The Next Chapter will take courage

This Blog Post is Number 290 in the series that began five years ago, in May 2014, and I’ve been thinking about where to go from here. I’ve covered all the big issues, some of them more than once and from different perspectives, and though there’s an endless list of interesting debates still to be had about the Kelly story, now is as good a time as any to review the current state of play in the Kelly world, and think about what the future might hold for it.

 

The most obvious truth about the Kelly world at the moment is that it’s in serious decline.There’s no Beechworth Ned Kelly weekend anymore, no Ned Kelly Forum, no Ned Kelly Central on facebook, no new pro-Kelly books, no successful funding for pro-Kelly movies, no replacement for the leadership of Ian Jones, no sign of interest in any of the big projects suggested in the expensive report that was delivered to North east City councils last year aimed at reviving interest in Kelly tourism, and Joanne Griffiths got verbal support but none of the money she wanted from the local Council for her Kelly Center in Glenrowan. She managed to persuade someone to pay an enormous amount for a single historical photo, but at the present rate of contribution, her latest Go Fund Me campaign will take over 60 years to reach its goal of $150,000.

 

However its not all doom and gloom : the Greta Heritage weekend seminar titled  ‘The Armour : the myths, the facts’ earlier this year was by all accounts a great success and over $5000 was raised. And Aidan Phelans Bushranger Facebook page and Blog seem to be thriving. How come?

 

These observations suggest to me that even in the North east, people have finally had enough of the myths and conspiracy theories about Ned Kelly being some sort of hero, and what people want is authentic history and the facts. They aren’t going to support the old outmoded and disproven theories about the Outbreak but are still fascinated by it and want to learn the truth. They’ve probably seen enough of the bullying and vilification, the ignorance and the police hate that emanates from Kelly sympathiser circles and want to move on. Everyone who isn’t a blind fanatic and who has bothered to read any of the new scholarship about the Kelly story, or read my Blog knows Ned Kelly wasn’t a hero or role model for Australia or an icon but a singular criminal, that the Kelly outbreak was a fascinating chapter in the colonial history of Victoria, and for people interested in history and crime and bushranging there’s a rich lode of absorbing stories and characters and places to explore. And that is what they want to hear about and what they are willing to support. So they packed out the Greta Heritage talk about the armour, and stayed away from the Chiltern seminar that featured noted Kelly conspiracy theorists repeating myths about Fitzpatrick and a republic. And Heritage Victoria rewrote the storyboards at Stringybark creek in favour of the murdered police.

 

 

So this is my proposal for anyone who is interested in Kelly history going forward : forget the Kelly myths and concentrate on the historical realities, the things we know are true about the  Outbreak and talk about them instead. Talk about the entire bushranging phenomenon and include Ned Kelly as one of its chapters. Accept that the man was a criminal just like Morgan and Gardner and Hall and many others were, each with their own unique stories and journeys. And drop all the ridiculous myths, the vilification of police and the unwarranted claims about Kelly being a justice warrior, a hard done by hard working honest selector and a victim – these ideas are myths. The facts of the Outbreak are intensely fascinating just as they are, and bringing them all together without an obvious overlay of hero-worship would enable balance and objectivity to replace the extremist factions which seem to be battling to the death over Kelly history at present.

 

As an example of what you could achieve, do what I did and visit the Mob Museum in Las Vegas next time you’re over that way. This museum is all about American crime gangs and is totally absorbing : watch the video and imagine something similar dedicated to Australian Bushranging!

 

So this is my proposal : Instead of a partisan Kelly Centre why not have a Bushrangers Centre on neutral ground in Benalla modelled on the Mob Museum? Then all interested parties could have a say, and even the myths could have a place in the story. There could be displays and video and artefacts covering everything from Harry Power to Stringybark Creek, Capital punishment, the Chinese , the Law and the railroad and innumerable things in between. So Matt Shore, Joanne, Mark, Dave, Aidan, Steve, Bill, Ian, Doug – all you people with an interest in the story who never talk to each other – which one of you could try to make this happen?

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48 Replies to “The Next Chapter will take courage”

  1. The difference is that the US mobs were large organised crime and racketeering organisations with an extended impact on American society spanning decades. The Australian bushrangers were mostly small isolated groups of convict escapees or roving bandits or lads gone bad that pulled a bank robbery or stagecoach robbery here or there, stuck up road travellers and traders, enjoyed little widespread support despite the myths, and had little influence on anything after their individual destruction. There is nothing much to build a museum about. Even the main Ned Kelly tales have been and are being exposed by several authors as largely invented myth based on extraordinarily weak historical scholarship and seriously wacky interpretations that make a mockery of any pretence to fact-based cultural tourism.

    Once you take away the Fitzpatrick incident (his testimony can mostly be objectively corroborated, as my “Redeeming Fitzpatrick” article showed), the Kelly republic myth – total bunkum – and the strange idea that anything heroic rather than desperate happened at Glenrowan, there isn’t much left to distinguish the Kelly story from any of several dozen petty crime and stock thief gangs of the same period.

