Body Straps: What is the evidence?

13th December : Please read UPDATED COMMENTS

A central claim in the Kelly mythology is that when the Police headed into the Wombat ranges in search of Ned and Dan Kelly, their intention was not to capture them but to kill them. Ned Kelly submitted what he believed were two proofs of this, the first being the reported statement of Senior Constable Strahan: 

“I’ll shoot him down like a dog. I’ll carry two revolvers and one I’ll place by his side and swear that he had it on him when I shot him” 

The problem with this quote is that it was provided by Neds Uncle, Patrick Quinn.
Kellys second proof that the Police intention was to kill rather than capture was the type and the quantity of arms and ammunition the Police brought with them. Such an armamentarium, in Ned Kellys eyes at least, could only mean one thing : they were planning to kill him. In fact, it means nothing of the sort – there are many sound reasons why Police would want to take with  them more than just the standard issue when heading into the Bush on a campaign that may have taken weeks, against an armed foe wanted for attempted murder of a Policeman.
And why, if their intention was to kill the Kellys did the Police take handcuffs? They provide much better physical proof of intent than do the possession of guns or the claims of family members because handcuffs only have one use – the apprehension of living suspects.
Later claims about the Police being in disguise, and that they didn’t have the correct warrants  with them are not relevant to the question of what the Police intended to do once they found the Kellys.
However, something that might have been relevant in the discussion about Police intent, but was never mentioned at the time, is something claimed in more recent tellings of the Kelly story, that the search party took “body straps” with them. These are long custom made leather straps designed to assist in the transport of a corpse on horseback.  More than anything else body straps could be seen as the “smoking gun” in the Police parties kit, though , given they were tracking a suspect accused of attempted murder of a Policeman, their presence could also suggest they feared Kellys next attempts might be successful – as indeed they were.
Latter day retellings of the events at Stringybark Creek almost never fail to mention the body straps, and to label their presence as proof of the murderous intent of the searching Police, and thereby justification of Neds actions. You can hear Mr Trevor Monti a self proclaimed Kelly historian and Victorian Barrister list them as one of the “facts” about SBC that he wanted to pass on to Derryn Hinch in a  video that I mentioned in my post in July  “Ned Kelly on You Tube”.
Whats curious about this claim though, is that there is no evidence that it was ever made at the time, either before during or after Neds trial or by Ned or McIntyre in any of their recorded statements about everything that happened there, yet nowdays its almost the centerpiece of the argument about Police intent. Body straps are not mentioned in the 1948 publication “Ned Kelly ; Australian son” by Max Brown, or in  1954 in “The Kelly Hunters”, two highly sympathetic retellings of the Kelly story. However, Peter Fitzsimons, author of the most recent of the Kelly biographies (2013) not only mentions the body straps as being central to the self defence argument in Court, he names the Mansfield saddler who made them : Charles Boles.
To me, it seemed peculiar that this significant piece of evidence, something that is now regarded as vital to the case , was completely overlooked at the time. The Kelly Gang ransacked the Police camp after the killing had stopped, stealing weapns, ammunition, money and personal posessions  but never mentioned the presence of this “smoking gun”  Surely they would have if they had found it?
Peter Fitzsimons provides no reference for the source of his claims about the body straps, so  I started with “Ned Kelly : A Short Life” my favourite Kelly Biography.   In the chapter on SBC Jones writes “The Mansfield Saddler Boles revealed that the party carried two long straps, specially made to sling a pair of bodies on either side of their pack-horse” and in the notes to this chapter, he references this statement to his earlier work “The Fatal Friendship”
This is what is written in the Fatal Friendship on the topic :
“The party’s equipment included unusually long straps, designed to be looped around a pair of bodies so they could be slung, straight on either side of a pack horse. Bodies draped over a horse in the time honored way of Westerns, stiffened into impractical shapes”(pp63)
In the footnotes to this chapter he writes
Straps for carrying bodies,Kinnear Papers, transcribed by the author, 1952. “Two long straps 10 feet by 3 inches wide to strap bodies on the pack horse. These were made by Boles the Mansfield saddler and are now in 1934 in the possession of J.Egan farmers of Mansfield”
Ian MacFarlane in The Kelly Gang Unmasked regards this story as “far fetched” because the search party was so seriously under-funded that they had to borrow tents and the additional arms they acquired.  Under those strained financial circumstances it makes no sense that they would have gone to the expense of paying for customized body straps when they knew how to make them for free by buckling together stirrups and reins – and indeed used this very method to bring  back the bodies of their dead comrades.
Nevertheless I decided to track down the Kinnear papers, Ian Jones source for this information, to read for myself the original material. Unfortunately neither of those two publications of his includes a proper Bibliography, a regrettable absence from these otherwise excellent resources. In his Notes  Jones says that he “transcribed” them in 1952 but unfortunately doesn’t provide any further information as to what precisely he is referring to as the Kinnear papers. However I found a reference to an 1880 publication “History of the Kelly Gang of Bushrangers” published by D Kinnear Brown and Co. and kept in the reference section of the Mitchell Library of NSW.  I visited the Library recently and read the “History of the  Kelly Gang” – even photo-copies are not permitted – but there is no mention within it anywhere of body straps.

I also came across an entry about one Edward Hoare Kinnear, in the  Australian  Dictionary of Biography. Listed in the “Select Bibliography” attached to this entry is a reference to the “family and business papers held by Kinnears Ltd Melbourne”  The Biographical details refer to the business empire of the Kinnear Family of Moonee Ponds and Footscray, but nothing to suggest any assosciation between them and Kelly Country or the Kelly Outbreak…..
So what  is to be made of  Jones claim that Police took body-straps into the Wombat Ranges? Essentially it is presently an unverifiable,  inherently unlikely story, and one which is not included in any of the earliest accounts of the events at Stringybark Creek.  The failure of early accounts to mention them requires an explanation : the ominous presence of body straps would almost certainly have been noted and commented on at length if indeed they were there. However the claims about them only appear publically generations after the events in question, at a time when nobody  would be able to either verify or contradict them. The inclusion of a specific year, 1934, in Jones’ reference suggests that may have been where the story first began to take shape, perhaps as an oral tradition attached to the straps that came into the possession of the Egan family of Mansfield, a story whose origins were not in historical fact but in the vague and wishful mists of time.  If the descendants of the 1934 “Egan farmers of Mansfield” are still in the area it would be interesting to find out from them what they know of this story and if indeed those straps are still in their possession. The straps would be a fascinating and valuable piece of Kelly memorabilia and there would be great public interest in them – but the fact they are presently unknown suggests to me they are lost to history if they ever did exist. Ian Jones also has reported being told about the existence of a document prepared by Ned Kelly that declared North East Victoria a Republic, but in more than 50 years of searching it hasn’t been located – one is forced to the inevitable conclusion that the reports of its existence were mistaken. I am inclined to think the reports of body straps are also mistaken.

There is certainly no current evidence or compelling reason to believe that the body straps story is anything other than yet one more of the baseless Kelly Myths. However if anyone has information about what the Kinnear Papers are and where they can be consulted, or where those straps might be, I would be delighted to hear about it. 
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98 Replies to “Body Straps: What is the evidence?”

  1. Best blog yet, Dee!

    Several of the central claims of Mr Jones don't check out when his endnote evidence is carefully checked.

    I got stuck too with the 'Kinnear papers', but didn't get as far as you did.

    Everyone has previously regarded Mr Jones as a superior biographer of Ned. But when his key points – like the body straps – fizzle out altogether, what to say or think?

    You've got to get all these blogs into a book!

  2. I was going to suggest a closer look at the gang's railway mass-murder plan at Glenrowan. But I realised that since Ned superintended the taking up of two rails, he proved his deadly intentions himself. It wasn't an idea. It was his plan. He was implementing it. When he belatedly changed his mind, he was told the rails could not be repaired by the available rail workers then present.

    Judge Barry pointed out at the Lonigan murder trial trial that Ned stood self-convicted {by his own statements to witnesses at the bank robberies}. I don't think all this is addressed in the Scott-Macfarlane psychopathy paper.

  3. Ian Jones claimed that Kelly's solicitor Gaunson had secretly attended one of the republican meetings.

    No evidence, of course.

  4. German reader says: Reply

    The Ned Kelly Forum keeps disappearing all the time. On the NKF FB page, NKF explains: 'Due to a ever increasing hits and views of our website " 1 million in 2 years" it has continually been crashing over the last few days. We are working on it and changing our server host to make it the easily accessible website it has been for the past 2 years'.

    What does anyone make of this?

  5. Trent is sick of it and tried to get someone else to take over but nobody was interested a couple of months back. Hes sick of spending all his money on it and getting o help from freeloaders like Fitzy, so I wont be surprised if he lets it go. Iron outlaw is dead, nothing new ever happens on Fitzies hate FB page which has become a refuge for morons and illiterate police-haters, NKF has imploded, so youre the only site still going Dee!

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    German reader it is self explanatory. The server keeps crashing because of the number of hits, so they are changing servers and making other improvements, so don’t worry it will be up again soon. Collin, you are not a very nice person are you. You are the type that is drawn to Dee. I can see why none of you would post on Ironoutlaw or Ned Kelly Forum as you would be laughed off the internet.

  7. The Kinnear Papers that have been referred to in the blog post are from a family of rope makers. Those are not the ones you seek. The Kinnear you are seeking is one W.E. Kinnear, a Melbourne saddle maker who began his business in 1880 and was still happily going to work 70 years later. He died sometime in the early 1950s. Where I gleaned info on the Kinnear Papers was in the notes to Ian Jones's Ned Kelly A Short Life where there was this entry:

    "letter, Fred Hopkins, c. 1932 (Ellen works at McNaughton's Saddlery) transcribed by the author in 1951 from the collection of the Melbourne Saddler, Kinnear (hereafter the Kinnear Papers) present whereabouts unknown."

    Possibly, Ian Jones had access to the papers while the old gentleman was still alive and there is no telling what Kinnear's family have done with them. That is one mystery that may never be solved. At least which Kinnear had the papers is one less mystery.

  8. Rod Enker says: Reply

    Anonymous, its impossible to post on Ned Kelly Forum which has been unavailable on the net for ten days. Posters to NKF and Iron Outlaw have to be registered so that the webmasters can snoop into who they are, and expel them if they don't agree with what you say.

