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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.

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