Black Snake: The Real Story of Ned Kelly

There is one compelling reason why I believe everyone who purports to have an interest in the Kelly outbreak should read this book: to my knowledge it’s the first book since the outbreak that is an authentic voice from the other side of the argument. It’s not an argument ABOUT the other side of the debate by an ‘anti-Kelly’ author or an academic trying to find the balance and the middle ground in the great struggle between the Kellys and the Police – there are plenty of books like that. No, this is an account BY the other side, and for the first time. It’s a voice, a perspective, a family history and an account of an experience of the Outbreak that we have never properly heard before, and no matter what you might have already decided about the Outbreak, this voice from the family of a murdered policeman has to be respectfully listened to. Until now it’s been more or less drowned out by the machinery of the Kelly myth-making industry.
This was the realisation that dawned on me after I had read just a few chapters of this book, that this was a story we haven’t really heard before, and we all needed to listen. 
I must admit, before my copy arrived I had some misgivings about it. I heard Leo Kennedy being interviewed on the ABC one morning and he seemed hesitant and nervous and didn’t make his case at all well. Even though the books title is “Black Snake The real story of Ned Kelly” I wondered if the book was going to be one long sob story about Bridget, Michael Kennedys widow.
I finally got my copy last Monday.  It was a good-looking book, a proper hardback with a dramatic cover and a thick section of mostly familiar photographs in the middle. The writing style makes it very easy to read. There are 43 short chapters and a disappointingly thin smattering of references, but no Index and no Bibliography. True to its title, it wasn’t a sob story about Bridget Kennedy, but a story about Ned Kelly as seen through Kennedy eyes. I also realised it was written from a very clear and unambiguous moral perspective, something which was often lost in earlier Kelly narratives which in their attempts to understand the outbreak, and be seen to be even-handed, or perhaps because of confusion often avoid taking a position about the ethical qualities of Ned Kellys behaviour, making allowances for his behaviour on the basis of his claimed persecution, his claimed mistreatment and suffering as the son of a widow. But for Kennedy it is clear: bullying, forgery, thieving, lying and killing are unambiguously criminal. There are no excuses. There is no need to canvas alternative views, or take seriously the testimony of the known liar Ned Kelly in trying to understand, say, the McCormick incident or how Michael Kennedy died. Theres no point in trying to sugar-coat the brutality of hostage taking and Bank robbery at gunpoint with references to sham displays of courtesy to women, or forced dancing, and no point in even mentioning the foolish adulation of men or women who may have been taken in by it. So  Kennedy ignores most of it.
Predictably, many Kelly myths are exposed in this book. For example, debunking the myth that the policemen who went to Stringybark Creek were in disguise, Kennedy points out that Policemen had to buy their own uniform, and it had to be kept in perfect order. However, because they were so poorly paid it could take a year just to pay it off, and so to prolong the life of their expensive uniforms they would often wear ordinary clothes when on country patrols. I also learned Police had only 12 days off per year, most had never fired a weapon of any sort, ever! –  and Irish were 14% of the Victorian populous but 82% of Victoria police.
How many of us knew of Edwin Graves, a stockman who caught Ned Kelly trying to steal his boss’s black mare in 1874, and ‘gave him (Ned) an absolute hiding’? Kennedy claims that Ned Kelly would often get drunk and pick fights because he wanted to be known for his toughness, and this need to impress people was his motivation for the Cameron, Jerilderie and other letters, and explains why whenever he had an audience he harangued and boasted and lectured anyone he could corner, self-justifying behaviour which continued even in the Court room after his conviction. 
I hadn’t known that the Kelly Tree was originally known as the Police Tree. There’s an anecdote about a woman who was so afraid of the Kelly gang that she hid her husband’s trousers so he couldn’t go and join the search for them! Kennedy says the green sash taken from Ned at his capture at Glenrowan wasn’t being worn as some kind of Irish republican symbol but as ‘wadding to protect his shoulders and chest from the leather straps and metal’. There were a number of other things he mentions without much support, such as that Fitzpatrick accepted a bribe of several hundred pounds from Ned Kelly to stay quiet after the ‘incident’, that the gang held up the Glenmore store for supplies prior to the Glenrowan showdown, and that in 1877 Ned and some others murdered a guy called Barron, reputed to have been an ‘enforcer’ employed by George King who also disappeared in very suspicious circumstances at about the same time. Some say for physically abusing his mother Ned murdered George as well.
More importantly Kennedy debunks the negative mythology about the four police who went to Stringybark Creek, and in particular the reputation of his great grandfather Michael Kennedy, detailing his years of dedicated service to policing prior to his death, his status in the various communities that he worked in, and his devotion to his family and his community. One of the slurs still made against him, and one which Leo Kennedy says his great grandmother Bridget often mentioned and was deeply offended by was that Michael Kennedys motivation, in searching for the Kellys, was the reward being offered. Ned Kellys defence suggested to McIntyre at Kellys trial in Melbourne that Kennedy conspired with Scanlan at Stringybark Creek to set off that day without McIntyre and Lonigan in the hope they would catch the Kellys and only have to split the reward two ways instead of four. 