    The major problem with the 'Kinnear papers' is that they are missing, which leaves the whole leather straps story up in the air. This has not stopped several writers from quoting Ian Jones's 'evidence' without knowing what it is.

  9. A huge thank you to Sharon, the "Worlds Kelly Expert" for that information about the Kinnear papers. I scoured the Notes to A Short Life and found that reference you identified, thankfully in Chapter One! I am left wondering what it was that led Mr Jones to the Kinnears, and to their "Papers"…I note that Ian Jones was only 20 when he "transcribed" these papers – and I wonder what is referred to by the statement "present whereabouts unknown" – the "letter"or the "Papers"?

    In any event its clear that Ian Jones claim about the Body Straps originated in a document he read in 1951, and quotes in the notes to The Fatal Friendship. He didn't ever see the straps or obtain this information from the people who were said to have them but instead relies on a document, perhaps a letter belonging to Kinnears in Melbourne, which in some unexplained way refers to leather straps owned by the Egan Family of Mansfield.. Significantly, the quote doesn't mention the Kelly Gang or the Police, so exactly how this link was made by Ian Jones is also unknown.

    All in all, what we have is a decidedly tenuous link between body straps and the Police search party. I agree with Ian MacFarlanes view that this idea is far fetched. It should not be part of any Kelly story as there is no evidence to support it, but it is an interesting illustration of how one mans imagination can result in the creation and incorporation into the Kelly story as undisputed fact of something that is almost certainly not true.

  10. No one makes up a story of Body straps 'ordered to be made' or acquired for the trip unless there was evidence.
    The problem as always, because it's not written in black and white it can't be true! I'm sure Ian Jones has / had evidence that long leather straps were carried by the Police parties, for their objective was to bring home the bacon. All a sad state of affairs really.

  11. Anonymous says: Reply

    Nobody makes things up! Give us a break Bill! Jonesy makes many claims without supplying evidence. I don't say he made these things up. I do say he hasn't supplied any evidence. Until he does, they are empty claims. The leather straps are pivotal as to the motives of police and, if wrong, a smear against the whole force.

  12. Regarding the letter writer "Fred Hopkins" that name kept bugging me, I knew it from somewhere, so I double-checked in A Short Life and it mentions him in the text as being a classmate of Ned's at the Beveridge school. In the notes at the back it mentions Fred's letter to Kinnear which refers back to the original citation I had given above about Ellen working at the saddlery. Looking a little further on google I found an article from 1986 about the old Beveridge school building being for sale and Fred Hopkins and his ties to Ned was mentioned. Also mentioned was the fact that Ian Jones holds a copy of the 1930s letter written by Fred.,2394449

    So, if the article writer is correct in his allegation that Jones has a copy of Hopkins letter to Kinnear, then what would appear to be "present whereabouts unknown" are the original Kinnear Papers themselves, unless Jones has mislaid or lost his copy of the letter(s). Could there be more than one written by Fred to Kinnear, or was all the info gleaned just from one letter? Sure would love to see a scan or transcription of it in full.

  13. From a logical point of view, the leather straps are never heard of again in the Jones versions. Were they burned st Stringybark Creek? Were they taken by the gang, but disappeared? No, they turned up with the Egan family of Mansfield we are told.

    Until Ian Jones can unravel the puzzle he himself created about the leather straps, which nowadays are cited as proof thst police intended to kill the gang, we are left with nothing.

    Sharon, thanks for your clever research. Even so, there is no proof (as yet) that the leather straps were ever made, or that any proof exists they were intended for the purposes alleged by modern writers.

    Too many non-sequiturs!

  14. Sharon thank you again, thats brilliant! And an interesting article to read about the school and that old guy who restored it in 1986. yes, it would indeed be interesting to see that letter. ( And as long as NKF remains shut down can we hope to keep getting contributions from you? Please??)

    In regard to Bills idea , which is essentially that there cant be smoke without fire – I totally agree! I am sure that Ian Jones wouldn't have simply made up this story out of thin air – he has far too much integrity for that. I would guess he has based it on, it would seem, a letter or some other documentation which one presumes is a claim that the Egans came into possession of leather body straps said to have been made for the Police when they went to find the Kellys.

    The problem is WHO claimed this about the straps, and WHY, given their importance as what I called the "smoking gun" of Police intentions were they NEVER mentioned in any of the writings and records of the time – or indeed by ANYONE till Ian Jones did in The Short Life?

    THAT is where the story breaks down.

    It may be reasonable to accept that MINOR details might be overlooked and not incorporated into the story till over a century later, but the body straps evidence is not minor, it is HUGE and VITAL evidence that the Gang surely would not have missed in their ransacking of the Camp after the killings. It is reported they set fire to everything they didn't take with them from the camp, so again one wonders how they could have survived into the 1930's.

    My view is that Jones has accepted an apocryphal story about the leather straps that was attached to them by the Egan family or whoever gave them to the family, a story that probably arose as speculation about their origin but which became accepted as fact as the story was passed down. It suited his narrative, this claim about body straps but its a pity he didn't investigate the claim further.

    As I said before, the leather straps story is an interesting illustration of how one mans imagination can result in the creation and incorporation into the Kelly story as undisputed fact of something that is almost certainly not true.

  15. Sharon is the legend ! Dee, you two girls have something to say.

    Perhaps this is off topic, but 'Anonymous' thinks the NKF server crashes because the number of hits. What a joy if it was true !

    Colin is probably right that the expense of keeping a forum on line for 5 people to make postings is a no brainer.

    Several years back Brad Webb – Iron outlaw, created a link to my Iron Icon webpage. (in Links) It was said Iron Outlaw was getting a supposed 3 million hits per year. At that time Ironicon was getting around 50 Page Views per day, or around 18000 per year. When Iron Icon was linked to Iron Outlaw my page views went up to about 60 per day, but soon dropped back to around 50.
    What this told me was that Iron Outlaw was getting no more Page Views than Ironicon, meaning the millions of hits is a figment of someone's imagination and not real hits.

    When Trent enthusiastically announced some time back that NKF was getting millions of hits, I thought yeh good one!
    If millions was true, then why are there only a hand full of participants posting? In my reckoning NKF never got more hits than 100 at best ( when I was still a member) but more like 25 to 50 page views per day, as the same people visit the same sites on a regular basis. There are not just 50 page views per day for Ironicon and 2000 plus for NKF ?

    You only have to read counter stats at bottom of Iron icon to see that 63% of page views are 'Unique hits' and 37% are Repeat hits or page views. What this means, people surfing around the internet come across Ironicon, read a line or two and leave. Un seen by us, the counter recognises new or familiar IP addresses to know they are Unique or repeat visitors.
    If NK Forum's problem is too many hits then they should change the counter by removing the 0000 off the numbers and the problem is over.

    How silly to try and exaggerate and to ramp up the number of hits so you look bigger and more important. I am often told by 'I.T.' people that for 90% of webpage owners, to get a 50 page views per day is something to die for! It does not bother me at all how many so long as there is interest. The real truth about NKF is the lack of hits for a lot of expence as Trent is finding out.


  16. So much jealousy, unashamed self promotion and groveling (Bill & Sharon) to someone who stands for everything you both were once against. Bill you appeared to do the right thing regarding Ian Jones, then bowed to the internet trolls and start blowing smoke up where the sun don’t shine to appease them. Of course Brian is also involved, though he is not man enough to use his real name. You two are so hard up for hits on your own websites you post here and promote this on your own sites. Don’t you know most of the posts here are by the same person. No wonder no real website will have any of you Bill, Sharon, Brian and Dee as members, so you pat each other on the back and deride those who can see through the lot of you. You are all doomed to obscurity along with those other poisonous forums you all post on, though not being anywhere near as reserved in your comments on others as you are here. You have to pity those who will sell their soul to get into the limelight that doesn’t even exist. 05

  17. Tom Bahler says: Reply

    Ian Jones was expecting a heck of a lot of his readers if he expected them to outshine Sharon on the 'Kinnear papers' clue. There is something about all this that doesn't ring true.

    When Kinnear began his Melbourne saddlery business in 1880, Ellen Kelly was still in the Melbourne Gaol. If she returned to Greta after her sentence there was no opening for the Kinnear job.

    Lots of Manning Clark's endnotes didn't check out either.

    This reminds me of the Kelly rifles covered with convenient carvings of 'E. K.' and 'Son of Red' to prove their authenticity. Who was going to steal his weapons? Do these carvings seem real?

  18. Andrew Kenworthy says: Reply

    Brian is nursing a great personal, private bereavement.

    'Anonymous', with his usual bad timing, excoriates and misidentifies him.

    This is one time you have to apologise. Don't muck around. Do it now.

  19. Anonymous says: Reply

    "Andrew Kenworthy" brought up Brian's personal bereavement, not Fitzy!

    how disgusting to post online about someone's personal news to try and benefit your own selfish gratification.

    Just goes to show how low some of you will go to tarnish a persons name.


  20. Anonymous says: Reply

    Sour grapes much Bill, Your website doesn't get much hits because it's full of assumptions and misinformation which is exactly what you have posted here about NKF. Also considering on your website you say links to the most popular Ned kelly websites why have you got NKF on it then. How would you know how NKF is run considering you breached their rules and were deregistered a long long time ago. Everyone knew you were the king of the trolls and your last post just proved it. Grow up

  21. Its obvious the Kelly fanatics are afraid of me and anyone who might appear to support me in any way, because we are shining the light of truth and rationality onto their silly Kelly Cult beliefs. So I am not surprised once again – as in my other Forums – to see them ignore the topic under discussion and start attacking and vilifying named individuals. Every time they do, all that happens is that the reputation of kelly fanatics sinks deeper into the swamp.

    I am leaving the Comments already posted as they are, as testament to the sort of nonsense anyone who doesn't agree with the fanatics has to put up with.

    However, any further Comments that are merely personal attacks will be deleted from this thread. If any Kelly fanatic has anything to say about the Body Straps debate, please contribute – otherwise just try to stay calm till your burned out Forum opens again, then you can gossip among yourselves as much as you like in secret .

  22. Brian Stevenson says: Reply

    I don't know who Andrew Kenworthy is, but he has no need to apologize for defending me from an accusation from 'Anonymous' that I was not 'man enough to use my real name.' For reasons extraneous to the Kelly world, I have not been able to contribute for some time, and would certainly never feel the need to do so under a pseudonym.

