The Actual True Story of Ned Kelly Part V: Prelude to Stringybark Creek

Here’s a question that the Kelly sympathisers have never wanted to answer: If their claim is true that Ned Kelly was innocent and had not assaulted Fitzpatrick on April 15th 1878, why, immediately after ‘nothing happened’ did he and Dan Kelly go into hiding at a reinforced hut in the Wombat ranges and spend so much time doing target practice that the trees all round it were riddled with bullet holes? What exactly is it about that behaviour that would be what one expects of an innocent person? Or to put it another way, isn’t what Ned Kelly did precisely what a guilty person would do – get as far away as he could from the scene of the crime and stay out of sight?

Guilty or not, that’s what Ned Kelly did the day after Fitzpatrick had returned from the Kelly shanty to Benalla with a wounded wrist, a smashed in helmet and a jumper with a bullet hole through it. By the time police got back to the shanty, Ned and Dan Kelly were nowhere to be found and the saintly Mrs Kellys first response to questioning was to pretend she hadn’t seen Ned Kelly for four months, and to deny that Fitzpatrick had visited. Her claim was supported by her daughter Kate, but many months later she changed her story radically and claimed that not only had Fitzpatrick been there, but that he had assaulted her. Mrs Kelly also later ‘remembered’ that yes, Fitzpatrick had visited.


In the Jerilderie letter a few months later Ned Kelly wrote “I was not there” a claim thats regarded by Ian Jones, every Kelly scholar who ever looked at this incident, and the Courts at the time as an outright lie. And eighteen months after writing those words Ned Kelly himself admitted that it was a lie, agreeing that he did indeed shoot at Fitzpatrick.


It’s worth noting at this point that many Kelly sympathisers still claim Fitzpatrick’s wrist injury wasn’t caused by a bullet but by something else, such as the door latch – even though Ned Kelly admitted to shooting Fitzpatrick. This scepticism is most likely the result of Ian Jones’ confusing misdirection in Chapter seven of ‘A Short life’ wherein he discussed the evidence provided by Dr Nicholson, who examined the wounds. In his quotation, Jones italicised the word ‘might’ to create the impression that Nicholson had doubts, and he left out the vital last sentence (underlined) which makes it clear Nicholson did NOT have doubts:


“Found two wounds, one a jagged one and the other a clean incision. They were about an inch and a half apart; one was on the outside of the wrist and the other near the centre. They might have been produced by a bullet – that is the outside wound. The wounds are consistent with Fitzpatrick’s statement (Ovens and Murray Advertiser October 10 1878)

 Later in the chapter, Jones almost reluctantly concedes that Nicholson did NOT have doubts about the wounds, citing the deposition Nicholson swore on May 17th 1878 “Could not swear it was a bullet wound but it had every appearance of one”



So, even though Mrs Kelly lied, her daughter Kate lied and Ned Kelly lied, it achieved nothing because on October 9th Mrs Kelly was convicted of ‘wounding with intent to murder’.  The following day William Baumgarten was sent to prison for six years for receiving two of the horses stolen by Ned Kelly, whose mother was also now going to prison as a direct consequence, for three years.


After she was sentenced, when asked how she thought her sons might react Mrs Kelly is reported to have said “There will be murder now”, chilling words that Ned Kelly might have heard as permission to go ahead and exact lethal revenge. If true, those words illustrate yet again what a dreadfully irresponsible mother Mrs Kelly was, and point to the fact that more than anyone else, she was the person whose violent temper, whose ignorance and appalling judgement were at the heart of the outbreak. She was the woman whose faulty judgement determined it was OK to allow her 14-year-old son to be apprenticed to a gun-toting highway robber, she was the woman whose short temper and ignorance about the way arrest warrants function led to the attack on Fitzpatrick that put her before the courts, and now her faulty judgement was that instead of calling for calm and restraint, she should issue a coded message about revenge of the worst kind. Sure enough, two and a half weeks later her volatile larrikin son murdered three policemen at Stringybark Creek.


Magistrate Alfred Wyatt told the Royal Commission in 1881 that before the police were murdered he received word that ‘one of the Quinns’ and Isaiah Wright would ‘endeavour to bring the Kellys in’ (q2265) on the condition that Mrs Kelly was first set free. “In each instance, Quinn’s and Wright’s feeling was that it would be better for the men themselves to be brought in. It was not a feeling of treachery towards them, but that they could not hold out, and that it was better for them themselves to bring them in”(q2278)


Wyatt’s response was to say that he was in no position to make commitments on behalf of the Government, but if the men did hand themselves in he would make every effort to then free their mother: “I could not make a shadow of a stipulation on behalf of the Government, but if any such efforts were made, and were successful, I would use my most strenuous endeavours to carry out the condition they wished to impose”.


