Exactly one hundred and forty years ago today three policemen were murdered at work by the Kelly Gang in a violent outrage of monstrous brutality. Of Sergeant Michael Kennedys death alone, the Report of the Royal Commission into the outbreak declared “It was cruel, wanton and inhuman, and should of itself, apart from other crimes, brand the name of his murderer, the leader of the gang, with infamy”
Kennedys death was the third killing that day, and Ned Kelly was later hanged for the first of them, the murder of Constable Thomas Lonigan. Most people know that Lonigan was the policeman who attempted to subdue Ned Kelly when he was violently resisting arrest one year earlier, by applying the ‘squirrel grip’ to his testicles. But how many know that in 1878, when he was murdered by Ned Kelly, he was a married man with four children, the eldest of whom was a ten year old daughter called Emily? How many knew he was raised a Catholic in Ireland but became a Protestant so he could marry the love of his life, Charlotte Siggins?
As with every other event in the Kelly story, the facts about Stringybark Creek have been buried under a mountain of lies and obfuscation made up originally by Ned Kelly, and believed and elaborated on by his gullible supporters ever since, lies and deception and cover-up, without which it would be impossible for any rational human being to believe that Kelly was a hero and an admirable human being.
Take the murder of Lonigan. Ned Kelly said in the Jerilderie letter that after he called on Lonigan and McIntyre to bail up, “Lonigan ran some six or seven yards to a battery of logs…and put his head up to take aim when I shot him that instant or he would have shot me”
This statement of Ned Kellys is an outright lie. It’s a fabrication. It’s false, not true, a porky, its bullshit – whatever you want to call it, the facts are indisputable – Ned Kellys description is wrong and he knew it. His version was a self-serving lie. What we know, from analysis of the wounds, and the fact that what Kelly fired at Lonigan wasn’t a single bullet but a charge of projectiles – swan drops or perhaps a quartered bullet – is that Lonigan was killed within a few seconds of the order to bail up, that he was out in the open, that he didn’t have time to get his gun out let alone run to a battery of logs and hide behind it, and he was brought down by a cluster of projectiles that hit him all at once, in the left arm, the left leg, the head and the right eye. Kelly fans claim their hero Ned Kelly was an awesome crack shot but never admit that what he killed Lonigan with was a spray of bullets all fired at once.
The Lawless documentary last year demonstrated this horror in graphic detail, which is why the pro-Kelly Facebook warriors denounce the documentary. Several years ago one of them announced he had worked out what happened to Lonigan – but then went silent and we are still waiting for his explanation. He can’t find one that lets Kelly off the hook so he is hoping his boasting will be forgotten about. ‘Fraid not!
Here’s a another of Ned Kellys lies about Stringybark Creek, from the Jerilderie Letter : “Had they been my own brothers I could not help shooting them or else let them shoot me which they would have done had their bullets been directed as they intended them” We know this idea that he had no choice but to kill is a lie because Ned Kelly chased after Sergeant Kennedy as he was running AWAY, and shooting back as he fled. Instead of letting him escape, Kelly, heavily armed, ran him down and murdered him. It’s an undeniable fact. Sympathisers claim that covering his bullet riddled body with a cloak was a sign of respect shows how out of touch they are with ordinary standards of human decency, and of the depraved way in which criminal minds function. In similar vein to his apparently ‘polite’ treatment of captive women, these displays are designed to mock and humiliate his victims. If he had any respect for the man he would never have shot him in the first place. Its also an undeniable fact that a couple of years later he was planning the greatest mass killing of police in all history – the outrage at Glenrowan. He went to Stringybark creek with an intention to provoke a confrontation that would give him an excuse to kill police – and he went to Glenrowan to kill police – no doubt about it – but this time he didn’t even bother trying to manufacture an excuse. The reality is that the Kelly sympathisers are all in very deep denial about the horrors of Stringybark Creek and what they reveal about their ‘hero’ Ned Kelly. At SBC he was not only revealed as a merciless killer but as a desperate liar.
