In Part One I pointed out that there is no record anywhere of Ned Kelly nor his mother Ellen, nor his brother Jim nor his cousins Tom Lloyd and James Ryan ever talking about the now well-known story of Ned Kelly being rewarded with a green and gold silk sash for saving Richard Shelton from drowning in the Hughes creek at Avenel sometime around 1865. All of these people, and especially Ned Kelly had lots to say over the years about the history of the Kelly family but about this alleged heroic rescue of a drowning boy not one of them uttered a single word. The obvious and only rational explanation for this absolute silence about something that others claimed was a celebrated part of the Kelly story is that they are wrong: it never happened. In support of the idea that it never happened I also pointed out that for over half a century after the incident was supposed to have happened, nobody else talked about it either. But again, it wasn’t that nobody was talking about the Kelly Outbreak – almost a dozen books were written about it in the 45 years after it ended but not one of them mentioned the rescue story.

In fact, nobody made a claim of any kind about a heroic rescue until a whopping 63 years after it was supposed to have happened. Imagine how difficult it would be to prove or disprove in 2024 a claim that was made about something that happened to a family in YOUR community in 1961…thats how long it took for stories of a rescue to begin to emerge…more than enough time for facts to be forgotten or confused and for myths to be created.


Thomas Whiteside corrected my claim in Part 1 that the first person to mention a rescue was J.J.Kenneally in 1934. He provided a reference, from 1928, written by an unidentified shearer turned Journalist (initials AJS) who wrote “I know for a fact that while at school at Avenel Ned Kelly rescued a boy who was drowning”. No mention of a sash! So far, nobody has been able to work out who ‘AJS’ was or where or how he came by that information, but he claimed to have met Jim Kelly, Wild Wright and Jack Sherritt. AJS may have believed he ‘knew for a fact’ that Ned Kelly rescued a drowning boy at Avenel….but its already been established that the story of a rescue was not part of the Kelly clan lore: Ned Kelly never rescued anyone.  Maybe Wild Wright was pulling AJS’ leg…remember the entire fake edifice of the Republic began with satire….a joke that ended up being taken seriously.

But it would seem reasonable to believe that ‘something’ happened – the question is ‘exactly what?’


As other writers picked up on Kenneallys reference to Ned Kelly being rewarded with a green sash for a brave rescue at Wallan, the final version of the story that we all know and love emerged over several decades from an astonishing and confusing array of variations that entered the public arena. Early writers ignored JJK’s belief that the person rescued was a schoolboy and repeatedly said he was a ‘farmer’, and to start with there was no mention of the sash being given as a reward.


Max Brown who made  great play out of his explorations of the highways, the byways and the people and the communities of the North East in doing research for his book, makes no mention of the rescue or the sash in the first edition Australian Son (1948). Clearly back then nobody was talking about Ned Kelly rescuing anyone. In subsequent Editions, by which time the story was becoming more widely discussed, he inserted the story and expanded it to a claim in the final version (2013) of a public presentation of the sash to Ned Kelly.


Frank Clune said in 1954 (The Kelly Hunters) that the person Kelly rescued was a farmer, and for the first time ever, a staggering 90 years after it was supposed to have happened, the rescued person is finally named: Richard Shelton –  and Hughes creek is named as the place where it all happened. However, again, no mention is made of a sash being given as a reward: “At Avenel, Ned Kelly, matured beyond his age by the worries and responsibilities that fate had thrust upon, him, suddenly achieved local renown — for a deed of courage. A farmer, R. J. Shelton, fell into Hughes Creek, and was on the point of drowning, when Ned Kelly plunged into the water and pulled the man to the bank.” Clune listed his informants and sources, and included among them was a Mrs Burgoyne whose mother went to school with the Kellys at Avenel. His other informants were various inhabitants of Avenel – and ALL of them seemed to have believed that the person rescued was a grown man. So THAT was the Avenel community oral history back then– significantly in error if we are to accept the modern version is the true one. But no doubt, the MODERN day community oral history is now “corrected” ….


By the time Charles Osbourne wrote ‘Ned Kelly’ (1970) the sash and the rescue were routinely linked, but the claim it was a farmer that was rescued persisted:  “(Kelly)….was once given a green silk sash with a gold fringe in recognition for his bravery when he plunged into a creek to rescue a farmer from drowning.”


In Harry Nunn’s 1980 ‘Bushrangers: A pictorial history’, p. 146 says, “Before leaving Avenel, Ned had been presented with a green sash by farmer R.J. Shelton whose life Ned had saved when he rescued him from Hughes Creek into which he had fallen. Ned was to cherish that sash.”


Meanwhile, the sash itself, which disappeared from public view in 1880 abruptly reappeared and was offered to the Benalla Historical Society in 1973. They  gratefully received it and publicised the acquisition, and it remains in their possession to this day. They then received a remarkable letter from Mrs Harold Shelton in which she reports what she was told by “the surviving sons and daughters of Mr Shelton” but more specifically by his sister Agnes  as “we do feel that perhaps (her account) is probably the clearest” . Her belief was that it was a waterhole that Dick was rescued from, and that Ned Kelly was alerted by seeing Dicks hat on the bank. The bombshell though is her remarkable admission about the sash : ‘Naturally the cummerbund has aroused our curiosity, and to my knowledge I haven’t heard it mentioned at any time.”


So is THIS the Shelton family history the trolls on Facebook have been demanding I take as Gospel, the one about a waterhole not a raging torrent, the one in which the Shelton’s have never heard of a sash?  ( Here’s the absurd declaration by one of them, a Kelly Facebook page Moderator – believe it or not –  who seems to have not the slightest understanding of the pitfalls of accepting family oral traditions as reliable: “If the Shelton’s say they gave Ned Kelly the Green Sash as a boy and that is their oral history – then that is what happened – trying to change history and remove the importance of the Green Sash to Ned Kelly is simply another attempt at character assassination … a really pathetic attempt …” 


Good grief!

And what are we to make of this report that was in the Age in 2001 and the SMH in 2002 :” ….Harold, 91, and Britton, 87, who live in Melbourne, are the youngest and last survivors of Dick Shelton’s large brood. The brothers don’t recall their father ever expanding on the story, although local folklore and the reminiscences of their older siblings ensure that sketchy details of that day are preserved in stories of Ned Kelly’s life. But the brothers do remember that all his life their father was asked about Ned Kelly and he always replied brusquely: “He was all right.” By 2001, Richard Shelton had been dead for 70 years.

I am totally underwhelmed by this report; the Shelton brothers themselves were largely relying on ‘local folklore and the reminiscences of their older siblings’ – and even then only had ‘sketchy details of that day’. And it’s no wonder they only had sketchy details : the sons don’t recall their father EVER expanding on the story – so where the older siblings got THEIR stories from is anyone’s guess – but it wasnt from Richard – all he had to say for Ned Kelly was that he was “alright”. Talk about damning with faint praise: this has to be about the weakest case possible for a genuine family oral history: nobody seemed to be sure of anything and Richard himself never really affirmed any part of the story.


Even more telling is this conversation from 2023 on a Facebook Page called Lost Avenel : “The story repeated by my family was that a group were at the creek which was swollen and running fast, Shelton must’ve fallen into a hole and all the kids formed a human chain and dragged him out. It wasn’t Ned by himself”

On that same page another contributor wrote in response: “I’ve a copy of a handwritten letter of a Shelton oldie who said a group of children were swimming at a swimming hole when Richard got in trouble. Your family story underlines what she remembered.”


I have no idea which Shelton oldie wrote that letter but it would be very helpful for it to be made available: the person quoting it said the details would be released in a forthcoming book…I wonder if a sash was mentioned by the oldie? I would guess no.


In any event we now have a different Avenel families oral family history about the rescue saying it was made by a human chain of kids – “It wasn’t Ned himself” and another ‘Shelton oldie’ agreeing with at least some of it. So, Kelly sympahiser trolls, now that we have multiple differing Shelton and other family oral traditions about the rescue, which one are you going to accept as being the true one and believe without question as Moderator Rowsell suggested you have to do? The one about kids all swimming in a waterhole and forming a chain to rescue Dick? Or the one about Ned Kelly rescuing him all by himself from a raging torrent?


Various people claim the sash was stock in the Sheltons  Avenel store but what about this : “an interview with Richard’s great-grandson “Bluey” Shelton claims the sash came from Ireland: ‘[Esau] married Irishwoman Margaret Johnson. She brought two green sashes from the Emerald Isle with her and it was one of these that was presented to Kelly when he saved their son Richard from drowning in Hughes creek’. (Telegraph of 9 October 2013)


And this : “Approximately 150 meters downstream is the site where Ned Kelly rescued Richard Shelton. Richard accidentally fell from a makeshift footbridge into the high flowing Hughes Creek on his way to school”. So said the sign by the historic stone bridge (1869) in Avenel In 2010 .


