Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was not a drunk


In the previous Post, I exposed the Kelly sympathiser lie that Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was a ‘womaniser’, and a ‘merciless hunter’ of women who committed an ‘outrage’ on Kate Kelly. The record shows only two women in his life, and he was still married to the second one when he died aged 67. His Death Notice described him as a ‘beloved husband’, a ‘loving father’ and ‘darling poppa’ to three grandchildren.


In this Post, I will expose another one of the Kelly sympathiser lies about Constable Fitzpatrick: that he was a drunkard in the police force who eventually died of alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver).


To begin with, what we know for certain about Fitzpatrick’s behaviour up until April 15th 1878 when he went to arrest Dan Kelly at 11 Mile Creek, is that he had never been charged with any kind of criminal offence by anyone, anywhere. He had been a boundary rider and then joined the police force in early 1877 on the recommendation of Charles Smyth a Crown Prosecutor who it is thought may have encountered Fitzpatrick in Frankston. Standish told the Royal Commission that Fitzpatrick came ‘strongly recommended’. After three months training he was sent to Benalla, where his Record of Service was unblemished. Thomas McIntyre knew him casually at that time, and described him as “a decent young fellow”. After almost a year at Benalla, his record remained completely clean. There were no marks against him and certainly none in relation to drunkenness. A month before the ‘incident’ an entry in his Police Record Sheet reads: “A young member of the force, likely to prove acceptable” (Morrissey 2018, p270)


To put these later allegations about Fitzpatrick being a drunk into context, note that the issue of drunk policemen was a significant problem in the force at the time, authorities were well aware of it and the stern regulations about alcohol use and drunkenness were strictly enforced. Robert Haldane (The Peoples Force: A history of the Victoria Police) wrote this :

“Police drunkenness was a perennial problem partly because habitual drunkards within the force were not dismissed but briefly gaoled. Drunken police were charged publicly in open court and their convictions were read to the court before sentence. Initially, convicted police went into the general prison but later a special lock-up was maintained at the rear of the police station for police prisoners. Upon serving their sentences and drying out the besotted constables returned to normal police duties……drunkenness among nineteenth century police was commonplace in the Australian colonies and overseas…”



Its therefore interesting and instructive to compare Fitzpatrick’s unblemished record with that of a policeman who DID have a problem with alcohol, a policeman who is also important in the story: Michael Scanlan. Morrissey showed that Scanlan’s police record included several reprimands and fines for drunkenness, the last of which was in 1874. In 1877, his conduct was recorded as ‘much improved’ – indicating there was indeed Police hierarchy awareness and concern about drunkenness in the ranks. In contrast to Scanlan’s record, the absence of even one such comment in Fitzpatrick’s police record is therefore significant, and demolishes the Kelly clan claims about Constable Fitzpatrick being a policeman struggling with drink. There is simply no evidence of any kind whatsoever that he was. Later on, adverse entries did appear in Fitzpatrick’s record but none involved alcohol. So where did these claims about alcohol and drunkenness come from?



It’s ironic, but it seems that it was Fitzpatrick’s own testimony at Mrs Kellys trial in October 1878 that gave Kellys defence team the information that they developed into the argument that he was drunk when he visited the 11 Mile to arrest Dan Kelly. Fitzpatrick was questioned by the Defence Lawyer Bowman – the questions are not recorded but Bowman zeroed in on the mention of brandy. Included in Fitzpatrick’s answers was this:


“Called at Lindsay’s going to Greta, and had some brandy and lemonade. Went to Lindsay’s to get information. Did not get drunk there. Had no brandy at Kelly’s. Had nothing to drink there”


Bowman picked up on the reference to Brandy when David Lindsay appeared. Lindsay, the storekeeper and farmer at Winton deposed

“ that on 15th April Fitzpatrick was at his house between 10 and 11 at night. He appeared faint, and sat down. He was wounded, and took some brandy and water. He was quite sober. Saw him start for Benalla. It was a fine moonlight night.”


To Mr Bowman: I was not at home when Fitzpatrick passed in the morning.

