You might remember that I wrote in my most recent Post “Ned Kelly : Stock Thief” that you wouldn’t find references to Ian Jones books in Doug Morrisseys PhD thesis, because the Jones books weren’t written till 5 or more years after the PhD thesis was. But then I wondered, would I find references to Morrisseys PhD thesis in Ian Jones books? Surely, I thought, such a rare and rigorous piece of scholarship, an impartial insight and perspective on the world of the Kelly Gang would have been an important resource for anyone attempting to document the entire Kelly story, as Jones was clearly setting out to do?
Now, Ive complained before about the unhelpful way Jones has listed his sources, as footnotes to each chapter of “A short Life” but without an alphabetical Bibliography. This means that to find out if and where he may have consulted Morrissey one has to laboriously trawl through 25 pages of tiny closely spaced notes looking for any mention of his name – and to my surprise, the only thing I could find was a single reference to the article from the Victorian Historical Journal of 1995, but nothing about the PhD Thesis.
In the Notes to Chapter One Jones appears to name the Morrissey article as the source of his statements about acquaintances of the Kellys from Wallan moving to the north east to settle near Benalla. Ominously, he doesn’t follow this citation with a bracketed “hereafter..” to imply later uses of this citation – as for example he wrote for the next citation: “Minutes of Evidence taken before Royal Commission on the Police force of Victoria 1881 (hereafter Commission)” so we are left to ponder why it is that from an authoritative article about Kelly criminality, the only information Jones finds worth referring to is an irrelevant piece of trivia. It reminds me of the scene in the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian” when several heavily armed and uniformed Romans enter a tiny house looking for Brian – who along with several of his rebel supporters are “hiding” inside by crouching down and pretending to be furniture among other hopeless attempts to conceal themselves – and the Centurions emerge saying yes they found something, a spoon!
However I couldn’t find reference to the Thesis anywhere, in two such searches. Its possible I may have missed it – if I have, I expect Sharon will let me know pretty soon, and that would be fine – but it would seem Jones either wasn’t aware of this Thesis when he wrote the book in the early 1990’s, or else he deliberately chose to ignore it. Lets give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he hadn’t heard of it.
But what are we to make of the fact that in 2003, when he revised and republished “ A Short Life” it still isn’t mentioned ? By then, Morrissey’s work had certainly been known about in the Kelly world – its mentioned for example by Alex McDermott in his commentary to The Jerilderie Letter published in 2001. But in the Preface to the second Edition, dated March 2003 Jones writes “its encouraging that, since 1995, nothing has emerged to demand any significant change to the portrait I then presented” Nothing! He lists and thanks innumerable people who assisted him with the second Edition, naming people I recognize from the Ned Kelly Forum, from the Iron Outlaw site, even people who contributed to my own Forums earlier in 2014, but yet again there is no mention of Morrisseys Thesis. He did however have time for and list “Ned Kelly died for our sins” a work I admit to not having read yet, but which somehow I suspect hasn’t a great deal to contribute. Its hard to imagine these omissions, these glaring omissions are from ignorance, but when the book is revised a third time, in 2008, it becomes impossible.
I can only conclude that Ian Jones deliberately chose to ignore Doug Morrisseys landmark research into Kelly history and culture – and it can only be for one reason : it didn’t match the story Ian Jones wanted to tell. In fact it turned it on its head, but after decades of Kelly “sympathy” Jones wasn’t for turning. Neither was he about to let the cat out of the bag, to let it be known such a work existed, even just to criticize it.
My next thought was “Well why has NOBODY criticised it, why has no Kelly sympathiser been willing to front up to Morrisseys work and challenge it – I am assuming they don’t agree with it of course – even though they have known about it for at least 20 years? Could it be they simply don’t have an answer to it and so have developed a conspiracy of silence around Morrisseys “Inconvenient truth”? Are the Kelly devotees hiding stuff from us?”
And after a little more searching about, I have to tell you, the answer is yes. And this is my evidence:
Well firstly there is the Jones book. Ian Jones clearly knows the Kelly literature intimately, and has an obvious burning passion for the Kelly story. I am sure he keeps his eyes peeled for every mention and contribution, no matter how small to the Kelly literature. I simply cannot believe he just missed seeing the Morrissey paper, that it slipped in under the radar. Its absence from his bibliographies is a telling omission that needs an explanation. I would guess he knows all about it but doesn’t like it. In the same way I am sure he knows all about Ian MacFarlanes book, doesnt like – indeed, hates it – and advises anyone who will listen, such as Peter Fitzsimons to ignore it, as he himself did with Morrisseys. Not a good look.
Next, I looked at the other popular sources of Kelly information, namely books and the Web. I used the “Search” feature on the Ned Kelly Forum for “Morrissey”. They recently boasted a million hits, but Morrissey didn’t come up once. However, I did come across a post that provided links to two online articles from the Victorian Historical Journal. One of the links was to the Morrissey article I wrote about previously, “Ned Kelly and Horse and cattle Stealing” and the other, from 2004 was entitled “From Eureka to Ned Kelly: A Police force out of step with Society” The only indication that anyone read these articles came from a single response, an NKF member commenting on the negative article about the Police force: they love to read anything negative about the Police! – but regarding the Horse and Cattle stealing article : an embarrassing silence!
I used the “Search” feature on the worlds greatest Kelly website, one that’s been going for more than a decade, and boasts 8.5 million “hits” annualy: ONE hit – a mention, an aside really in a long article about the Jerilderie Letter; certainly no discussion about it. Remember months ago I reviewed the blurb for the Iron outlaw Brad Webbs i-Book “Ned Kelly”? If you read that blurb again now, the massive hole in the story left by taking out all reference to horse stealing and the Kelly criminality leaps out.Its a glaring omission.
I did a search on my Kindle copy of Peter Fitzsimons 2013 biography of Ned Kelly: not one mention – and, by the way not one mention of another landmark publication, The Kelly Gang Unmasked. We know that Ian Jones warned Peter Fitzsimons not to read or reference the Kelly Gang Unmasked , saying that he hated it– I wonder if he warned him off Morrisseys article too? Two very curious omissions indeed.
I checked the Bibliography of McMenomys Ned Kelly (1984): the PhD thesis isnt mentioned, but “Ned Kelly Sympathisers” by Doug Morrissey, 1978 is listed.
I checked the Bibliography of Ian Shaws “Glenrowan” : the PhD thesis isn’t mentioned but “Ned Kellys World” 1984 by Doug Morrissey is listed.
Its listed in The Kelly Gang Unmasked – of course!
And finally, to my great delight, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised but when I searched “11 Mile Creek” I discovered Brian Stevenson had written a wonderful 5 part review of the entire thesis! The first part was Posted in 2010 and the last in 2012. It attracted a couple of Comments from Sharon, a couple from our dear friend Anonymous who wondered why the huge rewards posted for the Gang were never claimed by the ordinary folk of Kelly Country, and there was a Comment from “Lisa” who rubbished Morrisseys work claiming it was based on reading a couple of newspaper articles from the time! Other than that, not a word of challenge or dispute.
I suggest everyone go to the site and enter “Morrissey” into the search box top left of the Eleven Mile Creek Home page, and you will be able to read his commentary for yourselves. What a pity the document itself hasn’t been published somewhere so we can all read the original document as well – its a document of rare quality and importance in the vast largely uncritical chaos of Kellyana, that nobody should ignore. For the time being though, we have Brian Stevenson to thank for making the effort to get a copy and post a really useful discussion about it.
So what are we to make of the way in which this significant and insightful document has been responded to by the Kelly sympathizers? The Morrissey Thesis rests like a massive unexploded bomb in the engine-room of the kelly sympathisers steamboat – what they have done is pretend it doesn’t exist, ignore it, try not to draw anyones attention to it, and tiptoe about it hoping it won’t go off and sink the ship. Any of them who may have read it, or even the essays derived from it like the one I have been reviewing will have realized the devastating impact knowledge of this analysis inevitably will have on such a large part of the Kelly myths, particularly the one about the Kellys being more or less innocent victims of a corrupt Police force – it more or less destroys that fantasy completely!
And they know it – which is why they refuse to discuss it, just like they dont discuss the fact they know Ned Kelly lied about his participation in the Fitzpatrick incident, and just like they know his claim to have fired once and killed Lonigan is wrong. The dominant theme of criminality and the centrality of industrial scale stock theft in the Kelly story is just one more of the many truths Kelly fanatics don’t want anyone else to know about, but which will no longer be dirty little sympathizer secrets. The truth is definitely coming out.
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