The Greatest Kelly Myth : Part 4 1872 -1875

Beechworth Street and Gaol, 19th century
According to the innumerable descendants of the Kelly family and the Kelly gang members, their supporters and most of the authors of books, songs plays and films about Ned Kelly, he was a ‘Police made’ criminal. By this it is meant that Ned Kelly was an honest man who was ‘exasperated to madness’ – as Ned himself called it – by Police corruption, ill treatment and persecution, and who finally decided on behalf of his family and the selectors of the North East that they had all suffered enough and it was time to make a stand. Never mind that in the end he lost, and was hanged  – his brave act of defiance against the odds was an example of true heroism in the same mold as the miners at the Eureka stockade and the Diggers at Gallipoli.
This understanding of the life of Ned Kelly is the core teaching of the Kelly legend, and though it is the most central, almost sacred belief of Kelly followers and sympathizers everywhere, not one of them has been prepared to defend it. I’ve shown, in the preceding three Posts to this Blog that this central belief, what I have called the Greatest Kelly myth, is indeed a myth because it is completely contradicted by the historical evidence. It is a fantasy, a fairytale constructed out of the lies told by Ned Kelly. But no-one has dared utter a single word in its defense, least of all the group who so openly boast about their connections to the story, to be descendants of gang members and who so prominently argue in Public for the right to tell the Kelly story, or to host the artifacts and historical memorabilia of the Kelly outbreak. Maybe they think that because attacking me hasn’t worked, ignoring me, and banning me from their Facebook pages will make me go away. Maybe they think that after 130 years, their version of the Kelly story doesn’t need defending because its been set in concrete and nothing can tip it over. Maybe they are shocked into silence by the realization that  until now nobody told them the whole story and they’ve been fooled in to believing Ned Kelly’s lies. Maybe the ordinary Kelly believers are wondering why their leaders, so quick to attack and pillory any author or commentator who doesn’t agree with them, have gone quiet over this exposure of the greatest Kelly myth of all.
But the expose is not complete yet.
The Kelly legend is that the Kelly family was persecuted and ill treated by the Police. So what happened during 1872 and 1873 while Ned Kelly was in prison? If the legend is correct we would expect that the campaign against the Kellys would continue, so what do we find leafing through Kelvyn Gills Definitive Record for those two years?
In September 1871, Dan and Jim are charged with illegally using a horse.  There was no doubt they took it and had to be chased down to get it back.  I discussed this case  in detail HERE – as usual the Kelly apologist version is wrong and leaves out important facts – but in any case the charges were dismissed. Ill-treatment? Persecution?  Only if you think horse owners shouldnt complain to the Police when kids take off with their property! VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION
Next, in October Ellen wins her case against William Frost for maintenance and is awarded 5s a week for two years with  £7.2s costs. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION.
A week later Ellen and the Murdochs , Annie Gun and William Skilling are charged with ‘furious riding’ on three separate occasions. I discussed this in Part 3. They were all discharged on a technicality. Of interest to those who know the whole story, on December 16th.   Antonio Wick, NOT a Kelly sympathizer, was convicted and fined 5/- for the same offence : furious riding. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION
IN 1872, the Police Stable at Glenmore  was destroyed by fire ‘under circumstances which justfy the  supposition that the fire was willfully caused’
In April, James Quinn was found guilty of a very violent assault on John Page and in a separate hearing, of ‘wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm’ to Margaret Quinn, wife of his brother Patrick. The  Court report of his assault on his brothers wife makes sickening reading : he climbed naked and drunk into her bed early one morning, where another woman, Jane Graham was also sleeping in place of Margaret’s husband who was away. Margaret objected to the advances he made on Jane, told him to get out and so, according to Jane he ‘knocked her down and she became senseless. I ran away outside leaving her in the room with her. I came back in half an hour or an hour. Mrs Quinn’s face was a good bit cut and bleeding, but not a great deal’. For this he got 18 months hard labour (Page 58 The Definitive Record, transcript from O&M Advertiser)
