|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.
Part 5 will follow in a few days.
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