The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection: Part II

Peter wanted to add this as a further Comment  to the ongoing discussion following what I have to call Part I, but it exceeded Bloggers allowable maximum size for Comments. Therefore I have added it as a separate Post, called Part II. I apologise if it disrupts the flow of the discussion from Part I.

I have also met Edna several times (once with Bill).  I agree with Bill that, despite her age, Edna is clear of mind and very much with it.  I find it interesting she has put all this to paper (since 1991), particularly given there has been no profit in it for her.  Whilst I have my doubts about the veracity of a lot of what she has written, I have no doubt Edna believes she has faithfully (re)told the stories as they had been told to her.  Edna is also at a stage in her life where she doesn’t care if people believe her or not.
There is some fascinating material in Edna’s book and I have made copious notes chapter by chapter.  I know many have dismissed what she has to say (I note Sharon’s “whack-a-mole” comment and Brian McDonald’s reference to her books being “delightful stories”).  I know a great deal of what she has written can’t be true, but Edna’s position is simply that she has documented what she knows and what was told to her.  So, like Bill, I believe there is truth in at least some of what she has to say, as I don’t think she could have made it up.  In any event, so much of what she has said could these days be easily proved one way or the other. 
As an example, I thought I might follow up on Edna’s reference (pp. 68-69, Vol. 1) to a badly injured young Ned Kelly being transported by Old Ned Griffiths, Ned Lloyd & Young Ned Griffiths (all these Neds, it does get confusing!) to the place she describes as “The House before Monnington – in the place that was The Griffiths’ Family Home there then”.  On page 185 of Vol. 1 Edna has included a photo of Monnington, but this was not built until 1886.  But according to Edna, the injured Ned Kelly was transported to the Griffiths’ family home that preceded Monnington. 
So what does an internet search of “Monnington” bring up?  Well, we find that Monnington is located at 15 Adeney Avenue, Kew (a Melbourne suburb).  It does not itself have a heritage citation, but is referenced in a heritage citation (dated 2012) for another property at 29-31 Park Hill Road, Kew.  Some key points in this citation are:

  •   29-31 Park Hill Road was first purchased by someone named Walter Hart, who sold it to prominent Kew residents and tea merchants James Griffiths and John Moore Griffiths.  
  • James Griffith’s built ‘Monnington’ as his residence at 15 Park Street (later to become 15 Adeney Avenue) in 1886.
  • The property at 29-31 Park Hill Road (to which the citation relates) was constructed about 1890 by the Griffiths brothers as rental properties.  Tenants after 1891 included a Robert Miller.  
Aren’t there a lot of coincidences here?  A simple internet search brings up Information that I don’t think would have been that easy for Edna to come by.  Maybe the Griffiths (at Glenrowan) did have family connections in Melbourne at this time who might well (as suggested by Edna) have felt a bit “put out” when their country relatives dragged in a young boy/man like Ned Kelly in the hope of getting him some care, legal and medical treatment.  Could Edna have made this up?

So where do you go with this type of information?  Who was Walter Hart and can it be established if he had connections with the Harts in Wangaratta?  Did the Griffiths brothers (tea merchants) have connections with the Griffiths in Glenrowan?  Could the tenant Robert Miller have been the Robert Miller from Glenrowan?  I could look further into this, but maybe someone else knows the answers already?  Sharon?

Fact is often stranger than fiction isn’t it?  If the Griffiths family are connected with the Griffiths tea merchants in Melbourne, then maybe the Glenrowan Griffiths did seek medical attention for a badly injured Ned Kelly who had been bashed by an enforcer.  And in turn maybe Ned Kelly did seek retribution against that enforcer who Edna believes went by the name of Borrin.  And with Ned at fifteen, if the killing of Borrin unfolded in the way Edna tells it and at the location she describes, then maybe his bones could be found?  Would this enhance Kelly’s reputation as someone who was prepared to stand up to a local stand over man?  Or would it damage his reputation by adding to his list of victims?  After 135 years would it matter?
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24 Replies to “The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection: Part II”

  1. For people who feel like they have come in on the middle of a movie, see this article entitled "The Day Ned Kelly Called a Man Out, and Shot Him" for who Borrin was (this article has been previously referenced in the comments here on another thread because it also says that Ned was adopted according to Edna, something which practically no one believes). The article says that "Ned returned from a journey and fought Borrin, but was so badly beaten he spent three weeks in bed, near death." Article also says that this was in the late 1870s and that Edna said that Jim Kelly who told her about it, was about 16 years old when this happened. So, it would have been around 1875, a year after Ned was crowned the North East's boxing champion? That other hombre must have been tough! But, from info Peter has above, it would seem that Ned was only 15 years old when it happened? Making it circa 1869/1870? Then Jim would have been 10 or 11 as he was born in 1859. Maybe the newspaper article had the info wrong? Also what kind of gun would Ned have used on Borrin if the article has it right saying that after the boys heard gunshots they came running and "Borrin had been blasted away, and little remained except his bones, which Ned insisted on burying himself." Does not sound like the old gun held together with string he had at SBC, does it?

  2. Thanks for that link Sharon, its quite a fantastic story! However it contains elements which are simply impossible – a gun that destroys everything but the bones of a person shot, for example. Also impossible is Ednas claim that Ned was adopted, but Kate wasn’t – the problem is that we know from mitochondrial DNA evidence that Ned and Kate had the same mother. So either Kate and Ned were both adopted, or were both Ellens kids. Inserting a photo of a building not in existence in Neds lifetime – Monnington – suggests confusion.

    Clearly the problem with Ednas stories is that because they contain many obvious errors, one is left wondering if any of it is true. The easy thing to do is therefore to simply dismiss the whole lot of it as “delightful stories”. Alternatively, one could do what Peter is suggesting and try to mine these writings for truths that may be buried amongst all the fantasy . My sense is that you might end up doing a lot of running around and come up with very little of substance. But lets suppose you went to the site where Borrin is supposed to be buried, the one mentioned by the Reporter in the Sydney Morning Herald, and did a search for human bones?

    Tantalizing thought…

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    This would be easier to follow if we were "all" able to get the book or at least no where to buy it. I have tried the but it doesn't apply unless your in a big city (at least near me anyway). So I ask since everyone commenting on part 1 and part 2 seems to have a copy, where did/ do you get one.

  4. I am not saying that every single thing in her many books (there are 6 or 7 of them, and some other than Glenrowan are classified as juvenile fiction) is wrong, as the lady did know Jim Kelly and may give some interesting insights. I am just cautioning people to please use common sense and not take everything as gospel and getting off on a very wrong track (such as the adoption story and so forth). Also, if you will recall in Cookson, that even Jim and Ellen had "mis-remembered" (for want of a better term) the events of April 15, 1878 with Jim even saying that he was there at the time!!!!! As we have all said here before, even in our own families we find that others remember events very differently to what we and others do. Let's not get too mired down in this whole thing.

  5. Many years ago I was involved in an oral history project for the Australian War Memorial. As part of this I interviewed about a dozen very elderly WW1 veterans and recorded what they had to tell me about their military service. In many cases their stories did not accord with their service histories which I had access to. It seemed to me that in these cases, their stories had become embellished and changed over time making it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is not to say that the whole thing was a waste of time because some very good oral history was recorded.

    I recount this simply to show that oral history can in many cases be unreliable. And if such a history is used to supplement what can be confirmed in the Kelly story then it will probably be accepted as 'fact'. That is my experience.

  6. Spudee, thank you for your astute observations and remarks. You speak wisdom.

    I don't know if there might be a distant family link between the Griffith tea merchants and the Griffith family that married into the Kelly family, but there does not seem to be a close one at all. The tea merchants, James and John Moore Griffiths, were born in Wolverhampton England and came out to Australia in the mid to late 1970s.

    Ned's half sister Grace married Edward Albert Griffiths who was born in 1862 at Benalla. His father, also named Edward, was born in Sutton, Herefordshire England and left in 1853, winding up in Australia (at least according to his obit in the paper).

  7. Does it matter if John Lahey of The Age article makes a mistake and speaks too figuratively? So it works out Ned was 15 and Jim was 11 and not 16. You often see newspaper journalists making mistakes that can't be undone once in print.

    We need to look at the big picture not the brush strokes.

    Why does it matter if in Edna's book it shows a picture of Monnington house from after the Kelly saga! Obviously no picture of the former Griffiths Monnington house exists but the later one does. It clearly shows grandeur, and proves Peter's point that Edna provides information's that can be substantiated.

    Dee, and figuratively speaking, you have often heard it said 'that a person was blown away,' so what does that mean? Borrin was shot 'blown away' and only his bones remain. Come on Dee!

    About DNA, (but this is not about Ned)
    Imagine that some mother's sister had an illegitimate girl child that she could not look after, and handed that child to her married sister as if it was her own. Then that child grows up and has some daughters and so on. All their female MITCHONDRIAL DNA will be the same, so I ask , will MTC- DNA tests prove who the real mother of that child was?

    For those interested, I spoke to Mrs Edna Griffiths Cargill and she is about to publish her final Glenrowan Vol 7 and by the sounds it may surprise a few. Asking if her books are still available, she said there were only a few complete sets available, but best to wait till after the new year for the final Vol 7 and a limited reprint of the earlier 6 Volumes.
    They are published by Alice House Publishing and Art Gallery Cnr Alice St. Maroondah Hwy Croydon, Victoria, 3136.

    Here is Monnington House of 1886

    Monnington today 2015

  8. Ooops! Meant to say 1870s not 1970s. 🙂

  9. Anonymous says: Reply

    Ummm-aaarr!! Sharon, Grace was Ned's full blooded sister – not a half sibling.

    Tut tut….

    Don't let Joanne Griffiths read that. She may hunt you down, kill you then eat you! Lol!!

    That's gold….Grace a half sibling. Are you reading this Joanne? I bet you are!! Maybe Grace wasn't a 'true Kelly' after all.

    Fascinating. Or maybe Shaz was wrong??

  10. Not sure if it is the same guy, but searching for Walter Hart turned up some very poignant information.

    It seems that Walter Hart bought the property in July of 1866 per the article Peter referenced. I am wondering did he build something here? Or was there already a house in place?

    Found that Walter's wife gave birth to a daughter in October 1866, with the address being given as Park-road, Kew.

    Tragically, according to the papers, Walter Hart died in December of 1866 at age 26 of consumption. Again the address given was Park-road, Kew.

    I am wondering if Park Hill Road and Park-Road are interchangeable terms? Or does Kew have 2 streets similarly named? No one else named Walter Hart turned up when I searched for "Park Hill Road, Kew", so this must be him. Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Could this be the same guy?

  11. Ha! Sorry, got her confused with Alice, I am not as up on the younger lesser known siblings who were not involved heavily in the story! Please don't eat me!!! 🙂

    Goes to show that anyone can get confused! At least it was not put in a book!! 🙂

  12. I take your point about the bones Bill, though it isn’t obvious that Edna was using a figure of speech in describing what happened to Borrin.

    In regard to your question about the Mitochondrial DNA, the answer is no it will NOT prove who the real mother is, but it will narrow it down in this case, to either Ellen or any other daughter of Ellens mother – i.e. the true biological sisters or half sisters of Ellen Quinn. In any event, Edna says Neds mother was Bridie Kelly – can you tell us anything about her? She would have needed to be a daughter of Ellens mother for there to be an exact match of the mitochondrial DNA results from Leigh Olver and the bones from Pentridge.

