For more information on Sharon Hollingsworth and Brian Stevenson please see the sidebar for the About Your Humble Bloggers link.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Article Alert: Is This the Skull of Jack the Ripper..or Outlaw Ned Kelly?

Yet another skull article from google alerts....

From the Daily Mail of December 28, 2010, there is an article called "Is This the Skull of Jack the Ripper... or outlaw Ned Kelly? DNA May Solve Mystery of the Two Killers Buried Next to Each Other."

From the article:

Now Professor Ranson, is trying, on behalf of the Victoria coroner, to authenticate whether the skull is that of Kelly, or belongs to Deeming.

Scientists at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, where Prof Ranson is deputy director, had the supposed Kelly skull examined by experts and gave it a CT scan, but were none the wiser, despite the fact that the forensic pathologists managed to obtain DNA from one of Kelly's descendants.

Their problem is that not only is the skull a close match to the death mask of Kelly, but also resembles one of Deeming. Both plaster casts are held at the jail, which is where both men were executed and buried close by each other in the prison yard.

Read more:

Article Alert: Search for Solve Skull Mystery

From google alerts..

The Liverpool Daily Post of December 29, 2010 has an article called "Search for Merseyside Descendants of Frederick Deeming to Solve Australian Skull Mystery" written by John Sutton.

It begins with:

A Merseysider may hold the key to identifying the remains of one of the world’s most notorious outlaws.
Forensic scientists in Melbourne, Australia, have what could be the skull of Ned Kelly – but it could also be the skull of Frederick Deeming...

The article goes into detail about Frederick Deeming who was executed in 1892 and how he and Ned Kelly "were buried alongside each other" and the search for descendants of Deeming, as they wish to get DNA samples for testing against the skull (which, you will recall was stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol and was recently handed over by Tom Baxter).

To read in full:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Article Alert: An Accent on Social Equality

(Fitzy, this one is for you!)

From Google Alerts..

In the Age dated December 28, 2010 there is an article called "An Accent on Social Equality" by Tim Elliott in which the evolution of the Australian accent is explored.

Of course, Ned Kelly is referenced!

 From the article:

And yet the myths persist. When Heath Ledger starred as Ned Kelly in the 2003 biopic, he gave the bushranger an Irish accent, as did Mick Jagger in his 1970 film, a fact that perplexed a great-niece of the Kellys, who had known Ned's brother, Jim (who died in 1946). She said Jim, just five years younger than Ned, had spoken with an Australian accent.

To read in full:

Boxing Day Snow [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Here is North Carolina we have had a Boxing Day snow! (Not that the USA actually celebrates Boxing Day, but ones like me and my best friend Lilith with connections in Australia and the UK have adopted it.) We go some years without any snow at all, or if we get any it is a dusting or just an inch or two. Only a few times in my life have we had any really significant snow amounts..I can count on one hand the memorable ones (March of 1980 remains 'the big one' everyone still talks about, with 16 inches falling). We got 6 plus inches today, a drop in the bucket as compared to friends (like Lilith) up North who measure their snowfalls in feet, but enough to make this entire area basically go into shutdown mode.

As with almost anything else I am reminded of the Kelly Gang in some aspect. Looking at a bleak landscape like this behind my house brought to mind the time the Kelly Gang were on the run and endured snowy conditions in the winter of 1879.

In The Argus of August 6, 1880 there was this bit:

An incident has leaked out about the career of the gang. Kelly has stated
that they had been amongst snow, and that in fact they had to clear
several feet of snow off a hut they lived in, and the deduction is that
they have lived for some time amongst the Bogong Ranges.

Then in The Argus of August 9, 1880 this was said:

Kelly has been making a number of statements about his career, but many
of them are so contradictory that it is difficult to distinguish what is
true or false. This, however, is proved, that for some time the gang
lived in a house that was frequently covered with snow, and that Kelly
had to clear the snow off the roof to prevent it from falling in. The
conclusion, therefore, is that at one time the gang lived either in the
Buffalo or Bogong Ranges.

There are other mentions of bitter weather endured by those in the hunt for the Kellys, particularly in Superintendent Hare's writings.

He wrote of one of the times he fell asleep in his hammock:

When I awoke in the morning my rug was frozen, the country round me was perfectly white with frost, and the men told me the running water in the creek close by was frozen.

He also spoke of the time the possum rugs were so frozen that they had to hold them before the fire to thaw before they could fold them.

Constable Faulkiner, one of the men in Hare's party testified before the Royal Commission board:

 ...That evening we watched the place with Mr. Hare, Canny and I; we stayed up in a potato field till about 2 a.m. in the morning. The other men were all round the house. Then Mr. Hare instructed Canny and me to go to Wangaratta. We got a party of police, and brought them back. We met Mr. Hare coming back, and he spoke to me. I would not speak to him at first. I did not know him, because his whole face was covered with icicles from the hoar frost.

Hare also related this cold weather incident in his book:

Bushmen think nothing of camping out for months, but ask any of them in the winter months to camp out without a fire, and see how long they will stand it. I remember once, when I was searching the mountains at the head of the Broken river, the weather was terribly cold, and the men were getting very down-hearted at not having any luck. Mayes came to me and asked me to let the men have a fire for one night, as they were very low-spirited, and were feeling the cold bitterly. He said, "I am sure if we could get some quiet spot in the mountains you could let us have one good warm, and we shall be all right tomorrow." I agreed, and took them to a most retired gully, and told them they might light a fire that night. They were so surprised, it acted like magic on them. They selected a large hollow tree, set fire to it, and there was a grand blaze. They heaped up wood all round, and sat all night enjoying themselves.
After I had had a good warm I took my hammock and went about a hundred yards from them, and kept, as it were, watch over them, because I never knew when the Kellys might have crept on us, and without any difficulty they might have shot the whole of the men standing round the fire; so I thought if they were attacked I could have assisted them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Article Alert: Pub Stories on Tap

Article found via google alerts..

In the Weekly Times of December 27, 2010 there is an article about bush pubs called "Pub Stories on Tap" and it relates some very interesting bits (other than about Ned Kelly), but the bit about him was pretty spot on given the plethora of oral histories surrounding him:

How many pubs in the north lay claim to having had Ned Kelly under the
roof on at least one occasion? So many it is a wonder the poor bugger
ever got the chance to hold anyone up. If he had a few rounds in each
one, there is no doubt cirrhosis would have carried him off long before
the hangman’s noose was placed around his neck.

To read in full:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in Kelly Land [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Joe Byrne's and Aaron Sherritt's former schoolmate, James Wallace (who became a school teacher himself) was a police spy who also allegedly helped the Kelly gang, a "double agent,"  if you will, as Ian Jones calls him. During the hunt for the Kelly Gang Wallace wrote several articles for the Wangaratta Despatch newspaper, one of them being "Christmas in Kelly Land." In the Royal Commission Wallace refers to it as "a series of romance." In 'A Short Life' Ian Jones refers to it as a "satirical serial." I don't know of anyone who has seen or read it, so I have no idea if it references the Gang or if it is just set in Kelly country. 

Still, it is a great title!

If anyone runs across this series in their library searches, please share your findings with us. It would be most appreciated. Please, don't be miserably miserly (bah, humbug!) and keep it to yourself, ok? :)

Speaking of Christmas in Kelly Land, The South Australia Register had the following tidbit:

Sydney. July 11. It is stated by a gentleman who has just returned from the country recently infested by the Kelly gang that, whilst in conversation with the members of the Kelly family, he learned that on last Christmas Day the whole of them, including the members of the gang, sat down to dinner together, and he was assured that the police knew of the gathering. The party was not molested, and they had not the slightest fear of being interfered with.

Then, for the other side of the coin, the Mercury Hobart had the following under the "Circular Notes" column written by  "The Vagabond" -

But the Sydney journals delight in criticizing the conduct of the Victorian police, and the most unfair and scandalous charges are made against that body and the Chief Commissioner, Captain Standish. For instance, the S. M. Herald today contains a statement that last Christmas Day the outlaws all dined together at the house of Byrne's mother, that the police knew, and did not interfere. Now, I have no hesitation in branding this as a lie on the face of it, and no respectable journal would publish such a libel

Despite the Vagabond's misgivings, I would like to think that the gang had a respite from the storm, so to speak, and were able to spend a brief Yuletide sojourn with loved ones.

I really hope that the following bit from The Mercury Hobart in December of 1878 was true:

The general impression among experienced bushmen is that the gang are comfortably housed and quietly enjoying their Christmas.

I hope that all the readers of this blog are doing the same!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mrs. Jones's Poultry and the Stable Door [Sharon Hollingsworth]

On Ann Jones's detailed compensation list for the Glenrowan Inn (which was burned to the ground by police during the siege of Glenrowan) she had an entry for "40 fowls destroyed" and was asking for 4 pounds in compensation for their loss.

During the Compensation Inquiry, a storekeeper by the name of William Robert Jarvis, who helped Mrs. Jones find the means to build the Inn in the first place, was asked: "Did you ever notice any poultry about the place?" His reply: "Yes."

Constable Robert Graham, who had been to the Inn several times on his duty made a report in which he said:

"The item 4 pounds for fowls is very questionable, I noticed no fowls about the place, certainly none were destroyed by the police."

