Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Hero at Glenrowan wasn't Ned Kelly but Thomas Curnow.


I have to admit until a few days ago I hadn’t known there was “a local tradition of commemorating the 1880 Siege at Glenrowan, when Ned Kelly made his last stand” but this year the commemoration is going to be a fund-raising dinner for the proposed Joanne Griffiths Ned Kelly Center at Glenrowan. Its going to be called ‘The Ned Kelly Siege Dinner’.

For a hundred bucks you’re not only going to get fine (but hearty!) food and great local wine, but entertainment from singer songwriter Damian Howard, a 'Hard Quiz' “prepared by historians which will challenge the fiercest aficionados” and “a Silent Auction will give you the chance to bid for bargain holidays, art works, memorabilia and more...”  I’d be tempted to go myself if I lived nearby, and if I had a hundred bucks to spare and if I didn’t think I would be lynched if I went! But I’d be hated even more once I got the prize for winning the quiz…so I guess I’ll stay home.

But, seriously I would like to know exactly what part of Ned Kellys last stand at Glenrowan is worth a commemorative dinner, good food, wine and song?

The truth about the “Last Stand” is that it was the place where Ned Kellys true character was fully exposed and shown to be dark and as angry, ruthless and murderous as any of the other known mass killers. Ned Kellys plan was no spur of the moment brain-snap but a very deliberate and calculated scheme that was many months in the making, and which very nearly succeeded. Glenrowan was an attempt to murder up to a couple of dozen police by causing a train to derail at high speed. Ned Kelly was so determined to do this that he made four suits of bullet–proof armour, murdered a former friend, and then risked his own life, the lives of the other gang members, and the lives of more than 60 hostages as well. This was a monumentally violent and ruthless scheme that if successfully carried out would have eternally embedded the name of Ned Kelly into the annals of history’s most sickening killers,  . There wouldn’t have been one word of debate from any sane reasonable person about anything other than that Ned Kelly was a monster. Absolutely no doubt about it.

My question to the Siege commemorators is this: do you not realise that Ned Kelly is no less a monster just because he was stopped from carrying out this plan? What is it that you want to commemorate?


Maybe you are planning on commemorating the claim that Glenrowan was the place where Ned Kelly displayed the skills and strategic genius that would have made him a brilliant military man.  If so, you need to keep reading because that claim doesn’t withstand the slightest analysis.  To start with, the centrepiece of his brilliant plan was the home-made armour – it turned out to be hopelessly impractical – it was so heavy they could barely move in it, it was impossible for the gang to use their rifles while wearing it, it greatly restricted their vision and as Ned Kelly discovered to his horror, the unprotected legs left the wearer fatally vulnerable. That was the supposed great Generals first blunder. His next blunder was about poor Aaron Sherrit - everyone now accepts that Kelly was wrong about him – he didn’t betray the Gang , but the deranged Kelly gang killed him anyway, as police bait! Next, Kellys plan relied on word about Aaron Sheritts murder getting quickly to Melbourne – so what did his ‘troops’ do? After killing Sheritt they hung about his house for hours and hours taunting and threatening the policemen trapped inside, so they didn’t emerge till the next morning – blunder #3. Kellys plan relied on the railway line being ripped up – but the tools he bought were the wrong ones and he and Steve Hart couldn’t do it – dumb planning (#4) Kelly then woke up railway workers in tents nearby thinking they would be able to rip up the tracks  – they couldn’t (#5). And neither could Stanistreet, the Stationmaster they woke next (#6). Now, because his plan required secrecy, he had to make hostages of everyone in the Ann Jones Inn, but because he couldn’t keep his own boastful mouth shut Ned Kellys secret got out (#7). Outsmarted by Thomas Curnow’s flattery, the vain Ned Kelly released the brave Curnow (#8), who stopped the train by an act of bravery that’s universally acknowledged.

