The Greatest of the Kelly Myths : Part 1

I recently watched on DVD a debate that took place as part of the Ned Kelly Weekend in August, 2006. The subject for debate was “That Ned Kelly is an inappropriate hero for Australia” and the voice over on the DVD said there was a capacity crowd of more than 400 in attendance crammed into the Beechworth Town Hall. For the affirmative the speakers were an ABC journalist Cathy Bedford, the then Commissioner of Police Christine Nixon, and well known QC Julian Burnside. Lined up against them were probably the three biggest guns in the Kelly world : Ian Jones, John McQuilton and Keith McMenomy. Right away I thought to myself a debate in Beechworth about Ned Kelly that’s going to be decided by the Popular vote? – whatever side Ian Jones is on will win! Beechworth couldn’t possibly vote against Ian Jones AND Ned Kelly. And sure enough, that’s what happened: Ned Kelly was deemed by popular vote to be an appropriate hero for Australia. I wonder how different the result would have been if the debate had taken place in Sydney or Perth?
The debate was really enjoyable to watch, and Ian Jones’ team were formidable, as expected :  those three men after all had devoted significant parts of their adult lives to the study of Ned Kelly and the Outbreak, whereas the other side were all amateurs.  In another Blog posting I might one day detail and critique the Jones teams arguments, but today I wanted to write about a question  that occurred to me while listening to it : which of the many myths mentioned during the debate is the greatest of all the Kelly myths?
By myths I am meaning those things that are claimed to be facts about Ned,  not just the things supposed to make him a hero and Icon, but the many other claims  which on close examination are found to be based on little or no evidence, or even inspite of contrary evidence.  An obvious one is that he was Australias “Robin Hood”. Another is that he was a particularly devoted son. Another is that he only ever killed in self defence. Another is that he had massive support. Another is the Police ‘body straps’ , said to be proof that the Police went into the bush to kill not to capture Ned, another is that he had a plan to establish a Republic of North East Victoria. Another is that he would have made a great General…the list is very long!
Listening to the debate though, it suddenly occurred to me that there is ONE myth that even the journo-policewoman-QC side had accepted without question, and therefore mustn’t that make it the greatest one? ‘Greatest’ because even people who have seen through so many of the other myths haven’t seen through this one. ‘Greatest’ because once you’ve accepted this myth as a truth, you’ve conceded the possibility that Ned Kelly was at some level justified in how he behaved, and let the door open for many of the other myths to sneak through towards legitimacy? Is this the KEY Kelly myth?
The myth I am referring to is the notion that the Kellys were innocent, or mostly innocent victims of Police persecution and corruption; that they were wrongly harassed and hounded until they reached breaking point, that their criminality was largely a reaction to deprivation and oppression that was based on their race, their religion, their poverty and their status as selectors. This myth says that the outbreak was the not-entirely-unjustified reaction – or as the affirmative team suggested, the over-reaction – to injustice perpetrated against them, that everything that followed however bad or mad was somehow triggered and in some way caused and could  be understood as a reaction to what was done to the Kellys. They had had enough and took a stand.
This whole myth is brilliantly smuggled into one of the great speeches attributed to Ned – though its another myth that these words written by David Gaunson are Neds words – but they are great words never-the-less, and John McQuilton quoted them at the end of his contribution to the debate:
“If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment and if the Police are taught they might exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not have been entirely thrown away.”
Its an arresting sentence made more powerful by saying the same thing twice over, for rhetorical effect – men are made mad by bad treatment/ police exasperate men to madness by persecution and ill treatment! Cleverly he reversed the idea that actions speak louder than words, drawing our attention away from his actual life and directing it instead at his lips, his words rather than his deeds because looking at his deeds one might see an altogether different picture, one of indecency, violence, thieving, killing and mayhem.
The persuasive power in these noble words cannot be denied, coming from a man on Death Row, portraying himself as a martyr, seeming to accept what he believes is an unjust fate, but believing his life wouldn’t be entirely wasted if it taught the Public and the Police some valuable truths. Such a truly heroic stance. 