At first we would maybe think that the birds were all scared off by the exchange of gunfire and general ensuing havoc during the siege and were perhaps gotten by predators (of the four or two foot variety), right?


When Jane Jones was asked by the Inquiry Board: "Was there some poultry in the place?" She replied "Yes." The Board then asked: "What became of this poultry?" Jane's reply: "They were sold."

Another item on the list Ann Jones requested compensation for was the stable behind the Inn. She asked for 15 pounds for that.

Robert Graham in his report had the following as regards the stable:

"The stable was not injured further than the removal of the door (which was used to convey a dead body on)."

Sounds like Mrs. Jones was trying to pad the compensation a bit, doesn't it?

And which dead body was the door used for?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Quotable James Ryan: Part 2, 13 August 1933. [Brian Stevenson]

Here are some more quotes by the spurious Dan Kelly, James Ryan, as reported in the Brisbane newspaper Truth on 13 August 1933. James hardly seems to have been Truthful James, to say the least.

'The family was then made up, besides the old man and the old lady, of Nora, the oldest, brother Jim, Ned, myself and Kate.'

None of Dan Kelly's full sisters was named Nora. James Ryan does not mention Annie, Maggie, Grace or Mary, who died as a child.

'Nora and Jim were quiet. They wouldn't have truck with us at all.'

See above for the reasons Nora was so quiet! As for Jim Kelly, he had a police record and was gaoled several times.

'At the time the trouble started [April 1878] she [Kate Kelly] was 20.'

In April 1878 Kate Kelly was about 15.

'[In 1874] we decided to leave home and live in the bush, the four of us. [Ned and Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.]

In 1874 Dan was only thirteen. The four who constituted the Kelly Gang only became that way by chance, because they happened to be at hand when there was a confrontation with the police at Stringybark Creek on 26 October 1878.

'[Noonan, the big horse breeder who lived outside Wangaratta] saw Ned in Benalla riding a brown colt that he recognised as belonging to one of his friends. He sent word to this man, wo put the police on the track. Ned was tried at Benalla, and sentenced to three years in Berrima Gaol.'

Ned was seen in Greta in 1871 riding a horse that Constable Hall knew to be stolen. Hall arrested him. Ned was sentenced to three years in Beechworth Gaol, not Berrima Gaol, which was in another colony, New South Wales.

'Mother and the old fellow were very upset about what had happened to Ned [ie, his being sentenced to three years gaol.]

The 'old fellow' had died in 1866.

'In 1877, Ned came home from Berrima, the worst gaol in the colonies.'

See above.

'At that time, the beginning of 1878, Ned was a fine-looking man. He stood about six feet and had started to grow a big, black beard. I was 24 and he was two years older.'

Ned is believed not to have every fully shaved again after his release from prison in 1874. At the beginning of 1878, Ned was 22 or 23. Dan Kelly, whose birth is documented as 1 June 1861, was definitely 16.

Ned told his plans [regarding armour] to a blacksmith in the town named Jack Quin. There were a lot of Quins in Benalla, all more or less related, but this one was Ned's particular pal. His name has never been mentioned in my hearing in connection with the Kelly gang, nor has it ever been written down in any of the books that have been read to me.'

None of the blacksmiths claimed to have had a hadn in the manufacture of the Kelly armour was named Quin. The Quin name, if not the spelling, was frequently mentioned in connection with the Kellys, as Quinn was their mother's former name, and she was one of an extensive family, many of whom had criminal records.

[Quin] made several suits, one each for Ned, Byrne and Hart. I refused to have one, because they were too clumsy.'

All four suits of armour still exist. Dan Kelly's is in the Victorian Police Museum.

'Although he [Constable Fitzpatrick] was armed, he made no move for his gun. I warned him, and then I shot him ... I shot him dead. I was too good a shot to make any mistake about that. I shot him through the heart.'

Former Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick died of natural causes in Melbourne in 1924. He was interviewed by journalist B W Cookson for the Sydney Sun newspaper in 1911.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Youths Injured at the Siege of Glenrowan [Sharon Hollingsworth]

When reading about the siege of Glenrowan I have always wondered why the injured son of Glenrowan Inn landlady Ann Jones was not taken to the hospital sooner than he was. During the siege Johnny Jones was shot by a police bullet in the second volley fired into the Inn some time after 3 AM (interesting, as I always assumed it was during the first volley, as I had read that David Mortimer said that Johnny was shot "almost at once" but platelayer James Reardon's RC testimony says differently). He was taken from the Inn to safety by platelayer Neil McHugh a short while after, one constable giving the time as 4 AM. (Some reports say he was taken to James Reardon's house, others say taken to McDonnell's Hotel and others say stationmaster Stanistreet's house. It's the Kelly saga, so there is always something in contention!) He was taken by the 11 AM train to go to the Wangaratta Hospital. Dr. Haley said that Johnny Jones arrived at the hospital about half past twelve (Noon). That would make 9 hours or so time elapsed. There were a few doctors who arrived at Glenrowan before he was taken away, though,  namely Dr. John Nicholson and Dr. Benjamin Clay Hutchinson, and later Dr. Charles Ryan. Surely, one or more of them attended the young man. James Reardon testified about Dr. Hutchinson tending to his 17 year old son Michael who was shot in an escape attempt and he also mentioned Nicholson attending him. The rails that had been lifted on the Wangaratta side had been repaired early on and police arrived from all directions all morning. Initially, the only reason I could figure that Johnny was not on an earlier train must have been perhaps that he was being stabilised for travel.  Surely it wasn't just so they could ferry in more police and the numerous onlookers/looky-loos who descended on the scene. Johnny died early the next morning in hospital. Even if he had of arrived more quickly the outcome might likely have been the same as Dr. Haley said that he could not locate the bullet and that he "considered the case hopeless." Then again, maybe that is why the doctors at Glenrowan did not feel a sense of urgency to get him there? Yet, Dr. Nicholson suggested that Michael Reardon be taken on to the hospital soon after his release from the Inn. I still feel very sorry for the frightened, injured Johnny and his distraught mother every time I think about the siege. Then what does Ann face after she holds vigil at her dying son's bedside? She hears that her home, possessions and livelihood have been destroyed, literally gone up in smoke!

Here is part of James Reardon's testimony before the Royal Commission:

#7701. ...did you see him carry out any of the wounded children from the house, I mean McHugh? - No, I was in another room; I was told he did.

#7702. Do you know the wounded child was carried out? - Yes, and carried to my place.

#7703. Can you fix about the time it was by any circumstance? - About the second volley fired by the police.

#7704. Can you fix the time that McHugh carried out Mrs. Jones’s child? - No, I would not swear to it.

#7705. Was it before or after you attempted to escape? - Before, and I followed them half an hour after.

#7706. That would be an hour and three-quarters before your son was shot? - Yes.

#7707. The point is this: the second volley the police fired was fired within ten minutes after the commencement? - Yes, and less.

#7708. Within seven minutes? - Perhaps less still.

#7709. The second volley was the time that Mrs. Jones’s child was shot? - Yes.

#7710. How long after the child was shot did McHugh run out with it? - A few minutes after.

#7711. Then that would be within twenty minutes after the police commenced to shoot? - It would be about that.

#7712. By Mr. Sadleir. - Were both the children shot at that time? - Yes, one was out at the kitchen chimney, and Mrs. Jones said, “You cowardly ---, why do not you go out and fight hand to hand, as you said you would.”

#7713. By the Commission. - That was very early in the morning? - Yes.

#7714. By Mr. Sadleir. - The only other person shot was your son? - Yes, and Cherry. He was shot as he was going in the door; struck on the shoulder.

#7715. By the Commission. - Did you look on after you escaped? - No, I went to the hospital at Wangaratta.

Actually, the eariler "escape" attempt failed, his son Michael was shot in the shoulder as they returned to the Inn under heavy fire. They only got out of the Inn ("escaped") when Sadleir decided to call a ten minute truce to let the remaining prisoners make their way out later in the morning. According to Reardon it was half past nine when this occurred. Other accounts say this happened around 10 AM. Sadleir described the exodus:  "....then the prisoners came buzzing out like bees; running out from the front door in great confusion, some of them towards where Gascoigne was, some to the front, straight out from the building. I called out to them to come in my direction. After some little confusion and delay on their part they came up to where I was standing."

I suppose the escaped Michael Reardon was soon on the same train to Wangaratta as Johnny Jones was. Michael Reardon lived on until  a ripe old age (he died in 1942 at age 79) still carrying the bullet he received at the siege of Glenrowan. In turn, it is a shame that 13 year old Johnny Jones had barely reached puberty when his short life was snuffed out. His sister, Jane, was also injured at the siege, hit in the forehead by a spent bullet. She died two years.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Article Alert: Julian Assange is the Ned Kelly of the Digital Age

This was from Google Alerts...

In the Sydney Morning Herald there is an article by Bryce Lowry called

Julian Assange is the Ned Kelly of the Digital Age

It begins with...

The WikiLeaks founder is a cyber-ranger at large, in the mould of his bush counterpart.

A fugitive Australian rebel, he repeatedly embarrasses and evades the authorities, in the process becoming an icon of resistance and folk hero....