  23. Ive deleted an odious Comment from someone who somehow imagines that by incorporating the word "condolences" into his text, this gives him licence to broadcast details of someone else's private affairs and sneer at his friends. This creatures gross insincerity is proven by his name : "Anonymous"

    I am appalled that anyone would use this Blog in this way and I apologise to Brian for any offence given.

  24. To the above poster who had misread or misunderstood the entry regarding Ellen working at a saddlery. It clearly stated that it was at the MacNaughton Saddlery, NOT the Kinnear Saddlery. However, the letter stating that fact was written to Kinnear, thus the possible confusion. Hope that clears up that bit of bother.

    To all the rest of it, I am wondering how me answering an open question about the Kinnear papers makes me any less of a Kelly sympathiser? Everyone who knows me knows full well that for the last dozen years that I have been championing Ned Kelly and have been one of his most fervent and vocal supporters. Just because I have a civil conversation on a blog or forum with someone who does not necessarily hold my same views does not constitute me as a turn coat or as having gone to the "dark side." That is totally absurd! Same goes for the Denhelds. They will not be swayed from their Kelly sympathies under any circumstances, either. I find it very strange that those whom we share sympathy for the Kelly Gang with treats us as if we are something that got stuck to the bottom of their shoe after they took a shortcut through the paddock on their way to the dunny! We just have to keep a sense of humour about the whole thing, because we will still continue to support the Kellys and these others will still continue to denigrate us no matter what we do or what we say. May as well laugh!

    Another thing regarding being anonymous on postings. I have always posted under my own name. (I once went by Sharon in the USA, but everybody knew it was me, because that is how many were referring to me previous to that and is why I chose the name) That is what is good about the NKF where you have to sign in. Also here the way I sign in no one can impersonate me like they have done in the past elsewhere. The Denhelds, Brian S, and I have all been victims of that deceptiveness where someone with ill intentions posted something and then signed our names to it and we had absolutely nothing to do with it. That is the lowest of the low. Say what you will about any of us, but please don't ascribe words to us that are not our own.

    I am not going to change my view and it seems that my detractors won't either, so we are at a stand off. Let's just call it a draw and call it a day!

  25. Anonymous says: Reply

    Sharon if anyone has ever posted as you Brian S or Bill, take a look around you, you are amongst those who do that sort of thing on a regular basis.

  26. Grant Chirnside says: Reply

    Sharon, it is well-known you (and the Denhelds) are Kelly supporters. There is nothing wrong with that. I don't happen to share your views, but admire your research skills. If this takes me to uncomfortable places, so be it.

    But. on this subject, without any evidence yet about the leather straps or their connection with the Mansfield police party we are all a bit stuck.

    One would think that if the Egans, or anybody, had the leather straps that they would have sufaced for auction by now.

    Maybe someone should contact Ian Jones in case he can supply any leads.

  27. Alarmed, Appalled and Annoyed says: Reply

    'Anonymous' — 'Judge Dread' Chopper', 'Karma', 'fred', 'Sarah' and 'Brendon' — its rather rich of you to be lecturing anybody about hiding identity and using false names. You are a very tiresome, obsessive nut. Give us all a break!

    The point has often been made before. Letting the Kelly people know your real name will lead to a lifetime of regret. They don't operate by normal rules. They will pursue you to the grave.

  28. Sharon I can understand why certain people might disagree with me and want me to go away, but I cant see the logic in Kellyphiles attacking each other, – and you in particular – as they do.

    As I said months ago, some Kelly sympathisers behave like religious fanatics, and the history of religion is one long chain of splits, factions divisions and internal squabbling which is still not at an end….

    Fortunately the majority of religious believers are rational, peaceloving and tolerant of other viewpoints, and the same is true of the majority of Kelly "devotees".

    The "idiot fringe" we have to put up with I am afraid, but personal abuse,bullying, false logic and argument that makes no sense shouldnt be allowed to go unchallenged.

  29. I have learned that you will never get anything done in life if you have to stop and address every naysayer or hater! The lyrics to Argent's 1972 hit "Hold Your Head Up" comes to mind. Just let em eat your dust as you are moving forward way, way, way ahead of them!
    Speaking of dust, I am wondering how long any leather goods would last given the propensity for it to dry rot/wet rot/red rot. If someone was not really on top of things as far as climate control and properly conditioning the goods on a regular basis they would eventually wind up with crumbly dust or something you would need a pair of gloves and mask to stick it in a garbage bag due to the overgrowth of fuzzy mold and mildew. Considering that the alleged leather straps would be at least 136 years old now, we would be lucky if they survived intact at all.

  30. The longevity of leather is unknown, but in the case of Japanese armour seems to last for centuries. Perhaps this is because of constant care. Men's leather belts these days are coated or coloured and don't seem to age quickly. I suspect the police straps, if they ever existed, would have been treated when manufactured – most likely with beeswax.

  31. Sharon, I have still got our first leather dog lead in the garage dating from 1952 and it is still quite supple and usable although a bit cracked in places.

    Dee, As amateur historians, we have one thing in common – to have history corrected if we see reason why it is wrong.

    Using a horse to carry the stiff bodies of the dead police out from StringyBark Creek was documented mid November 1878.
    See item (3) Australasian Sketcher illustrated. Caption reads – Bringing in the bodies of —————– name not readable. We see how two bodies would be carried on a regular riding horse. The hut item (2) 'The Bushrangers hut at Glenmore Ranges'.

    To question whether or not the police party had leather straps with them is obvious. Any police party venturing out to capture the dreaded Kellys, would have with them a pack horse or two – for all their stuff, tent, blankets, food, camping gear, and would without doubt have had leather straps to secure their loads. For pack horses there are special strappings to secure saddle bags and heavy loads to keep horses balanced.

    Can we imagine the police capturing the Kellys without a fight? No.
    Can we imagine the Kellys being caught and handcuffed and made to walk behind the victorious police all the way back to Mansfield? No.

    After all, there was $200 ( 100 Pounds each) reward for their capture? The police would have been well prepared to bring back the bodies in order to claim the reward. The bodies would either be flung over the pack horses and tied down, or if two bodies with rig amortise set in, they certainly would require a sturdy pack horse and a good set of leather strapping as ropes would cut into the horses.

    In either case you would need suitable strapping to hold a persons body in place on a moving horse.

    The fact remains, objects like camping gear and provisions also required secure flat leather strapping and a sturdy 'pack saddle' of the type that allowed lots of gear loaded onto the horse and stay sure footed, and also to not cause injury.

    It appears the only reason for this body strap argument is to propose, that if it can not be proven the police carried body straps, " the smoking gun" and if no documentation can be found to prove they did, then the police did not carry body straps, thus the police did not intend to kill the Kellys.

    Lets use logic and common sense, the police were well equipped to do their job. If they were successful in bringing in the Kellys dead, how would they have done that without straps to hold a body in place? The term Body Straps is a creation within the Kelly story to describe a means by which the bodies of the dead Kelly brothers could be brought back to town. As it turned out, the arrest attempt failed and instead it was dead police that were brought in with the aid of leather body straps.

    Any undertaker of the time would have within his tools of trade a set of functional leather body straps to help retrieve bodies from inaccessible places. Why would the police on this precarious journey not have in their possession, a similar set of leather straps? The reward monies to be claimed depended on proof of capture.

  32. Bill, thanks heaps for your thoughts, once again you make excellent points about the body straps issue : if I may rephrase it, you're saying leather straps would be part of their kit as a matter of course, because they are needed to secure whatever loads the pack horses may be required to carry – and that could be bodies if need be. I accept that.

    This argument is really about what the Police intentions really were when they went looking for the Kellys. Ian Jones contends that their intention was to kill them if they found them, and he points to the existence of specially made body straps as proof.

    I think what we can now say is firstly that theres no proof that specially made straps existed, but in any case, taking your suggestions on board, the presence of straps should be expected as part of the kit of a properly organised Police search party. This being the case, their presence cannot be seen as implying anything particular about the polices intentions, other than an intention to be prepared for all possible eventualities.

    If it were possible to show that that these specially made straps never existed – and I realise its impossible to prove that something doesn't exist – that wouldnt mean the Police were not intending to kill the Kellys on sight. It would just mean that if you wanted to prove that they were, you would have to look for your proof somewhere else.

    In short, as I said the presence or absence of "body straps" tells us nothing about what the police intentions were other than an intention to be prepared for all possible eventualities. Ian Jones argument about them is a furphy.

  33. Bill says the Mansfield police party 'were well equipped to do their job'. No they weren't. They had to borrow a tent, a shotgun from Vicar Sandiford of Mansfield, the repeating rifle from the Woods Point Gold Escort, and who knows what else? Police then were suffering extensive public service 'cuts'.

    Bill further suggests that the dead police 'were brought in with the aid of leather body straps.

    No they weren't.

    The recovery party used the simple expedient of buckling stirrup leathers together. They also used reins.

    No bulky leather body straps available unfortunately, Bill. Nor were these ever available as police kit.

  34. Bill, undertakers of the time used carts to transport bodies, not pack horses. This is shown by photos of the cart with coffins for Dan and Steve at Glenrowan.

    The Mansfield police party also had to borrow a police revolver for one of its members. Sounds to me like they were very poorly equipped and relying on handouts.

  35. "Anonymous" you just don't get it do you? Instead of attacking people and making absurd allegations about Sharon Bill and Brian, why don't you try contributing to the discussion about body straps, which is what this thread is about. Ive deleted your latest two comments, whoever you are , because they contribute nothing other than bile.

    In regard to how well equipped the Police may have been, the point remains that the presence or absence of straps has no direct implication about what the polices intentions were.

    However, it might perhaps be significant if in the context of being poorly equipped and having to borrow other important items they went to the expense of having custom built leather straps. However the evidence Ian Jones offers of proof of this is very weak, as we are seeing, and looked at in context the suggestion they did remains, as Ian MacFarlane wrote, "far fetched"

  36. Very interesting discussion.

    Its a pity Peter FitzSimons used the straps yarn, without knowing – as shown in this blog and discussion – that there is no proof they existed or what purpose they might have served.

    This means another generation of readers will have been sold a pup and will mistakenly quote Pete as an authoritative source.

