The Last Kelly Warrior and the Ayatollah Khomeini

Ian Jones the last true Kelly Warrior?
As I mentioned to Mark Perry recently, I am working my way through a book he recommended called ‘Ned Kellys Last Days’ by Alex Castles.   Its subtitle is “Setting the record straight on the death of an Outlaw. I will Post my review in due course, its not done yet,  but in my search for the opinions of others about this book I came across this quote from Ian Jones : “ It is poisonously inaccurate, and if that is setting the record straight, I am the Ayatollah Khomeini”
This quote is from an article in The Age newspaper of August 5th 2005 which was reporting on the upcoming Ned Kelly Weekend, at which event Ian Jones was planning to publicly condemn this new book because according to him it is “marked by persistent vilification of Ned Kelly — unbalanced to the point of psychosis …”
Elsewhere, on the Iron Outlaw website from around 2002,  I came across this quote from Ian Jones :“Alex McDermott wants to read into the Jerilderie Letter that “the true, murderous, implacable, brooding intent of Ned Kelly is revealed”. Bullshit. I know it’s bullshit. If I said to you “pull your head in while it’s still attached”, you wouldn’t run off to the police and say “Ian Jones said he was going to chop my head off”. It’s just childish.”
What I find interesting about these  quotes is that they illustrate the way in which Ian Jones was such an outstanding and uncompromising spokesperson for what he believed was the truth about Ned Kelly, what I call the Kelly Mythology. Ian Jones was of course a Kelly scholar second to none, so he was eminently qualified to be that spokesperson, but not all scholars would be as willing as he was to go on the Public record to defend their views. He was the ‘go-to’ man for everything to do with Ned Kelly, never short of an opinion or information or a yarn about any aspect of Kelly history. He wrote books, and film scripts, he was interviewed for documentaries, quoted in the Press and on TV, consulted about the authenticity of photographs, guns, armour, the Kelly tree, the latest Kelly movies, historical precincts, works of art, exhibitions, skeletons, he opened Kelly museums and exhibitions ….the list is endless. He was an incredible asset to the entire Kelly community, and looking back on his lifetimes work, its pretty clear to me that without him the Kelly legends wouldn’t have anything like the status that they have been enjoying till recently. All people interested in the Kelly story, from every side of the debate owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
But now he has gone. 

To my knowledge, Ian Jones  last public appearance was to launch his little book on the Kellys and Beechworth in 2014, and he has apparently since expressed a perfectly understandable wish to be left alone, because of his advancing age and health issues. Before that though he had already more or less removed himself from the public stage, becoming deafeningly silent in no more obvious a place than in his lack of response to Ian MacFarlanes book “The Kelly Gang Unmasked”.   Compare that to his explosive remarks about McDermott and about Castles books! Where once he  would be in the news attacking and denouncing anyone and anything that looked like it might be a threat to the legends of his beloved Ned Kelly, suddenly, just as the first credible and sustained attack was launched on them for decades, he went silent.  Now I know there are many who think this Blog is all about promoting ‘that book’, and that I am somehow connected to it but the Blog isn’t and I am not. But its simply a fact that MacFarlanes book was a massive challenge to the established Kelly myths that Ian Jones developed and had promoted for all of his working life, and beyond.  Publication of The Kelly Gang Unmasked presented a radical review of the Kelly story but as far as I am aware Ian Jones uttered not a single Public word on the subject, even though we know he read it because he told Peter Fitzsimons that he hated it and he advised him not to read it. But he never made a public defence of the things it so directly challenged or even say why he didn’t respond to it.  Perhaps he was hoping someone else would.
Interestingly enough, in the same conversation where Jones attacked McDermotts  view of the Jerilderie Letter in 2001, he went on to say this: “Just you watch, the next wave of Kelly scholarship is going to be revisionist. There will be people like this McDermott character falling over one another to say “all this is wrong, Ned Kelly was really a dreadful person, a cold-blooded killer and a coward”. Gradually, they will try to regain the ogre that was portrayed back in 1880. Just for the sake of saying something different, making a buck, making a reputation
In the IO Interview he said this: “Certain people will continue to chip away at Ned and try to drag him down. But it’s like trying to destroy Uluru (Ayers Rock) by crashing a Tiger Moth into it. There might be a big bang and a great ball of flame, but there’s not going to be any Tiger Moth left. It’ll leave a little mark that will wither away in no time and Uluru will still be there.” Quite a wonderful and funny analogy which had me laughing, and typical of the uncompromising Mr Jones.
But now he has gone. The age of Ian Jones being the Kelly ‘go-to’ guy has ended and it seems there is no one to replace him. No one to take on Ian MacFarlane.  No one to take on Doug Morrissey. And no one to take me on either.  The tactic instead has mostly been to go to ground, to stay quiet and hope that we all go away – the very opposite of what Ian Jones always did. He was more like Ned Kelly, willing to speak his mind and take on the opposition whatever the odds.  He went on Radio and debated McDermott. The new breed are more like the nameless sympathisers who supposedly hung about in the shadows at Glenrowan, watching their hero get smashed, too scared to lend a hand, and then when it was obvious where it was heading they all disappeared.  They’ve admitted in their Forums that trying to defend the Legends against the exposures of this Blog has failed: “going in to bat for Ned will be in vain. Continue to do so will prove more disastrous than what we are currently experiencing.”  300 days Ive been waiting for one of them to make good on his loud-mouth promise to debunk the Lonigan killing. So maybe theyre all hoping a new “Go-to” Kelly guy will emerge and do their battles for them, but without Mr Jones, they are mostly in retreat, waving the white flag.
Never-the-less,  some have obviously seen the big hole and tried to at least partly fill it. The Ned Kelly Center was an attempt to fill that space, but it has more or less disappeared without trace after losing a cyber war with Ned Kelly Central. The Center  was run by Kelly descendant Joanne Griffiths who it seems long ago alienated huge sections of the Kelly community, and her grand plan to Crowd-source 8 million dollars to build the NK Centre flopped spectacularly with barely one thousand dollars pledged!  Their long ago promised Website has failed to appear. Their modest rival ‘ NK Central’ isn’t trying to raise money or be anything other than a Facebook community and is run by someone who remains Anonymous but is pretty obviously a prominent member of the rival Kelly faction. Like all Kelly places, except for this Blog, on NK Central they like to discuss  peripheral issues and newspaper reports rather than the ‘Central’ issues about Ned Kelly, which are completely ignored. Theres no questioning of the basic beliefs of the Kelly mythology, such as whether or not Ned was a villain, or Australias Robin Hood, or if the Kellys were hounded and persecuted. They are like Scientologists who are happy to discuss the minutiae of their belief that humans are reincarnated aliens from other planets but never discuss the horrible character of  their founding figurehead L Ron Hubbard, a fantasy writer and fraudster; to do that could lead them to the realisation that the entire Scientology narrative centred on a madman and is made-up nonsense. At least Kelly sympathisers admit Kelly might not have been a hero and instead might have been a villain – the problem though is that they only ever want to talk about the hero. 

