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


Friday, July 29, 2011

Article Alert: A Captive Audience (Beechworth Gaol Tours)

From Google Alerts

In the July 30, 2011 edition of The Age there is an article entitled "A Captive Audience" in which Sue Wallace details the Beechworth Gaol tours now on offer.

She begins with:

A shiver runs down my back as I stand in the cell where Ellen Kelly and her four-day-old daughter, Alice, were locked up in Beechworth's notorious gaol. The feisty mother of bushranger Ned Kelly was a prisoner in the historic gaol after she and two friends were sentenced for attacking Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick with a "shovel or a skillet" in 1878.

A little further down it continues with:

"I'm sure everyone who has ever driven past Beechworth Gaol's high granite stone walls and stately facade has wondered what it is like inside - and now there is the chance to have a look," Beechworth Gaol tour guide Darren Sutton says...

To read more go to

By the way, this blog posting is our 100th! Not bad considering Brian and I started out on this venture less than a year ago!  In that time we have provided newly researched and written content every single week, sometimes more than once a week in addition to all sorts of Kelly type alerts and info. I hope our efforts have been appreciated. Maybe soon we will do like everyone else does and rest on our (very ample!!!) rears....uh....I mean laurels....and only update once in a blue moon! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mr. Hare and Mrs. Kelly: Two Ends of a Very Wide Spectrum [Sharon Hollingsworth]

There seems to have been a really wide divide between the lifestyles of Superintendent Francis Hare and Ned Kelly's mother, Ellen Kelly.

I chose Superintendent Hare as a counterpoint to Mrs. Kelly as he was someone who really liked his creature comforts and the finer things in life. We can see that from his frequent sojourns at William Clarke's Rupertswood estate. (Hare's wife, Janet, was aunt to Clarke's second wife, also named Janet.)

Yet, we can contrast that opulence with the time Hare spent sleeping rough while on the Kelly hunt.

In his book "Last of the Bushrangers" he relates after coming in after spending weeks on the cave party:

 "On my arrival at Benalla I told Captain Standish that the hardships I had gone through had affected my constitution, and I was not fit to go out with the search party again, and I wished him to relieve me,  as I had been camping out for eight or nine months."

Of course, Mr. Hare only suffered deprivation by default for a short while due to his work duties. But having married a socially well-connected (and wealthy) widow and having a salary in 1885 of 650 pounds per year (plus allowances) and not forgetting his share ("the lion's share") of the Kelly reward money (800 pounds), he was pretty well set up in his twilight years.

During the Kelly hunt Hare lived at the Richmond barracks, but after his retirement, he moved up in the world.

In 1881, William Clarke commissioned a row of three terrace homes which he named "Janet Terrace" in honour of his wife.

An advertisement from the Argus of November 18, 1881 for Janet Terrace:

East Melbourne

TO LET, with immediate possession,  those newly erected and splendidly furnished residences known as Janet-terrace, Hotham-street, each containing dining and drawing room, 6 bedrooms, kitchen, servant's room, bathroom, pantries, and every convenience.

It did not give the rate, but in 1893, another advert for Janet Terrace stated that they rented for 130 pounds per year and in 1914 the going rate was 330 pounds.

Mr. and Mrs. Hare took up residence at #1 Janet Terrace at 96 Hotham Street some time after it had been initially let to Graham Berry. From what I have read, the Hares lived there a total of eight years. Do you think they got mate's rates? ;)

See this link for what Janet Terrace looks like today:

 #1 Janet Terrace, Hare's old residence, is the odd looking one on the left. It USED to look like the classy and beautifully elegant terrace houses in the middle and on the right. It is a shame that a later owner turned it into a boarding-house and in order to get more space to rent out they closed in the entire front, including those lovely ornate balconies. (In my mind's eye I can just imagine Hare standing on the balcony waving a handkerchief at Freddie Standish as he passed by!) Very sad that it had to be Hare's home that they basically ruined for greed! The inside was, thankfully, restored to its original splendour by a later owner.

Even though the advert said it was fully furnished I suppose the Hares moved in some of their own furnishings because the executors of the estate of "the late F.A. Hare, Esq., P.M." staged an auction on September 20, 1892. His wife did not wish to continue living there, choosing to go and set up household with another widow lady, Mrs. Charles MacMahon (MacMahon had been on the Kelly Reward Board).

