Friday, 14 September 2018

The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy : Part V

Two farmers , a builder, a carpenter a contractor and a blacksmith : six of the two hundred citizens of Lancefield who signed up in support of Constable Fitzpatrick
and against the blackening of his name and reputation
by police hierarchy determined to blame him for the Outbreak

In the last few posts I’ve been discussing what we actually know about Constable Alex Fitzpatrick. We know that up to the time of the infamous ‘incident’ he had an unblemished record of service in the Victoria Police. We know that contrary to popular opinion, there is not one shred of evidence that he had a drinking problem or was an alcoholic. We also know, having seen Fitzpatrick’s death certificate that Justin Corfield’s Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia got it completely wrong, claiming he had alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver when he died. The death certificate recorded that he died from Liver sarcoma that was disseminated and had begun invading his stomach. Sarcoma of the liver is a completely different an unrelated disease to cirrhosis. Anyone who knows anything about the way malignancies spread in the abdomen will know that this dissemination is almost always accompanied by an accumulation of fluid called ascites, which was also recorded on the death certificate.

I’ve also written about the complaints that were made about Fitzpatrick’s conduct in 1879 and 1880 that led up to his dismissal from the police in late April 1880. As far as I have been able to discover, only two charges were proven against him – one for laughing in a hospital after ‘lights out’, and the other for missing the train in Sydney and arriving late for work. He was eventually dismissed from the force by Police Superintendent FC Standish on the advice of Senior Constable Mayes, who admitted to the Royal Commission that from the moment he began working with Fitzpatrick he was looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

This week I want to continue the discussion about Fitzpatrick’s dismissal and show that he was absolutely right to complain to the Royal Commission that he was harshly treated.  

After the “incident” at the Kelly house in April 1878, Fitzpatrick was transferred to Beechworth and soon after, was sent to Richmond, in Melbourne, apparently for his own safety. However, because he knew what the Kellys looked like he was then sent to Sydney to keep watch on the docks in case the gang tried to escape by sea. This turned out to be a good move because he discovered that Jim Wilson, a violent convicted horse thief sentenced to five years in Darlinghurst Gaol, in Sydney, was none other than Ned Kellys brother Jim Kelly. 

Last week I wrote that the charge of ‘neglect of duty’ that he pled guilty to, related to him ‘missing the train’. I thought this meant that he arrived late because he had not caught the train that brought him to work, but I’ve re-read those documents and realise I misinterpreted them. “Missing the train” referred to the fact that he was supposed to have been at the Station when the Southern Train arrived to he could scrutinise the passengers as they got off, and look for any members of the Kelly Gang who might have arrived on it. He arrived at 7.15 on the morning of April 30th1879, quarter of an hour late, missing the train that arrived at 7am and wrote, in explanation, that his own watch was at the Jewellers getting repaired and he was using a watch lent by the watchmaker which ran late. In the PROV file there’s a report from a detective who was sent to the Jeweller to check out Fitzpatrick’s story – and it did. Unsurprisingly the Jeweller said of the watch that he lent Fitzpatrick, that it was “considered a fair time keeper”. 

There was also a complicated story that arose out of a complaint by a hair dresser in Sydney about Fitzpatrick and a woman he knew called Edith Graham (elsewhere named as Edith Jones), an employee of  Kazimany(?) Thomas Pogonowski, a hair dresser.  Pogonowski maintained that on the very same day that Fitzpatrick had ‘missed the train’, April 30th1879, Fitzpatrick engaged him in conversation in his shop to distract him, while Edith stole jewellery , ‘wearing apparel’ and money to the value of seventy pounds (£70). However when Senior Constable Edward Reatingye(?) interviewed Pogonowski he was told the value of the stolen goods was £50.  Edith later claimed that the jewellery had been given to her by Pogonowski “under the pretence of marrying” – which sounds suspiciously like a payment or an inducement for ‘services rendered’ by the servant girl to her employer. The report of the incident tendered by Fitzpatrick says that Inspector Rush told Pogonowski that ‘it was not the second or third time he had been troubled with him and the woman he keeps”. Fitzpatrick directed police to the place where Edith lived, he recovered the supposedly stolen items and in the end no charges were laid against anyone. However, as a result of this incident the police hierarchy decided to recall Fitzpatrick to Victoria. Reports were sent from Sydney to Standish in Benalla, and after reading them he wrote, on May 12th1879 : 

“I concur with the inspector general’s opinion that it is no use in keeping Constable Fitzpatrick in Sydney any longer. He not only neglects his duty for which he was especially told off but he has evidently mixed himself up in a matter calculated to raise grave suspicions of his honesty. He is I fear a worthless and useless young man”

On May 25thStandish forwarded the reports he had received about Fitzpatrick to Superintendent C H Nicolson, along with a Memo which included an unwarranted mischaracterisation of everything that happened :

“It will be seen that Constable Fitzpatrick’s conduct has been most unsatisfactory while on special duty in Sydney.  He was on several occasions absent from duty at the Railway station where his services were urgently required and the attached file shows that he is in the habit of associating with persons from whom he should stand aloof. In short I fear he will never be a good constable.”

