The New Display of the Kelly Armour at the SLV: Reviewed by Stuart Dawson.

As most readers will know, the State Library of Victoria’s Ned Kelly display was moved from its longstanding location in the south rotunda to the Redmond Barry Reading Room in November 2023. A few weeks ago I made the trip to Melbourne to see what had been done. This is shown in the photo above.

The display case of Kelly relics has been positioned against a backdrop of the Australasian Sketcher’s representation of the courtroom scene of Kelly’s trial, along with some informational text. It is the same display case that was in the rotunda, containing Ned Kelly’s armour, one of his boots (souvenired by railway guard Jesse Dowsett who assisted in Kelly’s capture at Glenrowan), and a Snider-Enfield 0.577 rifle “belonging to Ned Kelly before 1880”.

 

In fact, and not mentioned on the sign, Kelly seized this rifle, which he nicknamed Betty, from Henry Dudley, one of a shooting party that the Kelly gang bailed up at Faithfull’s Creek near Euroa in December 1878.

 

The sign says there are several inscriptions on the rifle butt, the clearest being ‘NK son of RED’. The next inscription “is of a deer with the letter K and the number 8 underneath (K 8), and below that a heart shape with the letters U R inside it. This cryptogram, or coded text, reads: Dear/ Kate/ you are/ in my heart. It is now acknowledged that Ned’s sweetheart was Kate Lloyd, daughter of Tom Lloyd. Tom was first cousin to Ned and Dan Kelly, the so-called fifth member of the Kelly gang. This rifle was once in the possession of the artist Albert Tucker.”

 

There is good reason to doubt that the cryptogram refers to Kate Lloyd. First, Ned’s own brother Jim stated in J.J. Kenneally’s ‘Inner History’ that Ned “had no girl”. Second, if Ned did have a girl, who she may have been is heavily disputed. Third, the SLV collection notes about this rifle are online here,  The custodial history states under ‘Provenance’ that “the rifle was in the possession of a Miss Mary Luplau until her death in 1971. Miss Luplau claimed she had received the rifle as a gift from Kate Kelly. The rifle was auctioned by Leonard Joel in November 1972. It was then bought by Sydney gallery owner, Barry Stern. Later the artist Albert Tucker acquired the rifle from Barry Stern in exchange for one of his paintings.” This custodial history that has it originally gifted by Kate Kelly makes it almost certain that the ‘Dear Kate’ cryptogram refers to Ned’s sister Kate Kelly whom he adored than to Kate Lloyd as a possible sweetheart.

 

The background poster text behind the display case is in three sections: Ned Kelly, the Trial, and The Armour. The first section says:

“Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was Victorias most infamous bushranger. He led a group of outlaws known as the Kelly gang in the late 1870s. For 18 months, while on the run from police, they robbed banks, took hostages, chopped down telegraph poles and destroyed part of a railway line. Although finally hanged for fatally shooting three policemen, Kellys life and actions have been the subject of debate for more than a century. At the time of his trial, one fifth of Melbourne‘s population signed a petition against his execution. Today the question of whether Kelly was a criminal, or a hero is still debated.”

 

There are two factual errors here, apart from the text giving the impression that the gang created non-stop mayhem for 18 months after the Stringybark Creek murders (rather than two bank robberies and the last stand at Glenrowan):

First, at no point did they take hostages. They held people captive while they committed robberies, but at no point was anyone held as a hostage to pursue a demand. They only time Kelly spoke of hostages was when said in his condemned call letters that he had planned to capture some police as hostages to exchange for the release of his mother from gaol. That claim is implausible, as the intention of the gang at Glenrowan as made known to several of their captives was to murder all the police on the special train, not to try and capture any of them. It is a retrospective claim to conceal the fact of his intention to massacre the police, made as a desperate attempt to rewrite history to have his hanging commuted.

 

The second factual error is the claim that one fifth of Melbourne‘s population signed a petition against Kelly’s execution. Apart from the facts (noted at the time) that whole pages of the petition were signed in the same hand, or listed strings of people at the same address, and that numbers of people reported being intimidated into signing, by far the majority who legitimately signed were abolitionists; people who objected to capital punishment, not people who had become in any way supporters of Kelly.

 

The poster wrongly preserves the redundant hero/villain dichotomy that was demolished once and for all by Ian MacFarlane’s 2012 ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’. MacFarlane showed that there was never anything heroic about Ned Kelly. He was a bully, thief and liar who never had a fair fight with anyone. Other than the staged boxing match with Wild Wright (who had married Ned’s cousin Bridget Lloyd a year earlier), the few times he was challenged to an unarmed fight (e.g., by Constable Richards at Jerilderie), he chickened out. He was also beaten by stockman Edwin Graves when he was trying to steal a mare from a stock run near Moyhu in 1874. They struggled, and Graves gave him “a good thrashing”: Kelly “got the worst of it in a very short time [and] did not ride away” (Graves in Royal Commission on the Victoria Police Force, Report on i. The Efficiency of the Police Force…. ii. The Present Condition.… With Appendix and Minutes of Evidence [Melbourne, 1906], 551).

 

The poster continues:

“Kelly argued that there were important personal and political reasons behind the gang‘s actions. In a 56-page statement, now known as the Jerilderie Letter, Kelly dictated the letter to gang member Joe Byrne, claiming that he shot the police in self-defence. He also describes how he and his family, poor Irish farmers, were the victims of racial and class-based persecution at the hands of the police and the ‘squattocracy’ who controlled the most fertile farming land and parts of the government.”

 

These modern interpretive generalisations are factually wrong. Kelly did indeed claim personal reasons for his actions, namely his belief that he had been wrongly treated by the law; but there was nothing political about them, and Kelly did not make a single claim anywhere that there was. (This is analysed in detail in my free book, ‘Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria’). Kelly was wanted for trial for murder; and he repeatedly claimed against all evidence to the contrary that he acted in self-defence. In the murders of Constables Lonigan and Scanlon, both were shot dead before they could draw a revolver. Sergeant Kennedy was pursued through the bush, wounded after he had run out of ammunition, and executed by a shotgun blast after well over an hour of interrogation despite his pleas to be left alive for the sake of his wife and children. Kelly initiated both rounds of the confrontation and there were no grounds for him to suggest self-defence as a factor. His repeated claims that Lonigan had taken cover behind some logs and drawn his revolver when Kelly shot him is forensically impossible per the bullet wound evidence, quite apart from McIntyre’s eye witness testimony.

