Saturday 13 September 2014

The Jerilderie Letter: Part V

John Martin "The Seventh Plague" 1823
The rest of the Jerilderie letter, another 1600 words, could reasonably be called a “rant” by Ned Kelly. The letter began with a reasonably dispassionate, though self serving account of a couple of events from Kellys earlier life, but steadily becomes more and more fervent and emotional as he warms to his twin themes of Police corruption and the injustices of his families mistreatment at their hands. Finally he gives up on any attempt at telling anything more about his story and instead abandons himself to an angry unrestrained and hyperbolic attack on authority and the Police, and anyone who might support them. He singles out Irish police in particular, describing them as cowards and traitors to their “country ancestors and religion” because they
“…deserted the shamrock, the emblem of true wit and beauty to serve under a flag and nation that has destroyed massacreed and murdered their fore-fathers by the greatest of torture as rolling them down hill in spiked barrels pulling their toe and finger nails and on the wheel. and every torture imaginable more was transported to Van Diemand's Land to pine their young lives away in starvation and misery among tyrants worse than the promised hell itself all of true blood bone and beauty, that was not murdered on their own soil, or had fled to America or other countries to bloom again another day, were doomed to Port Mcquarie Toweringabbie norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyrany and condemnation many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land”
This is powerful emotive language, an appeal to Irish patriotism, and an expression of resentments that many Irish would agree with. He’s on a roll but still manages to interrupt the flow to boast about himself and his ability to injure and defeat Policemen in a brawl, something which he thinks makes him a better man
“The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house.
I have seen as many as eleven, big & ugly enough to lift  Mount Macedon out of a crab hole more like the species of a baboon or Guerilla than a man actually come into a court house and swear they could not arrest one eight stone larrakin and them armed with battens and neddies without some civilians assistance and some of them going to the hospital from the affects of hits from the fists of the larrakin and the Magistrate would send the poor little Larrakin into a dungeon for being a better man than such a parcel of armed curs”
Next he makes blood-curdling threats to any person who may assist the police in their endeavours to track him down:
"I have never interefered with any person unless they deserved it, and yet there are civilians who take firearms against me, for what reason I do not know, unless they want me to turn on them and exterminate them without medicine. I shall be compelled to make an example of some of them if they cannot find no other employment If I had robbed and plundered ravished and murdered everything I met young and old rich and poor. the public could not do any more than take firearms and Assisting the police as they have done, but by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be fool to what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so deprived as to take blood money will be outlawed and declared unfit to be allowed human buriel their property either consumed or confiscated and them theirs and all belonging to them exterminated off the face of the earth, the enemy I cannot catch myself I shall give a payable reward for"
These apalling threats of torture and extermination “off the face of the earth” demonstrate yet again Kellys tendency to regard violence as means to an end.
Also remarkable in this paragraph is his almost pathologically delusional belief in his innocence, something expressed again in the next paragraph where he embarks on a character assassination of Superintendent Smith, but says
“if there is any one to be called a murderer regarding Kennedy, Scanlan and Lonigan it is that mis-placed poodle he gets as much pay as a dozen good troopers”
It seems to particularly bug Kelly that the senior officers get better pay than troopers,
“send the men that gets big pay and reconed superior to the common police after me and you shall soon save the country of high salaries to men that is fit for nothing else but getting better men than him self shot and sending orphan children to the industrial school to make prostitutes and cads of them for the Detectives and other evil dis-posed persons.
“Send the high paid and men that received big salaries for years in a gang by themselves after me, As it makes no difference to them but it will give them a chance of showing whether they are worth more pay than a common trooper or not and I think the Public will soon find they are only in the road of good men and obtaining money under false pretences”
He then returns briefly to the killings at Stringybark Creek, saying that McIntyre was not a coward because he surrendered, but
“…it was cowardice that made Lonigan and the others fight it is only foolhardiness to disobey an outlaw as any Police-man or other man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequence which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come,..”
Statements like that were probably part of the reason Kellys defence counsel refused to enter the letter as evidence in his trial – how damaging would it have been for the Court to hear that Kellys view was that ANYONE who didn’t do exactly as he ordered would receive “a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come,..”- exactly what happened at Stringybark Creek and nothing at all to do with “self defence”
Again, violence as a means to an end.
Finally, we come to another of those passing statements of Ned Kelly which some have tried to inflate into evidence that Kelly had a nobler agenda, and a grand plan for North East Victoria. He mentions a Stock Protection Society, a local organization set up to counter the ongoing problem of stock theft in the region: Kellys view is that the organization
“….only aids the police to procure false witnesses and go whacks with men to steal horses and lag innocent men”
 Kelly declares
“ I wish those men who joined the stock protection society to with-draw their money and give it and as much more to the widows and orphans and poor of Greta district…”
and later says
“I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give 10 pounds out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund”
He also claims that
“…it will always pay a rich man to be liberal with the poor and make as little enemies as he can as he shall find if the poor is on his side he shall loose nothing by it, If they depend in the police they shall be drove to destruction”
However, as usual he follows his orders up with threats of violence and, in the last words of the Letter has this to say
“do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat in Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning. but I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.”(“druth” is a slang term for extreme thirst that follows excessive drinking of alcohol – according to Wikipedia)
Ian Jones describes these last few sentences as “wild rhetoric” but claims they could have formed the basis for a purported “Declaration of the Republic of North eastern Victoria”, a document he claims exists because someone reported seeing it in 1962. Nobody else has ever seen it, despite exhaustive searches : there is then no evidence at all that such a document exists or ever existed. Furthermore, despite Ian Jones fondness for the “Republic” idea, evidence for such a vision is completely lacking in the Jerilderie letter, Ned Kellys great “opus” the very place where it should be, if ever there was such an idea in the mind of Ned Kelly. But its not.
What is found in the Jerliderie Letter are distinct and repeated and clear references to Ned Kellys mother and brother and sisters, passing reference at the very end to the poor and widows and orphans of  “the Greta district” in the context of issuing threats to members of a stock protection Society, and nothing at all about the wider community of North East Victoria, nothing at all about political ambition or ideology or declarations of Independence. Instead there is a massive outpouring of resentment anger and hostility, and  graphic and violent threats towards Police and  anyone supporting them, rich or poor.

If it was going to be a founding document for a Republic, the Republic would be a place where violence was king, anarchy would reign and God help anyone who got in the way of the Kelly Gang.


  1. Dee, an interesting read by all accounts.
    If we were all to read small portions like you are presenting with commentary, we can see what a clever fellow Ned actually was. Not at all the larrikin criminal murderer thug you make him out to be.

    I provided these notes to Peter FitzSimons for his book as possible edits. Not sure if he used any of it.

    The 'Stock Protection League' president was Andrew Byrne, he together with James Whitty -
    "had taken all the best land in the King valley and, not content with that, were greedily impounding stock that happened to stray from the paddocks of ‘poor’ owners. – and that Constable Thomas Farrell, brother to James Whitty’s son in law, John Farrell, stole a horse from Ned’s father in law, George King, and kept it in one of Whitty’s or Farrell's paddocks until he ( Const. Farrell) left the police force”

    Also, “James Whitty’s brother Patrick is sited in the Police Gazette of Sept 1869 as likely to shelter bushranger Harry Power, while brother John chaired the Roads Board from its inauguration till 1867, and in 1860 Ned’s grandfather James Quinn was awarded 12 times the original sum of compensation for land acquisition for a new road through his property at Wallan East while Whitty was in charge. This perhaps shows more a preparedness to get on rather than rivalry between them.

    The whole Whitty bull and calves affair and the confrontation dramatized by Ian Jones may be giving Whitty's a bad rap when they were all as bad as each other. "

    If I am not mistaken, the source of these notes came from a paper " The case for James Whitty" given to me by Marcus Swinburne many years ago but do not know the authors name as the cover page was missing.

    Whitty, who as well as James Quinn immigrated from Ireland and were newbie's to the colony, I believe the Whitty episode amounted to no more than some rivalry amongst clansmen.

  2. Your articles have remonded me why I can't be bothered with Ned's letters which are self-serving and full of excuses for a misspent life.

  3. Don't quite follow you Bill!

    Are you saying that if we just read small bits of the Letter, we can create a false impression that Ned was a clever fellow and 'not at all the larrikin criminal murderer thug you make him out to be.' Or are you saying that I am making him out to be a larrikin and a thug by electing small bits from the Letter when in fact he was a clever fellow?

    And what do you think of Ian MacFarlanes view in the Unmasked book that Ned "verballed" George King after he was long gone as a way of excusing himself and blaming King for the Baumgarten affair and its disastrous sequel, the "Fitzpatrick incident? MacFarlane maintains the ONLY evidence that George King was a horse thief is Neds claim in the Letter that he was.

  4. Not only is there no evidence George King was ever suspected, but Victoria Police believed Billy King was Isaiah 'Wild' Wright. The big problem is that most recent authors accepted the lies in the Jerilderie Letter instead of checking. As you point out, there is a lot of fiction in the Jerilderie Letter.

  5. I've got an Ian Jones DVD which is even more extravagent about the Kelly Republic.

    He narrates the story of Ned's republic as if it was proven fact. I got the DVD because it promised NE Victoria Kelly scenes.

    The DVD was a great disappointment.

  6. Dee,
    What I suggest is that by looking at small bits, we get a better chance read into it. A good thing to be doing.
    What I am saying that 'for a criminal murdering thug' Ned certainly seems to be a pretty good writer and comes across as a clever articulate fellow.

    As seen in my earlier posting, the Jerilderie letter is reflective of feuding between clansmen of differing religions and the troubles they caused each other and Ned Kelly's justifications for what he had done.

    To answer your Q what I think of Ian Mac's view? It does seem convenient for Ned to have written George King into the J. letter knowing that 'George' would never come back to deny his involvement with horse stealing.

    Ian Mac's assumption George King was murdered (my assumption possibly by Ned,) sounds very feasible for there was never any trace found of King in Australia or America - but still no proof that Ned Kelly killed George King !

  7. I think Dagmar Balcarek was quoted as to Ned possibly murdering George King. His disappearance was first noticed at court (Fitzpatrick case) when Ellen Kelly's lawyer mentioned she had been "deserted". Till then, nobody had reported George King was missing. Given the later homicidal doings of the Kelly gang, I rather doubt that the three police at SBC were their first victims. But there is no proof.

  8. This is another of the many big blanks in the Kelly story. MacFarlane says many of the originsl archival documents are missing, and that there is little or nothing in the way of earlier correspondence other than Ned's 1870 'black snake' letter.

    This is why the Jerilderie and other later letters from Ned have to be interpreted and pondered. That, and the newspaper reports, are all that is left of the Kelly story.

  9. The whole Whitty bull and calves affair and the confrontation dramatized by Ian Jones may be giving Whitty's a bad rap when they were all as bad as each other. "


1. Moderation is back on. I haven’t got time to be constantly monitoring what comments are made and deleting the mindless rubbish that Kelly sympathisers have been posting lately. Please post polite sensible comments, avoid personal abuse and please use the same name whenever you Post, even if its a made-up name.