“McIntyre felt gutted to be dragged into a corner by Bindon. It was all hypothetical. It should have been objected to and stricken from the record. Bindons slurs showed the worst side of the combative legal system. Though baseless hypotheticals and conjecture, he had disparaged the dead men’s actions”
In fact, Kennedy was known to share any rewards he received with anyone who had helped him earn it. Its recounted that in 1878 he received £40 for helping to capture Daniel McIntosh a sheep thief: he gave some of it to local informants, used half of the rest to pay down his mortgage and the rest he saved. 
Kennedy offers some interesting perspectives on Ned Kellys trial. He believes David Gaunsons involvement was entirely self-serving, his main intent being to advance his own political interests, and that he ‘used’ Ned Kellys notoriety and fame to advance his own profile. He describes Gaunsons fake Ned Kelly ‘Interview’ – the one that begins “I do not pretend to have led a blameless life or that one fault justifies another…-  as a ‘stunt’ which ‘wounded himself and Ned”, and his failure after two months to have produced a ‘brief’ as ‘ridiculous’. He reminds the reader that the option of manslaughter was not available to the jury because of a ‘special protection law’ which required that anyone who caused the death of a policeman while resisting or escaping arrest must be charged with murder-manslaughter was not an option. Bridget Kennedy always resented the fact that Kelly wasn’t tried for Scanlan’s murder and for the murder of her husband: “Then there would have been none of this nonsense that’s going on today” she quite correctly would claim.
There were unfortunately a few important mistakes in this book. Kennedy correctly reports that Lonigan was killed within seconds of the order to ‘Bail up’ and well before he could draw his gun, but his claim that Lonigan had turned to run and was shot through the eye when looking back over his shoulder is wrong. Without listing the reference, he claimed that a bullet fragment entered Lonigan’s ‘upper chest near the right breast bone’ but I have never seen that reported anywhere in respect of Lonigan’s post mortem findings.  He also was wrong to claim that bullets were fired into Lonigan’s dead body in some sort of bonding ritual, after McIntyre had fled. Leo Kennedy noted that Dr Reynolds told the RC that “If wounds were inflicted before the circulation had actually ceased it would be impossible to state accurately whether they were before or after death”but failed to realise that would have meant the firing of additional bullets into Lonigan very soon after he fell, something which McIntyre would have seen and reported. But he didn’t. But if those bullets had been fired into Lonigan long after McIntyre had fled the scene, circulation would indeed have ceased long before, and the wounds would have had a different appearance, something that Reynolds would have seen and reported – but he didn’t. This detail is particularly important as it was for Lonigan’s death that Kelly was eventually hanged. Getting this detail right cements in place the proof that what Kelly claimed about Lonigan’s death was a lie.
There’s a brief discussion about the history of mis-identification of the site of the Police camp at Stringybark Creek, and Leo Kennedys involvement with Genepool and the makers of the Lawless documentary that was screened last year. The documentary makers claimed to have found the exact place of the police camp, and Kennedy says the siting problem ‘was solved by dating the hut and by matching Constable McIntyre’s map and the various descriptions from all testimonies given at the time with the Burman photos’. These statements will mean nothing to everyone except the well-researched Kelly buff, and cannot be verified because regrettably Kennedy doesn’t supply the critical references. The claim that the hut was ‘dated’ is going to be news to everyone with an interest in that subject – no-one I know was convinced by the documentary makers glib explanations. Somehow, I expect if this claim is challenged, and I don’t doubt that it will be, it will be found wanting. The Lawless documentary makers claim to have found the place where Michael Kennedys body was found in 1878, “a quarter mile northwest of the camp” is also likely to be challenged!
Kennedy fell for a number of the Kelly baseless myths about Constable Fitzpatrick, describing him as foolhardy, saying he tended to be busier in the bedroom than in the police station, and that he died from cirrhosis of the liver. However, he claims the cirrhosis was not caused by alcohol but was a result of Fitzpatrick suffering from haemochromatosis. These claims are again not referenced but we know the death certificate didn’t mention hemochromatosis or cirrhosis so I am at a loss to know where he obtained this information from. 
The last claim made in this book that I want to mention is the thing that probably surprised me the most. Anthony Griffiths, a Kelly descendant told Leo Kennedy on Valentine’s Day 2017 that Kelly descendants then and today are adamant: Ned was a horse thief and not a very good one. “He did not have a political bone in his body. He was a thief who was too busy thieving”
Now isn’t that interesting? I wish the Kelly descendants would tell that to the Kelly fanciers and ask them to stop hero-worshipping and making up stupid fairy stories about Ned Kelly, and lies about good men like Michael Kennedy. Notwithstanding my criticisms of this book, it is nevertheless a terrific informative and insightful read and a great addition to my Kelly library. Thank you Leo.
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23 Replies to “Black Snake: The Real Story of Ned Kelly”

