I have just received this from ‘ Horrie’, an anonymous but regular contributor to this Blog and other debates, who submitted it as a comment for one of the existing discussions. However I thought it such an important review that it would be better to make it into a Post, so I hope he won’t object to it getting the Star treatment. Ive also received a submission from Anonymous about an upcoming Exhibition which will go up as a Post after this one in a few more days. I am still waiting for Marks promised article on Sir Redmond Barry – these contributions are much appreciated. The interest in Peter Newmans article about the Photo has generated more interest than ANY of the Posts Ive ever made, which is actually fantastic, knowing that clever people interested in the Kelly story want to contribute and participate in the Blog and support me:
A pal sent me a partial review of the Morrissey book, which is I think from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria journal or maybe The Age:
Doug Morrissey, Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life, Connor Court, Ballarat, 2015, pbk, ISBN
9781925138481, xv + 256 pp, $32.95.
‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ was Lady Caroline Lamb’s pithy description of Lord Byron but, as Doug Morrissey shows, the words might be even more appropriately applied to Ned Kelly. With irrational delusions that merged into paranoia Kelly was a career criminal, in an organised network of criminals, for whom extreme violence was simply part of his stock in trade. He lived A Lawless Life — as the subtitle indicates — but the scale and nature of his violent criminality is all too often either ignored or excused by his biographers. Ned’s modern equivalent in organised crime might be the leader of an outlaw motor-cycle gang,with fingers in many criminal pies (but especially in the re-birthing of stolen cars),ready to use extreme violence including murder to advance his plans or evade arrest, and generally indifferent to the mores of society at large.
It is hard to imagine that such a figure, whose behaviour would be condemned by all except his fellow gang-members and, perhaps, their families, could ever have a sympathetic and romantic mythology develop around his activities. But Ned Kelly,with his bloodthirsty gang whose behaviour outraged the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries, has generated a literature and framed a popular perception that, most often, places him somewhere on the martyrdom spectrum. This sentiment is at the heart of Peter FitzSimons’ Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia’s Most Notorious Legend (2013) and is merely the latest reworking of the popular myths.
Morrissey’s book is more than a simple account of A Lawless Life. It is an important revisionary attack on the dominant historiography with its ‘old cliches and metaphors’ and he highlights the limited research and repetition of multiple errors that are characteristic of most Kelly biographies.
This myth-busting book, assisted by John Hirst’s valuable editing, reflects Morrissey’s deep knowledge of Kelly Country and its people and provides an important counterweight to the familiar, generally sympathetic and overly romantic accounts of Kelly’s life and exploits.
In the popular imagination, fostered it must be said by some fairly indifferently researched accounts, Ned Kelly’s criminal history and murderous activities are whitewashed and transformed into several enduring and endearing myths that present him as a precursor of ‘the little Aussie battler’. Among other things, he was the victim of police persecution who fought back; he was pushed into crime by circumstances beyond his control; he was a latter-day Robin Hood who stood up for the peasant selectors in their land war against the squatters; he was an Australian-born Irish patriot and a native republican. Morrissey exposes the foolishness of these, and several other myths associated with Australia’s most notorious bushranger.
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