At the beginning of the year there were two main topics under discussion : the first was a mainstream and social media campaign to promote a claim to have discovered the exact spot where Ned Kelly murdered Sgt Kennedy, and the exact spot where the police search party had made their campsite at Stringybark Creek. These claims were based on questionable interpretations of what could be seen in photographs taken in 1878, claims which contradicted the written records of the day and they crumbled under close scrutiny. Read my analysis HERE
The second item of interest early in the year was the release of the movie adaptation of Peter Careys award winning novel ‘True Story of the Kelly Gang’. The movie announced at the very beginning that nothing in it was true but still, most Kelly fans objected loudly to it. The funny thing is much of what Kelly fans believe is not true – they believe myths and fantasies and refuse to look at the facts – so what they’re really objecting to is that the movie didn’t tell the story their way. My review of the movie is HERE. I really enjoyed it – I think because it expressed much of the passion and the intensity of the outbreak, the feelings rather than the precise narrative.
Another movie that didn’t tell the story their way was the limited release short film ‘Stringybark‘ a hard hitting and accurate portrayal of the Kelly gang police murders. I went to see it in Melbourne but havent written a review as yet.
Bill Denhelds metal detecting at SBC in February found nothing to support the claim that Kennedy had been shot in front of the tree named by the Kennedy Tree group, but it aroused intensely vitriolic indignation and hyperbolic claims about vandalism and destruction of sacred sites by the Kelly mob whose complaints to Heritage Victoria about it were dismissed. Read about this HERE.

Also in February a symposium in Greta entitled ‘Ned and the Law’ was completed just before the COVID 19 lockdowns put an end to almost everything. By all accounts this was a respectable and balanced series of talks that avoided Kelly mythology and idolatry. Transcripts of the talks are available HERE . My favourite is the one about Sir Redmond Barry by Alice Richardson. Theres a highly enjoyable audio recording of her talk at the site linked above.


Two Kelly books were released in 2020-  the first was a novel, ‘Glenrowan’ . This was a milestone in one important way : it was written by a Kelly supporter but did not mention a Republic of North East Victoria. This signifies the broadening rejection in the Kelly supporter community of Ian Jones once dominant theory that at Glenrowan in 1880 Kelly planned to establish some sort of Republic in the north east.  It will take some time for the Kelly community to fully accept that Stuart Dawsons meticulous research debunked the entire concept in 2018, but this notable absence from ‘Glenrowan’ is a big step forward in terms of correcting the historical record. I reviewed this novel HERE.

The second Kelly  book to come out this year was the third and final volume in Doug Morrissey’s  ‘Ned Kelly’ trilogy, this last one concentrating on Stringybark Creek. It only became available in the last month and I have read it but my review will probably be the first post of the New Year. Something to look forward to!

On the Social Media front, Members Only Facebook pages continue to do God Only Knows What, Jack Peterson continues to recycle the unhistorical mythology of Kelly and keep the unthinking Kelly mob happy, and a  page that posts almost nothing but puerile abuse and attacks on me continues with its four participants as it has done for several years.  The only thing that changed in Social Media this year was the arrival of two new Facebook Pages. One, called ‘Ned Kelly : False Icon‘ publicises the historical documents that debunk the Kelly myths and the other is Mark Perrys “Ned Kelly – the Best bloody Man” which is mostly displays of Kelly memorabilia and the occasional brief discussion of something thats caught Marks eye. I was temporarily a Member, but as usual my presence attracted hostility and abuse from a few trolls, so I left – and the Trolls haven’t been seen or heard from since – proving my point that all these pathetic creeps are interested in is silencing anyone who disagrees with them, and me in particular!

Kelly fans were shocked when it was announced late in the year that the popular Ned Kelly Vault in Beechworth which had been closed because of the Pandemic was never going to re-open. Items on display were sent back to their owners or to the Burke Museum, meaning that it will be very difficult to reopen in new premises, should they ever be found. The Vaults focus on Ian Jones now debunked republic theory meant that it was due a complete overhaul but I have no idea why the Burke Museum turned its back on Matt Shore the curator ;  there will be some political skullduggery at the heart of it I am sure. 

Looking ahead, there are two projects underway that have given Kelly supporters a little hope, in the face of several years of defeats losses and retreat, the first being the restoration of the house Red Kelly built at Beveridge. A million dollars was allocated a couple of years ago and its finally being spent.

The other project which is much further away is the Ned Kelly Alive Project for Glenrowan. The local Council has added half a million dollars of ratepayer funds to the $3.5 million contributed by Government to this project and awarded a contract to an architectural firm to design it.

