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


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Article Alert: Ned Kelly's Remains Found

From google alerts..

The Age newspaper of Sept 1, 2011 has an article entitled NED KELLY'S REMAINS FOUND.

The article begins with:

Forensic experts have confirmed that human remains found at the old Pentridge Prison site in Melbourne are those of notorious Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.

After an exhaustive 20-month investigation, scientists and doctors today revealed that an almost complete skeleton found buried in a wooden axe box were those of the famous outlaw, who was executed in 1880.

A DNA sample taken from Melbourne school teacher Leigh Olver, who is Ned’s sister Ellen’s great-grandson, confirmed the remains were those of Kelly.

Other highlights from the article:

The exhaustive forensic analysis was carried out by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM), in collaboration with the forensic DNA laboratory EAAF in Argentina.
It included input from historians, pathologists, anthropologists, odontologists, radiologists, and ballistics and DNA experts.

Through a series of CT scans, X-rays, pathology, odontology and anthropology tests plus extensive historical research and DNA analysis, the team was able to positively identify the remains.

The identification was completed when a DNA sample taken from Mr Olver was compared to a DNA sample taken from the remains....

Consultations will begin shortly with Ned Kelly’s family to determine an appropriate resting place for the remains.

To read the article in full go to:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Quick Update & Event/Program Reminder [Sharon Hollingsworth]

For those of you who are aware that I am in North Carolina, I am happy to report that I am ok after we have had an earthquake (tremors from the one north of us in Virginia, something I have never experienced previously) and a hurricane in the space of less than a week! The good Lord saw us through and thankfully no one in our family or circle of friends suffered injury or sustained any damage to homes, vehicles or outbuildings. Just a few downed trees and power lines was the extent of our problems. Many others were not so lucky. We can only hope and pray that we all remain safe during any future storms. Being without electricity for a couple of days in the heat of summer was not very pleasant, and having to throw out spoiled food from the fridge and freezer was like stuffing dollar bills into a bag to take to the trash dump (or tip as the Aussies call it). As I told a friend down under I felt like I was back in the 1870s for a while...but with no gentlemanly bushrangers around (darn it!).  The nineteenth century is a great place to visit but I would not want to live there! :)

You can well imagine how happy Chuck and I were to see this guy show up in front in our home! 

I am currently working on a new blog post about Ned Kelly that I hope to have up by the weekend.  In the meantime don't forget what I had posted about a while ago which is to tune in Sunday, September 4, 2011 for the tv doco on "Ned's Head" on SBS ONE and also this weekend is the Kalari Lachlan River Arts Festival in Forbes that has the Kate Kelly Song Cycle as one of the attractions  on the same Sunday (which I posted about back in December 2010 as a heads up).

From their website at

...It continues on Sunday 4 September with music and theatre stages, arts & crafts demonstrations,  kids’ activities, exhibitions, stalls and markets along the Lake Forbes foreshore (Buck Bentick Way off Lachlan Street) from 10 am until dusk, when a Lantern Parade honouring the district’s Chinese pioneers will segue into the Headline Act, the premiere of The Kate Kelly Song Cycle...

What time is dusk down under? Will it coincide with the Ned's Head doco?  I suppose one could attend the Song Cycle event and tape/tivo the Ned's Head program if you would not be home to watch it in real time (another good reason we live in the 21st century!).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Elijah Upjohn, Part 2 [Brian Stevenson]

Elijah Upjohn’s life had not been a pretty or charmed one up to his big moment at 10 am in the Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880. It did not get much better.

Only two days after the execution, Upjohn’s new notoriety had the unlikely effect of impinging on the Theatre Royal production of Romeo and Juliet. According to the Argus of 15 November 1880, the performance was was disrupted ‘by the brutal interruptions of a knot of small boys in the gallery, composed of sympathizers of the murderer just executed.’ Friar Lawrence, a character in the play, was greeted with cries of ‘Upjohn’, and, mysteriously, ‘Susy’ whenever he appeared, followed by laughter, ‘and not the slightest attempt was made by the management to silence or remove the young ribalds.’ Despite the difficulties, the actor carried off the role with aplomb and ‘delivered the language of the Friar with sonorous sententiousness, in spite of the unmannerly interruptions to which he was exposed.’

Sometime after 1880 Upjohn moved to Coburg as a flogger, and, as Justin Corfield has noted, was ‘reported to whip fairly.’ Indeed, word of his prowess as flagellator reached the Northern Territory, with the Darwin newspaper Northern Territory times and gazette reporting on 8 December 1883 that one Pentridge prisoner, Rolland, ‘although feeling the punishment severely, politely thanked Upjohn after the last lash was administered.’ (Rolland, apparently, was made of sterner stuff than the other convict, McCann, who groaned before the first lash fell.)

Less satisfactory was Upjohn’s performance as flagellant was his whipping of three robbers, as reported in the Hobart Mercury of 14 August 1884. Upjohn flogged ‘in a most disgraceful manner, the lash being brought underneath the unfortunate recipients’ right arms’ and Upjohn was in ‘an unfit state’ to use the lash and ‘the sufferers, whilst wincing under the hangman’s unmerciful lash [felt] with a vengeance, that “the way of transgressors is hard.” ‘ According to the memoirist Dick Adolphus in the Portland guardian of 15 May 1907, ‘Upjohn used to say that he would rather hang a man than flog him, for a man who was hanged was done with, but a man who was only flogged was always to be feared.’

The Argus of 29 June 1882 reported that Upjohn had been making a nuisance of himself, annoying women and children on the public road and also in an omnibus travelling from Brunswick to Coburg. The drivers of the omnibus company had asked the manager for an order banning Upjohn from using them and there was an application before the Coburg court ‘for the abatement of this nuisance.’ Having to walk everywhere did not stop Elijah from misbehaving again, however, and the Argus of 29 September reported that the public hangman, affected by alcohol, had exposed himself in the streets of Carlton in the presence of women and children. Police Magistrate Frederick Call, who in late July 1880 had remanded Ned Kelly to face trial for the murders of Lonigan and Scanlan, fined Upjohn ten pounds, in default three months gaol. ‘The fine was not paid and he was forwarded to the Melbourne gaol.’

Perhaps it was not all bad for Elijah Upjohn during his time back in prison, according to the Sydney morning herald of 20 October 1882:

[Upjohn] has been having a good time of it lately; not in respect of his higher functions, for there has been no one to hang lately, but there have been frequent flagellations, and as the flagellator is himself in prison he is able to save all his fees, and can enjoy in anticipation the festivity in which he will indulge when he comes out. No doubt if every person who deserves to be whipped were whipped, Upjohn would soon be a rich man, and might live in a fine house and keep his carriage.’

A gentleman named F Audley Bass, who taught at a school (unnamed) in Exhibition Street, Melbourne shared some recollections of Upjohn in the Argus of 30 September 1939. Peculiarly, Upjohn used to lurk on the street corner adjoining the school and wait for the local larrikins to beat him up, reasoning that he would, in time, receive generous payment (and no doubt some satisfaction) by administering judicial floggings to them if they assaulted him.

Whatever demons were in Upjohn’s mind did not abate, and, as Corfield again notes, a complaint was made two years later to the secretary of the railways that Upjohn, en route to Beaufort, ‘stripped so far as was necessary and put his beastly body out of the [train] window and relieved the calls of nature.’ (You are a diligent scholar, Dr Corfield, and a fine researcher, but perhaps tidbit could be filed under the heading of ‘too much information.’)

Upjohn redeemed himself enough to officiate at a couple of other hangings. On 26 September 1883 he performed his work at the execution of Robert Francis Burns at Ararat: the miscreant told Upjohn, as he was pinioned: ‘I have cooked eight – five in Victoria and three in Sydney – and now you are going to cook me.’ According to a report in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser of 29 September, Upjohn was very nervous and when he adjusted the rope he left the noose hanging loosely, with the knot close to Burns’s chin. The head warder pulled the noose more tightly and placed the knot at the back of Burns’s neck. Death came instantaneously.

On 21 August 1884 Upjohn acted as hangman again. This time the condemned man, James Hawthorn, suffered a lot more than Ned Kelly, probably because no one was at hand to check the Upjohn’s work. The hangman’s knot slipped under the jaw instead of behind the ear.Shortly afterwards, Upjohn was relieved of his duties. As has happened many times before and since, a friendless pariah tried to find solace in religion.

Towards the end of his wretched life, Upjohn seems to have tried to redeem himself. The Sydney morning herald reported on 29 November 1884 that he had joined the Salvation Army, to somewhat of a mixed reception.

[Upjohn] has become a shining light, if not a frightful example. It is true his comrades do not seem proud of him, and they give him a good deal of cold shoulder. But he is said to have become meek and lowly, and to take these rebuffs in a spirit of resignation. The officers of the army are proud of their new recruit, and are confident of being able to keep him from backsliding, but the army generally does not seem to be sure of him.

