|You cant handle the truth|
Obviously, people give many different and sometimes complex reasons for sticking up for Ned Kelly. For example there is the almost universal appeal of the “David and Goliath” image, where Ned Kelly is portrayed as the brave little guy who goes up against a corrupt monolithic establishment. There is also the natural sympathy anyone would feel for a handsome young man whose story at every level is tragic : impoverished pioneer farmers, fatherless at 11, imprisoned and hanged at such a young age. Its also an obvious fact that many of the people who praise Kelly on-line have very negative attitudes to police, and on social media frequently refer to police both then and now as pigs, dogs, c*nts, criminals and scum. I am sure this is why Ned Kelly appeals to many of them : he killed police. But I believe the most important reason there are people who stick up for Ned Kelly is because the people who promote the Kelly story only tell them half of it.
I am going to point out a few examples from current pro-Kelly writings that prove my point : pro-Kelly writers only present half the facts, and they mix in fake news to create an entirely false picture.
The first one relates to the fake news the Kelly supporters promote that the Kellys were persecuted by police. They say this persecution is the toxic background to the whole mess of the Kelly Outbreak. Here’s the half fact that they often quote in support of their argument : in 1877 police Superintendent Nicolson said, in reference to the Kelly boys and other local petty criminals that police “should endeavour, whenever they commit any paltry crime to bring them to justice and send them to Pentridge even on a paltry sentence, the object being to take their prestige away from them” This might sound a little like harassment until you read a bit more of that quote which BEGINS with “ …WITHOUT oppressing the people or worrying them IN ANY WAY ….….” (my CAPS) So, the full facts here show that Nicolson is warning that these people are NOT to be harassed or persecuted, but IF they overstep the mark the full force of the law is to be applied. Who would object to that?
Here’s another example. Constable Fitzpatrick is blamed by the pro-Kelly people for causing the entire outbreak, by lying about what happened to him when he visited the Kelly house to arrest Dan Kelly for horse theft in April 1878. He claims he was shot in the wrist, but pro-kelly people, attempting to show that Fitzpatrick lied about the wound, quote Dr Nicholsons opinion of the wound that he saw the next day, when he swore before three JPs in May 1878 that “I could not swear it was a bullet wound”. What the pro-Kelly mythmakers usually leave out is that he then wrote “but it had all the appearance of one” Once again the entire quote exposes the pro-kelly argument as a half-truth.
Here’s another one about Fitzpatrick. Pro-Kelly writers all claim that he was drunk when he arrived at the Kelly house to arrest Dan. Fitzpatrick himself openly admitted that on his way that afternoon he stopped in at Lindsay’s Shanty at Winton and had ‘some brandy and lemonade’. How many of the pro-Kelly writers and believers know, let alone report it, that Lindsay himself declared that when Fitzpatrick departed for the Kelly’s he was sober? Another example of half a story being told to create fake news about the Kelly story.
Next, I have very recent examples from a Facebook Page set up to promote the newly self-published book “An Introduction to Ned Kelly” by Jack Peterson. Already you will be able to gauge the quality of this site by this sentence that begins a recent Post there about the Fitzpatrick Incident: “On the 15th of April 1878, a drunken Constable Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly homestead to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing” Yeah, right!
A few days earlier another post began with this sentence :
“Alex Castles (Professor of Law) discovered through various sources that during the four and a half months between his capture and death powerful men (politicians, police and the legal profession) stretched the law to its outer limits and beyond, engaging in subterfuges, outright dishonesty and monumental legal deceptions which ensured that there was absolutely no chance for Ned Kelly to escape the hangmans noose.”
Its pretty clear from this that Peterson hasn’t read the learned Professors book, or if he did he didn’t understand it because Castles most definitely did NOT allege there were ‘monumental legal deceptions’. In fact the Professors case was based on quite subtle legal arguments, arcane points of Law that not every legal expert would necessarily agree with, but which Castles thought could have been grounds for appeal. But Peterson, having not read or understood the book, posing as some sort of authority on the subject makes a claim that readers on his page will swallow without a second thought, not realising they’ve been misinformed about Kellys trial – there were NO “monumental legal deceptions” but subtle more or less technical errors of process. Peterson compounds his public misinforming with this sentence: “Both believe Ned Kelly would have been convicted of manslaughter rather than murder” referring here to the views not only of Castles, but also of former Chief Justice JB Phillips another learned legal expert. In fact, these men both believed that if Ned Kelly’s trial had proceeded with every one of their objections corrected, the outcome may well have been the same ie a murder conviction.
