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


Sunday, November 4, 2018

FLASHBACK: Did They Really Fire 15,000 Rounds at the Siege of Glenrowan? [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Note that this article was written for the now defunct glenrowan1880 website back in September of 2008. I used what resources I had to hand back then but there may be more out there now that Trove and other books and resources are so readily available.



Have you ever wondered about how many rounds were fired during the
Siege of Glenrowan?

I never did, until I read an article back in May of 2008 wherein the
project director of the Glenrowan Inn Dig said that the siege was a
"brutal gun battle" in which "15,000 rounds were fired." To be fair,
another article stated that "up to 15,000" rounds were fired (so that
gives a slight leeway).

I have no idea where he got that figure from, whether it was from a
book, the archives, or from an historian (and if so, where did
they get it?). I had an immediate kneejerk reaction and knew that the
figure had to have been grossly inflated. It has been on my mind ever
since then, so I decided to look at the facts and figures to see if it were even
possible to have that much firing going on.

First, we need to find out the number of "combatants" involved. There
were 4 members of the Kelly Gang, of course, but let's see how many
police arrived...Superintendent Hare arrived at 3 AM with 7 policemen, along with Sub-Inspector O'Connor and his 5 black trackers. Hare subsequently left the field of battle early on after getting wounded. There were also 4 members of the press and a civilian (Rawlins) who all were able to shoot if necessary, and if arms were available (newspaper reporter Joe Melvin came with his own revolver). Reinforcements did not arrive until after the 5 AM hour when Steele
arrived on horseback with his Wangaratta contingent (with 2 arriving
by train) and Bracken who had ridden there to alert them (this makes 8). Sadleir also arrived during the 5 AM hour with 11 policemen, 2 black trackers and
3 civilians (among those Jesse Dowsett), and around 9 AM Mullane
arrived with 10 more police. A handful more (about 4) showed up at
Noon and Standish and Ward were the latest arrivals, coming to
Glenrowan when it was all over. Given the number of police plus the
outlaws (and taking civilians and reporters out of the equation),
let's distill it down to a good round number we can work with for the sake of argument, maybe say 55 total combatants (your mileage may vary!).

We have established the timeframe for the earliest arrivals at around
3 AM. The end would have been sometime past 3 PM when the Inn was
fired (accounts vary as to the exact time of the firing of it), so it
was around a 12 hour event.

So, our parameters are set. If 15,000 rounds were fired in 12 hours
that would mean that each of the approximate 55 combatants would have
had to have fired on average 273 rounds for the 12 hours, or approximately 23
rounds each per hour. Of course, even allowing for reloading time, it
would be easy for an individual to fire 23 rounds an hour for a
sustained period of twelve hours, but in this case it is not possible
given the other variables present. As shown above, many arrived on the
scene late, and were present for less than 12 hours. No one fired for
anything like twelve hours continuously as there were long lulls in
the firing. Ned himself was hors de combat after five hours and Joe
Byrne was shot and killed even before then.
As for the police, O'Connor testified to the Royal Commission Board that the heaviest firing of the day was before any reinforcements at all had arrived. There was one man there who bragged that he had fired around a hundred rounds that day, BUT there were many who testified that they fired much less and there were many of the police who did not fire a single shot during the entire siege!

The reason why some did not fire at all was that the weapons they had were of no use against the building (such as the breech loading double barrelled shot guns, Spencer rifles and Webley or Colt revolvers), they would only be of
use if the gang were to come outside. Those that had the long
Martini-Henry rifles and the shorter Martini-Henry carbines, and
Snider rifles (O'Connor and his trackers had the latter) were able to
fire at the Inn with effectiveness.

What Sub-Inspector Montfort had later said to the Royal Commission
about the the police in the NE District is very interesting: "They are
armed like a Turkish brigade, with all kinds of weapons." He had
suggested that all the men should be issued Martini-Henry carbines
(supposedly for ease of use and carrying and to make resupply of
ammunition easier too..more on the ammo in a bit..).

Let's look at some more of the information I have gleaned from the
Minutes of Evidence Taken Before Royal Commission On The Police Force
Of Victoria:

During the first volley fired, when there were not so
many on the battleground, it was estimated by one policemen that the
gang fired 40 or 50 shots and that the police fired twice as many.

Constable William Duross said he fired 24 or 25 cartridges from a
Spencer repeating rifle.

Constable Thomas Dowling says he fired about 100 rounds, but that "I
believe several of them did not fire so many."

Constable Arthur had a Martini-Henry Carbine and was served out with
20 rounds when he left Benalla and "kept nearly all of it." He claimed
to have fired 10 rounds at the verandah when the gang had come out and
then Constable Kelly later gave him another 5 rounds.

One man said he fired his Spencer rifle 3 or 4 times (that would be
around 21 cartridges).

Constable Kirkham was armed with a Martini-Henry rifle and testified
that he might have used 40 rounds and had 2 revolvers that he did not
fire at all.

Constable Barry said that he fired 25 shots from a Martini carbine.

Constable Reilly testified that he did not fire at all as he had a
double-barrelled breechloader.

In Hare's party, only he and Constable Canny had the double barrelled
shotguns, and in the Wangaratta contingent, Steele and some of his men
(including Dwyer, who also had a Colt revolver) had them also, but
others in the party had the long Martini-Henry and "old Enfield

Constable Phillips had the Martini-Henry rifle and Sr. Constable Kelly
had the Martini Carbine.

So, we have established that many of the police did not fire at all
and those that did seemed to have fired much less than 100 rounds

Also, they did not fire continuously, they were instructed to only
fire when the outlaws came to the doors or windows or when the gang
fired at them. They were also told to open fire in order to give
cover, such as when Constable Johnston set fire to the Inn, though
some did fire at other times. It was reported that the trackers did
indiscriminate and heavy firing and a few days after the siege one of
the constables who revisited the siege site found many shell casings
in the trench or what the Commission (and others) referred to as "the

Regarding the ammunition situation, the regulation number of rounds was:
20 balls Martini....24 for guns....18 for revolvers.

However, they got extra ammunition during the siege.

George Allen said that he and the other reporters on the platform "had
emptied the [train] van of all its contents, the luggage and
ammunition, and stuff to find ammunition for the men, a lot of the
saddles and stuff, and piled those up.."

A telegram was sent to Benalla to send up more ammunition, also.

According to Sgt. Whelan, there was a small cask with Martini-Henry
and Carbine Rifle ammunition (which held 500 rounds) and not all of
that was used and there was lots of loose ammunition besides that.

Reporter McWhirter testified that:

"Many of the men had taken wrong ammunition with them, and the
consequences was that they had to send back for ammunition, and Mr.
Melvin and myself sorted the carbine and Martini Henry ammunition and
gave it out to the men as the messengers came to the station for it."

Rawlins took the first lot out (and had taken the wrong kind and had
to go back for the correct kind...I am wondering if that is what
McWhirter might have been referring to? or was it a separate event?)
and then Sr. Constable Kelly took some around and Phillips came for

One of the Royal Commissioners made this statement about the Glenrowan
siege: "It has been stated there was a great deal of ammunition
uselessly expended there."