All the other Kelly places on the internet are either dead or on life support. Like everyone else I hardly ever visit the IO or the NKF Websites anymore because NOTHING is happening there. Ive been banned from all the usual Facebook Kelly sites, not for what I posted  but for who I am. Other Kelly Forums have either disappeared or are for Members ONLY and one isn’t accepting new members! – so that one will eventually vanish unless they change their Policy. The Beechworth Ned Kelly Weekend has collapsed. The Ned Kelly Centre is history!
I would guess that Ian Jones must be pretty disappointed that once he stepped back from the fray there was nobody  able or prepared to try to take his place and stick up for Ned except on Facebook. The massive fantasy edifice that he created and sustained almost singlehandedly for decades is crumbling before his eyes, because he no longer has the energy to battle on, and nobody is stepping up to the mark to carry on from where he left off.  His prediction that the next wave of scholarship would be revisionist has come true, despite his best efforts and he was  right to see that the ‘ogre’ of the 1800’s would return. But he was wrong in his cynical prediction that this would happen   “Just for the sake of saying something different, making a buck, making a reputation”. The reason we are going back to the ogre of the 1800’s is because the mask he created for Ned to hide behind – and which, by the way made Ian a very tidy buck and a considerable reputation – has fallen off, and the ogre behind Ians Happy Face is exposed for what he always was, once again. But this time, theres nobody like Ian to put it back on for him and hide him behind a fable again. There are no Kelly warriors anymore. The Kelly myth is in its death throes.
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58 Replies to “The Last Kelly Warrior and the Ayatollah Khomeini”

  1. Dee you have misquoted Ian Jones about Alex and I have to wonder if that because it nails you right on the head?

  2. It would help if you identified which bit you think is a misquote, then I can respond to your claim that it nails me right on the head.

  3. Show everyone the misquote or discuss the Post. Or go “like’ something on Facebook instead of wasting your time posting rubbish which will never see the light of day on this blog.

  4. I think Ian Jones' comment that "the next wave of scholarship would be revisionist" was just a hysterical overreaction to people, in this case McDermott, questioning some of his views. But that is not necessarily “revisionist”. My article late last year, "Redeeming Fitzpatrick: Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick Incident" (just Google to find it), which got a good mention on this blog, is neither pro- not anti-Kelly. It is just a thorough review of all the available evidence about that event. It shows that Fitzpatrick's version of the incident at Mrs Kelly's house on 15 April 1878, reconstructed from a range of source documents, is both coherent and is corroborated on all key points by other evidence and testimony, especially from Williamson. It also shows that Ned's version of events kept changing and is repeatedly self-contradictory. The necessary conclusion is that Fitzpatrick told the truth as accurately as he could, and Ned and his family and associates lied in various and often inconsistent ways.

    This is not "revisionist" history. "Revisionist" is usually used to mean biased reinterpretation. As such, Ian Jones is the great revisionist here. There is a large amount of guesswork in his influential “Short Life”, and he selectively used evidence to push a particular ‘hero' view of Ned Kelly. This is precisely the fault he accuses others of. In the preface to his 2003 edition, p. x, he says that the tide of opinion over the previous decade "has been predominantly in favour of Ned as a major historical figure … a man of likeable and even admirable qualities". He then slurs attempts to combat that view as "marred by extreme selectivity, exaggeration, blatant omission, factual error and occasional fabrication". These are exactly his own faults. He is an apologist for the Stringybark ambush murders and the planned train derailment and massacre at Glenrowan. Poor Ned had a hard childhood. It wasn't his fault. Diddums.

    Jones’ chapter on the Fitzpatrick incident wildly distorts and misrepresents the whole event through the lying eyes of Ned Kelly. His treatment so stunned me by its many inaccuracies that I spent over a year doing a careful, detailed historical reconstruction addressing every source document that anyone had ever referenced about it, and over a dozen that had never been mentioned at all by the 'experts'. This showed, contrary to Jones' claim that we can never really know what happened in the Fitzpatrick "mystery", we can in fact know very clearly what happened, and we can see that Jones' account is glaringly wrong. (There is a slip in my own article – note 112 should be VPRS 4965 Unit 3, Item 228, not Item 85, as VPRO wrongly numbered their online transcript version. I thank Kelvyn for spotting the error.) So when the label "revisionist" is thrown around by Jones, one might consider whether it is actually Jones, who has spent a lifetime trying to vindicate Kelly, who has done most of the revision in this debate.

    From my point of view, who had no interest in bushrangers or Kelly until about 4 years ago, when I encountered some absurd Kelly-loving drivel in a school textbook, there is a duty to historical accuracy to debunk rubbish when you see it, assuming you have enough time to put into it. The big myth is of course the republic of NE Victoria, which has gained many crazed followers since Jones launched the idea at Wangaratta in 1967, but there are other myths about Ned that are ripe for picking too. Keep up the good work, fellow sceptics, and I hope to sink another ship (not the republic) around mid-year.

  5. Peter Newman says: Reply

    Stuart, your article last year was the first piece of work I have ever read that came out in support of Fitzpatrick. It is a valuable piece of work, and I believe the definitive piece of work on the ‘Fitzpatrick incident’.