This incident involving Wyatt is believed by Kelly advocates to show what fair and decent-minded citizens the Kellys were, and how inflexible and harsh the judiciary was. Kelly sympathisers claim this offer was genuine and the Government was unreasonable not to accept it, but it was a proposition that had no chance of ever being acceptable. Quite apart from the unacceptable notion that Governments would be dictated to by criminals, no responsible Government would ever set a convicted criminal free in the hope that other known criminals would hold to their promise to then hand themselves in, least of all people like the Kellys who were known to be notorious liars. This was not a kind of plea bargain – they are arrangements made whereby the co-operation of a suspect is obtained on the basis they get some sort of reduction in their own sentence, not someone elses!



So, Wyatt’s counter offer was rejected; the Kelly brothers weren’t prepared to hand themselves in to give their mother even a slim chance at freedom. You have to wonder what was going through their minds at this time: were they expecting to be on the run for the entire rest of their lives – other than handing themselves in or eventually being caught there were no other realistic options apart from leaving the colony for ever.



With Mrs Kelly and two others imprisoned for their role in the murder attempt on Fitzpatrick, police turned their attention to bringing the fugitive Kelly brothers to justice. They were rumoured to be hiding in the Wombat Ranges, and much later when their camp was visited by a news reporter, he found a heavily fortressed hut made of thick logs with a heavy metal-reinforced door with a loophole.  The discovery that surprised him the most was the way in which so many trees round about had been used as target practice, the bullets evidently having been gouged out of the trees and melted down to remake new ones.


I think this finding hasn’t been given the attention it deserves:  it was a clear sign that the Kelly brothers were preparing for a gunfight, arming themselves and practicing their marksmanship, a clear sign that they had no intention of going quietly, a clear sign that they were prepared to shoot and possibly kill, that they were going to resist arrest rather than submit to the law. I am sure those were the thoughts that filled their minds when they discovered, no doubt to their complete surprise, that a police search party made camp a mile away, at Stringybark Creek on October 25th. Men wanted for attempted murder were about to become wanted for mass murder.

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24 Replies to “The Actual True Story of Ned Kelly Part V: Prelude to Stringybark Creek”

  1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Do the bullets and bullet holes found at the log / fortress hut location give any insight into the weapons the soon-to-be Kelly gang were carrying at the time?

    As I understand it, Kelly claimed the Gang only had three weapons (Ned’s famous .577 calibre sawn off, Ned’s 1849 Colt pocket revolver, and a non-descript shotgun), however, McIntyre described all four as carrying long arms. I don’t have the ability to double check this though and am going off memory…

    Does the report of the fortified / log hut throw anymore light on this question?

    And what were Gang associates (Loyd, Wright etc) carrying at the time? Surely they joined in the target practice?

    1. Thanks for your comments Thomas. I dont think the descriptions of the trees used as target practice provided detail that would enable comment on what sort of guns were being used, I dont really have answers to your questions at the moment but someone else might. Also from memory, I am reasonably sure that McIntyre said all four gang members had guns drawn. It would seem a bit strange if one of the gang confronting armed police had no gun even for self defence…

      1. Hi all, McIntyre reports that all 4 of the gang had a gun, which always meant long gun in all descriptions of those days. His later write up is in his “True narrative of the Kelly gang”, p.17ff, a free download from the Victoria Police Museum website. In ADDITION Ned had a revolver, and maybe others did, I don’t have time to read up on it now.

        Who knows if Lloyd, Wright, or any others were involved in target practice at the fortified hut. It is just speculation unless anyone can find a source reference that suggests it.

        I suspect any bullets still in trees back then would have been dug out by souvenir hunters a hundred years ago.

  2. Generally yes David, but there is a slip-up here; in the Jerilderie letter (SLV page 27) where Kelly writes, “They knew well I was not there or I would have scattered their blood and brains like rain”, he is not ranting about the Fitzpatrick incident but about police raid on the Kelly house later on.

    The claim that Fitzpatrick’s wrist injury wasn’t caused by a bullet but by something else, such as the door latch, comes directly from the Kellys, not from Ian Jones, and is obviously stupid. Jones’ error was trying to see if he could find anything to support it in his quest to vindicate Ned. This is the flaw that runs throughout his books, and is based in the view of hero-Ned he had developed back before his 1967 Wangaratta seminar, published in Man and Myth in 1968.