  37. Moving on from the straps for a moment, in the blog posting there is this bit –

    "I'll shoot him down like a dog. I'll carry two revolvers and one I'll place by his side and swear that he had it on him when I shot him"

    The problem with this quote is that it was provided by Neds Uncle, Patrick Quinn."

    OK, doing further research, it seems that this is not just Quinn making stuff up about Strahan's threat, because in the notes to "I Am Ned Kelly" by John Molony there is this:

    "See affidavit of Patrick Quinn of Greta in the Argus, 10 November 1880. Superintendent James in a letter to John Sadleir, 24 June 1898, confirms this story and remarks that Strahan's threat 'would, in a measure, account for the murder of the police…Strahan's ill-judged speech caused the mischief.' H 2902, L.C. S.L.V."

    So, that is not just hearsay from a sympathiser/family member, that is from the police themselves about at least one of their brother officer's intentions to do the Kellys permanent harm.

    I have not seen the whole letter to get the full context because it is not available to read online.

  38. Dee,
    I'm not wanting to put a sharper point on it, but Sharon has just supplied what you've been looking for, that 'smoking gun'.

  39. Macfarlane says (The Kelly Gang Unmasked, p. 152):

    "Gaunson’s legal theatrics for Ned continued on 9 November when he led a large deputation to meet with Chief Secretary Graham Berry. As reported in The Argus of 10 November on page 6, Gaunson produced Patrick Quinn (one of Ned’s uncles), who was willing to sign an affidavit then and there. In it Quinn alleged that Senior Constable Strahan in 1878 had threatened to shoot Ned ‘down like a dog’ just two days before Stringybark Creek. These belated ‘new facts’ did not appeal to Berry, who noted the affidait still had not been signed when the meeting ended".

    Anotheer apochryphal story (of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true) from an endless list in the Kelly literature…

  40. Sharon and Bill many thanks for keeping the discussion going – this is music to my ears really, because like you said Bill what we are interested in is accurate history, not the defence-at-all-costs of received wisdom like a religious Dogma. It makes me think back a little nostalgically to my original Forums, where we could discuss all these things a little more easily than on this Blog, notwithstanding the unwelcome intrusions of fanatics who only wanted to stifle such conversations…and, regretfully were largely successful!

    The point of this Post was to evaluate the relevance of the "body straps" argument in the wider debate about Kelly sympathisers claims about Police intentions.

    In so far as Strahans threat is concerned, that is a separate discussion but worth having as well, so thanks Sharon for looking further into it. If the only source for that information was a sympathiser relative, that would indeed represent a "problem" for that claim, as I suggested but if there is an independent separate witness to Strahans alleged comment, then it becomes hard to refute.

    However I have a question about the letter you refer to Sharon : is Supt James confirming that there is an allegation made by Quinn that he heard Strahans "ill judged speech" or is he confirming from independent sources the truth of Quinns claim? I am not sure its certain from the quote you've given.

    In any case I think its quite plausible that such threats were made, but given Supt James calls Strahans remarks "ill judged" one would have to say this was the personal view of one Policeman rather than an expression of the views of the Police service itself.

    So are we any closer to proving that the Police Parties that went looking for Ned and Dan had a secret agenda to kill them on sight?

  41. Dee, the only info I have is what is in the entry I posted. Molony would have seen the letter during his research, so we only have his description and interpretation of it to go on. Until someone can get to the State Library to copy and/or transcribe it, we are at a standstill. Even if we get a transcription it may not adequately answer all of the questions raised.

    The allegation made by Quinn was in the Argus on Nov 10, 1880, so it was likely that Sadleir had seen it, so why would he need James to confirm it to him 18 years later?

  42. I've whisked through the Sadlier papers at the State Library of Victoris. They are in a mess, disordered by researchers. I don't remember the document quoted, but wasn't looking for it.

    If there were attachments to the quoted document, I assume (from what I saw) they are now separated.

    Sadlier in his book published decades later claimed to have interviewed Constable McIntyre of Stringybark at Mansfield Police Station. Later Kelly writers have seized on McIntrye's Kellyfied version of events. MacFarlane points out, using Sadlier's diary and the Mansfield Police Station Occurrence Book, that the Sadlier account is mistaken. He could not have intervewed McIntyre then(sorry, I can't find the refs quickly). Will try to do so tomorrow.

  43. Vern, thank you for taking the time and making the effort to obtain information that some of the rest of us are not able to access.

    I don't have a copy of MacFarlane's book, but I am very interested in what you said about him disproving what Sadleir said in Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer about interviewing McIntyre at Mansfield just after the events at SBC.

  44. Phew! You owe me one, Sharon! This was much longer than I remembered:

    "The Kelly Gang Unmasked" (pp 140-141):

    Two writers (70) seized on a description of the Lonigan murder in former Superintendent John Sadleir’s 1913 book Recollections of a Victorian Police Offiser. In the detailed verbal account given in the book, McIntyre seems to support Ned’s description of the event. That is, Lonigan hid behind a log then raised his head to take a shot. If correct, this was the only occasion McIntyre ever said so. But there are several reasons to doubt Sadleir’s account. McIntyre had already provided a full written report to Sub-inspector Pewtress at Mansfield. It was dated 27 October 1878 and described Lonigan reaching for his revolver only. He gave another more detailed genaral report the nextt day, 28 October. Then, on 29 October, he gave evidence to a coroner’s inquiry at Mansfield. This was reported in the newspapers. All of his reports and the evidence to the coroner’s inquiry were substantially the same. None described Lonigan having drawn his revolver and about to shoot at Ned Kelly.
    Sadleir, by his own account, was at Dookie near Benalla on 28 October 1878.(71) Yet this was the date Sadleir gave in his recollections for his meeting with McIntyre. Obviously this was incorrect if he was at Dookie. The occurrence book entry of the Mansfield police station for the following day, 29 October, shows ‘Superintendent Sadleir arrived at 10 pm from Benalla and left for Benalla at 9 am on the 30th October’.(72) In his unpublished memoirs, McIntyre wrote that there were so many comings and goings at the police station late at night that he could get no rest, so at Dr Reynolds’s recommendation he ‘slept at the hospitol and went down to the station during the day’.(73)
    On the face of it, then, it seems unlikely McIntyre and Superintendent Sadleir met, if Sadleir spent the night at the Mansfield police station while McIntyre slept at the hospital.
    Even if Sadleir did speak to McIntyre at Mansfield on this occasion, or get him to provide a further verbal report,(74) no documentary evidence of it remains in the official records or among Sadleir’s contemporary reports or personal papers. Sadleir’s book was not published until thirty-five years after the Stringybark murders. Perhaps his memory by then had become clouded or he mistakenly relied on Ned’s account of Stringybark.(75)

  45. Thanks for typing that all in, Vern. I have typed in many a narrative in my time, so I know the effort involved. Maybe Sadleir can be forgiven for thinking he was there a day earlier since he wrote his memoirs decades later. I sure can't recall everything I was doing 35 years ago in full detail (and, yet, there are some things I wish I could forget!) It is good that there was an occurrence book to let us know that it was in the PM that he arrived, because the Argus merely stated he arrived at 10 o'clock, which could have been am or pm. I suppose it would depend on what time each man went to his bed whether or not they could meet that night. You would think that McIntyre would have mentioned the meeting, though. Still, Sadleir was there, just a day later than he remembered, so it is one of those things that may have happened but we just don't know. Anybody got a time machine?

  46. Great customer reviews for the book on Amazon in the US and UK, though!

  47. Anonymous says: Reply

    This material may be fascinating to those who tend to disappear up their own fundaments on issues such as these but surely the whole body straps thing is a ball of smoke…

    The main point is: would the Kellys have expected to be killed by the police? People who use modern terms such as 'cop killer' shouldn't be allowed near historical discussions. The Australian police forces at the time were notorious for murderous activities, shooting unarmed people presenting no threat, failing to pursue people who were involved in multiple murders and, indeed, 'disappearing' evidence of same. A large number of these police killings were for stock stealing (alleged) so the Kellys did not need to have 'attempted to murder' a policeman to be gunned down by the police.

    This is not to impugn the characters of the four policemen at Stringybark – Kennedy, in particular, seems from accounts to have been a 'sound man', as his compatriots would say – but the Kellys could hardly have taken the time to assess their characters. Nor could they have taken the risk of surrendering to a force given to extrajudicial killings.

    And that is the point. The Kellys represented no-one but themselves. The police represented, and were charged with defending, the whole population. It is a serious state of affairs when the police behave in the same manner as criminals.

    I am not taking sides in this argument but this is a wood and the trees discussion.

  48. This post was specifically about the "Body Straps" argument which is trotted out by every Kelly sympathiser trying to prove the Police were out to kill the Gang, not to capture them.

    As you area suggesting there may well be good reasons for believing that the Police were out to kill the Gang, but my point in this Post is simply that the "body straps " argument is not one of them.

    And speaking of a ball of smoke, it only occurred to me the other day that if these straps had actually existed, the Gang destroyed them along with everything else they set fire to at he Police camp, once they'd taken what they needed from it. And that wouldn't have included body straps, but I am guessing if they had found them Ned himslef would have mentioned it somewhere along the line.

    Just to make it clear, the popular"body straps" argument – as promoted for example by Trevor Monti on the Sunrise TV clip – and as recited in the Peter Fitzsimons book released in 2013- is weak and without any real evidence to support it, and should be dropped.

    The question of police intent is an altogether separate argument…..

  49. I am wondering has anyone gotten around to looking in the Sadleir papers at the SLV for the letter from Frank James talking about Constable Strahan's ill-judged speech referring to shooting the gang down like dogs? I sure would love to get the exact wording of it. I hate it when things are left open-ended and we are left never knowing.

  50. Me too. But as I said earlier, the Sadleir papers are in disarray. I think it would take someone quite a long time to find the letter (if it exists). The experience of doing research at the State Library, and other public institutions, has become a ponderous, unpleasant task. I live in rural Victoria, and can't 'pop in' for another look – maybe someone else could volunteer.

