The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection : Part I

Here is another thought provoking contribution by Blog supporter Peter Newman. I urge others of you to follow Peters lead and make use of this opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas about the Kelly story. You cant do this anywhere else in the Kelly World.

“Joanne Griffiths, Ned’s great-grand-niece, recently launched a campaign to establish the Ned Kelly Centre, a warts-and-all museum dedicated to telling the story of Ned Kelly and his many misdeeds…”

It is interesting to hear about this proposal and I suppose the “warts and all” presentation she is dedicated to telling must be the stories told in the book ‘Glenrowan’ by her relative Edna Griffiths.  This is a book I have been trying to read for some time, but it’s not an easy read because of the way it rambles and goes off at tangents.  But it is worth persevering because Edna’s stories are just incredible.  I imagine many would choose to disbelieve some of these stories, but the interesting thing is that she lived next door to Jim Kelly when she was young and her book is basically her recollection of stories she was told by the “old people” of the district including her own family and of course Jim Kelly.  

We need to be careful about dismissing oral history like this.  Maybe it’s not all true, but a fair bit of it probably is.  It is interesting that at the start of her book Edna says the story she tells is different to that told by those purporting to be historians on the matter.  And as we all know, historians often get it wrong as has been so glaringly the case with Ned Kelly.  That is only now becoming clear with the new information coming out on this website and in the books by the likes of Morrissey and MacFarlane.  The reality is that Edna is about as close to the source as you can get, and hopefully the proposed museum will help to get this information out there.  


What I find interesting is that, whilst Ned Kelly is an important part of Edna’s story (particularly the story about his killing of a local enforcer named Borrin), her book ‘Glenrowan’ is not all about Ned.  As Edna tells it, the Kellys and many other families in the district were part of a crime syndicate she refers to as the Conglomerate (and sometimes as the Empire), which was apparently controlled by James Quinn who was based at Glenmore in the King Valley.  Many of these families were comprised of “Lost Children” (i.e. illegitimate children who were fostered out and didn’t know their true parents).  


Of interest as far as the Kelly family is concerned is Edna’s claim that Ellen Kelly was known locally as Minnie-Ella and that only Kate and Dan were her children.  Edna says Jim Kelly, Grace Kelly and Maggie Kelly were all “arranged” into the family.  I’m not entirely sure if Edna is suggesting that Ned was also arranged into the family.  Certainly he had some kind of an overseer role according to Edna.  As Edna tells it however, Ned in some way upset the conglomerate’s plans, with the battle he fought at Glenrowan being as much against the conglomerate as it was against the authorities.  According to Edna, the conglomerate retaliated by conducting a 20 year “war” against Maggie and her family in which people were killed and wounded trying to defend her.  Interesting!


If Edna’s stories are true, then the Greta district was rife with crime (prostitution, cattle and horse rustling, you name it) and the Kelly family and a number of others were in the thick of it.  Quinn was the godfather it seems, and Ellen Kelly (Minnie-Ella) some kind of a brothel madam.  Edna expresses surprise that this is something that is not well known, and points out that there was no other way for women on these small lots to have made a living.


I don’t know quite what to think about all this, except that it would be great if Joanne Griffith could get her museum up and running so that she could tell us more about her very interesting family history as documented by Edna and so we could get an understanding of the Kelly Outbreak from their viewpoint.


Have any others readers of this website read Edna Griffiths’ books.  She has published about 7 volumes and I have only got through the first.  The information above is only a fraction of the interesting material covered by that first volume.  I’d be interested to know what others think of this.   


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16 Replies to “The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection : Part I”

  1. I have put a cut and paste below of a comment I made elsewhere on this site concerning this book series-

    "For many years lots of people have been playing whack-a-mole with this series of books by Ms Cargill. Every once in a while reference to it would pop up somewhere on a forum or elsewhere and the finder of the info would be gently but firmly dissuaded from taking too seriously much of what is between the covers. Even Brian McDonald in "What they said about Ned!" describes the books as "delightful stories but not for research."