One or two Kelly cranks have directed sneers my way, thinking this tourist project for Glenrowan proves the Kelly myths are all as alive and robust as they’ve ever been, and that I am wasting my time advocating for truth and accuracy in the telling of Kelly history. I think that what these cranks will discover in three or four years when this thing is complete, if that does actually ever happen, is that the story being told will be far far different from the fantasies and unhistorical lies they’re clinging to about the mass murderer Ned Kelly. Hopefully the designers and writers of this attraction will familiarise themselves with modern Kelly scholarship and tell the true story, the story about how the Kelly Gang planned an event at Glenrowan that would have been a criminal monstrosity, not the now debunked and crumbling Kelly myths about a Republic.

But to be clear, I am in favour of tourism, and of local history being promoted to encourage it. What I am not in favour of is lies being promoted as history, and I will do what I can to discourage that from happening. The thing is, the True Story of the Kelly Outbreak and of Ned Kelly is much more interesting than the fake one – and maybe when the Ned Kelly Alive project is unveiled it wont be the sanitised fake news of old on display but the newly rediscovered and  exciting  true story of one of Australias most notorious criminal dynasties. Tourists will flock to learn about it in greater numbers than ever, because people are drawn to learn about evil maniacs, thieves hostage takers liars and killers much more powerfully than they are to insipid mummy boys and wannabe politicians.

Whatever happens in 2021, its bound to be better than 2020.


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13 Replies to “2020 : A REVIEW OF KELLY-WORLD EVENTS”

  1. Hi all, happy new year for 2021, and it will be good as my Outlawry Act article will be published sometime on 2021, either by the journal that has tentatively scheduled it for printing after 2 rounds of changes to satisfy academic referees, or on my Academia.edu page if they don’t get their act together as promised. It was first scheduled for publication in November 2020 until that issue was turned into a special edition on a totally different topic. It’s now pending copy editing to finalise.

    What this tells you is that the academic publication process is slow. It was first submitted in mid 2019, so we are talking about a roughly two year delay from doing the work to getting it in front of readers. That is quite typical for academic journals, and happened to my past academic articles some years ago in ancient history, Australian mechanics’ institutes, business ethics and business management.

    What you see in academic journals is not the latest research by a long chalk, but what was the latest research a year or two before it appeared in print. That’s why blogs like this and other social media can create awareness of things going on long before they get through the academic hoops. It’s also true that blogs like this are a good way of testing ideas, hopefully getting some meaningful feedback and discussion, and learning something worthwhile for the trouble of bothering to post. Let’s see how it goes in 2021.

    1. Congratulations Stuart another contribution to the wider context of the Kelly story.

      Look forward to reading it in due course.

      I’ve got plenty more ideas about stuff for this Blog so stay tuned everyone!

  2. I am a great fan of Stuart’s work. Meticulous, thorough and truthful.

    1. Thanks Sam, much appreciated. I wish I had time to do more but it’s a lot of work for no pay! Not complaining about no pay as I do it for fun, but it does take a lot of time and effort to read around a topic then track down sources and see how things were thought about in the context of their day, as well as dealing with all sorts of later commentary from different eras that doesn’t always give its sources (e.g. Max Brown had no index or references in any of his editions of Australian Son until the 1 page short bibliography at the back of his 2013 posthumous edition).

      The good thing is that most of the sources are free online through Trove and the Public Records Office Victoria. The more both can digitise, the better. What would be great is if the Vic Police Museum or PROV could put all the nineteenth century Victorian Police Gazettes online as PDFs. Maybe they could work together and divide up the task. That would be very popular with geanealogy fans, as the VPM apparently get quite a lot of old Police Gazette enquiries which could go to self-serve if the material was online, saving a bunch of staff time and eliminating waiting.

      Does anyone know a historical source for the following quote that appeared online recently, with no indication of where it came from? –
      “An eyewitness to the events at the Kelly home claimed ‘the incident started when Fitzpatrick made drunken advances towards Kate and Dan tried to throw the constable out the door but failed. Fitzpatrick discovered his wrist bleeding… After Mrs Kelly and Kate bandaged the wrist Fitzpatrick shook hands with everyone and declared the whole thing would be forgotten. Ned was not there during the incident.'”

      It is similar to some text that appears on KellyGang.au, at this link, William Williamson, Brickey – KellyGang
      On that webpage page, the story appears to have been provided by Bricky Williamson to a journalist around World War One, and possibly passed on by notes taken at the time by his daughter. Does anyone know a published source for that story back around WW1 ? Or for the story as related later by his daughter Ida?

      Interestingly, this suggests that the story of an “eye witness” is in fact a story by Williamson over thirty years after the event, and is not consistent with his remission statement in PROV, VPRS 4969 Consignment P0 Unit 1 Item 52 Document: Williamson remission of six year sentence assaulting Fitzpatrick. 6 August 1881.

