The Vault Fires Back

The Top Gun is the one I saw at the Vault

A few days ago I was pleased to receive feedback from the Kelly Vault, and answers to my questions. That gun without labels that the Custodian couldn’t identify the day I was there was mistakenly displayed before the Labelling had been completed. It turns out to be a prop that was made for the Last Outlaw TV Miniseries that we reviewed here a few weeks ago, a replica of the sawn off carbine that Ned Kelly killed Lonigan with. I wish I had known at the time because that gun’s a vital element in the SBC saga that we’ve discussed at length. Ned claimed to have fired it at Lonigan and killed him stone dead with a single shot to the head  – the problem as we discussed is that Lonigan had wounds in  his left arm and left thigh as well. This is the problem a Ned Kelly Forum spokesman boasted that he had solved, but if you look top right of this Page you’ll see how many days we’ve been waiting for him to front up with the promised solution. The only way this problem can be solved is by accepting Ned Kelly didn’t tell the truth about Lonigans death, but that doesn’t fit with the NKF’s view that Ned wasn’t a liar, so he’s gone silent! But wouldn’t it be more interesting if the ticket the Vault eventually attaches to this gun mentioned this conundrum?
As I suspected not all of the documents on display at the Vault are genuine – many are facsimiles because the originals have to be stored in strictly controlled environments to preserve them properly, facilities which are only  available in large Institutions. Actually, they mention that their biggest problem at the Vault, something I also noticed at the time, is the lack of space. They’ve almost outgrown the Sub Treasury building already. Never-the-less  I would like to know which is a facsimile and which is the real thing when I am looking it. 

In regard to my criticisms of the Vaults deviations from its policy of being historically accurate and balanced, and in particular in its promotion of the ‘Republic’, the Vault acknowledges it as being a ‘controversial’ subject . They say they are willing to look at a rewording of those places where its mentioned and perhaps instead make the Republic the subject of a separate display in which the controversy is exposed from all sides. In fact there are lots of controversies in the Kelly story – many of them discussed here – so maybe they could refer to the others as well, while they’re about it?
They also believe that over time the Vault, and its ‘narrative’  will grow and change, an attitude which is commendable and reflective of modern views of history telling, that History  isn’t necessarily a static interpretation but one that needs to be prepared to change along with knowledge, understanding and insight of the subject under discussion. Since Ian MacFarlanes incredible work was published in 2012, challenging the status quo, new views of Kelly history are now emerging and the old Ned Kelly Villain-or-Hero dichotomy is being replaced with a demythologized but complex view of the man, and of the Outbreak.
After hearing from the Vault and reading their responses to my criticisms, and of their willingness to at least think about them and perhaps even change things a little, my initial disappointment has turned to hope. As I have said elsewhere, it wouldn’t be possible or even desirable to wipe Ned Kelly off the history pages, and its never been my desire for that to happen. What I am interested in encouraging is accuracy and honesty on those History pages, and I am now a little optimistic that the Vault may be on that same path.

It will be interesting to see how they respond over the next few months, and in August, when Darren Suttons findings are fully revealed as he has promised, I will revisit the topic and report on progress. In the meantime because they’ve responded positively  to my challenges, Ive decided to respond to their request to change the title of the post about Darren Suttons findings, though I was quite fond of the Pun in it, changing  “Forgery” to  “Controversy”.  I hope this will help to maintain friendly communications between us all, as well as demonstrate that even Dee can respond to fair criticism and move with the times!
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10 Replies to “The Vault Fires Back”

  1. You certainly are a huge fan of Ian McFarlanes book aren't you Dee… Almost a groupie.. I wouldn't say it's "incredible" work. It is good and it has a deserved place on the Kellyana shelf but he was proceeded by Alex Castles in many respects. And of course Morriseys thesis. The term "incredible" tends to suggest it was break through, trail blazing information. I would call Mcmenomys work incredible. And McQuilton. (my "McFarlane" and personal favourite..)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Mark – they’ve given me an idea for a future Post! But you’re right I am a big fan of that book – but why wouldn’t I be – according to the NKF I wrote it! And yet I have modestly never Posted a proper review of it, so I shall put it on my List of things to do, along with a review of Castles book and McMenomys book both of which I have also read but not managed to review on the Blog. ‘A Short Life ‘ is also up there. So much to do…..

