McQuiltons Case for Kelly Clan Persecution is Collapsing

Make no mistake: the MOST important finding made by the 1881 Royal Commission into the Kelly Outbreak, was that it did NOT result from police harassment and persecution of the Kelly clan. This finding is the opposite of what Ned Kelly and his supporters have always claimed, it exposes Ned Kelly as a liar and identifies him as just another criminal, who like criminals have always done, tried to blame the police and the authorities for the mess he made of his life. Never-the-less, despite that finding, in the minds of a small number of people Ned Kelly remains a hero, and the obvious question is ‘How come?’

One reason is that for obvious reasons readers simply haven’t been told of this finding : they’ve been kept in the dark by Kelly writers pretending it was never made. They’ve been told of other findings made by the Royal Commission, findings that fit with the Kelly supporters preferred story, but with one exception they’ve kept very quiet about the biggest one of them all, the finding that exposed Ned Kelly as a liar and just another criminal.   The exception was Professor John McQuilton – he attempted to make a case in support of Ned Kellys claim – that he was a police made criminal – in Chapter Four of his landmark 1979 book The Kelly Outbreak. 

Last week I pointed out that McQuilton based his argument on what happened the very first time a Kelly clan member was arrested and charged with stock theft. The only thing we actually know about this case is that in 1856, sixteen-year-old Jimmy Quinn was arrested and charged with stock theft, and subsequently acquitted. McQuilton claimed this case showed how encouragement from Squatter rewards resulted in Police picking on the clan, and the acquittal proved police didn’t have a case. But actually, when you think about it, if police were motivated by Squatter rewards and were corrupt, wouldn’t you expect them to have engineered a conviction rather than discharge, so they could collect the reward on offer?  Acquittal actually undermines McQuiltons argument, but he wrote that it was ‘difficult to over-estimate the importance of this arrest’.

In any event,  given we know nothing at all of the detail of  this case, McQuiltons claims are pure speculation – it would be equally as valid to claim this case showed that the Police were compassionate in their dealing with the young thief, that this wasn’t persecution but the actions of a Court system that was trying to avoid sending such young men to prison in the hope leniency would encourage respect for the law, and a life of crime avoided. But in fact, none of us has any idea of what happened or why, and speculation in any direction is pointless. McQuiltons first point is void.

I also showed last week that McQuilton attempted to bolster his interpretation with a completely misleading reference to the Royal Commission. The evidence he used came from 1868, long after the Outbreak of criminality in the north-east had become firmly established. His second point is therefore also void.


McQuilton next writes: “The next arrest of a clan member did not come until 1860 and attention shifted to the eldest son John(Jack) Quinn. Again, the charge was stock theft and it failed in court. The police stepped up their campaign, making nineteen arrests between 1860 and 1865. Twelve of the charges were dismissed by local benches. The repeated failure to obtain a conviction indicated either an incredible incompetence on the part of the police or, as oral tradition held, an overzealous attention paid to the wrong suspects.”

This really is a remarkable statement, because firstly, on the basis of a case about which we know nothing McQuilton claims to have identified a police ‘campaign’, and that it was ‘stepped up’! Why does the bare fact of making nineteen arrests in five years imply a ‘campaign’ by the Police? Couldn’t nineteen arrests in five years also just as plausibly mean that the police were responding to a campaign of increased criminality by law breakers in the north-east?

The huge problem with McQuiltons argument is that once again its not based on an analysis of the actual case, of details regarding the reasons Jack was arrested or why he was discharged. Instead, he performs a kind of crude statistical analysis on the list of charges and conviction supplied in Appendix 10 of the Report of the Royal Commission, adds up the columns and declares the only possible explanation for a conviction rate of 37% (7 of 19 charges) is either “incredible incompetence” or “attention paid to the wrong suspects” – in other words police persecution and harassment of the Kelly clan.

I hate to be the person to point this out to everyone but as an academic argument that is worse than dreadful, and its lazy. The idea that a particular conviction rate by itself, with no other data, can usefully inform a debate about Police competence and culture is unsustainable. A simple example that illustrates this obvious fact is the very low conviction rate for sex crimes in modern jurisdictions. According to one study of the US, Australia, Canada, England, Wales and Scotland, for example, only 7% of cases resulted in a conviction for the original offence charged, and only 13% led to a conviction of any sexual offence.

What would McQuilton say 13% conviction rates suggest?  Stupendous police incompetence or huge numbers of innocent people being falsely accused in a campaign of police harassment? Or perhaps he might concede that the statistic reflects how difficult it can sometimes be to legally convict, and is an indicator of scrupulous adherence to the principle of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? The point is that by itself, a conviction rate tells us very little – the Royal Commissions table reveals nothing about the underlying processes and provides no support for McQuilton’s claim that it indicates police incompetence or the harassment of innocent victims. The same statistic could be used to support a view that the courts were being lenient on criminals, or that intimidation of witnesses, and perjury were successfully enabling criminals to avoid convictions, but without detail, who would know? McQuiltons argument again fails spectacularly.

What’s needed, if we’re really interested in finding out the truth are facts about the individual cases so a proper analysis can be done, and while much evidence is lost, there is still a great deal which when looked at closely, shines a very different light on those statistics.


