The Cover-up


In the last couple of Blog Posts I’ve highlighted two of the many crimes of violence that Kelly clan members carried out against their own women. They both involved drunkenness, and hideous violence that followed rejection of demands for sex. In one case the response to this rejection was to set a fire that destroyed a home and nearly incinerated 13 children, and in the other, a coward’s punch left a young mothers face disfigured for life. It’s no use, if you’re a Kelly apologist, pretending those two events were the only blemishes on an otherwise blissful domesticity for the Kelly women. We know from contemporary research into domestic violence that the attacks that get to the police are just the tip of the iceberg of violence that stalks these women, so there would have been many other episodes of harassment and bullying and abuse, but only the worst came to the attention of the police.
The Kelly sympathiser community hates me for exposing the truths about the Kelly story, for pointing out the facts that demolish their fairy tales about Ned Kelly, for highlighting the absence of evidence for police persecution and harassment, but I ask  how can Ned Kelly be understood properly if such dramatic and terrifying life events are left out of the picture?
These undeniably true Kelly crime stories – and there are plenty more to come – go a long way to disproving Ned Kellys claim, believed and parroted by all his supporters ever since, that the cause of all the trouble in their lives was the police. They also disprove the claim that police charges against the Kellys were trumped up and manufactured by the police themselves. These stories expose the miserable underbelly of the Kelly clan, an underbelly of drunkenness, violence and sexual license that Kelly apologists have done their best to conceal as they try to re-fashion an image of the Kellys as poor hard-done-by decent country folk.
To illustrate my point about how these stories are kept secret, look no further than Ian Jones, who is supposed to be the greatest of the Kelly scholars. He ignored many Kelly criminal stories in his first telling of the Kelly story, the 1980 TV miniseries, The Last Outlaw – but you might argue he couldn’t put everything in. The problem though is that what he tended to leave out were the bits that undermined his preferred Kelly myth. However, in his widely-acclaimed and very detailed Kelly biography he continued to leave out or gloss over those same inconvenient truths. He completely ignored the vicious assault on Ned Kellys aunty Margaret, and he wrote only four sentences about James Kellys arson. However, those few sentences deliberately underplayed the sinister nature of the whole event saying only that when James turned up at the house he was ‘drunk and amorous’, making it sound as if he was a bit tipsy and playful.  No mention of the gin bottle being smashed over his head, which was a nasty violent act in itself, however justified it may have been.
Jones then followed this up with several paragraphs about the trial and went to some trouble to describe Judge Redmond Barry in rather forbidding terms, adding to the Kelly mythology about the great Judge as a tormenter of the Kellys. But there was no explanation of the important fact that the death sentence was a mandatory sentence, one that the Judge had no ability to alter, but Barry knew, and suggested it in his sentencing remarks, that the routine appeal would automatically result in a reprieve. Jones left that out because it suited his myth-making approach to the story to have Redmond Barry demonised as having a ‘down’ on the Kellys.
However, Jones did instead speculate about what effect hearing the Judge sentence his uncle James to death might have had on young Ned Kelly, but there was no such  speculation about what effect living in a culture of drunkenness and violence, and watching your home and everything your family owned being burned to the ground might have had on the young Ned Kelly. The toxic environment of domestic violence and lawlessness  that  he was immersed in all his childhood would have had a far greater influence on Ned Kellys development than hearing what the Judge had to say, if indeed at  thirteen Ned Kelly would have made any sense of it.
Peter Fitzsimons more recent Kelly biography treats the near disaster of arson even more dismissively, with this stupidly thoughtless half-sentence: “….she breaks a bottle of gin over his head for his trouble and he burns the place down for hers, but these things happen in the Kelly world” That is an expression of the outdated attitude that has resulted in women suffering domestic violence for generations, the attitude that this sort of bullying intimidation and direct assault was ‘just a domestic’.   And just as Jones did, Fitzsimons uses this episode to bad-mouth the Judge, who is Irish but not a catholic, writing “…so Ned already knows he cant be trusted”. As for Neds Aunty Margaret having her face smashed up by Uncle Jim – not a single word!
Full marks though to Grantlee Kieza who, in his terrific biography of Ellen Kelly has broken with the long tradition of concealing the violent truths about the clan, and graphically describes Uncle Jim Quinns attacks on Margaret, and later that same week on the splitter, John Page. Court reports about these two assaults that were published in the O&M on 25th January 1872 are not included in Kelvyn Gills massive two volume “Definitive Record” – but they contain additional gruesome detail about what happened to Page in the form of Doctor Hutchinsons report:
‘Dr Hutchinson deposed that on the 15th inst. Page was brought to the Wangaratta Hospital. There was a wound on the left leg four inches above the ankle, contused and punctured ; higher up on the same leg a lacerated wound three inches long ; on the right leg a lacerated wound an inch long, below the knee ; on the right thigh two lacerations six inches long ; two severe bruises on the right lower ribs, &c. ; three lacerated; -wounds on the scalp ; the left eye blackened, : &c. Several of the wounds were through the skin. The life of Page was in jeopardy.’
Page had fallen out with Brickey Williamson who was a mate of Jimmy Quinn. The day after Quinn had attacked Margaret, he went with Williamson to Pages house and attacked him too, using the handle of an auger. Page had attempted to defend himself with a pick handle, but clearly came off second best. Quinn went away, but returned to continue the assault and tried to drag Page to a nearby waterhole to drown him.
“Bleeding profusely and terrified, Page grabbed a fence post and hung on with all his remaining strength. Maggie Kelly who happened to be visiting a friend nearby ran out and screamed at her Uncle to let the man go. One of Pages friends grabbed a spade to beat Jimmy back” (Mrs Kelly by Grantlee Kieza, Chapter seven)

