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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Magazine Alert: Inside History Magazine featuring Peter FitzSimons & Ned Kelly out now!

The November/December 2013 issue of Inside History Magazine features an article about Ned Kelly and Peter FitzSimons.

The blurb on the website says:

Ned Kelly by Peter FitzSimons: the author discusses the iconic outlaw and his new book.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Peter FitzSimons mentions me on the radio yet AGAIN!

 I am so very taken aback at the high praise that Peter FitzSimons has given me. I do think he is exaggerating a wee bit about me being the world expert (other than Ian Jones, of course), but he does have the facts right that I understand and love the Kelly story!  I want to say that Peter FitzSimons is one of the nicest people I have run across in a long. What a breath of fresh air he is!  His sheer zest for life, his unbridled love of history and his talent with the written word just bowls me over! And it is hard to impress me these days, but he has done so in spades!

Bill Denheld had sent me a WAV file of the previous radio program in which Peter mentioned and I transcribed the pertinent bits which can be found at

But this latest one (which was actually prior to the other one!) was one Bill had recorded on his phone and was not able to make a file of, so he kindly did the following transcription (I hope to find an audio file online at some point):

Peter FitzSimons talks to Michael Pavlich Overnights program ABC AM radio 774

At 3.25 am Wednesday 6 November
about five minutes into the Ned Kelly book discussion

Peter speaking-

" I went to StringyBark Bark Creek with a guy called Bill Denheld who is a guy - he is a lovely man, but there is not enough hours in the day to go to SBC - think about SBC, read about SBC, draws maps of it, he is the SBC man, And so he showed took me to site where the memorial is at SBC.

SBC from here (Melbourne) well I guess the way we went through the back road - about 3 hours - went to Mansfield and headed north from there, and its right out in the absolute sticks and its got a bit of a haunted feel about it because you go there and I suppose I have been studying it so long enough so I could recognise the 'contours' where a, - where Lonigan was (shot). It's hundreds of yards from the monument and I can tell you his evidence to me is absolutely compelling that this is where it all occurred.

But its pretty much like when I went to Mawson's Hut. Mawson's hut is fundamentally unchanged in Antarctica, its in the deep freeze its absolutely the way it was - you know, and similarly when I walked the Kokoda track - it’s the Kokoda track, jungle, its nothing different -when I went to Tobruk you look at Tobruk and stand on Hill 209- "that’s exactly what they saw, and Stringy Bark Creek is totally undeveloped-it is nothing different from where it was - except perhaps the bush road that passes it by - but you get this feeling of heavy weight Australian bush - the kookaburras, the cicadas - the sense of you're lost in the wilds and it was there at SBC that Ah - Ned first ambushed - well yes - so they were at Bullock Creek which is just one hill over, and they hear a shot ring out and they send Dan, who goes out and sees the police are there, What are they going to do? They want their horses, they want their ammunitions, they mostly want their GUNS.

Last night I had a long chat with the great Ian Jones to whom I dedicated the book, the doyen of Kelly writers and he is 82 years old and has been studying Ned Kelly for the last 70 years since he was 10 or 12 years old - he's been studying Ned Kelly and he made the point to me - - in terms of SBC, to really understand the Kelly's there's been a lot discussions in the last while, and there are people that say this - " that Ned Kelly was a psychopath "

Pav, " There was a commemoration recently - a dedication to the officers - of the SBC murders "

PF, And I totally follow the sentiments of the descendants of the men killed at SBC, that I would take that view too - but for me, I respectfully - I put the view that to define Ned Kelly as a psychopath DOES not remotely encapsulate the essence of the man - in both cases (of what happened at) of SBC.

The Royal Commission of the Kellys - The first thing he said was this was not a premeditated murder. And, in both cases - so there was the 'first' ambush- then the second ambush- The first policemen then the second two - when they came back, in both cases the Kellys were in deep cover, they could easily have simply shot dead every police man they found and it would never have  risked themselves. In both cases they broke from cover, they called upon the police to surrender - the police being brave men doing their duties that they were, reached for their guns, and they did their duty but they were killed.