  1. I was going to ask if there was anything in Leo's book about what Ian Jones had in "A Short Life" as concerns Mrs. Ann Jones and Sgt. Kennedy but I first started digging deeper on my own with interesting results.

    First up, this is what Jones had in his book-

    "He [Ned Kelly] probably didn't know that Mrs Jones had known Sergeant Kennedy 'very well.' Only a month before his death the sergeant had invited her to stay with his family and she kept a photo of him in her album. Her maiden name was Kennedy."

    In the notes at the back of ASL he has

    Ann Jones a friend of Sgt. Kennedy, Herald 25.11.1880
    has photograph of him, Jones Inquiry p.200

    So, I checked the first source which can be found at

    In that, I think that Ian Jones might have been a bit confused as the one saying that they knew Kennedy 'very well' and had been invited to visit his house was DETECTIVE WARD not Mrs. Jones. Go read it and see.

    The second bit about a photo I found at PROV in a report from Constable Bracken who said that –

    "Mrs. Ann Jones on two occasions in the course of conversation said to me that it was a pity that Edward Kelly had shot Sergt. Kennedy remarking at the same time that poor Kennedy was such a good man and in fact she showed me Kennedy's photo which she had in her album."

    She confirmed to Cookson that her maiden name was Kennedy, so no question there.

    So, it would seem she knew the Sergeant and had his photo but she was not invited to his home which always sounded a bit suss to me from the very first time I read it long ago, but the Herald has only just recently been added to Trove to check such things. So, back to what I had intended to ask, did Leo Kennedy mention Mrs. Jones in his book as concerns her relationship to Sgt. Kennedy?

  2. HI Sharon, its amazing how often when something thats been asserted in a book is cross-checked, it turns out to be wrong. I wouldn't expect that this phenomenon is confined to the Kelly story but it certainly exists in significant places as well as less important parts of the story.

    Your question highlights a weakness with this book, namely that there is no index, so short of reading the whole thing again, I cant confirm this for certain but I dont recall reading anything about Mrs Jones and Michael Kennedy.

    Maybe someone else can remember something?

  3. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Sharon and Dee, I have only just got Leo Kennedy's book, but skimming through to Glenrowan on page 175 he says, "The inn's owner, Ann Jones (nee Kennedy), lived there with her children. Although she was not a direct relation of Sergeant Kennedy, she kept a picture of him in her photograph album. Tending to attract a more genteel crowed than that of the McDonnell tavern, Ann Jones' inn was also known to provide rooms for police visiting from out of town." That's all from this page, and I haven't had time to look for more yet. Incidentally, "Black Snake" lists a string of Jones' factual errors on page 241, and there are others noted too, including a simple explanation for the body straps myth, that a couple of long straps were standard kit for the tent-carrying pack horse, not body straps at all, like Jones and others kept spouting endlessly. I tried to re-find the page ref for that just now, but couldn't, but it is like a beacon over another notorious Kelly myth.

  4. Does anyone agree with me that it was a surprise to read the comment from Anthony Griffiths, a Kelly descendant/relative , that Ned Kelly was just a thief with not a political bone in his body? This must help to explain why so few of the multitudes of Kelly relatives out there ever bother. to participate in these debates – they dont want to pop the bubble that the Kelly fanciers are living in.

  5. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Dee, yes I was surprised to read that (p. 240), as Ian Jones has been so insistent about a political Kelly since the late 1960s. But I was ecstatic a few pages later, where on p. 249 Leo quotes Anthony Griffiths on a most vital issue: "The Kelly Gang were horse thieves, not politicians. They weren't the best horse thieves either. … There were better bushrangers than them too. The republic myth is just rubbish".

    THE REPUBLIC MYTH IS HORSE SHIT, AND BOTH (ex-policeman) TOM LLOYD AND NOW ANTHONY GRIFFITHS HAVE SAID SO. They will not be the only Kelly descendants who know full well that the Kelly Republic myth is complete BS, AND ALWAYS WAS. A couple of sympathiser descendants have also told me they never believed those stories. So why was Ian Jones allowed to keep propagating this known nonsense, the key fulcrum of his entire Kelly narrative, for over 50 years with no-one calling him out? We sceptics, we happy few, are now proved right by direct descendant statements, including from Jones and Molony's key source, the leg-pulling Tom Lloyd (who sounds like a great character), as well as by the historical evidence that was produced against that idiotic theory by Ian MacFarlane and myself.

    Now the dozen or so people who insulted me over my "rubbishy" Republic myth book have well deserved egg on their faces, and can put any claims to doing proper Kelly research down their toilets. The republic myth was knocked over in 2012 by Ian's "Kelly Gang Unmasked" book, again in Morrissey's 2015 "Lawless Life", and now dismantled completely in my free "Myth of the republic of north-Eastern Victoria" book. To those who derided and insulted my academic research, I hope you are suitably embarrassed.

    The fact is, Jones' (and Molony's) central claim is WRONG. There was never any Kelly republic idea, as anyone could see from the evidence if they bothered to look without blinkers. It was a silly joke from Beatty's 1940s "believe it or not" book. That makes Glenrowan a simply a horrific attempted mass murder. Time to rewrite the Kelly books, the school history books, the idiotic government websites that are peculiarly resistant to change, the deluded "cultural tourist" promoters presenting wildly inaccurate myths as history…

    As a bonus, I have just relocated the body-straps reference, another Jones historical fantasy: on p. 245-6 of Leo's book, he writes: "Ian Jones bolstered the false accusation that the Mansfield crew set out to kill by claiming they were replete with the equivalent of 'body bags'. Jones talks of leather straps to 'fasten bodies to the horses' when they were actually police kit to simply fasten two week's worth of provisions to the packhorse (along with rope)." That is new, but it knocks another big Kelly myth down.

    Get the message out there folks – the Kelly Republic is dead, buried and cremated. The long-running practical joke is over. Now perhaps we can come up with a fair, balanced, accurate understanding of history that doesn't take things out of their nineteenth century context, is factual rather than fanciful, and aims to understand events as they were enacted and understood in their own time. There is abundant material in the archives to do so, that gets away from the personal biases and distortions to which people with hand-me-down stories are prone. So it can certainly be done if anyone is willing to make the effort. And I think it would look a lot more like the impression given of events in Trudy Toohill's collection of newspaper articles about the background and outbreak, than the romanticised and selectively presented nonsense served up as being "part of Australian history" since the 1960s.

  6. I have email from Ellen Hollow (2004) when we were communicating about justifying Ned's actions, and defying the bad treatment dished out to the families as were a form of class war. She wrote then that they have no problem with the fact Ned was a horse thief, accept that, I took it to mean it came as part of the resistance.

  7. I've been in two minds whether to get Black Snake. It seems there is some new content but unreferenced. I would like to see a ref for the leather straps. Maybe Sharon could find one.

    It looks like the Kelly republic is well and truly bugg*red.


  8. If you will recall, when Dee did a posting regarding the leather
    straps a few years back there was talk about the sourcing of the strap
    lore by Jones and Dee was wondering what the Kinnear papers were which
    was the original reference point. I chimed in with the background info
    and I think it was the first post I had ever done on this blog. That
    was in 2014, though I had been lurking since the start. Of course,
    some just put the letter with the strap talk off as oral history, but
    so be it.