    It is interesting how the Kellys won the media war back then. It seems the story of a drunken constable trying to have his way with Kate was just a compelling lie. People were too willing to accept Ned’s version against Fitzpatrick’s because it made for a good story. It was entrenched in film (‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’, 1906), accepted by Kenneally and stated as fact in 1911 by Jim Kelly (who said he was a witness, but was lying because he was in gaol at the time), and from then on was for the most part unquestioned (except Max Brown). No wonder the story became accepted as fact. The damage to Fitzpatrick was never to be undone (until now!).

    There is so much new information now coming to light through the likes of this blog. There are various avenues of enquiry being looked into by a number of us (mostly amateur historians having to do it in our spare time). It seems information is becoming easier to come by now, due to more data becoming available on-line (like some of the old newspaper reports that Dee has been unearthing). Also, with Ian Jones no longer there to rip apart anything that departs from his version of the story (and with a website like Dee’s to explore these ideas) people are willing to dig deeper and put forward these alternative viewpoints without fear of ridicule. I’m disappointed though to think we are not the revisionists!

    I am looking forward to seeing what the next ship is that you are going to sink (and am speculating now what it might be).

  6. Stuart that article of yours was exceptional, so like Peter I can hardly wait to see your next one! To read my Post about it again, and to read the article itself go HERE . ( Both are brilliant! ) Note when you re-read my post that the rehabilitation of Fitzpatrick was discussed on Sharons Blog way back in 2011, and was certainly part of Ian MacFarlanes book in 2012.

    Much as I am critical of some of Ian Jones efforts on behalf of the Kelly mythologists, I still believe he contributed much that was excellent in helping everyone understand the Kelly story, and I have never doubted his sincerity or his integrity for one second. He just got carried away with his desire to believe Ned was a hero.

    The important thing, as Stuart says is to aim for historical accuracy, and that is why I write what I do. Thanks for your support Peter and Stuart.

  7. Hi Peter – the only clue I will give is that my next article has something to do with being well hung. Although I did a research degree it was in ancient history, and I don't have a uni job. I had to work my way through the Kelly stuff part time from scratch with no past training in Aussie history at all. My first ever encounter with the VPRO online Kelly files were during my Fitzpatrick research, so I'm still a newbie here.

    For me it is interesting that Ian Jones is directly acknowledged as a mentor by just about every author on Kelly since the 1967 Wangaratta conference through to now. His biased inaccuracies on several points, especially Fitzpatrick and the republic idea, are powerfully promoted by his scriptwriting in two pro-Kelly propaganda films, the dreadful 1970 'Ned Kelly' movie with Mick Jagger, who gives a toast 'to the republic of north east Victoria', and his own 1980 'Last Outlaw' mini series which despite its historical faults I absolutely love as a movie and have watched many times for enjoyment. (I especially love the early part with Harry Power, just brilliantly done by Gerard Kennedy.) The happy family scenes around the Kelly dinner table are great too, capturing an idyllic rural childhood soon to be tragically shattered by the drunken bum Fitzpatrick. Never mind that Ned had been assisting Harry Power in armed robberies, we can all feel sorry for Ned that Harry sent him back home for cowardice with only loose change for his ma. Yep, poor Ned. It's enough to make a boy steal horses.

    You're right that there is fantastic information on the blogs, especially this one and the Eleven Mile Creek blog. I am highly impressed with Dee's various articles on the Republic of NE Vic, and it has helped enormously in pointing me towards that topic, which I would love to have some time to start tackling next year if possible. Ian MacFarlane's book has a lot to say on this too, but you have to be patient as it is thematically organised rather than a timeline approach.

    Dee – I too admire the effort the Ian Jones has put into Kelly history over the years, but the big problem is that he seems unwilling to consider that Ned and his family and associates told extensive lies. Given that they were all involved in stock theft, assaults and a raft of other dodgy and criminal activities, this should not be surprising. Ian wrote that his formative influences were the opposing accounts of Kenneally and Chomley. Chomley's story starts at Stringybark Creek. So when the young Ian Jones wanted to know about the Kellys before Stringybark, his formative source was Kenneally.

    Problem: how does the nice young bush kid Ned turn into the Stringybark murderer? Answer: relentless police persecution of the whole family over a few sheep and horses, then a drunken assault on Kate by Fitzpatrick, then Fitzpatrick lying that Ned had shot him, then the false charge of attempted murder. It was all someone else's fault, cried Kenneally. It was "loaded dice"; the system was out to get them. And so we have the conspiracy theory of police persecution that Ian Jones turned into an apology for Kelly, essentially documenting Kenneally's views in great detail, with "corroboration" from other pro-Kelly sources and creative family histories.
    There is a lot of critique still to be done.

  8. Stuart, the extraordinary thing is that it was Ned Kelly himself who created the central Kelly myth that it was all the fault of the Police. The title of Peter Fitzsimons book would be more accurate of it was "Ned Kelly: The Story of Australias most notorious liar” !

    Ian Jones created the republic myth because he was unable to reconcile his belief in the marvellous and superhuman Ned Kelly with what appeared to be his evil and utterly insane plan to wreck the train and slaughter everyone on board. He couldn’t accept that it was pure madness and so invented a higher moral purpose for the whole thing.

    And speaking of well hung, its a pity Ned wasn’t just kept in prison for life. If that had happened he would never have become a martyr, and his personality and behaviours inside would eventually reveal to everyone his true nature. There would have been no Kelly myth…

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    I was interested in Ian Jones' statement "Gradually, they will try to regain the ogre that was portrayed back in 1880." I suppose you would have to ask if Ned kelly was "…the ogre that was portrayed back in 1880", why was that so? Was it because the contemporary accounts painted a clear and accurate picture of the man's character and deeds? Or was in because of media bias? And if the general perception of Kelly changed, when and why was that?

  10. I am not sure about this, but my impression is that Ian Jones based his idea of a republican agenda on a couple of comments in Max Brown's introduction, and some oral history from distant descendants, especially from Tom Lloyd Jr. Jr., i.e. 2 generations down from the original Tom Snr.

    The Max Brown comments seem to be based on a couple of out of context comments from newspapers of Kelly's day that I found in Trove, but I haven't had time to go into it. Oral history is notoriously unreliable, and there are wide variations in stories by relatives in Ned's own day, as well as by various descendants. That doesn't mean it can't be sorted out, just that it would be very time consuming and complex.

