Film Review : True Story of the Kelly Gang

Having read Carey’s novel some years ago I was not expecting any historical accuracy in this film, and this review is not suggesting that there should have been any. Carey’s “True History” is wildly inaccurate in its representation of practically every aspect of the Kelly story, and I personally found the novel a tedious slog after the first 100 pages or so. Rather, I went to see the movie on the big screen to experience what I hoped to be rollicking good entertainment from a director with a reputation for unconventional work. There is still time to see the limited cinema release before it goes on Stan TV later this month. I am glad I went, but was not nearly as impressed as I had hoped to be.

 

The film is honest in its first title slide: “Nothing you’re about to see is true”. From that point we are off into to the wilds of fiction. The film opens in 1867 with aerial  presumably drone) footage of a man in a red dress galloping a horse through a wasteland. This turns out to be Red Kelly, who is apparently a member of an Irish
rebel group, “Sons of Sieve”, which never existed in Australia. We soon meet little Ned, who thankfully has an Australian accent – probably a first for Kelly films – who sees his mother giving a blow job to Sergeant O’Neill through a hole in the wall of their rather large house, which appears to be largely made of corrugated iron, including its roof. Corrugated iron didn’t exist here in 1867; it began to be imported from England in the 1880’s, https://www.hookysroofing.sydney/the-history-of-metal-roofing-in-australia/

 

Little Ned is ordered away by his da, one of the few Irish words repeatedly used in the film. It reminded me of the Black Adder episode where the destitute old father tells his daughter that she will have to become a prostitute to keep them afloat. Little Ned rescues young Dick Shelton from a very tranquil patch of river – at least we had no raging flood nonsense – and is rewarded with a gold sash hand-embroidered with a message of thanks for his courage. Mrs Kelly sells Ned to Harry Power for £15, although Ned just thinks he’s been sent to learn survival skills. Harry doesn’t like police, and teaches the little Kelly kids a song that goes, “He’s a cunt, cunt,
cunstable/ A cunt, cunt, cunstable” for a family sing-along. I can’t remember if that is in Carey’s book.

 

Power lives in a roomy hut with a large unglazed window up in the snow country. Despite this it is comfortably furnished with plenty of books, furniture, travelling trunks, and so on –the life of Riley to be sure. That lifestyle costs money, and Harry is revealed to be a murdering bushranger who shoots victims willy-nilly and tries to get little Ned to finish one off too. A rather long scene has Harry later trying to coax little Ned into shooting the balls off a naked Sergeant O’Neill.

 

Ned soon transforms into a man and returns home all grown up. If he had rat’s tails he would be quite the skinhead. He meets Fitzpatrick in Mrs Robinson’s brothel, which Sergeant O’Neil also frequents. Fitzpatrick has an English accent (despite in reality being colonial born of Irish stock), and seeing that Ned doesn’t seem to like the look of him, askes, “Is it because I’m British or because I’m a trooper?”. The by now naked Fitzpatrick sits Ned on a couch next to him, leaning towards him. They both smoke pipes as some form of relationship develops; a theme later seen in the relationship
between Ned and Joe Byrne, first seen in a train freight car wrestling over a poetry book, and later tenderly lying together under a blanket, Brokeback Mountain style,  interspersed with a brief shot of them naked wrestling. A well-written background story looking at masculinity issues in this film is online here, https://www.smh.com.au/culture/movies/dressed-to-kill-justin-kurzel-s-ned-kelly-film-
explores-the-masculinity-behind-the-mask-20191203-p53gc3.html

 

Ned shoots Fitzpatrick in the wrist at the Kelly house after Fitzpatrick has revealed that Mary, one of Mrs Robinson’s girls who Ned fell for, and has made pregnant and intends to marry, had her first baby by George King, Mrs’s Kelly’s second husband. This ludicrous scene has about a dozen actors milling around, and Nicholas Hoult as Fitzpatrick does a magnificent acting job in infuriating everyone. He is possibly the best actor in the film, along with Esse Davis as Mrs Kelly, although her put-on Irish accent strays to the unclear in places. Ned and Dan then head for the bush. Mrs Kelly
shoots King’s horse in revenge for his philandering; he punches her to the ground and clears out.

 

Ned decides to gather his mates, who all wear dresses when out thieving stock and larking about so as to create fear at their craziness, and take on the police at Stringybark Creek. Only the four Kelly gang members front for that fracas, two in dresses. Needless to say, the police fire first in Carey’s scenario, a clanger followed by Kurzel. All four police are present when the gang advance. Sergeant Kennedy is shown as dying after a furious gunfight, with Ned taking the dying man’s notebook.

To this point the film has moved along quite well, if in a kind of totally unhistorical but mostly entertaining way, generally following Carey’s novel as far as I can remember. Weaknesses begin to appear from the gathering of Ned’s army onwards. Some twenty lads in dresses whoop and holler as Ned outlines his train derailment plan and gives what is supposed to be a lengthy rallying speech of defiance, but to me it fell flat. Between flapping their skirts and putting on multiple suits of armour, their whooping cries seemed forced. Ned’s speech was hardly Churchillian; more along the lines of
“We’re gunna go and f– the lot of ‘em”, and not very rousing in my view despite the actors’ efforts.

