THE ‘NEW VIEW’ OF NED KELLY AND THE SASH: ITS A FAIRY STORY

Its been a fascinating journey, tracing the origins of the story about Ned Kelly being rewarded by the Shelton family in 1865 or thereabouts with a green and gold sash for saving Richard when he was six.

What one would expect over time is that details became clearer the closer one got to the source – but the opposite happened : it was like looking through the wrong end of binoculars – looking back, everything was harder to make out, which is the opposite of what one would expect. Instead, the further AWAY one got from the source, the older the descendants became and  as they all began to disappear off the face of the earth, the better peoples recollection became, the more details emerged and the more certainty there was about what happened. This phenomenon must immediately raise big red flags about the veracity of the story that ended up in all the Kelly books.

But this is what we now know for sure:

1. There was never a Kelly family oral tradition about Ned Kelly saving anyone, or there being anything significant about the green and gold sash taken from Ned Kelly at Glenrowan.

So, either a) it didn’t happen, or else b) if something happened it was exceedingly minor and forgettable – meaning the modern story is a gross and hyperbolic bit of Kelly propaganda – or else c) there’s a conspiracy theory that they knew about it but for some reason suppressed the story (because, as suggested by BJMcKay, it was an act of near drowning CAUSED by the bully Ned Kelly picking on a kid half his age…which sounds like the kind of things bullies do…)

2. The Shelton family’s oral tradition is VERY WEAK, does NOT involve a sash, and there is no agreement amongst them about the detail.
Dick Shelton himself NEVER provided any detail about this event and only ever made the very non-committal response ‘He was alright’ when asked about Ned Kelly. Given that Kelly was supposed to have saved his life, this is an extraordinary failure to acknowledge or express gratitude for an supposedly heroic act of bravery, and it supports the notion that emerged from other sources that if a rescue even took place, Ned Kelly had little if anything to do with it. But this claim about what Richard Shelton said was made by his elderly sons some 70 years after he had died.

In 1973 Violet Shelton wrote a letter to the Benalla Historical society saying that to her knowledge nobody in the Shelton family knew anything about a sash. Violet Shelton recounted Richard Sheltons sisters version: it was summertime, it involved a water hole, a hat and Richard getting into ‘difficulties’. No sash.

A letter from a different ‘Shelton oldie’ claimed it was a group of kids playing. No sash.

Ian Jones Shelton informant said it was winter and the sash came from the Shelton Drapery business – but recent searches haven’t been able to find that such a business ever existed. A different Shelton said the sash was one of a pair brought from England by Richards mother.

3. The origin of the green and gold sash taken from Ned Kelly at Glenrowan is unknown.
There is NO Kelly family link to either the rescue or the sash, and the Shelton family in 1973 had never heard of it either. What modern day Shelton family members appear to believe about the sash and the rescue contradicts the views of their elderly predecessors, and inserts into the Kelly family history details which the Kellys themselves have never acknowledged.

 So what DID happen?
The reality is that out of all this confusion of claims about an event that was supposed to have happened almost 160 years ago, almost nothing concrete emerges other than the fact that Ned Kelly was wearing a green and gold sash when captured at Glenrowan.

If there was a rescue, it was a minor event, akin to helping back to his feet a kid who fell over and grazed his knee after tripping on a projecting tree root on a rough track. It wouldn’t have warranted a public presentation of an expensive reward. That’s why the  Kellys never remembered it. That’s why the Shelton’s cant really remember exactly what happened either, and have no tradition of a sash being given as a reward.

The  modern day Sheltons who say they’re all alive today thanks to Ned Kelly have done what all of us have done, until now : we’ve all accepted in good faith, as true,  the story the Kelly advocates have presented to us. What none of us has done till now is have a closer look at the story and its origins – and having done so, we realise the story is a myth that’s been developed out of nothing, or at most, out of almost nothing. Its a classic tale of devotees wanting to provide an important explanation for an object their hero once owned : a green and gold silk sash. Somehow it got mixed up with the Sheltons and a half remembered story about a kid in difficulty in a waterhole.  I am reminded of the sign of the sandal in The Life of Brian: for those who cant remember what happened, Brian accidentally  lost a sandal and when his devotees found it they agreed it had to have been a sign, and then they fell about arguing what it meant…( Its hilarious : look it up on You Tube)

The story of  heroic 12 year old Ned Kelly being rewarded with a green and gold silk sash for bravely  rescuing  6 year old Richard Shelton from the flooded raging Hughes creek at Avenel round 1865 is a myth. It didnt happen. Time to move on : there are more myths where that once came from.

