Why was Ned Kellys trial moved from Beechworth to Melbourne?

The following Post was originally submitted  as a Comment by Dr Stuart Dawson to my review of Graham Frickes book “Neds Nemesis”. Instead Ive posted it here, with Stuarts permission, because I felt this identification and debunking of yet another Kelly myth warranted greater exposure.

Dawson discusses the claim promoted by Ian Jones thats become a standard complaint among Kelly advocates, that Redmond Barry  moved Ned Kellys trial from Beechworth to Melbourne because it would be harder to convict him of murder in the north-east, and as every Kelly fan knows, Barry was out to get Kelly, by any means fair or foul.This was all part of the conspiracy theory that Kellys trial was rigged.

In fact, as Dawson reminds us it was Kelly sympathiser behaviour – specifically threats made against people like Thomas Curnow, Jack and Bill Sherritt, railway Guard Jesse Dowsett , and others – that caused the trial to be shifted to Melbourne, because in the north-east it was feared jurors would likely be intimidated during the trial and suffer reprisals after it in the event of Kellys conviction , and therefore a fair trial was unlikely.So rather ironically it was Kelly sympathiser behaviour that provided Barry with every good reason to do move the trial to Melbourne.If they had behaved, the trial would have taken place in Beechworth – but the outcome wouldn’t have been any different I am certain.


Dawsons Comment:

Fricke noted that the transfer of Kelly’s trial from the Beechworth Assize Court to Melbourne was perfectly legal under the Criminal Law and Practice Statute of 1864 (p.135). He previously noted that the transfer was made on the prosecution’s application that there was a likelihood of intimidation of Beechworth jurors before the trial and, if found guilty, for reprisals (129). As we learn from the Herald of 18/9/80, that meant the probability of “serious injuries to their persons families and properties”, based on demonstrated past behaviour of Kelly gang associates. Ian Jones himself acknowledged this reality in a half page list of examples “during those weeks and months, as the trial and execution of Ned Kelly approached” (Man & Myth 1968: 175). Max Brown (Australian Son, 1948: 239) also acknowledged that “as threats by the Kelly relatives kept coming in, the authorities decided to transfer the trial to Melbourne”; so too Brian Carroll, NK Bushranger (1976: 200, “fears of what his relatives and sympathisers might do resulted in a transfer of the trial to Melbourne”. That has not stopped a raft of Kelly enthusiasts looking for ulterior motives.


John Phillips (The Trial of Ned Kelly, p. 125) wrote, “it is not clear whether [the] application [to transfer] was opposed”. It was, by Gaunson, regardless that he did not produce a counter-affidavit (Herald, 22/8/80). Phillips followed Jones in seeing the transfer as resulting from “an apprehension by the prosecution that a jury drawn from the Beechworth region might be more sympathetic to Kelly” (20). This is nonsense, and stems – surprise! – from Jones (Short Life,[1995] 2008: 368) reversing what was actually said by the sources at the time to imply that that the transfer was done maliciously by Barry in order to ensure a conviction – specifically writing that to Barry, “Smyth’s argument – that a conviction would be difficult in Beechworth – not only justified the change but demanded it”. Some two generations of conspiracy theorists have gleefully danced down this path since it was first outlined in the 1967 Wangaratta Man & Myth seminar under the sway of Jones.

John Molony (I am Ned Kelly, 1980: 236) was in there early: “After all that fruitless pursuit of the [gang] in the northeast it was not unreasonable for the officers of the law to conclude that a jury picked from those who had for so long refused to betray Kelly might fall short of its desired objective” [hence the transfer], bundled in with the “millions of sympathisers” myth. Ann Galbally (Redmond Barry, 1995: 189) lent on that combination too when she wrote, “the Kelly Gang had a legendary status in rural areas. Which was why, after capture, the system was manipulated to ensure that the trial was transferred to Melbourne”. Alex Castles (NK’s Last Days, 2005: 177) also implied that Barry had it in for Kelly, presenting Barry’s consent to the transfer application as having a vindictive personal motive: “He said the situation ‘demanded’ the hearing go on in the Victorian capital where he himself would be presiding…”. This in turn was represented as favouring the case to be presented by the crown as “many were of the opinion that he would relish the opportunity to put the bushranger to death”. What Castles is proposing is that Barry would force a conviction against the evidence presented in court, an outrageous proposition totally at odds with anything said about Barry’s conduct of that (or any other) trial in his day.


