The Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges

This is the memorial erected at Mansfield in honour of the police slain in the Wombat Ranges

Stuart Dawson is doing some interesting research into the Kelly story.  He showed by detailed critical analysis of the major element of the Kelly legend known as the  “Fitzpatrick Incident” that it was a myth.Dawson showed that Fitzpatrick, whose name has been forever blackened by the Kellys, told the truth about what happened and it was the Kellys and their associates who were the liars. In another paper, Dawson researched the origin of the words “Such is life” which were supposed to have been Ned Kellys last, but they weren’t. They were made up by a journalist. 

Dawson is obviously continuing to do groundbreaking research into Kelly history, but in the process has produced a wonderful little gem that he wants to share for free with everyone else who is interested in Kelly history. This time its the complete text of a work originally published in 1879, after the Fitzpatrick incident, after the murders at Stringybark Creek, after the Kelly gangs two Bank robberies but more than a year before the finale of the Outbreak, the debacle at Glenrowan. The Gang had been outlawed, meaning anyone could capture or kill any of its four members with legal impunity, they were on the run and public interest in the pursuit was at fever pitch. The entire state and beyond were  gripped by a mixture of horror fear and fascination at the Gangs exploits – for a journalist and publisher it was the perfect opportunity to write  and publish a book about the Gang, and make a tidy sum from what they no doubt hoped would be, and probably was, a best seller?

‘The following is the Text  I received a few days ago from Stuart Dawson. I take it as a complement to this Blog that he wants me to publicise his generous free gift to the Kelly world here ; Ive downloaded and read the book already and would encourage everyone else to do likewise.

Thanks to Dee for letting me announce the release of a free, accurate transcription of the full text of G.W. Hall’s book, “The Kelly Gang, or, the Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges”, published in February 1879. There are only four copies in Australian state libraries, and no known private copies surviving. In this day and age it is great to be able to computer-search texts for words, persons, and places, but the only digital versions I have been able to locate (right up to this week) have textual errors, as well as spelling and punctuation mistakes. As I needed an accurate copy for research and citation, I made one myself from the Victorian State Library copy.
Having triple checked it for accuracy, it seems a shame not to share it. I have long believed that historically significant, out-of-copyright books should be freely available at no cost, whether as scans or transcriptions. This transcript is paginated exactly as per the original book. I have added some explanatory footnotes for obscure words and references. That should make this the most useful version of Hall’s text available.
As well as being free to download, it is also free to circulate and redistribute, email to friends, put on your website for others to download, use as a teaching resource, and so on. The only condition, as stated on the cover, is that it cannot be sold. It must always be free
Bill Denheld has kindly agreed to be the first download host of this new free PDF transcript of Hall’s “Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges”, and also did the great facsimile reconstruction of the title page. Grab yourself a copy from his fantastic IRON-ICON website at  and share it around.
George Wilson Hall was the publisher of this work, but its authors are not named. It was most likely a collaboration between Hall and the unnamed ‘traveller’ (see the text, p. 123; Mr. Blank, p. 131). The preface is signed ‘The Authors’ as plural, on page vi, and it is dated 22 February 1879, shortly after the Jerilderie bank robbery of Monday 10 February.
Ned Kelly had unsuccessfully sought to have copies of his “Jerilderie letter” printed in that town. This book is a massively important historical document in its claim to give an impartial account of the Kelly outbreak up to the time of writing, regardless of Hall’s being on the committee for the ‘Murdered Police Memorial Fund’ (p. 104).
Hall was necessarily reliant on ‘inside’ information from the gang through an intermediary. He gives some skewed interpretations of events, such as that “Kelly did not recognize Lonigan at the time of the murders, so that his … death amounted to merely a coincidence” (p. 41). Yet Hall acknowledges McIntyre’s statement, that Kelly told him at first he had thought Lonigan was Flood (p. 44). If true, the “coincidence” vanishes, as Kelly repeatedly said he was out to kill Flood. At other places, too, Hall must be read with some alert scepticism.
After the Stringybark Creek shootings, “Within weeks, a hasty rewrite of ‘Fleeced; or, The Vultures of the Bush’, an eight year old bushranging play by Archibald Murray, re-subtitled ‘The Vultures of the Wombat Ranges’, was playing at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre” (R. Fotheringham, ed., ‘Australian plays for the colonial stage: 1834-1899’ [UQP, 2006], p. 553). Did that influence Hall’s subtitle for his Kelly gang book a couple of months later? We’ll never know!
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15 Replies to “The Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    Great effort Stuart in what you have done with the transcript of this book and then making it freely available. I have just finished reading it and found it fascinating, if a little inaccurate at times. However, I did consider that this was written at the height of the Kelly outbreak and much of the later information which adds clarification wasn't available to Hall at the time of writing. I also love the language and style of writing, it is just so indicative of its time.

