I wrote on Facebook that last week was going to be a massive week for the Kelly World, and it turned out to be even bigger than I was expecting, with the release of the second of Doug Morrissey’s works about the Kelly outbreak a few days ago. My copy hasn’t arrived yet but once it does and I’ve had time to read it I will post my review of it here. If anyone else reads it and wants to write a review for posting here that would be most welcome.
The least momentous of the events on the Kelly Calendar in the last week was the Siege Dinner last Saturday night, which came and went without a murmur. I was amazed to learn afterwards that Grantlee Kieza spoke at the dinner but this hadn’t been mentioned anywhere beforehand which makes no sense at all. Why a fund-raiser and NK Centre promotor Joanne Griffiths wouldn’t advertise her star attraction is weird – more people would have come, more funds would have been raised…. A week later, there are still no reports on the NK Center Facebook page about what happened, and the Ned Kelly Center website is still a blank page “Under Construction. In fact, I think its pretty obvious she realises her only hope is to extract funding from the public purse. These ‘fund raisers’ and the ‘petition’ are just stunts aimed at local and state governments in the hope they will be persuaded to hand over millions of public dollars to her NK Center. God forbid!
This massive Kelly week actually got under way a couple of days before the siege dinner, last Thursday, June 28thwith an announcement that Matthew Holmes the movie director was launching a project to make a movie called “Glenrowan”. About a year before he had attempted to crowd-fund a movie they were going to call “The Legend of Ned Kelly”, but were unsuccessful. Now they are saying that there is so much in the Kelly story that it would be almost impossible to have done justice to it in one film so instead he and Aidan Phelan have written a script that focusses just on the siege at Glenrowan. Aidan Phelan invited readers to submit questions about the movie on his Bushranger Facebook page – about the only place I am not banned from – so I submitted four. Phelan answered them all very intelligently and I was most especially interested to learn that the Glenrowan movie will NOT mention the Kelly Republic of North east Victoria. Phelan says HERE “There is no tangible evidence that we can point to as proof of the concept, only anecdotal evidence that can’t be verified at this stage, and oral histories. No doubt this will upset a lot of ‘kelly-ites’ and will cause a lot of anti-kelly commentators to pat themselves on the back but it all comes down to our dedication to providing the facts of the story” Well said Aidan.
I also asked if they would depict the bullying and humiliation that I wrote about on the Blog a couple of weeks ago, of eighteen-year-old John Delaney. Disappointingly, Phelan says that after initially including it, they later dropped that scene due to time constraints, but remarked that it was “a really fantastic moment narratively and historically because it really will cause the audience to question their opinions of Ned, and that’s what the whole film is about, Its about questioning the accepted version of things” So, wouldn’t it be better to leave it in?
But you could have knocked me over with a feather! This is a dramatic turnaround from a year ago when I was blocked from their website for asking questions. This year they are not only accepting questions from me but answering them. And the answers are very encouraging. However I would urge them to put the Delaney scene back in and not waste too much time on things like hop-skip-jump competitions and more scenes than are necessary showing wood splintering under police fire, and bottles shattering on shelves as the hostages scream and cower on the floor, as in The Last Outlaw. The indications are that if they stick to the facts as they say they will, this could be a very violent film. Phelan was most emphatic that Aaron Sherrits murder will be part of the movie, and I have no doubt they will show in great detail every death at the Inn, Neds every wound, Hare collapsing from blood lost from his shattered wrist, Joe Byrnes body strung up, the burned corpses of Steve and Dan…. And will it end with a hanging? It will be a couple of years before we find out.
The most important announcement last week for the Kelly world, by a country mile, was of course the release of Stuart Dawsons book, Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North east Victoria. Morrissey’s book will set you back about forty bucks but Dawson, in an act of incredible generosity is giving away the results of several years of intense research for absolutely nothing. The free PDF can be downloaded from HERE and so nobody who claims to be interested in Kelly history has any excuse for not printing it off and reading it. Its an absolute landmark Kelly publication. Predictably, the Kelly FB sites are almost completely silent about it – they’re all more interested in the movie that’s two years away – but no-body seems to have noticed the fact that their movie is going to back up Dawson’s conclusion, that their beloved Kelly Republic is a myth – that’s why it won’t be in the movie.
An article about Dawson’s free book appeared in the Border Mail. They say all publicity is good publicity so at least readers will know that Dawson’s book is out there, but I thought the article was typical tabloid trash, the lowest quality of journalism. The fact the book is available on the internet for free wasn’t mentioned and yet that is surely a major point of difference between that Kelly work and every other one that’s ever been created? I suppose the writer was concerned that if he mentioned Dawsons book was available for free people might read it. Instead the lazy journalist tried to turn the debate into an attack on Ian Jones, a beloved figure in the north-east. Dawson rightly declined an interview, trying to avoid the journalists attempt to focus on personalities rather than the actual arguments and evidence presented in the book. But that wasn’t good enough for the hack who then gave Ian Jones and Matt Shore most of the column inches to attack Dawson’s book even though both of these people hadn’t ever read it. What a ridiculous joke! How on earth can the opinions of people who have never even seen a work be relevant in an article about it?
Imagine a reviewer saying I’ve never seen this movie, this Art exhibition, this play, I’ve never driven this new car, eaten at this new restaurant, heard this new album – but I’ll speak from a position of complete ignorance and tell you what I think of it!
So what did these commentators have to say? Ian Jones went for Dawsons throat, as he has done in the past when other authors have published stuff he doesn’t agree with, questioning his motives, and resorting to patronising sarcasm “…they have to say it doesn’t exist because obviously they are so bright if it did exist they would know about it” He also mentioned arguments for the republic that are directly and fully addressed in the book. If Jones had read them he may well have been speechless.
Matt Shore said he had spoken to a man who claims to have seen the Republic Declaration but he wouldn’t go public because “he would be treated akin to somebody that believes in UFOs”. Exactly! People who make claims without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. No credibility needs to be attached to it. Read the book Matt and you will see what I mean. As a Kelly history custodian your view of the book is worth hearing.
What SHOULD have happened is that once the journalist discovered both his sources hadn’t read the book, if they weren’t prepared to say “let me read it first”, he should have said “get back to me when you have”. Then you might have seen a quality piece of journalism. Instead we got rubbish.
Modern Kelly supporters are having a big struggle even imagining a Kelly story without a Republic – but here’s the interesting thing: for the majority of its life, there was no Republic myth in the Kelly story. Jim Kelly and Tom Lloyd and James Ryan supported Kelly but didn’t know anything about a Republic. JJ Kenneally had no trouble hailing Kelly as a hero without a republic myth. Same with Clune and Brown, Osbourne, Graham Jones and other Kelly writers down the years. None of them believed in a Republic. The important fact that Dawson has proven in his book, is that the Kelly republic idea has only been a serious part of the Kelly story for maybe 40 of the last 140 years, a very recent ‘add-on’ to the Kelly story, an attractive and clever embellishment that enhances the story and redeems the horrors of Glenrowan – but it’s an unhistorical artefact, a motivation and a plan that was never real, it wasn’t ever a part of the outbreak.
So Kelly followers, the good news is that history shows that you can safely accept the facts, the logic and the arguments of Dawson’s book that the Kelly republic is a Kelly Myth, not believe in the Republic and yet still be a sympathiser – just like most of the sympathisers who have gone before you. There are still plenty of reasons for you to continue to be fascinated by the Kelly story, but now you can safely dump the Republic and be more like the original, old-time Kelly sympathiser! Clinging to the republic myth, from now on, will be seen as akin to believing in UFO’s. Wacky!
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