    A book on the life of Detective Michael Ward, who went undercover in several attempts to catch the gang, paralleling the book on the life of Detective John Christie in a later decade, would offer at least as much interest as anything about the Kelly gang’s comings and goings. In fact, the attraction in most crime stories and films is far more the story of how the bad guys got caught, the counterpoint to their criminal activities. Most crime fiction is really just telling good and evil morality tales. All that made the Kelly gang and Ned Kelly in particular stand out in popular memory was the armour, followed by a lot of post-1930s romantic fantasy.

    I don’t agree that there are no new pro-Kelly books. Most books about Kelly that come out at all levels continue to be pro-Kelly, especially notable in junior fiction, but also the ooh-ah tourist publications. Hardly anyone is interested in critical scholarship on Kelly that is not pro-Kelly. That’s why new books keep popping up that are pro-Kelly. The authors don’t actually do any critical historical research, partly because most of them don’t have the time, skills or interest, but more importantly because until the last few years practically every non-fiction book about Kelly acknowledges Ian Jones’ direct personal input in its acknowledgement pages. We have had one man’s particular perspective and interpretive narrative recycled through multiple authors for over 50 years. If you accept and write within that general framework, you can’t by definition look far beyond it. It becomes a discourse or conversation that never leaves that same general perspective, and the song remains the same. Historically incorrect in numerous places, but rarely questioned and never challenged as a whole. So before building more museums to a false version of history, how about getting the history right? The way it was seen in its own day? That would be something.

    There are still interesting, valid and worthwhile historical things to be learned about and from the Kelly saga, but they have nothing to do with endlessly retelling the story. For example, although I wasn’t going to bother with it, I discovered that the story of the 1878 Outlawry Act is actually quite interesting. But apart from the fact that it was a response to the Stringybark Creek killings, it can be told with practically no other reference to the Kelly gang at all. They were the cause of it being enacted, obviously, but they are totally irrelevant to understanding where it came from and how it worked as a piece of legislation. The Kelly gang themselves barely get a mention in that context. This sort of thing is where rich and significant historical discoveries can still be made, not twaddling away about the same old tired unhistorical story we’ve had pretty much unchanged since the 1970s. What do you think?

    1. Yes Stuart I agree the Australian bushranger is not as grand and as pernicious a story as was that of the Gangsters in the USA , but even so it was a notable part of colonial history and is still of very great interest to a lot of Australians. I do agree the story to be told abut all the participants would need to be the TRUE story and not the Jones/Kelly mythology, but even that could be included in the story – because it HAS been an important part of it and it DID have significant cultural effects throughout the country and on the way Australians think about themselves. There are fascinating uniquely Australian angles, dictated by the landscape and the colonial system…

      I also agree the Kelly story alone probably wouldn’t be enough – as evidenced by the serial failures to establish a NK Center in Glenrowan, but add in all the other bushrangers, all the other hanged men, a section on women criminals, squatters and selector battles, the prison hulks and so on, eventually expand it to the ‘underbelly’ stories, the other mass killers in Victoria and so on…

      And it would end the dumb Hero or Villain scam that has kept the mythology from being abandoned long ago. Its a device that the Vault still uses and Joanne Griffiths is planning to use in her Center, saying she will be telling the story f rom both sides – like we think Al Capones version of the Valentines Day massacre could be a credible vision of the truth?

  2. Ok, this is super spooky! I had JUST done a post over at the new really swinging Ned facebook group that falls right into line with what you are suggesting, Dee/David! You could have knocked me over with a feather when I then came over here and saw your suggestion about Benalla and a bushranger museum! (By the way, I am not referring to the NKS fb group as I was kicked out of there..this one is, as Monty Python would say, completely different) Anyway, I had been doing some research earlier tonight and posted about a proposal that was in the Age newspaper in 1997 for an Australian Bushranger National Hall of Fame to be built in Benalla. It was proposed as an “historical, educational, and tourist facility” that would show the history of the bushrangers and the police who chased them through “high tech animation, virtual reality, and archival films.” And it was to have a replica of Ann Jones’s Glenrowan Inn as the information centre! It was to have cost $12 million to build. But, alas, it did not get off the ground. In 2000 a local hotelier tried to reignite the campaign but it also failed. He said that the first time around it was “affected by the election of the Bracks Government and concerns about conservation of a remnant of box ironbark forest on the site.”

  3. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    The anonymous post above about the Bushranger National Hall of fame was by me, Sharon Hollingsworth. I must have hit submit before sticking my name on it! Been so long since I posted here I forgot the drill!

    1. Oh Sharon thanks for owning up! I was wondering what baby boomer it had come from, the clue being a love of Monty Python – which incidentally is getting a re-run on one of our TV stations at the moment! But good to have your contribution, though disappointing to learn my brilliant idea had already been thought of! But I think its still a good idea, and who knows maybe one day someone will make it happen .

      I am amazed to learn that the NKS kicked you out! What the hell is the matter with these people? But who is this new ‘ really swinging Ned Facebook Group’? Is it for refugees from the NKS?

  4. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Not sure I have “permission” to tell the name of the mystery group! Let’s just say it goes without saying that it is about Ned. Hmm…the RSN…Really Swinging Ned has a very nice ring to it (and, NO, not meaning swinging from the gallows!) Someone who was at NKS (again, don’t want to name names or reasons publicly) left and invited me to their group and I went along with some others from the NKS. Are we refugees? Well, it is a refuge! I had been posting at the NKS but starting putting all my energy into the new group to help build it up. One day I went to look in at the old group (NKS) and I was blocked from entering. I had been “let go” so to speak. Yet, they retained tons, and I mean tons, of other lurkers. I am all for turning lurkers loose but it was like I was personally singled out, or am I just paranoid? Oh, well! I may have chimed in again at some point if something tickled my fancy as I like to spread my knowledge and correct errors. Just wanted to make it abundantly clear to those who thought I had quit that it was not the case. I don’t know if others are still “dual citizens” or not. As for being really swinging, well, in a certain 30 day period at the start the number of NEW posts was over 800! For the same 30 day period, I saw a post saying that the total of new posts, comments/replies and LIKES/reactions on posts totaled up to over 10K!!!!!! Put that in your pipe and smoke it the heck up. 🙂 Of course some of that was not always full on detailed discussions and was photos and articles being shown etc. And that total was with only a small percentage of the members posting. So, it goes to show if you get the right mix of people involved things can sometimes go very well, though bumps in the road have been encountered and some of us have had to pull over to fix a flat or put some more water in our radiators! lol Now, in the ever-evolving never-ending soap opera that is “As the Kelly World Turns,” let the blow-back and drama begin! Always good for ratings! 🙂

  5. “The most obvious truth about the Kelly world at the moment is that it’s in serious decline.” Bwahahahaha check this out – sounds as big as a mosquito’s
    Looks like it’s heading for a tax deductible charity loss. Next year it might fit in a phone box with the One Harmonica Bush Band.

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  6. Hi Sharon, your comment that there was an old proposal for a Bushranger National Hall of Fame at Benalla plus David’s suggestion for a similar thing makes one ask, if there is any demand for such a thing, why not simply club together to buy the Kates Cottage museum at Glenrowan, and use that building for a Bushranger Museum? It has been offered for sale for a while now, and they are currently asking $520K + SAV, https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/business-for-sale/business-for-sale-kate-s-cottages-glenrowan-2014235216

    It is a huge space, and has the historically accurate replica Kelly house in the back yard. All these people clamouring for government funding or doing fundraisers for Ned Kelly developments are totally stupid. They could buy this place for far less than a cheap house in Melbourne, have a huge space with plenty of parking, do the full bushranger and Glenrowan thing, and make a commercial go of it. If they can’t do that at this price, they will never succeed at anything except as freeloaders on government handouts, in which case they don’t deserve anything. All those Ned Kelly Alive graspers wanting big handouts are total tossers. They could buy the whole museum for only 5 times what was blown on the consultancy study, then get on with running it and expand over time if they got the customer volume they need to make it viable. If I won Tatts I’d do it myself, and it would be a far better folk and bushranger museum than anything else in Victoria. And it would be historically accurate, unlike 90% of the crap that’s written about the Kelly gang, who don’t come out looking good, especially at Glenrowan (think attempted train derailment and mass murder). The fact is, it’s for sale cheap. Not a cent of government money needed. Stop looking for handouts, and just get on with it. Unless that’s not what the real game is, of course.

    1. Good idea Stuart. I think Mark Perry is the man for this : he wants to live there, he likes that Shop and the only place he ever wants to visit when he’s on holiday is Kelly Country.

      Imagine owning all this Kellyana Mark!

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  7. All this too

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  8. Noeleen Lloyd says: Reply

    Stuart

    I am not sure to whom or what you are referring when you say….

    ‘All these people clamouring for government funding or doing fundraisers for Ned Kelly developments are totally stupid.‘

    Just to be clear, and in an open, honest and transparent manner, the events conducted by the Greta Hansonville Hall Committee, including this years ‘The Armour’, raise funds for the ongoing upkeep and improvement of the Hall itself. This is clearly stated at every opportunity, and the amount of funds raised is announced. It is also announced what the funds have been and are intended to be used for. The past events have assisted with the purchase and installation of split system heating/cooling and ceiling fans. A massive project and one which would not have been possible without the assistance of both a Grant and continued fundraising.

    The Greta Hansonville Hall Committee is not fundraising for any type of Ned Kelly Development.

