Ian Jones re-invented the Kelly story about fifty years ago by inserting into it the vision of a Republic of North East Victoria, transforming Ned Kellys life story and the history of the Outbreak from a murderous tale of colonial criminality into a much more appealing morality tale. This new view became the new orthodoxy, Ned Kelly was promoted as heroic and visionary, albeit misguided perhaps, and the story of a brave but failed attempt at Glenrowan to declare the North East a republic was written into all the history books. What people reading those books these days don’t seem realise is that the image of Kelly being a hero is a recent development – for much more of the 140 years since his death Ned Kelly was regarded by the majority of Australians as a violent and dangerous mass murderer who reaped his just desserts.
However, Jones was bang-on when he also said that unless the plan for Glenrowan was about establishing a Republic or some similar greater political ideal, the plan was just ‘mad’ and if it had been carried out successfully it would have been a ‘criminal atrocity of monstrous scale’. Jones didn’t seem to be able to entertain the possibility that Ned Kelly could have been that mad, or had it in him to plan a ‘criminal atrocity of monstrous scale’.
But Jones was wrong – Kelly had it in him alright! Read what the Royal Commissioners wrote about Ned Kellys killing of Sgt Michael Kennedy at Stringybark Creek:
“The cold-blooded despatch of the brave but ill-fated Kennedy, when wounded and hopeless of surviving he pleaded to be allowed to live to bid farewell to his wife and children, is one of the darkest stains upon the careers of the outlaws and would of itself apart from other crimes brand the name of his murderer, the leader of the gang, with infamy”
Well, sadly for Jones and the Kelly devotees the case for a Republic has collapsed. Thomas Patrick Lloyd, son of so-called Fifth Kelly Gang member Tom Lloyd and source of the ‘oral history’ that Jones relied on, has confessed that what he told Jones was made up. The Republic declaration and other documentation Jones and others went on a world-wide hunt for has not materialised, and the only person who claimed to have ever seen it has now retracted this claim. Finally, in 2018 Dr Stuart Dawson’s forensic examination of the origins of the Republic story showed it to have emerged out of a piece of satirical journalism in the twentieth century. Talk of a Republic has quietly been dropped by the few Kelly devotees interested in historical reality rather than conspiracy theory, with Kelly clan descendant Noeleen Lloyd recently describing Ned Kellys plan for Glenrowan as “a mad plan that went bad” – and she hasn’t been challenged by anyone. Less than ten years ago nobody in the pro-Kelly community would have ever said that, so times are certainly changing. Even so it will be a while yet I expect before the majority will accept the alternative to the republic that Jones offered, which is that Glenrowan would have been ‘a criminal atrocity of monstrous scale’ and by extension its architect a monstrous criminal without it. But monstrous criminal is what Ned Kelly has been regarded as for the greater proportion of the 140 years that have passed since his demise, and I have no doubt, now that Jones hypnotic influence is vanishing, it will be Kellys legacy into the future.
In the meantime, its interesting to look at some of the ancilliary arguments that were developed to support the Republic Theory. Nobody really examined them carefully till Dawson did in 2018, and careful scrutiny shows them to have been flimsy at best. One of them was the claim that there was a group of armed sympathisers waiting nearby for a signal to join and support the Kelly Gang at Glenrowan. Dawson exposed this claim as fantasy in his 2018 paper on the Republic,(See link at top right of this page) and I wrote about it in 2019 HERE. Dawson’s expose reduced to the level of farce the way in which Jones and others constructed the claims about a sympathiser army: Riderless police horses galloping about restlessly in the dark were instead said to be the army of mounted sympathisers; a third hand report that someone had seen four men on foot, one with a gun became four mounted and heavily armed sympathisers arriving to join the army; a man galloping on horseback towards Wangaratta – in other words in the wrong direction – was also included as a sympathiser but Dawson showed it was highly likely to have been Bracken heading off to get help!
Another of the ancillary arguments that was drawn into Jones view of what happened at Glenrowan was the firing of rockets :
“Sympathisers would rally when 14-year-old Jack Lloyd fired the signal rockets to announce the wrecking of the train” (Jones)
Here’s what others wrote :
“The sympathisers were told to look for the signal – one rocket for success two for danger” (Phelan)
“Suddenly the sky is filled with two enormous flashes, as from somewhere just behind McDonnell’s Hotel two Chinese rockets are fired – a signal perhaps to sympathisers to rush to the aid of the gang?” (Fitzsimons)
“Suddenly two Chinese rockets were fired from McDonnell’s Railway Tavern. These rockets were supposed to give signal to the sympathisers immediately after the train was derailed so they could gather together with the Gang to move on. ….Ned, seeing them, couldn’t understand what on earth possessed Jack Lloyd- entrusted with the task – to make such a fatal mistake and let the rockets off now.” (Balcarek and Dean ‘Ned and the others’)
‘As the gunfight continued, Neds fourteen-year-old cousin Jack Lloyd was in an agony of indecision. He had been given the job of firing the Chinese rockets to signal the start of the uprising when the train crashed but it was now clear the plot was failing. Crouched in the darkness at the front of McDonnell’s Hotel, Jack made his decision. He fired the rockets and bright green flares exploded in the night sky. Suddenly Ned was in an even more difficult position; the flares would send the sympathisers to a pre-arranged meeting point. Badly wounded he would have to leave the Inn to contact the sympathisers and warn them the revolt had collapsed.” (Paul Terry ‘The True Story of Ned Kellys last stand’)
The main elements of these descriptions are one or two rockets, let off by Jack Lloyd, from in front of or behind McDonnell’s Hotel after the train had crashed, and one or two enormous bright green flashes to signal success or failure, or the wrecking of the train.
The thing that’s remarkable about all this detail is that almost all of it is made up, just as the details about the phantom army were made up. But who would know unless they took the time to go and look at the historical record which is the source for the rocket claim?
The origin of these claims about rockets is the testimony given at the Royal Commission by Constable Arthur, the policeman Steele accused of cowardice, the one who heard Steele say things that nobody else reported hearing, the one whose yelling at Steele wasn’t heard by anyone else, the one who said that everyone who believed Steele had brought Ned Kelly down was mistaken because what he saw was Ned Kelly tripping over the branch of a fallen tree, the one who wrote Steele had fired twice at Mrs Reardon but when cross examined said it was only once .
Arthur was being asked about what happened at the Siege when Ned Kelly was brought down:
Q11187 : Did you form the impression he was wounded ?
Arthur -It seemed as if he could not lift his hand ; and after Montifort and Healey fired he shifted his hand, and held the right hand with the left.
11188: So as to steady it ?
-Yes. He was more dead than alive when he came out.
11189: Do you know where he came out of the house ?
-I could not tell.
11190: You do not know anything about how he got out ?
-No. After we were firing the second volley, there was a man came out from the yard, and as he came out there were two rockets let up between the railway station and McDonald’s, and I was looking round to where they went off, and there was some firing went on then, and as I turned round I saw this man going out. I do not know whether it was Ned Kelly.
11191:We never heard of rockets?
-Constable Gascoigne can tell about that. I think it was some sympathizers letting them know they were attacked by the police. One was very faint, and the other was a large one.
11192: Did you form any opinion about the taking of those men, whether the whole time of that night and day should have been spent on it ?
-Yes ; it could not have been done any other way, without the loss of life. If we had gone in we would have been shot.
