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


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Former Police Spy is Visited by Wild Wright and Mistaken for Curnow [Sharon Hollingsworth]

In the October 2010 issue of Catholic Life Magazine there is an article called "Kelly Gang Scare and an Armed Robbery at Moe" written by David Synan. It gives details of the Kelly Gang's association with Gippsland and tells about Daniel Kennedy who was allegedly the police spy known as the DSA (Diseased Stock Agent) and his life there after the end of the Kelly era. It details how he was wrongly thought by some to be Thomas Curnow living under an assumed name and how he later had a visit from Wild Wright.

From the article:

Further, they knew he had been involved somehow with the Kelly saga. Accordingly, some concluded that his real name must be Thomas Curnow. This was the Glenrowan teacher who heroically flagged down the special police train from Benalla before it encountered the breach in the railway line that Ned Kelly had organised.....In 1888, just before the Crown [Hotel which Kennedy owned] caught fire, Kennedy had a visit from a second-tier member of the Kelly gang which set tongues wagging. He was Isaiah Wright, known as Wild Wright, both a bare-fist fighter and a loyal Kelly lieutenant. An uncomfortable blast from the past had caught up with Kennedy. Wild Wright was not charged for either accommodation or liquid refreshments. Kennedy did arrange a bare-knuckle fight for Wright with a bushman from Leongatha who handsomely won the encounter.

To read the article in full go to the link below and after the issue loads scroll through to page 21:

Regarding him being (wrongly) thought to be Curnow under an assumed name, I remembered the following bit from the September 3, 1911 installment of B.W. Cookson's Kelly Gang From Within newspaper series. Cookson really must have been misled or misinformed to publish the furphy.

From The Kelly Gang From Within:

After the destruction of the gang Mr. Curnow disappeared. He received a liberal share of the reward offered by two Governments for the apprehension of the outlaws. But thenceforward he vanished from human ken. It is presumed - has been presumed for years - that this plucky school teacher is dead. That belief is only partially correct. As Mr. Curnow he has certainly ceased to exist. But the man himself is still alive - or was very recently. Living under another name, old, but still active, Mr. Curnow was until lately teaching a small school in the wilderness of Gippsland. Tall, grave of feature, his long beard now almost white, the man who saved the special train is a very prominent figure in the small community in which he has chosen to immure himself. His secret is not unknown. When on rare occasions he makes a visit to the principal town in the district on some business of compulsion, he is pointed out occasionally by the few who know him as the hero of the Glenrowan fight - the man who risked his life to save the lives of his fellow-men. But his new home is a long way removed from the scene of his memorable exploit. And there is no likelihood of the fact of his identity becoming known involving him in any of the trouble which, rightly or wrongly, he anticipated as the result of what he did on that fateful night. There are none in that region who have any sympathy with the notorious outlaws or their fate. To the people there the whole story of the gang and its exploits and destruction is a memory only. Those who know the old school teacher him for his great exploit - but they respect his wishes by seldom or never alluding to it. And so, in the placid serenity of his autumn of life Mr. Curnow gores on with the work that he has always followed - the instruction of the young. And a wise and capable instructor he has proved himself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Statistically Speaking [Sharon Hollingsworth]

We went live with this blog on October 25, 2010, but had started work on it a few weeks earlier so we would have a full page for the public to view once we launched. Since the launch a month ago the stats are that we have had well over 500 page views and visitors from eleven countries: Australia...USA..The UK...New Zealand..Ireland...The Philippines...Luxembourg...Germany........Russia....Taiwan...and Denmark. Seems Ned Kelly is known all over! I hope we attract (and keep!) many more viewers in the future and I hope that anyone who wishes to comment on any post(s) we have done will feel free to do so. I have been joking with friends that I am so glad that I started a blog instead of a forum! ;)
I hope that Brian and I can keep on finding interesting tidbits to share and that everyone continues to enjoy what we post!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Edgar Penzig, 1929 - 2010: a tribute [Brian Stevenson]

 Edgar Penzig is gone.