    The Hall needs not only upkeep, but significant repairs and modifications. We aim to be sustainable and viable for generations to come.

    These events are but one of the ways in which we are able raise funds.

    Oh, and it is a Community Based Organisation, there is no ‘hidden agenda’ to be had. Committee of Management and all that.

    Why don’t you put your name down on the list for next year’s event whilst there’s still a chance. New speakers, bi partisan, good discussion. A mix of local Historians and Academics.

    Ned and the Law – 22 February 2020.

    Noeleen Lloyd.

  9. Hi Noeleen, I wasn’t thinking at all of the Greta Hall restoration, which as far as I recall had nothing to do with the “Ned Kelly Alive graspers” I said I was talking about . Greta Hall is a totally different private restoration venture, not a developmental government fundraising grab, and well worth supporting. What I was criticising is the Wang council gleefully squandering over $120K of either ratepayers or taxpayers money on consultants for a report that had hands out in all directions for multi-millions in Kelly tourism funding, on the basis of what seemed to be highly questionable projected returns unsupported by any current actual tourism figures for any current Kelly attractions. So the money produced nothing but a report on how to spend more money. I support the Greta Hall restoration campaign, as that is practical private action. Also, if anyone knows anyone who knows how to get some stringybark bark pieces, I understand the roof of Kate’s Cottage could do with some for repairs. I gather it need permits or something, but someone might know about this.

    Ned Kelly and the Law sounds like an interesting topic, but it is unlikely that my recently written piece on the Outlawry Act will be out by then, and may not even be accepted for publication. I’m still waiting to hear back from a law journal. No rush, it has to go through a process, and if not there, then I’ll try somewhere else. It is about the history and workings of the Outlawry Act itself, not the gang that was the reason for its introduction. So it is a legal piece, not a Kelly piece – change of direction. If it is accepted but had not yet been published, I still couldn’t talk on it. I would have to wait until it is out. And then there would be not much point going somewhere to read it out!

    The other thing is that a lot of what is said about NK and the law is about his trial. People say that McIntyre gave different versions of sworn testimony at different times about what happened when Lonigan was shot at SBC. They say that he deliberately failed to mention at NK’s Melbourne that Lonigan started to run and reached for his gun, but that he had said these things in his first statement/s when he got back from SBC. Therefore , they say, he lied and/or perjured himself to ensure that NK was convicted of murder, and that this misrepresentation (or perjury) wrongly deprived NK of the defence of self-defence. People can read this in John Phillip’s book on The Trial of NK, and in Waller in Man and Myth, as I assume you already know. Then Ian Jones threw in the idea that Sadleir’s Recollections story about McIntyre’s testimony was actually the real true story, further demonstrating the extent of McIntyre’s perjury. What if Jones was wrong? What if Sadleir had remembered the story wrongly? Is there any evidence that this is so? Maybe; still under investigation.

  10. Noeleen Lloyd says: Reply

    Thank you for that reply Stuart.

    It’s always good to ensure that there are no cross purposes.

    As to the 22 February event, I was suggesting that you might like to attend as a guest. You should of course have any of your peer reviewed articles published prior to any presentations.

    There are plenty of themes down the track that you might like to present at… one never knows.

    Noeleen

    1. Thanks Noeleen, I can put it in the calendar, but don’t know what I might be doing that far ahead! I also know that the Kelly world is highly polarised and some have been extremely hostile and abusive to and about me as a result of my research, so no commitments at this stage. I do fully documented and comprehensive research into what look like historical problems that seem solvable, and often come to radically different conclusions from orthodoxies. If anyone doesn’t like the results that research produces, they are welcome to put forward other evidence that shows it’s wrong in whole or in part. The most significant investigation by far was the Fitzpatrick incident, where 140 years of nonsense was comprehensively examined and rejected. Nearly five years on, no-one has found anything wrong with it except for one wrong page number in a reference. The most annoying for many others was probably the republic myth busting investigation. But the republic theory was never part of many people’s interest in the Kelly story anyway, just a peculiar add-on that grew like Pinocchio’s nose until the carbuncle burst. But it still turns up in school books and the National Museum Australia’s “education” resources. What a joke our so called up to date educational institutions are; at least 20 years behind the times. of current scholarship in many areas of history. That’s one reason why the postmodernists get away with writing so much drivel; they are writing against ideas that no longer exist in many cases, or were obviously wrong when they did exist. Most postmodernists and poststructuralists are really just having a conversation with themselves, not with anything it the real world or with normal people. And they are working with ideas that emerged in 1960s and 1970s France, in a totally different intellectual (?) tradition that simply doesn’t work in English-based culture and language. We don’t have gendered nouns, for example. 20-30% of gender studies is taking about thing that haven’t existed socially in English structures since the early middle ages, if then, and linguistically not for at least 5 centuries. But that never stopped an academic with a poststructuralist research grant from talking crap.