For more:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Northern Territory and Ned Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

In a previous post I had mentioned Wild Wright who in the latter part of his life had gone to the Northern Territory where he died at Newcastle Waters. That got me to recalling that one of Joe Byrne's many cousins, William Joseph Byrne, had gone out to the NT to settle, starting out as a butcher and later acquiring more property and eventually starting the well-known Tipperary Station. I wonder if Wild happened to stop by the Byrne's place by any chance during his sojourn in the NT? Then, again, the NT is a pretty large place! (It is like how anytime some news from North Carolina makes international headlines everybody thinks it practically happened in my backyard even if it is hundreds of miles away!)

Another thing to do with Joe's cousin is how two of his sons fathered children by Aboriginal women. One of them, Stan, was the grandfather of former Essendon football star, Michael Long. (Long has said that his parents were 'stolen' and raised by missionaries on Melville Island.) We always keep hearing about (and from) all the modern day descendants of the siblings of the Kelly Gang members or others in the saga but never hear anything about the Byrne family descendants. Long was the first I had ever read of in that regard.

Author Graham Seal has said that "Ned Kelly is a hero to many Aboriginal Australians. Aborigines have adopted Ned Kelly into their cultures, in some cases conflating him with Jesus, other biblical figures, and Captain Cook."

Deborah Rose Bird wrote an interesting essay called "Ned Kelly Died for Our Sins" which can be found at;col1  in which it tells about the Aboriginals in the Victoria River District of the NT and their myths and legends about Ned Kelly which seem to be what Seal was referring to.

And yet another Northern Territory connection I ran across during research is about a new play called "The Cook, The Queen, And The Kelly" in which the oral history/stories/myths about Ned escaping the noose (shades of the same furphy that was the premise for Barry McArthur's work of fiction "Out, Out, Brief Candle") and heading to the NT where he married a Chinese woman and had "Irish Chinese" children is explored (never heard that one before!). The website for it gives some background.

 From one of the producers:

...Later I read writings by my Dad’s eldest brother, (a collector of family stories), of how my great, great, great, grand father (a blacksmith) helped make the Kelly Gang’s armour. (This had been hushed up, as our family didn’t want to be seen as Kelly sympathisers.) From his wife we heard that her great, great, grand father, (a magistrate), believed that Ned had been substituted by another at the gallows and it was not he who had been hanged.....

Have a look as it sounds like a really intriguing bit of theatre:

And last, but not least, if you ever make it out to Alice Springs, NT, stop in at Bojangles Saloon & Dining Room where a life-sized cut out of Ned Kelly "stands guard" at the door!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Quotable James Ryan: Part 1, 1948 and 13 August 1933. [Brian Stevenson]

In 1933, an old reprobate who called himself James Ryan walked into the office of the editor of the Brisbane newspaper, ironically called Truth and declared that he was Dan Kelly, who most people had believed dead for over fifty years.

James Ryan could not read, so the task of researching and rehearsing this odd role of impoverished imposter was beyond him. It is also doubtful that he ever heard the famous Abraham Lincoln quote which goes something like 'No man [sic] has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.'

To an extent, though, James was successful in that he was convincing enough (or perhaps the editor was credulous enough, ignorant enough, or too damn lazy to check a few basic facts) to find himself the subject of an extensive interview over two weeks in the history of that august publication, which, incidentally, boosted its circulation on a regular basis by publishing the photographs of miserable little kids outside the divorce courts. Sad to relate, James posthumously took a few present day people, keen to bolster Ipswich, Queensland, as a tourist attraction for Kelly aficianados as well.

Anyway, James was quite a quotable chap, and many of his utterances were taken down for posterity.

Here are a few of them, all from the Truth.

1 August 1948.

'These nurses should remember they have been looking after Dan Kelly - and he's tough, even at 94.'

Dan Kelly would have been 87 in August 1948.

13 August 1933

'Father's name was Ned. He was called Old Ned.'

We're off to a great start, with Dad's given name obviously escaping his spurious son.

'[John Kelly] was lagged out here from Dublin about 1845. He used to say it was for poaching.'

John Kelly was transported from Clonbrogan, Tipperary, for the theft of two pigs in 1841. Maybe he wanted poached eggs with his bacon?! Arf!'

'I remember him [John Kelly] saying as he was sent first to Van Diemen's Land, and afterwards to Goulburn.'

There is no documented evidence that John Kelly was ever in New South Wales.

'Father went home [to Ireland] and came back with two of his sisters.'

John Kelly spent the rest of his life in Australia after arriving in

'[Father] married a sister of one of his old mates ... Her name was Kate.'

James can't remember his mum's given name either. Close and clannish family.

'I don't know what my mother's maiden name was.'

Oh, James, you should have done more research - why didn't you go to the library and check up on stuff like this in case you were asked? Oh, that's right, I figured it out ...

'My old man used to say that he knew Peter Lalor, leader of the Eureka Stockade rising. He had travelled out on the same ship from Ireland.'

Peter Lalor arrived as a free man in Melbourne in 1852. John Kelly arrived in Hobart Town as a convict in 1842.
'I was born in the year of the [Eureka] Stockade, 1854.'

Dan's birth, as documented, occurred on 1 June 1861. James would have been able to read this on his birth certificate ... oh, hang on ...

'Neither Ned or myself ever spent a day in a schoolroom. I cannot read or write.'

Both Ned and Dan attended school, and there are contemporary documents to prove it. Perhaps if James had spent more time in school, particulary in Religious Instruction, he would have learned how bad it is for 79 year olds (or is that 72 year olds, I forget which) to tell lies.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ned Kelly's Migrating Scar! [Sharon Hollingsworth]

From the things-that-make-you-go-hmmmm and
don't-believe-everything-you-read-in-a-book department...Michael Ball
brought the following information to my attention after he saw a page
from the Victorian Police Gazette from 1874 and compared it with Ned's prison record that is in
McMenomy's book.

In Michael Ball's words:

The Victorian Police Gazette published a notice of Ned Kelly's release
from gaol and description of his identifying marks :

Scar top of head, two scars crown of head, eyebrows meet, two natural
marks between shoulders, two freckles lower left arm, scar ball of
left thumb, scar back of left hand, three scars left thumb.

However, the description on his ORIGINAL POLICE RECORD Prisoner 10926
Record 193 has the following :

Scar top of head, two scars crown of head [head not written but a "d"
for ditto] , scar front of head, eyebrows meeting, two natural marks
between shoulder blades, two freckles lower left arm, scar ball of
left thumb, scar back of right hand, three scars left thumb.

 (NOTE: The Police Gazette had the scar on LEFT hand but the
handwritten Police Record has it on RIGHT hand)

Sharon here: So, we are left to wonder did someone just make an error
whilst transcribing the wording for the Police Gazette? Easy to do
after seeing so many "lefts" written in the description.
Still, very interesting and a good pickup, Michael!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Former Police Spy is Visited by Wild Wright and Mistaken for Curnow [Sharon Hollingsworth]

In the October 2010 issue of Catholic Life Magazine there is an article called "Kelly Gang Scare and an Armed Robbery at Moe" written by David Synan. It gives details of the Kelly Gang's association with Gippsland and tells about Daniel Kennedy who was allegedly the police spy known as the DSA (Diseased Stock Agent) and his life there after the end of the Kelly era. It details how he was wrongly thought by some to be Thomas Curnow living under an assumed name and how he later had a visit from Wild Wright.

From the article:

Further, they knew he had been involved somehow with the Kelly saga. Accordingly, some concluded that his real name must be Thomas Curnow. This was the Glenrowan teacher who heroically flagged down the special police train from Benalla before it encountered the breach in the railway line that Ned Kelly had organised.....In 1888, just before the Crown [Hotel which Kennedy owned] caught fire, Kennedy had a visit from a second-tier member of the Kelly gang which set tongues wagging. He was Isaiah Wright, known as Wild Wright, both a bare-fist fighter and a loyal Kelly lieutenant. An uncomfortable blast from the past had caught up with Kennedy. Wild Wright was not charged for either accommodation or liquid refreshments. Kennedy did arrange a bare-knuckle fight for Wright with a bushman from Leongatha who handsomely won the encounter.

To read the article in full go to the link below and after the issue loads scroll through to page 21:

Regarding him being (wrongly) thought to be Curnow under an assumed name, I remembered the following bit from the September 3, 1911 installment of B.W. Cookson's Kelly Gang From Within newspaper series. Cookson really must have been misled or misinformed to publish the furphy.