The Glenrowan Inn is a graffiti-ridden shed in which a dozen or more prisoners are pushed around with sacks on their heads. We are in some kind of post-punk apocalyptic fairyland. The gunfight ensues when a long line of police in hooded macs advance with flares during the night, illuminated by relentless strobe lighting. The effect is that the Inn is being attacked by a line of white cowled monks bearing rifles. This effect must have got the editors excited, as it is repeated ad nauseum.

We then have lengthy scenes of the gang bellowing wildly within the Inn as they load and fire outwards, increasingly covered with blood until it looks like a Heinz sponsorship, and interior shots showing the walls increasingly shot though by bullets illuminated by strobe lighting and smoke effects. It reminded me of a laboured large scale cinema version of the shed at the back of the anamatronic show at the Glenrowan Tourist Centre with its bullet shooting recording and backlit holes in the walls, https://www.australiantraveller.com/vic/is-this-australias-worst-theme-park/

 

Essentially it is blood-spattered everything with the plot completely lost, at least on me.
At last Ned steps out in armour to singlehandedly take on the police. We are treated to lengthy hand-held shots of his advance through a haze of strobe lights. My memory is largely of the camera focused on close-ups of his eyes looking through his graffiti-covered helmet, or following him along from behind. Ned is eventually captured, and Byrne’s body is displayed tied to a tree. Ned is shown in his gaol cell where his mother (wearing a canvas gaol hood) is brought in to see him, then led to the gallows. For some reason they did not use the Old Melbourne Gaol scaffold. The freshly hung
Ned is shown dangling in the middle of a wing of cells, hanging in space between the second and third tier, in a lit cross sectional area which does not match anything in the OMG. His hanging is shown as bungled. His hooded head is shown gasping for breath as he dies from strangulation under his own bodyweight.

 

This is a ridiculous film interpretation of Carey’s description of Kelly’s death, which was taken from the 1880 Herald. The last page of the novel more or less directly quoted it, saying that there was “the usual shudder that passes through the frame of hanged men; but then the legs were drawn up for some distance, and then fell suddenly again. This
movement was repeated several times, but finally all motion ceased, and at the end of four minutes it was all over”. There is nothing anywhere about dying of strangulation, and the Herald article and other papers noted that death was both expeditious and instantaneous.

 

The film ends with some kind of punk music playing while the ‘graffiti-on-wall’ style acting credits roll, then the production credits begin in semi-readable yellow lettering that reminded me of 1960s pop art and advertising.

Overall, I went with high expectations for simple unhistorical entertainment, but found it a serious letdown from about halfway through as the story moved into Ned’s rather dopey looking army and the film’s version of the Glenrowan saga. His frocked-up army deserted him before the showdown.

Despite the newness of the launch – I went on the second night – there were barely 20 people in the Elsternwick cinema on a Friday night. One left before the feature had finished, and about half left at the end before the credits started. No-one applauded at the end. Only about 8 sat through the whole credit roll. That was a massive contrast with the Ben Head’s Stringybark film, where the entire audience of a couple of hundred sat through the entire credits in silence, then applauded for nearly a minute. I’m glad I went to check it out but I won’t bother to watch it again on Stan. It will be interesting to see what other people make of it.

 

( NOTE : This review was submitted by a Guest reviewer : Ive not yet seen this film and wonder if I will bother, given that people on all sides of the Kelly debate seem to hate it.

Aidan Phelan thinks the Director is using the movie to give the finger to the “entire populous of Australia”  saying that Australians are uneducated bogans! That led me to wonder if maybe Kurzel was referring not to the entire populous of Australia but to the people who have totally ignored the historical truths of the Kelly story and rewritten it to make the murderous criminal into a hero . Maybe Kurzel is saying to the Kelly Gang idolators out there , you think you can screw with history? I’ll show you how to REALLY screw with history – and dont you dare criticise me for being unhistorical because thats exactly what YOU are doing too! And by the way I am not going to pretend any of this is true like YOU do! ( To see an unhistorical Kelly biopic look no further than the Kelly idolators favourite version The Last Outlaw : totally full of bullshit but the Kelly idolators like THAT kind of bullshit! )

(Visited 1,506 times)

62 Replies to “Film Review : True Story of the Kelly Gang”

  1. Hi David, for anyone wanting to see the film at cinemas for the next couple of weeks only, an article says it is on at the Randwick Ritz Cinemas and Melbourne’s Lido, Classic and Cameo cinemas plus Dendy Cinemas, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, New Farm Cinemas and The Elizabeth Picture Theatre in Brisbane and The Backlot in Perth.

    An ABC Arts reviewer was similarly unimpressed on Friday, describing it as “A near-incoherent ensemble piece that squanders an enviable cast; … it’s both a surprise and a shame that it plays as an overwrought student theatre production, replete with pointlessly minimalist sets and an overabundance of strobing effects”, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-10/true-history-of-the-kelly-gang-film-review-ned-kelly-peter-carey/11854588

    With all the talk about the gang in dresses, people might like this shot of the gang about to attack at Stringybark Creek that I found online this morning. Ridiculous nonsense, but as wacky unhistorical interpretations of the Kelly gang story seem to be the norm – as you point out – this should be good for a laugh. I saw the Ben Head “Stringybark” movie last year, and think it is the only historically accurate Kelly film that has been and is likely to be made.