Writing a tribute is hard for me. I am trying to find the right words, but am ever wary of descending into sentiment that reflects the deep grief that I have felt since Sharon Hollingsworth sent me word on Sunday that my larger than life friend of nearly thirty years has left us.

Edgar Penzig wanted to be remembered. Don't we all? But in the course of his long and productive life, Edgar found a few ways to make himself extremely difficult to forget.

There's the books. Most of the folks reading this blog will have seen or read at least one of them. Good luck to anyone who wants to form a full set of Edgar's publications. I checked the National Library of Australia catalogue and there are twenty-two or so in the total, with a publishing history ranging from 1964 to 2009. Most of them are out of print and attract a hefty premium on the dealer's market on the rare occasions that they become available. Interestingly, both the first and last books were books of poems, atypical of his gargantuan output. As well as the books, we have innumerable articles, testimony to one man's almost unbelievable industry.

There's the controversy and the courage. It mattered little to Edgar that he was besmirching the reputation of Australia's national heroes, and he did not hesitate to call a spade the proverbial shovel where our pre-eminent bushrangers were concerned. Some historians use a scalpel in dissecting the past. Edgar Penzig used a hatchet. Ben Hall was a lazy and greedy man: Ned Kelly a plausible thug whose intellectual limitations were manifested in what Edgar called 'that tin rubbish'. It was not a way in which to make oneself popular with many aficionados of Australian bushranging, and it did not. Edgar could not have cared less, and reproduced in one book, with some pride no doubt, a nasty and threatening letter that someone was brave enough to put in the post but not game to sign. On the other hand, he had the highest possible regard for the colonial police, who, regardless of their individual and well-documented failings, were to a man doing a very difficult job that was poorly paid. The energetic (though often less than effective) Sir Frederick Pottinger came in for special praise, and Edgar once mused to me that if he had had a son, he would have liked to call him Fred.

There's the collector. For heaven knows how many years, Edgar saved, restored, rescued, classified, described and catalogued countless items from Australia's colonial past, most significantly the weapons. He once told me how his wife Megan and he had saved for a piece by eating baked beans out of a tin with a fork for weeks, and I don't doubt it. Many of the items he collected were unique and materially valuable, but because of Edgar's foresight and preservation, generations of Australians unborn have a priceless legacy - a tangible connection to our colonial past.

There's the lover of Australia. The first time I ever saw Edgar, his house was an easy one to find. Even in the dim and distant days of - let's see, 1982 - a national flag fluttering at full mast was not a common sight, not even in conservative Katoomba. I know that Edgar viewed with concern many of the directions in which his beloved Australia was going, and that this was part of his reason for relocating to Tasmania relatively late in life. In the Australia of 2010, bewildering to just about anyone, Edgar's views might have seemed old-fashioned and even eccentric, but there was never any doubting of the underlying and innate decency, and the sheer love of country that led him to formulate them.

There's his personality. No one ever accused Edgar of being self-effacing or shy. He was an actor, after all, and those in that profession are not generally know for their modesty, but even among this fraternity, Edgar was a case apart. Would anyone else have described themselves as 'Australia's premier bushranging author-historian', even if they felt it to be true, as Edgar so obviously did? Who else would reproduce a bust of themselves in a book, or put a painting of themselves in colonial costume on a book cover? We don't know where the robust self-assuredness stopped and the undoubted flair for self promotion began, but one thing is for sure. Both of these traits are often accompanied by meanness and a lack of consideration for others, but Edgar was devoid of malice and one of the least selfish people I ever knew. And if Edgar sometimes seemed to be short on modesty, he was never short of friends.