A short report in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 25 November 1884 confirmed that a number of Salvation Army officers had objected, but Major Barker, apparently someone of authority in the organization, was firm that Upjohn be accepted as a recruit.Even though it was far away, the Darwin newspaper, the North Australian, was sceptical in its issue of 26 December 1884:

Mr Upjohn wants salvation, and he will have his little plate of boiled corned beef, even if he is converted to get it…When he was proposed as a member some officers said they’d be hanged if they’d admit him.

Sad to relate, Upjohn continued to go downhill, despite whatever succor the Salvation Army provided. The Portland guardian relayed the following story from the Melbourne Herald on 27 January 1885:

The condition of Upjohn, the hangman, is becoming one which the authorities will require to consider. He is in continual dread of his life, and will scarcely move away from the precincts of any point of safety. Lately he has been hovering round the door of the Salvation Army offices, obtaining there the wherewithal to live, and when the shades of evening come he hides himself away in any outhouse he can find available, his continual idea being that people are after him to murder him. Today, as it is stated to me, he intimated that the best thing he could do was to ‘do for’ the Inspector-General and then for himself.

On 31 January 1885 he was arrested for vagrancy. The Argus of 2 February related:

He had been living precariously for some months past, and was in the habit of sleeping in outhouses. He stated that the larrikins frequently molested him, and that some have threatened him with bodily harm.

According to the Illustrated Sydney news of 4 July 1885, Upjohn removed himself to Sydney ‘as it was believed there was a plot among some expirees who he flogged to murder him.’

On 26 September 1885, a policeman at an outpost near Bourke, New South Wales, came across a sick and dying man in the desert. The policeman was unable to save his life and Elijah Upjohn died two days later. As Justin Corfield noted, the death certificate provided little but his name, testimony that his family, as well as, presumably, the rest of the world, had given up on him.

'Back of Bourke' is, of course, an Australian idiom meant to express extreme isolation. It is hard to conceive of Elijah Upjohn dying in a more appropriate place.

Few people follow the example of Samuel Colt, Captain Boycott and the Reverend Spooner by becoming words, and Upjohn did not, but his name apparently remained in the public consciousness for some time after his death. A letter to the editor of the Clarence and Richmond examiner (the Grafton newspaper) on 11 February 1890 referred to a hypothetical hangman as Upjohn, and an editorial in the 16 July 1892 edition of the Barrier miner, describing the hanging of a mine manager in effigy, said how ‘the doomed object was handed over to Mr ‘Upjohn’, the hangman who thereupon carried out his part of the performance, amidst howls from those present.’ But Elijah Upjohn’s name was not destined to be a household word, and he would be forgotten except for the grim role that he played on the scaffold of the Old Melbourne Gaol on the morning of 11 November 1880.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives (book review and interview with the author) [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Recently I did a blog post about a novel by Paul Williams called "The Shenandoah Affair" in which some of the real-life players in the Kelly saga were featured as they played a part in the Shenandoah Affair many years before Kelly's career began. You can read the post at Paul has another book out concerning Ned Kelly, this is a non-fiction one, called "Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives" which I had also mentioned in that previous posting. Though it came out in 2007, it is still available through the publisher's website at

I have done a review of the book that can be found further down in this blog post after some information regarding the book and author from the book itself. I have also conducted a short interview via email with Paul Williams exclusively for the Eleven Mile Creek blog that will be at the end of the review.

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

The young man stood on the scaffold. A Roman Catholic priest, bible in hand, stood to one side. Prayers were read. The signal was given, the drop fell.

So ended a bushranging career that had spanned the best part of two years. This man had left his mark, becoming a legend in his own time; a notorious bushranger who bailed up towns, with huge bounties placed on his head. Renowned for his support of the underdog, he had won a ground swell of supporters. women who fell into his hands as captives had spoken of his chivalrous conduct, but if he had ever experienced the intimate love of a woman in his life, it is unknown.

A traitor had been executed two days before he fought his last stand, where bullet wounds to the leg led to his final capture, trial, and sentence to hang.

This hanging took place in two separate years - 1826 in Hobart Town, then again during 1880 in Melbourne. Matthew Brady had been the first of the great Australian bushrangers and Ned Kelly, repeating history, the last.

To give a taste of what is inside the book and to whet the appetite here is a listing of the chapters:


1.  The Road to Purgatory

2.  First Blood

3.  Pursuit

4.  Homesteads Taken

5.  Towns Occupied

6.  Traitors Die

7.  Trust No One

8.  The Eagles Snared

9.  A Faithful Two Die

10. Justice Will be Done

11. Retribution



Here is the information from the book about the author:

Paul Williams graduated from the Swinburne School of Film and Television, Melbourne, in 1976. He became involved in animated film production as a writer, producer and director. His projects included The Steam-Driven Adventures of Riverboat Bill, The Black Planet, The Phantom Treehouse and The Silver Brumby. He has three children's books to his credit along with the historic novel The Shenandoah Affair and, for pure history, Little Bighorn and Isandlwana: Kindred Fights, Kindred Follies.

