Ned Kelly was a juvenile delinquent.

The reason people admire Ned Kelly is more often than not because they’ve been misinformed by the writing of other people who admire Ned Kelly. Perhaps the most striking example of this is the four part 1980 TV Miniseries ‘The Last Outlaw’, produced by the greatest Kelly admirer of all time, Ian Jones. Its still available on DVD, and 43 years later continues to be universally adored and praised by Kelly admirers as the best and most accurate portrayal of the Kelly story ever produced.

In fact, as I will prove to you, though the ‘The Last Outlaw’ is  very cleverly and convincingly constructed, it is highly sanitized, misleading and very inaccurate. The best way to understand this production is to see it as pure Kelly propaganda, and like all good propaganda it reassures all its viewers right at the start that it’s all based on fact: yes of course it was, but  so was ‘Forrest Gump’ based on fact but it was pure fiction. The ‘facts’ Jones made use of were only certain very select ‘facts’, the ones that suited his purpose, but many other facts are left out ignored or misrepresented, and many of the impressions created in the movie are not facts at all, but fantasy, wishful thinking and pure invention, the greatest of them being Ian Jones now completely discredited proposal that the Outbreak was an attempt to establish a republic of north east Victoria.

 


The purpose of part one seems to be to create an image of the young Ned Kelly as a rather naive, terribly earnest, friendly, responsible and helpful member of a happy family of loving selectors, whose transient involvement with Harry Power was reluctant and minimal. But then the poor innocent lad’s life is turned upside down by a malicious wrongful conviction and harsh three-year sentence with hard labour on a charge of “receiving a horse, knowing it to be stolen”,and from there it’s all downhill. Poor Ned, poor Kellys…and those horrible bullying police!

 


The actual known historical truth however is very different, and different in important ways from what is depicted:  there are innumerable important facts that Jones deliberately ignored in Episode One that show Kelly was very far from being the earnest and inexperienced youth portrayed in Part One of the movie. No viewer would ever guess that by age 16 or 17, which is about how old Ned Kelly is in Part One,  he had a criminal record and convictions for violence and obscenity. He had been lucky to escape conviction for a vicious assault on a Chinese man, but he had been convicted and gaoled for an assault on a hawker and for an offensive and obscene act offered to a childless woman, in the so-called ‘McCormack incident’ (more about this later). Kelly had also managed to cleverly avoid conviction on various charges associated with his partnership with bushranger Harry Power by dobbing him in. No viewer would ever guess that Jones also concealed the fact that Kellys own mother, portrayed as a delightful model parent, had already been convicted and fined for abusive language, had narrowly avoided a conviction for illegally supplying liquor, and had not long before given birth to an illegitimate child. Neither would any viewer have guessed that Jones didn’t bother with any of the facts about the innumerable uncles and other family associates who had all served time for crimes such as stock theft, drunkenness, violent assault, sexual assault, arson and animal cruelty. All of this very relevant background information is hidden from view: the happy scenes Jones depicted are fiction.



In Part One, Kellys involvement with Wild Wrights lost horse and subsequent imprisonment is set out, but – of course! –  it is also seriously misrepresented. Much is made of the circumstances of Kellys arrest by Hall, with graphic concentration on Halls entirely inappropriate use of excessive force. But that only happened because Kelly attempted to evade arrest, and was no doubt influenced by Halls involvement with Kelly and two uncles only a matter of weeks before, when he was nearly killed himself in a vicious assault with a stirrup iron, had his own scalp split open and was knocked unconscious. All of these relevant facts are ignored by Jones, so as to bolster the image of Kelly as an innocent victim.

 


The court determined that the horse wasn’t ever stolen by anyone: Wright had merely borrowed it and had planned to return it, as he had done on more than one occasion previously. Court evidence also revealed that even though it didn’t belong to him Kelly had attempted to sell the horse along with some others: important relevant information about Kellys criminal intent and character that Jones ignored: of course!  Because of his intention to sell the horse, Kellys conviction was not for “receiving a horse knowing it to be stolen” as wrongly suggested in the movie but for the more serious “Feloniously receiving”. Wright was convicted of a relatively minor offence, for illegally using the horse and so his sentence was less severe than Ned Kellys. Jones attempt by distortion of the facts to make out that this episode was a case of police persecution is still being repeated by Kelly admirers all these decades later. It was not persecution at all: it was a fair trial and a fair sentence.