What Arthur reported was this: sometime after shooting had started between the Gang and the Police, two rockets, one very faint and one large, were let up somewhere between the Railway station and McDonalds (McDonnell’s) Hotel. That’s all! He speculated it could have been sympathisers letting them off but how was he to know? He also said Gascoigne could tell the Commission about them, but Gascoigne had already been cross-examined and didn’t mention them, and as far as I know there is no record anywhere else of Gascoigne ever mentioning rockets. The other remarkable thing is that the Commissioners were taken by surprise by this claim, saying this was the first they had ever heard of rockets – and it was many months after the seige! Neither is there any record or report anywhere else of any journalist or any other person ever seeing rockets!
But let’s just say that two rockets really were fired and even though there were crowds of people there, Arthur was the only person there who actually saw them. All we know is that somewhere between the station and the hotel two rockets were fired, one weak and one bright. No other record exists to tell us who fired them or why, or what colour they were or even if they were anything at all to do with the siege. Perhaps local Chinese were celebrating something? Or maybe they fired them off to add a bit of colour and excitement to the proceedings? The truth is we simply dont know – but that doesn’t give us license to go off and invent stuff.
But not knowing didn’t stop the myth maker Ian Jones and others from making up stuff, adding in details made up from God-alone knows where, such as that they were a signal from sympathisers, and that it was Jack Jones who lit them, that they were green, that the whole night sky was lit up by them!. Incredibly they just ignored some of the details in Arthurs statement, such as that one rocket was very faint, and that they were let off between the Station and the Hotel! But making stuff up is routine in the Kelly world.
In fact, now that we know there never was a sympathiser army, and that the Gang was there on its own, it’s much more likely that those rockets, if they ever existed had nothing at all to do with the Outbreak.
Instead what the story of the rockets has become is another example of the disreputable way in which so much of the story of the Outbreak has been made up out of the flimsiest of evidences by people who are more interested in fabricating and perpetuating a myth than reporting the facts and following the evidence to its accurate conclusion. The army is not part of the Kelly story – it never existed. But the rockets? : they also might never have existed as only one person claimed to have seen them. But if they did exist, theres no special reason to believe they were part of the Kelly story. Speculate as much as you like but all we know is what Arthur said. And that wasn’t much.
53 Replies to “The Rockets : How come only one person saw them?”
I have said before that Ian Jones has a lot to answer for. His made up fiction since the 1990s, has permeated just about every facet of Ned Kelly books, films, videos, and sadly, through government and quasi-government material. Jones is not the only one, as FitzSimons carried on the fiction, myths and downright lies in his Ned Kelly book.
The degradation of police in both Jones and FitzSimons books are a disgrace, and good, decent police were vilified in almost every chapter of their books. Both of these authors present Kelly’s lies as facts, and state on numerous occasions that the police involved gave perjured evidence. Nothing could be further from the truth, as it is clear that those perjuring themselves were the Kelly’s and their criminal associates, including family members.
When one reads the different statements of those present at Glenrowan, and who subsequently gave evidence at the Royal Commission in 1881, it becomes clear that some witnesses lied at the RC.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff relating to occurrences at Glenrowan will take some time to sort through the truth and the lies. Trove is a great source for finding information relating to historical events, and that includes matters relating to Ned Kelly.
With Stuart Dawson’s excellent works on Constable Fitzpatrick, and his complete destruction of Jones’s fictional republican nonsense, and other works exposing the myths and lies, has triggered off an avalanche exposing the myths, lies and fiction throughout the Kelly story.
There is more work to be done, but the truth is finally beginning to win the day.
Hi David, it is interesting to review what Jones said, given the only information anywhere at all about the rockets is from the Royal Commission minutes, Q. 11190-1: Const. James Arthur says, “After we were firing the second volley, there was a man came out from the yard, and as he came out there were two rockets let up between the railway station and McDonald’s, and I was looking round to where they went off…. ” [Commission: 11191. We never heard of rockets?] Arthur: Constable Gascoigne can tell about that. I think it was some sympathizers letting them know they were attacked by the police. One was very faint, and the other was a large one.” That’s it; but we can reasonably say that Const. Gascoigne saw the rockets from that statement. So regardless that Gascoign wasn’tr recalled and asked about it,. it is fair to say there were at least two witnesses; and also that it was of little importance as no-one else mentioned it. Even Authur only mentioned it as an incidental thing while he was speaking of the time when someone (Kelly) left the Inn.
Back in 1967 Jones wrote in his now quite ridiculous looking “New view of Ned Kelly” (in Man & Myth 1968: 172), “a sympathizer, whose name we know, was waiiting … to fire the two rockets (a big one and a small one) which would signal the sympathizers to gallop to Glenrowan.” In other words, he has invented a meaning for the rockets, that they were to signal to a sympathizer army that he had invented in the previous pages. We are led to believe that Jones knows a secret: the name of the sypmpathizer who fired the rockets. This gives his fairy story magical weight; but we now know that he swallowed some oral history, likely from Tom Lloyd Jnr.’s son, the ex-policeman Tom Lloyd who we know from his own statements to Doug Morrissey and to Leo Kennedy’s dad in LK’s presence, that he fed the Kelly researchers a load of cobblers to make fools of them. In other words, it is likely that Tom wrote his uncle Jack into the story of Glenrowan. Classic.
In Fatal Friendship 1992 (2nd edn 2003: 183) Jones said the “Two Chinese rockets would signal the gathering of a band of sympathisers armed with the Gang’s best guns.” There is no evidence that the rockets might have been Chinese. There is no evidence that there was any band of sympathisers (see my republic myth book), and not a shred of evidence that the gang at any time had enough guns to arm much more than farmer Brown (if they hadn’t more likely robbed him), again as analysed in then republic myth book section of how many guns they had. Jones’ whole case is specious fantasy.
On p. 188 Jones says of Kelly’s botched attempted police massacre, “Everything had gone wrong. Capping it all, Jack Lloyd, charged with firing the signal rockets when the train was wrecked, had set them off almost immediately after the start of the fight. Sympathisers would be riding to join the Gang; but instead of an almost unopposed attack on Benalla, they faced a pitched gun battle. They must be turned back.” That young idiot killed the revolution single-handed! Can you believe it? Why not, literally thousands of historically ignorant and mentally deficient Kelly nuts have for over 50 years.
In Short Life 1995 (revised edn 2008: 280), Jones wrote that “Signal rockets would rally the sympathisers and they would join the gang in their move on Benalla to blow up the railway line rest of the town, plunder the bank of NSW, and declare the republic”. So 25 years on he is still stoking the rocket-led republic tale as fact, after sneaking it into his 1980 Last Outlaw TV mini-series and no doubt presenting it endlessly at talks along the way. It had a lot of traction in 1980, as the republic idea gets a lot of mentions by people who believed what Jones said despite the total lack of evidence outside of the RC comments.
As well as another mention in SL p. 290, that “The other sympathisers would rally when young Jack Lloyd fired the signal rockets to announce the wrecking of the train”, showing the sort of evil upbringing that poor Jack had, Jones goes full ninny on p. 306: Young Jack Lloyd at the second police volley “sent the two rockets streaking up, into the sky, scattering falling stars with dull, delayed thumps.” That sounds kinda memorable, yet these are the same rockets described to the RC, the only source, as “One was very faint, and the other was a large one.” Nothing about how high. Nothing about falling stars. Nothing about dull thumps. Nothing about delays in bursting. Jones made it up.
