Words of Inspiration from Ned Kelly

Anyone interested in understanding the mind of Ned Kelly has to carefully read the entire Jerilderie Letter. The reason you must read the Letter yourself is because it records many of Ned Kelly’s thoughts and it provides a clear insight into his personality.  But you also must read it yourself because most popular descriptions of this letter create a false impression of it, depicting it largely as some sort of political manifesto, a blueprint for the Kelly Republic, a document written by a visionary and nascent political leader. When I first read this letter, I was staggered to realise how different it actually is to what I had been led to expect. What it actually contains is mostly Ned Kelly’s versions of many of the events of his life, and not a single mention of the Republic of North East Victoria. Not one! In fact there are no direct declarations of anything specifically political, and the people who claim there are rely on somewhat hopeful interpretations of a few phrases and even single words to make their case.
There’s little doubt that Ned had a way with the spoken word, as the various groups of hostages that he imprisoned would testify to. His dictation to Joe also reflected that talent, being laced with wit and humour, though it is mostly sarcasm and mockery intended to make fun of police. Everyone has read somewhere his description of the police Inspector Brooke-Smith : ‘.a poodle dog half clipped in the lion fashion… he knows as much about commanding police as Capt Standish does about mustering mosquitoes…he has a head like a turnip a stiff neck as big as his shoulders, narrow hipped and pointed towards the feet like a vine stake”
Or who can forget “the ground was that rotten it would bog a duck in places” or “no doubt they will acknowledge their hounds were barking at the wrong stump”
There are many other notable and memorable quotes purported to be from Ned Kelly, not just from the Jerilderie letter, but from letters he wrote while in prison. The most poetic and visionary among them were not actually written by Ned Kelly but by his Lawyer who claimed they were Neds words. However their style and tone and content is so unlike anything else Ned Kelly wrote that they are obviously not his words – perhaps the most famous being the one that starts: “I do not pretend that I have lived a blameless life…” and another is “If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment….” Almost invariably the Kelly quotations promoted are done so in an effort to sustain the Kelly Hero imagery.
The problem for the Kelly sympathisers is that if all of the words of Ned Kelly are looked at, rather than a highly selective group of them, then a truer picture emerges of the thoughts that swirled around in Ned Kelly’s head and dominated his thinking, and its an entirely different one to the popular image. What emerges is a picture of a boastful self-obsessed man burning with rage, desperate to portray himself as the aggrieved party in every negative incident of his life and threatening violent revenge against anyone who contradicted him or stood in his way. The shameless lies, the incandescent rage, the hate directd especially at the police, the viciousness of his threats and his taunts paint a quite terrifying picture of a disturbed man who concluded by insisting his “orders must be obeyed”. This ‘madness’ exhibited in the Jerilderie letter explains everything about the planned madness of his final act, a police slaughter at Glenrowan.
Glenrowan, remember, was Ned Kelly’s plan to murder a couple of dozen Police by wrecking their train, an absolutely monstrously violent criminal act that would have been unmatched until the Port Arthur Massacre one hundred and sixteen years later, in 1996. Even Ian Jones recognised the awful horror of what was planned, but invented the ‘Republic’ mythology so that instead of  having to admit that Glenrowan was indeed “madness” he could explain it away as an act of war. But if he had taken off his Kelly-goggles and re-read the Jerilderie letter, he would have seen the explanation right there in front of him : madness.
So to go a small way to redress the imbalance, here are some quotes from the Jerilderie letter:
“In every paper that is printed I am called the blackest and coldest blooded murderer ever on record. But if I hear any more of it I will not exactly show them what cold blooded murder is but wholesale and retail slaughter, something different to shooting three troopers in self-defence and robbing a bank”
This is Ned Kellys immature reaction to being called a cold-blooded murderer after killing three police. He is saying if people keep calling him names he’ll show them what REAL cold blooded murder is by engaging in ‘wholesale and retail slaughter’ – and this is exactly what he planned for Glenrowan, wholesale slaughter of police. Fortunately he was thwarted by his own incompetent planning as well as the bravery of Thomas Curnow.
I never interfered with any person unless they deserved it and yet there are civilians who take firearms against me for what reason I do not know, unless they want me to turn on them and exterminate them without medicine. I shall be compelled to make an example of some of them if they cannot find no other employment…..but by the light that shines pegged on ant bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be cool to what pleasure I will give some of them..”
Here, Ned Kelly pretends to be unable to understand why people might be opposed to his murdering and robbery, and is threatening to torture anyone who opposes him. If he wasn’t pretending then this expression of perplexity about why people might not like him demonstrates a person who is completely out of touch with reality. In fact it is a duplicitous attempt to have people see him as the innocent victim who might be forced to retaliate against unjust persecution. His graphic description of the kind of suffering he would inflict on anyone opposing him is quite ghastly. He goes on :
“Any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so depraved as to take blood money will be outlawed and declared unfit for human burial, their property either consumed or confiscated and them, theirs and all belonging to them exterminated off the face if the earth”
Promising extermination off the face of the earth , and denying a proper burial to anyone assisting the police “in any way whatsoever” is another vicious and violent threat that Ian Jones laughs off as just Ned talking himself up. Jones view might have some credibility if by then all Ned Kelly had done was shoot his mouth off, talk big and make idle threats and boasts. However by this time he and his gang had killed three police and robbed two banks at gunpoint – in the face of these crimes who is going to be so stupid as to laugh off such threats as just ‘talk’? And given what happened the following year, the murder of a former friend Aaron Sherritt and the police slaughter planned for Glenrowan, I think its clear these were never idle threats but genuine warnings of what Ned Kelly was capable of.
“It was cowardice that made Lonigan and the others fight – it is only foolhardiness to disobey and outlaw as any Policeman or other man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequences which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom come”
This passage illustrates how confused Ned Kelly is. He earlier claimed that he was “reckoned a horrid brute because I had not been cowardly enough to lie down for them” (the police) and yet, when Lonigan didn’t ‘lie down’ for the Kelly gang, he was labelled a coward! According to Kelly if Lonigan doesn’t ‘lie down’ it is cowardly but if Ned doesn’t ‘lie down’ it isnt! In this passage he also contradicts his earlier claim that his shooting of Lonigan was self-defence. Here however he says it was because Lonigan didn’t instantly obey the orders Kelly had issued – and this is almost certainly the truth. It illustrates the madness of a man who couldn’t tolerate the slightest opposition, the slightest hesitation to respond, the tiniest suggestion that his orders weren’t going to be obeyed instantly.
So I repeat my advice earlier that everyone should read the entire Jerilderie letter for themselves. The anger, the hatred the lies the violence the self-justifications and the excuses are easy to spot. What you will struggle to find is anything noble, inspirational, uplifting or positive, anything that might be expected from someone worthy of the status of an icon or a hero.

