound, plus costs, with a crippling 25 pound bond to keep the peace for six months. It was a cruel blow for Aaron, who was also expected to pay the first six month installment for his selection. Given the court costs, he was unable to pay the lands department until April the following year. Aaron’s next charge was ‘unlawfully using a horse’ in November 1875. Henry Sigam, a boarding house keeper at Everton, had lost a chestnut horse at the end of September. John Murphy, Jack Sherritt and Aaron had all ridden the horse, and Mrs Kelty, who was a witness in the case had stated that “early in September she saw a strange horse in the Sherritt paddock, and went to look at it.” She also recounted that, “a day or two after this she saw John (Jack) riding it towards Beechworth and later Aaron was riding it along the creek in the bush.” Both Aaron and Jack were found guilty and even though the charge rendered them liable to twelve months imprisonment, they were fined one pound, which both brothers were able to pay immediately.

Aaron’s freedom from the court didn’t last long, and in December of that same year, he again found himself in the dock. During the later months of 1875, Aaron had found himself working for a roguish character by the name of John Phelan, the Beechworth pound keeper, after the ‘laughing eyed’ nineteen year-old had broken a colt for him in July.  The ‘work’ was undertaken as follows: Aaron would steal a horse, away from town, and leave it in a prearranged area, where Phelan would collect the animal and impound it. If the horse was claimed by the owner, he and Aaron would share the pound fee. If, however, the horse remained unclaimed, Phelan would record a fictitious sale in the pound book at a bargain price and then sell it on the open market, with  he and Aaron sharing the profits. This scam was found out in court, after Aaron was seen driving a chestnut filly, that had previously been reported missing by Arthur Land. On this occasion, while Aaron and John were waiting in the lockup for their hearing, sharing the heated confines of the granite holding cell with them was eighteen year-old Joe, who had been arrested on a charge of theft. A few days previous, Aaron and Joe had ridden up to the pound, with John Phelan paying particular notice to the saddle Joe was riding in, which happened to belong to him. Joe recalled that he had found the saddle abandoned in the bush and taken possession of it. While in the dock, Joe was informed that a young boy who had been riding Phelan’s horse, with the saddle in question, was thrown from the animal. After some deliberation, Joe was discharged, but warned by Police Magistrate Robert Pitcairn “of the danger he ran in picking up unconsidered trifles and unlawfully turning them to his own use.” Like Joe, Aaron was discharged, but not before a stern warning was directed at him from the judge, who promised that the next time Aaron came before him on a charge of illegally using, and was found guilty, he would be given twelve years imprisonment.

Trouble soon found Aaron and Joe again, when on the 20th of May 1876, Aaron rode down to the Byrne house and told Joe of the cow he had seen in the Eldorado Common School paddock. What Aaron told Joe about the cow, obviously isn’t known, but the pair of them rode to Eldorado and brought back the young white heifer, which they then put in Ned Kennedy’s stockyards. The stockyards, no longer used by Kennedy, were situated along the slope of Byrnes Gully, and both young men had used them previously to brand two fillies.  For those who may wish to read this case from Joe’s point of view, you can do so Here and Here.

Joe and Aaron
Aaron telling Joe of the cow he has seen grazing near the Eldorado Common School, as depicted in The Trouble at Sebastopol.