However  make no mistake : its an extraordinary thing that he is saying, which is that in spite of all the violence, the language of torture revenge and punishment, the stock theft, the robberies, hostage -taking  and the murders he was fundamentally innocent, he was a victim of ill treatment, and the Police by their persecution drove him to exasperation, to robbery, hostage taking murder and mayhem, and in the end to madness – it was all the fault of the Police. This is something which most of the present day Kelly supporters believe to a greater or lesser extent is a fundamental truth about the Kelly story, that he was a police made criminal born out of persecution and ill treatment.
In reality though, if the actual record of his life and the life of the Kelly family is examined, what is revealed is that those words are a lie, a huge lie, a delusion that existed only in the paranoid mind of Ned Kelly. In reality, when you search the record for evidence of unjustified and unwarranted harassment and persecution of the Kellys, for the acts that drove them to exasperation and madness, the ill treatment and persecution he referred to in his famous Death Row speech you struggle to find anything. What you find are claims and allegations, stories and complaints but no facts to back it up. 
I begin by referring back to my earlier post “The New view of Red” in which I showed  that the growing Kelly family had virtually no interactions with Police up until the time of Red Kellys death in 1866 when Ned was 11. This is not a mere opinion, or a version or an interpretation but an account of what is actually known. Yes, Neds father had been a convict, but he had served his time quietly, and kept out of trouble for almost the whole of the rest of his life. However because of his alcoholism his farming ventures eventually all failed, and in a moment of weakness, not much more than a year before the alcoholism finally killed him he stole a neighbours calf, killed and dressed it and unsuccessfully tried to conceal the evidence. In the end he was convicted of the most minor possible charge in relation to that theft, being in unlawful possession of a hide, and he went to prison because he was too poor to pay the £25 fine. The sentence itself was remitted by 2 months, but later on that same year he was fined 5 shillings for being drunk and disorderly. A year later there had been no further police interest in Neds family, but Red died from ‘dropsy,’ a complication of his alcoholism. It was a truly tragic loss, but thats the whole story of Red Kellys life in Australia. Nowhere in it is there a single scrap of evidence that he or his young family were persecuted, subjected to ‘ill treatment’ or driven to exasperation and madness by the Police.

But to understand how these baseless myths have been fostered and promoted into the supposed truths of the Kelly story read what JJ Kenneally wrote in 1929 :

“Irish patriotism was such an unforgivable crime in the eyes of the British Government officials in the Colony of Victoria that even the serving of a savage sentence would not wipe out the campaign of anti-Irish hatred so well organised in the Colonies. John Kelly was continually hounded by the Police who without the authority of a search warrant frequently searched his home without success. The heads of the Police department were very disappointed. The search continued until at last they found a cask with meat in it. John Kelly was arrested and charged with having meat in his possession for which the Police said he had not given them  a satisfactory account….

It is evident that the bench at Kilmore regarded  the charge against John Kelly as a ‘trumped up affair’ ; he was sentenced to only six months…

Although the sentence was only for six months it proved to be a Death Sentence. Such was the treatment to which John Kelly was subjected in the Kilmore jail that notwithstanding his good health and perfect physique when sentenced, he died shortly after his release”

The  numerous errors and misrepresentations of fact in that passage are so obvious I don’t even have to point them out. And they continue right throughout the entire book, which was still being reprinted 40 years after it was first published. Clearly it has had a huge impact on the public understanding of the Kelly story, and on writers who came after Kenneally, but the story it told, believed by many today to be true even now, was actually a fabrication, a fairy story.

Max Brown continued the innocent persecuted victim theme this way, describing the stolen calf as ‘bread for his children‘ for greater emotive effect and aligning Red with the genuinely innocent: “The sentence meant the collapse of hope for Red, in gaol for stealing bread for his children – that crime for which so many thousands of his countrymen had been transported”