From The Kelly Gang From Within:

After the destruction of the gang Mr. Curnow disappeared. He received a liberal share of the reward offered by two Governments for the apprehension of the outlaws. But thenceforward he vanished from human ken. It is presumed - has been presumed for years - that this plucky school teacher is dead. That belief is only partially correct. As Mr. Curnow he has certainly ceased to exist. But the man himself is still alive - or was very recently. Living under another name, old, but still active, Mr. Curnow was until lately teaching a small school in the wilderness of Gippsland. Tall, grave of feature, his long beard now almost white, the man who saved the special train is a very prominent figure in the small community in which he has chosen to immure himself. His secret is not unknown. When on rare occasions he makes a visit to the principal town in the district on some business of compulsion, he is pointed out occasionally by the few who know him as the hero of the Glenrowan fight - the man who risked his life to save the lives of his fellow-men. But his new home is a long way removed from the scene of his memorable exploit. And there is no likelihood of the fact of his identity becoming known involving him in any of the trouble which, rightly or wrongly, he anticipated as the result of what he did on that fateful night. There are none in that region who have any sympathy with the notorious outlaws or their fate. To the people there the whole story of the gang and its exploits and destruction is a memory only. Those who know the old school teacher him for his great exploit - but they respect his wishes by seldom or never alluding to it. And so, in the placid serenity of his autumn of life Mr. Curnow gores on with the work that he has always followed - the instruction of the young. And a wise and capable instructor he has proved himself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Statistically Speaking [Sharon Hollingsworth]

We went live with this blog on October 25, 2010, but had started work on it a few weeks earlier so we would have a full page for the public to view once we launched. Since the launch a month ago the stats are that we have had well over 500 page views and visitors from eleven countries: Australia...USA..The UK...New Zealand..Ireland...The Philippines...Luxembourg...Germany........Russia....Taiwan...and Denmark. Seems Ned Kelly is known all over! I hope we attract (and keep!) many more viewers in the future and I hope that anyone who wishes to comment on any post(s) we have done will feel free to do so. I have been joking with friends that I am so glad that I started a blog instead of a forum! ;)
I hope that Brian and I can keep on finding interesting tidbits to share and that everyone continues to enjoy what we post!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Edgar Penzig, 1929 - 2010: a tribute [Brian Stevenson]

 Edgar Penzig is gone.

Writing a tribute is hard for me. I am trying to find the right words, but am ever wary of descending into sentiment that reflects the deep grief that I have felt since Sharon Hollingsworth sent me word on Sunday that my larger than life friend of nearly thirty years has left us.

Edgar Penzig wanted to be remembered. Don't we all? But in the course of his long and productive life, Edgar found a few ways to make himself extremely difficult to forget.

There's the books. Most of the folks reading this blog will have seen or read at least one of them. Good luck to anyone who wants to form a full set of Edgar's publications. I checked the National Library of Australia catalogue and there are twenty-two or so in the total, with a publishing history ranging from 1964 to 2009. Most of them are out of print and attract a hefty premium on the dealer's market on the rare occasions that they become available. Interestingly, both the first and last books were books of poems, atypical of his gargantuan output. As well as the books, we have innumerable articles, testimony to one man's almost unbelievable industry.

There's the controversy and the courage. It mattered little to Edgar that he was besmirching the reputation of Australia's national heroes, and he did not hesitate to call a spade the proverbial shovel where our pre-eminent bushrangers were concerned. Some historians use a scalpel in dissecting the past. Edgar Penzig used a hatchet. Ben Hall was a lazy and greedy man: Ned Kelly a plausible thug whose intellectual limitations were manifested in what Edgar called 'that tin rubbish'. It was not a way in which to make oneself popular with many aficionados of Australian bushranging, and it did not. Edgar could not have cared less, and reproduced in one book, with some pride no doubt, a nasty and threatening letter that someone was brave enough to put in the post but not game to sign. On the other hand, he had the highest possible regard for the colonial police, who, regardless of their individual and well-documented failings, were to a man doing a very difficult job that was poorly paid. The energetic (though often less than effective) Sir Frederick Pottinger came in for special praise, and Edgar once mused to me that if he had had a son, he would have liked to call him Fred.

There's the collector. For heaven knows how many years, Edgar saved, restored, rescued, classified, described and catalogued countless items from Australia's colonial past, most significantly the weapons. He once told me how his wife Megan and he had saved for a piece by eating baked beans out of a tin with a fork for weeks, and I don't doubt it. Many of the items he collected were unique and materially valuable, but because of Edgar's foresight and preservation, generations of Australians unborn have a priceless legacy - a tangible connection to our colonial past.

There's the lover of Australia. The first time I ever saw Edgar, his house was an easy one to find. Even in the dim and distant days of - let's see, 1982 - a national flag fluttering at full mast was not a common sight, not even in conservative Katoomba. I know that Edgar viewed with concern many of the directions in which his beloved Australia was going, and that this was part of his reason for relocating to Tasmania relatively late in life. In the Australia of 2010, bewildering to just about anyone, Edgar's views might have seemed old-fashioned and even eccentric, but there was never any doubting of the underlying and innate decency, and the sheer love of country that led him to formulate them.

There's his personality. No one ever accused Edgar of being self-effacing or shy. He was an actor, after all, and those in that profession are not generally know for their modesty, but even among this fraternity, Edgar was a case apart. Would anyone else have described themselves as 'Australia's premier bushranging author-historian', even if they felt it to be true, as Edgar so obviously did? Who else would reproduce a bust of themselves in a book, or put a painting of themselves in colonial costume on a book cover? We don't know where the robust self-assuredness stopped and the undoubted flair for self promotion began, but one thing is for sure. Both of these traits are often accompanied by meanness and a lack of consideration for others, but Edgar was devoid of malice and one of the least selfish people I ever knew. And if Edgar sometimes seemed to be short on modesty, he was never short of friends.

Ah, there's the friend. I had not known Edgar for more than two hours before he had presented me with a copy of his first bushranging biography, A real flash cove, the life of John Gilbert. Domiciled in faraway Queensland, I could not always be of much assistance to Edgar - after all, the man virtually lived in the Mitchell Library! - but from time to time I would find things and forward them to him. Always my slight assistance was answered by a prompt and glowing letter of appreciation, sometimes accompanied by a book. Or a phone call, and I knew from the second that I heard that booming voice through the wires that I was in for an hour or so - more, if I could wangle it with the other members of the household - of excellent and spirited conversation that never failed to entertain. It's still hard to believe that I won't hear those deep tones again. My heart is full, my world is poorer. My heartfelt condolences to Megan and other members of Edgar's family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Edgar Penzig's Passing (Nov. 19, 2010)

This tribute was originally put in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 23, 2010

and was found via

PENZIG, Edgar Francis.
(1929 - 2010)

Late of Oatlands, Tasmania,
formerly of Blackheath, NSW.

Devoted husband of Megan.
Loving father of Gail (deceased)
and Narelle, loving grandfather of Melinda and Jason, fond
father-in-law of Ted and Lionel.
A Gentle Giant has left us

With thanks to Dr R Simpson and the staff of the MMPHC for
their care and kindness.

Private cremation. There will be
a Celebration of EDGAR'S Life on Saturday (December 4,
2010), at 2 p.m., to be held at the RSL Club, Oatlands, Tas.

(Sharon here: please note that while this blog post was published Nov 22 that is for the United States where I am located, but it is already Nov. 23 down under in Australia, thus the date discrepancy.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Joe Byrne Steals Your Watch It Is A Red-Letter Day Worth Remembering! [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Even after eight-plus years of studying the Kellys I am always finding out something new. For instance, I have learned that if Joe Byrne steals your watch that it is indeed a red-letter day in one's life!

In December 1878 when the gang bailed up Younghusband's station prior to holding up the Euroa bank, they made prisoners of four kangaroo hunters that were very close to the property. Two of the men were local farmers and two others were men down from Melbourne who worked for the Government Printing Office, Henry Dudley and Robert McDougall (wonder if they helped with the binding on the RC in later years?). They were described in "A Short Life" as being 'two elderly gentlemen,' and McDougall was termed an 'ancient Scotchman' in "The Fatal Friendship" but, actually, McDougall was only 23 years old at the time and Dudley was 46.

Some interesting and comical exchanges took place wherein the hunters mistook Ned and Joe as constables due to them possessing handcuffs, and, playing along, Ned accused them of stealing the spring cart they were riding in and of actually being the Kelly Gang! They were later clued in to the ruse. Their weapons were taken and one of those would become Ned's favourite rifle which he named 'Betty.' Dan Kelly patted down McDougall (who had a bulge in his pocket due to a Meerschaum pipe) and thinking the pipe was a concealed weapon not turned over he pointed his gun at him. There was a bit of a set-to between the two and Ned Kelly stepped in to break it up. Ned confiscated the pipe, remarking "that's a beauty" and McDougall never saw it again.

During the time he and the others were being held in the stockroom at Younghusband's, McDougall saw well over a dozen axes that were left in there and suggested that everyone grab one and start chopping their way out. Others did not wish to go along with it as they feared being shot.

Now we get to the watch..McDougall said in an interview with the Burra Record on July 19, 1933,  that Joe Byrne asked him for the loan of his watch which he was compelled to hand over.

McDougall later said to Ned Kelly:

"What about my watch? It was a present from my mother and I value it as a keepsake from her."

Ned, softened by hearing about a man's mother, grabbed the watch from Joe and threw it at McDougall. Ned then went up to Mr. Scott and said "Give me your watch, we must know the time."

The reporter in 1933 saw the actual watch which McDougall was obviously very proud of:

Mr. McDougall then produced a silver hunting lever watch with the following inscription engraved on the inside of the case:

This watch was taken from Robert McDougall by Joe Byrne on the 9th December, 1878, and returned by Ned Kelly to Robert McDougall, December 10th, 1878.

Mr. McDougall also showed off the two supoenas he received to testify at both of Ned's trials (Beechworth/Melbourne) which he had kept all those years.