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34 Replies to “THE ‘NEW VIEW’ OF NED KELLY AND THE SASH: ITS A FAIRY STORY”

  1. You put up a solid case except this addition: because, as suggested by BJMcKay, it was an act of near drowning CAUSED by the bully Ned Kelly picking on a kid half his age…which sounds like the kind of things bullies do…) I don’t buy it and am surprised you entertain it given that you believe Ned was a good kid. Apart from that you have everyone thinking.

    1. That option I described as a conspiracy theory Dave…like conspiracy theories they often explain things but are not supported by any actual evidence. Even so, if we accept that Kelly was a psychopath then such people are known to be cruel bullies as children, and that could be he sort of thing he might have done. The problem is Kellys reputation was NOT as a cruel kid…but I am not sure where that idea came from TBH.

      My own belief that he was not a bad kid was significantly coloured by the rescue myth so I may yet have to modify it….but the record doesnt show any significant criminality till he was an adolescent. The Ah Fook assault was 1869 when he was 14. Same year as his ‘apprenticeship’ with Power.

      So Dave when are you going to admit it : the rescue and sash reward story is a myth!

      1. Ok, from everything you have presented I am willing to say that the saving of Richard was perhaps not as dramatic as we thought, but that it probably did happen in some fashion with Ned involved. The sash is a different kettle of fish, it was the comment about the fire ( not sure who was first to raise this) that swayed me to accept that the sash was not awarded by the Shelton’s. if the family themselves are unsure then so am I. So now we can try the near impossible task of working out where the sash came from and why he was wearing it at Glenrowan. That will prove much more difficult.

        1. Hi Dave and David, I can’t see any reason to doubt that young Ned was involved; that is probably the only reason that what appears to have been a minor event, later increasingly exaggerated, was remembered at all.

          The fire that burned down the decrepit old hotel in which the Kellys and Ellen’s two sisters and their children was burned down in an overnight arson from which they were all lucky to escape alive possessionless is a show stopper. If Ned had been given the sash at Avenel and had saved it from the Greta blaze there would be a strong family memory of it or about it as a treasured childhood possession. Instead there is total silence. Nothing supports there ever having been a sash dating back to Avenel.

          As far as I know, Ian MacFarlane was the first to suggest that perhaps Ned had worn the cummerbund around his waist under his clothing to prevent chaffing by the armour. I agree; I don’t think we are talking about a heavy padding like furniture cushioning or felt, just a couple of layers of coarse cotton cloth covered on side with cotton fabric and the other side with silk, as Ian said, to prevent chaffing.

          The cummerbund at 7 feet long wraps a waist twice. As an approximation I took a normal pillowcase and a pillowcase liner to imitate the sash outer cotton and silk layers and the inner cloth, put one on top of the other then folded it longways in half to imitate the sash wrapped twice as a double layer. Sure enough it makes a noticeable difference in terms of feeling pressure around the hips.

          Clearly there was no symbolism on show in its being worn under his other clothes. No one knew he had it until the doctor removed and pocketed it; presumably not because it was a “valuable bullion sash” as Kenneally thought, now that we know it was just gold blazer thread fringes; but no doubt just as a souvenir of the occasion, the same way Dowsett souvenired one of his boots and other people sought to souvenir anything else lying around from the momentous event of the destruction of the Kelly gang. When the sash was eventually returned to Australia there was no thought of it having had any monetary value back in the day.

  2. Hi David, that is an excellent summary of what the investigation has shown. As per my comments on the previous blog page (The Sash Part 2), I am with option (b) in line with Violet Shelton’s narrative directly from Dick’s sister Agnes, a very minor event and no sash. No dramatic rescue at all.

    I suppose a bevy of historians, museum staff and Shelton descendants will be jumping up and down in denial without spending the time to work through the very objective analysis of all known sources that we could collectively find that bear on this topic. That is entirely to be expected; look at the emotional howls of disbelief Redeeming Fitzpatrick and debunking the Kelly Republic myth got and still generate! Incidentally the Republic Myth book is downloaded pretty regularly from my Academia.edu page; a copy every 2 to 3 weeks.

    I think it’s worth reiterating that we are not dealing with opposing logical arguments and evidence, but with narratives; stories that have been handed down or put together from different sources and passed on. Rarely are they subjected to any factual analysis, nor is verification generally required.

    For example, if I was to relate my uncle’s or grandfather’s stories of the Second World War, I would be narrating what I recalled of what I was told. I heard some things as a child from people whose every word I hung on eagerly. No one asks their old relatives for proof. Proof typically consists of no more than some old photos that they may have talked about. They may not even have been involved in the particular thing that a photo is about, but you’d never know that at the time (or ever).

