I first met her along the Woolshed Road, when the light of the day had just turned to dusk. She was sitting in the dirt of the road, the wagon she was riding in having lost a piece of iron from the harness. The blue of her eyes and golden hue of her hair are … Continue reading My Elly
On the 10th of July 1879, two children coming home from Reid’s Creek School met two of the Kelly gang, on the road halfway between the school and the Sherritt selection. The two gang members offered the children some bread, which the youngsters took and ate appreciatively. As Joe was usually spotted alone around the … Continue reading Breaking Bread
On the night of the 3rd of December 1879, Joe and Aaron visited Ye Fang’s store in Sebastopol, where they purchased a bottle of gin, tobacco and opium.During Jack’s evidence at the Royal Commission in 1881 he stated, “I saw the Chinaman at the Chinese store, Ye Fang, I was in there one day. I … Continue reading Tobacco and Gin
On the 1st of September 1879, Joe rode to the Sherritt selection at Sheepstation Creek with a ‘threatening letter’ he had written, addressed to Detective Ward. He found Jack busy harrowing and told him he had a letter he wanted posting and that it would be requiring a stamp. Jack was hesitant, but agreed when … Continue reading A Threatening Letter
On a wintry night in early June 1880, Joe crept along the old mining race at Sebastopol and visited his mother, Margret. Here, he collected some clean clothes and filled his belly with warm stew. Joe’s visit was reported by his brother Paddy to Jack Sherritt, while the pair were drinking together. According to Jack, … Continue reading A Visit Home
Music was a 16 hand grey thoroughbred who was greatly admired by many who saw her, owing to the mare’s magnificent conformation. She was an honest and surefooted horse, which Joe had achieved by countless hours of riding her down the steep gullies of the Woolshed Valley. Throughout his outlawry, whenever asked about the state … Continue reading Joe’s Grey Mare Music
The heels of Joe’s polished bluchers clip over the cobblestones as he walks up along Camp Street toward Bray’s Photographic Studio. His pipe hangs lazily from the corner of his lips, swirls of tobacco smoke drifting into the crisp autumn air. Feeling proud in his appearance, in tweed jacket and trousers, waistcoat and a crisp white shirt, Joe holds his head high, his blue eyes focused firmly ahead at the bustling cross roads.
Hobbling Music in the thick scrub of the gully, Joe begins untying the rope that secures the rolled up overcoat to the pommel of the saddle and unfurls it, revealing the shotgun that has been hidden within the fabric. The bitting chill of winter sends a shiver from his lips and he wraps the coat around himself, turning up the collar to hide the bushy beard that frames his face. Slinging the weapon across his shoulder, Joe unbuckles the girth and removes the saddle from Music’s back, resting it against the rotted stump of a pine tree. He strokes his hand along the glistening mark at her side, causing her to twitch and flatten her ears in response. Aware of what has made the bloody wound, Joe lifts his leg behind himself and rubs a finger against the pointed tip of his spur, the iron smeared with blood. He shakes his head and removes her bridle, the tom thumb bit falling from her mouth with a clatter. Music grinds her teeth and rubs her forehead against his shoulder, leaving a speckled patch of white on his woollen overcoat. “Enough of that,” Joe says, pushing her head away. Laying the bridle on the stump, he begins his descent down to the flat of Sebastopol in search of rest.
After a morning of herding his mother's milking cows with Paddy, Joe, dressed in his town clothes, begins his journey up to Beechworth along the rain corrugated Woolshed road. As usual, Joe had made sure to slip away while Margret was in the dairy, he found it easier to leave quietly than to explain himself. Aaron would mock that this was because Joe was frightened of his mother, but the reality was far less simple. He sought to be understood by her, he wished for her to see him as he was and not merely as the son she wanted him to be. Joe had no desire to be chained to life on the farm, he wanted to savour all that was around him, but that came at a cost. Looking up at the overhanging clouds, which again threaten rain, Joe hastens his pace passed Thomas Lloyd’s Eagle Hotel, where the Chinese cook, his queue braid wrapped around his head, kneels beneath the veranda scrubbing a cast iron pot.
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.