Here’s a quote from JB Phillips you might find in the pro-Kelly writings : “..Edward Kelly was not afforded a trial according to Law.” Here’s the rest of that quote, something you probably won’t read in the pro-Kelly writings and the part Jack Peterson would prefer you never read: “Whether the result would have been any different had the Jury had been correctly directed is, of course, entirely another matter”
Here’s another quote from Phillips you will struggle to find anywhere in the Kelly writings:
“It is possible that were the trial to be reviewed by a modern Court of Appeal, it would, because of the strength of the prosecution case, apply the Proviso in S.568(i) of the Crimes Act on the basis that it considered that no substantial miscarriage of justice had occurred.”
In other words Phillips believed that the technical errors in the trial could be seen in a modern Appeals Court as having had no important effect on the outcome of the trial, and that Ned Kelly’s conviction was appropriate, because the case against him was overwhelming.
That opinion is not one you’ll ever read on a pro-Kelly site like Petersons, and if you express it there you’re likely to be abused and ridiculed and probably kicked off, as I was. So, if you want a proper introduction to the Kelly story the first thing you have to realise is that much of it is based on half truths.The pro-kelly story tellers only want half-truths, because as I have demonstrated here the whole truth is like poison to the Kelly myths.
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20 Replies to “Why do people stick up for Ned Kelly?”
It is often claimed that despite rewards nobody dobbed in the Kelly Gang,
Bricky Williamson, among others, did. Bricky after Stringybark Creek told police they would head in the direction of Barnawartha. This they did but found they could not cross into NSW because of floods. Mrs William Baumgarten saw them passing by and informed police. The gang avoided capture by hiding in the reeds.
That's how close it came.
Dee, thanks a lot for nothing! I spent a couple of hours on Jack Peterson's FB Time-Machine that takes you back far into the disproven Kelly guff of the distant past.
Jack can flounce around saying I wrote a Ned Kelly book even if it is one of the most awful ever published.
His SBC story is moronic. He waffles about the gang saving itself. What a NONG! The Kelly gang had no right to be at SBC at all. They went there deliberately to kill police.
There are no ifs, buts or excuses, Jack.
Buy back your hopeless books and pulp them.
Re. sticking up for Ned Kelly, Joseph Ashmead pleaded in the conclusion to his 1922 manuscript, “The Thorns and the Briars”, “For forty years the Kellys have been trying to live down a bad name, and so did their many relatives in the North-East – the upright honest people; they are above reproach, and gladly would they forget the black past. Why not help them, and let the deeds of the past be buried with the dead?” Instead, what has happened, largely as a result of Ian Jones’ biography and “Kelly republic” fantasies, and Ned Kelly being presented as a hero in current school textbooks, is that a whole Kelly industry tries to defend the indefensible, and presents an attempted massacre of Port Arthur proportions as some kind of noble political struggle. Various descendants have been dragged into this ridiculous mess and forced to take sides, either to keep on searching for reasons why the Kelly gang were in some way acceptable, which is macabre and grotesque, or to distance themselves from their own families’ historical links, which is harsh and unfair. Ashmead’s conclusion is probably the best and fairest comment I have seen on the whole sorry saga: move on, and let those who bear that unfortunate legacy quietly get on with their lives. While the “Kelly lobby” continue to promote the madness of Glenrowan as something heroic, and the Kelly gang as something noble, it is inevitable that the polarisation will continue and the rifts not heal. At present all reports of meetings between descendants from both sides of the Kelly saga put the police and victim descendants in the position of having to apologise for their ancestors siding with the law against what have become criminal folk heroes. We saw that in its latest form in the recent Genepool Productions episode. It will happen again when Carey’s fictional novel, “True history of the Kelly gang” (2000), is turned into a movie this year. The version of history it is built around is dated and factually wrong, the result of weak, blinkered and biased research. It promotes an obsolete historical myth, and so the disputes and antagonism will inevitably continue. Good one, Jones and Carey. You two are responsible for creating a lot of misery and anger on both sides of the fence.