Sandy Doig, who Joe would go on to call “a bloody snob”, had heard the cow’s death call and walked up to the yards to investigate. Unfortunately, Sandy had seen Aaron slice into the hide and remove the brands, which he then put in the pocket of his jacket. As he neared the stockyard, the Scotsman called out to Aaron, inquiring as to whether he called himself a butcher. If Aaron’s heart didn’t stop when he eyed the stout redhead, Joe’s certainly would have, who Sandy noted was sharpening a knife with the steel he had borrowed from Jane Bachelor. Muttering a reply, Aaron made a point of slicing out the beast’s tongue and held it aloft. Not wasting any time, Sandy hurried down to Beechworth and relayed what he had witnessed to Detective Micheal Ward. Meanwhile, Aaron and Joe had ridden down Byrnes Gully to the Byrne house with the butchered meat, hide and head. Here, they left Margret half the carcass and head and stayed the night. The following morning, they rode up to Sheepstation Creek, and gifted the remainder of the carcass to the Sherritt’s. If Margret had been suspicious of the meat, and no doubt she was, John Sherritt was even more so. Obviously, he would have known what breed of cattle Aaron had, and the fact the brand had been cut out would have alerted him further. In response, John sliced the cream coloured hide into thin strips and instructed Aaron to tie them around the beams of the roof. Later that day, the two young men rode on to Aaron’s selection, where they were later arrested by Detective Michael Ward and Senior Constable Patrick Mullane, two men who would play pivotal roles in the lives of Aaron and Joe. The pair stood trial on the 30th of May, charged with ‘having in their possession the carcass of a certain cow for the lawful possession of which they cannot satisfactory account.’ At the trial, Margret’s evidence had been laced in bitterness to Joe, so bitter in fact that Police Magistrate Robert Pitcairn was forced to ask “Is your son good to you?” After a lengthy silence, which must have seemed like an eternity for Joe, she replied “I cannot say.” In contrast, John Sherritt spoke glowingly of his son, concluding in his evidence, “we are not separated”. Joe and Aaron were found guilty and were given a six month sentence with hard labour, to be undertaken inside the cold granite walls of Beechworth Gaol.

Two months after Aaron and Joe’s release in November 1876, John sent Aaron into town with a drayload of hay both he and Aaron had recently loaded that morning, with the intention of selling it to Dennett’s stables. While Aaron was driving the two horses down Ford Street, Constable McHugh watched as the leader of the pair, its ears lowered, began slowing and suddenly refused to pull. Aaron tried to drive the horse on, clicking his tongue and snapping the reins along its back, but still the gelding wouldn’t take up the collar and move forward. The constable noticed a piece of sacking sticking out from under the leather of the collar and crossed over to Aaron, who seemed oblivious to the animals distress as he continued to urge the horse forward. On inspection, McHugh found that the leather was completely worn through to the straw stuffing and the horse’s shoulders completely stripped of skin and bloodied. Aaron was immediately arrested and the horses and dray seized. The next day, he appeared in court, charged with ‘cruelly torturing a horse’ and the Ovens and Murray Advertiser would include the following snippet in that days publication:

A man who would cruelly ill-treat a dumb animal would be guilty of any crime, and we never can think of such save with feelings of dislike. Yesterday afternoon, a cart load of hay was being drawn along Ford Street, Beechworth, by two horses, one of which appeared to be in great pain and not in a fit state to be worked. On inspection its shoulder presented a horrible spectacle, and Constable McHugh very promptly took it to the police station, and has summoned its owner and driver, Aaron Sherritt, of Sheepstation Creek, for cruelty to animals. We trust the bench will give Mr Sherritt what he justly deserves.

During the hearing, John Sherritt accepted responsibility for the appalling state of the horse and collar and was told by the judge that “if the father had been the driver instead of the son, he certainly would have sent him to gaol for three months.” As tempting as it is to lay complete blame on Aaron, it must be remembered that John was both a stern man and father, and the fact the hay was worth four pounds would have, in his mind, outweighed the well-being of the animal. Aaron may have objected to taking the dray, but he would have had little choice in the matter. He was fined five pounds, which he paid that same day. The hay however had been ruined by rain, and its worth had depleted to a mere ten shillings.