The advertisement started off with:

"Sale of Elegant Household Furniture, Piano by Rosener, Superior Colonial Wine, Hooded Buggy."

Some of the stuff listed in the advertisement were an upright piano, walnut tables (chess/card/occasional), oriental settees, lace curtains, house and table linens, Brussels carpet, brass and nickel mounted bedsteads, cedar wardrobes, large Cheval glass, French clock in gilt, kitchen utensils, etc. and a "very handsome four-wheeled hooded buggy in capital order."

That is one auction catalogue I would love to get my hands on!

Let's contrast Superintendent Hare's well appointed residence of twelve rooms on three storeys  with how Assistant Commissioner C. H. Nicolson described the Kelly homestead for the Royal Commission in 1881. He spoke of the conditions he found Mrs. Kelly living in in April of 1877:

"...I visited the notorious Mrs. Kelly’s on the road from hence to Benalla. She lived on a piece of cleared and partly cultivated land on the road-side, in an old wooden hut, with a large bark roof. The dwelling was divided into five apartments by partition of blanketing, rags, &c. There were no men in the house, only children and two girls of about fourteen years of age, said to be her daughters. They all appeared to be existing in poverty and squalor."

Then there were these bits from B.W. Cookson's "Kelly Gang From Within" newspaper series:

August 27, 1911

"..she begs her visitors draw near the fire and enjoy the warmth of the blazing logs. It is the ordinary bush fireplace, occupying one end of the living-room. Some food is in process of preparation in a kerosene tin that swings over the blaze."

[Compare that with the marble surrounds of the fireplaces at Janet Terrace!]

Cookson, Aug. 28, 1911

“Look at me now,” continued the old woman sadly. “Look what I’ve come to. Old and weak, and feeble, and have to stay in this place, where there is no comfort or anything like it. The life is too hard - too hard and rough. I could have stood it once, but not now. I am not strong enough. Look at this miserable place. Could anything be more comfortless?"
Indeed there was no sign of comfort about the hovel save the fire. The rough planks of the floor were slimy with the mud that had been carried in from outside. The furniture was of the poorest and scantiest. There was a sleeping apartment just off the living-room, and a small section of a city doss-house would have looked luxurious alongside it. There was no food in sight save a lump of stale-looking bread. And as for lights - well, it was obvious that there would be not even dripping to spare for slush lamps in that household. The children were poorly clad, but their clothes were clean - as, indeed, was everything about the place that could be made clean. But the general pervading tone was one of extreme poverty, and discomfort, and desolation.
“Here, in this poor place, with these little children, is this a life for any woman?” continued the mother of the outlaws, sadly. “Is this a fit reward for being a mother? There’s no justice in the country - no such thing as justice. There’s nothing but cruelty and persecution. Think what the police have done to me and mine, and then tell me if you wonder that the boys turned and smote the ones that had so persecuted them.”

Mrs. Kelly was truly on the opposite end of a very wide spectrum!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Brian!

Brian Stevenson's birthday is today, July 20th, and I hope he has a wonderful day and gets lots of presents! I also hope he has a nice cake! I have a feeling it won't be a Ned Kelly Helmet cake, though! ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Was Ned Kelly At The Eleven Mile on 15 April 1878? [Brian Stevenson]

Was Ned Kelly at the Eleven Mile Creek on 15 April 1878?

Even without the testimony of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, such as it was, the evidence is overwhelming that he was.

The day before he died, Kelly denied his presence at the affray in a letter from the condemned cell to the Marquis of Normanby, governor of Victoria: '[It] has also been stated that I was at the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick, but .. the police knew I had witnesses to prove my whereabouts at the time.'

He did not deny it outright in either the Cameron or Jerilderie Letters. The point did not come up in the Cameron letter at all. In the Jerilderie letter, Ned strongly implies, without saying so, that he was not there:

‘The trooper pulled out his revolver and said he would blow her [Mrs Kelly’s] brains out if she interfered in the arrest she told him it was a good job for him Ned was not there our he would ram the revolver down his throat Dan looked out and said Ned is coming now, the trooper being off his guard looked out and when Dan got his attention drawn he dropped the knife and fork [Dan was eating a meal at the time] which showed he had no murderous intent and slapped heenan’s hug on him took his revolver and kept him there until Skillion and Ryan came with horses which Dan sold that night. The trooper left and invented some scheme to say that he got shot …’

There is no mention of Ned’s own actions at the Eleven Mile Creek late in that fateful afternoon, but no denial either. Kelly, of course, was not keen to place himself there. But other people who were either there, or in a position to know, did.