Ah, there's the friend. I had not known Edgar for more than two hours before he had presented me with a copy of his first bushranging biography, A real flash cove, the life of John Gilbert. Domiciled in faraway Queensland, I could not always be of much assistance to Edgar - after all, the man virtually lived in the Mitchell Library! - but from time to time I would find things and forward them to him. Always my slight assistance was answered by a prompt and glowing letter of appreciation, sometimes accompanied by a book. Or a phone call, and I knew from the second that I heard that booming voice through the wires that I was in for an hour or so - more, if I could wangle it with the other members of the household - of excellent and spirited conversation that never failed to entertain. It's still hard to believe that I won't hear those deep tones again. My heart is full, my world is poorer. My heartfelt condolences to Megan and other members of Edgar's family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Edgar Penzig's Passing (Nov. 19, 2010)

This tribute was originally put in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 23, 2010

and was found via

PENZIG, Edgar Francis.
(1929 - 2010)

Late of Oatlands, Tasmania,
formerly of Blackheath, NSW.

Devoted husband of Megan.
Loving father of Gail (deceased)
and Narelle, loving grandfather of Melinda and Jason, fond
father-in-law of Ted and Lionel.
A Gentle Giant has left us

With thanks to Dr R Simpson and the staff of the MMPHC for
their care and kindness.

Private cremation. There will be
a Celebration of EDGAR'S Life on Saturday (December 4,
2010), at 2 p.m., to be held at the RSL Club, Oatlands, Tas.

(Sharon here: please note that while this blog post was published Nov 22 that is for the United States where I am located, but it is already Nov. 23 down under in Australia, thus the date discrepancy.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Joe Byrne Steals Your Watch It Is A Red-Letter Day Worth Remembering! [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Even after eight-plus years of studying the Kellys I am always finding out something new. For instance, I have learned that if Joe Byrne steals your watch that it is indeed a red-letter day in one's life!

In December 1878 when the gang bailed up Younghusband's station prior to holding up the Euroa bank, they made prisoners of four kangaroo hunters that were very close to the property. Two of the men were local farmers and two others were men down from Melbourne who worked for the Government Printing Office, Henry Dudley and Robert McDougall (wonder if they helped with the binding on the RC in later years?). They were described in "A Short Life" as being 'two elderly gentlemen,' and McDougall was termed an 'ancient Scotchman' in "The Fatal Friendship" but, actually, McDougall was only 23 years old at the time and Dudley was 46.

Some interesting and comical exchanges took place wherein the hunters mistook Ned and Joe as constables due to them possessing handcuffs, and, playing along, Ned accused them of stealing the spring cart they were riding in and of actually being the Kelly Gang! They were later clued in to the ruse. Their weapons were taken and one of those would become Ned's favourite rifle which he named 'Betty.' Dan Kelly patted down McDougall (who had a bulge in his pocket due to a Meerschaum pipe) and thinking the pipe was a concealed weapon not turned over he pointed his gun at him. There was a bit of a set-to between the two and Ned Kelly stepped in to break it up. Ned confiscated the pipe, remarking "that's a beauty" and McDougall never saw it again.

During the time he and the others were being held in the stockroom at Younghusband's, McDougall saw well over a dozen axes that were left in there and suggested that everyone grab one and start chopping their way out. Others did not wish to go along with it as they feared being shot.

Now we get to the watch..McDougall said in an interview with the Burra Record on July 19, 1933,  that Joe Byrne asked him for the loan of his watch which he was compelled to hand over.

McDougall later said to Ned Kelly:

"What about my watch? It was a present from my mother and I value it as a keepsake from her."

Ned, softened by hearing about a man's mother, grabbed the watch from Joe and threw it at McDougall. Ned then went up to Mr. Scott and said "Give me your watch, we must know the time."

The reporter in 1933 saw the actual watch which McDougall was obviously very proud of:

Mr. McDougall then produced a silver hunting lever watch with the following inscription engraved on the inside of the case:

This watch was taken from Robert McDougall by Joe Byrne on the 9th December, 1878, and returned by Ned Kelly to Robert McDougall, December 10th, 1878.