  51. Thanks for the reply, Vern. How I wish I could get there to have a look, too. No telling what other little nuggets and gems might be amongst the letters. I love to research, but I don't like having to try and decipher some of the handwriting. In my opinion everything should be available online! Oh, well, I can dream, can't I? 🙂

  52. Great news! I have finally gotten a copy of the Frank James/John Sadleir letter of June 24, 1898. My friend Joe Dipisa happened to have a copy in his files and was kind enough to share with me. I have typed up the pertinent bits and I do hope I was able to decipher each word properly. There was a word or two that I had to just put ??? as I was not quite sure. Note that the words in parentheses were part of the letter. James refers back to Quinn's testimony and gives his opinion, which Dee has already said is "his personal view." (A view which I and many share with him). Still, though this text does nothing to give us further proof, it is good that it was finally brought to light.

    Here is the pertinent text –

    "…I also think that "Foote" (Pat Quinn) caused word to be sent to the Kellys that parties of police under Sgt. Kennedy and Sgt. Strahan, were to start from Mansfield and Greta in search of them. See evidence given by "Foote" before the Police Commission wherein he states that he told Strahan he (Quinn) would guide the police where the Kellys were concealed if former would assure him he would not shoot them – the Kellys. "Foote" then goes on to say that Strahan replied "If I run across them I'll shoot them like wild dogs," former adds "I declined to have any more to do with the matter." From this I infer he caused the Kellys to be informed of the search and Strahan's threat which latter would, in a measure, account for the murder of the police. Were this not the case the question arises, why did the Kellys not continue in hiding either til the search was again abandoned, or at least til found by the police? As a matter of fact they acted on the aggressive and attacked the police when the party was separated. I do not think Perkins had ought to do with searching ???? and that Strahan's ill-judged speech caused the mischief."

  53. Again, many thanks for your great detective work Sharon. Its quite dense english and a struggle to tease out the meaning, but as I read it, he is simply referring back to Quinns testimony and not providing independent verification of it. He also expresses a view that Strahans threat “would, in a measure, account for the murder of the police”

    The “anonymous” commentator at 04.24 above reckons Police at the time were “notorious” for murdering people, even innocent people, so the Kellys had good reason to fear they would be shot by the Police in any case. But what is the evidence for that claim about Police being “notorious” killers and that “ a large number” were for alleged stock stealing? I haven’t come across that idea before, and certainly McQuilton who wrote a lot about the problems the police were having to confront at the time, as far as I can remember doesn’t mention such killings.

    I think if true a culture of Police extra-judicial killing puts Strahans threat in a different light than if it isn’t, but I wonder about the truth of that claim.

  54. Yes, it is just one man's opinion, but Superintendent James was a man of sterling reputation, at least in the eyes of Supt. Sadleir, who wrote glowingly of him in "Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer." I had sent the letter to Brian S. before adding it here and he was struck with how Supt. James took the word of someone like Pat Quinn over the word of his fellow policeman Strahan. Strahan has had more than one fellow policeman speak not so kindly of him.

    Perhaps James knew the character of Strahan and what was lacking in it?

  55. Fascinating stuff Sharon, Dee and Anonymous and all.
    Most interesting to know Ned Kelly's cousin Patrick Quinn was prepared to help the police track them down providing they assured him they would not be shot. But when Strahan replied " If I run across them I'll shoot them like wild dogs" , no doubt this was passed on to the Kellys via the grapevine.

    Dee, I have tried to contact descendants of the Egan family and spoken to quite a few regarding Body Straps, but none have come back to me specifically about that. I'm sure if Ian Jones had confirmation the police party had acquired some prior to leaving, and had them when with them on the Kelly hunt, it will have substance. Also in the documentary called Outlawed presented by Jack Thompson, NE Victoria local resident and Kelly historian Paul Griffith is adamant the straps were with the Kennedy police party, but lets remember, these same straps were equivalent to today's handy 4×4 cars 'snatch straps'.

    To me its not essential to have proof of 'body straps' per say, for when the bodies of Const Lonigan and Scanlan were brought out from the bush, the newspaper artist drew straps holding the bodies along side the pack horse. The term body straps were the same sturdy leather straps any police or prospecting party would carry with them used for all sorts of uses at camp, like snaring out fire wood using a horse to drag out to the camp site.


  56. Yes Bill it is fascinating stuff!
    This is what we have established I think : there is no evidence for SPECIALLY MADE body straps, as suggested by Ian Jones. This idea doesn’t fit with the fact that the police parties were POORLY equipped, and in any case, as you point out Bill, they most likely would already have had straps of one sort or another that would do the job. Furthermore, the Gang destroyed everything at the Police camp, so they would only have survived if they had taken the straps with them and theres no logical reason why they would have done that. They left the Police bodies lying where they died. As I have written before, it seems there was an oral tradition among the Egans that certain straps they had were specially made for the Police to bring back the Kellys bodies, but this oral tradition, like many oral traditions, is not true. Ian Jones should have done his “due diligence” before passing that one on.

    Secondly we have this discussion about Strahan. Vern at 13.06 above posted that in Ian MacFarlanes book, he wrote that Quinn said at a meeting he was ready to swear an affidavit regarding what he heard, but never actually did sign one. That meeting was 2 days before Ned was hanged, so was taking place in desperate times when all stops were being pulled to try to save him – this would surely colour ones recollections and incline a person to gild the lily as it were…so what are we to make of an unsigned affidavit drawn up in such difficult circumstances?

    Secondly I point out that Molony is quoted by Sharon above as writing that “,,,,James CONFIRMS this story….” ( about Strahans threat ) (my CAPITALS) but this is not true – James as we see in the letter is NOT confirming the STORY about Strahan – what he is confirming is that Quinn made an affidavit to that effect. This was NOT an independent confirmation of Strahans threat as suggested by Molony.

    So at best we have a claim made in desperation at the eleventh hour to try to save Ned, an unsigned affidavit, no independent confirmation of the threat, and 20 years later a letter stating that those words “caused the mischief”…not impossible but a very weak argument to carry such a massive claim.

    We are still left with the claim of Anonymous that I mentioned before, about extra-judicial killing by the Police.What is the evidence for the truth of that claim?

  57. Spudee Murphy says: Reply

    Dee, I realise this is a very old blog but my recent reading has compelled me to revisit it. I am working my way through Kelvyn Gill's monumental (in more ways than one) and wonderful book 'Edward Ned Kelly – The Historical Record 1820 – 1893'. At page 99 I think we have some evidence which might shut down the 'body-straps' argument once and for all.

    A quote from Joan Gillson's 1974 book 'Colonial Doctor and his Town' (Cyprus Books) refers to William Reynolds, a member of the search party which responded to the first report of the incident at SBC. Reynolds says that the search party reached the scene of the murders at 4:00am. They located the first 3 police bodies but owing to the darkness they could do nothing until daylight.

    When the light improved the search party commenced looking for Sgt Kennedy without success. At this stage, it was thought that perhaps Kennedy had been taken prisoner by the Kelly gang. Reynolds then says "We tied the bodies of Lonigan and Scanlan together with stirrup leathers and bridle reins round their shoulders and legs and we slung them, one on each side of Ted Monk's horse Tommy that he had ridden up." No mention here by an eye witness of 'body straps'.

  58. Thanks Spudee, What you’re saying is essentially what Bill said, namely that there would have been perfectly suitable other straps and what-have-you to transport bodies, and absolutely no reason for a cash strapped Police unit to buy custom made ones. What you’ve supplied is the record of what Police actually did with bodies at SBC, and its exactly what they would have done if McIntyres party had ever needed to transport bodies. The other thing about body straps that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the gang burnt everything the Police brought with them, so they would not have survived to become the posessio of the Egans decades later.

  59. Anonymous says: Reply

    I'm opening an old thread here I know but:

    Spudee's theory relying on Reynolds' account is evidently in relation to different horses of a later search party and Dee's assertion that the gang burnt everything the police brought with them is clearly incorrect.

    The evidence contradicts the claim that the Gang burnt everything the police brought with them, eg the guns and ammunution, and Kennedy's watch all survived. The burning was evidently only of of equipment the gang did not need and that would have weighed them down and could have been useful to pursuing police.

    The abandoned police horses were later found with saddlemarks so its very likely saddles and any straps were taken. Why else take a packhorse? It appears very clear the Gang took the pack horses with saddles to carry the weapons and any other useful goods and later abandoned the horses. Obviously they needed something to carry the police weapons and ammunition they had acquired and are known to have taken with them and would have needed these wrapped (and concealed) and protected from the weather which became very wet at the time.

    So any valuable saddle and most likely any special long and strong leather straps and canvas/gun bags would likely have been taken and used on the packhorses and eventually passed on to sympathizers along with the guns. Selectors knew the value of good leather and its unlikely the straps would have been burnt! The saddles and related equipment were not recovered. So there is no evidence that the body straps straps could not have been passed on to the Egans. It would seem to me much more likely they were.

    Police evidently started from Mansfield with new packhorses on 28 October 1878 being the day that McIntyre reported the killing of Scanlan and Lonigan which was on 27 October 1878. (See Letter of Sub Inspector Pewtress to Chief of Police dated 28 October 1878 at 8pm. VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 4 Item 79 Record 2 Document: To the Chief of Police from Sub-Inspector Pewtress re: Search parties [Misdated 25/10/1878 in catalogue actually 28 October 1878]
    [A telegraph from Pewtress to the Chief commissioner of 28 October 1878 confirms the date of correspondence must have been 28 October. See VPRS 4965 Consignment P0 Unit 3 Item 30 Document: Incomplete telegram re: Lonigan, Scanlon and Kennedy’s encounter with the Kelly Gang]

    I note Supt Sadlier told the Royal Commission of the discovery of what appear to have been the police packhorses with aged saddlemarks on day 18 page 18:

    5756 You say it was about the 9th November that Mr. Smith found the police horses?— Yes.
    5757 You said the Kellys dropped the horses because they were pushed?— That is what I believe.
    5758 Did you see the horses after they were found?— No.
    5759 Then you cannot tell that it was that the horses were completely done, or that the Kellys were pushed by the police?— No.
    5760 What police were there there to push them?— Johnson and his party and Inspector Brook
    5761 Would you be surprised to find, from Inspector Smith's statement at the time, and Mr. Nicolson's evidence since, that the marks on those horses were over a week old, from the time they were let loose till they were found?— I would not be a bit surprised at that.

    Similarly other police horses from SBC were recovered by Detective Ward. Royal Commission Day 38 page 4:

    13843 Had you full authority to arrange for the payment of those men?— Full authority to submit and arrange for paying any person that would, as I thought, be able to supply us with information. On the 28th [November] I received information and recovered two of the horses of the police that were shot in the Stringy Bark Creek. I found them in the Warby Ranges , about eight miles from Wangaratta, and took them to Wangaratta.

