Wednesday 23 July 2014

Ned Kelly on You Tube

If you search You Tube for Ned Kelly material there are a number of interesting clips. One of them entitled “Ned Kelly : Hero or Villain”  features a very brief discussion between Derryn Hinch, the “human headline” who took the view that Ned Kelly was a villain, and Mr Trevor Monti a barrister and self proclaimed “Kelly historian”, who took the opposite view. The occasion was the reburial of Ned Kellys bones – minus the skull - and the discussion took place on Channel Sevens “Sunrise”

When asked why he believed Ned Kelly should be remembered as something  of a folk hero, the good barrister and practiced advocate for an accused had this to say:

well Ned Kelly was a man of great courage, he fought for the underprivileged, he opposed oppression, he fought against overwhelming odds and he fought for those who were being subjected to violence by a very violent Police force at the time, …he was a man of great stature…for example he fought a 19 round bare knuckle fight with Wild Wright…and after 19 rounds he knocked him down and beat him

This of course is one of the core beliefs in the modern Legend of Ned Kelly, the idea that he was a sort of Robin Hood standing up for the oppressed and the underprivileged. If you were Ned Kelly in the dock you would be lucky to have Mr Monti on your case because he has painted a very sympathetic picture – but under expert cross-examination the idea that Kelly was a sort of Robin Hood would quickly evaporate.

Take this fight with Wild Wright , Montis evidence of Ned Kellys courage and stature – the fight was about the fact that Wild Wright never admitted that he was the one who stole the horse that Ned had served gaol time for “Receiving”. It was about the settling of scores between two self confessed horse thieves, and took place after a few beers in a Pub and was nothing to do with the underprivileged or the oppressed, nothing noble or honourable, something better characterized as some sort of gangland justice.

Monti was quizzed further : “ When you say he fought oppression, in what way did he do that, other than by stealing the money of the oppressors?”
Mr Monti replies “ ah…well he… he protected those who were being subjected to violence by the Police Force at the time – his family, his relatives, his friends….and he protected them in the only way he knew how

This claim was not challenged but if it had been, one wonders what Mr Montis evidence would have been for his claim that Ned Kelly protected his family his relatives, and his friends from Police violence. The reality of Ned Kellys life was that from the time of the “Fitzpatrick” Incident until his capture almost  two years later he was on the run and in hiding, protecting himself rather than his family and friends.  Despite their claims no Kelly biographer has produced any evidence that there was ever any sort of wholesale distribution to the poor or the oppressed of the money stolen during the two bank robberies during this time – in fact it was used to buy the assistance he needed from his nearest family, the people he relied on for protection, for food and support. So in fact during that time it was the other way round – the poor and the oppressed were protecting him!

And before the “Fitzpatrick” Incident? Again, there is nothing in the biographies suggesting he did more during that time than try his hand at various jobs both locally and elsewhere, and increasingly involve himself in horse and cattle theft. Kelly himself wrote of that time  “I started wholesale and retail cattle and horse dealing”

Further on in the interview, Mr Monti responds to Hinches opinion saying it’s a pity he (Hinch) didn’t know “the facts” about what happened at Stringybark Creek. He then goes on to present his own version of “the facts”, a litany of information and mis-information which Mr Monti and modern Kelly apologists all view as somehow justifying the murders on the basis that they were committed in self defence:
Those police went into the bush armed,” (well yes of course, they were trying to arrest people charged with attempted murder )
there was a reward for the life of Ned Kelly, he could be captured Dead or Alive
( WRONG Mr Monti, the “Dead or Alive” reward was issued AFTER the Stringybark Killings )
they were in plain clothes” ( yes, not unusual at the time, they were not in disguise)
they didn’t have any warrants of arrest with them” ( again, not unusual at the time and irrelevant)
they carried body straps to strap bodies onto horses” ( this is a claim that is oft repeated as evidence that the Police planned to kill the gang when they found them – this is pure supposition – and the existence of the straps is itself in dispute)

