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Hare, Francis Augustus (Frank) (1830–1892)

A very wide circle will learn with deep regret of the death of Mr. Francis Augustus Hare, P.M., which occurred at Rupertswood, Sunbury, the country residence of Sir William Clarke, yesterday afternoon. Some three months ago Mr. Hare was seized with an attack of diabetes and until recently he was under special treatment at Mr. T. N. Fitzgerald's private hospital, where he went through a successful operation, and recovered sufficiently to seek a change at Rupertswood. There he made good progress until Friday last when he collapsed, passed rapidly into a comatose condition, and died on the following day. Mr. Hare, who leaves no family, married a sister of the late Mr. Peter Snodgrass, father of Lady Clarke. Mr. Hare's remains will be interred in the Melbourne General Cemetery on Tuesday, and the funeral will leave his late residence, Janet-terrace, Hotham-street, St. Kilda, at 2 p.m.

Francis Augustus Hare was born at the Cape of Good Hope, in a little village called Wynberg, eight miles from Capetown, on October 4, 1830, and was the youngest son of a family of seventeen. His father, who was a captain in the 21st Dragoons, settled in the Cape when the regiment was disbanded there. After leaving school he was for a time sheepfarming with his brother, but the life was not congenial and he decided to go to Australia. He arrived in Melbourne on the 10th April, 1852, a few months after the gold discoveries. He paid a brief visit to Sydney, having a runaway convict from Norfolk Island as a mate, but returned at once to Melbourne, where life was then a wild carouse, and nothing was thought or talked of but gold and the diggings. Mr. Hare joined a party of visitors, and an eight days' tramp brought them to Bendigo, passing en route through the Black Forest, then a noted haunt of bushrangers. They pitched their tents at Golden Gully, and had a fair amount of luck as gold seekers. Alluring news came across from the Ovens and Mr. Hare and his party decided to go there, although on the day before he left Mr. Hare had himself washed out 10 ounces of gold in a little gully not far from their tents. It shows how large were the expectations in those days when such a prospect was not sufficient. By Christmas Day, 1852, Mr. Hare was on celebrated Read's Creek "paddocking" for gold, and afterwards on Spring Creek, where his share of the proceeds of one claim was £800. He led a stirring life here for a time digging, or evading the digger's license, which afterwards on this same gold-field it was his duty as a police officer to enforce. But a serious illness sent him to Sydney, with very little prospect of ever reaching it, and in his book, The Last of the Bushrangers, which contains the record of his life and adventures in Australia, Mr. Hare tells a gruesome story of his lying on top of a loaded dray beneath a gum-tree, with a crow perched just above him waiting for the end. The fear that his eyes would be torn out while he was yet alive seemed to give a stimulus, and from that point his illness turned and he recovered. He afterwards went to the Waranga diggings with Mr. G. D. McCormick who, strangely enough, was born on the same day and year as Mr. Hare, and many years afterwards both were made police magistrates in the same year. Mr. Hare was desirous of joining the Victorian Mounted Police, and on the 1st of June, 1854, he was appointed a lieutenant in the force by Mr. (afterwards Sir) W. F. H. Mitchell. His first duty was in connection with gold escorts from Beechworth to the Buckland, the country traversed being often so rough that on one occasion when a pack-mule laden with 2,000oz. of gold broke away they were obliged to shoot it in order to recover the gold. One of Mr. Hare's earliest achievements was the capture single-handed after a double personal encounter of the bushranger Meakin at Dr. Mackay's station on the Ovens River in 1854. Meakin had come to stick up the station, and in search of a sum of £700 in cash paid to Dr. Mackay the day before for horses, and was unaware that Mr. Hare was sleeping on the station that night. Meakin was taken to Beechworth, tied with the same saddle straps he had brought to bind Dr. Mackay. Meakin made several attempts to regain his liberty, and escaping soon afterwards from the gaol at Kilmore was never again heard of. Mr. Hare also made an attempt to capture single-handed a bushranger known as "Billy the Puntman," who was afterwards taken near Albury, but on the way to Melbourne hanged himself with a shred of his blanket at Donnybrook, the last stage of the journey. For several years Mr. Hare was on duty at the new rushes, such as Back Creek, Chinaman's Flat, and the notorious White Hill, near Maryborough, where murder was an almost daily occurrence, and he enjoyed a remarkable immunity from attack or injury, though he once had a narrow escape from being shot at Back Creek by one of his own troopers.

