|What Ned Kelly’s uncle did to his sister Margarets face was much WORSE than this!|
The image Kelly sympathisers want you to have in your minds of the extended family of Ned Kellys aunts and uncles as he was growing up, is that they were decent but poor country folk, struggling to make a living in the harsh frontier environment of north-east Victoria. They want you to believe that the authorities, corrupted by their associations with rich landowners and their own prejudices, harassed and persecuted the Kelly ‘clan’ for being Irish, for being Catholic, for having convict associations and for being poor selectors. The story is that having observed all this as he was growing up, once he was old enough Ned Kelly finally decided to do something about it.
As I showed last week, in contrast to that treacly sweet Kelly myth of family harmony against the dark forces lined up against them, the plain truth is that it wasn’t the police or the squatters who caused Ellen Kelly to be poverty stricken and a solo mother of seven in 1868. She was a poverty-stricken widow because of her husband’s alcoholism – which killed him in 1866 – and her brother-in-laws act of drunken revenge, setting fire to their home and nearly incinerating 13 children. She and her two sisters lost everything, because Ellen didn’t want to get into bed with Uncle Jim. That was his revenge.
This horrendous act of retaliation was the kind of thing that drew police attention to the Kellys, and so it most certainly should have. They came across children sleeping outside in the grass, women whose husbands were all in prison, stories of drunken brawling, promiscuity and arson. The idea that police interest in the Kelly clan was harassment that had something to do with their religion or their nationality or their convict associations is laughable – it arose from the ghastly criminal actions of the Kellys themselves which on that occasion very nearly resulted in tragic consequences for as many as 13 clan children. Ned Kelly could have been one of the children incinerated when that old pub went up in flames.
Its hardly likely that this was a one-off. Uncle Jim was said to be rarely sober so they had probably been putting up with this drunks intolerable and boorish behaviour for a long time. They were all probably glad when the police took him off their hands and he went to prison for fifteen years. But he wasn’t the only criminal in the clan when Ned Kelly as growing up.
Ned had another Uncle Jim, Jimmy Quinn, his mothers brother, and in 1872 he was involved in yet another case that Judge Redmond Barry had to preside over at the Beechworth Circuit Court. This time James aka ‘Jimmy’ Quinn was tried for ‘wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.’ And who did he wound you might ask? A policeman? A squatter? A bully from the ruling class? Someone harassing and oppressing them as they tried to go about their lawful business? That’s what you might expect if the Kelly myths were true but no, he beat up his own younger sister, Margaret. She was one of the poor women who lost everything when their accommodation was burned to the ground four years earlier by the other of Neds Uncles Jim.
In fact this incident from January 1872 has horrible parallels with the 1868 one. They both were about drunken clan members trying to hit on women, and seeking revenge when they were rejected. This time, the perpetrator, James Quinn aged 32 entered Margaret Quinns bedroom early one morning, took all his clothes off and tried to get into bed with Jane Graham who was sleeping at the foot of Margaret’s bed. Margaret’s husband was Patrick Quinn (same surname but different family altogether) and wouldn’t you know it, he was in prison for violent assault.
In court the 21 year old Jane Graham was interrogated and its recorded that “It was with difficulty any evidence could be extracted from this witness”. At one point she is recorded as saying “I don’t remember what happened next” . This of course was long before the day when it was realised how court processes entrench the embarrassment and shame, and traumatise yet again the victims of sexual assault, but its clear in that remark, that this is what was happening in court to young Jane Graham. She has been identified as a local prostitute, but that didn’t give Uncle Jim the right to force himself on her, so Margaret objected to his behaviour. In court Margaret said:
“About daybreak prisoner came into the room undressed and began to pull the clothes off the girl. She called out and I woke and told him he should be ashamed of himself. ….. I told the girl we would get up and dress as it was daybreak. We did so when the prisoner struck me a severe blow on the side of the head with his shut hand. It knocked me senseless and I knew no more for some time. I do not recollect any other blow. I was struck on the mouth. When I came around I was lying on the floor bleeding from two wounds in the face.”
“Stephen Byrne, a labourer deposed: I know Mrs Quinns house. I recollect going there on the morning of Saturday. I heard James Quinn say that he had beat his sister and I went to see what was the matter about sunrise. ….She was cut in the face and bleeding freely….I fetched her to the doctor. She was not able to walk and my employer sent me in with a spring cart”
In Court, Doctor W B Hutchinson said:
“She had one wound two inches long from the mouth up toward the eye, cut right through to the mouth, and two other wounds about the lip and one on the nose, separating the cartilage from the bones. …. She had lost a good deal of blood.” (Click this link to read the court report yourself.(O&M April 17 1872))
This was obviously an appalling and violent attack, the kind we refer to these days as a coward’s punch, a massive hit to the face that felled Margaret immediately. It could have killed her. Margaret would have looked much worse than the woman in the photo at the top of the post, with a two-inch laceration extending right into her mouth, her nose pulverised, blood streaming from the injuries, unable to stand. Her young face would have been disfigured for the rest of her life.
A couple of months earlier, that same Doctor had been in court describing the injuries this same Jimmy Quinn had inflicted on a John Page in another violent assault. Quinn was hiding under a bed when police came to arrest him. Page was ‘in a very bad state’ after the assault and remained in the Wangaratta hospital for two or three weeks. And was John Page a despised squatter, a tyrannical policeman, or oppressor from the ruling class? No, he was a ‘splitter’, in other words a poor hard working labourer.
Quinn received two years for this assault and then in April another eighteen months was added for the assault on his sister.
Kelly apologists do their best to hide this sickening episode in their history, and the many others like it, and instead promote the claim first invented by Ned Kelly that police interest in them was persecution and harassment, that they were targeted because they were Irish selectors and related to convicts, that they were innocent victims. The facts show this to be an outright lie, a fiction, a cover-up. The facts, recorded in the newspapers and Court reports of the time prove that police interest in the Kelly clan came about because of the Kelly clans own unquestionably criminal behaviour – sexual assault, arson, infliction of grievous bodily harm – and shockingly, much of it on their own family members. We know that in every case the domestic violence that makes it to court is just the tip of a putrid ice-berg, and so no doubt it touched every corner of the Kelly world. The Kelly cover-up of their wretched drunken violent treatment of women, turns the stomach, especially when they repeat their claim thier troubles were all the fault of the police..
This was the environment that Ned Kelly grew up in – violence was the clan norm, and Ned Kelly was an enthusiast for it, boasting in the Jerilderie letter “I had a pair of arms and a bunch of fives on the end of them that never failed to peg out anything they came in contact with”. How utterly unsurprising that his first criminal charge, at the age of 15, was for assault. How utterly unsurprising that his last criminal act was an attempt at ultra-violence at Glenrowan, a police massacre.
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