    Were any of their stories pulling my leg? Probably; one of my uncles was a great storyteller and a bit of a joker as well. Plus there are cudos for claiming links with notable people. I could tell you a story about my great great grandfather who lived in Tumbarrumba, and how he fed and watered Steve Hart’s horse when the Kelly gang were on the run. Where’s the proof that it did or didn’t happen? Who would call me a liar? Suppose my grandmother told it to me, my loved and trusted kindly relative? Wouldn’t it be absolutely true? Part of my living family history? A sort of claim to fame? Well, did it happen? It certainly could have happened… Couldn’t it?

    Anyway, I think the only options are your first one (a), that there was no rescue, or (b) it was something minor and forgettable. We have evidence for (b), and there is no sash in any evidence about the rescue as you have well documented. I don’t think it is possible to deny that anything happened given (b).

    I absolutely reject (c), Ned pushing Dick into the creek then rescuing him and hiding the bullying, and like Dave am surprised that you mentioned it in this summary post. We are having a historical debate here, based on historical evidence. There could be any number of psychological or speculative notions about what might or might not have happened in any situation . There is no evidence for the bullying speculation and it is historically invalid. I suspect it was a leg pull.

    What has been achieved is a most remarkable debunk of a long cherished myth; that the Benalla sash was given to Ned as a child as a reward for rescuing Dick Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek. That never happened, and no one knows where Kelly got the sash from, but it certainly wasn’t from that.

    I suppose the next step is to point the good folk at the Benalla Kelly and Costume Museum in the direction of this series of articles and ask them to review it and correct their information and signage accordingly.

  3. Anyone who has searched the old newspapers will know that the country town newspapers in particular reported on the smallest goings on, even if it was just a line or two. So it’s extremely hard to believe that a rescue of any kind didn’t get a mention.

    Regarding Kelly’s sash, another thing I didn’t think of until recently is that there’s hardly/ or no mention of it in Ian Jones’ ‘love letter’ to the Kelly Gang aka The Last Outlaw mini series. I haven’t watched the series in a long time, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember any big deal scene regarding the sash. I remember he’s wearing during the Glenrowan Inn scenes, but that just seemed more about having his outfit accurate. Which it was. But I don’t recall a big ‘flash back scene’ with Kelly remembering ‘why’ he had it or anything like that, which you think Jones would have added for sure. I mean, he could have started the mini series with a ‘rescue’ scene, especially since he included the whole republic myth. Kind of strange it was left out really.

    1. Hi J.T., I haven’t put my Last Outlaw DVDs on to try and spot anything about the Avenel rescue, but this Ned fiilm is a much more realistic story than the Last Outlaw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFJPSihm4TA&ab_channel=OwlPatMushyPeas

      And that’s saying something… No republic nonsense here!

      Maybe it’s because LO is 1980 and the Avenel rescue still hadn’t grown wings. I’d have to look again at the dreadful 1970 Ned Kelly movie starring weedy Mick Jagger as Ned to see if co-scriptwriter Ian Jones shoved the Avenel rescue in that one. I don’t have time just now, but it could be worth putting up with again in the interests of Avenel rescue elimination. Here’s Mick as Ned toasting the Republic of Victoria, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9fV8EusSWE&ab_channel=Movieclips

      Note that this toast is to “the Republic of Victoria”, all of it, not limited to the Republic of North-East Victoria. Back in 1970 Jones was touting the possibility of Ned having the Republic of Victoria as a whole as Ned’s dream!! He says so in an interview on p. 261 of Brian Carroll’s 1976 book ‘Ned Kelly: Bushranger’. My computer keyboard doesn’t have emoticons so I can’t end with the ones for bat shit crazy, but you know what I mean.

      1. Hi Stuart,

        Great post, I enjoyed the video links, lol. Looks like everyone at the Glenrowan Inn had a green sash on in the Jagger movie. Just imagine Ned Kelly’s reaction to seeing Mick Jagger playing him! Again, it’s strange that Ian Jones didn’t make a big deal, or any kind of deal, about the sash in The Last Outlaw. Maybe he wasn’t as convinced as we thought, and it was just some ‘padding’ for his book later? Still, it’s a good story, whether it happened that way, or any way, at all.

        Just regarding the whole Republic thing again, didn’t Ian Jones say it was Australian artist Albert Tucker who supposedly saw the ‘Declaration’ in the 1960’s in the archives of a museum in London? Has anyone ever read Albert Tucker mentioning it anywhere? Ian Jones was a terrific influencer, if he wrote it or said it, it must be true! The ‘Gentleman Ned’ photo was the perfect example of how trusting people were with him. Though many people could see at first glance that it wasn’t Kelly in the photo.

