TLO Part Two : the Vilification of George King

The “poverty stricken” Kellys and George King
I described Part one of this 4 part 1980 TV Miniseries on the life of Ned Kelly as “choloform on film” because it was so slow and it portrayed Ned Kelly to be a gormless goody–goody, an obvious misrepresentation of the truth of who he really was, even in his younger days. Part Two covers the events of 1875 to 1878, the period from the days when Ned was supposedly going straight, through to the “Fitzpatrick Incident” and ends with the police Killings at Stringybark Creek. Thankfully, as entertainment, the second episode is much more interesting, but as with the first Episode it is far from being reliable as historical truth. Nevertheless I can start to see why Bill says TLO was “the viewing highlight of the week” back in 1980!
In this episode Ned at last starts to come to life, the first signs of passion appearing when at the races he angrily confronts Mr Whitty, a wealthy land-owner . Ned demands an apology from him for claiming that Ned stole a bull,  something Ned says “I never done”.  Whitty refuses to apologise and dismisses the Kellys as “thieves larrikins and a blight on the district”. This dialog is of course entirely fictional, and framed to suit Ian Jones purpose of portraying squatters as arrogant bullies and the selectors as innocent and hard done by. As readers of this Blog will know, James Whitty was  not at all the ogre that Ian Jones and the Kelly myth need him to be to sustain their “poor Ned” sob story, (read here) but a man who had worked his way up from nothing, gave a lot back to the community and  had good cause to regard the Kellys as a blight. Ned Kelly was intensely envious of  Whittys success and carried a deep personal grudge against him. In the Jerilderie Letter  Ned  complained that it was  Whittys fault that he became a criminal, but in the Last Outlaw this decision is prompted by the subtle corrupting influence of George King.
The Last Outlaw portrays the Police as schemers and corrupt, and none more so than Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, the Policeman Kelly sympathisers so love to hate.  By contrast the Kellys  and their friends and acquaintances  are unfailingly presented as decent  honest caring country folk, and as victims  – it all gets rather emotive and sickly sentimental, but I suppose thats what TV audiences want. To my surprise, even though Ned Kelly claimed in the Jerilderie Letter not to have been at home when the “Fitzpatrick Incident” took place, this pivotal event in the Kelly story is re-enacted with Ned making an appearance. Virtually every Kelly scholar would agree with this depiction, because virtually every Kelly scholar accepts that Neds claim not to have been there was a lie – but THIS fact about Ned Kelly, that he was a known liar is never revealed in The Last Outlaw…or remarked upon anywhere else in the Kelly world for that matter.
It becomes very clear in episode Two that what we are watching is not history but the mythology about Ned Kelly that Ian Jones wants us to believe was history. He portrays Ned as a naïve and trusting country boy with a strong commitment to family values and a sense of right and wrong, an impressionable  impetuous young man who is easily influenced by those around him: at one point, after Ellen had been arrested Ned decided to give himself up but is dissuaded from doing so by Dan; on another occasion, getting all worked up about his mother again he wants to  rush out and take the Police on directly but this time Thomas Lloyd stops him.
But in Ian Jones mind the greatest influence on innocent Ned comes from the shady and smooth talking Machiavellian figure of George King. He is shown altering horse brands and painting their feet, smoking and drinking and lounging about in Bars and gambling dens, planting subversive ideas  into Neds unwitting head and craftily molding Neds innocent character to his own ends. King introduces Ned to the idea of taking action against his perceived enemies, introduces him to horse stealing, and even to the idea of a Republic, but in the end he proves to be a coward and liar who abandons Ellen when things become difficult. But by then, in Ian Jones narrative, the damage has been done – Ned has been converted from a naive trusting farmer into an angry and scheming  activist and budding gang leader. King is not portrayed as someone inspiring Ned to great moral deeds but a manipulator who uses Neds concern for his family and his growing resentment towards Police and Squatters to motivate him towards seeking revenge.
King is described by Ned in the Jerilderie Letter as being a great horse thief, but given the unreliability of this letter, indeed the lies contained within it, there is a legitimate question mark over Neds claim. In fact, as I understand it, almost nothing is known about George King, other than his name. I would be very pleased if anyone can point me in the direction of some facts about George  Kings life, but I haven’t come across any of significance. Its possible that Ned was using King as a convenient scape goat, someone to shift blame onto because by the time he made these allegations George had mysteriously disappeared and was not around to defend himself. Ned was free to say whatever he liked about George. It’s been suggested he may have been killed, he may have fled the district or even the country but why and how he vanished is a complete unknown. In spite of this great mystery Jones doesn’t hesitate to make George King central to the making of Ned Kelly and of the Outbreak. 

