Year 7 Indro student Pema Inman earned an A+ for an evocative imaginative recount she wrote from the perspective of a police constable who survived an ambush by the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek on 26 October 1878.
Indooroopilly State High School Junior Secondary English teacher Anne Spencer said Pema’s phenomenal work was an assessment task written in response to a novel her English class studied, Black Snake: The Daring of Ned Kelly, by Carole Wilkinson.
“Black Snake is a hybrid novel, being both factual and fictional writing,” Ms Spencer said.
“The assessment task required students to write about a true event from the perspective of a character in the book. Constable Thomas McIntyre was the only person to survive the killings by the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek. Pema decided to write from his perspective and received an A+ for her work.
“It gladdens a teacher’s heart when you have a student who can write with such eloquence.”
Constable McIntyre, along with Sergeant Michael Kennedy and Constables Thomas Lonigan and Michael Scanlan, had formed a search party to capture bushrangers Ned and Dan Kelly. They had set up a base camp at Stringybark Creek.
Two years after the Stringybark Creek killings, Ned Kelly was captured in a shootout at Glenrowan. He was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880.
What if you were there …
By Pema Inman
The log fire in front of me crackled with warmth, casting elongated shadows all around me. The last rays of sun clung to the parched bush, determined not to let the scrub slip into night. Behind me, Constable Lonigan paced anxiously around the fire, a firm grip around his revolver.
Only a few hours ago, Kennedy and Scanlon had left the camp to scout around. This had left Lonigan in a state uneasiness; a foreboding crack of a twig had broken only a few minutes later.
“It’s just a bush rat, Lonigan. If you think every critter is Ned Kelly, you’ll be catching rodents instead of felons,” I murmured.
Although the Kellys were outlaws, I thought of them as lowly delinquents. However, Lonigan remained resolute that it had been the Kelly Gang, and that they were murderous maniacs.
After an hour or so, Lonigan’s anxiety began to fade, and he placed his revolver beside the evanescent fire.
In a twilight-lit forest, a gunshot could be heard a mile away. As a resounding ‘bang’ rang through the forest, I knew Lonigan had been right. Instinctively, I leapt to my feet. Lonigan seized his revolver and started to flee. He never made it past the closest gum tree. Another bullet sped through the air. Lonigan fell face-first onto the leaf-strewn terrain. A sick acid rose into my mouth as blood splattered the earth.
I knew I should’ve run, but an overwhelming panic rooted me to the spot.
As the Kelly Gang approached, I threw my arms up into the air and shouted frantically, “Please! Don’t shoot! Have mercy!”
“Search him,” growled a gruff voice, the owner’s red eyes burned into my own. I was almost certain the thumping heart sitting in my chest would receive a bullet, and the thought sent my head spinning.
Guns still clutched in the Kelly Gang’s clammy hands, a man who I suspected was Dan stepped forward to ransack my belongings.
It could have been minutes that past – or hours. All I knew was that when Kennedy and Scanlon returned, the bush was only lit by moonlight.
As the sound of horses’ hooves grew, the Kelly Gang scattered, apparently preparing for another ambush.
“Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot!” I cried, my voice hoarse from hours of pleading.
“Quiet, trooper,” a willowy gang member grunted.
Just as Scanlon and Kennedy appeared, Ned shouted, “Bail up, hold up your hands.” When neither Scanlon nor Kennedy did so, the sound of gunfire shattered through the bush.
The arrogant and bloodthirsty minions of Ned Kelly fired blindly at Kennedy, while Ned himself took a well-aimed shot at Scanlon. To my horror, Michael Scanlon froze. Blood spattered the scrub. Scanlon’s stallion reared, and the dead form of my friend plummeted from his horse. Then I knew. I sprinted over to Kennedy’s discarded horse, swung my leg over him and started to ride.
As the screams of Kennedy faded, I glanced back. Was he still alive? The earsplitting gunshots foretold not, but if he had a chance … I could’ve saved him. Would it be my fault for fleeing and leaving him to die? But then again, it was pure luck I had escaped with my life …
Thomas McIntyre, Stringybark Creek Shootout