In his later years in the police force the more stirring episodes in Mr. Hare's experiences were the capture of Power, the bushranger, who, after surviving many vicissitudes and a long term of imprisonment, is supposed to have been accidentally drowned in the Lower Murray not long ago. Power was a daring bushranger and owed his inmunity from arrest chiefly to the help of his confederates in a lawless country and his plan of at once putting many miles between himself and the scene of his last exploit. Mr. Hare was one of the party led by Mr. Charles Nicolson, now a police magistrate, which captured Power, the other members of the party being Inspector Montford and Donald, a black tracker. With a promise of a reward of £500 they were able to secure the help of an associate of Power's, who led them to what was thought to be the safest of Power's retreats in the ranges. The only road to it was past the house of the Quinns, a notorious family and active friends of Power's. As the bushranger afterwards stated, one of his best sentinels was a peacock at Quinn's house, but on the night of the capture the police party got past without the peacock giving the alarm. At daybreak they came on Power's hut, which was at once rushed, the bushranger being asleep inside, and Mr. Nicolson had hold of him before he could lay hands on his firearms. Still more stirring were the incidents in connection with the notorious Kelly gang of bushrangers, Mr. Hare having command of the district police at the time the gang were finally exterminated. They had been criminals, chiefly horse and cattle stealers, from childhood, but their outlawry commenced with the shooting of three mounted troopers on the Wombat Ranges in October, 1878. From that time the pick of the Victorian police, aided by six Queensland trackers, were in pursuit of them; but aided by a wonderful system of bush telegraphing, the help of friends and relations almost as criminal as themselves and a thorough knowledge— gained in horse-stealing—of some of the wildest mountain country in Victoria, they managed not only to evade capture for two years, but to provide themselves with funds by two well-planned and daring bank robberies. Mr. Hare was given the command in the Kelly country after the successful raid upon the Euroa Bank. One of his first acts was to seek an interview with Aaron Sherritt, who, like Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne, was physically a splendid type of a bushman, but a known sympathiser with the outlaws and a participator in some of their earlier and less serious horse-stealing raids. By a promise of the whole reward of £8,000 offered for the gang dead or alive, Sherritt's co-operation was secured, and Mr. Hare had always a belief in the genuineness of his assistance though other officers doubted him. Mr. Hare in his book tells how Mrs. Byrne, the mother of one of the bushrangers found her way one day into a police camp and recognised Aaron Sherritt as he lay asleep. Sheritt learning this when he awoke turned deadly pale and said "Now, I am a dead man," and the prophecy proved to be a correct one. Sherritt's connection with Mr. Hare was so little known that he was once fired on by the police, and on another occasion arrested for horse stealing. On the 26th of June, some considerable time afterwards, and just after Mr. Hare had a second time been given the command of the police in the Kelly country, Aaron Sheritt was called out of his hut one night by a German neighbour, who was then in the hands of the bushrangers, and the moment he crossed the threshold was shot dead by his former schoolfellow, Joe Byrne. Knowing that upon news of this further murder a special train would be sent to Beechworth with police and trackers, Ned Kelly and Hart had ridden to Glenrowan and, taking possession of the town, tore up the line in order to wreck the special. The story of the stopping of the special and the final struggle with the outlaws at Glenrowan is a familiar one, Mr. Hare led the rush of police on Jones's Hotel at Glenrowan, but was shot through the wrist and disabled on the first volley. He directed the attack for some time, but being finally faint from loss of blood, had to leave for Benalla. He received afterwards the congratulations both of His Excellency the Governor and the Chief Secretary. A great deal of dissension amongst the police force followed, and Mr. Hare retiring from office, was made a police magistrate in 1882, which position he had since held. While his discretion in connection with the pursuit of the Kelly gang was matter for comment, his personal courage was never once doubted.

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'Hare, Francis Augustus (Frank) (1830–1892)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hare-francis-augustus-frank-13570/text24294, accessed 24 November 2017.

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