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


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

My review of Bill Denheld's new book NED KELLY AUSTRALIAN IRON-ICON, A CERTAIN TRUTH [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Bill Denheld has finally released his long-awaited book - NED KELLY  AUSTRALIAN IRON-ICON, A CERTAIN TRUTH -  HIS-STORY, MY STORY. To order a copy for $50 plus postage go to FB Marketplace and message Bill Denheld directly. In the intro to A Certain Truth, Bill Denheld says this - "This book is an accumulation of more than three decades of historical interest published for the purpose of enlightenment, and to set the record straight."  He has done what he set out to do, with this, his magnum opus, as the book is enlightening, entertaining, and the record sure has been set straight, or at least set it on its ear! This book is massive in size and scope at over 300 pages with over 200 photographs, maps, and illustrations all throughout it. Some of this information had been on his website but some of it is only now being brought to light and the information about his childhood and early life after his family emigrated to Australia (From Holland) is very interesting (his family even lived in a tent for a while!). Bill has been a hands-on on-the-ground researcher for decades with interest in gold mining, metal detecting and many historial events along with other varied interests all the while building a successful business and raising a family with his lovely wife, Carla. He is interested in many components of the Kelly Gang saga but especially in the happenings at Stringybark Creek in 1878. I have never delved too deeply into SBC myself, at least not as deeply as I have looked into the Siege of Glenrowan, as Bill had it covered in his impeccable way and is, in my opinion, the leading authority on that aspect of the Kelly saga. There are those who may disagree with some (or all!) of his findings or conclusions, but this man has done the hard yards and has stood his ground with an IRON will in the face of intense scrutiny and fierce opposition, if not outright treachery, and for that I applaud him. Agree or disagree with him he has made many people think and made them take a whole different, fresh look at certain so-called historical facts. As he has stated, history is written by the victors. To give an idea of what to expect, here are the chapter titles from the table of contents - INTRODUCTION - HOW I LEARNED ABOUT NED KELLY/PREFACE/THE POLITICS OF NED/ CHAPTER 1 NED KELLY - VILLAIN OR VICTIM?/ CHAPTER 2 WHEN AND WHERE WAS NED KELLY BORN/ CHAPTER 3 WHO WAS NED KELLY/ CHAPTER 4 LAND ACQUISITION IN AUSTRALIA/ CHAPTER 5 THE STORY OF NED AND A MAN NAMED BORRIN/ CHAPTER 6 SOCIAL DIVIDES LEAD TO WANTED MEN/ CHAPTER 7 NED AND DAN SHOOT THROUGH TO BULLOCKS CREEK/ CHAPTER 8 STRINGY BARK CREEK, THE BATTLEGROUND/ CHAPTER 8b NO RESPECT FOR HISTORY/ CHAPTER 9 METAL DETECTING THE KELLY HAUNTS/ CHAPTER 10 THE HUT BEHIND THE SCHOOL/ CHAPTER 11 JAMES WALLACE, THE BRAINS BEHIND THE KELLY GANG/ CHAPTER 12 DR. STUART DAWSON'S REPUBLIC MYTH/ CHAPTER 13 GLENROWAN - AS THE STORY UNFOLDS!/ CHAPTER 14 NED KELLY WAS DUDDED BY CONST THOMAS MCINTYRE?/ THE END NED KELLY'S DEATH MASK

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ann Jones was not friends with Sgt Kennedy, nor was she invited to stay with his family! [Sharon Hollingsworth]

 Isn't it funny how everyone just accepts what has been written in books without a second thought? Even when primary sources are given, how many actually follow up to be sure things are correct or that the proper reading comprehension was in play? That is one thing I learned from being friends with Stuart Dawson - turn over every rock and fully examine everything. I was looking for something else in the PROV archives online and stumbled over some things that made me search further.

 In "Ned Kelly : A Short Life" Ian Jones stated this --  "He [Ned Kelly] probably didn't know that Mrs. Jones had known Sergeant Kennedy "very well." Only a month before his death the sergeant had invited her to stay with his family and she kept a photo of him in her album, Her maiden name was Kennedy."  

Jones cites these sources in his notes -- "Ann Jones a friend of Sgt Kennedy, Herald, 25.11.1880..has photograph of him, Jones Inquiry.."

Ok, let's look at this from a purely logical point of view. Why in the bloody hell would a man with a wife and five children invite some married woman with a passel of kids to stay with his family? Not like she was homeless or in need. She had a business to run. Surely there was no room there at the Kennedy home for that many extra folks, either. Think about it, it makes ZERO sense. Why it makes zero sense is that it was not true at all. It never happened! She did not know him very well and she was not invited. Hello!!! Go to the Herald in the date above at Trove and read what it says.

 What was said there about knowing Kennedy well and being invited to his home was SAID by Detective Ward about himself, it was NOT, I repeat NOT said by Ann Jones. It seems that reading comprehension was lacking in this case.  

So, there you have part of it debunked! Now, we turn to the photograph of Kennedy in her album part. I am really actually wondering if what she showed to Hugh Bracken (per the compensation inquiry) was just a postcard (were there postcards of him being sold?) or an illustration cut from the newspaper and put in her scrapbook/album. Why would she have a photograph of Kennedy? She was not friends with him nor was she related as far as we know despite having her maiden name being Kennedy. Note that it said a "likeness" of Kennedy, it did not say a photograph. It may have been, but how? I lean towards likeness meaning an illustration from the paper. That part is iffy and could go either way, but I fully own him with the knew him very well and invited to stay part.

Let this be a lesson, always question everything and do your own legwork! 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

My Ned Kelly Gang themed silk scarf [Sharon Hollingsworth]

 Recently on ebay US I found this Ned Kelly Gang themed silk scarf. I had not searched ebay for Kelly stuff for a while and was surprised to see this item that was first listed in April still available in July. Total price with shipping and tax only came to $37.72.  I figure that there were not as many buyers of Kelly stuff here in the United States versus down in Australia. I have taken photos of the scenes in the border part to better show off the details of the Kelly exploits. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review: My thoughts on Lachlan Strahan's "Justice in Kelly Country" [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Little JoJo checking out Justice in Kelly Country.
Our verdict is two thumbs/paws up!

 Ok, I have finally gotten a copy of "Justice in Kelly Country: The story of the cop who hunted Australia's most notorious bushrangers" by Lachlan Strahan. The cop being Constable Anthony Strahan, the great-great-grandfather of the author.

 First off, I have to say that I really enjoyed it. But, those who know me, know that I am going to point out a few niggling things. I am still a bit baffled why the kindle price (today at $31.34 US) is nearly neck and neck with the print copy price (today at $32.99 US). I got a bargain at $30.99 it seems! 

The intro with the alleged oral history of Strahan and the Kellys meeting up really sort of threw me (never mind that it was said Ellen was imprisoned in Pentridge!!) but it was along the lines of how in "Ned Kelly: a Short Life" Ian Jones had written the SBC event as Ned thinking he was seeing Flood and Strahan rather than it being Lonigan and McIntyre. Then we had a lengthy Old Testament type section of so-and-so beget so-and-so who beget so-and-so. I can't tell you how happy I was to get to page 17 when Anthony Strahan finally got on the ship to Australia.

 The book's strength is the telling of the story of Constable Strahan's life and career and everything he went through along with some annoyingly persistent adversaries he had to deal with.  I came away from the story with a new appreciation of Constable Strahan. He actually seems like a linchpin in the Kelly saga, though, sadly, he was not able to be at the siege to see it through to the end.