  2. On the Kelly documentary called “Outlawed", at the 17 minute mark another member of the Griffiths branch of kelly descendants called David Griffiths claiming that after the Fitzpatrick Incident the Police poisoned the dam on the Kelly property and their horses and cows died. I don’t recall reading about this anywhere else so is this just another example of Police vilification handed down as oral history, a completely untestable claim that is without basis in fact? Does anyone know?

    (Yes, you can add You Tube videos to your Comments as well now – just paste in the address – Ive added HTML code that makes it work!!)

  3. In the Heath Ledger Ned Kelly film we saw the police burning grass and poisoning water, but in reality, that never happened (if it had there would have been a great outcry from the populace that would have made news all over the country, also if it had of happened to the Kellys you can best bet that they would make lots of noise about it and would have definitely told Cookson and other sympathetic writers). It was probably based on a statement made by Constable Bracken. He said that at the siege Ned Kelly told him that he wanted to kill Mr. Graves because he went before Parliament and suggested that the water in Kelly country be poisoned and grass burned.

    (Note he said suggested and not that it had been implemented.)

    Within days of the papers getting a hold of that statement, the Hon. J.H. Graves wrote to the papers denying ever saying such a thing.

    From The Age of July 24, 1880 –

    "A letter from Mr. Graves, M.L.A., to the Chief Commissioner of Police complaining of the alleged statement made by Edward Kelly to Constable Bracken, that he would like to kill Mr. Graves because he suggested in Parliament that the water in the Kelly country should be poisoned and that the grass should be burned is published in the Benalla Standard. Mr. Graves states that " these statements have been the means of placing my life in serious danger within the last ten days; besides, being published by the Argus during the time I was before my constituents, they most materially affected my election. Most, if not all, of the residents in the neighborhood of Greta, Moyhu, &c., Voted against me at the recent election almost to a man, showing the effect of this alleged unjustifiable statement of a police constable to a public journal. I need scarcely inform you that I never made any such suggestion in Parliament or elsewhere."

  4. OMG Sharon! You are a Kelly Phenomenon without peer! Thanks so much for that enlightening information – once again you demonstrate an amazingly intimate knowledge it would seem of every possible facet of the Kelly saga.

    So this David Griffiths is simply repeating another Kelly fairy tale about the Police! But which viewers of this Documentary, so solemnly narrated by the Australian Icon, Jack Thompson, would have the faintest clue that this claim by Mr Griffiths is rubbish, and it was proven to be rubbish in July 1880 but persists to this day, 135 years later?

    The entire Kelly story is riddled with this sort of thing, repeated claims of things known and long ago proven to be untrue, but retold time and time again by ill informed Kelly sympathisers. I am reminded of the oft repeated claim about Redmond Barry rushing Neds trial through so that he could go to the races – this was debunked in the 1967 publication Ned Kelly Man or Myth but it continues to be trotted out by ignorant believers in the Jones-Kelly Myth.

    What other tired myths do we know of that are still being recycled as truth by ignorant Kelly sympathisers?

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    Where can you get a copy of this book or the others, I can't seem to find them.

  6. 'Outlawed, The real Ned Kelly' in my opinion is one excellent documentary on Kelly.

    Peter has mentioned some striking points in Edna's writings that are primarily Oral history, and I have also read and made notes comparable to Peter's, and can say there are more things that will shock.

    OK you say it can't be true, they're only stories, its just handed down oral history! But you could hardly make these things up, and why would Edna want to destroy her own family history if it was not in her opinion true. If its not true what are we to make of what to believe or be true!

    So if the anti Ned fraternity want to discount oral history just as the Ned sympathisers are critics of Edna's writings then lets remember there are always two sides to a story and the truth lays some where in between.

    I don't see Dee criticising Peter's book review that appears to throw spanners into the spokes of the Kelly story, but Dee will question an elder direct descendant telling us 'the authorities had poisoned the Kelly dam water which killed the horse and cows'. If this had happened and it could have, it is something that won't be forgotten by the victims, as even the newspapers of the day may not want to report on such things the authorities may have done either.