    Alan Flint

  60. Anonymous says: Reply

    What you say about any special straps which the Mansfield police party may have had being among the items taken from the police camp could obviously be correct. However, as we know, that police party was cobbled together in something of an ad hoc manner with borrowed arms and many other items. There is also evidence that at the time of the Kelly outbreak, Vic Police were lacking in funds to even buy reasonable firearms.

    So it would seem to me that to have special straps made up in the possibility that the police party would find and kill the Kelly gang is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. Surely there were other priorities on which to spend police funds other than body straps.

  61. Thanks for your thoughts Alan. Your theory is that if they had found specially made leather straps at the campsite, the Gang would have taken them, and then eventually handed them on, to finally make their way to the Egans. Its possible, of course that this did indeed happen, but notwithstanding your Commission quotes, all you have provided to support the story is speculation, and not a single fact to back it up. Given there are no facts, its impossible for anyone to refute your claim, but equally, as I like to quote from Christopher Hitchens, anything which can be asserted without evidence an be dismissed without evidence.

    But heres one of the main reasons why I still think its a latter day myth – if these were purpose made ‘body straps’ and their presence is claimed again and again in modern tellings of the Outbreak to be a kind of ‘smoking gun’ that revealed the really murderous intent of the Police, why did Ned Kelly himself never mention them? Wouldnt he have been the very person to broadcast this sinister finding by word of mouth, in his writings, at Court perhaps, at every opportunity to expose this finding as proof of his claim that all along they were out to kill him, that he killed in self defence? This is more than a glaring absence on his behalf it is surely a fatal flaw in your entire case.

    And we have left aside the logic of Spudees argument above, that its illogical to claim that the cash-strapped Police went to the expense of getting purpose made leather straps when they already had perfectly good methods for bringing bodies out of the bush. If they had spare money and their intent was to go and kill the Gang, wouldn’t they have spent it on more rifles – they only had ONE, plus a ‘fowling piece’, plus their routine Police revolvers.

    The body straps argument is not supported by any actual evidence, or logic, and the fact that Ned never mentioned them is a fatal flaw. Its a myth Alan!

  62. What is weirder Spudee, is that Ian Jones does not claim the body straps were provided by the Police Department. He says Sgt Kennedy's party purchased them privately themselves. It's this, and Dee's points, that make the story so preposterous and lacking in evidence.

    The cockies Jones relied upon for this rumour are probably still cackling about it. They provided him with not one jot of evidence for this fairytale. But Jones has been continually quoted as the source for it.

  63. Anonymous says: Reply

    Yes, I can just see Kennedy and his cash-strapped mates all tossing in to buy some custom made body straps in the likelihood that they would meet and kill all of the Kelly gang. Sounds to me that if they had money to spare they would have been better off buying better weapons or additional ammo.

  64. I was not going to comment any further on this subject, but add this –

    Its all OK to make the point there is no proof the Police carried 'Undertaker Straps'. What is true is the police motivation to capture the Kellys is the reward monies offered by 'private enterprise', a hundred $Pounds per head.

    If the police had been successful in capturing the Kelly brothers alive they would have had to walk them back to Mansfield, so I think that be an unlikely option. I'm sure the Kelly's would not have just put their hands up and surrender.

    In view of all this I'm sure the police party would have had with them the gear to bring bodies back to town. This would ensure they got their just rewards.

    To do this they would have needed straps a plenty for pack horse transportation of stuff and the bodies. The Regan's of Mansfield if I'm not mistaken, had a saddle and gear shop. And as the police were under equipped we can well imagine Sergeant Kennedy who led the party of four, used his position to acquire what ever he needed from locals. After all, he had been a court witness to charge a man Walter Lynch, the third member of the prospecting party that worked SBC (where a 16 Oz gold nugget had been found.) and the Sergeant had been tipped off by local Lease holder Tolmie that the Kellys were in the area. See RC re Tolmie.

    It’s a fact reward monies were offered even to be collected by the 'paid' police, who had a well paid job. They had inside knowledge of the where abouts of the Kellys. They thought it a calculated gamble they would apprehend the Kellys with the foursome police party. Instead, except for one, the police themselves were brought back to town with the aid of leather straps.

    The fact nobody now has provided records of exactly who provided what for the expedition, Ian Jones seems to have information undertaker straps were part of the gear the police had with them.

    Some time ago I tried contacting the descendants of the Egan's in Northern East Victoria but no one today was able to provide information. This does not mean no one knows, just that someone may come forward with their family history.

    This does not take away the credible notion the police had with them the means to bring bodies back, otherwise their reward may have been at risk.

  65. Horrie and Alf says: Reply

    Acceptance of the 'Body Straps' fairytale is predicated on the idea that police intended to kill the Kelly gang and not arrest them. But, this is not what happened. Nearly all the police got murdered instead.

    In any case, as you all should know, the police bodies were recovered using stirrup leathers and reins. Had the Kelly gang been killed, their horses would have supplied additional leathers.

    Ian Jones was very remiss in not providing proper endnotes in his books, and continually failing to provide details of what his sources actually told him (including Tom Lloyd jnr et al, interviewed in the 1960s).

    Further, I am very very surprised that in this blog and commentary there is no mention of Jones's original, very sparse footnote in "A Short Life" from whom he obtained the information about the body straps. These were two Cockies (my word), presumably in N.E. Victoria, who were his source. This was later expanded in "The Fatal Friendship" to, as Dee and Sharon point out, mentioning the Kinnear papers (which were not mentioned in "A Short Life".

    Unfortunately, none of this checks out at all.

    There is no evidence whatever, yet, that proves the body straps ever existed.

  66. Anything Ian Jones has done seems to be under fire once again. Some bloody respect would be nice considering all the work he did in the field before all the keyboard warriors came into being. Bloody pathetic. Can't wait to read your published assessment of the situation Horrie, Alf, Spudee and others. You are obviously cleverer than Ian Jones. Sorry for this Dee but I get a bit sick of reading how Ian Jones is incorrect and all these supermen researchers have the answer… JFC..

  67. Anonymous says: Reply

    Bill, if, as you say, the reward money was motivation for the Mansfield police to go after the Kellys, then they weren't very well equipped for that kind of operation. For a start there were only the 4 of them, although they were going to meet up with another party at some point. They left Mansfield with much borrowed equipment and weapons. Four issue Webley revolvers and a few extra rounds of ammo, a borrowed Spencer carbine and a fowling shot gun hardly made them well enough armed to take on what was probably going to be the 4 members of the Kelly gang. I think that Kennedy and his men were purely on a patrol to gather intel on the possible location of the gang. The fact that 3 of the police party were in fact murdered by Kelly and his mates simply confirms for me the fact that they weren't on a search and destroy mission.

  68. Well Mark, I for one have REPEATEDLY stated my admiration for all the work that Ian Jones has done and for the massive contribution he has made to the Kelly story. In fact Mark I praised him in my most recent Post and in April this year wrote an entire Post on Ian called The Ayatollah and the Last Kelly Warrior . Remember? But my respect for him doesn’t extend to a sycophantic agreement with everything he has said and done in the kelly world – there are a number of important places where everyone KNOWS he was wrong – a certain picture springs to mind, as does his location of the Police murders on the eastern side of SBC. So he is certainly fallible and there are other places where I am quite certain he is also wrong, such as his view that Ned Kelly was a revolutionary hero who wanted to found a republic in NE Victoria, and that Glenrowan WASNT madness. In regard to the body straps, do you not think its legitimate to question the origins of this story, given how important it has become in the modern telling of the story, where the existence of these straps has assumed the status of the smoking gun of Police intentions? The body straps story was only brought into existence by Ian Jones in relatively recent times. The Kelly legend existed without them for over 50 years. He may well have been told that the straps had belonged to the Mansfield Police party but where is the evidence that Jones did his due diligence on the subject and investigated the possibility that it was just one of the many apocryphal legends that have arisen around the Kelly story that have no basis in reality? Did he go to see them? Did he wonder about the logic of a cash-strapped Police party spending up on straps when they already had perfectly usable alternatives at their disposal? or did he just repeat the story, without checking it because it fitted his – and Neds – narrative about the Police wanting to kill the Gang? These are legitimate questions to be asked, and notwithstanding Ian Jones many achievements and his many successes, he is not infallible, and nobody should be regarded as immune from criticism. Actually my sense is that Ian Jones welcomed and enjoyed being challenged.

    And BTW Mark, nothing to say about my new View of Red eh?

  69. Anonymous says: Reply

    i don't see comments made here about Ian Jones' work as a personal attack on him. But he is the one who has used vaguely sourced material for information on Kelly that many take as gospel. He has pumped the North Eastern Victoria Republic often but he doesn't seem to have any concrete evidence to support this theory. And with regard to this particular blog, the story of specially made 'body straps' was put out by Ian to suggest homicidal intent by the Mansfield police party. But once again Jones hasn't provided hard evidence just some story he was told by someone. Firm history doesn't work that way.

  70. Bill I would like you to try to clarify exactly what it is you’re saying here, because in saying that the Police would not ‘walk’ the gang back to Mansfield if they caught them, you seem to be suggesting they would have killed them and strapped them to the horses? Is that what you’re saying? If so that is a very serious allegation against the Police and I would think you would need to have some evidence of that being a known Police practice as back up for such a serious allegation. You’re suggesting that those four Police were deeply corrupt – is there any actual evidence that they were? Also remember the reward was not offered for their capture ‘Dead or Alive’ – as it was later to become – so there was no unwritten license for them to kill and still collect the reward.

  71. Horrie and Alf says: Reply

    Everyone respects Ian Jones's massive lifetime contribution to the Ned Kelly myth. His work is marred, however, by several drastic errors including the body straps, the Kelly Republic, and several others, for which he didn't provide academic endnotes or detailed information that, perhaps, would have satisfied us all.

    Alf and I aren't cleverer than Ian Jones. We just wish he had supplied details in his books that obviated these considerable deficiencies.

    He still can…

    It's never too late…

  72. Maybe Mark who is cleverer than us can provide the exact source (cited by Ian Jones in his "Ned Kelly: A short Life) for the body-straps.

    MacFarlane's book says this:

    "There was, then, no evidence that the police were planning to kill the Kellys if they found them. However, one modern writer claims to have found such evidence. According to Ian Jones, the police party allegedly had special leather body straps made up before going bush. The impression is created that these would have been used to bind the dead Kellys to horses and so extract them from the bush".

    MacFarlane's citation to Ian Jones's 2003 edition of his "Ned Kelly: A short Life" is 2003: 214. Hope this helps.

  73. Gwen Havelock says: Reply

    Spudee is right that Ian Jones on crucial points "hasn't provided hard evidence just some story he was told by someone". That's the central problem. Otherwise, his research was exemplary.

  74. Mark, you can see how biased these discussions can become. It like how the Herald Sun can twist the politics to read how wonderful the Liberal party is and how bad the Labour party.
    I set out the facts and all they want to comment on is lack of evidence. But when the whole lot of facts are presented they ignore.

  75. Bill you say ‘when the whole of the facts are presented they ignore’.. by which I presume you are meaning that people who disbelieve the ‘body straps’ theory are so intent on denying the story that they are deliberately ignoring the facts.

    Lets not lose sight of the issue at stake here : the issue is the claim by Ned Kelly that the Police were going to kill the Kellys if they found them.

    So what facts are there that might support the claim? One FACT here, that a you correctly point out, is that there was a reward.

    You claim that the Reward was enough for the Police to determine the best way to collect it would be to kill the Kellys.

    Seriously Bill how likely is it that these particular Policemen – Scanlan, Kennedy Lonigan and McIntyre – were so corrupt and so greedy that they were prepared to break the Law and kill Ned and Dan to receive a quarter of the total £200 reward? But that is what you are alleging when you suggest they wouldn’t walk the Kellys back to Mansfield. Its easy to make a vague statement about them but when you follow it to its logical conclusion, if true what you’re claiming is these 4 particular Policemen were deeply corrupt, they went into the bush with an intention to kill, and they were prepared to kill two young men for as little as £50. Bill is that what you actually believe about Kennedy? Is that what you actually believe about Scanlan, Lonigan and McIntyre? Are there any facts in relation to those 4 men that indicate that was the sort of people they were? If there are none, what are you going to use to support your very unkind allegations about them?

    The ‘body straps’ argument, which is also supposed to be evidence that the Police intended to kill the Kellys, is that before leaving, they went to the trouble of having special body straps specifically made at their own cost, the sole purpose of which was to bring back the bodies of the Kellys. Now there are ZERO actual facts to support this idea. All we have is a claim by Ian Jones that such straps existed and in 1934 were in the possession of the Egan family. The next logical step is to try to verify their existence – you have tried and been unable to. Ian Jones didnt try as far as we know. So all we are left with is an unverifiable claim, of which there are many in the Kelly saga. There are also many claims which have been proven wrong, so could this be one? Thinking about the idea of spending their own money on straps when they were poorly armed, and when they already had perfectly suitable alternatives, the whole concept makes little sense. Neither does it make sense that if these straps existed, Ned Kelly who was desperate to convince everyone he killed in self defence never mentioned them. In fact nobody ever mentioned them anywhere for more than a century.

    The body straps idea falls apart when you think about it carefully.

    But Bill are there any other facts that you think I am ignoring?

  76. You say I am cleverer than you Alf? What a stupid thing to say. Never said that. I just felt that once again the bitching about Ian Jones was rearing its head again. And for the record, I think McFarlanes book is very very good. And needed. As is Morriseys.

  77. He (ian) is not in a position to do so unfortunately. No one is perfect. But when it comes to Ians work and the shoe leather used to do his books, I think he can be spared stone throwing./

  78. I thought your RED post was good.

  79. Ian is a very engaging individual who I respect a lot. My comments are not against the man but what he wrote. If things are not going well for him now, I (and I'm sure others) would be saddened and wish him recovery and wellness.

  80. Unpalatable truths are for all to read in the Royal Commission.

    Dee, You talk about the smoking gun being the Body straps the police probably had with them. On the scales and balances, we don't have the records that Ian Jones claims to exist.
    Sharon on 19 Dec gave insight as to where the letters of proof may have originated. Maybe one day they will turn up.

    However the Unpalatable truth remains that the police were able to claim reward monies, sufficient to lure TWO police parties of four to give it a go to capture the Kelly brothers, even though they were only wanted for questioning.

    Lets not forget £200 reward at that time is like $200.000 in todays money.
    Here are some more Unpalatable truths, See Royal Commission click above and see
    pages 522, 523, 524, 525

    #14314- McIntyre surprised to be at SBC,

    #14346- McIntyre has no knowledge of the Kellys being in the area yet Sgnt Kennedy and Const Scanlan knew they were as tipped off by the a Mr Tolmie.

    #14376- Considered Kennedy and Scanlan catching the Kellys themselves without McIntyre or Lonigan being present.

    #14379- Mc is asked if he thought K & S went away for the purpose of getting a special advantage without the other two?

    Q, Were McIntyre and Lonigan set up as decoys at the camp?
    The RC questions whether McIntyre thought the other two K & S may have been the decoys for an attack from the Kellys subject to inside knowledge provided by the Tolmie's, but this maybe turning the argument around?

    The real story here is not whether the police had body straps, but rather the unpalatable truth the Kellys were to be hounded out by the lure of reward monies, that may or may not have been equally shared between the captors.

  81. Anonymous says: Reply

    Interesting references from the RC which you cite Bill.

    14314: I assume that is a typo and that you are actually referring to 14344 which is a question directed to McIntyre about him being surprised to be camping at SBC. I can't see any problem with this as McI seems to have known very little about the objectives of Kennedy's patrol.

    14346: No mention in this question and answer as to McI having knowledge of the Kellys being in the area or about any tip off at all. Not sure what you are getting at here. The question relates to what McI thought was the object of Kennedy and Scanlan leaving the SBC camp. McI's reply is quite innocuous "Well, at the time I thought they were merely patrolling." This is exactly what I said that I thought was the objective of the party in my post (ABOVE) on 3 September.

    14376: This question does relate to the RC puting to McI the possibility that Kennedy and Scanlan were heading off by themselves to catch the Kellys. However, the questioner mentions Kennedy and Scanlan possibly taking provisions with them when they left SBC. McI answers that he thought it possible. Of course it might have been possible but pretty implausible. For a start this is the first mention of the 2 police possibly taking 'provisions' with them when they left SBC. I can't find anything to confirm this speculation. Secondly, it would be almost suicidal for Kennedy & Scanlan to leave SBC by themselves on some sort of secret mission to capture the Kellys. Even the party of 4 from Mansfield is pretty risky. Anyone with even the slightest understanding of police or military operations, or just plain common sense, will see the absurdity of that suggestion. The 2 police who left SBC were each armed with their standard issue Webley Mk.1 .45 cal. revolvers and perhaps a dozen spare rounds each. Kennedy was also carrying the borrowed .50 cal. Spencer carbine, which I seem to recall, only had the rounds it carried in its 7 shot magazine. They had no indication on the likely location of the Kellys making any such secret bounty-hunting mission almost untenable. For the 2 officers To capture the gang by themselves would firstly require good knowledge of the Kellys actual location and access routes to it to allow for a covert approach. Even if this were accomplished, the 2 officers would have to somehow surround the place and kill or capture presumably the 4 members of the gang. An impossible task as far as I am concerned.

    14379: McI certainly did think it 'very strange' that Kennedy and Scanlan "…went to that neighbourhood instead of continuing the direct road to Hedi." I would have thought it even stranger if Kennedy and Scanlan had in fact gone directly to Hedi by themselves. As it was, Kennedy had split the Mansfield party, apparently with the intention of patrolling the area, which I take to mean the immediate area around SBC.

    If you look at 14345 you will see this: "Then, within your knowledge, are you aware what was the object of Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlan in leaving you in charge of the camp and proceeding where they went to? — Well, I think it would be no unusual circumstance, if four men went out, for two to go and look at the neighboring country, because we had a pack-horse and tent, and it was necessary to leave some men behind to watch the place." To me this confirms the real intent of Kennedy and Scanlan leaving SBC and heading off on their own – it was a reconnaissance and patrolling mission. I also contradicts McI's later evidence at 14379 that he thought it "very strange" for Kennedy & Scanlan to patrol the immediate area. One minute he tells the RC that "…it would be no unusual circumstance" and the next that it was "…very strange." Maybe he was having a bob each way?

    But as far as your suggestion that the RC questions and answers you have quoted are evidence of 'unpalatable truths' I'm afraid I can't see that Bill.

  82. In the RC question #14352 is "Did he take provisions?" The answer by McIntyre was "Some lunch for himself and Scanlan; sufficient for that day."

    In question #14351 it was asked "Did he say how long he would be absent?" McIntyre answered "He said possibly all night because if they got lost they could not get home till morning."

    In McIntyre's unpublished narrative he said "Taking some lunch with them Kennedy and Scanlon then left….The last words that Kennedy said to me were "Mac, don't be uneasy if we are not home to-night."

    I think that if they were going to be out all day and possibly overnight that they would take something to chow down on and not count on being able to obtain wild game or risk, like Mac did, the sound of their gunfire attracting unwanted attention.

  83. I am not surprised by your response. You sound like an apologist for the police party stuff up at SBC and the inconvenient truth about this Royal Commission of 1881 into the Kelly Outbreak.

    My comment are to allow the reader see, and get a handle on a pretty dodgy plan to apprehend the Kellys.

    If my reference of #14316 relates to # 14314, I apologise. I am summarising what's been written not just quoting.

    People can read for themselves. What's quite obvious, there was a man hunt paid for by private enterprises -regarding the reward monies coming from private land owners, ( although this is not said in the RC, but quite true)
    and they had huge influences on the politicians of the Victorian Parliament of the day.

  84. Anonymous says: Reply

    You are right Bill that there quite a few 'stuff ups' at SBC; the main ones being that Kennedy's party were understaffed, under equipped and too lightly armed to try and apprehend the Kellys. If they had joined up with Senior Constable Shoebridge's Greta party of 4 police, then they may well have been able to take on the gang but this wasn't to be.

