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Thursday, November 3, 2016

The J.J. Kenneally Playbook [Sharon Hollingsworth]

What is up with all of these folks in the Kelly world who want to sue everybody? I was under the impression that some (but not all) in the Kelly world do not like police or judges, or is that just the 19th century garden variety of police and judges? Seems they want their services if they feel slighted, though.

 Over at Dee's blog ( she recently (back In August 2016) has someone talking about taking legal action against her, and I wrote the draft of this blog post back then but only now in November getting around to using it. Others in the Kelly world have at times threatened to sue various people over sometimes very trivial things. I don't understand it. Then there are those who offer to meet face to face to discuss the matter as Dee has experienced. To that, me and Grumpy Cat both say "just say NO!" 

All of these lawsuit happy folks, are they taking a page out of the J.J. Kenneally playbook? J.J. Kenneally, as we all know, was the author of "The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers." In a recent comment  over at Dee's blog I told about how JJK wanted to sue Max Brown, the author of "Australian Son" in 1949.

Here is what I had put-

"Also, at trove there is an interesting article called "Who Owns Ned Kelly?" in which it states that Kenneally (who had sued others in the past due to copyright infringement) was going after Max Brown to sue him, too. Max was going to fight it on the basis that "nobody owns Ned Kelly" but it seems that fate took a hand with the death of Kenneally in 1949 that put an effective end to that. The article ends with " wondering who owns Ned Kelly now." (some of us are wondering that even NOW!)"
Ok, after I had done that posting I started looking in to Kenneally and his penchant for suing people.
In his book he tells about suing newspapers over copyright and winning. Looking under trove it seems that he had been taking folks to court or facing them for things like copyright infringement, libel and slander - on that last count one person in 1908 had called him, to his great displeasure, an "interstate columnier" (I can't find the exact meaning for columnier, but have seen it in centuries old texts in the context of "malicious columner and rude reflections" and "columnier, injuries, falsities", so we can get the basic gist of it). 
He had sued others for copyright infringement at least 9 times between 1905 and 1949. Might have been more that did not make headlines or that were settled out of court. Instead of letting court be the last resort, his first response seemed to be sue them and then collect money for "damages."

In a 1934 Age article about a then upcoming Kelly movie someone had mistakenly reported that "Until a few years ago the Kelly house was still standing, being used as barn." Kenneally took umbrage from that remark. Whether it was just that someone had said the house was no longer standing that set him off or the intimation that it had been turned into a lowly barn, I am not sure, but both were in error. He wound up saying the following at the end of a letter to the newspaper concerning this mistake-
"As the relatives and friends of the Kellys have at last lost patience with the multitude of cowardly libellers of both the living and the dead, it is understood that a move will be made in the near future to organize a meeting in the Kelly country, at which a small committee of censors will be elected, with power to take direct or indirect action against the enemies of truth and justice."

Not sure if that ever came to fruition. But what does he mean by direct or indirect action (other than taking them to court)? The use of the word "censors" is a worry, too. And worse than that, the term "small committee."  Censors and small committees are usually the tools used against those who love truth and justice and freedom. Just sayin'.

A while back I ran across something at the Australian Archives entitled "Alleged Libel of James Kelly, Brother of late Ned Kelly as Published in "Salt" about how Kenneally had taken great offense at an error in an article in a "Salt" magazine article in 1942. ("Salt" was the official journal of the Australian Army Education Service and was non-profit.) There are pages and pages (22) in a file about the behind the scenes dealings and memos as concerns this action. The article in question was entitled "Robbery Under Arms" (which I have not seen a copy of) and told about Ned and the gang. Seems that JJK only received a copy of the magazine a year and half later in December of 1943, probably from someone trying to be "helpful." 
He promptly wrote this to the editors on Dec 2 -
"Dear Sir,
In your issue of "Salt" of the 20 June 42, which I received by this morning mail, you have done violence to indisputable historical facts, on pages 2 to 6, both inclusive, in reference to Ned, Dan, and Jim Kelly, and their father John Kelly.
Jim Kelly is still living, and the libel which brings you within the law is contained in the following statement :
"Jim, only a year older, (than Dan) got 20 years penal servitude for robbery and violence."

Official records definitely prove the false and malicious nature of this statement. Jim Kelly, over 80 years old, is the most popular man today in the Kelly country. I confidently hope that on your attention being called to this libel you will offer through me ample reparation to Mr. Jim Kelly.
Through my book, "The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuer," I have been recognised as the only living reliable authority on the Kelly gang. Up-to-date, no one has challenged a sentence in my book - now the recognised standard work on the subject."

Three weeks went past and he got no reply so he wrote again on Dec. 22. In that letter he kept on about how the libel  attacks the "veracity and prestige" of his book and how the libel had damaged the value of his copyright and so forth. He then said "My case must come first, that of Jim Kelly will naturally follow." (my question is was Jim even consulted about any of this?) Somewhere along the way, Kenneally even showed up at the Melbourne offices of Salt's publisher!

After a while "Salt" published an apology in their magazine and internal memos show that they said "it is recommended no further action is taken."
In one of the memos it shows where they went to the historical archives and found that Jim had been sentenced to five years gaol back in 1873 instead of the 20 as had been wrongly reported. In other words, they fact-checked a bit after the fact. (You will also remember that while Jim was sentenced to 5 years, he was out in late 1876, but he went back to gaol once again before another year was out.)

In a letter to Kenneally, "Salt" magazine said this -

"The book of which you are the author is not referred to in the article and your fear that  the veracity and prestige of your copyright has in some way been damaged by an erroneous statement published in Salt is considered to be without any real foundation. It is regretted that the error was made and it is hoped that the publication of the apology will be satisfactory and acceptable to you."
In other words, he fought the army and the army won!

Why could he not have politely written them pointing out the mistake and then ask for a retraction or apology rather than just come charging out of the chute with talk of lawsuits and wanting ample reparation and carrying on in such a way talking about his brand being hurt and being self-appointed Kelly family censor and avenger? He wasted all of that energy, everybody's time and tons of goodwill, all over a simple mistake and misunderstanding that a soft word could have turned aside. Good grief!

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