Mr. McDougall also showed off the two supoenas he received to testify at both of Ned's trials (Beechworth/Melbourne) which he had kept all those years.

The question I am sure everyone wants to know is where are these heirlooms now?  I wish I knew!

Note: in Hare's "Last of the Bushrangers" he has it as Ned Kelly asking for McDougall's watch and returning it after saying it was a keepsake of his dead mother, then has Kelly taking Mr. McCauley's watch and Joe taking Mr. Scott's.

 Also note that Corfield says that "The surname is variously spelt McDougall and MacDougall in newspaper accounts and birth, marriage and death records. It is spelt MacDougall on the gravestone and also in the death notices in the Argus."

I went with McDougall for this blog post just to be consistent with the newspaper account I quoted from. Also, I do wonder if that was the spelling on the watch the reporter saw? Or was it just read to him?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Superintendent Francis Hare Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives [Sharon Hollingsworth]

[UPDATED December 2, 2011: These letters and papers are now available online after a very long wait!]

Many times in the past few years I have brought up in articles and in forum posts about the letters and reports in the Francis Hare Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives. Currently, one has to go to the Uni to gain access to this collection which is described as:

"Correspondence (generally, inwards), notes and reports, mainly concerned with the surveillance and capture of the Kelly Gang."  

The collection has 54 items, with 19 of them concerning Capt. Standish; 12 of the 19 are letters to Hare, with the remaining 7 are between Standish and others (with one being extracts from his private letters with notations by Hare). There are letters from Hare to others and some of the names on letters to him are familiar ones: Ward, Sadleir, O'Connor, Nicolson, John Sherritt, Jack Sherritt, Robert Scott, Jacob Wilson, George Collins Levey and so forth.

Six of the letters had been published in the July 1981 edition of Overland Magazine. There was a bit of background on the letters in the article and a bit about their provenance which was echoed in an edition of the University of Melbourne Library Journal in 2000. In an article called "Ned Kelly and the University of Melbourne" which was written by the (then) archivist Michael Piggott and found at  there was this bit:

The collection has its own mysteries. One is its provenance: the letters were found in a steel box in St Mark's Church Fitzroy in 1978 lacking any indication of how they came to be there...The other puzzle is the relatively little use the collection has attracted, particularly from scholarly writers.

I seem to recall that a couple of years ago the University was seeking a student volunteer to help transcribe and/or digitise and/or research the Hare collection (or something along those lines) in preparation for public consumption. I believe a young woman was selected for the job. All of that info is now off the net and I am relying on memory, of course. However, recently I found this at talking about the coming digitisation of the letters in the Francis Hare collection:

"This collection is highly utilised and in demand by historians and researchers. Funds raised in the 2010 Annual Appeal will be used to digitise these unique and fragile letters, thus minimising general wear and tear. An online finding aid will be produced so that we can share these unique historical records with the world."

Amazing that in the last decade that the collection has become popular. I guess it just took getting the word out? Regarding the second part of the mystery about the provenance, while doing research for an article last year about Superintendent Hare I found that his wife's nephew was Rev. Evelyn Snodgrass (as a side note, Rev. Snodgrass's sister was Lady Janet Clarke). Rev. Snodgrass at one point was vicar of St. Mark's, Fitzroy.
Hare passed away in 1892 and his widow passed away in 1896, perhaps she left Hare's papers to her nephew, Rev. Snodgrass, as she and Hare had no children? And perhaps when he went on to his next assignment he had left the papers behind?