The myth is continued by John Moloney who gets some of the facts wrong whilst developing the false  ‘persecution’ theme as well, saying this: “It was Reds first appearance before a Court since he was granted his freedom, and although the money to pay the fine was somehow raised thus obviating the necessity of a return to prison, the old lag charge was revived and the ex convict was again ranked in the criminal class”
The truth is this : there was no ill treatment or persecution; it didn’t happen. In fact there is plenty of evidence that  supports the opposite view: the Police dropped more serious charges, and Red received what even Ian Jones described as a ‘generous’, remission of a third of his sentence.
That’s not to say of course that the Kellys were not aware of the Police or had nothing at all to do with them: unfortunately for Red, Ellens brothers were constantly before the Law, but nobody seems to dispute the genuine criminality that these men were engaged in, or have ever suggested that Police interest in them wasn’t justified.  Speaking of Ellens brother Jimmy, Ian Jones wrote “ …young Jimmy had begun a long career of crime, most of it generated by a volcanic temper that led him into a succession of brawls and sometimes murderous assaults, punctuated by a few stock thefts. Cause and effect can be debated but he emerged as a dangerous unpredictable rat bag of a man, rarely out of trouble.”
What has to be agreed on, because that is what all the evidence shows, is that at least while Red Kelly was alive, his family were not the victims of Police persecution, or being exasperated to madness by ill treatment. In my next post I will examine what happened between the Police and the Kellys after Red was gone. Maybe there we will find the proof of what Ned claimed..

And does anyone think theres a different myth that is greater?
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27 Replies to “The Greatest of the Kelly Myths : Part 1”

  1. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Dee, the much-quoted words you are referring to as Ned’s ‘Death Row speech’, also known as the Condemned Cell letter of 1 November 1880, are in fact simply a four paragraph excerpt from the text written on behalf of Ned by his solicitor David Gaunson and published in the “Age” newspaper on 9 August 1880, page 3; three months before they were recycled unchanged and presented (again by Gaunson) as a death row appeal letter. Gaunson was identified as the author by the “Argus” in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser, 17 August 1880, page 3. There is nothing remotely approaching its highly polished prose anywhere in Ned’s other writings or reported speeches. I exposed this ridiculous fabrication in my “Redeeming Fitzpatrick” article in 2016, page 84, with further notes and evidence about this point.

    I am looking forward to more of this expose and discussion of the “persecution” claims. In reference to Kenneally’s claims, Red was not “continually hounded by the Police” but was investigated for suspected stock theft after one of his neighbours, a Phillip Morgan, realised a calf was missing and brought a constable to the Kelly’s house, where the hide was found along with the meat in a cask. Ian Jones details this case in his “Short Life”, 1995, page 20. There is no persecution whatsoever in this tale. Kenneally was also a close neighbour of the Kellys and has clearly believed and retold a lot of porkies. He was what we might call a sucker for the Kelly’s hard luck stories.

    It was in this period at Avenel that young Ned lifted one of the Shelton family’s horses and returned it after the expected reward was advertised (Jones 1995, page 18). I don’t think Kenneally mentioned that one.

  2. Angus Newsome says: Reply

    Hey! That was the same family who gave Ned the cummerbund for saving their child in the river. Full details of this heroic episode just don't exist.

  3. Geoff Flanigan says: Reply

    Kenneally's fictional novel got a huge gong on the moribund Iron Outlaw book review site which tried to trash Macfarlane's authoritative expose of the Kelly myths. That defamatory amateur critique is still there. Morrisey's demolition book has never been "reviewed" there. Weak as ants's p*ss!

  4. Many Kelly supporters from time to time refer critics of the Kelly clan's activities to the findings of the Royal Commission believing that these were a massive indictment of the whole of the Victoria Police during the outbreak. Those of us who have had a look at it can find no such thing. In fact the findings seem to me to be something of an anticlimax. A few cops were demoted or chopped, better weapons recommended but by and large to me nothing of significance emerged. However the one finding which seems to have been studiously ignored by the mythologists is that the RC found no evidence of continued police harassment of the Kelly's.

  5. You've identified another of the Kelly myths right there Spudee. Another is the ridiculous claim that the modern Victorian Police Force owes its greatness to Ned Kelly because his actions resulted in the Royal Commisssion. It's like saying the International Court of Criminal Justice is part of the wonderful legacy left to us by Pol Pot.

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    I think you are right there Angus. As my dear old Mum would have said about Ned "what an ungrateful wretch!"

  7. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Spudee, you have to reverse the time sequence! The "cummerbund affair" was about a year after the horse lifting. But as Ned's mum might have said, "what an ungrateful wretch" for him going bush and leaving her to take the wrap for attempted murder after the Fitzpatrick incident. If he'd turned himself in up front, perhaps accompanying Fitzpatrick back to Benalla, he might well have been the only one in the frame and had some claim for leniency on the grounds of remorse. Just maybe. Yes he no doubt would have done time in Beechworth gaol, but the others may have been left out of it.