    Attachment

    1. Wow thats an amazing still from the movie, Stuart . No wonder the Kelly supporters are having fits!

      I think Kurzel might be enjoying their outrage!

  2. As long as it makes money he probably won’t care either way. It’s a business after all. Personally I rather enjoy outrageous creativity. I drafted bits of script for a Kelly film a couple of years ago that had the gang fleeing from the police in a bushland horse chase that transformed into a chase with the gang on dirt bikes and the cops on cop bikes enabling the gang to do otherwise impossible aerial spins and crazy downhill racing. Then I decided not to waste my time on such things. Fun to think about though…..

    The test for the Kurzel film will be the comments pages when it goes out on Stan subscription TV.

    1. Plus, controversy creates attention, so the director is probably loving it!!!

  3. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Shouldn’t the notation about the review being by a guest be at the very top before the review begins? I am seeing it halfway down the page on my screen. When I started reading it I knew it was not Dee’s “voice.” Others elsewhere are saying the review is by Dee/David and that they are not going to read it! Maybe they will read a guest’s review?

    1. Thats sad news really isn’t it Sharon? I read everything by everyone, because I am not afraid of points of view that are different from mine ! But I shouldnt be surprised I suppose , that people wont read stuff if its written by me – some people hate to have thier opinions challenged – but who cares if such people would read it if they knew it WASNt by me? Who cares about anything that people with such a closed and intolerant mind do?

  4. I saw it on opening night. If you knew nothing about the Kelly story then you would wonder what on earth this film was all about because it was just weird. You can tell what people think of a movie by the audience reaction at the end, which in this case (for those that stayed to the end) was total silence. My critique of the move is “It is total crap”. If you have an interest in the Kelly story I guess you have to go and see it, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to others. That then is three dud Kelly movies in a row (Mick Jagger, Heath Ledger and now this one), so I guess now we have to wait another 10 to 15 years for someone to try again.

  5. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Maybe now I can be accused of carrying tales out of school? lol I can’t win. At least I did not give names! I am like you, I hunger for knowledge, and will read everything I can find to help broaden my horizon. By the way, good review by “anonymous.” Will be quite a while before I get to see it, so glad to get the movie going public’s opinions rather than professional critics. I hope it streams in the USA so I won’t have to go to a cinema. I have been to the cinema three times in the past 30 years. These days you risk being shot going to one. Locally recently there was gunfire at the movies over “seating.” Then lots of bail ups in the parking lot occur. Is like the wild west without cool cowboys.

    1. Thanks Sharon, and any review is just someone’s opinion of what they like or don’t and why. It doesn’t make any difference who says something, or who agrees with it or not, the thing is whether it adds anything to the conversation or makes people think.

      Sometimes online commentary is like someone walking into a city square and seeing a notice board with a sign offering guitar lessons. Some people feel obliged to rant and yell, “I don’t want any guitar lessons! How dare you offer bloody guitar lessons!” Then they get the poor teacher’s number and ring them up and yell, “Stuff your guitar lessons you A^H&K!”. Instead of just ignoring it as having nothing to do with them, they can’t help themselves but chuck a full on outraged mental.

      Anyway, I think people interested in Kelly stuff should see the movie, just to see what’s new and what the fuss is about. Looking online, some people like it (a lot), and others hate it. I think it’s worth seeing, partly because a lot of senior school kids and uni English students will have to suffer through Carey’s book so will probably watch it to accompany their study; and partly because it has novelty value and it’s new and Australian. But as I said, anyone looking for historical accuracy is going in with the totally wrong frame of mind. You know it’s going to be following Carey’s unhistorical novel before you buy your ticket, then it’s in for the director’s ride. It’s just a pity the wheels fell off halfway through in my view. Others will have different views. C’est la vie as Ned didn’t say, at least in this movie.

  6. There is a bucket load of self promotion on YouTube, that I have made comments on. I will watch this nonsense, if I can stand it, on Stan.
    I simply do not understand why Carey would write a book promoting fiction, but then knowing Carey his historically factual book, would almost be the same as this, True Story of The Kelly Gang.

  7. Re Ben Head”s film “Stringybark”, for anyone in Melbourne or Geelong there is great news. They have been fortunate enough to secure a limited screening at The Pivotonian Cinema in Geelong on Thursday 6 February at 7:15 pm, and they also have a screening at Thornbury Picture House on Saturday February 22nd at 5:30 PM. There are only a limited number of tickets still available at $15 each, so first in first served.

    If you know anyone that would like to see the film in Melbourne, click here for a link to tickets, https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/stringybark-tickets-89902804709?fbclid=IwAR22uzsxgUs0M4RnlD1yq0XEyhOhAtxGUIrLpcbP30vi0gk8xnNdNHPFjzU

    If you would like to see it in Geelong, click here, https://ticketing.oz.veezi.com/sessions/?siteToken=tpzyttaaawrpx51hfyb3hmaf7w
    Then click ‘sort by film’ and scroll down until you see Stringybark.

