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


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!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ned Kelly 130th Anniversary Commemorative Events

These two events have been posted elsewhere, but it never hurts to get some extra publicity out.

On November 10, 2010 at the Old Melbourne Gaol there will be the "Roast Lamb, Peas, and a Bottle of Claret - Such is Life" commemorative dinner. For details and other connected Ned related events see

The second event is:

The John Barry Memorial Lecture
“Ned Kelly, John Barry and the Role of Social
Activism in Criminal Justice Reform”

130th Anniversary of the Execution of Ned Kelly
11th November 2010 by Peter Norden AO

6.00 – 7.15pm

Public Lecture Theatre

Old Arts Building

The University of Melbourne


Admission is free. Bookings are required.

Seating is limited.

To register visit:

I had wondered who was John Barry? Then doing a bit of searching showed me that I knew of him already as J.V. Barry! There had been a really great article called "Pursuing Ned Kelly in the 1950s" which can be found at
It is well worth a read! How I wish Barry had gotten around to writing the book on Ned he had hoped to!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Australian Jesse James and the American Ned Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

While perusing through the NLA historical newspapers site I found the following two advertisement for a motion picture about the "American Kelly Gang" being shown in Brisbane and Melbourne:

From the Brisbane Courier, January 1911:


First Presentation in Brisbane.


The Great American Kelly Gang of Bushrangers and Outlaws, showing for the first time in Brisbane, Jesse James, and Cole Younger - the most Notorious Outlaws and Bushrangers the world ever knew. Known to every American as Ned Kelly is to Australians.


Showing the Desperate Train Robbery - Sensational Bank Robbery at 12 noon in a city of 10,000 people - Bailing Up a Show Ground in the Presence of 40,000 People.

Produced in America, and acted by the most Daring Cowboy Riders in the World.


From the Argus, December 1910:





(Of Missouri, U.S.A.)

The Great American "Kelly Gang."

JESSE JAMES, the American Ned Kelly,

Dalton Brothers, Ford Brothers, The Younger Brothers,

Annie Fickles, the American Kate Kelly,

A Stirring Story of the Wild West.

Research seems to show that the film in question, "The James Boys" was one made in the USA in 1908 and originally called "The James Boys of Missouri." It was the first film ever made about Jesse James and was based on a popular play that had been in production for many years. The film was only 18 minutes long. Compare that to one of the earliest films about the Kelly gang produced in 1906 which was just over an hour long. One thing the two films had in common was that both had been banned in some areas by the authorities.

It has always been interesting to me to see how Ned Kelly and Jesse James have always been used in juxtaposition to help introduce them to each others' countrymen.  We see in the above adverts for the "James Boys" film that Jesse James was billed as "America's Ned Kelly." True West Magazine had an October 1973 article about Ned Kelly called "The Wild Young Man in Australia's Past" and the cover of the magazine only used the phrase "Australia's Jesse James" to denote the article inside.  Years later, Ned was called "Australia's Jesse James" in the press for the 2003 Ned Kelly film.

The two men do have much in common with each being the preeminent outlaw of their respective homelands. Growing up I always heard the tales about Jesse James being like Robin Hood. From all I have read, Australians grew up hearing of Ned Kelly being like Robin Hood. (Some might say Robin Hood(s), while others would say they were "robbin' hoods.")

I know that they operated during approximately the same era in history (though Jesse James had a far longer "career") and they were leaders of their eponymous gangs with a brother as underling. Each had lost their father at a young age and both had very strong mothers that suffered greatly at the hands of the law. Both wrote letters to aid their cause, though, the Jerilderie letter, his most important one, never saw the light of day during Ned's lifetime. Both had large manhunts launched against them and had high prices on their heads. Each had a network of sympathisers that aided their cause and their exploits thrilled the public (to this day!). One glaring difference is that Ned Kelly was never at any point "bloodthirsty" (though some would beg to differ) whereas that word is often attached to Jesse James, particularly to his time with Quantrill's Raiders.

 Another major difference between the two men is that Jesse was assassinated and Ned was hanged.
As an aside, there is something that I had brought out elsewhere that bears re-airing. Jesse James was killed by a man named Robert Ford. Some time later Robert Ford was killed by a man named Edward O. Kelly (sometimes spelled Edward O'Kelly).

