THE TOUGH QUESTIONS THAT NOBODY DARED ASK ABOUT THE GREEN SASH….TILL NOW (Part 1)

When Ned Kelly was finally brought down at Glenrowan, under his clothes his torso was wrapped with a 2m long green sash with a gold coloured fringe. As noted in the Bulletin in December of 1880 Dr. Nicholson, at Benalla has Ned Kelly’s scarf, which he took off him (Ned) at Glenrowan. It is made of green silk, trimmed with gold braid and gold fringe at the edges.’

 

A century later,  the ‘scarf’ had become central to one of the most well-known stories about Ned Kellys life, the story of a gold edged green sash that had been presented to him as a reward for saving Dick Shelton from drowning in the Hughes Creek when they were both school kids at Avenel. Neds unhesitating  plunge into the raging torrent to rescue the floundering 6 year old, is remembered as the first demonstration of Ned Kellys heroism and bravery, the green sash becoming his most proud possession and a symbol of his courage that went everywhere with him.


However, after that brief mention in 1880, for the next half century – well, 49 years to be exact – that comment was the only public reference to the ‘scarf’ made by anyone, anywhere. In regard to the sash and the story of Sheltons rescue and Ned Kellys youthful bravery there was absolute and complete silence – even Mrs Kelly till the day she died said nothing, not a single word about her son’s proudest moment to anyone, ever, including in her published long interviews with Cookson in 1911:  “Asked if there were any other incidents in her life on which she would like to dwell, she said she could think of none.”  Jim Kelly also spoke to Cookson – and, you guessed it, he also made no reference to a rescue or to Ned Kelly being rewarded with a green sash.

 

Even more remarkably, neither did Ned Kelly himself ever mention his heroic rescue of Shelton and his rich reward of a silk sash with gold trim. Even though he made many boastful self-centred rambling speeches to prisoners and authored several long letters about his entire life, letters which included his bragging about how handy he was with his fists and how great a horse stealer he was, he never said one word about getting a reward for a brave rescue of a drowning kid at Avenel. Not one word.


So heres the question : how is it that the modern story would have us believe the sash had huge sentimental value to Ned Kelly himself, and yet the renowned self-promotor never mentioned it once to anyone, and even after it was taken from him in June 1880 he said and wrote nothing about it all, to anyone, ever?  These resounding silences are more than puzzling…. they are glaring absences that beg the question: did the rescue and the award of a green sash even happen?


If Ned Kelly hadn’t ever rescued Dick Shelton or been given a green sash that would explain why Ned Kelly and Jim Kelly and  Mrs Kelly never talked about it.  That would explain why Kelly wore a sash that was red and not green at the SBC murder scene.   That would explain why GW Hall had nothing to say about a sash or a heroic rescue in his two 1879 publications, and neither did almost a dozen other authors who wrote about the Outbreak over the next forty years, including well known accounts by Hare (1895), Chomley (1900), Cookson(1911), Sadleir(1913) or Ashmead(1922). There was no mention of it in the Royal Commission, though they also interviewed Mrs Kelly.

 

Less well known books such as the flamboyant “Ned Kelly the Ironclad Australian Bushranger” by JS Borlase published in 1881 makes no mention of it, neither does Whites ‘History of Australian Bushranging (1900), Boxalls “History of Australian Bushrangers” (1906) or Robbit Clows “The Cause of Kelly”(1919).

 


So heres the next question : How can there be more than a half century of absolute silence about something that is now believed to have defined Ned Kellys childhood, and given rise to his posthumous status as a brave young hero? There is no credible reason for it to have been a secret – in fact, if true the story would have been famous in its own time, not only in the Kelly clan but in the Avenel community. The absolute silence is deafening.

 


Eventually, after 49 years, the silence ended when the ‘scarf’ reappears in 1929 in the first edition of J.J.Kenneallys “The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang”. Its mentioned under the heading “The Secret of the Green Sash”, but it’s not the story of the sash being offered as a reward to Ned Kelly for rescuing Dick Shelton that Kenneally is recounting – no, there’s still not a single word about that. Kenneallys concern is solely to attack the police for taking the sash from Ned Kelly :

“The doctor removed the sash when he was stripping Ned Kelly, and it was secreted by the officials who had seen it. Reference to this very valuable sash did not appear in the press for the simple reason that the looters, whoever they might have been, intended to retain it as a great trophy……. Whoever is responsible for the annexing of this sash is undoubtedly guilty of theft. As the Kellys ceased to be outlaws on the 9th February, 1880, when the Outlawry Act lapsed, and as it was neither revived not its duration extended, no person was justified in stealing or looting any of their personal possessions. It is very evident that among those who functioned in the interests of Law and Order was a percentage of dishonest and untruthful officials.”