Note: I had previously written in an article called Ned was Forever in his Thoughts: Superintendent Francis Hare From Glenrowan to Rupertswood (1880-1892) at  that Rev. Snodgrass was Hare's brother-in-law,  but doing more in depth research later I found out differently! I must be in good company, as it is sort of how like how I have seen others in the past confuse Hare's wife named Janet with her niece of the same name as well as mixing up the Chomleys (confusing the uncle with the nephew) but it all gets sorted eventually and corrected, though. I had Dave White amend my article with the right info for future readers. It is so good to do stuff on the net as one can easily go in and do these type fixes! Woe unto them who have written books and only realise a fix or addition/deletion is needed long after it has been printed and distributed! Because then folks like me will find it and point it out! Hey, at least I sometimes find and point out my own, too, so it is all good...and the beat and the learning process goes on!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Michael Ball's Experience at the "Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret" Commemorative Dinner [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Today we have a guest blogger, Michael Ball, who gives us a glimpse into his trip to Kelly country for the "Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret" dinner at the Old Melbourne Gaol and the John Barry Memorial Lecture by Peter Norden at Melbourne University entitled "Ned Kelly, John Barry and the Role of Social Activism on Criminal Justice Reform." 

Michael Ball writes:

An advertisement for a recent event at the Old Melbourne Gaol appealed to me even though I lived in Sydney. It was for the 130th Anniversary of Ned Kelly’s execution or more precisely the 130th anniversary of Ned’s last supper of “Roast Lamb, Peas and Claret” to be held on the eve of his execution, the 10th November.  I took the opportunity to take my son and a friend down there passing through Kelly Country on the way there and back to show them some of places that formed part of the Kelly saga.  These places took a good deal of time by car so we were all amazed at the distance that the Gang travelled by horse and in the speed that they covered the distances.

But back to the anniversary dinner. They opened the doors at 6:30 and we were able to select any of the seats along the long table on the ground floor of the cells. There were 60 people, some in period costume and the tables were set with white tablecloths and were lit by 5 candle candelabras. The setting was truly both spectacular and memorable.

On arrival we were offered either beer or champagne and then after a brief welcome we were offered some pre-dinner nibbles after which claret was served with the main course of roast lamb, peas and other vegetables. The food was well prepared and tasty and the claret kept flowing so everybody was in fine form when the “Such a Life” performance was announced. The group moved up to underneath the scaffold and the two actors did their performance, one playing Ned, the other playing the parts of Ellen Kelly, Kate, and Ann Jones, using the language that they were reported to have used at the time. A few of the guests were also enlisted to act as some of the lesser characters. It was very well done and even for someone not knowing Ned’s story it got his story across very well.

Also there was an exhibition that had only been completed that day depicting what happened to Ned’s remains and his skull which was stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978. This exhibition is to remain open for a few months and hopefully it will include the final chapter when the DNA evidence is analysed.
Coincidentally we were sitting along side Tom Baxter who is well familiar with this story. Also in attendance were some of the Hart/Lloyd family.

A truly memorable evening.

The following evening we attended the John Barry Memorial Lecture by Peter Norden at Melbourne University entitled "Ned Kelly, John Barry and the Role of Social Activism on Criminal Justice Reform."  I was hopeful of more on Ned but he may well have only been included as it was the anniversary of his execution but more could have been made of it as John Barry toured the Kelly Country in the 1950's with the aim of writing a book on the trial of Ned Kelly and it was John Barry who was the author of Ned's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


Pictured: Michael Ball (AKA Outback Santa), mates Phil and Paul and son Nick. Tom Baxter is barely visible  in the shadows at the upper left of the photo.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Benalla Cemetery: Tributes at Joe Byrne's Grave & a Marker for Ned's Grandmother [Sharon Hollingsworth]

                        (photos courtesy of/copyright of Michael Ball)

My good friend Michael Ball of Sydney took a recent trip to Kelly country to attend Ned's Last Supper at the Old Melbourne Gaol and stopped off at the Benalla cemetery where he found a very nice Kelly Gang tribute there. Next to the tree by Joe Byrne's grave someone had taken four railroad spikes and on each one was the name of a Kelly Gang member and their years of birth and death. They were then driven into the ground where I hope they stay a good long time to honour Ned, Joe, Dan and Steve. That was a very thoughtful and wonderful tribute. Thank you to the person who conceived the idea and created them.  If we are lucky, maybe the so-called souvenir hunters will leave them alone. (Hopefully by publicizing the very existence of the spikes it won't alert these types of low-class/no-class thieves to them..that is if they have not already been looted by now!) He also saw where people had tied red sashes/ribbons to the tree in tribute, as well as the traditional custom of leaving flowers on the grave.