So let’s now look at the second charge mentioned by McQuilton, the 1860 charge of stock theft by Jack Quinn : ‘Again, the charge was stock theft and it failed in court’writes McQuilton. John, aka ‘Jack’ Quinn was twice charged with stock theft in 1860, in the following year he was charged with robbery under arms, and in 1879 he also was charged with being a Kelly sympathiser.(RC Appendix 10) He was discharged without conviction every time, which in the eyes of some might indicate police harassment – charges laid without enough evidence to make them stick.

However, the story of Jacks first acquittal is a revealing one. What’s different about this case, compared to the 1956 acquittal of Jimmy Quinn is that the record hasn’t disappeared, and reviewing the detail of this case provides compelling evidence that McQuiltons statistically based explanation for acquittals being due to either police incompetence or harassment is completely wrong. In his defence perhaps I should concede that he may not have had the access that we are so lucky to have today, to all the old reports. Maybe if he did have the same access, his conclusions would have been different.

What happened was this: a neighbour of the Quinn’s, James Cameron reported two mares, two foals and a horse were missing. Jack Quinn and a man named Wilson were charged with selling them to a man named Butler, a man with a previous conviction for horse stealing. The transaction took place at a pub, the Little River Hotel, on the other side of Melbourne near Geelong. (Age 1-5-60 p6)

In Court one of the witnesses, John Keogh, the ‘gatekeeper at the Little River Railway Station’ told how he wrote out a receipt for the sale of horses from a Mr McDonald to Mr Butler ‘to oblige Mr McShane’ the publican in whose premises the deal was made. The receipt was exhibited in Court and Keogh said that Wilson ‘signed his name McDonald’.

However, the two witnesses could not swear in Court that the ‘prisoners’, Wilson and Quinn, were definitely the two men they had seen a couple of months before. They didn’t know them and only saw them on that day at the Little River Hotel. Quinn’s defence then produced a string of witnesses to say that Quinn couldn’t possibly have been in the pub at Little River that day because he was working with them on a farm, eighty or so miles away at Wallan, reaping and carting oats. All of the witnesses, as well as the supposed buyer Butler, were employees of Jacks father, James Quinn Snr, and it was on his farm they all claimed to have been working the day of the sale at the Little River Hotel. One of the witnesses was a brother-in-law, Robert Miller and another of them was George Porter, the same man who was later involved in a brutal attack with Jacks brother Jimmy on William Skelton, an attack that left Skelton permanently disabled. None of these people could be said to be unbiased or independent – indeed, given that their livelihood depended on wages paid to them by Jacks father, a serious conflict of interest is glaringly obvious. I wonder if these days such conflicted witnesses would have any credibility in a court?

In the end, as ‘the bench did not consider there was sufficient evidence against them’ they were all discharged.  (Age15-5-60)

This case is instructive because it depicts the very opposite of what would be expected if the McQuilton and Kelly narrative of police corruption and persecution were true. There was certainly an actual crime committed, but it had nothing to do with police – it was a dispute between one neighbour and another. And somehow the horses ended up being sold on the other side of Melbourne. Jack Quinn was acquitted on the evidence of family members and employees of his father, one of whom (Butler) was already a convicted horse thief and another (Porter) apparently, a violent thug. These unsavoury men were friends and associates of Jack Quinn. All the police needed to do to get a conviction, if that was what they had been corruptly intent on doing, would have been to ‘encourage’ their witness to swear for certain that Jack was definitely the man in the Pub. Instead, the court accepted the testimony of highly suspect defence witnesses, and the inability of prosecution witnesses to be absolutely certain about the identity of the two suspects. The charges were dismissed, not because there was no evidence but because there was ‘insufficient evidence’ against the two accused. The record documents scrupulous adherence to principles of justice and the rule of law. For Jack Quinn it was a close-run thing. This case, after close examination doesn’t just provides zero support for McQuiltons and Kellys assertion of police persecution, its actually powerful testimony to the exact opposite.

This example is also remarkable for another reason : it reveals that one of the methods used by Ned Kelly to dispose of stolen horses when he was a ‘retail and wholesale’ stock thief many years later , was in use in 1860, and quite probably by Ned Kellys uncle Jack. The method involved creating an impression in a stranger that a legitimate transaction was being conducted between a seller and a buyer and that a signature was needed from an independent witness.  The stranger, in this case Keogh, whom they met that day in the Little River Hotel, some eighty miles from Wallan where the suspects lived, wouldn’t have known that the ‘seller’ and the ‘buyer’ were partners in crime and the transaction was fake, but the documentation signed by the witness would then enable the stock to be disposed of in a legitimate sale elsewhere, and converted into cash for the thieves. The giveaway in this case was that no money was exchanged. Keogh reported that the two criminals engaged in what must have been a mock argument about when and how the payment was to be made, to allay any suspicions that might be aroused.

So what is happening to McQuiltons case for police harassment and Kelly persecution? What is happening is the same thing that happened when the Commissioners went looking for it in 1881 :  when you look closely at the actual evidence, at the facts and the historical record, the evidence thats supposed to support the claim that the Outbreak was caused by police harassment and persecution turns out not to support it at all and the myth evaporates into thin air. But its just not another Kelly Myth that’s disappeared – its the most important one of them all, and once that ones gone the whole myth collapses. 