Now on to my review:

With all of that out of the way, I would like to give my thoughts on Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives. In short, I really enjoyed it! Before reading this, I knew practically nothing about Matthew Brady beyond the fact that he was an early bushranger. As a funny aside, when I had first begun to get interested in Ned Kelly and bushrangers in general and had heard the name Matthew Brady, I was under the false impression that he was the very famous American Civil War photographer of the same name (except later I found that the photographer spelled his name with only one t). My husband said he also thought that was who the book was about when I showed the cover to him! But no, this about the "prince of bushrangers" who died in the early 19th Century long before the American Civil War.
Mr. Williams has a very lively literary style that practically transports you back to the era of which writes. I found myself being drawn in to the narrative, I felt like I was not just a reader but was almost an onlooker to history! He had the same style with The Shenandoah Affair. He has that very rare talent to make history come alive!
I was quite fascinated with Brady's life and career as laid out by Mr. Williams. What a saga and I learned so much! The Ned Kelly portions of the book was like preaching to the choir to me as I basically know the story chapter and verse. (I only found one or two slight errors in the Kelly portion such as Nicolson being spelled as Nicholson, and it being said that Mrs. Barry lived with Aaron Sherritt and her daughter when she would just come up there from her own home in the evenings to visit, and so forth, so you really can't go wrong with this for your "neducation."). This book serves as a good primer for those who may not be familiar with the lives and careers of either or both of these men. Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives is laid out nicely in that each chapter has alternating sections on Brady and Kelly. To indicate where each separate narrative begins there is a very clever use of line drawings of Brady's and Kelly's heads to show you who is being spoken of.  It is interesting how the two bushrangers had such parallel lives and Mr. Williams was quite astute in making the connections he presents in the book. There were so many uncanny coincidences laid out, I won't give away all as you need to read the book for yourself, but some of them (other than what is listed on the back cover blurb) are that both were described by others as being good candidates for military generals and they had both bailed up traps, locked them up in their own cells and wore their uniforms to fool the populace. Then there were times that the traps who were in pursuit of both gangs were in civilian clothes, leading to traps challenging traps and sometimes firing on "brother officers" in the confusion. There were mysterious weapon misfires that saved the lives of both of the bushrangers. There were many more instances given. Of course there were differences, the Kelly Gang was always four in number (with maybe a "fifth Beatle" type relationship here or there such as with Tom Lloyd), whereas Brady's gang was in constant flux, at times having up to a dozen or so members, but with many of them lost due to attrition (death, capture, etc) and some gained along the way. Brady and gang would rob travellers on the road, something the Kelly gang didn't do. There was a bit more violence involved with Brady's gang overall (Stringybark Creek for the Kelly's notwithstanding), but he had some really nasty folks on his crew for a time. But Brady himself seemed to always "save" people from his gang. In the first chapter there was a very telling bit about how Brady stepped between an innocent doctor and an escaped convict set on flogging him. Brady himself had suffered terrible and frequent floggings at the hands of the authorities and this very doctor was the one who tended to him afterwards, so he felt loyalty to him and would not let him suffer as he had. Another bit that was really imaginative was where Brady and his gang rigged up a bushranger scarecrow complete with wooden "gun" as a decoy that fooled some pursuers.

All said, this book was really good and thought provoking and I guarantee that anyone who picks this up will not be disappointed. These two men truly did lead kindred lives and shared a kindred spirit and we can be grateful to Paul Williams for chronicling so well the careers of these dual flames who were extinguished far too early.

My interview with Paul Williams:

[Sharon Hollingsworth]  Paul, you put the pieces together so well as concerns the similarities between the two bushrangers Matthew Brady and Ned Kelly. Tell us about when you had first started recognising the "kindred spirits" of these men and what prompted you to write about it. If I may add, I am glad you did share your findings with us in "Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly: Kindred Spirits, Kindred Lives" rather than just "sitting on them" like so many others do!