That statement may be true, but there is no way that 15,000 rounds
were expended given all the evidence!

Something that Max Brown said in "Australian Son" about the sending
for of a cannon to blow down the Inn to get Steve and Dan to surrender
sounds slightly more reasonable as to how much firepower and ordance
might have been used that day (at least on the police end):

"As if 2,000 bullets and fifty troopers were not enough!"

If that figure is close to being right (and I have no idea if it is or
not, even considering all the criteria from above), then I seriously
doubt that the 4 outlaws fired off the remaining 13,000 rounds!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Link to Dr. Stuart Dawson's Latest Myth Busting Article

Dr. Stuart Dawson, who is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Monash University, has become well known in Kelly circles as being something of a meticulous myth buster. His latest effort is a blog post examining and challenging the popular notion that Ned Kelly's famed "Last Stand" with police at Glenrowan lasted half an hour. Stuart has compared reports and eyewitness testimonies and has come up with a far different timeline. It is entitled "How Long Was Ned Kelly's Last Stand?" and can be read over at

Other myth busting efforts Stuart has done (not including all of the varied comments he has made at the Kelly Legend Blog) are as follows -

Redeeming Fitzpatrick: Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick Incident

Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North-eastern Victoria

Ned Kelly's Last Words: "Ah, Well, I Suppose"

Ned Kelly's Shooting of George Metcalf, Labourer

Friday, September 21, 2018

Flashback: John Molony interview from 2006

 With the recent passing of Professor John Molony ( I recalled this 2006 interview Dave White conducted with him via email correspondence that had been on Dave's  glenrowan1880 website.


Professor Molony, I would like to take this opportunity to
thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us
here at Glenrowan1880. It is truly an honour.
For those who perhaps are not familiar with your academic career,
I will take a moment to give just a few of your impressive credentials
if I may.
John Neylon Molony has previously been Professor of History and Manning
Clark Professor of Australian History at the Australian National
University, Canberra, Keith Cameron Professor of Australian History at
University College, Dublin and Foundation Research Professor of the
Australian Catholic University. He is currently Visiting Fellow,
Australian Dictionary of Biography, at the Australian National

 Now on to my questions.

DAVE WHITE:   Professor Molony, your book, "I am Ned Kelly" (1980,
reissued as "Ned Kelly," 2001) is a seminal work, a true classic in its
field. It is very well researched, and in it you present many
interesting theories, some in variance to other modern Kelly authors. In
the preface you state: "In the end it all remained a matter of trying to
understand, to unravel the tangled skein of a life over which legend
cast its spell so that reality has become secondary." It does seem that
Ned Kelly took on the status of legend and myth even while he lived. You
have done much to give us all a greater understanding of Ned Kelly, the
man, especially as concerns the Irish Catholic aspect of his background.
Much of that information I found to be quite illuminating.
I would like to ask you when was it that you decided to do a biography
of Ned Kelly? Up until that point, did Ned Kelly have a hold on your
imagination or have a special significance to you (as an historian)?
Also, has your interest in (or love for) Ned's story diminished at all
since the publication of "I am Ned Kelly" 25 years ago?

JOHN MOLONY:  I decided to write my Kelly book in 1978 as a reaction to
a decision taken by a Victorian anniversaries committee not to commemorate
the centenary of Ned's death in 1980. To the members of that committee Ned was
unworthy of any recognition, but to me any attempt to eliminate his
memory was both absurd and futile.
It was absurd because most Australians, irrespective of whether they
judge Ned harshly or favourably, accept that his memory is woven into the
psyche of the nation. It was futile because legends are created by the
people as a kind of spontaneous response to a phenomenon that strikes a
chord in their being. Ned is an Australian legend and the people will
not relinquish their legends at the whim of right-minded, but
unrepresentative, conservatives. "As brave as Ned Kelly" is not a phrase
lightly lost.
Up to the time of my decision to write about Ned I had been uneasy about
him because he did not fit into the framework of my own Irish Catholic
background, which was essentially middle class and conformist. I was
only vaguely aware of the harshness pervading the economic and social
circumstances that had shaped Ned and entirely ignorant of the
persecution to which the Kelly clan had been subjected by the police and
other authorities. It had struck me as odd that no academic historian
had written a life of Kelly. Why were they silent on a national figure?
I can only say that my respect for Ned has in no sense diminished and I
hold him in higher esteem than I did in the 1980s. I do so because I
have become more fully aware of how anyone who departs from the norm,
much more anyone who rejects the norm, suffers when the organs of wealth
and so called respectability are fused in support of a government
determined to control society according to its own standards. For one
like Ned the situation becomes far worse when the authorities conclude
that they must protect society from anyone they judge to be a threat to
its well-being.

DAVE WHITE:  How long did "I am Ned Kelly" take from the first bit of
research to the last touches on the manuscript when it was finally
pronounced finished? Of course, all that was being done between your
family and work obligations, too, wasn't it? Not an easy task, I am
sure, as I am finding out for myself as I work on a book.

JOHN MOLONY:  Throughout the two and a half years I spent in researching
and writing Ned I was mostly confined to my desk in Canberra as head of the History
Department here at the Australian National University. However I enjoyed
the inestimable assistance of Robin Carter who undertook a great deal of
useful research for me in Melbourne and especially in the State
Archives. The involvement of my family was a day-to-day affair and I
dedicated my Ned to my four children. I left the dedication of my book
on Eureka to my wife who was born in Ballarat.
It was never an easy task to write about Ned. We must remember that Ned
partly became a legend because others spoke on his behalf and they began
to do so in ballads even in his own lifetime. Except in the Jerilderie
letter and when he was in the dock, Ned had few chances to speak for
himself. Those who persecuted him, the police and the government,
created his records, as well as those of his mates and of his people.
This helps to explain why it is not easy to come close to Ned because
much of what we know of him is coloured by the way his enemies have told
their own crooked story of him.
Sidney Nolan told me that he was driven by a sense of guilt because his
grandfather was one of the police who hunted Ned. As a result he
repeatedly struggled valiantly in his endeavour to make Ned live a
little for us. Yet it happens often in his paintings that you look at
the helmet and Ned is not there -  you see through the helmet and
there is only the land. Nolan wanted it that way and I am sure Ned, who
loved the land, would accept that Sid did it well. But to me the
important thing is that we all share a kind of empty legend. That makes
it possible for us to fill it out with the Ned who says something to us
and to the land from which he sprang.

DAVE WHITE:  The Siege of Glenrowan has always been the most fascinating
aspect of the Kelly story to me. Could you give us a brief overview/synopsis of
the Siege and Ned Kelly's Last Stand from your point of view telling us
what it means to you and also why the event was so important from an
historical viewpoint? Also, Professor, the theory put forth about the
"rebellion" Ned had planned has always perplexed me. Could you shed some
light on this? Also do you think that documentation for this rebellion
actually exists?