    Also, thank you, Stuart for providing an answer to my question regarding Mrs Jones and Sgt Kennedy. Good thing Leo did not add in the erroneous part that Jones did!

  9. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Mr T, there are 21 pages of reference notes which pan out to maybe 2 or 3 references per book page. So it is not riddled with references, but there are a reasonable number given that it's not an academic work, and there are quite a few surprises in references to sources for Kelly's criminality that I had not seen before – mostly newspaper articles, but some PROV docs. I wish even more references per page were provided, i.e. to each and every historical point, but such is life. There is still quite a bit to go on for further research.

    The great thing about "Black Snake" is that as Dee says above, apart from McIntyre's memoir, it is the first ever telling of the story from a victim's point of view, and it is the first such modern telling that shows the impact on victims over the generations in the face of utterly unhistorical moronic drivel written by Kelly enthusiasts including academics whose claims to have done valid research are increasingly shown up as having been little more than displays of detailed selective bias. The same old problem that plagues a lot of historical research is being revealed: academics go into a topic wit their own hobby-horse or perspective already decided – social bandits, republicanism, deliberate police persecution, etc., then comb the records for anything that promotes their pet theory. But most take a second step, of actively maltreating evidence that doesn't suit their pet theory, and either ignoring, rejecting, or selectively using parts of it to advance their already-determined point of view.

    The next step is for others to come along later, broadly accept the work of earlier acclaimed "experts", and add to the teetering mountain of BS in what is called a discourse or conversation that takes on a life of its own only loosely connected to historical reality. The final stage is for later generations of academics to spend their days interpreting and criticising narratives from increasingly bizarre perspectives (e.g. literary theory) while doing no actual historical research at all. What you end up with then is pure fiction – Carey's "True history of the Kelly gang" – being considered as in some way plausible or having a basis in historical fact. But you get the same thing when historians build on their own mistakes, such as Jones launching the idea that Kelly walked three times through the police line at Glenrowan (based on misreading two memoirs thirty years after the event from police not on the ground at the time), and others uncritically swallowing this implausible nonsense for decades like stupid geese.

    "Black Snake" is especially valuable for its last 6 short chapters: 'From Ned's lies to modern myths', 'A horse thief and nothing more', 'A void of heroes', 'Busting the myths', 'Our families, our place, our time', and 'Undoing the myth'. Leo Kennedy shows up the vast extent of BS that has been written about the Kelly gang, and calls for more to be done to dismantle it. It is truly extraordinary that so much idiocy has been swallowed by so long by so many. It is truly disgraceful that government agencies, schools, etc, are too dumb to revise and change their published nonsense even when the frequent mistakes in Kelly matters are pointed out to them. We don't even have to guess where they turn to check their facts.

    And last, Nolan's paintings are not about Ned Kelly but about himself, as he himself said; the first series while he was an AWOL deserter; the later series when he discovered there was a buck in it. Trying to find any worthwhile "Australian" character myth in Nolan's Kelly series is a lost cause. But that is something for a future investigation.

  10. Stuart that was a very subtle and clever way of pointing out that I was wrong to think that Leos Book is the first viewpoint from an actual victim! Yes, McIntyres memoir is indeed such a thing.

    But Stuart, did you get out of bed on the wrong side this morning? You re sounding thoroughly cheesed off with the whole thing ! I think we are all inclined to believe when we get immersed in this stuff that junk Kelly history is the only thing ever taught in Australia and everyone thinks he is a hero. But actually if we step back from it all for moment I think the reality is that the vast majority of Australians have a negative view of Ned Kelly, and the few who dont think like that are concentrated in Victoria and especially in the north-east where the lies about him are perpetuated for crass commercial reasons. remarkably, as we just learned from Leo, even Kelly descendants in the main don't see him as any kind of hero. They're sick of being attacked be people who think they defend him – but they dont! Theyre silent – except for a very small number of exceptions – like Joanne Griffiths whose FB page bans people like me who haven't swallowed the Kelly cool aid. And the more we engage the fanatics about kelly history the more they expose themselves as unreasonable, intolerant bullies and ignoramuses, some of whom actually take pride in refusing to read books.