 

The suggestion that there was any racial or class based persecution is also incorrect. In the case of the former, the majority of the police in Kelly’s time were themselves Irish, and nowhere in the voluminous Kelly source material is there any suggestion that the police or government saw their Irishness as a problem. The class struggle theory propounded in John McQuilton’s ‘Kelly Outbreak’ founders for many reasons, but chiefly because the overwhelming majority of stock thefts by Kelly and his associates were from other poor selectors and travellers. The Whittys against whom Kelly railed were not squatters. Further, the 1881 Royal Commission Second Progress Report explicitly examined and rejected claims by the Kellys that they had been subject to police persecution.

 

The next paragraph says of the Jerilderie Letter that “Although its full contents weren‘t made public until the 1930s, Kellys words have endured and been adopted by various groups who have mobilised Kelly and his story for their own ends.” In fact, the JL was not published in full until Max Brown’s 1948 Australian Son. The best assessment of it is that of Jerilderie school teacher William Elliott, who was handed it by Kelly to have printed when Gill the printer could not be located. Elliott wrote, “To sum up the writings, in the writers opinion the greater portion of them could only be considered by anyone who read them to be little better than emanations of wild fancies from a disordered brain.”

 

I note in passing that the JL page images and transcription are online on the SLV website, and an excellent downloadable PDF transcript is available free from the Murrumbidgee Council website – don’t pay for a copy. It is clear from textual comparison that the JL is just a more rambling and ranting version of the December 1978 Cameron letter. It is nothing special and not remotely sensible. For a detailed critique of its many misstatements see Doug Morrissey’s 2015 ‘Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life’.

 

The last paragraph in this section says, “Soon offer Kelly was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on 11 November J880, a ‘Kelly culture’ emerged. Kellys own family spoke publicly about Ned, and there are many films, books, poems, songs, plays and a ballet that draw on his life, as well as the iconic paintings by Australian artist Sidney Nolan. At the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Ned Kelly was part of how Australia told its national story to the world.” This view seems dated. The demolition of the Kelly myth that grew to dominate opinions about Kelly since the 1960s and culminated around 1980 with the centenary of Kelly’s execution, perhaps most popularly expressed in Ian Jones’ 1995 Ned Kelly: A Short Life, began with MacFarlane’s 2012 ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’ and has increasingly picked up pace. In the wake of this and other work, the poster text needs a good overhaul.

 

The next section of text headed ’Ned Kelly’s Trial’ mentions what it says were Kelly’s last words to Judge Barry after the pronouncement of death, “I will see you there where I go”. Alice Richardson showed in her chapter in “Judgement in the Victorian Age’ (2018, ed. James Gregory et al.) that these words were directed to someone in the gallery, not to the Judge.

 

The SLV text continues:

“In a very different way than what Kelly may have intended, the two men are now reunited through their connection with the library: Barry as co-founder of the library and namesake of this reading room, and Kelly as one of the most infamous figures represented in our collections.”

Yet Kelly had no connection with the State Library. Having some of his relics does not create a “connection” between Kelly and Barry. Further, for many connected with the police and the law, placing the Kelly display in the Redmond Barry Reading Room opposite a portrait of Barry is deeply offensive. In effect it elevates the memory of a notorious thief and murderer to an equal status with that one of Melbourne’s most dynamic and progressive founding citizens. I suggest that the choice of location was perhaps intended to be controversial but it should be reconsidered and changed. Somewhere on the ground floor might be more appropriate and convenient for visitors.

 

The third section of text is headed ‘The Armour’. It says, “Ned Kellys iron armour is a defining part of his story. Details on where, why, and how it was worn, as well as its improvised design, have helped to ensure its iconic cultural status. All four members of the Kelly gang — Ned, his brother Dan, and their friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart — wore armoured suits in their final confrontation with the police at Glenrowan in June 1880. Under his armour Ned Kelly wore the green silk sash awarded to him as a child for rescuing a younger boy from drowning.”

 

The word ‘friends’ in this passage is problematic: ‘accomplices’ or ‘criminal associates’ would be correct. The idea of something having an ‘iconic cultural status’ necessarily implies it is something that has achieved reverential status within a culture. This hardly applies to Kelly or his armour. It had and retains an element of fringe fascination: why did a gang of criminals go to such trouble for a planned massacre? It reflects an extreme psychopathy, as Russ Scott and Ian MacFarlane discussed in their 2014 clinical analysis, ‘Ned Kelly: Stock Thief, Bank Robber – Psychopath’ published in Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. It was a culmination of a plan of retribution and vengeance; for the same reason that Steve Hart was called ‘Revenge’ by Kelly at Glenrowan, and for the same reasons of vengeance given at the end of his December 1878 Cameron Letter and in sundry speeches to captives bailed up during his bank robberies. Notorious or infamous, yes; iconic, no.

 

As for the green sash, the third (1934) edition of J.J. Kenneally’s ‘Inner History of the Kelly Gang’ explains that the sash was given to Kelly by Mr Shelton when Kelly was an adult, after his outlawry. It wasn’t some treasured possession carried through the years. Kenneally didn’t comment on why Kelly wore it at Glenrowan, but it seems it was just some handy padding for his armour. There is no other material in the relocated Kelly display than that discussed above.

 

In sum, in my opinion the SLV Kelly display text urgently needs substantial revision to drag it from its dated, factually erroneous and heavily romanticised early 2000s state into the 2020s based on significant historical work in the wake of Ian MacFarlane’s ground-breaking 2012 The Kelly Gang Unmasked.

 

Other recent work correcting longstanding myths and falsifications of Kelly history include three of my own Kelly pieces,

 **‘Redeeming Fitzpatrick – Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick incident’ 2015, https://www.academia.edu/40453673/Redeeming_Fitzpatrick_Ned_Kelly_and_the_Fitzpatrick_Incident;

**Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria 2018, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks19/1900551p.pdf; and

**‘Ned Kelly and the Felons Apprehension Act1878’ (2021), http://nedkellyunmasked.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Ned-Kelly-Outlawed-Dawson-corrected-FINAL.pdf.

 

Works by others include

Doug Morrissey’s 2015 -2020 Ned Kelly trilogy;

Kennedy’s 2019 Black Snake: The Real Story of Ned Kelly;

David Dufty’s 2022 Nabbing Ned Kelly;

Lachlan Strahan’s 2022 Justice in Kelly Country; and

Grantlee Kieza’s 2022 The Kelly Hunters.

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52 Replies to “The New Display of the Kelly Armour at the SLV: Reviewed by Stuart Dawson.”

  1. Thanks for this review Stuart.

    What do you think should be done to help the SLV get it right, and bring the information they provide to the public up-to-date?