Three days later, during a hot summer day on the 13th of January, looking to escape the unrelenting summer heat of the Woolshed, Joe and Aaron decided to take a swim in the dam close to Margret’s house. Unfortunately, this was also the dam that many Chinamen used to water their vegetable gardens. Ah On, a Chinaman who lived next door to the Byrnes, came down to the dam to collect some water. Heated words, either in English or Cantonese, were exchanged when he spotted the pair swimming, and I believe he may have threatened to take Aaron and Joe’s clothes. In response to this threat, the boys quickly dressed and while they were doing so, Ah On returned to the dam with two other Chinamen who lived with him, all of them armed with bamboos. In retaliation, Aaron threw a rock at Ah On, knocking him to the ground. Ah On was operated on the next evening, with his injury considered ‘dangerous’ and ‘permanent’. On the 15th of January, warrants were issued for ‘unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm’, and Senior Constable Mullane arrested Joe the same day at Sheepstation Creek, possibly while he was visiting Bessie. When asked by the constable if he had anything to say, Joe replied “I have nothing to say; I did not do it and I did not see it done…We were bathing in the dam; when we got out the Chinamen hunted us with bamboos; I ran one way and Aaron run the other way, and I saw nothing at all of it.” Aaron was later arrested while bark-stripping and told the policeman from Eldorado “I admit the charge; he ran after me and struck me first, and then I struck him.” Both men were remanded to the police court on Tuesday the 13th of February, where Magistrate Pitcairn committed them to stand trial at the Court of General Sessions on the 28th of February, allowing Aaron and Joe bail.

Sharing the stifling cell with Aaron and Joe was a young Dan Kelly, who was awaiting his hearing for saddle stealing. (Dan was promptly found not guilty, as he had a receipt for the saddle’s purchase.) I understand that some individuals believe that Aaron and Joe met Ned before this time, however, it is more likely that their meeting of Ned was through Dan, who they first met in the lockup. Joe and Dan would go on to form a strong friendship, but Dan’s first impression of Aaron was not as favorable and the 15 year old would later be one of the first people to suspect Aaron had betrayed them.

The following morning, Aaron and Joe again appeared in the dock and after the evidence from both sides had been heard, the jury retired for two hours. On their return, they stated they found Joe not guilty, although Aaron had been found ‘guilty of a common assault committed in self defence.’ Joe was discharged, but the judge said that he must ask for ‘at least a reasonable verdict’ in the case of Aaron. The jury then retired and returned with a not guilty verdict for Aaron. As relief washed over Aaron, the judge told him, “You have had a very narrow escape. I caution you against throwing stones as it is a low and blackguard practice.”

After previously serving six hard months in Beechworth gaol, both young men would have keenly realised the luck that had been granted to them. While waiting with Dan in the lockup, they may have planned, that if discharged, they would meet him at one of the many pubs in Beechworth. Maybe at the Commercial in Ford Street or the Vine Hotel along Sydney Road, where a general servant known as ‘Maggie’ had caught Joe’s eye. Wherever, they chose to celebrate their victory, it is of little doubt that whiskey, ale and gin flowed well into the night, knocked back while fireworks from the Canadian Blodin lit up the Beechworth sky.

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Finally, I feel it important to add that neither Aaron nor Joe were ever members of the Greta Mob. This is a falsehood that has long been repeated and was something, amongst a long list of errors, that was repeated by Leo Kennedy in his recent book, ‘Black Snake.’ Until the time of Ned’s ‘wholesale and retail’ cattle and horse stealing, Joe and Aaron did not stray far from the country around Beechworth. Mainly due of course to the long days both men were putting in to improving Aaron’s selection. Even after meeting Dan in early 1877, it is unlikely they would have swaggered along the streets of Greta and Wangaratta with Dan, Steve Hart and Tom and Jack Lloyd. Another falsehood printed in ‘Black Snake‘ which I feel I should mention is in regards to Aaron and Joe stealing a calf and having it butchered by a Beechworth butcher called Joseph Harvey. The butcher was a man whom the Sherritt’s often dealt with and kept a book showing the previous transactions he had made with the family. When Aaron and Joe brought the roan coloured heifer to Harvey, Aaron told him he wanted the hide kept for the purpose of making whips. The butcher agreed to this and wrote the agreement in his record book. Aaron and Joe waited until the calf had been slaughtered, and when given the hide, headed back to Sheepstation Creek. Neither Aaron or Joe were ever charged with the theft of the calf, despite Kennedy stating, quite positively,  that they had ‘stolen’ the calf.  It angers me when individual’s twist events to suit their own argument or agenda. Aaron himself knew how to butcher both cattle and sheep, so why, if he had stolen this calf didn’t he butcher it himself? He had previously been granted a slaughtering license and helped the Kelty brothers butcher sheep (until he knew they were stolen). Lastly, Aaron paid for the hide, another detail that is omitted from the retelling in ‘Black Snake‘.

