Until quite recently, on the anniversary of the Siege, Kelly sympathisers gathered annually at Glenrowan to toast their hero Ned Kelly. They all believed his last stand on June 28th 1880 was an attempt to establish the republic of North East Victoria, a heroic final defiant act of a brave but imperfect idealist fighting on behalf of his family and the poor and the oppressed against a corrupt government. The fact that he failed was immaterial – he had demonstrated a willingness to die for his cause, and was clearly someone with a vision and noble ideals worth remembering and celebrating. The siege was celebrated like ANZAC day is – celebrated in spite of it being a failure because it embodied the courageous and defiant Aussie spirit in the face of overwhelming odds.
This view of the significance of the Siege has recently been questioned, and particularly beginning in 2012, when Ian MacFarlane published his landmark re-evaluation of the Kelly story (The Kelly Gang Unmasked), there has been a radical re-alignment in understanding of what the Outbreak was all about.
To begin with, recall that no mention of a Republic of NE Victoria was ever made by Kelly himself or by any of his supporters or detractors either at the time or for at least the next fifty years. At the end of that time JJ Kenneallys “Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang” was published. This milestone ‘pro-Kelly’ publication contained no references to a Republic, but ran to nine editions and was fully endorsed by Ned Kellys brother Jim who is quoted in the book saying “Through your book the people of Australia are in full possession of the truth”. James Ryan, a cousin of Ned Kelly also wrote to Mr Kenneally and said “Your book is indeed complete”. If the massive central theme of a republic had been part of the Kelly plan, these two would have known about it and would have seen a huge hole in Kenneallys narrative – but they didn’t! Instead they said it was ‘complete’ and Australia was ‘in FULL possession of the truth’.
Despite this reality, another forty years later the idea of a republic was being very convincingly championed by the late Ian Jones who had written that if the siege at Glenrowan wasn’t about a republic then it was ‘madness’ and could only be described as ‘a criminal atrocity of monstrous proportions’. For the next 40 years under Jones guidance the Republic became the centrepiece of Kelly history, and instead of a mad criminal atrocity the Siege was claimed to be an act of rebellion, and Ned Kelly not a criminal but a rebel with a cause.
Sadly, for Jones and his flattering makeover of Ned Kellys image, forensic examination by Dr Stuart Dawson of the origins of the republic idea published in 2018 revealed Ian Jones had been the victim of what was effectively a hoax perpetrated by Thomas Lloyd, a Kelly sympathiser descendant, who admitted to later researchers that he made the story up. Jones expanded Lloyds claim to include a sympathiser ‘army’ and various other components all of which have been debunked by Dawson. (Anyone who hasn’t read Dawson’s paper can easily do so by clicking the link at top right of this page)
Since its publication 5 years ago nobody has challenged Dawson’s refutation. Discussion about a Republic has been quietly dropped by most Kelly enthusiasts, nowhere more starkly evident than in Kelly enthusiast Aidan Phelans popular 2020 historical novel “Glenrowan”, where the word ‘republic’ isn’t found even once. Any person claiming to be interested in the Outbreak who still thinks a Republic is part of it has either not read Dawson’s paper or else has their head buried in the sand and refuses to face facts. The Republic idea has been consigned to the dustbin of history – it was never a ‘thing’.
What remains, in coming to an understanding of what the nature of the confrontation at Glenrowan was, are the word of Ian Jones who said that if it wasn’t about a republic it could only be described as ‘madness’ and a “criminal atrocity of monstrous proportions”. There is no other option – the photo at the top of the page illustrates it graphically .
So where does this leave the Kelly sympathisers who are planning to gather at Glenrowan this month ? What exactly is it about the Siege that they are going to commemorate? The old excuse, that it was a celebration of an heroic last stand by a rebel, an Aussie battler sticking up for the poor and oppressed is no longer an option: Kelly’s relatively brief Jones-inspired re-packaging as an Aussie hero is over and the mad wannabe perpetrator of a ‘criminal atrocity’ has been returned to the line-up of Aussie criminals and killers – who would want to commemorate a man who could attempt such a violent bloodthirsty and remorseless massacre.? There is no longer anything to celebrate.