Strahan spent a lot of time in the saddle covering vast distances and was very diligent in his police work, patiently waiting on his quarry and quickly springing into action when required. He was well suited to the job. It was interesting to read about his exploits as well as reading about other aspects of his life.  For instance, the dilapidated housing he and his wife and family had to endure at various police stations (some quite isolated) he was posted at was quite eye-opening. It was all so well written that you felt like you were there slogging in the mud and shivering in the cold, feeling the rising damp and fearing to start a fire in the fireplace as it might burn the whole shanty down due to the state of the chimney. Add in the constant fear of wildfires in some places, flooding in others, (both in some!) and let's not forget the snakes and other wildlife! (They needed cats - like Little JoJo - and lots of them!) 

  I do think that the section on the Woolagee Outrage was rather a bit over-long (p 93-149). It felt like a disruption of the flow, it was almost like a whole other book on its own...once that episode was done it started rolling along nicely again. It was fun to "meet" some of the Kelly saga players early on along the way, especially the police, as it showed how they were out of the context of the Kellys. 

 A few things to mention, when there was talk of the aboriginals or the Chinese or women or whatever it was compared/contrasted to today's norms and delicacies. Back then, things were different (for better or worse), but it was what it was and it is what it is. 

 I did find a (very) few errors. It had Kennedy and Scanlan as both being married men and had Lonigan as unmarried, when it was Scanlan who was the unmarried one.  Also, it was made mention that the Jerilderie Letter was actually dictated to Joe by Ned IN Jerilderie, when it was already previously written and taken there to have newspaper editor Samuel Gill publish it. 

The author mentions his father, Frank Strahan, and his many writings on Ned and how he was a staunch Kelly sympathiser and of interest was his opinions of his ancestor, Constable Anthony Strahan, which was filtered through the sympathiser lens. I was aware of Frank Strahan and had read some of his articles and writings many years ago. It was very interesting to have the author show that some of his father's beliefs about the Kellys and his own family history were not quite correct.  I enjoyed the little touches where the author weighs in as a "rellie." He is not overbearing or insufferable. He strikes a good balance.  The Lord kept impressing upon me the term "diplomatic."  Then, at the very back of the book I see that he literally is a Diplomat!

Also, the author makes mention of a certificate of appreciation which Anthony Strahan was given and that it was reproduced on the inside back cover of the book. But, it was not, at least in the paperback copy I have.

Oh, and as Columbo would say - one more thing - I nearly forgot to mention that I have mixed feelings about Constable Anthony Strahan causing a near hazmat situation during a fancy dress ball. Part of me says "good-on-ya" and the other part says "how could you?" Trust me, you need to read it to even believe it!


Monday, February 20, 2023

The Special Police Train and Pilot Engine - Good Ol' Number 107 [Sharon Hollingsworth]

 Recently on a Ned Kelly facebook page  we have been discussing what type of engine (coal or wood?) might have been used for the Police Special and for the engine that ultimately carried the carriage cars of the Police Special into Glenrowan as their engine had been damaged on the way. When the train from Melbourne arrived in Benalla with O'Connor and the others to meet up with Hare and his troopers for the expected journey to Beechworth it was decided that the engine of the Police Special should be used as the Pilot Engine to go ahead of the Police Special and that an engine at Benalla having been warming up for a while should carry the Police Special cars.

John Bowman who was expected to be pilot engine driver to proceed the Special Train said this -  "I received instructions from Mr. Hodgkins to get No. 107 engine ready as the Kelly Gang had broke out again..."

 Doing more research shows that #107 was a U Class train built in 1874. It was an 0-6-0 goods train made in Ballarat at the Phoenix Foundry. See end of article for more details and link to a photo of a U Class train engine.

 Then later he said "Mr. Hodgkins informed me the Melbourne engine had run through a pair of gates and carried away his tender brake and Mr. Alder would have to take a brake van and run as pilot to Wangaratta as he had no brake power. I would have to take the special train [using #107 engine] from Benalla to Beechworth [with stop along the way at Wangaratta]. 

To confirm all this regarding switching of engines, Hugh Burch (fireman on the police special from Melbourne) wrote this in a letter -

"On passingt through a station 17 miles from Melbourne, the train going at a high
speed, I went to steady the Engine by applying the tender brake until
until she would be clear of all points and crossings. Knowing the
road perfectly, as I felt her going over the last pair, I had just
taken it off and was going over to the other side of the Engine when I
felt a crash and found myself knocked up into a corner. I found on
gathering myself together that I had gone through a heavy pair of iron
gates which had been left across the rails from the carelessness of
the person in charge. This accident carried away my tender hand brake,
also the gear of the automatic brake, leaving leaving me almost
helpless as too stopping power with the exception of reversing the
Engine and using the steam against her. However I accomplished the
journey to Benalla, a distance of 122 miles, in 2 hours and a 1/4. On
getting there they put [some men] on the train with horses for the
troopers. I then objected to go any further with the train as
considering the condition of my engine and being unable to stop in a
proper manner that it would be highly dangerous life. There was another
Engine ready on the Station for the purpose of going ahead it being
night if possible to prevent the police from falling into an ambush.
Considering the importance of the case, I got this Engine to take
charge of the train as she would have the brake power to stop it quick
if required and that I would go ahead about a mile with my Engine as
pilot and give the warning, if possible, of danger. I accordingly,
proceeding with the utmost care and caution..." 

As further confirmation Superintendent Hare said in his book - "It was decided by the railway authorities at Benalla that the engine that came from Melbourne should act as pilot."

There are more reports, but it seems it happened as all have said.

This link is for a photo of a U Class train, it is the second one on the page with the caption - (I did not want to use the photo without permission)    

The caption for the photo reads ---

"ABOVE: An unidentified U class, alongside the original Bendigo Locomotive shed.
During 1874, the Phoenix Foundry Company of Ballarat constructed nine 0-6-0 Locomotives for the Victorian Railways, numbered from 107 to 123, (odd numbers only). These were a modified version of the 2 Meikle designed engines, built by the VR the previous year at the Williamstown workshops and subsequently numbered 103 & 105. The Phoenix built locomotives were subsequently designated as U class, and were all scrapped by 1908. Their reputation for rough riding led to them being given the nickname "Buzzwinkers"."

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Trainstopping: The Varied Outcomes in A. Bertram Chandler's Fictional Glenrowan [Sharon Hollingsworth]


Note: spoilers ahead. If you plan to read any of A. Bertram Chandler's Kelly/siege narratives and you want to wait to be surprised, you can stop reading now. 


In A. Bertram Chandler's novel "Kelly Country"  (first published in Australia in 1983 and the U.S. in 1985) the most memorable part for many Ned Kelly aficionados is where the protagonist, John Grimes, makes sure that Thomas Curnow does not stop the train by beating his brains out with a heavy rock. That was the second go at Curnow that Grimes had in the book. The first was where he tried to stop Curnow (who had tripped and fallen beside the tracks) by holding his hand over his mouth so as not to have his shouts alert the train driver and when Curnow tried to bite him Grimes slugged him in the belly and the train passed on by to spectacularly crash. Later in the book when Grimes went back in time a second time under orders by Ned to let Curnow actually stop the train he defied orders and logic and picked up the big rock as described above.

 Confusing? Yes, but wait until you hear what happens in two other A. Bertram Chandler siege of Glenrowan themed stories that pre-date the novel. The novel was based on a short story, also called "Kelly Country" which was first published in 1976 in Void Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine. That rather succinct story is far superior to the somewhat bloviated novel that was to come.