He also noted that some of the unmarked graves from his visits had been given markers including Ned's grandmother Mary Quinn.

I don't usually use photos on this blog, preferring the words to stand on their own, but this is one time that a picture is worth a thousand words!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Article Alert: Such is Life: Reflections on the Death of Ned Kelly

From Google Alerts.


by Peter Norden

was on the Online Opinion Website on November 12, 2010

It says that

"This article is based on the author's delivery of the John Barry Lecture at the University of Melbourne on November 11, 2010."

To read see

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Article Alert: Wreaths, Flowers Mark Where Ned Kelly Died

From Google Alerts:

The Sydney Morning Herald had an article published on Nov. 11, 2010 called "Wreaths, Flowers Mark Where Ned Kelly Died."

It tells about the floral tributes left at the jail gates and about the wreaths left at the gallows. The article says that "we get these every year, but there's a little more interest than usual today."

To read the article go to

Witnesses to the Execution of Edward Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

I have written a new article called WITNESSES TO THE EXECUTION OF
EDWARD KELLY for the glenrowan1880 and Nedonthenet sites at which I am

There was an official Certificate and Declaration of Witnesses to the
Execution of Edward Kelly and I take the number of signers into
account and figure in a few more onlookers who were said to be there
to try and find out how many there really were at the OMG on November
11, 1880. While the real number may never be known, it is interesting
to see just who was there for what seemed to be the hottest ticket in
town (though one man with a ticket decided not to go inside!).

I also detail the Kelly based stage play written by one of the
witnesses (a newspaper reporter) which was performed in Melbourne the
following year.
The article can be found at both of these links, take your pick!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Douglas Morrissey's unpublished thesis - a review, Part 1 [Brian Stevenson]

Douglas Morrissey, 'Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves: a Social History of Kelly Country', Ph D Thesis, LaTrobe University, 1987.

This unpublished work is very hard to find, but there is a copy in the library of the LaTrobe University, where the author did his thesis. Dr Morrissey, according to Alex McDermott, who praises the work in his writings, has apparently never been able to find a publisher. This may well be because the viewpoints and conclusions which go so definitely and definitively against the grain of so many previous statements and assumptions on the social and economic milieu that spawned the Kelly Gang.

I want to cover this thesis, a couple of chapters at a time, in this and subsequent blog posts. Because this work is all but inaccessible, and extremely important, I make no apologies for covering it in some detail. This post covers Chapter 1, 'Patterns of Settlement' and Chapter 2 'Selection in Kelly Country: Success or Failure?'

Dr Morrissey has done this the hard way. Rather than rely on oral history that is less than reliable, oversentimental or both, he set himself a task that, on the face of it, would not have seemed appealing to any but the most dogged of researchers. In Morrissey's words: 'Traditional explanations for the Kelly Outbreak rest heavily on rural poverty and selection failure.' He decided to test the hypotheses related to selector poverty and the inaccessibility and infertility of land in the Kelly country, factors that writers from Ned Kelly down to John McQuilton have seen as a key factor in the Outbreak. Calmly and clinically, and using Lands Department records that whose apparent dryness is only exceeded by their impartiality, he demolishes myth after myth relating to the background of the troubled and violent Edward Kelly.

In Morrissey's words, he decided 'to examine the economic fortunes of 265 selectors during their first decade or so on the land, roughly 1868 to 1880. All the selectors chosen lived in the adjoining land parishes of Greta, Glenrowan, Laceby, Lurg and Moyhu.' Surprisingly, at least for those who base their thoughts on such matters on Ned's claims in the Jerilderie and Cameron letters, the overwhelming majority of these selectors ultimately prevailed. 72 percent of selectors gained the freehold to their selections. In Greta, the figure was 79 percent. Those who got behind in their payments were treated with leniency and patience by the Lands Department, which extended the time in which they could pay, sometimes by years.