However, sadly, there are many people who hate police enough to want to celebrate Ned Kelly because he murdered three of them at Stringybark Creek and tried to kill a score more at Glenrowan. Hatred of police and contempt for authority and the rule of law is a theme that runs deep in the Kelly sympathiser community, and is a major drawcard for many of the people drawn to the Kelly story. Its sickening to think that Mark Perry and his Best Bloody Man mob who are gathering in a pub at Glenrowan next weekend will be celebrating Ned Kelly the police murderer, but what other possible reason would the police hating Kelly sympathisers be doing there? They can’t pretend any more that Kelly was a social bandit.
There is one reassuring thing though : because the Kelly legend is dying, only a handful of these deluded individuals are left, and with any luck this might be the last time anyone is dumb enough to think a madman’s bloodthirsty plan for a police massacre at Glenrowan is worth remembering.
8 Replies to “THERE IS NOTHING TO CELEBRATE IN GLENROWAN ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEBACLE OF JUNE 28 1880 :”
Hi David, I get the impression that the Kelly fans are not actually gathering to celebrate an attempted massacre of police but to celebrate an image of Kelly as an ” Aussie icon” from which the planned massacre part has been expunged or minimised. For example, Sidney Nolan thought the plan was what Kelly said in his last Condemned Cell letter, that they wanted to stick up the train and take the police hostages to free Kelly’s mother. Regardless that that story was bunkum then and now, it keeps popping up in a thin line of nonsense tradition that like a mosquito, just won’t go away.
I went to a Kelly enthusiast’s pub gathering a few years ago, and it was really quite funny being in a room full of people – not all blokes – with plenty of beer rasing their galsses to cries of “to Ned!” Couldn;t bring myself to join in knowing what I knew even back then before I’d done the Redeeming Fitzpatrick article, and there was no lack of abusive comments about police, but that was not the focus of the gathering. They seemed mostly Jones narrative-influenced, historically weak idolators who had swallowed a well-told fictional history tale and believed 99% of it.
If you get a chance, and can be bothered (which is a different issue), there is a short skit in Bogan Hunters season 1 Episode 3 where Shazza goes to Glenrowan and walks around idolizing Ned in a hilarious lampoon of bogan carrying-on. I fell about laughing anyway.
Just a quick plug for my Republic Myth debunking book – where else can you download the result of 6 years of intensive historical research free? And it debunks a whole lot of other stuff on the way through, like the drivel which is still often repeated about Ned walking through the police line three times during the night. (Once when leaving the Inn, but actually he got out just before the Inn was thinly surrounded by the only 14 police there, who were keeping a bit of a distance in the circumstances; then walking back quite a bit later through the more filled up police line into the Inn where he allegedly saw Byrne shot; then walking back out through the police line after that.) As I showed with meticulously detailed referencing, it was total bunkum invented by Jones in 1968 which he stuck to ever since. Utter tripe, but hey, expert (laughing face emoji.)
I’m still waitring for some academic ‘ expert’ to pick holes in my Kelly research, but so far none have managed that. Maybe they’ve been put off by the half a dozen world-class historians including highly rated Kelly book author Prof. Lynnne Innes who endorsed my book. Cheers!
The only web information seems to be the review prof Innes did years ago called
Resurrecting Ned Kelly and here is the first bit of her review.
Would Stuart give us a reference to where we can find the profs endorsement of his book.
In a review of Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, the
poet Peter Porter commented that the three most potent icons in
Australian popular history were Ned Kelly, Phar Lap, and
Donald Bradman.1 Of these Ned Kelly has the longest history,
and has undergone numerous revivals and reconfigurations.
One might also argue that he was the least successful of the
three; he was a man who saw himself as a victim of empire,
class, race, and the judicial system. At least that is how Kelly
presents himself in The Jerilderie Letter, and many of those
who have written about him affirm that this view was justified.