  3. A reminder to the person I said shouldn’t bother posting here again because I would only delete anything they submitted: I wasn’t joking. Go away and stay away.

  4. Ned Kelly first went to gaol in November 1870 for a violent assault on McCormick the hawker and gross indecency to his wife, a six month stint, although he got 2 months remission.

    It is interesting to see how things were thought of in Kelly’s time. Here is an extract from the 1871 Royal Commission on Penal and Prison Discipline, Report No. 2, p. ix –

    “… professional criminals do not stand in the same relation to the State as the rest of the community ; they are, in fact, its declared enemies, not its obedient subjects. Their very business and occupation is to prey on society. The larger proportion of the annual expenditure on the machinery of criminal justice, on police, gaols, and penal establishments, is necessitated by this class. It is an evil leaven which is persistently fermenting, and constitutes the dangerous element in society.
    “From motives of public morality, economy, and safety, it becomes the duty of the State, whilst by an efficient system of public education it endeavours to prevent the growth of this pernicious class, to superadd an efficient system of penal discipline, expressly framed with a view to its diminution, and if possible extermination.”

    The Kellys and associates were part of this evil leaven, persistently fermenting; a kind of criminal agar plate in the north east…

    Also of interest, the left-hand bushrangers book is the well-known Landsdowne Press book by Tom Prior, Bil Wannan, and Harry Nunn, first published in 1966 and reprinted a number of times. The one on the right with a very similar title, identical format,and a lot of graphics in common but with some quite different text, is by Harry Nunn alone, from Landsdowne Press in 1980. I hadn’t seen or heard of the Nunn book until I chanced across it the other day.

    Nunn was Chief Archivist in the State Library Victoria from 1966 to 1973 when he became Keeper of Public Records. This of course gave him ready access to the Kelly files, and his notes show that he conducted his research diligently.

    In his 1980 bushrangers book he observed something which has been ignored by practically eveyone writing on Kelly in 1980, when a plethora of work was published for the centenary of Kelly’s hanging. On p. 158 he noted:

    “Much has been made of Fitzpatrick’s unreliability and dismissal from the Police Force, but he pointed out to the Royal Commission that he was dismissed on the single report of Senior Constable Mayes of Lancefield which stated ‘that I was not fit to be in the police force as I had associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield and could not be trusted out of sight and never did my duty’; that he was not given any opportunity of reply; and that there were ‘petitions of two hundred respectable citizens of Mansfield and Romney and nine justices of the peace asking for my reinstatement’. (RC, p. 467.) The petiton from Lancefield citizens was ‘that we came into contact with him every day … he was … zealous, diligent, obliging and universally liked’. (Petition to Chief Commissionar of Police by Citizens of Lancefield, 3 May 1880, Misch. Kelly files, PROV.)

    So a senior achivist in a popular press book corrected the false stories of Fitzpatrick as regards his dismissal in 1980; but the same year the Kelly mythmakers swamped the media with their ‘bad Fitzpatrick’ centenary narratives, and practically no-one bothered to even notice the petitions to reinstate Fitzpatrick ever since until Ian MacFarlane brought them to attention in his 2012 ‘Kelly Gang Unmasked’, an invaluable corrective work and meticulously referenced. Not even one of the many Kelly writers who have all read the part of the Royal Commission where Fitzpatrick gives his evidence and mentions the petitions, seems to have bothered to go to PROV and see the truth for themselves. They just parrot the Jerilderie letter as though that tissue of lies and distortions had any evidentiary value for anything without appropriate analysis and critical review. The only thing the Jeriderie letter is a manifesto of is manifest stupidity.

    Corfield’s 2003 ‘Kelly Encyclopaedia’ pathetically wrote p. 165 that Fitzpatrick was discharged “as a perjurer and a drunkard”. The so-called Encyclopaedia hasn’t even got such a basic fact as his discharge right. No wonder Kelly studies are such a hodge podge of amateur lame-brained myth propagation. The next page 166 has the fiction that Fitzpatrick’s death certificate says he died of cirrhosis of the liver, implying alcoholism, when the certificate very clearly says sarcoma of the liver. Did Corfield even look at it? The only reason I haven’t sent my copy of the Kelly Encyclopaedia to the op-shop is that fools keep referencing it and I need to check their drivel.


