I’ve just visited a Kelly Facebook page where they have had a very brief discussion about an undated essay by John McQuilton : Ned Kelly and the curious case of Susan Scott. There’s a few likes and the obligatory attacks on me, but apart from the suggestion that Mrs Scott had ‘a little thing’ for Ned Kelly, the article goes through to the keeper with nothing but furious agreement with its claims about Mrs Scott. Its the classic echo-chamber response: “a good read” says one and “ a very good and well balanced article” says another.
They think Mrs Scotts positive words about Ned Kelly should be taken seriously.
They think her judgements have weight because of her middle-class status, her position in society as the wife of a bank manager and mother of seven. They think that no matter how many wise judges, commentators, writers thinkers and just plain everyday people think that Ned Kelly was a murderous and hatful criminal, the fact that Mrs Scott liked him shows they’re all wrong.
I would like to offer an alternative view about that article and about Mrs Scott, though it is really just an elaboration of the suggestion made on that FB page that Mrs Scott “had a little thing” for Ned Kelly. My thoughts are not directed at the inhabitants of the echo-chamber but to anyone outside it who might have had even a fleeting doubt about John McQuiltons or his supporters’ opinions of Mrs Scotts behaviour.
McQuiltons article recounts the response of Mrs Susy Scott to being held up at gunpoint when the Kelly Gang robbed the Bank at Euroa in December 1878. Suzy Scott was the wife of the Bank Manager. He bravely refused to give Ned Kelly the keys to the safe, saying “You have come here to take what you wanted not have it given to you, and I will not give to anyone what has been entrusted to my care”
Peter Fitzsimons describes Ned Kellys response this way:
“Ned is sure Scott will think again once his wife and seven children are involved and announces he will go and get them from the house next door”
Scott objects until Steve Hart points two loaded and cocked revolvers at his temples, and he is marched across to his residence, where Mrs Scott and her mother and her children were about to take the baby for a walk. Her son George bursts into tears asking “Are we all to be shot?” and her nanny screams and faints twice. At gunpoint Mr Scott still refuses to hand over the keys but Mrs Scott ignores his stonewalling, finds them and hands them over, an act Peter Fitzsimons says was motivated by a desire to ‘put the safety of her children all else’. Mrs Scott says the nanny is ‘a silly woman’, and to Ned Kelly “You are not that bloodthirsty villain you have been represented to be”
The gang now helps itself to the contents of the safe, and once that’s done forces the whole household into a buggy and drives them out of town to prevent them from raising the alarm. They are all taken to the Faithfulls Creek Station where Joe Byrne has been guarding the imprisoned Station staff. Eventually, the Gang rides off after taking Scotts watch and warning their 37 prisoners not to leave for three hours, Ned Kelly having told the most senior man there, Mr Macauley that if anyone does leave early, Kelly will hold Macauley personally responsible and ‘then you may consider yourself a dead man’
Kelly sympathisers and writers like Jones and Fitzsimons hail this robbery as a marvel of criminal perfection, and make much of the trick horse-riding and the fact that nobody was hurt, that the Gang charmed everyone it encountered, and the hostages were given food and drink. But nobody should overlook the fact that the robbery was accompanied by constant threats of violence and the brandishing of loaded guns, but even more importantly, and undoubtedly still fresh in the minds of every hostage was the chilling fact that barely six weeks earlier, at nearby Stringybark Creek this same Gang had slaughtered three policemen. Why would any rational person do anything other than exactly what the Gang demanded, especially once it was apparent their intention was only to rob the bank? Why would anyone risk their life defending someone else’s money?
These facts are no doubt what prompted John McQuilton to describe the interactions between Ned Kelly and Mrs Scott as ‘curious’, not that assisting the robbers by locating the key to the Bank safe was especially ‘curious’ – it makes sense in the context of her alleged desire to protect her family from harm, as do her reported remarks to Ned Kelly when he first arrived that he was not the “bloodthirsty villain he had been represented to be”.
However what does seem a little curious is that when advised she was about to be taken away as a hostage along with the rest of the family, Mrs Scott retired to her room to change into something quite extravagant and glamorous, a newly purchased French dress set off with a large hat covered with flowers and tulle, and a pair of long white gloves.
In fact, what Mrs Scott eventually revealed was that her willingness to assist Ned Kelly, her flattery of him, and her decision to dress-to-impress arose from a state of mind akin to some sort of infatuation with the tall dark handsome bushranger, that left her over-awed and breathless in his presence. It was not all done to simply protect her family because if that’s all it was, after it was all over she wouldn’t have written the following in Ned Kellys defence:
“There was a great deal of personality about Ned Kelly and he knew how to control men and circumstances. His management of the Euroa affair was good, and he seemed to consider everything and he knew exactly what to do for the best. He would have made a magnificent General and would have done much better as a soldier than a bushranger. He was a good son and I believe a good brother.”
What happened was that she was completely bowled over by Ned Kellys appearance and his charm, his way with words, his bravado and his bold personality, which of course was precisely what Kelly intended to happen, applying the skill he had been bewitching people with for years to a bored middle-class housewife. As a result, Susy Scott’s judgement and her moral compass was so completely disorientated that she happily humiliated her own brave husband by co-operating with the Gang and flirting with Ned Kelly; her thought processes and reasoning were so scrambled that she ignored the direct threats Kelly made that she and her children might be harmed if Kelly didn’t get what he wanted, she forgot about the wives and children of Kennedy and Lonigan , newly made widows thanks to the violence of the ‘personality’ in front of her, and she ignored what no doubt she would have later heard about the violent threats made to various individuals out at the Station. What did she think of Ned Kellys boastful display to his hostages at the Station of the gold watch he stole off Kennedy after murdering him? What did she think of Ned Kelly shoving his loaded revolver into the mouth of someone who dared defy him when he first arrived? Were these the expressions of the ‘personality’ she seemed to have such regard for?
The fact is Ned Kellys ‘personality’ was the typical shallow manipulative and uncaring charm of a psychopath and Mrs Scott fell for it hook line and sinker. Kelly made a complete fool of Mrs Scott, flattering her to get what he wanted from her with a smile, the same day he had threated harm to her husband and children, and stuffed a loaded gun into an innocent old man’s mouth.
The curious case of Mrs Scott and Ned Kelly is an almost text book example of the power that psychopaths can have over vulnerable people. For McQuilton to suggest that it says something positive about Mrs Scott or about Ned Kelly is to completely misread the situation, as is evidenced by his last and most ridiculous sentence : “She was inclined thereafter to compare rude people unfavourably with her ‘Mr Kelly’.”
“Rude people” are worse than a flattering mass murderer, liar, robber and violent thug?
Really Mrs Scott?
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