    As you note, Jones left out the vital last sentence about Dr Nicholson’s findings about Fitzpatrick’s bullet wound which makes it clear Nicholson did NOT have doubts that the wound was caused by a bullet. It is yet another example of Jones at work to deliberately mangle and manipulate historical evidence; not just “confusing misdirection”, but an outright deliberate lie. This issue was examined in detail by Fricke, who observed that because the doctor had not actually witnessed the bullet being fired, he could not in law swear that the wound was caused by a bullet; but he could and did state that it was absolutely consistent with a bullet wound as per Fitzpatrick’s testimony. What happened is that Jones could not live with the idea that Fitzpatrick told the truth. As a result, Jones deliberately rewrote history against the historical evidence and the sworn testimony given in court, to present his own fantasy of the Ned Kelly story.

    Unfortunately a lot of people with an interest in history have taken Jones to be the guru of Kelly history (see the back cover reviews of his books); but we are more and more seeing that there are factual errors of history, and worse. deliberate distortions of historical evidence, on nearly every page of his books. Essentially he was inspired by Kelly worshippers Kenneally (1929) and Brown (1948), and spent the rest of his life writing increasingly bizarre historical fiction while claiming it to be true history.

    The republic myth is his biggest manufactured myth, but there are countless others built on air – the ludicrous claim that Ned walked three times through the police line surrounding the Glenrowan Inn being a prime example of how thousands of people have been sucked in by total bullshit since he first launched this idiotic idea in 1967. For the critique – which only needed about 1 page of text but took about 3 months work to research and demolish – see that section my Republic debunking book. And yes, truckloads of people still swallow that nonsense hook, line and sinker. (And get shitty when presented with the facts.)

    1. Thanks Stuart – my bad! Ive corrected it with a different quote that DOES relate to the Incident.

      On a similar subject, do you think Ned Kelly was claiming to be 400 miles from Greta when the ‘Incident’ occurred or when he heard about it? The lack of punctuation in the Letter makes it hard to be sure. “I heard nothing of this transaction until very close on the trial I being then over 400 miles from Greta when I heard I was outlawed and a hundred pound reward for me for shooting at a trooper in Victoria and a hundred pound for any man that could prove a conviction for horse stealing against men so I came back op Victoria …. etc etc etc …”

      1. The question Jones correctly raised was what the words “this transaction” means. Any interpretation rests on this. For me, it is clear that Ned claimed to have been wildly varying distances from home on the night of the Incident. These range from 15 miles to 200 miles, with maybe this 400 miles as well, or maybe not if it refers to hearing about the incident. But it more likely refers to hearing about his mum being committed for trial or possibly going to trial. It doesn’t affect the issue of him claiming hugely different distances from home on the night of the incident.

      2. I could not agree with you more Stuart on the myth that Kelly walked in and out of Anne Jones Inn on those occasions undetected by police. Certainly just made up nonsense that defies common sense.
        The RC found that after he was wounded in the first exchange of fire he walked out the back of the hotel before the police party had time to cut off that avenue of escape.
        The nonsense that he rode off to warn his supporters as claimed by Jones is clearly total fiction.
        Common sense is the biggest casualty here.

  3. Bill Denheld says: Reply

    Hello David,
    As you know I am sympathetic and have expressed that there is more to a story than just the evidence as written by the winners. Nobody ever sets out to do bad things for no reason. Even myself the way I have been portrayed in the Herald Sun article titled – ‘No Respect for History’, and even though I have not been named, everyone knows I conducted a legal metal detect to prove a considered K tree was unlikely to have historical significance, and as a consequence in years to come that article will still be tarnishing my good name because of a nasty outburst by disgruntled amateur readers of history. In a similar way with the Kelly clan so long ago- an over reactionary response by Fitzpatrick claiming attempted murder is probably as exaggerated as how Leo Kennedy reacted to my YouTube video.

