If you search You Tube for Ned Kelly material there are a number of interesting clips. One of them entitled “Ned Kelly : Hero or Villain” features a very brief discussion between Derryn Hinch, the “human headline” who took the view that Ned Kelly was a villain, and Mr Trevor Monti a barrister and self proclaimed “Kelly historian”, who took the opposite view. The occasion was the reburial of Ned Kellys bones – minus the skull – and the discussion took place on Channel Sevens “Sunrise”
When asked why he believed Ned Kelly should be remembered as something of a folk hero, the good barrister and practiced advocate for an accused had this to say:
“well Ned Kelly was a man of great courage, he fought for the underprivileged, he opposed oppression, he fought against overwhelming odds and he fought for those who were being subjected to violence by a very violent Police force at the time, …he was a man of great stature…for example he fought a 19 round bare knuckle fight with Wild Wright…and after 19 rounds he knocked him down and beat him”
This of course is one of the core beliefs in the modern Legend of Ned Kelly, the idea that he was a sort of Robin Hood standing up for the oppressed and the underprivileged. If you were Ned Kelly in the dock you would be lucky to have Mr Monti on your case because he has painted a very sympathetic picture – but under expert cross-examination the idea that Kelly was a sort of Robin Hood would quickly evaporate.
Take this fight with Wild Wright , Montis evidence of Ned Kellys courage and stature – the fight was about the fact that Wild Wright never admitted that he was the one who stole the horse that Ned had served gaol time for “Receiving”. It was about the settling of scores between two self confessed horse thieves, and took place after a few beers in a Pub and was nothing to do with the underprivileged or the oppressed, nothing noble or honourable, something better characterized as some sort of gangland justice.
Monti was quizzed further : “ When you say he fought oppression, in what way did he do that, other than by stealing the money of the oppressors?”
Mr Monti replies “ ah…well he… he protected those who were being subjected to violence by the Police Force at the time – his family, his relatives, his friends….and he protected them in the only way he knew how”
This claim was not challenged but if it had been, one wonders what Mr Montis evidence would have been for his claim that Ned Kelly protected his family his relatives, and his friends from Police violence. The reality of Ned Kellys life was that from the time of the “Fitzpatrick” Incident until his capture almost two years later he was on the run and in hiding, protecting himself rather than his family and friends. Despite their claims no Kelly biographer has produced any evidence that there was ever any sort of wholesale distribution to the poor or the oppressed of the money stolen during the two bank robberies during this time – in fact it was used to buy the assistance he needed from his nearest family, the people he relied on for protection, for food and support. So in fact during that time it was the other way round – the poor and the oppressed were protecting him!
And before the “Fitzpatrick” Incident? Again, there is nothing in the biographies suggesting he did more during that time than try his hand at various jobs both locally and elsewhere, and increasingly involve himself in horse and cattle theft. Kelly himself wrote of that time “I started wholesale and retail cattle and horse dealing”
Further on in the interview, Mr Monti responds to Hinches opinion saying it’s a pity he (Hinch) didn’t know “the facts” about what happened at Stringybark Creek. He then goes on to present his own version of “the facts”, a litany of information and mis-information which Mr Monti and modern Kelly apologists all view as somehow justifying the murders on the basis that they were committed in self defence:
“ Those police went into the bush armed,” (well yes of course, they were trying to arrest people charged with attempted murder )
“there was a reward for the life of Ned Kelly, he could be captured Dead or Alive”
( WRONG Mr Monti, the “Dead or Alive” reward was issued AFTER the Stringybark Killings )
“they were in plain clothes” ( yes, not unusual at the time, they were not in disguise)
“they didn’t have any warrants of arrest with them” ( again, not unusual at the time and irrelevant)
“they carried body straps to strap bodies onto horses” ( this is a claim that is oft repeated as evidence that the Police planned to kill the gang when they found them – this is pure supposition – and the existence of the straps is itself in dispute)
The Barrister Mr Monti accepts Ned Kellys claim that he killed those 3 policemen in self defence, presumably on the basis of those claims he made above. It was not a defence that was accepted at the Court in Melbourne in 1880, and though it may still convince people who want to believe Kelly was a folk hero, critical assessment of these claims shows there is almost nothing to back them up. The evidence that Ned Kelly was a folk hero like Robin Hood is missing, and the justifications supplied for the claim that he killed police in self defence, certainly in this Sunrise interview, is unconvincing.
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