    As far as the reward being an incentive for Kennedy to arrest the Kellys, that may well have been in the back of the minds of the Mansfield police party. However, I don't see that as their primary motivation. You need to remember that the plan to send police up to the SBC area was not Kennedy's but Superintendent Sadlier's at the suggestion of Inspector Secretan. No doubt Sadlier was at that time under pressure from the Victorian colonial government and his own superiors to do something about the Kellys. Overall, the police in the north-east region were probably very embarrassed at not being able to bring the Kellys in.

  85. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thank you Sharon for that. I was thinking the term 'provisions' was meant to suggest that Kennedy and Scanlan were going for a bit longer and would be taking more than a kind of picnic lunch.

  86. As Sharon points out K & S just took some tucker with them for the day, assume a tent as well maybe?
    I think to split up the party for the day was a huge mistake. Why would the other two be required to just hang around the camp all day. They may as well have followed the Sergeant Kennedy knowing he had been tipped off about the where abouts of the Kellys, but due to confidentialities was not passed on to the others. A fatal mistake to split the party for the sake of secrecy.

    Spudee makes the other main point, that the whole saga was cooked up by top brass and their influential mates in Spring Street. Unfortunately, good people like the sergeant was lured to take action as he saw best. He should have realised he needed the other men to protect each other rather than camp cooks.

    This is the sort of discussion for the topic Peter Newman put up regarding the Blue Range Letter, the possible reason the Kennedy party took off when it did, but can not now find the Link Dee? Perhaps you can create a link to cross reference here?

  87. Anonymous says: Reply

    Bill, I have checked the RC transcript into your suggestion that Tomlie/Tolmey had 'tipped off' Kennedy to the whereabouts of the Kellys and I see no mention of this. The only reference I can find (and please give me another reference if I am wrong) to Tolmey is at 14408: "Did you ever hear that a man named Tolmey showed where the Kelly camp was?— No, he showed the place where we were to camp ourselves."

    So I'm not sure how Kennedy and Scanlan could have headed off on a secret bounty hunting mission as you suggest if they had no idea where the Kelly camp was.

  88. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Spudee, you mention about how if Kennedy's search party had joined up with Shoebridge's that they would have have a better chance to take on the Kellys. Remember when Kennedy joked about how he did not want to meet up with the other party because "if we do we will find them out of tucker and they will eat us out." (there's those provisions again!I agree how provisions makes it sound like more than a cut lunch) Some might say that Kennedy did not want any possible reward money to be further diluted by having to share with the other party. If that was the case, that was a poor choice considering the outcome.

    Regarding Kennedy and Scanlon possibly having a tent with them as they went on reconnaissance, I was always under the impression that they only had the one tent (a borrowed one at that, which the owner sought recompense for). They may have already had one and then borrowed one (or, borrowed one from more than one person, but no one else put in for the recompense). Since they had to borrow practically everything else, it would seem more likely there was one tent sized 8 x 10 to share among the four which would have been sufficient. It would be different if it were a pup tent!

    I had this in a posting at my blog back in 2011 –

    In a letter dated December 6, 1878 written to Sub-Inspector Pewtress,
    Archibald McKenzie wrote:

    To Mr. Pewtress, sub inspector police, Mansfield


    On the 24th September 1878 the late Sgt Kennedy borrowed a tent from
    me which was destroyed by the Kelly gang. I therefore desire to be
    paid the sum of three (3) pounds, three (3) shillings, the value of
    the said tent or equivalent, a duck tent 8 ft x 10 ft..

    Archibald McKenzie, Mansfield

  89. I’m not sure what the Blue Range letter is Bill, but this is becoming quite a bizarre discussion about the motivation of the Policemen. Bill I am still waiting for you to declare Kennedy Scanlan Lonigan and McIntyre as corrupt, devious, greedy and a disgrace to the Police Uniform, because frankly that is what you are implying by what you’re alleging about their motivations and behaviour on the SBC adventure. Your references to the RC do NOT support that idea of yours, except by taking a very peculiar interpretation of the meaning of answers that were given, to all manner of leading question from people whose interest was often to embarrass Police at the commission and settle personal scores. What reason is there for not accepting that the Police went there for the exact reasons they always stated, which was to arrest the two Kelly boys in relation to the Fitzpatrick Incident? There is no need to complicate the story with a conspiracy theory that ascribes deeply corrupt and greedy motivation to the Policeman. Calling it a ‘Police party stuff up’ sounds like you’re blaming the victims here. I agree with Spudee though that the reward may well have been in the back of their minds but think if their entire motivation was a desire to get their hands on the reward money, their preparations would have been a whole lot different. Heading off with two revolvers and a shotgun to kill two or more desperate men on the run would imply at the very least they were incompetent fools….

    Bill I really think that idea of yours hasn’t been thought through properly.

    And by the way, have we decided to all agree that the specially made body straps idea has nothing to support it, no physical evidence, no logic, nothing other than Ian Jones unprovable oral history?

  90. Hi Spudee,

    See my Blue Range story – Click on above link or copy paste this one.

    In short-
    The lease holder of Howqua Stn, a large lease North East of Eildon, was owned by a man named Martin. His son John was a boundary rider and engaged by Ewan Tolmie to lay dog (Dingo) bait. Apparently John Martin during one of these jobs came across the Kelly camp. He apparently told a Mr Tolmie who passed this onto Sergeant Kennedy.

    The Sergeant mentioned this to Supt Sadleir, and in a letter dated 16 August 1878 (according to the Royal Commission), and Kennedy in another letter also suggested to the Superintendent he and Scanlan could mount a successful arrest of the Kellys if he could have two more men, one who knew what Kelly looks like, Const Lonigan and the other having good knowledge of that part of the ranges Const McIntyre.

    Some weeks before the police party set out, it was a 'Tolmie' (as he had three sons), one that showed Sgnt Kennedy where to camp at SBC. Perhaps this Tolmie did not realise how close they were to Kelly camp, but in the area.

    At the Prelim trial in Beechworth, Ned Kelly blamed Martin for tipping off the police. And one month after the killings at SBC, Constable James followed horse tracks that led to the Kelly camp. He wrote a detailed account of the place, and on noted on one tree near the camp someone had deeply carved the name 'Martain' into the tree bark.

    This name miss spelt was obviously carved into the tree for some reason? By this time the Kellys were a gang, and someone had decided to name that person who had defied them. Perhaps the original name was Martain, but the RC mentions Martin. I have a photo of a descendant of that Martin family, from the Engelke family photos (re Toombullup) who lived at the top end of StringyBark Creek road. re Jack Martin.

    Spudee, you said somewhere you owned a .44 or .45 cal 'Webley' revolver like the police issue.
    Can you please send me a contact email sometime as I was interested in doing some tests with quartered chopped musket balls or bullets to see what patterns would result. Thought you'd be interested.

  91. Anonymous says: Reply

    Like you Dee I am also getting the impression that Bill wants to suggest that Kennedy and Scanlan were more intent on arresting the Kellys so as to obtain the reward than doing their job. As far as I am concerned and I do confess as a retired cop to a vested interest here, there is nothing to suggest that the Mansfield police were not simply going about the task they had been given i.e to patrol the area around SBC for any evidence as to the location of the Kelly gang.

    How many times do we have to point out to Bill that if he uses just a little logic he will see that his theory is simply ridiculous. Two coppers head off into an area they know little about, searching for a location that is unknown to them, armed with 2 Webley .45 cal. revolvers, with a pocket full of additional ammo and a Spencer carbine with just 20 extra rounds. The shotgun was still with McI. I can clearly see the result of any confrontation with the Kellys in that scenario.

  92. Anonymous says: Reply

    Once again the so-called reward money motivation rears its ugly head. We have no evidence as far as I can recall that Kennedy, or any of his party, even talked about the reward money. From what I have read about Sgt Kennedy he seems to me to have not only been a good cop but also a decent man. And as I have said earlier in this blog, if Kennedy and Scanlan were intent on going after the reward they were very optimistic. Not only were there only 2 of them but they were lightly armed and apparently had no idea where the Kellys were! I'm very surprised that you of all people should raise this reward/motivation theory. As far as I am aware we have no evidence whatsoever to support it apart from vague theories without foundation.

    There has only been mention of one (borrowed) tent being utilised by the Mansfield party and I think that had there been another and taken along with the 'provisions' by Kennedy and Scanlan, then McI would surely have mentioned this in his many accounts of what happened at SBC. As far as I am concerned and all the evidence I have seen seems to support it, Kennedy and Scanlan were simply carrying out a reconnaissance mission as part of the overall operation.

  93. I have in front of me the transcripts of the letters you mention, the first, written on 10 August 1878, is from Supt Sadlier to Sgt Kennedy. In it Sadlier talks of Ned Kelly being 'in the neighbourhood of Greta, or from thence to Connolly's and the bogs near the Wombat'. The general context of the letter is advising Kennedy of the plan to conduct a search with police parties from Mansfield, under Kennedy and another from Greta.

    The reply from Sgt Kennedy to Supt Sadlier is dated 16 August 1878. In it Kennedy talks of setting up a 'depot' at SBC and using this as a base to search '…the flat country towards the King River, Fifteen-mile Creek, Holland's Creek.'

    The closest Kennedy comes to identifying a likely location for Kelly is when he writes 'I believe Kelly has secreted himself in some isolated part of that country, lying between the Wombat and King River.' There is no specific location mentioned at all nor any indication that Kennedy has received a tip-off from Tolmie, Martin or anyone else. So where is your evidence that Kennedy was tipped-off on the whereabouts of Kelly camp?

  94. Josh Ellis says: Reply

    Bill, stick with SBC, your crowning achievement for over a decade. You are an amazing investigator on the ground.

  95. The police were outmaneuvered, outgunned and murdered at Stringybark Creek by useless rural yobbo criminals.

    Ned was a complete dud.

  96. Today marks the 138th anniversary of the murders of Sgt Michael Kennedy, Constable Thomas Lonigan and Constable Michael Scanlan and the attempted murder of Constable McIntyre at Stringybark Creek. Often lost in the misguided adulation of their killer is the fact that these men were honest cops, well respected in the Mansfield District and 3 of them were husbands and fathers. Rest easy boys knowing you did your best and will always be remembered.

  97. Well said Spudee. I agree. Cruelly murdered by armed criminals. Regardless of my thoughts on the Kellys, this is what the incident amounted to. I feel for McIntyre more so to be honest. His life was blighted forever more.

  98. Correct about poor old MacIntyre. History has been very harsh to that poor Bugger.

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