    Dee has nailed it well elsewhere in this blog – there is not one shred of written evidence for such a theory, and not a single political word from Ned in any of his lengthy public diatribes. As republican theorists remain unswayed by the total lack of any evidence whatsoever, it will be necessary for someone to do a comprehensive review of everything bearing on this idea, including the notion that it wouldn't be written down as it was treason. That is nonsense as there were several public separation movements at the time, notably in western Victoria and also in Riverina, just up the road from Ned's crew. They could have cheerfully supported that without any fear of treason, as could any of their sympathisers. Or the whole lot could have started a NE Victoria separation movement, again without any fear of treason, even just to float the idea. But they did not write so much as one single letter to a paper suggesting it. It is clearly nonsense, but the discussion needs to be fully set out.

    Summaries of Ned's criminal career appeared in the Argus and other papers in the lead up to his execution, and his various activities raised him to the cream of the criminal crop. It was likely Kenneally's book that did the most to turn opinion towards Ned, with its highly selective use of evidence and heavy reliance on the idea of revealing special "insider" secrets. Marketers use the same phrases today – the inside scoop, the real truth, 6 secrets of great cooks, weight loss secrets revealed, etc.

    The 1906 Kelly film is hostile to Fitzpatrick and seems generally sympathetic to the Kellys. Around the same time there are some advertisements in Trove for stage impersonations of Ned, but they seem to be curiosity-focussed rather than sympathetic. My impression so far is that the big pro-Kelly swing was in the 1940s, with Max Brown's book (including the Jerilderie Letter), Sidney Nolan's Kelly paintings, Douglas Stewart's Ned Kelly play, and maybe more. Ian Jones picked up the baton from 1967; Manning Clark and others joined in about that time, also seemingly through involvement in the Wangaratta conference. Jones and Clark both refigured Ned as an idealist dreamer in that conference (the 'Man and Myth' book). Lots to investigate here, one day.

  11. I want to reconsider my above suggestion that there was a big swing in favour of Kelly in the 1940s. It is equally possible that the people I named (Brown, Nolan and Stewart) were individually influenced in favour of Kelly by Kenneally's 1929 "Inner History"; or had some common thread of interest tat I don't know about. Both Nolan and Stewart seem to have based most of their explorations of Kelly around the Fitzpatrick incident as the trigger. But the main source of information on that was probably still Kenneally. Brown unearthed and published Ned's letters about the Jerilderie raid, with no exploration of the criticism that had been made of them in what was available from them in their day. This all compounds the "badly mistreated Ned" story that we have from Kenneally. But it doesn't necessarily mean the general view of Ned changed in the 1940s. That would be a new investigation altogether. I think for now I have to stick with Ian Jones' view that the tie turned in favour of Ned most strongly from the mid 1990s; although that does rather favour his "Short Life" book of 1995 and doesn't explain the interest that led Melbourne Uni Press to take a chance on publishing McQuilton's thesis as a book back in 1978. Maybe we are talking about a sense of a breadth of change in view, rather than any particular influence. Dunno.

  12. Stuart, great to have your thoughts, and I am sure others have ideas they could contribute. Here are some of my thoughts, stimulated by your post ; firstly, in regard to the Republic theory, we had a bit of a discussion HERE on this topic over a year ago. I had suggested that Molony started the Republic thing in his 1980 book, but I hadn’t read the 1967 Symposium at that stage and soon learned that Jones had proposed it there, and Jones pushed it at every opportunity thereafter and he had several such opportunities. The first was the 1970 Mick Jagger Ned Kelly movie, where he is recorded as being one of the scriptwriters. I haven’t seen that movie so can someone tell us if the Republic idea is mentioned there – I am assuming it would have been given Jones fondness for it. Having an international pop superstar play Ned Kelly must have boosted the image of Ned considerably – if not of Mick! In 1980 Jones had his famous and influential TV miniseries which it seems everyone in Australia saw and liked. We had a discussion about John Phillips view, and he apparently traced it back to magazine articles that nobody has ever found, but his book was 1987, the speech people often refer to was 2003, so he was merely developing the Jones theory. Then there were the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And in 2003 the Heath Ledger Ned Kelly. Thereafter its all been downhill.

    Max Browns mention in passing couldn’t have been significant. It was published in 1948, perhaps he was inspired by Nolan?

    The really huge impetus I think was Nolans Kelly series. It started in 1946 so wasn’t stimulated by Browns book but as you say may have been by Kenneallys . Clearly there have always been two narratives running in parallel , the Villain or Hero stories since before Ned was even hanged. The hero idea has never really been predominant but there have been times when it has been more popular than at others. According to Wiki after the war Nolan wanted to paint about an Australian hero. I must try to find out more about the origins of Nolans inspiration.

    In the end though, its not our responsibility to disprove it, its for the sympathisers to make the case, and as I said last year, there isn’t one.

  13. I am assuming your question 'Was it because the contemporary accounts painted a clear and accurate picture of the man's character and deeds?’ is rhetorical Spudee.

  14. I think it was the image of the helmet and armour in general Dee that gave Ned his ticket to longevity. Rather than dying on the gallows..

  15. Possibly Mark but a premature death portrayed as martyrdom often boosts the sympathy vote and short-circuits the opportunity for the subject to be observed more closely and for longer, and for some of the unanswered issues to be resolved.

  16. Anonymous says: Reply

    Hadn't thought about it that way but yes, I suppose it is.

  17. Years ago I was lucky to pick up a copy of Max Brown's 1948 Australian Son.

    Tucked in at the back were these cuttings, not sure from which paper but not the Sydney Sunday Herald. The review does not think too highly of the book. I can identify with its sentiment as I grew up as nobody had too much good to say about Ned around the 1950s. All I ever heard about Ned as a kid was other crooks were 'as game as Ned Kelly'. Reading the article (missing a few lines) reflects the local cringe of un-sophistication..of Australian literariness.

