Is Jerilderie about to embarrass itself with a Kelly statue about something that never happened?

General John Monash the great Australian war hero told a story about meeting and speaking to Ned Kelly during the Kelly Gangs raid on Jerilderie in February 1879, when he was 12. He reportedly said it was one of the two most proud moments of his entire life, and it seems the town of Jerilderie is planning to immortalise this meeting with a life sized bronze statue, showing Ned Kelly giving the boy a shilling for holding his horse. I learned the other day that the Jerilderie Monash Committee along with the local Council and the Jerilderie Lions Club have  submitted an application for $200,000 to the Service NSW My Community Project Fund,  and they will find out next month if they’ve been successful. The Ned Kelly Statue proposal is competing with a variety of local  sporting cultural and community organisations for the funding, and the project that gets the money will be the one that has the most community support –  the winners are decided by a community voting system – so , at one level it will be a proxy for how much support Ned Kelly has in the area! The result will be an embarrassment for Kelly supporters I expect. 

I will be amazed if this project gets up, but if it does it will be because the community has been egregiously misinformed about an event which didn’t actually happen!  Yes, thats right , Monash never met Kelly, it was just a story  he liked to tell, like many other colourful yarns he was known to have spun over the years , to enhance his image and keep his companions amused! 

We know this story is a fantasy because Monash didnt mention it to anyone for at least 40 years after it was supposed to have happened, and yet he claimed it was one of the proudest moments of his life. We know it is a fantasy because Monash was a prolific diary  writer from a young age but he never wrote about it anywhere, ever. We know this story is a fantasy because  on the several recorded occasions when he told it, he gave differing accounts of what happened and where – on one occasion it was on the verandah of a hotel during the bank robbery,  on another  he said it was at his fathers home where Ned Kelly had arrived to sell stolen horses; on one occasion he said he was given a shilling on another a lecture about life, on another both a shilling and a lecture. Monash said it happened when he went to the local school – but we know that in 1879 he was a schoolboy in Melbourne. We also know that he was in Melbourne starting the school year in 1879 when the Kelly Gang raided Jerilderie. 

In fact, though most Monash biographies repeat the story of his meeting with Ned Kelly, many of them do so with a wink and a nod  rather than an outright declaration that Monash made it all up. Grantlee  Kieza wrote “We only have his word for it that he had a long meeting with one of Australias most  colourful and infamous criminals but he will recite the story so many times that it acquires the flavour of truth”. Ah yes, the ‘flavour of truth’, also nowadays called ‘truthiness’ , euphemisms for ‘not actually true’. The difficulty is that Monash is a genuine hero and nobody wants to point out the feet of clay! But its pretty obvious :he loved to be the centre of attention and he could spin a good yarn. 

The other reason I will be amazed if this project gets up relates to the observed – indeed pronounced – sharp decline over recent years in public  interest in the Kelly mythology.  Its clear that Australias love affair with the Kelly myth is almost over, something thats nowhere more starkly – and embarrassingly – on display than in the Ned Kelly Centres fundraiser for the Glenrowan Kelly Center. They launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $150,000.00 on May 31st and so far have raised $50. A couple of years ago the promotor of this Center, Kelly descendant Jo Griffiths was given ‘in principle support’ by Indigo Shire but they didn’t hand over one cent. Who remembers the “Ned Kelly Alive” report? Over a year ago, at massive ratepayer expense it made all kinds of heroic predictions about the huge returns investment in Kelly tourism projects would bring to ‘Kelly country’ but like several similar reports written over the years , this one has also been ignored. I am not aware of anything in the pipeline. Nor have I heard any more about the proposed restoration of the Kelly homestead in Beveridge, announced in 2016. The promotors of Ned Kelly Educational tours and camping trips have all folded, the Ned Kelly weekend has gone forever, several Facebook pages devoted to Ned Kelly have disappeared, have become members only sites  behind closed doors or are dead, a recent Glenrowan  Commemorative dinner was cancelled, the Kelly conspiracy theorists Seminar  at Chiltern this year had fewer than 50 guests…..on it goes! 