(Visited 511 times)

19 Replies to “McQuiltons Case for Kelly Clan Persecution is Collapsing”

  1. Hi David, there is a giveaway on page 70 of McQuilton’s often very useful book, where he says that “Jimmy Quinn, the wildest of the Quinn sons, held a bitter, almost unbalanced, grudge against the [police] force during his long criminal career”. To say that slowly again, a man with a long criminal career held a bitter and almost unbalanced grudge against the police. So who’s side is the author on? The side of the rural victims of the criminal’s long career? Or the side of the man with the long criminal career? It is pretty obvious that in making that statement, the author no longer stands for the protection of the community against men with long criminal careers, regardless of whether the man held any grudges against the police or not. Can we then say that the author has abandoned the rural community to the mercy of the man with the long criminal career? Not necessarily, as McQuilton says at the top of that page that while “the police were on firmer ground with their assessment of the Quinn clan … an oral tradition holding the opposite view has remained a powerful part of the Kelly story”.

    This means that your headline claim, that “McQuilton’s Case for Kelly Clan Persecution Collapses”, is premature. Before that claim can be validated, it will be necessary to examine all the evidence McQuilton put forward in this section, not just some of it. The above analysis of the 1860 case is solid, as you have given the background story and source reference (the Age and page number) for fact checking. Each of his examples on the next couple of pages would need the same examination before your conclusion become solid. At present, you would doubtless agree with McQuilton’s statement on page 74 that “by the 1870s, many of [the Quinn clan’s] members were actively involved in regional borrowing and theft”. What is important is that his list of examples “was the basis for Ned Kelly’s claim that the police had persecuted his family”.

    So as I see it, McQuilton has made a fairly complex and compact argument in a couple of pages, as he often does, and it requires a very close and detailed examination of all his points and references before it can be rejected. But you are off to a good start here, as I don’t think anyone has gone through this with a fine tooth comb previously. The Court List appendix in Graham Jones’ book, “Ned Kelly: the Larriikin Years”, is a very comprehensive list of Kelly clan scrapes, in case you haven’t seen it. Perhaps you may find that not all the examples can be as easily unpicked… Or you might find that they can…. It’s wait and see on my part, as I am busy for now on a non-Kelly project. Maybe some other people can come up with something on this, as it is too early to conclude that the case falls because two of several examples fall. They each need objective examination.

    1. Sorry Stuart Ive been pretty busy this week so after reading your Comment I changed the title of this Post as you will have seen, but haven’t had an opportunity to do much more till now!

      I have wondered though if I really do need to destroy every single argument that might be dragged in to support the Persecution myth? By analogy, to bring down an old building its only necessary to blow up the foundations – and the rest crashes down automatically.

      The important part of the persecution claim , as I see it, is to be able to show unwarranted harassment that precedes any actual criminal behaviour – because that’s Kellys claim, that he wouldn’t have been a criminal but for ‘bad treatment’ by the police.

      Episodes such as Halls bashing Kellys head to a pulp when arresting him for possession of a stolen horse are deplorable and inexcusable but are not a cause of Kellys criminality but a result of it.

      1. Hi David, I just saw this now, and agree that “is collapsing” is better that “has collapsed” PROVIDED that the case is actually collapsing rather than just a couple of pillars being shaken, which was my larger point. I am going to be difficult and say that I think “is collapsing” is also a bit premature when only a coupe of the bits of McQuilton’s case for persecution have been examined here. I remember that you did some posts on the same theme ages ago, about the lack of early childhood persecution of something, but while that may be relevant, it is not part of the McQuilton argument.

        So the whole argument about whether the Kellys were persecuted or not is a very large argument, of which the McQuilton points are only one part. To reject that argument in full means not only examining and rejecting all the points McQuilton raised in its favour, with his claimed historical proof, but also reviewing the related arguments by others, examining all the source evidence they used to argue their case, and seeing if it stands up to scrutiny or if it was selectively or wrongly used, or is contradicted by other and more credible sources. There would probably be several months work in doing that systematically, and I am not going there!

        On the other hand as you say, IF the persecution argument is that “unwarranted harassment that precedes any actual criminal behaviour – because that’s Kellys claim, that he wouldn’t have been a criminal but for ‘bad treatment’ by the police”, then that argument is made by people wanting to claim across the board that unreasonable or wrongful persecution preceded harassment practically all the time. I don’t know if Ian Jones went that far, for example, as he holds Ned Kelly responsible for stealing a horse to return for the reward as early as when he was still a boy in Avenel (in the Short Life book).

        But if someone did claim that, then the onus is on them to provide examples and evidence to support that claim enough that it becomes substantial. From what I have seen, no-one has done that very well, but undocumented generalisations abound. The case could go either way at this point, although I think it leans towards the failure of anyone to conclusively demonstrate a persecution case, given that several examples often claimed to show persecution don’t.

        The best thing about McQuilton’s approach to history is that he systematically collects and presents the evidence for each argument that he makes. So if he is addressing the persecution claim, for example, you can be fairly sure that anything related to it is probably cited by him. That makes it possible to review likely every significant point that has been put forward about that issue, and to review the claim accordingly. Maybe there is something in it, o maybe the evidence has been to some extent interpreted from a particular direction which may not stand p to scrutiny when the original sources are reviewed.

        So for example his collection of evidence for a selector army at Glenrowan, when the sources were re-examined, showed that only one armed man not with the police party was seen by anyone at any point during the entire Glenrowan siege. The selector army theory was pure fantasy built from selective quotation and erroneous source documents, such as actually wrong newspaper reports. so it fell apart under re-examination, as unsupportable. Doing that took a couple of months work, just to go through all the source material on that section, plus the related evidence, and what others had said, and then their source evidence (or creative interpretations).