Fricke put it similarly to Molony : to Barry’s mind, “The crown’s argument that a conviction would be difficult to achieve in Beechworth not merely justified a change of venue; it demanded it” (129). We see this again in Peter Fitzsimons’ Ned Kelly 2013: 633, “the authorities know they have a much better chance of getting a Melbourne jury to hang Ned than they do a jury from Kelly Country”, referencing the Age 13/8/80 p. 2 which said no such thing. Under much of this we find the bloody hand of Jones’s warping of the historical record and its interpretation at work. In fact, what the newspaper source Jones referenced actually said was, “Barry thought there was sufficient disclosed on the face of the affidavit of the Crown solicitor not only to justify him in changing the venue, but to demand that he did so” (Herald 22/9/80). That is quite different to the bungling misreadings or wilful misrepresentations made by several presented above; and in particular – because of his influence – that by Jones (Short Life, 2008: 368, quoted above), that the transfer was maliciously done to ensure conviction, rather than the documented reason that it was done to avoid juror intimidation. As it very clear from the two Herald articles of the day referenced above, the transfer was made to ensure a “fair and impartial hearing” by precluding the very predictable intimidation of Beechworth jurors by Kelly relatives and associates, as the more objective and rational historians have seen and accepted.

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26 Replies to “Why was Ned Kellys trial moved from Beechworth to Melbourne?”

  1. There is a letter on display in the Benalla museum (the one by the river / bridge) and it’s from Kate Kelly to Judge Cope (whom was originally thought to be the judge allocated to hear Kelly’s trial). This letter suggests the Kelly family felt a trial in the North East would spark another outbreak of violence.

    1. Thanks for that Alice. I hope someone can give us a transcript of that letter.

      Did they expect an outbreak of violence because they guessed Ned Kelly would be convicted of murder?

  2. Hi Alice and David,
    By the sounds, its more likely it was the authorities that thought there might be a ‘more serious’ uprising by locals if the trial was held in Beechworth. I was always led to believe that, and as hostilities increased they decided to do it in Melbourne, to make sure, and set an example to others -to say this is what will happen to you too, if we can’t quell this political problem, we are in charge and the big city newspapers will love the story.

    1. Yes I think youre right Bill, but that wasn’t so unusual because ALL trials and sentencing have an element of public messaging, informing any would-be thieves and murderers out there that it doesnt pay to defy the law!

      But it does seem to be the case that if the sympathiser mob hadn’t intimidated and threatened people, Ned Kelly would have been tried in Beechworth . The authorities wanted a fair trial and that wasn’t going to happen in the Northeast.

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    A press report that Ned spat at the crowd gathered to see his arrival by train from Melbourne wouldn’t have helped him much. The proceedings at Beechworth was a committal hearing to discover whether there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction, and then to refer the matter to a higher court.

    The 1880 Supreme Court Calendar is the key to solving this issue. Most likely sittings were due in Melbourne when Ned was tried and not Beechworth.

    Barrista to the Stars

    1. No, Kelly was committed for trial at the Beechworth Assize Court, and the transfer to Melbourne had nothing to do with court sitting dates. The application for transfer was made by a Crown affidavit that jurors in the Beechworth area were likely to be intimidated by relatives and sympathisers. This is clear in the two Herald articles of 18 and 22 August 1880 used as reference by Ian Jones and given in my post above.

    2. Anonymous says: Reply

      On 14/9/1880 the Crown applied to Barry J for an order to transfer the trial of Edward Kelly from the Beechworth Circuit Court to the Central Criminal Court in Melbourne. The application was made under section 33 of the Judicature Act.


      Barrista to the Stars

      1. As I was saying, Herald, Thursday 16 September 1880, page 3
        A summons is to be taken out this afternoon by Mr Poole, of the Crown Law department, calling upon Edward Kelly, now awaiting his trial, on a charge of murder to show cause why the venue should not be changed from the Beechworth Assize Court to the Central Criminal Court at Melbourne. The summons was to be made returnable before Mr Justice Barry in chambers on Saturday next. It is proposed to put Kelly on his trial at the sittings of the Central Criminal Court commencing on the 15th 0ctober.

        1. At risk of stating the obvious, the 16 September article shows that Kelly (through his solicitor Gaunson) had the opportunity to show cause why his trial should not be moved to Melbourne. Gaunson rocked up on to Barry’s chambers on the Saturday and quite reasonably argued that he had not had time to consult with Kelly about that, as he had only found out about it on the Thursday afternoon and was not allowed by Gaol regulations to visit him again until Monday.