All we have is Arthur’s comment about the rockets that “I think it was some sympathizers letting them know they were attacked by the police. The rockets were “let up between the railway station and McDonald’s [Hotel]”. If we look at Jones’ map of the Glenrowan siege on the inside cover of “Short Life”, that places them reasonably close to the station where a group of eager journalists were hanging out. None of them reported seeing any rockets; certainly not ones that went unmissably “streaking up into the sky, scattering falling stars with dull, delayed thumps” as Jones fantasised. Arthur also said that he “was looking round to where they [the rockets] went off….” So no hive of activity then. Nothing that anyone noticed and thought worth mentioning until two years later in an incidental comment at the Royal Commission. All this stuff about signal rockets for a sympathiser army is B-side fiction. It’s hard to believe that so many people have uncritically swallowed it for so long. As for the other authors mentioned in David’s article, all of them appear to have blindly followed the Pied Piper of Kellydom. It’s not too late to say sucked in, folks.
Thanks Sam and Stuart for your thoughts. Clearly Ian Jones has a lot to answer for, because he was the principal architect of the Kelly story that much of Australia has come to accept as historical truth. Its fascinating to watch him perform in debates and to read what people who knew him write about him, because what you see is a very friendly charming generous erudite knowledgeable and supremely confident man with almost no hint of the schemer and fantasist that you might expect after reading how comprehensively he distorted the available evidence, invented evidence when there was none, ignored facts that didnt suit him and so successfully promoted his ‘new view’ of Ned Kelly that in a few years it almost completely replaced the orthodox view of most of the previous century, that Ned Kelly was a criminal, albeit an unusually inventive and interesting one. His was a quite remarkable achievement.
My view is that Ian Jones did come to sincerely believe all that he wrote, and he did sincerely believe that Ned Kelly was some sort of selector hero and figurehead who tried to replace the colonial authorities in the North East with a new order. I cannot believe Jones could have promoted all that so widely and so passionately if it was just a cynical act of manipulation and a deception. I think that what happened was that Jones desire for the legend to be true evolved into a conviction that it was, and his quest for the truth was actually a quest for the evidence to support his beliefs. When looking for example at what he did with the merest shred of evidence about rockets, its clear his judgement was affected if he was comfortable inventing and promoting as the true story all the details that he made up about them. And he did this about many things. He developed an intense tunnel vision when it came to the kelly story, as well as an arrogant conviction that he was somehow so in-touch with the truth about it that that he believed the things he imagined to be true about it in all likelihood were indeed true, or at least close enough to true to be written into the story.
There is also the very real possibility that Jones was actually the victim of an appalling and cruel hoax perpetuated by Thomas Patrick Lloyd. This direct Kelly Gang descendant told Jones a huge pack of lies about the Republic – which is about par for Kelly Gang circles – and given his eagerness to believe, and his unfortunate setting aside of his critical faculties – Ian Jones swallowed Lloyds bullshit hook line and sinker. Maybe we should feel sorry for Ian Jones? Perhaps its T P Lloyd who should be condemned?
This phenomenon, of being so convinced of the correctness of your beliefs that all objectivity goes out the window is very common. There are still people who say the world is flat; there are still people who say Coronavirus is a hoax – even people dying with Covid infection!; there are still people who say God created the world 6000 years ago and Darwins theory of evolution is false; there are still people who say Donald Trump won last years election in a landslide !
And despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary there are still people who say Ned Kelly was a revolutionary hero and ‘a decent bloke’
But heres my suggestion : theres no point in attacking Ian Jones : he is dead and whats done is done. On the other hand there are a host of Kelly followers on Facebook and in public institutions who continue to sustain and promote Jones false narratives and its THOSE people that we should be directing our attention to.
Hi David, I think you’re right that Jones developed “a conviction that he was somehow so in-touch with the truth about it [the Kelly story] that he believed that the things he imagined to be true about it in all likelihood were indeed true, or at least close enough to true to be written into the story.”
It is because he so passionately believed he was right that he wrote in the introduction to ‘Short Life’ 2nd edn that “attempts to combat [the new view of Kelly as a major historical figure whose crimes are counterpointed by his socio-politica significance] are marred by extreme selectivity, exaggeration, blatant omission, factual error and occasional fabrication.” These are exactly the faults that Jones’ attempt at a redemptive biography of Kelly is littered with. As someone on this blog pointed out some months ago, there are historical and interpretive errors on practically every page of ‘Short Life’ – and yet it is still widely used as a reference by people writing about Kelly. I wrote my article “Ned Kelly’s shooting of George Metcalf, labourer”, mostly to expose Jones’ wilful manipulation and distortion of historical evidence in an effort to blame Metcalf’s shooting in the face at Glenrowan on the police rather than Kelly, as well as to set the historical record straight. You can downloadthe article here, https://ironicon.com.au/george-metcalf-stuart-dawson.htm
Whether his many distortions and fabrications were deliberate or the result of appalling historical incompetence, or some other cause, I can’t know; but I agree with you that he seems to have believed his own fantasy sincerely. Starting out from his New View of Kelly in 1967, which was clearly formed before he delivered the Wangaratta seminar as we learn from the notes in the 1980 ‘Last Outlaw’ book, and can see from the idiotic taost to the republic of Victoria by Mick Jagger as Ned Kelly in the 1970 film that Jones patially scripted, Jones single-handedly blathered his way into building legitimacy for a ludicrous historical fiction. Regarded as an expert on some parts of the Kelly story, he inserted more and more questionable material into it with the end result that it is quite difficult to challenge because doing so requires going into his every source reference and seeing how he has used it – often by selectively quoting things out of context – and also, and often more importantly, researching wider and deeper on specific topic – e.g. Metcalf – than Jones did, to dsicover things that he never footnoted, perhaps to hide them, perhaps to ignore them as they didn’t suit his narrative, perhaps to because they contradicted his viewpoint.
Unpicking Jones on Fitzpatrick took me two years to read around and mull over, with several field trips to the north east. Not many people have that sort of time and interest in historical truth to take apart well written BS. Unpicking Jones on the republic myth took seven years all up, overlapping with Fitzpatrick, Metcalf, Kelly’s last words, and other investigations.
All the Kelly followers online are a waste of space. They don’t publish anything that is well researched and footnoted; they mostly echo Jones perspective badly, and aren’t woth looking at. Worth some attention are people who have published Kelly books in the wake of Jones, but bear in mind that practically every non-fiction Kelly book that has been written since 1970 has thanked Jones in the acknowledgements for his input, often given in person. No wonder his persective is dominant. But the attention they warrant is mostly to see how they have been steered into taking up ridiculous ideas about Fitzpatrick and the republic myth, the two key pillars of nonsense on which the Jones versuiion of Kelly was built. Take away that and you have the failed arrest of a young horse thief and a deranged massacre plan intended to persuade the government to let Kelly’s mum out of gaol for a crime she committed, i.e. aiding and abetting shooting at a policeman. No, it will not do to waste time critiquing people who are simply sitting in Jones’ swamp, unless they have made errors of fact contributing to its development.
In fact there is such a puddle of authors just ripe for exposure. They are judges and lawyers – some dead, some living – who have weighed in on legal questions, mostly about whether or not Kelly got a fair trial. There are at least four of them with books substantially dealing with that question – and they have all got their facts wrong by starting with Jones’ bungled attempt to show, back in 1967, that the claimed statement by McIntyre about the Stringybark Creek police killings given in Sadleir’s “Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer” was his actual first statement, and that he then lied and pperjured himself in all his other statements. Of course, it was not McIntyre’s first statement, which is in the Prosecution file. Jones’ colossal stuff up has led the entire legal fraternity with an interest in the Kelly story up the garden path for over 50 years. Now that is a tale worth telling.