        1. Hi J. T., it was the Age theatre critic Leonard Radic who told Jones in 1969 that he thought he had seen a printed copy of the declaration for a republic of north-eastern Victoria in an Australia House display when he was in London in 1962. I have detailed the entire story in my free Republic myth book that can be downloaded from the top right of this page if you haven’t already got it. So not Albert Tucker, although he was another Kelly enthusiast like Sir Sidney (you know, the knighted git who ran out on his wife and kids then draft dodged in hiding while he was having it off with one of his mate’s wives, but in all fairness he really painted well) …

          1. Hi Stuart,

            Thanks for the correction regarding Albert Tucker, your Republic Myth book is very detailed and excellent reading. It was good to be reminded of the Gang’s 1879 ‘lost letter’. That is a document that should be tracked down. I can’t blame Ian Jones for wanting to believe Radic really did see a Republic document, it would have been a huge find. But whatever he saw, it’s very strange for it to supposedly just disappear within a few days, and not be seen since. Sounds more and more like another fairy tale, along the lines of Ned Kelly’s ‘marriage’, and the supposed loves of his life Kate Lloyd and Ettie Hart, Joe Byrne’s diaries. Just like the Republic myth and the sash, there’s no real evidence for any of it, just wishful thinking from some. It’s getting to be almost as laughable as Dan Kelly and Steve Hart escaping to QLD.

            P>S. Your description of ‘Sir Sid’ had me laughing out loud, though I think his paintings were as crappy as his character.

            1. Hi J.T., the thing I noticed about Radic’s fragmentary recollections as referenced in the source article quotes in Short Life and Fatal Friendship, and in Jones’s own comments about what Radic told him, was they were both vague and inconsistent. Behind them all was the insistence that what he’d seen was a printed copy of a declaration that no one else had ever seen and that Radic had never heard of.

              It was not until 7 years later when talking to Jones, who had been gripped by the idea of a declaration since he read the one sentence about it in Brown’s 1948 Australian Son, that he vaguely recalled seeing something printed to do with Kelly back in London in 1962 when like most young journalists he would have been out and about enjoying himself. All he could remember was it was in old fashioned block print. I’m in western Victoria this half week and can’t check my Republic myth book but the details are in there.

              The only things he could possibly have seen were a copy of the Kelly reward poster which is of course noteworthy and reproduced everywhere Kelly is mentioned, and is in old fashioned block print, and quite possibly a sign with it quoting one of the many variations of the short tale circulated widely in the 1940s by Bill Beaty and derived from a spoof 1900 Bulletin article about a NE Republic with Kelly as President. Key to unpicking all this is the comment in Australia on Horseback that Radic was not certain about what he had seen. I had attempted to contact him about 2015 when I was looking into all this but my emails via his uni-linked wife were not answered and I learned that his health was very bad from correspondence with Cameron the author.

              Jones ever afterwards repeatedly described the mythical declaration as “the holy grail” of Kellydom, and this sentiment was echoed by numerous Kelly enthusiasts since Jones popularised and vigorously promoted it for the last 70
              years or so. You can see how entrenched the fantasy had become when Chief Justice Phillips gave a presentation on the Kelly republic notion, including banging on about how Radic’s eye witness testimony was solid evidence that would stand up in court. So hook, line and sinker the furphy fairy tale was cemented into popular myth by myth-chasing respected authorities who unfortunately lacked any idea whatsoever of critical historical skills. Another factor is that all these promoters of the Kelly republic tale knew Jones socially. He was a very prominent TV series writer and producer; a socially significant person. His reputation as the Kelly expert carried (and still does carry) great weight.

              Imagine chatting to Manning Clark decades ago about something in Australian history. Of course one would be delighted to have a little time with him, a hugely respected authority. One would not start asking him about his weird Nietzschean slant on the world, his penchant for seeing Apollonian and Dionysian forces driving historical actors, as can be noticed in some of his comments, e.g. in his chapter in the 1968 Kelly Man & Myth book. Because he was another academic with a lunatic psychological perspective on the world; yet a great document-based historian and writer and communicator at the same time.

              Finally, if there is actually any finality about this nonsense, the leg-pulling ex-policeman Tom Lloyd son of Kelly associate Tom Lloyd Jr hooked Jones (and Molony with directly conflicting tales) about plans for a Kelly republic with secret meetings, notes in a diary, and all the other drivel in order to expose them as fools, as he told both Leo Kennedy’s dad in Leo’s presence, and Doug Morrissey during his own critical Kelly myth busting research.

              And so the fall of the Kelly republic tale that never was. But there are still many intellectual dinosaurs out there with walnut size brains who cling fanatically to the Kelly republic myth. I don’t know who runs the Australian republican website with an essay about the Kelly republic on it; but when I emailed them a copy of my book and advised them that the claim was wrong, they replied straight away to the effect of “nice try”; so impervious to reason and clearly Kelly nuts.