Ian Jones in Ned Kelly: A short life, performed the useful exercise of drawing together all the bits of evidence that placed Ned right in the middle of an event that has been endlessly dissected over the last 133 years. While we will never know what happened there, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that he was.

Ellen Kelly - 'He [Fitzpatrick] tried to kiss my daughter Kate... The boys tried to stop him. He was a fool. They weere only trying to protect their sister.' - Interview with journalist B W Cookson for a Sydney newspaper, 28 August 1911.

Jim Kelly- '[Fitzpatrick gets hit on the head with a spade]. At the same moment a shot rang out and I saw Ned standing in the door way. He had fired his shot just at the same moment.' OK, this is a dodgy one, I admit - I don't know of any other source that says that Jim was present. He told this story in 1909 and it was published in 1930, in something entitled Datas: The Memory Man by Himself, no date but known to be 1930. Jim is also alleged to have admitted that Ned shot Fitzpatrick to a relative: Gwen Griffiths, presumably one of Grace's relations, told this to Ian Jones in 1961.

Tom Lloyd - told J J Keneally for the latter's 1929 edition of The Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Its Pursuers that when Dan threw Fitzpatrick to the floor, 'Fitzpatrick, on regaining his feet, drew his revolver just as Ned appeared at the door.' This time, though, the shot from Fitzpatricks' revolver goes through the roof but he is wounded in the wrist when he hits it 'against the projection part of the door lock.'

Kate Kelly - Melbourne Herald 7 February 1879 - tells the tale of how Fitzpatrick commenced 'in a violent manner to behave improperly. Just then her brother Ned came to the door' - in this version, Ned and Fitzpatrick grapple and Fitzpatrick is shot in the wrist.

William Williamson, who was gaoled for six years for the attempted murder of Fitzpatrick - Says that he tried to calm a couple of Ellen's children, two and four years old, and took them outside. 'Soon after this Ned Kelly rushed around the cornerof the house to the door and fired two shots.' Williamson to Inspector General of Penal Establishments, 6 August 1881, Kelly Papers.

So, there we have five people claiming that Ned was there. Four of the statements were made when Ned was dead, and four of them were made by relatives. Ned seems to have hedged around the issue, but I have no doubt that he was there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ned Kelly Helmet Cake

I would like to give a little bit of free advertising and kudos to this lady who bakes and decorates incredible cakes and other goodies up in Queensland.

I ran across a photo of a very well done Ned Kelly themed cake shaped like his helmet complete with edible chocolate revolvers that she had done. You can see it here:

Also she has created Ned Kelly cookies that look too good to eat! You can see them and other fabulous bakery creations at her facebook photos page:

(My husband would flip for that drum cake!)

She can be contacted through her website at

(Her business name is very apt!) 

I know this, if I didn't live 10,000 miles away I would hire her to do the cake for our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Carefully Controlled Gaol Visitors for Ned Kelly [Sharon Hollingsworth]

It seems that the authorities did not wish for any of Ned Kelly's family or friends to visit him while he was in gaol after the Siege of Glenrowan. At least gaol governor John Castieau was compassionate enough to let Ellen Kelly (who was also incarcerated in the Old Melbourne Gaol) visit her son when he was first brought in and she was promised a further visit in future.

Ned's sisters, Maggie Skillion and Kate Kelly, and his brother James Kelly and assorted friends tried to see him early on but were refused admission. It was reported that Maggie had "argued and wept" during the interview with the Chief Secretary as she pleaded with him to be allowed to visit her brother. There were rumours that that the authorities feared poison being brought in to him [see] or that Ned would tell Maggie where some stolen loot was buried, but the Chief Secretary, Mr. Ramsay, was adamantly opposed to any visitors and said that he "considers it improper that Kelly should be disturbed and pestered on the one hand, or on the other that he should be at liberty to circulate lying stories, which find their way into print." Dr. Charles Ryan, who had been attending to Ned Kelly's wounds was quoted as saying that "such visits are likely to retard the recovery of his patient."  It was said that at a certain point that there had been 100 requests to visit Ned Kelly put in to Mr. Ramsay!