And this : “When he was around 11, Ned rescued Richard Shelton (aged 7) from Hughes Creek. The rescue took place about 150 metres downstream from the bridge, where Richard had been trying to cross on a fallen tree bridge. The boys headed back to Richard’s home at the Royal Mail Hotel to dry off by the fire.”Ned Kelly Touring Route.


What we see looking back through time is that a collection of disparate anecdotes, very few of which if any  seem to be sourced or verifiable, have been gradually moulded into a story which  by the end of the process was the fully formed modern version that was then  absorbed into the Kelly myth: Wallan eventually became Avenel. No reward became a private gift to a Bushranger on the run and then a Public presentation of a sash to a kid. An unnamed adult farmer became a named schoolboy, Richard Shelton. Gold bullion became gold thread. A waterhole became a raging creek. A footbridge became a fallen log and then disappeared. The hat was on the river bank then it was in the water. A human chain of kids became one kid, Ned Kelly. The sash came from Ireland with Richard Sheltons mother and then it was a stock item from the shop….The paradox of course is that the further the incident receded into the past,  and the more difficult it became  to verify details,  the more certain everyone became of what the facts were….How is it that people could suddenly remember in  the 1970’s  details nobody could remember in say 1948 when Max Brown was poking around?


Absolutely everything about this entire story screams ‘myth’. The absence of reference to any of it by the entire Kelly family is fatal to the modern story. Dick Sheltons lukewarm response and his failure to ever provide details of anything is also damning. The idea that all these various oral histories relating to Ned Kelly heroism should be taken seriously when they conflict in various ways and are about something that’s not in the Kelly family history is utterly absurd.

So what REALLY happened? The truth is we have no idea: its possible the entire story is a fantasy,  – but its also possible to construct something that accords all the various claims some sort of respect.


At most, I think it was something like this: A kid – possibly Dick Shelton – got into trouble in a waterhole and several other kids helped him out. Ned Kelly may or may not have been there, but it was a non-event. The Kellys and the Shelton’s forgot about it. Much later Ned Kelly got hold of a green sash. Later still, around a century after it was supposed to have happened, when Kelly was being reinvented as a hero, the ‘rescue’ and the sash came together in a process that involved the creation of a myth in quite typical fashion: rumour, speculation, imagination, exaggeration and wish-fulfilment.

So what are to do with  the modern day Shelton family’s belief that their predecessor was heroically saved from drowning in the raging torrent of a flooded creek by brave Ned Kelly, and that DIcks father Esau rewarded him with a green and gold silk sash?  

Its quite clear  from the foregoing that the Sheltons  family history  wasn’t  anything like that final version of the story that the Outbreak narrative adopted. They had never heard of the presentation of a sash. DIck himself had no details of his own to supply, and his sisters and sons had only ‘sketchy details’ of the incident. 

What can be seen looking back is that the story was embellished and dramatised and exaggerated by writers and journalists and Kelly promotors in an incremental fashion over many years, and when presented with the final versions, all the Sheltons could do was accept that  it must be true. Why wouldnt they want to be linked to Ned Kelly, who at that time, in the 1970’s and 1980’s was being reimagined as a great Australian hero?  Sadly for them, the truth about DIck now turns out to be a lot less exciting than they had been led to believe. Now that we have realised that this story was not part of the Kelly family history, they are going to have to drop it as well – they cannot in all conscience, continue to perpetuate a story about the Kelly family that the Kelly family themselves never heard about. They are not ‘all alive  because of Ned Kelly’ as one headline put it. They are all alive, at best because  a bunch of kids saved Dick…and in many ways thats a nicer story to believe than the one about being alive because of something done by  kid who turned into a multiple police killer and is no longer regarded as a national icon and hero.

A decade ago a claim that Ned Kelly planned to establish a Republic in the North East was a central belief of almost every Kelly sympathiser. Nowadays, only the hard-core Kelly fanatics refuse to let it go. Something similar will now happen in regard to the tale of Ned Kelly being rewarded with a gold trimmed green silk sash for rescuing Richard Shelton: only the hard-core fanatics will refuse to let it go: for those people, beliefs are not based on logic facts or reason but on emotion and sentiment. For everyone else, whose interest is in telling the truth about the past, the colourful story can still be told, but as a myth and not history. Or else they can just tell the true story of what really happened.

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  1. Hearsay, that dominates this story is notoriously unreliable, and when all the facts are digested, fanciful. You would have to be a sucker to believe this myth. The evidence is overwhelming that it did not happen, and the Shelton’s did not gift Ned Kelly a green sash. Fifty years of silence is deafening.
    I, for one, reject it totally, and have always doubted the authenticity.

    1. I have sympathy for the modern day Sheltons to be honest. I think they’ve been sucked in by the Kelly myth-making machine. And now what are they going to do ?….hopefully they’ll just quietly forget about it. The trouble is people become VERY emotionally attached to the things they were told by older generations and usually defend them vehemently …

  2. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    A few thoughts. First, is the ‘hand written letter form the Shelton oldie’ not the letter from Mrs Shelton from 1973? Sounds pretty similar to me. Would love to see a copy. Second, would you really need a chain of kids to save a boy from drowning in a waterhole? Seems more like a rescue strategy this use in a river / creek than a waterhole. Third, I continue to think there was more likely some truth to the story, though the incident was considered remarkable at the time. However, my feeling is increasingly clear that the sash has no connection to the Sheltons. We need to keep digging! There’s more pieces to this puzzle. Who was AJS?

    1. No I dont think its the same Shelton ‘Oldie’ – heres the letter again:

      As for the ‘human chain’ I cant see a bunch of rowdy kids organising themselves into a human chain – I mean, a ‘human chain’ is where one person passes something along to the next person who passes it on and so on…that seems VERY unlikely to me. On the other hand I could imagine them all rushing over to help drag whoever it was to the bank ….What fun it would be to re-create THAT scene in a movie!

      1. Opps forgot to attach Mrs Sheltons letter :

    2. Hi Thomas, the Melbourne Uni library site says The Labour Call was the newspaper of the Victorian Trades Hall Council and Victorian Labour.
      No other info except that they have issues in their collection.

  3. I have to admit that you have put a lot of time into part two. There is much to digest here. One thing you got right for sure, the Shelton family will keep their version. What shall the rest of us do? I look forward to seeing some debate and challenges to your post here. I make no claims either way but this is worth digesting and thinking about unemotionally.

    1. Yes it did take a while Dave….but again I have to say almost all of the leg-work was done by Stuart and Thomas in a long series of comments to the Blog post on the Sash in 2001. What I did was condense it all down and draw out the conclusions that were demanded by their findings. This is such a good example of how we can all work cooperatively to advance understandings and insights into the story.

      Hanging onto their story will be a disappointment : why couldnt they discard their emotional attachment to it and look at the evidence they’ve never had to think about before…but unfortunately emotional attachment to an idea is often immune to rationality…

  4. The various Kelly books listed by people above reconfirm the lack of any tradition of either the Shelton rescue or the sash in the Kelly story in their brief and unconnected mentions before the 1970s. In the above list, Brown’s editions of his Australian Son are probably the best indicators of how the tales were incorporated into the Kelly story over time. From both being absent in 1948, to later inclusion, to the final posthumously published 2013 version with a public presentation of the sash to Kelly in Avenel after saving Dick Shelton; a public presentation which the various posts in this discussion have established never happened in any account and is entirely fiction. That is the current fiction seen for example in that Mark Greenwood children’s book, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash.

    Probably the most important revision of the Ned Kelly story in popular culture was the 1968 Wangaratta seminar essays published as Man & Myth. This is what launched Jones’s Kelly republic theory, his accusations of perjury against Fitzpatrick, McIntyre and Sadleir, his claim of a selector vs squatters land war; his self defence claims for SBC etc.; most of the key parts of the modern Kelly narrative since blown up as wildly exaggerated historical fiction.

    Half a dozen Kelly enthusiasts including Manning Clark contributed to the papers in that seminar. All had spent time looking into Kelly’s life and searching for admirable things to say about him. Clune’s 1954 Kelly Hunters that briefly mentioned the rescue is in the bibliography, as is Kenneally’s 7th edition.

    Yet nowhere in the Man & Myth book including Jones’s three chapters or Manning Clark’s sympathetic tale of Ned can I find any mention of either the Shelton rescue or the sash.

    We must conclude that even to Jones in 1968 both these things of which he came to make much of in his 1995 Short Life, were effectively unheard of and not worth even a mention.

    I am leaning towards thinking the rescue was a minor thing if it happened, just another day in bush life; no big deal, like unbogging a wagon. Certainly it has become clear that it was no big deal at the time, no presentation at school, no high drama with a swollen or flooded creek, just a small boy in a waterhole on a hot day.

    We have yet to understand how and when the sash got into the story.