          Barry granted an extension on hearing the application until Wednesday so that Gaunson could see Kelly to get a counter-affidavit. There is no conspiracy anywhere in this. Kelly had the time and opportunity handed to him to object to the transfer with a counter affidavit.

          Yet when Gaunson rocked up again on the Wednesday he said that he had not seen Kelly and of course did not have any counter affidavit to present. Barry did his duty by law “as there is no counter affidavit”, and said that enough had been disclosed In what was put to him in the prosecution’s affidavit to demand a change of venue. The application was accordingly granted.

          And rightly so as abundant evidence referenced above, now also including the letters to Cope attests.

  4. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

    Stuart Dawson in his Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republicof North-Eastern Victoria book alludes to the letter to Judge Cope and gives a partial quote from it and gives sourcing for it. Steve Jager wrote a piece in defense of the Republic after Dawson’s book and in that he gives the full quote of the letter(s). https://www.ironoutlaw.com/writings/ned-kellys-republic/The SLV link giving more info on the letters – http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/1cl35st/SLV_VOYAGER1639340

    1. Thanks Sharon – Ive copied them below:

      (Its amazing to learn how abundantly clear it is that Kelly sympathiser threats were the reason for the trial being shifted to Melbourne, and not anything to do with a nefarious scheme of Judge Redmond Barrys )

      Sept 8
      To his excellency Judge Cope
      I hereby give you timely notice that if you pass the sentence of death on Edward Kelly and he gets hanged, three other gangs are to turn out There are two gangs already formed to my knowledge just waiting to see what will be done and they vow vengence on the Police They say it is not for money but to shoot the Police everyone they meet they say they won’t pass them by like Ned Kelly did there are fourteen in one gang and eight in the other they say it started in Mansfield but it wont end there
      There are hundreds of respectable people that never were simpathisers nor never intended to be swears That they will have revenge. More than three parts of Victoria have simpathy for Ned Kelly.

      Dear Sir
      I am sure it would be well worth while to spare Ned Kellys life for I am sure Those other gangs will put the country far greater expense than ever the Kellys did and not that alone but all the Police that will loose their lives over it The country will be in a terrible state They say they will have revenge for for fifty Police setting fire to a house rather than face two Boys to burn them they say if ever they get holt of Johnston that was this man that set fire to the Glenrowan Hotel they will roast him alive The people all say they would (the Police) sacrafice a hundred Innocent lives to capture two Boys so if they have to turn out they will make it hot for them the whole country has simpathy for Ned Kelly so if you hang him mostly every sole in the country will have a down on you even all the ladies in this part of the country is as willing to turn out for Ned as well as the men I am sure that Poor Ned Kelly was driven out if just look at it as if was your own case I am sure no one could blame them for shooting them three police the Kellys lives were as good as theirs any day if not better So you ought to draw it mild when you are passing the sentence on Ned Kelly for your own sake for by all accounts you stand in danger So hoping you see and understand the reasonableness of my letter
      I remain yours truly
      A Lady

      1. “That ain’t no lady, that’s my wife!”
        These two letters are printed in full in Graham Seal’s “Tell ’em I died game” (2002) pages 101-102.

        1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

          I was always under the impression that the trial was moved due to worry about the sympathisers causing trouble and intimidating witnesses. Also, remember they had previously replaced the wooden prison gates with iron ones due to worry about someone trying to break out the sympathisers that had been arrested. Also, I know it is not popular here to talk about Ned collectables, but a while back I got a copy of Graham Seal’s Ned Kelly in Popular Tradition which came out in 1980 (it was later republished as Tell Em I Died Game) for $3.19 which included tax and free shipping. Inside it has Graham Seal’s dated signature and a dedication to his godmother. The ad for it did not mention either of those “bonuses.” Sometimes you get very lucky! Stuart, thanks for the reminder that the letter was in that book. Helpful when one does not have access to archives you have to visit in person and it is easier to cut and paste from another website, too, rather than typing it all in (especially when it is near the bottom of a large precariously perched pile). 