    Consider the Ned Kelly Alive nonsense – it was ENTIRELY about answering the question – how can we extract more tourist dollars out of the Kelly story? It wasn't about how can we tell the story truthfully or more accurately – it never entered their minds to even ask, well, what exactly IS the story we should be telling? Instead they took the lazy way out and adopted the default position of 'let the reader decide, lets pretend there are two sides to the story …and all that rubbish.

    But the Kelly Alive projects suggested in their Report are getting almost nothing in the way of actual financial support from the regional Councils. Joanne Griffiths NK Center is dead. The report was just another thought bubble from some council members who have a thing abut Ned Kelly and commission a study every now and again to make it look like they're doing something. The people who write the report make a killing ( bad pun I guess) the Councill gets a bit of publicity and then it all gets forgotten about. This has happened before and it might even happen again one day, but the reality is that winds of change are sweeping through ( my last analogy was also meteorological – the incoming tide…) and even in Kelly land the narrative is changing toward the true story.

    So cheer up Stuart, the Kelly myths are on the way out – no doubt about it.

  11. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Dee, no, I got out on the right side of bed after thinking more about Leo's book and reading a couple more chapters which have valuable contributions, and thinking about how so much of academia is not standing on the shoulders of giants, as they like to boast, but crawling up dung heaps of their own confused making. Academia has many gurus and sacred cows who no-one is allowed to criticise if they hope to get ahead. They even crucify their own at times – look how legendary controversial Australian author Germaine Greer was disinvited from the recent Qld Writer's Festival, surely a national disgrace that a hugely well known author is actually prevented from presenting. Regardless of what anyone thinks of her views, it shows how narrow minded the entire academic environment is becoming here, that they actually disinvited her.

    Where you can see there is still a major problem is in children's and school books. If you can, check out Clare Bradford, "Instilling postcolonial nostalgias: Ned Kelly narratives for children", Journal of Australian Studies, 36.2 (2012), 191-206. with no exceptions, children's Kelly books are wall to wall BS.

    There is one more thing I found in Leo's book this morning that is worth mentioning: There has been controversy for years about whether Kelly got a fair trial, and claims that Judge Barry had unfairly refused to allow the jury to make a finding of manslaughter, but limited it to guilty or not guilty of murder.

    Justice Harber Phillips took this "unfair Barry" line, as Leo points out. But that is all Kelly myth; Phillips was wrong. Remember that Leo Kennedy is a lawyer too, and he has researched the law as it was in Kelly's day, something that even Phillips did not properly do. The fact is, as Leo points out on page 205, "Context is critical. a modern judge's instructions to a jury in a murder case do not apply to this time or this case. Justice Barry did not offer the possibility of manslaughter because the police special protection law meant it was not an option." He explains more about it there. So yes, a very good start to the day indeed…

  12. Stewart,Dee,
    Have you read Julian Burnside's take on Ned?

  13. Horrie and Alf says: Reply

    The pro-Kelly lawyers are an odd bunch. Trevor Monti still thinks Ned Kelly played footie games for Williamstown. But Bill and Dee, we know this ain't so, don't we?

    There was no time off where he was working.

  14. Horrie and Alf says: Reply

    Oh, I forgot to mention that Burnside is a subscriber to the disproved leather body straps rubbish.

  15. Horrie and Alf says: Reply

    Bill, you didn't supply a ref for Julian's many pontifications on Ned. Which one? The guy (sorry, Silk) runs a blog and has even labeled The Eureka Stockaders as terrorists — and Ned too!

    The Kelly Gang Unmasked book disproved Burnside's blog conclusion that Lonigan had shot himself in the leg with his powerful Webly revolver.

    I doubt whether Burnside is a Kelly or Eureka Stockade specialist.

  16. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Bill, Horrie and Alf, I have just had a look at Julian Burnside's page that Horrie listed, and can see a couple of problems. First, he says "the defence of self-defence might have been available (although it was not without its difficulties) if it could be shown that the police who went to arrest Kelly were in truth intent on killing him." This is redundant as far as the SBC police go, as Kennedy's "Black Snake" shows; and it is anyone's guess how much weight to put on Straughan's hearsay comment. Second, he believes the body straps myth (actually pack-horse straps, see in the above comments), and of which nothing was said by the defence in Kelly's trial. Has there been any such possibility of murderous intent, the defence would have raised it. It is completely at odds with the character of all four police sent to SBC. Third, while much is made of Bindon being an inexperienced barrister, he was advised by Gaunson, so that line doesn't wash at all. Gaunson had represented Ned and other Kellys in the past, including Ned's committal trial, and was expertly placed to advise Bindon on Kelly's defence. So the trial stuff by no means demonstrates pre-determined bias against Ned Kelly; in fact, Barry raised the issue of self-defence but it was not pursued by the defence, clearly because they didn't have a case to mount. There is more, but that's all for now.

