Ive decided to do a third Blog post about Steele, but the point of this Post is not so much to add to what is already written about Steele, but to use this saga to illustrate the way in which visitors to these Ned Kelly-related Facebook pages are being misinformed by people purporting to be experts on the Kelly story. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence within the world of amateur Kelly historians who routinely conceal the whole truth about the Kelly story in an effort to keep the unhistorical Kelly mythology alive. I suppose the good news is that despite their efforts, the Kelly myths are slowly dying, and being replaced with the true story.
In this instance it is the Facebook page called ‘An Introduction to Ned Kelly‘ that is promoting a completely false version of Sgt Steeles involvement in the siege at Glenrowan. This page, along with its supporters is doing the very thing I’ve been exposing as one of the dishonest tactics of Kelly authors down the years, of only informing their readers of half the story. The host of that page, Jack Peterson, mocks my recent Blog posts about Steele, then asks his readers to make up their own minds about him but he only gives them half of the story, the half that supports the argument he wants to cling to that Steele went on ‘a murderous rampage’ (So Jack Peterson, just remind us : who did Steele murder on this rampage? Wasn’t it nobody?). He recycles convenient parts of the testimony of various people from the Commission but fails to inform his readers that these very testimonies and claims were later challenged by Steele, that a special Enquiry was set up to examine them, and that the Enquiry dismissed them and reinstated Steele “unhesitatingly and unanimously.” Peterson can’t pretend he doesn’t know all this because he and his supporters all read this Blog. So what is their excuse for ignoring the Enquiry and its findings? For anyone wanting balance, all the facts and an up-to-date understanding of Kelly history, they’re wasting their time at Jacks place. So, if its balance and understanding you want, read on:
At this Enquiry, Steele, Mr and Mrs Reardon and Constable Arthur, Mrs Ann Jones, Jesse Dowsett and others were all questioned again about their evidence. The panel wanted Constable Phillips to also attend but reported that he had left the colony. I provided details of where the reports from this Enquiry could be read, but without quoting extensively from them, pointed out that at the end of the Enquiry the three gentleman appointed to the Enquiry “unhesitatingly and unanimously” acquitted Steele of all the charges. That was the bit Jack Peterson didnt want anyone to know.
In this post I am going to fill in some of the detail of that three man enquiry, detail that makes it clear why the Commission disregarded Arthurs claims and why tellers of the Kelly story should no longer repeat them as anything other than smear directed at Steele by Arthur. I’ve speculated that Arthurs motivation was a desire for revenge because Steele had accused him of cowardice but in truth, none of us knows why Arthur made them. However, the documentary evidence from the time leaves little room for doubt: they were false.
The version of events that the Enquiry eventually accepted, was that Steele saw people trying to escape the Inn, and amongst them was Mrs Reardon but also a young man he thought could have been a gang member so he challenged him. This challenge was not directed at Mrs Reardon but at the young man who didn’t do as he was ordered to, and so Steele fired at him twice. Steele readily admitted this at the Royal Commission, and later, when he discovered who it was he apologised to the boy’s father and had a drink with him. The idea that he called out “I have shot mother Jones in the tits” makes no sense: Steele knew that Mrs Jones had already left the Inn. Later, in further proof that Jack Peterson and the Kelly mob are wrong to claim Steele was on a trigger happy ‘murderous rampage’, Steele called on everyone not to fire at Ned Kelly emerging from the mist because at first Steele thought he was a local aborigine. Peterson left that detail out too.
So what was it that led the Enquiry to prefer Steele’s version of events over Arthurs?
Well firstly, the panel expressed surprised that Arthurs claims were not aired anywhere, not mentioned either by himself or anyone else until Arthur appeared at the 1881 Royal Commission almost a year after they were alleged to have happened. His accusations were sensational and completely contrary to the narrative that was current at the time. Such a complete silence over so many months clearly made the Panel wonder about their accuracy.
The Panel and the Commissioners themselves were also clearly sceptical of Arthurs claim that everyone who said it was Steele who brought Kelly down was wrong! Effectively, Arthur was accusing all of these other witnesses of committing perjury, so he was asked directly at Q11172: “You are prepared to say that all those who have sworn that he was struck by Steele, before he fell, are wrong in their impression?” Even people who were much closer to the action than Arthur was, like Dowsett and SC Kelly got it wrong, according to Arthur. So Jack Peterson, you’re also sure are you that Sgt Kelly and Dowsett were wrong? And so was the journalist who wrote about it for the Age? Everyone was wrong but Arthur? Hmmmm…..