Standish goes on to write :
“The following entry will be made in his record that :
“Constable Fitzpatrick while on special duty in Sydney conducted himself in a most unsatisfactory manner; he was lazy, neglectful of his duty and associated with improper characters. In fact his whole conduct drew down the (indecipherable) of the inspector general of police and was calculated to bring discredit to the Victorian police”

But let’s be fair here: Fitzpatrick came to work late once – or possibly twice – and he was mixed up in a dispute between a dodgy employer and his employee, but neither he nor the alleged thief was ever charged let alone found to be guilty of anything. And that was it. On the positive side, the record shows he worked 12 to 14 hour days and he had very usefully identified Jim Kelly in disguise, but he received no credit for that. Standish claimed on the basis of the Edith Graham incident that he was ‘in the HABIT of associating with persons from whom he should stand aloof’ and for that, and perhaps twice being late for work his ‘ENTIRE conduct’ is branded as being ‘calculated to bring discredit to the Victorian police’. Where is the evidence that Fitzpatrick was in the HABIT of associating with the wrong sort of person, or that his ENTIRE conduct was unacceptable? These are gross misrepresentations.

It’s interesting to compare Fitzpatrick’s treatment by Standish with his treatment of another policeman the Kelly supporters love to hate: Constable Edward Hall. Hall was the one who tried to arrest Ned Kelly for horse stealing and when Ned was about to escape, drew his gun and pulled the trigger three times – but it misfired each time. Ned then attacked Hall but once he had been subdued, Hall bashed Ned’s head in with his revolver, and had to get a doctor to come from a nearby town to stitch up the mess he made. Later still, in Court, Hall lied about documentation that hadn’t actually been issued when he claimed to have seen it. So how did Standish respond to this obviously dishonest and violent policeman? He described him as ‘hasty and injudicious’and transferred him out of the district. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand for what, by comparison, were minor incidents was roundly condemned and kicked out. How can that be fair?

So, Fitzpatrick was recalled to Victoria in late April 1879. Not long after getting back to Victoria he sustained a leg injury which must have been quite severe because he was in the Police hospital for almost four months. That was where he broke the rules by laughing out loud after lights out and was fined 5 shillings! In September 1879, now recovered, he was transferred to Lancefield and the supervision of the already hostile SC Mayes. As I recounted last week, at the Royal Commission Mayes admitted his determination from the outset to get Fitzpatrick out of the force, and so he complained about an incident involving Fitzpatrick, saying he had neglected his duty. However as I also detailed in the previous post, when this incident was investigated, according to Fitzpatrick’s unchallenged testimony to the RC, he was “exonerated of all blame”.

Never-the-less in April 1880, without making any attempt to ascertain the particulars that supported the sweeping condemnations of his character supplied from Sydney, and by SC Mayes at Lancefield, and without giving Fitzpatrick an opportunity to defend himself, Standish dismissed Fitzpatrick from the police. 

In July 1881 Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commissioners what happened: 
“I was instructed by Senior-Constable Mayes to proceed to Melbourne from there. The late Sergeant Porter had my voucher made out to be stationed at Romsey, temporary duty for a few days. That night a telegram was sent to the police depot, stating I was to be discharged from the police force to-morrow. That was Tuesday. I asked Captain Standish to tell me the reason why, and he just explained that he had received this communication from Mayes ; and I understood from Captain Standish that was the sole reason I was discharged from the police force ; and I think, as against that, those 200 petitioners ought to go further than Constable Mayes. It is hard my character should be blackened. I might have erred in small things. There are many constables in the force who have done more serious things than I did, and have remained in the force and got promotion.”

In reference to his dismissal he was asked :“Had you any opportunity of reply ?
ANSWER : I never had the slightest opportunity at all. I applied for a board of enquiry, and the Chief Secretary (Mr. Ramsay) declined, as he had left all power with Captain Standish. Notwithstanding that, there were two petitions got up on my behalf by the residents of Lancefield and Romsey, asking that I might be reinstated.
12894. You think you were harshly treated ?
ANSWER : I did, indeed.