[Paul Williams] I originally took an interest in Matthew Brady when I read, many years ago, a piece about "The Prince of Bushrangers" in a book about Australian crime. I was surprised his name was not better known like Ned Kelly and Ben Hall. But it seems that bushrangers of earlier convict times have never attracted the same glamour as those of the gold rush/late 1800s era. Being basically a filmmaker, I originally started researching Brady with a TV dramatised documentary in mind. The original trigger for the noting of similarities was both bushrangers executing a traitor just two days before they fought their last stand, and then I noticed both being captured and hanged because of gunshot wounds to the leg. I thought this was a remarkable coincidence so naturally started looking for other similarities and they quickly fell in place, such as both being Catholics of Irish descent, and on and on it went. I soon realised that the only way this topic could be fully treated was in book form. When you actually start writing the focus is intense and other similarities fell into place which would go unnoticed to the casual reader. I wrote this book just before starting on another duplication of history Little Bighorn and Isandlwana; Kindred Fights, Kindred Follies, currently available at for anyone interested.

[Sharon Hollingsworth]  Looking in Brian McDonald's "What They Said About Ned!" I see that you had authored a children's book out in 1990 called "The Adventures of Black Ned" which Brian describes as "A children's picture book depicting a knee length helmeted Ned, who uses the idea of of the Wooden Horse of Troy to rob the local bank. Constable Fitzpatrick attempts to arrest Ned with his weapon, a giant can-opener."

I have to chuckle at that bit regarding Fitzpatrick and the can-opener!

It sounds like you have a long term interest in Ned Kelly what with the children's book, the Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly one and even the mentioning of of all the future Kelly saga players in the fact based novel "The Shenandoah Affair." Tell us a little bit about that interest.

[Paul Williams] The first time I ever heard of Ned Kelly was aged about 6 when my father mentioned his name. He seemed surprised that I didn't know all about Ned, and briefly described the Glenrowan affair. I was in the public library a few years back where Ned's armour was on display and much to my surprise a school teacher with a bunch of very young children had to explain who Ned was. I think in Australia he is so ingrained in our folklore you are expected to actually be born with a knowledge of Ned Kelly.

  The children's book The Adventures of Black Ned was actually based on a cartoon film I made on 8mm before I became a professional filmmaker. It won the 1975 Melbourne International Amateur Film Festival. Now the reason I chose Ned for a topic at that time meant that I could have Ned talking in his helmet without worrying about synchronizing speech and lip movement! I used that film to get government funding for a second Kelly cartoon and also to get into the Swinburne Film School which launched my professional filmmaking career, so I have a lot to thank Ned for.     
  The mentioning in my novel The Shenandoah Affair of people also connected with Kelly is simply because they are seen in their correct historic context, being policemen, politicians etc. who were actually around for both dramas.

[Sharon Hollingsworth] As I have stated over and over again, I loved your novel "The Shenandoah Affair." You had mentioned to me in email that you had actually visited the United States to do research for that book. I see in the bibliography for Matthew Brady & Ned Kelly that you had gotten information from a variety of locations from Sydney to Melbourne to Hobart. Did you actually get to visit the North East of Victoria at some point to walk where Ned Kelly boldly strode over a hundred and thirty some years ago?  For what it's worth he not only strode across the land but left some pretty big bootprints across the landscape of our minds, too, didn't he?

 [Paul Williams] Yes, being a Victorian resident I have visited the Kelly sights; Glenrowan, Stringybark Creek etc. and actually sat on the jury in a re-enactment of the Kelly Trial during a Ned Kelly weekend at Beechworth a few years ago. A period "policeman" asked me if I would like to sit without knowing the book was about to come out and naturally I jumped at the chance. It was good to be a participant.

  Ned certainly has left a big footprint on our minds regardless of the degree of interest. Every adult Australian knows about him and seems to have an opinion, hero or rogue, the Robin Hood and Rob Roy of Australian culture. I personally see Ned as a flawed hero. No one can doubt his bravery and leadership skills, but the shooting of a defenceless Aaron Sherritt on his orders I see as a blotch on his career. Other less violent means could have drawn the police train from Melbourne. As for Stringybark Creek, the police had the option of "bailing up" but chose to fight and suffered the consequences. What does surprise me is Ned's honesty (or naivety!) in admitting he executed the dying Sgt. Kennedy. There were no witnesses and he could simply have said the final shot was exchanged as part of the gun battle. No one would have been the wiser.

[Sharon Hollingsworth] In the blog posting I did about The Shenandoah Affair, I mentioned (and linked) about how there was a proposal on the table to make that book into a film (with you as screenwriter, naturally). Can you give us an update on how things are progressing on that?

[Paul Williams] The Shenandoah movie is listed by Inov8entertainment as a future project, but they are preoccupied with other films at the moment. It would be nice to see it on screen in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the ship's arrival in Melbourne.

[Sharon Hollingsworth] Would you like to give us any heads ups about other book and film projects you are currently working on so we can be on the lookout for them?