    This film is historically accurate costume and equipment-wise, as well as historical script-wise, and a totally brilliant production. I am happy to 110% recommend it as worth the trip.

  8. “Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang lost screens and what little momentum it had in its second weekend, making just $6,300 from limited sessions on 11 screens. Billed as a Stan Original, the subversive bushranger pic starring George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult and Essie Davis, which premieres on Australia Day on Stan, has grossed $112,000”, says Box Office Report – https://www.if.com.au/bo-report-sony-resurrects-bad-boys-as-cinema-patrons-support-bushfire-relief/
    It is not exactly making money.
    And a lot of audience reviews are panning it – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4844140/reviews?ref_=tt_ov_rt
    Another Ned Kelly film fail.

  9. Total gross takings to date are less than US$77,000. A complete and utter failure. It is headed for the scrap heap where is belongs.

  10. Cecil Bedemille says: Reply

    Interesting how the film critic “experts” are so far off the audience reviews. On Wikipedia it says “On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, True History of the Kelly Gang has a rating of 75% based on 24 reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average of score of 84 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. These “expert” reviews are way out of line with audience reviews on film sites where it is not getting much positive comment and a fair bit of flak on the ones I’ve seen.

    Another article https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/russell-crowe-drama-true-history-kelly-gang-nabbed-by-ifc-1237150 says “IFC Films has acquired North American rights to Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang just days ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. A source pegged the deal at seven figures.” No wonder the producers are happy, But there is no relationship between money from distributors to the producers and money from audiences and subscribers to the distributors “box office” returns.

    It is possible for a film to make a profit for its producers like seems to have happened here while being a flop at the box office. That means it can fall miles short of its money making potential. It may be headed for the discount shelves faster than anticipated.

  11. Joanne Griffiths has had her say about the film in an article within the Herald Sun newspaper of today.
    Its crap it will harm the tourist trade around the North East and it is very derogatory towards surviving Kelly clan people and of course the long departed Kelly family members.e

    1. They should have disowned the criminal relative ancestors long ago. There are no descendants of the Kelly gang anyway. None of them had kids.

    2. Joanne Griffiths kindly allowed me onto 11 mile Creek site for photography years ago. I’ve got nothing against her’

      Ian MacFarlane

      1. Ian how could she give you permission to photograph when the area is not owned by her direct family?

        1. Dunno.

          Ian MacFarlane

        2. She hadn’t set foot on the property until a few years ago and that was on a group tour.

    3. One may argue Griffiths’ near five year long, devastatingly fruitless campaign for this ridiculous, imaginary museum has done the most damage to tourism in Glenrowan. The poor town has been dragged into this mess and any support NKC may have had at it’s most fundamental grass roots level is now well and truly gone.
      Nearly five years. Somebody needs to call TIME on this embarrasment and allow Glenrowan the chance to move on.
      A train wreck (pun intended).

      1. Anonymous, you may remember the Wangaratta Shire paid about $150,00 consultancy for the Ned Kelly Alive report of May 2018. On p 62 of that report that you can download, you will see that the Ned Kelly Centre is after a lot of public money. $15 MILLON implementation cost and $3 MILLION per annum including Maintenance, Wages, COGS, Utilities and Marketing. The report is for a 10 year North East tourism development plan. That means Ms Griffith is after $15 MILLION start up funds and $30 MILLION over 10 years, a total of $45 MILLION. In return she will build a private museum in Glenrowan under the name of her registered non-profit charity that she keeps talking about. What will she put in her Ned Kelly Centre that is worth $45 million of taxpayer money over 10 years? How many jobs will it create after the actual building is built? For example, how many people does it take to run a museum? There are perhaps half a dozen running the Benalla Kelly and Costume Museum. The proposed Ned Kelly Centre idea hardly sounds like a big boost for regional employment. What will it cost to get in, to a Kelly centre already subsidies by $3 MILLION a year? Who will visit it? The Ned Kelly Alive report says that if it gets “75,000 (30% of new visitors) this concept will lead to an additional stay of 0.3 days, creating an
        estimated cumulative Economic Impact of $9,054,215 over 10 years.” This figure looks very odd indeed. If 75,000 people a year detour to Glenrowan, and if they all go to the Ned Kelly Centre, they wil spend on average an extra 0.3 of a day in Glenrowan. That’s about 2.5 hours. What will they do in their 2.5 hours that will result in generating over $9 million over 10 years? Spend an average of $90,000 a year at the Ned Kelly Centre sandwich and souvenir shop? Come on, the main Kelly shops in Glenrowan have been up for sale for several years. No-one is buying Kelly stuff. No-one goes to Glenrowan which is falling apart. And when they do go, even if they love Ned Kelly, they might go back once a year at most. How many visitors a year does the Ned Kelly Vault get? If I remember right it took them 5 years to get to 80,000 visitors, and the Ned Kelly Centre thinks its will get that every year for ten years running? Even if it did, the Ned Kelly Alive report shoes that it is projected to cost $45 MILLION over 10 years to bring in $9 million over 10 years. That sounds like a very big taxpayer LOSS.