FURTHER along in the discussion at around the 25 minute mark -

Pav, " Hey, I want to ask you about the book, it’s a big publication you have put out about 7-800 pages long. I got the feeling about writing it you actually referenced a lot of people - you did a hell of a lot of research - it almost a book of consensus you went to all the top historians on Ned Kelly - you ran the script by them - you asked them to agree or disagree -

PF,  Well the thing that I found is that Victoria is awash, awash with Kelly experts, so I wrote - What I do with my researchers- I run a team of 4 or 5 researchers - two were full time more or less - Libby Effeney - she was the key one - she is a PHD student at Deakin University - and we worked flat out on it. And the answer was go to the Primary documents - she virtually lived at the State Library of Victoria, Public Records Offices of Victoria and the amount of material there is fabulous - but anyway at the end of it, -I go to the six most foremost experts and say here is a red pen find the most mistakes that you can find - the most mistakes that you can and so the information came back, and with great respect to the experts they frequently disagree with each other very strongly. However, there is ONE person they all reluctantly go  - well, She's the one -

Pav, Is she the American woman? yes, Sharon Hollingsworth?

PF, yes she's the one and she lives in North Carolina, and -- -- --- she's just out -- --  of North Carolina but in the age of the internet, this is fascinating to me and in terms of you being ABC, I sent her details to Australian Story and I said "Look, she is not an Australian - but she is " The world expert on Ned Kelly".

So I hand her- I sent it over the internet of course to Sharon Hollingsworth - She's living in North Carolina - who's never been to Australia- and I give her the manuscript THAT has been vetted by six experts, and they corrected every error - and three days later a answer "came directed in a writing unexpected, - and I think the same was written with a thumb nail dipped in tar" *

and she spotted 25 errors- and because she understands it and she loves it- people get bitten by the Kelly story BECAUSE it is so fascinating but yeh, you mentioned earlier the historian that I -

Pav, Ah, yeh I wanted to bring you to this, you mentioned you had written a book in present tense an you've got an approach to history, - of the other book that I read on Eureka you tried to put it in a context like a living history - you just present from Primary documents - the facts and you write it in such a way that gets you immersed in the story.

PF, Yeh

Pav, You mentioned the historian a German, Leopold Van Ranke who said
" History should be written as it essentially was" So you and I will remember our history classes, I think I remember you in the back of the class snoring - wasn't that you in the back corner ??

PF, Yes, and history classes was so boring, and then he, and then he, and then they, and on and on, and I want to get away well away from that and to tell it in a manner, and it has taken me a long way of doing it. But I came under the spell of an American -Gary Smith who was a sports illustrative writer, and his line to me was- " you must use the devices of Fiction and apply them to Non Fiction so that when you are reading say 'Great expectations there is this little voice that whispers to you -  " There was no Miss Havisham, there was no wedding cake, there was no Pip there was no - - salad  -it did not happen ".  How much stronger is it when you are reading non fiction and you are reading about SBC, you are reading about the siege at Glenrowan and you go - by god this happened, you'd think that at the siege at Glenrowan that Ned Kelly would have his shotgun at your head and say you bastard I'm going to blow your head off - What were they actually doing what were they actually when the train arrived at Glenrowan ? They were dancing, they had been there for two days, they had sixty people as hostage as prisoners which ever way you want to put it, they had been dancing, they had been drinking, they had been smoking , they had been doing hop skip and jump, long jump and doing trick riding and things, like this was nothing like I had imagined the siege at Glenrowan was, and so again one of my favourite scenes was the train comes in - when Thomas Curnow the teacher -- --- --- ---   It is outrageous that Thomas Curnow is not - there should be a Thomas Curnow award for public service or civil duty - 

(Pave) he was a whistle blower ?

 PF Yes,

The rest we all know about, the red scarf over the candle to warn the train etc.

* Both Peter and Pav broke into poetry - a line from the famous Australian poem by Banjo Paterson Clancy of the overflow.

(Once again, thank you to Bill Denheld for this transcription)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peter FitzSimons mentioned me on the radio! [audio link added!]