 In this story the protagonist is a freelance journalist named Mr. Carvell (whereas Grimes in the novel was a science fiction writer). The inventor of the time machine wants Carvell to go back in time so he could use his talent to report on a pivotal historical event. The Crucifixion was suggested along with the Battles of Waterloo, Gettysburg and Gallipoli but Carvell was not interested. Carvell did mention that he was researching Ned Kelly for a hoped for novel and, thus, this was how he was convinced to go back in time so he could witness the siege of Glenrowan. Carvell winds up in Glenrowan but not at the Inn but by the train tracks with Thomas Curnow. Curnow is startled to find someone there and is even more startled by the lab rat named Adolph that Carvell had secreted into his pocket before the journey (Adolph was lucky compared to the awful things that happened to the other lab rats who had gone forward in time in earlier experiments). Curnow stands on the railroad tracks and waves the scarf and lantern (in the book version a candle, scarf and matches are mentioned) to try and stop the train and the protagonist says "...and, I, like a bloody fool, stood there with him." The train came blasting through and did not appear as if it was going to stop (possibly due to thinking it was a sympathiser trick) and the protagonist had to drag Curnow off the tracks at the last possible moment to avoid being struck. The train went on to crash. 

So, we are 3 for 3 with crashes. Did the train ever stop in any of these A. Bertram Chandler books and stories?

 It finally did in another short story Chandler wrote that had John Grimes as the protagonist again, but this time he is a space ship captain in the far future. In Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in March of 1978 there was a story called "Grimes at Glenrowan." In this, the interstellar Grimes was sent back in time to stop Curnow from stopping the train no matter the cost. Having followed Curnow out of the Inn he saw him trip on the train tracks and, thus, lose consciousness. Grimes, ever the hero, upon hearing the train coming, tried to lift Curnow to safety but Curnow's foot was jammed under a sleeper rail. As the train rapidly approached Grimes grabbed the fallen lantern that was still lit and successfully flagged the train down. Talk about derailing a plan!

Curnow had soon recovered and gotten up so Grimes thrust the lantern and scarf into his hands and ran and hid. He went on to say "I stayed in my hiding place - cold, bewildered, more than a little scared. After a while I heard the shooting, the shouting and the screaming. I saw the flames. I was too far away to see Ned Kelly's last desperate stand; all that I observed was distant, shadowy figures in silhouette against the burning hotel."

Oh, yeah, while I am at it, another plus for the earlier mentioned Kelly Country 1976 short story is there not any cringe inducing objectifying of women in it like in the other two narratives. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

ALERT: The book "Undead Kelly" by Timothy Bowden is back in print!

Great news! The terrific novel "Undead Kelly" by Timothy Bowden that I had reviewed a while back is now back in print and on kindle. Remember you don't have to have a kindle device to read a kindle book, you can get a free Kindle app download at amazon for PC.
 Here is the link to my review of it with comments from the author - and here is the link to buy it at Amazon Australia. (In the USA you can get it at the regular Amazon site) -

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ned Kelly's Last Stand Centenary [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Many years back (2005) I did an article about the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival at Winton that took place in November of 1980. My interest was piqued after hearing about and then seeing the souvenir booklet for it and I followed up on it and even was in contact with the festival director, Peter Galvin. All of that can be read at where I re-uploaded the article in 2018.

What I have just come to find out is that there was yet another Ned Kelly Centenary celebration that year in June. While the November one was for the centenary of Ned's  death/hanging, this one was on the weekend of June 28/29, 1980 and it was called Ned Kelly's Last Stand Centenary. When I was doing research for the 2005 article linked above we did not have the Trove newspaper database to use, otherwise I would have found the information about the other event sooner. I only just found the info by stumbling over it during a free access weekend for a subscription based newspaper database (and then going to Trove and finding more info). There must not have a souvenir booklet or programme to leave as a bread crumb for the Glenrowan June event like there was for the November Winton one. Or, if there was, it has escaped my notice.

Don Tibbitts, then owner of the Glenrowan Tourist Centre was president of the planning committee for the June event. It took 12 months of planning and a cost of about $4,000 to get it all together. When the weekend came, it was rainy and there was lots of mud (enough to bog a duck as one article wryly commented). Despite the weather, according to one source, 10,000 people attended. Another source said "over 6,000."

There were loads of activities planned with the re-enactment of the Last Stand and burning of the Inn as the centerpiece. There would be a fee for viewing that spectacle, as they needed to recoup costs and to raise funds for the local kindergarten. More on how the re-enactment went in a bit.
 There was a full slate of activities planned.  A square dance on Friday night and a Colonial Ball on Saturday night went well as they were inside but some of the other things set outside such as a fun run/walk up to Morgan's Lookout had to be canceled due to the rain.

Other planned activities included per The Age of June 20, 1980-

An arts and crafts bazaar featuring glassblowers, potters, spinners and blacksmiths

a facsimile of Ned's armour made especially for the event, to be auctioned off after the re-enactment

The armour worn by Mick Jagger in the Ned Kelly film was on display

The Victorian Police put on an exhibition of Kelly armour, a saddlebag, handcuffs, and so forth along with a photographic display of the Kelly era

Aust. Post was to have pre-stamped envelopes and a special franking stamp to commemorate the centenary of the Last Stand

There was to be a display of limited edition Centenary medallions

An exhibition called 100 Bushrangers featuring photos and copies of prison and convict records

exhibition and sale of paintings by Frank Harding called  "Kelly Gang and Colonial Days"

Steam engine displays and early model oil engines  and demonstrations of muzzle loaders and cannons of the era.

But, as mentioned before the big deal was the Last Stand re-enactment featuring "40 actors...and vintage steam train and replica of the Inn"

According to the Age newspaper of June 30, 1980 -

"The latter day Kelly gang (members of the Historical Re-enactment Society) shot it out in a paddock on the outskirts of town about 500 metres from the site of the original siege. The actors sloshed around in the mud outside a building, dragged in for the occasion, representing the Jones Hotel. Spectators greeted the "police" with a few desultory cheers and spent the rest of the re-enactment cheering actors as they fell in the mud. The "hotel" was set alight as a finale and then the Kelly armour, made for the occasion, was auctioned."

Another article states that Gary Dean won the armour for a bid of $1,200. Also in another article Gary Dean said that when they dragged in the building to be used as the Inn that they had to carefully guard it around the clock to avoid having it prematurely burned down(!)

The Age article from June 30 also had Centenary organizer Don Tibbitts as saying "the town has a duty to preserve it's history and it's good for business."

The article also quoted from Kelly relatives in the area expressing displeasure and saying that none of them would be going. The article also stated that "No Kelly relatives were invited to the celebrations."

It also mentioned about the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival that was to come up in November 1980 in nearby Winton.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Flashback: The 1980 Ned Kelly Centenary Festival [Sharon Hollingsworth]

NOTE- this was first published back on February 18, 2005 at Dave White's glenrowan1880 website. I figured it was high time for it to be brought back into the light as this festival has been much discussed and alluded to on many forums and facebook groups. Please excuse the formatting of the text as I had cut and pasted  my old article (and edited out dead links, etc) but blogger has a mind of its own!


Written by Sharon Hollingsworth,

North American Correspondent,

Everyone who knows me, knows that I love to hunt for facts and solve
mysteries. I can't rest until I find solutions to puzzles and conundrums
that have caught my fancy. My latest Sherlock Holmes type exercise
involved the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival, which was supposedly held a
quarter of a century ago at Winton, Victoria on November 7, 8, and 9,

My quest began because at another Kelly website, and on ebay from time to
time, I had seen a souvenir programme booklet for the Ned Kelly
Centenary Festival.