        1. Correct-a-mondo Doubtful. Aside from the plethora of other issues plaguing NKC the economics for it don’t stack up and never have. That’s why it will never happen. End of story. Go home. Turn out the lights. Thank your mother for the rabbits. Such is life.

          1. They can see a great big government honey pot of millions at the end of the rainbow. That is what it is all about. But there are no visitor statistics for existing Ned Kelly tourist sites anywhere in the report. Because as we all know the stats have plummeted at Hemple’s Glenrowan attraction and the Kate’s Cottage Museum has been up for sale for ages. A lot of people around the area think Ned Kelly was a loser but they don’t say much about it out loud. They just wish the whole Kelly business would die out quietly instead of continuing divisions about something that happened well over 150 years ago. My typing up should have said the NKC would need to bring in $900,000 a year on average, not $90,000 to make their estimate of $9M over 10 years. How much a year does the Kelly Vault make per year? Probably not much at all as Beechworth shire picks up the tab. Another Kelly loss leader?

  12. Not a descendant says: Reply

    Yikes! Herald-Sun Friday 31 January 2020 page 5 – “descendant says movie ‘tarnishes the brand’ of her famous family” – that would be Kelly the teenage stick-up man, common horse thief, cop-killer, armed robber, prisoner-taker, and would-be police train derailment massacre murderer? There is arguably more truth in Justin Kurzel’s extravagantly outrageous movie about the sheer madness of Kelly than there is in Ian Jones fanciful 1980 “Last Outlaw” mini series built around his “poor Ned” sob story, “bad Fitzpatrick” tale and totally ridiculous Kelly republic fiction.

    Attachment

    1. Thanks for attaching this newspaper article about Joanne Griffiths reaction to the kelly movie. I had seen references to this article but to see it on News Ltd sites you have to pay for it and I am not going to ever lend support to the Murdoch muckrakers.

      But the Kelly sycophants were always going to object. They object to anything and everything that doesnt support their fictional narrative, and their denial of the truth about a multiple murderer who emerged from a family of violent dysfunctional petty criminals, thieves and liars.

  13. Yet again, the Kelly descendant is showing in the press that she is quite prepared to try every publicity angle to promote a non existing museum. Now it appears she is catching a ride on the controversy of the Carey book and film bandwagon.
    Really, as if she is horrified and offended! The film is a creative interpretation of the Kelly story which claims to be untrue but I suspect that her imaginary museum will also be the same – an interpretation.
    Quite desperate and sad really!

  14. Not a descendant says: Reply

    The Griffiths article continues on page 30 as an opinion piece. The first half is here. It is well known that Mrs Kelly ran a grog shanty and was suspected of it also being a brothel,. a house of immorality. Maybe Justin Kerzel hit a nerve.

    Attachment

    1. The Kelly descendant claims (regarding a sex scene in the film) that “grandchildren of Ned’s sister are still alive and are witness to this affront” – I think she is a bit mixed up as she probably means great grandchildren, although “grandchildren” sounds a bit more emotively dramatic.
      It would be interesting to hear what other descendants have to say about this film, rather than the Griffiths woman all the time. It’s some free publicity though for her imaginary museum and I guess that is really what it’s about.

      1. Having time to consider my comments here and reading more online, I think the Kelly descendant is honourable to make a stand about her kin and their portrayal in the new film. Perhaps it isn’t all about the museum as first thought but more a frustration that the real story hasn’t been told. But how can this story be told in a new museum if the financials don’t compute, doesn’t this just makes it all pie in the sky.

        1. Truly to Really says: Reply

          No. As you said on 1 February the film is a creative interpretation of the Kelly story which claims to be untrue. Griffiths has one version of the Kelly story which she claims to be true. From what she said in that article it obviously isn’t. Her version is different from other versions by other would-be descendants. All of them want their 15 minutes of fame. None of them are true because they all excuse Ned’s inexcusable criminality. The film did not do that. It is closer to the truth, really.

          1. Really to Truly says:

            I would add that we really don’t actually know yet what the true Griffiths – Kelly museum version is. Although it seems as if it might be a mix of ancestral family accounts, blended with historical and researched facts.
            Interestingly in one of the articles it mentions Jim Kelly’s stand with publishers and journalists (which suggests a link with the J.J.Kenneally book where Jim was interviewed). Would Jim’s version be considered the true Griffiths – Kelly one and ending up in this museum mix? The criticism I see with Jim’s version is that it is coming from an individual who was deeply loyal to his Kelly family..

    2. I wonder what Joanne’s 31 other great-great-grandmothers were like? What was so special about Ellen?

      1. There’s a huge Kelly myth in that article where it says that post Kelly Gang Ned’s mother Ellen had the wisdom and courage to publicly reconcile with the police in order to calm the flashpoint of discontent in the region. That is straight Ian Jones myth. Yes, Ellen drove in a buggy with Constable Graham. Constable Graham publicly showed forgiveness and reconciliation between society and the bushranger’s mother; not the other way around.

        As I showed in my “Myth of a Republic” book (that Kellyphiles mostly still pretend doesn’t exist), there was never any regional scale discontent by “legions” of sympathisers. That is entirely fabricated nonsense. What was feared by the police was another outbreak of bushranging by a small group of all or mostly gang relatives. Dangerous and possibly murderous, yes; but regional discontent, no.