Police, gaol and government officials, as well as clergy, were allowed to see him, though.  Argus reporter Joe Melvin who had been at the Glenrowan siege was said to have befriended Ned and visited him in gaol, too. Among the clergy were Dr. John Singleton (a Protestant evangelist) who made quite an impression on Ned, but he was eventually told not to return by gaol Governor John Castieau, as, allegedly, the Roman Catholic clergymen had objected. The Catholic Chaplain of the Gaol was Dean Donaghy and he visited as did Father Charles O'Hea. Other priests were allowed in, but Mother Ursula Frayne and the Sisters of Mercy (who were allegedly asked to come by Ned to give him "religious instruction") were not allowed admittance. John Cowley Coles, a Protestant clergyman wrote in his book how he had been to see Ned Kelly in gaol in the days before the execution.

Mr. Ramsay's pronouncement of no visitors for Ned prompted the Sheriff of the Beechworth Gaol, W.G. Brett, to send him a telegram inquiring "Does your order prohibit the Roman Catholic Chaplain and Medical Officer of the gaol from seeing Edward Kelly?" To which Mr. Ramsay replied: "Certainly not - they may be permitted to see Kelly." However, it seems that someone else got in to see him while there, too..a little girl. According to the book  "Ned Kelly's Last Days" while Ned Kelly was in the Beechworth Gaol for his committal hearing, Mr. Foster, the Police Magistrate, took his 8 year old daughter to the cells to see Ned. Ned allegedly told her that "I'll get your father when I get out of here." Her older sister, aged 10,  said that Ned has spat at her and her sister when he was at the train station.

The widow of Sgt. Michael Kennedy begged permission to see Ned at the Old Melbourne Gaol to find out for herself what transpired during her husband's dying moments, but was denied admittance.

Who was admitted from the public, though, was Charlie Cox, publican of the Royal Mail Hotel in Jerilderie where the Kelly Gang had held prisoners during the raid on the town. A newspaper stated that "in the course of conversation Kelly admitted that the murder of Aaron Sherritt was against his wishes and also gave Mr. Cox other information of a valuable nature."

Ned wrote (actually, he dictated) a letter to the Chief Secretary from the Old Melbourne Gaol dated July 19, 1880. In it he said:

"I beg most respectfully to request to request your permission to send for my sister Mrs. Skillion to visit me at hospital of the above gaol to enable me to confer with her respecting the provision of a solicitor to prepare my defense at my upcoming trial and likewise for her to procure me the necessary clothing to appear there at. I would also ask you to allow me to see my mother. I have only seen her once."

Once again, Maggie was not allowed to visit him, nor to bring or purchase clothing for him.

Even Ned Kelly's legal counsel was only allowed in to see him twice a week. During the committal hearing in Beechworth his lawyer Mr. Gaunson petitioned the court for the no visitors rule to be lifted, but to no avail.

On August 7, 1880, Ned Kelly related to the newspaper (via Mr. Gaunson) that:

"I have been kept here like a wild beast. If they were afraid to let anyone come near me, they might have kept at a distance and watched; but it seems to me to be unjust, when I am on trial for my life, to refuse those I put confidence in to come within cooee of me. Why they won't so much as let me have a change of clothes brought in!"

While in the Beechworth courthouse, Maggie was able to briefly speak with her brother. A newspaper noted that:

"Before Kelly could be removed from the dock Mrs. Skillion and Tom Lloyd stepped forward and shook hands with him. He remarked to Mrs. Skillion, "It looks as if they won't let me see you—good bye." Mrs.   Skillion replied, "Never mind Ned, they are a lot of curs," to which the prisoner rejoined, "There's one native that's no cur, and he will show them that yet."

Several newspapers in mid-October 1880 stated that "recently" Maggie Skillion and Kate Kelly had been allowed in to visit Ned (I suppose this would be between the Beechworth and Melbourne trials). Another said that Maggie and Ellen had visited him.

There is some discrepancy regarding that report, though.

Oddly, from what I read from other sources it seemed to indicate that Maggie was not allowed in until after the guilty verdict at the Melbourne trial (held Oct 28/29) was read. Some sources say that Maggie was only allowed to visit Ned after several months of waiting. The new Chief Secretary, Graham Berry, who had replaced Ramsay (due to an election), finally decided to grant permission. The papers said of those visiting the gaol after the no visitors ban was lifted, that "the party consisted of three young men - named McAuliffe, Ryan, and Lloyd, together with Miss McAuliffe, Miss Kate Lloyd, and Mrs. Skillion, the prisoner's sister."