Did not tell Hensley that Fitzpatrick was drunk.”


Bowman continued this line of attack later on, during Dr Nicholson’s cross-examination. Again, his questions are not recorded but these were Dr. Nicholson’s replies:


“……There was the smell of brandy on him. A constable present said Fitzpatrick had some drink…….”


Chomley seems to have realised where Bowman was going with this line of enquiry so asked Nicholson for a clarification, getting this reply:


“A constable said Fitzpatrick had some brandy at Lindsay’s. He was certainly not drunk”


So Fitzpatrick, who was not known to be a drinker said he ‘did not get drunk’, Lindsay said he gave him a drink of brandy on his return but he was ‘quite sober’ and he ‘didnt tell  Hensley that Fitzpatrick was drunk’  and Nicholson said there was a smell of brandy on him but he was ‘certainly not drunk’. 



And so, what did Bowman do? He argued the constable knew nothing of the matter, being drunk”.

He was obliged to make the best case he could for his client, Mrs Kelly, and did his best to discredit Fitzpatrick but the Jury didn’t believe his story about Fitzpatrick being drunk for good reason – there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support the idea –  all the witnesses said he wasn’t.

Its worth repeating : all the witnesses, the people who were there on the ground at the time said he wasn’t drunk! There is no basis for claiming otherwise.


However, perhaps predictably, the complete absence of evidence, and the flat-out denials of the people cross-examined under oath haven’t deterred sympathetic Kelly writers from repeating Bowman’s disproven accusation. J.J. Kenneallys 1929 version is typical: “Fitzpatrick left Benalla at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 15, and called at Lindsay‘s public-house at Winton, which is five miles from Benalla. He had several drinks there. He drank spirits. He arrived at Mrs. Kelly‘s house at 5 p.m. well under the influence of liquor.” But it’s false. Fitzpatrick’s visit to the Kellys place was not a mad drunken escapade. He wasn’t drunk. That claim is a lie. No fair minded person should repeat it ever again.


Fitzpatrick’s career in the police only lasted a couple more years. He had various run-ins with the authorities and was charged and convicted of some minor offences, but none was serious, and none involved drunkenness or alcohol abuse.  Finally, he was controversially thrown out of the Victoria Police, on the recommendation of SC Joseph Ladd Mayes at Lancefield but Mayes never detailed exactly what infringement was the final straw, only saying it was ‘gross impertinence’. Fitzpatrick never received an explanation about why he was sacked so sought an opportunity to defend himself. In that endeavour, he was enthusiastically supported by a large number of the residents of Lancefield, where he had been working until he was dismissed. Almost 200 of them signed two separate petitions praising his work in the community and asking that he be reinstated. Fitzpatrick wasn’t afraid to have his record examined but Mayes Standish and later Chomley obviously were and so his requests were denied. He would have had every reason to feel hard done by.



Several years later, records describe a man named Alexander Fitzpatrick getting into trouble with the law. He was convicted of passing a dud cheque and on another occasion, was involved in a brawl and damaged some property. There were certainly other ‘Alexander Fitzpatricks’ in the colony, and so far, nobody has been able to prove that the person who committed these offences was the same one who had been attacked by Ned Kelly at Greta. But let’s say it was, as Kelly sympathisers do, and ask what that means for the Kelly outbreak that ended fifteen years earlier.  Kelly sympathisers – or should we call them Fitzpatrick haters – claim that if he got drunk in 1894 this means he must have been drunk in 1878, if he was behaving badly in 1894 he must have been behaving badly in 1878 – but that argument is deeply flawed. It wouldn’t have any standing in a Court of Law and would be thrown out the moment it was suggested.  These possible later petty crimes tell us nothing about what Fitzpatrick was or did during the Outbreak, but reflect whatever was going on in his life at the time. Fitzpatrick’s role in the Kelly saga can only be judged by what he did and what he didn’t do at the time.


