Helping the Poor

Perhaps the most attractive image  of Ned Kelly is of him helping the poor, an image which gave rise to the idea that he was Australias Robin Hood. If anyone knows anything at all about Robin Hood, the first thing they will tell you is that he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. All the other stuff, Sherwood Forest, the Sherriff of Nottingham, King John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian – that’s all perpipheral to the big theme  of the Robin Hood legend which is that he stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Now I have already pointed out that the only Ned Kelly that could be likened to Robin Hood is an airbrushed and photo-shopped version of Ned Kelly that is so far from the reality of the mans actual life as to make the comparison  absurd and ridiculous.  It would be like saying after writing the Jerliderie letter Ned Kelly should be regarded as Australia’s Shakespeare , or that he is Australia’s Nelson Mandela or another Peter Lalor.  Or because he built a house he is Australia’s Frank Lloyd-Wright. These glib comparisons are easy to make – and indeed are made by glib people  who are ignorant of historical facts and careless about truth ( though I must admit I have never heard anyone refer to Ned Kelly as Australia’s Frank Lloyd_Wright  – I just made that one up to show how easy it can be!)
( See my earlier post : Was Ned Kelly Australias Robin Hood?  August 9th)

But what do we know about Ned Kellys acts of charity towards the poor? We know he made orders about the rich giving to the poor  and to  widows and orphans fund in the Jerilderie letter and threated violence to anyone not obeying them, but what did he do himself? We know he was certainly a robber, but was it so that he could then give to the poor, “a la Robin Hood?”

About the best I can find is this quote from Peter Fitzsimons, writing about the aftermath of the Euroa Bank Robbery:

“…it is shortly noticed that many of those known to be closest to the Kelly Gang, including most particularly Ned  and Dans sisters are already in the money. That young lady over there in the Benalla Saddle store? That is the 13 year old Grace Kelly and you will note she is paying for a top class side saddle and bridle in bright shiny pieces – while not far way and not long afterwards her elder sisters Maggie and Kate are equally liberal in opening their purses to buy supplies, clothing hats and even children’s toys. From being so poor that the families couldn’t  even afford to walk into a shop let alone saunter in casually with cash to burn, Kate suddenly becomes notable  for going into a Benalla store “and taking a bundle of 10 pound notes from her blouse to pay the storekeeper from it”, while Joe Byrnes mother is herself suddenly so  flash with cash she is able to slap down 65pounds to settle a long standing account with the a shopkeeper”

In fact this describes the well known Bushranger tactic of using money to maintain a well oiled network of community support among the  poor, beginning obviously with those closest to the Bushranger. This was a tactic Ned Kelly learned aged 14 when he was directly tutored in the craft of bushranging by the wiley old thief to whom he was “apprenticed” for a short while, Harry Power. Kellys knowledge of the lives of other Bushrangers no doubt reinforced the value of that tactic and he employed it to good effect. What shopkeeper having a huge 65 pound debt repaid is going to complain about where the cash came from? Or making a sale of an expensive saddle and maybe more later? A person has to make a living!

So really, it would be reasonable to say that what Ned Kelly did was rob from the rich so he could make use of the poor, by buying their silence and their support. He was not helping the poor but himself by spreading the stolen money about among his closest friends and allies, buying protection.

Or have I missed something that Peter Fitzsimons also missed or decided not to write about.?

Is there somewhere else evidence that he distributed money to poor people who were  neither supporters nor detractors, just the deserving orphans and widows or did he just  talk about it and bully and order other people to do that while he went  about robbing Banks to help himself? It would be reasonable to say he robbed to help his family but anything more than that is fantasy

I wish Kelly people who believed he helped the poor would supply the evidence for this claim, or else drop it..

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10 Replies to “Helping the Poor”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    Enjoyed Ned was Australia's Frank Lloyd_Wright line LO L.

    You say "glib people who are ignorant of historical facts (are) careless about truth"
    I like that.

    But not to throw a spanner in the works, Frank happened to have said
    " The truth is more important than Facts"

    Ned Kelly was 13 when Frank Lloyd Wright was born and Frank 13 when Ned was hanged.

  2. Very good Anonymous,

    I have Google'd sayings from FLW and here's another-
    " There is nothing more un common than common sense " FLW

    He also said –

    " Individual freedom for all. Rich or poor. Or else this system of government we call democracy is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it" FLW

    Is that what Ned fought against?

    I could add , " Those in the know know how to help themselves at the expense of the poor"

    Ned never set out to rob anyone or banks, but did so out of frustration and later to give the police something to talk about.


    PS: But I do like this one too-

    " A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines" FLW

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    Oh come on, he wasn't using poor people. He did what he thought should be right. While some of his actions are not something for Aussies to be proud of, he mostly was a fair and just man.

  4. Oh come on. He was mostly a scumbag horse thief who ripped off anyone. Royal Commission Question 8811 to Sergeant Steele – Can you inform the Commission as to what led up to the Kelly outbreak?—Yes. Horse-stealing at that time was very rife indeed, and one of the outlaws — Steve Hart, who lived near Wangaratta — was arrested by me on several charges of horse stealing. 8612, Have you the date of the arrests?—I have not, but I know it was about eighteen months before the outbreak. He had done a sentence, and came out of gaol about eighteen months before the outbreak, I think, as near as I can remember. And there were also a great many horses stolen from the neighborhood of Greta, which were traced to the Murray—Baumgarten’s place. The two Baumgartens, and a man named Studders, and another named Kennedy. 8813, What Kennedy is that?—A man named Samuel Kennedy, residing at Howlong in New South Wales, on the border. Kennedy and Studders live in New South Wales, and the Baumgartens in Victoria. Kennedy and William Baumgarten were convicted for stealing those horses from Greta. Detective Brown and I found out that the Kellys—Edward and Dan Kelly—were connected with the larceny of those horses.
    They stole horses from their own neighbours and you say he was a fair and just man? Have you actually ever read the commission report? Kelly was a shame and disgrace to the name of Australia.

  5. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Cameron, you (or Steele) are saying here that horse stealing was the main cause of the Kelly outbreak. The Second Progress Report says the incident "which seems to have more immediately precipitated the outbreak was the attempt of Constable Fitzpatrick to arrest Dan Kelly at his mother's hut" (page ix). How do these things fit together? Is one the "cause" and the other the "trigger"? Or are they different explanations of causes?

  6. Jimmy Nelson says: Reply

    A fair and just man? Oh come on, Forensic psychiatrist Russ Scott and author Ian MacFarlane showed in 2014 that Ned was a Psychopath. That means he certainly was not fair or just. Get the journal and see what evidence they provided.

  7. Anonymous says: Reply

    Ned Kelly was only seen as a villain by the upper classes. His sympathisers in the lower classes were treated very badly, being held for months on end without charges or trial. They weren’t allowed to take up land holdings in the region as an attempt to get them out of North-East Victoria. The police were trying to discourage support of Ned Kelly within the lower classes. Their efforts weren’t successful, as 30,000 Victorians signed a petition, sympathetic to Ned, to stop him from being hanged. Also, the majority of people receiving a share of the reward money for the capture of the Kelly Gang were either in the police force, employees of the railways, or native trackers hired by the police.

    The information about the deeds of the Kelly Gang is very clouded, an example of this being the Stringybark Creek incident, where 3 policemen were killed, with only Constable McIntyre living to tell the tale. Some insist that the Gang deliberately chose to stay and confront the police, rather than simply escape into the bush. In the Jerilderie Letter, Ned states that the police had many more weapons than were needed to purely arrest someone. The Kelly Gang believed the police had come with the intention of killing them. They believed their only chance of escape was to take the horses and weapons of the police. Many would believe their actions were ones of self-defence.

  8. Brian Tate says: Reply

    Ah yes, that petition. From Trove "Mr Gaunson afterwards waited on the Chief Secretary, and informed him that the petitions contained 32,424 signatures, and that he believed, had the time been a little longer, 500,000 signatures could have been obtained.The petitions are for the most part signed in pencil, the handwriting being that of illiterate people. In a great number of cases the names of whole families were attached, and in numerous instances whole pages of signatures were evidently written by one person. Some peti-tions were taken round Benalla, but many persons who signed did so for fear if they re-fused of being looked upon as marked men." The petition sounds a bit dodgy to me.

    "In the Jerilderie Letter, Ned states that the police had many more weapons than were needed to purely arrest someone." Poor old Ned once again telling porkies. The Mansfield police party were actually lightly armed. Each man carried a holstered .45 cal. Webley RIC model revolver which held 6 cartridges. The party borrowed a Spencer .45 cal. repeating carbine from a nearby gold escort and a shotgun from a minister of religion to shoot game to supplement their rations.

    If their intent was to kill the Kelly gang, they didn't really think it through all that well.

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    No, actually they had body straps and the highest technology in rifles. And yes, I must agree with the lack of thought, but honestly, a force who hires people like Hall and Fitzgerald…

  10. Anonymous PLEASE become properly informed about the outbreak before posting any more of the Kelly mythology – by which I mean claims about Kelly history that are untrue, in your case about the murders at Stringybark Creek. Your two sentences above contain three errors – there were NO 'body straps', the Police did NOT have 'RIFLES' – (plural ) – in addition to their standard issues revolvers they had ONE Spencer repeater rifle and a shotgun ( both borrowed) And lastly it was Fitzpatrick you're referring to I think, not 'Fitzgerald'.

    I haven't time to rebut the errors in your earlier post about SBC, but I would suggest you stop thinking that anything Nd Kelly claimed is necessarily the truth – he was a notorious proven liar.

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