Maggie Kelly was just eleven – and now a witness to a vicious bashing, and near murder by her own Uncle! Child psychologists would no doubt have much to speculate on the damaging effect on a young girls mind of being witness to such violence as this, the obvious one being a normalisation and desensitisation to violence, but studies also show exposure to violence greatly increases the likelihood of the child being angry, anxious and depressed.

It seems the innocent victim in this Kelly story was an 11 year old child, Maggie, and 
the criminals were not police but her own family. Why on earth do the Kelly 
apologists keep insisting that everything that went bad for the Kellys was the fault of 
the police? This was the lie told by Ned Kelly – modern apologists only excuse for 
believing it might be that Ian Jones didn’t tell them the whole story but now, after 
reading this what will their excuse be?
(Visited 74 times)

30 Replies to “The Cover-up”

  1. #metoo? Great to see the Kelly clan domestic violence exposed at last. It is interesting that the almost totally male Kelly historians who know all the historical documents like to cover it up. When will the female Kelly descendants come out and shame their male ancestors for their repeated extreme domestic violence? Or do they prefer making money from their famous ancestors to facing and telling the truth about their black sheep?

  2. It was a dog's life for some horses around the Kellys too — despite the dismissive guff from that Wacko with the anti-book FB Hate Page. He didn't believe 4 stolen horses used as police evidence were found in a Murray lagoon with their throats cut, brands removed and set on fire. Then there was the Kelly rellie who killed a neighbour's horse with an axe. Easy to solve for police. The bloody footprints led straight to his front door.


  3. I will get to those stories too. It all has to come out.

  4. The image passed down by Ian Jones and his nong offsider Peter Fitzsimons is the utter normalcy of the Kelly household. They both left out all the nasty bits. Fake News…

  5. John Drysdale says: Reply

    The Kelly relative who killed his neighbour's horse with an axe isn't in Jones or FitzSimons either. Hamfisted doctoring of the legend.

    Its in Morrisey and MacFarlane though, and maybe Keiza too, now a "must get"!

    The Kelly Legend is starting to look like it has numerous, terminal diseases.

  6. Ian Bequin says: Reply

    The Kelly Legend is in tatters.

    The worst of the Kelly spin-doctors were academics who should have known better (even Fitzy knew Molony's Ned didn't speak with an Irish lilt).

    It wasn't just the vital evidence left out. It was the things Jones added like the Kelly Republic, the leather straps, and many other inventions repeated by others as gospel.

    There needs to be an exorcism of the whole dumb yarn to remove all the horrible darkness it represents.

  7. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Ian, I am involved in new work demolishing the Kelly republic myth which is going through the publication hoops and will be out around mid-year. That was indeed a Jones invention and is a total fabrication. The work shows that the claimed declaration document never existed and how the story arose from faulty years-old mistaken recollections; how there was no phantom army at Glenrowan; how the republic myth became popular in the first place; and with a close examination of every republic reference cited by Jones, Molony, FitzSimons and others that shows that whole thing is compete crap. It's more of a dumpmaster job than an exorcism but you should find it a comprehensive and compelling demolition. It will be a free PDF book of about 70 pages. I will email a copy to Dee and a couple of others when it is out, together with download instructions from wherever it is housed.

    I am interested in your mention of leather straps. I am guessing you mean the story of body straps claimed to have been made for and carried by the police search party that was killed at Stringybark Creek? Do you know of any comprehensive examination of that claim, as I would be interested in following it up at some point.

  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    Stuart Dawson, this will be a controversial read- which seems to be your debunking myth trademark. I wonder if many of the Kelly historians and descendants would agree with your academic conclusions though?, especially as some direct Kelly descendants had been interviewed years ago when the story was closer to living memory regarding the Kelly republic idea.
    Which descendants were you able to interview? Or do you think it illogical to have oral evidence for something that would obviously be in printed form and exposed in Trove newspaper clippings?

  9. The idea that talking to Kelly descendants is somehow going to get you closer to the truth than anything else is highly problematic. These people are highly partisan for one thing. But we already know that such people cannot be relied on when it comes to the Republic idea as I pointed out over three years ago when I wrote a Blog on the very subject. Let me remind readers :

    Ian Jones says that he was told by a Mr Thomas Lloyd that his FATHER had seen the exercise books that recorded minutes of meetings to discuss establishment of the Republic,'when he was a boy'. Trouble is that Thomas's father was born in 1857 and if we allow that he 'was a boy' perhaps up till he was 16 that would be 1873 at the latest, which was long before the Outbreak had happened. At that time, 1873, Ned Kelly was in Prison for assault and indecency. So whatever he saw when he 'was a boy' it wasn't anything to do with a Republic. So maybe he got his dates wrong and meant to say that he saw the books when he was 22, in 1879? Maybe – but how bad must his memory be if he cant remember if he was a boy or an adult when he saw them? So can we rely on what the books were about?

    So Jones informant is already a bit suspect.

    Much worse though is that about ten years after talking to Jones, the same Mr Lloyd spoke to John Molony – author of 'I am Ned Kelly' – and told Professor Molony that the boy who saw those books was he HIMSELF. No mention of his FATHER this time.

    So I think Thomas Lloyd cant be relied on at all. Two different versions. And others claim that 'old timers' got fed up with journos and others poking about and questioning them, so they told them whatever seemed like. good idea at the time.

    And, incidentally, how come Kenneally never mentioned it? He was mates with James Kelly and the rest of the Kellys, his chief informant was that very same Thomas Lloyd, and he lived in Kelly country but theres not a word about a Republic in his book.

    I am sure all these arguments will be in Stuart Dawsons latest publication and I cant wait to read it.

  10. Anonymous says: Reply

    I think I would trust a Kelly descendant anytime regarding the real motives behind a Kelly uprising, rather than rely on a government system and newsprint, which would be intent on stopping any rebellion being promoted in anyway. I think Stuart Dawson will need to convince me that he has investigated the Kelly oral tradition in his academic papers before he really could get to the truth about this Kelly republic idea.
    As for Kenneally not mentioning it in his book who knows why he didn’t, not all books do I guess. Bill Denheld had some interesting comments regarding the Fenians.

  11. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Anonymous and Dee, any myth busting is controversial by definition; another way to look at it is putting an alternative point of view to the status quo and reigniting debate with facts that don't fit the dominant paradigm. (Remember the bumper sticker – "Subvert the dominant paradigm"?) There are very good reasons why many people – not just Kelly clan and sympathiser descendants or people in north-eastern Victoria generally, but people all over Australia – came to believe that Kelly and his gang planned to establish a republic of north-eastern Victoria. It came about with Australia-wide publicity of that idea in the early to mid-1940s. Mr Jones started his Kelly research in the late 1940s and heard the story of the Kelly republic from many people. Hmmm. The book traces the republic story and its spread in detail, and is it not remotely surprising that he heard those dark and vague rumours from persons including descendants that he interviewed. Dee has raised some of the many problems with these stories just above, but I have gone a lot further in tracing their origins. That doesn't mean a word of them is true. To make an unrelated parallel, there is film footage of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam making Edna Everage a Dame, and saying "Arise, Dame Edna Everage". That doesn't mean the Barry Humphries character actually became a Dame… And if you haven't seen the footage, it's at the end of the still very funny movie "Barry McKenzie holds his own". Actually, it's almost as funny as the Kelly Republic story.

  12. Werner Brunn says: Reply

    In the early stages of the siege, there was only about a dozen police. Where was this band of loyal supporters, ready to support their leader fighting to save their land rights?
    If Ned was so highly regarded by the selectors, where was the support and where is the evidence.

  13. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Anonymous, you beat my last post by about 15 minutes but your 17:02 comment wasn't up when I posted above. Yes, the oral tradition gets thorough scrutiny, as do all of Kelly's letters and all reported speeches and comments potentially related to the republic. So do claims of class struggle, social bandits, Irish rebels, the claimed extent of Kelly country, folk traditions, claims of secret republican meetings, claims of treason versus legitimate legal separation movements during the Kelly years, the remanding and blacklists, the Glenrowan timeline (which is where the republic myth falls apart), and sundry other stuff. I have already won the case 20 pages in, before I even get to Glenrowan about page 30. The last bit goes into when and how the Kelly Republic myth became popular and why it is Australia's greatest history hoax. It easily beats the mahogany ship, in my opinion!

  14. Oh the hilarity, dear Dawson! You are such a funny old chap. Pompous and lacking any semblance of modesty… where would we be without you…

  15. So what you are saying Stuart Dawson is that Mr Jones was really just following a hip trend in the mid 1940’s like many others including Kelly descendants. I must admit that I find this an incredibly arrogant and derogatory assertion aimed at Mr Jones intellect and more to the point here, the claims of the Kelly descendants.
    I think you are missing the whole point Stuart, perhaps you need to go back further in time with the history of Irish Republicanism, the rise of the Fenians and the push for Home Rule in Ireland.
    Anyway I’m sure your academic papers will be an interesting comedic performance if they follow this trend, but will they be just as funny as Dame Edna Everage?
    There is only one Dame Edna!

  16. Anonymous, regarding Kenneally not mentioning the republic – well for start, his book was called 'The Inner History of the Kelly Gang' and given that according to Ian Jones the entire point of the outbreak was to try to establish a Republic, leaving it out of the book would be like writing about Apollo 11 and never mentioning the Moon Landings – completely unimaginable. Kenneally didnt mentions because it was one of the many Kelly stories that still hadn't been invented.

  17. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    No, no, dear Anonymouses, it was not a hip trend in the 1940s, but a short and widely circulated newspaper and popular book item about Ned Kelly's plan to establish a republic of north-eastern Victoria. I'm not sure why you are saying that I think Mr Jones was following a hip trend of the 1940s – that would be a very arrogant and derogatory thing to say. And wrong to boot. Maybe hold the sarcasm until the book is out? Then you can have fun picking it to bits. Should be easy, no? Considering I missed the Fenians almost completely… But that nice lady from the Lawless show on the History Channel thought there was something in that… Maybe she was right and I was wrong! Oh dear, back to the drawing board. Let's have a sing-along while we wait:

    "I've been a prisoner at Port Macquarie
    At Norfolk Island and Emu Plains
    At Castle Hill and at cursed Toongabbie
    At all these settlements I've been in chains
    But of all places of condemnation
    And penal stations in New South Wales
    To Moreton Bay I have found no equal
    Excessive tyranny each day prevails"

  18. Or another way to look at it – Kenneally knew that the general public understood the motives behind the Kelly uprising regardless without having to state it in his book.
    ‘The Inner History of the Kelly Gang’ relied to a certain extent only on the oral information Kenneally received from descendants, who probably had no need to explain the republican sentiment of the time because it was common knowledge throughout Kelly country anyway.

  19. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Oh yes, when Ned loosely borrowed some of these Ballad of Moreton Bay lyrics for his Jerilderie letter, the only place he overlooked listing was Castle Hill, most famous for its 1804 Irish prison uprising; the only overwhelmingly Irish prison rising in any of those places of condemnation. Maybe Irish uprisings weren't high on his agenda. Maybe he didn't have a political agenda. Maybe he wasn't a republican rebel at all. Maybe he just didn't like police, who were predominantly Irish. Maybe that's what the Jerilderie letter was centrally about.

  20. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Kenneally collected 1920s sympathiser stories of the Kelly saga for his Inner History, principally from Kelly cousin Thomas Peter Lloyd, but Frank Clune noted that it “contained very little of local and oral lore beyond that which the Kelly survivors had so willingly imparted to Cookson”, "Kelly Hunters", xiv. Nothing about a republic anywhere in Brian Cookson's 1911 articles, republished as "The Kelly gang from within", ed. Brian MacDonald.

  21. Sock it to 'em Stuart!

    Give 'em heaps!

    Sounds like your paper will kill the Ned republic stone dead. Long overdue.

  22. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Roy, thanks for the moral support. As far back as 1970, Charles Osborne reviewed the published papers from the 1967 Wangaratta Kelly seminar in which Jones’ theory was launched, as part of his research for a Kelly biography based on source documents and newspapers of the day. He correctly observed that “there is no reason to believe that [a sympathiser] army ever existed, or that the secession of North-East Victoria was ever proposed or even consciously envisaged by Ned Kelly” (Osborne, Ned Kelly, p. 9.) That would mean that Ned and his gang were very naughty boys, planning the police train massacre. The idea that it was not connected with any higher ambitions than revenge was too much for a growing number of romantically inclined Kelly enthusiasts – who had been getting misty-eyed over Ned since the 1930s – and a small number of them set about to comb the historical records for anything that might support the persecution theory most strongly indebted to Kenneally. Kenneally didn't mention a republic for the obvious reason that the story didn't arise except as a joke until the 1940s. Back in Kenneally's day the story was about alleged police persecution and resentment about land blacklisting, as put very well in James Ryan's letter at the back of Kenneally's book. Once Max Brown thought he had found a republic declaration legend – which I have traced the origins of – the game was on. Except that he made it up, as the book demonstrates. It was a flawed deduction based on two old and unrelated newspaper sources, not from oral history. There was no oral tradition of a Kelly republic until the 1940s. Then there were "rumours", all stemming from the 1940s. Like the mahogany ship stories in a different era, or the sort of stories we call urban legends now. Great stuff, widely shared, but not a grain of truth in them anywhere.

  23. So this is going to be a new book Stuart? Fantastic!

    The true believers who post here wont be convinced of course – its an article of faith, and such things are completely immune to evidence, facts, silly things like logic and reason, research findings.

    But the point of your book will be its effect on the Kelly mythology into the future. From here on, anyone investigating the Kelly story with an open mind will have the facts and the evidence and convincing logic to guide them. Deciding between the whole of the historical evidence and a fable that came into existence 60 years after Ned Kellys death will be a no-brainer!

    Great stuff Stuart!

  24. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Dee, yes it is a book in the final stage of publication, so I reckon about mid-year for release. It reviews every piece of historical evidence that has ever been raised by anyone in relation to the Kelly republic, including every published oral history claim, along with a stack of contrary historical evidence that has been either accidentally or deliberately overlooked. OK, I might have missed a couple, as might anyone, but certainly everything ever published in support of the theory has been addressed. Like the Fitzpatrick article it does not put up an argument, it just puts up the evidence and the old fantasies melt away by themselves under compelling historical contradiction. I am not going to try and present any more bits of it in blog posts. It needs to be read as a whole as it is very complex and built on hundreds of source references. But it is a straightforward read in plain English, and will be distributed as a free open-access download. (So no refunds!) Anyway, we will see what the critics say when it is out.

  25. Anonymous says: Reply

    Stuart you are again missing the whole point of the republic idea.
    How can you possibly claim there was “no oral tradition of a Kelly republic until the 1940’s”?, especially when the Kelly family, the Irish settlers and sympathisers prior to this time were advocates for Home Rule in Ireland. The Kelly republic is really another term for the Irish struggle for independence, the Kellys like many were looking for their leader.
    You need to go back in your time machine and interview some of the real people from this era, instead of playing around with abstract academic conclusions based on post modern interpretations of Trove articles.

  26. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Anonymous, I have looked at all the things you mentioned. You will just have to wait until the book comes out before trying to guess what it says from a few blog posts.

  27. Anonymous where is your evidence of the "Kelly family" being advocates for Irish Home Rule?

    Apart from Red, who was transported, the Kellys and Quinns all LEFT Ireland – could have written 'deserted Ireland' – and came to Victoria in search of something else.

    In any case by renaming it 'the Irish struggle for independence' youre claiming it was something altogether different from what McQuilton and Jones et al were proposing. So, effectively what you've done is destroy the Republic idea before Stuart has even had a chance to do it himself!

    Well done old chap!

  28. Anonymous says: Reply

    I was actually referring my comment to Stuart, but since you have stirred the pot with your interjection, let me say – I didn’t realise you were such an expert on Irish Republicanism Dee.
    I guess like many who have left their homeland shores, they may still light a candle for their homeland causes.
    You are assuming also that I’m and “Old Chap”
    How rude…….!

  29. Well of course, they may indeed have been advocates for Home Rule back in Ireland – that was your claim. I asked what your evidence for it was, and your answer was a guess? My guess was that they weren't all that interested in Home Rule because they had left it. Apologies if you are neither old nor a chap. But I think youre clutching at straws to suggest an interest in Irish Home Rule is the same thing as Ian Jones theory that Kellys plans were about a Republic of NE Victoria.

  30. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    On the Irish and Home Rule, see Doug Morrissey, "Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life", pages 152 to 156.

Leave a Reply