The Barrister Mr Monti accepts Ned Kellys claim that he killed those 3 policemen in self defence, presumably on the basis of those claims he made above. It was not a defence that was accepted at the Court in Melbourne in 1880, and though it may  still convince people who want to believe Kelly was a folk hero, critical assessment of these claims shows there is almost nothing to back them up. The evidence that Ned Kelly was a folk hero like Robin Hood is missing, and the justifications supplied for the claim that he killed police in self defence, certainly in this Sunrise interview, is unconvincing.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Site Guide : Ironoutlaw is a large and longlived Kelly website that is without doubt the most technically expert Kelly place you can find on the Internet. It has clever graphics and multiple pages and links to all sorts of Kelly-related material, including book and movies reviews, current events and a now quite extensive “Feedback” section. I was not impressed by the review of Ian MacFarlanes brilliant book, the Kelly Gang Unmasked, but at least it got a mention! The person who posted the review is obviously infatuated with the myth of Ned Kelly and frequently posts commentary that expresses adulation and a kind of hero worship of the man, so one could hardly expect her review of the book to have anything kind to say about it – and it didn’t. There are many more positive and objective reviews of the book out there but they are not quoted. is the work of Mr Bradley Webb, a man who runs an Internet publishing company that has published a number of decidedly pro-Kelly books, which can be ordered from his site. You can also order his “Pictorial History of Ned Kelly”  the iBook that I dissected over a few posts earlier. However Mr. Webb describes the site as a “hobby” and declared his aim in setting it up in 1995 was

“ attempt to list every important event linked to the Kelly Gang, and in doing so hopefully open up some relevant topics for discussion in the Feedback section. And if it is not here then you will at least find a Link to it.”

In another place he says  Here at we present the facts, the fiction and everything in between.”

In fact, rather like the Ned Kelly Forum where only pro Kelly members and sympathetic points of view get a look-in, this vast place is really just another part of the Kelly Propaganda machine and very little discussion takes place about anything other than the accepted mythology of Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang.

Heres an example from a regular contributor to the site, a person who was given his own Page on Ironoutlaw, such was the volume of his output, an entertaining and sometimes hilarious writer called Alan Crichton – he was responding in the Feedback section in January this year to  “Ron” who in a badly spelled email to Feedback asked for anyones thoughts on the Siege at Glenrowan where, as he claims “there (sic) gun handling skills all top shots, but not one trouper killed, one or two wounded!”

That's correct Ron ... not one trooper killed! Ned has admitted that during the early stages of the siege he was close enough to have taken life, but chose not to. Why? These four young blokes known as the Kelly Gang were all psychopathic killers according to the Police, yet during the eighteen months after the unfortunate circumstances that led to the deaths of three troopers in the Wombat, they harmed not one person, including the many civilians held during their two bank heists. The shot in the dark from Ned Kelly striking Mr Hare in the wrist at the beginning of the siege, was simply that ... a shot in the dark in the direction of a shotgun flash. The police on the other hand seemed intent on shooting at any man woman or child that came into their sights. The police shot and killed civilians during that encounter but were never made accountable for their actions. With the ancient Outlawry Act on their heads, and an 8000 pounds incentive for any being to shoot them dead on sight, these four young men had nothing to lose. For the trumped up charge of attempted murder of a trooper at Eleven Mile Creek, which started the whole affair, and the shooting of three troopers at Stringybark Creek, they knew they were all "dead men walking" by bullet or rope. In Ned's admission he was at Glenrowan to simply end it. What he meant by that could be for a number of reasons. He was tired of living outside normal society ... He wanted to put an end to the police brutality and corruption ... Take the gluttonous selectors to task over their control of all the good land, or was it a grander plan that would put an end to it all? For four so called brutal killers who were all good marksmen with an abundance of weaponry and ammunition, why was there just one police injury? With many well armed sympathisers secreted in the surrounding scrub, why didn't Ned allow his supporters to attack the police? With the removal of their helmets for better aim, the gang no doubt could have caused some serious injury to their attackers. But that's what a brutal killer would do, isn't it? Today they kill their hostages one by one until the police meet their demands. These four young men were not premeditated killers. These men were simply caught up in one of life's cruel events that changed their lives forever, hurling them into the arms of our Australian heritage and culture for all eternity. P.S. I think Ned was around 6 feet tall and probably 6'2" in heels. Not sure of his weight at Glenrowan because of all the brandy consumed to ease the pain, but at a guess around 13 stone. Well said Al (and welcome back)!
Mr Webb says “Well said”  but there are so many claims in this letter that are wrong or in serious dispute one hardly knows where to start but perhaps the most obvious mis-statement is this:

 These four young men were not premeditated killers.”