JOHN MOLONY:  In all that I wrote about Ned I took his own account of
his life as my starting point. In other words I believed what he said of himself and
continued to do so unless I found evidence to the contrary. I never
caught him out in a lie. As an example, I believed Ned when he wrote in
the Jerilderie letter that he was not in Victoria when Fitzpatrick
visited the Greta home on 15 April 1878. All the evidence proved that
Fitzpatrick was both a scoundrel and a liar and it was inconceivable to
me that Ned could have stood within a few feet of the constable, shot at
him several times in a room half full of women and children, missed his
target but hit him in the wrist. It sounded like a stupidly foolish
concoction to me, which Fitzpatrick had to make up to explain why he was
at the home in the first place as well as to cover his tracks in case he
was accused of attempting to rape Kate. In other words I believed Ned
and there is evidence for my belief. I find it incomprehensible why
anyone would accept the word of Fitzpatrick rather than that of Ned
about an incident bearing all the hallmarks of a lie.
We must put the Siege at Glenrowan in its proper context and see it also
in the light of what we know of Ned's personality. The context is one of
sheer desperation. Things had gone on and on without resolve. Meanwhile
Mrs Kelly languished in prison. The police were clearly incompetent and
the likelihood that they would ever catch the boys unless they gave
themselves up was increasingly remote. The matter had to be brought to a
head, but on Ned's terms and Glenrowan seemed the solution. We know that
it was unlikely to have succeeded, but to Ned something had to be tried.
The one discordant note is the intended murder of unsuspecting police
and completely innocent civilians. The scenario does not fit Ned's
personality in any sense. In cold blood he could have killed McIntyre;
he could have killed police and civilians at any time and especially in
Jerilderie. He killed when his own life was at stake and that only
happened at Stringybark Creek. The whole incident at Glenrowan with the
train and the rails is explicable and I have endeavoured to make it so
in my chapter - A Still, Cold Night. Again I cannot understand some
writers who put themselves forward as Ned's defenders, but make him out
as cold-blooded monster intent on murder. Had he been that, I for one
would have not written a single line about him. Is it possible that they
do so because they want to make Ned out to be what he was not a man
intent on overthrowing all the structures of society and thus using
bloody means to do so?
A member of the Kelly clan told me that he had seen an old exercise book
some years later in which he saw minutes of the meetings at which a
rebellion and republic of the northeast had been planned. That Ned, and
others, with either memories or knowledge of Ireland and its miseries,
were capable of conceiving such a plan is clearly possible. That they
carried it beyond hope is a matter requiring further study and research.

DAVE WHITE:  Professor Molony, do you ever get up to Glenrowan and the
environs these days? Do you attend any Kelly events? What about the 2003
Ned Kelly movie? Did you see it? Do you try to keep up with all the
latest doings in the Kelly world?

JOHN MOLONY:  I passed through Glenrowan a year or so ago, but generally
I have little to do with anything pertaining to Ned although my interest in him
remains undiminished. I did not see the film, but I am sorry it was not
as successful as many hoped it would be. Perhaps that is an example of
what I mean when I say that it is not easy to come close to Ned who
remains his own man. However, I am vain enough to think that I did my
best for his memory and that best, humble as it is, has endured.
It is for others now to take the legend further, but it must be made to
live or it will die. Ned abhorred injustice and thirsted after justice
for himself and for others. He did not think of it that way, but at the
least he knew what it was to get less than a fair go and he reacted when
he saw others, especially his own people getting anything but a fair go.
Perhaps that is the key to why Ned's legend endures. The danger is that,
if we leave it as a hollow affirmation, the legend of Ned will itself
begin to ring as futile and the people will forget him in time. There
are some questions we could ask which are not far from Ned and his time.
Are we just to the poor, or are we allowing the gap between the poor and
the rich to get wider every year? Are we prepared to continue as a
nation bowed down in subservience to a seemingly greater power whose
bidding we do even when it results in injustice to others? Will we stand
up and struggle for a republic of the free, or will we acquiesce in
remaining tied to a distant and meaningless monarchy? Have we been just
to those who fled here as refugees? Will we treat those we accuse of
being terrorists with justice?
They are a few of the problems that face our society, but Ned would not
have stood idly by or remained mute before them. We cannot give flesh to
his legend by mere words, writing about him and speaking about him. He
wanted a changed and better society - what do we want?

DAVE WHITE:  I know that you have written several books. Besides the one
on Ned, you are well known for authoring "Eureka" (1984, reissued in
2001). I am also aware that you have a very active interest in the
events surrounding the Eureka Stockade and that you have been involved
with the Eureka Stockade Memorial Trust. Surely last year, 2004, was a
most exciting and busy one for you as the Eureka 150th anniversary was
celebrated. Would you care to tell us a bit about your work with the
Trust? Also, if I am not mistaken, in 2006 Ballarat will be the host
city for the World Conference of Historical Cities. That should do much
to project the Eureka Stockade and its significance onto the
international stage. To your knowledge are there any "Eureka" themed
events planned to capitalise on that function?

JOHN MOLONY:  I wrote my Eureka almost in the same context as I did my
Ned. To me both have become legends that are closely related to the development of
Australian nationality. Because Eureka is seen, rightly, as the
birthplace of our democracy, it is assuming a formative and educative
role in our society.
My grandfather was a young digger in the Stockade on the morning of 3
December 1854 when the military and police murdered at least thirty
diggers. Thus I am a member of Eureka's Children, which is a body that
welcomes anyone descended from those connected with Eureka in 1854. The
Trust, based in Ballarat, is now known as an Association. It is the
principal body devoted to Eureka. It has been chiefly responsible for
the development of the new Stockade and it was heavily involved in the
events at the end of last year when we celebrated the 150th anniversary
of Eureka. They were a resounding success.
Both the Association and Eureka's Children are trying to make a concrete
contribution to Australian democracy. Recently the Association has been
involved in procuring a scholarship for a young student from West Papua
to enroll at one of our universities. Clearly, both bodies will
contribute positively and significantly to the World Conference of
Historical Cities to be held in Ballarat in 2006. Without Eureka the
significance of Ballarat would scarcely warrant its recognition on a
world scale any more than other cities such as Bendigo or Ararat based
on their connection with gold. It is Eureka that makes Ballarat unique
in Australia.

DAVE WHITE:  Other than Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade, you have many
varied interests, ranging from Australian Rules Football to promoting
Italian culture through the Dante Alighieri Society. You do lectures and
presentations, give speeches, and write articles, as well as write books
as alluded to above. You have had over a dozen different book titles in
print, haven't you? I have mentioned the Ned and Eureka ones, and am
working up to discussing your autobiography in a bit, but do you have
any other titles you would like to make mention of that the readers
might find of interest?