[Paul Williams] I've been working on the script for a feature film to be shot in Australia early next year, all things going well. The film, Rockin' Ricky Roberts is best described as being about an eccentric 50s retro rock singer with a sci-fi twist. Also, back in the 1980s, I made an animated telemovie called The Black Planet which was distributed in the USA and elsewhere. It was a comedy about the energy crisis and the space race. I've been working on an updated script as a new live action musical version, along with writing and illustrating a few children's books.

[Sharon Hollingsworth]  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these few questions for me, Paul. Any closing thoughts re Ned Kelly or anything else you would like to mention?

[Paul Williams] No, I think I've said enough, and thanks for the interview, Sharon, a trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Elijah Upjohn - The Man Who Hanged Ned Kelly - Part 1 [Brian Stevenson]

There is no shortage of unappealing characters in the Kelly saga, but Elijah Upjohn, the petty criminal who will be forever remembered as the man who hanged Ned Kelly, is surely the most unappealing of the lot.

There is a detailed entry on Upjohn’s pathetic life in Justin Corfield’s Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia. Corfield sums it up perfectly: “Elijah Upjohn had a sad life. It began badly, continued worse, and he died in oblivion.’

Through the wonderful National Library of Australia service, Trove, I have found extra details on Upjohn, to supplement Corfield’s entry. Corfield has details of his early years. Baptised on 1 January 1823, Elijah was presumably born in 1822, son of a delinquent father and transportee who died in the benevolent asylum in Ballarat. Elijah’s criminal career started very early and, as outlined in Corfield, he was imprisoned (and whipped) for stealing a pair of trousers at the age of eleven, and imprisoned for stealing rabbits at fifteen. He was a slow learner, and at sixteen was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing shoes, arriving in Van Diemen’s Land in 1839. According to Corfield, he completed his sentence, but then served two years for armed robbery.

He cannot have been free for long, if the following news item from the Hobart Courier of 30 August 1845 is any indication:
‘COINING AND BURGLARY.’ A man of the name of Elijah Upjohn, a ticket-of-leave holder, who has long been a suspicious character, was apprehended on Thursday, by constables Goldsmith, Taylor and Brown, who, on searching him, found on his person three counterfeit sixpences, and several articles stolen from the residence of Mrs Peel, Sandy Bay road, when it was burglariously entered a short time ago. On searching the house in which Upjohn resided, in Argyle-street, the police found a mould for counterfeiting the coin of the realm, with metal and the usual implement for casting, polishing and filing. The prisoner was brought before the bench and remanded.

History seems silent on the outcome of this matter, but Elijah must have been let loose on this occasion, at least long enough to offend again:
Once more, the Hobart Courier:
8 October 1845. ‘Elijah Upjohn charged with feloniously receiving, knowing them to have been feloniously stolen, on the 31st day of August last past, one brooch, of the value of 5s, and one bracelet clasp, of the value of 1s, of the goods and chattels of John Powell. Guilty, and recommended to mercy on account of his former good character. Sentence – to be imprisoned in Her Majesty’s gaol at Hobart Town and kept to hard labour for two years.

We can only conjecture what aspects of Elijah’s previous form constituted ‘former good character’, but he can only have been relieved that his good points, whatever they were, were taken into account.

Out of prison by 1848 (according to Corfield), he moved to Melbourne in that year, and later Geelong. Here he found a woman, the slightly scarily named Ann Copp, who obviously also saw his historically elusive positive qualities. Elijah married her in Geelong on 6 June 1854: they would have five children. (According to the notice of the wedding in the Argus of 12 June 1854, the ironically named Archdeacon Stretch performed the ceremonies.)

The newlyweds moved to Ballarat where Elijah made a living carting a certain human byproduct euphemistically known as ‘night soil’ in those days. The occupation was an essential, if humble one, but Elijah did not always trouble himself with obtaining a licence, and was fined three times for this omission. He was obviously careless of his routes, and was gaoled for six months for transporting the ‘night soil’ on a public street. There is an account of a local government meeting in the Ballarat newspaper where Upjohn was said to be overcharging and the gathering refused to receive a letter from him pleading his case - one can understand the reluctance of the participants to touch his correspondence in any sense of the word.

Upjohn got tired of the occupation, and an advertisement appeared in the Ballarat star of 22 March 1859 offering his nightcart for sale. Two convictions for drunkenness and one for indecent exposure (for which he spent time in Ballarat Gaol) rounded off an undistinguished public career. Not mentioned in Corfield’s entry was the brief news item in the Argus of 2 August 1870 which referred to his discharge from custody after the evidence that he attempted to poison a horse was ‘insufficient to criminate[sic] him.’ (Curiously, the very next line refers to a Chinese man named Ah Fook being sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, with hard labour, for offering spurious gold for sale – we can only wonder if this was the same one that precipitated Ned Kelly’s early brush with the law.)

According to Corfield, Upjohn was refused a licence to continue his work with night soil, and so took up the unlikely profession of herbalist. He can’t have made much money, because in April 1880 he was arrested for 'killing and attempting to steal roosters' and was sent to gaol at Ballarat. And here he was when the former hangman, the celebrated Gately, left his place of employment, leaving a vacancy for the grim legal ceremony on the morning of 11 November 1880.

Though he was a bit player, the press more than noted Upjohn's presence. According to the Kilmore Free Press of 18 November, Upjohn was 'without the slightest sign of nervousness' during the proceedings, even when face to face with a soon to be legend who undoubtedly was. '[Upjohn's]worst expression of countenance is that of sulky doggedness ...his objectionable work was expeditiously performed without any sign of faltering ...'As Justin Corfield noted, however, Dr Edward Barker was on hand to make sure the execution went smoothly. The South Australian Advertiser of 12 November mentioned that he instructed Upjohn on how to adjust the noose, which Upjohn did in the time-honoured manner of hangmen by placing the knot close under the left ear of the condemned man. The proceedings went smoothly, and presumably to the satisfaction of all with the obvious exception of Kelly.

We don't know if Elijah was a reader of the Sydney Evening News, but he can not have been edified by his description in that journal, which was eventually reprinted in the West Coast Times, a New Zealand paper, on 17 December. 'He is an old man of about 70 years of age [actually 57], but broad shouldered and burly ... Were it not for the prison cropping, he would probably have a thick crop of hair, for thick bristles of a pure white stick up all over his crown and give him a ghastly appearance. He has heavy lips and heavy features, altogether the nose being about the most striking and ugly. It is large in proportion, and appears to have a large carbuncle at the end. Altogether the man's appearance fully mainstains [sic] the accepted idea of what a hangman should look like.'

(There is a small photograph of Upjohn in his entry in Corfield's Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia, which, sad for posterity, conveys none of this repulsion. It is undated so it is hard to guess which prison stay the photograph relates to, but the man is of reasonably pleasing appearance and looks to be in his late forties or early fifties. The nose is of average size, and appears to be carbuncle free.)

Elijah Upjohn was paid five pounds for the execution. Whether the early and fruitful years of his marriage (five children in eight years) or his nationally noted part on the scaffold of the Old Melbourne Gaol were the high points in his life we do not know, but for Upjohn, it was only downhill from here.

Article Alert: 'Ned' Lands TV Role

article alert..from The Ovens & Murray Advertiser..

Ned lands TV role

by Peter Douglas

Retiring Ned Kelly actor Michael Beattie is to feature in anticipated documentary 'Ned's Head' which will air on SBS One next month.

While undertaking research for the program at Beechworth, filmmakers came across Beattie, who features in the town's Ned Kelly Weekend, and were immediately struck by the uncanny resemblance to the infamous bushranger.

He was offered a prominent role in the drama re-enactment, which involved him shaving his head and beard for a scene involving the creation of Kelly's death mask.

Amazingly, Beattie was able to grow back his beard long enough to play the Kelly role for last weekend's Ned Kelly festival, which was his 14th and last playing the bushranger.

Filmmaker Nichole Dryburgh said Beattie's resemblance to Ned was incredible.

"The resemblance is truly amazing and he brings something unique and wonderful to the documentary," she said.

Ms Dryburgh said the documentary which will air at 7.30pm on Sunday, September 4will try to solve the mystery of Ned Kelly's skull.

"On the morning of 11 November 1880 Kelly was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol," she said.

"What happened to the body of one of Australia's most iconic figures after he died has been a huge source of controversy and mystery ever since."

In 1978, the supposed skull of Ned Kelly was stolen from its display case at Old Melbourne Gaol and was lost for more than 30 years, until a West Australian farmer handed it into authorities in 2009.

A team of forensic scientists at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine were then given the task of identifying the skull.

Ms Dryburgh said the documentary recorded every step of this investigation, as the team ventured on a year-long quest to discover the skull's true identity.

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Book Alert: Bushrangers: Australia's Greatest Self-Made Heroes

There is a new book out this month (that has Ned's helmet on the cover) called Bushrangers: Australia's Greatest Self-Made Heroes by Evan McHugh.

Here is part of the blurb for it from the publisher's website:

From the first convict runaways to the spectacular showdown that ended Ned Kelly's career, Evan McHugh delivers true tales of daring exploits and a cast of roguish characters who blazed their place into Australian history.