On Wednesday November 6, 2013, Peter FitzSimons gave a radio interview on ABC radio in Melbourne wherein he mentioned me and my contribution to his new book "Ned Kelly." I first found out about it at the Ned Kelly forum where someone posted about it and then I got an email from my friend, the writer Paul Williams alerting me to it. Then Bill and Carla Denheld sent me a WAV file of it and I was so very humbled and gratified to hear myself being spoken of in such a glowing manner. I never have considered myself an expert, but if others do, hey, run with it! Make hay while the sun shines! (Haters gonna hate and lovers gonna love! Been the same since the beginning of time, why should human nature change now?) Anyway, I am not sure of the morning show name or the hosts (was Jon Faine show), but it was on ABC 774. I don't yet have a link (see bottom of page for the link just added) to share for everyone to hear it but I did transcribe the pertinent part here after listening to it several times. It is as close as I was able to get it as he spoke so fast and had so many run on sentences (I was not quite sure where to put the punctuation, maybe I should have done like Joe Byrne and just transcribed it with none?) -
Peter FitzSimons said:

" mentioned your American background [spoken to the lady host]...the thing that just stunned me when I was doing first it didn't surprise me that Victoria is awash with Kelly experts amazed me a bit that there is oh  not enmity between them but there is certain divisions between the Kelly people about how it was and exactly the detail of it...
what stunned me ..was that they all grudgingly say there's one person, one person who, actually, well she's the expert, she's the one that actually knows more than any of us.
Who is she? 
A woman called Sharon Hollingsworth.

Where does she live? 
North Carolina. Never set foot out of North Carolina in her life.
 Fantastic woman.
So I give her a manuscript with 2,000 footnotes that's been vetted by six experts and my researchers and we go through every sentence, can we do it? can we prove it? whats the document? and you hit every sentence with a hammer does it sound hollow is there any chance that this detail  is not correct? Anyway so after the six Kelly experts had vetted it, there's particular experts in each field there is a legal expert, there is Bill Denheld, who is the expert on Stringybark Creek,  there is not enough hours in the day for Bill to think about Stringybark Creek...and then when I finally give the whole manuscript to a woman in North Carolina though I am confident that there is not a mistake it it , three days later it comes back here are the 25 errors and I check them and she's right and I was able to correct them in time.
It is a function of the modern age that someone living in North Carolina could possibly be more expert on Ned Kelly than anybody who ever lived apart from Ian Jones....."

Here is a link to the audio of the program - 

Also see  for yet another transcription of an interview Peter FitzSimons did in which I was mentioned.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Article Alert: Peter FitzSimons - Good Man, Bad Man: Why Ned Kelly Still Splits Public Opinion

In the November 4, 2013 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald Peter FitzSimons (author of the newly released NED KELLY) has an article entitled "Good Man, Bad Man: Why Ned Kelly Still Splits Public Opinion."

It begins with:

There it was again just the other day. An impassioned man on the television was arguing that far from being a hero, Ned Kelly was nothing but a murderer who devastated lives and acted out of pure evil criminality.

The man in question was Leo Kennedy, the great-grandson of Sergeant Michael Kennedy - one of the two policemen shot by Ned Kelly at Stringy Bark Creek. As someone who has just released a biography of the famed iron outlaw, I was more than usually interested in the discussion, and not surprised by it.

In the course of researching his life I found myself in Glenrowan in early May. I visited the dining room of the local pub, where there is a replica of Ned's armour. I had just finished trying on the extraordinarily heavy helmet - his whole suit weighed a staggering 44 kilograms - when a couple of kids came in, a seven-year-old lad and his five-year-old sister.

''Do you know who this is?'' I asked. ''Ned Kelly!'' they replied in happy unison.

''Was he a good man or a bad man?'' ''Bad man!'' cried the little boy, even as, at exactly the same time, his sister shouted with equal conviction ''Good man!''

It is much the same answer that two halves of the Australian population have given for the past 135 years, with just as much certainty - and sometimes fury.....

To read more: