Peter Newman said he would be buying Eugenie Navarre’s book and would post a review, so here it is:
First of all Dee, you are going to hate this book. It is pro-Kelly for sure, with much of the ‘factual’ content being attributed to discussions with Kelly researchers like Gary Dean. The author says she is seeking to set the record straight by breaking a 136 year long silence to reveal the TRUTH. To this end, Ned is presented as an activist and reformer, whose dream of freedom from oppression and a ‘fair go’ saw him take up arms, with many sympathisers armed and ready to support the Glenrowan uprising. You get the idea!
The book is full of factual errors, which will be immediately obvious to those who know the Kelly story, but which will mislead those who don’t. The author also often jumps to conclusions about things. For instance, she said the authorities prevented publication of a pro-Kelly book until 50 years after Ned’s death, whereas perhaps the explanation for this was simply that it took someone (presumably she means Kenneally) that long to write it. Similarly,just because the bodies of Dan and Steve were never formally identified is not proof that they didn’t die in the fire.
There is also new information in the book that I have never heard before, but which is not referenced. For instance, it is news to me that Joe was the grandson of an Irish political activist who was transported as a convict. Where is the evidence for this? And is it true that he carried a bible at Glenrowan, as I don’t recall ever hearing that before.
There is also a tendency to justify Ned’s actions. For instance, Ned’s horse thieving venture is justified as a reaction to the police stealing horses including from Ned himself. And that having been outlawed for a crime he almost certainly didn’t commit, he needed guns and ammunition to protect his bush hideout at SBC and was therefore forced into a situation which resulted in the massacre of the police. Oh yes, she also adds here that the police were carrying body straps.
The reason for many of the inaccuracies and wrong assumptions may be due to Eugenie being over- reliant on the views of a relatively small number of Kelly researchers who happen to have a pro-Kelly position. But then again, this is a book that attempts to present the “untold generational stories that have been passed down through Kelly sympathiser families”, which means it is always going to be pro- Kelly. These stories and anecdotes are from many families who supported the Kelly Gang, including the Mc Guffie and Moore families in the Buffalo River Valley, the Woodyard family of Gentle Annie, the Barter family of Cheshunt, the Gambold family, the Limson family, and the Shanley family of Boggy Creek Road (Moyhu). Eugenie says there were hundreds of other families who were also supporters, but doesn’t include a list of who these families were.
Keep in mind that after Glenrowan, there was good reason for the forebears of these families to have kept quiet about what they knew and about any assistance they may have given the Gang. The stories had to be handed down orally, and there is undoubtedly a tendency for error to have crept in. However as I said in that post I put up about Edna Cargill, oral history is important and you have to be careful not to be to dismissive of it.
The stories that Eugenie has documented include:
- A suggestion (from Paul Gambold) that the reason for the Euroa bank raid was to provide struggling farmers between Moyhu and Glenrowan with funds to meet bank payments which were due by Xmas 1878, with those farmers likely to have lost their farms if those payments had not been met.
- That Glenrowan was a highly organised, but well concealed activist cause, with strong indications of a grand plan for a separate state or republic of NE Victoria.
- Recollections of the Nolan family about how Michael Nolan had accompanied Maggie Skillion (Ned’s sister) and Tom Lloyd (her cousin and later husband) to Melbourne to purchase
ammunition two weeks before the Glenrowan siege.
- A quite common belief that Dan and Steve escaped Glenrowan, with the descendants of numerous sympathiser families believing this to be the case, including the Holihans, Walkers;
Delanys, Dwyers, Pendergasts, Mack, Shultz, Kaufmanns, the Ryans, Tootells, and Nolan family.
- A detailed account which was told to Gary Dean by sympathiser descendent Irene Klingsporn (nee Reardon) of how Dan and Steve were escorted away from Glenrowan by John and Michael Reardon and their brother-in-law John Byrne. That they were taken to Greta and then towards the hut at Bullock Creek, then on to the Kelly mine before heading to Goulburn where both supposedly had relatives.
- Reference to Ned Kelly talking with sympathisers on Mount Morgan just prior to his last stand.
- That Ned Kelly was a member of the Greta branch of the Whiteboys, an Irish agrarian organisation which had its roots in Irish suppression (this is another Gary Dean revelation). The author says she was told there were 120 members of the Buckland branch of the Whiteboys armed and ready to help out if called upon at Glenrowan.
- Suggestions that perhaps Father Gibney (who ran into the burning hotel) had sympathy for the cause.
- Numerous recollections regarding the making of armour at various places, which to my reading suggests there were more than four suits. In fact, there is specific reference to a fifth set of armour that belonged to Alexander Gunn (Ned’s brother-in-law), and to this set of armour having been seen and handled by Darren Sutton (the guy who believes he has found the offcuts of Joe’s armour).
- Threats being made by police to several Glenrowan hostages to keep quiet about the police conduct during the siege.