I mention this case because there will be some who might be tempted to say the persecution was not just of the immediate Kelly family but continued against the extended family of the Kellys. Well those two cases are not Police persecution of the Kellys but examples of the lawless, some might say feral behavior of the extended family – violence, drunkenness, loose morals, assaults on women. These incidents are never mentioned in the Kelly legends because they destroy the saccharine image of the Kellys and their relations as attractive examples of good selector stock. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION
Later that year, another extraordinary Court Case occurred in which the same Jane Graham was charged with Ellen Kelly of receiving a saddle ‘knowing it to have been stolen’.  The saddle disappeared when its owner, a Mr George Reid, a labourer at Benalla was at the Winton Races. He recovered it from Mrs Kellys house when he went there with the Police. Jane Graham claimed it was hers. In Court  in November the Magistrate Mr Butler said no evidence was provided to show that the ‘prisoners’ received the saddle ‘knowing it to be stolen’. In a fantastic skewering of the Kelly persecution theory he said “ This must be shown, and whatever the character of the accused may be, that did not alter the case’. He concluded, “You are discharged. There is no case against you”. In other words what he said was that just because we know these people have been in trouble with the Courts before, they are still entitled to the benfit of the doubt. Such a statement is an almost cast iron proof that a campaign of Kelly persecution simply did not exist. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION.
The following year, 1873, was the year Ellen took up with George King. There were only two relevant items in The Definitive Record: the first was the sentence of five years that James Kelly received for two charges of cattle stealing. There seems little doubt that James, aged 14 and his accomplice Thomas Williams, 17 did indeed steal and on-sell several head of cattle. They pleaded not guilty but after conviction Jim blamed Tom and Tom blamed Jim for having led him into it. He was released 8 months early, in August 1876. VERDICT: NOT PERSECUTION
The other case was yet another conviction of James Quinn, one of Neds uncles , this time for an assault on William Skelton that had taken place in 1865. Skelton was left with brain damage and epilepsy, and returned to England where he underwent some sort of operation on his skull, but he returned to Victoria. Quinn was already in Prison, but had another 2 years added to his sentence. Needless to say this appalling episode that left a man incapacitated for life is also not mentioned in Ian Jones book, Peter Fitzsimons book or even in the Ned Kelly encyclopaedia. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION
And so we come to 1874, approaching Neds release from prison. In the previous two years, while Ned was in prison, there were only 4 incidents involving the Kellys and the Courts : one was Ellens own action, which she won, two involved Dan – he was convicted on one and the charges were dismissed on the earlier one, and the furious riding charges were dismissed on a clever technicality. How on earth can the Kelly apologists manufacture a campaign of anti Kelly persecution out of those slim pickings? In fact there is still  no evidence from the records of the time, of a campaign of Kelly oppression, ill treatment and persecution, but maybe it was scaled down while Ned was in Prison.
The amazing thing is, over the next two years, 1874 and 1875 with Ned out of gaol, the so called quiet years when Ned was supposed to be going straight, there were even fewer such incidents – in fact there were none! Now the Kelly apologists have to answer this puzzle : why did the Police campaign against the innocent Kellys stop when Ned Kelly was going straight? Doesn’t this complete absence of any kind of police interaction with the Kellys when Ned was going straight after 30 months in prison put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the innocent Kellys were being picked on by the police? That period of two years of Ned going straight is the exact moment in history when the Police campaign of corrupt ill treatment and persecution of the Kellys would have been exposed for what it was. Instead, because Ned Kelly was going straight, the Police left him and his family alone, the exact opposite of what the Myth would have predicted, and would have us believe was the case.