Further checking on the other Kelly website showed that there was a
recording called 'Ned Kelly 100 Years a Hero' released as a souvenir of
the Festival. What sort of threw me off was that the blurb (at least
last time I looked!) said that it was "produced in 2000 by Bail
Records." Having seen a photo of the back cover, I think the confusion
set in as 2000 was a postal code of an address on the back. This was
originally produced in 1980.

My curiosity was piqued! Why had I never heard anything about this
event? No one online had ever mentioned it in feedbacks or in articles,
no one had claimed they had attended it and I have seen no photos of it.
Granted it took place in the pre-internet days, but folks love to rub it
in and carry on about some great one time only experience they had that
you never will (witness the original Woodstock)! I decided to go to the
google search engine (in other words I 'googled' it!) and found only 3
entries. The first two were from that other Kelly site already mentioned
(about the booklet and recording). Where it got really intriguing was
the third
entry which turned out to be something of a red herring!

The website that google took me to was a sort of travelogue of someone
who had visited Australia and toured all around. They said that while in
Beechworth they visited a bookshop and that they "...discovered a pile
of old 'Ned Kelly Centenary Festival' programmes from 1980. For some
reason, it never took place, but the literature had already been printed
up and was full of articles on their hero." So the plot thickened!
So I had the clues of a booklet and recording being made, no mention
anywhere on the event actually going on and now this individual giving
this information on a website, which obviously someone had to have
related that "fact" to him.

I decided to dig deeper and ask around to see if any of the 'usual
suspects' in Kelly circles had any idea what the go was. Several people
had told me that they had heard it did not go on or that they heard it
had been cancelled and so on. A couple of people had said they always
just assumed it had happened but they had heard nothing of it beyond
reading the festival programme booklet. So again I found myself without
a clear answer. I was told that Tapsell's Bookshop (in Beechworth) had
stacks and stacks of the programmes available for $2 a copy. Again this
added to the assumption that if they had "thousands" of them then maybe
it did not go on as related by the punter above? I knew I needed a copy
of this booklet myself before I could proceed further. Dave White sent
me one and I was very impressed with the content.

The Ned Kelly Centenary Festival souvenir programme booklet was
dedicated to "MAGGIE SKILLION-the fifth or forgotten member of the
Kelly gang."
Looking through this I was able to find out that the director of the
festival was Mr. Peter Galvin. I was able to
locate Mr. Galvin and get the story from "the horse's mouth" so to
speak. I found that the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival most certainly did
go on! I have an interview I conducted with Mr. Galvin below. He was
most gracious and friendly and helpful. But first, to set the stage,
let's see what was on the schedule of events for that weekend in
November of 1980.
The festival kicked off on Friday November 7th with the gates opening at
6:00 P.M. Admission fee was $8.50 per day and children under 14
accompanied by adults were admitted free. A weekend ticket for Friday
through Sunday cost $16.00. But what a bargain it was as the festival
was chockful of entertainment and fun! According to the booklet there
were around 20 musical acts to perform.

Among those scheduled were the Bushwackers Band, Redgum, Reg Poole, Ted
Egan, Carrl Myriad Band, Eric Bogle, Johnny Chester and Hotspur, Bush
Turkey and many others. Quite a few plays and re-enactments were to be
presented. The plays "The Jerilderie Weekend" and "The Kate Kelly
Roadshow" (by Frank Hatherley) were on the schedule Re-enactments such
as one on bushranging called "The Chain Gang" and Kelly related ones
such as "The Fitzpatrick Incident," "Stringybark Creek," "The Kellys
Wouldn't Run," "Robbery on the Benalla Road," "The Shooting of Aaron
Sherritt," and "Glenrowan" [see photo at bottom] were also on the
Other events and activities over the long weekend included a damper
bakeoff, harness show, stockhorse events, a cross country horse race,
billy boiling, yarn spinning, bush fun run and marathon wood chopping.
As if all that was not enough to get one's Kelly groove on, there was to
be a forum led by Dr. John McQuilton, a showing of historical Kelly
films, carnival rides, amusements and exhibitions, as well as bush and
folk music workshops and a special Guinness Book of World Records

The souvenir programme booklet itself also contained articles about the
Kellys which included "Fallout From Stringybark Creek," (by Doug Morrissey) and "Did Ned Get a
Fair Trial?"
and interestingly there is a reprint of the 1880 pamphlet called
"Kelly's Defence" (by a lady).

One final bit before getting to the interview with Mr. Galvin is this
bit taken from the festival booklet. In the section called "History of
the Festival-how it came to pass" is the question "Why Winton?" The

"When the idea was first conceived, we looked around for a suitable
venue in the Glenrowan area. At the time, the local media publicised our
search for a Festival site, and we received an offer from the Benalla
Auto Club, suggesting the viability of the Winton Recreation Reserve.
After considerable investigation, it was decided that the Winton Reserve
was the only suitable site in "Kelly Country" that would be able to cope
with the crowd that we anticipated would attend. Winton also had the
added advantage of being situated centrally in the heart of Kelly
Country, just 6km from the Kelly Homestead in Greta, 15km from
Glenrowan, 12km from Benalla, and was the site of the former Winton Grog
Shop, where disgraced Constable Fitzpatrick drank for many hours before
he set off to arrest Dan Kelly, but ended up assaulting Ned Kelly's
mother and sisters. This incident led to Ned's mother being jailed for
three years, and was the spark that ignited the Kelly legend. What a
combination!! The site of a coward's self-vindication to the site of
massive people's commemoration. At this festival we stand on the site of
history, but such is life!"

Below is an email interview I conducted with Peter Galvin, the director
of the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival.

Sharon: Hi, Peter, I hope you didn't take any offence that myself along
with many others had thought this Festival did not actually eventuate! I have
always wondered why we never have heard anyone say they attended or have
not seen any photos of it on the net. Perhaps with this story, some may
come forward and offer up their accounts of it. So tell me, what made
you come up with the idea of staging a Centenary Festival? Who else was
involved in the planning? Were you a Ned Kelly fan from way back?

Peter: The Kelly Festival was in fact the idea of many like minded
people who were loosely associated through an ambitious magazine called
the Independent Australian, the Bushwackers Band and also the Builders
Labourers Union. The Festival came about when a number of us who were
involved in the promotion of an independent Australian culture saw the
centenary as a way of highlighting Australia's unique culture. Ned Kelly
epitomised to us the ideal that Australians did not need to be
subservient to anyone else's culture. We were all great fans of the
Kelly legend.

The Festival became our field of dreams and was at least a decade before
its time. I have no doubt that it was our politicisation of the Kelly legend
that led to our event being ignored by history, because in a sense we
failed to capture the support of the traditional Kelly aficionado, the
mainstream folk music scene and the local area community.

Sharon: Peter, tell us how many people did attend the Festival and
relate to the readers here what you had told me earlier about why the attendance
count was lower than you had hoped for. Seems like a run of bad luck and
some unfortunate circumstances just prior to it.

Peter: We had about 3,000 paying customers and about 1,000 others
(workers, performers etc) and was a wonderful event for those that
attended. It was a financial disaster for the organisers (a group of 5
friends were the company, organisers and financiers) being about 2,000
people short of break even. Unfortunately it rained solidly in the week
leading up to the Festival and there was a petrol transport strike which
combined to stop people coming up from Melbourne especially and also
down from Sydney. The Bushwackers Band and the BLF combined to help
us sort out the financial mess.