  5. Hi David, I made a further comment on the transfer of the trial earlier tonight, with newspaper sources, but ham-fistedly posted it to the final part of your previous (Ned’s Nemesis final part) post. The link to my comment is here,

  6. Further notes on the transfer decision:

    From the Ballarat Courier, 23 September 1880, page 2, we learn that Gaunson submitted to Barry that “it was unlikely that the local [Beechworth] jury would consist of sympathisers with the prisoner”. Smyth for the Crown responded, “No, we do not think that for a moment; but they may be in terror of the sympathisers”.

    That was the central point of the affidavit presented to have the trial moved to Melbourne. It was never in the prosecution’s head for a moment that a Beechworth jury might be sympathetic to the leader of the gang that had wreaked mayhem around the district for some two years.

    The affidavit, printed in full in the Argus, 20 September 1880, page 7, clearly states the reasons for the transfer request in clauses 8 and 9:

    “8. That from the lawless conduct and threatening demeanour of some of the relations friends, and sympathisers of the said Edward Kelly. I believe efforts would be made to intimidate certain of the jurors on the jury panel of the said Assize Court, and that some of the said jurors might probably be thereby deterred and intimidated from finding a verdict in accordance with the evidence”.

    “9. That should a jury find a verdict of guilty against the said Edward Kelly, I verily believe that those members of the said jury who live in the country districts of the said bailiwick would be liable to serious injuries in their persons, families, and property at the hands of the said relations, friends and other sympathisers of the said Edward Kelly”.

    Note, too, that Gaunson had for whatever reason failed to visit Kelly in gaol on the following Monday, for which Barry had granted him time, and so did not obtain the counter-affidavit that Gaunson himself had said was necessary. I gave the references in my post above. If anyone failed Kelly in this matter, it was solely Gaunson. But more likely he realised that he had no argument to pursue.
    Barry then followed the established legal process with which as we have seen Gaunson fully understood. He said, ‘“It appears to me that my duty in this case is very simple, for there is no counter affidavit here. I am clearly of opinion that enough has been disclosed to justify me not only in granting the change of venue, but also in demanding that the change should be made.” Application was accordingly granted.’

    Everything relating to the transfer application was done by the book, for good reasons, and without the slightest hint of malice. The application was handled according to the procedures of the day, and there was never a hint of conspiracy by the Crown or Barry in any of this.

  7. Another problem in Fricke’s chapter 10 emerges from the transfer question. Despite the source evidence above, that shows Kelly was granted through his solicitor Gaunson an extension of time to produce a counter affidavit objecting to the transfer, and that Gaunson did not do anything with that opportunity, thereby letting the crown’s transfer application succeed, Fricke writes on page 147 in respect of Kelly’s subsequent ability to challenge prospective jurors in court,

    “It was at this point that Kelly must have felt particularly disadvantaged by Barry’s earlier decision to transfer the trial from Beechworth to Melbourne.”

    This is simply wrong-headed. We have just seen that Barry did not somehow “decide” to transfer the trial to Melbourne, and certainly not for any reasons of bias. No, the newspaper record is clear that if Kelly was in any way disadvantaged by the transfer that was 100 percent on Gaunson, who never went to get the counter affidavit that he said his client needed, and was granted time by Barry to get. Barry followed due process: no counter affidavit, and no remotely adequate grounds for objection to the crown’s application for transfer on the grounds of likely intimidation of jurors, just film-flam, as anyone can read in the Herald coverage of both the Saturday and Wednesday meetings at Barry’s chambers; also the lengthy Argus reportage referenced above.

    If Gaunson saw any solid reasons for objecting to the transfer, he let his client down by failing to go and get a counter affidavit. It is not cogent to attempt to shift the blame to Barry by fluffing about Kelly feeling “disadvantaged.” Gaunson, not Barry, is solely responsible for any disadvantage Kelly may have felt from the transfer. Barry followed the due process with which Gaunson was fully acquainted – as he acknowledged when he asked and was granted an extension of time to see his client Kelly – and Gaunson, not Barry, carries total responsibility for the consequences. The detailed newspaper reports leave not an inch of room for doubt on this one.

  8. Fricke’s next step is easy to follow but not referenced with sources; and there is strong reason to question its legitimacy. Remember, early in the book he listed things which in his view contributed to what he saw as injustices in the legal system of that day, pages 75-76. These included “the absence of legal aid” . But in this book on Kelly, Kelly was represented by experienced solicitor Gaunson both at his committal hearing and as instructing solicitor in hi trial. Further, the Crown paid Kelly’s barrister Bindon “seven guineas a day for defence counsel” , page 141, so the point about no legal aid is interesting but wholly irrelevant in this context.