This statement, which is typical of the view modern kelly myth-makers would have us swallow,  is completely at odds with the known facts - pre-meditated killing was EXACTLY what the Kelly Gang was involved in – firstly of Aaron Sherrit, in cold blood, and then of Police at Glenrowan.  Fortunately the Gangs plans were thwarted by Thomas Curnow at Glenrowan, and no police were killed but there can be no denying that the entire purpose of the gangs actions at Glenrowan was the premeditated killing of Police, both as a result of the train wreck they hoped to create, and subsequently in some sort of gunfight. To suggest Glenrowan was not a premeditated event with killing in mind is to willfully deny the blatantly obvious and declared purpose of the incident; – why else would the Kelly Gang have gone to all that trouble of manufacturing bullet proof armour, of collecting gunpowder and arms, unless they were planning violent attack with guns?? Whether or not Glenrowan was also about establishing a Republic is irrelevant – their first intent was killing of Police and they had been planning it for months.

It is quite ridiculous and indeed disingenuous for Mr Crichton to claim  the gang were not premeditated killers but “... were simply caught up in one of life's cruel events that changed their lives forever”  No, on the contrary they were not "caught up" by events but instead actively planned and created them, the mayhem at Stringybark, the robberies at Euroa and Jerilderie, and the disaster at Glenrowan. They were most certainly  killers and there was premeditation aplenty.

And as for a classic example of the whitewashing  and the airbrushing of history, look no further than his description of what happened at  Stringybark Creek killings as “ the unfortunate circumstances that led to the deaths of three troopers in the Wombat”

"Unfortunate" ??? - this was a  deliberate premeditated armed ambush  -  a far cry from "unfortunate"  Mr Crichton. Lets  stop the whitewashing and airbrushing and photoshopping of the unpleasant truth shall we Sir?

As the above quote shows, is in reality a VERY partisan website and makes almost no attempt of any kind at fairness or impartiality or objectivity, and frequently lapses into direct mockery and even offensive and possibly actionable defamation of any contributor or commentator or player in the Kelly story, either past or present that Mr Webb disagrees with.

The worst examples of  this are on a Page on the site called “Real Villains” . It is devoted to attacking and ridiculing Victorian Police, not just of yesteryear but of current serving members, and particular presently serving or recently retired Policemen and women are villified and smeared in quite appalling ways. The page also contains a long list of links to various recent press articles with negative commentary about Police conduct, reinforcing this “anti-police” theme that seems to run through the entire pro-Kelly community. It has of course  been a mantra running through the Kelly story from its beginnings in the nineteenth century, that really the bad Police are to  blame for everything that went wrong in the Kellys lives, but it disturbs me that this unbalanced and warped perspective is being encouraged and inflamed in the 21st Century by this pro-Kelly web site.

A balanced view would acknowledge that no organization you care to name that has real human beings in it has ever, anywhere, at any time in history or in any place, been devoid of error, bad management, bad faith, bad human behavior from the trivial to the extreme of corruption even, and the Police force is no different.

This segment of  Ironoutlaw does the website no favours. It hints at extremism, it promotes disrespect for the Law and for Police, and helps to perpetuate the fond but false belief of some Kelly supporters that the Police were to blame for everything that went wrong during the Kelly “Outbreak”

All-in-all, the more I read through this website, the more I came to dislike it for its virulent and aggressive anti Police and pro-Kelly tone. There is a strong thread of intolerance and arrogance mixed in with the commentary and attitudes of  contributors to the site, as well as a failure to allow any other view but that of the Kelly Mythmakers.

The website claims to have been getting over 8 million hits  and 338904 visitors a year. I would be surprised if these figures are current because last year there were only 47 letters posted to the feedback section and so far this year there have been only 9. A  number of links are dead, and the last Event promoted on the “Events” page was for something in 2012.

It looks like interest in the site is declining steadily, not just from the public but by Mr Webb. If that’s because the public are realizing the Kelly Mythmakers have been promoting a huge lie about Ned Kelly, and losing interest in it, and the numbers of true believers is shrinking to a small band of die-hard fanatics, then that’s a good thing. 

Long may it continue.