The question I am sure everyone wants to know is where are these heirlooms now?  I wish I knew!

Note: in Hare's "Last of the Bushrangers" he has it as Ned Kelly asking for McDougall's watch and returning it after saying it was a keepsake of his dead mother, then has Kelly taking Mr. McCauley's watch and Joe taking Mr. Scott's.

 Also note that Corfield says that "The surname is variously spelt McDougall and MacDougall in newspaper accounts and birth, marriage and death records. It is spelt MacDougall on the gravestone and also in the death notices in the Argus."

I went with McDougall for this blog post just to be consistent with the newspaper account I quoted from. Also, I do wonder if that was the spelling on the watch the reporter saw? Or was it just read to him?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Superintendent Francis Hare Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives [Sharon Hollingsworth]

[UPDATED December 2, 2011: These letters and papers are now available online after a very long wait!]

Many times in the past few years I have brought up in articles and in forum posts about the letters and reports in the Francis Hare Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives. Currently, one has to go to the Uni to gain access to this collection which is described as:

"Correspondence (generally, inwards), notes and reports, mainly concerned with the surveillance and capture of the Kelly Gang."  

The collection has 54 items, with 19 of them concerning Capt. Standish; 12 of the 19 are letters to Hare, with the remaining 7 are between Standish and others (with one being extracts from his private letters with notations by Hare). There are letters from Hare to others and some of the names on letters to him are familiar ones: Ward, Sadleir, O'Connor, Nicolson, John Sherritt, Jack Sherritt, Robert Scott, Jacob Wilson, George Collins Levey and so forth.

Six of the letters had been published in the July 1981 edition of Overland Magazine. There was a bit of background on the letters in the article and a bit about their provenance which was echoed in an edition of the University of Melbourne Library Journal in 2000. In an article called "Ned Kelly and the University of Melbourne" which was written by the (then) archivist Michael Piggott and found at  there was this bit:

The collection has its own mysteries. One is its provenance: the letters were found in a steel box in St Mark's Church Fitzroy in 1978 lacking any indication of how they came to be there...The other puzzle is the relatively little use the collection has attracted, particularly from scholarly writers.

I seem to recall that a couple of years ago the University was seeking a student volunteer to help transcribe and/or digitise and/or research the Hare collection (or something along those lines) in preparation for public consumption. I believe a young woman was selected for the job. All of that info is now off the net and I am relying on memory, of course. However, recently I found this at talking about the coming digitisation of the letters in the Francis Hare collection:

"This collection is highly utilised and in demand by historians and researchers. Funds raised in the 2010 Annual Appeal will be used to digitise these unique and fragile letters, thus minimising general wear and tear. An online finding aid will be produced so that we can share these unique historical records with the world."

Amazing that in the last decade that the collection has become popular. I guess it just took getting the word out? Regarding the second part of the mystery about the provenance, while doing research for an article last year about Superintendent Hare I found that his wife's nephew was Rev. Evelyn Snodgrass (as a side note, Rev. Snodgrass's sister was Lady Janet Clarke). Rev. Snodgrass at one point was vicar of St. Mark's, Fitzroy.
Hare passed away in 1892 and his widow passed away in 1896, perhaps she left Hare's papers to her nephew, Rev. Snodgrass, as she and Hare had no children? And perhaps when he went on to his next assignment he had left the papers behind?

Note: I had previously written in an article called Ned was Forever in his Thoughts: Superintendent Francis Hare From Glenrowan to Rupertswood (1880-1892) at  that Rev. Snodgrass was Hare's brother-in-law,  but doing more in depth research later I found out differently! I must be in good company, as it is sort of how like how I have seen others in the past confuse Hare's wife named Janet with her niece of the same name as well as mixing up the Chomleys (confusing the uncle with the nephew) but it all gets sorted eventually and corrected, though. I had Dave White amend my article with the right info for future readers. It is so good to do stuff on the net as one can easily go in and do these type fixes! Woe unto them who have written books and only realise a fix or addition/deletion is needed long after it has been printed and distributed! Because then folks like me will find it and point it out! Hey, at least I sometimes find and point out my own, too, so it is all good...and the beat and the learning process goes on!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Michael Ball's Experience at the "Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret" Commemorative Dinner [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Today we have a guest blogger, Michael Ball, who gives us a glimpse into his trip to Kelly country for the "Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret" dinner at the Old Melbourne Gaol and the John Barry Memorial Lecture by Peter Norden at Melbourne University entitled "Ned Kelly, John Barry and the Role of Social Activism on Criminal Justice Reform." 

Michael Ball writes:

An advertisement for a recent event at the Old Melbourne Gaol appealed to me even though I lived in Sydney. It was for the 130th Anniversary of Ned Kelly’s execution or more precisely the 130th anniversary of Ned’s last supper of “Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret” to be held on the eve of his execution, the 10th November.  I took the opportunity to take my son and a friend down there passing through Kelly Country on the way there and back to show them some of places that formed part of the Kelly saga.  These places took a good deal of time by car so we were all amazed at the distance that the Gang travelled by horse and in the speed that they covered the distances.

But back to the anniversary dinner. They opened the doors at 6:30 and we were able to select any of the seats along the long table on the ground floor of the cells. There were 60 people, some in period costume and the tables were set with white tablecloths and were lit by 5 candle candelabras. The setting was truly both spectacular and memorable.

On arrival we were offered either beer or champagne and then after a brief welcome we were offered some pre-dinner nibbles after which claret was served with the main course of roast lamb, peas and other vegetables. The food was well prepared and tasty and the claret kept flowing so everybody was in fine form when the “Such a Life” performance was announced. The group moved up to underneath the scaffold and the two actors did their performance, one playing Ned, the other playing the parts of Ellen Kelly, Kate, and Ann Jones, using the language that they were reported to have used at the time. A few of the guests were also enlisted to act as some of the lesser characters. It was very well done and even for someone not knowing Ned’s story it got his story across very well.

Also there was an exhibition that had only been completed that day depicting what happened to Ned’s remains and his skull which was stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978. This exhibition is to remain open for a few months and hopefully it will include the final chapter when the DNA evidence is analysed.
Coincidentally we were sitting along side Tom Baxter who is well familiar with this story. Also in attendance were some of the Hart/Lloyd family.

A truly memorable evening.

The following evening we attended the John Barry Memorial Lecture by Peter Norden at Melbourne University entitled "Ned Kelly, John Barry and the Role of Social Activism on Criminal Justice Reform."  I was hopeful of more on Ned but he may well have only been included as it was the anniversary of his execution but more could have been made of it as John Barry toured the Kelly Country in the 1950's with the aim of writing a book on the trial of Ned Kelly and it was John Barry who was the author of Ned's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


Pictured: Michael Ball (AKA Outback Santa), mates Phil and Paul and son Nick. Tom Baxter is barely visible  in the shadows at the upper left of the photo.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Benalla Cemetery: Tributes at Joe Byrne's Grave & a Marker for Ned's Grandmother [Sharon Hollingsworth]

                        (photos courtesy of/copyright of Michael Ball)

My good friend Michael Ball of Sydney took a recent trip to Kelly country to attend Ned's Last Supper at the Old Melbourne Gaol and stopped off at the Benalla cemetery where he found a very nice Kelly Gang tribute there. Next to the tree by Joe Byrne's grave someone had taken four railroad spikes and on each one was the name of a Kelly Gang member and their years of birth and death. They were then driven into the ground where I hope they stay a good long time to honour Ned, Joe, Dan and Steve. That was a very thoughtful and wonderful tribute. Thank you to the person who conceived the idea and created them.  If we are lucky, maybe the so-called souvenir hunters will leave them alone. (Hopefully by publicizing the very existence of the spikes it won't alert these types of low-class/no-class thieves to them..that is if they have not already been looted by now!) He also saw where people had tied red sashes/ribbons to the tree in tribute, as well as the traditional custom of leaving flowers on the grave.

He also noted that some of the unmarked graves from his visits had been given markers including Ned's grandmother Mary Quinn.

I don't usually use photos on this blog, preferring the words to stand on their own, but this is one time that a picture is worth a thousand words!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Article Alert: Such is Life: Reflections on the Death of Ned Kelly

From Google Alerts.


by Peter Norden

was on the Online Opinion Website on November 12, 2010

It says that

"This article is based on the author's delivery of the John Barry Lecture at the University of Melbourne on November 11, 2010."

To read see

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Article Alert: Wreaths, Flowers Mark Where Ned Kelly Died

From Google Alerts:

The Sydney Morning Herald had an article published on Nov. 11, 2010 called "Wreaths, Flowers Mark Where Ned Kelly Died."

It tells about the floral tributes left at the jail gates and about the wreaths left at the gallows. The article says that "we get these every year, but there's a little more interest than usual today."

To read the article go to

Witnesses to the Execution of Edward Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

I have written a new article called WITNESSES TO THE EXECUTION OF
EDWARD KELLY for the glenrowan1880 and Nedonthenet sites at which I am

There was an official Certificate and Declaration of Witnesses to the
Execution of Edward Kelly and I take the number of signers into
account and figure in a few more onlookers who were said to be there
to try and find out how many there really were at the OMG on November
11, 1880. While the real number may never be known, it is interesting
to see just who was there for what seemed to be the hottest ticket in
town (though one man with a ticket decided not to go inside!).

I also detail the Kelly based stage play written by one of the
witnesses (a newspaper reporter) which was performed in Melbourne the
following year.
The article can be found at both of these links, take your pick!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Douglas Morrissey's unpublished thesis - a review, Part 1 [Brian Stevenson]

Douglas Morrissey, 'Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves: a Social History of Kelly Country', Ph D Thesis, LaTrobe University, 1987.

This unpublished work is very hard to find, but there is a copy in the library of the LaTrobe University, where the author did his thesis. Dr Morrissey, according to Alex McDermott, who praises the work in his writings, has apparently never been able to find a publisher. This may well be because the viewpoints and conclusions which go so definitely and definitively against the grain of so many previous statements and assumptions on the social and economic milieu that spawned the Kelly Gang.

I want to cover this thesis, a couple of chapters at a time, in this and subsequent blog posts. Because this work is all but inaccessible, and extremely important, I make no apologies for covering it in some detail. This post covers Chapter 1, 'Patterns of Settlement' and Chapter 2 'Selection in Kelly Country: Success or Failure?'

Dr Morrissey has done this the hard way. Rather than rely on oral history that is less than reliable, oversentimental or both, he set himself a task that, on the face of it, would not have seemed appealing to any but the most dogged of researchers. In Morrissey's words: 'Traditional explanations for the Kelly Outbreak rest heavily on rural poverty and selection failure.' He decided to test the hypotheses related to selector poverty and the inaccessibility and infertility of land in the Kelly country, factors that writers from Ned Kelly down to John McQuilton have seen as a key factor in the Outbreak. Calmly and clinically, and using Lands Department records that whose apparent dryness is only exceeded by their impartiality, he demolishes myth after myth relating to the background of the troubled and violent Edward Kelly.

In Morrissey's words, he decided 'to examine the economic fortunes of 265 selectors during their first decade or so on the land, roughly 1868 to 1880. All the selectors chosen lived in the adjoining land parishes of Greta, Glenrowan, Laceby, Lurg and Moyhu.' Surprisingly, at least for those who base their thoughts on such matters on Ned's claims in the Jerilderie and Cameron letters, the overwhelming majority of these selectors ultimately prevailed. 72 percent of selectors gained the freehold to their selections. In Greta, the figure was 79 percent. Those who got behind in their payments were treated with leniency and patience by the Lands Department, which extended the time in which they could pay, sometimes by years.

Incidentally, Ned Kelly himself seemed ambivalent towards the financial difficulties experienced by his mother, who frequently fell behind in her rent payments. Despite his earnings from stock theft - 'horses and cattle innumerable' - and his boast that he never worked for less than two pounds ten a week after his release from Pentridge, and his windfall 'earnings' at Euroa and Jerilderie, little of Ned's spare cash seems to have found its way to his beloved mother. In 1881 the Crown Bailiff inspected her selection and valued the improvements to her land at one hundred pounds, not much to show after a decade or so in which the Kelly family, including three strong sons and, for a while, an able bodied stepfather spent 'occasionally cropping a few acres and milking a few head of cattle', but became much more notorious for other activities. Mrs Kelly's selection was declared forfeited to the Crown on two occasions, in 1870 and 1880. Both times, the Lands Department allowed her to retain possession of the land, despite a strong recommendation from the police in 1880 that the forfeiture should be upheld.

Farming a selection had little appeal to Ned. In January 1875, a year after being released from Pentridge, he applied to take up 100 acres of land adjoining his mother's selection. He allowed the application to lapse for reasons that we will never know for sure, but we can at least infer that he believed that there were easier ways to earn money than farming. Even in an area, where, as Morrissey demonstrates, 'there is no evidence that poverty or [economic] failure was more prevalent than anywhere else.'

NOTE: The second installment in this ongoing series can be found at

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ned Kelly's Cousin and the Red Gum Headstone [Sharon Hollingsworth]

While searching around the net the other day I ran across this unusual
bit on a genealogical page at
and also at a page for American Civil War Veterans of Australia and New
Zealand in Australia about a
gentleman who had left the British Isles for Canada and the U.S. and who
served in the American Civil War. After the war he went to Australia and
had a great deal of success with timber and sawmills.

John Quiggin and his sons were awarded 1st prize in the Melbourne World
Exhibition of 1883; for having the best Red Gum Slab. The original block
to be entered in the exhibition for the show was cut actually by Ned
Kelly's cousin, but he requested that John Quiggin, let him have it as a
headstone for his grave. John allowed him to keep it, but only if Ned
Kelly's cousin procured another tree just as good. It was the 2nd timber
acquired that was entered and won the prize.
It was also once reported to John Edwin that ‘Ned Kelly’ had been
harbored from the law one night at one of the Quiggin sawmills.

Ned had many cousins, so I guess we will never know which one is being
referred to. I did find it of great interest that he wanted to have a
wooden grave marker ( Isn't a wooden headstone a contradiction in terms?
Or am I being way too literal?) I suppose one doesn't see many of them
left these days due to the proliferation of bush fires through the years
among other reasons?

While on the subject of grave markers, in the PROV archives I ran across
a letter from the Kelly Historical Collection Part 3: Chief Secretary's
Office, with the descriptive header:

J.F. Atkinson suggests that Government  place headstones over graves of
those murdered by the Kelly Gang.

But, getting into the meat of the letter, which was dated July 22, 1880,
we see that the description was not quite accurate!

Part of the letter talks about how "shortly after murder of the police
by the Kelly gang" that the Ministry of Public Works in the Berry
Government had placed headstones on their graves and he suggested that
they should

"do the same on the graves of young Jones, Reardon, & the
late Government erected stones to the memory of those men, this Ministry
can not well do less than follow the precedent, especially as these
deaths were caused innocently by the attacking party, and it would be a
graceful act on your part to authorise this small expenditure."

Note that Michael Reardon, though injured, did not die at the siege of
Glenrowan. He lived until 1942! Also note the "attacking party" would be
the Police!

Johnny Jones and Martin Cherry never received the headstones from the
Government as suggested by Mr. Atkinson...seems the only thing they
covered was their own rear ends!

The graves of Johnny Jones and Martin Cherry remained unmarked until
well over a hundred years later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Article Alert: Book Review for Sinners, Saints and Settlers: A Journey Through Irish Australia

From google alerts comes a review for an interesting sounding book that has a section on Ned in it called


Many of you may recall that Brendan Kelson and John McQuilton did a book together back in 2001 called 'Kelly Country: a Photographic Journey."

From the review:

 Reid and Kelson also add a new dimension to some better known stories, such as those of Ned Kelly, Paddy Hannan and the Eureka Stockade. Brendon Kelson’s photographs bring many of the stories to life and will surely inspire readers to visit places such as the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Koroit in Victoria and Galong Castle in NSW.
Sinners, Saints and Settlers is a comprehensive review of Australia’s connection with Ireland and the Irish up to the 1920s.

For more see 

The review goes on to mention about the upcoming National Museum of Australia exhibition entitled "Irish in Australia" opening on St. Patrick's Day 2011. The book's author, Richard Reid, is senior curator at the NMA. For an interview with him with more info on the exhibition see

Sherlock Holmes and the Ned Kelly Connection [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Recently I have been watching and enjoying the new Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It is set in our modern times and is very well done and worth a look if you have not seen it yet. It got me thinking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and his letter to the newspapers in which he mentioned the Kellys and suggested the use of armour to protect British troops. I first heard about this in "Australian Son" by Max Brown (1948 edition).

From the book:

In the days that followed, reports of the siege of Glenrowan appeared wherever the English language was spoken. The authorities heaved a sigh of relief. According to the aristocratic principle, "To him who has, shall be given," the Chief Secretary and Commissioner Standish received complimentary telegrams from Lord Normanby in Melbourne and Lord Augustus Loftus, Governor of New South Wales.
A spate of messages leapt across the continent. From London came a comment from a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle, who praised the imagination of the outlaws and recommended armour for use by infantry....

Here is the text of Conan Doyle's letter to the newspaper concerning the Kellys and armour:


"As an advocate of armour in modern warfare for the last twenty-five years, I am interested to see a column of The Times devoted to the subject. When Ned Kelly, the bushranger, walked unhurt before the rifles of the police clad in his own hand-made armour he was an object-lesson to the world. If the outlaw could do it, why not the soldier?

 "It has always seemed to me extraordinary that the innumerable cases where a Bible, a cigarette case, a watch, or some other chance article has saved a man's life have not set us scheming so as to do systematically what has so often been the result of a happy chance. "Vital body-plates, however, should be used in the every-day equipment of a fighting soldier." — Sir Conan Doyle.

Ok, after reading what Max Brown wrote in the first quote, does that not make it sound like Doyle made the comment regarding the use of armour soon after the gang's capture? I did some checking and seems that it is not exactly the case.

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in May of 1859 (same year as Jim Kelly). In 1880, yes, Doyle was a medical student (he graduated in 1881), but the letter quoted above from The London Times regarding the Kellys and armour was published in 1915 (35 years later) when he was 56 years old. Note in the letter he says he had been an advocate of armour in modern warfare for the last twenty-five years, which would make the beginning of his advocacy to be around 1890. Ten years after the siege of Glenrowan.