The petitions that Fitzpatrick mentions are a pair of remarkable documents that, to their shame, the Kelly story tellers have almost universally, and deliberately ignored. Ian Jones doesn’t mention them in the supposedly greatest Kelly biography ever written. Peter Fitzsimons doesn’t mention them either and neither do sundry other lesser Kelly story tellers like Paul Terry and Ian Shaw, all of whom condemn Fitzpatrick in the usual way, as a drunk and a liar without restraint. However, Ian MacFarlane discussed them in his landmark work from 2012, and so does Grantlee Kieza in his excellent 2017 biography of Ned Kellys mother. 

The reason the Kelly myth-makers like Jones and Fitzsimons have ignored these two petitions, and why nobody anywhere else wants to talk about them is because they represent an almost complete rebuttal of the Kelly myth about Fitzpatrick, that he was a disreputable drunk and an incompetent and useless policeman. What they show, in an extraordinary display of support for Fitzpatrick is that the ordinary people of Lancefield held him in high regard.  On one side you have a few senior police who appear to have made use of a series of minor infringements to smear the reputation and rid the force of a policeman they disliked, perhaps for personal petty reasons, – and on the other side, two HUNDRED respectful citizens of Lancefield who regarded Fitzpatrick as a perfectly good policeman. 

Here is part of what they said”

“We, the undersigned inhabitants of the Lancefield district of Victoria, venture to address you on the subject of the removal and discharge of Mounted Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick who was stationed for nine months in this district. We deprecate the slightest idea of any desire to interfere in the slightest manner with the discipline of the force nor do we desire to question the administration, but on hearing that Mounted Constable Fitzpatrick was discharged on a  report from a superior officer that he did  not do his duty, could not be trusted out of sight and associated with low persons we felt constrained to give our free testimony to the fact that during the time Mounted Constable Fitzpatrick was in the district he was as far as we could see, and we came in contact with him every day, zealous, diligent obliging and universally liked.”

Later they wrote“He made several clever captures and appeared to us as one of the most efficient and obliging men in the force”

Unfortunately, as Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commission, the Chief Secretary had left decisions about Appeals and Enquiries in the hands of F C Standish, the Police Commissioner. Nowadays we would not allow a person with such a marked conflict of interest to adjudicate on Fitzpatrick’s request for a board of  Inquiry, but things were different in 1880. Standish exercised his power to deny the request for an enquiry that would have resulted in indepndant scrutiny of his decision to sack Fitzpatrick. Why would he want that? He might have been embarrassed at being found wanting ! – which was of course what the Royal Commission DID indeed find the following year. His conduct of the police operations was, according to the 1881 royal commission on the police, 'not characterized either by good judgment, or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in his position'. His response to the Lancefield petition was equally dismissive of the possibility that two hundred citizens of Lancefield may have seen something in Fitzpatrick that he had missed. His reply, on May 10th1880 was as equally self-serving : “In reply I beg to state that the ex-constables conduct during the time that he was a member of the force was generally bad and discreditable to the force. I cannot hold any hope of his ever being reinstated to the position of constable on the Victoria police”

The irony of this remark is that it shows how blind Standish was to the evidence  right in front of him that completely contradicted his belief that Fitzpatrick was "generally bad and discreditable to the force" - the petitioners are attesting to the fact that he was GOOD and in their eyes he was a CREDIT to the force! Standish and the others didnt want to know - thy just wanted him out!

Remarkably, a year later the citizens of Lancefield were still concerned about the treatment handed out to Fitzpatrick by the police hierarchy and a second petition was presented, this time to H M Chomley who had replaced Standish. Chomley also declined to offer Fitzpatrick an opportunity to argue his case, and instead relied on the unsupported opinions recorded on his file, but added “I have always heard him described as a liar and a larrikin”. In fact it was the Kellys who promoted the view that Fitzpatrick was a liar – it isn’t recorded anywhere in his Police file that he was a liar, or ever charged let alone found guilty of perjury. So not only did Chomley deny Fitzpatrick the opportunity to defend his reputation, he trashed it further by adding his own unsubstantiated claim that he was a liar. 

There would seem to be more to Fitzpatricks story than is made clear from the surviving documentation, and I suspect it was something about Fitzpatrick’s personality and style that got under the noses of police hierarchy. He seemed to be able to relate to ordinary working-class folk but not to the rigid disciplinarians of the police hierarchy. There’s no evidence that he was an alcoholic, but if there was, I think I could understand why he might have become one because whichever way you look at – and unfortunately for the Kelly story very few people have even tried to look at it, so blinded are they by their unfounded hate for the man – Fitzpatrick was treated disgracefully by all sides. The redemption of Fitzpatrick started by Stuart Dawson, continues.