    I was also fascinated at the account of the 'traveller' who Stuart refers to above. In fact I wondered if it wasn't Hall himself! Whoever it was, obviously had access to close associates or family of the gang and was in turn, trusted by them.

    Many thanks Stuart.

  2. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Spudee, I hope you meant Hall's story is a little inaccurate at times, not my transcript of it! It's anyone's guess, but it is quite plausible that Hall happily collaborated with the un-named 'traveller' in collecting the Kelly side of the story, given that he might well have put himself at personal risk going into the bush as the editor of a paper that had published the general feeling of the area, which that it was hoped the gang would be speedily caught. My guess is that the gang would have leapt at the chance to have their side of the story printed, no matter how skewed.

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    I was actually commenting on what Hall wrote as being 'inaccurate' at times. Certainly not your transcript. But I excused him as he didn't have access to what we have now.

  4. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Spudee, I got that, it was a joke! (Oops.) It’s already fourth listing on Google search if you type in ‘hall outlaws of the wombat ranges’, so it’s all go from here!

  5. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Speaking of giving time and effort for free, I would also like to acknowledge with thanks the efforts of various people including Fitzy and Trevor P who take the time and trouble to do Trove text corrections on Kelly newspaper texts. It makes life much easier for everyone else who is interested in those topics to read the corrected digitised text, which sometimes takes a fair bit of effort to correct from the initial Trove OCR scans. I have done a few myself (although I don't put my name on them), and there are other people too, both anonymous and others who I can't recall off hand. It is an under-appreciated task of great value to the wider community. Thanks, all.

  6. Nat Curtis says: Reply

    Dee you still haven't reviewed Eugenie Navarre's 2016 "Ned – Knight in Aussie Armour".

    She says: "Eugenie Navarre is a journalist and writer whose passion is to expose truth, no matter how incredulous or confronting.When undertaking historical research for her Ned Kelly book, she traveled hundreds of thousands of kilometres between Cape York and Ned Kelly country". "Her latest book; Ned – Knight in Aussie Armour, challenges the view which sparked social history debate a decade ago in The Kelly Gang Unmasked book at the time, that a Republic was a modern ‘invention’, with no basis in fact. Such untold Aussie stories of social history and controversy are her forte". Her webpage is here:

  7. Sorry Nat but Peter Newman did a review of the book for this blog in February last year.

  8. Yes thats right Spudee. And the one immediately after Peters review is by me, called "More on that book" and is also about Eugenie Navarres book.

  9. Peter Newman says: Reply

    Thanks Stuart for making this publication available and to Bill for hosting it on his website. I hadn’t previously read it.