              1. Hi Stuart,

                It sure does. Radic must not have been much of a journalist if he couldn’t even properly describe what he saw and keep his story straight. It sounds almost as if he just made it up to sound big, and was surprised when Ian Jones went into such a frenzy about it, so had to keep trying to make it sound good. The more I read, the more Ian Jones and his posse of artists, judges and journo’s make me picture Standish and his pals sleazing it up at the Melbourne Club.

                But there certainly are enough Kelly nuts around who will lap it up, because most of them prefer the myths. They don’t want the truth, the myths help them stay warm and fuzzy. Like I’ve said before, the bogan sympathisers just use Ned as an excuse to meet up and piss up. He’s just the best looking colonial crim we had, so he appeals to them that way too.

                I’m reminded of when they showed Kelly the newspaper with the sketch supposed to be of him, and he said it was ‘nothing like me.’ I think that’s how he would describe most of the ‘facts’ written about him by the Kelly nuts over the years too, he’d have his best laugh ever.

                1. Hi J.T., yes indeed, although Ben Hall was generally seen as a handsome scallywag!

                  I don’t think Radic made it up. I think he chatted to Jones who led him down seven year old memory lane and pushed him into a false and still very vague recollection of what could have been. That’s why it’s significant that Cameron Forbes who was a close colleague of Radic wrote in Horseback that Radic no longer believed that what he had seen was a Declaration. That’s why I was keen to speak to him to confirm and also to take a printout of both the Wanted poster and the 1900 Bulletin article and see if that solved it. I didn’t start looking at Kelly until about 2011. Before then I had practically never heard of him. So much for being an iconic figure in Aussie history!

  4. Another thing about Glenrowan: there was never supposed to be any long, drawn out period of wearing the armour. From was learned later from Thomas Curnow and from the captives when released from the Inn, the idea seems to have been that the gang would hear the train coming, finish donning their armour (as they indeed rushed into a back room to do when the train was heard), then head over to the derailment site to perform the massacre of any survivors from the wreck. Apart from Ned wearing his armour during the dance at the Inn and subsequently, the others might have intended to have been in their three-quarter front armour for perhaps an hour at most; maybe less. Instead of that, the police train didn’t get wrecked – and even if Curnow had not been around to warn the approaching train, the pilot engine would have been the one to get derailed – and the shootout began when the gang in armour opened fire on the police as they approached the Inn.

  5. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Most of Gang, especially Steve, got very drunk at Glenrowan. Now of course part of the reason for that is the train taking so long to arrive, but has anyone ever suggested the Gang might have been trying to steel / numb themselves ahead of the grim task that lay ahead of them?

    1. Hi Thomas, that’s an interesting thought. I remember reading that Ned told one of them to take it easy with the grog (can’t remember which one offhand), but it might in theory be possible to timeline whatever comments are available on the gang’s drinking at Glenrowan. When did Anne Jones give them drink, for example; when did any of them ask for drink. It may be an impossible task!

      Was there any early drinking done by Joe who had just murdered Aaron; or by Dan who was with him then? Or by Ned who had known Aaron well? How affected by booze were they at the dance? Did they drink more in anticipation of the special train coming then ease back when it didn’t turn up as they expected?

      It is clear from the description of the fortress hut that it was littered with booze bottles. Joe seems to have been a barfly. They were brought some booze in the bush (in Hall’s book?). Clearly Jones’s portrait of Ned as almost a member of the temperance society is miles off. The Greta Mob were pub larrikins. One of the louts was taking turns exchanging punches with another in a tough guy competition outside a pub when one of them collapsed and died.

      Dutch courage may explain or help explain the gang steeling themselves for the intended massacre. Ned was said to have alcohol on his breath after capture, but he had spent the night collapsed in the bush; so that alcohol breath would be from the brandy he was given at capture to ease his pain, not from lying around with a bottle in the bush…

    2. The Gang were not drunk during the Siege according to those held captive. Sure there was some drinking but not to excess. Steve was not drunk, he was very ill. Ned kept the others in check.

      1. Thanks Dave, that makes sense in the context. I was following on from Thomas’s suggestion that there may have been excessive drinking in which case it may have been possible to test that suggestion by timelining it. I know various people have claimed Ned smelled of brandy after capture and concluded from that that he was drunk before his last stand. My point there was he was not. One of the police gave him a sip of brandy early, I think almost immediately after capture but tell me if I’m wrong. As Ned told at least one of the others to ease up on the drink I did not think the gang were drunk. For one thing it would have left individuals vulnerable to being rushed and overpowered should someone have decided to risk it…
        Plus, captives stating that the gang were not drunk rules that out; not to excess as you say. It’s not something I’ve ever looked at and am happy not to spend any time on!