        That the threat was neutralised owed at least as much – and in my opinion based on the sources vastly more – to Sadleir’s skilled policing than it ever did to Jones’ fantasy of Mrs Kelly leading a reconciliation between warring sides that only ever existed in Jones’ imagination. That dates back to his 1968 “New View of Ned Kelly” in the Man and Myth book, and is just romanticised bunkum.

  15. Not a descendant says: Reply

    The second half of Griffiths opinion piece. It says her family “is working to build the Ned Kelly Centre in Glenrowan, a registered charity committed to telling the story fairly and equitably from all sides”. Except the side where the Kellys terrorised the neighbourhood with them and their mates burning farmer’s fences and wrecking their dams if they suspected informers; stealing the plough horses from their neighbouring poor selectors; taking innocent people prisoner at gunpoint and repeatedly threatening them with execution at Euroa, Jerilderie and Glenrowan. What a bunch of scumbags.

    Then she goes “maybe it is time to ask why or if allowing distortions of our history is acceptable”. The first step to silencing any critics who think bad thoughts about the scumbag Kelly. Not a hero. Not ever. Just a scumbag with a gun. He chickened out when Constable Richards offered him an equally armed duel at Jerilderie. Coward.

    Attachment

    1. JG says she is the founding director of the Ned Kelly Centre in Glenrowan. so where exactly in Glenrowan is this “Centre”?

      1. Haven’t you heard? It exists in her imagination.

  16. I wanted to add to DOUBTFUL, February 3, 2020 at 6:29 pm but there was no reply button.

    There wasn’t much support for the Gang in NE Victoria back then either.

    Printed petitions for the reprieve of Ned Kelly were circulated. James Tilly wrote from Greta on 5 November 1880 to advise that Kelly sympathisers had taken around this petition. He added, ‘Many have signed it through fear.’

    Cam West

    1. Cam, do you have a newspaper or other reference for James Tilley’s letter? That would be very good to see.

      1. It’s in The Kelly Gang Unmasked – ref is VPRO: VPRS 4966; unit 2: Item 10.

        Cam West

  17. As this topic tread started as a Film Review for the ‘True Story of the Kelly gang’ and Joanne’s critique of the film. I agree with her this film is a dirty dog trick and a slur an amazing episode of our history. But how can historical episodes of our history be correctly portrayed? This is in the interest of our children, and their children who need to know an accurate historic past.

    Well sorry folks but I thought Joanne’s write up was pretty good – well put Joanne.

    However, Joanne Griffiths’s family’s effort to get a Ned Kelly Centre off the ground is commendable but I’d add that the opportunity for such a centre at Glenrowan was lost in 2005 when a seemingly dysfunctional Wangaratta Council knocked back our Boyd/Denheld (B&D) design concept. There may be explainable reasons for the knock back, but its more than likely that the councilors in charge of any development also had an agenda where the building works was meant to be ‘Jobs for the boys’.

    Our B&D concept following the ‘Sinclair Knight Merz’ ( SKM) feasibility study which had cost the taxpayers more than $50.000. The study was said to be for ‘Evaluation by the project lead agency, ‘The Rural City of Wangaratta’, with the project Steering Committee comprising representatives from the ‘ Glenrowan Community’ – Glenrowan Improvers Planning Committee (GIPC). In a very sad note, and I don’t expect many to know this, but the principle organizer of GIPC, blacksmith Gary Nichols had acquired a vacant block of land directly opposite our Ned Kelly Centre location with view that when the centre opened Gary had built a fully functional blacksmith shop where he would make Ned Kelly armour.

    The problem for Gary was the council in charge of development had rejected the B&D concept design overlooking Garys blacksmith shop.

    Many years later, the entire Wangaratta Council was sacked by the incoming newly elected Victorian State Govt, and that ended any chance for re-evaluation of our B&D design concept being considered, but instead the new council were not seemingly capable of re visting our efforts as they then spent another small fortune on a new ‘Ned Kelly re scoping Study in 2012′, and still with no positive outcome eight years later.

    As I see it, if any Ned Kelly Centre at Glenrowan was ever to be built it should be in central Glenrowan as this would benefit the town centre and not be located on some outer of town allotment. The only place for a Ned Kelly Centre is right near where it happened with a view over the siege site. For those interested in real history please read the following article

    I attach ‘The Chronicle’ news paper article dated 5 Sept 2005

    Attachment

  18. I have heard that a “site” for the imagined Ned Kelly Centre might be the cactus property just out of the Glenrowan township on the Moyhu Road. This property was for sale for a considerable time.
    As for the concept proposed by Denheld – no wonder it hasn’t eventuated. The cost alone would be sufficient to see it not progressed. Who would stump up the funds for this grandiose concept anyway.? Way over the top for a celebration of an outlaw, murderer and all round national disgrace. And the likelihood of the tourist dollar being anywhere near sufficient to offset the cost and ensure the ongoing viability of the centre would have to be assessed as minimal. A grandiose concept which Denheld continues to dream about eventuating.

    1. The cactus farm was zoned wrong for a museum. It was opposite a quarry.
      There was zero support from the good folk of Glenrowan for a site so far away from the commercial centre of the town anyway.
      The farm is currently back on the market.
      Cactus indeed!

