Joe Byrne, born in
November, 1856, on the Woolshed diggings near Beechworth,
mother Margaret Byrne nee White was born in Ireland in County
July 1855, a Patrick Byrne married Margaret White, a 21 year
old Galway woman,
strong faced, with a pale blue for an eye colour.
father, Patrick Byrne, a 24 year old a Goulburn gold digger, Strong
build, his eyes the palest shade of grey, his hands were strong
that winter day in July 1855, at the Catholic Church of St Peter,
and St Paul, the two were bonded, as one. Margaret signed her name,
quite well and dense, Patrick who was illiterate, but, he had learned
to sign his Christian name fairly well.
a long and hard move to Victoria from Sydney, Margaret and Patrick
set up their home in the Woolshed Valley, a lovely spot just outside
Beechworth, over populated town of 4,000, over 150 businesses, ten
hotels, seventeen restaurants, and also a professor of music, just
to name a few.
a warm summers night, in November 1856, Margaret bore a son, in
a tent, or temporary homing, the child was born, he was named Joseph
Byrne, but he would always be known as Joe, this young handsome
child, would be the best friend and lieutenant of, Edward Kelly.
young Joe was ten months old, Margaret and Patrick, yet had another
child, his name was John, quite a small child, un healthy looking,
little John only lived 25 days, before his death.
was a blow to the family, and the local community, once again when
Joe was 3, another child was born, she was named Catherine,
this one sustained health and was able to survive, the 19th century
harshness, and would live on to be another prominent name in Joe's
Patrick probably tried
his hand at gold mining once again, and, more than likely he worked
alongside a mate by the name of Phillip Riley, who took up a gold
claim just below the Byrne Homestead. Not long after this, on 17th
of March 1862, St Patrick's day, Margaret gave birth yet again in
Chilten, he was to be named Patrick, more than likely after his
Already at age
6, Joe was becoming a handsome boy, his pale blue eyes and his tall
strong body, made him a remarkable individual.
In the year of 1864,
a Chinese community, had developed in the Woolshed, in fact no less
than a mile from the Byrne homestead, a small Chinese community
had began, 20 or so Chinese Miners lived here, they had a sluice
which ran directly through the Byrne Homestead, the family took
some of the water.
Soon Joe was among the
small community, nicknamed ' Ah Joe ' eventually he learned Cantonese
and could speak it quite fluently.
Around this time a new
family had settled in at Woolshed, The Sherritts. Their first boy,
Aaron, would, be a good mate to Joe and, be a major part in Joe's
Soon Joe was at schooling
age, and on the 27th of January 1862, Joe attended the new Catholic
church/school at Woolshed. Perhaps it was here Joe met Aaron Sherritt,
a young lad who's family had just settled in at Woolshed. Their
teacher was Cornelius O'Donoghue, soon Joe became a ' flash ' writer
and loved to write.
Joe and Aaron were a
' Naughty ' pair, they would explore the ranges above, skim rocks
across the creek, and find secret hideouts, and perhaps, played,
' Cowboys and Indians ' together in these magnificent granite boulders
which formed caves.
In 1946, Kelly
researcher Max Brown spoke to the remaining people who remembered
the pair of mates said of Joe " a quiet, intelligent, lithe
youngster, clean and tidy in his habits, a little old fashioned
and grave in his ways "
In 1866, Patrick Byrne,
Joe's father had developed a serious condition of heart disease,
as Ian Jones put it in " The Friendship That Destroyed Ned
Kelly" " The trauma of his fathers first heart attack
may have been reflected in Joe's school work. On 13 May 1866 this
boy who was usually first or second in his class, came last, with
a pass in only reading "
In 1869, Joe only passed
in arithmetic, spelling and writing, and failed his usual favourite
subject in reading. Meanwhile, Joe's father Patrick, his heart disease
became worse and he died in the Ovens and District Hospital in
Beechworth. Joe helped his mother best he could, as much as sleeping
with her for comfort, over the next hard, few months.
Another daughter was
born, on the 7th of February 1871, she was Christened Ellen. She
would be the last, of the Byrne's, living to a ripe old age of 93.