Episode two ends with the Police killings at Stringybark Creek.  This time it seems to suit Ian Jones to follow rather than dismiss Neds account, and the invented dialog recycles the now discredited ideas that the Police purchased specially made body straps to bring corpses out of the bush, that they  were disguised in plain clothes and were heavily armed, and had the intention to shoot first and ask questions later. Lonigan’s death is enacted as Ned Kelly claimed in the Jerilderie Letter, with Lonigan being killed by a single shot as he lifted his head from behind a log to take aim at Ned. As readers of this Blog know, that account is clearly another of Neds lies, as it is contradicted by the forensic facts about the Policeman’s demise, and neither does it square with McIntyres recollection of what happened. (read here) In fact, though he ran for the log Lonigan had no time to get to it, let alone to draw his gun and aim at Ned, and as the forensics show he was killed with a blast of swan drops or a quartered  bullet that left him with wounds not just in his head but on his left arm and leg as well. 

In conclusion, I return to Ian Jones  claim that in this miniseries “All…events..are drawn directly from fact”. However as I have pointed out, in many places such as in the case of George King, in the absence of facts Ian Jones invents them, but who would know? In the case of the death of Lonigan, the known forensic facts are ignored. But who would know? The claim by Ian Jones that ALL events are drawn directly from fact creates an impression that as far as possible the series is accurate and reliable as historical truth, and imparts an authority to the series that it otherwise wouldn’t have – indeed that is the point of making that claim, but as we have seen it is utterly illegitimate – the claim  is simply not true – so should I call it a lie?
(Visited 209 times)

37 Replies to “TLO Part Two : the Vilification of George King”

  1. Andy Madden says: Reply

    Someone has already made the point that dramatising a TV series is commonplace, but Ian Jones should have removed the “All…events..are drawn directly from fact”.

    How can the body straps, the Kelly republic and all the deliberate furphies created by Jonesy be rectified?

  2. Ben Appleton says: Reply

    A photograph, allegedly of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly and which sold at Christie's for more than �7,000 (19,080 Australian dollars), is not him, according to medical and forensic experts.

    The picture, which is said to show Kelly during his "respectable years", was snapped up by a private collector at Christie's in Melbourne on 26 March.

    But within hours of the sale, Dr John Chapman, a retired dental surgeon living in Melbourne, raised concerns about its authenticity.

    "The photo was on the front page of the Christie's catalogue," he said. "As a head and neck expert with an interest in Australian history I could see it wasn't Ned. I even took measurements and checked it against undisputed police photos. It's no more Ned Kelly than I am."

    BBC News, 21 May 2002

    A perfect disaster for Christie's, Jones, and the Kelly legend.

  3. Jones famously misidentified a 'new' photo of Ned for a Christies catalogue and cover which did enormous damage to the auction house."The Kelly Gang Unmasked" book showed how he 'identified' the George King photo to the satisfaction of Kelly decendents, There is no proof the photo is of King, King's sudden disappearance ruined Ned's Jerilderie letter and its lies.

  4. Well Andy the only place on the planet where these furphies are being challenged and exposed as con jobs fooling the Australian public is right here on this Blog. The “true sympathisers” aren’t interested in the truth about Ned Kelly but in continuing the fairy stories about him. But fortunately the general Public mostly don’t give a toss about Ned Kelly, but for the few who do I am hopeful they will find this site and learn to differentiate myth from true history.

  5. Jamie Todd says: Reply

    Another nine inch nail in the coffin of the Kelly myth. Well done Dee! The page views totals continue to rocket.

    You HAVE to publish your blogs (not the comments) in a book. You are a new Morrissey!

  6. Whoah!!!!.. let's not get carried away. From what I understand, Dee has already published anyway.

  7. The link to the $19K photo-
    has an interesting bit of info in it about Ned's supposed skull. Seems the 'Gentleman Ned' photo Ian Jones verified as Ned was compared to the Cast plaster skull held by Melb Uni 'now know not to be Ned at all'.

    The Baxter skull and the plaster cast are the same, so the experts were wrong to compare the photo with the plaster skull.

    The only thing that saved the experts was using Ned's death mask to compare with the image in the $19K photo. But why did they not then conclude the Baxter skull and plaster cast were not of Ned?

