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Thursday, November 3, 2016

The J.J. Kenneally Playbook [Sharon Hollingsworth]

What is up with all of these folks in the Kelly world who want to sue everybody? I was under the impression that some (but not all) in the Kelly world do not like police or judges, or is that just the 19th century garden variety of police and judges? Seems they want their services if they feel slighted, though.

 Over at Dee's blog ( she recently (back In August 2016) has someone talking about taking legal action against her, and I wrote the draft of this blog post back then but only now in November getting around to using it. Others in the Kelly world have at times threatened to sue various people over sometimes very trivial things. I don't understand it. Then there are those who offer to meet face to face to discuss the matter as Dee has experienced. To that, me and Grumpy Cat both say "just say NO!" 

All of these lawsuit happy folks, are they taking a page out of the J.J. Kenneally playbook? J.J. Kenneally, as we all know, was the author of "The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers." In a recent comment  over at Dee's blog I told about how JJK wanted to sue Max Brown, the author of "Australian Son" in 1949.

Here is what I had put-

"Also, at trove there is an interesting article called "Who Owns Ned Kelly?" in which it states that Kenneally (who had sued others in the past due to copyright infringement) was going after Max Brown to sue him, too. Max was going to fight it on the basis that "nobody owns Ned Kelly" but it seems that fate took a hand with the death of Kenneally in 1949 that put an effective end to that. The article ends with " wondering who owns Ned Kelly now." (some of us are wondering that even NOW!)"
Ok, after I had done that posting I started looking in to Kenneally and his penchant for suing people.
In his book he tells about suing newspapers over copyright and winning. Looking under trove it seems that he had been taking folks to court or facing them for things like copyright infringement, libel and slander - on that last count one person in 1908 had called him, to his great displeasure, an "interstate columnier" (I can't find the exact meaning for columnier, but have seen it in centuries old texts in the context of "malicious columner and rude reflections" and "columnier, injuries, falsities", so we can get the basic gist of it). 
He had sued others for copyright infringement at least 9 times between 1905 and 1949. Might have been more that did not make headlines or that were settled out of court. Instead of letting court be the last resort, his first response seemed to be sue them and then collect money for "damages."

In a 1934 Age article about a then upcoming Kelly movie someone had mistakenly reported that "Until a few years ago the Kelly house was still standing, being used as barn." Kenneally took umbrage from that remark. Whether it was just that someone had said the house was no longer standing that set him off or the intimation that it had been turned into a lowly barn, I am not sure, but both were in error. He wound up saying the following at the end of a letter to the newspaper concerning this mistake-
"As the relatives and friends of the Kellys have at last lost patience with the multitude of cowardly libellers of both the living and the dead, it is understood that a move will be made in the near future to organize a meeting in the Kelly country, at which a small committee of censors will be elected, with power to take direct or indirect action against the enemies of truth and justice."

Not sure if that ever came to fruition. But what does he mean by direct or indirect action (other than taking them to court)? The use of the word "censors" is a worry, too. And worse than that, the term "small committee."  Censors and small committees are usually the tools used against those who love truth and justice and freedom. Just sayin'.

A while back I ran across something at the Australian Archives entitled "Alleged Libel of James Kelly, Brother of late Ned Kelly as Published in "Salt" about how Kenneally had taken great offense at an error in an article in a "Salt" magazine article in 1942. ("Salt" was the official journal of the Australian Army Education Service and was non-profit.) There are pages and pages (22) in a file about the behind the scenes dealings and memos as concerns this action. The article in question was entitled "Robbery Under Arms" (which I have not seen a copy of) and told about Ned and the gang. Seems that JJK only received a copy of the magazine a year and half later in December of 1943, probably from someone trying to be "helpful." 
He promptly wrote this to the editors on Dec 2 -
"Dear Sir,
In your issue of "Salt" of the 20 June 42, which I received by this morning mail, you have done violence to indisputable historical facts, on pages 2 to 6, both inclusive, in reference to Ned, Dan, and Jim Kelly, and their father John Kelly.
Jim Kelly is still living, and the libel which brings you within the law is contained in the following statement :
"Jim, only a year older, (than Dan) got 20 years penal servitude for robbery and violence."

Official records definitely prove the false and malicious nature of this statement. Jim Kelly, over 80 years old, is the most popular man today in the Kelly country. I confidently hope that on your attention being called to this libel you will offer through me ample reparation to Mr. Jim Kelly.
Through my book, "The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuer," I have been recognised as the only living reliable authority on the Kelly gang. Up-to-date, no one has challenged a sentence in my book - now the recognised standard work on the subject."

Three weeks went past and he got no reply so he wrote again on Dec. 22. In that letter he kept on about how the libel  attacks the "veracity and prestige" of his book and how the libel had damaged the value of his copyright and so forth. He then said "My case must come first, that of Jim Kelly will naturally follow." (my question is was Jim even consulted about any of this?) Somewhere along the way, Kenneally even showed up at the Melbourne offices of Salt's publisher!