  5. It seems that the rescue and the sash as its reward had become built into the legend by 1980. As well as Nunn’s Bushrangers book quoted by David, it is in Graham Jones and Judy Basset’s 1980 Kelly Years, p. 12, “The parents of the boy were naturally grateful for Ned’s prompt action, and are said to have presented him with a handsome silk sash, which he wore under his armour fifteen years later at the Battle of Glenrowan.” It is still presented as hearsay in this book: “are said to have presented”.

    Incidentally this book is important for its short essay at the back, ‘A critical analysis of the central theme of The Kelly Outbreak by John McQuilton’, which tears that class struggle notion to pieces.

  6. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    The Advocate, 1 Sept 1937:

    Schoolmate of Ned Kelly Dies Schoolmate of
    Ned Kelly Dies

    AVENEL (Vic), Tuesday.
    Mrs. Eliza Jane Prince, who has died, was the district’s oldest resident. She lived in the same house at Avenel for 85 years. Born in Kent, England, she came to Avenel at the age of four, and became a schoolmate of Ned Kelly, the bushranger. She always spoke of him as a fine manly lad.

    Nothing about the rescue here either.

    1. Hi Thomas, I haven’t looked yet but that means she should be listed in the names in school inspector Brown’s 1864 or 1865 inspection reports; just to clarify that she was in at least one of same years, not just at the same school somewhere around then.

  7. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    The Sun-News Pictorial, 8 July 1933:

    Victorian-born Pioneer of 79 Remembers Burke and Wills Leaving The departure of Burke and Wills on their expedition, and a boyhood friendship with the boy who became Ned Kelly, are among the memories of Mr. John McLaughlin, a native – born Victorian of 79. who, with his wife, is living at Broadford.

    Ned Kelly, as Mr. McLaughlin knew him, was a rollicking lad, full of fun and mischief. When the Kellys left Avenel they stayed for three or four
    weeks with the McLaughlin family.

    Again, nothing about the rescue.

    1. Those two references from 1933 and 1937 are very important finds Thomas. You have an amazing ability to sniff out the good stuff. They are both reminiscences of people who were contemporaries of Ned Kelly and knew him and remembered him, the McLughlins even had the Kellys staying at bthiern home with them, both seemed to have positive memories of Ned Kelly and NEITHER mentioned him being rewarded with a gold and green silk sash for the alleged crowning glory of his time at Avenel, the brave and heroic rescue of Richard Shelton. Its not a thing they would have forgotten about if it had happened in the way modern sympathisers allege, its something they most likely would have mentioned in thier reminiscing about Ned Kelly but their failure to mention it is exactly what we would expect if such an event either didnt happen or was such a trivial non-event that it was forgotten about.

      The case against it just keeps on getting stronger.

      Again, nice finds!

    2. Hi Thomas, this is fun! Maybe they did stay 3 or 4 weeks with the McLaughlin family when they left Avenel. On the other hand, the article is 1933 and Mr McLaughlin is 79, which means he was born in 1854 and so would have been about 12 in 1867 when the Kellys moved from Avenel; around Ned’s age, in fact. He doesn’t say what fun and mischief he might have got up to with Ned. Maybe a little game of hide the horsey for rewardsies?

      The Kellys left Avenel after disputes with neighbours, their few possessions packed on a dray, Jones says, with a cow tied behind, for the roughly 124km or 77 mile journey to the dilapidated decommissioned hotel at Greta that they would share with Ellen’s two sisters and their children until it was set fire to and burned down in a drunken arson.

      Cows walk about 2 miles per hour (Google), which is a slow walk for a person. So we are looking at a few days walk with a dray leading a cow, with a bunch of raggedy kids and their worldly possessions. (But not the sash, remember; it had not yet been given to Ned; that would be a full decade away.)

      Did the nice McLaughlin’s put them up en route? Who knows, but let’s say that without him claiming any prior acquaintance between the families, there is room for doubt.

    3. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

      From the ‘Former Royal Mail Hotel, Avenel’ Facebook page:

      Avenel’s old cemetery hints at what life was like at our place in the 1850s and 1860s. Although just two headstones survive, many more were buried there. Located 2 miles from the, then, township it’s now on private land. Archives show that public meetings in the early 1860’s passed motions to petition the government for a new cemetery. They argued their cemetery was rock hard in summer and a bog in winter and suggested a new more suitable block. That became the present cemetery in 1864, which then became ‘dead centre’ of the town (sorry) when the railway shifted the town to the North of old town. I’ve identified 24 burials in the old cemetery, so far. 15 children. 9 adults. Many fascinating stories, including the poundkeeper John Symonds who drowned in 1857. John Bignall, publican of Avenel Arms (now Dave’s Imperial hotel across the creek from us) who died in 1858 returning from the Seymour races when his horse tripped on a stray pig on the road (presumably because the poundkeeper was killed the year prior. LOL). Margaret McLaughlin had lost 5 children before moving to Avenel, where she lost her own life weeks after giving birth again. It’s a snapshot of Avenel’s social history, and a part of the story of the surviving 1855 Former Royal Mail Hotel.

      Assume Margaret was John’s mother? Maybe an aunt?

      Need to get onto a genealogy website I think but that at least corroborates a McLaughlin / Avenel connection.

      Whoever, it raises another question. Would a widower put up the Kelly family?

  8. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Another thought. Is there any significance in the Sheltons running the local pub (Royal Mail Hotel)? Country pubs are famously the source of local gossip, tall tales, myths etc.

    1. What you’re touching on there Thomas is where the debate has to go next : was there something real – but trivial and minor – at the bottom of it all , or is the entire thing a furphy? Both seem very possible to me, but I am sympathetic to the idea that there is a tiny kernel of truth in the middle of it . As I mentioned, the enormous structure of the Kelly Republic was built on NOTHING AT ALL….so why couldn’t a claim NK was a boyhood superman who saved another kids life be sure fiction? Well actually we HAVE already established that I am sure.

      The only fact we know for certain in ALL of this nonsense is that NK had a green and gold silk sash at Glenrowan.

  9. For anyone who didn’t realise, the discussion about the sash (cummerbund) and the Sheltons has been continuing on Part One of these two articles. My conclusion is there now.

  10. I just made this Comment on my FB page :


    For what its worth, Ive just checked the popular 1984 biography “Ellen Kelly” by Dagmar Balcarek. In the Foreword it says she took “years ‘ to write this biography and lists among her many informants “the late Mrs L.H Earp who shared with me her intimate knowledge of the life of Ellen Kelly”. He also lists John Molony, Ian Jones, Bronwyn Binns, Don and Valda Tibbits and Owen Laffan, plus a few others. Clearly Balcarek did her due diligence.
    The Hughes Creek gets a couple of mentions and so does the bridge over it – but – and you just KNEW this was coming didnt you? – there is not even one word about a rescue, about the Sheltons or about a green and gold silk sash. Not one word.
    Does this mean Balcarek heard the story of the rescue but discounted it because her sources didnt back it up….or did she just never hear the story?

    At the very least this absence from the Biography confirms that in the early 1980’s the rescue and reward story about the brave young Ned Kelly was nowhere near as widely known or as deeply embedded in the Outbreak narratives as it was to become. This supports the view that this story was a late – even VERY late addition to the story, and makes my claim that it wasnt something that ever happened almost certain. In other words its time to face facts : its a myth.
    The original Blog post is now almost two weeks old – and by the numbers of visitors its had, and the numbers of visitors the FB discussions on this topic have had, its clearly producing plenty of interest. But almost nobody has dared mention it in their Kelly echo chambers, even though this exposure is actually big news. They are silent because they are beaten. And they know it.

    If anyone was able to find the tiniest fault in my argument, or the slenderest link to something that could conceivably undermine it, there is no doubt – its an absolute certainty – that they would be broadcasting it from the rooftops, along with all kinds of gleeful sneers and mocking abuse directed at me…

    But they cant even dream of an argument, let alone make one that might save their myth from the dustbin of history. Their silence tells me everything I need to know.


  11. Hi David, I agree that there is nothing to connect the green sash with the claimed rescue; I think that is rock solid now. Kenneally 1934 was the only stumbling block to that definitive separation, and he has clearly stumbled badly on that one. Worst case is that no one can ever claim again that the sash was presented to Kelly at any time before the gang was on the run, e.g. for a childhood rescue.

    But the fact that the Sheltons themselves had no family tradition or mention of the sash whatsoever before the 1980s at earliest is further evidence that any connection to it was late and never part of the family tradition given by Dick Shelton’s sister and his children. Clearly the sash had nothing to do with Ned’s childhood or any rescue and came from somewhere else.

    At this point I’m purely guessing (inspired by a passing mantion of Gloster in Martingdale’s history of Seymour shire including Avenel) that it was part of Seymour-based draper and hawker Gloster’s wagon full of clothes etc that the Kellys relieved him of at Euroa. But not the Sheltons, who appear never to have had a drapery shop in Avenel as some have speculated but which there is no evidence of anywhere.