    However, Kelly expressed no remorse for any of his actions in any of his many statements. Most tellingly, he had not a word of regret for the Glenrowan hostages who were under police fire in the hotel during the siege, and event for which he was entirely responsible. At the time the gang heard the train whistle and realised that the train had stopped and the derailment massacre plan was no longer viable, they could have tossed the armour, jumped on their horses, and gone bush again. The Glenrowan civilian deaths are 100 percent Ned's fault.

  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    So Ned rescued young Shelton after lifting one of their horses. But again it contradicts claims that Ned only robbed from the 'rich' squatters. I wonder if it is possible to see how many of his neighbours he stole from?

  9. Dee,
    You quote passage from JJKenneally, " Irish patriotism — — died shortly after his release"

    You say
    "The numerous errors and misrepresentations of fact in that passage are so numerous I don't have to point them out."

    Dee, why don't you point them out ?
    I think that JJK passage is a very reasonable account.

    How do we know Red was not continually hounded by police as a suspected trouble maker for those British factions of society, – them being suspicious of any released Tasmanian convict?

    JJK put that story together as an updated version first penned by G Wilson Hall the proprietor of the Mansfield Guardian in Feb 1879, some 50 years earlier.

    Hall writes that, – Quote "
    John Red's expatriation originated in a charge of being concerned either of a faction fight or some other affray at a fair, during which one of the combatants, as was not at all unusual in those days, came to an untimely end. The illegal act, however, on account of which he was banished beyond the seas, would not in any country, even now, be ranked in the category of disgraceful crimes, much less in a part of the world where it would have been viewed by the country people in a more harmless light than the permanent removal of a tyrannical and obnoxious landlord, a bailiff, a process server, a gauger, or an informer – the last of whom would occupy, in public estimation, a place immeasurably lower than the Melbourne professional hangman and flagellator — — —

    In this colony, moreover he was subsequently convicted of being in unlawful possession of certain beef, for which he failed to satisfactorily account, and for this received a sentence of six months' imprisonment, which he suffered.
    It is our duty, as faithful chroniclers, to state the noticeable fact that this John Kelly was always, in this colony at any rate, remarked as a rather timid man, averse to quarrelling, and ever prone to act the part of a peacemaker when he saw others engaged in any altercation calculated to lead to violence. "
    End of quote
    What I mean to say by all this is that JJK pretty well summed up what Hall writes fifty years earlier.
    We could say this account is Primary source material.

    Your take on Red Kelly's predicament is surely one of tarnishing his persona, and naturally by going by only police and court records you will never find one scrap of evidence the Kellys were persecuted, when in fact I know of good people in my early life that continually were.

  10. Thanks for the comment Bill. I wish there were a few more people willing to think about what Ive written and make some challenging responses like you do.

    I will take up your challenge to list the mistakes in JJK's account:
    1st sentence : casting Reds plight as somehow linked to Irish patriotism is a MISREPRESENTATION – he was transported for theft, and possibly also as suggested by Ian Jones to preserve his life after participating in the betrayal of fellow Irish, one of who was killed. He didnt behave as an irish patriot in Ireland, and in Australia kept very quiet about it all, being irish doesn't make you an Irish patriot – look at how many of th Police were irish!
    2nd Sentence: FALSE from start to finish – there is ZERO evidence that Red was CONTINUALLY HOUNDED by Police and ZERO evidence that they FREQUENTLY searched his house. They did it once after a complaint by the neighbour, Morgan , found the beef and the hide and laid the appropriate charges.
    3rd Sentence : pure speculation
    4th sentence : WRONG : they searched once and found the evidence
    5th sentence: At last a true statement! But no mention of the fact that he was not charged for that offence but for a lesser one.
    6th sentence: That is speculation. If the bench really believed it was a 'trumped up affair' then why didnt they dismiss it?
    7th and 8th sentences : WRONG. Reds health was terrible and deteriorating before he went to jail, it might even have improved while there because of forced abstinence, and I note no mention of the 'generous' remission of two months, because mentioning that undermines the JJK narrative of Police and Judiciary being out to 'get Red'.

    SO how do we know Red was NOT hounded by Police you ask? The answer is because there is NO EVIDENCE to support that idea, and the evidence that we DO have, such as what happened about the stolen calf, is that he was treated leniently in Court and received a generous remission. The rational position is therefore to go with the evidence as we do in all rational discussions about anything. There is of course the debating point that all kinds of things might have happened that there is no record of – so we could speculate he was persecuted as you say, or we could speculate he circumnavigated tasmania in a canoe, or invented the telephone,….you can speculate to infinity, but without evidence – and someones allegation of something is not evidence for it, anymore than my claiming Red circumnavigated tasmania in a canoe is evidence for it – all these claims are equally value-less and the only rational thing to do is to go with the evidence.

    Lastly, no Bill you've misunderstood my take on Red : I have great sympathy for him and regard him as one of the few decent people in the whole saga. He protected his family from the bad influence of the Quinns and others, stayed out of trouble, got the kids to school, built houses and bought and sold land to try to make a go of things but tragically he was brought undone by his alcoholism. And why was he an alcoholic? Because he had a guilty secret, that he had betrayed his fellow irishmen back home and as a result one of them had died. Thats why he was known, as GWHall noted, as a quiet man, peacemaker and averse to quarrelling . Go back and read my New View of Red where I explain it in more detail.

  11. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Spudee, some of Kelly's thefts from poor farmers are documented in Doug Morrissey, "Ned Kelly and Horse and Cattle Stealing", Victorian Historical Journal 66 (1995) 29-48. I don't know of other specific treatments, but he did go into it I his PhD thesis, which he drew on for that article and his 2014 book "Ned Kelly: a Lawless Life". Morrissey shows that regardless of any Robin Hood nonsense about class antagonisms between squatters and selectors, the Kellys and associates overwhelmingly robbed the poor. Kelly was far closer to the Sherriff of Nottingham in his plundering than he ever was to Robin Hood.

    The "poor" of the Jerilderie Letter that Ned has been many times claimed to champion are in fact the poor threesome of him mother, Williamson and Skillion, languishing in Beechworth gaol due to Ned's stupidity in shooting at and wounding Fitzpatrick.

    Ian Jones manufactured the "poor" into a class of persons in his creative interpretation of the Jerilderie Letter in his article, "Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter", The Latrobe Journal 66 (Spring 2000) 33-37, available here

    Verily the druth of a dry season calls. I must perforce betake myself to a jigger still.

  12. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Just a note on Red, I found this Argus Thursday 20 February 1941, page 2: "Ned himself, no doubt, learnt a thing or two from his father … when the ex-convict became an efficient horse thief at Wallan. Kicked out of the district by a powerful rival gang of horse stealers, the Kellys moved to Glenrowan district, successfully establishing themselves in business as horse and cattle rustlers".

    I don't know anything about the early period of his life, but the item suggests Red did not altogether act "the clean potato" and may be worth some more investigation.

    Ian Jones documents Red's being a police informer in Ireland, in his "Short Life" 1995: 2-3. To G.W. Hall, "Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges" 1879:11, an informer was one who "would occupy, in public estimation. a place immeasurably lower than the Melbourne professional hangman and flagellator, the notorious Gately".

    It was most likely Red who invented the self-inflating story of being involved in a faction fight or affray involving a landlord, rather than admitting he was transported for his theft of pigs from a neighbouring small farmer, which Ian Jones documented in his "Short Life".

    The tradition that Red was a peaceable chap who calmed down other's disputes in pubs comes from G.W. Hall, "Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges". Max Brown mentions it without naming his source, but also gives a second tradition that Red "had a violent temper and a tendency to brawl", "Australian Son" 1948: 17. That second tradition has miraculously vanished from Brown's book in his 1980 rewrite, and seemingly from everywhere else as well.

  13. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thanks Stuart. Actually I was reading Morrissey's book today, especially his accounts of selectors in the area during the Kelly outbreak. Seems Ned robbed stock from quite a few of them.

  14. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Spudee, if you can't access the 1995 'Horse and Cattle Stealing' article, send an email to my uni address (on either of my articles) and I'll email it over. Sometimes things are hard to track down. It goes into a lot more detail than the book on that question.

  15. Anonymous says: Reply

    Bill as far as the 'persecution' of the Kellys is concerned, this has been discussed numerous times. Once again I remind you that one of the findings of the Kelly Royal commission was : "It may also be mentioned that the charge of persecution of the family by the members of the police force has been frequently urged in extenuation of the crimes of the outlaws; but, after careful examination, your Commissioners have arrived at the conclusion that the police, in their dealings with the Kellys and their relations, were simply desirous of discharging their duty conscientiously; and that no evidence has been adduced to support the allegation that either the outlaws or their friends were subjected to persecution or unnecessary annoyance at the hands of the police.’ Of course we would find no record of police persecution in any records because there was no persecution.

  16. The suspicion that the horse belonging to the Shelton's was hidden then 'found' by young Ned to collect a reward rang a bell with me and I've just realised what it is. Wild Wright stayed at the Kelly's and in the morning his horse couldn't be found, but later, after Wild had gone, Ned managed to find it!!!This was the prelude to Ned getting three years for 'receiving' that horse. I'm working on a Post about the entire episode right now, making great use of Kelvyns Record – another deliberate con by the Kelly myth-makers as you will see in a couple of Posts.

  17. Thanks Stuart. I take it that the article's data was used in Morrissey's book, or is there additional info in the article?

  18. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Spudee, there is very little referencing in Morrissey's book. Most of the evidence on this issue is documented in his article. The book is a great outline, but if you want the source evidence to check things you'll need the article.

  19. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Dee, I suspect that Wild was just borrowing a clean horse and left the one he took from Mansfield out of sight where Ned could find it later. Wild left Ned in the lurch by the sound of it. I see no implication that Ned hid then found Wild's horse to parallel his hiding and finding the Shelton horse for the reward. The latter is the Warrigal trick Ned mentioned in the Jerilderie letter; Boxhall talks about it in his "Australian Bushrangers".

  20. Angus Newsome says: Reply

    Edward Kelly was 11 when – at some risk to himself – he plucked seven-year-old Richard Shelton from Hughes Creek in Victoria. The boy was to become the father of four daughters and eight sons. Harold, 91, and Britton, 87, who live in Melbourne, are the youngest and last survivors of Dick Shelton's large brood.

    The brothers don't recall their father ever expanding on the story, although local folklore and the reminiscences of their older siblings ensure that sketchy details of that day are preserved in stories of Ned Kelly's life.

    But the brothers do remember that all his life their father was asked about Ned Kelly and he always replied brusquely: "He was all right."

    Esau and Elizabeth Shelton – proprietors of Avenel's Royal Mail Hotel, near Seymour – presented Kelly with a green sash, fringed with bullion, in recognition of his bravery in saving their son. Kelly was wearing the sash under his armour at his last shootout at Glenrowan.

    Later in the article it is stated "The shoulder piece, fashioned from the mould board of a plough, is 25 centimetres long and weighs 2.37 kilograms. It was authenticated with the help of Kelly historian Mr Ian Jones".

    I accept that Jonesy is a gifted writer – but he has wrongly authenticated many things, but hopefully not the shoulder piece.

  21. Jack Forrest says: Reply

    Bill is the Guru of SBC after many long years in the bush. But he veers off-course when he ventures into some darker areas of the Kelly story. Dee, I think you have shown Kenneally's many-editioned book to be a comprehensive fraud. Bill likes it, but you and I and many others don't.

  22. Adam Block says: Reply

    It looks as if Fitzy has just finished Morrissey's book and doesn't like it at all. And he has yet another attack on "The Kelly Gang Unmasked" book which he hates. His sneaky fingerprints and dna are all over this garbage.:

    It is utter bull crap! It is nothing more than arrogant, one-sided rubbish! Doug Morrissey only choses to focus on the aspects of the Kelly storythat pleases his agenda and ignores or poo-poos the rest of the facts that contradicts his beliefs. Ned Kelly did have respect for his fellow citizens! He did actually show concern for the people he held up, as proven by witness statements. He was not the bully narrow-minded Kelky haters paint him up to be. He is nothing like the abnormal monster he is portrayed in this poor excuse for a book. Morrissey's prejudice statements lack detailed research (compared to the works of Ian Jones, Peter Fitzsimons and Max Brown), is based around assumptions, and every paragraph is merely a pathetic attempt to deny the past and present problem of police corruption and brutality, the same way neo-Nazis deny the holocaust. (It is appalling that Morrissey would actually have the nerve to brush off the poverty that many had to endure during that era as fiction!) What happened to those policemen was sad, but for crying out loud, stop focusing on the man's crimes! There is more to the man than just the armour! I thought that we were meant to be a diverse; understanding society! Like 2012's equally biased book "The Kelly Gang Unmasked", this book is ignorant, corrupt, unfair and unremarkable. What is falsely passed off as an alternative look at one of history's most notorious figures is merely a hypocritical propaganda piece from right-wing dopes who try to cover up the harm the Victorian Police has caused over the years. They label Ned as a cur, a bully and a murderous thug — but never do they acknowledge the horrible things that officers like Arthur Steel or Frederick Standish did during that time. I want my money back!


  23. Dieter Wells says: Reply

    In that "review" it says "He did actually show concern for the people he held up, as proven by witness statements." Ho ho ho. Teenage Ned had some practice bashing Ah Fook and the hawker McCormick. Then he grew up to rob other poor selector farmers. Then he shot George Metcalf in the face before the Glenrowan siege and then kept him prisoner. That's just the small stuff. Ned was a clinical psychopath as a professional psychiatric assessment shows. There is not much to focus on except Ned's crimes in Kelly history. Except Dan Kelly's crimes, Jim Kelly's crimes, George King's crimes, the Lloyd brother's crimes, the Quinn's crimes, the Greta mob's crimes

  24. "He was alright" said Dick Shelton 'brusquely' of Ned Kelly when asked by his sons many years later. Sounds like damning with faint praise to me.He could hardly openly disparage the man who was supposed to have saved his life, but did he ever record exactly what he remembered of that rescue? Maybe he wanted to tell the true story but couldn't because it contradicted Neds self serving one. Who knows?

  25. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Dieter, I think that is a bit harsh. Although I reviewed the evidence in some comments on this blog last year to show against Ian Jones and others that Ned Kelly certainly did shoot Metcalf in the face by a revolver discharging while Ned was "fiddling" with it, I don't think that what has been made of the Kelly story is just some lists for and against the reasons for Ned's crimes. I accept the validity of the Scott and MacFarlane article, "Ned Kelly – Stock Thief, Bank Robber, Murderer – Psychopath" in the highly regarded journal "Psychiatry, Psychology and Law" 21 (2014) 716-46. I don't think anyone can reasonably doubt the validity of that independent professional psychiatric analysis and assessment, which does create all sorts of problems for those who want to admire Ned as a 'leader'. But I think the interesting bit is the much wider claims to political significance, such that Ned Kelly was involved in some kind of class war or was the active leader of a colonial republican movement. I think Ian Jones tries to argue that Ned declared war on society (as Judge Redmond Barry put it at his trial), and that his killings were in some way a political declaration of war. I am still looking at this and am extremely sceptical at this point, but it seems to lie behind many schoolbook statements that Ned was some kind of terrorist with an agenda, as distinct from just a psychopathic homicidal maniac. In fact, Ian Jones says something to the effect that if Ned didn't have a political agenda he would just be a homicidal maniac with a grudge against the police.

    It raises all sorts of questions about how the Kelly story has been interpreted by people living in much later times to their own modern agendas, and whose research – as with the Fitzpatrick incident – has been in many cases both woefully poor and badly skewed from the outset. I think that not nearly enough has been examined about the Republic claims, and I hope it comes back on the discussion agenda this year. Maybe the arguments too and fro about crimes are a distraction from the bigger questions about historical significance, rather than addressing them.

  26. Yes Stuart, Ian Jones did say that without something big like the idea of a Republic, what Ned Kelly planned for Gelnrowan was "madness". You can so easily imagine Ian Jones confronting the truth about Glenrowan and realising as it slowly dawns on him that it's an act of utter violent merciless madness that he will have to reject his long held belief in the Kelly hero unless he can think of something to rescue it…..oh wait a minute how about a Republic? Yes that must be it….now can we find any evidence for it ? ……well no not really but 'colonial stratagem' is sufficiently ambiguous a term that we can use it…and …oh well Itwould al have been top secret anyway so that explains why there's no other evidence.

  27. Stuart I regard Ian Jones as the best and most comprehensive source of the factual history of the Outbreak, but obviously disagree at several places with the spin he puts on things and the theories he weaves into the story. So because he doesn't mention it I doubt very much there's any truth to the 1941 story that Red was a horse thief in Wallan or that he was kicked out by a rival gang. The article is certainly wrong saying they went from Wallan to Glenrowan – they went to Beveridge.

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