Friday, 31 August 2018

The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy Part Four

This is the part of Fitzpatricks death certificate that shows what he died from :
"Sarcoma of Liver invading stomach, disseminated. Ascites. Constriction and
adherence of appendix (appendicectomy) Cardiac exhaustion. "
Note : nothing about cirrhosis!

Last week I showed that the Kelly legend claim that Constable Fitzpatrick was a drunk is wrong; its not true. The claim that he was a drunk is entirely based on the word of the Kelly family, people who told many lies about what happened when Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly house in April 1878 and there is no reason to believe their claim that he was drunk when he got there wasn’t just another one. That’s because there is simply no other evidence anywhere, including his police record up to that day, and right through to the end of his time in the police that he had a problem with drink.  On Facebook all week the Kelly sympathisers have been showing they are in deep denial about this fact, repeating that lie to themselves over and over and over again – they just want to carry on villifying Fitzpatrick with the false label of drunk, but not one of them has fronted up with a single scrap of proof to back it up - thats because there isn't any! However in desperation they foolishly posted Fitzpatrick’s death certificate, thinking, in their understandable but unacknowledged ignorance of medicine and human pathology that it proved he had cirrhosis of the liver, the disease that alcoholics often die from. However, the certificate, as seen above, actually proved conclusively that what he died from was something entirely different. Sarcoma of the liver is a nasty malignancy, a kind of cancer that in Fitzpatrick’s case was invading the stomach, and as is common with invasive malignancies in the abdomen, there was also ascites.  None of this has anything to do with alcoholism or cirrhosis of the liver – he didn’t have it. This led to the realisation that a lot of them believe he died from cirrhosis of the liver because that’s what Justin Corfield’s Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia says he died from – but Corfield got it wrong too, as the death certificate shows.

An important point that they all seemed to have missed is this : even if the death certificate had said he died of cirrhosis and was an alcoholic in 1924, this was some 46 years after his fateful visit to the Kelly home and it couldn’t possibly be counted in any serious way as evidence that he was drunk on April 15th1878. But it didn't, and he wasn't.

This week’s post is going to concentrate on another aspect of Fitzpatrick’s life and career that Kelly followers have got completely wrong, as a direct result of another of Corfield’s mistakes about Fitzpatrick. This time it relates to Fitzpatrick’s dismissal from the police. This is what the entry for Fitzpatrick in Corfield’s Ned Kelly encyclopaedia says about it :

“He was discharged from the police force on 27thAugust 1880, as a perjurer and a drunkard”

Corfield’s dates are wrong for a starter: Fitzpatrick was discharged from the force in late April 1880, but the more important error is Corfield’s claim that the dismissal was for perjury and for being a drunkard. As shown here last week there is not one shred of evidence anywhere that Fitzpatrick was a drunkard, and he was never convicted of perjury during his time in the force, so one has to wonder where exactly Corfield got his information from. In fact, the precise terminology given by Chief Police Commissioner Standish as his reason for dismissing Fitzpatrick from the police force, was because of ‘inefficiency and insubordination’ – words which indicate very different kinds of misdemeanour from lying and drunkenness. But what exactly were the details of Fitzpatrick’s acts of ‘inefficiency and insubordination’?

Fitzpatrick told the Royal Commission in two separate responses that when informed he was to be dismissed he asked Standish to explain what exactly he had done that justified dismissal.

“…..I asked the Chief Commissioner if he would kindly inform me why I was discharged from the police force, and he told me. He said, on the recommendation of and communication from Senior-Constable Mayes, of Lancefield, stating that I was not fit to be in the police force, as I had associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield, and could not be trusted out of sight, and never did my duty.” (Q12892)

“I asked Captain Standish to tell me the reason why, and he just explained that he had received this communication from Mayes ; and I understood from Captain Standish that was the sole reason I was discharged from the police force” (Q12924)

In dismissing Fitzpatrick, Standish appears to have simply accepted Mayes word that Fitzpatrick wasn’t fit to be a policeman. Those are very serious allegations –   particularly to claim he couldn’t be trusted out of sight, and never did his duty - but it seems Standish wasn’t all that interested in finding out the details of exactly why Mayes believed these things about Fitzpatrick or in giving the accused an opportunity to put his side of the story, and he went ahead immediately and sacked him. Read what Fitzpatrick told the RC :

12893. Had you any opportunity of reply ?
ANSWER: I never had the slightest opportunity at all. I applied for a board of enquiry, and the Chief Secretary (Mr. Ramsay) declined, as he had left all power with Captain Standish. Notwithstanding that, there were two petitions got up on my behalf by the residents of Lancefield and Romsey, asking that I might be reinstated. 
12894. You think you were harshly treated?
ANSWER : I did, indeed.