    I’m still open to it being a minor bush incident of no dramatic value that no-one outide the Sheltons ever remembered; and which got nothing more that a mention in Violet Shelton’s 1973 letter, the only source that the family themselves endorsed as accurate. There was not a word antwhere about any sash or public recognition of Ned Kelly in Avenel town or school history in the 1950s. Even Violet Shelton’s letter said nothing about the sash, except that she never recalled having heard it mentioned at any time.

    Nothinganywhere supports Jones’s Short Life claim that “It was probably [then] that Ned made his enduring mark on Avenel and the lives of his people.” Then the rescue story; hugely exaggerated, with a 100% invented narrative of “fogotten” things like the boys drying themselves by the fire at the grateful Shgeltons after the rescue from “a boil-hole of turbulent water” which never happened. Then “the family presenting the ten year- old hero with a handsome trophy, a green silk sash”. First, Ned was nearly 12; second, no such presentation took place; third, there was nothing about a sash anywhere in any part of Avenel history including the Sheltons themselves before the 1980s, and that was derived from Kelly mythologisers.

    It is worth noting that Jones used Kenneally’s eighth edition (1969) and may have been ignorant of the 1934 edition – or maybe he chose to ignore its unlikely remarks about the presentation of the sash when the Kelly gang was on the run. Why would Mr Shelton traipse through the bush to a Kelly hideout to give Ned who was on the run after the SBC murders a sash for rescuing his son from a waterhole in a quiet creek a decade earlier? The chances are zero. He wouldn’t have a hope of finding the Kelly gang without being led there; and why would he do that then? It makes no sense at all, and it’s not surprising Kenneally nere repeated the tale after its once only appearance.

    In support of my theory that there still may be something in the rescue story despite your powerful demoilition job, there is just Viloet Shelton; but I find her account plausible as unromanticised and stated to be derived from Dick’s sister.

    Balcarek may have had nothing to say about it in her Ellen Kelly book; but in Dean and Balcarek “Ned and the Others” rev Nov 2014 they do relate the rescue story and its (by then) standard tale of a presentation of the sash after it, which we have established is baseless. There needs to be a lot thrown into the fairy-tale dumpmaster after this. Whether or not the rescue story is accepted there is clearly no connection to the sash. All the Benalla Museum have is the Glenrowan sash. There is no connection between it and Kelly’s childhood at all. Boom.

  12. Thomas James Whiteside says: Reply

    Hi Stuart and David,

    I am also now basically confident that the sash has nothing to do with any rescue by Ned of Richard Shelton. However, I do continue to think there may well has been some version of a rescue which not seen as significant or out of the ordinary at the time, only becoming significant decades later in the minds of Shelton’s brothers and sister.

    I think this article has been posted before, but here’s a brief report from the Canberra Times, 29 June 1973, about the gifting of the sash to the Benalla Historical Society:

    Ned Kelly
    MELBOURNE, Thursday. — A blood-stained green and gold sash worn by Ned Kelly when he was shot down and captured at Glenrowan on June 29, 1880, has been
    found. Mrs Emma McNab, of Sydney, daughter of the doctor who attended Kelly
    that day, has given it to the Benalla Historical Society.

    No stated link to between the sash and the supposed rescue at this stage either…


    1. Hi Thomas, nice article find, but problematic. It says the sash was given to Benalla by Mrs McNab, daughter of the doctor who attended Kelly at Glenrowan. This is not correct. Meredith and Scott say the doctor drowned in 1910 and the sash went to his sister, Mrs Pole, who later sent the sash back to Australia with a cousin when it was lost for a while. Whether that was Mrs McNab or not I have no idea, but she wasn’t the doctor’s daughter. MSM at it again…

      1. Sharon Hollingsworth says: Reply

        Stuart, remember a while back when we were privately discussing all of the details from the UK papers about the drowning of Richard Nicholson in 1910? His dad, Dr Nicholson was still alive when his son passed away. The sash was with the son Richard in the UK and went to his sister Elizabeth who had married a man named Pole. Not sure of the situation of a cousin, but Emma McNab who wound up with the sash was the daughter of Dr John Nicholson and was half-sister to Richard. Dr N had been married 4 times and had kids in each pairing!

        1. Hi Sharon, it looks like I mixed up the generations of the Nicholsons. My bad, serves me right for not checking properly before putting foot in mouth. But apart from that, how do you think it’s looking for removing the sash from any connection with Ned’s childhood?

          I am still strongly inclined to accept Violet Shelton’s 1973 account of the rescue handed down by Dick Shelton’s sister as correct given its clarity, detail and origin, and see it as a very minor incident remembered in that context. Not a high drama of raging waters and all the other stuff that later versions invented, just a big kid getting a little kid out of a waterhole in a tranquil creek. Her words “in difficulties” similarly doesn’t sound like “in the process of drowning”; although with potential for that. It seems a matter of fact account, not narrating a high drama.

          The key thing is there is nothing about a sash anywhere in any branch of the Shelton’s tale given by Dick’s sister or immediate children, nor in Avenel history. Such notions seem to appear from the 1980s or so and onwards. Ned never said a word about the sash going missing at Glenrowan; it apparently had no sentimental value for him, again suggesting it was unconnected with anything in his past. I think we have uncovered a romantic fantasy that was hiding in plain sight all this time…

  13. Thomas James Whiteside says: Reply

    Hi Stuart,

    I like your idea the green sash but has been acquired from Hawker James Gloster at Younghusbands, however, I’ve stumbled upon another potential source of the sash this evening. You might recall there was some discussion of the sash being a Hibernian sash back in October / November 2021.

    This evening I’ve come across two different articles which refer to the Kelly Gang holding up a store in Everton (a small town in Victoria not far from Milawa and Beechworth) on their way to rob Jerilderie. That store was owned by Mr Edward Coulson who also the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of the Mark Master Masons of Victoria.

    The Herald, 30 June 1924:

    “CR. COULSON RETIRES – Was Robbed by Kelly Gang

    Few colonists of Victoria have had a more adventurous career than Cr. E. Coulson, J.P, who, after having been a member of the Collingwood Council for about 20 years, has decided to retire. During the whole of that period he has represented Loch Ward, Clifton Hill.

    Cr. Coulson, who was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, was sent to sea at an early ago as a midshipman apprentice. On his arrival in Port Phillip Bay the gold fever was at its height, so he, with others, deserted their boat, and went to the diggings. He spent many years going from one field to another, trying his luck in towns at Alexandra, the Goulburn Valley, Donnelly’s Creek, near Walhalla, Gaffney’s Creek, and on the “Red Doc” Creek in the valley of the Jordan, near the villages of Jericho and Red Jacket.

    At that time the Boo Bee Creek was in the centre of almost inaccessible country, and the postman, when delivering letters to miners, was allowed to collect a fee on each one delivered. These extra fees probably paid for damage to his clothing when trying to force his way through the dense, stumpy, and prickly scrub that surrounded the camps.

    Later Cr. Coulson became railway representative for Messrs. M’Culloch and Panmure, forwarding agents, in the Everton district, eventually most of this business for himself when he became the local storekeeper.

    It was while in business at Ever ton that Mr Coulson store was stuck up by the Kelly gang, and robbed of food and goods, which the outlaws required on the way to Jerilderie, N.S.W., where they held up a bank. Cr. Coulson was present at Glenrowan when Ned Kelly was captured.

    Cr. Coulson was a ship’s chandler in Flinders street, Melbourne, for many years, and, in addition to holding many public positions, he has, for 26 years been Past Grand Master of the Master Mark Lodge of the U.G.L. of Victoria. Ho has also devoted a considerable time to the Masonic Press Lodge.”


    The Chronicle, 31 May 1934:

    In All Parts Of Australia

    Mr. Edward Coulson, the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Victoria, has just been installed as Grand Master for the 36th time in succession. Mr. Coulson, who is a native of Newcastle-on-Tyne, after some years at sea, went gold-digging in Australia. Then he started storekeeping at Everton in Victoria, and had the distinction of having his store robbed by the Kelly gang. He was also present when Ned Kelly was wounded and captured at Glenrowan.”


    Here’s what a Knight Mason’s Sash looks like. You can see where this is going…


    1. You are one very persistent and very clever detective Thomas. Thats a very reasonable suggestion, I guess we will never know but I suppose the point is there are many possible ways by which NED KELLY may have come by the sash….but one of them was definitely NOT by being presented with it for saving Richard Sheltons life…of that we can be very sure.

    2. Hi Thomas, I do remember the discussion of potential Hibernian sashes from way back. The difficulty with that is they were all embroidered with symbols, whereas our sash – if I may be so bold – isn’t. It is clearly described in a paragraph in Meredith and Scott’s Ned Kelly After a Century of Acrimony p. 132 inj a letter from the Benala Historical Society to Meredith, and “the whole sash was a soft green in colour … it was lined throughout with coarse linen interlining and [the] back was made of green cotton material”. So I don’t think there is anything Hibernian about it. I’ve seen the sash myself in Benalla and there is no sign of any embroidery at all. There are several photos of it online in different positions and nowhere is there any embroidery to support the theory of Hibernianismisation!