So, I am not sure if both visits took place or just the one after the verdict (it is like so many other things in the Kelly world in that respect that remain in dispute).

Eventually James Kelly was allowed to visit also. Wild Wright, along with William Gaunson (who had been active in the campaign for a reprieve for Ned), both sought admittance but were denied, even though Ned had requested to see William Gaunson.

On the day before Ned was executed Maggie had gone home to be with the children (but she did visit him the last time on the 9th along with "Quinn, an uncle"), but Kate Kelly, Grace Kelly, James Kelly,  Kate Lloyd,  and Tom Lloyd were all allowed to say their goodbyes through an iron grille. Ellen also was able to see her son for the last time telling him "Mind ye die like a Kelly."

There were other visitors that Ned had that were not family or friends or there in an official capacity.

I had previously done a blog post about Sir Douglas Shields, son of Dr. Andrew Shields, the gaol doctor, being taken in to see Ned Kelly when he was 4 years old. See for that post. But it seems that Douglas Shields was not the only juvenile who had gotten to see Ned in gaol.

I mentioned earlier about the daughter of Magistrate Foster getting in to see him and then there was John Castieau's son Godfrey (age 13) who was taken to see Ned at the OMG and he was treated kindly by the bushranger. Under the stage name of Godfrey Cass he portrayed Ned in a few films in the early 20th century.

Then there was this bit about a visitor in the newspaper...

The Mansfield Guardian writes - the editor of this paper, with a view to solving the mystery in connection with the celebrated case of the shooting at Edward Monk, near the Wombat, telegraphed to a gentleman in Melbourne as follows - "Go and see Ned Kelly, and ask him 'Did you, or any of your mates shoot at, or endeavour to kill, Edward Monk of the Wombat sawmills.' The following reply has been received - "Melbourne 3rd July, 1880. This is the earliest opportunity I have of replying to you. Ned Kelly makes this statement to me, and I believe it: "Monk was never shot at by me, or any of the others who were with me. In fact Monk and I were good friends though I had not seen him for many years. None of us ever had any reason whatsoever that I know of to do so."

How, in the face of Mr. Ramsay's refusal to grant permits to see Kelly in gaol, "the gentleman
in Melbourne" was enabled to communicate with Ned Kelly is not stated.

How, indeed? It would seem that the "gentleman in Melbourne" was one of the special few who was able to get a visitor's permit. What capacity he served in is unknown, but what is known is that anyone (other than his mother) who was near and dear to Ned Kelly was shut out!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Article Alert: More to Ned's Past

I was looking at the latest North East news at the site and at the bottom of the page under where it says "special supplements and publications" I clicked on the cover for the North East Regional Extra of June 6-12, 2011. The cover article is called "More to Ned's Past" featuring an interview with Linton Briggs of Glenrowan. I can't give a direct link to the article as there is no permalink, as after a few days any link given to this publication would have another issue in its place and so on. Maybe if one searches it out before the new issue comes out they will see it. I don't like to put full articles here due to copyright concerns, but I will give a snippet with the best part of the article, though.

From More to Ned's Past

..Spending childhood with his policeman father and family in the town's old police station, which backs on to Glenrowan Creek, Linton recalls being told as a child about Ned falling into the head of a tree which had fallen upstream on the creek, the stump of which still remained at the site.
Using his knowledge of the stump's location and historical records, Linton says he can pinpoint to within inches the spot where Ned Kelly fell. Long ago Linton's father covered the stump with soil, and the site has since been conversed though unmarked by Heritage Victoria, although Linton hopes there will be some kind of marking or plaque some day....

The rest of the article was about his contributions regarding Glenrowan and the siege at the Culture Victoria website and his hope that all the historical sites in Glenrowan are one day mapped and that history is preserved.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Product Alert: Kelly Gang Thimbles

I just stumbled over this site that sells Kelly Gang thimbles:

From the site:

"The 'Kelly Gang' Collectible Thimble series adds another layer to the mythology of the Kelly gang and is a must-have for any Australian thimble collector.

The Kelly Gang thimbles are made in Australia from high grade pewter. They have an authentic aged patina and are hand finished. There are four unique thimbles in the series, depicting the four unique helmets worn in the Glenrowan siege by the Kelly Gang. Each has its own unique features. The detail in each thimble is extraordinary, right down to the nuts that held them together."

The site goes on to show each thimble and gives a short description of each. One of the things that was interesting was where it said of the small slit in Joe Byrne's helmet that "Joe was reputed to have been afraid of being hit in the eyes by a shotgun blast."  I had read at another Kelly site where a visitor to the Not Just Ned exhibition in Canberra told of a tour guide saying basically the same thing regarding Joe's helmet. I wonder what the original source is for that information?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Kelly Haters no 1 - Malcolm H Ellis [Brian Stevenson]

By the 1960s the legend of Ned Kelly as Australian hero had well and truly taken hold. It was decades since J J Keneally published The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and, in 1966, nearly twenty years since Max Brown’s first edition of his touchstone work, Australian Son had appeared. Frank Clune’s The Kelly Hunters, another work broadly pro-Kelly came out in 1954. All three were sympathetic, with the Keneally production in particular unapologetically pro-Kelly.

Enter Malcolm Henry Ellis, a historian and journalist, whose three page take on the Kelly legend in the weekly Australian newsmagazine, The Bulletin of 31 December 1966 remains as excoriating a tirade against Ned Kelly to appear in the twentieth century (not that there are many.) Ellis had already contributed biographies of the New South Wales Lachlan Macquarie, Francis Greenway the architect (he’s the man on the first ten dollar note, with Henry Lawson on the flip side for those who remember it) and sheep magnate John Macarthur.

While historians often come from the left side of the political spectrum, there was never any doubt as to where Malcolm Henry Ellis’s sympathies lay. Secretary for the Nationalist leader in Queensland in the years after the First World War, the socialist views of Queensland’s Labor government were anathema to him, so much so that he wrote a 572 page manuscript on the subject! The tome did not find a publisher, but was published in extremely distilled form as a sort of campaign manual for Labor’s opponents in the 1918 Queensland election. It doesn't seem to have helped much. The Labor party increased their majority and stayed in government for thirty-six of the next thirty-nine years!

Sad to relate, there’s also every indication that Ellis was not always a pleasant chap. When he was created a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) he wrote to his brother noting that while he was not especially ‘honour minded’ he was pleased that the CMG was ‘not awarded to blackfellows and Chinamen.’ He turned his hand to history, and in his fifties and sixties published the three biographies mentioned above, generally to positive reviews. But he quarreled with other key people, accusing one writer of plagiarizing his manuscript for her own book on Macquarie, and alienating people in the Royal Australian Historical Society and the Australasian Pioneers’ Club, and on the editorial board of the Australian dictionary of biography. (There’s a full account of this in aninteresting article available online by Andrew Moore, ‘The ‘’Historical Expert’: M H Ellis and the Historiography of the Cold War’, originally published in Australian historical studies no 114, 2000.)

Given Ellis’s conservatism and general support of the established order, he could not be expected to view the depredations of Ned Kelly with any favour, and he didn’t. The opening two paragraphs set the tone, with Ned described as:

‘…one of the most cold-blooded, egotistical and utterly self-centred criminals who ever decorated the end of a rope in an Australian jail. His frankness in turpitude, his utter vengefulness, his cruelty, his cold-blooded lack of regret at the wiping out of the lives of decent men can only repel even an unfastidious mind.

('Turpitude' means baseness or depravity. Ellis used the word a couple of times in the article, so he must have liked it.)

Ned’s family is portrayed in a most unflattering way. The lad was of ‘a tribe which thought nothing of slugging a constable with a stirrup iron, or beating a half drunken adversary into pulp with a bent auger.’ (This, I believe, refers to the assault of Jimmy Quinn, Ned’s uncle, on the person of William Skelton, though I am willing to be corrected on this one.)

There follows a condemnatory list of Ned’s sins, presented in about as bad a light as Ellis could muster. Ellis saw Ned’s main characteristic as a stratagem: at Stringybark Creek, the stratagem was ‘to sneak up on a police camp while police were cooking, and wipe them out like dingoes, if possible.’ I think we all agree that what the Kellys did at Stringybark was pretty bad, but Ellis puts the worst possible spin on it and leaving out the details that Ned called for Lonigan and McIntyre to surrender, and spared McIntyre when he did. Other chroniclers have seen this call for surrender as a big plus in Ned’s favour. My own thought is that a five second warning is better than none at all, but doesn’t exactly qualify Ned and his cohorts for canonization.