    Anyway David, you wrote in your above text – para 7 –
    “”she should issue a coded message about revenge of the worst kind. Sure enough, two and a half (2-1/2) weeks later her volatile larrikin son murdered three policemen at Stringybark Creek.””
    You should check this as I have the Fitzpatrick affair as 15 April 1878
    Then Ned and Dan went bush and were at Bullock Ck ( Kellys Ck ) for six months when the police parties tried to capture the two brothers, – the incentive was money offered by the squattocracy based Melbourne Club members to teach the uncooperative settlers mooching in on lucrative land deals.
    Mrs Ellen Kelly may have been arrested 2-1/2 weeks after her sons had gone bush, most probably seen as an unfair arrest considering she was in her own home when the Fitzpatrick caused her hit him on his head (helmet) with the stove shovel.
    In the mean time, the Kelly brothers had cleared 18 acres and planted Sugar Beat with the objective to distill a whiskey hooch to be sold to sympathisers to pay for getting Mres Kelly out of gaol.
    So the point is, you have Mrs Kellys arrest six months after the Fitzpatrick event (6 Oct) so maybe you meant the date to be 6 May?
    For those interested I have a Time line at at the bottom of the page

    1. Bill you asked me to provide you with a link to the page where you claim the Constable Fitzpatrick died of cirrhosis of the liver, when in fact he died from Sarcoma of the liver.
      Your actual words are “Alexander Fitzpatrick died on the 6th May 1924 of, you guessed it, cirrhosis of the liver.”

      1. Hi Sam, that is not Bill saying that on the Iron Outlaw site. That is not Bill’s website. That IO page is written by a guy called Alan Crichton, who wrote endless rubbish about Fitzpatrick there and elsewhere, but actually put up a well argued case for Ned Kelly’s month of birth on one of his other posts. And it is not the month favoured by Ian Jones.

        Bill’s site is Iron Icon, a totally different website with lots of interesting pages and articles especially about Stringybark Creek. Google ironicon to find it.

  4. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Hi David, I had exactly the same thought today about the meaning of Ned’s claim to be 400 miles away (I’ve just finished Morrissey’s ‘A Lawless Life’).

    Also ‘Transaction’ is a very odd word to use in the context. I think Ned may be referring to Fitzpartick ‘selling his sister to a chinaman’ and is saying he heard this rumour at the time of Ellen’s trial. Alternatively, is it possible Ned is referring to Dan selling the horses provided by Skillion and Ryan? Both scenarios would fit more easily fit with using the word ‘transaction’ but I think the former makes more sense. All very confusing.

    Beyond that, I think Ned is saying he was over 400 miles from Greta when he heard he was ‘outlawed’ (i.e. arrest warrants out for attempted murder with a 100 pound reward) not when the actual incident occurred. Plenty of time to get from Greta to somewhere over the border. This also means there is not necessarily an inconsistency between his Euroa version (where he’s only 15 miles selling horse to Ryan) and the Jerilderie version.

    But these are just pubic holiday musings not particularly solid theories on my behalf..

  5. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Slight tangent, but are McIntyre’s poems easily accessible online? I can only find this poem on the Culture Victoria website:

    There ‘neath his cloak he’d lain,
    Taking his rest
    Basely by Kelly Slain;
    Shot through the chest,
    Whilst he still faintly spake,
    “For wife and children’s sake”
    (You enough blood have shed.)
    “Leave me to die.”
    “Bring no more on your head.”
    “Man’s blood will cry”
    “To the great Lord of all”
    “At the last trumpet call:”
    “Thou should’st no murder do”
    “What will you say”
    “I done to death by you”
    “On that great day?”
    “Now put away that gun.”
    “Ah: God: The deed was done.
    Shot as he lay.”

    Pretty harrowing stuff.

  6. More harrowing stuff-
    Growing up in Regency England, by Madeline Jones, 1980
    Chapter 7 Paupers and criminals,
    “Every parish had its paupers- people who had to be helped from the poor-rate money, a local tax paid. —- Helping the poor was expensive — — Orphan children were also apprenticed as soon as they were old enough — — to work on ‘work houses’ — — Not surprisingly, some poor children turned from begging to stealing, — — — Children aged eight and nine were sentenced to death at the Old Bailey in London for stealing. Things changed in 1835, but ‘Thomas Bell, aged 11 was transported to Australia for stealing two silk hankerchiefs.
    It can be assumed this marvelous British system of law and order was transported to the now colonies as well.