      The Telegraph article with Bluey Shelton’s version in it is here, He’s a great-great gandson of Essau, so again a long way down the chain, and claims that Essau’s wife bought two green sashes from Ireland when she emigrated to Australia, “and it was one of these that was presented to Kelly when he saved their son Richard from drowning in Hughes Creek”. We have collectively established that this late invention of a presentation has no basis in Shelton history of Dick’s sister, the best and clearest version, nor his two sons. It turns up onle later at grandkid and great-grandkid level. Further, if the sash was one of a pair, which part of the Shelton family has the matching heirloom? No-one has ever produced such a matching sash to compare with the Benalla sash.

      It’s another thrrd generation excercise in creative accounting, on a par with the other part of teh family that claimed thet Sehltons had a drapery shop in Avenel for which there is no evidence for in the desciptions of Avenel’s shops at that time.

      There is always the possibility that Ned was secretly a Mason and attained the rank of Masonic Knight or Gartered Wombat, and the resason no one knows about it is because of Masonic secrecy. As to the other theory whether he nicked a green Masonic sash, maybe Kate unstitched any Masonic embroidery before Ned put it on in oder not to offend his Irish republican sentiments… Now where’s my whiskey…


      1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

        Hi Stuart,

        While I am open to the ‘Gloster theory’, the issue I have with that theory is that we have well recorded list of what was taken (see image below, McMenomy, p. 102) and a green sash isn’t on the list.

        To be clear, I’m not arguing it is a Hibernian sash, only that it’s possible it was some kind of Masonic sash stolen from Coulson on the way to Jerilderie. I don’t think the lack of Masonic symbols on the sash makes that theory impossible, because as I understand it Masonic clothing in the past was often more simple.

        I’m certainly not hanging my hat on this idea, but surely it’s not nothing that the Kelly Gang raised a free mason’s store less than 18 months before Glenrowan and Ned ends up wearing a green sash which was not previously remarked upon – noting Ned’s red sash at SBC was remarked upon and that after SBC the Kelly Gang seemed to struggle to source new clothing (hence the need to rob Gloster) – and noting that broad terms, the green sash closely – if not perfectly – matches known Masonic sashes.

        In the absence of any other origin I think the idea is worth pondering.

        1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

          Here’s the relevant extract from McMenomy, p. 102

          “The new rig-outs ‘valued at £14’.
          The particulars of the outlaws and their choice makes interesting reading. Ned Kelly was described as 27 years, about six feet high, built in proportion. Dark hair, dark brown whiskers, and beard and moustache worn long. He took a blue sac coat, brown tweed trousers and vest, elastic side boots, brown felt hat, grey striped crimean shirt and a lavender tie. 15 Dan Kelly was recorded as 18 years, five feet 6½ inches, dark brown hair, blue eyes, sallow complexion, scar on left cheek. Wore black paget coat, dark grey tweed trousers and vest, Rob Roy shirt and a black tie, elastic side boots, a light felt hat and band under chin, all the hats, it was noted, have elastic bands sewn into them generally worn under the nose… Another witness remarked, the men themselves were in good condition, and had evidently been feeding well…
          Daniel Kelly is exactly like the picture of him in the papers. Ned is a good-looking man, with reddish whiskers.” After discarding their old clothes the outlaws had them burnt. Afterwards a portion of a woman’s hat was found in the ashes, supposed to have been in one of the outlaw’s swags. It gave weight to the theory that Hart, who was young and light, carried feminine disguise and sometimes wore it travelling. Rumours had been current of a woman supposed to be Kate Kelly, seen riding with the outlaws through the bush.”

          1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

            Another idea I’ve had is that it could be a sash associated with horse racing. One thing I noticed on trove is how often sashes were awarded as prizes in horse races at the time. Throw in Steve Hart’s supposed racing prowess and it also seems plausible (maybe it was too big for Steve?).

            For the record, it also could just be a big standard sash / cummerbund you’d buy anywhere.

          2. Hi Thomas, I think this means we have to go back to the source info McMenomy got this from and read what other stuff Gloster may have had in his hawker’s wagon, since he had a drapery. It’s unlikely that there is a detailed report, but we know this curious that Gloster just happened to have a nice set of quality suits and accoutrements on board for the lads. They only thing that inspired my thought that the cummerbund may have come from Gloster is the mention in McMenomy and Jones that one of the Sheltons thought it might have come from a family drapery business. If a sash could plausibly be a draper’s item, then why not Gloster who we know had a drapery, rather than the Sheltons who seem not to have had such a business in Avenel?

            Of course we are unlikely to nail it down; it’s just a wild guess that’s as good as any other that’s been put up. But we can say there is a rock solid argument’s that there was no sash given to childhood Ned. That’s the key myth buster here.

            The lads got nice suits from dodgy Gloster. The fact that Ned wasn’t wearing a cummerbund at the time the description of their attire doesn’t include a cummerbund on the day doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been among the stuff they grabbed from Draper Gloster. All I’m suggesting is a plausible source of sashdom to counter the Shelton drapery theory…

            1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

              Hi Stuart,

              McMenomy’s source for what was taken from Gloster is a Police Report by Ward, Benalla Police Station, 17 Dec 1878.

        2. Hi Thomas, all theories are worth pondering. One of my uncles was a Mason (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more); he died many years ago. All we know about it was he had some kind of sachel and an apron and was over-inclined to beer, ciggies and footy. But it is clear that Lodge embroidery was part of it. It is hard to conceive that sashes from any of these weird organisations be they Hibernians, Masons, Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes etc did not each have some form of membership embroidery on their regalia, getting more elaborate with rank. Other than perhaps a rank novice, but from the little I’ve read even those guys were “patched” in some way. We likely will never get to the bottom of it, but I think we can confidently rule out childhood sash giving..

  14. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Robbery of Coulson before Jerilderie also times perfectly between Red Sash at SBC and Green Sash at Glenrowan (but so does the Gloster / Euroa theory).

    1. I think any time between SBC and Glenrowan is possible at this point; but certainly not before SBC.

    2. The Gloster incident confirms at least one thing : that NK wasnt averse to stealing items of clothing if he fancied them. Another idea I had was that maybe green silk sashes are made as sort of blanks, onto which various bits of embroidery are added by Masons, Racing clubs and the like after they buy them from people like Gloster…

    3. I highly doubt that Ned was ever a Mason.
      He would have needed others to propose him and I just can’t see that happening.
      Unless Sgt Steele helped out 😇

      1. What about RAOB? 😂

  15. I like the idea of it being a Mason’s sash. It’s as good a theory as any so far. This image here shows a ‘vintage’ one from the UK. The type of fringe looks very much like the one on Kelly’s sash, and the approximate measurements given (198 cm x 15 cm) are pretty much exactly as his too.

    As for the ‘rescue’ story, it likely came from Richard Shelton himself. Many people (for whatever reason) like to have a connection to someone famous or infamous, so they make up a story, it gets repeated, and after a while even they believe it to be true. The Kelly authors jumped on it because it sounded good, gave Kelly a great image, and Kelly sympathisers are champions at believing what they WANT to believe.

    1. Hi JT, if the rescue story came from Richard that might work; the problem is that it came from his sister where there is no obvious reason she might have made it up. Also, none of us has yet seen anything to indicate that the rescue tale was known by anyone outside the immediate and first generation family, until it expanded later in the second, third and now fourth generations to introduce various dramatic factors such as happening on the way to school, Ned also on his way to school, the creek being flooded in increasingly torrential ways (see the first minute of the movie Our Sunshine), the award of the sash at the time, with a presentation at school – every bit a later fantasy that is not in Violet Shelton’s account from Dick’s sister. It seems to be only the last couple of generations of Sheltons who are boasting of their claimed connection to the rescue and the sash, none of which remains convincing after this deep dive. Rather, the rescue seems a small incident and no sash was ever involved with it.

      I went through Avenel yesterday and walked along the “Kelly Trail” that goes under the old stone bridge and follows the course of the creek downstream. Allegedly the rescue took place some 150 metres downstream from the bridge. There is no sign to indicate the location, although McMenomy has a photo that he says indicates it. I walked for maybe 250 metres. The creek is low; there are several places where a kid could paddle on hot day.

      But why is 150 metres claimed to indicate the place? It seems to be based on Dick taking a short cut to school. Yet Violet Shelton’s letter say he was playing by the creek on a hot summer day, not going to school. If you walk to the creek from the Royal Mail Hotel and were not heading for Avenel Common School No. 8, you might be playing in the creek on the same side of the bridge as the Royal Mail. You might be upstream from the bridge, even quite close to it as the pub is, not downstream trying to cut to school on a fallen tree over the creek when you could just as easily shortcut by walking from the Royal Mail across the bridge then shortcut through the bush to the school without going the longer way by staying on the laid out streets. So the rescued from falling in the creek while taking a shortcut to school theory seems a bit unlikely.

