A little background and introduction: I am Sharon Hollingsworth and my co-blogger is Dr. Brian F. Stevenson. We have been carrying on quite a lively long distance correspondence for the past several years. It was through participation in a Kelly Gang discussion forum where we first met and subsequently contacted each other off forum about a point, and hit it off like gangbusters (pardon the pun).
Brian is Client Services and Reference Librarian at the Tropical North Queensland TAFE in Cairns, Queensland, has authored several books and made it all the way to the grand finals of the Einstein Factor (with Ned Kelly as his area of expertise) in 2005. He has also publicly debated Councillor Paul Tully in Ipswich, QLD on the subject of whether or not Dan Kelly escaped.
Many in the Kelly world know of me as I am the American woman who has contributed to a few Ned Kelly sites in the distant past (circa 2002/03) and then at the Glenrowan1880 and Nedonthenet sites where I used to have my own "View From Abroad" page where I wrote about different aspects of the Kelly Gang saga and I have contributed other news, information and assistance during the past several years.
Brian and I worked together on an expose about the Kate Kelly gun that was on auction a while back that was alleged to have belonged to Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick and said to have been left behind during the "Fitzpatrick incident." We were able to show evidence that the gun was not left at the Kelly house at Eleven Mile Creek that fateful day in April 1878 and was instead given back to Fitzpatrick and was later produced in court.
We hope our new collaboration will stand the same test of time that our wonderful friendship has.
And from Brian:
And I form the other half of this dedicated but unlikely partnership.
Ned Kelly has been part of my life for over 40 years.
When I was a kid, I was given the three volume Australian junior encyclopaedia, a worthy endeavour that gave information to kids on all sorts of Aussie subjects in a form that they could readily understand. Well, I assume that it did, but somehow I never really got to read much about coral, wattle trees, marsupials and the coal industry, because I was particularly intrigued by a four or five page section on Australian bushrangers. Which I read. And read. And read.
The encyclopedia still exists, and the grubbiness of the crucial pages in relation to the pristine condition of the rest of the volume bears mute testimonial to the many times I pored (and pawed) over the very elementary accounts contained therein.
In the summer of 1966, I travelled north from my home town of Brisbane to Far North Queensland. Somewhere on the journey, I acquired a copy of Frank Clune's Ben Hall, Bushranger, and I thrilled to the accounts of Australia's second best known bushranger. Although I was on holidays, I devoured the volume several times. My family took pity on me, and bought me another Clune production, Ned Kelly's last stand. I was hooked. When other family members travelled to Uralla, they brought back a little jar of pebbles from the grave of Thunderbolt. (In those days, kids were really easy to please.)
Many years of reading everything I could brought me many pleasures, and it soon became apparent to me that the Kelly story had everything. Murder, love, betrayal, courage, cowardice, treachery, irony - everything swirled around a poorly educated but charismatic young man who was capable of, at the very least, one deed of almost extraordinary courage, but just hours after plotting, by his own admission, a deed as heinous as any that ever took place on Australian soil up to that time. The enigma of Edward Kelly, on earth for barely a quarter of a century, without social position, money or much education, but the one Australian who, as Manning Clark famously said, will be the one that is remembered one thousand years from now.
2005 brought a couple of Ned-related pleasures, one ephemeral and one enduring. I was privileged to carry the flag for the Greta Mob on a nationally televised quiz show, the ABC's sadly defunct The Einstein Factor. (In the grand final, I came second to Doctor Who, narrowly beating The Novels of Nevil Shute into third place.) The quiz show gave me four trips to Melbourne, a modest perspex trophy, a T-shirt that I resisted washing for a three years afterwards, but now gets worn routinely, even if it is a bit tight these days, and a lot of happy memories.
Best of all, Brian McDonald of Bondi contacted me and told me about a forum devoted to the Ned Kelly, where I met the best Kelly researcher of them all. Sharon Hollingsworth, perplexingly located in rural North Carolina, armed with a computer - running on dialup, no less! - an agile brain, a Protean memory and the wherewithal to put widely and wildly variant pieces of the Kelly mosaic into coherent juxtaposition and perspective. Even more usefully, Sharon has an intellectual curiosity of dimensions that you would not expect to find on a cat farm, and a patience and persistence that I have rarely encountered in a researcher - and after nearly forty years of working in libraries, I have met a few.
For years, Sharon and I have corresponded and shared many insights, and have agreed, always amicably, to agree to disagree. She is a sympathiser, no risk: I am a lot less sympathetic, as will become apparent, but we hope that those who read this blog will benefit from the differing points of view that emerge on all sorts of issues. Sharon and I have also had a lot of fun as well, and we are not above sending up this very serious topic, something which would probably see us excommunicated from other arenas of expression. Differences in outlook notwithstanding, we can always laugh, most of all at ourselves. We certainly enjoy each other's online company, and we hope that you enjoy ours!