The headline in the Australian of last weekend, January 14th 2017 said it all : “Kelly Gang descendants at war over bushranger lore and legacy” This article referred to the fact that since the Weekend Australian had published ‘that photo’ and an article about it a month before, “the letters page of The Ovens and Murray Advertiser has run hot with claims and counter-claims about who should call the shots for the latter-day Kelly Gang.” Read it HERE.(If that link just takes you to a pay wall, Google Kelly Gang descendants at war ) Today, a week later there have been 46 comments added to the Autralians story and the clear majority are not supportive of the ‘war’ or of the Kelly story generally – those comments are the ones that received the greatest number of “likes”. This Comment is one of my favourites :
7 DAYS AGO
Why is this news? Let them fight amongst themselves, who cares! The fact remains that Ned Kelly was a criminal and murderer. 41LIKES
Another good one :
7 DAYS AGO
Amazing. The descendants of robbers and police-killers fighting over who gets to be recognised for it. I wonder if 100 years from now we’ll see the descendants of the current crop of grubs and murderers doing the same? The way the media treats them as celebrities I wouldn’t be surprised. 26 likes
Nobody on any of the Kelly Facebook pages dared to mention it, but in the SAME edition of the Australian last weekend there was a SECOND article about Ned Kelly. It was called “Truths need to be told abut Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly” and written by Gerard Henderson. Read it HERE ( If that Link just taks you to a Pay wall , Google Ned Kelly Gerard Henderson and you’ll find it) The reason none of the Kelly fan sites mentioned it is obvious, even in its title: Henderson was making a plea for the facts about Ned Kelly to be told instead of the baseless myths and delusions of the “Legend”, such as the ones repeated in Peter Fitzsimons book
Henderson writes “The problem with so many of the Kelly Gang fan club, including Carey and Fitzsimons, is that they believe what Kelly said in his Cameron Letter (1878), Jerilderie Letter (1879) and elsewhere. But Kelly was a congenital liar whose accounts warrant critical scrutiny.”
Henderson knew about Morrissey’s book, and mentioned it positively – I am guessing he became aware if it because it was shortlisted in the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Australian History. He mentions McDermott as well, as a person who has challenged the Kelly myths but rather regrettably has completely missed ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’ by Ian MacFarlane, something that I am sure wouldn’t have happened if it been part of the bibliography of Fitzsimons book. Fitzsimons disgracefully pretended that work didn’t exist when he published his book, ignoring it at the behest of Ian Jones, the arch Kelly mythologizer. Henderson expresses a hope that the upcoming book by Grantlee Kieza about Ellen Kelly wont also perpetuate the Kelly myths.
The article was followed by over 200 comments and again, the majority – by a big margin – were supportive of Henderson’s view, that Ned Kelly wasn’t a heroic revolutionary but a criminal murderer. As usual, Kelly defenders mmostly repeated myths and fairy stories about Ned Kelly and demonstrated their ignorance of the detail of the story.
I have no idea if any of the any of the comments were submitted by people who read this Blog, but I read many of the very same ideas that I have been promoting here for more than 2 years, such as that the ‘body straps’ story is unsupported, the Republic story is a myth, that Glenrowan was akin to a ‘terrorist’ plot, and that Kelly was a notorious liar.
Delightfully, there were a couple of responses from Grantlee Kieza himself, and they gave me great encouragement because they seem to indicate he is clearly very well aware that Kelly was a liar, and that much of the modern story is Myth:
“Thanks Gerard for mentioning my new book Mrs Kelly, out next month. Rest assured that I debunk many of the myths about the Kelly family including the absurd notion that the very honourable Sgt Michael Kennedy was the head of some sort of hit squad sent to kill the Kelly brothers and that they were only defending themselves at Stringybark Creek. Ned Kelly had many noble qualities but he was also a dangerous criminal who had little regard for human life if someone crossed him. But my book also tells the personal story of Mrs Kelly and all her tragedies – a poor, illiterate Irish woman with a dozen kids, surrounded by criminal relatives on all sides. Her three sons kept the police hammering on her door until it exploded on one afternoon in April 1878. Yet one of Mrs Kelly’s sons also became a well respected policeman and world famous horseman and she was known as a very beloved resident of her village in her later years. Best wishes. GK “
Ive been saying for a while now that the public squabbling between Kelly factions can only harm their cause and I think the responses to these articles confirms it. It also confirms that appealing to the Public with a Petition for public support for a Kelly Center is doomed, as was the previous attempt using Crowd Funding. Admiration for Ned Kelly has had its hey-day and now its in decline – if there was ever a chance for something big, it was 10 years ago. ThankfullyAustralia is moving on, and when the big Ned topples over at Glenrowan nobody will ever put up a new one, because by then it will be realised by everyone that Ned was a crook. The Kelly Vault will become a weird memorial to someones creepy fascination with a psychopath, a ghoulish collection of mementos of a delusion shared briefly with uninformed romantics.
So , all in all the Kelly myth is off to a rotten start for 2017. The Kelly descendants are scrapping amongst themselves and trashing their public image, they’ve banned me from some of their sites but the true story is emerging anyway, I am getting unprecedented numbers of Hits on the Blog and even The True Story Facebook page has finally started to take off. And in Australias most widely distributed newspaper, in the first two weeks of the year not one but two articles have trashed Ned Kelly the hero. It looks like the new book on Ellen will continue the dismantling of the Kelly myth, but at the same time reveal what I expect will be the fascinating and complex story of Mrs Kelly. Bring it on!
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15 Replies to “In 2017 watch the Kelly Legend collapse even further ..”
GREAT BLOG, DEE! Agree with all you say.
'The Kelly Gang Unmasked' book was also ignored altogether by Morrissey. Perhaps he didn't know about it?
FitzSimons not only ignored 'The Kelly Gang Unmasked' book, perhaps for the ghastly reasons you suggest, but fudged proper acknowledgement of documents earlier published in Macfarlane's 'Eureka from the Official Records' in his own book about Eureka. Scholarly publishing convention is to quote earlier publications that reveal those documents rather than infer you or your researchers found them. This is the impression created in FitzSimons' Eureka book.
Macfarlane's Eureka book is mentioned in FitzSimons' Eureka bibliography as well as complimented within the FitzSimons' book itself. But Macfarlane's ground-breaking earlier documentary discoveries were mistreated.
Not an altogether pretty columnist / historian triumph is it?
Your link to the 2nd Henderson article only ends up on a The Australian subscription page, which I can't get past.
Oh dear! My apologies. I pasted in the link of the page I found on a Google search, but yes, as you point out it now takes you to a pay wall! You'll find them easily if you do a Google search for 'Kelly Gang descendants at war' and 'Ned Kelly Gerard Henderson' Ive changed the Post to give the same advice. Thanks for that Joel.
I don't think Peter Fitzsimons, or anyone else, has ever suggested he is a scholarly historian. A popular historian, maybe?
However, given his army of researchers and other helpers, it is strange they didn't pick what Stephan Johnson has discovered. I have Pete's Eureka book and it does indeed list "Eureka, from the official records" in the bibliography – but can't find the nice remarks about it mentioned by Stephan.
“Truths need to be told abut Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly” and written by Gerard Henderson……………………………………………..
"Lonigan, a father of four, was killed, shot in the BACK, while attempting to find cover." Really?
Where does this guy get his information from? Another porky pie me thinks.
So it's OK with you if he was shot in the FRONT while attempting to find cover? Or are you a Ned nut that thinks Ned had a "fair fight" even though it was an ambush and Lonigan didn't manage to get his revolver out of its holster? Where do you get your information from? The Jerilderie Letter me thinks.
You will find the information on this Blog site.
Where does Gerard Henderson get his information from?
The 'fair fight' and the 'self defence' claims are all the Kelly fans have to fall back on. But as this blog and other sources have shown, neither of these suggestions have any credibility.