Incidentally, Ned Kelly himself seemed ambivalent towards the financial difficulties experienced by his mother, who frequently fell behind in her rent payments. Despite his earnings from stock theft - 'horses and cattle innumerable' - and his boast that he never worked for less than two pounds ten a week after his release from Pentridge, and his windfall 'earnings' at Euroa and Jerilderie, little of Ned's spare cash seems to have found its way to his beloved mother. In 1881 the Crown Bailiff inspected her selection and valued the improvements to her land at one hundred pounds, not much to show after a decade or so in which the Kelly family, including three strong sons and, for a while, an able bodied stepfather spent 'occasionally cropping a few acres and milking a few head of cattle', but became much more notorious for other activities. Mrs Kelly's selection was declared forfeited to the Crown on two occasions, in 1870 and 1880. Both times, the Lands Department allowed her to retain possession of the land, despite a strong recommendation from the police in 1880 that the forfeiture should be upheld.

Farming a selection had little appeal to Ned. In January 1875, a year after being released from Pentridge, he applied to take up 100 acres of land adjoining his mother's selection. He allowed the application to lapse for reasons that we will never know for sure, but we can at least infer that he believed that there were easier ways to earn money than farming. Even in an area, where, as Morrissey demonstrates, 'there is no evidence that poverty or [economic] failure was more prevalent than anywhere else.'

NOTE: The second installment in this ongoing series can be found at

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ned Kelly's Cousin and the Red Gum Headstone [Sharon Hollingsworth]

While searching around the net the other day I ran across this unusual
bit on a genealogical page at
and also at a page for American Civil War Veterans of Australia and New
Zealand in Australia about a
gentleman who had left the British Isles for Canada and the U.S. and who
served in the American Civil War. After the war he went to Australia and
had a great deal of success with timber and sawmills.

John Quiggin and his sons were awarded 1st prize in the Melbourne World
Exhibition of 1883; for having the best Red Gum Slab. The original block
to be entered in the exhibition for the show was cut actually by Ned
Kelly's cousin, but he requested that John Quiggin, let him have it as a
headstone for his grave. John allowed him to keep it, but only if Ned
Kelly's cousin procured another tree just as good. It was the 2nd timber
acquired that was entered and won the prize.
It was also once reported to John Edwin that ‘Ned Kelly’ had been
harbored from the law one night at one of the Quiggin sawmills.

Ned had many cousins, so I guess we will never know which one is being
referred to. I did find it of great interest that he wanted to have a
wooden grave marker ( Isn't a wooden headstone a contradiction in terms?
Or am I being way too literal?) I suppose one doesn't see many of them
left these days due to the proliferation of bush fires through the years
among other reasons?

While on the subject of grave markers, in the PROV archives I ran across
a letter from the Kelly Historical Collection Part 3: Chief Secretary's
Office, with the descriptive header:

J.F. Atkinson suggests that Government  place headstones over graves of
those murdered by the Kelly Gang.

But, getting into the meat of the letter, which was dated July 22, 1880,
we see that the description was not quite accurate!

Part of the letter talks about how "shortly after murder of the police
by the Kelly gang" that the Ministry of Public Works in the Berry
Government had placed headstones on their graves and he suggested that
they should

"do the same on the graves of young Jones, Reardon, & the
late Government erected stones to the memory of those men, this Ministry
can not well do less than follow the precedent, especially as these
deaths were caused innocently by the attacking party, and it would be a
graceful act on your part to authorise this small expenditure."

Note that Michael Reardon, though injured, did not die at the siege of
Glenrowan. He lived until 1942! Also note the "attacking party" would be
the Police!