    Suggestions from everyone please.

  2. You can be assured that this review WILL get to the hierarchy of the SLV.

    1. Thanks Sam, I am intending to send it to them after waiting a week or two to see if there is any blog feedback or comments that might make it better. For example I hope there is more information somewhere on the history of Kelly’s rifle. I’m hoping there might be some more info that was given when it was sold at auction through Joel’s. Or from any other source. It seems a wild speculation that the cryptogam refers to Kate Lloyd when there is no evidence for her being a girlfriend of Kelly.

      The SLV notes say the rifle was donated anonymously in 2001. Maybe someone knows by whom? Ian Jones and his wife donated the Jerilderie letter anonymously in 2000, then he said it was donated by his wife in a later edition of Short Life (preface). Jones thought Kate Lloyd was Ned’s girl I think; have to check again; but if so could Jones have provided his opinion on the rifle cryptogam and potentially incorrectly influenced the SLV’s opinion on who it referred to?

      I’m strongly tipping Kate Kelly as the subject of the cryptogram after reading the SLV collection notes that are linked in the above review. I think it warrants a good look into this.

      1. Yes, it was Jones in Short Life 2008 p 282 who claimed that “it was Kate Lloyd he [Ned] truly loved”, and “She loved Ned and shared his dreams”, which (same page) include “his dream of a republic” 🤮

      2. Anonymous says: Reply

        There is a lot more background information about the ‘son of Red’ rifle.

        Mr Steve Jager is conducting further research into this.

      3. Adrian Younger says: Reply

        Hi Stuart,
        I think you have the wrong Tom Lloyd.
        The Tom Lloyd you are saying is the 5 member was born in 1857 and a few years younger than Ned.
        I doubt he had a daughter old enough to be seeing Ned in some sort of romance.
        There were a few Tom Lloyds over the generation but I think the one you mean as Kate Lloyds father would have been Neds uncle and brother of Jack Lloyd.
        Husband of Jane Quinn who was sister to Ellen.
        As for the sash,
        Are you aware that McIntyre describe Ned to be wearing a red sash at SBC when he murdered the police.
        From my research McIntyres family of males has a history of colour blindness
        Which lets them see red instead of green.
        He could of been wearing that same green sash at SBC.
        Any thoughts on that

        1. Wow thats an amazing suggestion Adrian, that if McIntyre was colourblind, Green would have been seen as red. Its certainly true that theres a thing called red-green colourblindness where colourblind people see green differently but is it as a kind of red? So now we have to find out what leads you to think McIntyre was colourblind? Thats the evidence we need. Thanks.

          1. Adrian Younger says: Reply

            Hi David,
            I have spoken with two different relatives of McIntyre and they both told me there was a history of colour blindness in the family but if Mac had it we may never know.
            In fact he may never had known himself is he was.

          2. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

            Does this mean Lonigan’s blood would have looked green to Mac?

            1. Ew!

        2. Hi Adrian, you are right, it’s clearly the wrong Tom Lloyd; but that’s not me – that’s what the SLV sign in the display case says. You can see the photo attached to my post of 19/02/2024 at 5:52pm further down this page.

          I was going to look into the family tree in Corfield’s Kelly Encyclopaedia but then thought why bother myself, one of the descendants can tell them they’ve got it wrong.

          We discussed the red sash/green sash on this blog a while ago. If you put ‘green sash’ into the search box you can find it. But the colour blindness question doesn’t affect this as Kelly didn’t have the famous green sash at the time of the SBC murders.

          As the photo attached here shows, J.J. Kenneally third edition – the only source for the gifting – says that the green sash was presented to Kelly by Mr Shelton after his outlawry, which is necessarily after SBC. This will have a number of Kellly ethusiasts seeing red!

          The photo of the pages is pretty sloppy as I had to do the best I could with a copy in a secondhand book shop that I couldn’t afford. They let me photograph a couple of pages, the ones I wanted for evidence.

          1. I will of course let them know there’s a problem with the Tom and Kate Lloyd line the way they have it on the sign, but I’m not going to spend any time trying to fix it for them.

          2. Adrian Younger says: Reply

            Hi Stuart,
            This is interesting but can we believe Kenneally and the information he provide when he had other things wrong.
            And why was it dropped from future editions.
            The sash may of came to his attention around the 3rd edition and the story told to him is what he went with,
            But still things keep turning up

            1. Hi Adrian, I have three editions of Kenneally: the free download scanned second edition 1929, which is presumably a straight reprint of the first print run as both were 1929; then a 4th edition 1945 which is the one where he states in the preface for the first time that his informant was Tom Lloyd who was very close to the gang; and the 9th edition 1980.

              It is clear that Kenneally was a great text fiddler and made numerous relatively small alterations in his various editions. I only became aware of his comments about the occasion of the gifting of the sash in the third edition by accident, when doing the spadework for those blog posts on red sash/green sash, from someone’s comments. Unfortunately the person with the 3rd edition was unable to scan and upload the relevant pages at the time; and it took me a couple of years of looking until I chanced upon a third edition for sale in Kate’s Cottage Glenrowan for a collector’s price. Fair enough, but I’m not a collector and couldn’t afford it. But they kindly let me have a look and photograph the relevant pages, for which I am grateful.

              I suspect the story of the gifting was dropped as irrelevant to his narrative. His main concern was that a valuable silk sash with gold bullion fringing had been stolen from the unconscious Ned at Glenrowan, along with his armour and some other things (no mention of his boot, souvenired by Dowsett!), and should be returned to his relatives, namely Jim Kelly.

              The story of the rescue of young Dick Shelton by young Ned is also all over the shop in all editions. It is split into two mentions in different parts of the book; it is located in Wallan instead of Avenel; and not a huge deal is made of it anyway. It is almost an aside to the grievance of a valuable gold bullion silk sash being stolen by the doctor as one more illustration of his main theme, that “the Kellys were badly treated and their byshranging crimes were the result of unjust persecution on the part of the police”, as summarised in the publisher’s 1929 review and reprinted at the front of every edition. Now we know that is not true; but many have fallen for it!

              1. Stuart can you clarify something for me please : in JJKs 1st and 2nd Editions, what is written about the sash?

                1. Hi David, I have never seen a first edition, but I assume the second edition is the same as they were both 1929. I tried to find the PDF again online just now – it was on Gary Dean’s old website – but no luck. I’ll try and upload it to the blog later.

