|The Entrance to the Darlinghurst Gaol
At the very heart of the Kelly story is a belief that it was Police persecution that drove Ned Kelly to the extremes that he went to, and that if it wasn’t for Police and Judicial harassment and corruption, the Outbreak would never have happened. This of course is the tired refrain of every criminal that ever lived, but the Kelly sympathizer mob would have us believe that THIS TIME it really is true! The Kellys were innocent and the Police are to be blamed.
Last year on this Blog I reviewed all of Ned Kelly’s recorded charges and convictions, looking for the evidence for this belief, that they were unjustified, inappropriate, corrupt or in any way suggestive of unfair Police harassment of Ned Kelly – and I didn’t find it. Now I am doing the same thing to the recorded charges and convictions centered on Ned’s brother Jim. So far what I have found is much the same as what I found last year – inaccurate and biased story telling by the pro-Kelly lobby, actual criminal activity by the Kellys and mostly appropriate and at times even sympathetic responses by the Authorities. In none of the discussions that followed these Posts has anyone challenged my findings.
So far, I have reviewed two of the items on Jims charge sheet, and both demonstrate the system, albeit a pretty harsh one acting quite reasonably towards him : the entirely appropriate charge of Illegally using a horse was dismissed on account of his age, and 2 years later a sentence of 3 years hard labour for stock theft ended a year early, presumably for good behavior, as the rules permit.
Now we come to the next item on Jim Kellys charge sheet. He was only a few months out of Gaol and now in NSW where it seems he changed his name to Jim Wilson. He and a companion, Tom Manly stole two horses and saddles and sold them while on their way to the Snowy Mountains, according to Ian Jones.
Here is the newspaper report of their arrest at Kiandra : read it and ask yourself as you do so if this report fits with the Kelly myth that Jim was an innocent victim of Police harassment :
The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser
(NSW : 1871 – 1912)
Saturday 23rd June 1877
ENCOUNTER WITH AND ARREST OF TWO HORSESTEALERS.
The Kiandra correspondent of the Monaro Mercury, under date
June 1, gives the particulars of the arrest of Wilson and Manly as follows :
These two men made their appearance on Sunday, 27th ultimo, and gave out that they were cattle buyers. It was only on Thursday evening at 9 o clock, that senior-constable Smythe got information that the two men were wanted. He found them at Mr. Chapman’s in a small apartment off the dining room, Messrs. Chap man and Abraham Thomas being in the same room. Smythe stood at the door and told the two strangers that he arrested them on a charge of horse-stealing. Both men immediately arose and remarked, ” Let us go outside.”
Smythe said, ” Not without these on,” producing the handcuffs. Wilson, a young man standing six feet high, and very powerful, rushed at Smythe, dealing him a tremendous blow beneath the eye and knocking him out of the doorway into the next room. Smythe and Wilson then closed. In the meantime, Chapman and Thomas having been called upon to assist seized the other man, and after a long struggle they got him down on the floor. During all this time Smythe and Wilson were fighting most determinedly, the latter having got hold of a Iong brass candlestick, with which the ruffian beat Smythe severely about the head, inflicting no less than seven ugly wounds. Blood was flowing from Smythe in streams, completely blinding him. At last the constable got his revolver to bear, but it missed fire. A second time the revolver was presented, and it went on but missed Wilson.
At this stage of the desperate encounter, Chapman having got Manly down, Thomas went to Smythes assistance, and they succeeded in encircling Wilsons wrists with the handcuffs.
Wilson “a stalwart and most desperate scoundrel’,would certainly have taken Smythe’s life,had he been able, and he has repeatedly expressed his regret that he did not succeed in so doing. The prisoners hail from Victoria. After the fight was over. Smythe was almost smothered with blood, with which the floor of the room was also covered. The candle stick used by Wilson was broken in two, and there was blood and hair adhering to the pieces. Smythe says he could feel himself getting very weak from loss of blood during the struggle, which necessitated the bringing of his pistol into service. Using his revolver as a bludgeon, Smythe endeavoured to knock Wilson down with it, but the desperado was too strong for him.
These men were just in readiness to start for the road, and had Smythe been half an hour later, he would have lost them. The telegram authorizing Smythe to arrest the pair, did not arrive till half-past 8 o’clock p.m. Smythe exhibited great pluck when wrestling with his athletic antagonist, and acted nobly in sticking to him until Thomas came to his assistance. Wilson regrets that he could not get his knife into play, as otherwise the ruffian says he would have stabbed Smythe. All concerned in the capture deserve the greatest praise. We think there must be in Victoria some charge of a very serious nature pending against these two men, or else they would not have made such a stand to prevent their arrest. Prisoners were very violent after being locked up, but I think the low temperature of an Alpine night cooled them down before morning.
Only a blind fool would argue this incident was caused by the Police, who in this case were from NSW. Whatever Jim may have become in later life, theres little doubt that at 18 he was a violent criminal, and if we are to believe this account he very nearly became the first Kelly to murder a Policeman.
According to Ian Jones , Jim was sentenced to Four years hard labour, served at the Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney. He would have been due for release in 1881, by which time the outbreak would have been over. However, even though the hunt for the gang was in full swing in 1880, Jim was once again given an early release, and set free in January 1880. Now 21 and at last showing some signs of having learned his lessons, perhaps in part because of the hangings that took place at Darlinghurst, Jim urged the Gang to disband and disburse to other states, but Ned wouldn’t agree : ‘Ned was committed to the rebellion’ said Tom Lloyd Jr to Ian Jones in 1979.
It seems Jim played no part in the Gangs activities, though he apparently turned up at Glenrowan behind Police lines, and was prominent afterwards in the struggle to gain a reprieve for Ned.
We have already touched on Jims life after the Outbreak, but it included yet another conviction for horse stealing, in 1881. This time the sentence was 5 years hard labour on the roads, but it was the last time he was ever convicted of anything and as Mark Perry rightly says he eventually got his shit together. But is there any evidence in the criminal career of the younger Jim Kelly of unfair Police harassment and corruption that drove him to it?
I don’t see it. In fact what I see is a kid growing up in an environment of lawlessness and criminality, surrounded by dreadful role models , inevitably being drawn into a life of crime but as Mark also said, fortuitously being in prison when the worst excesses of the Outbreak were occurring. Jim had a lucky escape after some early foolish mistakes and made good in later life, even though he remained a prisoner to the mesmeric effects of his big brothers delusions of grandeur.
Looking again at that Photo of the well-dressed Jim and horse in later life, I wondered if the dapper old Bachelor was just a misunderstood horse-lover? There were other speculations that suggested themselves to me about Jims character – he may have had some secrets that made his life rather tragic in more ways than one.
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