|Ned Kellys uncle smashed William Skelton over the head with a heavy Bullock yoke like this and left him permanently disabled
The following words are taken from the Interview with Ned Kelly that was published in August 1880, and are among the most famous of all the many words attributed to him. They express the idea that is at the absolute center of the Kelly Legends, that it was police conduct that drove Ned Kelly to become the man he became, and to do the things he did:
“If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill-treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away. People who live in large towns have no idea of the tyrannical conduct of the police in country places far removed from Court. They have no idea of the harsh and overbearing manner in which they execute their duty, or how they neglect their duty and abuse their powers.”
Kelly sympathisers to this day regard that claim as a core truth of the Kelly legend, and believe it explains and justifies everything Ned Kelly said and did. They believe that the Kelly clan was persecuted and harassed for no good reason, that they were otherwise more or less law-abiding poor Irish farmers who were victimised by police. There are however a couple of very important problems with that belief – the first being that those were not actually Ned Kellys words, but the words put in his mouth for the Interview, by his Solicitor David Gaunson, who wrote the entire news article. The Interview was fake. Nonetheless, it could be claimed, as Ian Jones has, that those words accurately reflect the spirit of what Ned Kelly believed. So, let’s agree with Ian Jones that Ned Kelly did actually believe that the police were to blame for the Kelly outbreak.
The second problem is that even if we agree that those words reflect accurately what Ned Kelly believed, that doesn’t make them true. Believing something to be true doesn’t make it so – some people believe the earth is flat. Others believe they have been experimented on by Alien visitors.
In the last few weeks I’ve been posting the evidence that fatally undermines Ned Kellys idea that the Kelly clan were unfairly harassed and picked on by police. Ive been showing the side of the Kelly clan that Ian Jones and the other Kelly writers more or less completely, and deliberately ignored, the evidence that shows the real reason police took an interest in the Kelly clan. What I’ve shown is that far from being innocent victims of police harassment, it was horrendous recorded acts of Kelly clan violence and criminality that drew the attention of the police to the clan.
So, for example, when Ned Kellys Uncle John Lloyd cruelly slaughtered his selector neighbours horse with an axe, police were called in to investigate the crime, and encountered the Kelly clan. This wasn’t police harassment – it would have been negligent of the police to have ignored this sickening act of animal cruelty.
When Ned Kellys Uncle Jimmy Quinn attacked John Page and left him with injuries that nearly killed him and put him in hospital for three weeks, again, police were called in to investigate the crime, and encountered the Kelly clan. This horrendous assault was witnessed by Ned Kellys eleven-year-old sister who screamed out for help and saved the poor man. This wasn’t police harassment – it would have been negligent of the police to have ignored this horrendous assault.
And when Ned Kellys drunk uncle Jim Kelly burned down a house because Neds mother wouldn’t have sex with him, again police were called in to investigate the crime, and yet again encountered the Kelly clan. According to a witness it was lucky that thirteen children in the house weren’t burned to death, but they and their mothers lost everything they owned. This wasn’t police harassment – it would have been negligent of the police to have ignored this dreadful crime.
And when the once again drunk Uncle Jimmy Quinn’s ‘cowards punch’ felled his own sister, leaving her nose broken and her face disfigured for life because she intervened to protect a 21 year old guest from his groping, yet again police were called in to investigate the crime, and yet again they encountered the Kelly clan. This wasn’t police harassment – it would have been negligent of the police to have ignored this dreadful crime.
So, in case after that shocking litany of violence, and drunken abuse anyone is still inclined to think that the police interest in the Kelly clan was harassment, persecution and tyrannical conduct, here is yet another example of what police had to confront in their dealings with the Kelly clan. This case concerns what Jimmy Quinn did to a Mr William Skelton at the Greta races in October 1865. Ned Kelly was ten years old by then, so no doubt would have heard about it.
What happened was that a horse belonging to Jimmy’s brother John Quinn was led out of a stable because it was kicking out at William Skelton’s horse. Skelton maintained his horses had been there first, so decided to remove John Quinns horse. An argument developed and Johns brother James (Jimmy) and a man named Porter came out of a nearby Pub and joined in. A witness under cross examination (Robert Mason) had this to say “After a few words James Quinn struck Skelton in the chest; Porter and Skelton then caught hold of each other. Skelton threw Porter and fell on top of him; James Kelly went and picked up a bullock yoke and struck him on the top of the head….Skelton had not been drinking nor was his conduct aggravating “
Dr Joseph Henry deposed “I saw William Skelton in 1865 he was suffering from wounds to the skull; dangerous ones which must have affected his intellect….I think the injury must have been caused by the sharp point of a blunt instrument.
Skelton told the Court about what happened afterwards “For a long time I did not have the use of my legs. Before receiving the blow my memory was very good, It has since been very defective. Was taken to a doctor at Benalla and subsequently to the Beechworth Hospital. About twelve months after leaving the hospital went to England and remained there for four years; when in England underwent an operation; a piece of bone was taken off my brain; have been subject to fits ever since I received the blow; had no fits previous to this time”
Uncle Jimmy received two years for this shocking assault, which Skelton was lucky to survive. However he was permanently brain damaged and an epileptic in the days before epilepsy could be treated. In view of this true story, and all the other true stories of Kelly clan drunken violence – of which there are still many more – can anyone STILL believe Ned Kelly and his apologists complaint that the Kelly clan was victimised by police?
These stories show without any shadow of doubt, that police interest in the Kelly clan came about by the clans own violent, drunken criminal behaviour. It was not a campaign of harassment and persecution but entirely correct responses to acts of criminality that included arson, domestic violence, animal cruelty and murderous attacks on people who got in their way.
Kellys claim in the interview about police being the cause of all his troubles is typical Ned Kelly : it was always someone else’s fault ; he never accepted responsibility for the mess he made of everything, and his attempt to blame the police, and say it was all their fault is complete nonsense.
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