JOHN MOLONY:  Despite my writing the semi-official history of Australia
for our bicentenary in 1988 [The Penguin Bicentennial History of Australia] I
think my book, The Native-Born : the first white Australians,
published by Melbourne University Press in 2000, will eventually be
judged as my most significant original contribution to the writing of
Australian history. I say this because the native-born had never been
given the serious consideration they deserve for their contribution to
the making of our nation. More than any other element, including the
convict element, they made us what we in large measure remain today.
Two other books were of some significance. My The Roman Mould of the
Australian Catholic Church [MUP 1969] helped to change the popular
judgement of the Catholic Church in Australia from seeing it as an
exclusively Irish phenomenon to understanding it as part of the
Romanization of the Church in the English speaking world in the 19th
century. An Architect of Freedom- John Hubert Plunkett in New South
Wales1832 to 1869 [ANU Press, 1973] explored the transition of early
Australia from a convict prison to a free society. As Attorney General,
Plunkett's task was to guide that transition under the rule of law. His
tragedy was that he never succeeded, despite repeated and courageous
attempts, to include the Aboriginal even though he sent seven white men
to the gallows for the murder of thirty Aboriginals at Myall Creek in
New South Wales in 1838. He repeatedly tried to have Aboriginal evidence
accepted in the courts, but was rebuffed both in Sydney and London.
I have always been intensely interested in struggles for freedom and
against tyranny. For that reason I wrote a history of a political party
in Italy that fought against Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, but was
eventually done to death in 1926. Despite its unfortunate and wordy
title The emergence of political Catholicism in Italy- Partito Popolare
1919-1926, [Croom Helm, London, 1977] the book is now recognized as the
principal contribution to our knowledge of that important political
party which, under Alcide De Gasperi, in the post war period, defended
Italy from a Communist takeover.
In somewhat the same vein I wrote a life of the noble Irish Protestant
patriot, A soul came into Ireland - Thomas Davis [Geography Press,
Dublin, 1995]. In 1995 on the 15th anniversary of Davis's death, the
book was launched at Trinity College Dublin where Davis was educated, by
the then Prime Minister of Ireland. Davis is chiefly remembered today by
his splendid and ringing ballad, 'A nation once again' which is still
sung in Ireland and in parts of the world to which the Irish migrated.
My interest in the workers' movements as expressed at a political level
and in the trade unions led me to study the making of an encyclical by
Pope Leo XIII which was the first treatment of the worker question by
the papacy. The book was entitled The Worker Question: a new historical
perspective on 'Rerum Novarum' [Collins Dove, 1991] I had to spend a
year researching the extensive material on the background to, and
writing of, the encyclical held in the Vatican Archives in Rome.
Published in 1891 the encyclical is the foundation stone of all papal
teaching on the social question and on social justice.
In the near future Australian Scholarly Publishing will bring out my
Australia our Heritage. It is a history of Australia with a long chapter
at the beginning dealing with the civilization of the Aboriginal people
before white settlement. I preferred to use Heritage rather than History
because too frequently we regard our past, though we may treasure it, as
of no consequence in the present. We inherit the past and we are made by
it. Our history is our most important heritage as a nation.

DAVE WHITE:  I have read with interest where you have donated decades
worth of your papers, correspondence, lecture material, reports,
manuscript drafts, research materials and the like to the National
Library of Australia. What a wonderful gesture and a generous gift.
Being an historian, you are well aware of the importance and
significance of documenting a well-lived life for posterity. To that
end, you have also written and recently published "Luther's Pine: An
Autobiography" (Pandanus Books, 2004). It tells of your childhood on a
farm in Victoria and how you and your family managed to survive the
Great Depression and all about your life up until the day you were
ordained as a Catholic priest in 1950. It sounds like a very moving and
inspiring story. Would you like to tell our readers something more about
the book? Also would you tell the readers what the title "Luther's Pine"
is in reference to? And, lastly, Professor, might we expect a follow up
autobiography detailing your life in the Church, your leaving of the
priesthood, your illustrious career in academics and all other aspects
up to the present day?
I am sure it would make for a fascinating read!

JOHN MOLONY:  Luther's Pine has been well reviewed and Phillip Adams
interviewed me about it on Australia Day. I am now researching my correspondence with a
view to a further volume. When Martin Luther visited Rome as a young
monk in 1519 he is said to have stood under a pine looking over at St
Peters and the Vatican and praying that he would not be corrupted by the
morals of the Roman clergy. In 1947, when I was a young student for the
priesthood in Rome, I often stood under the same pine, by then ancient
and leaning so badly that scaffolding held it up. I also prayed. The
pine is long since gone. It was removed to prevent its falling on those
who stood under it!

DAVE WHITE: Professor Molony, I wish to again thank you for your time
and for your willingness to answer the questions I have presented, you
are truly a scholar and a gentleman.
I hope to speak with you again soon.

I would also like to thank Sharon Hollingsworth for her assistance in the
formulating of these questions for Professor Molony.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Supt. Sadleir Trolls the Telegraph Workers [Sharon Hollingsworth]

The Siege of Glenrowan had been in full swing and Ned Kelly himself was already captured and Joe Byrne was confirmed dead by the time a train arrived that Monday morning, June 28, 1880 around 9 AM carrying police reinforcements from Beechworth. Along for the ride were three civilians - Jack Sherritt (Aaron Sherritt's brother) and two men connected with the post & telegraph office. One of them was Henry Edwin Cheshire, Beechworth's postmaster and the other was William Osborne, telegraph line-repairman.

Cheshire had been the telegraph operator to first relay news on Sunday the 27th to the authorities of Aaron Sherritt's murder which had occurred the previous night.

Prior to the arrival of Cheshire and Osborne news of the siege had to be carried out by train or horseback and then telegraphed from other towns that had telegraph stations, which Glenrowan did not. However, telegraph lines ran right past the railway station and due to the ingenuity and enterprise of Cheshire & Osborne they made real-time on the ground reporting a reality for the gentlemen of the press as well as made communication for the police much easier.

The Railway Station at Glenrowan featuring the telegraph pole William Osborne climbed.  Photographer: J. Bray. First published July 5, 1880. Courtesy of State Library Victoria.

In two separate, but similar, written narratives, Cheshire details his role in the Glenrowan affair.

 The Williamstown Chronicle of July 10, 1880 states -

"Mr. H. E. Cheshire, who for many years was stationed at Williamstown, but is now in-charge of the Beechworth post
and telegraph office writing relative to the recent Kelly tragedy, says: On Sunday when we got word of the gang being at the Woolshed 4 miles from here, and that they had shot Sherritt, the excitement was fearful, of course the wires were kept going as hard as we could lick,  but my operator and I proved ourselves equal to the occasion. On Monday morning when we heard they were all down at Glenrowan, and playing high jinks, I determined to take down a small pocket telegraph instrument, cut the wires there, and put the place in telegraphic communication. We were successful in completing It under showers of bullets from the outlaws who were in Jones' hotel, about 90 yards from where I was, a bullet came very adjacent to me that was all, the excitement was intense, I went down with the police, took a revolver with me in case of coming to close quarters. But Kelly was wounded and captured by the time we got down, and was in the building where I was all day, I had a lot of conversation with him, he is a good looking fellow and very civil to talk to. Kate Kelly and her other two sisters came during the day to nurse Ned. She is a nice looking girl. Byrne was brought in dead during the afternoon and was lying at my feet the rest of the day. Mr. James thanked and complimented me freely on behalf of the Department for the action I had taken."