And as an aside, Jones was not “the victim of an appalling and cruel hoax perpetuated by Thomas Patrick Lloyd”. He was the victim of a leg-pull that played to his gullibility and which Mr Lloyd never expected would be taken seriously. Professor Molony fell for the same nonsense, remember. The Kelly researchers heard what they wanted to hear, regardless that a lot of it was obviously implausible fiction. There’s one born every minute, so why not have a laugh at them. Tom sounds like a great guy.
Stuart theres no doubt you have done an amazing job of properly investigating the kelly story and pointing out that what so many have thought was authentic Australian history was nothing but a fabrication mostly made up by Ian Jones. Many of the true believers will never snap out of it, so enamoured have they become of the fake image of Ned Kelly! The will forever believe the mad killer was ‘a great bloke’ as one of them recently posted on Facebook.
Its important that we continue to expose the lies the kelly story incorporates, such as the important one you mention about McIntyre. I CANNOT believe how dishonest the Kelly promotors are in refusing to acknowledge that something Sadleir wrote about what he thought he could remember of McIntyres account thirty years previously cannot possibly take precedence over what he is recorded as actually stating at the time. But they continue to do it even now on their stupid kelly Facebook pages.Police vilification both at the time and now is a core practise of kelly sympathisers and its disgraceful.
Lastly regarding T P Lloyd : yes I guess youre right. Lloyd wasnt a dark machiavellian trying to alter history but a weary cynic who pranked Jones and Molony. THEY were the ones who should have known better than to swallow everything he said; it was THEIR responsibility as practicing historians to check the sources and verify the claims and do their due diligence but as you say, they heard what they wanted to hear and rushed off to put it into print, make themselves famous, get thier names up in lights! Shame on both of them!
But Tom doesn’t come over as a weary cynic! He comes over as a top bloke with a great sense of humour. Re-read what Leo K says about the conversation in Black Snake and you’ll see what I mean.
Molony was another exponent of selective referencing. His rationale was that he was attempting to tell the Kelly story from what he decided was Kelly’s perspective. As a result he picked sources he thought documented that vision and disregarded various contradictory sources that didn’t. But he was also malicious in some of his interpretations, for example about the Fitzpatrick incident in his National Museum of Australia talk on video. So ascerbically self-righteous and yet so wrong. And so academically pompous: despite Jones having got the republic nonsense into print in Man & Myth in 1968, Molony didn’t reference it anywhere in his 1980 book when he fell for that story himself. What a dishonest prat.
Stuart, you are so correct that the Kelly nuts are a wasted space. No matter how often on YT or Facebook you prove what they are saying is fiction, they refuse to move. Most are somewhat illiterate, and so deeply ensconced in mythological nonsense they are drowning with no hope of being saved.
I have considered how that attitude can be changed, but after some years of observing, I have given up on even trying with the current bunch of Kelly nuts.
What is needed is to address the up and coming youth of this country and to present to them the truth at a young age. A book written for primary school children that will educate and present them with the truth. That might just happen.
Hi Sam, that would be great, as I had a look at Kelly in the children’s fiction section of the library sometime early last year, and it was all very amateur half-witted historically bankrupt rubbish. I won’t list any titles in the same post as this just in case any of the tin can hatted would be rebels have lawyers, but a quick google search for “ned kelly children’s fiction books” will show what I mean.
I Wrote about Childrens Kelly books in 2016! That was in the days when there was a toxic kelly nut job who promoted himself as a “neducator” , who went about offering his services to schools to educate primary age kids about Ned Kelly. Thank god he is no longer in business. But my review of the available childrens books is still worth a read!
I am not sure that an accurate kids book about the Kelly story would be suitable for kids : lying and thieving, animal cruelty, adultery and rape, bashings, testicle squeezing, alcoholism, arson, mass murder, hostage taking, capital punishment by hanging!
“There is also the very real possibility that Jones was actually the victim of an appalling and cruel hoax perpetuated by Thomas Patrick Lloyd. This direct Kelly Gang descendant told Jones a huge pack of lies about the Republic – which is about par for Kelly Gang circles – and given his eagerness to believe, and his unfortunate setting aside of his critical faculties – Ian Jones swallowed Lloyds bullshit hook line and sinker. Maybe we should feel sorry for Ian Jones? Perhaps its T P Lloyd who should be condemned?”
Wow. You know, that is quite plausible. By his own admission, Ian Jones was already under the Kelly spell from childhood, having fallen for the tragic hero myth that became popular in early-to-mid twentieth century.
However, even so, he still has at least partial ownership of the problem, because he then became a prominent purveyor of the conspiracy theory.
May I please ask that you do not refer to me as ‘Kelly Clan descendant’.
To be clear… I am not a Kelly descendant, and have never claimed to be, my ancestry belongs to the Quinn, Lloyd and Hart Clans. I am a relative.
Some Lloyd descendants are also Kelly descendants. I am not one of those descendants.
It is a complicated family tree.
I also, never speak for anyone other than myself. We are all able to do so independently.
To call the wider Clan the ‘Kelly Clan’ is incorrect.
Red Kelly married into what was already known as the ‘Quinn’ and then ‘Quinn/Lloyd’ Clan.
The Clan grew as many of the Sympathiser families married Quinn and Lloyd.
It may seem a mere point to you- to me and the rest of the Clan, it is important.
Ellen came to the North East to be with the Quinn Clan- it was her sister’s already established home at Great that she sought a place for her and the children.
Much of what is a recent family history gets lost in the ‘legend’ and ‘myth’ of this story. It is, at its essence a family story that is part of Australian and world history.
It can never be lost that whilst debates rage about those involved in this story, that for some alive today – there is still a living memory of some who were alive at the time. Those people are rapidly dwindling. But they are there.
Every person in this story is real. As are their families.
Thanks Noeleen, please accept my apologies, certainly no disrespect intended! I was being a bit free with terminology I guess : by ‘clan’ I was referring to that wider loose association of Quinn, Lloyd and Kelly families in the North East, which of course was never an actual ‘clan’.
I must say though that I think you’re being a little disingenuous to claim you only speak for yourself and nobody else – the reality is that because of your own activities on various platforms, and because of your ancestry, whether its what you want or not you are widely recognised as an authority and a spokesperson for the Kelly story. Surely you cant deny this?
Now that so much of the Kelly story has been rewritten and the true history of your ancestor and his family and his origins is being better understood I hope you will continue to make pronouncements like your recent comment that Glenrowan was a ‘mad plan that went bad’.
As someone with an interest in history it must distress you to see how inaccurate is so much of what is claimed to be Kelly history, let alone the way in which Ned Kelly and the armour imagery is used as a rallying motif for anti-social behaviour, police hate and abuse? The problem of course is that if you continue to support the mythology about the Kellys being persecuted and harassed, and Ned Kelly being a police-made criminal then contempt for police is rational. You cant have it both ways.
*** edit Ellen came to the established home at ‘Greta’.
Hello again David
Thank you – the only thing I really want take exception with is calling me ingenuous.
I am in no way being anything but sincere and I am very candid – often calling a spade a bulldozer.
I am not pretending NOT to know this story very well – as I said, it is my family story. However, I do speak for me, and have been known to disagree with family on many points.