Oh, yes, not forgetting another difference in that Jesse married and had children and has direct descendants alive now, whereas Ned Kelly never did (nor did anyone in his gang).

I am sure there are many other comparisons that can be brought to light concerning these two folklore heroes, these were just off the top of my head. Brian, you are well-steeped in the James legend, can you add to (or refute) any of what I have put here?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alex Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly - 'A Silly Story'? [Brian Stevenson]

The outlines of the story are very familiar. Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, wishing to curry favour with his superiors, goes to the dwelling at Eleven Mile Creek to arrest Dan Kelly. Fitzpatrick tries to take liberties with Kate, Dan's sister, and the family try to defend her. In the melee - perhaps - Fitzpatrick hurts his wrist, and returns to the police barracks with a tale of how the Kelly family has attempted to murder him. The Kelly Outbreak has begun, precipitated by the family's reaction to Fitzpatrick's harassment of a young girl.

Yet after his capture, Ned was quizzed by reporters about the involvement of Kate in the Fitzpatrick incident, and he referred it as 'a silly story.' Ned went on to say that had Fitzpatrick interfered with Kate, there would not have been enough police in Victoria to protect him. This was not police verballing, but a journalistic account which appeared in the Age of 9 August 1880. The journalist, by the way, was interviewing the most sought-after person in the Southern Hemisphere at the time and the chances are that he hung on every word and made sure that he got the quotes down accurately. It was probably the interview of his life.

Even though her brother termed it 'a silly story', the harassment of Kate, actual, alleged or fictional, is important. It has been seen many times as the reason for the physical conflict with Fitzpatrick, which in its turn put into play a series of incredible and tragic events that are well known.

But did Fitzpatrick try to interfere with Kate at the Eleven Mile homestead late in the afternoon of 15 April 1878?

The earliest hint of something untoward occurring that involved Kate that I have been able to find (and I would be happy to be corrected on this) is an interview with the lady herself in the Herald (Melbourne) of 7 February 1879, where she said that Fitzpatrick had commenced 'in a violent manner to behave improperly.' Now, it does not say how or towards whom, and it may well be that those words are not those of Kate, but a journalist who was using a delicate euphemism, reflective of the times.

Even if the words did refer to Fitzpatrick misbehaving towards her, it does seem, to paraphrase a later remark of her eldest brother, rather too late for her to speak. And, of course, there are many ways in which Fitzpatrick might have behaved improperly, and in a violent manner. It is also possible that Kate was simply telling fibs. We just don't know, but it seems to me that to accept this declaration as proof that Fitzpatrick harassed Kate seems just a bit too credulous, even for latterday Kelly sympathisers.

The alleged incident took place on 15 April 1878. There is no doubt that an attempted assault on a female would have provided the family with a gilt-edged excuse for assaulting a policeman if such assault was occasioned in defence of a young girl. Yet even though they were invited to do so, Ellen Kelly, Bricky Williamson and William Skillion did not testify at their own trial, where they would presumably have mentioned it. The trump card, excellent grounds for acquittal or mitigation of sentence, and more than likely a way to make life easier for Ned and Dan, who were hiding in the bush to escape going to trial on a capital charge - but the defendants did not use it.

Read the Cameron and the Jerilderie letters. Both blister with hatred towards Fitzpatrick, and there are copious uncomplimentary mentions of him that have sullied his name forever. But search for a mention of what the family surely would have regarded as his most heinous deed, an attempted assault on Kate - and there is nothing. Sure, by the time of the Cameron and Jerilderie letters, Ned's fate was sealed and there was no excuse that could save him from death on the run, or the gallows, but it seems unlikely that his letters, which drip with the hatred of the man who he considered had wronged him so badly, would leave out the details of Fitzpatrick and his unmanly ways towards Ned's sister.

By 1911, when Ellen Kelly told Sydney journalist B W Cookson that Fitzpatrick had tried to kiss Kate, and acted like a fool, what even Ned saw as 'a silly story' had apparently taken firm root, even in his own family. Today, pro-Kelly interests accept it as gospel, and I know that it is firmly established as part of the family's oral tradition, but there seems to be very strong reasons for questioning it. Nothing discussed here exonerates Fitzpatrick entirely, and the contemporary records show him to have been a most unlovely specimen indeed, but there are surely strong grounds, in the matter of an assault on Kate, to suggest that of this he was innocent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches [Sharon Hollingsworth]

When Brian McDonald wrote his book "What They Said About Ned!" (which includes an annotated Kelly Gang bibliography) I wonder if he had any idea that he was also the author of much longing and lust? Going through the pages is like being a kid again pouring over the Sears Christmas catalog (or whatever the Australian equivalent to Sears is)....I want everything in it! There are visions of sugar plums dancing in my head! I don't usually like to write in books or make any marks in them, but I have gone through and put little check marks next to what I have acquired over the years.