                2. I’m pretty sure I commented on the different editions variations in the blog about the green sash back then.

                3. Hi all, here is Kenneally’s 2nd edition PDF if you don’t already have it. Enjoy (the nonsense), especially the Billy-Jimmys!!!

  3. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    An interesting article. Stuart, thanks for doing the write up and photo. One thing that has always struck me when looking at that photo is how they have the court image so much larger than life and have Ned via the armour looking so small in comparison. Yet, we could say how the armour is placed could make for it being the heart of the scene. A lot to unpack.
    Regarding the J Letter and 1930 – Between Sept. 29-Oct 2, 1930 in a series of articles I found on Trove in Adelaide’s The Register called “The Kellys are out,” the text from the Jerilderie Letter is given. I did not try to do the tedious task of word by word/side by side comparison but using a word count tool there are approximately over 7,000 words of the Letter printed. According to “What they said about Ned”  the series was published in both The Herald  and Adelaide’s The Register.. WTSAN goes on to say that “It also includes an edited version of the Jerilderie Letter e.g. grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the reference to the calf’s testicles was left out.”

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for that, I was wondering if those papers published the full JL or were all edited a bit? Maybe that’s what WTSAN meant by an ‘edited version’? I don’t have WTSAN unfotunately, so I can’t see what he said; maybe a copy will turn up one day.

      I thought Max Brown who gave it the name the JL was the first to publish it in full? At least that’s what the SLV say here, https://blogs.slv.vic.gov.au/such-was-life/jerilderie_letter/# which says, “Eventually the letter was published in a single document for the first time as an appendix to the biography of Kelly by Max Brown, Australian Son, in 1948.” It also says “The Melbourne Age chose to provide a summary, which at nearly 4,000 words was about half the size of the of the letter.”

      Then we have the related question of how widely it was read from those newsapers long before the days of Trove; whereas Brown’s book gained enough circulation in the late 1940s for the publishers to run further editions.

      1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

        Looking in “What they said about Ned” it says of Max Brown’s Australian Son that “It includes the Jerilderie Letter printed from the Government copy which differs from the original.”
        Then, as I have stated elsewhere in this thread, in The Kelly’s Are Out newspaper  series by J.M.S. Davies it says “It also includes an edited version of the Jerilderie Letter e.g. grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the reference to the calf’s testicles was left out.”
        Then in the entry for Ian Jones it says of  the transcription which is in A Short Life  “The transcription of the Jerilderie Letter is the most accurate version to date taken directly from the original.”
        As an aside, J.J. Kenneally sued J.M.S. Davies over that newspaper series saying he plagiarized his work (Inner History of the Kelly Gang). Also, while trying to do more legal shenanigans against someone else he said this in 1942 -“I have been recognised as the only living reliable authority on the Kelly gang. Up-to-date, no one has challenged a sentence in my book – now the recognized standard work on the subject.” Hmmmm…

        1. Hi Sharon and other readers, I’m curious what WTSAN means by Brown’s printing of the JL being different from the original. Brown 1948 says his text is from a copy of the original made in 1879 or 1880 by a government clerk, so presumably the Melbourne police files.

          The various papers all appear to have done some editing or cutting down.

          Jones SL 2003 is the edition with the full JL transcript, and he says it was done by some guy doing a Queensland BA Hons degree and follows all the original spelling and punctuation. The guy managed to do this by getting in touch with Jones, who had it in his possession, as he reveals there. Jones also says that the version in his book marks in bold text a number of variations from the government copy.

          So for purists, the transcription printed by Jones is the most accurate rendering of the half witted ramblings , poor spellings and abysmal grammar and punctuation of the demented criminal duo Ned and Joe.

          There are only about 10 words bolded in Jones’s transcript as missing from the clerk’s copy, and these make no difference to understanding the relevant sentences. There are a couple of dozen capitalisations corrected in Jones’s version. So the differences are insignificant.

          Purists may also wish to consider the Hanlon transcription, the copy made by publican John Hanlon at Jerilderie before Elliott had sent the original to VicPol. It’s in the NMA and available online.

          But when all things are considered, the JL is not a masterpiece of literature; it is just a badly spelled rant full of criminal lies and falsehoods, seen as such in its time and rod the most part identified and documented by Doug Morrissey in his NK Aa Lawless Life.

          It is just a rambling, ranting expansion of the Cameron letter written two months earlier. And when one considers that at least 3 hand written copies of the Cameron letter were sent – to Cameron, to Sadleir, and to the CCP – and that they will all have had variant spellings, capitalisation and punctuation given the poor literacy of the author and/or scribe, it really doesn’t matter whether we have a pristine transcript version of the badly written JL or not. It is necessary to add at least a few commas and full stops, and the off capital letter, when quoting it, or it makes even less sense than normal.

          It’s probably worth mentioning that Kenneally’s printing of the Cameron letter also had some editing out; it’s not the full thing either.

  4. Hi again Stuart

    Just looking at the SLV reference you supplied in your article : in the discussion about the inscriptions on the gun theres a suggestion that one of them is ‘QP’ indicating that this was a Queensland Police rifle. You have said it was taken from Henry Dudley at Euroa and was named Betty. Are you sure about that?

    The QP inscription is faint, so it may originally have NOT been QP ??

    1. Hi David, I have been bogged in confusion about the various .577 rifles said to be owned by Ned. See my reply to Anonymous below: the version with the photo attached.

    2. Hi again David, as below I have mixed up the different Kelly rifles in my comments as Sharon noted in her post with the photo of the .577 marked with a K and known as Betty, which is not the .577 Sider-Enfield in the SLV with the various carvings and cryptogram. I am now looking into ‘Son of Red’ rifle info.

      The SVL notes for its Snider-Enfield rifle are speculative about whether the faint Q and fainter mark that could be a P indicate Queensland Police with certainty. It seems plausible; here is their note:

      “The third inscription, Ned Kelly, scratched on to the wood, is above the trigger guard on the left hand side. Below it is a monogram, once thought to be a Chinese character or characters. However, a more plausible explanation is that the inscription is Q ^ P the stamp used by the Queensland Police on their guns. A photograph of the marking is reproduced on page 42 of Ian Skennerton and James Stanley Robinson, Arms in the service of Queensland 1859-1901 (Kedron, Qld. : J.S. Robinson, 1997). This monogram is very faint now but was less faint in 1972 when an article appeared in the Australasian Post (13 April 1972) after Mary Luplau’s death on 11 February 1971. An artist has drawn the inscriptions ‘NK son of RED’d ‘Ned Kelly / Q P’. The first letter of the monogram appears very clearly to be a Q. The second letter is less clear but is very close to a P. Both inscriptions are certainly much clearer in the drawing than they are today. In addition black and white photographs taken probably in 1972 illustrate both the above inscriptions.”