    The Age
    This photograph of Ned Kelly cost $19,000. There's one problem . . .
    By Andrew Rule
    May 18 2002

    Extract. Quote-
    " Ronn Taylor, a dental prosthetist who works with Dr Clement, is an old hand at identifying skulls. A plaster copy of Ned Kelly's death mask sits on his desk. He said Kelly's ears, forehead, eyebrow ridges and nose differed from those in the Christie's photograph.

    "There's no way I can get a match," he said. "I don't reckon it's the same person. If I am wrong I will eat my hat."

    A senior lecturer in geomatics at the university, Cliff Ogleby, is an expert in measurement. Last year he worked with the State Library to preserve for posterity three-dimensional computer images of Ned Kelly's death mask and armour, perfect to the last millimetre.

    When Mr Ogleby saw a copy of the Christie's photograph in newspapers before the March sale, he thought it looked wrong.

    This week he tested the photograph against the computer image of the death mask of Kelly's shaved head, which was cast in plaster an hour after the hanging in 1880. The mask is so detailed it shows the rope mark on his neck – and the precise shape and size of his ears, nose and eyebrows.

    When the death mask image is placed over two authentic Kelly photographs, the ears, nose and eyes match perfectly. But when placed over the Christie's picture, it does not match – with the ears standing out as different."

  8. Mark, out of interest, what is it that you understand I have already published?

  9. Bill thanks for this information. Its fascinating. This photo episode demonstrates that Ian Jones had become so convinced of the rightness of his own opinions on the Kelly legend that he has lost all objectivity. This leads him to claim that the TLO is “all drawn directly from fact “ when it wasn’t, it had him persuading Christies against the evidence regarding that photo, it had him persuading Victorian authorities that only HE knew where the SBC shootings took place, it had him persuading Peter Fitzsimons to ignore Ian MacFarlanes book, and of course he has persuaded much of Australia that Ned Kelly was a noble character worthy of heroic status. The more I learn about Ian Jones the less I am impressed, notwithstanding my fondness “A short Life”, his biography of Ned .

  10. Craig Scott says: Reply

    Bill is wrong in thinking the Baxter skull and the plaster cast are the same. Kreitmayer had access to Ned's body after the execution to make his death mask. Obviously this was Ned. The Baxter skull was the result of a mix up at the Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra. The skull has nothing to do with the death mask.

    Otherwise I am Bill's BIGGEST supporter!

  11. Methinks Mark is making the point that your blog is being published here. Jamie Todd was simply arguing for a more permanent record.

    Jones will be judged by history.

  12. Pure Science says: Reply

    Bill's Ironicon website probably deserves a thorough review, Dee.

    His meticulous SBC research and discoveries yielded extraordinary insights.

    He is the only worthwhile investigator on the ground. He painstakingly records his evidence.

    Bill is a Kelly champion. An amazing producer of accurate, new, SBC evidence

    No one has ever shown that Bill deliberately misled anyone. Of course not!

  13. Ian Jones would naturally dislike Ian MacFarlane's "The Kelly Gang Unmasked" and Doug Morrissey's "Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life" because they are diametrically opposed to his romanticised, glossy version of the Kelly story.

    Strangely, Jones has not ventured out to repudiate their criticisms of his work.

    A very long, ominous and pregnant silence.

  14. Well no, I don’t think thats what Mark was saying. So please Mark, enlighten us all if you would!

  15. Couldn’t agree more that Bill is a Kelly Champion! And I have long been considering some sort of review of his remarkable site, but in reality all it would be is a strong recommendation that people go there and take the time to read it and learn. In fact we had detailed discussions about his views on the Forums of mine that were sabotaged – I was amazed at how much vitriol was directed at him by the Kelly fanatics – but wisely, knowing from past experiences how Kelly fanatics were likely to behave Bill kept copies of it. After my Forums were destroyed Bill made his copies of those discussions available on his site.

    I confess Ive hesitated out of concern for what it might provoke,not wanting to lose another site but you’re right it does deserve a review. Its on my list!

  16. Craig, I think Bill is referring here to a plaster skull that was a copy of the Baxter skull. It was displayed instead of the actual Baxter skull alongside the plaster death mask after the actual Baxter skull had been stolen. Bill is asking why on earth no-one bothered to compare THAT skull – or the plaster copy of it – with the death mask because if they had they would have realised they were not a match.

    If you’re Bills biggest supporter then I must be his second biggest supporter!

  17. I must say, Bill does great work in a lot of areas. His Kelly Helmet models on the red gum bases are well worth having and look great if displayed right.

  18. Dee. Hi. Don't be so suspicious of me. Gary hit the nail. As did Jamie Todd. It would be good to see your name on a cover in the bookshop. How 'bout it? Don't be afraid of the other team. Doug Morrisey did it. Alex and Jennifer Castles did it. They lived to see another day. You write well. You are obviously reasonably intelligent and reasonably well versed in the Kelly story. I suggest you have connections that could assist. So why not? In fact, in my opinion, it would be remiss if you didn't. Blogs are all very well but a published hard copy is really getting it out there. I am sure the likes of Sharon, Bill and even myself, would be happy to assist. Have you ever considered this? I'm sure you could publish under a pseudonym if you are really that concerned about retribution. Or abuse. Honestly though, I just don't see that happening. Don't be fearful. It's only the bloody Kelly story. Not a treatise on ISIS or big oil. .

  19. Maybe there is some confusion,

    A copy of the Tom Baxter 'E. Kelly' skull cast in plaster is held by Melbourne Uni.
    They must have made a copy of the bony skull before it went missing from Old Melb Gaol around 1976

    Ronn Taylor, a dental prosthetist- – – is an old hand at identifying skulls
    We can assume the experts at Melb Uni had that E.K plaster cast skull on hand to make comparisons to the $19K photo in 2002

    The public got to see that 'plaster cast skull' sitting next to one original NK death mask in the 2004 Outlawed exhibition.

    One would have thought, if the proffessors were able to discount the $19K photo by comparison to the death mask in 2002, why were they then not able to discount the Baxter plaster cast skull copy that Dr Craig Cormick expounded upon in his book 'Ned Kelly Under the Microscope' SIMPLY by shape and form.

    It took numerous complicated DNA and tooth socket comparisons to discount the Baxter skull some 12 years later.

    Back link to- Ned-kellys-skull-science-rebuts-Kelly

    PS; Gees boys and girls, I'm not used to such commendations,

  20. P.S. For those interested in the North East Victoria history in general and not just the Kelly Country aspect of it, there is a new, limited edition book out on Benalla. A town I feel gets overshadowed by Beeechworth at times so a very worthy purchase. If you call Leading Edge in Benalla or the Pioneer Museum in Mair St. you should be able to purchase. I have ordered mine. .

  21. Dear "Whoah indeed".

    With you here on this forum, the last pieces of the puzzle may be place. Masterful come back. I don't back track. FYI. Why would I suggest Dee is Ian McFarlane? I have read Ian McFarlanes book, have it on my "Ned" shelves, enjoyed it and looked into his background a little. He doesn't appear to be the type of person to hide behind a nom de plume. (look it up.). I am sure he is a robust individual who can stand up and take it. Besides, I have said before, Ian Mac and Morriseys books are important in the Kelly Literature. Both sides need a fair hearing. Makes life (and the Kelly story) pretty boring otherwise does it not?

    I would like to say though, I feel that Ian Jones needs to be treated with more respect on this forum. . The work he has done on the Kelly Story is phenomenal whether some on here disagree with it or not. (and I disagree with him on some points too. )Yes, he makes blunders. As do we all. He wasn't the only one endorsing Gentleman Ned either. McMenomy was also of the same opinion. Stop picking his bloody work to pieces. Once upon a time, we all would have been glad of his insights.

    And before you tell me Dee you aren't criticising the man, just his work, some of the vitriol here suggests otherwise. Ian Jones has put so much meat on the Kelly bones for us that it's easy for us web lurkers to throw stones. Let's not. He deserves more. He is old and has been crook. He deserves to rest and i hope he is not aware of this backlash toward his work. He would very hurt and disappointed. That is all. Love Mark.

  22. U deserve all the commendations Bill and more, and Carla too!

  23. Out for Justice says: Reply

    I beg to differ with Mark that vitriol has been hurled at Ian Jones. The comments here about him have relatively few. The comment by Micheal (7 October 2015 at 22:26) truthfully mentions the appalling newspaper coverage of his an Mcmenomy's mistake and how The Age proved their identification was incorrect. How can this be vitriol? (Vitriol is harsh, nasty criticism:

    Your comments are appreciated though…

  24. Vic Wilgar says: Reply

    Mark, sorry, I suppose the great disappointment today with Jones' work is the glaring republic, body straps and other concoctions about George King.that spoilt his great work. The republic and body straps stories are quoted nowadays by authors, bloggers and commentators as if they are true and have made it next to impossible to rationally discuss Ned. Although I agree with much of what you say, I am less forgiving of these fundamental faults than you. Ian has to cop it fair and square.

  25. Thanks for feedback all. I do get protective about Ian Jones I guess. He was my first introduction into Kelly when I was 11. And you always have fond thoughts about your first. Am I right?

  26. Sorry, one more thing. If we are speaking of concoctions about George King, Gary Dean of Glenrowan has a beauty. He believes George King was shot and killed on a farm near Dookie whilst in the act of stealing moldboards for the gang. No sources mentioned though. The story of George is certainly a tangled web. And Justin Corfield believes he may be buried in Kyneton. JJ Kenneally believes he was killed by Ned for ill treating his Mother. Not knowing what really happened to George King has always been a frustration to me. And as an irrelevant aside, I met Paul Mason, the actor who played George in The Last Outlaw. In Beechworth, August 2010. Nice bloke.

  27. Interestingly, the photo now identified as George King came from the same battered old leather pouch as Gentleman Ned and others that were in the Christies catalogue.. But if I recall correctly, "Joe Byrne" was written on the back in pencil? This puzzled me until I saw the Wentworth prison record and the resemblance of that guy to the George King photo. But then, that Wentworth prison record, occupation listed (Drover) and dates, brings it's own set of mysteries. Thoughts anyone?

  28. A correction and apology. The George King photo came not from the same batch as Gentleman Ned image but from the Ellen King photos. (via Elsie Pettifer..) My previous post was wrong. (Thank you to Matt for heads up.)

  29. Jack Thorn says: Reply

    The lack of detail about George King is disturbing. The man Frost also got Ellen pregnant and when he reneged on his marriage proposal was bashed and hospitalised. He refused to say who had assaulted him. Bricky Williamson claimed to be another child, Ellen Kelly's Dad. Williamson did not proclaim this, but told police about it.

    George King seems to have been a rather dull, colourless character – despite Ned's use of him as a horse stealing maestro. King had by then vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.

    His body may be in the banks of the Murray, along with the stolen horses slaughtered there.

  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  31. J Harriss says: Reply

    I'm betting George King may turn up on Ancestry some day, although the evidence so far is that he was keeping his head well down and perhaps using a false name. No passports back then.

  32. Ross Millgan says: Reply

    The Murray has changed a lot since 1878, and the lagoons where the stolen horses had their throats cut have probably disappeared long ago. But that was the same year George King mysteriously vanished.

  33. Thats an interesting link Marty, to someone selling some scrimshaw – which is inscribed bull horn – and claiming it was made by George King sometime after July 1880, years after all trace of George King had disappeared. Its all much too dodgy:

    "The 'scrimshaw' incised on a single bull horn features the bearded Ned Kelly above his horse 'Daylight' as well as other gang members and sympathisers. The top character is Sub-Inspector Stanhope O'Connor who led the blacktrackers in pursuit of Kelly. The horn is believed to have been carved by the American George King, Ned Kelly's stepfather (see accompanying photograph), who used the woodcuts published in the July 1880 edition of the Illustrated Sydney News as his inspiration. A similarly executed scrimshaw horn sold at auction in 2001 for $192,225 when it was thought to be unique. Since then a number of other examples, including the one on offer, have come to light.”

    Tell him he’s dreamin'

  34. From Edna Gargill (nee) Griffiths Glenrowan Vol 1

    Some mention of George King.

    Page 82,
    " King comes in; as cover (name) supposedly; But you've heard what was said of that – and wonder afterwards if he was not a 'plant' from the very start."

    " Earlier in this telling to myself I was having much trouble with 'The bodyguard' put against Ned Kelly by King – and later Maddocks"
    ( Maddocks is William Madden Quinn)

    Page 10
    " Suspicions of Ned because of a great number of young men who had been disappearing from the area. Accidents were arranged – a fall off from high cliff – accidents became dis proportionate, first you have 'King' next William Quinn (Black Maddocks) posing as a priest. "

  35. Leigh Fisher says: Reply

    George King would have been an object of curiousity for local police. It has to be assumed that his body wasn't found or was unrecognisable. Maybe he disappeared to NZ.

  36. Marty Hammond says: Reply

    Dee, my thoughts were these. There are no published refs to George King being an artist of any sort. Valuable scrimshaw are on whalebone, done by skilled carver mariners and often depict maritime or naval scenes. As is usual in many Kelly finds, the accompanying texts suggest that King gave these cow horns to sympathiser pals before disappearing. But if so, all that can besaid is that his carvongs were of a naive kind.

    Because so little is known about George King other than Ned's nasty accusations in the Jerilderie Letter, we are left (as usual) with the task of establishing whether George King was an artist or a horse thief, or both.

Leave a Reply