These are incredible stories of the men - and women - who achieved fame not just by what they did, but by the way they did it, many of them lifting themselves from downtrodden underdogs to self-made heroes.....

Bushrangers is as fast paced as a stolen thoroughbred and as arresting as a squad of troopers. 

To read more of the blurb and to find out about the author and to read an excerpt (which is not Kelly related) go to:

There was also a recent google alert with a 13 minute audio interview with the author (who does touch on the Kelly aspect in it) located at

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Article Alert: Kelly a Role to "Dye" For

From Google Alerts.

The Border Mail
has an article entitled "Kelly A Role to Die for" in which it details about Michael Beattie's final portrayal of Ned Kelly.

From the article:

When retiring Ned Kelly actor Michael Beattie began using “the old stuff in the bottle” to dye his greying beard back to its original brown he knew his time playing the iconic bushranger, dead at just 25, was coming to an end.

Mr Beattie, 42, was sentenced “be hanged from the neck” for the last time yesterday in front of a packed Beechworth court at the Ned Kelly weekend.

To read more:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ellen Kelly's Chair on Show at Eldorado Museum

At the North East News website at the bottom of the page there are
weekly publications that are only there for a short duration for
perusal, so there is no permalink for me to share.
In the latest edition of the North East Regional Extra featured there (dated July 27-August 2, 2011) there is a cover story entitled "Filled With History" in which the Eldorado Museum is
showcased. In the article they tell about having a corkscrew that was
allegedly used by Ned Kelly when he stopped by a house for a drink on
the way back from Jerilderie. Since the gang was worried about
poisoning he would only accept an unopened bottle and used the
corkscrew that the family saved. Also there is another item of great
interest on display there....Ellen Kelly's chair! The article stated
that it was lent to the museum by Loretta Redfern and that her father
bought chairs that were supposedly from Mrs. Kelly's house at Greta at
auction years ago. It went on to say that the museum has a photo of
Ellen in a "remarkably similar chair."

Here is a photo of the chair (courtesy of North East Regional Extra) -

The website for the Eldorado Museum is

Programming & Article Alert: Ned's Head doco to air Sept. 4, 2011/ Actor to Pull Plug on Kelly Role at Festival

This is a combination Programming Alert and Article Alert!

Michael Beattie sent in this comment to Eleven Mile Creek (which can also be found under the article alert for Ned Kelly's Ripper of a Yarn). I hope he does not mind me using it in this posting, also:

Sharon, in Australia SBS1 are showing "Ned's Head" on Sep 4th at 7.30p.m. I was fortunate to be a part of it, even lost my hair for it! Keep up the good work, all the best, Michael Beattie (Nearly Ned)

While looking for info on the documentary he mentioned, I came across an article in The Albury Wodonga News Weekly entitled Actor to Pull Plug on Kelly Role at Festival dated August 4, 2011.

The article begins with:

Michael Beattie will step into the role of iconic outlaw Ned Kelly for the final time this weekend as part of Beechworth’s annual festival looking at the life of the infamous bushranger.

Later in the article it says:

Mr Beattie said he wanted to leave his role as Ned on a high note after six years.

“There was a fella called Godfrey Cass who played Ned well into his fifties with a big grey beard,” he said.

“And he had the spirit of Ned.

“But I can’t do that, I’ve got to go out where I’m on a good plateau.

“It’s going to be interesting seeing who will play Ned in the future.”

Mr Beattie will star in a SBS production called Ned’s Head to be screened September 4.

To read more:

For more on Ned"s Head doco:

I would like to wish Michael much success with any future endeavours!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Article Alert: Ned Kelly's Ripper of a Yarn

From Google Alerts.

There is an article in the Herald Sun of August 4, 2011 entitled Ned Kelly's Ripper of a Yarn  written by Carly Crawford with some really good information in it (especially about the connection of the DNA with Argentina).

The article begins with:

Victorian forensic experts want to exhume the brother of a Jack the Ripper suspect in their bid to identify Ned Kelly's skull.

The DNA would help establish whether a human skull given to the Government recently is Kelly's, or that of 19th century London serial killer Frederick Deeming. The skull was stolen from the Melbourne Museum in 1978.

Investigators from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine will formally ask the Church of England for permission to exhume Deeming's brother from a sensitive grave site on church land in the UK.

Later in the article there is this bit re Argentina:

Victorian pathologists are weeks away from receiving breakthrough DNA samples from the world's most advanced ancient DNA testing lab in Argentina.

The lab extracted DNA from about 45 individuals whose remains were dug up at Pentridge during a recent redevelopment.

To read more: