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Friday, November 8, 2013

Peter FitzSimons mentions me on the radio yet AGAIN!

 I am so very taken aback at the high praise that Peter FitzSimons has given me. I do think he is exaggerating a wee bit about me being the world expert (other than Ian Jones, of course), but he does have the facts right that I understand and love the Kelly story!  I want to say that Peter FitzSimons is one of the nicest people I have run across in a long. What a breath of fresh air he is!  His sheer zest for life, his unbridled love of history and his talent with the written word just bowls me over! And it is hard to impress me these days, but he has done so in spades!

Bill Denheld had sent me a WAV file of the previous radio program in which Peter mentioned and I transcribed the pertinent bits which can be found at

But this latest one (which was actually prior to the other one!) was one Bill had recorded on his phone and was not able to make a file of, so he kindly did the following transcription (I hope to find an audio file online at some point):

Peter FitzSimons talks to Michael Pavlich Overnights program ABC AM radio 774

At 3.25 am Wednesday 6 November
about five minutes into the Ned Kelly book discussion

Peter speaking-

" I went to StringyBark Bark Creek with a guy called Bill Denheld who is a guy - he is a lovely man, but there is not enough hours in the day to go to SBC - think about SBC, read about SBC, draws maps of it, he is the SBC man, And so he showed took me to site where the memorial is at SBC.

SBC from here (Melbourne) well I guess the way we went through the back road - about 3 hours - went to Mansfield and headed north from there, and its right out in the absolute sticks and its got a bit of a haunted feel about it because you go there and I suppose I have been studying it so long enough so I could recognise the 'contours' where a, - where Lonigan was (shot). It's hundreds of yards from the monument and I can tell you his evidence to me is absolutely compelling that this is where it all occurred.

But its pretty much like when I went to Mawson's Hut. Mawson's hut is fundamentally unchanged in Antarctica, its in the deep freeze its absolutely the way it was - you know, and similarly when I walked the Kokoda track - it’s the Kokoda track, jungle, its nothing different -when I went to Tobruk you look at Tobruk and stand on Hill 209- "that’s exactly what they saw, and Stringy Bark Creek is totally undeveloped-it is nothing different from where it was - except perhaps the bush road that passes it by - but you get this feeling of heavy weight Australian bush - the kookaburras, the cicadas - the sense of you're lost in the wilds and it was there at SBC that Ah - Ned first ambushed - well yes - so they were at Bullock Creek which is just one hill over, and they hear a shot ring out and they send Dan, who goes out and sees the police are there, What are they going to do? They want their horses, they want their ammunitions, they mostly want their GUNS.

Last night I had a long chat with the great Ian Jones to whom I dedicated the book, the doyen of Kelly writers and he is 82 years old and has been studying Ned Kelly for the last 70 years since he was 10 or 12 years old - he's been studying Ned Kelly and he made the point to me - - in terms of SBC, to really understand the Kelly's there's been a lot discussions in the last while, and there are people that say this - " that Ned Kelly was a psychopath "

Pav, " There was a commemoration recently - a dedication to the officers - of the SBC murders "

PF, And I totally follow the sentiments of the descendants of the men killed at SBC, that I would take that view too - but for me, I respectfully - I put the view that to define Ned Kelly as a psychopath DOES not remotely encapsulate the essence of the man - in both cases (of what happened at) of SBC.

The Royal Commission of the Kellys - The first thing he said was this was not a premeditated murder. And, in both cases - so there was the 'first' ambush- then the second ambush- The first policemen then the second two - when they came back, in both cases the Kellys were in deep cover, they could easily have simply shot dead every police man they found and it would never have  risked themselves. In both cases they broke from cover, they called upon the police to surrender - the police being brave men doing their duties that they were, reached for their guns, and they did their duty but they were killed.