Sharon: Before the Festival you had been involved with promoting bands
and events through your company called Ironbark Promotions. What other jobs
or career paths had you followed up to that point and what direction did
you take in later years?

Peter: At the time I was an industrial officer with the BLF (a
construction industry union) and in my spare time I ran Ironbark music
promotions as a hobby. I have worked for the past decade in the
community education and training sector, until I had a stroke a few
years back and now do freelance media and I am still called Ironbark.

Sharon: Reading in the Ned Kelly Centenary Festival booklet I see that
at the Festival you had several souvenir items for sale among them an EP
(extended play) record with 4 songs on it (The Kelly's Wouldn't
Run-Carrl Myriad/Stringybark Creek-Bushwackers Band/Poor Ned-Redgum/Ned
Kelly's Letter-Blue Tongue).

Give us some info on this record.

Peter: The EP was a moderate success but I was left with a couple of
thousand which I have managed to sell (as a fund raiser for worthy causes) or
give away over the past 20 years. The CD version is just a copy that I ripped
to the computer and make for people without record players, depending on

Sharon: Speaking of the record above, did every musical act listed in
the Festival Programme booklet (around 20 or so) actually appear? None had
to cancel out?
Where any added to the roster after the programme went to press?

Peter: As far as I can remember, everyone listed appeared, and the
program was so tight there was no room for late additions.

Sharon: Did every event go to plan? What about that one event, where a
gentleman, Gary B. Jones, was to attempt to deliver the longest
political speech on record to enter the Guinness Book of World Records?
The booklet says that the previous record holder was from 1978 and for
33 hours and 5 minutes. Mr. Jones wanted to take 34 hours to "get his
message across" which was to beg for "A Pardon for Ned." Inquiring minds
want to know!

Peter: I'm not as sure about every event as there was too much happening
for me to keep track of but I don't think Mr Jones turned up. I seem to
remember some dispute over who was to pay his fare out to Australia.

[Note from Sharon: the festival booklet stated that "Gary B. Jones of
Anchorage, Alaska, has flown here at his own expense to beg a 'pardon
for Ned'.." so perhaps the dispute occurred before the festival and
after the booklet went to press.]

Sharon: What about the forum led by Dr. John McQuilton? How did that

Peter: It did, and again I have no recollection of these specific

Sharon: Do you recall which historical Ned Kelly films where shown
during the Film Show on the Saturday?

Peter: I don't but I do believe it happened.

Sharon: Everyone I have talked to about this has expressed the desire
to see a festival like this happen again so they can attend. What is your
advice to anyone who would ever consider trying to put on an event of
this size and scope?

Peter: Make sure your big ideas are backed up by big and reliable
finance and marketing.

Sharon: I really appreciate the way that all sorts of historical
background of the Kelly's are included in this souvenir programme booklet. It was very well done! I even liked the advertisements in it and how most were
along the lines of the Kelly theme, such as the Olympic Bushranger Tyres
at "prices so reasonable even Ned Kelly would have paid 'em" or Lipton
Tea "A bold as Ned Kelly." Then we have an ad for the updated
(1980) edition of Ned Kelly: Man and Myth on offer for $5.95! (Just
recently saw an earlier edition on ebay go for $60.99!!!!!!!). So tell
me, who was the mastermind behind the souvenir programme?

Peter: A guy from Melbourne, Dan Hellier, who now runs Publicity Works.
The advertising was handled by a woman whose first name is Jane (I can't
remember her last name). I wrote and organised most of the content.

Sharon: Peter, I want to thank you for being so helpful and so nice to
You have been a most gracious gentleman and I am happy to have made your
acquaintance. In closing is there anything you wish to say about the
festival and your part in it that I have not touched on here?

Peter: I don't have any photos of the event. I am normally an avid
photographer but I must have been too pre-occupied at the time to take
any but I'd would love to see any some time. 

Peter in armour

[Note from Sharon: Just prior to this story being run, I had mentioned
to Brian McDonald about what I was writing about and he sent in a photo
of a scene from one of the Festival's Kelly re-enactments which he found
in an issue of "Two Hundred Years" put out by Bay Books, circa 1988.
Issue #45 had a piece on "Festive Occasions" and was where he found it!
Thanks, Brian!]

A photo of the actual festival!

Many thanks to Peter Galvin for his time and cooperation.

Thanks also to Brian McDonald for being both generous and eagle-eyed!

And last, but never least, thanks to Dave White for getting me a copy of
the Festival booklet and for always being willing to give me a showcase
for my writings.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

FLASHBACK: Did They Really Fire 15,000 Rounds at the Siege of Glenrowan? [Sharon Hollingsworth]

Note that this article was written for the now defunct glenrowan1880 website back in September of 2008. I used what resources I had to hand back then but there may be more out there now that Trove and other books and resources are so readily available.



Have you ever wondered about how many rounds were fired during the
Siege of Glenrowan?

I never did, until I read an article back in May of 2008 wherein the
project director of the Glenrowan Inn Dig said that the siege was a
"brutal gun battle" in which "15,000 rounds were fired." To be fair,
another article stated that "up to 15,000" rounds were fired (so that
gives a slight leeway).

I have no idea where he got that figure from, whether it was from a
book, the archives, or from an historian (and if so, where did
they get it?). I had an immediate kneejerk reaction and knew that the
figure had to have been grossly inflated. It has been on my mind ever
since then, so I decided to look at the facts and figures to see if it were even
possible to have that much firing going on.

First, we need to find out the number of "combatants" involved. There
were 4 members of the Kelly Gang, of course, but let's see how many
police arrived...Superintendent Hare arrived at 3 AM with 7 policemen, along with Sub-Inspector O'Connor and his 5 black trackers. Hare subsequently left the field of battle early on after getting wounded. There were also 4 members of the press and a civilian (Rawlins) who all were able to shoot if necessary, and if arms were available (newspaper reporter Joe Melvin came with his own revolver). Reinforcements did not arrive until after the 5 AM hour when Steele
arrived on horseback with his Wangaratta contingent (with 2 arriving
by train) and Bracken who had ridden there to alert them (this makes 8). Sadleir also arrived during the 5 AM hour with 11 policemen, 2 black trackers and
3 civilians (among those Jesse Dowsett), and around 9 AM Mullane
arrived with 10 more police. A handful more (about 4) showed up at
Noon and Standish and Ward were the latest arrivals, coming to
Glenrowan when it was all over. Given the number of police plus the
outlaws (and taking civilians and reporters out of the equation),
let's distill it down to a good round number we can work with for the sake of argument, maybe say 55 total combatants (your mileage may vary!).

We have established the timeframe for the earliest arrivals at around
3 AM. The end would have been sometime past 3 PM when the Inn was
fired (accounts vary as to the exact time of the firing of it), so it
was around a 12 hour event.

So, our parameters are set. If 15,000 rounds were fired in 12 hours
that would mean that each of the approximate 55 combatants would have
had to have fired on average 273 rounds for the 12 hours, or approximately 23
rounds each per hour. Of course, even allowing for reloading time, it
would be easy for an individual to fire 23 rounds an hour for a
sustained period of twelve hours, but in this case it is not possible
given the other variables present. As shown above, many arrived on the
scene late, and were present for less than 12 hours. No one fired for
anything like twelve hours continuously as there were long lulls in
the firing. Ned himself was hors de combat after five hours and Joe
Byrne was shot and killed even before then.
As for the police, O'Connor testified to the Royal Commission Board that the heaviest firing of the day was before any reinforcements at all had arrived. There was one man there who bragged that he had fired around a hundred rounds that day, BUT there were many who testified that they fired much less and there were many of the police who did not fire a single shot during the entire siege!

