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Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Review of Paul Terry's The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand [Sharon Hollingsworth]

In mid-September my husband and I played host to a couple of delightful Australian visitors, Nick and Anna. Nick is the son of my very good friend Michael Ball of Sydney. When Nick and Anna arrived they gave me some lovely gifts, among them were some Tim Tams (what we Americans call cookies but are known as biscuits down under) and a copy of Paul Terry's "The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand," a book that I had done an upcoming book alert on back in June of 2012. I knew to expect the book, and had been anxiously awaiting it, as Michael had promised to send it along with them.  I devoured both the Tim Tams and the "The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand" in one evening! Both were excellent.

"The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand
" (hereafter referred to as "the book") is very well written and it really kept my interest up. It seems that he has Ian Jones's seal of approval as Jones has written the foreword to the book, so that should be incentive enough to any Kellyite to go out and get it! The book doesn't go very deep into every aspect of the Kelly's exploits, but Paul Terry manages to cover every major event quite concisely and there is even information about the piece of armour which perfectly matches Joe Byrne's suit that Darren Sutton found along with a bush forge a while back. The book is a good jumping off point for anyone who wants to learn about the Kelly Gang and about the archaeological dig at the site of the Glenrowan Inn back in May of 2008. Paul Terry is a television producer and was formerly a radio/tv/newspaper journalist.
He headed up the crew that filmed a documentary of the dig, entitled "Ned Kelly Uncovered." Alternating chapters in the book lay out the discoveries made by archaeologist Adam Ford of Dig International and his team about the Glenrowan Inn and the siege of Glenrowan and with those he makes quite interesting segue into events in the Kelly timeline in the other chapters. The archaeological bits are very illuminating, they read like a mystery drama. You are always left dangling (but get satisfaction later on in the text) as to will they find anything left at the site to tie it into the siege as there have been so many relic hunters with metal detectors and shovels that have gone over the site in the past. All sorts of set backs in the proceedings occurred, including  weather delays, and with time of the essence, we are hoping that they get the dig done before their scheduled stop work deadline. There are false starts, dashed hopes and great breakthroughs that are documented by Paul Terry. We are treated to inside information on the relics found and what they meant in relation to where the members of the gang were inside the Inn during the siege, down to what sort of table Ann Jones would have set for her customers. This is all some good stuff. What is annoying, though, and I am not the only one who has voiced this concern, is the use of QR codes throughout the book that enable smart phone users to access video of the dig by scanning the codes. My phone must be dumb as a box of rocks because it does not have that capability. What would have been nice would to have had photos included of certain things that were alluded to as being on the video (perhaps in addition to, rather than in place of, the codes).

Though I really, really loved the book, I was not very enamored with the fact that it went on for several pages detailing all about the fake Dan and Steves and I was going to scream if I read the word "cellar" one more time! How I wish that the dig would have lasted long enough to do the excavation on Ann Jones's residence behind the Inn, so that the cellar myth would have (hopefully) been laid to rest for all eternity. Though I highly doubt it, the day may come that a cellar is found beneath Ann's house and many of us may have to eat our hats (will try to make sure mine is small and soft!) but until that day, I am sick to death of the "theory."
I give kudos to Paul Terry and Adam Ford for wanting information on Ann Jones to reach a wider audience. They say that she is one of the least known and least remembered women in the Kelly story. I suppose it might be that way for the general Australian public, but in my circles Ann is mentioned on a regular basis, and I have done extensive research into her life, especially in her later post-compensation years.

 One thing Paul said in the book that is really a great quote is:  "More than a century after the telegraph helped to kill off the last bushrangers, the internet is helping to keep them alive." This is so true and may it ever be so!

This is a great book and I hope everyone will pick it up. Now, here is what everyone who knows me has been waiting for....the errors, or what I have questions or doubts about. I took notes as I read so I could double check what did not sound right and have come up with far fewer bits wrong than I did for Ian Shaw's "Glenrowan." Seems that Paul Terry really did his homework to a degree.

Before the book was released it was said on a Kelly forum that the author knew of a few errors that had somehow "slipped through the editing" and that they would be corrected if there was a second print run. I only wish that he would have given us a list of the errors via the forum, perhaps he was waiting for someone to tell him what some of them are? The only one that was mentioned was about a wrong date. I am assuming it is the one in the siege timeline at the front of the book that speaks of Saturday June 26, Sunday June 27 and then has Sunday June 28 and Monday June 29. It should have been Monday June 28 and Tuesday June 29, but it is an easy enough mistake to make and we won't penalize for that.

Here in no particular order are my findings:

The book says that Ann Jones's husband, Owen, died in 1890 and that she married Henry Smith "in that year." Also it says that "some time later Ann and Henry won a license to sell wine." Ok, here is the go....Ann remarried in 1891 and she had been issued a Colonial Wine License as early as 1888. Many places on the net and in books say that she did not get one until 1895. They just did not look in the right newspapers to find out about her earlier licensing. For more info on her second marriage and the license see my blog post called "Part One: Ann Jones: New Beginnings and Same Old Endings" found at

In three separate sections of the book "the strange woman from Benalla" is alluded to as having been a bedmate of Piazzi. I debunked that whole thing in my blog post called "A Strange Woman from Benalla" found at In that it details how the woman was in bed with another gravel worker who was in Piazzi's tent. Maybe Piazzi had a go with her (or maybe not)??? But she was not exclusively with him as everybody seems to assume and infer.