      So maybe…

      1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

        Stuart, the photo I showed from the newspaper in 1972 was the son of Red one that ended up at the SLV NOT Betty which was only a K.

        1. My brain hurts!

    3. Jones ‘Short Life’ 2008: in a note on p. 429 says “the rifle inscribed ‘NK son of Red’, a Snider-Enfield Short Rifle originally issued to Queensland Aboriginal Mounted Police”.

      The SLV notes say “The fourth inscription, the name Moses, barely visible now, is under the lock plate on the right hand side. Although this is very faint, it is significant. Moses Bulla was a Murri Aboriginal who had lived at Healesville since childhood. He became a Victorian Aboriginal Tracker. Moses joined the party of Queensland Aboriginal Mounted Troopers after the death of Corporal Sambo.”

      Aiden Phelan says “my understanding is that the current belief is that at some stage Moses dropped his rifle and after it was found it made its way into Kelly’s possession.”

      This may tie all the threads together about the apparent Q P inscription and how Kelly aquired this rifle, which is now in the SLV.

      This is all very interesting and good stuff, and shows how easy it is to put foot in mouth by mixing the rifles up!! But that’s a benefit of putting stuff out there for comment.

      Importantly, it doesn’t impact my main point, which is that I think the claim that the ‘Dear Kate’ cryptogram refers to Kate Lloyd falls down in preference to what I think is its far more likely reference to Ned’s own sister Kate Kelly. Not a romantic “sweetheart” carving, but a playful but sincere tribute to his dear younger sister. Especially since the provenance of the rifle has it being handed on by her.

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    ‘In fact, and not mentioned on the sign, Kelly seized this rifle, which he nicknamed Betty, from Henry Dudley, one of a shooting party that the Kelly gang bailed up at Faithfull’s Creek near Euroa in December 1878’.

    That’s incorrect.

    1. Hi Anonymous – here’s more on Kelly’s rifles again, and why the mix-up:

      Here is what the Iron Outlaw website says, which is where I got the info about Betty being taken from Dudley at Euroa, https://www.ironoutlaw.com/weapons/

      First, it talks about an old .577 rifle:

      Up until Euroa, Ned’s weapon of choice was an ancient carbine of .577 calibre, sawn off at the butt and barrel and held together with waxed string. It’s total length was only sixty centimetres. It was probably given to him around the age of fourteen during Ned’s brief ‘apprenticeship’ with the cantankerous bushranger Harry Power. Ten years later this gun would be used with deadly effect against a party of police at Stringybark Creek. … The original was thrown out by Melbourne’s Museum of Applied Science in the 1950s.
      Then it talks about another .577 rifle:

      ‘BETTY’ .577 CALIBRE SNIDER-ENFIELD
      Ned Kelly’s favourite rifle, ‘Betty’, a .577 calibre Snider-Enfield. Note the ‘K’ carved into the fore-end wood. In December 1878, during the hold-up of Faithfull’s Creek homestead near Euroa, Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne bailed up a heavily armed party of sportsmen who had been shooting kangaroos. ‘Betty’ was taken from Englishman Henry Dudley, who was surprisingly philosophical about losing it.
      Here is another article about Betty, https://www.theage.com.au/national/kellys-girl-back-with-the-gang-where-it-all-began-20050916-ge0vpz.html

      I think my confusion may have resulted in googling for Ned Kelly and .577 rifle…

      So is the .577 Snider-Enfield in the SLV yet another .577 rifle that Ned Kelly had? Here’s a photo of the library sign.

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      1. Anonymous says: Reply

        The library label is correct.

        .577 was a common calibre.

        Thank you for replying respectfully. A refreshing change.

  6. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Betty only had the K on it and another rifle had the son of Red carving if I am not mistaken. We all get stuff wrong at times, no harm, no foul. We just learn from our mistakes and move onwards and upwards! Here is a photo from the Sydney Morning Herald of this gun with the auction winner back in 1972. He got a bargain!

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  7. Yes it does get confusing …so I am going to try to put it all together.

    There are TWO Snider-Enfiled 0.577 calibre rifles which were in the Kelly Gangs possession. There was also a third 0.577 calibre rifle – another Snider or some other make?) that was shortened and held together with string – this was the one that was used kill Lonigan at SBC and I am shocked to read above that it was thrown out in the 1950’s!!

    Of the other two, both are Snider-Enfields and one has a “K” carved into it and the other has NK Son of Red carved into it, plus a few other things.

    The “K” only gun was taken from a hunting party that the Gang bailed up at Euroa. It became a favourite of Ned Kellys who named it Betty.

    The Son of Red gun has other things carved into it, was sold in 1972, but somehow ended up on display at the SLV. On the basis of some indistinct markings on it, it could have been issued by the Queensland Police to one of the black trackers.

    OK thats about where we are at present. Do we know where Betty is?

    I now want to talk about the Son of Red rifle. The idea that a black tracker would have just dropped it seems far fetched to me. But if it was dropped at Glenrowan obviously it wouldnt have had a chance to get into the gangs possession. If he just happened to drop it at some other place how on earth would it have then made it into the Gangs possession? If lost wouldnt some sort of requisition have been made to get a replacement? Is there any such record?

    The other thing is that images of the inscriptions on SoR are incredibly indistinct – I am not sure if thats becasue they were never clear or its the effect of time, so are there other examples of QP Enfields out there that can be looked at for comparison.

    Below are images of the inscribed parts of SoR : Frankly I cant see QP anywhere. And note : they were taken in 1972

  8. Image 1

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  9. Image 2

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  10. Image 3

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  11. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    I would not take Kenneally’s word for everything. Remember when he said that there was only one helmet made? Yet I find it interesting that he said that the green sash was worn under Ned’s clothing. I kept wondering why no one ever saw him with the sash on before the donning of the armour at Glenrowan or at least mentioned seeing it. Was it only put on later as a padding as surmised? If so, why not on the outside of clothing if it was to be symbolism? That bit about color blindness and seeing red as green is interesting. We know that the Greta Mob wore red sashes. But how active was Ned in that circle and would he have had one of the red ones? Was it mainly for the younger “punk” crowd, so to speak, like Dan and Tom. What would the average age have been of those in the Greta Mob?