    Frick would have liked to see Kelly represented by some highly paid barrister such as Molesworth, or Richard Ireland In his heyday, page 149 (before Ireland turned into an impoverished drunkard, endnote 9); but why? What benefit would there have been to paying such an expert barrister to try to run a self-defence case – which is what appears to underpin all this, from page 138 – that had no legs?

    A number of legal eagles have taken Kelly’s side over the years since the 1967 Wangaratta seminar, and all have fallen for Jones’s theory that McIntyre perjured himself to eliminate a self defence argument. As with most of Jones’s peculiar theories, this too depends on manipulating evidence to reach a factually wrong conclusion. In this case it rests on Jones’s belief that the 1913 Sadleir memoir contained a transcript of McIntyre’s first statement about SBC. We know this is false because that statement was located before the trial and was in the prosecution brief. Jones knew that too, but fixated on Kelly’s exoneration, he insisted that Sadleir’s narration was verbatim rather than a 30 year old recollection. That is the only challenge to McIntyre’s testimony that has been made, for which many have fallen, and it is entirely based on Jones’ incompetence (or perhaps malicious incompetence, we will never know now).

    Anyway, this provides the context within which Fricke suggests that it was “Despite the injustice of such a course [of Barry having previously objected to trials being transferred out of their originating local region such that the accused would face an unfamiliar jury], Barry had acceded to the Crown’s application” to transfer. As we have seen, their is no basis for taking Barry’s decade earlier remarks, which lamented a practice undertaken at times apparently merely for administrative convenience, with the application to transfer Kelly’s trial to Melbourne due to a real and legitimate fear that Kelly would not get a fair legal trial in Beechworth due to likely juror fears of intimidation and vindictive revenge.

  9. One final comment on the jury issue in Fricke’s book at this point: he asserts that the result of transferring the trial to Melbourne disadvantaged Kelly in that “Kelly had to make a stab in the dark about the suitability of each juror”, as opposed to Beechworth where he “would have been able to make a much more informed and reliable choice” (page 144-5). How reasonable is this claim?

    Ideally an accused is able to reject jurors who display or are thought likely to have a bias against them. Jurors are supposed to be a neutral and objective body of peers. One could argue that a Melbourne jury would be more neutral as awaiting the discussion in court with attentive ears, willing to take an objectively critical view of both prosecution and defence, as opposed to a jury from the district that had suffered the depredations of the Kelly gang for some two years.

    In the event, the jury chosen comprised roughly half skilled trades and The rest unskilled trades, and no professionals (as listed on page 145). There seems nothing to complain about as regards potential jury bias from Kelly’s angle, and indeed he could have challenged up to 20 of the prospective jurors without having to give any reason (page 143), rather than only the 5 challenges that he made. Let us have no more imputations that Kelly was in any way badly done by in regards to the selection of the 12 good and true empaneled to hear his case.

  10. One more last thing – and maybe not the final last thing! I noted in my main article above, para 2, that the view that Kelly might have had a more sympathetic jury in Beechworth than in Melbourne comes from Jones, who fiddled with the newspaper evidence to fabricate this conclusion against the historical evidence that the transfer was granted due to legitimate concerns about the likelihood of Beechworth juror intimidation and had nothing whatsoever to do with any potential sympathy for Kelly there.

    Why would Jones think this in the first place? The answer is again in his Short Life, progressively being exposed as one of the most misleading historical biographies ever written. On page 368 of the last (2008 paperback) edition we find in reference to the trial transfer, “Ned … must have known that the already slim hope of an acquittal had dwindled. Nevertheless a powerful groundswell of support for him was developing.” This is utter nonsense that rests on snippets of clippings taken out of context, and harks back to the belief he clung to since the 1960s that Kelly had a large body of sympathisers all over the north east- a massively wrong belief that keeps on being perpetuated by Kelly nuts regardless of abundant newspaper and archival evidence to the contrary.

    The belief goes like this: the north east was full of Kelly sympathisers, therefore a NE jury would be sympathetic to Kelly, therefore moving the trial to Melbourne was a deliberate attempt to nail Kelly by tying him away from that sympathetic environment. The whole argument is pathetic, wrong, incorrectly evidenced, and specious. For a review of the actual and quite small extent of any sympathy for Kelly outside of those intimidated into help or silence, see my free Republic Myth book.