    Max Brown in his Foreword states about Ned –
    " It declares that in the hour of his capture, the police took from Kelly's pocket a declaration for a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria! Its not legend – it is truth – that. in this hour, – – – – – – "

    The very fact this note has not survived as proof, does not dismiss the republican notion in my opinion. The fact the Jerilderie letter was kept from public view for fifty years, and the first full length feature film Ned Kelly was forbidden to be screened is an indication just how scared the ruling classes were for giving the Kelly Outbreak any legs. No wonder a piece of paper declaring a republic for NE Victoria was hidden from view if not destroyed, and lastly why Ned should be hanged, as to the authorities he was a very dangerous man.


  18. Anonymous says: Reply

    I think that Mark may well be right. But the irony of this is that the 'armour' proved more of a hinderance than a help and even the other members of the gang told Ned so. He just didn't listen! I have formed the opinion that Ned was not the brightest star in the Southern Cross.

  19. Those fragments of the book review are great Bill. Everyone buying an old book hopes to find things like that tucked away in their pages.

    But much as I hate to pour cold water on your quote from Max Brown about finding a Declaration in Neds pocket when captured, I recall we discussed this as well last year. Someone back then quoted an email from Lisa to IO quoting a report from July 3rd about a RUMOUR that ‘a pocket book containing a number of letters’ was found in Neds possession when he was captured. Can anyone tell us exactly where that report was originally published? Or dos anyone know of any other report of a similar nature? My impression is that THAT is the source of the speculation about exactly what those letters were, but as far as I am aware no suggestion was made back then that there was anything like a Declaration. To suggest there may have been is completely unjustified speculation in my opinion.

    And as for Ned being hanged – thats what happened to murderers in those days Bill! here was never a declaration, there was never a republic but there WAS brutal murder and dangerous hostage taking and attempts to wreck a trainload of Police. Ned was dangerous and a murderer – no need to speculate he was anything else, especially as there no evidence he WAS anything else, or was thought to be anything else until Jones proposed the Republic.

  20. That was July 3 1880!

  21. The Armour was a symbol, became a brand, then an icon. Kelly is remembered like he is because of the logo. If it wasn't for the Armour, then the Siege of Glenrowan, the bank raids, Stringybark creek would simply be on par with Ben Hall and John Dunns raid on the town of Collector or Captain Moonlite at Wantabadgery. In the history books but not celebrated the way Ned Kellys Last Stand is. I put my hand up and say it was the weird image of a man in an iron helmet that got me in when I was a kid.

  22. Brian Knight says: Reply

    Jones did Peter FitzSimons no favours with his disasterous advice to shun the MacFarlane book. Jones hated it. But throughout eternity Jones and FitzSimons will be remembered as fools who completed a book that misled its readers and ignored vital new research.

  23. I have another question for you Bill – what is your source for saying that the first full length Feature film of Ned Kelly was forbidden to be screened? Ive been reading about the various Kelly films that were made – and there were quite a few – but haven’t seen anything about any of them being banned.

  24. Hi Dee. I found this on a page in the National Film and Sound Archive, about the 1906 Ned Kelly film being banned in 1907:
    "Reports of crime and censorship followed screenings around the country. In May 1907, the film inspired five local children in the Victorian town of Ballarat to break into a photographic studio to steal money, after which they bailed up a group of schoolchildren at gunpoint. In April the Victorian Chief Secretary banned the film from Benalla and Wangaratta, two towns with strong Kelly connections." The URL is
    There is a problem in that it says the children's break in occurred in May, and the ban was in April – not clear, but definitely shows that a ban was implemented.

  25. Good to see you doing some posting, Stuart. Both you and Brian Stevenson have raised the tone of the place a bit! 😉

    For the information regarding the bans on Kelly productions in 1907 and 1912 go to the PROV and search for Kelly Gang Films. It will take you to VPRS4965/P0000/4 that has all of the correspondence involved. One of the letters asking for the ban brings up how showing the film will allow old wounds to be opened again and so forth. It makes for interesting reading.

  26. Sharon I have to agree the tone of the place lifts whenever people like Brian and Stuart contribute to the discussions, and the same applies to yours, which I always look forward to. I do my best ….So can you please give us a tutorial on how to find those VPRS documents you mention – I have tried to find them without success, but of course got sidetracked a thousand times into so many other interesting places at the VPRS.

  27. Here is a link to an article I wrote back in 2004 for the glenrowan1880 website about Sidney Nolan's trip to Glenrowan in 1945. In it it tells of how Nolan read Kenneally's "The Inner History of the Kelly Gang" and the 1881 Royal Commission in preparation for his trip. It also details about Nolan getting rebuffed by Jim Kelly which I had made mention of in another posting here.

  28. Thanks for the compliment, Dee. Glad that I help raise the tone (and the bar) here. At other places they seem to think I stink the place up! 😉

    I guess we might have some people new to the Kelly world visiting here who might not even know what "PROV" stands for, so I will give the breakdown of how and what instead of trying to give a direct link to the file in question (though others can give the link if they like). This way they can conduct their own searches on any relevant subject they like as the hunt for information is always fun and rewarding.

    First go to which is the Public Records Office of Victoria. While on that page you click on "access the collection."

    When you get to that page hover your mouse over the word "searching" and then click on where it says "advanced search."

    While on the advanced search page you check off where it says "all" and then where it says "with all of these words" you then type in Kelly Gang films and then click search.

    It will take you to two results, the first one is the one to click on.

  29. Thank you Sharon,
    You saved me rummaging through all my untidy files, and started to re read Gary Dean's fantastic book- 'The Story of the Kelly Gang Film 1906 -1907' by Jack Cranston. ISBN 0-646-45684-9

    I would think the reference to kids breaking into a photo shop and then bailing up other school children is not the whole reason for banning the film. That may have been a poor excuse reported in the popular Press, but the real reason for its banning was political. Had they not banned the film maybe the story's notoriety may not have gained so much interest as censorship usually increases it.

    As kids we all had toy guns and rifles, the more realistic the better but none of my circle of friends ever ended up in crime even though we did a lot of shooting. At 15 I had a real shotgun made up from old worn out parts given to me by my friends Dad. I had an air rifle to shoot at tins with.

