Page 38 - This Criminal Brood
Ah Fook walked up to the house, where Annie sat outside sewing, and asked her for a drink. Given creek water, he abused and threatened Annie. Ned emerged and pushed him away but ran off when the Chinese man hit him three times with a bamboo. The fearsome Ah Fook left, threatening to burn the house down. With Gray and Skilling, who had seen the whole incident, Ned then returned to work until sundown.
Neither story is convincing. Much has been made of the fact that Ah Fook claimed Ned was wielding an 18-foot stick. He actually said, through an interpreter, that the stick was '2 or 3 fathoms long' and obviously one of them confused fathoms with feet. More to the point, why would a budding bushranger operate from his home, making identification absurdly easy?
The Kelly story; as presented by Gray, Skilling and Annie, is no more convincing. If we can believe that Ah Fook was an unusually assertive and volatile Chinese, the clash with Annie is credible enough, as is Ned coming to the aid of his sister. But even if we can believe that Ned would run away without making any attempt to retaliate after being beaten with a bamboo, it is hard to accept that Gray and Skilling stood limply by while this happened.
It is even harder to explain why, the following day, Ned dashed off "at full speed" when a plainclothed Sergeant Whelan and Constable Mclnerny came within half a mile of the Kelly house. Whelan gave chase on horseback, evaded a couple of "ferocious" dogs set on him as he passed the house and managed to catch Ned before he reached the selection's boundary fence. Asked twice why he ran, Ned could give no reason apart from saying that, "If the fence was a little nearer he would have got away".
Arrested on a charge of Highway Robbery, Ned was taken to Benalla, locked up overnight with a regulation dinner of bread and water and brought into court next day. Whelan asked for a remand to allow time to find an interpreter - even though he had readily found one the previous day to translate Ah Fook's story. The bench remanded Ned until the following Tuesday, four days off, and accepted Whelan's arguable advice that, "The law did not allow bail to prisoners of this description". Ned had one consolation: as a longer term remand prisoner he was now given 10 ounces of meat a day.
On Tuesday Whelan antagonised the bench by again failing to produce an interpreter. Eventually, after eleven days in the Benalla lock-up, Ned faced the court on 26 October (1869) with Superintendent Nicolas prosecuting.
Police Magistrate Wills listened to both versions of the incident and in the face of three witnesses contradicting an uncorroborated story, dismissed the charge with apparent reluctance. He restrained his cynicism to the mild but telling comment: "You must be a very quiet lot out there - three of you and to allow your friend to be beaten like that is most extraordinary".
Page 58 - Three Years Hard
At Eldorado Sen. Const. Hall had become involved in a dispute at a hotel and while taking a man (an ex-policeman) to the lock-up "fell on the prisoner with his knees" and bashed his head against a verandah post. He was subsequently charged with assault and perjury. Police Magistrate H. C. Wills of Wangaratta "strongly recommended the removal of Sen. Const. Hall from Eldorado on the ground that he was too hot tempered to deal with the class of people who are met with there".
Page 165 - Crescent Nailtail Wallaby.
The very last specimen ever collected as a living animal was caught in a dingo trap on the Nullarbor Plain in 1927 or 1928. The 'dogger' who caught the animal, a Mr W.A.Wills, sent it to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, from where it made its way to the Australian Museum. Wills was still alive in June 1984 when the Western Australian Department of Land Management decided to conduct a survey of the Nullarbor Plain.
They arranged to speak with him, in the hope he would recall something of the creatures' habits and distribution. Wills, unfortunately; became so nervous at the prospect of the interview that the night before it was to take place he escaped from his retirement home, and drove his car through the night to visit his brother in Queensland.
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