      Anyway, I aim to address everything that has been said about a topic including checking every source reference that others have used, and also looking for further evidence for or against any point before making any conclusions. I can still be wrong or make mistakes, but I’m not pushing any particular line or angle when looking at something, unlike many who are trying to advance some preconceived outlook or perspective. Some people get upset when their existing views are disrupted or dismissed. Bad luck; look at the evidence and rethink it. I often change my mind several times about different points when I go and look at something. My early drafts on anything are typically full of mistakes and wrong guesses that get sorted out over time as it goes on. Such is life.

    2. Ned and the Law : sounds very interesting Noeleen. Do you have a list of the speakers and the format yet? I hope they wont all be Kelly sympathisers!

      1. Noeleen Lloyd says: Reply

        David, the list of speakers will be announced later in the year. As I have already stated, they will be a mix of Academic and Historian alike… and none of them claim to be Kelly or Police Sympathisers. Rather they claim to be interested in history and this story, and in providing information that can be verified, posing questions and allowing people to form questions and opinions.

        They haven’t been heard broadly, but all have some fascinating and insightful topics to speak on. I think people will be both interested and intrigued. They won’t be coming along to hear ‘the same old thing’. We aim to provide something unique and different- we want people to keep coming back. We want them to feel welcome and know that no matter where your loyalties are, or what you might think you do/do not know, there is always another point to be considered. No one is required to ‘pick a side’.

        We want people to ask questions. We want them to continue to chat over lunch and later dinner. It’s a conversation not an inquisition. All are welcome. I mean all.

        The format remains tried and true. Talks, questions, opportunity to meet the speakers and mingle with the other guests for conversation. Old fashioned hospitality for lunch and dinner.

        Guests will also know that the money they pay for tickets and any other fundraising activities goes directly towards the Hall. The results of the fundraising from previous years is visible. It is tangible.

        We are presenting history in a venue that has seen history. It’s about living history so it has a nice circular feel to it I believe.

        One last thing, when I present at various events I present as Noeleen, with no label attached. I will do so again, despite my family ancestry or sympathies.

  11. The problem is, apart from the armour suits, there is not anything of great interest to exhibit. Those photographs you posted above showing the inside of Kate’s Cottage Museum say it all. What I reckon someone should do is pay Keith McMenomy to update and republish his “Ned Kelly – The Authentic Illustrated History”. It is just such a great collection of historical information and all the more impressive given it was first published in 1984 (about the same time as Ian’s Jones’ “Short Life” work of fiction). What I really like about Keith’s work is that it presents the information without the myths. For the kind of money that has been talked about in the past for museums and the like, they could pay Keith to update his book and hand them out for free at the Tourist Information Centres! There was a chance once for a Kelly Centre at Glenrowan, but I think the infighting between the various groups has killed that idea for good.

    1. Hi Anonymous, I really like my second 2001 edition of KM’s book, but even in paperback it would be unrealistic to do as a giveaway due to glossy 4-colour printing, which needs good quality heavy paper. And you need a market to justify the printing – remember that the book ended up remaindered, i.e. the later pile of stock went to the dump-book shops and was sold off cheap. Unfortunately I missed out, and bought one for about $50 on eBay a few years ago. Making it available at cost would be great, but then you have the problem first, would he be prepared to spend the time updating, as a lot of small and some major revisions are needed (Fitzpatrick and the republic for two), and second, who would pay for his time and the printing only on a cost recovery basis.

      The only reason I put my republic book out as a free PDF was that no-one would run it as an article, as it was far too long for any history journals to even look at, and it was less than half the size of a paperback, which would look very thin on a shelf in a shop. So I could spend another couple of years bulking it up into a book while hoping for a publisher, or just accept that I don’t get paid for academic articles anyway, and just put it out there.

      There is one thing in KM’s book that someone must know the answer to. He quotes the “O’Loughlen letter” in chapter 10, a letter from Ned Kelly to Bryan O’Loughlen, from “a facsimile in the Burke Museum Beechworth”. That facsimile has vanished from the Burke Museum collection or storage. I contacted them a couple of years ago, trying to get a copy, and giving them the details from KM’s information. They could find nothing anywhere about it, or any record of having had it. Someone has either taken (stolen) it, or legitimately borrowed or been loaned it at some point. It needs to go back. Someone must know something about it. It’s only a facsimile so not of any monetary value. Spread the word, at it may surface and be returned so that everyone can see it.