I have never claimed to be the spokesperson – I acknowledge that I am one of several thousand members of a Clan.
My goal is to ensure that our family story and history is recorded correctly, factually and respectfully – and that the memories are kept alive of all family members.
That no one was a ‘legend’ – nor were they mythical. They were simply human beings.
Some family members, who were alive at the time of the Glenrowan Siege and could remember it well, and we’re still affected by the trauma, died in the 1950’s.
My comment about being disingenuous was not in reference to whether or not you’re being sincere in what you say about the Kelly story. I have no doubt of that. What I was referring to was your denial that youre a spokesperson for the kelly story. Whether you acknowledge it or not Noeleen, you are, thats what you are recognised as and whenever and wherever you post, people take special notice. And whether or not you like it or want it or encourage it, this translates into a responsibility to tell it like it is.
What I wish you would do is use your power and influence to help rid The Australian discourse of the Kelly inspired justification of violence and police hate that arises out of the false versions of Kelly history. The police were NOT corrupt, Kelly was NOT harassed and persecuted, Fitzpatrick was NOT a drunk and the cause of the outbreak, the murdered police were NOT corrupt and on the take and did NOT get what they deserved, Glenrowan was NOT about something noble, and Kellys trial arrived at the right conclusion. You, I believe, know all this. You could do something about it.
Hi again David
I take your point.
You know, I actually do challenge those that say that the Police at Stringybark Creek were corrupt, were in disguise, were heavily armed, went there ‘to kill’, or that they took ‘body bags’ with them.
None of that do I believe to be true.
Did they expect resistance – well Thomas McIntyre said they did and that they party expected they would.
Nor do I believe that Ned and the others went to the Police Camp with an intent to kill.
I don’t believe all Police were corrupt, ex convict, ex troopers or all the Blarney that gets thrown around.
I have done, and continue to do the research.
I say all the above often, and publicly.
I said it at ‘Ned and the Law’.
I get derided and abused for it and blocked and accused of being a disgrace to the Lloyd and Kelly name.
That’s ok. I will stay the course and I am getting people to look at the facts.
Thanks Noeleen. Your views and mine are not that so far apart : I also dont believe Ned Kelly went to SBC planning to murder – he went there with almost no plan, after almost no thought about what might happen if you arm yourselves and confront police, with no plan B – it also was a mad plan that went bad to use your own expression. Ive previously said I thought Ned Kelly wasnt a bad kid – but he became a monstrous criminal in the end. Yes, a tragedy.
Sorry to hear you also get derided and abused for opposing the many false claims that Kelly followers promote about Kelly history and the outbreak. You did a great job with Ned and the Law and thanks for making all the transcripts available. Keep up the good work.
And thanks for your posts – I hope there will be more.
Just my two cents worth. If I understand this blog correctly you are saying the Australian community held two views of Ned Kelly. He was either a would be republican hero as presented by Jones or as you put it a “monstrous criminal is what Ned Kelly has been regarded as for the greater proportion of the 140 years that have passed since his demise”
I’ll just put it out there that there was a third view.
The image I was bought up on was “As game as Ned Kelly”. In my understanding this never sought to downplay his criminality but recognised his courage in refusing to abandon his mates when he could have escaped the siege. It was about mateship and courage and these were seen as aspirational qualities. A kind of proto ANZAC if you will.
I don’t really know but it was my understanding that this view was quite prevalent in the early half of the 20th century? I seem to recall a song about it even. “As game as Ned Kelly the people did say, As game as Ned Kelly they say it today.”
Of course its quite arguable as to whether he could have escaped the siege, and its also arguable as to whether going back towards the Inn was to look after his mates or to seek his own safety with the extra firepower offered by his mates.
Thanks Dan. Its never good to reduce an argument to one of two alternatives as almost nothing is as simple as that – and Ive always argued the ‘hero or villain’ question was a false dichotomy, but those alternatives were actually Ian Jones’.
As to how Kellys behaviour at Glenrowan is best characterised, thats not an easy one. He was reported to have dismissed Dan as a coward when asked later on so I wonder if thats consistent with the idea that he went back to rescue him? Nobody knows why he went back but he was surrounded and didnt really have anywhere else to go so maybe it was his only option?
There brave and theres crazy brave….
Hi Dan, the phrase “as game as Ned Kelly” was indeed prevelent in the early part of the twentieth century. As luck has it I was checking this out a couple of years ago. While Professor Graham Seal wrote in 1980 that “one of the highest compliments an Australian can give is to say that someone is ‘game as Ned Kelly’ (Seal, “Ned Kelly: The Genesis of a National Hero”, History Today, 1 November 1980, 15), the implication that the phrase is an Australian commonplace is not correct.
My search for the phrase “as game as Ned Kelly” in the Trove digitised newspaper archive showed that to the quite limited extent that the phrase appeared in the press, it was almost exclusively a product of the 1930s and 1940s. Specifically, my Trove searc h showed that the phrase “as game as Ned Kelly” did not appear in any Australian newspapers between 1878 and 1900, with only 6 occurrences between 1901 and 1919. There were 41 in the 1920s, then decade by decade, 106 in the 1930s, 179 in the 1940s, dropping to 64 in the 1950s. From 1960 it all but disappeared: there were 6 occurrences in the 1960s, 4 in the 1970s, 2 in the 1980s – when a rash of “centenary of Kelly’s execution” publications insisted that it was common – 1 in the 1990s, and none in the first decade of the twentieth century. (Trove archive searched 20 February 2017.)
It does not appear in J.J. Kenneally’s 1929 “Inner History of the Kelly gang”. It was picked up by Max Brown (Australian Son) and painter Sidney Nolan somewhere, but as my Trove search shows it was barely a blip in terms of popular culture until Jones revived it in the 1960s, claiming that it was ever so common, as Australian as kangaroos or something. More Jones fantasy. But you can see the impact in post-Jones journalism where lazy journos took Jones’ word for it and repeated the fantasy that “game as Ned Kelly” was always a popular expression. So you are correct – it rose to its highest point in the 1930s and 1940s, the first part of the C20, then dropped to about a third of that in the 1950s, all but disappearing through the 1960s to the 1980s when Kelly nuts claimed it was always part of Australian culture.
Hi again Dan, here’s the song done by Slim Dusty, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0hZ_WTh1rs&ab_channel=wellzy837
And here’s some of the lyrics:
And so to the gallows the outlaw was led,
“Now die like a Kelly” his mother had said,
“A fate such is life” the bold bushranger sighed,
The trapdoor sprang open and Ned Kelly died;
“Game as Ned Kelly” the people would say,
“Game as Ned Kelly” they say it today.
And so young Australians take heed of this song,
Be game as you like but don’t do any wrong,
Remember the warning ‘that crime doesn’t pay’,
Remember Ned Kelly and walk the straight way;
“Game as Ned Kelly” the people would say,
“Game as Ned Kelly” they say it today.
Thanks for that, good to know the facts on that. As a child in the 1960’s it was common enough for me to hear that expression from my parents and others of their generation and that fits because they were bought up in the 1930’s and 40’s when it appears from your research that it was at its peak in print.
I guess you would expect to hear it in NE Vic but I was bought up in NW NSW where I heard it from other parents often enough, usually in relation to someone’s efforts on the sports field so I’m not certain that print references are an entirely reliable guide to its frequency of use. But I’ve hardly heard it since the 1970’s, so that fits with your research.