However I have no doubt, such is the depth of their blind obsessional hatred of the man that the Kelly mobsters will forever use these incidents to blacken and mercilessly vilify Fitzpatricks reputation even though they haven’t the faintest idea about the circumstances surrounding them. Their motivation in perpetuating these nasty lies is no different from what it was when they were first invented : to discredit Fitzpatrick and shift the blame for what happened away from the Kellys. These are the hypocrites who claim their hero stood up for Aussie values but they themselves don’t give a stuff about giving the bloke a fair go, or upholding the principle of innocence until proven guilty.  They are the sickening underbelly of the Kelly sympathiser crowd.


As for why he might have committed these crimes later on in life, there are all kinds of possible explanations, one of which is that they were a result of the impact on his mental health of what he regarded as his unfair dismissal from the police, feeling that he was sacked unjustly, the loss of his career, being unemployed and forever being labelled as the policeman who caused the outbreak. It’s been suggested his wife may have been having an affair. The reality is we have no idea – and therefore no basis for the malicious gossip and truly vile speculation that Kelly apologists love to indulge in. 


Of all the lies that relate to the claim Fitzpatrick was a drunk perhaps the cruellest and yet the easiest to dismiss, is the one that he died of the alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver. In fact, the poor man died of cancer that had spread to his stomach, perhaps a quite miserable death in an age where palliative care was non-existent.



Its easy enough to understand why Kelly sympathisers believe he died of cirrhosis: its stated as a fact in Justin Corfield’s ‘Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia’. For some unexplained reason Corfield got this completely wrong – Fitzpatrick’s Death Certificate, shown above,  clearly says he died of ‘disseminated sarcoma of the liver’, which is a kind of cancer and nothing to do with cirrhosis or alcoholism. Cirrhosis isn’t mentioned on the death certificate which states that the sarcoma had spread to the stomach. It also mentions ‘ascites, constriction of and adherence of appendix (appendicectomy) and cardiac exhaustion’. ‘Ascites’ is an accumulation of fluid inside the abdomen, and has many possible causes, but in this case would have been caused by and is fully explained by the metastasizing cancer. There is no need to postulate an additional separate cause for the ascites as some uninformed Sympathisers have tried to do in the past, thinking it must have been caused by alcoholism. The only way ascites can be linked to alcoholism is by the presence of cirrhosis – and Fitzpatrick didn’t have cirrhosis.


When the new and properly evidence based history of the Outbreak is finally written, the narrative about Fitzpatrick will not claim that he was a drunk, or as shown in the previous Blog post, a womaniser. Those two allegations about him are lies. But will it claim instead that he was a Saint and did no wrong? Of course not – we know his record wasn’t perfect, and he was a human being after all. There are complexities here that may be beyond discovery, but no decent person should run around filling in the blanks with abusive malicious gossip and unfounded lies about him. We should stick to what we know, and if mysteries remain – so be it.


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One Reply to “Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was not a drunk”

  1. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    J.J. Kenneally may be responsible for much of the drinking nonsense. In his 1929 second edition of his ‘Inner history of the Kelly gang’ he writes, p. 33, ” Fitzpatrick left Benalla at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 15, and called at Lindsay‘s public-house at Winton, which is five miles from Benalla. He had several drinks there. He drank spirits. He arrived at Mrs. Kelly‘s house at 5 p.m. well under the influence of liquor.”

    Then on p. 34 he writes, “Finding himself overpowered and disarmed, the constable made his best of his position. He expressed his regret for what had happened, and promised that he would not make any report of the occurrence. The whole party then appears to have become quite friendly, and had tea together.” We are supposed to beleive that after pulling Kate onto his knee, then drawing his revolver on Dan after he was just flung to teh ground by that weedy wrestling champion, and after firing towards Ned Kelly and being overpowered again, that he apologised and they all had tea????

    Then on p. 35 he writes, “He again called at Lindsay‘s public-house, at Winton, and had several drinks of brandy and arrived at the Benalla police station at 2 o‘clock next morning,” despite the testimony of the Benealla Doctor that Fitazpartick certainly was not drunk.

    If the Kelly lies were placed one on top of the other they would rival the height of the flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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