|A Hold Up with Guns pointed at you is a terrifying experience|
So lets stay with that first sentence and look at the notion that the Gang was on a crusade to change their world for the better. To start with, consider the story of “the Gang”, a group of mates made up of Ned Kelly and his younger brother Dan, along with Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, Dans best friend.
This gang of four came into existence in the Wombat Ranges where Ned and Dan Kelly had gone into hiding from the Police who had issued a warrant for their arrest for attempted murder. Ned and Dans mother and two others were also wanted on the same charges, and were arrested and sentenced but Dan and Ned remained hidden in the Ranges and survived there with the support of their friends who came and went bringing supplies and news. Joe and Steve joined them there and for nearly six months, through a hard winter and with the help of family and friends they survived by panning for gold and distilling whiskey. Meanwhile the Police search was slowly closing in, and eventually there was a confrontation in the ranges, at Stringybark Creek. A Police search party of four was ambushed and three Policemen were killed – this was the moment when the Kelly Gang was created, born out of their participation in a multiple murder. Before that they were mates in the bush, only two of whom were wanted by police but now they were a gang with a price on their heads, wanted not for attempted murder but for mass murder.
Eighteen months later only Ned Kelly would still be alive, locked up in Melbourne waiting to be hanged. The other three had all died at the Siege in Glenrowan, the Gangs disastrous final act which brought an end to the gang and its “Crusade”. So what is the evidence that during that eighteen months the gang was on a crusade to change their world for the better?
Already its clear that the Gang didn’t form with these noble objectives in mind – the Gang formed from their joint participation in one of Autralias most notorious crimes: multiple police killings. Prior to that, they had been hiding out in the ranges distilling whisky, practicing their marksmanship by shooting at targets on a tree, and building a reinforced dwelling far away from mainstream society. There is no evidence or record or statement from anyone anywhere that before the SBC murders the Gang was engaged in any sort of Crusade to make their world a better place, unless of course this is merely a reference to their own personal world, their own security and that of their friends and family – but that is hardly the stuff of Crusades, looking after yourself and your own family! And if that is all it was that is not the stuff of legends.
But, in any case this is not what was meant by the word “Crusade” and the phrase “change the world for the better” What is meant by pro Kelly people when they mention these ideas is a grand scheme to change the fundamentals of their entire society, to bring justice to the enemies of the downtrodden and the humble, to liberate from poverty the entire underclass of exploited poor, to empower and give a voice to the oppressed and the disempowered, to expose the corrupt Police. This is the vision that Kelly people want to bring to mind when they talk about the Robin Hood of Australia, and about changing the world for the better. It is no small vision but a huge and revolutionary transformation that they are claiming as the Gangs vision. But it is clear that before the SBC killings, no endeavours of any kind were made along those lines – there is simply no evidence for such a crusade at that time.
Bu what about after the SBC killings? Did something happen AFTER the killings that supported the notion that the gang was on “a crusade” during this time, that Ned Kelly and his “gang” were the Robin Hood of Australia, taking from the rich and helping the poor, fighting for a just society and against corruption and scandal in high places?
What happened, according to Bradley Webbs Promo was this : Over the next 18 months the Kelly Gang held up two country towns and robbed their banks – without firing a single shot; wrote numerous essays explaining their actions and became folk heroes to a generation
One would have to say as far as Grand Schemes and Crusdaes go, this description is somewhat underwhelming, but it is a version of events that supports the Robin Hood theory, suggesting that a hold up at Gunpoint was somehow not really all that bad because no shots were fired, and that their activities resulted in hero status. This fact that no shots were fired is often cited by Pro Kelly writers as some sort of testimonial to the decency of these Robin Hood characters. In fact, it really testifies to the overwhelming terror and fear that the hostages were in after having been warned in no uncertain terms they would be shot if they misbehaved. The hostages already knew the gang had mercilessly killed three policemen, and no doubt the hostages were in great fear of their lives. Rather than a testimony to the decency of the gang, the fact no shots were fired is a testimony to the good sense of the hostages and a pointer to the level of fear and intimidation that the Gang projected to maintain control of them. For most people these holdups would have been terrifying, intimidating and horrible. Such events in modern times often result in years of Post Traumatic stress, depression and suicide – it would have been no different then for most of them. The Truth is that an erroneous implication has been drawn from the fact that that no shots were fired, and this error has become part of the structure of the Robin Hood myth about Ned Kelly – it doesn’t hold up to any realistic analysis.
This is how Ian Jones describes the beginning of the hold-up at Jerilderie ( The Gang woke the two constables up in the middle of the night pretending to be coming to get Police help to control a drunken brawl at the local pub )
“…suddenly the mans horse was still. He drew a revolver and spoke very calmly after all the yelling
“ Move and I’ll shoot you. I’m Kelly. Put up your hands”
The gang quietly occupied the Police Station, gathering up two revolvers two carbines and ammunition. Mrs Devine appeared, hastily dressed and pleaded with Ned not to harm her husband for her sake and that of her little children. Aiming his reply at Devine and Richards Ned assured her that the two police were safe unless he saw “signs of hanky panky work” when he would “shoot them without a moments hesitation” adding “So long as they remain quiet, you and the children will be safe” Ned Kelly A Short Life pp225
Here, Ned was not only threatening to shoot two more Policeman without hesitation if he saw signs of “hanky panky”, but was also threatening harm to the wife and children of one of them should the Policemen not “remain quiet” .
The Jerilderie robbery therefore began with violent credible threats from a known Police killer, to kill more police and harm women and children. This fact I am sure wont be highlighted in Brad Webbs Pictorial History of the Kelly Gang, or discussed on any pro-kelly website – the idea that Ned Kelly was a benign bushranger and a kind of Robin Hood can only be sustained if this kind of unpleasant truth is airbrushed out of the story.
And that of course is exactly what the Pro Kelly people do. They do not want you to know the whole story, the truth about Ned Kelly, the dark side of the story. But I will tell it here
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