    2. Denheld knockers aren’t very welcome around here BDD.

      You haven’t provided a decent cost analysis that shows Bill is wrong – or what was grandiose about his plan. He is a very practical, polite person – and not a dreamer as you are struggling to suggest.

      Ian MacFarlane

  19. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    I saw where the Prickly Pear farmland and home was sold back in September of 2019. Asking price was $750,000. Is it back on the market again this quick?

  20. Ian. Check out the web for much of the info about the Glenrowan centre proposed by Denheld et al.
    I believe that dollars of around 15 million were talked about.
    The concept included going over the rail line as well as the ground area currently used as the public reserve- this alone would undoubtedly cost a lot of money and I believe the necessity to relocate the train siding loading area to the north of the station.
    No wonder the concept was not given the support of the Government/ Victrack department/ Wangaratta council/ township residents.

    1. BDD,

      Indigo Shire wisely ditched the Kelly Weekend which had completely run out of steam.

      The BIG problem today is the vast lack of visitor stats. Without those, it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess Joanne’s, Bill’s and other developmental ideas.

      Wang and Indigo (and State Govt. Vic) need to get together and do a proper analysis of proposals past and present. It’s slightly possible that a popular Glenrowan solution can be reached.

      If they were smart, they’d get in touch with Bill Denheld.

      Ian MacFarlane

    2. That may well be, but the Denheld/Boyd design proposal was unquestionably impressive and striking architecturally. I am a great admirer of Boyd architecture. Perhaps Ned, with his fondness for “Lorna Doone”, that turgidly tedious novel with its one paragraph reference to Doone armour that Jonesy made so much of, would be posthumously moved by the thought of it, except that his brain is still missing. If in fact he ever read it in the first place, which its middle secondary reading level would tend to refute. There is a most touching scene in Jonesy’s Last Outlaw film where Young Kelly is reading that very passage to his little siblings as they drift off to sleep with happy thoughts of mayhem and plunder, the body of the dead little girl slung over a Doone saddle as the murderous clan thunder on horseback through the night. Oh yeah, Jonesy didn’t script in the end of that paragraph, perhaps out of consideration for the little Kelly siblings? Why spoil a good script with facts?

  21. The last stats I recall from the Kelly Vault were a couple of years ago where it was saying it had reached 80,000 in total in 5 years. I suspect it has slowed considerably over the last two years since the Kelly Weekend collapsed. The one I went to in 2015 was pretty lacklustre anyway. When I visited the Vault on a Saturday late last year there was only one other person in there in the half hour or so I spent there in the afternoon. I had seen only a few other people going there during the two hours or so I was in the area that morning, doing the Kelly walking tour and looking at other buildings there. The Old Beechworth Gaol is doing nothing about its previously much trumpeted Kelly development, presumably because no-one gave it the massive financial handouts the owners were after. Private museums must stand on their own feet. I think the drop in interest has a lot to do with the ongoing exposure of much of the Kelly story as idle fancy and myth making based on poor historical research . The Kelly Vault posters contain numerous demonstrably false statements which they seem to have no interest in discussing, let alone correcting. A very sad and lacklustre state of affairs.

    1. Stats are 100000 in five years Stuart.

      1. Thanks Anonymous, that’s 20,000 average per year. The Glenrowan Animatron was getting double that per year in its heyday. I would like to the Vault visitor numbers year by year for each year since it opened.
        While waiting, I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach.

  22. Oh please spare me the adoration of which you seem to have that Denheld is the panacea.
    History would suggest that he has no more to offer than many others who have maintained an interest in matters Kelly over the past few decades.

    1. Bill Denheld’s police camp at SBC is THE ONLY PLACE WHERE EVERYONE (even you) CAN SEE THE BURMAN PHOTO BACKGROUND.

      What part of this aren’t you getting? What ‘history’ suggests he has no more to offer than many others who have maintained an interest in matters Kelly over the past few decades.

      What the heck does that all mean?

      BCC – you aren’t making any sense at all.

      Horrie and Alf

  23. Stuart, your observations about visitor numbers attending at Beechworth’s remaining Kelly “attractions” adds to the overall picture of gloom for those who try to make a living from the Kelly saga let alone the ongoing maintenance of the more public displays – the Vault and the Burke museum.
    The inability of the Glenrowan businesses to sell their businesses is also indicative – no sale for the three specific commercial Kelly tourist outlets – Kate’s Cottage (on the market for years), Glenrowan Cobb & Co (now on the market for around 18 months or longer) and Bob Hemphill’s animated theatre (unsuccessful years ago and may still be on the market?) as well as food and beverage outlets.
    An “interpretive” centre or simply a museum seems a fanciful notion, perhaps the more visited Beechworth township is the more likely candidate for a Kelly “something” but don’t hold your breadth (or invest in) any proposal for here either.
    The Kelly story will never work as a coordinated presentation.. too many parties involved and each protecting their patch – Vic Pol, Old Melb Gaol, Benalla museum, Beechworth Vault, Beveridge Kelly house, Avenel… the list goes on., ,

  24. Stuart there is a lot of misinformation circulating over the demise of the NKW. Nobody has come forward to explain the truth about what actually happened behind the scenes.