I remember how confused I was when I read what Brown said and then when I had found the letter that was dated so many years later. I wondered if there had been something we missed in the papers in the previous years? A while back Brian Stevenson contacted a Doyle/Holmes expert (this gentleman was really on the ball and knew his stuff) and asked him the question and he said the only time Ned or the Kelly Gang were mentioned by Doyle was the 1915 letter.

Nevertheless, even if the timeline regarding it is a bit off, I am still glad that Max Brown gave me the nudge to go and seek out the Doyle letter. And I am glad that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was such a brilliant and imaginative writer!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Article Alert: Scarecrow Ned Kelly...

Just in time for Halloween..a scarecrow Ned!

The Yarramalong Valley Progress Association held its annual scarecrow competition in September of this year and the winner of the People's Choice Award was the entry entitled Ned Kelly and his Gang. There was only one gang member represented...could that be Joe Byrne? (and where are his boots?)   :)

Dan Kelly - the Ipswich survival myth [Brian Stevenson]

 Here is an article I wrote for the Ipswich newspaper, the Queensland times. It was published in that newspaper on 28 November 1998.

I wrote it in response to the revival, yet again, of the canard that Dan Kelly had survived Glenrowan and died in Ipswich many years later. After the paper had published some misinformation on the topic, I called them and offered to set out for them the case against Dan's survival and later Ipswich existence. No charge. I am not a particularly altruistic person, but I thought it would settle my stomach ulcers somewhat if I made the effort to put a reasoned case out there that might just put the long-running legend to best.

No such luck, but I tried. And thanks to the Queensland times, who at least gave me the space. Take note, everyone - legends die hard.

Although there is a phrase or two in this that makes me cringe, I don't think the intervening twelve years has brought to light anything that contradicts the main contentions of the article.

There is a reference to the short-lived story that Dan substituted for Ned on the gallows and Ned had survived to a ripe old age. This particular gem is surely the most stupid Kelly based urban myth - and folks, that is really saying something. The story was pushed for a brief time in the mid-1990s by a psychologist, of all things, who promised a book on the subject, but the publication never saw the light of day. A well known saying about gratitude and small mercies comes to mind.

(For the record: none of the five books attributed to me have anything to do with the Kellys or bushranging. While three were solo productions, one had me as the editor only, and another as the very junior co-author. )


The tale of Dan Kelly has again excited some people and dismayed historians who believe he died at Glenrowan. Freelance historian, and author of five books, Brian Stevenson, has this historian's view of the demise of Dan Kelly.

Dan Kelly died hard. Trapped in the Glenrowan hotel, he and his fellow Kelly Gang member Steve Hart most likely committed suicide to avoid police capture.

As Dan, Hart and another Gang member Joe Byrne lay dead, the hotel was set ablaze. While the body of Byrne was retrieved (and later strapped upoutside the Benalla lockup and photographed), the corpses of Dan Kelly and Hart were incinerated before eyewitnesses.Blackened skeletons were raked out with long poles afterward.The charred remains were unrecognisable and this would, years later, nurture the legend that somehow Dan had escaped instead of dying at Glenrowan in 1880.

Nearly two generations later, claimants would emerge with such frequency that Ned and Dan Kelly's surviving brother Jim complained in a 1930 letter to pro-Kelly author J J Kenneally of how "the name of my brotherDan has been used freely for sordid gain by a gang of imposters."

One such person has recently been commemorated by a plaque and a replica suit of armour at the Ipswich cemetery. Another is supposedly buried at Mt. Isa.

But an examination of the case shows that Daniel Kelly died a wretched and unenviable death at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880, less than a month after his 19th birthday. The information recounted here, drawn from the evidence of contemporary witnesses as reported in widely available biographies of Ned Kelly by Ian Jones, J J Kenneally and Keith McMenomy has been publicly available for nearly 120 years.

The facts are these:

Ned Kelly was captured after his famous 'last stand' on the morning of 28 June, shortly after 6:30 am. Seeing their leader fall, Dan and SteveHart rushed out of the hotel. According to the Melbourne Herald of 29 June, Dan "shouted with rage...and rushed outside shooting at everyone he could see". A bullet struck him in the leg and he limped back inside.

At around 10 am the police called a ceasefire and offered a safe passage for the civilians who were still trapped in the hotel. By now, of course, it was broad daylight.The prisoners left the hotel and were checked by police to make sure that Dan and Steve were not among them.

According to the Melbourne Argus of 5 July 1880, they left the two youths looking "for all the world like two condemned prisoners on the drop".

It was a Monday, and as the day wore on, onlookers in their hundreds continued to arrive. There was an air of surreal calm which continued until 2:30 pm, when, to break the stalemate, the hotel containing the two doomed bushrangers was set afire.

Not one of the hundreds of eyewitnesses EVER said they saw Dan Kelly leave the building between Ned Kelly's capture at 6:30 am and the firing of the hotel seven hours later. Ironically, more than one of the later claimants would cite burns as"evidence" of their identity.

As the hotel erupted in flames, two very different men entered the building and saw Dan and Steve lying dead. The men were the Very Reverend Matthew Gibney, later Bishop of Perth and Constable James Dwyer (who had tried to give the captured Ned Kelly a cowardly kick and had clownishly bashed his own shin on the famous armour instead).

Gibney saw two "beardless boys" lying side by side "at full stretch", the armour beside them. He later told the 1881 Royal Commission into the Victorian Police: "I concluded they lay in that position to let the police see when they found them that it was not by the police they died."

Dwyer's evidence was more specific in terms of Dan's identity. His evidence to the Commission even mentioned Dan's wounded leg: "The left knee was crippled and his hand was outstretched...I knew him to be Dan Kelly from the low forehead." When asked if he could swear to Dan's identity he said: "Yes, I knew the man with the black hair and sallow complexion was Dan Kelly."

Few would disagree with Dwyer for many years, but in August and September 1933, a man now buried in the Ipswich cemetery gave a series of interviews to the Brisbane Truth. As an imposter, the man was laughably incompetent and ignorant of many aspects of the life of Dan Kelly, whose identity he tried, apparently with some posthumous success, to claim.

The Ipswich claimant did not know Dan's year of birth and claimed to be unable to read or write, although Dan could do both. He referred to a nonexistant sister, Nora, but knew nothing of the real Kelly girls, Mary, Annie, Margaret or Grace. He claimed that the Gang had shot and killed Constable Fitzpatrick, who died of natural causes in 1924. Referring to his father as "Ned" (actually John "Red" Kelly) he related how he had visited his parents while on the run, quite a feat given that Red Kelly died in 1866 when Dan was five and Ellen Kelly was in gaol forthe whole period of the Kelly Outbreak.

Perplexingly, the Ipswich claimant's story hs been widely accepted, and his grave–where still he lies–has been promoted as a tourist attraction.Some have even claimed that the grave holds Ned himself, with an obliging Dan, seen but unrecognised by hundreds of people after growing a full beard almost overnight going to the gallows in his stead.No doubt he was grateful that no one had noticed the difference between two brothers who were six or seven years apart in age and six or seven inches apart in height. Little more needs to be added to this latest bizarre offshoot of theKelly legend, except to note that wherever they are Dan and Ned Kelly must be laughing.

The legend of Dan's survival may well have its origins in the potboiler first-person novel Dan Kelly by Melbourne journalist Ambrose Pratt. Published in 1911, it was one of Pratt's more than 30 novels. Although pro-Kelly author J J Kenneally called the book 'a sordid concoction', Pratt never pretended it was anything but fiction. In a 1934 Age newspaper series on the history of Victoria, he recorded Dan's death at Glenrowan without comment. It seems likely that Pratt's production was later the inspiration for a slew of Dan Kelly claimants.

The posthumous survival of a celebrity is a common theme in urban myth.The legend of Dan Kelly's survival has many overseas parallels, virtually all without foundation. DNA testing has in recent years laid to rest forever the claims of pretenders to the identities of people as diverse as the Russian princess Anastasia and the the American bandit Jesse James. When a Billy the Kid imposter surfaced in 1950 (as shown in the film Young Guns 2),he could not read, write, or speak Spanish, skills possessed by the real young outlaw. Aviatrix Amelia Earhart, gangster John Dillinger, Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth, Nazi strongman Martin Bormann, Doors frontman JimMorrison, actor James Dean and, most famously of all, Elvis Presley, all allegedly survived their deaths.

Dan Kelly died hard at Glenrowan in 1880, but the legend of his survival is dying even harder.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Article Alert: New Ceramic Ned Kelly Statue

From google alerts comes this article about a new ceramic Ned Kelly statue:

"Bushranger is Still Big News at Nepean Tafe"

by Caryn Metcalfe

October 28, 2010

According to the article the creators of the ceramic Ned statue have great attitudes:

Mr Matts said they created a face under the helm to show Ned Kelly was more than just a suit of armour. “We want to show the man behind the mask,” he said.
“He had a lot of compassion for friends and family. He was a person, not just an outlaw in an armoured suit wanting to shoot a copper or two.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Article Alert: Ned Kelly Not Such A Hero

"Ned Kelly Not Such a Hero"

by Christopher Bantick

Oct. 27, 2010 must be coming up on November 11! Seems every time we get near a Kelly High Holy Day [note tongue firmly planted in cheek!] someone in the press trots out this same old tired dog and pony routine.  Ho-hum! NEXT!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jim Kelly's Trip to Forbes [Sharon Hollingsworth]

 My good friend Michael Ball and I have been wondering about when did Jim Kelly get to Forbes
to collect Kate's children after her death?

