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Friday, November 7, 2014

A Review of Ian Jones's 2014 publication The Kellys and Beechworth [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Earlier this year it was announced that author Ian Jones would be launching a new Kelly book during the 2014 Beechworth Ned Kelly Weekend. A swirl of excitement and conjecture promptly ensued. Many hoped it would be the long-rumored and hoped for memoir of Jones's "pursuit" of Ned Kelly throughout much of the 20th century and into the 21st. Eventually, word filtered out that it would be a "short" book (or, rather, a booklet) on the Kellys and their Beechworth connections.
 I wondered if it would be a combined and possibly expanded version of his papers written for the “Ned Kelly: Man & Myth” symposiums in 1967 and 1993 entitled “The Kellys and Beechworth” and “The Kellys and Beechworth Revisited.”
No one who got a copy of this new publication that weekend seemed to be keen to report on what exactly was between the covers. All I read was that it was part of a series of booklets from the Burke Museum in Beechworth and that it was 62 pages long.

 I remained curious along with many other Kellyphiles. I know of more than one person who has been trying in total vain to procure a copy via mail order from the Burke Museum. Perhaps one will turn up on ebay at some point.
I was lucky enough to eventually receive a copy thanks to Brian McDonald. He has been a very kindly benefactor to me, a virtual knight in shining armour who has come to my rescue more than once! He is something of a bibliophilic godfather because when it comes to anything to do with books, Brianmac is THE go-to guy!

Ok, here we go with a report of what the booklet is all about for those who have been wondering. First up, as noted above, the title is "The Kellys and Beechworth" and it has a nicely illustrated cover and glossy pages and measures 5 and a half by 8 and a half inches in size. Also, as stated earlier, it is 62 pages long.
For those wondering, there is nothing new in it for the seasoned Kelly student/researcher/aficinado, it is more of a distillation of Jones's "Ned Kelly: A Short Life" and "The Fatal Friendship" than anything else. There is a smattering of info throughout emphasizing the Kelly connection to Beechworth, but, again, there is nothing new to me. Still, this is a good little booklet to have in hand for those visiting Beechworth who are interested in the Kellys but have not made a major and involved research endeavor prior to their journey. As usual, with anything to with Ian Jones, it is well written and presented. It is also good to obtain for those of us who are completists (Brianmac being the classic and quintessential example and one we should all strive to emulate even if only in our dreams).
The introduction gives us the background on Beechworth and the gold rush and lightly touches on the Kelly connections to be delved in to deeper within. The first chapter tells about Ned's Beechworth connections from 1868 to 1877, detailing court cases, Harry Power, the Ben Gould adventure, the Wild Wright stolen horse debacle, Constable Hall's attempted murder of Ned, Ned's imprisonment, his honest years, the fight with Wild Wright, as well as trouble with the squatter Whitty. That was a lot to cover in 9 pages. Chapter two is all about Joe and Aaron and their backgrounds, their friendship, the Chinese connection, imprisonment and the falling in with Ned in the wholesale and retail horse business.

Chapter three features Constable Fitzpatrick and his foolishness and how it started the whole outbreak. Chapter four very quickly gives us info on the Stringybark Creek episode and start of the gang. Chapter Five details the "Charge of Sebastopol" wherein the police raid the Sherritt household and Aaron is recruited as a spy. 
Chapter six touches on the Euroa and Jerilderie robberies, the arrest of the sympathisers, and letters written by Ned. Chapter seven touches on Aaron and the cave parties. Chapter eight covers July 1879 to June 1880 with Joe visiting Aaron and trying to recruit him and then Aaron and his brother Jack having various and sundry escapades and then Aaron getting married.Chapter nine covers June 1880 with the killing of Aaron, the siege of Glenrowan and Kelly's last stand, this covers 8 pages.
 Chapter ten starts with Ned Kelly in the dock of the Beechworth court house and briefly touches on the Melbourne trial and execution. The chapter ends with a few paragraphs summing everything up about the Kellys and Beechworth with the final paragraph being a really evocative look at how the feel of Beechworth now is the same as when the Kellys roamed there back in the 19th century. 
 There are 28 photographs and illustrations in the pages, too, but, again, there are none that are new to me.
All in all, get it if you can, but it is not an absolute must, especially given how difficult it will be for those not traveling to Beechworth to obtain or who are not as well connected as I am.

Oh, yeah, before I close,  you know me, I had to find at least one error, and there was one on the back cover. They have an attribution of the cover illustration of the Kelly gang (which is taken from The Eagle Book of Amazing Stories 1974) as being by Fortunino Matanja. The correct spelling of this wonderful artist's name is actually Fortunino Matania. Google him for some splendid illustrations, particularly his wartime ones.

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