State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 11 April 1973



We vary our usual procedure by selecting a manuscript for publication, not from the La Trobe Library's collection, but from the State Archives. This dramatic account by Guard Jesse Dowsett has recently been discovered in the Railways Archives.
Traffic Manager
I have the honor to report for your information the following statement of what occurred in connection with the capture of the Kelly gang at Glenrowan on 28th June —
I was told by Station Master at Benalla on Sunday not to go far away from the Station as it was likely I would have to run a Special with Police to Beechworth as the Kellys had shot a man afterwards was told that no special would leave till arrival of Special from Melbourne as that would not arrive till about I went home to get some sleep, the Special came from Melbourne with Guard Bell in charge. Guard McPhee went on the Pilot Engine about 4.50. I was called and told that the Kellys were fighting at Glenrowan. I at once dressed and running over was just in time to get my revolver, a Splendid Breech loader supplied to me by the Department, and jump on the Engine with Driver Coleman we arrived at Glenrowan about 5.26 am my attention was attracted by hearing some dreadful screams from a woman proceeding from the hotel I went up in the bush a bit and then crawled on my knees to within about 40 yards of the house when I could see a woman with a baby in arms crying out not to shoot her child as soon as I could see that it was not a lure to entice some of us to our death I called softly to her to come this way come to the Police Thinking that would give her confidence she turned towards me and at that moment the Police in front of the place fired very heavily in response to some shots from there I caught the child and the woman, who was Mrs. Reardon a Platelayers Wife, and ran down to the station and put her in the Carriage where Mrs. O'Connor and another Lady were. I then after some time succeeded in making my way from tree to tree to within about 25 yards from the back of the house Sergeant Steele, being still closer and Constable Kelly at the tree behind me as the firing came from the back window pretty quick I thought they would rush from there and called out to the Police why not shoot the horses who were tied up there Kelly shot one who fell at once I fired at another hit him he reared up breaking away from the fence we still returned the fire from the house when all at once as I heard the thud of a bullet on the tree where I was on looking back I saw what seemed a tremendous big black fellow with something like a blanket on him this would be about 6.45 am and the morning being hazy or else the smoke from the guns hanging about made him look a deal bigger than he was I called to Kelly to see who that was and somebody called out twice to him but the strange figure still advanced on us and all at once fired several shots at us it is one of them scatter boys for cover says someone I fired a few shots at him but he stopped in a clump of saplings about 50 yards from us I wanted to get closer I worked along the ground in the scrub till got to a fallen tree about thirty yards from him I emptied my revolver at him as he seemed to be sitting down as I laid down to reload I saw Constable Kelly not far behind me and said to him see if you can hit him with
your rifle he fired his rifle and I told him where he hit the tree just missing Kelly who seemed to keep behind the clump of saplings he fired again and I said he is hit he came out in to the open and walked straight for us firing away and taking the fire from the Police quite cooly I thought he must be mad for he would hit his helmet with his revolver which sounded like a cracked bell and saying you cant shoot me you b— dogs, as he still was walking towards me I gave him four shots for the centre of his body and hearing in fact almost seeing them jump off his body I felt very queer I said this must be the Devil himself he had by this time walked into the fork of a big tree that was laying on the ground the but of which was towards me I made my way to it and seeing him sitting or stooping behind the logs I said you had better surrender never while I have a shot left he says I then rested my revolver on the top of the fallen tree and pulled straight for his head only fifteen yards off as it hit him I said how do you like it old man he rose up as I spoke and firing at me says how do you like that it was very close singing as it passed I saw Sergeant Steele run from a tree close behind Kelly, as he shot at me, and fire twice very low I saw Kelly fall and at once ran up to him Sergeant Steele got hold of his hand and I wrenched the revolver, one he had taken from the N.S.W. Police, out of his hand it going off as I did Constable Kelly who was almost up at the same moment and clearing the head gear oft” Sergeant Steele at once called out it is Ned himself I swore to be at your death he exclaiming thats enough I have got my gruel we brought him to the station after taking his armour off which weighed 97 lb the head piece alone 23 lb I gave Doctor Nicholson a hand then while he probed the wounds. Police Inspector Sadleir then wanted him to give some signal to the house to make them give in he said how do you know they are there on my telling him they were still firing from the back window Yes he said one of them the others must be away or you would be shot down like rotten sheep when you rushed me Mr. Sadleir sent a telegram for a big Gun I came away with the train to Benalla and then had to take my train to Euroa — 6.10 up. having also to take on the 3 pm the 10 am not arriving in time I could not get back to take part in the finish I have to thank you for supplying me with an excellent weapon which enabled me to perform my part with some little credit to the Railways to which I have the honor to belong
I remain
Your Obt Servant
Jesse Dowsett
Goods Guard