    I woud remind everyone of Occams Razor aka the law of parsimony which says the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. In this case the simplest explanation for Neds bones and Leigh Olvers blood having identical mitochondrial DNA is that they are both descendants of Ellen Kelly.

  13. Dee please delete first reply only use this one

    Dee asks;
    "" Edna says Neds mother was Bridie Kelly – can you tell us anything about her? She would have needed to be a daughter of Ellens mother for there to be an exact match of the mitochondrial DNA results from Leigh Olver and the bones from Pentridge. ""

    From what I have gathered Bridie was always an aunt like figure to the whole Quinn/Kelly family.
    If she was a sister of Mrs Quinn and Bridie WAS Ned's biological mother, Ned would have the same DNA as Ellen Quinn.
    As you quote "the law of parsimony, where the simplest explanation is usually the correct one" , is usually the 'easy acceptable' answer but not always conclusive.

  14. Scepticism is an important part of the way in which knowledge is advanced, whereby challenging the status quo can force a re-think and perhaps a new understanding. However theres a kind of extreme scepticism in which nothing is accepted as a given, everything is doubted and the search for understanding gets paralysed by the need to chase a thousand rabbits down ten thousand holes. So Bill, this is the problem I am having with Edna – as far as I am aware she is the only one who claims that Neds mother was not Ellen. Is that correct? And on what basis does she make that claim? Does she say anywhere WHY she believes this? And you say IF Bridie Kelly was Ellens sister ….well WAS she? do other sources talk about Bridie Kelly? Allegations and claims are easy to make, but they don’t increase our knowledge or understanding of anything unless they come with the evidence on which they are based. Then they can be tested and validated or disproven and we can move on to the next thing. But without the evidence to test we are stuck in no-mans land.

    As Christopher Hitchens rightly said “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”

  15. I refer to Spudee's posting in answer to Sharon 16 Dec

    Hi Spudee,
    Many years ago I too was involved in an oral history project.
    It concerned where Ned Kelly was born. Historians like Ian Jones and Keith McMenomy had it all written down pat.

    The only thing, both accounts differed. Had it not been for our friend Maikel Annalee (now deceased), he was not sure what to make of the differing places either so we decided to sort the wheat from the chaff as you so eloquently put it.

    We went to the Laffan property 'Deloraine' that included Mt Fraser from which Hume and Hovell first saw the area that is now Melbourne to the south. From the top we were overlooking the old Arrow Smith Sqr mile block to the N East that James Quinn had rented when they first settled in 1850's.
    Mt Fraser is also called Big Hill these days but it is not that big.

    We learned from Bill Laffan of local Oral history passed down from a pioneer lady Mrs. Francis O’Connor, and old Mr Owen Laffan and Bill's family where the Kelly's would ride or walk to Beveridge town. Despite them telling Ian Jones nothing was taken seriously, just as Jack Healy had told Jones the Stringybark Creek site was up the creek, but he totally dismissed that suggestion despite the fact Healy was one of the first to take up land there.

    The Laffans told quite a different story to where accepted history tells where Ned was born, in a way a quite similar contradiction of history to what Mrs Edna Griffiths Cargill is telling us in her Glenrowan books. But why do the experts poo poo oral history?

    Who to believe? and on the basis of what well read, historians would conclude they are so close to the truth, and dismiss oral history altogether, even today we are met with that same 'scepticism as soon as someone comes along with Oral history.

    So what's closer to the truth about where Ned was born? I let it be known the little hill near where Ned said he was born is about three Km north of where historian Jones and McMenomy like to have it, and no one has ever challenged me on this since I put it on line in 2005.

    Please lets keep an open mind when oral history challenges accepted written history.