Michael had this entry in his work-in-progress Kelly timeline:

cut and paste

On 15th December 1898 Catherine Foster, the infant baby of Kate and William that was born on
7 September 1898 dies. The [timeline] author, Michael Ball, got a copy
of the Death Certificate and it states that Catherine [Kate] Foster nee Kelly was her mother, her father William Foster, a labourer, was the informant of the death and that baby Catherine died aged 3 months on 15 December 1898 and she died from Debilitas at Forbes. Debilitas
was a former medical term for weakened and enfeebled condition. The baby was being cared for by Kate's neighbour Susan Hurley from just before Kate disappeared so she probably kept looking after the child until she died. Jim may have thought that the baby was too feeble to
make the 400 mile trip in his wagon back to Greta with the other 3 children and that it was in better care with the neighbour. The other piece of information on the Death Certificate was that the Doctor, F. Calder, had last seen the baby on 6 December and that she had the
condition for 3 months, so she was probably sick from birth. However, Jim Kelly when he spoke to Brian Cookson, the Sydney Journalist in 1911 said  "there was no one with her when she had her last baby, only the children. The husband was away.. they found her dead in a waterhole. the doctor said it was milk fever, and she had gone mad. the baby did not live..both were dead and buried when I got there.. though I hurried, Yes I hurried. Oh God."  Well either Jim never got to Forbes till after 15th December which meant that if it only took 6 days to travel from Greta he received the telegram in early December or he did get there in October and chose to leave the baby with the neighbour or the NSW Births Deaths and Marriage records are wrong!!!! 

end of cut and paste

Ok, me again:

If Kate was last seen on October 5 (1898) and her body was found on October 14, it
would seem likely that a telegram would be dispatched quickly to her family, right?

In B.W. Cookson's "Kelly Gang From Within" newspaper series Mrs. Kelly said:

"It was more than 10 years ago [note that Cookson did the interviews
in 1910, but were published in late 1911) that Jim one day found a
telegram waiting for him at the post-office with the news that Kate
had died....We had very little money, but Jim had his waggon team, so
he harnessed up his horses straight off and set out for Forbes. It was
400 miles away. He got there in six days, and was home again in
another seven..."

If the telegram was sent in a timely manner, then how long before it
was picked it up? If he hurried there as soon as he got word of Kate's
death and made it to Forbes in 6 days and Kate and baby Catherine were
both already buried it makes it sound like it had to have been in mid
December (after the 15th and the death of the baby) when he got there.
If Kate was found dead approximately two months earlier, then that
makes for quite a discrepancy in time, does it not?

Long ago I had read somewhere that Jim stayed a few weeks in Forbes in
a certain street (maybe Brown Street?) before returning....cannot find
that reference now..might have been some oral history off the rootsweb
site? Or did I just dream it? ;)

Maybe he got there in a rush, stayed a while, then rushed back after
that (as he had said it was drought and hard to find water and he had
only a little food for the trip, so one would not dawdle around on the

As stated above in his timeline, Michael postulates that maybe the
baby was still alive when Jim arrived but that Jim took the other
children and left the possibly sick child that was unable to travel in
the care of the neighbour, Mrs. Hurley. That is one possibility that
would make for a more timely arrival after Kate's death. But why would
Jim emphatically say that the child had already died before he got
there? Then again, in Cookson Jim makes it sound like he himself was
there during the Fitzpatrick incident!

Speaking of discrepancy, Joseph Ashmead has a page or two on Jim going
to get the children..but, and there is always a but with him, he has
that Kate had 3 children, two girls and a boy and that the boy(!!!)
was just a baby when Kate died and that Jim brought the children back
home with him..Ashmead says: "Imagine the big burly fellow, holding
the little baby on a pillow on his knee, driving mile after mile..."

HELLO....the surviving son that Kate had was Frederick Foster who was
born in 1889!

Has anyone else wondered about all this?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Article Alert: Nabbing Ned....

I got this one off of Google alerts..

"Nabbing Ned: It Seems Everyone Had a Cunning Plan"

by Tim Barlass

Sydney Morning Herald. (Oct. 24, 2010)

There are some very imaginative ideas put forth out there for the capture of the Kellys in this article. Seems that nearly everyone was after a piece of the reward pie! For some of the suggestions we can agree with Capt. Standish who said (regarding the balloon reconnaissance idea)  that ''This proposition is simply absurd.''

I had read about the balloon recon bit a while back in Graham Jones's "The Kelly Years." He has several other interesting public suggestions  for the gang's capture in the book, too. Worth a look!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heating the Armour [Brian Stevenson]

We will never know for sure who helped Ned and the boys make the armour, but there are sure a lot of people around claiming to be descended from those who assisted.

In 2003 the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation tested Joe's armour, trying to both authenticate it and learn something about its manufacture. The armour was 'bombarded with neutrons in a nuclear reactor' - no, I don't know how to do that either - and the analysis indicated that it was made of metal consistent with what was available in the 1880s. I know, most people would not need a nuclear reactor to work out that one, but at least we know now exactly what it is that ANSTO does.

What the experts were really interested in was if the metal had been heated to yellow hot (around 1000 degrees Centigrade) in the way that a professional blacksmith would have been able to do, or just plain old cherry hot (around 750 degrees Centigrade) like you would get in a bush forge. Well, yes. The object of the exercise was to see if the boys had expert help. Anyway, X-rays showed that the armour only made it to cherry red, and that the heating was a bit patchy in spots as well. All of which indicates, from what the scientists think, at least, that the armour was the work of amateurs (damned hard to get a professional armour maker in 19th century Victoria, I suppose) and not skilled craftsmen. And that was Joe's armour, too, that they looked at, folks, said by no less than Ian Jones, to be the best made of the lot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Article Alert: Alex McDermott's latest...

I just stumbled over a new Ned article of interest. I just looked at all the usual sites and no one has posted about it yet. I have sent the link to my inner circle and I am sure they will send to others, soon the outliers will have it and we will all be in the know. :)
We don't go live with this blog for another week or so, so this may be considered old news by then! Anyway, here it is:

The article/essay is called "Ned's Women: A Fractured Love Story" and it was written by Clare Wright and Alex McDermott.

 It focuses mainly on Ellen Kelly and Ann Jones.

It is from Meanjin Magazine, Winter 2010, Vol 69 Issue 2.

I found the full text here:


Aaron Sherritt and the Blue Blankets [Sharon Hollingsworth]

 I have always read about how hardy Aaron Sherritt was and that he seemed to never have worn a coat or used a blanket, even when sleeping out of doors in the coldest weather.

In the Royal Commission, Inspector Hare said this of Aaron Sherritt:

"He would be under a tree without a particle of blanket of any sort in his shirt sleeves whilst my men were all lying wrapt up in furs in the middle of winter....I saw a white thing lying under a tree, and there was Aaron without his coat. The men were covered with all kinds of coats and furs, and waterproof coatings, and everything else, and this man was lying on the ground uncovered. I said, "You are mad, Aaron, lying there" and he said "I do not care about coats."

But further reading in the Royal Commission shows that once in a while Aaron did use blankets in the bush, a pair of them to be exact.

In testimony by Mrs. Sherritt (Senior), Aaron's mother, this was said:

"Wallace used to come to the place and used to tell my son he was
writing a book, and for my son to give him all that he knew - the
particulars of what the police were doing  - and that when he sold
this book, if he got good sale for it, that Aaron should have half the
profits. And one night in particular he came, and my son had been out
and had a pair of blue blankets - he used to take them in the bush
with him. He laid them down on the hearth, and Wallace came about two
o'clock in the morning. Then I heard he told Mrs. Byrne he could not
make out what the Sherritts were doing, as he found Aaron in the ash
corner. But he was not there, he was lying on the hearth. He was
trying to make little of my son, I suppose."

Elsewhere in the RC, Constable John Kelly told of camping out in the rain and how "the rest of the men had a small blue blanket each - I had none." Could those blue blankets have been police issue? If so, could we extrapolate and say that maybe Aaron's pair of blue blankets might have also been police issue? Possible, as it seems that even the clothing he was wearing on the night he died had been given to him by Detective Ward.

It all reminds me of another contradiction in the story, concerning the Board of Education inspector  G. Wilson Brown. In Corfield there is a quote from David Holloway's "The Inspectors" which said:  "it was reported of G W Brown that he did not like horses and would not ride. For fourteen years he conducted all his inspectional visits on foot, claiming he could walk ten miles a day." Yet, in Jones's "Fatal Friendship" it tells of Brown arriving at the school at the Woolshed on horseback and tethering his horse at the door. However, at the time there were "flooded creeks and roads turned to quagmires by spring rain" so maybe this one time a horse was needed?

Goes to show one should never say never!