    1. The Kelly story tellers treatment of the facts about Fitzpatrick is an absolute disgrace, even more so in view of the fact that the true story has been told for forty years or more, as you say by Nunn as far back as 1980, but many more times in the last five years but STILL these purveyors of lies refuse to let go of their nasty unhistorical and proven false claims about this man. The hypocrisy of these people is what staggers me : they never cease to moan about giving Kelly and Kelly clan descendants a fair go and having regard for their feelings – but that sentiment doesn’t extend to Fitzpatrick or his descendants. They never stop inventing new versions of their conspiracy theories and vilification of the man

      Fitzpatrick was denied natural justice and not given a single opportunity to defend himself or even be told the specific details of the charges that led to Mayes making allegations that led too his dismissal. In fact I think Mayes has got away with something that scrutiny might reveal was personal and unprofessional, that he was acting on his own prejudice that was itself based on rumours and false claims about Fitzpatrick, some of which probably originated with the kelly liars themselves. Denying Fitzpatrick the right to appeal meant Mayes dirty secret, that he actioned the required hatchet job on the Police scapegoat was never exposed. The Blog about Mayes reveals him to be a rigid disciplinarian and likely a man who rarely changed his mind, once made up. He did in fact say something about wanting to get rid of Fitzpatrick but it took a little while to get it done.

  5. Hi David, someone said that someone else was looking for a copy of my one-pager on how long Ned Kelly’s last stand was. I’ve attached the PDF below. The link to your blog page where this was originally posted is at the top of the article.
    There are two timing points in the Royal Commission minutes that show the actual gunfight was less than 10 minutes. I think the PDF can be downloaded from here by right-clicking. I haven’t tried this before, so let’s see if it works.

    1. The PDF attachment download works. You just have to left-click the attachment link as normal to download.

      1. Make that right click.

  6. Another exciting find in the Nunn book, “Bushrangers: A Pictorial History”, shown above. While much is made of the petition to reprieve Ned Kelly from hanging having collected 30,000 signatures – Gaunson’s claim, apparently, but some Kelly enthusiasts have claimed even more than that, our diligent achivist Harry Nunn noted p. 205 that “the number of signatures in the Law Department files total only 12,246”. I had intended to tot them up myself one day from the PDFs due to scepticism, but this has saved me the trouble. And of course, many of those signatures are bogus as was observed at the time, with whole pages filled out in the same hand.

    Nunn acknowledges of the petition pages that “this does not necessarily mean that all the signatures to the petition reached the Law Department and if they that they all survived”. Against this, if they did not reach the Law Department it would be because they were not submitted by their collectors, as Gaunson handed over the petitions in a bunch and, as Nunn pointed out, the petition “appears to heve been organised by a few people”. Second, there is no reason to susect that of the petition forms handed over, that any might not have survived.

    Of the 712 sides of paper that form the petition as PDF’d, each covering (title) sheet has the number of signatories to that part of the petition tallied at the top of the cover sheet. In one case, the cover sheet only has one signature. In other cases, multiple sides are obviously written out in the same handwriting and totally bogus. As I posted here sometime over a year ago, I’d be surprised if there were more than 3,000 – 4,000 legitimate signatures all up. One day if I have time I will print all the pages out and sort them into piles for signature comparison, but it is easy to see from just scrolling down through the PDF (at VPRS 4966 Unit 3 Item 11) that much of the petition is bogus. Further, many of the signatories would be people opposed to the death penalty – abolitionists like Gaunson’s brother, one of the key reprieve campaigners, rather than Kelly sympathisers. In addition, we know that some rural signatories were threatened with consequeces if they did not sign. All in all, support for Kelly himself, or for his reprieve, seems rather thin.

    In his closing chapter Nunn wrote in 1980, “The cold facts bereft of the media would not appear to justify a folklore figure in Ned Kelly” (p. 214). That of course is not what we hear in practically all the non-fiction Kelly books written in the last 50 years, practically all of which thank Ian Jones for his direct input in their acknowledgements. Practically all we hear is folklore myth, and we are repeatedy told that Kelly is Australia’s best known folk hero. As the Jones-style myths are increasingly shown up as artificially manufactured and historically inaccurate nonsense, and we realise than Nunn’s book is not in any bibliography of Jones-influenced books that I have seen yet, we may start to feel mislead by the folk legend claims.

    Ben Hall has a greater claim to fame as the most legend-worthy bushranger in every respect. What was unique about the Kelly gang was the failed train derailment and the iron suits for the massacre of revenge planned from February 1880 onwards when the plough moldboards started to be stolen. As mentioned above, and detailed in the download attachement, the so-called last stand was not even a 10 minute gunfight, and, further, far fewer bullets were fired either by Kelly or the police than is generally supposed. But that is a topic for another day. Perhaps someone would like to independently tot up the number of bullets fired by Kelly, and by the police at Kelly, in that short time?

    1. The petition is not .pdfs. They are the actual pages of the original petition.


      1. Yes Gordon, what I referred to is “the 712 sides of paper that form the petition as PDF’d”, i.e. the pages of the original petition from the Law Department files that have been scanned as PDFs by PROV and uploaded so that anyone can view or download them from the PROV site. Was that not clear, or are you going to make some other point about the petition?

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