|According to Sharon this is NOT a photo of Jim and his mother at 11 Mile ! And I believe her.
|This is supposed to be Jim Kelly but I am not sure what the mans name is.
Mark Perry told us that in the end, Jim Kelly got “his shit together” and by all accounts, because of his devotion to his mother and some of her grandchildren, gained a measure of respect for the way he conducted himself. However it would be wrong to think that once the “Outbreak” ended he became a model citizen, and repudiated the lifestyle and the whole Kelly saga. In fact, only a year after Ned was hanged Jim was convicted yet again of horse stealing in NSW in 1881 and sentenced to 5 years hard labour. Much later, in August 1912, aged 53, he was charged yet again with cattle stealing – I am not sure what the outcome of that was but I suspect he was discharged, so perhaps I oughtn’t cast aspersions! Can anyone tell us?
However in 1930, now 71, Jim Kelly wrote a letter to J.J.Kenneally congratulating him on his recently published work, ‘The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang’ defiantly declaring that J.J.Kenneallys book completely vindicated the Kelly family. Jim expresses not a single word of remorse or of apology or regret for the actions of the Kelly Gang or his brothers, saying instead that they had been “hounded’ by the Police. For Jim to still maintain after all those years of opportunity to reflect on all that happened, that being on the “Wanted” list after killing three Police is being ‘hounded,’ is absolutely ridiculous. This is a staggering lack of insight! Heres something else that’s ridiculous that he wrote : “My brother Ned holds a very unique position among the great men of the world’ and ‘you have proved that my brother Ned Kelly was proclaimed the greatest man in the word by his bitterest enemy’. Or in other words it wasn’t our fault , there was nothing wrong with Ned, it was the Police – and that of course is also the theme of Kenneallys book, and the central myth of the Outbreak that persists to this day. Jim was in denial it would seem till the day he died (and I am afraid so are many members of the greater Kelly community even today! )
Never-the-less the question of possible Police persecution is the focus of this Post, the previous one and a few more to come. I have already shown how Jim’s first charge, at age 12 for illegally using a horse is misrepresented in the Kelly literature, and doesn’t really look like an example of Police persecution, but what about the second?
On this occasion, in 1873 when Jim was 14, he was convicted of stealing cattle. He did this in the company of 17 year old Tom Williams who was said to have led Jim into it. Ian Jones called this theft ‘inept’ . The Jury recommended leniency, but Jim was sentenced to five years hard labour by a Judge who is reported to have said he regretted he couldn’t also have ordered they be flogged!
Peter Fitzsimons made note of the fact that Jim was ‘undefended’ and claimed that the sentence was ‘one of the most severe sentences for one of that age in Victoria ever recorded’ and asked “If that is not persecution of his family, what is?”
Well this is the actual Press report from The North Eastern Ensign dated April 22nd 1873:
BEECHWORTH CIRCUIT COURT.
Thursday, April 17.
(Before Mr. Justice Williams.)
Mr. C. A. Smyth conducted the prosecutions on behalf of the Crown.
Thomas Williams, 17, and James Kelly, 14, were in-
dicted for stealing two heifers, the property of George
Chandler, of Winton. The prisoners were undefended
by counsel. The evidence of the prosecutor and several
witnesses was conclusive of their guilt, and a verdict to
that effect was returned, with a recommendation to
mercy on account of their youth. The same prisoners
were also found guilty of stealing two steers, the pro-
perty of James Cook, of Winton, and were sentenced to
five years imprisonment each.
So was this sentence proof that the family was being persecuted?
Well, being arrested and charged couldn’t be called ‘persecution’ if a genuine crime had been committed – and theres no doubt Jim and Tom Williams stole several head of cattle and sold them. And though five years does seem harsh to modern ears, in those days people were transported for less – Jims own father got seven years and was transported for stealing two Pigs! – so even the sentence may not have been that harsh for the time. On the other hand, perhaps the Magistrate was aware of his older brothers convictions for indecency, assault, and horse stealing, his uncles various convictions, and the convictions of various other Kelly associates, and decided that a sharp and severe shock might achieve what the lenient treatment he received after he was charged for illegal using two years before didn’t. We have no insight into the reasons for the Magistrates decision but there are plenty of good reasons why it couldn’t have been mere persecution of an innocent family, because for one thing, that family was not innocent. There were any number of good reasons why he would have easily been able to justify a penalty at the harsher end of the spectrum of options that he had, not withstanding his young age and the suggestion of the Jury. I also note that there is no mention of the Judge wishing he could have ordered Jim get a flogging, and neither Jones nor Fitzsimons provide a reference that supports that claim so I wonder where it comes from? I also wonder if Jim was unrepresented because, as the news report states “the evidence of the prosecutor and several witnesses was conclusive of their guilt’. Why would they waste money on legal costs if the outcome was a forgone conclusion?
Frankly if that’s the best example Peter Fitzsimons can provide as evidence that the family was persecuted, he hasn’t got a case. And if there was any question about it, here’s a final fact that settles it : Jim was released at the beginning of 1877, more than a year early. How can that be persecution?
Maybe we will find evidence of Police persecution in Jims next experience with the Law? It happened only a few months after the last one.
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