Ellis is scathing about Ned’s decision to euthanase Kennedy, which ‘shows Kelly’s quality as a heartless, psychopathic killer, as merciless as a wild animal.’ True, there was nothing terribly heroic about the dispatching of Kennedy, but it is at least possible that this was done to spare him some suffering – with two corpses nearby, and McIntyre escaped, Ned Kelly had already committed capital crimes that were bound to come to light, so Kennedy’s survival or otherwise would have made little difference to him. But Ellis claims that help from whoever McIntyre told ‘would not have been long coming’: it is to be doubted that Kennedy would have lasted the days that the arrival of help would take.

Most chroniclers acknowledge that the thrilling deeds at Euroa and Jerilderie brought excitement, colour and gaiety into the drab lives of all that were concerned with them, except of course those who were employed in the police force or the banks. Even Ellis concedes that the raids were ‘theatrical display in the best tradition of Italian hill banditry.’ But he goes on, and probably with much certitude, to say:

How kind they were to the women and children, how polite to everybody! But had the father or brother or husband of one of those women and children put one finger out of place, he knew he would be mown down with utter ruthlessness.

Glenrowan, as everyone with an interest in the Kelly Gang knows
, demonstrates so many negative facets of the saga, and Ellis correctly and quite justifiably terms them as such, using phrases like ‘useless ploughshare armour’, ‘insane revengeful bravado’ and, in the case of the hapless and terminally confused Aaron Sherritt, ‘coldly planned murder.’ For Ellis, ‘the vicious ruthlessness that laid behind the planning … was matched by the insane paranoiac evidence in the Kelly autobiography.’ Unsurprisingly, Ellis was not a fan of the Cameron and Jerilderie letters, terming them harangues about [Ned’s] wrongs, through which ran a whining note of self-pity, with the overlay of megalomania.

Such was the hatred that Malcolm Henry Ellis had for a man who died ten years before he was born that he even cited Ned’s gaol photographs as evidence of his degenerate qualities. Probably in implicit agreement with the majority of writers (this one included) that the Nettleton photographs of 10 November 1880 portray a pleasant faced individual who seems at peace with himself, Ellis admitted only that some of Ned’s photographs were speaking likenesses of the real man. They present cruelty and cunning only equaled by that of his degenerate brother Dan, who perished in the fires at Glenrowan.

Ellis concludes his three page diatribe on the Kellys with a rhetorical flourish that was totally predictable:

Everything about the Kellys that I can discover was base, vicious and undesirable. Ned was an arch-bully, menacing, vain, cruel, predatory, more like a wolverine than a dingo.

Regular readers of this blog will know, of course, that I am not a Ned fan. But like just about all of us, he had some good, even fine, qualities. Ned was not a nice person, but Ellis is way too hard on him. Nothing about the rescue of Richard Shelton, nothing about the hopeless but unbelievably and courageously suicidal charge back to the hotel to try to rescue Dan and Steve with thirty-four police in the way, nothing about Ned’s leadership qualities, nothing about his extraordinary athletic ability, be it with his rifle, his horse or his fists.

Ellis, of course, was a law-abiding citizen all his life, and respected by many for his industry and writing talents. But there were those who disliked him intensely, and some of those had good reason. If pressed, many of these would, no doubt, have preferred the company of Ned Kelly to his.

As a famous person once said, such is life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Article Alert: Thieves Target Historic Ned Kelly Site

Thanks go out to Joe Dipisa of and who sent me this article link from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria) website.

Thieves target historic Ned Kelly site

29 June, 2011

Thieves have stolen more than 20 metres of stainless steel fence wiring from the site of the Ned Kelly shoot-out at Stringybark Creek, near Mansfield.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Forest Stewardship Officer, Shane O’Brien, notified the police last week when he discovered that the wire was missing.....

To read more:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Product Alert: Ned Kelly on a Matchbook Cover

There is a new product out now that is using Ned Kelly as an advertising tool.

Michael Ball sent me the photo below that shows a pack of  Redheads Safety Matches featuring a red rendition of  The Big Ned Kelly in Glenrowan. He said he got it in a multi-pack he recently purchased.

photo courtesy of Michael Ball

Ok, now, am I the only one who thinks that it's sort of highly ironic to use the iconic image of Ned Kelly on a pack of matches (especially so close the anniversary of the Siege of Glenrowan)?!?