    I totally agree 'scepticism' is an important part in which knowledge is advanced, but you are demonstrating a similar reluctance no different to outbursts by Jones and even McMenomy towards my research with Maikel Annalee regarding where Ned was born, and my Stringy-Bark Creek site on the West bank, and these were but only two areas of study in the Kelly story I decided to look at, and in both cases proved the experts were wrong. Without my conviction and I might say determination, we would still have the Jones site on the Eastern bank of SBC as gospel truth, and Ned's birth place still besides that gravel pit quarry at Beveridge town.

    I dread to think how many more parts of the Kelly story are up the creek – literally.

  16. Bill my point is that where a claim is made that contradicts the accepted history, its not good enough to merely make the claim – there have to be reasons why its made, and these need to be set out so the people you are trying to persuade of the truth of your claim can understand where you’re coming from and make a rational choice to accept or reject the alternative. If no reasons are given then there is no rational basis to believe the story to be true, other than to say well I have chosen to believe this person, because she couldnt possibly be wrong. That claim, that the person making the claim is never wrong could of course be tested.

    You have been brilliant at this – you haven’t simply asserted that the wrong place has been labelled as the site of the Police camp and the murders but have set out in all sorts of ingenious ways to show exactly why you make that claim – and I and most everyone else has been persuaded you’re correct.

    This is what Edna and the people supporting her also need to do – its not enough to simply assert that the story of Borrin is historical truth, or that Ned was adopted – whats needed are the reasons why she makes these claims and as far as possible to provide evidence for it – hence my comment about looking for the bones at the place she indicated to the Journo. What are her reasons for claiming Ned was adopted? Who exactly was Brydie?

    There are well known problems with the reliability and accuracy of “oral history “, but I am not saying oral history is worthless – it just has to be used wisely.

  17. My Apologies to Anonymous who posted a reply to Bills last comment. I accidentally deleted it. Please resend it.

  18. Anonymous says: Reply

    Bill you are of course correct in your assertion "Please lets keep an open mind when oral history challenges accepted written history." I may have been a little harsh in my comments about the reliability of what those old diggers told me. I should have mentioned that along with some chaff, I did in fact record some very golden examples of prize-winning wheat! In fact these little anecdotes could fill a book.

    I suppose what I am trying to say, as others have pointed out here, is that for oral history to stand up to examination, it should be supported by some other evidence if available and not simply accepted on face value.

  19. So, it would seem that if Ned's mother was not Ellen, that it would have to be one of her sisters due to the DNA, correct? Looking at the Quinn family tree in Corfield, it has seven sisters listed for Ellen, none of them with the first name of Bridie or Bridget, which I assume Bridie is a shortened form of. Maybe one of them had the middle name of Bridie or Bridget and she went by that (just to play devil's advocate)? But for them to be Bridie Kelly they would have had to marry a Kelly like Ellen did, but none of her sisters was listed as marrying a Kelly. Perhaps there is some info missing on the family tree, but it just seems like a long reach to me to say that Ned was adopted.

  20. Actually Sharon, there is an almost limitless number of possible ways in which Neds bones could have the same mitochondrial DNA as Ellens and yet not be her son. I’ll try to explain why: Simply put, every member of an unbroken mother to daughter line of descent will have the same mitochondrial DNA, and every son of those women will have that same mitochondrial DNA as well. This is how Leigh Olver ended up having the match with Neds bones because his mother was the daughter of Kate Kellys daughter…

    So imagine that if Ellen Kelly had some aunties – in other words sisters of her own mother – and they had daughters, – in other words nieces of Ellens, and cousins of her children – and the nieces had daughters also – then the aunties and the nieces and their daughters and sons would all have the same mitochondial DNA as Ellen and her offspring! Draw yourself a family tree diagram like the one on page 90 of 'Ned Kelly under the Microscope' and you will see what I mean.

    This sort of game could be played again by going back one generation from Ellens grandmother to her great grandmother, and tracing down from there to Neds generation, and so on ad nauseam till you have a whole swag of potential mothers of Ned Kelly and you will spend the rest of your life trying to eliminate them one by one, only to be told at the end of it by someone with a vivid imagination that there might have been unrecorded illegitimate daughters of one of them that you missed….