  6. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Concerning the artist Albert Tucker who was mentioned above, did you know that Tucker had said that Ian Jones was his wife’s brother-in-law (as they had married sisters)? It was Jones’s first marriage and Tucker’s second marriage. In the preface to one of the editions of A Short Life, Jones credits Tucker with helping him with some of his fieldwork. Tucker also did some Kelly gang inspired art.

    1. Hi Sharon, Wow, I know Tucker’s Kelly paintings, from books and from the Benalla art gallery and the Heidi gallery in Templestowe. But that adds a new layer of complexity and influence to Jones’s formulation of his Kelly narrative given Tucker’s mate Nolan’s self-identification with Kelly and the heavy influence of Kenneally’s Inner History on Nolan, where Nolan draws directly on Kenneally for some of the sentence references that he accompanied his paintings with. I wonder how much imaginative narrative Jones gleaned from Tucker…

  7. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Not sure if Ann Jones was remembering it wrong or was just bitter and trying to throw shade, but in Cookson she said that after the gang went over to her hotel – “At this time all the gang were quite sober. Byrne had had a few drinks. He came up and snatched a bottle of brandy out of the bar. I cried, because I had very little goods, and could not afford to lose it. So I tried to get it back. I implored Ned Kelly to not let them take the liquor away. He said he wouldn’t let them, but he did nothing to stop them. They were all eager to get drunk. And they got pretty drunk. They started preparing to go away, putting their iron clothes on. But they got wandering all over the house, and some of them couldn’t get their iron hats over their heads. It was the liquor that caught them–nothing else. They stayed there drinking and going on with foolishness when they could have been away easily.” In the RC, Bracken said that none of the outlaws had the slightest appearance of having been drinking nor drunk anything to my knowledge. However, he was not taken to the Inn until very late on the Sunday night near Monday morning. So, he missed out on all the going ons from the gang’s arrival late Saturday/early Sunday to the time he was taken. In looking further at the RC, if you put in drunk or drinking there are a few things said. Reardon said that Steve was quite drunk when he first saw him (maybe he was just sick?) then another said Byrne was drunk but laid down and slept it off, another said that some of the prisoners told other police that the gang had been drinking or drunk and so forth. The part about Joe telling Dan to be careful old man and then he watered down his brandy was in the RC and said by Curnow. 

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for those bits, maybe there could still be something worth timelining with the various comments about drinking that could be collected…..

      But it would take a lot of work chasing statements and trying to figure out when they should be applied to do that. I don’t know if that’s possible. Maybe the key thing is whether there was drunkenness at any critical moments?? I think I’ll keep out of this one!

      Meanwhile back at the ranch I have made a couple of visits to PROV and looked through both boxes of school inspection notebooks by GW Brown, a total of 34 small notebooks. Only a few -half a dozen or so – turned out to have anything relevant to the Avenel school and only 4 of these had any useful descriptive comments about the building and classroom equipment itself. There were two visits per year but only the first half year visit made such comments with test results on the facing page; the second visit had only enrolled students names and results for those present for the test. One notebook is from 1863 pre-Kelly kids where we learn that teacher James Irving carried a tawse, which Ian Jones mentioned as a rather nasty strap, and three covering the potential Kelly years 1864, 1865 and 1866, though no Kellys were enrolled in 1866 as Molony noted. There are no descriptive comments about the school building or classroom in the other notebooks and the majority are his visits to Melbourne schools and surrounding areas down to Frankston for example, not the north east. There would have been dozens more notebooks that have not survived, unless there are any in the hundreds of boxes of miscellaneous records from the Education Department somewhere in the archives that have never been catalogued.

      Of the 3 that have descriptive notes about the Avenel school all give the classroom measurements which are 26 x 15 x 9 feet, so just a big lounge room in size. And made of bark slabs, calico lined. So it is the same building through those 3 years and as the roof is deteriorating along with other comments it is the same building that he visited in 1863 pre-Kelly kids. In other words it is looking like the later days of the old Richardson school, not the still not built Avenel Common School of larger dimensions given In McMenomy, but further investigation is needed to sort out if the old school was as appears near Hughes Creek and therefore not the ACS which was on a town block on what is now the site of the current Avenel Primary School. The old Avenel school was school number 8 although not called a Common School in those notebook years, but that does not imply or require any physical continuity with Avenel Common School No 8 on the town block site, just that the Education Department numbered Avenel as the place with Number 8 school. So the investigation continues as to what school the Kelly kids attended in Avenel. It may be that there is no link at all between the Kellys and what became Avenel Common School No 8 if they went to the old Richardson school in a different location. It might also change the hypothesis of where the rescue of Dick Shelton took place if it was no longer imagined as a short cut between the pub and the current location of Avenel PS. ….