Dee, Stuart. Good Afternoon. Absolutely no point in blaming Ian Jones and Peter Carey. A Short Life only appeared on the shelves in 1995. For many many years before that, Kenneally, Brown, Carroll, Phillips, Osborne, Farwell, Passey, Bedford, Dunstan, Keesing and many many other authors, film makers, playwrights, artists filled our heads with the Kellys heroics. It is an absolute nonsense to make Ian Jones the repository of all your ire and annoyance. And how do you think Ned was portrayed to a your Ian by the gardiner Tom Maine? And how do you think the pulp mags of the day presented Ned to a young Ian? The Kelly Industry was indeed in full swing before Ian came along. Superheroes sell. Ned was made into one of them decades and decades ago. A similar thing occurrA gentler way of approaching "the other side" is probably in order now. No more sledgehammer approach. Cheers. Mark. Adelaide.
Stuart Dawson, your assumption that Carey’s book is “weak, blinkered and biased” reveals your complete ignorance and disrespect for the artistry behind Carey’s Booker Prize winning novel. The book is to be made into a movie (it is not a documentary for history buffs), it will be a story based on the Kelly legend.
What is wrong with that?
Your criticism with Kelly writing should be levelled more to your own academic lecturing peers, as you appear to lack the imagination and ability to be able to criticise fairly a universally acclaimed prize winning classic.
Hi Anonymous, I did not say Peter Carey's novel was "weak, blinkered and biased" or that it was poor history. I do realise it is a novel. I said, above, that "the version of history it is built around is dated and factually wrong", and that that was in turn a product of popularised myths based on weak and biased research etc. If you read the Acknowledgements at the back of Carey's novel, you will see why there is a problem, as it makes a claim to be based around actual historical events as represented in the listed historians' accounts. This is not splitting hairs; you have simply misread what I said. Further, I made no disparagement of the novelist's artistry or talent in crafting his fictional story, and in fact think he has been extremely clever in fashioning his story. That does not contradict my previous comment. And obviously the movie will be a film of the novel, not a historical documentary! Indeed, I am quite looking forward to seeing the movie when it is made. The question remains as to what extent the story and film are based on the Kelly legend, which means being clear about what the Kelly legend is, and to which audiences (as clearly they are not all the same), and to what extent legends do or should or reflect the history from which they originated. It will be interesting to see what the academics in literary and cultural studies make of the movie (as distinct from the book) when it is out.
Hi Mark, fair comment, there was a huge amount written on Ned Kelly before "Short Life" 1995, swinging to positive accounts and stories roughly from 1930 or so, including “Boy’s Own” bushranger magazines and popular fiction. However, these seem mostly based around the heroics of Last Stand, with the armour as the central iconic image. The key turning point in the current legend may be the 1967 Wangaratta Kelly seminar, with the papers published as "Man and Myth", edited by Colin Cave (1968) in which Ian Jones first launched the theory of Ned striving to establish a Republic of North East Victoria. You don’t find it in Max Brown’s 1948 or 1956 editions, apart from a one sentence mention of a Declaration legend in the preface; but he expands the idea in the editions after 1967. Osbourne criticised and rejected the Republic theory in 1970. The Republic idea is quite distinct from the hero legend, as you might agree. The hero legend seems to be built around the Last Stand in all twentieth-century presentations until 1967, when Ned’s Glenrowan plan was given a republican rationale. I am not criticising the hero legend here, although it may have come out that way. I am criticising the Republic legend which seems to have taken over as the dominant theme since 1967. (See Carroll’s book, page 261.) John McQuilton dates the rise in popularity of the Republic theory to the 1980s (in Brendan Kelson and John McQuilton’s “The Kelly Country”), sourced to the 1967 seminar. I am not having a personal dig at Ian Jones. I am pointing out, as I did in the Metcalf article, that some of the theory is built on factual errors and significant distortions of historical source evidence. That is not attacking the author as a person. It is pointing out errors of fact that result in a factually wrong historical picture. My experience of posting on this blog is that most people who post here, including myself, are often showered with abuse in other online forums. I don’t read them, as there is nothing I can do about it, but it is not something I do in return. The Fitzpatrick incident is the trigger moment of the Kelly legend. In the last few pages of “Parcel 8” of Carey’s novel, you will read, “I seen Fitzpatrick pull my sister roughly onto his knee that were the last adjectival straw as far as I were concerned…”, etc., down to “If you have read Con Fitzpatrick’s sworn statement you will not know of our kindnesses to the snivelling cur.” What happens to representations of history when we now know this is false history? Does it not matter as long as it is a good story? What will the historical commentary section in the DVD extras say about the Fitzpatrick incident? Shall we wait and see? Or say something first?
For some reason the wife got me a second-hand copy of Carey. I have never wanted to read it as it is a novel. However I sneaked a peek. I still can't figure out if Carey wanted to make a buck out of Ned or imagined he had concocted a existential masterpiece that would puzzle Australians forever.
But Stuart (above) has shown that Carey placed reliance on historians whose works are now known to be error-ridden.
As such it is now a novel based on flawed 'history' that will provide a another buggered-up Ned Kelly movie that misguides and misleads us all.
Haven't we already had enough of them?
For anyone wondering what the mentioned articles about Fitzpatrick and Metcalf are about, google "Redeeming Fitzpatrick: Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick incident", and "Ned Kelly's shooting of George Metcalf, labourer", to download them.
Carey’s novel is a reinterpreted story based on the Kelly Legend and there is no need to over analyse it to the point of killing it off. I know you are itching to compare the portrayal of the Fitzpatrick incident as this is your particular area of study interest, but my advice is to sit back and enjoy it upon its release.
Another critical reaction which is similar in tone to yours, is from the Ben Hall movie director who criticised the Carey book and forthcoming movie because it wasn’t factual enough.
Mark, over at the Unmasking FB page I am curious about your statement re where Scanlan worked before joining the force. In Corfield it says he managed a store at Beaufort before being recruited by Constable John Kelly to join the police force. Found an article at Trove that says he was an assistant at a general store in Beaufort before joining the force.
There is something under Corfield where it says that while he was on the force he was twice disciplined for being drunk on duty and that he blamed it on being on duty at the Theater Royal in Bourke Street. Maybe that is where the confusion arises? Or is there new info out there?
Also, that photo of Scanlan, did Matt find it and pass it on to the Victoria Police Museum? See where they have it on a page that was last updated on March 3, 2017.
Sorry to get off track in this thread but I had nowhere else I could address this.
Much appreciation and thanks for your work for the Ned Kelly Legend cause, including good research and interpretation of such.
Just wanting to clarify that the above statements related to "Various descendants" experiences, about having to be forced 0ver the years to take sides that may be either "grotesque and macabre" or "harsh and unfair" type distancing, has some evidence behind it. Or, is it just your opinion and observation?
B. T. and T. Ryan
Hi Anonymous (assuming you are the same person as before), you are right, I will enjoy it for what it is when it comes out, and hopefully it will be well done. I am especially looking forward to our Kiwi friend Russell Crowe playing Harry Power; I though he was great as Robin Hood – maybe a thematic link? I wonder how the subtitles will go. If you have the Gregor Jordan "Ned Kelly" DVD, put the subbies on at 100:52 minutes for the subtitle "[Horse Nickers]". Sort of sums it up. at 48:52 we have "over 100 men" being arrested as sympathisers, instead of the historical 30, of which 23 were remanded, but hey that's entertainment. I especially loved the bit at 117 minutes onwards, when Ned and the boys capture a circus and hold the folks prisoner in the Glenrowan Inn. The poor lion gets shot in the siege crossfire, however, and my friends in PETA are not impressed. Bad police, bad, bad, bad. On the other hand, Mrs Kelly serves up a wombat stew at 10:10, so it's sort of balanced when it comes to killing exotic wildlife. More importantly, at 114 mins we see Hare telling his 100 or so police, before they embark (entrain?) for Glenrowan, "These are men who have been glorified as the leaders of a movement – a movement that threatens the stability of an entire country". Fact or fiction? Can anyone tell anymore? In the historical commentary, the director tells us that "Ned Kelly is … in a way defining who we are as Australians". No, thank you. Ian Jones then tell us that "Ned Kelly fits the mould of the highwayman-hero romantic outlaw altogether too perfectly". True? Really? I'm speechless (at last).
Hi B.T. and T., my reading of what descendants of both sides have said is to some extent limited by choosing to not get involved with descendants in what has been for many years a highly polarised debate. As some of those interviewed in Eugenie Navarre's “Knight in Aussie Armour” show, some people can hold factually wrong opinions quite passionately. I do not want to revisit things that have been published in newspapers and websites, but I think you will know there is a lot of published friction both between and within different camps of descendants from the families, sympathisers, victims and police. Outside of that, accounts of meetings between Kelly gang and sympathisers descendants on the one hand, and police descendants on the other, get coverage in the last chapter of Keith Dunstan's "Saint Ned", the last chapter of Ian Jones' "Short Life", some other book I can't find just now, news coverage of the reburial of Ned's bones at Greta a while back, some comments quoted in Grantlee Kieza's "Mrs Kelly", some comments in Judith Douthie's "I was at the Kelly gang round-up", and several people I have chatted with whose families came from Kelly country and in a couple of cases still have family in the north-east. Not every descendant feels a need to take sides. I have met I think two descendants of sympathiser families who couldn't care less about the Kelly days. I have met a couple of descendants of people taken prisoner by the Kelly gang in one or another exploit. I do not discuss these meetings or comments. Such comments belong to those who made them, not to me, unless they are published by those people themselves. I do not publish what anyone tells me privately unless they directly ask me to do so, which hasn't happened yet. That's why people tell me things, because over time I continue to prove that I don't betray people's trust. The reason I mentioned Ashmead is because Ian Jones put a good deal of reliance on his memoir of the Kelly gang. Ashmead was an acquaintance of the Kellys as you know. Ashmead's plea that the Kelly outbreak was 40 years in the past when he wrote, and that the families of those days had made good lives for themselves, and should be left alone, seems reasonable. When his manuscript with its plea for tolerance was rediscovered, it was thrown into the mix, with its plea for leaving things alone ignored. The thorns and briars were watered and regrown by a new generation of Kelly worshippers who spent (and still spend) a lot of time abusing the police whose duty it was to serve and protect the communities they landed in. Some of them did it very badly – Robert Haldane’s “The People’s Force” does not hide that at all. But many did it well. We don’t hear much in Kellyland about the two petitions taken up by the citizens of Lancefield to keep Fitzpatrick in the force after his dismissal. We don’t hear much about the collection taken up for Constable Hall when he left the north east; a collection to which many ordinary residents and selectors contributed. What we typically get is really quite warped history, that teaches schoolkids now that outlaws were often good and police were often bad. Why it happens I have no idea, but if that’s how people and teachers bring their kids up, don’t be surprised if they turn out bad. They are not doing the kids any favours by teaching them this rubbish based on rubbish versions of history. At least in my opinion.
Hi B.T. and T. again, I forgot to list the most recent example, the badly handled set-up meeting between a sympathiser descendant and a police descendant in the Genepool Productions Ned Kelly episode.
For anyone interested, the Meredith (half way between Ballarat and Geelong) History Interest Group have been known to publish items of interest about Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick in the History Section of the Meredith and District News.
An item was published in May 2017.
The accuracy of the information published is for those who view such to determine.
B. T. and T. Ryan
Ah, on page 34. https://www.meredithnews.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/May-2017.pdf
Hi again B.T. and T., one of my uncles was a Geelongite. They are a bit slow down there, and obsessed with the footy. My uncle was a Geelong FC member throughout his adult life. One must feel a bit sorry for them given the lack of grand final wins, so I have taken pity on the History group and emailed them a copy of my Fitzpatrick article to try and drag them into the 21st century, at least as regards that bit of history. I haven't sent the "Last Words" article, as the shock would be too much all at once. Carna cats.
Stuart Dawson says: “Fact or fiction? Can anyone tell anymore?”
Well I think you can if the latest Ned Kelly Touring Route “Explore the Kelly sites of Melbourne, North East Victoria & Southern New South Wales” pamphlet is anything to go by. According to that, Ned was a great guy and a true revolutionary. It informs the travelling tourist that Ned was someone who was loyal to his family and ready to sacrifice himself for his mates. Not only that, but he represented the struggling classes, thumbed his nose at the establishment, and he was fearless.
The pamphlet tells us that we shouldn’t miss Stringybark Creek because that was where the Gang surprised the police in which three policemen were killed in the ensuing gun battle. I’m not actually sure what the visitor will see at SBC after the DELWP proposals are implemented given the actual site where the “battle” took place is not going to be identified, but I guess it will be nice to know that it happened somewhere in the general vicinity.
The pamphlet also tells us that Euroa is an important place to visit too, because that is where the gang implemented their carefully staged plan designed to draw the attention of both politicians and the public alike to the perceived injustices surrounding the SBC incident. And I thought it was just a bank robbery!
Anyway, it’s all just tourism. And that reminds me, I wonder how the $150,000 Glenrowan study is coming along?
Hi Peter, I guess that answers it – total fiction! Maybe the Ned Kelly Awards for crime fiction could consider retrospective awards for some of the "history" books that have been served up over the years, as they seem to be closer to fiction than fact.
Ned was probably a great guy if you did what he wanted, including handing over money, watch, horse, and any other thing he fancied on demand. That goes back to the Ah Fook and McBean days, not forgetting his split of the take from helping Harry Power stick up travellers. (Don’t mention looting corpses.) A revolutionary… well, we will be considering those claims again this year I'm sure, but there is no evidence whatsoever anywhere for it, just some rather dubious oral history. Grantlee Kieza's book “Mrs Kelly” shows in glorious detail how Ned left his family in the lurch; first, by not settling down and working the selection, like the surrounding neighbours did – yes, they had the same soil as the surrounding properties and could have made a go of it – and second, after the Fitzpatrick incident, when he left her to cop the full brunt of the law for his own stupid actions. When exactly did he sacrifice himself for his mates? The closest he ever came to that is the story that he went back to “save them” in the Last Stand. No, he went back to call them out to help him wipe the police out. He still thought he had a chance to win a shootout. That is the story that has been forgotten, but is quite clear in the newspaper coverage of the day. It is also what he said himself about it; but it has been swamped under a couple of comments he also made, that he went back to save them – the famous “dingo” quote.
He didn’t represent the struggling classes (selectors); he repeatedly robbed them, as Morrissey demonstrated in his thesis, book, and articles in great detail. He didn’t thumb his nose at the establishment except by committing crime to fill his own pockets and being on the run. He made not one single political comment or statement anywhere at any time right down to his execution. No one. Was he fearless… Lemme see… Men in bulletproof suits derail train, and stand on top of culvert shooting any survivors, including train staff and any passengers, who all deserve anything they got for being on a police train. That’s what he said to several people before and after the attempt. I’ll take a raincheck on fearless.
There was no battle at Stringybark Creek. Just an ambush of 2 coppers and an ambush slaughter of the other 2. McIntyre’s testimony is remarkably consistent over time about the whole event; the only quibble is about whether Lonigan was able to draw his revolver out of its butti=on down holster, or simply made a motion to draw. There is no dispute about the rest of the event. DWELP are letting everyone down badly by not pinpointing the site. It is down to one of two places – CSI’s and Bills. There is wide agreement by almost everyone that it is not Ian Jones’ site or Adam Ford’s site. God knows what the TV show thought it was doing. Euroa of course had nothing to do with any injustices, but a lot to do with money. No-one can argue that he couldn’t have sent letters about injustices to everyone he could think of, including every leading newspaper in Victoria, without having to rob a bank to do it. Couldn’t afford the stamps and paper, right? That’s how he ended one of the masterpieces, he had no more paper unless he robbed for it? I wish someone had given me $150,000 to investigate all this crap. Could have been done in a few weeks. But that’s your Wangaratta district rates at work. Maybe they should stick to fixing roads and rubbish removal, instead of funding more of it!