In a memorandum sent to the Postmaster General dated June 29, 1880 which is part of the Kelly Reward Board papers Cheshire states -

"...Early on Monday morning we got word of the Glenrowan affair, there being no telegraphic communication with that place, and having small pocket instrument here I determined to accompany the police to the scene of trouble. We left here at 7:45 AM taking line repairer Osborne. On arrival we cut Number 3 wire whilst bullets were flying about in all directions and led into a room at the railway station about 90 yards from where the outlaws were under cover at Jones' Hotel, and were immediately in through communication which was constantly availed of by press, public and police, everything worked well but being alone all day I found it somewhat difficult under the disadvantages I had to work the room being constantly besieged by people eager to see the dead body of Byrne which was at my feet and Ned Kelly being wounded in the next room..."

In the Argus of July 30, 1880 there was an article about the monthly meeting of The Victorian Telegraph Electrical Society.
In part it said -

"The hon. secretary of the society then read a communication from Mr. H. E. Cheshire,detailing his adventures at Glenrowan during the fight

with the Kelly gang. Mr. Cheshire volunteered to accompany the police party from Beechworth in search of the gang, and with the assistance of Mr. Osborne, the telegraph line-repairer who climbed the telegraph pole at Glenrowan amidst a storm of bullets succeeded in opening a special office, and communicated direct to Melbourne full particulars of the affair, nearly 100,000 words of press news being telegraphed. Mr.

Cheshire's experience was justly looked on as a remarkable instance of what may happen to a telegraph operator in Victoria."

There was this bit in the Weekly Times of July 10, 1880 -

"In connection with the Kelly tragedy very little mention is made of Mr. Osborne, the line repairer, who pluckily climbed the telegraph pole at Glenrowan, and affixed a wire to the railway line, from whence it was carried into the station-master's room, where a pocket instrument was unflaggingly worked by Mr. H. Cheshire, of Beechworth. Mr. Osborne, during the time he was climbing the pole, became a target for the outlaws' guns; and more credit is due to him in consequence of his being obliged to repeat the same performance some hours after, when the fixings got out of repair."

The only thing I could find that might possibly confirm that second climb is a letter to the editor in the Herald of November 14, 1930 entitled "Memories of the Kelly Gang Capture." It was from Alfred Tymms, who was an 11 year old telegraph messenger (his father was postmaster at Heathcote) at the time of the siege. The news summoning police came through their station. He mentioned Mr. Cheshire -

"Some time after this we had a relieving postmaster, Mr. Harry Cheshire, at Heathcote. He was the man who went with the police train from Beechworth and he showed me all the notes he had how he erected the wires at Glenrowan and the engine fouled them, and he had to erect them again and put on his field telegraph to send the Press messages to Melbourne from the Glenrowan railway station, which had no telegraph installed then."

According to the Victoria Govt Gazette of April 1, 1881, Mr. Cheshire was appointed acting Receiving and Paymaster at Heathcote during the absence of Henry Tymms, so this would seem to verify this account.

All of these letters and articles are full of exciting and fascinating stuff. First, this guy, Cheshire, had a taste for adventure and actually was value added to the situation. According to The Herald newspaper there were 90,000 words telegraphed to Sydney papers alone, while the article above says over 100,000 words sent. Just imagine how many went to the Melbourne papers with the operative word being "over." This guy did all of the telegraphic work himself on a pocket key instrument, not a full size regular one that would have been much easier to use. Pocket keys were generally meant to be used by line repairmen to diagnose trouble on the line. As an aside, the cutting in to a telegraph wire to gain communication was something that was done by Confederates during the American Civil War. What they would do was throw a  wire over the telegraph lines, cut into one, and tap in to the break with a pocket key like Cheshire had. The Rebels with the aid of trained telegraphers who were sympathetic to the Cause would listen in on transmissions and would find out troop movements or would intercept messages and then send on their own bogus ones (causing encryption to eventually come into play) and at times just for the heck of it they would actually heckle the operator who was transmitting at the time. Too bad the Kelly gang did not have a telegraph operator as a sympathiser! All the gang could do all along previous to Glenrowan was chop down the poles (lucky for them they were still wood, later on many would be replaced with iron ones), cut the lines or smash the instruments. According to Supt. Hare in his memoir "Last of the Bushrangers", there were even some occurrences of telegraph service being interrupted during the Kelly hunt at a certain spot every night for a certain amount of time and the authorities surmised that it was due to someone throwing a wire over the line and then grounding it, thus affecting the service between towns. In one particular instance, with Mr. Hare in attendance, a linesman had actually been hoisted up to test the wires to see if if current was being passed holding the wire between his teeth! Yes, remarkable things really do happen to Victorian telegraph workers.

But back to the siege, I am surprised that members of the public were allowed use of the telegraphic services during that time. I would think that it would be reserved solely for police, government, railway and press use only (hello, Mr. Melvin!).

 Also of interest was where Joe Byrne's body laid at Cheshire's feet while he worked. Cheshire sent out word of the Gang's capture and demise with one of them literally dead at his feet. Quite the image.
Also, odd is the letting in of any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanted to see the body and pester Ned. Amazing, as these days the traps would have a perimeter set up a mile away you would not be able to cross!

Mr. Cheshire's Kelly Reward claim says -
"I have the honor to inform the Board that I voluntarily accompanied the police from Beechworth to Glenrowan on the 29th [note - this should have been 28th] June last and opened up up telegraphic communication there, and myself telegraphed the intelligence for the Government and press throughout the day and shall feel grateful to the Board for any thing they may be pleased to award me for this service..."

He continued on with a brazen request for the Kelly Reward Board itself to recommend that the Postmaster General give him a promotion! 

The cover memo on Mr. Cheshire's Reward Board claim reads -
"This applicant, a telegraph operator voluntarily accompanied the police from Beechworth to Glenrowan on the morning of the 28th June and opened up telegraphic communication and himself telegraphed intelligence to the Govt and the press throughout the day at considerable risk...."
Beneath that there is this-
 "Mr. Hare reports - Mr. Cheshire arrived at Glenrowan after I had left the ground and I can give no information concerning his services."
"Supt. Sadleir reports - Mr. Cheshire as well as all other telegraphic officers in the district showed whenever required very great alacrity and zeal in assisting the police. Mr. Cheshire's attention on the 27th of June 1880 no doubt was the means of placing the police in a position to act earlier by several hours than if they received no information of Sherritt's murder until the evening.
The services rendered subsequently at Glenrowan while adding greatly to the public convenience and also to the convenience of the police did not in any way aid towards the capture of the gang. Mr. Cheshire was in little or no danger while at Glenrowan."
Ok, it sounds like Sadleir is trolling him just a little bit. All of that we were in mortal danger as we set things up and a bullet came that close makes the story sound good, though, when you tell it to others, doesn't it?
If you really want trolling, then wait to see how Sadleir hands William Osborne his rear so to speak.