After a while "Salt" published an apology in their magazine and internal memos show that they said "it is recommended no further action is taken."
In one of the memos it shows where they went to the historical archives and found that Jim had been sentenced to five years gaol back in 1873 instead of the 20 as had been wrongly reported. In other words, they fact-checked a bit after the fact. (You will also remember that while Jim was sentenced to 5 years, he was out in late 1876, but he went back to gaol once again before another year was out.)

In a letter to Kenneally, "Salt" magazine said this -

"The book of which you are the author is not referred to in the article and your fear that  the veracity and prestige of your copyright has in some way been damaged by an erroneous statement published in Salt is considered to be without any real foundation. It is regretted that the error was made and it is hoped that the publication of the apology will be satisfactory and acceptable to you."
In other words, he fought the army and the army won!

Why could he not have politely written them pointing out the mistake and then ask for a retraction or apology rather than just come charging out of the chute with talk of lawsuits and wanting ample reparation and carrying on in such a way talking about his brand being hurt and being self-appointed Kelly family censor and avenger? He wasted all of that energy, everybody's time and tons of goodwill, all over a simple mistake and misunderstanding that a soft word could have turned aside. Good grief!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Find of the Century? - with photo scans courtesy of Capt. Jack [Sharon Hollingsworth]



The Find of the Century?
The Kelly world is all abuzz about the alleged new Ned Kelly photo that has emerged from the shadows. Matt Shore of Beechworth's Ned Kelly Vault has whipped everyone into a frenzy as he has been giving tantalizing teasers about it. A precious few people have been allowed sneak peeks at it, though (but, not me). There have been news articles  and radio interviews about this find. In one of those interviews it was said that the photo was taken in "an outside bush setting and has two men posed in period working attire." Captain Jack Hoyle said to me a while back that it sounded suspiciously like the alleged Ned and Dan cutting wood photo in the 2002 Christie's auction catalog (that had the Gentleman Ned photo on the cover, a photo that was proven to not be Ned after all).

Blurb from the catalog for the photo we are discussing -

"Ned and Dan Kelly Cutting Sleepers, mounted sepia print, 110x150 mm.

A spidery blue ink inscription on the back is partly decipherable. It appears to refer to 'Ned & Dan'. Certainly, some descendents believe that the two men in the photo are Dan Kelly, at left, and Ned. However, the photo itself and the men's clothing suggest a date in the 1890s, more than 10 years after the brothers' deaths. The moustached man at the left is too old to be Dan Kelly (he died at 19) though the second man, with a half-grown beard, strongly resembles Ned Kelly. It is true that while Ned Kelly was growing his beard after release from prison in February 1874, he worked at a sawmill. But these two axemen do not look like part of a commercial operation, and, as already noted, they wear bush clothing that belongs to the 1890s rather than the 1870s.
In 1995, Ned Kelly's niece, Elsie Pettifer, told Ian Jones that she believed the two men to be her father, Walter Knight, and his brother-in-law, Jack Kelly/King. Jones accepts this identification, though Kelly pictorial expert Keith McMenomy is still tempted to believe that the right hand figure is Ned Kelly. The photograph has never been published. The mount is badly stained and torn but the image is completely undamaged."

At first I thought, hmm, maybe what the Vault has is a variation on that photo? Or a completely different one? Could it be the same one? If the same one, why didn't any of the folks who got the early bird views tell them (that is if they even knew)? I know would have if I would have been part of that whole circle. If it is the same one, how could someone say like Matt Shore did in an interview that "Just a few months ago nobody knew about the image." He also said "It is quite incredible that such a photo could be held by the family for 130 years and the public not know about it." He called it the "find of the century" and elaborated on about how the Kelly family owner did not want it shown online and only wanted it in a museum setting, etc. Then John Suta was interviewed after seeing the elusive photo and said that Ned had a paunch in it, and there is a sort of paunch on the guy they think is Ned. He also spoke about woodlots setting and two men, etc. Matt even mentioned the billy can and coat on the stump in the background. I kept wondering, could it be the same photo even though they keep saying no one has seen it save for the family and those close to the Vault management?
While I was taking a couple of months to mull over (ok, not mull, more like agonize over!) Capt. Jack's suggestion that I do a blog post about this whole scenario, it seems that others had been on the hunt and turned up the same conclusion that this could be the alleged Find of the Century  photo. Over at Dee's blog Peter Newman had suggested that the photo was the same one. See for the blog posting. I had commented there saying that Capt Jack and I had been on the trail and arrived at the same conclusion but I had wrung my hands and worried about having egg on my face if this is not the same photo or having folks upset with me for spoiling their surprise if it was. (I told how I was glad that I was not the one to break the story first, though I usually love to get the scoop!)  I told about the scans that Capt Jack had sent me showing the side by side comparison of the figure and the boxing Ned photo, and a closer view of the alleged Ned figure and a close up of the face of the other man. So, I have added those scans here and will post a link at Dee's blog rather than publish there.