    Once again we see how Jones’s back to front bungling of history has led many up the garden path. I have spent almost two weeks on one paragraph on Fricke’s book, the one on the transfer of the trial on page 135 and some related sentences. Was it worth it? Yes. It shows how much is involved in dismantling what seems to be a simple thing, and what the historical evidence actually shows about what happened. It shows why reviewing and critiquing existing historical narratives is important if you don’t want to be a victim of BS and add your own misfounded angle onto a house of cards.

    It shows why you can’t blindly accept a dominant narrative and work on from there, as though some guru had provided all the understanding you need. At every stage you have to review the parts of the narrative that impact your investigation and test their validity. And toss them out if they’re wrong.

  11. Moving on from the transfer of the trial there is another highly contentious claim that Fricke made about the trial itself, and the question of self defence. Fricke notes page 138 that it was not until 1935 that it was established in the (UK) House of Lords that the onus rests on the crown to prove that the accused did not act in self defence rather than on the accused to rove that he did, stemming from a decision that the prosecution must prove all aspects of the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt.

    That’s all to the good; but Fricke follows on to claim that “the law on this topic was not … quite so clear in 1880. … Prior to [1935] it was sometimes thought that with self-defence … the burden rested on the accused to prove that issue.”

    Is that right? Professor Louis Waller in Man & Myth 1968 page 112 has a totally different view, and one which seems rock solid and without any lack of clarity as to how the law applied in Kelly’s day. Citing Foster 1809, he stated that “In 1880 it would therefore have been entirely appropriate for the trial judge to tell the jury that it was the defendant who bore the burden of proving that he was acting in self defence or under duress …. and who ran the risk of conviction if he failed.”

    In sum, with the further discussion there, one is compelled to go with Walker P. 113 against Fricke, that “it is unlikely that … Barry departed from the then clearly accepted judicial understanding of the burden of proof in a prosecution for murder.”

    Scores: justice according to well-established law, 1; Kelly, 0; misguided Kelly enthusiasts, 0 (again).

  12. Stuart, how about you stop your emotive language and repeated characterisations of Ian Jones as disreputable, scheming and dishonest.

    Fiddles, fabricates, manipulating evidence, peculiar theories, incompetence, perhaps malicious incompetence.

    These are the words you use on this one page alone, but I could easily pick just about any other from this blog. I know several great, highly qualified, published historians and none would ever engage in this type of language, as you and David MacFarlane constantly do here. By all means say you disagree with his conclusions, by all means state you disagree with his use of evidence, by all means recognise his different interpretations, but stop these nasty, bitter, cowardly attacks.

    1. You object to “Nasty bitter cowardly attacks” do you? I suppose you do realise Ian Jones engaged in abusive personal attacks on people who didnt agree with him from his elevated status as ‘Australias foremost Kelly authority’ – Bill Denheld and Alex Castles among others would enlighten you if you had missed them.

      And why is it you have never objected to all the ‘nasty bitter cowardly attacks’ that have been launched against me and Stuart for years, and are still there on Facebook pages that you probably frequent?

      I guess I am just fed up with the sanctomnious anonymous Kelly supporters whose principled stands against strong language and opinions only applies to people whose opinions they dont like. Where are all your challenges to Stuarts opinions, where are your objections to the content of his posts or are you wanting rather to silence him by claiming youre on some higher moral ground?

      1. Ian Jones’s savage posthumous attack on Alex Castles and his book was reprehensible. Yuk!


    2. Anonymous, you didn’t tell us who your several great, highly qualified, published historians were or if they agree with you. Stuart has provided compelling and damning, detailed historical evidence that Ian was wrong in many aspects of his speculations. You seem to be suggesting these mistakes should be overlooked or forgiven. Yours was an unwarranted, bitter, personal attack on Stuart and David too. You need to lift your act a lot.

      Cam West

    3. Hi Anonymous, you have a point as regards emotive language, but you can’t be serious in suggesting that Ian Jones did not engage in savage put-downs and abuse of those he disagreed with. There is a long list of examples – not only of Alex Castles whom he roundly abused in the Age (quoted in my Republic Myth book); the scholarship of anyone who disagreed with him (in the introduction to Short Life); several video interviews including the Beechworth Kelly Weekend video; at least two seminar transcripts; and that’s just criticising other writers. Then he gets really abusive about many of the historical figures in his narrative, particularly Fitzpatrick and police in general, and also numerous politicians and judiciary of Kelly’s day.

