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.
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