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Thomas Curnow re Kelly’s attempt to ambush police

VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .

20/7/1880

Overview

This is a copy of Thomas Curnow’s statement dated the 20.07.1880 – just three weeks after the siege at Glenrowan. It is a detailed description of the events that took place that night. A schoolteacher in Glenrowan, Curnow played a significant part in the downfall of the Kelly Gang and his heroic efforts won him both praise and enemies. In fact, he so feared for his life that he applied for an immediate transfer after the siege. During Edward Kelly’s trial, Curnow’s statement was perhaps one of the most damaging: he details how he won the outlaws trust and then used the information he gained to warn the police.

 

Transcribed text Image

 

 

[Curnow’s Statement]

 

 

[Mr Curnow’s statement
20/7/80]Memorandum.
July 21 1880
To F. C. Standish
Chief Comm of PoliceDear Sir
I return as desired the manuscript of Mr Curnow’s statement which was courteously forwarded by you to this office
I am Sir
Yours faithfullyH Short
Sub Editor

[End of page 1]

VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .


Copy 

On Sunday morning 27 June at about eleven o’clock Mrs Curnow, my sister, brother-in-law, and myself were out for a drive when, in passing through Stanistreets’ railway gate, we were bailed up by an armed man on horseback who turned out to be Ned Kelly, the outlaw. Another armed man was behind him and I was told that he was Byrnes. After a while Ned Kelly gave directions for the horse and buggy to be taken into Mr Jones’s yard. Mrs & Miss Curnow went into Mrs Stanistreet’s, and my brother-in-law and I stayed at the gates taking part in the conversation going on there. We had not been bailed up many minutes, before I was informed by Mr Stanistreet that the outlaws had caused part of the railway line to be torn up with the purpose of wrecking a special train which they expected would pass through Glenrowan. Some one, I forget who, also told me that the gang had been at Beechworth during the night before, and had shot several Police. I doubted this but afterwards ascertained from Dan Kelly that they had actually been in the vicinity of Beechworth and had done “some shooting.” The gang afterwards told me, in fact they made no secret of it, that they had caused a part of the line to be torn up at a dangerous part beyond the Station in order to wreck a special train of Inspectors, Police and black-trackers which would pass through Glenrowan for Beechworth to take up the “Kelly” trail from there. They stated that they would shoot down all those who escaped death from the wrecked train, and that if any civilians were in the train, they should share the same fate as they

[End of page 2]

VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .


they had no business accompanying the Police. The outlaws affirmed that they were justified in doing this. On hearing their intentions I determined that if I could by any means whatever baulk their designs and prevent such a sacrifice of human life, I would do so. This purpose governed the whole of my sayings and doings while I was with the outlaws. On reflection I thought it best to inspire them with confidence in my sympathising heartily with them, and, if I could do this, I though that they would allow me enough liberty to be able to do something to frustrate their intentions. In the early part of the afternoon, the outlaws proposed a dance, and came and asked me to join in it. I objected, on the ground of having on nailed boots, when the thought flashed through my mind that if I could induce Ned Kelly to accompany me to the school for a pair of dancing boots, on the journey there in passing the Police Barracks, Bracken, the trooper stationed there, might see him and would be able to give an alarm. I felt sure that as Bracken had been stationed at Greta he would know him. So I said to Ned Kelly after being pressed to dance that I would do so with pleasure if he would accompany me to my home for a pair of dancing boots, He agreed quite readily to go with me, and we were getting ready when Dan Kelly interfered and said that Ned Kelly had better stay behind and let him or Byrnes accompany me. Some one else also urged Ned Kelly to stay back, and

[End of page 3]

VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .

 

 

 

 

and said that my house was near the Police barracks. Ned turned and asked me if it was and I replied “Yes: we shall have to pass the barracks, I had forgotten that.” He then said that we would not go and I consented to dance with Dan. Shortly after, Ned declared that he would go down and bring Bracken and Reynolds the postmaster up to Jones’s. I laughed and told him that I would rather than a hundred pounds that he would do so, and asked to be allowed to go with him. He gave me no reply then. I had ascertained from Mr Stanistreet that his revolver was still in his possession, and to gain the consent of the outlaws to my going home, and taking my wife, child, and sister with me and thus being at liberty to make a dash for Benalla. I told the gang in strict confidence that Mr Stanistreet possessed a loaded revolver from the Railway Department, and that though I know that he would not use it against them, some one else might get it and do them an injury. I advised them to demand it of him at once, and I believe they did. With the same object in view and after hearing Ned Kelly solemnly assent to Mrs Jones and others that he would not shoot Constable Bracken, I told him that he had better take Dave Mortimer, my brother-in-law, with him to call Bracken out as the trooper knew his voice well and would suspect nothing. I also kept warning them to keep a sharp look out for enemies, and did my utmost to ingratiate myself with them. On obtaining a suitable opportunity, I asked Ned Kelly again would he

allow
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VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .


 

 

allow me to take Mrs Curnow, the baby, and my sister home when he went to Bracken, and I assured him that he had no cause for fearing me as I was with him heart and soul. He then said that he knew that and could see it and he acceded to my request. I think it was about ten o’clock on Sunday night before the outlaws started for the Police barracks taking with them a Mr E. Reynolds, Mr R. Gibbons, Mr Mortimer, myself, wife, and sister. We reached the barracks and Constable Bracken was taken by the outlaws without bloodshed. Ned Kelly then told me that I could go home and take the ladies with me. He directed us to “go quickly to bed and not to dream too loud,” and intimated that if we acted otherwise we would get shot as one of them would be down to our place during the night to see that we were all right. He had previously declared that they would wait at Glenrowan till a train came. When we reached home, which was about two hundred yards from the police barracks, I put the horse in the stable with the ostensible purpose of feeding him well as he had starved all day. While supper was being got ready I quietly prepared everything including a red lama scarf, a candle, and matches to go to Benalla intending to keep close to the Railway line in case of a special coming before I reached there. In overcoming Mrs Curnow’s opposition to my going for she was in a state of the utmost terror and dread, and declared that both I and all belonging to me would get

shot
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VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .

 

 

 

 

shot if I persisted in going, and in securing the safety of my wife, child and sister while being away time passed, and just as I was about to start I heard the train coming in the distance. I immediately caught up the scarf, candle and matches and ran down the line to meet the train. On reaching a straight part of the line where those in the train would be able to see the danger signal for some distance, I lit the candle and held it behind the red scarf. While I was holding up the danger signal I was in great fear of being shot before those in the train would be able to see the red light, and of thus uselessly sacrificing my life. The train, which proved to be a pilot engine, came on and stopped a little apast me: and I gave the alarm by informing those in it of the line being torn up just beyond the Station, and of the Kelly gang lying in wait at the station for the special train of Police. On being told by the guard that he would go back and stop the special which was coming on, and seeing him do it, I ran home to appease my wife’s anxiety and terror, and to protect them as far as I could. We had not the least hope of an escape from being shot dead for we felt certain that the outlaws must have heard the whistling and stoppage of the pilot engine near our place, and would divine that I was stopping the train as we were the only ones liberated to our knowledge. We therefore felt sure that at least one of them would ride down

and
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VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .


 

 

and take revenge for my betrayal of their trust in me. Though I represented myself to Edward Kelly as a sympathiser, my sole motive in doing so was to save life, to uphold justice and of course to secure as far as possible the safety of my family.(Sgd) Thos. Curnow.
late of Glenrowan A.S 1742.

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VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 1 Record 1 Document Statement: Thomas Curnow re Kelly attempt to ambush police .

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