  17. Anonymous says: Reply

    Stuart Dawson,,,, Why do you promote your opinions as being facts when you have absolutely no idea. You even promote Leos book as being factual when again it has many opinions that have no actual basis in fact. Leos family story is mostly very good ab=nd well portrayed but he is another one that tries and promotes his opinion as being factual. Referring to other writers is not a basis for fact. There are those that want to believe that Neds story is a myth, while others want to keep the Legend of Ned going eg You Dees continual comments about Ned just keeps his story alive and The Legendof Ned Kelly will always live on.

  18. Anonymous why dont you state exactly which 'opinion' of Stuart Dawsons you are objecting to, and state why he is wrong and why you know he is wrong? Then there might be a point to your Comment, but as it stands it adds nothing to the debate. But yes the Legend of Ned Kelly will live on, just as the Legend of King Arthur or of Robin Hood or the Tales of Narnia all live on in the minds of people who enjoy a good fantasy.

    But please get it out of your head that Stuart Dawson and myself and all the other people you love to attack anonymously are trying to make the Kelly story disappear – what we are trying to do is make the Kelly story honest open and historically accurate. That is all.

  19. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Anonymous, there are two aspects to any comments I make on the Kelly story. The first aspect is facts, i.e. documentary evidence, whether from government records in VPRO, the Commission reports, etc., or newspapers etc subject to analysis. The second aspect is opinions based on facts. I don't have many of these. My four articles – the Fitzpatrick incident, Kelly shooting Metcalf, Kelly's last words, and the Republic myth – are presentations and analyses of historical facts, with little opinion in them. The analyses lead to particular conclusions, namely, that a lot of what has been written about Kelly and the Kelly gang story is fabricated myth. Leo Kennedy's book further exposes some of these myths as pure myth. He has more unreferenced arguments and opinions than my articles, but he is including oral family history in his book, and coming from a different place altogether. I am simply doing a fairly standard review of historical claims that have been made about past events; in this case, the Kelly gang story. What is has showed is that in some key areas, factual history has been replaced by complete BS, which has in turn been widely accepted as "real history". I have shown some pillars of this up as nonsense using standard research methodology and a minimum of my own opinion, which is typically reserved for the conclusions. All of my articles have been academically peer reviewed, which means that other academics have read them before publication, given various feedback or corrections to address before acceptance for publication, and agreed that the historical methodology and approach is valid and legitimate, and therefore a valid and useful contribution to historical debate. In other words, the articles have academic weight and validity. You may not like the conclusions that have emerged from my investigations, as they topple some long-held favourite Kelly myths; but they are not opinions of mine but the output of diligent historical research. They also show up the poor amateurish research efforts of some past popular authors of Kelly topics.

    With the exception of Molony, McQuilton, and McMenomy, practically everything that has been written about the Kelly gang has been by journalists or amateur enthusiasts, not historians. As my work has shown, they have made numerous mistakes, under the sway of a assortment of influences including Jones' wrong-headed belief in a Kelly republic, and the self-confessed nonsense stories of ex-policeman Tom Patrick Lloyd, which he stated to Leo' dad in Leo's presence, and also separately to Doug Morrissey, that he had deliberately told to Kelly researchers (Jones, Molony and others) specifically to embarrass the crap out of them. You have to read Leo's book to catch up on this.

    Your last observation, that some want to see Ned's story as a myth while others want to keep Ned's legend going, and that the legend of Ned will always live on, assumes two things: first, that the Kelly story as popularly told is mostly fact rather than myth, which is not correct. Myth took over from fact somewhere around the 1930s. Second, that the "legend" of Ned will always live on. This is not correct. The story of Ned and the Kelly gang will always live on, but the nonsense legend myths are on the way out, as the amateurish mistakes of 1980's based wanna-be historians are exposed as historically fraudulent and contradicted by large amounts of historical evidence that was ignored or distorted by their amateurish efforts at historical idealisation.