  12. PS the reason it is important to try and find the O’Loughlen letter facsimile is that the original has vanished from wherever without Any trace or reference, and KM knew of no original location for it. No-one knows where the facsimile came from, so the only evidence for it ever existing is the facsimile itself. KM says that Max Brown quoted it in his Australian Son, so maybe Brown once saw it or saw a copy. Anyway, it is a disgrace that bits of history like this just vanish. Another pile of stuff that has vanished is the drawings presumably by Joe Byrne but maybe others as well, insulting Detective Ward and others, which were stolen from the public records office in the mid 20th century. Several authors have commented on stuff going missing from the Kelly files, at times after they were opened up to Kelly researchers. So conspiracy theories about them being destroyed by 19th century police are baloney. Unlike the mythical declaration of a republic fantasy BS, these were actual documents that existed and are possibly still out there somewhere. Someone must surely be able to help recover them and return them to PROV so everyone can see them. Also, I was once told by a keen Kelly enthusiast about some Kelly documents framed and on display in a hotel in Seymour. I went there and asked to see them, and was met with denials about any such thing ever being at the hotel. So either there is a lot of BS about documents, or people are hiding things, possibly stolen things, that really belong in a place like PROV.

    1. Stuart, you say PRO had the Byrne/Ward/etc. drawings and they were stolen in the mid-20th century? I had not heard this before… how did you find this and what is the evidence? Curious to know, cheers, Richard

      1. Hi Richard, it is mentioned in Ian MacFarlane’s book, “The Kelly Gang Unmasked”, and Judith Douthie’s book, “I was at the Kelly Gang Roundup”, also mentions that documents have gone missing from PROV, though I don’t think she mentioned the drawings in particular. I am sure I have seen other mentions of it in Kelly books, possibly there is a mention in Leo Kennedy’s “Black Snake” book, and I’m sure I saw something else about it in Doug Morrissey’s second book, “Selectors, Squatters, and Stock Thieves”. It seems that some enthusiasts have felt entitled to pilfer in the days before there was good record keeping and strict surveillance. Even now PROV file security is not as good as a it should be. What I want is for all the Kelly material – and a lot of other historical stuff – to be digitised and online, so that it can’t go missing, and anyone can access it free and easily. I guess it comes down to money and staff time. The same for the Victoria Police Museum document collection, as not everyone can get in there easily, and requesting to see a couple of documents takes months and takes lot of time waiting around when you get there, plus it’s hard to get permission to copy anything. It would make sense to allocate some staff time to scanning the most used material and putting it online, to cut down the need for future direct access to see it. But same problem, it costs money and staff time. But yes, the provocative drawings are mentioned somewhere in the Royal Commission, so they definitely existed. And now they don’t.

        1. Thanks Stuart. I’ve checked those sources and so far only see general references to the disappearance of documents from the PRO. MacFarlane is the most specific on pages 215-220, but although the drawings were once held by the police, I still don’t see anything that clearly states they were once with the PRO or its predecessor. Maybe I haven’t found the right reference yet… I’ll continue looking for it. Cheers.

          1. Hi Richard, in Ian Jones, “Short Life”, 2008 paperback, on p. 249 he talks about “caricatures and cartoons, … a drawing of a coffin and a piece of black crepe sent to Detective Ward”, His references for this are on p.
            453, second paragraph from the bottom, but they are just to the RC and Argus. A lot of people visit this blog, so hopefully someone can help with a reference to what happened to this stuff. Maybe try an email enquiry to the Victoria Police Museum in case they know anything.

  13. So Stuart…..is your ego willing to accept the possibility there is a mysterious document relating to the republic (be it a declaration, call to arms, whatever) which is missing?

    1. I daresay Stuart will have his own answer to your question but I have to ask why would there be a document relating to something that was never in existence in the first place? It would be like asking what happened to the declaration of independence document signed by Obi Wan Kenobi – he didn’t exist, so couldn’t have signed anything!

      I don’t like to be rude but Ian Jones Republic of north east Victoria only ever existed in his mind, and persists in the minds of people who won’t accept the evidence. Nothing to do with ego – all to do with logic, evidence, facts and the real world.

    2. Hi Anonymous, of course! It has nothing to do with my ego at all. I couldn’t care less. Even if such a document did turn up, most of what has been written about the republic myth, the alleged sympathiser army, the alleged return of Ned Kelly to the Glenrowan Inn around 5am to see Byrne shot then get back through police lines unseen, the alleged separatist Irish rebel influence which Doug Morrissey and others have shown didn’t exist in a close, cooperative rural community, the Glenrowan timeline, and all the other stuff demolished in my republic myth book stands up regardless. So even if an actual republic declaration document turned up tomorrow, at least 95% of the rest of my book would be completely unaffected, as it is critiquing the historical analysis on a whole bunch of related points that are shown up as complete rubbish. Always was, always will be, total drivel. But the facts are that no-one has mounted any critique at all of my republic debunking book. The only criticism I have seen anywhere so far was a recycled blog post written about 5 years before my book came out, and which I had used to track down the source references early in the research process, none of which stood up to scrutiny.

      If any actual document surfaced, I would of course love to see it; but it is like searching for the holy grail, to which it has been somewhat inappropriately compared by several Kelly enthusiasts. After the Monty Python film, such claims always remind me of the scene of the monks wandering through a village, reciting Latin, and banging themselves on the head with blocks. Immortal, invisible, god knows they’re wise?! Their brains are caulked up with cold pastry and lies…

      The point is, we can see how the declaration myth was constructed. We know that the guy who claimed to have seen a printed copy recanted (gasp!). We know from two separate researchers that the oral history source behind the sympathiser army fantasy was leg-pulling the Kelly enthusiasts. So given all that, the chances of someone pulling a declaration out of the hat are not looking good. Don’t tease me with these UFO and “Was god an astronaut?” stories, please. Put up or give up. We are doing history, not imaginative fantasy here. There is rationally no chance whatsoever of a document that never existed surfacing, so no need to think about it. It would be a giggle if it did, though!

      1. Your response speaks volumes Stuart. Good Lord.
        Radic didn’t recant at all. Radic did not say he never saw the document. Tom Lloyd Jr didn’t specifically state he was pulling anybody’s leg regarding the Republic. You have made those assumptions. Nobody can pull the document out of their backside…yet. But there is clearly a document which refers to a Republic. Radic was not the only person who claimed to have seen it. But you’d know that wouldn’t you? Whether it declares the Republic or merely refers to the idea of a Republic remains to be seen. Of course you may be proven right by its contents after all, which is just as exciting in many ways.

        You are correct to think there’s no trace of the document in Australia.

        1. Hi Anonymous, somewhere around 2013 Mr Radic said that no longer believed he had seen a declaration document back in London in 1961/2. It can’t get clearer than that. He stated that absolutely. He then started to speculate on what he might have seen, and thought that maybe he had seen something about a meeting, perhaps, maybe. But before we engage in unconfirmable speculations, we need to consider what he said back when he spoke to Ian Jones decades ago when he had good health and memory. He made several statements about what he believed he had seen in London, and also stated that he had paid little attention to it at the time. All of this is documented in my book. As a footnote says, I wrote to him about it in late 2016, I think it was, , but was told he was too ill to respond. Anyway, he no longer believed that he had seen a republic declaration in his gadabout days.

          Tom Lloyd is quoted in Leo Kennedy’s Black Snake as specifically stating that he had been pulling the Kelly researcher’s legs about the republic. So in both cases, I have stated what is in print and anyone can check. I have made no assumptions there, just presented checkable research.

          There was never any declaration or document that referred to a republic, only the 1900 Bulletin spoof article, which was a joke newspaper paragraph and seen as such at the time. That was picked up in the 1940s, wrongly taken seriously as a folk legend, and popularized by Bill “Believe it or Not” Beatty. I traced all this in my book. So no declaration, never was. Max Brown was a republican socialist of some sort. You can see how his political languaging changes through the various editions of his book, all of which I read for this project. He would have liked there to have been a declaration, and as you can see from the source material I quoted, he invented it. What was taken from Ned’s pocket was letters, not manifestos. Ned had not one political word to say to the press, with whom he had plenty of contact, between his capture and execution; nor in court, nor to any warders after sentencing. The whole republic thing is a twentieth-century fantasy without one single historical fact to support it. Nothing, nowhere. And no unrecanted oral history. And a batch of various sympathiser descendants who also regard the whole republic story as utter nonsense, at least one of whom is also in Leo’s book.

          At least we agree that there is no trace of any such document in Australia! How could there be, after all, when it never existed? There’s no trace of it anywhere else either, is my point. But as I said before, wouldn’t it be funny if something like that turned up? As Doug Morrissey pointed out in his “Lawless Life” chapter 9, A Bank Robbers’ Republic, from what we can see from an analysis of Ned’s letters it would be “a holocaust of revenge, the fantasy of a criminal megalomanic” (p. 158). Of course, that’s what Stalin was doing while Brown was fantasising about socialism in Australia (the Great Purge). Now, where were we with Mr Kelly’s republic? A Sadean nightmare.

    3. The other document that’s missing, that was also taken from Neds pocket when he was captured at Glenrowan , are the first known detailed plans for the Sydney Harbour bridge. What the hell has happened to them Anonymous?

      1. Not sure David. My source didn’t mention seeing the plans with the Republic document.

        1. Does that mean your source saw the REPUBLIC DOCUMENT!!!?
          Not the Eureka Stockade thing, or one of Lang’s speeches, or something from Raffaello Carbonara’s book, but the actual KELLY REPUBLIC THINGY?!!!
          I’m all atwitter…. Or I would be, if I had Twitter to tweet on…

  14. Bring on the Bushrangers museum I say, as long as it is objective.

    Who would do it? That’s the million dollar question.

    Ian MacFarlane

  15. Thanks Stuart, I’m posting at the bottom of the thread because I can’t do it after your comment. I agree it’s worth an enquiry to the Police Museum, absolutely. However, my original question was not about whether the drawings ever existed, but about your comment that they were stolen from the public records office in the mid 20th century. Do you know for sure that they were once in the archives? Are they listed in an index?