Joe and Aaron became
much closer - Aaron, the flash, now, man, and Joe, a intelligent,
handsome, young bushman.
Suggestion has it that
around this time, Joe while becoming very well known in the Chinese
community, may have taken a addiction, to opium. Opium a type of
Poppy, a flower, which was smoked through a long pipe, inhaled and
Around this time,
Joe mad his debut appearance in a court of law, on the charge of
" Illegally using a horse" and was fined 20s with 1s 6d
and to find himself in prison for three days unless it was paid
up - front.
Joe had a lucky scrape
with the law; he was lucky to get out without imprisonment, as Judge
Pitcairn warned Joe " But in this case, he would inflict a
fine, warning him on
in court on such a charge"
Then, a report that
a white cow, had gone missing from Eldorado Common school, Aaron
and Joe were see cutting a cow that evening, the witness, a red
haired Scotchman, sworn in court Joe and Aaron were cutting the
Eldorado common schools cow.
Joe and Aaron were sent
to Beechworth prison, for 6 long months, the cold place must have
been a horrible experience.
after their release, Joe and Aaron more than likely met up with
Jim Kelly, Ned's brother, after Jim's release from prison, they
met up, and Jim was hoping to get some work at ' Bourke's hole Saw
mill ' The mill, in fact had just ceased operation, and this is
more than likely where Ned, Joe and Aaron met for the first time.
Kelly, Ned's younger brother, had discovered an old deserted gold
claim on Bullock Creek, it consisted of a bark hut, and a race around
it. There was obviously a lot of work being done at the Bullock
creek hut, including target practice.
walked from tree to tree, when he discovered, the Kelly's bullock
creek hut he recorded:
" On one small
tree a circle of charcoal 6 in. in diameter had been traced, and
into this two or three revolver bullets had been fired, on striking
the black dot meant to represent bulls-eye in the centre, and the
other two being close to it. "
Aaron, Ned, Joe, Dan and a handful of friends including Steve Hart,
one of Dan's good mates, were working the gold claim off and on,
until a mysterious incident took place at the Kelly Homestead on
April 15 1878, when Constable Fitzpatrick claimed that Ned burst
through the door, and shot at him, and hit him in the wrist, and
Ned's mother, Ellen, hit him on the head with a shovel. Constable
Fitzpatrick was under the influence of drink at the time of the
Mrs Kelly, was
sentenced to three years hard labour, in her majesty's
gaol Melbourne. William Williamson and William Skillion were sentenced
to six years hard labour each. Mrs Kelly at the time had a new born
baby at her breast, but the harsh sentence proves the injustices
the Kelly family, relations and friends went through.
and Dan, went to the Wombat Ranges almost immediately after the
strange incident. A reward was offered for there capture, 100 pounds,
Ned and Dan, were in fact at Bullock creek.
long hard days and nights, turned from Autumn, to winter, and it
got colder, Joe seemed to have stuck by Ned the whole time, as the
ever weary days drew on, search parties were constantly at the Kelly
Homestead, until finally, on Friday 25th of October 1878, Ned came
across some tracks, with police issue shoes, one set of tracks,
Ned discovered, leading out across towards Holland's creek and also,
second set, as Ned swung his horse around near Emu swamp, and headed
westwards back towards Bullock creek, this set was seen heading
towards a old hut on Stringybark creek.
night, the boys, Ned, Joe, Dan & now included Steve Hart, a
jockey from Wangaratta, expert horseman, and became known for his
ability to be the only one to leap the slip rail fence of the Wangaratta
Station, probably got little if not, no sleep that night, Ned sat
up all night, early next morning, Dan and Ned, headed towards Stringybark,
and discovered the police
party near the old hut.
headed back to Bullock creek, warning Joe and Steve, and possibly,
feeling that there maybe be a siege, to leave, if so, it didn't
work, and, at around midday, shotgun blasts roared out of the gully
at Stringybark, what were the police shooting at? Ned wanted to
Dan, Joe & Steve headed towards the spot Ned and Dan had discovered
earlier, hiding among the spear grass, Joe, was behind Ned, not a
far distance away from Joe was Steve, Dan was also to Ned's right.
gang watched the two constables for a while, they eventually, decided
to move in.