Part 5 will follow in a  few days.
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14 Replies to “The Greatest Kelly Myth : Part 4 1872 -1875”

  1. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Dee, thanks for pointing out that the evidence for all this is all coming from Kelvyn Gill's updated "Ned Kelly: The Definitive Record" sourcebook. I got this updated version recently and think it is well worth the money, especially for anyone who doesn't have the earlier "Historical Record" version. It will save Kelly enthusiasts many hours of Trove and other searching, and Kelvyn will not be making much profit out of it given the copying and professional book-binding costs for the 2 volumes. I still think it is essential to check all original primary sources oneself for accuracy when writing for publication, and who knows, there may be some things that are missed, but the scope of coverage is certainly the minimum coverage needed to claim reasonably familiarity with the source evidence. Using PROV online access is also essential, but a huge benefit of Kelvyn's volumes is the comprehensive cross-indexing of people's names to the source documents at the back of Volume Two. Truly a labour of love, accurate as far as I have used it, and absolutely valuable to trace people through the various historical events.

    This review of the persecution theory is going great guns, Dee, as you are highlighting a lot of events that are simply sidelined or totally ignored in the cutsey-Nedsy crap they keep putting in school history textbooks such as 'Humanities Alive'. What they do with the Kellys in schools is a bit like pretending to study WW2 without mentioning the holocaust. School textbook writers seem to be predominantly stuck in the 1970s and 1980s class war outlook of squatters vs selectors that Morrissey has shown to be exaggerated nonsense. And textbooks in general remain superficial, minimalist, and appallingly tedious regardless of their fancy layout and extra online resource links. (No wonder kids are bored silly in school.) But never let the facts get in the way of a good, biased pseudo-history indoctrination. Nothing to lose but our brains…

  2. Stuart is right about Kelvyn's volume/s. I have the first print and it is my go-to for anything on this subject. I would suggest for anyone seriously studying the Kelly outbreak that if you buy just one good source, this is it. And like you Stuart, I am really enjoying Dee's on-going demolition of the Kelly fairy story. However, I must say that I am very disappointed that none of Ned's defenders has contributed arguments to counter what Dee is saying. But I supposed it is very difficult to defend the indefensible.

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    Another thing to remember is that back in Victoria during the criminal activities of the Kelly's and their extended families is the fact that the majority of criminal charges were actually laid by the aggrieved civilian complainants and not the police. You will see this time and time again in material relating to the Kelly's. The police merely acted, usually making arrests, at the behest of the complainants and in turn the courts. This could hardly be described as 'police persecution'.

  4. John Carlyle says: Reply

    Kelyvn is a Kelly crank whose comments on Dee's earlier forums were lengthy and misleading. He disputed Bill Denheld's SBC site. It is a huge wonder that his books, if as open and wide-ranging as reported here, haven't been violently attacked by the Kelly buffs. Maybe they don't want the truth whatever the source. You can get most of this stuff free from the PROV site anyway.

  5. Rob Kneale says: Reply

    Kelvyn's volume/s are financially beyond most of us. I prefer the affordable MacFarlane and Morrissey versions which are interpretive and not just presentational. In saying so I haven't seen Kelvyn's commendable vols which, if I have understood correctly, just present some PROV general docs and additional material as the whole picture of the Kelly evidence. Obviously, this is not so as MacFarlane and Morrissey have so formidably demonstrated.

  6. John, Kelvyn makes no comments at all in his volumes. He has simply collated as much material on the Kelly outbreak as possible. Most of it is from the PROV and newspaper reports of the time. He has also included details from many of the publications which have appeared over the years such as books and articles. His work is purely editorial compilation and a terrific research source.

  7. Graham Boyd says: Reply

    Not all of the Kelly records in the 'Kelly Collection' were digitised by PROV. Many other records series including Kelly have never been digitised. Buyers of Kelvyn's works have at best a partial Kelly record. He would need dozens of volumes to record the lot.

    One man's view.

  8. John Carlyle says: Reply

    That'd what I thought Spudee. But a part of a part of the Kelly records ain't the whole story. The posts here have altered my view of Kelvyn a bit…

  9. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    I'm not quite sure what all this disputing is about. Myself and Spudee have found it a useful resource and that's all either of us said. No one, including Dee, claimed it's comprehensive. Maybe people would like to comment on the actual post and topic at hand above, like me and Spudee have, and stop bagging Kelvyn? Use whatever resources you like, for goodness sake. But what do readers think about Dee's argument that the persecution claims reviewed so far are all or mostly empty nonsense?