    Richard

    1. Hi Richard, I recall reading it somewhere ages ago, but can’t find anything to hand. Maybe just forget about what was supposed to be a helpful comment by me altogether, sorry about that. I might have mixed that recollection up with one of the comments about some other papers that went missing from PROV. I remember trying to follow up on the drawings question a few years ago but got nowhere. Just ignore me on that one.

    2. Anon: Why do you think the drawings were ever mentioned if not earlier listed and described?. Otherwise, how could Ian MacFarlane have known about them? Duh!

      Cam West

  16. Thanks again Stuart. It would be great if they ever came to light, but it seems very unlikely.

  17. Ian MacFarlane wrote (The Kelly Gang Unmasked, p. 218) It is perhaps fortunate for the Kelly legend today that so many documents and caricatures have not yet been traced or have
    disappeared. If the letters and drawings were as graphic as was described at the time — adorned with funereal crepe, pictures showing the gang shooting at police or sketches of coffins — maybe the fact they are ‘missing ’ is a lucky break for the sympathetic Kelly tradition.

    Cam West

  18. MacFarlane also wrote (on the same page) that “Today there are only two letters in public collections actually written by Ned Kelly. If there were others — and Superintendent Hare at the time said there were — the nation itself has been robbed. Theft of historical police records has occurred in the past. Successful prosecution for such thefts from public collections are exceedingly rare”.

    MacFarlane himself it seems, achieved one of those extremely rare successful prosecutions.

    His book is continuously valuable too. Oxford Uni Press underestimated its vast potential.

    Cam West

  19. These were the missing documents listed by Macfarlane in his index:

    missing documents 202, 218
    Baumgarten case court exhibits 218
    caricatures of outlaws shooting at police 215-18
    Glenrowan siege documents 218
    Lands file for Ellen Kelly’s Eleven Mile Creek selection noted as missing in 1980 219
    letters from Joe Byrne and Ned Kelly 215
    most original letters of the ‘Diseased Stock Agent’ 215
    original threatening letters to Ted Monk 95
    originals of the ‘Cameron’ and Sadlier letters 215
    protracted hate campaign against Detective Ward ix

    Cam West

  20. Am I the only guy who has this amazing book? Fitzy had a copy which he foolishly never read.

    Cam West

  21. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    I have Ian MacFarlane’s book but did not feel up to typing in the pertinent info. Thank you for doing so, Cam West. I did go take a look, though. And, yes, it is a criminal shame that so much has gone missing.

  22. There’s no question that drawings and documents once existed. However none of these references from MacFarlane say they were ever held by the Public Records Office/Vic Archives. Love it if someone can provide a reference that clearly states they were once in the collection.

    1. Contact the Public Records Office yourself instead of asking random people here! What is this, a homework club?

  23. Interesting discussion.
    The joke years ago was that so many documents from the PRO were off site that there was a ‘second Public Records Office’ – at a private home.
    God only knows what happened to all that material.

    1. Peter Newman says: Reply

      I don’t believe it is a joke. I have a name and the address of the house concerned. As the person who was “looking after” the records passed away suddenly many years ago, there is a possibility the records are still there (maybe up in the attic) – who knows! I actually spoke and then wrote to the present owner of the property, but they are not interested and I will respect that.
      There are some other Kelly items that were held by someone who lives in Bendigo. They are also not interested. The items would not be of any value at all, but for the fact that they are Kelly related (with a provable chain of ownership).
      One day I will try to follow up both leads again, but for now the people who could tell me more are not interested and so I have let the matter go.

      1. Hi Peter, many people think they have Ned Kelly records, but I found these were multiple roneod copies given to visitors to the Old Melbourne Gaol. As well, some people have duplicate copies (copies of documents sent to remote police stations, some even with photos of Ned).

        Could you perhaps at least give a rough location for the house you refer to, and better identify the records said to be at Bendigo?

        Regards,

        Ian MacFarlane

  24. Anon: You are a complete clown! 78 Km of records (from 2002 PROV annual Report) in a private house. You’ve got to be kidding… Macfarlane’s book (which you obviously haven’t seen) has more than six hundred references, most of which refer to a VPRS (Victorian Public Record Series and item number) which demonstrates the record was in the Victorian State Archives – not in a private home or elsewhere..

    Stop wasting our time!

    Horrie and Alf

  25. If the Anon above is somehow alluding to the house of the first Keeper of Public Records, I can state the following. At his request, I transferred several archival boxes from his home to the Public Record Office. All they contained were details of how he set up the Public Record Office in negotiation with the then Rupert Hamer government.

    One of the most impressive things about this individual was that he was Padre to the Commandos on the Kokoda Track in WWII. He also wrote “Bushrangers, a pictorial history” including Ned Kelly.

    Ian MacFarlane

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