At the top of my wish list/(book) bucket list  is what has not been published in book form - Number 770 in WTSAN - Monty Wedd's "Ned Kelly" comic hundred and forty six episodes of about sugar plums! Hopefully one day someone will finally gather and publish these comics for the enjoyment and edification of all of us. As an aside, I was recently very surprised to learn that the "Ned Kelly" comic series did NOT run in Victoria at all! Imagine that!

Thinking back on early Kelly authors like Max Brown and others of his ilk, they had to do lots of travel/legwork and digging in dusty files and corners and do much petitioning and cajoling to get what is now virtually at our fingertips.

We have an embarrassment of riches out there, the information is hanging like ripe low-lying fruit for the taking. Come, come! A banquet awaits!

When I first got involved in the Kelly world in late 2002 there were many things still not available that have come online in the past couple of years. We did not have the Royal Commission online, you had to be very well-heeled to put one of these volumes (even the 1968 reprint) on your shelf to be a glorified dust-catcher, let me tell you! Through the kind efforts of Brian Stevenson I was able to finally get a hold of  the RC and I read all 720 pages in record time as I was so starved for the information. You develop a new appreciation for some of the players in the saga once you read their testimony (and, yes, I know, some lied under oath to cover their rears!). For instance, I gained a whole new perspective on Charles Hope Nicolson who was very put upon by the duo of Frankie (Hare) and Freddie (Standish). There are many illuminating moments in the RC when things start to come together much more clearly. The RC can now be read online in two different places for free. Any good search engine should be able to help you find it. Letting your fingers do the walking beats actual legwork every time, doesn't it?

Same goes for Hare's "Last of the Bushrangers" that some spent hundreds on in the past as well as Cookson's Kelly Gang From Within newspaper series, both of which are offered free to read online. However, the Cookson online is sans the original newspaper photographs which Brian McDonald has put in his published version of it as well as the informative annotations he has made, both make it worth the price of admission (and, no, I am not getting a cut of sales!).

We can add the National Library of Australia's historical newspapers website to the list of embarrassing riches. They have digitized all of the the Argus newspaper articles on the Kelly Gang.  I remember waiting and waiting for them to finally launch and then for them to finally get to the late 1870s, early 1880s with the uploads, seemed to take an eternity! Then when I was doing an article about Superintendent Hare for Glenrowan1880 I had to delay the finishing of it as I had to wait some weeks for the late 1880s and early 90s to load in full so I could continue my research. Along the way I found so many juicy nuggets of information and I love the fact that we can see the full on article that some books only give small quotations from or refer to. 

As more time goes by, my wish list/bucket list expands and contracts as new items are acquired and new things become available.

While I am on a roll, I am wondering when the next big in depth Kelly tome will be published? Is someone working on one now?

There has been a plethora of Kelly books for the juvenile audience lately. Sure, some have good graphics and great  illustrations and they make wonderful primers for the younger set, but  I long for a book to come out on the Kelly Gang that actually teaches me something I did not know or makes such a stylish impact that I go, WOW-WEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! I want someone to (in the apt words of Elizabeth Bennett as she read Mr. Darcy's letter),  "astonish me" in the same way the Kellys astonished the world!

I will not hold my breath (nor my tongue).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Constable Fitzpatrick: a Colonial Spiderman? [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Since I had mentioned Constable Fitzpatrick in the blog intro and seeing as how he is the main cause of all the Kelly trouble, it is only fitting that the first post is about him. On April 29, 2010 the Macedon Ranges Leader had an article (here) about the history of Lancefield in which I found this tasty tidbit:

"Earlier, Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was involved in a scandal at Irish hotel the Shamrock. “He was seen descending down the outside of the chimney of the Shamrock Hotel towards the ladies rooms...."

 Sure would like some more details on that episode!