  20. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Reply to Anonymous part 2 –

    It has been nearly 40 years since much of that old perspective was put together, and consolidated in Jones' 1995 "Short Life" book. Fresh research mostly from 2012 onwards has shown just what a con the old view was. It has gone, and isn't coming back. You can see that in Kieza's book. FitzSimon's book is a reach-back to the old view, but its day is over. Sure, people who don't know any better will continue to look at it and treat it as "history", but it is far more opinion and far less fact than any of my, Morrissey's, MacFarlane's, and some other's work for all its pages of references. His research team stuffed up: they used NSW newspapers, for example, for the coverage of the Fitzpatrick incident. These were cut-down articles from the news wire services that were much fuller published in the Age, Argus and other sources. This means Fitzsimons' research team could not possibly provide a full account even if they had wanted to, as they used deficient source material. I hope you see the point: I have done documentary historical research, not put out a pile of unsupported opinions. My historical research is better, because I have not concealed source evidence that contradicted my first hypotheses, but kept on exploring and addressed all the evidence I could find on the issues I looked at. That's why my articles stand up.

    As for any opinions I make on this blog or elsewhere, you have to realise that these are often just thrown in to see what responses they get; they are not research output. Sometimes they are just to stir the possums and create debate; sometimes they are to test ideas and work through them while I sort out ideas and evidence for myself (such as the Glenrowan timeline discussion on this very blog); sometimes they are just because I do or don't agree with some other comment and put my two bob's worth in, or just to ask others what they think and get different opinions. Nothing I say here is "academic" output! It's just a blog, for goodness sake, and I have as much right to my opinions as you or anyone else. Also, I am the only academic-type person who has made myself accessible on this type of blog that I know of. Do you have a problem with that? Should I stay in my ivory tower? And not discuss anything with people without academic privilege? Actually I'd rather talk to ordinary people any day. But please don't confuse any blog comments I might make with finished academic research! Otherwise I'll go off and read Nietzsche…

  21. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi again Anonymous, thinking about it further, you must also have opinions about the Kelly story. These must come from either oral history and discussion, perhaps including hand-down family history, or from reading what others have written, or from your own historical research, or some combination of these. If it's from oral history and family traditions, it is just as much opinion as what is I Leo's book from his family traditions, and his tradition and memorabilia is just as valid as yours. If it from reading what others have written, their writings may or may not be correct on various points (the same as mine may or may not be) – it depends entirely on the evidence the writer used as a base, the breadth and depth of their research, and the extent to which their own beliefs and presuppositions may have impacted their researches interpretations, and opinions. (And remarkably, you said that "Referring to other writers is not a basis for fact", so I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean in regards to how you form your own opinions.) If it is from your own research, the resulting understanding and opinions similarly depends on its breadth and depth, and on any preconceptions or "filters" in place before the research was undertaken, that may have directed it in particular ways, especially with the selection or rejection and analysis of historical evidence. So to have opinions means you have to be clear about how they are formed and what the evidence for them is, otherwise they are just opinions – which is what you have suggested I have, just "opinions". The thing is, I am not interested in opinions; people are full of them. I am interested only in well-researched facts on a few specific topics. If you have an issue with Leo's opinions, that is between you and Leo, and has nothing to do with me. If you don't like my opinions, you are welcome to ignore them, or state your own, etc. No problem.

  22. Peter Newman says: Reply

    Hi Stuart, you have based your research on review of documentary evidence. But you also seem to have relied on oral history in respect of discussions between Tom Patrick Lloyd and Leo and his father, and separately to Doug Morrissey, that he (Tom) said he had deliberately told "nonsense stories" to Kelly researchers (Jones, Molony and others) specifically to embarrass the crap out of them.

  23. Stuart Dawson says: Reply

    Hi Peter, very true, I have relied on oral history to critique the other oral history… Can't win them all. But the point is that the oral source in both cases is the exact same man, and that's what makes it significant. Does one believe his earlier stories that he said himself were nonsense stories? For me, no; he stated that he had earlier told nonsense stories, and he said why and to what end. Therefore a complete revision of what was claimed by others based on his earlier, "deliberate nonsense" stories is in order. The alternative it to reject what he later said separately to both Morrissey and Kennedy about having told deliberate nonsense to Kelly researchers…

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