And I didn’t know that was a Slim Dusty song. I only heard it in my childhood or early adulthood, never heard it since!
Hi Dan, I agree that print sources are not entirely reliable but I think they are probably roughly indicative of the rise and fall of an expression.
Slim Dusty didn’t write the song but he sung it as in the YouTube clip. If you google the chorus lines like I did, the second listing should be the lyrics. At the end it has the song writer’s name but I didn’t look it up.
There are some alternative lyrics to the song “Ned Kelly was a gentleman” from a while back on this blog if you put that in the search box. Or search the blog for “poetry competition”. Just for a laugh.
Where it gets interesting is when people assume that a popular saying in say the 1940s or 1960s might well have been a popular saying in the 1880s. But in this case clearly no.
Actually Dan, I think that being a criminal or a hero is independent of whether or not a person might be brave, so its not really a third option but a sub-category of hero or criminal perhaps?
And Stuart makes an important point in relation to assumptions we make about things that are current in our lifetimes : its easy to imagine the status quo has always been that way, and its only by going back to check we learn that it isnt always so. Ian Jones himself admitted this :”FOR ALMOST FIFTY YEARS AFTER NED KELLYS DEATH, THE LITERATURE WAS OVERWHELMINGLY ANTI-KELLY.” – so I take it that for all that time and beyond Kelly was regarded by almost everyone as a nasty criminal – the status quo back then was very different from what it became after about 1980.
What I expect to see in the future is the status quo will revert to what it was for the first 50 years – no Kelly mythology just a violent chapter in the annals of Australian criminality with a temporary lapse into a mistaken but brief interlude of hero worship.
”FOR ALMOST FIFTY YEARS AFTER NED KELLYS DEATH, THE LITERATURE WAS OVERWHELMINGLY ANTI-KELLY.”
There was a good reason for that. Kelly was an evil monster, not to be excused by his upbringing.
I would rather say Kelly BECAME an evil monster – because he wasnt a bad kid – and I would also rather say his upbringing doesnt excuse what he became but it does help to provide an understanding of it.
What do others think?
No. He was in the Police Gazette before he was 10 for nicking horses. Here’s why:
Ned Kelly was born in a ramshackle hut,
He [lifted] since he was a kid,
He grew up with duffers and bad men and thieves
And learned all the things that they did.
Ned Kelly would ride from the back-country hills,
He’d ride into town like a lord,
He’d steal all the [farmer’s]’ fine horses, and then
He would take them back for the reward.
At sixteen young Ned was a wild, reckless lad,
Helped hold up a coach without fear,
But he was arrested, remanded, and then,
They put him in gaol for a year.
When he came out, he was bitter and hard,
Far worse than he ever had been,
He robbed and he plundered, became a wild boy,
The wildest Australia had seen.
Yep fair point, it is sub-category.
But I’m theorising that people using that expression weren’t concerned with whether Kelly was good or bad they were just saying he was game. And that that was a perception that existed alongside the good and bad images.
Stuart has done the research and showed that it didn’t really exist until after the first world war and died out a bit after the second world war. (In my own anecdotal experience I think it went a bit longer but that’s just semantics and in any case Stuart has proved it wasn’t a widespread image)
What would be interesting is where the expression came from. I always thought it was based on the assumption that NK was coming back to the Inn to rescue his mates. As Sam has pointed out you can poke a lot of holes in that idea.
And I apologise. I seem to have strayed from the point of the blog which was all about the rockets. I never heard a thing about the rockets from granny, I think the first I heard of them might have been a review of either a Fitzsimmons or Jones book. (By the sounds of things i’ve been fortunate not to have read Fitzsimmons. I made the mistake of reading his Kokoda and Kingsford Smith books and that put me off him.)
I remember thinking it all sounded a bit weird.
Hi Dan, there is a litlte book by Bill Wannan, “Tell ’em I died game” 1963, that says p. 13, to die game “was the final gesture of defiance to the forces of authority. When Fred Lowry lay dying from a bullet wound in his throat [in 1863] … he remained conscious long enough to say to the troopers who were standing by, ‘Tell ’em I dies game.'” It’s a great little paperback on bushrangers by the way, reprinted several times. After that it became applied to some few other bushrangers who “died game”, and so the expression was applied to Kelly as a result of his last stand walk towards the the Inn and the police line. Whether a man in a tested bulletproof steel suit can be said to have died game or not, in the sense of the unarmoured Lowry having a gunfight with the troopers, is another question.
Graham Seal retitled his 1980 Kelly book “Tell ’em I died game: The legend of Ned Kelly” in its revised 2002 edition, confusing the issue by linking that expression with Kelly. It is a different expression to “game as Ned Kelly”, but the derivation is clear.
Re the last stand, I’ll experiment with attaching a PDF about how long it was (under 10 minutes) which actually appeared on this blog, and see if it uploads OK. If not, the argument is on here somewhere but I couldn’t find it to do a page link. Maybe David can help if the PDF doesn’t upload.
A lot of the discussions on this blog stray miles from the feature topic, but that often makes is more interesting. Fitzsimons’ book is a waffly Jones clone, saying less in more pages and with many of the same historical errors due to working largely within Jones’ narrative structure; but it is sometimes useful for quickly finding reference sources, and uses the current VPRS numbers where Jones used the old numbering system as he wrote much earlier. But it uses a lot of NSW material like Town and Country Journal, which reprinted material from the Melbourne newspapers in cut down versions, so the fuller sources are always better. Grantlee Kieza’s Mrs Kelly book is much better, and also has the current VPRS references in the notes. Having said that, no author has the whole story and evidence on any particular topic unless they do specific focussed articles, so ferreting around Trove and in the VPRS online files is usually necessary.
The experiment worked !
Thanks for explaining the derivation of that expression. As a child I had at least one Bill Wannan book on bushrangers in general but I can’t remember the title. I also bought the Mrs Kelly book when it came out but must have lent it to someone because i can’t find it now.
As it happened I had previously read the blog on the last stand only lasting 10 minutes. I didnt realise it was a cause of controversy until I read the blog.
And speaking of controversy I stumbled on some other sites where the personal attacks are quite vitriolic. I find it difficult to understand why some persons can’t engage in respectful debate about facts (or at least debate the merit of whether something is a fact or not). I kind of wondered why you guys were sometimes fairly aggressive in attacking Jones on this blog (because you had fairly effectively demolished his view of the world in your properly researched and referenced academic publications) but given what I saw on some other sites I now understand that you have been quite mild. I was astounded at the level of vitriol propagated by persons playing the man and not the ball. And I can only imagine the kind of abuse Noeleen Lloyd must get, she must be a very strong woman.
Anyway i wandered off topic again….
Hi Dan, it sounds like you have discovered some Kelly nut websites. I haven’t looked at any of them for well over two years now. There is a very good site for sensible articles called the “Eleven Mile Creek blog”. If you google that it has lots of good articles. The comments were turned off long ago due to abusive morons, but Sharon and Brian still post well written stuff from time to time.
Jones’s books and articles and films remain central to understanding how the Kelly myth developed since the late 1960s. I don’t think anyone can understand that narrative without reading his construction of it, and it continues to be massively influential despite gross historical distortions and factual errors. Hence the need for rigourous critique of that unhistorical Overton window. The great turning point was Ian MacFarlane’s 2012. “Kelly Gang Unmasked”, a meticulously footnoted demolition of many of the Kelly myths. Jones never responded in print. The gig was up.