Johnny Jones and Martin Cherry never received the headstones from the
Government as suggested by Mr. Atkinson...seems the only thing they
covered was their own rear ends!

The graves of Johnny Jones and Martin Cherry remained unmarked until
well over a hundred years later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Article Alert: Book Review for Sinners, Saints and Settlers: A Journey Through Irish Australia

From google alerts comes a review for an interesting sounding book that has a section on Ned in it called


Many of you may recall that Brendan Kelson and John McQuilton did a book together back in 2001 called 'Kelly Country: a Photographic Journey."

From the review:

 Reid and Kelson also add a new dimension to some better known stories, such as those of Ned Kelly, Paddy Hannan and the Eureka Stockade. Brendon Kelson’s photographs bring many of the stories to life and will surely inspire readers to visit places such as the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Koroit in Victoria and Galong Castle in NSW.
Sinners, Saints and Settlers is a comprehensive review of Australia’s connection with Ireland and the Irish up to the 1920s.

For more see 

The review goes on to mention about the upcoming National Museum of Australia exhibition entitled "Irish in Australia" opening on St. Patrick's Day 2011. The book's author, Richard Reid, is senior curator at the NMA. For an interview with him with more info on the exhibition see

Sherlock Holmes and the Ned Kelly Connection [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Recently I have been watching and enjoying the new Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It is set in our modern times and is very well done and worth a look if you have not seen it yet. It got me thinking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and his letter to the newspapers in which he mentioned the Kellys and suggested the use of armour to protect British troops. I first heard about this in "Australian Son" by Max Brown (1948 edition).

From the book:

In the days that followed, reports of the siege of Glenrowan appeared wherever the English language was spoken. The authorities heaved a sigh of relief. According to the aristocratic principle, "To him who has, shall be given," the Chief Secretary and Commissioner Standish received complimentary telegrams from Lord Normanby in Melbourne and Lord Augustus Loftus, Governor of New South Wales.
A spate of messages leapt across the continent. From London came a comment from a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle, who praised the imagination of the outlaws and recommended armour for use by infantry....

Here is the text of Conan Doyle's letter to the newspaper concerning the Kellys and armour:


"As an advocate of armour in modern warfare for the last twenty-five years, I am interested to see a column of The Times devoted to the subject. When Ned Kelly, the bushranger, walked unhurt before the rifles of the police clad in his own hand-made armour he was an object-lesson to the world. If the outlaw could do it, why not the soldier?

 "It has always seemed to me extraordinary that the innumerable cases where a Bible, a cigarette case, a watch, or some other chance article has saved a man's life have not set us scheming so as to do systematically what has so often been the result of a happy chance. "Vital body-plates, however, should be used in the every-day equipment of a fighting soldier." — Sir Conan Doyle.

Ok, after reading what Max Brown wrote in the first quote, does that not make it sound like Doyle made the comment regarding the use of armour soon after the gang's capture? I did some checking and seems that it is not exactly the case.

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in May of 1859 (same year as Jim Kelly). In 1880, yes, Doyle was a medical student (he graduated in 1881), but the letter quoted above from The London Times regarding the Kellys and armour was published in 1915 (35 years later) when he was 56 years old. Note in the letter he says he had been an advocate of armour in modern warfare for the last twenty-five years, which would make the beginning of his advocacy to be around 1890. Ten years after the siege of Glenrowan.

I remember how confused I was when I read what Brown said and then when I had found the letter that was dated so many years later. I wondered if there had been something we missed in the papers in the previous years? A while back Brian Stevenson contacted a Doyle/Holmes expert (this gentleman was really on the ball and knew his stuff) and asked him the question and he said the only time Ned or the Kelly Gang were mentioned by Doyle was the 1915 letter.

Nevertheless, even if the timeline regarding it is a bit off, I am still glad that Max Brown gave me the nudge to go and seek out the Doyle letter. And I am glad that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was such a brilliant and imaginative writer!