 

 

Kenneally proudly named Kellys cousin Tom Lloyd as his chief informant, saying “He was in close touch with them in all their wanderings; he shared their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows; and he was second only to Ned Kelly in courage, grit, skill, resourcefulness, and unswerving loyalty to his relatives and friends.”  In Chapter 21 , Jim Kelly says of Kenneallys book:“…through your book the people of Australia are now in full possession of the truth. “   He also wrote “…I purposely delayed reviewing your book in order to give the enemy an opportunity to challenge any part, section, or sentence of it; but as no such challenger has appeared on the horizon, I take it that your book is freely admitted to be unchallengeable.” Another of Ned Kellys cousins, James Ryan also fully endorsed the book, but neither he nor Tom Lloyd nor Jim Kelly seemed to think anything was missing from the references to the sash. Such an heroic and memorable event as being rewarded with a green silk sash with a ‘gold bullion fringe’ for saving a child from drowning would have been central to the families narrative about their infamous relative, and leaving it out of the ‘complete inner history’ would be inexcusable. Jim and cousins Tom Lloyd and James Ryan would have noticed and seen to it that Kenneally put it in….if it had been something they knew anything about. But they didn’t. They said that with Kenneallys narrative “Australia (was) now in full possession of the truth. “ .



So, the next question is this : given who his informants were, why was it  that after studying the Kelly story for a decade Kenneally knew nothing  else about the sash, and especially, nothing about about a rescue and the sash being given as a reward?


The  conclusion is inescapable : none of his informants had ever heard of such a claim….

 

Five years later, in the 1934 (Revised) 3rd edition Kenneally was still preoccupied with the idea that police had stolen Neds property, but he sensationally expanded the story of the sash to claim it had been a gift to Ned Kelly from the parents of a boy he had saved from drowning :

 

“While the Kellys were living at Wallan, Ned Kelly saved the life of a boy who had fallen into a flooded creek. The boy’s father was so grateful that he decided to make  Ned a present of a very valuable green silk sash with a heavy bullion fringe.

It seems a strange coincidence that while the Kelly gang were on the run, Ned had just finished relating the circumstances under which he had saved the life of a boy at Wallan, when his sister – Mrs Skillion – announced that there was a man coming through the slip-panels mounted on a nice bay horse. There was some excitement and speculation as to whom the stranger might be. A spy I suppose said Dan. Don’t let him in here, it might not be too healthy for him, said Ned. The visitor rode up to the house and dismounting, approached Mrs Skillion who had advanced to meet him. My name is ______ said the stranger and I have come with a little present for Ned Kelly who very heroically saved my son from drowning some years ago at Wallan. That is quite right, said a voice from within. “Bring him in”. At that time, said the visitor, Ned refused to accept money as an expression of my gratitude, and I decided to find something that he would accept. And I thought the present time would be a suitable occasion on which to express my gratitude admiration and confidence in him. The grateful parent unwrapped the parcel and procured from it the beautiful “Green sash with a heavy bullion fringe” saying “I hope Ned will like it”. “Too true I will” said Ned, suddenly appearing at the visitor’s side. “It is a rare beauty and I will always wear it”.

 

This addition to the story, wherever it came from, must have been surprising news to  Kenneally as well as to his  previous informants, Jim Kelly, Tom Lloyd and James Ryan : almost seventy years after it was supposed to have happened, the first claim appears, a claim they had never heard before that their close relation, Ned Kelly, had rescued a drowning boy. However, this first version is quite different in important detail from the modern version: the boy is not named, the event was said to have happened at Wallan, and the gift wasn’t made until many years after the rescue, when Ned Kelly was an adult and on the run. Kenneally says nothing about where this story came from, but obviously, he hadn’t known of it five years earlier, by which time according to his own account he had been researching the Kelly story for over a decade. 



What Kenneally has done here is to accept from some other unnamed source a story about the Kelly family history that the Kellys themselves had never heard of. It makes absolutely no sense at all to  claim that  a dramatic story about a member of the Kelly family was known to others but was unknown to the Kellys.  If the Kellys themselves weren’t aware of it, then only one conclusion is possible : the story, as written, of the heroic rescue and the reward of a green sash actually did NOT happen – its a FABRICATION, a story that was invented, probably sometime between 1929 and 1934. 

 

But, as the old saying goes ’Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’.

 

So the Kellys, and Kenneally and all the rest of them, people who were often strangers to the truth, went along with it because it was a good line. And the Sheltons ? –  why would they want to deny it if they were told their 19th century predecessor was a central figure in one of the  most famous of all Kelly legends?



(PLEASE NOTE : Much of the detail in this and the next Post was derived from a Blog post and discussion about the Sash and the rescue that took place in October 2021. The main contributors who did an enormous amount of spadework on the subject were Stuart Dawson and Thomas Whiteside – I  gratefully acknowledge their contribution and thank them  for permission to make use of their findings, but the conclusions here are mine. I hope they will agree with them….we shall see soon enough I guess!)

The possible origins of the story will be examined in Part 2.

(PART 2 TO FOLLOW IN ABOUT A WEEK… )

 

 

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44 Replies to “THE TOUGH QUESTIONS THAT NOBODY DARED ASK ABOUT THE GREEN SASH….TILL NOW (Part 1)”

  1. Would you ignore family oral history?
    I have a newspaper clipping where the 2 sons say that they believe that their father was saved by Ned.
    Their family say the tale is a factual one.
    As to why it was not mentioned elsewhere does not diminish their belief.