    I haven't seen that tackled before, and unless someone can support the view with evidence that there are good reasons to support Ned's claims of persecution, the grounds for believing it are rapidly disappearing. This is why I think Dee has put up a new perspective here that hasn't been time-lined and worked through before, and that's why I think it adds a new way of looking at an old story that is very worthwhile. So I too am interested to see if she has overlooked some important evidence to the contrary. But the time-lining so far is pretty convincing that the persecution story is another longstanding historical myth. I have no barrow to push either way. I don't personally care if it's a myth or not; but I am very interested in the evidence for and against, because at this point Dee is winning hands down. And if it is a myth, then the historical story has to change to reflect that.

  10. Graham Boyd says: Reply

    All I have said is that Kelvyn's records are incomplete as I think he himself would acknowledge. Stuart and Spudee may be happy with this. I ain't! I wan't the WHOLE picture!

  11. Graham I think ALL of us would like the WHOLE picture but very few of us live close to the Public Records Office of Victoria or wherever else these things are all stored. But until all the other records are digitised and made available what Kelvyn has done is make much more accessible what admittedly is already available but only by laborious and time consuming searches.

    And yes, Stuart I WISH someone would try to make the case for Ned having been persecuted. Bill did mention his opinion about knowing people who were innocent but were picked on, and I wouldn't dispute that such people exist, or that Police may indeed harass and persecute people o occasion but where is the evidence that it happened in THIS case? Bills friend was innocent, but Ned was never innocent, and theres no evidence that any of his 'crimes' were fit-ups by Police.

    The Kelly apologists are deathly silent right now…..

  12. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    The best known persecution theorist is JJ Kenneally, in his "Inner History of the Kelly Gang", who claims the Kellys were hounded at every step by the "loaded dice" of police victimisation. A quick glance at Kenneally shows how he has presented a "crook's own" view of every event. The Kelly boys weren't really horse thieves; it was the mysterious 'Billy-Jimmies". (Never mind that Ned, Jim and Dan were all gaoled over horses on evidence incontrovertible.) McCormack was the aggressor who tried to beat the horse-mounted Ned with a stick; Ned rode him down in self-defence! (But read the newspaper account of McCormack's testimony.) The best one is Ned's claim to have taken Kennedy's watch from his corpse so he could thoughtfully return it to his widow. Now that's a caring lad to be proud of; ought to be a national hero. (Don't mention shotgunning Kennedy's chest out.)

  13. Graham Boyd says: Reply

    Dee: Kelvyn's book is titled ""Ned Kelly: The Definitive Record". What part of that don't you and others understand?

    Its not definitive. At best, it is a partial record…

    But I acknowledge all the comments praising Kelvyn's books.

  14. Jim Anderson says: Reply

    Found this 2014 online article no-one else has mentioned:

    Also – from the retired truck driver's FB hatepage against "The Kelly Gang Unmasked" book:

    Bob Mc G
    6 January at 18:32
    How different our history may have been. I was reading Kelvyn Gils 1st edition this morning and read how Ellen Kelly, Catherine & Jane Lloyd (my gg granny) and their children could have perished at Greta in January 1867 at the hands of James Kelly snr. He set fire to the old hotel that they were all staying in. I assume that Ned would have been one of those inside the hotel aged about 12 or 13. There may not have been SBC, Glenrowan etc, if he had died there. As I write this little supposition there woud be no yours truly either and none of my family either. Good luck and a Happy New Year to everyone in 2017 regards Bob.

    If Bob, who regularly posts on the FB hatesite, had bothered to read "The Kelly Gang Unmasked" book he would have found the whole story on p. 32 of the book way back in 2012.

    But it looks as if some of the Kelly extended descendants are starting to have second thoughts…

    About time!

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