The problem for Fitzpatrick was that his reputation preceeded him to Lancefield. Mayes seemed to have taken a dislike to him from the start, having heard about various charges and misdemeanours that had been laid against Fitzpatrick while working with NSW police in Sydney in 1879. While there he pled guilty to a charge of misconduct and to another of ‘neglect of duty’. But what exactly were the crimes that led to those charges? The former related to an incident that occurred while he was in hospital for several weeks with a severe leg injury – he was caught laughing after “lights out”!  Oh my God! What a shocking thing to do! And as for the ‘neglect of duty’ charge – this was because he missed the train! His explanation -  that his watch was at the  watchmakers for repairs and the replacement one kept poor time – was not accepted. But whichever way you want to look at it these were minor offences

However, Fitzpatrick was also charged with some slightly more serious offences : ‘being in a house at unlawful hours when you had no business being there’ and ‘being at night in the premises of Morris Casey and causing trouble and annoyance to the family’. He was also accused by a Sydney jeweller of engaging him in conversation to facilitate the shoplifting of jewellery and money by a maid, Edith Jones. However, none of these three charges was proved, there is no record of him ever being charged with perjury and police declined to prosecute Edith Jones. 


However, rather than giving Fitzpatrick the benefit of the doubt and accepting that he was innocent until proven guilty, Standish wrote to Sydney requesting he be sent back to Victoria because “..he has evidently mixed himself up in a matter calculated to raise grave suspicions of his honesty. He is I fear a useless and worthless young man”. No proof just suspicions.

He also wrote “I have also to direct that Mr Nicolson will be good enough to find some station for him where he will be under the supervision of an Officer or strict sub-Officer who should be much acquainted with the necessity of keeping a tight hand on Fitzpatrick”

So, back in Victoria under the watchful gaze of SC Mayes at Lancefield, Fitzpatrick’s every action was going to be closely scrutinised. Mayes later admitted that one way or another he was  determined to get rid of Fitzpatrick, saying to the Royal Commission “I had a great deal to do to get rid of him and at last had him dismissed”. Fitzpatrick never had a chance!

But what exactly were Mayes actual complaints? They are never mentioned in the Kelly literature for some reason, but Fitzpatrick was interrogated at length about them at the Commission, and what they reveal is astonishing.

12904. “What was Senior-Constable Mayes's charge against you ?” 
Answer : “For neglect of duty.”
12905. “And what else ?” 
Answer: “I am speaking of this one charge at present.”
12906. “What was the nature of the neglect?”
Answer: “There was an assault, one swagman struck another, and the swagman came and asked me to arrest this other man. I was in uniform at the time, and I declined to arrest him as I did not see the assault committed; and I said, " If you swear an information and get a warrant I will arrest him, or if you give him in charge and sign the sheet I will arrest him." He would not do either, and came and told Senior-Constable Mayes I would not arrest him. Mayes sent a foot man to arrest him, and he was brought up and fined by a justice of the peace; and Mayes reported me to Superintendent Hare, and he referred it to Sub-Inspector Baber, of Kilmore, and he came over and heard the case; and as far as I remember the minute on the charge exonerated me from all blame. That is one of the charges that has been brought against me.”

From this account it appears Fitzpatrick attempted to follow due process and to uphold the rule of law, in refusing to accede to the demands of a ‘swagman’ that he arrest someone and charge him with an assault that Fitzpatrick had no knowledge of. Instead Fitzpatrick advised the complainant to follow due process, but the man complained to Mayes. Mayes ignored due process, arrested the man being complained of and then, no doubt believing he had at last found the reason he needed to set in motion his plan to get rid of Fitzpatrick, reported him to Hare. Babers investigation exonerated Fitzpatrick, no doubt to Mayes disappointment, and resentment was now added to the suspicions he had about Fitzpatrick from the moment of his arrival. Eventually, Standish reported that it was “a piece of gross impertinence to his superior officer” that was the last straw. What exactly the gross impertinence consisted of is not mentioned, but the Superior Officer who reported it was of course Senior Constable Mayes. He finally brought Fitzpatrick down.

Its hard not to agree with Fitzpatrick that he was harshly treated. Laughing after lights out, and missing the train were the only two things they could convict him of. But mud sticks!