        A similar amount of effort might be needed before it is possible to answer the persecution question one way or the other. At this point there seems to be enough doubts and little holes in the persecution theory to make it likely that more holes will emerge, and that the persecution theory will turn out to be a convenient historical fabrication with no substance. But it is too early to say that, and I for one don’t have time to look at it. Plus, I’m not sure if it’s worth the time – the holes that are there so far make it look like a statement of the obvious, that no systematic persecution took place, just as the Royal Commission held. They were there then, after all, and were keen to find faults with the police. People who say we will never know because we weren’t there, overlook that a lot of people were there and they left a lot of documentation. So before anyone takes up any view of historical events, they need to be willing to do a bit of research. It’s not that hard – everything is in English and most of it is free, on Trove or in the VPRO or State Library..

        1. A couple of points : In these posts I am specifically deconstructing McQultons argument that the Clan was persecuted. I am not trying to deconstruct ALL arguments, just his, mainly because he is regard as an authority on the Kelly story, and his word counts for much, in the eyes of many.

          Having said that, as I alluded to in one off my earlier posts, almost NOBODY else actually attempts to make the case, to demonstrate from the record itself, that the Commission was wrong to claim that the Outbreak was not actually a result of persecution. Jones for example simply dismisses that. finding, saying there are many example in the RC minutes that prove it. But he doesn’t list any of these examples and nobody else that I am aware of so far, other than McQuilton does actually attempt to list them or develop the case. All anyone ever does it seems, is repeat the assertion made by Ned Kelly. Often enough, about the only other thing they do is to quote Nicolson as proof that there was a police policy of harassment, but they always neglect to mention that this statement was made in 1877 by which time Kelly clan criminality was well under way. Nicolsons statement was a RESPONSE to Kelly clan criminality not a cause.

          1. Hi David, thanks for clarifying that; I was thinking broader than that the focus was just on McQuilton’s claim re persecution, despite the headline. But that’s fair enough, to tackle one specific authority and show why that authority may be wrong, or very wrong. And given your second point, that “nobody else that I am aware of so far, other than McQuilton does actually attempt to list them or develop the case”, that suggests that McQuilton may well be the only authority that has done that. In that case, the argument can be self-contained and complete, unless or until someone raises any additional evidence-based points against it. So that means, from what has gone before, that if all McQuilton’s examples in those few pages fail both independently and collectively to provide an evidenced basis for the persecution claim, then the claim fails. But I still think the standard of proof means reviewing all the examples he gave in those pages to show why they don’t work, not just some of them. Unless of course you have between here and possibly other posts done this, in which case you might reasonably restore the first draft heading of “has collapsed”…

            But I’m not sure if all his examples on this point have been addressed or not yet, in these recent posts or others. If you can systematically list them at some point, e.g. his 6 or 7 claims, or whatever, that would make it much easier to see how close the case is for regarding the persecution theory in this book to be dismissed, and on what evidence. The advantage of that listing process is that any other claims for persecution could be easily checked against the list, and effortlessly dismissed if they are not accompanied by any extra evidence not already considered by McQuilton. Of course, it is your blog, and you can tackle things any way you like; all I am suggesting is that a systematic review and demolition of the persecution theory is starting to look feasible if it is correct that no-one else has collected all the evidence that relates to the persecution claim. As far as I know, that would be a new and unique myth-buster that no-one has done before. I don’t know everything, of course! But it is an interesting investigation.

          2. I think you’re misreading McQuilton, David.

            He doesn’t use the word persecution anywhere.

            What he is clearly doing is establishing the argument that the Outbreak had an overriding geo-social dimension. The books subtitle is: “The Geographical Dimension of Social Banditry” after all. He is suggesting that the Quinn clan , including the Kellys, and later the wider community, came to think of themselves as picked on. That perception, McQuilton is suggesting, was one element, along with the more significant Selector-Squatter conflict over land, that led to the widespread barracking for the Kellys – and contributed to the emergence of the “800” individuals that the Ovens and Murray Advrtiser estimated were sympathetic to Kelly in the North East.

            He clearly acknowledges the “telling list” of the charges and convictions brought against the Quinn clan. He says of the Quinns: “In retrospect , for a clan of hereditary criminals for whom honesty was “well nigh impossible”, it had simply been a matter of time before the worst of them came to murder.” In other words the criminality of the clan was an important contributor to the Outbreak.

            However, he points out that the Royal Commission found that element “inadequate” in explaining the Outbreak – which supports McQuilton’s argument that other factors are in play as well.

            The twelve out of nineteen charges against the Quinns dismissed by the courts in five years, doesn’t look good from the outside, you must admit, but “incredible incompetence” might be a bit harsh – convictions were difficult to achieve. But that failure to get convictions certainly gave the Clan “evidence” that the police were being over-zealous, as McQuilton says.

            McQuilton evidence of Hall’s attempt to murder 16 year old Kelly as an example of police behaviour getting out of hand is strong, however. (It’s surprising that his pistol-whipping of the restrained young man seems to be written of most – not the attempted shooting). Hall’s report, written oddly in the third person, advises his superiors that: “Hall then pulled out his revolver called on Kelly to stand when he immediately turned round to show fright and in reply to Hall said Shoot and be damned. Hall then presented the revolver straight at his face and snapped it three times and each time the hammer hitting the cartridge but it would not go off…” Hall later pistol whipped a restrained Kelly, about which you have expressed your concern. The Police authorities took no action against Hall for this extraordinarily violent behaviour, and the event clearly cemented the idea in locals’ minds that the police had an ‘set’ against the Kellys. Hall had been immediately bailed up in the police station by a wild mob and needed to be rescued by police reinforcements. Thereafter, as McQuilton explains, he was too afraid to go on bush duty, and was removed from the Greta station.