    1. In Part Two all that will be addressed Dave. Then you might like to post the newspaper clipping and we can have a chat about it, but for now, I would like the discussion to be about THIS post, which if you want to look at it this way, is about the KELLY family oral history. The fact appears to be that the Kellys knew nothing about the story of a rescue and a sash. If they had known of it, they would have mentioned it in THEIR oral family history. But there is nothing. Whats your explanation Dave?

      1. Fair enough, I shall share it when part 2 is published.

        1. But Dave, dont you have some thoughts about Part One?

          Part one was basically pointing to the fact that the Kellys would appear to have had no oral history of Ned Kelly ever being rewarded with a sash for saving Shelton from drowning.

          This observation has quite profound implications for the entire story does it not?

  2. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Earliest version of the story is this. Labor Call. 22 November 1928:


    During my travels I once met Jim Kelly. I also met “Wild” Wright, a great pal of the Kellys. Some 20 years ago I met Aaron Sherrit’s widow, and I knew his brother, Jack, a fine runner. Proving the truth of the old saying that “There is some good in the worst criminal,” I know for a fact that while at school at Avenel Ned Kelly rescued another boy who was drowning. If the Kelly gang’ were alive to-day and shot a number of policemen, their capture would only be a matter of a few days.
    A number of factors would bring about their downfall, broadcasting and rapid transport playing the principal parts.AJ.S.

    I’ve also seen this on the Lost Avenel Facebook page:

    Helen Chapman
    The story repeated by my family was that a group were at the creek which was swollen and running fast, Shelton must’ve fallen into a hole and all the kids formed a human chain and dragged him out. It wasn’t Ned by himself
    .

    I still think there’s some truth to the story of Ned saving Dick, but I think the mythical account is probably not close to the truth of what actually occurred.

    1. WOW Thomas – thanks for that great Find of someone saying he knows it for a fact that “Ned Kelly rescued a boy that was drowning”. This was a statement made more than 60 years after it was supposed to have happened, but the puzzle remains : how would he know for a fact something that the Kellys themselves seemed never to have heard of?

      I am not going to go so far as to say NOTHING happened at all, that at the bottom of this entire thing there is a blank : the question is WHAT is at the bottom of it all?

      I think the answer lies somewhere in the background of your quote from Lost Avenel, which Ive also seen.

      For now I want the discussion to be about why the Kellys never said anything about it ….or are you going to find something else to bring me back to earth???

      In part two I will review all the other components of the story, such as the Lost Avenel post. It was going to be too big a post and cover too much ground to be able to post it all in one long essay.Hence the two parts.

    2. Hi Thomas, I’m posting the link to the Labor Call article you found for other’s conveninece,
      https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/249959248

      Interested to see where all this goes! And who is AJS, the article author in a Labour newspaper? Since the article is 1928, could he be an acquaintence of labour activist J.J Kenneally? Could the loop end at Kenneally? Some questions here…

      1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

        Hi Stuart, Had similar thoughts. I’m going to go through the Labor Call and try to see if I can work out who AJS might have been… Likely mixing in same circles as JJK.

  3. Impeccable research my good doctor.
    Thank you for exposing yet another exaggeration of the facts. Facebook scholars are in denial & heading for cover.
    Fitzy, Roswell, Jäger, Pj, what do have you to say in defence of Keneally & the lies supporting the sash?

    1. Thanks Amigo. I should remind everyone that all Ive done is assemble the great work of others that happened on this Blog nearly three years ago. Ive been wanting to pull it all together for ages. Youre right : the toad and every single Kelly Sympathiser on the planet will be running for cover now.

  4. What I REALLY want people to focus on in this thread is the silence within the extended Kelly clan in regard to this incident. I dont think it can be overstated how UNEXPECTED, how VERY surprising and weird it would be, if the incident had really happened, but the entire extended family NEVER said anything at all about it, to not even the tiniest reference to it . I myself cant think of ANY other rational explanation for this deafening silence other than that it wasnt something they knew anything about.

    Can ANYONE offer a better explanation??

  5. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    AJS claimed to have known Jim, Wild and some of the Sheltons, seemingly in the early 1900s. If he got the story of the rescue from them, as I think his letter implies, that suggests there perhaps wasn’t total silence in the wider Kelly clan, doesn’t it?

    1. I am not sure that the letter implies he got the story from Jim…so Jim told AJS but made no mention of it to JJK? Even when he was writing the supposed “COMPLETE “ history? Or anyone else? Ever? Maybe Jim knew someone was dragged out of the creek and he was pulling AJS leg in the Avenel Pub about Ned being the rescuer and he fell for it? That would explain him not repeating it to JJK.

      But Neds silence is perhaps the most damning, as he was a loud mouth boastful bragger who never seemed to stop talking. Its not as if we are expecting the Kelly mob to have talked every trivial incident in thier lives – but this incident is claimed to be HUGE.

    2. For what it’s worth I just word-searched my PDF copy of Cookson’s 1911 articles (The Kelly Gang From Within), compiled by Brian McDonald, for Wallan, and found this on p. 51: “Ned was born at Wallan Wallan. in Victoria, in 1854.” There is no other mention of Wallan.

      No search results in Cookson’s articles for Shelton, drown, or Avenel, either. And Cookson interveiwed everyone he could track down about their memories of those days.