  30. Brilliant Sharon! So would it be reasonable to conclude that we have Sydney Nolan to thank for the status of Ned Kelly as a romantic hero in modern Australia ? There were of course many inputs that took it there, but Nolans paintings created an almost mystical image of Ned Kelly and the bush that drew people to the story, and perhaps boosted its profile to a new level. Ive just re-read Max Browns Foreword, and there is no mention of Nolan, but he refers to the ‘packed shelf of Kellyana’ so even then, in 1946 when he began his research there was already much material about, perhaps like the accumulated leaves and sticks that make up the ‘fuel’ on the forestt floor that just needs a match to ignite a forest fire. The match was Nolans, perhaps.

  31. Ive temporarily withdrawn my Post about Dan Kelly as it seems people want to continue the discussion on last weeks Post.

  32. Bill - Kelly Gang film banned says: Reply


  33. It's common knowledge that 'When The Kellys Rode' was banned in N.S.W on its release (c.1934). It was the first of the Kelly 'talkies' and the ban wasn't lifted for many years. I understand this was due to anti-bushranging film legislation in that state.

  34. Nolan did have a big impact on Ned's status, I think. He took the image (and imagery) of Ned to the world. As stated in my article, many who saw the image may not have even known the story, but as you say, it drew them towards it. Film had tried to do it, but due to certain bans talked about further down, that avenue was shut for a while.

    I don't know if Nolan had served as a catalyst for Brown or not.I am not sure if either ever mentioned the other anywhere.
    Kenneally's "The Inner History of the Kelly Gang" was enlarged and revised in 1945. Surely both took note of that, even if they had read earlier editions?

    Looking in Kenneally's "Inner History of the Kelly Gang" it shows that the first and second editions were both in 1929 with others being reprinted up until 1969 with enlarged and revised editions being published in 1934 and 1945. According to Brian McDonald in "What They Said About Ned!" – "The first and second editions are a lot more subdued than the enlarged and revised third and fourth editions."
    I would be interested in the differences if anyone has an earlier copy. Why would Kenneally be less subdued in later editions?
    Also, at trove there is an interesting article called "Who Owns Ned Kelly?" in which it states that Kenneally (who had sued others in the past due to copyright infringement) was going after Max Brown to sue him, too. Max was going to fight it on the basis that "nobody owns Ned Kelly" it but it seems that fate took a hand with the death of Kenneally in 1949 that put an effective end to that. The article ends with "Brown….is wondering who owns Ned Kelly now." (some of us are wondering that even NOW!)

  35. In Appendix 5 of ‘Ned Kelly: Bushranger’ by Brian Carroll, there is a discussion about the various Kelly movies. The first one, The Story of the Kelly Gang, cost its producers £400 and they got that back in the first week of its showing – eventually they grossed £25,000 , so it must have been widely seen. ! It was banned in various places but the newspaper article above seems to suggest that it was shown anyway, there being ‘considerable doubt as to the extent to which the Police have the power to interfere in such cases’ – and hence why the Ministry was considering introducing Legislation to give the Authorities ‘strict powers of supervision’ Banning something always adds to its appeal, so unwittingly the Authorities were probably helping to grow the Legend!!

    The ban in NSW on 'When the Kellys Rode’ was interesting – the General Secretary was OK with it but the Police objected. ‘relying on regulations under the Theatres and Public Halls Act that disallowed showing lawlessness and bush ranging in a favourable light’

  36. I also raise the tone. I guess you just forgot to nmention me. Just sayin'.

  37. Undoubtedly! So that must leave me as the person dragging it down. Ive pretty much shut ‘anonymous’ down so we’ve had a very interesting and worthwhile discussion. I can never predict where its going to go. I’ll repost Dan Kelly tomorrow I think.

  38. Thanks Bill for the reference to Cranston's "The history of the Kelly Gang film 1906-1907", and also to Sharon for the VPRO file reference on the film ban. It is all relevant to Spudee's earlier question of how and when opinion swung in favour of Ned (if we can speak of Ned swinging in this context)…

  39. I think the Irish Fenian republican causes were still being suppressed by the authorities right up till WW2. It would have been our last two generations (after WW1) that got to know a lot more about the Irish political scene and their desire for break away from British rule. No doubt as Dee keeps reminding us 'terrorists' in the eyes of most, but seen through Fenians eyes, the Australian Irish never expected similar treatments in their new land as in old. I like to think this is the reason why Ned stood up to them. Was Ned the last of the Fenians?

    Think Sharon's article on Nolan's paintings, authors JJ Kenneally and Max Brown all together were turning points, then Ian Jones and McMenomy's books turned the wheel around even harder into a northerly easterly direction. Dee wants to turn it back down the Hume!

    Thought some might be interested in-
    "The Irish uprising 1916 on Big Ideas"
    This radio pod cast takes you through the history of Irish rebellion from around 1870s.

    See Big Ideas other pod casts webpage

  40. Mark, I have sung your praises elsewhere on this site, so no need to feel left out! 🙂
    As for who or what was dragging us down, we all know that it was the haters on both sides of the equation who only wanted to play the man and not the ball. Thank goodness full moderation is back on after that recent lapse.

  41. Yes it was my ‘bad’ – i stupidly thought these anonymous people might change their ways if I gave them a chance to state their case. I will continue to let everything through that is polite and isn’t just a personal attack. But being more strict in my moderation certainly seems to have improved things.

  42. Thanks for posting that Link to the Pod Cast Bill. I clicked through to the London Review of Books and read Colm Toibins entire essay on the 1916 Easter Uprising, and it was absolutely fascinating. Innumerable lessons can be learned from that sorry tale on both sides of the argument, but I am not going to enter the debate after reading just a single article, albeit a brilliant one!

    In regard to your suggestion that Ned Kelly was a Fenian, I take it by that you mean that what I would regard as his criminal career was actually some sort of Political campaign, somewhat akin to the Fenians violent behaviour in trying to establish a Republic in Ireland. Or in other words what you’re saying is that you agree with Ian Jones idea that the ‘outbreak’ was actually a Rebellion and Glenrowan was all about setting up the Republic of NE Victoria, perhaps as the Easter Rising was supposed to be the beginning of the rebellion that would lead to the Republic of Ireland.

    I think its time we looked again at that idea. I will put it on my list of ‘Posts: to do’ but feel free anyone to comment here.

  43. Another thought has occurred to me Bill : why don’t you write the Post on why you believe Ned Kelly was the last of the Fenians?

  44. Dee, on this link

    I counted at least 60 unrelated postings by anonymous that had no relationship to the subject thread. Perhaps you can delete most of them postings as a courtesy to those who did contribute.

  45. Ive just re-read all those comments, and I agree it really is pathetic, I shouldn’t have got involved in all that! HOWEVER, not that I want to be discourteous Bill, but I will leave them. I know its been common practice in the past on various Kelly sites to retrospectively censor discussions and remove posts – for example, quite recently I was blocked from the Unmasking the Kelly Gang Unmasked Facebook Page and all my posts there were deleted. This has the effect of making the ones that are left look ridiculous and out of context – and if the owner doesn’t care if his FB Page looks ridiculous thats fine by me, but leaving them in, on this Blog has a purpose, as I explained at the end of that long thread :

    OK thats the end of that conversation.

    I was going to delete the last few contributions but have decided they will stay as examples of the kind of Comment that from now on I will probably NOT publish. They serve perfectly as examples of the thing this Blog was established to expose : “THE VICIOUS CAMPAIGN WAGED BY MODERN DAY KELLY FANATICS AGAINST ANYONE WHO DARES TO OPPOSE THEM’

    People can make up their own minds about the type of person whose Comments include such words as nasty troll, dickhead, shit, crap and bitch, and if they like it can visit these hooligans on their OWN sites. But they’re not welcome here – never have been, but Ive tolerated their rubbish for long enough. They’ve abused their opportunity to participate and I don’t mind people attacking ME but really, if they have a problem with me and they don’t want to participate in a constructive way then its easy enough for them to solve their problem – just stay away, go and start their own Blogs.

  46. Derek Peout says: Reply

    How does fenianism relate to Australia and Ned anyway?

    No proof there.

    Another red herring!

  47. Hi Derek
    Bob James wrote the book-
    The Authentic History ….'They call each other brother' by Bob James
    Secret Societies and The Strange Slow Death of Mateship in Australia 1788 -2010.

    Click link, select Chapter 7: Protestant Fear and Loathing
    Scroll down till you come to- "Fenianism, Ned Kelly and the 1868 Attempted Assassination"

    Its an interesting read.


  48. Dee, Perhaps you could make this " Fenianism, Ned Kelly" chapter of Bob James a separate thread as you suggested I write one up. To some extent on another thread I had already made some extract points from Bob James's book. This background Fenian history should not be ignored on a blog like this, it explains a lot why even old Ellen Kelly King was still fighting for the cause only weeks before she died.

  49. Bill if you write it up I will put it up as a new Post

  50. Thanks, Bill, for the link to Bob James's book They Call Each Other Brother – some interesting reading there. However, I believe that Mr James's contention that Ned Kelly's famous green cummerbund/sash is a sash denoting fraternal society membership, 'almost certainly of the HACBS [Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society]', is questionable on several grounds. Mr James does not provide any evidence for his claim, and admits that there are no records to back it up. This apart, I have several other concerns.

    Firstly, Kelly's sash bears no inscription or symbol indicating any connection with the HACBS. Compare it with the sashes illustrated in Mary Denise Sweeney's University of Queensland thesis on the Hibernians, available online, on page 173.

    Secondly, according to Sweeney's documentation, the HACBS was not established until 1871. Ned's rescue of young Richard Shelton occurred in about 1865.

    Thirdly, while I can't claim to know a lot about the Hibernians, I did some work on friendly societies a few years ago, and one common thread that I found in all of them was a strict adherence to society formality, punctilio and protocol, on pain of expulsion, a serious matter both in terms of social position and medical insurance, a role of the friendly societies in those times. There would be negative consequences for member of any friendly society presenting a society cummerbund/sash to a ten or eleven year old lad who was not a society member, or the child of one.

    Fourthly, a bit of circumstantial evidence: according to Corfield's entry on Richard Shelton, he was married in St James's Church of England, Melbourne, which much more likely than not indicates that he was a Protestant, not a Catholic, and that his father was the same.

    All in all, I do not believe that the cummerbund/sash had any significance other than as a pleasing item of apparel that Ned Kelly obviously treasured.

  51. Coincidentally, Brian's works on friendly societies which he refers to above ("Let Brotherly Love Continue" and "Stand Fast Together") are cited by Bob James in the chapter that Bill linked. Look in the endnotes for "B Stevenson" and you will find more than one citation. What are the odds that something Bill linked would have ties to Brian? 🙂

  52. Nice contribution Brian. Your finding that the HACBS didnt exist in 1865, and the high likelihood that the Sheltons were Protestants, leaves the idea that the sash was some sort of Republican declaration by Ned with even less credibility. I had been prepared to admit the sash as very weak evidence for some sort of Republican awareness by Ned, but now I see that James got his dates and facts all wrong. The fall-back position would be that even if it wasn’t given to Ned as a Republican symbol, it became one for him, and thats why he was wearing it at Glenrowan. I recall reading that the Greta Mob ‘uniform’ included the wearing of colourful sashes, and they were not in any way a political or even Catholic grouping, so perhaps Neds wearing of the sash was an affectation lingering on from those days? The problem with the Republican idea is there is virtually nothing to support it. I still shake my head when I remember one of Ian Jones proofs was that it was such a massive secret that ‘spies’ infiltrating the Gang heard nothing about it.

  53. Yes, Brian, you are correct, the Shelton family were members of the Church of England (lest someone might possibly grab at straws and argue that maybe only his wife was COE and thus the wedding was held there). Under Trove I saw an article where Esau Shelton had presented the Church of England in Avenel with a tablet to the memory of the first building committee of the church and I found that Richard's son, also named Richard, was in WW1 and he was listed as being Church of England in official records.