            McQuilton is principally concerned with the support Selectors gave the Outbreak, a support bedded in the conflict between Selector and Squatter and a perception that the Police were too close to the Squatter. Hall’s behaviour was extreme, and not a reflection of many police interactions with the Clan, but it certainly gave the Kellys evidence of harassment, a view eventually taken up by a wider selector audience.

            Incidentally, it is intriguing that Hall’s attempt to murder Kelly, and the Police failure to censure Hall, is never discussed as possibly contributing to Kelly’s own behaviour at Stringybark.

          3. Hi Perc, the core of your note seems to be that McQuilton’s thesis was “that the Outbreak had an overriding geo-social dimension”. in which “the Quinn clan , including the Kellys, and later the wider community, came to think of themselves as picked on. That perception, McQuilton is suggesting, was one element, along with the more significant Selector-Squatter conflict over land, that led to the widespread barracking for the Kellys – and contributed to the emergence of the “800” individuals that the Ovens and Murray Advertiser estimated were sympathetic to Kelly in the North East.”

            The two key points in that paragraph are that there were some 800 sympathisers according to the O&M, and that squatter-selector conflict was the core of the outbreak. Both these points are wrong.

            The O&M of 14 Decemnber 1878 page 4 clearly says 300 “friends” iof the outlaws, not 800. Peter FitzSimons (or one of his researchers) mis-read it too, in his Kelly book. I have attached a screen shot of the bit where that appears. The numeral 3 in 300 is different from the number 8. Please see the close-up attached. I will attach a second screenshot from the same page of the paper showing the differences in the number shapes. That figure of 300 friends of teh outlaws is the biggest number in any source; I discussed this in my Republic Myth book.

            Second, McQuilton did as you say, back in 1979 when his book was published, argue that the Kelly outbreak was rooted in antagonism bertween squatters and selectors (p. 146). He too thought to see a large number of sympathisers around the north-east, writing p. 148, “For the majority of the regions’ selectors sympathy was expressed passively”. Again, he has no more evidence for large numbers of selectors than the material he presents for the few pages from 146 onwards. There’s nothing there: 300 is the max.

            Doug Morrissey reviewd McQuilton’s thesis as paret of his own thesis slightly afterwards, and demosntrated that no such selector-squatter conflict was raging at then time of the Kelly outbreak: the selector-squatter conflict had been resolved some 10 years earlier, in favour of the selectors. McQuilton’s main class struggle point was built on a situation that as Morrissey showed had ceased to exist. He covered the general grounds of this in his second book, Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves, puiblished only a couple of years ago but lacking the detailed source referencing that he has in his thesis. Morrissey’s work blew McQuilton’s squatter-selector class conflict and social banditry theory as applied to the Kelly outbreak out of the water back in 1987 when his PhD was awarded. Unfortunately most of Kellyland has never caught up.

            In fairness to McQuilton his Kelly Outbreak was a reasonable experiment in applying both class struggle theory – fashionable in the 1970s (and afterwards too) and a model of overseas social banditry theory which never mentioned Australia, NE Vic where it was not suited. It was a PhD experiment that ticked the scholarly boxes – planty of research and an enthusiastic application of social theories to test them against a Victorian regional example – but as I argued in my Republic Myth book, it doesn’t work.

            Please see the next post for the O&M typsetting number comparison.


          4. Following on about the number of sympathisers reported in the O&M, 14 December 1878, page 4, here from the same page, using the same typeface, are the cricket scores with multiple instances of the number 3 and the number 8. My close-up screenshot shows the differences.

            The number 3 has little rounded tails that end before the central bar of the number 3. The number 8 tapers on each side as it joins the figure in the centre of the numeral.

            The O&M clearly reads 300 sympathisers – “friends of the outlaws” – not 80. Can everyone please abandon the 800 myth. It is based on misreading whether accidental or wilful. It is clearly wrong.


  2. David,


    I mentioned in my book that there a many missing Kelly gang official records. Perhaps the most important of these is Ellen Kelly’s land file. In it she might have explained some substantial things. Who knows?

    Regarding your blog though: All the court exhibits in the Baumgarten horses receiving case are missing. That’s the one where Ned Kelly (as Mr Thompson) was shown to be the bloke selling the stolen horses to the Baumgarten brothers (although one of the two on trial was exonerated by the jury).

    Those stolen horses had been stolen again from police paddocks, and most if not all were later found mutilated, with brands removed in or around the Murray River near Barnawartha. This was destruction of evidence on a disgusting scale. Eleven such horses were found. The only beneficiaries of this cruel mistreatment were the Kelly gang and to a lesser degree the Baumgartens.

    Cases like these showed the extreme difficulties police faced in solving them.

    The Kellys never faced charges relating to the Baumgarten case, but Dan and Ned had been indicted. All this was was superceded by the police murders at Stringybark Creek.

    Like all Aussies, I am sickened by the mistreatment of horses.

    I feed three each night.

    Ian MacFarlane

  3. David,
    Sorry to hear you are still being abused on that Facebook hatepage. You managed to get those Drongos (stupid or incompetent people) silenced by Facebook. They are exceptionally slow learners who never engage with what you write. Pathetically they only denounce you. As you have pointed out so often, they play the man not the ball. Luckily, that inept buffoon Fitzy is only a part-timer nowadays.

    I hope he is trying to raise funds for Christchurch victims…

    Ian MacFarlane

  4. On Jack Peterson’s site, on 21 May, Bob Mc Garrigle wrote: I agree with what you have written Jack. I think someone knows where this document [Ned’s NE Victoria republic declaration] is and like the JL and Cameron letters will one day be released for all to see.
    Obviously Ian MacFarlane couldn’t find it but then again there was a lot he couldn’t find,when others could.

    Bob, name one single document I couldn’t find that “others could”. Just one.

    The Age’s former journo Mr Radic withdrew his claim of ever having seen such a document.

    Bob, there is a large series of police records (from a slightly later period) that has not been archivally described yet. Sometimes original earlier records, if referred up the line, end up in later records. This document described by Jack doesn’t exist. If it did the Police Royal Commission would have highlighted it

    Bob, you could always offer to act as a volunteer to work through the hundreds of boxes of records involved.

    In the meantime, fess up the records I couldn’t find but others could.

    Ian MacFarlane

  5. Funny how everyone seriously believed for nearly 60 years that film critic Leonard Radic had seem a PRINTED COPY of a republic declaration document in London in 1961/2, as he had told Ian Jones, who repeated the tale ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and ad BS. And yes, Mr Radic withdrew his claim around 2013. Are we now are asked to believe that a mystery printer printed one only copy of a document that ended up in London, while no other copy was ever seen or even mentioned in Australia by anyone? Especially now that Mr Radic withdrew his claim? LMAO. No mention of any declaration was ever made anywhere until Max Brown imaginatively created it from two different newspaper items, neither of which said anything at all about a declaration document. The claim is entirely fictional. I showed in detail how the myth was created, including the source references, in my brilliant book, “Never mind the BS, here’s Ned Kelly and the myth of a republic of North-Eastern Victoria”, available free since 2018. It is best enjoyed with a glass of red and early Santana playing in the background. Santana/Miles Live goes particularly well.

    I have since heard, however, that if you draw a set of lines from the cave of the Ark of the Covenant, to the top of Cheops’ Pyramid, to the centre of the Bermuda Triangle, to the third statue on Easter Island, to the south pole and return, one of the lines passes straight through the site of the Benalla Police Station and up through Greta. Walk seven miles from the pub as the crow flies, then seven hundred and seventy-seven paces left, and you will find a rotted hollow stump. Buried under the tap root is a sealed glass beer bottle. Wink, LMAOA.

    Cheer up sleepy Jean
    Oh, what can it mean to a
    Daydream believer and a
    Homecoming queen?

    1. Len Radic was a theatre critic not a film critic. But the rest of the first paragraph makes sense.

  6. Reply to Perc :

    Perc you say that in this Post of mine about McQuiltons collapsing case for Kelly clan persecution I’ve misread McQuilton who, you write “doesn’t use the word ‘persecution’ anywhere”.

    Well actually he DOES use the word ‘persecution’, and if you had read the previous Post of mine about McQuiltons position you would have seen the quote from page 69 of the book that includes it. He mentions it as an alternative to pure criminality as the reason for the Outbreak, an explanation which the Commission said was inadequate – as you mentioned yourself. And yes, as you acknowledge criminality was indeed a major contributor to the outbreak. But the Commission didn’t say the other contributor was police persecution – in fact they said they found no evidence for it. The rest of the explanation for the Outbreak was attributed by the commission to mostly organisational problems within the police force itself.

    Never-the-less McQuilton persists in trying to make the case that there was a campaign of police harassment that contributed to the Outbreak as asserted by Kelly and his sympathisers ever since. 

    As for the mention of Halls treatment of Ned Kelly, deplorable as it was, it was not an act of unprovoked harassment and persecution and cannot possibly be used as evidence of causation because Ned Kelly already had a criminal record by then, as did many others of his clan. This arrest resulted in Kellys conviction for feloniously receiving and a three-year gaol sentence. But in this discussion of Halls behaviour towards Ned Kelly, why is there never mention of the fact that Kelly had recently served time for a violent assault, and his uncle Pat Quinn almost killed Hall a few months earlier by smashing his head in with a stirrup iron? The behaviour of Hall is inexcusable but it needs to be seen in the context of Kellys reputation as violent, and having nearly been killed by one of his relatives. 

This is why all the arguments trying to substantiate Kellys claim that he was a police-made criminal fail: they cite behaviours which did not precede Kelly criminality but followed it, which is the opposite of what one should be demonstrating if you wanted to justify Kellys claim.

    1. You’re right David, McQuilton does use the word persecution, as I discovered soon after posting my comment. I apologise. I think what I was getting at was that McQuilton seems to me to be emphasising the fact that the Quinn Clan saw themselves as victims of police attention, rather than him hammering the police as persecutors line. He gives examples of instances where police behaviour gave them an excuse to feel that way.

      I agree also that police on the ground in Greta were poorly served by Police Command, and had an extremely challenging task at times. The Commission pointed to the inappropriateness of some of the staffing decisions made, and a number of the police sent to Greta look like they were out of their depth – Hall for one, and Fitzpatrick for another. Given his record in Eldorado you’d wonder why Hall was appointed to Greta at all. Other police commented on the ineffectiveness of the old RIC ‘disciplinarian’ approach which Hall seemed most at home with and which Police headquarters in Melbourne seemed to endorse.

      McQuilton goes far easier on Hall than he could have, I think. He only quotes Hall’s report in part. I don’t know whether the Commission read it, but it would seem to challenge their confidence that police behaviour didn’t contribute in some way to the Outbreak.

      McQuilton doesn’t include the fact that Hall in filing his report of the incident to Barclay, specifically requests that it be forwarded to Melbourne as evidence of his keeping his promise, made to Hare and Nicholson “on the way to McBean’s” that “he would not let Ned Kelly run long”. Presumably he must have accompanied them when they visited Kilfeera earlier. It isn’t clear whether the promise was requested or volunteered. Either way it seems Hall was sure that his report, with all its very specific detail of attempted murder and brutal assault would be met with approval by Hare and Nicholson.

      Hall even doubles down on his admission of attempting to shoot Kelly in the face explaining that he can’t understand why the pistol misfired three times because he had checked it before leaving the station.

      The report seems to me to be obsequious in tone when read in the light of his request that Hare and Nicholson read it. Hall seems to believe that he has acted exactly as they expected.

      I agree that there’s no doubt that Kelly was well down the criminal road before Hall attempted to kill him. Hare, Nicholson and Hall didn’t create the criminal but the incident is likely to have convinced Kelly – a sixteen year old, physically adult perhaps, but still a kid, – that a policeman with a gun was a present danger, and we’ll never know if that played out in the initial confrontation at Stringybark. The impact of the incident on many in the Greta community was believably “electric” as McQuilton says. That no action was taken against Hall by the Police, and the fact that he was rewarded for the arrest must have confirmed in some minds that the Police had a set against the Kellys.

      I don’t suppose this in itself amounts to a campaign of police harrassment, but it seems to me to be food for thought.

      1. I understand what youre getting at, that certain police actions could have been regarded by the Quinn clan, or Kelly himself as persecution or harassment. But I am not disputing that perception of theirs – the question was not about what they claimed or perceived but how accurate was their perception, whether or not in fact there was such a campaign, which is what Mc Quilton was trying to establish in those chapters.

        If you read all my posts in that series about him you will see he doesn’t succeed, arguing from a dubious statistical analysis, misquoting the RC and getting the timeline of criminal actions and police responses round the wrong way. I haven’t argued the police were exemplary in all their actions, but lapses like Halls were the exception not the rule, and don’t represent police policy.

        Incidentally, what do you make of the fact that Kelly apparently turned back at Hall and dared him to shoot? Stupid teenage bravado obviously, to invite an armed angry policeman to shoot at you, and still not a reason for Hall to do so but Ned Kelly certainly was behaving in an extremely provocative, violent and loutish manner. Nothing he ever did had the flavour of any kind of commitment to an ethical standpoint you might hope to see in a proto-revolutionary. It was all foolish grandiosity and immature emotional outburst.

        1. Hi David,

          I can accept that McQuilton, as you suggest, may have overstated the case in seeing a campaign by the Police against the Quinn Clan. But as you’ve also said, we don’t know the details. Perhaps the nineteen charges in six years were all reasonable charges to be brought, perhaps the Police were pushing too hard. What is obvious, and it is really the point, is that the Quinn Clan and the Police were going head-to head, both involved in their respective “campaigns’’, and that was the world that Kelly grew up in.

          If you read McQuilton’s summation of his argument in the Conclusion to his book, you’ll see that he makes no substantive mention of the police. In querying the significance of the Irish element in the Outbreak. He mentions very briefly that Kelly in the Jerilderie Letter drew parallels between the Victoria Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary. McQuilton’s takes a much broader view of the factors contributing to the phenomenon of the support for Kelly during the Outbreak.

          Nevertheless, as the first to quote Hall’s report corroborating Kelly’s version of the arrest in Greta, he offers a pertinent example of why the Kellys could claim undue police attention. While it may not have been a stated police policy to hound Kelly, as you point out, Hall himself draws an unsettling link between Hare, Nicholson, McBean, and his own unfortunate behaviour. He quite happily indicates that he was prepared to kill 16 year old Kelly, and he clearly believes that his behaviour would be endorsed. Which in effect it was, by their failure to censure him. Hall later takes another three shots at a fleeing Isiah Wright. All this must surely have contributed to Kelly’s view, and others’, that the Clan was treated unfairly.

          I reckon its a bit extreme to emphasise Kelly’s “stupid teenage bravado“ for the episode. That sounds a lot like the “look what you made me do” argument. If you put Kelly’s and Hall’s reports together, allowing that they are both bragging, you get a very clear idea of what happened. Hall calls on Kelly to sign some non-existent documents. Kelly doesn’t believe him and moves to ride off. Hall makes a grab for him, calling out as he does that Kelly is under arrested for horse stealing (Kelly says he didn’t announce this until later), tears off his clothes and pulls him off his horse, clutching at his “flesh”. Kelly either chases the horse or runs away. Hall pulls out his revolver and calls on him to stand. Kelly does so, and turns to “show fright”, whatever that means. (Hall, perhaps for his superiors’ benefit, was suggesting that Kelly was shocked by Hall’s determination, otherwise it doesn’t make sense, given what follows). Hall has his revolver pointed. The teenager, probably feeling embarrassed. humiliated – standing in the street with half his clothes missing, maybe scared too, puts on a tough act, trying to save some face by indicating contempt for Hall’s behaviour. Hall fires three times at his face, and Kelly realizes that if the revolver fires on the next chamber he will probably be dead, so grabs for the gun.

          Hall’s bullying and his brutality don’t justify any of Kelly’s subsequent behaviour, as you’d agree. But in my view they certainly contribute to an explanation of his later behaviour, and the many consequent tragedies which were yet to occur.

  7. Reply to Stuart

    Well done, Stuart. Thank you for that careful research. 300, not 800, it is. And that sounds a bit more reasonable, actually. Its still a substantial number, though, isn’t it? But I wonder how ever they arrived at it, and who they chose. There seem to me to be different groups of “supporters” – the angry young men, the older family and friends many of whom had lived through the Irish Famine, a broader group of sympathisers who did a little, or nothing, but who would never help the police and finally a group of local bystanders who seem to have romanticised the outlaws even in the months after Stringybark. Not that any would really have gone to war for a Republic.

    I can’t see that McQuilton is “wrong” – you sound like a mathematician at heart, Stuart. McQuilton acknowledges that Selectors and Squatters eventually learned to live with each other, and that the Selection Acts better met the Selectors needs as they were revised. The examples he gives of Selector-Squatter conflict are still evident throughout the 1870s and it seems to me reasonable that the disputations over land were an underlying factor in the support for the Kellys during the Outbreak. (I don’t think he is saying it caused the Outbreak, is he?) Throughout the 1870s Squatters are still enthusiastically impounding Selectors’ stock (and easing up dramatically during the Outbreak), still excising land from selections, and their sheep still eat out Selectors’ crops, the evidence of dummying and peacocking are still there, Squatters are still the magistrates, and still exert considerable influence in local affairs. Otherwise respectable Selectors still steal bullocks from Squatters’ huge herds. And the list goes on. The idea that Selectors were “winning” in the 1870s is a real stretch – by 1900, maybe. In retrospect you can see that things in the 1870s were better than in the 1860s, as Selectors slowly came to understand the challenge, but few could confidently have predicted that they were assured of success. And the closest support for Kelly seems to have come from the families of the Selectors of the 1860s – who were battling then , and still battling in the 1870s.

  8. Hi Perc, McQuilton says (p. 146) that in his view “The Outbreak was rooted in antagonisms between squatters and selectors; its trigger cause was the arrest and jailing of Mrs Kelly which has stemnmed from the squatter-inspred crackdown on duffing anf horse theft in 1877”. So yes, it is a class struggle view of the cause of the outbreak fitting wjhat I would describe as a Marxist approach to history. You can see that again in the Marxist/ socialist approach of JJ Kenneally and Max Brown. You can see it maybe most spectacularly in “The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests”, (1981) by classical historian G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, 730 pages of magnificently written nonsense – but that never kept a keen academic down.

    Back to Kelly. When you say that “it seems to me reasonable that the disputations over land were an underlying factor in the support for the Kellys during the Outbreak”, this to me joins up two totally separate observations: first, that there were disputations over land between squatters and selectors, and second, that these disputations led to support for the Kellys during the outbreak.

    There is plenty of evidence that tensions over land were a concern of some of those in and close to the Kelly clan. But these had little or nothing to do with squatters vs selectors in 1877 onwards, and a lot to do with the blacklist of selectors seeking to hold land in outlying areas with known clusters of criminals, initiated in conjunction with the police and Lands Department. Blacklisting is highlighted by Ian Jones as a source of tension, but it had nothing to do with support for the Kellys. It was targeted against criminal clusters wherether of not those clusters had anything to do with the Kellys. The blacklist (in PROV) has some Kelly supporters in it, but many names are unconnected in any way with them, and the list was about breaking criminal networks in the north east; the Kellys and friends are not the sole motivation for the list, but stock theives and other criminals who had settiled in remote areas, to curtail the spread of such settlement. It does highlight Mrs Kelly’s land along with a couple os other close associates, but this is again due to their being in a criminal cluster, not because of being “Kellys” as such. The sly grogging/ stock theft/ other crimes of the family and clan which were by then extensive.

    The second and separate point is that there was support for the Kellys during the outbreak centrally due to tensions over land. I don’t agree. As I posted somewhere on this blog, of those remanded as sympathisers, only a handful were selectors. Most were layabout thieves, criminals and casual workers who had brought attention to themselves by larrikin lifestyle or theft, or known support for the outlaws. They were not selectors or wannabe selectors in conflict with squatters, and most of the stock that was stolen was not stolen from squatters but from other small selectors and travelling bullockys etc. The class struggle thesis does not rate a pass in 2021. Nice try by several authors but.

    As to where the 300 figure came from, we have the police approximations of 77 families and of 100 heads of families (referenced somewhere in my Republic book re sympathisers), so the O&M’s guesstimate seems reasonable. What some moderns appear to think is that there were 300 (or 800, depending on misreading the O&M) families of sympathisers out there… No, not at all. Peter FitzSimons magically arrived at some 2000 sympathisers withn no evdence. No doubt lots of students will quote that in their essays as authoritative. And that’s how nonsense myths arise and perpetuate.

Leave a Reply