  16. The perfect summary: “The only fact we know for certain in ALL of this nonsense is that NK had a green and gold silk sash at Glenrowan”.
    I thoroughly enjoy this web site and check back often for the next fascinating instalment and great responses. You guys are terriers.
    As a reformed journalist I have always believed the simplest explanation is usually correct and that fact is usually stranger than fiction, personal fantasies and the desire to sell books to a gullible audience.
    Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks Don, very nice to get some positive feedback for a change. In the Kelly Facebook world several of us get nothing but really vile, childish and nasty abuse …from grownups!

      And you are correct : the simplest explanation is usually the best : Occams Razor.

      Keep coming back : we have more amazing revelations to come in future Blogs.

  17. Here is a 31st July 2001 report in the Age
    “For these Melbourne brothers, Ned Kelly was a life saver”


    1. Thanks Bill, that’s the one we were discussing above where their dad never elaborated on what happened; and there is nothing about the sash from the brothers; it reads like the paragraph of comments about the awarding of a sash come afterwards from journalist Ann Rennie by way of context explanation, not from the brothers.

      I rocked through Benalla today to have another look at the pesky sash, but the portable cell and sash display are closed for an indefinite number of weeks due to the Museum trying to end a termite infestation. Apparently they had to lift the cell up with a crane reaching down through the roof so they could get under it. They are hoping the stuff will be accessible in another three or four weeks but said it might turn into months. The termite infestation turned out to be worse than had been first thought.

  18. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    “The Shelton brothers don’t recall their father ever expanding on the story…”

    Strangely, we need his sister Violet for that.

    Notice too that neither Harold or Britt say anything about the sash (consistent with Aunt Violet not knowing about it either).

    Can easily see how the next gen of Sheltons would grow up reading this 2001 newspaper clipping and repeating the bits Harold and Britt didn’t actually say as if it was their family story.

    1. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

      Sorry, that should be Violet Shelton recounting her older sister Agnes’ story / memory.

      (Please correct me if I’m wrong)

      1. Hi Thomas, that’s right, Violet was recounting the story as told to her and the family by Dick Shelton’s sister Agnes. Have you got the 1973 letter handy. or would you like me to re-upload it here for convenience?

        1. What I meant was not that Violet was another sister of Agnes. Violet is Mrs Harold Shelton, the wife of Harold son of Dick, so Agnes is Harold’s aunt. In other words Violet had the story as directly related to her and the immediate family by Agnes who was Dick’s sister. I think this is solid testimony that the rescue occurred as Agnes related it, and as Violet wrote to the Museum, as Violet went to trouble to recount why she thought Agnes’s telling was reliable due to her living to 90 and having all her faculties.

          The account is detailed and matter of fact. There is no sash involved, and Violet attests that she never heard it mentioned at any time. The words “at any time” clearly imply that there were a number of times that she heard Agnes mention the rescue story. Ain’t no cummerbund.

          This also means that I have no interest in trying to find out where the Benalla sash came from. We will never know, but we can say with certainty that it wasn’t given to Ned as a reward for rescuing Dick at the time.

          The options seem to be either it was given to Ned when the Kelly gang were on the run, as Kenneally 1934 edition very implausibly claimed (for why would Dick Shelton decide to traipse through the bush to a murderers’ camp to give Ned a sash a decade after the event), especially given the universal loathing that the police murders inspired across Victoria. I think Kenneally’s one off paragraph in that edition only indicates only his ongoing obsession with what he kept claiming was a very valuable sash with a gold bullion fringe. Once we accept as we must the Benalla Museum’s detailed description of the fringe as the sort of gold thread that is used for school badges and blazers, all that romanticised guff about gold bullion fringe that Kenneally based his claim of value on (having never seen it himself of course) vanishes. We have a cummerbund of the same and no greater value than any other similar cummerbund of the day; plain and ; unembroidered.

          The other option is that it was picked up by Ned in his travels at some time after that. Gloster’s drapery wagon is one possibility; so is robbing it from Coulson or anyone else; so is finding it or being given it somewhere around the time of trying on the armour or later. I’m at the who cares point with that now. I think we can confidently say that the sash was not given to Ned in his childhood and has nothing to do with the rescue; unless the Kelly nuts want to go in insisting that it does, in which case they must accept the only source comment anywhere as to when it was given which is when Ned was a grown man and police murderer.

          1. The sash is STILL the only thing we know anything about for sure in all this, and all we know about the sash is STILL that Kelly had wrapped it around his body when he was wearing the armour and Dr Nicholson took it after it was removed so he could dress Kellys wounds.

            Its VERY clear the sash was NOT part of the Shelton story and all thats left is a story about a rescue but also an important CONFLICT that still hasnt been addressed between ONE families ‘oral history ‘ and anothers. Given that the Kellys definitely had no such oral history, the claim by Sheltons that it was NED KELLY who rescued Dick HAS GOT TO BE WRONG.

            So, is the entire story a fabrication or was Dick rescued by someone else, or perhaps by a group of kids as recalled by a contributor to the Lost Avenel’ FB page last year and backed up apparently by an as yet unseen letter from a ’Shelton oldie’?

            What we have are two half stories which have been illegitimately joined – the Kelly story of a sash and the Shelton story of a rescue. They dont fit together, they are unrelated events and given Dick Sheltons failure to ever provide any detail I have my doubts ANYTHING happened.

            The nett result is we have two separate lines of enquiry : one about the Sheltons family history – which doesnt interest me – and the other about where Kelly got the sash from, which only interests me a little bit.

            1. Hi David, the sash question has been rigorously examined and any connection between it and the Sheltons has now been shown to be a myth; a late invention. There was nothing in early Shelton history nor Avenel history including oral history to link the sash and the Sheltons, or the sash and the claimed rescue. The sash is a late addition to the Shelton tale with nothing to support it and strong evidence (in Violet Shelton’s 1973 letter containing Dick Shelton’s sister Agnes’ clear recollections) against it. Later generations of Sheltons have imported a tale about the sash being linked to a childhood rescue from Kelly enthusiasts such as Jones from somewhere around the 1980s or later and convinced themselves that the ever-expanded tale must have been true. We can see additional elaborations of the tale in each successive generation; yet when we review the only clear statement from the day by Violet Shelton, there is nothing to support any of those later and ever more elaborate claims. Therefore as you say, the only thing we know for sure about the sash is that Kelly wore it under his clothes at Glenrowan. It had nothing to do with the Sheltons.

              We have also established that the sash was not given to Kelly in his boyhood. There was no Avenel memory of a sash presented to Kelly, or of a rescue. Outside of the Sheltons no-one knew anything about a claimed rescue. Jones was wildly wrong in everything he wrote in Short Life about the Avenel rescue. Not a peep from anywhere supports his claim that a boyhood rescue left its mark on the people of Avenel. It is entirely fiction. Avenel knew nothing of it. Most likely Jones has invented his rescue tale and fictional Avenel history from two comments, first, that some people in Avenel had or retrospectively believed that their ancestors had non-critical memories of the Kellys living there; and second from late claims within the Shelton family that Dick Shelton had said that Ned was “alright”, with no elaboration whatsoever and no information of any sort about a claimed rescue on which two of Dick’s children said that Dick Shelton himself never discussed.

              I understand the problem you have highlighted, that given there is nothing anywhere in Kelly family history, nor in anything that boastful Kelly said to anyone, nor any oral history from any Kelly relatives about the rescue, that maybe the whole rescue tale is a fiction.

              This however minimises or rejects the possibility raised earlier in this investigation, that the simple rescue related by Violet Shelton from Dick’s sister may have been a very minor incident; as I put it, no more memorable than pulling a wagon out of a bog. An incident so minor that had not Kelly later became notorious it would have been forgotten altogether within the Shelton family. I think that without Ned’s later infamy Agnes would never have bothered to tell the story to Violet as it would have been just another minor event in bush life, like falling off a horse. If it had been Ned Kelly’s horse, it would be remembered in family history given his later notoriety. Exactly the way John Monash claimed in later life to have held Ned Kelly’s horse’s reins once in Jerilderie; out of all the hundreds of horses reins he likely held in his life, he never mentioned any other, because the claimed link to Kelly gave him a conversation piece.