    The point that I don’t think many understand about the way Science works and the way knowledge is advanced, is that it does so not by eliminating every possible explanation but by finding the explanation that best, and most simply explains the known facts. Its quite pragmatic – it says we are not going to eliminate every possibility as that would take forever but if you have a reason why this explanation is not the best fit then give it to us and we will look at it. If you have an explanation that is a better fit for the known facts, or you have some new evidence than give it to us and we will look at it. Otherwise, if you don’t have new facts or a better explanation – don’t waste my time. And this is why Science works, its pragmatic and forward looking, its why we have moved on from the Flat earth view of the world and there are space craft flying past Pluto and sending back images, why we can watch live Sport from the other side of the world, eliminate diseases with vaccination and why you and I can communicate via the world wide web! Importantly though, Scientific 'knowledge’ isn’t set in concrete but thrives on scepticism and questioning, and is always ready to adopt explanations that better explain the facts, or that accommodates newer facts as they are discovered.

    So, back to Edna! To be taken seriously she needs to say WHY she proposes Ned is not Ellens son, Who bride Kelly was and WHY she believes she is his mother. And if she is unable to do any of this then we move on – that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. On the other hand if she is able to provide evidence we can look at it and decide one way or another.

  21. Forgot to say your excellent point about Bridie having to also be a Kelly makes the whole thing even more unlikely.

    What I would like to hear from Peter is more of the stuff that Edna wrote that he says “can’t be true”. This may help more of us get an appreciation of where she is coming from. And for the record, I am not in any way doubting the sincerity or the motivation of Edna – I imagine she is a delightful old soul with no ulterior motive other than to have her views recorded for posterity. The issue is not Edna but her claims about history, and these claims are a valid focus for inquiry.

  22. It sure does get complicated and time consuming! In my opinion, whether or not Ned Kelly was adopted (and barely anyone thinks he was), it does not change what happened from April 1878 onward, so we best move forward, too, and let this whole bit just rest, it will surely raise its head at another point in time. It was actually not long enough from the last time on another forum for me. Getting too bogged down with just one nearly impossible to prove theory, whether this one or any other, can detract from other worthy avenues and pursuits of knowledge in the Kelly world.

  23. Well I don’t think we should move on until we’ve sorted it out one way or another, and come to a conclusion. If we did this, we wouldn’t need to keep coming back to it time and again in the future and recycle the same half finished discussions, which seems to be what happened on the other Forum you mention Sharon – which one was it ? I would like to visit it and read what happened.

    Edna or someone who knows her story has to front up with the evidence, whatever it might be, so everyone can have a look at it. If after scrutiny its thought to be valid, then we have a new understanding of Ned Kelly. If its not, or they have no evidence apart from the claim itself, we forget it and move on to something else.

    If at a later date someone comes up with something NEW, then of course we can look at it again, but until that happens anyone dragging it up again can be told its nonsense and be referred to previous discussions.

    So Bill and Peter, and anyone else who knows Ednas writings – Brian? – WHY does Edna claim Neds mother was not Ellen, WHO is Bridie Kelly and WHAT is her evidence that Ned was Bridies son? Time to front !

  24. Can anyone provide a family tree for KENNETH GUNN *
    Kenneth Gunn held FERNHILLS Station land lease north of Mansfield in 1863-4

    In the book 'Victorian Squatters' compiled by Robert Spreadborough and Huge Anderson,
    it makes mention of Fern Hills owner Frederick Lloyd in 1862 and Kenneth Gunn in 1863.
    It can be assumed Fred and Ken knew each other.

    *Not to be confused with Alexander Gunn born 1841 who married Anne Kelly in April 1869.

    Anyone please answer here but you can also contact me direct
    bill at denheldid dot com

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