One letter in Cheshire's Kelly Reward Board file says "I am also informed that his [Cheshire's] line repairer, Osborne, displayed much zeal and energy and rendered valuable help."
As for William Osborne's Kelly Reward Claim, his file did not have his direct claim but there was a letter to the Deputy Postmaster General giving nearly the same spiel Cheshire did in his claim sans the promotion request and asking him to "bring my services rendered on that occasion under the notice of the Kelly Reward Board."

The cover sheet for Osborne's Kelly Reward claim has this summation -

"This applicant, a telegraph line repairer puts forth his claim as having accompanied Mr. Cheshire to Glenrowan on the morning of the 28th of June and assisted in opening up telegraphic communication in Glenrowan."
Beneath that there is this -
"Supt. Hare reports - I know nothing of this applicant, he arrived on the ground after I left."
"Supt. Sadleir reports - His claim as to services were inconsiderable nor could I see that he was in any special danger for the few moments he was connecting the wires. I am under the impression it took some persuasion to get him to do the simple work he had to do."
Wow! Did Sadleir just troll Osborne? Where was all of that energy and zeal? What about all the showers of bullets...bullets flying in all directions...a hail of bullets? If there were showers of bullets I think anyone would need persuading to climb a pole (more than once?) and be a target, yet Sadleir says he could not see that Osborne was in any danger during the operation?

 In Keith McMenomy's Ned Kelly: The Authentic Illustrated Story he says that when the Beechworth contingent arrived "as soon as they found positions they all opened heavy fire at the almost silent building. Then Superintendent Sadleir passed an order to 'fire high' and so spare the innocent people still lying trapped inside. In many cases his order was misinterpreted. Some thought it meant the outlaws were hiding in the rafters and commenced riddling the iron roof; many thought it an order to fire harder. This and the enthusiasm of the Beechworth men started a tremendous burst all round the cordon. One Beechworth constable testified he fired 100 rounds at the hotel within an hour."

So, was this the shower of bullets that Osborne climbed the pole in? Or did he wait for the smoke to literally clear before doing his thing? Like with anything else in the Kelly story, there are always differing views.

At the end of it all, despite everything, both Cheshire and Osborne received 25 pounds each from the Kelly Reward Board. On the list of the 66 successful applicants they got the least amount coming in right under the black trackers, who each were suppose to receive 50 pounds, but that is a whole other kettle of fish for someone else to fry.

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!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

My review of Robert M. Utley's Wanted: The Outlaw Lives of Billy the Kid & Ned Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

It seems that Robert M. Utley has published  his new book "Wanted: The Outlaw Lives of Billy the Kid & Ned Kelly" at a very opportune and auspicious time. Interest in Billy the Kid is at an all time high due to the recent discovery of a photo of Billy the Kid, along with some of his Regulator compatriots playing croquet.  The "Croquet Billy" photo is yet to go to auction, but it  has been said it may fetch $5 million!

This new book is part of the Lamar Series in Western History in which Mr. Utley has already contributed another title "Geronimo." Mr. Utley is well known and revered in Old West circles for his tireless and thorough research which has led to many prestigious book awards.  His best known work is 1989's "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life."

 Utley's interest in Ned Kelly began on a trip he and his wife took to Australia. She pointed out a statue of Ned Kelly in Glenrowan and said that he was Australia's Billy the Kid (I have heard others say that he was Australia's Jesse James, too). It was not until a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol that it all clicked for him and he decided to write a book comparing the two. He made subsequent trips down under to do further research.

The book is divided into three sections. The first is a condensing down of his "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life" and another work he had previously done concerning Billy called "High Noon in Lincoln." I have yet to read "High Noon in Lincoln" but I completely devoured "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life" in one evening the first time around. Utley takes the highlights of Billy's life and death from these two books with a smattering of bits from other authors and puts them into this new dual biography.  The same goes for Ned Kelly who is featured in the second part, we get the highlights based mostly on Ian Jones's "Ned Kelly: A Short Life", with some extra info from other authors to flesh it out. Utley speaks glowingly of Ian Jones's work and says he hopes to meet him one day.

 There are a few errors in the Kelly mix, such as Aaron Sherritt being killed on June 24 (it was the 26th) and that it was William (instead of Thomas) Lonigan who was killed at Stringybark Creek, plus a few other things, some of which I wondered where it came from. Then the third part is a chapter comparing and contrasting the two outlaws. Some very interesting points are brought out about each and I think everyone will learn something they didn't know before and will look at either or both of these young men in a different light.

Before my copy of "Wanted..." arrived I went back and read "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life" again and took notes of what comparisons I saw to Ned and I found some he did not list in "Wanted.." He listed the main characteristics and comparisons about both being outlaws around the same time, about both dying young, losing fathers at young ages, being helped by sympathetic locals after becoming outlaws, both wrote letters to their respective governors, and so forth and so on, but I spotted a few (perhaps insignificant) things like how both men could ride a horse at full speed and pick a handkerchief off the ground, how a 12 pounder howitzer field gun was at the siege of McSween's house during the Lincoln County War (remember a 12 pounder was sent for but turned back as the siege of Glenrowan was over before it could arrive), how McSween's house was set fire to during the siege, as was the Glenrowan Inn, both had deaf mutes nicknamed "Dummy" in the story, both carried Navy Colts, and both Billy and Ned had referred to getting away on "my bay mare" among many other things. What also struck me was that for a while when Billy was a part of a loosely knit gang called the Regulators the ones who were the heart of the gang took an oath - called the iron clad - in which they swore if captured not to testify against the others or to let on to their activities. This inner circle became known as the "iron clads." Of course, Ned and his gang were literally iron clad.

 This book seems to be a good start for folks who might be interested or schooled in one of the outlaws but not the other and also for those interested in Utley's interesting takes on their comparisons and contrasts. In that respect this dual biography reminds of "Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives" by Paul Williams, my review of which you read at

 If anyone wants the full on experience after reading "Wanted..." then they can pick up the aforementioned "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life" (with around 75 pages of notes and sources) and  "Ned Kelly: A Short Life" (with around 50 pages of notes and sources) for further in depth study as "Wanted: The Outlaw Lives of Billy the Kid and Ned Kelly" does not contain any of these. Another small thing to note, if you are looking for this book in shops, take note that the front has the full title but the spine only has "Robert M. Utley WANTED" on it, with no mention of Billy or Ned. So if you see it on the shelf and not facing forward you will know to still reach for it. Heck, with Utley's name on it I would grab it in a second, no matter what the title was.

I am happy to have all three of these books in my collection, and if you are a completest like me, you will want to have them on your shelf, too. Now I am off to order a copy of "High Noon at Lincoln."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Flashback: Kate Kelly's Gun?

