I Have a Heart, but it’s as Hard as Stone

“Dear Aaron I write these few stolen lines to you to let you know that I am still living…” On the 26th of June 1879, a desperate Joe Byrne pens a letter to his lifelong friend, Aaron Sherritt, asking him to join the gang, “a short life and a jolly one” Joe asserted. However, within the span of a year, on the night of June 26th 1880, Joe, accompanied by Dan Kelly, would shoot and kill Aaron at his hut in the Woolshed. “You will not blow now what you do with us anymore”, Joe declared, looking down on the blood soaked face of his once most trusted friend….

The Road to Eleven Mile

Music whinnies as Joe approaches the police paddock, where she has been tethered since his arrival to the courthouse yesterday morning. A trooper sits beside the post and rail yards, his helmet low over his eyes, cutting the glare from the afternoon sun. He looks up as Joe nears, scrunching the Ovens and Murray Advertiser under his arm and rises from the wooden crate. “It’s the big grey isn’t it?” The policeman nods towards Music, “And your flash young mate has the chestnut, if I recall?” “Aye” Joe responds, “but just bring out the grey, my mate will be out soon to collect his mare.” Waiting as the trooper removes the top rail, Joe’s eyes flick toward the holding cell, where he had met that young fellow with the bright smile and raggedy clothing. He turns his head back to the horse yards, as Music is led out, her shoes clipping the rail as she steps over it. Joe tips his head and takes Music’s reins, as she shakes her bridled head from the flies that buzz around her large black eyes. Joe tightens the girth and lets his stirrups down, the leather snapping against the saddle flaps.

Memories of Cornwall

Joe tugs, playfully, at the drawstring of Maggie’s apron as she tends to the fire, rekindling the flames, which crackle and flicker, with an armful of dry twigs. Maggie straightens, brushing away the woodlice which cling to the grey sleeves of her dress, and turns toward him. Her blue eyes flash in the firelight, “you are a devil, aren’t you Mr Byrne?” “Aye”, Joe replies with a wink, pulling her onto his lap, “not even six months in her majesty’s prison could flog the devil out of me.”

A Smile from Julia

The November rain falls about Joe in heavy sheets as he leans his frame against the wooden door of home. Overhead, streaks of lightning illuminate the dark Woolshed sky, followed by sharp cracks of thunder which resound through the gully. Joe shudders at its severity, which rings in his ears like the cat o’ nine tails, as visions of Beechworth gaol flash, uneasily, in his mind. Joe shakes from the brutality that grips him, and knocks a fist, which is cut and calloused from the prison sentence he had just served, against the breadth of door.