    But Sharon, as usual your posting seems to put this issue to rest. It did not happen according to Mr Graves. Lets hope for historical accuracy someone can provide additional evidence of dam water poisoning.

    I too have been intrigued by Edna's Glenrowan books. I have met Edna several times and she's of clearest mind and am sure her stories will be seen as the revelations they are. I have no doubt her books have a huge element of truth gathered over several generations from what was then " the true heart of Kelly country ".

    Its surprising no other descendants have ever offered their side of Kelly oral history, – that may contradict the sanitised respectable version we seem to be so prepared to accept, and now, good on you Joanne for wanting to put the Griffiths / Kelly side of the story into a Ned Kelly Centre museum.

  7. I did not know about Graves refuting the claim, but I looked for his alleged statement many years ago in the indexes to the Victorian Parliamentary Debates for the period, and could find no evidence that Graves ever said anything of the sort. It did not surprise me to find that it was yet another of Kelly's ridiculous statements that would be accepted by the credulous. God knows where he got that one from.

    For an elected member to say such a stupid thing in Parliament, where at least the gist of everything said is written down and reported, would have been political suicide, the nineteenth century equivalent of saying that he had been trying to get a nuclear waste dump located in his area. If Kelly was trying to get Graves booted out of his parliamentary seat, he did not succeed. Graves stayed as the member for Delatite until 1900, and was out of parliament until 1902 when again returned as the member for Delatite. He ceased to be a member in 1904 and died in 1910.

  8. Bill I don’t have a copy of this book by Edna Griffiths Cargill so have no way of knowing if her claims should be dismissed as Brian McDonald would have us do as “delightful stories” or taken more seriously, as Peter and you are suggesting. Family oral history is hugely problematic for historians, because it is often believed with great conviction, yet in the telling and retelling down through the generations is often embellished and modified, and the original facts can end up obscured and forgotten. I think David Griffiths illustrates this perfectly in the Documentary – he may well be highly respected, and not prone to “faction” but his tale about Police poisoning the dam seems to be one of the families oral traditions that doesn’t have any support, indeed, as Sharon points out, we can see that it probably arose from a lie that was told to Bracken by Ned Kelly!

    So, does anyone know how one gets copies of these books by edna?

  9. If you just wanted to read the book without purchasing you can check and put in "Edna Griffiths Cargill" to find titles she has written and which libraries close to you they are at.

  10. Anonymous says: Reply

    Edna published many years before her Glenrowan Book a book titled The Children's World of Mr Kelly.
    There is very interesting recollections lucidly written amongst other stuff in this book and it is necessary to read this book as it provides much better/more information than which she has included in her later Glenrowan book. The extensive writing about Jim Kelly is very interesting in her first book.

  11. Anonymous says: Reply

    Edna published many years before the Glenrowan series a book titled The Children's World of Mr Kelly Writings of Glenrowan West Greta and the Eleven Mile.
    This book is well written, has a very interesting section devoted to Jim Kelly when he lived on his selection at Eleven Mile.
    This book needs to be read to understand her later book Glenrowan.

  12. Where can I purchase Edna Griffiths Cargills "Glenrowan" publication? (as per pic above…) Anyone? Look fwd to anyone being able to offer suggestions. Thank you.

  13. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Mark, you might have to try the National Library Australia catalogue and see if you can find a copy somewhere and copy the pages you want. Either that or try the title in google with "price", "used", etc after it. Volume vii, "Glenrowan", is a fre PDF download from here

    You could try ringing the publisher too, in case they did other volumes –

  14. Thanks very much Stuart. Cheers.

  15. I always check Advanced Book Exchange for titles for sale at I see that as I type (but you better hurry before someone else jumps on it) there is the 6 volume set by Edna Cargill available from a Melbourne seller for a little over $300 plus shipping. Pricey, but this book set is rare.

  16. Great!!! Thank you too Sharon. I am on it like stink on a monkey!!!!! Cheers all.

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