Here is another blast from the past that was on both of the now-defunct glenrowan1880 and nedonthenet websites that were run by Dave White. I had sent this in as a comment but he put it on a full page for ease of reading. It concerned the weapon that was found at Kate Kelly's old home that was set to go to auction which was alleged to have originally belonged to Constable Fitzpatrick. This was on the site circa 2007. Why I chose to run this piece again is that someone at had inquired about the debunking of this revolver.
Here goes -

Hi, Dave, as promised here is the documentation that Brian Stevenson
and I have worked up as we attempted to disprove the legitimacy of Tom
Thompson's claims that the gun he has up for auction on November 5th
is the one that Constable Fitzpatrick "lost" during his visit to the
Kelly homestead on 15 April 1878. We sent all of this material to the
Sydney Morning Herald reporter who did the original story and he says
he will possibly use some of this in an article coming next week. [NOTE: this was never used]
I wanted to go on and give the info in full here for your readers'
consideration. I hope everyone can take a few minutes and bear with me
as I present the evidence that can maybe convince them that this gun
is not of the provenance which Mr. Thompson says it is.

After checking many sources, none of them indicates that Constable
Fitzpatrick's gun was permanently gone or lost during the events of
April 15, 1878. Sure, he "lost" it temporarily during a struggle at
the Kelly homestead but it was returned to him before he left. In one
account he says that Dan brought out his revolver and handcuffs (see #
1 below) and in another slightly differing account he says that Ned
gave him his gun back and Dan gave him his handcuffs. (see #2 below).
In the same account (#2) which was Alexander Fitzpatrick's deposition
in the case of Police v. Ellen Kelly, William Williamson and William
Skillion 17/05/1878, he also made the statement that Mr. Thompson is
referring to in the article; earlier on he spoke of how Dan had
snatched his revolver during the scuffle after two shots were fired
and then later on at the end of the deposition he reinterated a few
things during cross examination and stated "I lost my revolver after
two shots had been fired." Well, back further in the deposition as he
was telling about how his revolver was sitting on the table and what
all he claimed everyone there said, the court record showed that the
revolver in question was produced before the magistrate along with the
shovel-dented helmet he was wearing the same night. Note how it has
"(revolver produced)" and "(helmet produced)" in the transcription.
You can also go to the Nedonline website  [[NOTE: this site is now defunct, too] or to the PROV archives and search for Alexander
Fitzpatrick to see
the transcription and the digital image of the original documents that
shows the evidence produced in brackets as above. Another thing, the
same deposition states that they searched for weapons and for the
bullets in the bark (the other 2 shots fired at him, the 3rd allegedly
being in his wrist). That is referring to guns that might have
belonged to the other participants not meaning his gun which he was
given back and produced before the magistrate. To further prove this--

from Frank Clune's "The Kelly Hunters"

cut and paste

If Fitzpatrick's statement was correct, "Bricky" Williamson had a
revolver, and they would have to be careful when they went to arrest
him. After the evening meal, "Bricky" went alone to a hut on his own
selection, half a mile away. The two police pounced on him there in
the dark, at nine o'clock, handcuffed him, searched his hut for
weapons without finding any.....
Despite Fitzpatrick's statement that both Williamson and Skillion were
present and armed with revolvers when Ned Kelly shot him, no weapons
were found in the homes of either...

end of cut and paste

It then went on to say next phase was to go to Kelly homestead....did
not say anything about searching for a weapon there! then said about
what they were charged with (Attempted Murder) and the gun theft was
not part of it!!!!

then in McQuilton--

cut and paste

Despite a diligent police search on 17 April, the slabs that should
have contained the other two bullets could not be found. A second
search party a month later, however, claimed they had found the slabs,
a curious discovery suggesting that the Kellys removed the slabs,
replaced them with new ones and then a month later put the original
slabs back into place.
end of cut and paste

So all of that explains the police searches in light of the gun not
being lost afterall!
To top it all off, in Constable Thomas McIntyre's unpublished memoirs
by T.N. MCINTYRE (which is available at the State Library of Victoria
manuscript dept) it says this--


Mounted Constable Fitzpatrick arrested
Dan Kelly at his own residence on the evening of the 15th April. Dan
Kelly offered no resistance but requested to be allowed to get
something to eat as he had been out in the bush riding all day.
Fitzpatrick consented to this but he had no sooner entered the house
than Ned Kelly rushed in presenting a revolver at him fired 3 shots,
one of which struck him on the left wrist the bullet lodging there, at
the same time two other men who were in the house presented revolvers
at Fitzpatrick who was surprised and had no time to offer any
resistance. He was disarmed but Ned Kelly having extracted the
cartridges returned him his revolver...

end of quote

Hopefully all of the info above, coupled with the footnotes below,
will help convince everyone that in no way, shape, or form could the
pistol on auction be the one "lost" by Fitzpatrick!

Sincerely, Sharon Hollingsworth

Highlights from Fitzpatrick's statements in the 25 May 1878 edition of
The Chiltern Federal Standard (taken from Keith McMenomy's "Ned Kelly:
An Illustrated History" --

[after a 2nd shot was fired]...then turned to draw my revolver, but it
had been taken out of my belt, Dan Kelly had it in his hand..... ....I
saw my revolver on the table; it was taken asunder with the charges
drawn. I took it up, and Ned Kelly took it from my hand; he also took
all my ammunition...
I wanted to get away but Ned would not return my revolver... I went
and got a horse from behind the house, where Dan had tied him, not to
be seen. My hand was very painful. Dan brought my revolver and
handcuffs and I went away..."
end of quote

cut and paste from Nedonline site--

Alexander Fitzpatrick's deposition
VPRS 4966 Unit 1 Item 4 Document: Alexander Fitzpatrick's deposition
in the case of Police v. Ellen Kelly, William Williamson and William



This eight page deposition by Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick was
taken and sworn in on the on the 17th of May 1878. The deposition was
written as part of the trial of Regina v. Ellen Kelly, William
Williamson and William Skillion. Mrs. Kelly was sentenced to three
years hard labor, whilst Skillion and Williamson each received a six
year sentence. In a few years, Fitzpatrick would be dismissed from the
force due to his poor performance of duties.
Transcribed text


THE Examination of Alexander Fitzpatrick of Benalla in the Colony of
Victoria, Police Constable and others of - in the said Colony, taken
on oath, this 17th day of May, in the year of our Lord One thousand
eight hundred and seventy eight at Benalla, in the Colony aforesaid
before the undersigned, one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for
The Northern Bailiwick, in the presence and hearing of Ellen Kelly -
William Williamson alias Bricky and William Skillion- who are charged
this day before us, for that they, the said Kelly Williamson &
Skillion, on the 13th day of April last at 11 Mile Creek Greta, in the
said Colony Did in company aid and abet - one Edward Kelly in an
attempt to murder Alexander Fitzpatrick This deponent Alexander
Fitzpatrick on his oath, said as follows:

