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FREDERICK CHARLES STANDISH & the NED KELLY GANG

This ON HER MAJESTY’S SERVICE envelope has the Minister of Justice/ Victoria Frank Stamping in blue which was introduced in the original 1864 frankstamps allocation. Only one die exists for the handstamped frank, and it is found both in blue and red. The printed frank exists only in black, and at least 9 different electros exist. The Frank is largely obscured by the barred numeral ‘11' with 3 curved arcs on each side, being the Type A1 of Williamstown .The cover is addressed to F.C. Standish Esq, Chief Commissioner of Police, Melbourne (Figure 1).

The reverse has the oval crowned unframed two word datestamp WILLIAMS TOWN/ crown/ MY 18/ 1865/ VICTORIA as well as the reception marking of Melbourne on the same day (Williamstown is only 13 km S.W. of the Melbourne G.P.O.). No letter was enclosed (Figure 2).

Frederick Charles Standish was born on 20 April 1824 at Standish Hall, Wigan, England, son of Charles Standish, and his wife Emmeline-Conradine. He was educated at the Roman Catholic Prior Park College and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned in the Royal Artillery. Financed by his father he bought Cayton Hall near Harrogate, Yorkshire. From 1848 'no backer of horses was better known or more liked upon English racecourses', but despite his popularity his money losses were heavy, and in 1852 he sold his mortgaged property and left England for the colonies.

Standish worked on the gold diggings in various parts of Victoria until April 1854, when he was appointed assistant commissioner of the goldfields at Sandhurst (Bendigo) and later was also protector of the Chinese. He remained at Sandhurst until September 1858 when he was appointed Chief Commissioner of police in Victoria with salary of £1200 on the resignation of Captain Charles Mcmahon and he held this position until 1880. Standish was described as a man of fashion and "his short service previously in the Royal Artillery did not seem to have left its mark upon him, for he showed few evidences of military training. He belonged to a high-class English County family and he had received a liberal education. He possessed many natural gifts that might have placed him in a higher position in public respect and favour than he ever reached. He was a man of wider views than his immediate predecessor and of fairer judgment. I doubt, however, whether he possessed as high a sense of duty."

"He was too much a man of pleasure to devote himself seriously to the work of his office, and his love of pleasure led him to form intimacies with some officers of like mind, and to think less of others who were much more worthy of regard. On the whole, however, he was regarded with a certain affection throughout the service generally; and until towards the end of his official career the whole service, with few exceptions, was loyal to him. His strength was shown first in the ability with which he met, in 1862, the secret conspiracies and open attacks of malcontents in the service, supported by certain politicians. He stood intellectually on a far higher plane than his assailants."

One of Standish’s interests outside of police work was horse racing. He owned horses and it is believed that the famous Melbourne Cup which was first run in 1861 was the brainchild of Standish. However in the first 4 years no Cup was awarded, but in 1865 a handsome silver Melbourne Cup valued at 100 sovereigns was presented to the winner in addition to the prize money.

It was the serious troubles with the Ned Kelly gang that caused Standish considerable problems and he was called as a ‘star’ witness before the Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria on the 23rd March 1881. He was criticized for the mishandling of the capture of the gang, for the chain of command in the field left much to be desired. There has been so much written about the gang, that a clear synopsis is extremely difficult and I have taken the liberty of using the account in my 1976 Encyclopaedia Britannica , Volume V, page 752.

Edward (Ned) Kelly (b. June 1855 Beveridge, Victoria - d. Nov. 11, 1880, Melbourne), the last and most famous of the bushrangers, Australian rural outlaws of the 19th century. The Kelly gang’s perpetration of daring robberies in the Victorian-New South Wales borderland (1878-80) captured the imagination of the public, which viewed him as a personification of the workers in their conflict with the large landowners in an economically depressed period.

Wanted for horse stealing, Kelly fled to New South Wales in 1877 and then joined his brother Dan Kelly, also a fugitive, in 1878 in Victoria. Two other men joined them in the bush to form the Kelly gang. In June 1880, after several shootings of police and robberies, the gang took possession of Glenrowan township, where they were besieged by police. Ned Kelly was wounded and captured in the ensuing fray; his fellow gang members were killed. Later he was taken to Melbourne jail, where he was hanged..

Even to-day, the Ned Kelly gang are Australian cult figures. Standish’s conduct of the police operations according to the 1881 Royal Commission on the police was not characterized either by good judgment, or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in his position.

Some of the contents of this paper relies on the account of Standish in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (November 2007):  Two entires were seen on an auction site, the first addressed to F.C. Standish Esq., Chief Commissioners Office, Police Department, Collings (sic) St., Melbourne.  The lilac 2d 'Laureate' of Victoria was postmarked with the BN '265' Type IIB of Quartz Reefs Stawell (Figure 3).

The reverse shows an unframed QUARTZ REEFS STAWELL/ SP 3/ 69/ VICTORIA and a reception postmark at Melbourne the next day as well as a dab of red sealing wax (Figure 4)

The next is similarly addressed, bears the same 2d Victoria 'Laureate' stamp and is cancelled with the same BN '265' (Figure 5).

The reverse has the same postmarks of Quartz Reefs Stawell, Victoria and Melbourne but the date is September 28, 1869.  In spite of minor differences the sender is almost certainly the same as the previous entire (Figure 6).

 


 
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