If readers have knowledge of other charges or complaints about Fitzpatrick while he was in the force I would like to hear about them. Next week I will write about the Petition from the citizens of Lancefield who completely contradicted the vilification of Fitzpatrick by police hierarchy, saying of him “He made several clever captures and appeared to us as one of the most efficient and obliging men in the force”. Remarkably, the Kelly myths about Fitzpatrick persist only because Kelly followers would rather believe the word of the Kelly liars and criminals, and of the police they otherwise distrust entirely, than accept the opinion of more than 100 upright citizens of Lancefield. 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy : Part Three

A Still from the 1906 Kelly Movie: Constable Fitzpatrick is shot in the wrist

In the first two parts of this investigation of the Kelly claims about Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, I described the novel and cruel conspiracy theory proposed by Alan Crichton to explain how it was that Fitzpatrick could have ever become so important in the Kelly story when, according to Crichton he was ‘an arsehole from the moment he popped out of the womb’. Crichton’s view is that this policeman, Alexander Fitzpatrick, was simply an unwitting pawn in a masterplan devised by his seniors in the force to ensnare ‘the heart and soul of the clan’, Ned Kellys mother Ellen.  Crichton’s conspiracy theory fails because, as I showed, there is no evidence to support his central claim about Fitzpatrick that he was an incompetent and morally bankrupt policeman, let alone an ‘arsehole from birth’. In fact the evidence, the facts that we actually know about Fitzpatricks life to that point, the facts which should be the basis of our history telling, are that at least up until the ‘incident’ itself, Fitzpatrick’s life and career was nothing out of the ordinary. 

His private life was complicated, but there’s no evidence that it was by any means a tale of depravity and sexual licence as is so often implied by Kelly supporters. All we actually know is that an earlier relationship that produced a child failed, and by 1878 he was engaged to someone else - Anna Savage. He paid maintenance for the child and he married and remained married to Anna Savage for the rest of his life. However, even though Fitzpatricks private life was his own business and nothing to do with the Kelly story, Kelly supporters unrelentingly discuss it and misrepresent it as part of their campaign against him. In doing so they expose their own deep hypocrisy over the issue of moral failures because they always conveniently ignore the  gross moral failures of multiple members of the Kelly clan, failures which include not just rumours but actual convictions for indecency, for sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as innumerable pre-marital and extra-marital infidelities and pregnancies. 

So now let’s look at the claim that Fitzpatrick was a drunk. 

The claim that he had a problem with alcohol was never mentioned anywhere by anyone before the incident. If any Kelly supporter has such evidence I would be most interested to see it.  After the incident though, the Kellys and their apologists like Kenneally and everyone ever since right down to the most recent Kelly books all maintain that according to the Kellys, when Fitzpatrick arrived at the Kelly household he was to a greater or lesser degree, ‘under the influence’. Predictably, as part of their attempts to malign his character it will be claimed he drank to give him the courage to approach the Kellys. Ever since that allegation was made, Fitzpatrick is almost never referred to as anything other than a drunk. 

But where is the evidence for this claim, other than the unreliable word of the Kellys?  There is no record of him having problems with alcohol during the time that he was in the police force, so it would be entirely out of character if true. On the other hand, if the Kellys wanted to destroy his testimony about what happened at their house that evening what better way than to make up lies about him being drunk? We know for an absolute certainty that many of the Kellys DID tell lies about what happened :  Ned Kelly lied, saying he wasn’t there; Ellen Kelly lied and said at first that Fitzpatrick hadn’t even been there, and so did her daughter Kate, but then she changed her mind and produced a second version that were lies about her being there alone with Fitzpatrick; and Jim Kelly who was in gaol in NSW at the time later told Cookson that he WAS there and that Fitzpatrick was drunk. 

Against the word of this family of liars we have Fitzpatrick’s open admission that on the way to the Kellys he had a single drink of brandy and lemonade during a brief stopover for information, we have the testimony of the Publican, Lindsay, who said that on his return Fitzpatrick was sober, and we have the fact that until that day there was not one shred of evidence anywhere that he had a drinking problem. Stuart Dawson’s detailed and compelling analysis of the time-line covering Fitzpatrick’s journey from Benalla to the Kellys that day shows conclusively that there was barely enough time for Fitzpatrick to have stopped at Lindsays Hotel for one drink, let alone the ‘several’ others have claimed he had on the basis of ZERO evidence, or the ‘hours’ claimed by Peter Fitzsimons that he spent there fortifying his courage, again on ZERO evidence. 

It’s true that later, when Dr Nicholson was examining Fitzpatrick’s wrist wound he noticed the smell of Brandy on his breath. But this was brandy administered by Lindsay to Fitzpatrick on his late-night return in a distressed state with a wounded wrist. It was commonplace in those days for Brandy to be used in this circumstance for ‘medicinal purposes’. And in any case Nicholson said that Fitzpatrick most definitely was NOT drunk!

So, who should be believed? A man who to that point has a clean record as a policeman, the testimony of a publican who would know drunkenness if he saw it, and the word of his doctor - or the testimony of a family of known liars in a desperate search for an excuse and someone to blame? There is no credible evidence to support the claim that Fitzpatrick was a drunk in 1878. None at all. 