The movie I would make about Ned Kellys early days – if I knew how to make movies – would not misrepresent the reality of the environment he lived in or the kind of person he was, as Jones has done in The Last Outlaw, and I would happily admit the fact that up until he was ten or eleven Kelly seemed to have been a decent kid. I’ve already written about that HERE.

 


But by the time he was sixteen what the record shows is that he had become a seriously violent smartarse and a dickhead, a show-off and a liar, the very opposite of what Jones portrayed in The Last Outlaw. I would show this by particular reference to two incidents that Jones ignored in his movie: the McCormack incident and the Benalla Boot shop incident.

 

 

The first of these, the McCormack incident was referred to by Kelly himself at the very beginning of the Jerilderie letter, where he claimed that he was falsely accused by Mrs McCormack of using the McCormacks horse without permission to pull a wagon belonging to a hawker named Mr Gould out of the mud. Kelly denied all that and said that a gelding named Ruita Cruta had ‘enticed McCormacks horse away from Greta” and all that Gould did was get ‘his boy’ to take the horse back to the McCormacks. The ‘boy’ Kelly somewhat disingenuously mentioned was his own younger brother Jim. Later that day Kelly says ‘me and my uncle was cutting calves. Gould wrapped  up a note and a pair of the calves testicles and gave them to me to give to Ms McCormack. I did not see her and gave the parcel to a boy to give to her ….’ Ian Jones later wrote in his biography of Ned Kelly that the note invited Mr McCormack to tie the calf testicles ‘to his own cock so that he might shag her better the next time’ – a cruel reference to the fact that Mrs McCormack was childless.

 


Unsurprisingly the McCormacks took great offence at this vulgarity and when they confronted Kelly about it, Kelly abused them further, threatening them with violence and calling them ‘bloody wretches’. He then punched McCormack in the face and knocked him over with his horse, and while brandishing a stirrup iron, Kelly challenged McCormack to a fight. In the Jerilderie Letter Kelly blamed Mrs McCormack for making his horse jump forwards by hitting it in the flank and as a result “my fist came in collision with McCormack’s nose”. How completely absurd and laughable! In Court, Kellys own Uncle, Jack Lloyd agreed with McCormick, not Kelly.


So just think about this for a second: a 16-year-old youth is sending an obscene and insulting package to a married adult woman because she accused him of something which the court later found to be true.  And then when they object, he mocks and swears at them and then assaults her husband, and later when writing about it makes such an absurd excuse for his violent behaviour it’s no wonder when it went to Court he was convicted and gaoled. But I wonder what anyone reading this would have to say if they had a sixteen-year-old son who engaged in that kind of sickening behaviour, that vulgar abuse and that confronting and threatening violence? Would they be proud of him? Or would they be like Uncle Jack Lloyd who wanted to disown him? And if it was someone else’s son behaving like that wouldn’t you agree the boy was a nasty and violent smart-arse and a dickhead?  The snow-white image of Ned Kelly painted in Part One of the Last Outlaw is a deliberately very misleading cover up of the obnoxious swaggering delinquent bully that he actually was.

 


The other incident worth mentioning that Jones didnt, but which happened around the same time and was cited by Kelly when asked to give an example of the tyrannical conduct of Police that he always complained of, was when he had his testicles squeezed by Constable Lonigan in the midst of an unholy brawl in the Benalla Bootmakers shop. I wrote about it and you can read the detail of it HERE, but in brief, it would have been a non-event except for Kellys decision to act up and show off by trying to escape custody when he was being walked across the street to the local Courthouse to face a charge that attracted a fine of one shilling. Instead, by running off and then getting trapped and retaken in the Bootmakers shop after an entirely pointless violent struggle, it cost him or more likely his poor widowed mother, over eighty shillings. What an idiot! What a smartarse and a dickhead he was.

 


And there is something else: one might argue well yes, he was obviously a delinquent youth but isn’t that the way adolescents often behave…and then with age and maturity they settle down? Why be so hard on him? He was barely 16…

 


Well firstly, the point of this Blog Post is twofold – to show what kind of a youth he really was, and to show how dishonestly The Last Outlaw misrepresented his true character. But secondly, its very important to note that Kelly wrote about all of this in the Jerilderie letter when he was 23 or 24, at an age where one might have hoped for a more mature reflection and perhaps an expression of regret about his behaviour as a brash and callow youth – but no he doubles down on his version, boasting about how he assaulted various people, insisting that everything that happened was someone else’s fault – and even the fault of a horse! His accounts express not the least hint of regret or embarrassment or shame about his behaviour and the pointless trouble and cost he inflicted on people, and not one word of apology about any of it. In fact, he said that if someone accused him like that again, he would behave in exactly the same way.

 

 

And at that moment you realise that the 16-year-old dickhead never grew up – he just became a bigger and even more violent and unhinged one.

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14 Replies to “Ned Kelly was a juvenile delinquent.”

  1. Magnífico my good doctor. TLO is outdated and sugarcoated to portray a fantasised tale

    1. Its Catnip to Kelly sympathisers , thats what TLO is! They even adore the Cast FFS!

      Is there a sympathiser anywhere who a) Hasnt watched it and b) Doesn’t think its fantastic, true and accurate ?

      But the entire focus of the story as told in TLO is Ned Kellys march toward a Republic…..but thats now gone, so what is he marching toward – apart from his own doom? What is there to replace the Republic : ANSWER : NOTHING – because it wasnt a march toward anything – the true story is that it was a flight from justice that he lost at Glenrowan.

  2. TLO is a lifeline to the bogan brigade. The ilk on the BBM and NK Sympathisers rely on it, without TLO they would actually have to read something. It’s their ‘go to’ guide to the Kelly Gang. If Ian Jones hadn’t made it they would be stuck with the Heath Ledger movie for their ‘accurate’ references.

    They won’t ever change their mindset about the Kelly’s because the truth hurts them too much, and they would have nothing left to live for. They love that Kelly was violent, they can completely justify anything, and they think it’s ‘cool’ to idolize him because they believe they would all be ‘mates’ if he were around today. LOL! They would get the shock of their lives how he would react to any of them. But with the ‘soft pillow’ of existing in different centuries between them, to cushion them, they feel safe in their numb brain thinking, that Kelly would return their ‘feelings’. Truth is, he would laugh in their faces, then belt half of them in the head, and rob the rest.

  3. Jones would have loved to be there, talking to the sympathisers, cheering on the gang of police murderers, drooling with concern for the captives that had to lie on the floor to try and avoid being hit by police firing at the gang sheltering in and around the Inn in the dark. He blamed the police for shooting at criminals who opened fire on them as they approached. He ignored the clear evidence from several sources that showed that the police were ordered by Hare and relayed by others to fire high as soon as it was realised that there were screams of women coming from the Inn in the opening minute or so.

    He claimed since 1968 that Ned Kelly had walked through the police line three times in armour. He invented an imaginary sympathiser army, imagined dozens of sympathisers including women and children helping to make the armour suits. claimed Ned Kelly was a great planner and tactician despite the whole Glenrowan shebang being a debacle from start to finish, excused all of Ned Kelly’s aggressive gun-waving behaviour to large numbers of the public caught up at various points in his armed robberies and revenge plots…

    Kelly was a clinically diagnosed psychopath as Scott and Macfarlane showed, who went from bad to worse. After the police murders at Stringybark Creek there was no turning back for him, and no repentence at any point. Just a psychotic quests for vengeance tempered only by the fact that his mother was in gaol and therefore to some extent at the state’s mercy. He never spared a thought for Skillion and Williamson gaoled at the same time as his mother in a half-baked attempt to assist Kelly against Fitzpatrick. He crapped on his “mates” just as he had given Harry Power’s location to the police.
    Jones’ fictionalised Kelly romance whitewashed all of this horror. He got away with being called a Kelly guru for decades by lazy journalists, but since Ian Macfarlane’s atomic “The Kelly Gang Unmasked” blew it up in 2012, a realistic rethinking of Kelly history has been slowly progressing and the Jones fictional fantasies are being peeled away one by one. As the Ned Kelly Touring Route web text shows, however, there is still quite a way to go until the true story is online, because the bureaucrats in charge are stuck in a 1990s time warp of Kelly mythology from which they seem unable to extract themselves through reational thought.

    Kelly was a juvenile delinquent with his family fully supporting his apprenceship into crime since his early years, taking horses and waiting until a reward was offered to return them, as even Jones admitted Ned Kelly did while the family lived at Avenel with the Shelton horse. Dan Kelly was listed in the Police Gazette by age 6. The whole family was a pack of predatory delinquents with no redeeming features, hence Ned and his two brother’s inevitable progress into the larrikin Greta Mob (listed in Doug Morrissey’s 1978 ‘Ned Kelly’s Sympathisers’).

    One reason that so many modern Kelly enthusiasts live in denial of the dark side of Kelly’s historical reality is the reason given in the main post on this page: Jones omitted it from his whitewashed Kelly narrative; therefore they have never encountered it; therefore it doesn’t exist for them. And that indeed is the significant problem with the Last Outlaw Kelly propaganda movie. It is almost entirely a fiction.

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  4. A few comments on Young (Ned) Kelly’s character and criminality:

    While young Kelly was remanded in the Kyneton lock-up (where he lagged Harry Power), his language was reported to be “hideous”, O&M 13/5/1870, quoted in “The Bushranger Harry Power: Tutor of Ned Kelly”, by Kevin Passey and Gary Dean, p. 64. By all accounts he was a young larrikin. In Grantlee Kieza’s “Mrs Kelly” we learn that Dan Kelly featured in the Police Gazette 2 October 1866 as a suspect for horse theft; “Dan is aged just 5 years and 4 months, but perhaps Ned has started using his brother’s name when dealing with police, as he will in later years” (p. 63). Ned used Dan’s name for contact in his letter to Sgt Babington, the notorious “black snake” letter found late in the piece that proved the Kelly fans wrong who had refused to believe that Ned lagged Power. (E.g. Passey and Dean p. 67, “Either the boy refused to help, or he knew nothing at all, for when Nicolson left him, Kelly was still in the Kyneton lock-up, he had received no help whatsoever.” And thanks to Grantlee for his detailed footnotes; a vast improvement on many other Kelly historians as you can easily locate his sources. Buy the book for that alone, the referencing is excellent .)

    Then the nicking of the Shelton’s horse, returned for reward (Ian Jones, “Short Life”, read it and weep), the McCormack incident, and bashing the Chinaman Ah Fook, not to mention the Kyneton arrest was for one of three highway robberies of which Ned was actively suspected of aiding and abetting Harry Power, etc. (Passey and Dean, p. 64). There is room for a new children’s book called “Bad Ned Kelly” that will set the record straight. It could have lots of bad puns like “there was rustling in the bushes” that adults would get, and some great illustrations that tell his victim’s side of the story, like the testicle parcel Ned took to McCormack’s wife, or his running the poor woman over with his horse (see court report). Never wronged a woman, hmmm?

    This is hardly the background one would think would make the perpetrator an “iconic” figure in Australian history. More like an iconic loser.

    As for the Glenrowan Kelly “Discovery Hub” bringing money into the region, it is hard to see how free entry into a staffed display centre with limited hours, not much in it and a whole lot of obviuously wrong signage is going to do much for north-east tourism. I did a critical review of it here, https://nedkellyunmasked.com/2023/10/the-glenrowan-kelly-hub-reviewed/ and nothing has been done to rectify the numerous factual errors yet. Apparently there will be a content review at some time in the future, but the project team has been disbanded and so nothing can be expected to be done about the historical misinformation on display in the short term. Until then it wil just be a round monolithic eyesore, a poor man’s stonehenge with its wooden vertical side beams slowly weathering in the sun and rain, grinding up the maintenance costs.

    The whole project was obviously a stupid mistake, given funding under the misguided belief pushed by the 2017 Ned Kelly Alive project that Kelly tourism would be “the go”. The next year, of course, I published my “Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria” which blew the whole Jonesian rationale behind the Kelly glorification story out of the water. Glenrowan was nothing more than a revenge attack, foreshadowed in the last lines of the Cameron letter and brought to its attempted psychotic fruition a year and a half later. And yet deep in the bowels of the internet illiterate Kelly fanatics mumble on, incapable of comprehending that Ian Macfarlane’s ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’ was the meticulously researched content-rich work that first exploded the then-prevalent Kelly fictions including the republic myth, increasingly being accepted to have been no more than decades of blundering fantasies by loopy Kelly nuts.

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  5. Regarding Ian MacFarlane’s groundbreaking book “The Kelly Gang Unmasked”, I had someone say in person to me the other week that they found it hard to read because some sections seemed to overlap. It wasn’t the usual narrative history writing they were used to.

    One sometimes wonders what such people read apart from comics and fictional TV dramas such as The Last Outlaw. Nevertheless I feel a vague sense of didactic obligation even to the more extreme Kelly nuts to help them try to work through the most significant contribution to Kelly studies in over 100 years.

    Macfarlane was himself aware that his radical approach was different from what many readers would be used to. Because of this he wrote a prefatory note titled “How this book is structured”. It says:

    “Many past books about the Kelly Gang have been presented chronologically. Because of the complex issues raised, the story is laid out here within themes and, where possible, chronologically within those themes.”

    Even this simple guide is apparently not clear enough for some readers so I will give a further recommendation. Think of the book as a collection of 7 separate essays on different parts of Kelly history. Treat each chapter as a stand-alone academic article with its own detailed source referencing.

    For those brought up on the longstanding Kelly narrative that ranges from Kenneally through Brown, Clune, Molony to Jones, each chapter provides a massive myth busting antidote to long held and sometimes cherished beliefs.

    People who claim to be interested in the factual history of the Kelly gang will typically be shocked to find how much they thought they knew is little more than romantic fiction.

    Not everyone is cut out for the intellectual journey that critical history requires; but for any readers here who have felt that MacFarlane’s Kelly Gang Unmasked was a bit of a struggle, the author himself made it clear that it was never supposed to be approached as a narrative history. A different head space altogether is required; and that really should not be asking too much of an averagely intelligent reader motivated by genuine curiosity about the past.

  6. Me: The so-called Declaration of a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria and the whole Kelly republic story is a myth and I can show how it was created. What’s more, half a dozen leading Australian historians including Professor Graeme Davison (author of the history classic, “Marvellous Melbourne”) agree with me that it’s nonsense. Get the book free by clicking the image at the top right of this page.

    Kelly nuts:

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    1. Ive seen Ian Jones in action on You Tube videos but never in real life. On those videos its easy to see how great a communicator he was, how familiar and how confident he was with his understanding of the Kelly story, and how clever he was, but I think in person there was another dimension to the man, some kind of magnetic personal charm that drew people to him, people who were already in awe of the man who was constantly being referred to as Australias foremost Kelly authority, its greatest expert on the Outbreak and so on. Mark Perry has posted innumerable times a picture of him with Ian Jones and Perrys eyes are as wide as saucers, he looks like a possum caught in the headlights, bareley able to believe whose company he is in. In view of the way Perry and various others still defend Jones today, I think it would be fair to say Jones had the status among Kelly admirers of a cult leader, a man they all revered and believed could do no wrong. Like a cult leader, Jones encouraged this sort of admiration by Kelly sympathisers and it seems was constantly patting them on the head and giving them little presents and signing their Kellyana and their copies of his book…but also, like a cult leader he couldn’t stand to be criticised and hit back hard with mockery and personal attack, even physically on at least one occasion.

      I’ve just re-read the chapter in his book titled “The Whitty Larceny”, the only other time I would have read it through would have been nearly ten years ago. Not being under the Jones spell, and knowing so much more about the Outbreak than I did ten years ago, I was absolutely gobsmacked at how partisan and how inaccurate and yet how subtle and persuasive his story-telling is. Entire paragraphs are almost totally made up…. speculation on speculation with slur and innuendo in sentence after sentence…but the loyal Sympathiser will swallow it all and never notice that mixed in with the selected facts are not just Jones opinions but an entire mindset, an attitude and a perspective thats anti-police and deeply pro-Kelly.

      People like Jones are uncommon….and can be dangerous like Jim Jones was…luckily perhaps Ian Jones was only interested in a failed criminal.

      1. Hi David, just flicked through that chapter myself and it is full of dreadful clangers. At every chance he deflects criticism from the gang; writing for example that “Beechworth’s Advertiser, fairly quivering with disapproval, conceded that Ned was ‘head centre of the most perfect horse stealing organisation that has ever existed in Australia”. Jones, meanwhile, is preoccupied with the cleverness of Ned’s little gang and calls it a “team”. See Doug Morrissey’s ‘Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves’, chapter 9 on ‘Stock Thieves and Stock Theft’ for an antidote to Jones’ nonsense.

  7. Although somewhat a late comer to the group, I worked out very quickly that Ian Jones wrote a plethora of fictitious, made up nonsense on almost every page of “A Short Life.” I don’t think I could find any page that he didn’t make up fictitious rot, and in some cases downright lies. He denigrated almost every police officer involved, claiming that they were incompetent, gave perjured evidence and were disliked in their communities. His book should be on the fiction shelves. I agree with Doug Morrissey and Stuart Dawson with their assessments of Jones. He is a disgrace to this nation.

    1. Hi Sam, just to be clear, I think it would be fair to say that both myself and Doug Morrissey assess large amounts of Jones’ writings about Kelly as fiction, and would agree that his accusations of perjury against both Constable McIntyre and Superintendent Sadleir are totally flawed and malicious fabrications based entirley on his determination to use Sadleir’s faulty recollection of what he claimed was McIntyre’s first statement about the SBC murders as evidence of perjury despite the fact that McIntyre’s first statement was in the Crown Prosecution File which Jones had read in full, probably several times.

      It was Jones’ powerful pro-Kelly bias combined with extraordinary historical and critical incompetence that seems to have caused him to stick with the perjury fiction based on Sadleir’s 30 year old “recollection” from 1967 through past his last edition of Short Life in 2008 into his 2014 “The Kellys and Beechworth” minibook.

      What is truly tragic is that even three university-trained academics who got into the Kelly story (Molony, McQuilton and McMenomy) never took issue with Jones about this extraordinary bungling. Worse, no other academics or legal experts picked it up and took issue with it. Jones somehow led a charmed life as a Kelly guru, and got away with his nonsensical fiction of McIntyre’s “perjury” for decades. But no more.

      However, I do wish to go on record here as not agreeing with Sam’s implication or statement that I or Doug Morrissey have or would describe Jones as “a disgrace to this nation”. That is Sam’s opinion and he is welcome to say whatever he likes; but I or Doug have never said that we regard him as “a disgrace to this nation” and certainly I, and I’m guessing Doug, do not want to be associated with such an extremely personal and hostile sweeping comment.

      Having made that clear, remember that the so-called “expert” led many up the garden path entirely due to his ego, https://www.theage.com.au/national/auction-house-refunds-mistaken-kelly-photo-20020522-gdu89e.html

      1. I certainly did not mean to imply that either Stuart or Doug consider Ian Jones a disgrace to this nation. They are my own words and relate to my thoughts only. Having reread what I wrote, I acknowledge that some may misconstrue my words to include Stuart and Doug. That is not what I intended to convey.
        I do not resolve from my comment that I consider Jones a disgrace to this nation.

  8. Hey ‘Sam’, why are you using this name?
    It is so obvious who you are given your burning hatred of Ian Jones.

  9. Another thing that’s curious is the strong conviction by Jones and written into his The Last Outlaw mini-series is the notion that Ned Kelly and his siblings identified as Irish and had Irish accents. He also maintained that several times in interviews. It’s BS to be sure. Ned Kelly consistently self-identified as a colonial. No just not British but also not Irish; as a colonial Australian.

    And as has been discussed on this blog at least twice, the native born children of colonial immigrants had a distinctively Australian accent from around 1840 onwards, totally unlike the portrayals of the Kelly children in TLO.

    The Last Outlaw is a beautifully filmed fiction. About the only things it gets right are the costumes. The narrative script bears little semblance to historical reality at any point. It is a video representation of a warped and historically distorted view of Kelly that should be viewed with no more seriousness than a John Wayne western; that is, an imaginative fiction set in “the good old days” with no claim to historical accuracy at all.

    Happy Australia Day 🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺👍

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