  12. Hi Sharon, it’s because the green sash was worn under Ned’s clothing, seen only when the doctor removed his clothing for treatment and pocketed the sash while Ned had fainted, that I think there is nothing to suggest any symbolic significance, as well as the fact that none of the other gang wore sashes, so there was certainly no “Greta Mob” flashness at Glenrowan. If Kelly had wanted to be flash he could have worn his sash openly for the two days leading to the siege, but no, nothing. It was I assume just in the sack with his armour for padding. Further, he never said he missed it; he never said anything about it to anyone ever apart from what Kenneally claims he said in the third edition where he has Ned say a few words when it was given to him by Mr Shelton when the Kelly gang was on the run. The alleged significance is just Jones’s Kelly Republic fantasy, repeated several times through Short Life.

    Kenneally wasn’t concerned with the gifting; it’s only mentioned briefly in his third edition. What Kenneally makes much of in all his editions is it being a ‘very valuable sash with a gold bullion fringe’ and he was outraged that it had been stolen by the doctor. Kenneally must have been told this second or third hand, because as we know from the detailed description of the sash in Meredith and Scott’s ‘Ned Kelly After a Century of Acrimony’ from the Benalla Museum after its return to Australia in the 1970s, the gold fringe was just the sort of gold thread they use in school blazers; not actual gold at all.

    Ned Kelly was in the thick of the Greta Mob by all accounts. There’s a nice account from November 1878 here, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/220443524, and they predominantly appear to be youngish men around that time, but starting younger as juvenile delinquents. Doug Morrissey’s 1978 article ‘Ned Kelly’s Sympathisers’ has a list of sympathisers with all known Greta Mob members marked with an asterisk at the back (attached). Having a good idea of many of those names in 1878 would give a good idea of their ages then too.

    Because of the Greta Mob being known to wear red sashes at least at some point means there is no reason to doubt that when McIntyre said Kelly wore a red sash at SBC, that it was really green and he was colour blind. In his memoir ‘True narrative of the Kelly Gang’ (VPM download) p. 15 he writes of plentiful Rosella parrots, which are often mixed red and green. I think it is an interesting speculation that McIntyre may have been colour blind, and looking at some info does show that when red/green colour blindness occurs it is likely an inherited thing, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/color-blindness/causes-color-vision-deficiency, but nothing in McIntyre’s often autobiographical memoir mentions it; and one assumes that then as now Victorian police would notice colour blindness in an officer – their website says “the inherent requirements of operational general police duties requires the ability to name and identify the colours of vehicles and clothing”, so I don’t think there is much of a case to be made here, that McIntyre couldn’t tell the difference between red and green sash when he mentioned a red sash at SBC.

  13. Many exaggerated claims are made about the Kellys, and there is another recurring one about the Avenel Common School.

    Kelly enthusiasts might hope to see something left of the Avenel school established in 1856 that young Annie, Ned and Maggie attended in 1864 and 1865. Alas, nothing still exists. According to Inspector Gilbert Wilson Brown, the Avenel Common School had a bark roof lined with calico, and only one toilet for use by the teacher and male and female students, https://www.theage.com.au/national/flashback-1860s-20021023-gdupnx.html

    The VicGov website, always keen to mix things up, says that head teacher Edwin Richardson “built a new schoolhouse in 1860. He rented the building to the Board of Education. Avenel became a common school in 1863, and the Kelly family attended the school from 1861 to 1866”, https://www.vic.gov.au/150-years-avenel-primary-school

    This seems at odds with the school inspector reporting a bark roof lined with calico during his visit when reporting while the Kellys were there. It is certainly curious to claim the Kelly attended the school from 1861 when it was only in December 1863 that the Kelly family relocated from Beveridge to Avenel “in an attempt to dodge police scrutiny”, https://www.theage.com.au/national/flashback-1860s-20021023-gdupnx.html

    Avenel Common School was replaced on the same site by Avenel Public School No. 8 in 1874, https://www.strathbogie.vic.gov.au/images/Tourism/tracksandtrails/Walking_Tracks_bro_Avenel_final_SM.pdf

    That does not prevent a number of websites claiming that Public School No. 8 was the place that the Kelly kids attended and that a part of the building remains, e.g., https://www.australias.guide/vic/attraction-tour/strathbogie/avenel/avenel-common-school-no-8/

    At least the Ned Kelly Touring Route acknowledges that its sign there really just refers to a site. It seems therefore that there is no point having a sign there at all.

    Such is life…

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    1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

      I found this bit in a Strathbogie shire heritage study —– The first school in Avenel was established by the Church of England in May 1856 in a small bark hut.14 It was located on
      the hill close to the stone bridge and the first teacher was Edwin Richardson.15 Initially with an attendance of 20 pupils,
      the school had grown to 30 pupils by 1857. In the following year, it was transferred to the non-denominational National
      Board.
      There was a further change in the education system with the introduction in 1862 of the Common School Bill, which
      meant that the rival National and Denominational school boards were abolished and replaced by a secular Board of
      Education. A steadily growing population in Avenel led to the construction of a new school timber slab building for about
      £150 in (about) 1863 on land owned by Edwin Robinson, who leased the building for £10/year.16 Robinson had taught at
      the school until 1861, about the time he also bought land opposite the current site, on which the second school was
      located.17 A drawing of this building in 1874 (about the time it ceased to be used as a school) indicates that it was 12
      metres by 4.3 metres, and was said to have a wooden floor and canvas-lined walls.18 The most famous pupil of this period
      was undoubtedly Ned Kelly (1864-5).

      14 Olga Harrison, 125th Anniversary of Education in Avenel 1856-1981, np. A photograph of this building held at the school
      shows a school building with a hip roof and horizontally orientated cladding to the walls with stumps evident (and therefore
      not a slab building).it to be a substantial building. 15 Amelia Jane Burgoyne, Memories of Avenel, Sydney 1955 [1954], p37 16 Amelia Jane Burgoyne, Memories of Avenel, p37 + Olga Harrison, 125th Anniversary of Education in Avenel 1856-1981, np 17 Avenel Township Plan, A74(8). Richardson bought two adjoining allotments in section 20, no. 6 (2 acres) in 1861 and no. 5 (3
      acres) in 1862. 18 Keith McMenomy, Ned Kelly: The Authentic Illustrated History, Melbourne 2001 [1984], p13

      1. Hi Sharon, more fun and games at Avenel. In the sketch of the Avenel school from 1874 photographed from McMenomy 2001 (I mis-typed 2002 in my previous post), he gives its dimensions in the description as 40 x 14 feet.