At this point the plan was in tatters, but at least no harm had been done, other than the cold-blooded murder of Aaron Sherritt. A wise General would have considered a hasty retreat with all his men, and lived to fight another day, but not Mr Kelly. (#9) He chose to stay and shoot it out with police, against odds that were so hopelessly impossible even Custer wouldn’t have thought about staying.

The outcome of his hateful and ill-conceived plan, fortunately, was total failure for the Kelly Gang. Not a single one of the gangs objectives was realised, but the Gang was completely destroyed -  Ned Kellys own brother and Steve Hart committed suicide, Joe Byrne was shot by police and bled to death, Ned Kelly was captured and in a few months hanged, two innocent hostages were killed, and Ann Jones livelihood was destroyed. The entire incident was a horrendous and traumatic weekend of terror and death and injury, a mesmerising horror show of drunken violence and chaos. Why on earth would anyone want to commemorate that?

And yet, despite the shameful behaviour of the Kelly Gang, there was a hero at Glenrowan, and his bravery certainly does deserve to be commemorated. One man with a conscience was brave enough to stand up against wrong, and do whatever it took to stop the murder of innocent people in a train crash : Thomas Curnow.  There can be no mistake – what Curnow did required extraordinary bravery, and he later admitted he expected to be killed in the attempt, but even his own wife’s pleas couldn’t dissuade him.

Read what he wrote a mere three weeks after the event, in his Statement to the Police:

"In overcoming Mrs Curnow’s opposition to my going for she was in a state of the utmost terror and dread, and declared that both I and all belonging to me would get shot if I persisted in going, and in securing the safety of my wife, child and sister while being away time passed, and just as I was about to start I heard the train coming in the distance. I immediately caught up the scarf, candle and matches and ran down the line to meet the train. On reaching a straight part of the line where those in the train would be able to see the danger signal for some distance, I lit the candle and held it behind the red scarf. While I was holding up the danger signal I was in great fear of being shot before those in the train would be able to see the red light, and of thus uselessly sacrificing my life."

This man is the true hero of Glenrowan, and its about time his bravery was given the recognition that it deserves. Compare his bravery, going alone and unarmed with only a candle and a scarf, with the “bravery” of Ned Kelly, armed to the teeth after weeks of target practice, enclosed in armour, protected by human shields, and a member of a gang….an extraordinary comparison!


The Commemorative Dinner shouldn’t be called the Ned Kelly siege dinner. Ned Kelly did nothing at Glenrowan that any decent and fair-minded person would ever want to commemorate. Instead it should be renamed the Thomas Curnow memorial Dinner. That would make it honourable, because when it comes to Glenrowan, Thomas Curnow is the only person and his were the only deeds that deserve commemoration.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Even horses didnt escape Kelly Clan brutality

What kind of person would hack a beautiful animal like this to death with an axe?

There’s been a lot of angry reaction to my recent posts about criminality in the Kelly clan. People hated looking at that photo of the young woman with the smashed-up face. But I chose it deliberately – to make plain the unattractive reality of the Kelly clan domestic violence that people don’t want to look at, that they ignore which not too many people are even aware of.  They only want to talk about  police violence and so we hear about it all the time. Take, for example  the huge fuss thats always made over the fact that while violently resisting arrest, Ned Kelly had his balls squeezed by Lonigan. Absolutely everyone knows about that – but where have you ever read them condemning the drunk lecherous brother who felled his innocent sister with a cowards punch? Where is their anger about an attack that could have killed her and that left her face disfigured for life?  Where’s their anger about a drunk burning down a house with thirteen children asleep inside? “These things happen in the Kelly clan” was Peter Fitzsimons disgracefully flippant remark on the subject. “Drunk and amorous” was about all Ian Jones had to say about it. But the testicles of saint Ned – oh my god, anybody who dares so much as to even touch those sacred balls deserves chapters of condemnation -  and being gunned down at SBC was barely sufficient punishment! The double standard is too obvious!