Also, if you are interested in Stringybark Creek there is Bill Denheld’s site, http://www.ironicon.com.au with a ton of stuff on it and a particular focus on where was the location of the police murders. I have never got into that discussion but it fascinates many. Well worth a look regardless.
Hi again Dan, what you’ll discover if you look back at a few other Blog posts is that the conversations that follow are almost never about the main topic of the post! Usually someone picks up on some minor detail and we go off on a tangent, but its all good!
BTW did your daughter get to read my Blog post about the recent Kate Kelly book ? Heres a link to it :
I don’t know if she reads the blog, she is fairly busy with her job and a couple of little fellas so I’m not sure how engaged she can be. But as it happens I did read the post and when she comes down at Christmas (covid permitting….) we’ll probably get a chance to chew the fat on things Kelly!
Dan, that’s not a “Third view”. That’s just a variation of the ‘Ned as criminal’ view. People love stories about talented criminals. We can enjoy Ocean’s 11 while knowing that they all deserve to be in prison. The Sorpanos is riveting because it’s about daily life as a mafia boss; Breaking Bad, about drug dealers. It’s fun entertainment. There were stage adaptations of the Kelly story which showed them to be adventurous outlaws who could embarrass the cops, and that were enjoyed the same way we enjoy modern shows about criminals. But nobody thought they were anything other than criminals.
Agreed, and if people would take a littrle trouble and read in full some of the hundreds of newspaper articles of the day when Ned Kelly was on the run after shooting and wounding Fitzpatrick, and when the gang were on the run after the Stringbark Creek murders, instead of just tiny selective quotations in pro-Kelly books, they would see that overwhelmingly the population of Victoria (and after Jerilderie, of NSW) longed for the gang to be brought to heel.
Remember that the biggest number of sympathisers claimed by any source in that period was 300, in the O&M December 1878. Most estimates were less, and anything larger is from mid- to late-twentieth century fantasies.
Dan, can you explain why, after Kelly opened fire on the police as they approached Ann Jones Inn, and police returned fire wounding Kelly and Byrne, he walked back inside the inn and almost immediately went out the back door, collected his horse and walked some 150 metres before laying down behind a fallen log leaving his mates to it? The time was about 3.15am. He remained there for four hours before rising and approaching the police from behind. In those four hours, he left the other three members of his gang to fend for themselves in the inn. Clearly, he abandoned his mates, leaving them to fight off the police for four long hours.
I had hoped that I had made it clear in my post that I was not able to assess whether Kelly’s actions were brave or not and it wasn’t the point I was trying to make.
In Dave’s blog post he made the point that there were two images of Kelly, either hero or villain, and I was suggesting that there was also the “game as” image. I had hoped I’d made it clear in the last paragraph of the post that I wasn’t buying into an argument as to whether that was a correct image or not.
What has been good is that Stuart has done the research on the use of the phrase and it would appear that it was fairly limited. As an aside it would be interesting if he has any stats on how frequently Kelly has been portrayed as a monster. The trouble with trying to do that is that he can’t just do a Trove search on a particular phrase as there are numerous ways of saying “monster”…..
Hi Dan, the Trove search re “game as ned kelly” took a couple of days. I’m not searching for things related to monster! But one of the best ones is the Bulletin write-up when Kelly was executed. Unfortunately the Bulletin is not in Trove. I have see it reproduced a few times but I can’t find where and don’t have date/page reference off hand. Someone reading this will probably know.
However the Singleton Argus and Upper Hunter General Advocate, 7 July 1880 page 2, is a great read for a similar flavour, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/82897038
I will give some extracts from it to show why some of my more provocatively worded (to modern readers) comments generally reflect sentients of Kelly’s day. And I cetrtain;ly had a good laugh re-reading it just now:
“The destruction of the Kelly gang is a great blessing. It has spread throughout the country a sense of relief hardly expressible in words. Had society been ridded of a horde of hyenas, wolves, and tigers, thirsting for human blood, the joy would scarcely have been greater than that felt at the hunting down of this band of unmitigated ruffians and murderers. For two years has the country, infested by those men, been living in a state of terror and panic, subject at every and any minute to their depreciations, cruelties, and. crimes. … if, in the late sanguinary encounter, where children were actually exposed by them to the shots of the besiegers; no women fell victims to their murderous deeds, it is because the circumstances of the case did not require their sacrifice. The wicked design of wrecking the train sent to convey men to protect the citizens from harm, shown the diabolical pleasure taken by those ruffians in a purposeless destruction of human life. Not a doubt can be entertained that had the train expected to arrive with the police been upset, every being contained in it, if not killed by the accident, would have been ruthlessly shot down like a dog, or an opossum. … Like demons they have lived, and like demons they have died. Never perhaps in the long and sanguinary history of bushranging, has Colonial Society been cursed with four fiends of so black a dye.”
Read the full text at the link above, it’s great stuff.
Hi Dan, not stats; that Trove search on “game as” took 2 days. But here’s some extracts from a good one on the monster, from the Singleton Argus and Upper Hunter General Advocate 7 July 1880 page 2, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/82897038
“The destruction of the Kelly gang is a great blessing. It has spread throughout the country a sense of relief hardly expressible in words. Had society been ridded of a horde of hyenas, wolves, and tigers, thirsting for human blood, the joy would scarcely have been greater than that felt at the hunting down of this band of unmitigated ruffians and murderers. For two years has the country, infested by those men, been living in a state of terror and panic, subject at every and any minute to their depreciations, cruelties, and. crimes. … To such brigands police, peaceful citizens, and even children are alike enemies, if found on the track of their nefarious doings; and if, in the late sanguinary encounter, where children were actually exposed by them to the shots of the besiegers; no women fell victims to their murderous deeds, it is because the circumstances of the case did not require their sacrifice. … Like demons they have lived, and like demons they have died. Never perhaps in the long and sanguinary history of bushranging, has Colonial Society been cursed with four fiends of so black a dye.” The full article is a great read, and shows once again that many of my (to some) provocative comments are merely echoing common sentiments of the day.
There’s another great one in the Bulletin from when Kelly was hung, but it’s not on Trove and I can’t find a scan. Someone reading this will know what it is and maybe have a scan.
Hi Sam, that’s an interesting point. After he was captured he said he could have got away if he wanted to. It was a lie, of course, as he couldn’t get out of his armour to mount his horse with his wounded foot. He possibly thought that he and Byrne could have both got out then taken on the then 14 police from the rear while Dan and Hart came out and fired from the front. But Byrne’s leg was shot and he couldn’t do that. Maybe Kelly thought Byrne was malingering and would come out regardless. Clearly there was no sympathiser army out there to join up with, that was Jones’s fantasy. Having got himself out of the Inn he didn’t get far before collapsing. After capture he said that Dan and Hart were cowards as they didn’t come out. So there are a couple of possibilities. Maybe he had thought to get away himself, abandoning his mates, then found he couldn’t. Maybe he thought to call the gang out to take on the police, and he did that later at dawn when he called to them as he walked towards the Inn. There could be more possibilities. Either way the result was as you point out that in practice he abandoned his mates for four hours regardless of whatever his intentions might have been. It is possible that he only came back as he had no way to escape and save his worthless hide; and that if he could have got away he would have gone off to be the rambling gambler he once boasted of being. Honour among thieves?