FURTHER along in the discussion at around the 25 minute mark -

Pav, " Hey, I want to ask you about the book, it’s a big publication you have put out about 7-800 pages long. I got the feeling about writing it you actually referenced a lot of people - you did a hell of a lot of research - it almost a book of consensus you went to all the top historians on Ned Kelly - you ran the script by them - you asked them to agree or disagree -

PF,  Well the thing that I found is that Victoria is awash, awash with Kelly experts, so I wrote - What I do with my researchers- I run a team of 4 or 5 researchers - two were full time more or less - Libby Effeney - she was the key one - she is a PHD student at Deakin University - and we worked flat out on it. And the answer was go to the Primary documents - she virtually lived at the State Library of Victoria, Public Records Offices of Victoria and the amount of material there is fabulous - but anyway at the end of it, -I go to the six most foremost experts and say here is a red pen find the most mistakes that you can find - the most mistakes that you can and so the information came back, and with great respect to the experts they frequently disagree with each other very strongly. However, there is ONE person they all reluctantly go  - well, She's the one -

Pav, Is she the American woman? yes, Sharon Hollingsworth?

PF, yes she's the one and she lives in North Carolina, and -- -- --- she's just out -- --  of North Carolina but in the age of the internet, this is fascinating to me and in terms of you being ABC, I sent her details to Australian Story and I said "Look, she is not an Australian - but she is " The world expert on Ned Kelly".

So I hand her- I sent it over the internet of course to Sharon Hollingsworth - She's living in North Carolina - who's never been to Australia- and I give her the manuscript THAT has been vetted by six experts, and they corrected every error - and three days later a answer "came directed in a writing unexpected, - and I think the same was written with a thumb nail dipped in tar" *

and she spotted 25 errors- and because she understands it and she loves it- people get bitten by the Kelly story BECAUSE it is so fascinating but yeh, you mentioned earlier the historian that I -

Pav, Ah, yeh I wanted to bring you to this, you mentioned you had written a book in present tense an you've got an approach to history, - of the other book that I read on Eureka you tried to put it in a context like a living history - you just present from Primary documents - the facts and you write it in such a way that gets you immersed in the story.

PF, Yeh

Pav, You mentioned the historian a German, Leopold Van Ranke who said
" History should be written as it essentially was" So you and I will remember our history classes, I think I remember you in the back of the class snoring - wasn't that you in the back corner ??

PF, Yes, and history classes was so boring, and then he, and then he, and then they, and on and on, and I want to get away well away from that and to tell it in a manner, and it has taken me a long way of doing it. But I came under the spell of an American -Gary Smith who was a sports illustrative writer, and his line to me was- " you must use the devices of Fiction and apply them to Non Fiction so that when you are reading say 'Great expectations there is this little voice that whispers to you -  " There was no Miss Havisham, there was no wedding cake, there was no Pip there was no - - salad  -it did not happen ".  How much stronger is it when you are reading non fiction and you are reading about SBC, you are reading about the siege at Glenrowan and you go - by god this happened, you'd think that at the siege at Glenrowan that Ned Kelly would have his shotgun at your head and say you bastard I'm going to blow your head off - What were they actually doing what were they actually when the train arrived at Glenrowan ? They were dancing, they had been there for two days, they had sixty people as hostage as prisoners which ever way you want to put it, they had been dancing, they had been drinking, they had been smoking , they had been doing hop skip and jump, long jump and doing trick riding and things, like this was nothing like I had imagined the siege at Glenrowan was, and so again one of my favourite scenes was the train comes in - when Thomas Curnow the teacher -- --- --- ---   It is outrageous that Thomas Curnow is not - there should be a Thomas Curnow award for public service or civil duty - 

(Pave) he was a whistle blower ?

 PF Yes,

The rest we all know about, the red scarf over the candle to warn the train etc.

* Both Peter and Pav broke into poetry - a line from the famous Australian poem by Banjo Paterson Clancy of the overflow.

(Once again, thank you to Bill Denheld for this transcription)

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