However, it may be argued that an absence of evidence of him being a drunk isn’t proof that he WASN’T one – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – and I expect that Kelly sympathisers will be untroubled by all this discussion because in the back of their minds they will be telling themselves that Fitzpatrick’s dismissal from the police in April 1880 proves that their suspicions about Fitzpatrick were correct. In fact, the complaints and the charges against Fitzpatrick that resulted in his dismissal – which I will review in Part Four – had nothing to do with him being drunk, or having some sort of a problem with alcohol. The subject of drunkenness is not mentioned anywhere in any of the charges and allegations that were raised against Fitzpatrick when he was in the force, and at the Royal Commission, during a long and detailed cross examination, the subject of intoxication and alcohol abuse was not mentioned once, by anyone.

There’s one other thing : some 15 years after the Outbreak, someone called Alexander Fitzpatrick was convicted of passing worthless cheques and was sent to gaol for a year. The cheques were for amounts between £1 and £2, and the newspaper articles mention that he had been drinking heavily at the time. If we put aside the possibility this could have been a different Alexander Fitzpatrick – the court documents give a different date of birth and describe him as single – this is the only known objective association of Fitzpatrick with drinking. But no fair-minded person could regard this one mention as in any way giving credence to the allegations of the Kellys 15 years earlier – the conviction wasn’t anything to do with drunkenness, and there is no way of knowing if this was a ‘one-off’ event precipitated by some other personal crisis, or evidence that he had a problem with alcohol. And even if he did have a problem with alcohol in 1894, this in no way can be interpreted as support for the otherwise completely unsupported claim by the Kellys, that he did in 1878. A lot can happen in 16 years - and certainly did, when it comes to the life of Constable Fitzpatrick.

It’s a bitterly ironic fact that the only people who made allegations about Fitzpatrick being a drunk were a family of known criminals and proven liars whose own members had convictions for drunkenness, for arson committed while drunk, for sexual assault committed while drunk and who apparently operated an illegal ‘sly grog’ outfit. Why on earth would anyone believe them – especially when there isn’t one single fact that backs them up?

In conclusion, review of the claim by the Kellys that Fitzpatrick was a drunk - and repeated ever since by people wanting to support the Kellys claim that it was all Fitzpatrick’s fault – provides absolutely no support for the claim. It was a slur aimed at discrediting the man whose evidence resulted in Mrs Kelly and two others going to gaol and would have put Ned and Dan Kelly away for several years as well. 

Fitzpatrick may have been many things, but the idea that he was a drunk in 1878 is a lie.

Friday, 10 August 2018

A Kelly Story-tellers tricks exposed.



The first priority of anyone writing about history - and this includes the Kelly story - is to get the FACTS straight. And its even more important for people who purport to be some sort of expert on the topic, that they get their facts right.

So when someone like Jack Peterson gets the facts wrong on his Facebook page called “An introduction to Ned Kelly”, I wonder if its just simple ignorance, or is there a deliberate intent to trick people into agreeing with him, by providing false information? Here are three recent examples to consider:

ONE : Peterson wants you to believe that Fitzpatrick lied when he said he was shot in the wrist, so he wrote :  

"An interesting footnote to Fitzpatricks claim that Ned Kelly shot him is that it couldn't be confirmed by Dr Nicholson who treated the wound to his wrist"

It’s hard to imagine it was an innocent mistake to refer to only HALF of what Nicholson said, when the WHOLE statement makes it very clear that Nicholson thought Fitzpatrick probably WAS shot in the wrist -  but thats what Peterson did - he used only HALF the sentence! 

The FULL sentence is :

"Could not swear it was a bullet wound... " ( thats the bit Peterson wants you to know about) but the rest of the sentence is - (and this is the bit he DOESNT want you to know about) - "....BUT IT HAD ALL THE APPEARANCE OF ONE"

Ian Jones - who Peterson says is his favourite Kelly author - says in a discussion about this wound in ‘A Short Life’ :

"Dr Nicholson said at the trial, in a neglected comment, "The wounds are consistent with Fitzpatricks statement" meaning that in his opinion the entry wound WAS caused by a bullet and the exit wound by a knife"

So take your pick : Petersons view, which is based on only half of the evidence, or Nicholsons’ view and Jones view ( and mine) that the evidence in its entirety supports Fitzpatrick.