      I don’t doubt that you know several great, highly qualified, published historians who write with tact and diplomacy. I personally know well over a hundred, and a couple of dozen of these quite well. Practically all write what you might call neutrally about their topics; but all have motivation for the opinions underpinning their work, and practically all get highly emotive and drop plenty of swear words in conversation about those with opposing views.

      Also, how many of your pool of historians write on Kelly? How many of those in turn have spent time examining in detail Jones’s claims and the pool of evidence for each claim that goes wider than the selection of evidence presented by Jones? Even John McQuilton whom I greatly respect for the detail in his 1979 Kelly Outbreak book, seems to have been inspired by Jones’s belief in a sympathiser army to collect all the evidence for its existence and yet, when re-examined in my Republic Myth book, turns out to amount to only one armed seen at Glenrowan who was not with the police party.

      Once you see Jones’s wilful and deliberate manipulation of historical evidence about George Metcalf, where he kept trying to blame the police for Metcalf’s bullet rather than Kelly who fired it, against unquestionable historical evidence to the contrary, you can’t unsee it. Read my Metcalf article to see Jones’s dishonest mangling of the source evidence on that matter, and you will see why it is necessary to caution others about his biased, selective and deliberately manipulative approach to historical evidence.

      You can see it again in his presentation of Fitzpatrick. As exposed in my Redeeming Fitzpatrick article, he omitted comments from Fitzpatrick’a Record of Service favourable to Fitzpatrick from his “analysis”. He presented dates from the RoS out of time sequence to push his manipulatively distorted view of Fitzpatrick in order to progress his hate-filled narrative.

      He got most of his view of a class struggle between squatters and selectors hopelessly wrong, being out by more than a decade as Morrissey showed. I could go on for a week with examples of Jones getting things wrong by selective uses of evidence. You may think it’s better to say nothing, or to strictly do it unemotively and politely, and you are welcome to do that. But if you think Kelly history is done by unemotionally attached people it seems like you never experienced the Two Minute Hate when Fitzpatrick was mentioned at a Ned Kelly Weekend, or the police in general at an Iron Outlaw event. When you socialise regularly with senior academics you soon learn that they are no less emotive that anyone else. They are just better at hiding tge more overt expression of their biases under the guise of polite neutrality in print.

      Pro tip : to identify academic biases look at their published articles list, for what journals they published in in their early days. A dominance of Marxist and labour history type journals suggests you are dealing with an activist. Use extra caution when reading their material as it is far less likely to present objective history.

  13. Another thing arises from Fricke’s book: he noted that Redmond Barry arrived in Victoria in 1838 when the colony was quite young; he observed that the early police magistrates “had military backgrounds, and the line between executive and judicial functions was frequently blurred” (p. 27). Many of the police. too, had military backgrounds; but this should not surprise.

    The London Metropolitan Police, on which Victoria’s police system was modelled, only came into being in 1829, and the Met’s Commissioners had “had create a police force out of nothing … to take young men of limited education, and teach them not only drill, but tact and forbearance in carrying out difficult duties” (George Dilnot, “Scotland Yard”, 1926, page 31). The uniform was specifically designed – including a chimney-pot hat – to avoid any appearance of militarism (page 39). Not until 1858 did the top-hat style hat disappear (page 87).

    In the colony, military style uniforms were the model, and it was not until 1875 – Fitzpatrick’s first year in the Victorian police – that the London bobby style helmet was introduced here, as shown in his carte de visite photo. The point of this is to note that the trooper style of police at Eureka – an armed rebellion over taxes – were perceived differently to the police in Kelly’s day, as we can see from Sadeir’s Recollections. Sadleir arrived type colony in 1852 near the start of the gold rush and much changed in his time. As the foreword noted, “our earlier police were of necessity semi-military in their organisation and ideals”; but by the time of Sadleir’s arrival in 1852 they were of much more varied occupational backgrounds (page 24). By the Kelly’s time the police had moved further towards the London model and gained more generalised community appreciation. This change over time must be borne in mind when talking about early colonial policing; significant changes had taken place over time. The 1881 Royal Commission was specific to its own time and should not be generalised back as though pre-Kelly policing was monolithic. Not that Fricke does that anywhere, but there is a tendency for some Kelly writers to generalise about the police as though those at Eureka were more or less directly comparable with those in the Kelly hunt. Examples like Bracken and Sadleir show how far from the truth that is.

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