Arthur further undermined his credibility when questioned by the panel about his written evidence that Steele fired twice at Mrs Reardon. He said, in answer to a question that he couldn’t swear that the second shot was aimed at Mrs Reardon:
“Mr HERON here read Constable Arthur’s written complaint against Sergeant Steele, in which it was distinctly stated that Steele fired two shots at the woman.
Mr HERON – How do you explain the discrepancy between what you wrote and what you now swear?
Arthur – My meaning was that he fired the second shot in the direction of the woman.” Hmmmm……so now Arthur is only claiming that Steele fired one shot at Mrs Reardon…or was it also ‘in the direction of the woman’ like the second one? One shot constitutes a ‘murderous rampage’ does it Jack?
The Enquiry also heard from Superintendent Sadleir who informed them that “An adverse report has been made against Constable Arthur, but witness had always found him a good, steady man. In the district there was a great hatred of Sergeant Steele on the part of the outlaws and their friends. Constable Phillips was a very unreliable man, and was on two occasions recommended for dismissal.” No detail is provided about the ‘adverse report’ concerning Arthur, or of why the ‘very unreliable’ Phillips was recommended for dismissal, but Sadleir’s opinion would have carried weight.He also said that in his opinion “Steele was a steady and reliable man”.
Mrs Reardon attended the Enquiry and admitted she hadn’t seen who it was that was firing at her but was later told it was Steele. She had previously claimed a hole in her babies shawl was proof Steele had fired at her, but when the proprietor of the Glenrowan Inn Ann Jones, who also attended the Enquiry was asked about the damage to the shawl she reported that previously “Mrs. Reardon informed her that a bullet went through her shawl whilst she was lying down on a bed in the house.”
The Panel wrote: “She afterwards showed a bullet hole through the shawl which covered her child, but Sergeant Steele was armed with a double barrelled gun carrying swan shot. Can it be possible that within so short a distance and armed with such a weapon, had he fired at her she and her infant could have escaped unhurt? That the poor woman was justly terrified by the shots whistling past her there can be no doubt, but that she should know, or could possibly have observed, whence the two shots came is quite incredible.” Clearly, they had serious reservations about her interpretation of events.
Mr Reardon also attended the Enquiry. When they asked him how he knew it was Steele who had fired at his wife and son he said he had been told this by Arthur – of all people! There was also a surprising admission by him that some time after the event he had met Steele and invited him to the Pub for a drink. He agreed Steele admitted to him that he was the person who had fired at his son, but wouldn’t agree with Steeles claim that he had apologised for doing so and offered to shake his hand. The panel seemed to think it was a contradiction for Reardon to claim Steele had fired at his wife and son, but then invite him for a drink.
Mr. HERON. – You say you invited Sergeant Steele to have a drink with you. Was that not rather strange behaviour towards a man who you say boasted of having shot your son?
Witness – Well, I thought it was the best thing to do.
Finally, it seems nobody else heard Arthur calling out to Steele not to fire at Mrs Reardon. “Patrick Healey, constable, accompanied Sergeant Steele from Wangaratta to Glenrowan, and was stationed during the fight at a distance of 20 yards from Steele, and seven from Arthur. Never heard Arthur threaten to shoot Steele if he fired again at a woman. Had Arthur made such a threat witness would certainly have heard him.”
Jack Peterson ends his misleading Facebook post about Steele with the following question about Arthur and Phillips: “So did these two officers lie under oath or was Sgt Steele just a blood-thirsty maniac?”
Well Jack, somebody appears to have lied under oath, and if it wasn’t those two – one of whom was reported to be ‘very unreliable’ – then it had to have been Jesse Dowsett, Sgt Kelly, Healey, Mrs Jones and all the others who didn’t support Arthurs version of events. Are you going to call all of them out Jack? Also Jack you’ve not provided any evidence that Steele was what you called a ‘blood thirsty maniac’ whereas I’ve provided evidence that he most definitely wasn’t: he ordered men NOT to fire at Ned Kelly when he thought he was someone else, he only fired at Reardon after warning him, he apologised to Reardons father and had a drink with him after it was all over, and though you call his actions a ‘murderous rampage’ he murdered nobody.
So lets set the record straight shall we Jack : the Enquiry established that the blood thirsty maniac who went on a murderous rampage at Glenrowan wasn’t Sgt Steele. However those words of yours do describe almost perfectly the behaviour of someone else at Glenrowan that weekend in 1880 : Ned Kelly.
7 Replies to “KELLY FACEBOOK PAGES DONT TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT NED KELLY – or Arthur Steele”
Jack Peterson’s heading is “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.”
Well Jack it sure is, and it is well presented here in this forum. Jack Peterson is so like Kelly nuts. Presents only half the story that glorifies Ned Kelly and his criminal associates, yet ignores and hides facts that show Ned Kelly as a serious criminal and where he and other Kelly nuts can, they degrade police where ever and whenever they can.