Almost nobody else has been willing to point out the awfully corrosive effects that these documented acts of violence, such as arson and violent assaults would have had on the developing minds of Kelly clan children - and the documented violence was just the tip of the iceberg.  Nobody wanted to have it pointed out to them that it was clan violence against its own members that caused police to take an interest in the Kellys, because they wanted to be able to go on believing that police interest in the Kellys was harassment and persecution, that the Kellys were innocent victims of police corruption. And this is the  whole problem with the Kelly legend – it  only wants to tell half the story, it relies on suppression and the deliberate avoidance of known inconvenient facts, and the construction of stories that fall apart when examined closely. But clearly, when you have one clan member burning a house down, another punching his sister in the face and disfiguring her for life and a neighbour being so badly bashed up that he was lucky to survive, police interest in maintaining law and order is not just perfectly legitimate, its what you would want to happen. These facts expose the absolute absurdity of the Kelly claim, that their problems were all the result of unjustified harassment and police persecution. Such a campaign never existed except in the minds of people who chose to believe Ned Kellys excuse, his refusal to accept responsibility for his own actions, his life-long habit of blaming someone else. In fact, these facts show that the misery of their lives was mostly self-inflicted.

The Kelly legend would also have you believe that the clans enemies were the police and the squatters, and that the clan supported and championed the cause of the poor, of selectors and poor farmers like themselves. However, we have already learned that clan members attacked and abused each other, and that clan women were often the direct victims. This violence would also have made innocent victims of the children in these families, Ned Kelly included, because it’s now well established that living in that kind of environment and witnessing such acts harms a childs emotional and psychological wellbeing and development. But apart from harming each other, and their children, the clan also attacked working class poor like the splitter John Page who was bashed to within an inch of his life by James Quinn.

This post is about another selector who suffered at the hands of the clan : William Barnett. This story reveals yet another dimension to the violent and vengeful behaviour of the Kelly clan. If you want to read for yourself the entire original Court report that was published in the local newspaper, go HERE. Don’t waste your time going to the usual Kelly books – they all left it out, no doubt because it doesn’t fit the story they want to tell you that the Kelly clan were terrific people who were picked on by police.

  What happened was that one day in 1872, William Barnett, a Greta selector like the Kellys, rounded up six horses that had strayed onto his land and was taking them to the pound. The horses belonged to Ned Kellys uncle John Lloyd, who was also the father of Neds close friend, cousin Tom. There was a confrontation on the road, and the Lloyds took their horses back. Something similar had happened with cattle, and ended in Court in 1869 – so there was obviously bad blood between these two selectors. This time Barnett ‘summoned’ Lloyd over the ‘rescuing’ of the horses – he was obviously getting fed up with Lloyds stock repeatedly getting onto his land and he wanted something done about it, so commenced legal proceedings on the Thursday after the Lloyds had taken their horse back off him. In Court Barnett told how on the following Saturday he left one of his horses in a secure paddock but on Sunday morning the horse was dead. It had been taken out of the paddock where it had been left, and attacked with a knife or an axe. It bled to death.

    I found the horse dead at Mr O'Brien's paddock ; the horse could not get out of the paddock without being taken out ; when I found the horse he was cut from his ears to his tail ; the horse was so much injured that at first I could not recognise it ; the injuries must have been inflicted with a sharp instrument ; they were sufficient to cause death”

“Mr O'Brien, myself and others tracked the blood from where the horse was lying dead up to the prisoner's door—the distance is about ten chains. I tracked blood from the carcase to within three yards of Lloyd's house.

By his Honour : There was blood all the way?

Cross-examination continued : There was a good deal of blood at the stable where he Died”

Constable Flood sworn : on the 22nd December the horse was pointed out to me dead ; it was covered with cuts from the head to the tail; the blood was dry on it ; but it appeared to have been recently killed ; the rope produced I found round its neck ; I found traces, rather indistinct, from where the horse lay to Mr O'Brien's for about 30 or 40 yards ; there was a large quantity of blood there as if the horse had stood still for a time ; I then found tracks of the horse as if coming from Lloyd's house ; I found them but they were indistinct for about three parts of the distance in the direction of Lloyd's house, but from this point they were very distinct, and there was a large pool of blood at the door of prisoner's residence.

By the Court: The blood was within two feet of the verandah post ; the post is about
five feet from the door.

Re-examined : I found no traces of a horse going towards Lloyd's from the paddock, but it was grass land ; there had been rain a day or two before, but it was drying up again, yet a horse could have been tracked ; I knocked at Lloyd's door, and asked what put the blood in front of his door ; he said it was brine marks ; I asked him to show me the brine cask which he said had been emptied there ; prisoner refused, saying, "go and get a warrant ;" I observed blood on the shirt and trousers produced ; he told me that he had cut himself reaping; he denied ever having a rope like the one produced ; he showed me a very slight cut on his thumb.

By the Court : The cut would scarcely produce so much blood as was on the clothing
Mr Ryan deposed : I am a ploughman ; I was at prisoners house before the horse was killed ; I saw a rope there similar to this and with a knot like what is on this.
Cross-examined: I have seen ropes of a similar plat to this, and such ropes, generally, have knots on them like this one.”

    Lloyds defence was provided by his daughter, who said he slept at home all that Saturday night and couldn’t have gone out without her knowing, and by Daniel O”Keefe who said he saw Lloyd cut his finger on the Saturday, out in the fields and I gave prisoner some tobacco to put on the cut.”


“His Honor summed up, pointing out that there was no doubt that the horse had been wilfully, maliciously, and brutally killed, whoever did i ; he went briefly through the evidence, and left it to the jury to decide whether it was sufficient to convince them that the prisoner had committed the offence.

The jury retired, taking the trousers and shirt with them.”

What they had to consider was powerful circumstantial evidence that Lloyd had killed the horse – there was an ongoing dispute with its owner, the rope around its neck was distinctive and Lloyd was known to have similar rope, there was a blood trail leading to his house, and Lloyds shirt and trousers had blood on them. In his defence Lloyd denied it was blood in front of his house and said it was ‘brine’ but was unable to produce a brine cask, and he said the blood on his clothes came from a cut finger.

The court adjourned for half an hour, and on re-assembling the jury brought in a verdict of "Guilty." A former conviction for cattle stealing was put in, and admitted by the prisoner.

Prisoner declared that he was innocent of the offence of killing the horse as the babe unborn

The judge said he entirely concurred in the verdict of the jury ; the prisoner had been convicted of a most diabolical offence. Had he shot the horse, and killed it outright, the case would have been very different, but to mutilate an unfortunate animal which could not help itself, so brutally, simply out of spite to its owner, was unpardonable. The Statute made such an offence punishable with ten years' imprisonment, but as prisoner was an old man he would be sentenced to four years' imprisonment with hard labor.”

How interesting that in 1872, when according to the Kelly myth the campaign of harassment and persecution of the Kelly clan was supposed to be in full swing, the Court knocked six years off the sentence - such facts are of themselves more or less fatal to the Kelly legend of police persecution and harassment - a golden opportunity for the corrupt system to put away a clan member for ten years - but instead they only gave him four! 


The reason I am writing about these crimes is not merely to demonise the Kelly clan. The point of these posts is to show that the historical truth, as recorded in the court reports from the time is the opposite of the image the Kelly mythmakers like to present about what was happening during Ned Kellys childhood. They like to pretend it was dominated by harassment and persecution by corrupt police but thats not what the evidence shows. The point of these posts is to expose the fact that the environment that Ned Kelly grew up in was not of persecution by police but one of drunkenness, domestic violence, and criminality  within his own clan, criminality that  extended beyond it to neighbours and fellow selectors, and sadly, even to innocent animals.