The reason why some did not fire at all was that the weapons they had were of no use against the building (such as the breech loading double barrelled shot guns, Spencer rifles and Webley or Colt revolvers), they would only be of
use if the gang were to come outside. Those that had the long
Martini-Henry rifles and the shorter Martini-Henry carbines, and
Snider rifles (O'Connor and his trackers had the latter) were able to
fire at the Inn with effectiveness.

What Sub-Inspector Montfort had later said to the Royal Commission
about the the police in the NE District is very interesting: "They are
armed like a Turkish brigade, with all kinds of weapons." He had
suggested that all the men should be issued Martini-Henry carbines
(supposedly for ease of use and carrying and to make resupply of
ammunition easier too..more on the ammo in a bit..).

Let's look at some more of the information I have gleaned from the
Minutes of Evidence Taken Before Royal Commission On The Police Force
Of Victoria:

During the first volley fired, when there were not so
many on the battleground, it was estimated by one policemen that the
gang fired 40 or 50 shots and that the police fired twice as many.

Constable William Duross said he fired 24 or 25 cartridges from a
Spencer repeating rifle.

Constable Thomas Dowling says he fired about 100 rounds, but that "I
believe several of them did not fire so many."

Constable Arthur had a Martini-Henry Carbine and was served out with
20 rounds when he left Benalla and "kept nearly all of it." He claimed
to have fired 10 rounds at the verandah when the gang had come out and
then Constable Kelly later gave him another 5 rounds.

One man said he fired his Spencer rifle 3 or 4 times (that would be
around 21 cartridges).

Constable Kirkham was armed with a Martini-Henry rifle and testified
that he might have used 40 rounds and had 2 revolvers that he did not
fire at all.

Constable Barry said that he fired 25 shots from a Martini carbine.

Constable Reilly testified that he did not fire at all as he had a
double-barrelled breechloader.

In Hare's party, only he and Constable Canny had the double barrelled
shotguns, and in the Wangaratta contingent, Steele and some of his men
(including Dwyer, who also had a Colt revolver) had them also, but
others in the party had the long Martini-Henry and "old Enfield

Constable Phillips had the Martini-Henry rifle and Sr. Constable Kelly
had the Martini Carbine.

So, we have established that many of the police did not fire at all
and those that did seemed to have fired much less than 100 rounds

Also, they did not fire continuously, they were instructed to only
fire when the outlaws came to the doors or windows or when the gang
fired at them. They were also told to open fire in order to give
cover, such as when Constable Johnston set fire to the Inn, though
some did fire at other times. It was reported that the trackers did
indiscriminate and heavy firing and a few days after the siege one of
the constables who revisited the siege site found many shell casings
in the trench or what the Commission (and others) referred to as "the

Regarding the ammunition situation, the regulation number of rounds was:
20 balls Martini....24 for guns....18 for revolvers.

However, they got extra ammunition during the siege.

George Allen said that he and the other reporters on the platform "had
emptied the [train] van of all its contents, the luggage and
ammunition, and stuff to find ammunition for the men, a lot of the
saddles and stuff, and piled those up.."

A telegram was sent to Benalla to send up more ammunition, also.

According to Sgt. Whelan, there was a small cask with Martini-Henry
and Carbine Rifle ammunition (which held 500 rounds) and not all of
that was used and there was lots of loose ammunition besides that.

Reporter McWhirter testified that:

"Many of the men had taken wrong ammunition with them, and the
consequences was that they had to send back for ammunition, and Mr.
Melvin and myself sorted the carbine and Martini Henry ammunition and
gave it out to the men as the messengers came to the station for it."

Rawlins took the first lot out (and had taken the wrong kind and had
to go back for the correct kind...I am wondering if that is what
McWhirter might have been referring to? or was it a separate event?)
and then Sr. Constable Kelly took some around and Phillips came for

One of the Royal Commissioners made this statement about the Glenrowan
siege: "It has been stated there was a great deal of ammunition
uselessly expended there."

That statement may be true, but there is no way that 15,000 rounds
were expended given all the evidence!

Something that Max Brown said in "Australian Son" about the sending
for of a cannon to blow down the Inn to get Steve and Dan to surrender
sounds slightly more reasonable as to how much firepower and ordance
might have been used that day (at least on the police end):

"As if 2,000 bullets and fifty troopers were not enough!"

If that figure is close to being right (and I have no idea if it is or
not, even considering all the criteria from above), then I seriously
doubt that the 4 outlaws fired off the remaining 13,000 rounds!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Link to Dr. Stuart Dawson's Latest Myth Busting Article

Dr. Stuart Dawson, who is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Monash University, has become well known in Kelly circles as being something of a meticulous myth buster. His latest effort is a blog post examining and challenging the popular notion that Ned Kelly's famed "Last Stand" with police at Glenrowan lasted half an hour. Stuart has compared reports and eyewitness testimonies and has come up with a far different timeline. It is entitled "How Long Was Ned Kelly's Last Stand?" and can be read over at

Other myth busting efforts Stuart has done (not including all of the varied comments he has made at the Kelly Legend Blog) are as follows -

Redeeming Fitzpatrick: Ned Kelly and the Fitzpatrick Incident

Ned Kelly and the Myth of a Republic of North-eastern Victoria

Ned Kelly's Last Words: "Ah, Well, I Suppose"

Ned Kelly's Shooting of George Metcalf, Labourer

Friday, September 21, 2018

Flashback: John Molony interview from 2006

 With the recent passing of Professor John Molony ( I recalled this 2006 interview Dave White conducted with him via email correspondence that had been on Dave's  glenrowan1880 website.


Professor Molony, I would like to take this opportunity to
thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us
here at Glenrowan1880. It is truly an honour.
For those who perhaps are not familiar with your academic career,
I will take a moment to give just a few of your impressive credentials
if I may.
John Neylon Molony has previously been Professor of History and Manning
Clark Professor of Australian History at the Australian National
University, Canberra, Keith Cameron Professor of Australian History at
University College, Dublin and Foundation Research Professor of the
Australian Catholic University. He is currently Visiting Fellow,
Australian Dictionary of Biography, at the Australian National

 Now on to my questions.

DAVE WHITE:   Professor Molony, your book, "I am Ned Kelly" (1980,
reissued as "Ned Kelly," 2001) is a seminal work, a true classic in its
field. It is very well researched, and in it you present many
interesting theories, some in variance to other modern Kelly authors. In
the preface you state: "In the end it all remained a matter of trying to
understand, to unravel the tangled skein of a life over which legend
cast its spell so that reality has become secondary." It does seem that
Ned Kelly took on the status of legend and myth even while he lived. You
have done much to give us all a greater understanding of Ned Kelly, the
man, especially as concerns the Irish Catholic aspect of his background.
Much of that information I found to be quite illuminating.
I would like to ask you when was it that you decided to do a biography
of Ned Kelly? Up until that point, did Ned Kelly have a hold on your
imagination or have a special significance to you (as an historian)?
Also, has your interest in (or love for) Ned's story diminished at all
since the publication of "I am Ned Kelly" 25 years ago?

JOHN MOLONY:  I decided to write my Kelly book in 1978 as a reaction to
a decision taken by a Victorian anniversaries committee not to commemorate
the centenary of Ned's death in 1980. To the members of that committee Ned was
unworthy of any recognition, but to me any attempt to eliminate his
memory was both absurd and futile.
It was absurd because most Australians, irrespective of whether they
judge Ned harshly or favourably, accept that his memory is woven into the
psyche of the nation. It was futile because legends are created by the
people as a kind of spontaneous response to a phenomenon that strikes a
chord in their being. Ned is an Australian legend and the people will
not relinquish their legends at the whim of right-minded, but
unrepresentative, conservatives. "As brave as Ned Kelly" is not a phrase
lightly lost.
Up to the time of my decision to write about Ned I had been uneasy about
him because he did not fit into the framework of my own Irish Catholic
background, which was essentially middle class and conformist. I was
only vaguely aware of the harshness pervading the economic and social
circumstances that had shaped Ned and entirely ignorant of the
persecution to which the Kelly clan had been subjected by the police and
other authorities. It had struck me as odd that no academic historian
had written a life of Kelly. Why were they silent on a national figure?
I can only say that my respect for Ned has in no sense diminished and I
hold him in higher esteem than I did in the 1980s. I do so because I
have become more fully aware of how anyone who departs from the norm,
much more anyone who rejects the norm, suffers when the organs of wealth
and so called respectability are fused in support of a government
determined to control society according to its own standards. For one
like Ned the situation becomes far worse when the authorities conclude
that they must protect society from anyone they judge to be a threat to
its well-being.

DAVE WHITE:  How long did "I am Ned Kelly" take from the first bit of
research to the last touches on the manuscript when it was finally
pronounced finished? Of course, all that was being done between your
family and work obligations, too, wasn't it? Not an easy task, I am
sure, as I am finding out for myself as I work on a book.

JOHN MOLONY:  Throughout the two and a half years I spent in researching
and writing Ned I was mostly confined to my desk in Canberra as head of the History
Department here at the Australian National University. However I enjoyed
the inestimable assistance of Robin Carter who undertook a great deal of
useful research for me in Melbourne and especially in the State
Archives. The involvement of my family was a day-to-day affair and I
dedicated my Ned to my four children. I left the dedication of my book
on Eureka to my wife who was born in Ballarat.
It was never an easy task to write about Ned. We must remember that Ned
partly became a legend because others spoke on his behalf and they began
to do so in ballads even in his own lifetime. Except in the Jerilderie
letter and when he was in the dock, Ned had few chances to speak for
himself. Those who persecuted him, the police and the government,
created his records, as well as those of his mates and of his people.
This helps to explain why it is not easy to come close to Ned because
much of what we know of him is coloured by the way his enemies have told
their own crooked story of him.
Sidney Nolan told me that he was driven by a sense of guilt because his
grandfather was one of the police who hunted Ned. As a result he
repeatedly struggled valiantly in his endeavour to make Ned live a
little for us. Yet it happens often in his paintings that you look at
the helmet and Ned is not there -  you see through the helmet and
there is only the land. Nolan wanted it that way and I am sure Ned, who
loved the land, would accept that Sid did it well. But to me the
important thing is that we all share a kind of empty legend. That makes
it possible for us to fill it out with the Ned who says something to us
and to the land from which he sprang.

DAVE WHITE:  The Siege of Glenrowan has always been the most fascinating
aspect of the Kelly story to me. Could you give us a brief overview/synopsis of
the Siege and Ned Kelly's Last Stand from your point of view telling us
what it means to you and also why the event was so important from an
historical viewpoint? Also, Professor, the theory put forth about the
"rebellion" Ned had planned has always perplexed me. Could you shed some
light on this? Also do you think that documentation for this rebellion
actually exists?

JOHN MOLONY:  In all that I wrote about Ned I took his own account of
his life as my starting point. In other words I believed what he said of himself and
continued to do so unless I found evidence to the contrary. I never
caught him out in a lie. As an example, I believed Ned when he wrote in
the Jerilderie letter that he was not in Victoria when Fitzpatrick
visited the Greta home on 15 April 1878. All the evidence proved that
Fitzpatrick was both a scoundrel and a liar and it was inconceivable to
me that Ned could have stood within a few feet of the constable, shot at
him several times in a room half full of women and children, missed his
target but hit him in the wrist. It sounded like a stupidly foolish
concoction to me, which Fitzpatrick had to make up to explain why he was
at the home in the first place as well as to cover his tracks in case he
was accused of attempting to rape Kate. In other words I believed Ned
and there is evidence for my belief. I find it incomprehensible why
anyone would accept the word of Fitzpatrick rather than that of Ned
about an incident bearing all the hallmarks of a lie.
We must put the Siege at Glenrowan in its proper context and see it also
in the light of what we know of Ned's personality. The context is one of
sheer desperation. Things had gone on and on without resolve. Meanwhile
Mrs Kelly languished in prison. The police were clearly incompetent and
the likelihood that they would ever catch the boys unless they gave
themselves up was increasingly remote. The matter had to be brought to a
head, but on Ned's terms and Glenrowan seemed the solution. We know that
it was unlikely to have succeeded, but to Ned something had to be tried.
The one discordant note is the intended murder of unsuspecting police
and completely innocent civilians. The scenario does not fit Ned's
personality in any sense. In cold blood he could have killed McIntyre;
he could have killed police and civilians at any time and especially in
Jerilderie. He killed when his own life was at stake and that only
happened at Stringybark Creek. The whole incident at Glenrowan with the
train and the rails is explicable and I have endeavoured to make it so
in my chapter - A Still, Cold Night. Again I cannot understand some
writers who put themselves forward as Ned's defenders, but make him out
as cold-blooded monster intent on murder. Had he been that, I for one
would have not written a single line about him. Is it possible that they
do so because they want to make Ned out to be what he was not a man
intent on overthrowing all the structures of society and thus using
bloody means to do so?
A member of the Kelly clan told me that he had seen an old exercise book
some years later in which he saw minutes of the meetings at which a
rebellion and republic of the northeast had been planned. That Ned, and
others, with either memories or knowledge of Ireland and its miseries,
were capable of conceiving such a plan is clearly possible. That they
carried it beyond hope is a matter requiring further study and research.

DAVE WHITE:  Professor Molony, do you ever get up to Glenrowan and the
environs these days? Do you attend any Kelly events? What about the 2003
Ned Kelly movie? Did you see it? Do you try to keep up with all the
latest doings in the Kelly world?

JOHN MOLONY:  I passed through Glenrowan a year or so ago, but generally
I have little to do with anything pertaining to Ned although my interest in him
remains undiminished. I did not see the film, but I am sorry it was not
as successful as many hoped it would be. Perhaps that is an example of
what I mean when I say that it is not easy to come close to Ned who
remains his own man. However, I am vain enough to think that I did my
best for his memory and that best, humble as it is, has endured.
It is for others now to take the legend further, but it must be made to
live or it will die. Ned abhorred injustice and thirsted after justice
for himself and for others. He did not think of it that way, but at the
least he knew what it was to get less than a fair go and he reacted when
he saw others, especially his own people getting anything but a fair go.
Perhaps that is the key to why Ned's legend endures. The danger is that,
if we leave it as a hollow affirmation, the legend of Ned will itself
begin to ring as futile and the people will forget him in time. There
are some questions we could ask which are not far from Ned and his time.
Are we just to the poor, or are we allowing the gap between the poor and
the rich to get wider every year? Are we prepared to continue as a
nation bowed down in subservience to a seemingly greater power whose
bidding we do even when it results in injustice to others? Will we stand
up and struggle for a republic of the free, or will we acquiesce in
remaining tied to a distant and meaningless monarchy? Have we been just
to those who fled here as refugees? Will we treat those we accuse of
being terrorists with justice?
They are a few of the problems that face our society, but Ned would not
have stood idly by or remained mute before them. We cannot give flesh to
his legend by mere words, writing about him and speaking about him. He
wanted a changed and better society - what do we want?