  54. Dee,
    Readers will see you quickly gravitate to your belief instead of letting the evidence speak for itself.

    Hibernia is the Latin name for the island of Ireland.
    The Ancient Order of Hibernians was an Irish Catholic fraternal organisation founded in 1700s emerging in Ulster Ireland as opposition to the Orange Protestant rule. Hiberniasm was also founded in America 1839, and led to the formation that became known as the Fenian Brotherhood. Fenianism, ( Finineachas in Irish Gailic) – meant a natural right for independence (from the British rule).
    Fenian Brotherhood, – a sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood IRB was named after 'Fianna' the legendary band of Irish warriors. All these organisations from 1700's on are symbolised by the GREEN order.

    To say Bob James is wrong to suggest 'Ned's green sash most certainly belonged to the HCBS Hibernian movement' is NOT wrong.
    Just because Ned saved young Shelton before the local Hibernian branch existed does not mean the Green sash was meaningless as Dee quickly makes use of. The Australasian Catholic Benefit Society HCBS was established in late 1860s. It maybe the local group of Hibernians did not set up till 1871, this takes nothing away from the fact the Green sash Ned wore represented the Fenian protest.

    We don't know how the Shelton's came by the Sash but they must have known pretty well what it meant.

  55. Bill I accepted the evidence that the HACBS did not exist until 1871 to reject James assertion that Neds green sash came from them, because he was given it by Protestants in 1865. How exactly is that NOT letting the evidence speak for itself?

    Despite the information Brian has provided you still say “it takes nothing away from the fact that the Green sash Ned wore represented the Fenian Protest” Well I have to ask you, now that Bob James claim has been disproved what is your evidence for making that statement? How can you be certain that my suggestion is not the right one, that wearing the green sash was an affectation from his Greta Mob days? Maybe the Sheltons gave it to him because they thought that as a Catholic he might like it, and he wore it because he was proud of saving that boys life? Nowdays of course, if you wear something green am I entitled to assume you’re wearing it in solidarity with Islam? SO Bill, please provide your evidence for claiming you’re right to say that Neds reason for wearing that sash was a 'Fenian Protest’

    Bill I realise you’re getting sick and tired of me, and see me as die-hard anti-Kelly determined to vilify Ned at every turn, but thats NOT my motivation. My motivation is to find out if there is any substance to Ian Jones ‘new view’ of Ned Kelly that he was an Irish Republican trying to establish the republic of NE Victoria. Its nowhere near enough to say that because Ned was an Irish Catholic, and he would have believed in a free Ireland, then his Campaign must have been an attempt to set up a Republic. Given there is so much evidence attesting to what Neds motivations actually were, and so little, if any, for a Republic, I wonder if its not you who won’t let the evidence speak for itself ? Are you sure you’re not so determined that ned was a Fenian that nothing would change your mind about it?

  56. Derek Peout says: Reply

    I find it hard to swallow the idea that a simple thank you gift has been turned into a political act. The Sheltons did not know the Kellys (drunken dad, foul-mouthed combative mum, and kids in rags) and would normally have avoided them. The most likely explanation is that the Sheltons had little to give, and the sash was otherwise meaningless to them. If CoE, why did they have it at all?

    The whole story seems an absurd concoction. The score for the Kelly republic is still zero.

  57. Hello,
    My name is Oscar Kraner-Tucci and I am a student at Wesley College in Melbourne, I am doing a research paper and am studying Australian bushrangers and how people view them, whether they idolize them or detest them. I am specifically studying Ned Kelly and have seen that you are an expert on him and the Australian outlaw topic in general. I was wondering if you could respond to the question why are bushrangers so broadly viewed and what is your perspective on Ned Kelly and the actions he committed? If you are interested in responding I would be very grateful.
    My email is
    I know you’re time is very precious so I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider my email
    Oscar Kraner-Tucci

  58. The second of your questions, about my perspective on Ned Kelly is the content of my Blog which obviously you have been reading.

    Your first question is harder to answer. The problem is that there are effectively two Ned Kellys – the first is the actual historical figure, and the second is the popular legendary figure called Ned Kelly, based on the real Ned Kelly but dressed up with all sorts of heroic disguises, made up stories and legends about his exploits and crazy claims about what he really stood for and what he was trying to do. Did you know that Robin Hood never actually existed as an actual historical person ? And did you know that William Tell, the guy who fired an arrow at an apple balanced on top of his sons head, also never actually existed? There were a variety of people whose lives, in the retelling came to acquire all the extra bits and pieces that made up the Legends of Robin Hood, and the Legend of William Tell, but the person in the modern versions never actually existed, and much of the popularly understood stories about these characters is simply untrue.

    Its the same with the modern version, the popular version of Ned Kelly. The reformer, the hero, the defender of the poor, the Irish rebel that wanted to start a Republic in NE Victoria, the persecuted victim of Police corruption, the devoted son and brother – all these versions of Ned Kelly never existed, but many of us admire those ideals and would like to believe there is a real Australian hero who embodied them in his lifetime, and who we can point to and say thats the sort of person I admire. Its a very attractive image at an emotional level. Sadly, the REAL Ned Kelly was an impulsive violent notorious liar, a determined stock thief and criminal, a psychopath – but he was also a powerful, good looking flamboyant imaginative and charismatic figure who dressed well and had a commanding presence. He had a mesmeric effect on people, and some were persuaded to support him and believed him when he claimed everything was the fault of the Police and the system and his poor background and Irish heritage. As you will have read on my Blog when these claims are closely examined, they prove to be false. However a diminishing number of people still believe all this, and when you ask them about Ned Kelly they say he was a hero. Others dismiss him as just a mad cop killer but I think that misses much of the complexity of the man and the intriguing and multi- layered story of his actual life and the development from it of the Legend. Additionally it all took place during a period of rapidly changing and evolving colonial expansion and advancement in Pioneer times in Victoria.

    I suppose my answer to your question about the spectrum of belief when it comes to Ned Kelly is that the image that has been created around that name is powerfully attractive at an emotional level, and some people find it irresistible. At an intellectual level though, at the level where we look critically at the facts and the logic and the actual historical evidence we discover the attractive emotional image is unsupported. For me the actual historical truth of the matter is important so I follow the logic and the facts, and try to separate myself from the emotion. For some, especially descendants, its easy to understand why making that separation is not so easy.

    I hope this helps.

    When you have finished your assignment please send me a copy and perhaps I can put it up on the Blog for everyone to read.

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