(Visited 194 times)

6 Replies to “Words of Inspiration from Ned Kelly”

  1. After all that the toad's last request was to be buried in consecrated ground. Ned Kelly was as un-Australian as they come. A multiple murdering thieving loser. Every last one of the ordinary men at Eureka who held their guns against the advancing militia had more guts than the psycho killer ever did in his armour. All the car stickers show him in armour holding guns. When the armour came off he was a gutless jerk begging for his life.

  2. Brian Tate says: Reply

    Speaking of Kelly stickers etc. I was watching The Force on TV the other night and the coppers were carrying out a series of raids on a drug ring. As they approached the door of an active dealer, I noticed that one of the windows was completely covered by a big Ned Kelly poster which faced out. I think this says a lot about some of the Kelly disciples. Although I suspect it would have warmed old Ned's heart to see that someone was following in his criminal footsteps.

  3. Hi Brian : did you notice that the forensic pathologist who published the findings about corpses with a Kelly tattoo being seven times more likely to have been murdered than corpses without a Kelly tattoo, is the forensic adviser to the team who have just made the about to be broadcast Bushrangers series, which includes Ned Kelly? I'm hoping he has had managed to read the Blog discussions about Lonigans death and the 4 wounds found on it, and hopefully agree with me that they show he was killed by a quartered bullet fired while his let side was directed towards the Gang, and proves the lie told by Ned Kelly that Lonigan was behind a log aiming at Kelly who then sot him in self defence. I communicated this theory of mine – which I believe explains the evidence better than any other explanation – to the Genepool people involved in this production, and was invited to meet them in Sydney but unfortunately I couldn't get there. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. I don have Foxtel so will be relying people who do have it to pass on the analysis once it goes to air.

  4. Brian Tate says: Reply

    That's very interesting that they have thrown a forensic pathologist into the mix for the forthcoming Foxtel series. Maybe he'll be able to shed some fresh professional light onto the wounds on Lonigan's body. Or perhaps the producers will have contacted another 'expert' on the incident at SBC for his theory on the wounds on Lonigan. Lord knows we have waited long enough for his expose! I can't find the reference but I am sure that at some stage Ned gave a differing account of Lonigan's shooting. In this one I seem to recall that he said that Lonigan was running and reaching for his holster when Ned shot him.

  5. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Search for “jerilderie letter transcript” to download the free paginated version. The following quotes are shortened, not full, to cut to the chase. Some people have interpreted Ned’s comment on page 56, “I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning, but my orders must be obeyed”, as indicating that Ned was giving political orders to people with reason to fear him to leave Victoria if they didn’t want to live under Ned Kelly law. The idea of obeying his orders appears another 3 times in the letter. On page 32 he says, “had McIntyre not obeyed my orders he would have been shot dead”. This is obviously about McIntyre immediately holding up his arms when bailed up. He returns to it on page 53, “McIntyre knew it is only foolishness to disobey”, and again at pages 53-4, “it is only foolhardiness to disobey an outlaw as any man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequence which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come”. The words about orders are in every case saying bail up or die.

    Before his concluding order on page 56 he also says, “I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give £10 out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund and do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences”. Is this a general “political” order? Or is it a warning to those who would turn him in to the police, to clear off or die? It seems to make more sense as a Kelly tantrum than part of a political agenda.

  6. Brian Tate says: Reply

    In the absence of any evidence suggesting that Ned had some sort of political agenda (North East Victoria republic?) I think that he was simply bullying and throwing his weight around. The use of the word 'orders' suggests the thoughts of some sort of megalomaniac which I suppose is a form of psychopathy. Sounds about right to me.

Leave a Reply