        This is not the school Ned Kelly attended. Rather, he must have attended to old original Avenel school on the old location, before the new school was built. This is because the school report which lists him and Maggie at Avenel school on 2 April 1864 gives the school measurements as 26 x 15 x 9 feet, slab walls, bark roof and calico lining. It’s near the top of the right hand page of the report.

        I thyink this means that the talk about Ned Kelly and Maggie going to school at the site indicated by the Ned Kelly Touring Route sign is not the right site, but is actually the site of the new Avenel school that was built at some point while or after Ned Kelly was at school in the old previous original school building.

        What do you reckon?

    2. Just for interest, the photo of the Ned Kelly Touring Route sign outside the current Avenel Primary School attached to my above post is one I found online. As you can see, the photo is a bit blurry so the text is not crisp and clear.

      When I was in Avenel the other week I drove around the school twice to try and spot the sign so I could get a clear photo, but the sign wasn’t there. I then rang the school office and said what I was looking for, and they said they didn’t remember any such orange NKTR sign at the school.

      Does anyone have a good clear photo of that NKTR sign from the past that they would be happy to upload? Or can anyone confirm that the sign shown in the online photo I attached was located outside the current Avenel Primary School? Or if not, where exactly was it located and is it still there?

  14. Hi Sharon, here is Amelia Burgoyne’s 1954 “Memories of Avenel”, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-3291102186/view?partId=nla.obj-3291325068#page/n1/mode/1up if you don’t have it. The second 1955 edition is also there on Trove.

    Here’s what McMenomy 2002 p. 13 has about the school – a sketch and plan from 1874. So if it was built by 1863 (and Strathbogie above says “in (about) 1863 “, it could be a brand new school building that Maggie and Ned attended?

    Then again, it says “Robinson had taught at the school until 1861, about the time he also bought land opposite the current site, on which the second school was located.”

    So did the Kelly kids go to the old school in 1863/1864, or the new school at the new site nearby that Robinson built ca 1863 then leased to the Education authority?

    The answer mey be the comment cited in the Age article that said that school inspector Gilbert Wilson Brown, the Avenel Common School had a bark roof lined with calico, and only one toilet for use by the teacher and male and female students. On the walls hung two blackboards and a number of maps. Ned’s teacher, James Irving, was a Scotsman whose methods of discipline were labelled by Inspector Brown as ‘rather harsh’. Inspector Brown tested Ned at the third-grade level in 1865.”

    If the dates there are right, it would suggest that this described the new school IF it had been finished and leased to the Education authority by then. Does the inspector’s description reasonably describe new school shown in McMenomy’s illustration? Or could they have been at the old original school then, with the new school still not commissioned?

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    1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

      Now I am getting a headache! Not only do these researchers for the shire say the teacher was Edwin Robinson, further research shows me that he was named Edwin Richardson. Also, we know that James Irving was in charge when Ned was at the school, BUT, erroneously in a newspaper obit it says that Richardson taught at Avenel until 1869!! Good grief! What can we actually believe about any facts given us?

  15. Hi Sharon, I saw the two Edwins and perhaps wrongly assumed one of the surnames was just a typing error as they are both in the same article about Ned’s schooling. I think I’ll have to look in Jones and Keira to see what references they both used, and see if that helps. Unless you already checked either of them?

  16. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    I am not ambitious enough to dive any deeper but there is an entry in Corfield about the Avenel school and it mentions Edwin Richardson. So easy for folks to mis-type or mis-hear things or mis-remember something and then it stays wrong going forward and no one is the wiser and it is accepted as gospel until someone starts to dig. Case in point in my mother’s obituary my sister did not get my input and instead went ahead and wrote one and had it published and she had our mother’s maiden name completely wrong.

  17. Hi Sharon, it’s a right mess, but some things are becoming clearer. First, the Strathbogie Shire’s heritage report description here, https://www.strathbogie.vic.gov.au/images/Planning_strategies_and_reports/20131011_Heritage_Study_-_Vol_3-citations-part_1.pdf jumbles its commentary and dates around and so is not easy to follow. This seems to be because it has been pieced together from several sources by someone who should have written it as a narrative in date order. But a couple of things are clear from combining several sources:

    First, from that report, Edwin Richardson was the first person to acquire land in this part of Avenel. He bought two adjoining allotments in section 20: no. 6 (2 acres) in 1861 and no. 5 (3 acres) in 1862. The allotments extended between Shelton Street (west) and Livingstone Street (east). The first school in Avenel was established by the Church of England in a small bark hut and was located on the hill close to the stone bridge. Where the report varies the names Edwin Richardson and Edwin Robinson, it is clear that the Robinson surname is a typing mistake imported from one of their sources, and that Richardson is correct.

    Second, we see from Amelia Burgoyne, Memories of Avenel, 2nd edn., 1955, p. 37, “The first school in Avenel was built of bark, on the hill close to the bridge, in l856. It was an “undenominational” school established by the Church of England. The first teacher was Mr Richardson, and so it was known as “Richardson’s School.” He was succeeded by Mr Irvine. Among the pupils were… Annie, Maggie and Edward Kelly.” The school building was still used for services on Sunday mornings.

    The Kellys were definitely in the old 1856 school in 1864 when school inspector Gilbert Brown visited on 30 March. His report uploaded to a previous post gives the school measurements as 26 x 15 x 9 feet, slab walls, bark roof and calico lining, and says that its roofing is in very bad order. The teachers were James and Henrietta Irving.

    Next, Burgoyne says that “About 1863, a Common School was built at Avenel, made of slabs, as a successor to Richardson’s· bark-walled school.” This date is clearly debateable, as the school inspector’s 1864 visit is to an old building. The Strathbogie report says “A steadily growing population in Avenel led to the construction of a new timber slab building for about £150 in (about) 1863 on land owned by Robinson in Livingstone Street, who leased the building to the Education Board for £10/year.” Clearly it hadn’t yet been built when Brown inspected the children at the old school building (on the hill near the stone bridge) in March 1864.

    Jones SL 2008 p. 25 says that Brown visited the school again in March 1865 and Ned was again present; but all that Jones says is about Ned’s age as recorded by Brown. Red Kelly was gaoled for 6 months from late May 1865 till his early release in October 1865. He went out drinking again and was arrested for D&D on 12 December; released on 5/- recognisance and didn’t appear in court on 19 December, and lost his 5/- which is what he would have been fined. Jones says Ned didn’t return to school in 1866, but one wonders if he ever went back to school after his dad was gaoled in May 1865.

    Molony ‘Ned Kelly’ p. 25 reports that Brown inspected Avenel school again in October 1865 and no Kellys were present; and p. 26, that no Kellys were enrolled in the school at his two visits in 1966.