    The result has been misinformed comments like yours and David’s alleging it’s disinterest in Kelly. With respect not true at all. You do have a fair point over the steam running out – that’s often what happens with volunteers who are burnt out. Indigo didn’t kill it. The group running it decided to end it. That was their choice. People lament its demise and still want it especially local traders. It was easier for some to see the event die a slow death than hand the reins over to new people with fresh ideas who were enthusiastically waiting in the wings and ready to take it on. Add bogans, bourbon and histrionics into an already poisonous brew and the NKW was dead. Vale.

    1. Anonymous, I have never once said that the Ned Kelly Weekend faded as a result of disinterest in Kelly. I am well aware that it faded through burnout of the history group and some unfortunate events affecting some members. That is very well known and was in several articles in NE papers a couple of years back. Please don’t invent things I have never said, just because I am critical of some aspects of the Kelly story, thank you. BTW the local traders would be equally happy and likely much more so if Beechworth’s gold-fuelled history, industry and enterprise became the main tourist drawcard and the failed bushranger faded to second or third place. An unfortunate footnote as it were. His claimed prominence there is a relatively recent event, propped up by unwarranted chunks of council funding that could be much better directed to celebrating Beechworth’s golden age and colonial vigour, in which bushrangers played no constructive part at all. Why not celebrate the ordinary on-the-ground
      colonial police who were greatly respected by the vast majority of settlers including in the North East? The “huge Kelly army of sympathisers” myth is long overdue for the tip, as I showed in my republic debunking book.

      1. Stuart the big issue here is the official push of ‘adventure tourism’ where much of what you’ve mentioned has been largely forgotten in favour of food, wine and cyclists who don’t spend money in town and obviously can’t carry much home with them. There has been a lot said on social media in recent times which indicates much resentment amongst operators and traders. It’s ‘Not Just Ned’ who is missing out on proper promotion here it’s gold, bushrangers, police, other figures like Burke and Isaac Isaacs who are being forgotten in favour of MAMILS (middle-aged men in lycra). There is no advertising apart from Facebook! There’s no official ads for Burke, Gold, Isaacs, Vault and Ned..no wonder the natives are getting very restless……….

        1. Hi Anonymous, you make some good points here in my opinion. What are the councils and shires doing to encourage MAMILS (a new acronym for me), foodies and others to the north east and to regional Victoria in general? And to increase their stay length and spend? We have such a spectacular country with so much to offer in regional variety. The Ned Kelly Alive project was so dinosaur it’s ridiculous. Maybe half a percent of people might be interested, and a fair bunch of them would be more interested in Ben Hall at a guess. Ned Kelly is moving rapidly to the fiction shelves as we see with the Kurzel film. Does anyone care much? As far as I can see online, not really.

          1. Kelly is and always has been a huge tourism hook in the NEeast but many council’s haven’t exploited the story properly probably because of the controversy of the man. Its naive to assume that because a researcher presents a far less sympathetic view of Kelly, it will result in a mass exodus of tourism to places associated with Kelly. Thats bunkum! Only those with more than a passing interest in any story will join a forum or seek as much information as possible on their subject of interest and it’s particularly tough to change a story after 140 years. Just look at some stupid comments online relating to the ‘rape’ of Kate Kelly for example.
            Visitors will always want to see where historic events happened or where the famous once stood regardless of whether a visitor sees him or her as a goodie or baddie. If you’re in Bowral with your family you’d probably go and see the Bradman Museum even if you’re not a fan of cricket. There will always been the die hards who travel to a destination to see a museum as well as those who are in a town looking for some time to kill by seeing the local sites and attractions. Ned Kelly Alive is 100% dead, agreed. There will be ramifications from that. But that’s about government funding priorities. Lots of other worthwhile projects across Vic have not been funded yet. Stuart you are seeing tourism in the context of your research changing the world and that’s not how it works. How many people would have downloaded your free pdf and changed their travel plans because of it? Not many I suggest. As for the Kurzel film well any publicity is good publicity as they say. Just like the Carey book twenty years ago the film will encourage people to find out more. Anecdotally the majority of people see Kelly as a criminal but are no less interested in the story. The Kelly juggernaut will roll on forever. Your free pdf will never kill Ned but lack of history based tourism investment will make a fair dent in several regional economies. Just wait and see.

  25. Hi Anonymous, my “free PDF”, otherwise known as a multiple peer-refereed work of impeccable myth-busting scholarship, was never intended to kill interest in Ned. It was intended to expose 70 years of fanciful republic nonsense for what it was. If anything it makes study of Ned more interesting by causing a rethink by thoughtful people as to what the Kelly story looks like when silly myths are stripped away. I have always seen more tourist potential in evil Ned, Victoria’s own Mad Dog Morgan, than in victim of circumstance Ned, “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, easy come, easy go….”

    1. Stewie,

      You’ve extinguished the Kelly Republic that Macfarlane demolished in 2012…

      DUH!

      Cam West

      1. Yes, but Stuart did a comprehensive, scholarly job on the fake “republic” didnt’y he?

        Kenyatta

Leave a Reply