              Now to the question of why there is not a shred of anything about a rescue anywhere in Kelly or his relatives history or that of any of their descendants. I think the answer may be, because the rescue was next to nothing. Ned sees little Dick in difficulties in the waterhole and gets him out, as Violet’s letter says. The creek is calm; there was no high drama. Dick goes back home by himself to the Royal Mail, which he walked to and from every day, wet but otherwise fine. Ned goes off and gets on with his day. If Ned mentioned it when he got home there was little to tell. So little that for a big nearly 12 year old boy to lift a small boy out of the creek was nothing. Tales of flooded waters have created a fantasy myth. Ned just as likely walked over and may not even have had to jump completely in to rescue Dick; he may have just waded into the calm and low water level creek and its waterhole of no problematic depth for a big boy. So we don’t know, of course, but I can see a simple rescue scenario of such minor weight that it would be forgotten in a week. That’s how Violet’s letter reads to me. There is not a hint of drama in it

            2. Another thing. Jones’s Short Life tale of the rescue has the boys going back to the Royal Mail and drying themselves by the fire. This is more fantasy. We know from Violet Shelton’s letter that the rescue took place in summer. There would be no fire in the daytime. No wonder Jones wrote the drying by the fire as part of his list of things that had been forgotten. It never happened.

            3. Yet another thing (Thing 2): All comments have a context. What are we to make of the only comment of Dick Shelton to his sons, only thing they could tell the journalist, that he had said Ned Kelly “was alright”?

              The only plausible context for this comment is referring to Ned Kelly as a child, when the Kelly family lived at Avenel. Notice that he was not reported to have said that the Kelly family were alright. That is implausible. Red stole and killed a neighbour’s animal for meat; the same crime for which he had been transported from Ireland many years earlier. He was a drunk who returned to the bottle after his release from gaol and died of dropsy, leaving his wife and children up the creek. Ned dropped out of school; so did the other Kelly kids, who were not on the roll in 1866. Mrs Kelly fought with her neighbours and the Kellys moved north. She fought violently with her sister in law at Avenel and they both ended up in court, charging each other with assault, as Jones puts it. Ned was also in a police report on suspicion of taking a farmer’s mare to Violettown, “ probably the family’s assumed destination” (Jones). The only way Dick Shelton’s later comment that Ned was alright makes sense is in the context of Ned’s childhood and maybe his potential – maybe.

              The 1922 memoir “The Thorns and the Briars” also saw potential in young Ned; but the thorns and briars won. By 1867 it was all over rover and the Kellys moved north to a new criminal future with their gaolbird relatives and drunken arsonist.

  19. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    My thoughts exactly Stuart. Funny how piece the Kelly nuts (not including Bill) keep referring us to is actually rather damning when it comes to proving the offical rescue / sash reward narrative. And yet no one refers us to the July 1973 Shelton family letter…

    1. Hi Thomas, most of them probably haven’t heard of it. I read a sentence about it in Century of Acrimony, that only mentions in passing that the Museum had a letter about it; then I wrote to the Museum and asked if it was available. They sent me back the PDF scan that I put on the blog when we were all first discussing this three of four years ago. As far as I know no one else ever bothered to access and upload it.

      I’m always reminded about oral history of the bit in Joy and Prior’s 1963 Bushrangers, where they visited Jerilderie around 1961 and every second person had a grandmother who was in the Faithfull’s Creek farmhouse kitchen when the Kelly gang struck, or a grandfather who was in the street when the bank robbery happened.

      1. Hi Thomas, correction, I said Jerilderie re Faithfull’s Creek, but it was of course Euroa at Faithfull’s Creek here Gloster’s wagon was relieved of its contents. I have the revised McMenomy and the description of the gang wearing their new clothes is p. 112 in this edition.

        The decription of the outlaws’ clothing is given in a series of articles about the Euroa robbery here,

        All it says about clothes is “The clothes the offenders now wear [are] those which they appropriated from the hawker’s cart”. We cannot assume that the brief list of trousers, vests, coats and hats and their colours in that short description are all they took from Gloster’s wagon, nor (givern that he was a draper and travelling hawker) that he had only clothes on his wagon. It would be unimaginable that a travelling draper would not have a stock of drapery materials and various cloth items for sale. The only remarkble thing about Gloster’s visit is that he just happened to have a set of well fitting suits for the gang on board, making it likely that he very well knew what he was doing (as was suspected at the time), even if his young assistant did not.

  20. I have a new Theory about it all : courtesy of a FB contributor BJ MCKay : ( and slightly elaborated here by me…)

    NED KELLY was a bully who pushed Dick into the creek and then when he realised he had overdone it, had to go in and drag him out. He told Dick not to say a word about it to anyone or else…so off they go to the Sheltons and tell a big lie. Ned is rewarded.

    HOWEVER, – AND THIS IS THE BIT THAT EXPLAINS WHY THE KELLYS NEVER EVER MENTIONED IT – the Kelly family knew the truth about it. Maybe Jim was there too. So they shut the hell up about it for ever. They didn’t want anyone knowing he nearly killed the little boy half his age. That he was a bully. Thats why Dick only ever said Kelly was ‘alright’.

    Quite a plausible scenario. ….but it wrecks the idea of mine that NED KELLY was a good kid….

    1. Hi David, that’s a cracker, Ned pushes Dick into the creek, then has to get him out again!!! I can almost hear the Kelly nuts going apoplectic!!! Well, we know Ned was clinically categorised as a psychopath so anything’s possible!

      I know you have held that Ned was a good kid for a long time and I’ve never spent much time wondering about it as it is well established that he was a child horse thief even at Avenel when he nicked the Shelton’s horse and hid it until the reward was announced (see Jones, Short Life for details); assaulted Ah Fook, insulted and assaulted the McCormicks with the testicle parcel affair, and was generally surrounded by ex-covicts and thieves from the day he was born.

      I think you argued that Red tried to break away from his criminal past with the moves to Beveridge then Avenel where some of the kids attended school in each location. The old Beveridge Catholic church and school really is beautiful but is not on the Ned Kelly Touring Route. I’ve attached a photo I took last week just for interest.

      It seems that with the intention of the Kellys to send their kids to school, that an effort at self-improvement was being made. It sounds like it all went pear shaped in Avenel around the time of the gaoling then death of Red.

      But to return to the new hypothesis, I have doubts. Ned had been at school in Avenel with Dick Shelton at some point and there is no reason to think that he would push the small boy into the creek for fun. Nothing suggests that Dick had any worries about returning daiiy to school when it reopened after the summer break. The high probability that the incident occurred while school was closed over summer (based on Violet’s letter) also explains the total lack of knowledge of it in Avenel.

      Next, the theory has both boys going to the Sheltons with some lying tale about Dick falling in and Ned rescuing him, and Ned being rewarded. This begs the question, rewarded with what? As we’ve seen, there is no Shelton mention of any sash. Rewarded with tea and scones? There is nothing to indicate any support for this new theory anywhere. It is as creative and unreferenced as any of Jones’s equally creative but imaginary theories about Kelly’s childhood fame in the school and town of Avenel.

      I await Thomas’s response to this, but my claim is the only one based on documented source evidence. I claim the rescue happened exactly as reported by Dick’s sister Agnes and recorded in Violet Shelton’s 1973 letter. No school, no flooding, no high drama (“difficulties” not drowning), and no sash.


    2. And furthermore, if Ned had pushed Dick into the creek in an act of bullying, there would be no reason for him to be silent about it and say Ned was “alright” years afterwards when Ned was dead. No, the bully theory is dead in the water.

      1. “dead in the water” – was that brilliant pun intended?

        Anyway I wouldnt be too quick to dismiss it. Dick died in 1931 so there were still original Kellys around….

        The beauty of this suggestion is it provides a very good explanation for the Kelly silence, which can only be explained by them either not knowing anything about it, or having a particular reason not to talk about it. What better reason for staying quiet could there be than being ashamed and embarrassed by what he did?

        That same argument applies to the disappearance of George King – their silence about his absence is suspicious.

        1. Dead as a dead duck’s donger. The Kelly silence can be equally explained by the rescue being a minor action done is passing, no big deal at all, hardly worth mentioning. Well done, Ned, now eat your cornflakes. Given that Violet states that Ned was nearly 12 at the time of the rescue we are looking at late 1866 if he was born in December 1854, as Jones and others thought; or the summer of 1866-67 if he was born in June 1855, as others (very plausibly) argue, including a detailed case for it by Alan Chrichton on Iron Outlaw, and after Red was dead. No family or public presentations of sashes with school trumpets; no Mark Greenwood “Ned Kelly and the Green Sash” books; no Short Life fantasies about the rescue shortening Red’s gaol term and housing him in the Avenel lockup instead of Kilmore Gaol…

          The only reason Jones insisted on a December 1854 date is to tie Ned’s birth in with the Eureka rebellion, a ludicrous claim based on his debunked Kelly Republic theory. 1960s and 70s French historians are full of this kind of nonsense, seeing intentional patterns in random events. Oh la la.

          We must I think avoid any suckers spreading out from this rooted tale to sprout in other unrelated fields such as George King’s disappearance…

          So there are more than two reasons for the Kelly family’s silence: not knowing about it or being embarrased, as you list (with the second theory reaching new heights of implausibility given Violet’s letter); a third reason is that the rescue was a very minor thing for the reasons argued previously in these posts. Something happened, but it was a very minor thing in day to day bush life. There was no heroic rescue to talk about. The hero notion is entirely based on later tales of torrential floods and virtual drownings, school presentations of valuable bullion-fringed sashes and high drama. None of that is indicated in Violet Shelton’s letter.