    2. Further to the Avenel school question it is now clear from the records that the Kelly children attended the old original Richardson’s school and not the later Avenel Common School identified with a sketch in McMenomy’s book. It is taking a while to write this up as the dates of transition of the Avenel schools is muddled, but I should have it sorted out soon! Then there will be some correcting of the historical record required including by government websites, which kind of makes it all worthwhile!!

  8. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Sounds great, Stuart. I know you have put a lot of time, thought and effort into unraveling this puzzle and not all of the “sausage making” was even put in this comment section, so I look forward to reading the final write up. I wonder how much pushback you will get from the “authorities” when you try to get them to amend their pages?

    1. Hi Sharon, I think the biggest problem with authorities is inertia. The bigger they are the harder it is to get acknowledgment of new understandings translated into action. For example the Ned Kelly Touring Route people at Wangaratta Council acknowledged their are problems with some of the Glenrowan Kelly Hub signage that I brought to their attention but first, they are holding back on fixing any of the content until they have done a full review of all feedback on the content regardless that I have given precise information and references for the changes I recommended. Second they said the project team that did the text for the Hub display was disbanded so who knows when someone will be tasked with reviewing and fixing it. Third, anything involving a committee tends to be a talkfest and take much longer than something involving a manager with power to act and implement justified change.

      On top of that anything involving a change to established wisdom is inevitably at odds with the recognised “authority” or “subject matter expert” that drafted it. Since Jones is still the recognised expert on Kelly it is simple for a Council or museum etc to say no, we’ve checked what Jones said and there’s no compelling reason for us to put any time into reconsidering our content about XYZ when we’re all very busy with other work. It’s even more difficult with Jones because he split many of his references on various topics between Short Life and Fatal Friendship, and references himself and bits of oral history between the two books, making it a nightmare to unpick. In other words his books are not self-contained works of referenced writing and evidence like most academic style books, but jigsaw puzzles with much selective use and editing of references that all need to be checked to see what the referenced sources actually said versus his written interpretation of them. Doinf that takes time, which is something Council and museum staff typically don’t have much to spare in their normal work days. So unless you strike someone who has a genuine interest in a topic inertia tends to win.

      I’m not suggesting that people who receive critiques of existing published content don’t care about fixing it, but getting it to happen is often not straightforward. I have had a few wins however as you know but most don’t; for example two small word changes in the SLV online ‘fact sheet’ about the Fitzpatrick incident based on my Redeeming Fitzpatrick article with its detailed references, which removed two factual errors that were taken straight from Jones. That was relatively easy for someone to fix; but when it comes to printed display signage or information materials it’s a whole new ball game!

  9. Further to the Kellys at Avenel, everyone says that the three eldest children, Annie, Ned and Maggie, all went to the Avenel Common School. Yet the only records of them being there are the often quoted test results for Ned and Maggie in 1864 and 1865. There are no results for Annie.

    That could simply mean that Annie was not present on the one day in each half year that the school inspector turned up to test the kids and record the results. The inspector recorded the “average attendance” number on each occasion, which clearly varied quite a bit from the theoretically enrolled number.

    But it could mean that although Annie went to school at Beveridge, she might not have gone back to continue school after the Kellys moved to Avenel. Born November 1853, she had just turned 10 when the family moved to Avenel on January 1864.

    Did she possibly stay at home on the 40 acre rented farm to help her mum with the three other kids of pre-school age, while Ellen helped Red to get themselves established on the new property? Was Red already drinking to excess at Beveridge as Ian MacFarlane said, and was drink getting the better of him at Avenel such that operating the rented farm was an ongoing struggle?

    Does anyone have any definite evidence or reliable family history to strongly support that Annie actually went to school in Avenel?

    There is nothing in Jones, Molony, McQuilton, McMenomy, Kieza, or Clune that gives any reference to show that Annie ever returned to school after the move to Avenel. It seems to be simply assumed by all of them that the three older children all went to school In Avenel. But did Annie? I’d like some evidence if anyone has any. Otherwise there’s is a reasonable case to be made that she didn’t.

  10. More Kelly nonsense! This postcard of the so-called £8,000 Wanted poster is widely reproduced; here is a copy in a Kelly book. I have also seen it done large scale for sale as a poster.

    Obviously the Wanted poster is only relevant to the period of Kelly gang outlawry.

    Afficianados may note that the period of outlawry ended the day before the Glenrowan siege, so when the gang exdcept for Ned died in the Inn, and Ned was captured, they were all no longer outlaws. Ned was tried for murder on a warrant issued a couple of days before the Felons Apprehension Act was enacted, and before the gang were pronounced outlaws under it a couple of weeks later when they failed to surrender themselves at Mansfield.

    Dumbos will not notice that the portrait of Kelly can’t possiibly be on a Wanted poster as it was taken the day before his execution at the Melbourne Gaol. They will pay good money for a fraudulent collectable. “But it’s Ned!” they will cry if you mock their naivety. Such is life.

  11. Back on the Avenel road, I have got hold of L.J. Blake’s 1970 ‘Young Ned’ article in The Educational Magazine that several Kelly authors reference about the Kelly’s time in Avenel. There are several oddities in Blake’s article. First, he opens with the Kellys moving in their dray from Beveridge to Avenel with kids Annie, Ned, Maggie, Jim “and the baby Daniel”. The Kellys moved from Beveridge to Avenel in January 1964; Dan was born 1 June 1861 so was 2½ years, not a baby. Further, Blake did not notice baby Kate, born 12 July 1863 in Beveridge and so 6 months old. Let’s just say he needs fact checking.

    He writes, “The Kelly children had the good fortune to attend the new school. In 1860 Richardson spent £150 on a “substantial and commodious” building to replace the dilapidated structure in which he and his wife had taught and lived since 1856. But the children had to leave these pleasant quarters. The Board of Education refused his [1862] request to buy the building for a common school”, and so they went to a temporary building, “probably the on Richardson vacated when he build his new school”. This is all wrong. The only way it works is if the Kelly children were attending school in Avenel in 1862, long before they had actually moved there from Beveridge in January 1864. Based on his opening mention of “baby Daniel” in the dray, he must have imagined the Kellys moving to Avenel at the start of 1862.

    Blake does however note that Annie Kelly was not at school in March 1864 when GW Brown inspected it and tested the children. He says, “Ned could have told him where one absentee was: Annie had to be at home to help her mother with eighteen-months-old Catherine, for Ellen Kelly was expecting again.” Again there is a dating problem as Kate was only 8 or 9 years old then; but the vital point is that Blake accepted what all the Kelly writers who read and referenced him could not: if we allow that Blake had his ‘moving to Avenel’ date out by a year such that it was not 1863 but 1864, there is a pretty solid case to make that Annie never attended school in Avenel. She got no more school education than her elementary stint in Beveridge.

    Also, Blake’s date for a new school building has to be wrong, as whatever Richardson’s machinations with the Board of Education were, he can’t have built the new building between Shelton and Livingstone Streets as he didn’t buy his two blocks of land there until 1861 and 1821. There is no source referencing in Blake’s article; but what should we expect from an Education Department magazine…

    1. Opps – I typed “Again there is a dating problem as Kate was only 8 or 9 years old then;” obviously it shoud have read “8 or 9 months”.

  12. In L.J. Blake’s 1970 ‘Young Ned’ article in The Educational Magazine, he says “Richard Shelton was only a little boy when he almost drowned in the creek waters – would have drowned, in truth, had it not been for young Kelly, who plunged in and rescued him. To the Sheltons and to the Kellys, Ned could be nothing less than a hero then, and the rest of the Avenel folk agreed”.

    As we have been analysing in these blog posts, there was nothing anywhere to show that the Kellys had any tradition of this rescue; and nothing to show that outside the Shelton’s vague stories, that anyone in Avenel knew about it.

    What is also interesting in this 1970 article is there is nothing about a green sash…
    The green sash myth for an Avenel rescue had not yet been invented.

    1. I also got a photocopy of Les Blake’s 1980 ‘Young Ned’ 15 page booklet. which he said is a “completely revised and updated” version of his 1970 Young Ned article plus a couple of other articles he had done in newspapers. He says his revised booklet is based on school inspector Brown’s notebooks, “research in official records and personal investigations of the Kelly country by the author and Vic McDougall,” with useful background detail from Burgoyne’s ‘Memories of Avenel’.

      Despite his on-the-ground investigations there is still no mention in this 1980 revision of any green sash being awarded to young Ned in Avenel…

  13. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Thanks for going out of your way to access these items. Too bad more things are not available online. Interesting that no sash was mentioned. I bet there are tons of things that if we took a closer look we would be surprised that all things are not what they seem or what we have been told by the “experts.” Regarding that wanted poster, people have been fooled for a long time by that pre-execution photo being on it. I can see where new people to the story can be fooled by it as they don’t know better, but they can soon catch up to speed. Why they even put a photo on these new ones for sale is a mystery as the original did not have photos or illustrations.

  14. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Ive always found the Reward posters with the last portrait photo included rather funny. I suspect the posters with Ned’s face on it are an attempt to make the poster look like an American Wild West Wanted poster. In Australia we seem to have instead ended to instead have Reward posters, which generally didn’t include the outlaw’s face. Suspect finding a photo of the person and then printing it for mass circulation was just all too hard and expensive.

  15. Now it’s been established where the 1856 timber School was located. It stands to reason that the near drowning and the reward of the sash never happened. Other contributing factors points this conclusion also.

    Your most obedient servant
    Steven Jager
    Kelly expert

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