Bail up! Hold up your arms ! '
call could be heard exiting Ned's mouth, Constable Lonigan, whom
was sitting on a log, almost dead in line with Ned, immediately
fell on his back, and rolled behind the battery of logs he was
sitting on, he may have checked to see if his Welby pistol had
bullets in it, and with that, popped his head up, and took aim at
fired before Lonigan had his chance, and hit him in the right eye,
Lonigan, crawled along the ground, crying ' Oh Christ, I am shot
! ' the crawl ceased, and he dropped dead.
Intrye, the other constable sitting on a log, quickly through his
hands up, as the gang searched the camp, they found Mc Intrye was
alone, and asking of questions followed, Mc Intrye, told the gang
that a Sergeant and a Constable were on their way back to the camp,
from patrol, and are expected back soon.
nightmarish confusion, Mc Intrye, took a quite interesting note
about Joe, noting his ' Mild expression of features' and
also he claimed ' he had not the villainous expression of the
years later, Mc Intrye claimed that " Joe Byrne, was a nervous
man thoroughly under the control of Ned Kelly. A part from the Kelly's
bad example and bad influence he would have been a fairly respectable
was obviously pleased by the way Joe acted towards him, Joe gave
the shaken policeman tea, and asked him if he smoked, Mc Intrye replying " Yes " Joe replied to this by saying "
Well, fill your pipe and have a smoke "
and Mc Intrye smoked and chatted for the passing minutes, until
Ned joined them, and Ned began asking questions about Kennedy and
Scanlon, the two police on patrol.
the half of an hour, they heard hooves of horses cluttering up through
the bush. Dan and Joe went back and hid in the long sword grass,
Ned hid behind a fallen log near the fire, and Steve took cover
in the tent.
approached Kennedy and Scanlon, who were still on Horseback, he
warned them they were surrounded and had better surrender. Kennedy,
said to Mc Intrye " Surrounded are we? " Suddenly, Ned
sprung up, and shouted " Bail up " in an instant Constable
Scanlon un hitched his Spencer repeating rifle and fired a shot
at Ned, the gang had all left their covers and were
yelling at the police, telling them to surrender.
bullet Scanlon fired, hit the tree behind Ned, Ned returned his
fire, and hit Scanlon in the lower chest, Constable Scanlon slumped
in his saddle and fell. Scanlon wasn't dead, he was able to gather
his strength, and made an attempt to stand, more than likely, Joe
shot Scanlon, who at the time was only 12 feet away from the injured
constable, as Ian Jones, explains in, Ned Kelly: A Short Life:
Ned was 30 yards away, Steve was 40 yards away with Ned Kennedy
and Mc Intrye between him and Scanlon; Dan had just been wounded;
Joe was no more than 12 or 14 yards away to Scanlon's right. He
probably fired the fatal shot straight into the wounded troopers
exposed right side as he raised his arm to try and un - sling the
out our Anatomy
of a Spencer repeating rifle
time, Kennedy, had leapt off of his horse and was firing from behind
it. Eventually, his horse frightened, took off in full gallop, Mc Intrye, seized the opportunity,
and leapt on Kennedy's horse, and
rode away. Leaving Kennedy to fight it out. Check out our section
report of the
Stringybark creek gun battle.
the dead policemen.
last moments of the battle will never be known, but Kennedy had
been shot and killed. Kennedy was found covered by a long cloak,
the final shot seems to be a blow to the brave man's chest. Ned
later called Kennedy "the bravest man I have ever heard of" The gang
rode off, and headed back to Bullock creek, upset by cold hard reality.
Tom Lloyd, had just arrived at Bullock creek with supplies when
the gang were returning to the hut on Bullock creek, Tom, Immediately
could tell something was the matter, and seen the Spencer rifle
Ned was holding, and said " That looks heavy " and Ned
replied " and deadly too " continued....
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