Sympathisers engage in a sickening annual pilgrimage on the anniversary of Kellys death to the Gaol where their hero was hanged and leave flowers and cards expressing their grief. But will they leave flowers at Stringybark Creek today for his innocent victims? Not at all! What they will do instead is continue what Ned Kelly started – a campaign that is nothing more than a smoke screen, that began with attacks and vilification and lies about the murdered police. They are accused of being corrupt lazy mercenaries out to kill the Kellys for rewards they might have got from squatters. Leo Kennedys recent book explodes that nasty smear. He also debunks the nonsense about the police being in disguise, by providing something Kelly sympathisers wouldn’t be interested in hearing – FACTS! That’s why so many of them are refusing even to read his book!
The Kelly myth-makers misrepresent the SBC murders with the preposterous claim that it was a fair fight – but never explain how four armed men confronting two police, only one of whom was armed could be called “fair”. As Leo Kennedy mentioned in his recent book, most police had never fired a gun in anger – but the Kelly Gang had been practicing for this encounter for weeks beforehand, using trees near their hideout as targets. Everybody knows this.
One of the academic apologists of recent times, John McQuilton can be seen on a 2003 You Tube video “Outlawed” pronouncing that the police came to Stringybark Creek “heavily armed with Martini-Henry rifles”. McQuilton then shows a pack-horse weighed down with equipment that includes at least FOUR of these rifles – but this is an utterly false claim, it’s a lie – the four police had ONE rifle, and it was a Spencer carbine, not a Martini-Henry. These FACTS have been known for 140 years so how on earth can McQuilton justify making such inaccurate statements? The Police also had a shotgun borrowed from a Mansfield Vicar – and that is the sum total between the four of them of the arms they took with them in addition to their service 6 shooter revolvers. “Heavily armed”? – no way! The irony of course, never mentioned by the Kelly apologists is that by the time Scanlan and Kennedy returned to the police Camp it was the gang who was very heavily armed, and the two police had a single rifle and two revolvers between them. The Gang were prepared to risk more deaths to get hold of them.
McQuilton adds another myth to the story with a claim invented in the 20thcentury that the police took ‘body straps’ – which he also shows loaded onto the horse. These straps, said to be the equivalent of modern day ‘body bags’ were NEVER mentioned by anyone anywhere until Ian Jones wrote about them in his book ‘The Fatal Friendship’. Its claimed these ‘straps’ are a kind of smoking gun that gives away what the police really intended to do with the Kelly Gang – kill them! If true, this would have been vital evidence in Kellys later trial – but as I say, nobody ever anywhere at any time in the nineteenth century EVER mentioned them. However, it WAS a well-known fact that the Police had HANDCUFFS with them – demonstrating unequivocally their hope was to be arresting living suspects and bringing them to Court. But which Kelly sympathiser ever bothered mentioning that?
And what of the claim that the Police didn’t have warrants with them? Pro-Kelly people think this means the police were acting illegally – along with being in disguise – but there are the FACTS : there was no requirement then, and there is no requirement now, and there never has been a requirement that police have the warrant in their hand to show a suspect before they can be arrested. The ‘warrants’ issue is a red herring, a furfy, completely irrelevant!
There is also the claim made by Ned Kelly and supposedly supported by the now discredited body straps theory – that the Police party intended to shoot the Kellys on sight. “I heard that the police used to be blowing that they would not ask me to stand they would shoot me first and then cry ‘surrender’” This is just another part of the Kelly disinformation smoke screen – it’s based on the claim by a Kelly relative, Pat Quinn about something that he claims Sargent Strahan said, and which was then passed back along the line to Ned Kelly. It’s a highly dubious claim, it certainly was NOT police policy, it certainly was NOT the practice of any of the police in the north east to go about murdering criminals, Strahan wasn’t in the party who camped at SBC, and the police who WERE in that party were led by a policeman with a very good reputation as an honest hardworking dedicated Cop. There is nothing in this slanderous story of police planning to murder the Kellys to suggest it isn’t just another one of the many self-serving lies that Ned Kelly told about SBC.
So there it is – strip away all the red herrings and the smoke screens and the lies and disinformation and what is left – a merciless mass killing by a notorious liar – the elephant in the room that nobody in the Kelly world wants to talk about. They will talk about – and do talk about – absolutely everything else – but not this horrible event, the main event of the kelly story, the elephant in the room. It’s the fact that when confronted directly and honestly and in possession of all the facts, makes support for Ned Kelly as some kind of hero and an icon impossible for any reasonable, right thinking human being.
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