Meanwhile, following on from Ian MacFarlanes Kelly Gang Unmasked, Dr Stuart Dawson has wrecked several important Kelly myths, Dr Doug Morrissey is popping up all over the place pointing out the unpalatable historical truths about the Kelly Gang, has two of three books exposing the mythology in print with a third due any day, and so far the only successful recent Kelly movie making has been “Stringybark” which depicts not  the myth about killing in self defence but the truth of the Kelly gangs insane murder of three police.  Should I also mention the success of my FB pages and this Blog, places which Kelly supporters have leaned to avoid because too often their challenges only expose their ill-informed Kelly mythology? So, if the people of Jerilderie are like Australians almost everywhere else, they won’t be voting for Ned Kelly, and the Statue is doomed! 

If Jerilderie ever erects a life sized bronze statue of Ned Kelly giving a 12 year old John Monash a shilling, will it be seen as elevating the status of a police murderer to that of a General, or will it be seen as an insult to the memory of John Monash, a genuine Australian hero? Either way it will make the Jerilderie community and the Jerilderie Monash Committee look like idiots, for not knowing and understanding the true history of both men, one of whom was a murderer and shameless liar with nothing worthy of commemoration, and the other a genuine hero who could spin a good yarn.

So, Jerilderie,  times have changed! The fact is that Ned Kelly, like Rolf Harris, is now on the nose. Nobody is  erecting statues to Rolf Harris and none should be erected in honour of Ned Kelly.

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10 Replies to “Is Jerilderie about to embarrass itself with a Kelly statue about something that never happened?”

  1. I gather Ned Kelly was in Jerilderie from 6 February to 10 February 1879, which would have been the time that Monash is said to have held his horse. Little Johnny Monash did not attend school in Jerilderie, unlike his carry on in that newspaper clipping posted above. Monash commenced at Scotch College, Melbourne, in October 1877, living with his mother in Melbourne during the school year and going back up to Jerilderie where his father’s business was, at Christmas holidays. Scotch College recommenced in 1879 on 11 February. Little Johnny and his mum would have been back in Melbourne probably a few days before that, and it would have taken them at least 2 days to get down to Melbourne from Jerilderie. He was not in Jerilderie getting advice from Mr Kelly. In later life John Monash was known as a great teller of tall tales. You noticed several variations on his Kelly story from tales he told at various times, David. This is just another one of those “I knew/ saw/ encountered Ned Kelly” tales that so many people told.

    Remember that bushranger historians Bill Joy and Tom Prior went to Euroa around 1960, and in their book, “The Bushrangers” (1963, p. 93), they recount that “in a few hours we had a dozen graphic, eye witness accounts of the great raid relayed by descendants of people who just happened to brush by Ned in the street or who were prisoners in Younghusbands”.

    The “Monash met Kelly” story is complete horse shit. The reason there should not be a statue about it is because it makes no sense to do so. It never happened. Jerilderie Council don’t know their own history. They don’t want to remember that the only person in the town with the guts to talk back to Kelly was Richards the policeman in the pub, while Kelly was holding a pistol. Richards said he would be willing to face Ned in a fair fight with both of them armed. Kelly as usual chickened out. He was nothing without his revolver, and the gang were armed like banditti, draped in guns. As one of his other descendants, one of the Griffiths, said in Leo Kennedy’s book, Ned Kelly was just a horse thief, and not a very good one. Maybe they could do a statue of Monash shoving a rifle up Kelly’s khyber if they have to do anything. That would be a good laugh for the tourists. Or maybe two statues – one of Monash in the town centre, and another down the street of Dan Kelly shoving his revolver into Mrs Richard’s back as he marched her to the courthouse to do the flowers. Nice way to treat a lady…

  2. Jerilderie would be very foolish to erect a sculpture of Kelly in its mainstreet. After all, Ned was just a sub-human assh*le with a gun! If we lived there we would be giving the council heaps.

    Ned statues would be quickly covered in guano!

    Horrie and Alf

  3. David, I’m commenting about your discussion with Mark Perry on FB about Ned’s marksmanship. Ned claimed his rifle barrel was bent. It doesn’t exist today. So how would we know. He killed Lonigan,. shot Scanlon and killed Sgt Kennedy but all at close range. No proof of marksmanship there.

    The evidence shows he was a poor shot except at close range.

    His bushmanship was a bit ordinary too.


  4. At Glenrowan the Kelly gang opened fire on the police when they got about 20 yards from the hotel. They only hit Superintendent Hare in the wrist and grazed one of the Queensland black trackers in the head. Ned Kelly was not a good shot. He was a stupid bully scumbag like the rest of his no hoper gang. The cowardly maggots chased and shot a lot of bullets at Sergeant Kennedy when he was running away at Stringybark Creek. They only wounded him when he had run out of bullets and then killed him by a shotgun blast in the chest. Ned Kelly was contemptible piece of scum. He should not be remembered as part of a statue to the great General Monash. Ian Jones wrote a lot of rubbish about Ned Kelly and stories like this don’t help.

  5. John at Stringybark Creek Constable McIntyre stated that he saw Sgt Kennedy had dropped his revolver. He then escaped on the Sgts. horse. We do not even know if Kennedy was able to recover his weapon before being chased and fired on by the four members of the Kelly gang. There is a 50/50 chance that Kennedy was not even armed when Kelly shot him. The only person who could shed any light on that occurrence was Ned Kelly himself, and we all know him to be a liar of the finest order.

  6. Sam, can you tell me where McIntyre said this? He witnessed the start of the ambush of Kennedy and Scanlan. The mind boggles at that thought that Kennedy might have been unarmed when he was chased through the bush. I would like to look into that. If you can fast track me to a reference that would help.

  7. Most likely Sgt. Kennedy had run out of ammunition and was therefore technically disarmed anyway.

    ‘I had to shoot him,’ Ned later told Const Bracken at Glenrowan, ‘or he would have shot me. The bugger was a rich man who had no business to come after me for a lousy hundred pounds. I was a poor man without money and had bad arms and poor horses. We wanted the police horses and money to make a rise.’ [MacFarlane: 2012: p.9].

    Ned relentlessly pursued Sergeant Kennedy through the forest and they fired at each other several times. Finally, when hit again, Kennedy dropped his revolver and Ned shot him once more. Ned said later he mistakenly thought Kennedy ’s dark, blood-soaked hand looked like a revolver. No one has ever suggested Ned had poor eyesight. Even at dusk he seemed to have no trouble chasing Kennedy around and being able to fire accurately enough to hit him several times. After a short discussion with Kennedy, and despite the Sergeant’s heart-felt pleas to be spared to see his family again, Ned shot him point blank in the chest with the Mansfield minister’s borrowed shotgun. [MacFarlane: 2012: p.224].

    SBC expert Bill Denheld says Sgt Kennedy was killed a quarter of a mile from where Const. Lonigan died, and Const. Scanlon was murdered.


  8. We strayed at your FB page, David, to visit time-waster Jack Peterson’s ‘An Introduction to Ned Kelly’ site, there to find the nincompoop pontificating about the Kelly home. He says “The Kelly house at Greta West was built by Ned for his mother Ellen in 1877. As solid as the house was, in the early 1900’s the Griffiths family replaced the bark roof with corrugated iron and replaced the slab chimney with brick”. This and other remarks are a straight lift from the Christies Australia catalogue of 26 March 2002, pp 35-37. Like Fitzy, Jack is an armchair researcher. What’s worse is that “author” Jack doesn’t understand attribution and citation.

    We have a copy of ‘Ned Kelly Country’ (1997) by Greg Powell which in full-colour and far fewer pages, far surpasses Jack’s mediocre offering.

    We are not saying Mr Powell’s book is the best such book, merely that it is heaps better than Jack’s.

    Horrie and Alf

  9. David, General Monash was not exactly a wartime hero, although he was a was a veteran of the hell of Gallipoli. As a General later, he pioneered battleground tactics that led to victories and considerably reduced casualties.

    Ned, by comparison, wasn’t even a General’s breakfast

    Ian MacFarlane

  10. Jack Peterson can’t rightfully be included in any Kelly discussion. His book is woeful and is regarded as a bad joke.


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