DAVE WHITE:  I know that you have written several books. Besides the one
on Ned, you are well known for authoring "Eureka" (1984, reissued in
2001). I am also aware that you have a very active interest in the
events surrounding the Eureka Stockade and that you have been involved
with the Eureka Stockade Memorial Trust. Surely last year, 2004, was a
most exciting and busy one for you as the Eureka 150th anniversary was
celebrated. Would you care to tell us a bit about your work with the
Trust? Also, if I am not mistaken, in 2006 Ballarat will be the host
city for the World Conference of Historical Cities. That should do much
to project the Eureka Stockade and its significance onto the
international stage. To your knowledge are there any "Eureka" themed
events planned to capitalise on that function?

JOHN MOLONY:  I wrote my Eureka almost in the same context as I did my
Ned. To me both have become legends that are closely related to the development of
Australian nationality. Because Eureka is seen, rightly, as the
birthplace of our democracy, it is assuming a formative and educative
role in our society.
My grandfather was a young digger in the Stockade on the morning of 3
December 1854 when the military and police murdered at least thirty
diggers. Thus I am a member of Eureka's Children, which is a body that
welcomes anyone descended from those connected with Eureka in 1854. The
Trust, based in Ballarat, is now known as an Association. It is the
principal body devoted to Eureka. It has been chiefly responsible for
the development of the new Stockade and it was heavily involved in the
events at the end of last year when we celebrated the 150th anniversary
of Eureka. They were a resounding success.
Both the Association and Eureka's Children are trying to make a concrete
contribution to Australian democracy. Recently the Association has been
involved in procuring a scholarship for a young student from West Papua
to enroll at one of our universities. Clearly, both bodies will
contribute positively and significantly to the World Conference of
Historical Cities to be held in Ballarat in 2006. Without Eureka the
significance of Ballarat would scarcely warrant its recognition on a
world scale any more than other cities such as Bendigo or Ararat based
on their connection with gold. It is Eureka that makes Ballarat unique
in Australia.

DAVE WHITE:  Other than Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade, you have many
varied interests, ranging from Australian Rules Football to promoting
Italian culture through the Dante Alighieri Society. You do lectures and
presentations, give speeches, and write articles, as well as write books
as alluded to above. You have had over a dozen different book titles in
print, haven't you? I have mentioned the Ned and Eureka ones, and am
working up to discussing your autobiography in a bit, but do you have
any other titles you would like to make mention of that the readers
might find of interest?

JOHN MOLONY:  Despite my writing the semi-official history of Australia
for our bicentenary in 1988 [The Penguin Bicentennial History of Australia] I
think my book, The Native-Born : the first white Australians,
published by Melbourne University Press in 2000, will eventually be
judged as my most significant original contribution to the writing of
Australian history. I say this because the native-born had never been
given the serious consideration they deserve for their contribution to
the making of our nation. More than any other element, including the
convict element, they made us what we in large measure remain today.
Two other books were of some significance. My The Roman Mould of the
Australian Catholic Church [MUP 1969] helped to change the popular
judgement of the Catholic Church in Australia from seeing it as an
exclusively Irish phenomenon to understanding it as part of the
Romanization of the Church in the English speaking world in the 19th
century. An Architect of Freedom- John Hubert Plunkett in New South
Wales1832 to 1869 [ANU Press, 1973] explored the transition of early
Australia from a convict prison to a free society. As Attorney General,
Plunkett's task was to guide that transition under the rule of law. His
tragedy was that he never succeeded, despite repeated and courageous
attempts, to include the Aboriginal even though he sent seven white men
to the gallows for the murder of thirty Aboriginals at Myall Creek in
New South Wales in 1838. He repeatedly tried to have Aboriginal evidence
accepted in the courts, but was rebuffed both in Sydney and London.
I have always been intensely interested in struggles for freedom and
against tyranny. For that reason I wrote a history of a political party
in Italy that fought against Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, but was
eventually done to death in 1926. Despite its unfortunate and wordy
title The emergence of political Catholicism in Italy- Partito Popolare
1919-1926, [Croom Helm, London, 1977] the book is now recognized as the
principal contribution to our knowledge of that important political
party which, under Alcide De Gasperi, in the post war period, defended
Italy from a Communist takeover.
In somewhat the same vein I wrote a life of the noble Irish Protestant
patriot, A soul came into Ireland - Thomas Davis [Geography Press,
Dublin, 1995]. In 1995 on the 15th anniversary of Davis's death, the
book was launched at Trinity College Dublin where Davis was educated, by
the then Prime Minister of Ireland. Davis is chiefly remembered today by
his splendid and ringing ballad, 'A nation once again' which is still
sung in Ireland and in parts of the world to which the Irish migrated.
My interest in the workers' movements as expressed at a political level
and in the trade unions led me to study the making of an encyclical by
Pope Leo XIII which was the first treatment of the worker question by
the papacy. The book was entitled The Worker Question: a new historical
perspective on 'Rerum Novarum' [Collins Dove, 1991] I had to spend a
year researching the extensive material on the background to, and
writing of, the encyclical held in the Vatican Archives in Rome.
Published in 1891 the encyclical is the foundation stone of all papal
teaching on the social question and on social justice.
In the near future Australian Scholarly Publishing will bring out my
Australia our Heritage. It is a history of Australia with a long chapter
at the beginning dealing with the civilization of the Aboriginal people
before white settlement. I preferred to use Heritage rather than History
because too frequently we regard our past, though we may treasure it, as
of no consequence in the present. We inherit the past and we are made by
it. Our history is our most important heritage as a nation.

DAVE WHITE:  I have read with interest where you have donated decades
worth of your papers, correspondence, lecture material, reports,
manuscript drafts, research materials and the like to the National
Library of Australia. What a wonderful gesture and a generous gift.
Being an historian, you are well aware of the importance and
significance of documenting a well-lived life for posterity. To that
end, you have also written and recently published "Luther's Pine: An
Autobiography" (Pandanus Books, 2004). It tells of your childhood on a
farm in Victoria and how you and your family managed to survive the
Great Depression and all about your life up until the day you were
ordained as a Catholic priest in 1950. It sounds like a very moving and
inspiring story. Would you like to tell our readers something more about
the book? Also would you tell the readers what the title "Luther's Pine"
is in reference to? And, lastly, Professor, might we expect a follow up
autobiography detailing your life in the Church, your leaving of the
priesthood, your illustrious career in academics and all other aspects
up to the present day?
I am sure it would make for a fascinating read!

JOHN MOLONY:  Luther's Pine has been well reviewed and Phillip Adams
interviewed me about it on Australia Day. I am now researching my correspondence with a
view to a further volume. When Martin Luther visited Rome as a young
monk in 1519 he is said to have stood under a pine looking over at St
Peters and the Vatican and praying that he would not be corrupted by the
morals of the Roman clergy. In 1947, when I was a young student for the
priesthood in Rome, I often stood under the same pine, by then ancient
and leaning so badly that scaffolding held it up. I also prayed. The
pine is long since gone. It was removed to prevent its falling on those
who stood under it!

DAVE WHITE: Professor Molony, I wish to again thank you for your time
and for your willingness to answer the questions I have presented, you
are truly a scholar and a gentleman.
I hope to speak with you again soon.

I would also like to thank Sharon Hollingsworth for her assistance in the
formulating of these questions for Professor Molony.