Abstract: In April 1878 Constable Fitzpatrick was wounded by Ned Kelly while attempting to arrest his brother Dan for horse stealing. The incident triggered the ‘Kelly outbreak’ that elevated Kelly to the status of Australia’s most notorious historical figure. Ever since the event Fitzpatrick has been almost universally labelled a liar and perjurer, and the various records of his testimony in two trials and a Royal Commission have been assailed as fanciful and unlikely concoctions.
This article reconstructs and vindicates Fitzpatrick’s version of events after some 140 years of denigration. Ned and his associates’ various statements and denials about the event emerge as a series of self-serving fabrications that, together with other evidence, raise doubts about much other prevalent Kelly mythology.
READ THE ARTICLE YOURSELF
This article was so good I read it twice, and have to say that its a sensational must-read for anyone interested in the Kelly story. Its an absolutely devastating microscopic cross referenced examination of the entire “Fitzpatrick Incident”, that most central of all Outbreak incidents, the one always blamed by Kelly sympathisers as the trigger for everything that followed, and in the middle of it, the man Kelly sympathisers love to hate more than anyone else, the endlessly despised Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick.
Ian MacFarlane seems to have been the first author to question the vilification of Fitzpatrick, quoting in ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked‘ a petition that was presented to Chief Commissioner Standish, asking for his reinstatement. Fitzpatrick had been dismissed from the Force on the grounds of “inefficiency and insubordination” but the people of Lancefield regarded him as “zealous, diligent, obliging and universally liked, while we never saw him in company of any but the best citizens. Had he been what the report was said to allege it could not have escaped our attention. He made several clever captures and appeared to us as one of the most efficient and obliging men in the force”
In this paper Dawson reveals that a SECOND petition was drawn up a year later, asking that “a board of enquiry be held so that Alexander Fitzpatrick could answer the charges made against him” but this request was denied, as had two earlier similar requests, one made by Fitzpatrick with support of an MP and another by a Lancefield Justice of the Peace. Kelly sympathisers looking for someone denied natural justice and the opportunity to defend himself need only look at Fitzpatrick.
Predictably, neither of these petitions is mentioned anywhere in Ian Jones book or in Peter Fitzsimons book, but both authors repeat the claims that originated with Fitzpatricks fellow Constable Mayes, who among other things alleged Fitzpatrick had associated with the “lowest persons in Lancefield and could not be trusted out of sight”. They also contaminate the conduct of Fitzpatrick during the Outbreak with allegations and assessments made about him in regard to things that happened AFTER the outbreak. This reminded me of my own observation of Jones bolstering his claims of police persecution of the Kellys BEFORE the Police killings by mentioning their behaviour AFTER them. This is pretty rotten scholarship.
Theres much more in this Paper, and reading Dawsons reconstruction of Fitzpatricks journey to the Kellys is almost a thing of beauty, as its simple logical clarity shreds so much of the rubbish thats been spun round this event. Equally forensic is his cataloguing of the way in which Ned Kelly and his associates and family contradicted each others versions of events and told outright lies in their campaign to vilify Fitzpatrick. Dawson is rightly critical of the way in which authors from then till now continued the character assasination with unwarranted embellishments culminating in Fitzsimons unsupported claim that Fitzpatrick drank himself “into a stupor” on his return.
Once again we are seeing the power of real academia at work, and the enlightenment that can come from proper exhaustive research and analysis. We saw it in Ian MacFarlanes incredible book, in Doug Morrisseys work, even in Ned Kelly Under the Microscope, and now with this devastating expose, the Kelly Myth will never be the same again.
As he writes in his conclusion, referring to Kelly myth makers such as Jones and Fitzsimons, “the maltreatment of Fitzparick by so many hands suggests a rigorous reappraisal of much other kelly mythology is in order”
Click on the link above, or here, print it off and prepare to be stunned by what you read. Its brilliant.
(Visited 88 times)
30 Replies to “A stunning expose of Kelly Mythology”
Its fascinating that, at long last, academics are digging into the Ned fabrication. Macfarlane, Morrissey, Dawson, Russ Scott, and many others are now exposing the toxic Kelly myth.
A fascinating forensic examination of the 'Fitzpatrick Incident' which throws much needed light onto this constantly mythologised event. The timeline established by Dr Dawson casts much of what has been said in previous pro-Kelly accounts into the garbage bin. Finally, it seems that at least some researchers are prepared to confront the sacred cow of the Kelly story and debunk mythology with good work. Now if others can strike while this iron is hot and turn attention to other aspects of this story, we might be able to separate fairy tales from fact.
I wrote above that Ian MacFarlane “seems” to have been the first person to question the vilification of Fitzpatrick but having just read our discussions on this subject following my Post in May titled “That Bloody Fitzpatrick” – which, incidentally is THE most popular Post – I now realise that Sharon and Brian were talking about this in 2011! That Post and the long discussions that followed are still a great read. And if you go to Sharons blog and do a search for Fitzpatrick theres plenty of great reading to be had.
What I STILL want to know is what EXACTLY were the misdemeanours that led Mayes to complain so bitterly about Fitzpatrick? Its not good enough for him to simply label him a liar and a larrikin, to say he couldn’t be trusted and so on without providing examples. Everyone seems to have simply accepted these assessments at face value but they may be the result of some entirely personal clash between the two of them, or Mayes simply accepting all the malicious gossip being spread about by the Kellys and making a decision right from the start that he was never going to like him.
To me it sounds very like a stitch-up.
It has occurred to me in the past that the police, anticipating an enquiry into the Kelly Outbreak, may have started to prepare their stooge in late 1879, 1880. So there could be heat on poor old Alex and possibly take focus away from elsewhere? He could be the Police fall guy. And look. It worked… He remains the black hatted villian in the Kelly story. Until now possibly..
As an aside to this debate, I admit to another interest in the 'Fitzpatrick incident'. I am an antique firearms collector with a specific interest in weapons of the bushranging era (approx. 1850 – 1880). I have read articles relating to the infamous 'Kate Kelly' revolver and seem to recall that someone (was it Sharon & Brian) debunked the authenticity of this revolver.
My question is this: Can anyone tell me, with some accuracy, the type of revolver Fitzpatrick was carrying at the time of the incident?
Not sure if I share Peter's view that Fitzpatrick may have been set-up as a future scapegoat in the event of the Kelly outbreak going belly-up. But I do feel that certain police officers, primarily Mayes, had some sort of axe to grind with the young copper. As Dee points out, while Mayes is scathing in his assessment of Fitzpatrick, direct evidence to support this opinion is missing. So you have a few disgruntled colleagues bad-mouthing Fitzpatrick, while at least 100 members of the local community are prepared to petition, twice, for the constable's reappointment. And some of these petitioners are prominent community members who, presumably, would not sign a petition of this nature if they didn't support Fitzpatrick!
There seems to be a case that following the incident at the Kelly home, Fitzpatrick's behaviour did deteriorate. Perhaps he was suffering from PTSD; I don't know. But overall I think he got a raw deal.
Spudee, yes, it was me and Brian who did the debunking article. I ran across the pertinent info and got Brian to help me with the article for one of Dave White's now defunct sites. I will have to see if I can find the old article either on my hard drive or at the wayback machine, and, if so, will put it at our blog as I have begun putting old articles up as part of a Flashback series. Stay tuned!
Found it! It can be found at http://elevenmilecreek.blogspot.com/2015/11/flashback-kate-kellys-gun.html
Nice work Sharon. That information certainly shoots down (pardon pun) the suggestion that the pistol being auctioned was Fitzpatrick's. What was the end result insofar as the auction is concerned? Seems to me that if the auctioneer was informed of what you and Brian had determined about Fitzpatrick pistol, then it should have been withdrawn from sale.
Unfortunately, I still have no confirmation of what the pistol on issue to Fitzpatrick was, although it seems most likely it was a Webley & Pryse.
Thank you once again.
Macfarlane (p. 78) says: The Webley revolver issued to Lonigan [and Fitzpatrick] was a robust, powerful and effective weapon. It had a range in excess of 300 metres and was accurate up to 50 metres. There is even a contemporary account of the power of this revolver:
The revolver now used by the police is called Webley, and notwithstanding reports to the contrary, is a most effective and reliable weapon. Adams’ and Colt’s revolvers were both discarded for it. When the men were practising at the butts, Sergeant [John] Fegan, their drill instructor, tested its throwing power, and found that at a distance of 200 yards the bullet struck the target with as much force as if it were fired from a carbine.
Cartridges for these revolvers were manufactured and likely to be uniform in quality.
Thanks Finigan. The description certainly sounds like a Webley, or a Webley & Pryse, of a large calibre such as .455, then known as a man-stopper. Certainly a good all round police service weapon, unlike the Kate Kelly.32 calibre Webley (bit of a girly gun to me) that was claimed to have been taken from Fitzpatrick.
Hi there Spudee,
" What pistol on issue to Fitzpatrick ? "
There seems little record of hand guns the police were issued with those days.
Speaking to Ian Jones 2002 about some .45 inch calibre bullets and balls I found in a single patch about 300 m NE of the Kelly camp in 1985, see http://www.denheldid.com/twohuts/bullets.html
" Mr Ian Jones, author of Ned Kelly A Short Life pointed out that they could have belonged to Constable James who followed the gangs tracks that lead to the hut at Bullock Creek. Constable James had a ‘Tranter’ hand gun that used loose .45 calibre bullets and balls of the type I found."
I like to believe he was right as further metal detecting ( much later 17 years) in the same general area I found nothing else of .45 Cal, except some large musket balls, a half penny, some fencing wire, more splattered lead all down stream from where the main Kelly hut stood at (Bullock) Kelly's Creek. This lead material I'm sure is connected to the Kelly occupation of the site since they spent six months practicing their marksmanship on all nearby trees, and as expected often missed the target. I can say this because I spent 4 years in the goldfields and I know how random bullet lead can be detected in the field.
So, maybe the ' Tranter pistol hand guns' were common among police officers in those days.
Thanks Bill for that.- Tranters seem to have been in extensive use by police in both Vic and NSW from the mid 1860s through into the 1870s and 1880s. My interest in bushranging extends beyond the Kellys and my research into Ben Hall and the notorious Clarke brothers has shown that Tranters were used by police hunting both of these gangs. In the case of the Clarkes (a totally fascinating story in its own right) 2 special police parties were despatched to the Braidwood area of NSW in 1867 by the then Colonial Secretary, Henry Parkes. Both were heavily armed with weapons including both Tranter pistols and at least one Tranter revolving rifle. As you may be aware, one of the police parties was ambushed by the Clarkes, the four special constables murdered and their weapons, including the Tranters, taken and later used by the gang.
Speaking of the Clarkes, I commend anyone interested in bushranger history to read Peter Smith's superbly researched book The Clarke Gang: Outlawed, Outcast and Forgotten. Peter spent 50 years on his research and it shows in this 600 odd page masterpiece.
The representative of the auction house had replied to the comments made by Brian and me with some rather outlandish rebuttals which we were both able to calmly point out as incorrect or not applicable. I chose not to add in all those extra bits with the original comments I put at our blog but they can be found by someone who really wants to see them by searching at glenrowan1880.com in the wayback machine.
It still went to auction and sold for over $70,000 to an anonymous buyer. There was an article in the days after the auction with weapons experts refuting it, too. http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/kelly-gang-gun-is-a-fake-say-firearms-experts/2007/11/14/1194766771590.html
If someone was prepared to pay $70000 for this pistol, especially in light of the controversy, then they deserve to get bitten hard which they no doubt were. Just goes to show you how unscrupulous some auctioneers can be.
I had been familiar with the site Bill but now realise you are the bloke who did so much of the leg work around SBC. Congratulations on your research Bill, it certainly sheds much light on the site and likely key locations.
Following extensive research, last June, a good mate and I visited the Breadalbane area of NSW in search of a couple of Hall gang sites. The gang were very active in this region in 1864/65, holding up mail coaches, as well as robbing stores and inns. One site in particular we were keen to locate was where the gang were almost captured while staying in a barn on a tenant farm in February 1865. In the subsequent shoot-out between the gang and the police, Hall was wounded along with one of the police party.
We had some very good contacts in the area and were able to enter the property which we believed was the location of the barn shoot-out. The present occupants are 3rd generation owners of the property and they were soon able to lead us to the possible location of the former barn which has long since gone. Sure enough a thorough examination of the ground revealed the outline of a fairly substantial building. The present owner told us that many years ago, while plowing at the spot, he had turned up what he suspected was the remains of a cottage vegetable garden.
So with our detectors in operation we soon came up with some very interesting finds including an old pocket watch, a lovely silver brooch and about half a dozen musket balls, most of pistol size. All of the artefacts were given to the property owners who were over the moon. We were then given free on-going access to the site.
My mate has revisited and after finding quite a few pre 1865 coins, he is quite satisfied that we have in fact found the barn shootout site. Unfortunately we cannot categorically claim that the balls we found were from the shootout but we would like to think so!
The Age newspaper published the following letter from me regarding this spurious weapon at the time. I was as polite as I could be in my correspondence. I am not in a rush to buy anything ever proffered to the public by this auctioneer.
Gun was not Kate's
TOM Thompson's claim that the revolver sold on Tuesday night was the one taken from Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick by the Kellys is erroneous. According to Keith McMenomy's authoritative biography, Ned Kelly: the Authentic Illustrated History, Fitzpatrick himself testified that his weapon was returned, after the extraction of its cartridges. The weapon was produced at the trial of Ellen Kelly, and two others, for the assault on Fitzpatrick. There is nothing from the contemporary record to substantiate that it ever was in Kate Kelly's hands.
Spudee, on the Ned Kelly Vault Facebook Page tonight they are asking if there are any firearms experts out there who can assist them in deciphering some markings on Kelly era weapons? Sounds like something you might be able to assist them with. Look them up on Facebook and message them or give them a ring if you can help.
I'm very new to the game but will have a look. Thanks dee.
Hello Spudee, we are all new to the game ha. You seem to have interesting stories to tell re the Bem Hall and Clark sites, and its great to hear of your Metal detecting experiences. Fascinating our bushranging history is still so touchable like the Kelly sites and especially StringyBark Creek. There are some weird historians out there who cannot see the woods for the trees. Lead them to the correct site and they don't want to see. But like Ned, I took a stand long ago, and I hope recorded history is not always written by the winners, hey Dee!
Hello Brian, It occurred to me you probably answered Spudee's question, re FitzPatricks gun. If McMenomy's book says his gun was returned minus the cartridges, then that means Fitzpatrick must of had a Webley as only that weapon had fully made cartridges for insert and shoot, whereas all the other revolvers of the time were loaded separately with powder, balls or bullets and caps. Centre fire cartridges was the Webley's 'Coup d'état ' that changed everything.
What do you think Spudee?
Didn't the French gunsmith Casimir Lefaucheux patented a pinfire cartridge in 1832?
Quite correct but this was improved upon and in 1858 he produced an entirely metal cartridge. Variations of this were used during the American Civil War.
My detecting mate is probably one of Australia's most experienced and knowledgeable relic hunters. He is a former army scout and sniper and knows how to 'read' ground and what to look for. I am more of his researcher and we make a good team. The Clarke sites are all pretty much untouched and remain as they were back in the mid 1860s. Fortunately we have many good contacts in the area and have been able to access the principal sites although we are still working on getting to the location of the hut where the Clarke brothers held police at bay for several hours in 1867, before being captured and later hung. Lots of shots fired by both sides during this incident and to our knowledge it has never seen a metal detector. This suggests that there may be many rounds still in the ground there. So here's hoping.
In my opinion the Clarke brothers story is much more interesting than that of the Kellys and there are just so many similarities as well. And there is still plenty of division among the descendant families of people who lived in the district at the time.
Yes the Frenchman Lefaucheux was the first to develop the self contained paper cased 'pin fire' cartridge firearm adopted by a national Government. 1832 ( Wikipedia)
However, from a book on Military Firearms- Illustrated encyclopedia of 19th Century Firearms, by Major F Myatt MC-
1840, Pin fire was where a pin was driven vertically into the internal percussion cap in the cartridge.
1857, Rim fire, 'Smith&Wesson' developed copper cartridges that had powder arranged round the internal circumference of the rim became known as Rim fire cartridges but could not fire bullets larger than .32 Calibre.
1865, Centre fire developed by Webley allowed large calibre from .45 to .577. Was in production from 1867 till end of 19th century – Webley equipped the British army till after WWII.
Bill there were actually quite a few cartridge pistols in use by police during the time of the Kellys. As well as the Webley, there were of course the ubiquitous Colts, many Tranter cap and balls had been converted to fire cartridges and English handgun manufacturers such as Adams, Kerr etc. had also gone over to cartridge weapons.
I am actually in the process of negotiating the purchase of a Webley .455 calibre revolver of the type carried by Fitzpatrick and other police hunting the Kellys. If someone could tell me how, I could insert of photo of the pistol.
Above Spudee asks How to show a picture.
Dee told us way back there was no way to actually upload a photo with a comment.
but I did see somewhere on one of the threads a pictures within the posting??
Dee, can you please find out why someone could post that picture but we cannot?
However, I figured out you can provide a live link to a photo as part of your posting-
1 Type up your comment in the text box,
and get your picture hosted somewhere and you get an address.
2 Select profile- click Name / URL
3 Insert you Name and a short message, example- ' Bill : Spencer bullet and rifle'
and in the URL copy and paste the address –
You will see your name and message becomes a live hyperlink.
Anyone can Click on hyperlink and the picture opens on a separate window page to this Blog.
Terry Scott (left) holding large slug found at SBC that Gordon Byrne verifies fits his authentic Vic police issue Spencer rifle.
Like you Spudee, Gordon is a colonial era firearm collector. You should meet up.
This Spencer may have been the one Constable Scanlan had at SBC?
Hope this helps
Thanks Bill, I'll see if this works.
Incidentally, just love Gordon's Spencer. This is one firearm I really want to get.
Just wondering if Dr Dawson's paper has been given some publicity and is readily available? If so, what has been the reception from the Kelly supporters?
On the type of revolver Fitzpatrick would have had, there are a couple more references to police Webleys in Dawson's article in footnote 93. Apart from a reference to Bill D, there is also a Royal Commission reference on revolvers and a collector's site article, with a picture there as well. Looking up the Royal Commission reference Q9085, Steele said the mounted men had Webleys, the foot constables had colts just for escorting prisoners.
Thanks for that Anon. So it seems that the Webleys began to be issued to Vic Pol members from 1873. That fits in nicely with the one I am buying which seems to be be late 1870s. The Webleys were certainly a better option than the Colts.