'We have received from an anonymous correspondent who is evidently a sympathiser with, and a near associate of the Kellys and their companions, a long but rambling statement of the case as it is put by the outlaws. The document, which contains sixteen pages, came by post simply addressed to "The editor of the Herald newspaper, Melbourne." It is evidently written by an illiterate person, the orthography being defective, the calligraphy in some portions almost undecipherable, and the composition rambling and sometimes unintelligible. Sufficient can be gathered, however, to show that there is a very bitter feeling of animosity among the sympathisers of the outlaws against the police, and reasons are stated why they should exist. An inquiry is anxiously demanded, and as the statements made are of a serious character, and the demand for an inquiry apparently a justifiable one, we give some particulars from the citation of our anonymous correspondent, who, for aught we know, may be one of the gang.
Dear Sir, You think yourself to be very high and mighty for the work you are doing in hunting for the Kelly Gang. But I must inform you that your days are truly numbered unless you stop bothering yourself about Beechworth and the surrounding districts. The Kellys are informed of your every move and you cannot visit Sebastopol without someone watching. You are a brave cove, I’ll grant you that, for it is only foolishness to believe your life will continue to be spared. The great boasting you have done at the Hibernian Hotel about being the only cove to ever gaol Joe Byrne has made it to the ears of the outlaws and as you can well imagine, they are itching to get their hands on you. I must warn you Detective, you and your great chum Mullane are now wanted men. A reward of £8000 has been issued for your apprehension and delivery up into the ranges. I trust you fully consider the peril you gentlemen now find yourselves in. There is great mischief to come, so prepare yourself for your latter end.
The honking of geese ring in Joe’s ears as he rubs, tiredly, at his sleep crusted eyes. Turning onto his back, Joe ties his fingers behind his head and stares up at the sheet of calico above him. From behind the partition, Mary snuffles and coughs. The rattle of the bedframe sounding as she wiggles out of bed, the patter of small footsteps edging closer to the curtain.
“...I never quite liked Joe...He had a lousy temper. He was very violent. He injured his sister quite badly one time. He was yarding some horses and she let some of the horses go, so he belted her across the face with a bridle. He didn’t treat his mum well either. His mum was a real battler with seven kids and fourteen cows, trying to live with some dignity and yet Joe was swanning about town, dressing up to the nines, looking like a young squatter. This was very different from Ned. But Ned brought the absolute best out in him. Ned said “he’s my best man” who was “straight and true as steel”. That was true for when Joe was with Ned, but I would trust Aaron before I’d trust Joe. I like Aaron much more than I like Joe.”
For Elizabeth Sherritt Sheepstation Creek, Reid's Creek P.O Near Beechworth. (H.R.M. Gaol. Beechworth) My dear Bessie, I write the following lines to you to let you know how I am at present. You must be careful with these few bits of paper, for I have written them on the sly and had them posted out … Continue reading A Letter to Bessie
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.
Darkness folds around Joe, memories flickering, painfully, to the surface, while he waits for the train that Ned promises will come… I pour another glass full of whiskey and reach into my pocket, the small packet of opium powder ruffles beneath my fingers. I think this is my third dose, but I cannot be sure. Nothing will be strong enough to blur the vision of Aaron, lying dead at my feet. I have long been haunted by the blood that was spilled at Stringybark Creek, but nothing could have prepared me for the blood that leeched out of Aaron. Christ. The way it spurted between his fingers in a wild arc of crimson, as he clutched at his throat and staggered backwards. But I aimed again and pulled the trigger, the shot shredded through his shirt and skin, instantly shattering his ribs, which exploded out from underneath his favourite cotton shirt. Aaron gargled and spluttered, falling backwards, he smashed his head against an old potato box. Then came the screaming and wailing of Belle, piercing my ears worse than the blast of the bloody shotgun. I looked down at what I had caused, my eyesight blurred, the bashing of Dan’s fist on the door seemed a hundred miles away.
April of 1872 saw Joe working for Ah Lim; a cloth merchant in the Chinese Camp of Sebastopol. Since he and Aaron had started spending more time within the camp, Joe had begun to be employed by a few of the local Chinese traders, who found him to be polite and hardworking. It was only ever temporary employment, but employment nonetheless and Joe enjoyed being amongst their company. Under the instruction of Ah Lim, his tasks had been sorting stock, delivering messages to other shopkeepers around the camp and unloading the cart when a carrier arrived from Melbourne.
The Bray portrait or ‘gentleman Joe’, as it is often referred, is an image which has divided public opinion for many years, from those who believe the young, well-dressed fellow, is twenty one year-old Joe Byrne, to others who claim, quite positively, that it is not. With some individuals even asserting that the young man pictured is actually Joe’s cousin, also named Joseph Byrne. However, if the man photographed is indeed Joe’s cousin, why was the carte de visite in the hands of Antonio Wick? This underlying question is something that has never been properly looked at, and instead, for the most part, is often brushed over. For me, as someone who is constantly seeking both understanding and justice for Joe, I cannot allow broad statements such as this to go unchallenged, and it is also the reason I have decided to put forward my research and views.
In the grip of a bitter and isolated June winter, the gang had taken refuge in an abandoned miner’s hut, positioned above the snowline on Mount Buffalo. They had spent many weeks living within the concealed safety of the hut, relying on Tom Lloyd, Wild Wright and other closely trusted sympathisers to bring them fresh … Continue reading Stolen Lines