I guess time will tell if it is the same photo. If not, it is still interesting for others to see another disputed Ned photo that has not been widely circulated until now.

Note that I did not want to make these photos too big because they would pixelate way too much.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Link to new journal article: Ned Kelly's Last Words by Dr. Stuart Dawson

 Stuart Dawson has done it again! He has written a well-researched and in-depth article entitled "Ned Kelly's Last Words" for our edification and enjoyment.  As usual, he has done extensive footnoting for the article.

Here is a copy of the email he has sent out to interested parties -

Hi, as you had some past interest or concern with Ned Kelly issues, you may be interested in a new journal article that rediscovers and reveals Ned Kelly’s actual last words.

Abstract:  It has long been widely, even admiringly, held that Ned Kelly’s last words before execution were ‘Such is life’. This is a key part of a prevalent Kelly mythology that has been subject to little serious critique. Yet the attribution of the phrase ‘Such is life’ to Kelly is pure fiction. Analysis of the reportage of the day recovers Kelly’s actual last words, and explains how they were transmuted by one journalist into the catchy expression quoted as fact by many historians. It shows that the image of Kelly standing tall and defiant, saying ‘Such is life’ as the rope was placed around his neck, is nothing but a highly romanticised myth. In fact Kelly came to an ignominious, mumbling end on the scaffold, a far cry from popular legend.

The article can be downloaded by Googling “Eras Journal” to reach the latest issue (18.1, August 2016), or directly from this link:

Please pass this note on to others who may be interested in this topic.


Stuart Dawson

Monash University

You will remember that Stuart Dawson had previously written an article called "Redeeming Fitzpatrick: Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick Incident" for the Eras Journal last year that caused quite a stir in the Kelly world.  I had reported on that here -

And here is the direct link to the Fitzpatrick article -

Let's hope that in the future Stuart uses his skills and talent to tackle other highly contested Kelly subjects. Whether you agree with any of his findings or not, you have to admit that anything that keeps Ned Kelly in the spotlight is a good thing. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Flashback: Mr. Nolan Goes to Glenrowan [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Here is yet another blast from the past from the now defunct glenrowan1880 site which was run by Dave White. This was written by me and originally published back in May of 2004. I put it here because there have been discussions at that are relevant to this.

Nolan in Glenro

Nearly everyone worldwide is familiar with Sir Sidney
Nolan and his paintings of Ned Kelly featuring the iconic black square helmet. I had been under the impression he had only done the 27 paintings known as 'The Ned Kelly Series' which were first shown
publicly in 1948 and are still drawing crowds today as the exhibition travels around the country and the globe. Come to find out he had done dozens of major paintings of Ned Kelly starting in 1945 and right on up into his later decades of life, as well as an incalculable number of Ned Kelly drawings and sketches. Not all featured the familiar black helmet
either. A few showed us Ned's face, most notably "Death of a Poet" completed in 1954.

I recently acquired the book SIDNEY NOLAN by T. G. Rosenthal (Thames & Hudson, 2002). Mixed in among the hundreds of illustrations of Nolan's
major works is information on his life which gives insight into what shaped him and his art. It seems that Sidney Nolan's grandfather was in
the Victorian Police Force in the 1870s and took part in the Kelly hunt. Certainly he must have regaled his grandson with stories of his bushranger chasing days. Something surely lit Nolan's wick as regards
Ned Kelly. By 1945 when he was in his late 20s, Nolan had done his first Ned Kelly painting. Later that year, he and a mate, Max Harris, decided
to visit Kelly country and began planning a visit to Glenrowan. Certainly the Glenrowan then was a far cry from the Glenrowan of now. Tourists were not welcome at all. In preparation for the trip, Nolan
read J. J. Kenneally's "The Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers" (which had been newlsy revised in 1945) and the 1881 Royal Commission. Thus armed, the two young men took a "road trip." They arrived in Glenrowan and soon the game was in full swing. Strike one: Nolan and Harris go to the nearest pub and loudly declare free drinks for anyone who will talk to them about Ned Kelly. Dead silence. They drink alone. Strike two: The pair make their way next day to the police station in all anticipation to ask about any Kelly records/archives available to view. After a brief exchange of words, the last being " immediately", they have their third strike: they cross paths with Jim Kelly (well into advanced age, he would die the following year). When Nolan asked if he was Ned's brother,
Jim retorted with "Yes I am, but it is none of your business!" Thus somewhat chastened and practically chased (though not literally!) they headed back to Melbourne. Even with all the stonewalling and rejection, Nolan must have picked up something there in Glenrowan to inspire him and to keep the wick burning bright. Within less than two years he had painted 45 Ned Kelly paintings, parts of which formed the aforementioned 1948 gallery showing.

Ned Kelly inspired Sidney Nolan  and, through his paintings, Ned lives on recognised by many around the world who have no clue as to his story and
what he did, but thanks to Sidney Nolan they at least know that such a man lived! And what a man! And thus, thanks to Ned Kelly we all know who
Sidney Nolan was too. Legend begets legend!