      1. Also searched Cookson for sash, scarf, cummerbund (no results), and rescue (a few results but nothing about rescuing a boy from a creek).

        When he interviewed Fitzpartick, Fitzpatrick said that Kelly possessed gret natural ability and under favourable circumstances would probably have become a leader of men in good society instead of the head of a gang of outlaws (p. 94), So even Fitzpatrick had a few good word for Kelly, but hd never heard of any childhood resucue ti illustrate it.

        Neither Mrs Kelly nor Jim Kelly had any such remininsence to show they thought he was a good lad somewhere deep down in thedir unhurried interviews with Cookson.

        Kenneally’s 1929 second edition (the first being earlier that year) says “Mr. Joseph Ryan, of Lake Rowan, a first cousin of Ned Kelly, remarked to his younger brother some years afterwards that he could never make out what had become of Ned‘s green silk sash with the heavy gold fringe.” There is nothing about any history of the sash prior to Glenrowan and Kenneally seems only concerned about its value.

        So another curiosity – Joseph Ryan never remarked to Kenneally about the history of the sash up to and past 1929 or Kenneally would almost certainly have put it in as a testament to Kelly’s young character.

  6. A wee little point overlooked. Back at the Lloyds place at greta. What happened there in 1869?Let me jolt your memories shall I.

    James Kelly torched the place with everyone and everything inside. Kids, personal belongings everything went up in flames. Now where did I read that? If the author is reading this please stand up and be heard.

    1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

      Amigo, I did a post over at the FB page saying this same thing without seeing your post first! It was 1868 when it happened, though.

  7. Anonymous says: Reply

    Testing submission

  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    Correction noted. Typo.
    Hadn’t signed in to Facebook. will have a read. Sharon it was mentioned by someone else. Going back some time.

    1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

      No worries, the information is out there for all to find who will look for it and comprehend what they read. Just thought it odd that within the same evening two different folks mentioned it on two different sites without the other seeing it. Great minds think alike! lol

      1. That’s because people don’t read all the comments before adding theirs.

        1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

          Many of the comments are out of order and hard to find especially if you are like me and just click on from the main page for comments and don’t skim up and down the page. Some get pushed off the front comment section link if too many added so much is missed. I just know that the Holy Spirit prompted me to recall what I read in A Short Life and I did not copy or parrot what someone else had previously posted. Ya’ll have fun, I am out.

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    Some lite reading.
    KELLYS SASH
    Edward Kelly was 11 when at some risk to himself – he plucked seven-year-old Richard Shelton from Hughes Creek. The boy was to become the father of four daughters and eight sons. Harold, 91, and Britton, 87, who live in Melbourne, are the youngest and last survivors of Dick Shelton’s large brood.
    The brothers don’t recall their father ever expanding on the story, although local folklore and the reminiscences of their older siblings ensure that sketchy details of that day are preserved in stories of Ned Kelly’s life.
    But the brothers do remember that all his life their father was asked about Ned Kelly and he always replied brusquely: “He was all right.”

    Esau and Elizabeth Shelton – presented Kelly with a green sash, fringed with bullion, in recognition of his bravery in saving their son.
    ****************************************************************************
    Mrs Fruend is the great-granddaughter of Richard Shelton, who it is claimed at age seven was on his way to school in Avenel, Victoria, when the wind caught his hat and it was blown in a local creek. She said Richard went to retrieve the hat, but slipped and would have drowned if not for an 11-year-old boy who came to his rescue.
    That boy was said to be the young Ned Kelly.
    “Richard was on his way to school and fell in the local creek, he couldn’t swim,” Mrs Fruend said. “But along came Ned who was on his way to school too and he saved Richard – pulled him out and saved him.”
    Mrs Fruend said the Sheltons were a prominent Avenel family of the time and, when word reached Richard’s father, he wanted to reward his son’s rescuer.
    At a school ceremony, he presented the boy with a green sash to say thank you

  10. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    That’s an article from the Age from 1 August 2001. No one is doubting that at some stage the rescue and sash have for decades been part of Shelton family lore. The problem is it seems the story of Ned rescuing Dick and being gifted the sash being Shelton family lore was first expressed in the 1950s, while the rescue story itself – without explicit reference to Dick Shelton or the sash – so far – is yet to be traced back further than 1928.

    1. Yes I too think thats it Thomas : the Sheltons learned about something that was supposed to have happened to their predecessor, even though they really had no direct family oral history concerning it, and they’ve simply bought into it. Why wouldnt they want to see themselves as part of the Kelly narrative at a time when he was increasingly being promoted as an Aussie Icon?

      Eventually they started talking about it themselves, but that was long after the story had been circulating in various forms with little or no input from them or from the Avenel community.

  11. There is still a lot of loose ends, but sticking to tracing the Kelly side of the story it seems there is nothing there at all.

    There were several large public rallies calling for Ned’s death sentence to be commuted to imprisonment, mostly comprised of Abolitionists, not Kelly supporters. Nothing was said there about rescuing a boy to try and inject some sentimentality into the appeal.

    In the lead up to when Ned was hung, Kate and Jim Kelly were in Melbourne trying to win sympathy, and immediately after he was hung they put on a public show, but again nothing said there.

    What we find in Jones SL 2003: 390 notes is nothing from the Kelly side at all. It appears that the story of the rescue of Dick Shelton is entirely sourced to the Sheltons alone. Jones says, “All branches of the Shelton family preserve traditions of [his] rescue by Ned,” and that they gave him the ‘sash of honour’ which came from the family drapery business. What is interesting in this is that the Shelton traditions vary widely as to what happened; but that is a discussion for Part 2 of this investigation which I gather will go up after we have all finished discussing this Part 1 about the Kelly tradition (or total lack of it).

    Could it be that the Sheltons had a family drapery business in Avenel – which I recall searching unsuccessfully for evidence of a couple of years ago – and inserted their claim to gifting the sash into the narrative somewhere along the way? At this point there may be something in it; but then again…

    But back to Jones SL: when he writes up the story of the rescue on p. 19 curious things happen. Dick has fallen into a boil hole of turbulent water; in contrast to the Benalla Historical Society letter of 1973 which had Dick playing in a waterhole. Jones dates the rescue to 1865; but the letter shows it was late summer 1865-66 after Rec was dead; so not on the way to school, and no presentation of sash at school or in front of Ned’s proud parents.

    Jones then gives 2 paragraphs of descriptive fiction about the wet boys drying by the fire, arriving late at school with the tale, Ned going home wearing Esau’s clothes – “all this has been forgotten”, Jones writes. Because it never happened. Of all the things Jones wrote about it we can see this is entirely fiction. No oral tradition source, just his imagination presented as historical narrative of things that have “been forgotten.” Unbelievable.

  12. Still on the Kelly angle, GW Hall’s 1879 Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges went to some trouble to write up that story of the Kelly family and relatives’ early years, including their move from Wallan to Avenel and on to Eleven Mile Creek. He hives a lengthy example of what is says is the sort of utter nonsense spoken about the Kelly children, which is a tale of robbing an old lady’s orchard and beating up some other kid, and rejects this out of hand.

    He mentions that the Kelly kids went to school at Avenel, but there is nothing about any rescue or sash. It looks like no-one has any recorded mention of the sash before its being taken from under Ned’s clothes at Glenrowan in 1880.

    Again, there is only Kenneally 3rd edition 1934 that reports when the sash was given to Ned; and it was when the Kelly gang had formed and were on the run, so necessarily after SBC. That is not incompatble with anything he says elsewhere. It is just the only place he mentions the story of the gifting.

    1. Thanks again Stuart.

      All this stuff was actually pointed out by you and Thomas and I think Sharon almost three years ago but somehow we didnt quire realise the significance of what was being revealed.

      The reality is very clear : the story of a rescue and a reward was simply NOT something that was EVER part of the Kelly clans family history – or in other words, it simply never happened – at least in a way that meant a damn thing to the Kelly mob.

      The idea being pushed in sympathiser circles that the Shelton family oral tradition proves it DID happen is really quite stupid : the Shelton claim is that there was a dramatic and highly significant Kelly family incident ….that the Kellys are unaware of!

      Part two is almost ready…

      1. Hi David, I’m still open to the possibility of something happening but like Thomas said, what and when. But you have hit on the amazing fact that we can seem to find anything about the rescue or the sash in the Kelly or their relatives stories. I’ll have to think more about whether anything might possibly support it from the Kelly end. Molony probably needs to be checked too as he often comes up with obscure references. And Kelvyn Gill’s book. I’m out of action till Friday but I’ll try and get time to check those two.

        1. I meant to type, we can’t find anything!

  13. Maybe the green sash story will turn out to be like the alleged signal rockets at Glenrowan: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Macbeth, 5: v).

  14. Molony Is always worth checking, if only to uncover more creative writing presented as history. In “I Am Ned Kelly” p. 26 he says, young Richard was swept away in the creek’s rising waters. Ned jumped in and did the hero thing: “It was an act for which the people of the little town, and particularly the Sheltons, were especially grateful, and to Ned they gave an embossed sash as a memento of the event. At school the deed was talked about with pride.”

    Evidence, dear Professor? Once more, nothing at all from Kelly history nor their close relatives. Rather, his reference says “This event is preserved both in Avenel folklore and in the personal traditions of the Shelton family. Ned is said to have worn the sash at Glenrowan.”

    If it was such a strong tradition at Avenel, why does Kenneally consistently locate it at Wallan in his various editions? And why did Frank Clune not hear it?

    Clune’s 1954 Ned Kelly has a whole chapter on the Kellys in Avenel. The rescue gets one sentence: A farmer, RJ Shelton, fell into Hughes Creek, and was on the points of drowning when Ned Kelly, hearing a call for help, plunged into the water and pulled the man to the bank.” It was an incident “to be remembered and vouched for by Shelton and his descendants on later years.”

    There is nothing about any sash. Clune’s references show he spoke to Amelia Burgoyne who wrote the just of Avenel and whose mother went to school with Ned; and to the head teacher of Avenel State School who clearly had no tale to tell of any sash presentation, amongst others.

    Chapter 27 starts with Dr Nicholson treating Kelly, whom he was with from first capture and helping to remove Kelly’s armour through to patching him up in the stationmaster’s office. There is no mention of any sash anywhere in Clune’s work. So when Molony says he heard of the incident from Avenel folk law, we must reject Molony’s dribbling on about the dash and the deed being talked about with pride at the school, as the school had no such tradition in the early 1950s when Clune was researching his book…

  15. Thomas James Whiteside says: Reply

    Here’s the relevant page from Memories of Avenel by Amelia Jane Burgoyne, first printed 1954.
    It’s two whole sentences.

    “The [Kelly] children were well-behaved and Ned Kelly was a very brave lad. At the risk of his own life, he saved Dick Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek”.

    Later goes onto say that after the gang was outlawed in 1878 “no one would hear a word against them, and most people considered that the Kelly boys were victims of circumstances, which drove them to desperate deeds”.

    I guess that’s consistent with Esau gifting Ned the sash after SBC?

    Also of note is that Frank Clune wrote the forward and talks about meeting Amelia Burgoyne during a visit to Avenel in 1853.

    https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-3291102186/view?partId=nla.obj-3291165715#page/n24/mode/1up

    Attachment

    1. Hi Thomas, it’s sounding like the Kellys tried to make a go of it at Avenel until Red nicked the calf and went to the lockup and then drink got the better of him. There are selective memories there; we have located Ned at Richardson’s school in 1864 from the measurements in Brown’s inspection report, and it remains to be seen whether he was there or in a newly built Common School in 1865, depending if there is any useful info in Brown’s non digitised later reports. No Kellys were in school in 1866 Sita Molony.

      What we can see is that the Ned rescue of Dick was a minor mention, on a par with Mrs Kelly riding to help her neighbours. Red’s gaol for stick theft from his neighbour is conveniently forgotten. It seems like the Kellys were just another family albeit a poor one, who would not have rated a mention in Avenel’s town history had it not been for the later Kelly gang notoriety and downfall.

    2. Unfortunately Clune thought young Ned saved a grown man (farmer).

      1. Hi Dave, yes, that is in the one sentence only that Clune wrote on the incident, which I quoted in my earlier post of 6-3-24 at 4:52pm, but it may not have been clear it was a quote as the front quote marks are missing due to my clunky typing on the mobile phone . It’s on p. 54 of his Ned Kelly book.

        As Burgoyne wrote in her book that Ned was a brave lad who saved Dick from drowning, and as her first edition was 1954, the year after she spoke with Clune who encouraged her to get her manuscript published as the Preface says (which Thomas pointed out above), then we have a couple of possibilities. Maybe she initially told Clune a slight variation in the tale in which Ned was a man rather than a boy; maybe Clune heard a different tradition while in Avenel; maybe he confused what she told him to be about the adult farmer Richard that Dick grew up to be (if Dick is the same as RJ Shelton)…

        In any case the claimed rescue is unconnected with sash by either author. It seems the Glenrowan sash was not part of the Avenel tradition in 1953-54. Given Burgoyne’s link to her mother’s memory of going to school with the Kellys, there seems little to support any notion of a sash being awarded to young Ned at Avenel for rescuing Dick. This is now no longer surprising given Kenneally’s third edition statement that the sash was presented to Ned while the Kelly gang were on the run.

        So when did some part of the Shelton family start to equate the rescue story with the Glenrowan sash? And when did the claim that it was presented to young Ned by the Sheltons appear? There is some way to go yet.

        Suppose there is some basic truth to the rescue. The 1973 Shelton letter in Benalla does not say anything about when the sash was gifted. The most plausible explanation so far seems to be that the sash (if it is the same sash) was gifted to the adult Ned as Kenneally says, and some branch of the Sheltons has wrongly attributed the time of gifting to the time of the rescue. But it also seems from the Benalla Shelton letter and from what was held to have happened by people at Avenel in the 1950s that the claimed rescue was a minor incident; nothing like the big deal made of it or the Avenel significance claimed for it by later writers. Maybe just a passing blip in bush life as Clune presented it.

        1. I think we should stop trying to link the sash to the rescue, or see it as some sort of reward.

          Thats because if the rescue even happened, at best it was a trivial event that was not of any importance to the Kellys who forgot about it completely – So there was never any reason to reward Ned Kelly.

          And remember Violet Shelton said she had never heard anyone talk about it – which would be perfectly understandable if it was never given by them as a reward. The rescue wasnt part of the Kelly story and a reward wasnt part of the Shelton story…the only issue unresolved I believe is was there a rescue of Dick? he had nothing to say about one….so probably not!

          1. Hi David, I’m still turning it over. I agree there is nothing to support the idea of a sash being presented to Ned at the time of the claimed Avenel rescue and, as we have all been exploring here, excellent reasons to positively reject it.

            But I think we need to further consider whether Kenneally’s third edition is the missing link. The third edition seems to be almost totally unknown; maybe a small print run. I only became aware that it might be worth tracking down from one of Noeleen’s comments on the original discussions a few years ago; and it took me a long time to see one. Sure enough, it had the extra paragraph about the alleged gifting that has been bugging me.