  7. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Thomas, I haven’t found any other poems by Constable McIntyre online. I have only seen two other examples of his work. Years ago I was given a photocopy of McIntyre’s narrative that is now available online. However, the copy  I have has a few extra pages at the end featuring some of his poetry. I am not sure where the person who sent it to me got it. One of the poems was from the Ballarat Courier from January 1904.  (It is unfortunate that certain years of the Ballarat Courier are not currently included at Trove, otherwise we could do a search for more.) The poem was entitled “Ballarat” and it s a very poor photocopy of a photocopy. It seems that the paper neglected to add in the final lines of the poem. McIntyre had written at the bottom of the page (maybe like in a scrapbook?)  “The editor brought my verse to a lame conclusion by omitting the following lines” which were included on another page. Then there was another with 16 stanzas that celebrated a former colleague addressed “To R. Levine Esq.  Superintendent  of Police, Hamilton.” The Kelly Gang are referenced in that. The latter is better than the former (though I wonder about the transcription of it in parts due to spelling). “Ballarat” is what I would term “turgid.” That said, I can’t even begin to imagine a full on book of his collected works…

    1. This “poem” by Thomas was ghastly:

      There ‘neath his cloak he’d lain,
      Taking his rest
      Basely by Kelly Slain;
      Shot through the chest,
      Whilst he still faintly spake,
      “For wife and children’s sake”
      (You enough blood have shed.)
      “Leave me to die.”
      “Bring no more on your head.”
      “Man’s blood will cry”
      “To the great Lord of all”
      “At the last trumpet call:”
      “Thou should’st no murder do”
      “What will you say”
      “I done to death by you”
      “On that great day?”
      “Now put away that gun.”
      “Ah: God: The deed was done.
      Shot as he lay.”

      – Thomas McIntyre

      Of course, enormously grateful Ned never revealed his artistic side.

      Ian MacFarlane

      1. There once was a man named Ned Kelly,
        Whose beard hung down to his belly,
        His demeanour was tough,
        but it wasn’t enough,
        In the hands of the law he was jelly
        – Joyce

  8. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Ian, unfortunately I don’t think that’s quite true. Seems to me the Cameron Letter seems to end with a pretty lousy stab at some poetry.

    I am really astonished to see Members of the Legislative Assembly led astray by such articles as the police,
    for a while an outlaw reigns their pocket swells
    ’Tis double pay and country girls.

    (swells and girls don’t quite rhyme but do have a certain assonance)

    by concluding, as I have no more paper unless I rob for it, if I get justice I Will cry a go.
    For I need no lead or powder
    to avenge my cause,
    and if words be louder
    I will appose your laws

    (powder, cause, louder, laws – a classic a,b,a,b rhyme structure)

    Having said that, I suppose I should qualify my point, it’s more likely this Joe – not Ned – showing his artistic side (many of the early ballads are attributed to his pen).

    Does ‘Ned Kelly in Popular Tradition’ by Graham Seal shine any light on this? I haven’t read it.

    1. Anonymous says: Reply

      Thanks Thomas. Agree that Joe is more likely poet “But this interest in mesmerism on the part of Wallace and Sherritt, and Joe Byrne’s love of writing and poetry, suggest an unusual veneer of sophistication for simple country lads” [ KGU, p. 177]. Its doggerel all the same.

      Ian MacFarlane

    2. What about reading it then? Why suggest it if you haven’t read it? Just time wasting here.

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    Charles Manson was a poet, “musician” and lyric writer. The Beach Boys recorded one of his songs long ago. Corny stuff though.

    Ned Kelly is not remembered for his poems. He is remembered as a cop-killer. Had his plan to wreck the police train to Glenrowan worked, he would be remembered as a mass police killer.

    Horrie and Alf

  10. Meredith, John and Bill Scott. Ned Kelly: After a Century of Acrimony, Lansdowne Press, Sydney, 1980. This book contains most of what one might call a comprehensive, detailed list of Kellyiana.

    It is not the most comprehensive – but close to it. Songs, quotes etc., etc.

    Cam West

  11. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Ah Cam, because I don’t own a copy of it yet… Thought it might be a good place to go next and that others might know. Sorry for not pretending to know everything.

    Also, odd to accuse me of time wasting when you’re spending your time reading comments on a Ned Kelly blog. I could accuse you on the same thing with that bitter and unhelpful post.

    Why so bitter? Strange.

  12. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Thanks Cam,
    Sorry for being a bit snarky in previous comment.
    I’ll try to to pick up a copy of a ‘After a Century of Acrimony’.
    Is the Seal book worth bothering with?

  13. This YouTube video link is what a large section of colonial population would have said about Ned Kelly. The British authorities were the criminals in South Africa’s Boer war and similarly the colonial Brit-Aus authorities wanted to kill off any opposition to the ruling class.

    History tells us Ned Kelly wanted to alert his world of inequities in his society, just like our Julian Assange wanted to alerted his world of the slaughter committed by our authorities during our times. Why hasn’t our Govt not stepped in and brought Julian back home?
    Lets “ Wish you were here” Julian
    This link-

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