    I was interested to read (pp pp 63-66) the references to how the Gang members apparently split up after the shootings at SBC. Particularly the reference to Byrne, after initially setting off with Hart in pursuit of McIntyre, galloping off towards the Strathbogie ranges, in which neighbourhood he wanted to make some arrangements with a friend. Hall’s account talks of how Byrne took off in a westward direction, and up the ascents near and above the source of the Glen Creek. Now that’s interesting because that means he was very close to that cave that James Winter tipped the authorities off about (refer to my ‘Prelude to Stringybark Creek’, December 2015 blog). Thereafter Hall has Byrne heading off towards the tableland gold-diggings at the head of Brankeet Creek, near the Hell’s Hole and Dry Creeks. Then he has him crossing portions of the Junction and Borodomain runs (noting that we know now the Junction run was owned by the Winter family) before making a detour which brought him to the destination he aimed at. Hall doesn’t say anything more about any of this, so we are left wondering what that little mission could have been all about.

    The other interesting reference on these pages was to Ned and Dan setting off towards Greta, but first camping in a secluded spot some six or seven miles to the south of it, before concluding their journey at a house they were bound for where they met Hart and also Byrne who had returned from Strathbogie in the interim. I presume this house would have been Tom Lloyds? But then Hall has then heading off for another refuge – described as a natural cellar, which was known to the gang as “the horse-shoe” on account of its peculiar shape. It consisted of a “Wondrous cave” which Hall then described in considerable detail. What is it about these Kelly caves! Here is another one for us to find, unless someone has already found it and can tell us more.

  10. Jack Connor says: Reply

    Hi Peter, my research is taking me in a way different direction. It suggests the gang after SBC headed for Barnawartha; seen by Gideon Margery; and police alerted by Mrs Baumgarten. The Gang hid in reeds in a lagoon because the Murray was uncrossable due to flooding.

  11. Nat Curtis says: Reply

    Many thanks Spudee! I read Peter's review which is what I expected. Overall, a disaster of a book.

    Dee can you post a URL for your review please.

  12. Peter Newman says: Reply

    This wasn't my research Jack. I am just quoting from G W Hall's 1879 book. It is accepted that the gang headed for Barnawartha. Hall is saying though that in the immediate aftermath of SBC the Gang split up, with Byrne heading to the gold diggings at Brankeet Creek to make some arrangements with a friend. I hadn't read Hall's book before and this was the first I had heard of this little side adventure. The fact that Hall wrote this book in 1879 with supposed input from an associate of the Gang ("the traveller") might give some credence to the story. What interested me is that Byrne's supposed route took him near the cave that James Winter mentioned in his tip-off letter to the authorities. It seems to me that the Gang may have had some kind of an association with that area. Exactly what that association was is unclear.

  13. Peter Newman says: Reply

    Glad I didn't disappoint you Nat! I agree, Eugenie is no Grantlee Kieza when it comes to her writing. I did highlight that her book was full of factual errors. What I do like about Eugenie is that she has an interest in documenting Australian stories (the Kelly story is only one of many Australian stories she has taken an interest in). And she tried to document in her Kelly book the handed down stories of sympathiser families and the like. She made an effort. I agree though, I was too kind in my review. But then again, was the content of her book any more non-factual than a lot of the content in 'Ned Kelly – A Short Life'?

  14. On Bill Iron Icon website there is an article dealing with a cave, suspected of having been used by the gang and rediscovered in 2014 by Stephen Handbury and 2 others. While there is no conclusive evidence to confirm that this is the Kelly Cave, it is certainly in the right area and large enough to have accommodated the gang. Once again thanks to Bill and Stephen Handbury.

  15. Jack Connor says: Reply


    Doug Morrissey (Ned Kelly – a lawless life} spent five weeks (perhaps longer) at the state archives in the 1980s when it was at Laverton, where he was researching the associations and interactions of the Kellys, Lloyds, Quinns and others in the NE. Eugenie Navarre seems to have relied on oral history, folklore and the Kelly myths by contrast – but perhaps I am being unduly critical.

    Like Nat I was taken by her comment which "challenges the view which sparked social history debate a decade ago in The Kelly Gang Unmasked book at the time, that a Republic was a modern ‘invention’, with no basis in fact. That book was published in 2012 (five years ago – not a decade ago). This got me to wondering if anything she wrote was correct.

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