    What would be good is to see a copy of Brown’s report from March 1865 to see what he remarked about the school building. That should tell us whether it was the old building or a new building; but I have not been able to find a picture of the March 1865 report online. Does anyone have a picture? Only the 1864 report is reproduced widely, and neither is viewable online at PROV (VPRS 9684 School Inspector’s Notebooks (G.W.Brown) – Board of Education).

    In sum to date, the Kelly children were at the original Avenel school in 1864, and it was on a hill near the stone bridge, not where the new school was built in Livingstone Street some time in or after 1864 (to be determined). It will depend on someone seeing Gilbert Brown’s March 1865 school inspection report as to whether the Kelly children were now in a newly built school at Avenel in Livingstone Street, or whether the school was still the old one they attended in 1864. In which case all the NKTR signage and other claims by people that the Kelly’s attended school at the site of what became Avenal Common School No 8 are wrong by half a kilometre or so.

    To be continued when Brown’s school inspection report can be sighted or quoted from…

  18. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Wow, some good investigative work and critical thinking there, Stuart. Too bad some things are not available online to aid in further research. Confusing mess could describe many things in the Kelly story! Amazing how this whole thread has taken so many twists and turns. It is how things should be rather than hate speech and bashing and sticking to one long-held idea or ideal that might not be correct.

  19. Hi Sharon, it’s an interesting rabbit hole that’s for sure. Surely someone out there must have a photo of the Avenel March 1865 school report showing both pages of the notebook. I can’t believe that everyone has seen the 1864 report, and knows there’s a Ned 1865 report, but no one has bothered to photograph it?

    Also, I discovered a comment on an Avenel local history page that says the original Anglican Church 1856 was south of Mitchell Street. That would fit with the Strathbogie report of it being on a hill near the bridge, as Mitchell Street is parallel and at the bottom of the town. I emailed the info to the Shire last night asking if they had a map circa 1860 that showed the block of land where the original 1856 Church of England building was. Maybe they can find something…

    I think that’s the only two things needed to sort this out!

  20. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Depressing how little the broader historical community has kept up with recent Kelly history developments. Everyone with – at best – a passing knowledge is still stuck in 2003 (at best)…

  21. Hi Thomas, that’s interesting dating. 2003 is the year the second revised edition of Jones’s Short Life came out, which was the bulky much expanded version of the original 1995 edition, and has his line by line transcript of the Jerilderie letter as an appendix as I’m sure you know, but other readers may not. The JL had been anonymously donated by his wife Bronwyn to the SLV in 2000, as he revealed in the preface to SL in either the 2003 or final 2008 editions, I haven’t run to check.

    Anyway, he made much of the scientific accuracy of spelling and punctuation of his transcript in the revised edition, which was done by some history student in Queensland by consulting the original text which he had stashed away for many years before the donation. The result was a wonderfully accurate transcription of the nonsensical drivel we know as the Jerilderie letter. And as I keep saying, all it is is a ranting hyperbolic expansion of the Cameron letter written out in 3 copies with doubtless a range of alternate punctuation and capitalisation styles some 2 months earlier. None of which is a creative masterpiece, despite the efforts of Jones and rabbiters like Carey to treat it as such. Jones then had the last 2008 edition of Short Life thankfully without the JL transcription, which had added nothing but a little over enthusiastic fanaticism to the second edition.

    Also 2003 was Jones’s second and final edition of Fatal Friendship. So it would be fair to say that this pair of 2003 editions cemented Jones’s as the Kelly expert; the authority to whose might pages every museum and government authority as well as ordinary people turned when they wanted to know what Ned’s favourite meal was, for example. And do we read everywhere that it was land with peas and a claret, which just happened to be his last meal in gaol before hanging as the newspapers printed, and which prison issue last meal was elevated by Jones to Ned’s favourite meal at all times just because 🤷

    And then came 2012 and Ian MacFarlane’s Kelly Gang Unmasked, which as Ian says in the last paragraph was a start to the process of unmasking the Kelly myths constructed by a certain “expert” who got most things wrong and twisted the narrative and disgracefully made a his selective use of quotes to build a whopping great historical fiction. Unfortunately the lazy and incurious souls who infest government departments are pretty much stuck in 2003 and en mass oblivious to the ongoing critiques of Jones’s work that put it in the fiction section. But thinking people are slowly coming around. What they don’t have is a full replacement narrative to move Jones’s fictions permanently into the fiction shelf. Keira Mrs Kelly probably comes closest as regards documenting the endless Kelly clan criminality, but fails in its endless excuses for her core criminal actions. She has choices that his sympathies for her mostly self inflicted plight paper over. But as I say, with others, the true story is emerging over time. Each demolished myth makes it easier to spot more lurking fictions and question them; and often find them chimeras.

  22. To add fuel to the fire on an old topic, I was chatting with a guy who works as a volunteer on the Puffing Billy railway, the historic steam train railway in the Dandenongs. I outlined what had been said about sparks coming from a stream train when shunting at night in 1880 being potentially what one person at Glenrowan had described as two sky rockets, comprising one large and one small burst of sparks, and that this was not noted by any other of the many people present at the time. I asked if it was possible that vertical sparks could be emitted during shunting.

    He said that it was certainly possible. He said that while Victoria has brown coal, they have to get black coal down from Queensland to run the Puffing Billy steam trains. Black coal burns cleaner apparently. The engine fire is started with wood that coal fed in once the firebox is ready to burn it. But back in the nineteenth century the steam trains here burnt mostly wood, not coal. Steam trains are best known fro running on coal in England and elsewhere, but not in Victoria back in those days. And wood emits much more sparks than coal when it burns. So people trying to compare overseas or modern predominantly coal burning steam trains with the steam trains used in 1880 Victoria are not comparing trains using the same types of fuel, in terms of what sparks the engine could put out.

    He also said that not just shunting, but starting the train engine moving, could result in sparks. What happens is that the engine boiler is under a certain pressure while the train is idle. Then pressure is pushed up hard to start the engine moving. Once it gets under way, the pressure is reduced and stabilised to the required level. That is putting what he told me as clearly as I can type it up as a non-specialist.

    This means the rather convoluted discussions about whether or not the steam train at Glenrowan could have emitted sparks that one (or two at most) policemen not stationed anywhere near the railway line could have been mistaken for rockets, needs to go back to first base and consider the information above. It sounds from this that David Dufty’s suggestion that the shunting train emitted sparks that were mistaken for rockets by one man only out of the dozens present around the Inn that night, has merit. Where there’s smoke…

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