Reference was made as to Assistant Commissioner Charles Nicolson and Superintendent Hare being in at the capture of Harry Power.  Technically, this is correct, as both men were there, but in 1870, at the time of the capture, Nicolson was further down the ladder, being only a Superintendent at the time, but he was Assistant Commissioner of Police during the Kelly Outbreak.

The book says that Constable Scanlan "lived with his sister." I have found no reference to that anywhere. I have read that Scanlan came to Australia with his brother and have also read that Scanlan had no relatives in the colony (thus why his possessions were auctioned off at the Police Depot).

The book says that the Cameron Letter was written in Euroa. Actually, the letter was already written prior to the Kelly's visit to Euroa, but what Joe Byrne did while at the Faithful Creek station was make "fine copies" of it to be sent off.

The book says that Glenrowan schoolteacher Thomas Curnow set out on foot and then heard the train coming. Actually, he was in the act of harnessing up his horse when he heard the train and only then did he go on foot.

The book says that Curnow "later told of his secret life under a new name in the 'wilds of Gippsland,' and of threats made against him. Ok, I am wondering what the go is on this. In 1911, B.W. Cookson in his "Kelly Gang from Within" newspaper series spoke of meeting up with Curnow who was living under an assumed name and who had until recently (1910 was the time of the interview) been "teaching a small school in the wilderness of Gippsland." What I have deduced is that it was former police spy (known as the Diseased Stock Agent) and schoolteacher Daniel Kennedy who moved to Gippsland and was wrongly suspected of being Curnow under an assumed name. See my blog entitled "Former Police Spy is Visited by Wild Wright and Mistaken for Curnow found at Looking at newspaper articles I see that Thomas Curnow retired from teaching in Ballarat in 1915, the article said that he had lived in Ballarat for over 30 years. Also, during Curnow's Royal Commission testimony in August of 1881 (a year after the siege) he was already teaching school in Ballarat. 

The book has a common misconception in it. It says that Mrs. O'Connor and her sister Miss Smith were on the police special train. While Smith was the maiden name of the sisters, both were married women, with Louisa O'Connor's sister Catherine being married to Thomas Prout Webb at the time of the siege.

The book has Constable Armstrong helping Rev Gibney to retrieve Joe Byrne's body from the burning Inn. Actually, it was Constable Dwyer who helped Armstrong carry the body.

The book says that Rev Gibney found the bodies of Dan and Steve laying on beds. But, in his testimony before the Royal Commission Gibney said that the bodies were laying on the floor. Yet, Constable Dwyer testified before the RC about how just after he and Constable Armstrong carried out Joe Byrne's body from the burning Inn, that Rev Gibney said "Go back, constables, the other two men are on the beds." Then Dwyer said that he found the bodies laying on the floor with their feet on the beds. But he was the only one out of all the witnesses that said that the bodies were not laying together but were six yards apart! So, he seems to be a tad confused in that respect, I think. Even Armstrong testified before the RC that maybe it was Dwyer's "imagination" in respects to being the only one to say that the bodies were not together in the same room.

The book says that Joe Byrne was buried at Wangaratta. He was buried at Benalla.

The book says that in the 2003 Heath Ledger Ned Kelly movie that Ned Kelly romanced a "fictitious squatter's daughter." In the film it was not the squatter's was his wife!

The book says that "after Ned's death, Ettie appeared in public with Kate Kelly in a short-lived stage production of the Kelly story." Jim Kelly, Kate Kelly and Ettie Hart did appear on stage but not in a "stage production of the Kelly story."  According to reports, they were merely seated on the stage with Kate holding a bunch of flowers. Not sure if they spoke or were just on display. Later it was said that Jim and Kate appeared elsewhere riding Kelly horses for the entertainment of the crowd. Again, I have no idea if they spoke or took questions or were just there to be admired or gaped at by curious patrons. None of this lasted long as the police shut them down at every turn. Hardly a stage production of the Kelly story.

In the book it gives the names of several black trackers and says that "although they missed out on the reward money, the troopers were presented with breastplates commemorating their service." One of the names on the list, Sambo, maybe should not be there as he was already dead before the siege of Glenrowan and, thus, was not eligible for the reward nor a recipient of a breastplate.

And there you have it, my review of Paul Terry's "The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand." Run, don't walk, to get a copy (don't even take time to hitch up your horse and buggy!).


  1. There was something else that I did not put in the blog post that I was not sure about. But here is the web addy of a forum post I started asking about info from the book about Bracken allegedly visiting the Kelly homestead in 1871 after Ned was released from gaol.


  2. Yet another thorough review from the lady who must be the Queen of Kelly researchers! I have not sighted the book yet, living in a regional city, but will certainly do so at the earliest opportunity. If it is as digestible as Tim Tams, then, errors notwithstanding, it must be more than worthwhile. It is great that the latest research as represented by the Glenrowan dig is being taken into account. Although Kelly researchers crossed into the land of diminishing returns many years ago, it looks as if there are a few things left to discover and it's great that some of the more recent discoveries have found their way here. Well done, Mr Terry, and well done Sharon!

  3. Brian has summoned it up perfectly - "Queen of Kelly researches"

    Excellent review - Shaz, you have made the decision a lot easier for me. I shall now add a copy to my Kellyana collection.

    Once again Shaz well done!


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