          If anyone wants to argue that Violet Shelton’s letter doesn’t clearly narrate the story of the rescue, that’s up to them. But of all the oral history preserved by people involved in the Kelly story, this seems one of the most reliable documentations coming as it does first hand from Dick’s sister. Someone would have to put up a case as to why I should not accept Violet’s narration over and above any hypothetical alternatives such as Jones and Molony’s hero fantasies or other postulations, but I don’t think that is possible. Let’s see if they do.

  21. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    I think the ‘new theory’ (Ned pushing Dick continue screen) is silly and entirely without foundation. We have an oral history of the Sheltons thinking Ned ‘was alright’ and in de-coupling the sash reward we have no motivation to push Dick into creek. In the same way we thinking it’s strange the Kelly family never mentioned the rescue, why would Ned need to keep the story secret when Ned was publicly loathed / outlawed / executed? The ‘new theory’ adds in new elements based on highly speculative pop psychology basically based on Ned later being a bully. My feeling is that Ned was bastardised in prison and also by the loss of his father and the move to Greta. That is all post-Avenel. Everything I’ve read suggests the people of Avenel saw the family as sad battlers and they were remembered in a generally positive light. I’ll post something more considered later once I’ve milled it over more.

  22. Thomas Whiteside says: Reply

    Apologises for all the typos.

    1. Hi Thomas, looking forward to it. For anyone reading these posts and not familiar with the 1973 Violet Shelton letter held by the Benalla Kelly and Costume Museum (given to it back in 1973 when it was the Benalla Historical Society), here is the scan they sent me.

  23. Hi David, just re-reading your first article (Part One) on this topic, you give the quote from the Bulletin in December of 1880: ‘Dr. Nicholson, at Benalla has Ned Kelly’s scarf, which he took off him (Ned) at Glenrowan. It is made of green silk, trimmed with gold braid and gold fringe at the edges.’

    Logically this must be where Kenneally got the idea that it was a valuable sash “with gold bullion fringes”, rather than what it actually was as detailed by the Benalla Historical Society; fringed with gold thread of the kind used in school badges and blazers. In other words, Kanneally’s imagination ran riot as to its value.

    Jones Short Life followed Kenneally’s vision of gold, writing that the sash had “a three inch bullion fringe at each end”.

    One interesting thing is Jones says in the notes that “all branches of the Shelton family preserve traditions of Dick Shelton’s rscue by Ned”. As we have seen, this is not in dispute. The question is what they preserve and when. He interviewed Mrs Stan Shelton on 28/10.1973 and says she held that Ned was “given the ‘sash of honour’ which Mrs Shelton believed had come from the family drapery business”. Previous investigations have been unable to find any evidence of a drapery business Shelton or otherwise in Avenel around the mid 1860s.

    In conmtrast, we have the tale from Bluey Shelton that the sash was brought over from Ireland by the girl who married Essau Shelton, Telegraph 2013-10-09 online 9 October 2013 Avenel families history –

    In other words, there is no Shelton tradition as to where the sash allegedly came from, and no Shelton tradition involving a sash in the rescue from Dick’s sister Agnes, and no notion at all in Avenel in the 1950s of anything more than a vague tale of a rescue outside of the Sheltons. To Kenneally the rescue happend 40 miles away in Wallan, and in its only mention in his 1934 third edition the sash was only presented to Ned by Essau Shelton when Ned was an adult and on the run with the Kelly gang and therefore after the SBC murders.

    As we have seen, Violet Shelton’s narrative written in 1973 and taken directly from Dick’s sister is sashless; so Jones is wrong to generalise “the Shelton traditions” to have Ned given a ‘sash of honour’.

    It sounds like the tale is growing to incorporate the sash around the late 1970s when it was totally unheard of in the early 1950s when Clune ran around Avenel talking to as many people as he could find, and could only find a tale of Ned rescuing the grown farmer Richard Shelton with no sash mentioned.

    Nothing supports the idea of a childhood gift or any public presentation of a sash anywhere before the 1970s and there is nothing to support it in Dick’s sister’s account, the only first generation account. We are clearly dealing with a fantasy fabrication.

    Here is another version, in the Benalla Ensign 2016-03-30 online 30 March 2016, ‘Dead if not for Ned’

    In this third generation one from Dick Shelton’s grandson Bill Shelton, “Richard was swept away on the fast flowing current of Hughes Creek in August 1865, so it was in the middle of winter when the creek was in full flow … He (Ned) was delivering milk on the other side and saw Richard in strife beacuse he’s gone in there to fetch his hat which ahd blown off and was caught behind a log, so it goes”. Ned the milkman…

    Note how different this third generation tale is to Dick’s sister’s Agnes’ first generation account. The rescue was in summer but the gransdon has it in mid winter; Agnes said he was playing by the creek; the grandson has Dick swept away on a fast flowing current wit the creek in full flow. I remember when we looked into this some years ago we could find no evidence of Hughes Creek being in flood or having heavy rainfall in 1866. What we are dealing with is a wildly inconsistent set of stories among third and fourth generations that are at odds with the account related by Dick’s sister.

    Out of all this confusion, the original source must trump all later variations that get wilder and more varied with time.

  24. Ned’s green sash.
    Author JJ Kenneally lived diagonally across the road from Ellen Kelly’s allotment at Greta West.
    When writing his book-The inner History of the Kelly gang- he was not to publish while Tom Lloyd was still alive. This may indicate there were certain things that should not be spoken about or could be detrimental to future generations.
    For this blog discussion to make out that Ned never received the green sash from the Shelton family for saving their boys life is all a bit trite. Sure, we can always question differing versions of any particular incident with every account differing.
    This blog discussion seems to miss the importance of that green sash cummerbund, and what it meant in political terms. Nobody wanted their life branded Orange or Green as Friendly societies sprung up everywhere. All new immigrants were here for a new start, but there was / and still is a religious war between those in power and those at the bottom of the heap.
    Perhaps this is what the green sash discussion should be about.

    1. Hi Bill, the possible political symbolism of a green sash is a different topic, and one which is thrown out of kilter if Thomas’s suggestion that it could be a green sash stolen from Coulson the Freemason rather than obtained from anyone of Irish connections…

      But this topic is reviewing the claims by Jones and others that the Benalla sash was given to Ned as a boy as a reward for saving Dick Shelton from drowning, and the intertwined claim that this made a strong mark on the people of Avenel.

      The investigation is finding no link between the fact of the rescue as related by Dick’s sister, and any sash, which is clearly a late addition to the story, along with the time if year later changing by 6 months, the creek going from calm to in flood, “a boil hole of turbulent water” in Jones’s words, one or both boys being on their way to school rather than Dick playing by the creek in summer, a public presentation of the sash at school that no-one anywhere reported or remembered in the 1950s when Clune went out and investigated but somehow hundreds or even thousands of people are convinced of now…

      I don’t agree that it is a trivial investigation. It is a rather exciting analysis of historical claims, at least for a few of us. When you go through the Benalla Kelly and Costume Museum (when it reopens!) and have a fresh look at the signage about the sash it will be very clear from this investigation that there is potentially a massive furphy being presented to the public. Do we let it go on, if our investigation blows the furphy up? No, we present the facts and correct the historical record, in the same way that you have put an enormous effort into analysing exactly where the SBC shootout took place. I could say as I have that the exact location is not important to me; what is important is what happened, rather than precisely where, although I do find it interesting to follow your case and for what it’s worth I find it robust.

      I was in the Public Records Office today to photograph the school inspection notebooks written by Brown at Avenel. I have not had time to have a good look at the photos and the notebooks are hard to read as they are roughly A6 size and the pen writing is small and a bit faded in some places. But some pages contain notes about the school rooms and their condition and equipment. This could also be considered a great waste of time – and it may turn out to be! But it may solve a question that has fallen out of this sash investigation, namely what school did Ned and Dick attend? Was it Avenel Common School No. 8 as everyone says? Or was it the previous Richardson’s school in 1864 as seems to be the case. What school did they attend in 1865? Was it still Richardson’s school or had the new Avenel No. 8 opened then? I don’t know, but I’m hoping the notebook photos might answer it.

    2. HI Bill,

      Before we talk about the sash we should talk about the reason it was supposed too have been awarded : the legend is that Ned Kelly saved Richard Shelton from drowning. The really hard thing to understand, if such a brave act really happened is why NOT ONE PERSON IN THE KELLY FAMILY, NOT ONE OF THEIR RELATIVES AND NONE OF ALMOST A DOZEN AUTHORS BETWEEN 1879 AND 1928 EVER SAID ONE WORKD ABOUT IT.

      Whats your explanation for that very very long and very very absolute silence about something that ordinarily would be openly celebrated?

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