I am sure you will read this Jack and just to make sure you get the facts, here they are. Record of the tribunal hearing that charged Sgt Steele, where he was completely exonerated.
Tragically, I can guarantee that Jack will try and hide the truth as he always does, and will continue with his disgraceful representations that in fact hide the truth.
Petersons behaviour isnt tragic Sam, its pathetic and sad.The man is woefully ignorant and equally sad and pathetic are the little troupe of idiots who egg him on with their own stupid and ill-informed commentary. What on earth is the problem with accepting what the record shows is the truth?
It is crystal clear from the second of the two articles given by Sam https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11536278# (the one of 29 March 1882 reporting the Enquiry into Steele’s actions) that it is completely untrue that Steele shot at Mrs Readon and that there was only one hole in her shawl when shown to Sadlier at Glenrowan.
Anyone remotely suspiscious that some police skewed their version of events to let Steele off lightly has also to contend with Rawlins’ testimoiny to the Enquiry, that he “Subsequently observed the woman coming out of the house with a child in her arms. A voice challenged her. He recognised the voice as that of Sergeant Steele. When Steele fired the two shots the woman was completely out of the line of fire.”
From the previous day’s report of the Enquiry (28 March) https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11536188# we find that Anne Jones, proprietress of the Glenrowan Inn, stated that Mrs. Reardon informed her that a bullet went through her shawl whilst she was lying down on a bed in the house.
As we know from the second day’s evidence that there was only one bullet hole on her shawl, it seems possible that the distraught Mrs Reardon imagined another bullet pirecing her shawls as she ran to escape the Inn – but it is beyond question that even if the one bullet hole was incurred during that flight, it was not from Steele’s shotgun.
Another Kelly myth busted.
The most telling evidence in my view clearing Sgt Steele was that given by Ann Jones when she told the tribunal that a bullet did go through Mrs Reardon’s shawl, BUT it occurred while she was laying down inside the hotel on a bunk bed.
That evidence alone destroyed the myth of Steele shooting at Reardon as she escaped from the hotel.
It is interesting that in Kelly mythology, the most denigrated and maligned police are all the ones who performed their duty well, and who were collectively a threat to the Kellys.
Steele: the guy who actually shot Kelly and arrested him,.
Fitzpatrick: the bloke who tried to arrest Dan for horse theft.
Hall: the bloke who arrested Kelly twice.
McIntyre: The only surviving witness of Stringybark Creek.
Ward: goes without saying.
Whelan: arrested Kelly for the Ah Fook holdup.
The supposed good guys in the force (in Kelly mythology) included dunces like Arthur and Sadleir, who posed no threat to the criminals.
Yes thats worth pointing out Frank. Steele also arrested Mrs Kelly if I remember rightly. The Kelly mob go after anyone who isnt sucked in by their lies then and now, who dares stand up to them. As Brad continually points out Kelly was a bully and a standover thug.
However also interesting is that he Kelly myth also praises one policeman in particular, Constable Robert Graham who was sent to Greta after Kelly was hanged. Jones makes a big deal of this, painting Graham as the ideal policeman who calmed the seething North East and the Sympathiser army and prevented a war. I suspect Jones aim was to highlight what a dastardly mob of Policemen preceeded Graham , trying to make the case that if they had all been like the wonderful Graham the outbreak would havent ever happened. This is a tactic aimed at defaming all the other police and bolstering Ned Kelly’s claim he was a victim of police persecution : you know that fake Kelly quote that begins “If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment and if the police are taught they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute anvil treat ….”
Ive always thought this was bullshit. The reason there was no uprising after Kelly was hanged was because the madman had been removed from the scene, and was no longer fooling people with his charm and his lying grievances, and staring up trouble. Very little to do with Graham in my opinion , who may well have been a fine policeman but then so were many of the others, Kennedy in particular.
Yes, the sappy elevation of Constable Graham to the role of colonial-era social worker is dumb. As you say, there was no further ‘outbreak’ because, for all their bumbling along and all the mistakes along the way, the cops won. Not just the gang, but many of Kelly’s accomplices, like the Baumgartens, had been put away. It was over. That’s the reason. It had nothing to do with hand-holding or reaching out, and absolutely nothing to do with Graham.
In fairness to Jones, Montford made a comment along those lines at the royal commission. which JJ Kenneally kicked up a big fuss over, along the lines of treating them fairly. But they read way to much into comments like this, which was basically an internal discussion about crafting future policies, and how best to handle the remnants of the Kelly sympathisers, moving forward.