            Kenneally had three more editions out by the time Clune and others were interested in the Kelly story: the expanded revised 4th edn 1945 where he revealed his informant to have been Tom Lloyd Jr; that is the key information there; a fifth edn in 1948, and a 6th edn in 1950. These are all just cheap newsprint paperbacks, but we can see from Max Brown’s bibliography reproduced in the posthumous 2013 edition that he used Kenneally 1929, before that tale existed; the same 1929 edn was used by Clune in his 1954 Kelly Hunters. For others writing later, editions from the 4th edition onwards were likely readiest to acquire. I think it is still necessary to consider the possibility that a link between the existence of the sash and the rescue of Shelton, that appeared fleetingly in Kenneally 1934, is still open to discussion.

            If this might be so, it still upends the tales of some heroic rescue and a sash presentation back in the day. It doesn’t help that Kenneally didn’t name the visitor who brought the sash to Ned when he was on the run – but then, in the third edition, he was still keeping silent about his secret Tom Lloyd Jr informant.

            I think it all needs more consideration.

  16. Heres the thing : – and apologies if my frustration is starting to show but what we are examining is a claim about something thats supposed to be part of the Kelly story. And if we look at everything that was ever said by any member of the Kelly family and their associates who ever made a comment about anything to do with anything – and theres a huge volume of such words – and if we look at EVERYTHING that others wrote about the Kelly story for more than HALF A CENTURY after the event described in the claim was supposed to have happened, there is absolutely NOTHING about a rescue and NOTHING that explains the origins of the green sash taken from Ned Kelly at Glenrowan. The ONLY rational explanation for that COMPLETE silence is that the Kellys hadnt ever heard of it, which can only mean that it did NOT happen. There is no other rational explanation for that fact. If they had made even ONE reference to it, that would change the argument but this silence is 100% absolute, as extreme a silence as its possible to get.

    Over the years a family history involving the Shelton family of Avenel has emerged which includes a patently absurd claim that Ned Kelly when ten or eleven, saved a 6 year old boy from drowning and was rewarded with a green and gold silk sash for doing so . Its PATENTLY absurd because there is NOTHING in the Kelly story, not one single thing that matches any part of that claim, which if true would have UNQUESTIONABLY been well remembered and discussed within the Kelly family. The idea that a brave 11 year old plunged into a river and rescued a drowning child and was rewarded with a VERY extravagant gift would just be completely forgotten about not just by the rescuer and by his doting mother but by EVERY SINGLE KELLY FAMILY MEMBER FOR ALL TIME is utterly nonsensical. If such a thing ever happened, then it wasnt something involving anyone in the Kelly family. They’ve got the wrong guy.

    Where the sash came from I have no idea. But the suggestion that Ned Kelly plunged into the raging torrent of the Hughes Creek and rescued Richard Shelton and later was rewarded with a gold and green silk sash is simply false. The story is dead. There is no reason not to proclaim it .

    as for the Sheltons – they are not part of the Kelly story after all. They can believe whatever they like as their own family history but from now on they ought NOT continue to claim it was Ned Kelly who rescued their antecedent. It might have been a group of kids, but if Ned Kelly was among them we will never know….but even if he was, we know his part in the rescue was forgettable….

  17. These two ‘Tough Questions’ blog articles and subsequent discussions (and no doubt discussion on Facebook which I refuse to sign up for as it is frequented by lunatics) have made two things clear that have not been noticed previously as far as I know.

    First, David has led the charge to establish that there is nothing anywhere in the Kelly or relatives’ statements or traditions ever to say that young Ned rescued young Dick Shelton from Hughes Creek. David rightly says that on the basis that total silence, it is something that never happened; a myth; or if there was a rescue, it was a little thing that none of the Kellys or their relatives or descendants felt worth mentioning or even knew anything about. Where Kenneally and a couple of sources talk about a sash, it is unconnected with the rescue except in one only edition of Kenneally’ Inner History in 1934.

    Second, the only place there is any tradition and no evidence of a rescue is in the Shelton family. They also do not connect it with the sash. The only clearly expressed memory of a rescue is Violet Shelton’s 1973 letter to the Benalla Historical Society, which she states the they feel “that the account as recalled by Mr Shelton’s sister Agnes is the clearest. She use to say that her brother was playing by the creek on a hot summer’s day – which is earlier stated there to have been near a waterhole in which he got out of his depth – when Ned saw the boy’s hat on the creek bank, thought something was wrong, looked and found the boy in difficulties, and got him out of the waterhole. Miss Shelton lived to be almost 90 and was always in complete command of her faculties, so we do feel that what she recalled was the complete picture of the incident.”

    There is nothing here about the sash, the gift of which to the Benalla Historical Society prompted her to write to it. She says that “Naturally the cummerbund has aroused our curiosity, and to my knowledge I haven’t heard it mentioned at any time.” The rescue as she presents it is a minor thing. Having difficulties is not drowning; the creek was not a turbulent maelstrom or boil hole as Jones and others have written it up. The boy is playing at the creek in summer; not on his way to school. There is no sense of excitement; no sense of any risk to Ned in getting Dick out of the water (Ned being almost 12 and Dick being almost 7 then, she says); no high drama and no public reward or presentation at school; the stuff of the prevalent Kelly myth. It is presented as a minor incident; just another day in bush life; as I posted earlier, on a par with unbogging a wagon; nothing special. If you think of an 11 or 12 year old farm boy (Year 7) lifting a little 7 year old boy (Year 2), it is nothing.