One can only guess where Henderson got his information from, but mostly he got it right. However there is so much junk out there – read the comments following any article related to Ned Kelly and you will see how ignorant the professed Kelly supporters are – Yet these are people with a specific interest in the topic unlike Henderson who by now will have moved on to something else to write about. But the professed Kelly followers talk about body bags, they get the sequences all wrong, they mix up the names of the police, repeat long ago disproven claims such as that the trial was rushed, perhaps the MOST egregious falsehood is the one stated on YouTube video by a famous professor and author of a major book on Ned Kelly, that Fitzpatrick RAPED – yes, he uses that actual word – Fitzpatrick raped Neds 14year old sister…on and on they go. It's easy to see why Henderson might have got it wrong but professor Moloney?
Professor John Molony still holds his title of Emeritus (= honorary) Professor of History at ANU. He should have been stripped of his honorary professorship for the malicious unhistorical lies he told about Fitzpatrick in that vile interview, it is a disgrace to the profession of history. To read my critique of the rubbish written by many 'experts' about the Fitzpatrick Incident, just google "Redeeming Fitzpatrick" and download the PDF. There was never any excuse for such a one-eyed, historically distorted, selective mispresentation of the Kelly story as his book "I am Ned Kelly". It's just Kelly loving gone wild. In the preface to his second edition, he proudly mentions a father telling him that his children, to whom he was reading the book aloud, "don't even hear those [narrative] things. They listen to the language". Beguiled by the professor's glorious way with words, historical truth lies shattered, twisted and trampled, and the memory of Fitzpatrick is once again slandered and maligned based on the lying word of a psychopathic thief and bandit. Then see how Molony invented his unhistorical version of Kelly's execution in my "Ned Kelly's Last Words"(again, just google and download), based on a cobbled up tale from someone's hand-me-down family history in direct contradiction to eye-witness accounts of reporters that were there.
So is Australian history now just whatever people decide to take sides on and write about? Is there no longer any attempt to gather and objectively weigh a comprehensive body of evidence? Should we believe oral history stories and "traditions" that are at times miles away from documented historical evidence? What about when historical evidence is deliberately ignored or rejected because they don't suit someone's biases? (That happens all over the place, not just in the Kelly story.) The fact that so much badly researched, heavily romanticised and factually wrong bilge has been written about the Kelly gang shows just how woefully bad Australian history as a profession has been for many years. So many academics get away with being paid high university salaries to write utter crap, as it counts for "research productivity". As someone pointed out on this blog recently, even government agencies are quite happy to keep factually wrong garbage about the wonderful Kelly days on their websites. Clever country this ain't.
Stuart, by consulting the prelims of the Molony book you will find he didn't do the archival research his book is based on.
As well, Ned speaking an Irish brogue is false. Even Fitzy knew that!
But Charlie, you must admit that the strong Irish accents on colonial born lads Ned and Dan Kelly, Constable Fitzpatrick, and especially Wild Wright, in Ian Jones' "Last Outlaw" mini series are beautifully done! Thank goodness the title slides assure us that the series is based "entirely on fact"!!! And John McQuilton endorsed the series for its historical accuracy in his "Kelly Outbreak", so it has some serious academic backing there… To be sure I've noticed a few interpretive historical slips apart from the accents, it's true. One of the funniest is hawker Ben Gould running a lemonade stand and sly grog stall at the Oxley races, where Fitzpatrick sure enough has a nobbler. Side splitting stuff. It's a pity the series overlooked young Ned's assault and robbery of Chinese man Ah Fook, reported in detail in "The Benalla Ensign and Farmer’s and Squatter’s Journal", 22 October 1869. Probably couldn't fit it in after spending so much film time on the endless scenes of the young Kelly family's happy home life.
It really was a disgraceful bit of propaganda, and it has had lasting impression. I pointed out way back in a post about this series that it rather conveniently began after all the nastiness with Ah Fook, and after Neds conviction for indecency and assault of McCormick.
Dee, that was a sickening indecency with Mrs McCormick. What the hell was going on in Ned's Head – or was this just his typical mad, lewd behaviour?
The apologists just look away…
Maybe it inspired the song "She's Got Balls" by AC/DC on the album High Voltage (1975)…
Ben Gould was the one who had the bright idea of sending the testicles parcel to McCormick. Both were old lags. Who cares, birds of a feather. Ned riding McCormick down is the relevant criminal part of the story, not the insulting parcel.