For the further amusement of anyone who still thinks the Kellys were widely admired throughout the 1930s and 1940s due to an overdose of Max Brown, Sidney Nolan and Jonsey Poo, here is a view from 1944. The text is from Bill Wannan’s book, “With malice aforethought”, 1973. The introductory para is by Wannan:
E. J. Brady – THE KELLYS. Edwin James Brady (I 869-J 952), journalist, poet and publicist, made a name for himself with his book of sea ballads, The Ways of Many Waters (1899) and a volume of bush verse, Bells and Hobbles (1911). His attitude to the Kelly Gang of bushrangers was shared by many of his literary contemporaries. It’s embedded in an interesting book he published in 1944: Two Frontiers.
“The Kellys were rotten, root and branch, not to be classed in criminology with light-hearted led-away riders like the Burkes and Johnny Vane. They were devoid of a humanIty whIch Ben Hall and ‘Thunderbolt’ Ward retained; were without the intelligence of Mount, and lacked the ferocious courage of black Dan Morgan, who never shunned an open fight. Old New South Wales troopers always conceded that the duel between Morgan and Sergeant McGinnerty had been a fair fight. They would never admit that the Kellys were anything more than cowardly murderers. They kIlled Sergeant Kennedy, a wounded and disarmed man, who begged to be spared for the sake of his wife and children.
Specious arguments by which Ned KelIy and his criminal relations endeavoured to justify this inhuman deed, carried no conviction. Mistaken writers, dramatists and film producers have invested the Kellys and their deeds with a glamour they do not deserve.”
Stuart, Trove does have The Bulletin. However, it is listed under the heading of Magazines & Newsletters rather than under Newspapers & Gazettes. (I have learned to turn over every rock!) I saw an article from Nov. 20, 1880 that might be the one you are referring to, but will let you go take a look and be sure. Also, thanks for the plug for my Eleven Mile Creek blog.
Hi Sharon, thanks very much for the magazine tip, I’ll get back to Trove and hopefully track down the URL for that article!
Hi all, Ned was more lame than game per this article, from the Bulletin, 1 April 1967, p. 61.
Still looking for the 1880 article!
Look at this evaryone, vintage Jonesy, from the Bulletin, 14 January 1967, p. 13.
Kelly’s “career”, LOL. That would be the stealing from other poor selectors bit, I imagine; just what his dad got transported for in the first place. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree…
The four journalists at the station didn’t see any fireworks; therefore they didn’t happen. There were no rockets, or fireworks, Chinese or otherwise.
Yes Frank I guess that must be it! There were scores of people out and about that night but the ONE person who saw a rocket didnt mention it to anyone or report it until many months later…. and he was the same guy who heard Steele say things people closer to him didnt hear him say…what a shambles this story has become!
Hi Frank and David, that’s an interesting possibility to consider. The only statement anywhere about the rockets is what I quoted further up this page, from the Royal Commission minutes, Q. 11190-1: Const. James Arthur says, “After we were firing the second volley, there was a man came out from the yard, and as he came out there were two rockets let up between the railway station and McDonald’s, and I was looking round to where they went off, and there was some firing went on then, and as I turned I saw this man going out.” [Commission: 11191. We never heard of rockets?] Arthur: Constable Gascoigne can tell about that. I think it was some sympathizers letting them know they were attacked by the police. One was very faint, and the other was a large one.”
What I drew from that was that Const. Gascoigne saw the rockets that Arthur saw. Suppose we separate Arthur’s speculation about what any rockets (if they existed) might have meant, as clearly from his words he was guessing a meaning. And suppose we separate what he said from any errors or mistakes or fabrications he said about Steele at another point and don’t assume a litany of deliberate false testimony by Arthur.
. At the time of the second volley, where was Arthur, and where was Gascoigne? (I’m not sure, but someone may know.) Next, where were the four journalists? The question is relevant as to who was looking at what and in which direction just after the second volley. I suspect the journalists were all looking towards the Inn just then, but we would have to go and re-check all their reports to try and establish that. If so, would they be looking back towards the area between the station and McDonnell’s hotel on the other side of the railway tracks from which the alleged rockets were fired? Quite possibly not. But could Arthur and Gascoigne have been positioned where they would have a view both of the Inn and of the station looking out towards McDonnell’s? Possibly.
So they may have been able to see something not noticed by the journalists. Not the launch of any rockets, but a reasonable guess as to where they were launched from. As Arthur put it, “After we were firing the second volley … there were two rockets let up between the railway station and McDonald’s, and I was looking round to where they went off, and there was some firing went on then”. So te rockets went off as the firing was still happening. Unless any of the journalists were doing something else, they reasonably would have been watching the firing on the Inn.
We also know (if Arthur and by implication Gascoigne) was right, that of the two rockets, one was very faint and likely missable by anyone forward of it or otherwise looking towards the Inn. The other was a large one. But what does that mean? Jones in Short Life, ever creative, imagined “the two rockets streaking up into the sky, scattering falling stars with dull, delayed thumps.” As we see from the Commission, Jones made all of that up. No thumps, and no scattering falling stars. Just two rockets, one faint. Recall budget skyrockets from years ago. They didn’t have stars and explosions. They just went up, about three times the height of a single storey house and that was it. If you weren’t in the backyard at the time, or outside in a nearby yard, you’d never know they were fired.
What about the “large” one? Bigger than the “very faint” one is all we can say. Up in the air and then nothing. Entirely forgettable and only noticed by Arthur and Gascoigne by chance while practically everyone was focussed on the firing that was still going on towards the Inn at the time the rockets went up. Of so little moment or significance that anyone who might have seen them thought nothing of it. And as we have seen (in my Republic Myth book) there was no sympathiser army anywhere; as I showed, other than those with the police party, there was only one armed man seen by anyone anywhere at any time during that whole night. Jones’ entire Glenrowan story is an elaborate fabrication, most obviously where he envisaged Kelly walking three times through the police line arounf the Inn during the night, which as I showed was utterly impossible. But many a bunny has believed it because “expert” hurr durr.
In sum, I think there is no compelling reason to reject Authur’s short evidence about the rockets. If they existed they were insignificant devices that had no clear meaning. A fuller investigation would try and pinpoint where Arthur and Gascoigne were at the time of the last part of the second volley; without being able to show that they could not have been able to see the area that Arthur described, I don’t think the story can be dismissed. But Jones’ version of it clearly can be.
Stuart, in trying to understand if what Arthur described about rockets was true or not, I dont think you ought to start by setting aside what we already know about his reliability as a witness – thats at the heart of the consideration surely?
Secondly there were many people at McDonnells Hotel looking across to the Inn so would all have seen any rockets that went up, because according to Arthur they went up right in front of them – between the Hotel and the railway line – but nobody ever mentioned them. Thats got to be a problem.
Also, if there were police behind the inn they would have been looking towards the Hotel so also ought to have seen them! Again , nobody ever mentioned doing so, and despite what Arthur claimed, Gascoigne isnt recorded anywhere that I know of ever mentioning them either.
Then again one wonders what Arthur had to gain by inventing them ? Maybe he had some sort of personality disorder and made stuff up to draw attention to himself?
Hi David, it certainly is a problem that there were many people at McDonells; but at that stage of the siege were they locals who were never concerned enough about it to make any record that we know of; or was Arthur confused and thought he saw something that he thought was rockets that he mentioned later; or something else…? The problem for me is that he said Gascoigne could confirm it. But maybe Gascoigne could not have, had he been asked – we don’t know.
At any rate, can we agree that Jones’s story about showers of falling stars and explosive thumps is entirely bullshit?