The story of Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw with County Tipperary roots, and his gang is well documented, but perhaps what isn’t so well known is that John Sadleir (1833-1919) – one of the senior policeman involved in the effort to apprehend them between 1878 and 80, was actually a native of Brookville just south of Tipperary Town. In a career that spanned over four decades, Sadleir is also credited with having played a pioneering role in policing in the state of Victoria.
It was at the age of 19 in November 1852 that John Sadleir first set foot in Melbourne. A well known figure there by the time of his retirement, he published a book in 1913 chronicling his experiences but wrote very little about his time in Ireland and County Tipperary. He also gives the reader scant information on his parents and siblings.
Now, with contributors from the Premier County and relatives hailing from abroad, his fascinating story is to be the subject of a 3-part documentary to be aired on Tipp Mid West Radio which in addition to uncovering more about his time in Ireland, includes details of his emigration, police career, family life and legacy in his adopted home of Australia.
One of ten children, John Sadleir lived with his parents on the Brookville estate and in his spare time engaged in his favourite pastimes of horse riding and shooting. The young John Sadleir also used to visit Mitchelstown Castle and learned to play billiards there. His early life was not without incident however, as he experienced a family member being murdered outside Nenagh and the needless suffering he witnessed during the famine, left a lasting impact on him. An accident also ended any aspirations he may have had in his initial chosen profession.
On arrival in Australia, Sadleir joined the police pretty much straight away and rose quickly through the ranks. Within three years he was married to an Irish woman with whom he had a large family. In social circles he was held in high regard and became a firm friend of the famous explorer Robert O’Hara Burke. It was on being promoted to superintendent that he later became centrally involved in the hunt for Ned Kelly and his gang. In fact in 1880, when they were eventually cornered, with hostages at a hotel in Glenrowan, it was John Sadleir who took over command of the siege.
The documentary which has uncovered a lot of new information on the Tipperary native, also delves into the background of his wife about whose family not a lot is known. Today, the Sadleir name is no more in the Tipperary Town area, but a family plot exists which is visited followed by reminisces concerning the last with that surname to live in the locality.
Interviewees for the programme include Mary Crowe, Terry Cunningham, Danny Grace, Billy Kingston, Ronnie Land, Miriam Moffitt, Mike O’Meara, Alan Phelan and Katie Sadleir.
The intriguing 3-part documentary entitled ‘The Captor’ will be aired over three Wednesdays at 7.05pm on Tipp Mid West Radio beginning on October 11th. The programmes can be heard outside the county on www.tippmidwestradio.com.