So the question is why and in what ways Ned Kelly has become
so potent; why cannot Australians let him die? And what does
he mean to Australians, or indeed the rest of the world, today?
This essay will glance briefly at some early representations of
Kelly, before discussing in more detail Peter Carey’s revival of
Kelly, and considering the significance of that revival in the
Hi Sam, on p. viii iof my Repubilc Myth book I note, “I am grateful and appreciative for time generously given for academic peer review, helpful comments and suggestions, and recommendations to publish, by (in alphabetical order) Professor Lyn Innes, author, Ned Kelly: Icon of Modern Culture; Ian MacFarlane, author, The Kelly Gang Unmasked; Dr. Russ Scott, co-author with Ian MacFarlane, “Ned Kelly – Stock Thief, Bank Robber, Murderer – Psychopath”; and Professor Graham Seal, author, Tell ‘em I died game: The legend of Ned Kelly.” I corresponded with Lyn and the others in the lead up to finalsing the book (by sending her a copy of the close to finished typescript) as she had written ” Ned Kelly : icon of modern culture” (2008), and I got some valuable feedback and support. There is not a book review or some such thing by her. I work at a level of actual engagement with best practice scholars when I do things; this is high level stuff, not undergraduate playing around.
Remember, the footnotes (or endnotes) are the most important parts of any academic publication. They are what tells the reader what the argument is built on. Academic historical arguments stand or fall by their attention to source references and discussion about them. If the footnotes (or endnotes) are not accurate and do not accurately represent what the sources or commentary actually said, they are not worth peanuts.
I’ve attached one of mine on ancient Greek epigraphy that was published in 1996, in the world’s best epigraphical journal. The details are, ‘The Egesta Decree IG I3 11’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 112 (1996) 248-252. You will see there are references to a number of scholars, basically the most elite world experts on this topic. I corresponded with Henry, Chambers and Mattingly while this aricle was being written. These are the three who had argued most over this topic. I came in as an outsider and got published in the world’s best journal. That’s not luck, it’s incredibly hard work as anyone can see if they have a look at the article and the fotnotes.
The Egesta Decree article is significant as the date of the Egesta Decree has been used as evidence for dating the expansion of the Athenian Empire, based on the inscribed letter-forms. If the Rho discussed here is 20 or 30 years later than traditionally thought, then the evidence used to date the Empire – based on letter forms – must all be downdated, and the Athenian Empire claimed to have existed under Pericles is a fiction.
That means Athens didn’t run an empire under a direct democratcy from the mid-fifth century BC. It means much of what we have been told about the viability of direct democracy is a lie; a historical fiction that never existed. It means it is most likely entirely a product of nineteenth-century historical romanticism. Specifically, the mid-ninteenth-century History of Greece by George Grote. That’s what my thesis was all about. Anyone interested can google it under the title of “Rethinking Athenian Democracy” by Stuart Dawson, and download it from Project Gutenburg.
Well a lecture from Stuart is all that was missing in this space. So who cares about the Athenians anyway.
I think theres a wind a blowing or is that smoke perhaps.
Did ned visit athenium when he escaped by boat and did he learn his trade before returning to his homeland and going on his plundering adventures.
I had a look at the money offer. Its as good as a lot of the monopoly money scams that get around. A column on this would be more interesting to read than the atheniums
Hi Anonymous, I think you’re right there, markings on old rocks are a bit obscure for an action lad like Ned. He probably saw a lot of that while he was stone breaking at Williamstown and lost all interest in such things. But money is a different ball-game. I reckon he would have had a thing about old coins as treasure and, with his well-known interest in democracy and the Athenian (?) republic (LOL), he probably would have enjoyed a discussion about the attached old coins…
The wappenmunzen stuff would have been too much for ned to get his head around so i guess he came home on the next available boat
hi Anonymous, could Ned perhaps have been interested in the first use of the word ‘democrat’ in English when he got back, if anyone could point out when that was?
Ned, a shanty-dwelling cheap drunk