Police v Ellen Kelly
Police v William Williamson
Police v William Skillion

Alexander Fitzpatrick sworn said
I am a Mounted Constable Stationed at Benalla - remember on 15 April
last was on duty in the direction of Greta had occasion to pass the
house of Mrs Kelly. arrived there between 4 & 5 pm. I dismounted and
went in saw Mrs Kelly & 3 children Stayed about an hour. left &
went up on the hill in the direction of a sound of chopping - Saw
Williamson spoke to him - went away - saw 2 horsemen coming in &
stopped in front of Kellys hut went down & Saw Skillion. he was
leading one horse by bridle & another by the mane. Saw a third horse
with a Saddle on. Asked Skillion who was riding he said he did not
know examined horse & said it was Dan Kellys I asked where he was
Skillion said up at the house. I went to the house saw Dan Kelly
told him I wanted to arrest him as there was a warrant issued for his
arrest on Charge of horse Stealing he said my hell - wait a little
while - I suppose you'll let me have something to eat I've been out riding
all day. I allowed him to eat allowed him to wait he went inside & I
followed him in this was just getting dusk. Mrs Kelly was present. She
said you wont take him out of this tonight. Dan said to Mrs Kelly Shut
up that's all right- I then saw Skillion passing the house leading a
horse. Ned Kelly then came to the doorway fired a shot at me I was
standing with my back to the partition Mrs Kelly was standing with her
back to the fire Dan was sitting at the table. the shot did not strike
me a second or two afterwards Mrs Kelly rushed at me with a Shovel She
struck me with the Shovel I was in uniform had my helmet. She struck
me on the helmet with the shovel (helmet produced) struck me on left
side of helmet - I use my arm to guard the shovel Ned Kelly fired
again at me & the ball lodged in my left wrist. I knocked the shovel
down with my right hand & turned round to draw my revolver & found it
was gone Dan Kelly had it he had snatched it out while my attention
was turned. Ned Kelly remained in the same position with his revolver
pointed at me. I slewed round & took hold of the muzzle of his pistol
& turned it off me & said you cowardly wretch do you want to murder
me- In the struggle his pistol went off a third time Skillion was
present all the time he was armed with a revolver - did not use it-
Williamson came in from the bedroom as the second shot was fired -
from his position he could see Mrs Kelly he was armed with a revolver
or pistol When I said do you want to murder me Ned Kelly said that'll
do boys- Ned Kelly said to Skillion you bugger why did you not tell me
who was here. he said if I had known it was Fitzpatrick I would not
have fired If it had been any of the other buggers they would not
leave here alive my wound was bleeding & I fainted when I came round I
heard Ned

Kelly say to Skillion Bill would have given that bugger who went bye a
pill the other day only for me Skillion said what the Benalla Cove he
said no Sergt Steele & Ive got a pill for him yet Skillion and
Williamson went away Mrs Kelly remained. I got up Ned Kelly said to me
I'm sorry that this happened it will get me into trouble I'll get it
pretty heavy -
When I got up my revolver was on the Table Taken to pieces and
unloaded I put it together & Ned Kelly took it out of my hand
(Revolver produced) he asked had I any more ammunition I said no he
took what ammunition was in the revolver. I went outside Ned followed
me. before I went outside Ned Kelly began to examine my wrist he said
heres the bullet here we must have it out of that. he got a rusty
razor & I wanted him to let me go home to a medical man he said you
cant go away with that in your hand. I said I would operate myself. I
cut the ball out it was a small pointed ball like the one produced. -
Ned & his sister were  present & Mrs Kelly bandaged my arm Ned took
the bullet. I then went outside Ned said I was very plucky to suffer
the pain - Ned followed me outside he said now I spared you, you spare
me how will we manage to say that you were shot. I said I would not
mention who shot me he said You had better say you went up to arrest
Dan he was in company with Williamson & I was putting the hand cuffs
on him & I had my revolver out & it went off & shot me & then Dan took
my ammunition from me he asked me did I know Whitlow, I said no. he
said say this. two men rushed from behind a tree as you were arresting
Dan describe them as two big men one of them like me & they'll think
its my brother Jim & the other Whitlow & then say I heard one of them
sing out Oh! Whitlow you've shot him- he gave as a reason for naming
these men that they were miles away.- he told me to say a lot of other
things that Whitlow was supposed to have said - he made me make an
entry in my book at the time of the Conversation (Book produced Marked
A) & entry read. I wanted to come away & Ned would not give me my
revolver he made the excuse that they were catching the horses he
said if you do say I shot you you'll get no credit for it The Govt
won't reward you I'll give you a few hundred after the Baumgarten Case
is over Mrs Kelly was present then & She said you had better tell him
that if he does mention it his life will be no good to him we have
plenty of friends then went & got my horse & untied him.
Previous to this Ned called Dan to get my horse & put him behind the house where
he would not be seen - he gave me my revolver & Dan brought my
handcuffs. Ned went part of the way with me Dan following us
- they both came as far as The pound & when I got about 2 miles from
Kelly I saw Williamson & Skillion coming after me on horseback I
spurred on to Winton to David Lindsay & got off but could not stand up
Richd. & David Lindsay helped me in & gave me some brandy & I told
what had happened - they bandaged me again  Cross exd & Dr Lindsay
accompanied me to Benalla Dr. Nicholson dressed my wrist - have been
to Mrs Kellys since & looked for a bullet mark but found 2 sheets of
bark removed from place where I had previously noticed the bullet
mark. Knew Ned Kelly before this have no doubt about Ned Dan &
Williamson & Skillion I was perfectly sober at the time left Benalla
about 2.30 pm Kellys is reckoned 11 miles. Stopped at Lindsays on the
road. Had lemonade & brandy did not stop any where else got to Kellys
between 4 & 5 pm. on first occasion stopped about an hour or over. was
talking to Mrs Kelly all that time. Her daughter was there
- no brandy drunk there. I stopped to see if Dan Kelly was about. I
returned again about of an hour - went up on the range behind the
place saw Williamson went down in front of Mrs Kellys old hut - saw
Skillion Dan did not refuse to be arrested - I had no warrant but saw
by police Gazette that one had been issued - I was about 1 1/2 yards
when first shot was fired they all had their revolvers levelled
Taken and sworn this 17th May 1878 at Benalla Before me Robt McBean JP
F McDonnell JP at me- no word spoken until shot was fired - hat has a dent in it - it
was not the edge of the shovel struck me I know Mrs Skillion did not
see me I got home about 2 in the morning I did not call & ask Mrs
skillion if her husband was at home - have been in the force about 12
months. I lost my revolver after 2 shots had been fired I had seen the
bullet mark in the bark before I went back to look found 2 sheets of
bark removed - Williamson muttered something which I did not hear.
Skillion did not say anything - Don't know if any pistols were found
at the hut - Saw a revolver there before. The shovel was like a
contractors shovel worn down had no instructions to arrest Kelly - was
going to relieve Sergt Strachan Miss Kelly was in the house while the
firing was going on she sat down & cried
Sergt Whelan had informed me there was a warrant out for Dan Kelly
Alexander Fitzpatrick
Const 2867