    In another Shelton family recollection, two of Dick Shelton’s sons, Harold, 91, and Britton, 87, said in 2001 that the rescue took place when Ned was 11 and Dick was 7; but they added a view that it was “at some risk to himself”, something that is not indicated at all in Violet Shelton’s 1973 letter and likely reflects later dramatization; much as later writers added flooding and school days into it. Importantly, “The brothers don’t recall their father ever expanding on the story” and only said that Ned was “alright, https://www.smh.com.au/national/ned-kelly-saved-our-drowning-dad-the-softer-side-of-old-bucket-head-20010801-gdfn0j.html Neither is the sash connected with it.

    By 2011 the tale had grown wings in the comments of one of Shelton’s great-granddaughters, two generations out of the immediate family quoted above, which she heard from her mother, a grand-daughter, and again removed from Dick’s children; from who we know above that their Dad never expanded on the simple one-sentence mention of a rescue. In this third generation tale we find the story that Dick would have drowned: “Richard was on his way to school and fell in the local creek, he couldn’t swim,” Mrs Fruend said. “But along came Ned who was on his way to school too and he saved Richard – pulled him out and saved him.” She continues, “when word reached Richard’s father, he wanted to reward his son’s rescuer. At a school ceremony, he presented the boy with a green sash to say thank you”, https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/bundaberg/i-owe-ned-my-life/news-story/4578aa79b125819728b98525be8455f3

    This is riddled with errors. Ned was not on his way to school; he dropped out of school in 1865 when his dad was gaoled. The rescue was in summer; Dick did not fall into the creek on his way to school, but was playing by the creek in the holidays. In the various posts above and in Part 1 we have established that there was no Avenel tradition of the sash. It was unheard of in Clune’s 1953 investigations into the Kelly at Avenel. Further, to the extent that there was any rescue tradition in Avenel outside of the Sheltons, it was thought that Dick when rescued was a grown up farmer. This 2011 article reflects Kelly myth that did not exist to Dick’s immediate family nor to any previous Kelly enquirer through to the 1950s or 1960s.

    The Sheltons had no oral tradition of giving Ned a sash. The only link I can find anywhere between the rescue and the sash is in Kenneally’s third 1934 edition, where he claims the sash was presented to Ned by an unnamed man while the Kelly gang were on the run; and in that edition only. Given that none of the Shelton traditions, and none of the Kelly traditions, connect the rescue and the sash, it is starting to look like another Kelly myth has fallen.

    I am willing to accept Violet Shelton’s account from Dick’s sister that Ned saw Dick in difficulties and got him out of the water; and given what she says in her letter, that it was a minor thing in family history and bush life. There is nothing anywhere to connect if with a sash. There was no risk to 12 year old Ned, big for his age, in getting little 7 year old Dick out of the water; and “in difficulties” does not sound like the high drama of being about to drown; certainly Violet Shelton’s letter has nothing to suggest that.

    Speculations by McMemony that the sash came from a Shelton family drapery business are unsupported by any evidence of them ever having such a business in Avenel. We don’t know where the Glenrowan sash came from; but trying to link it to the rescue of Dick Shelton by Ned has nothing other than Kenneally to support it and is looking most unlikely at this point. It may be that all the Benalla Kelly and Costume Museum has is the sash taken from Kelly at Glenrowan, with no connection to the Sheltons or Kelly’s childhood at all.

  18. Further to m y comments, I have checked H.G Matingale’s ‘New Crossing Place’ shire history (revised edn. 1982). All it says is p. 48, John (“Red”) Kelly arrived in Avenel from Beveridge with his family between 1860 and 1864 and rented a dairy farm from Eltizabeth Mutton, widow of an early Avenel resident. Ned was then five to nine years old and at least the youngest child of the family was born after the move. Ned and a sister attended school in the village. At one time, probably later when passing through Avenel, Ned rescued Richard Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek.”

    His dates for when the Kelly arrived in Avenel are a wide date range, and the claimed rescue gets a one sentence passing mention. Even then he has no estemated time for the rescue and puts it “at one time, probably later” [than when living in Avenel and when passing through] Ned rescued Richard. Nothing about a monumental event and nothing about a sash.

    Martingdale also mentions p. 48 that “James Gloster, who as well as having a draper’s shop in Seymour, hawked goods through the region in a covered wagon, was held up by the
    Kellys at Younghusband’s Faithfull Creek station one evening in early December 1878.”
    The Kelly gang took much of the goods from his wagon, including good suits of clothes. Logically there is every chance that the sash was amongst what they grabbed at Euroa.

  19. Another thing: Kenneally kept saying that the rescue took place in Wallan which is 38 miles (62 kms) from Avenel. It is clear from this that whatever he heard, it did not come from the Sheltons. It is as utterly wrong as his repeated insistence that the cummerbund fringes were gold bullion thread; hence his view that it was a very valuable sash. All heresay and bunkum. We know from the Benalla Museum people that the fringes were of gold thread like they embroider school badges and blazer trim with. Being a silk faced cummerbund it was no doubt a quality product, despite its coarse cotton lining, but hardly the “very valuable” thing that Kenneally made much of.

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