  3. Have a gander at this webpage Mark:

    'A damning history… mesmerising in its detail.' – Lesley McDowell, UK Independent, March 2014

    'Ian MacFarlane's assiduous research provides a valuable antidote to those who would unthinkingly sentimentalize violent men.' – Sir Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement, December 2013.

    Sir Clive was a very active inventor, including Sinclair computers and electric cars. He might not be a Kelly expert, but who knows for sure. One thing is for sure, he ain't an idiot.

    Many brilliant and distinguished people have applauded the MacFarlane book.

  4. Ernie Sullivan says: Reply

    I've got all the books mentioned by Mark. I can't see a single connection between Castles' 2005 work and the MacFarlane book. Castles was published posthumously and has no references. He seems to have relied on secondary sources unlike MacFarlane who worked where the bulk of Kelly Gang archival records are held – the Victorian State archives – for over 20 years.

    Mcmenomy and McQuilton were terrific, but MacFarlane breaks new ground by, inter alia, exposing the Republic myth; listing missing archival records about Ned for the first time; listing the police spies and lists of suspected sympathisers also for the first time. Indeed, when everything is considered, this was a ground-breaking book chock full of new and controversial material.

    Morrissey's thesis is rather hard to access and I am not sure whether Mark has read it or the MacFarlane book. I have copies of both. They are an indictment of Ned, his gang and his legend.

    Mark's faint praise of MacFarlane was undeserved. Groan.

  5. People like me for example..hehe!

  6. Yes. Lots still to do Dee. You are correct. Lets get cracking!! I would like to read your thoughts on McMenomys work, Castles, Passey and Seals work, Kates Cottage and Cobb and Co at Glenrowan, Benalla Pioneer Museum. I would especially like your thoughts on Edgar Penzigs work on the Kellys. If he were alive today, I reckon you both would have gotten on well.

    Hi Ernie. Yes, I have a large Kellyana collection and this includes Morrissey and McFarlane. Both worthy additions and good reads. I welcome all points of view. Go back over all the blog entries and you will see this to be so. And yes, I have read Morrisseys original thesis. And I did say McFarlanes book was good. But lets not get too gushy. I will leave that to Dee. But thank you for your response. Appreciated.

  7. I have to say that I enjoyed Morrissey's thesis much more than I enjoyed his book. I found the thesis to be more compelling, in depth and scholarly. In the book, much of what was gone in depth into in the thesis had been edited down and I sure didn't care much for the tone of the chapter on modern Kelly myth makers. Parts of that seemed more like something you would read on an internet forum, not in a serious published book. I found that it detracted from the scholarly aspect of the rest of the work.

  8. Jim Anderson says: Reply

    The late and lamented Peter Ryan liked MacFarlane's book. As a New Guinea coastwatcher in WW2 he strangled two Japanese soldiers who tried to capture him. A man of exceptional fortitude, he later became director of Melbourne University Press. He praised MacFarlane's book in his Quadrant review.

    So do I.

  9. So nobody wants to discuss the Vault anymore? I am often amazed at how something incidental to the Subject of the Post becomes the main topic under discussion!

  10. Good Afternoon Dee. I hope all is good with you and family.

    I think we have covered the Vault well and truly and what your thoughts on it are. . You have had your feedback you desired from the Vault.

    Mr McFarlanes book though isn't incidental at all. It keeps haunting this blog. It's been well and truly in the mix since day 1 of your blog. I don't denigrate the book. I like it and understand your infatuation with it. All I was really saying was could we please tone it down now? And maybe look at other aspects in the Kelly world? Deal?

    There was more to Kellyana before Ian Mc Farlane came along. And there sure as sh t will be more after him. NEXT!!!

    Alas, sadly, this may be my last post for a while as duty calls and I must return to work tomorrow. (sob..) I am sure you and many many others will miss my erudite observations and pithy asides. I will however try to at least find time to read this fine addition to the Kelly saga when I get time.

    In the meantime though, I bid you farewell.
    One day, I will be back. Like the rain after the drought of a dry season.
    I am sure you are quivering with anticipation..


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