TWO: Its hard to imagine Peterson made another innocent mistake when he quoted the middle of a sentence from Fitzpatricks testimony to the Royal Commission, making it sound like Fitzpatrick was admitting to be an unfit policeman, but thats what he did. In fact if you read the whole sentence its blindingly obvious Fitzpatrick was merely explaining what someone had said about him. This is what Peterson wrote a few days ago:

"…… by Fitzpatricks own admission 'I could not be trusted out of sight and never did my duty' An acknowledgement that would cast doubt on the truthfulness of his evidence in a criminal trial"

Peterson is propping up a Kelly myth by again only quoting half of the facts, which are these :  At the Royal Commission Fitzpatrick was asked;

Q12891: That does not clear up any points with regard to the outbreak. How long have you left the force ?

ANSWER: I was discharged in April last.

Q12892. What for ?

ANSWER : On the report of Senior-Constable Mayes, at Lancefield ; and I asked the Chief Commissioner if he would kindly inform me why I was discharged from the police force, and he told me. He said, on the recommendation of and communication from Senior-Constable Mayes, of Lancefield, stating that I was not fit to be in the police force, as I had associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield, and could not be trusted out of sight, and never did my duty."

How could anyone claim that reply was an 'acknowledgement '? Fitzpatrick was merely reporting what was said about him, and certainly NOT agreeing with it. 

THREE: Its just as hard to imagine Peterson made yet another innocent mistake when he got it all wrong trying to explain why an incident with a missing horse resulted in  Ned Kelly getting three years in prison and Wild Wright only eighteen months. Here again he simply ignores words that ruin his argument! What Kelly sympathisers like Jack Peterson want you to believe is that this story about Wild Wright and the horse proves that Ned Kelly was victimised and treated harshly and unfairly by the Courts. Their ‘proof’ is the fact that when Ned Kelly was sentenced for receiving a horse that was originally taken by Wright, Ned Kelly was given double the sentence that Wright was given. This is what Jack Peterson wrote the other day on the topic :

“Kelly was charged with horse stealing but as he had been in Beechworth Gaol when the horse was stolen the charge was downgraded to receiving. Issiah Wright would later be arrested and charged with stealing the horse. Ned Kelly was sentenced to three years hard labour yet Issiah who actually stole the horse was sentenced to eighteen months gaol.”

The problem here is that Peterson is once again deliberately leaving out vital words to create an impression that supports his view, and completely obscures the truth of what happened. In fact, he is only doing what Kelly writers have done with this story for decades, but copying the mistakes everyone else has made doesn't get him off the hook. So here are the facts : Firstly, Wright was NOT convicted of stealing the horse, as Peterson would have you believe. He was convicted of ‘illegally using’ which is quite different from stealing. “Illegally using” was when someone took  a horse out of someone else’s paddock without permission, rode it into town and returned it back to its paddock, hopefully before the owner became aware of what happened. It wasn't regarded as a particularly serious crime. Apparently, Wild Wright was known to have done this using that same horse before on more than one occasion, but the owner of the horse, who said he only ever used it on Sundays, hadn't pressed charges.  However, this time after he had taken the horse it went missing and so Wright couldn’t return it, and the owner reported it stolen. Eventually  Wright was convicted for ‘illegally using’ and he got eighteen months.


Next, Peterson - deliberately or ignorantly? – says Ned Kelly was convicted of “receiving” but that is also not correct. The word Peterson deliberately left out this time is “Feloniously” a term which elevates ‘receiving’ into a whole new stratum of criminality. It was all exposed in Court, on the testimony of James Murdock, who told how Ned Kelly had tried to involve him in a scheme to sell that horse and some others, knowing they were all stolen horses.  Kelly had no intention of ever returning the horse to its owner, whereas Wright would have. Therefore, Kelly was convicted of ‘Feloniously receiving’ a horse, which is a much more serious crime than illegally using. So – bigger crime: bigger sentence : three years! Not persecution of innocent Kellys at all - another Kelly myth laid bare.

This is what happens time and again in the Kelly stories : when you uncover all the facts the myth evaporates like a puddle under the hot sun. 

In this post I have shown how Jack Peterson has deliberately misrepresented the facts to promote versions of history which are untrue.  It is simply dishonest to quote half a sentence, or just the middle of a sentence, or to leave out important words and relevant pieces of information whilst trying to make an argument about anything. But he is not alone when it comes to the misrepresentation of Kelly history - its something that Ned Kelly himself began, and it's continued ever since. I have no doubt that Peterson will continue to behave in this way, but, with these exposures I would say his credibility is zero and nobody should take anything he writes seriously, 
because he cant be trusted to tell you the whole story.

If you want the whole story, the true story - read my Blog!

But its all there in the Court records Jack and you can read them all in Gills “Definitive record” pages 43 to 53. Morrissey wrote about it too, so I wonder how it was you got it all so wrong?