As I look across at the total word count for this piece, which currently stands at over five thousand words, I am amazed at how much I have written and included. But Aaron deserves this. He deserves to be heard and considered. I have sat back for many years now, reading comments and opinions of Aaron that range from blind acceptance through to extreme hatred.  While my own opinion of Aaron was never favorable, I always acknowledged that there was a time when Aaron and Joe’s lives were so intertwined they were like brothers. With the two of them spending long days working on Aaron’s selection, until the fading light beckoned them up to the Vine Hotel for a nobbler of whiskey from the Cornish barmaid with the scars on her arm. Riding together down the steep slope of Byrnes Gully, leaning back in their saddles, their fingers barely touching the reins. Or filling in a hot afternoon at the falls, their laughter echoing off the granite boulders. But on my last visit to the Devils Elbow something changed, with the months I had previously spent writing for An Outlaw’s Journal forcing me to acknowledge the real man Aaron was. And as I stood at the rusted barbed wire fence, I promised that I would do all I could to redeem the character of the man so many choose to ignore.

Aaron, I have written this all for you.


Sources:

Ian Jones, The Fatal Friendship

Ian Jones, The Friendship that Destroyed Ned Kelly

Ian Jones, The Kelly’s and Beechworth

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 27 November, 1875

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 1 August, 1874

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 5 September, 1874

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 2 November, 1872

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 7 September, 1872

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 11 December, 1875

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 13 January, 1877

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 24 February, 1877

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Thursday 1 March, 1877

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Thursday 1 June, 1876

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Thursday 25 May, 1876

Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Thursday 11 January, 1877

4 thoughts on “Aaron Sherritt: A Forgotten Life (Part One)

  1. Thats a longer list of ‘crimes and misdemeanours’ than I had ever imagined, so I have to ask if you have any idea of how typical was Aaron of the youth of that area at that time?. Do you think most young men in the area would have similar records attached to their names? I would have guessed not but I don’t know.

    Also I note you’re adamant that he wasn’t a member of the Greta mob and yet the image at the top of the page shows him dressed exactly as one, even to the extent of adopting the weird affectation of having the hat strap under his nose. Why do you think he had a photo taken of himself pretending to be a Greta mob member? Was he not a member but a kind of Greta mob ‘sympathiser’ perhaps?›

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    1. I do note that. As I state within my writing, Aaron knew Dan after February 1877, but I do not believe he, or Joe, were ever in the Greta Mob. You talk about the way he is dressed, which is in keeping with the larrikin style of dress throughout Australia, not only in Greta and Wangaratta. (As the links I provide below highlight.) The black and white photo of Aaron was taken around 1877, and as can be seen, he has the chinstrap under his lip. But that does not automatically confirm his involvement with the Greta Mob. (Bush larrikins copied the inner city equivalent in style but as they also rode horses, they had to wear a hat string to stop the hat from flying off, so they would wear the chinstrap under the nose or under the lip.)
      You make particular mention of the colourised photo, which was taken while he was working with the police. The photo of Jack was also taken at this time, and like his brother, he too wears the chinstrap under his nose. The reason these photos were taken was so the police had copies of their likeness to distribute around the district. Were they told to wear their chinstraps like this for identification purposes? The photos were circulated in case Jack and Aaron accompanied the Gang on a bank robbery. Or, is this just how they wore them? Either way, there is no evidence to suggest that Aaron or Joe, or any of the other Byrnes or Sherritts were in the Greta Mob. The chinstrap was adopted to signify Kelly sympathisers because it was unique enough to be recognised, but common enough that it wasn’t conspicuous.
      Unfortunately I am not an expert on all facets of Australian history, but I have read enough to make inferences based on available information.

      http://talkingaustralian.blogspot.com/2018/05/?m=1
      http://thedirton.therocks.com/2010/03/telling-rocks-stories-historical.html?m=1
      http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article100878218

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