Saturday 27 December 2014

End of year Blog Review:

“Ned Kelly : Death of a Legend” Blog has now been on-line for just over 7 months, having started in May 2014. It started slowly, with only 426 visits in  June, but interest in the Blog has increased every month, and quite quickly, so December was the busiest, with over 2700 visits, over 700 more than November, and nearly 60 comments. I had made a dozen Posts before someone finally decided to contribute a Comment , but more recently there have been many comments on every Post, and some interesting debates conducted via the Comments pages. I hope they will continue, and become an important part of this site in 2015. To date there have been over 9800 visitors and 175 comments, and the fanatics who wrecked my earlier Forums and boasted they would do the same to this one have been outsmarted. While the Forums and Facebook Pages dedicated to Kelly fanaticism have been limping along, and looking terminal in terms of reader participation,  “Ned Kelly : Death of a Legend”  has been going from strength to strength.

I  owe  at least some thanks for our survival to Blogger, who have a more mature policy than do the hosts of  Proboards  and Forumjar regarding  losers who fabricate claims of  copyright infringement and manufactured “offense” as a tactic to have arguments they cant refute removed from the internet. This cowardly behavior, abetted by gutless administrators at those places, wrecked my first few attempts at providing a space for alternative Kelly discussions to take place on the Internet. Fortunately this same tactic has not been successful with Blogger, though numerous attempts were made early on, as well as what proved to be empty threats of more to come. If you look at the Blog Posts in June one is listed as “Unavailable”. I could delete that notice altogether, placed there by Blogger but I have left it so anyone who wants can click on the link provided to Chilling and read the pathetic  complaint that was made about this Blog, a  complaint that illustrates that its author has no idea about what constitutes copyright - anything at all that is in the "Public domain" can be quoted or commented on, subject to "fair use" and various other qualifications. Comment is not an infringement of copyright, or defamatory just because you don’t like it.

The following is a summary of the Posts, and Links to most of what has been discussed on the Blog in 2014; Clicking will take you to the Post:

Kelly Websites :
  • Iron Icon  Bill Denhelds amazing site
  • 11 Mile Creek Sharon and Brians site I described as almost perfect
  • Ned Kelly Forum has potential but paralysed by paranoia
  • Ironoutlaw vast, extremely "pro kelly" and at times nasty but can be usefully informative, now dying. 
  • Ned Kelly on You Tube A Debate about Ned with Derryn Hinch, the Human Headline.
Kelly Books

Kelly Myths and Misconceptions

Kelly Sympathiser Behaviour
  • Religious fanaticism I point out the similarities between the behaviour and attitudes of some Kelly sympathisers and Religious fanatics 
  • Dee is not Ian Kelly fanatics mad and mistaken obsession with my identity
  • “Neducation”  Their made up word for made up Kelly history
  • Stepping into the Kelly world My first experiences
  • Fake debate Pretending nobody can decide if Ned was good or bad, as a way of preventing the Myth from being buried for good
  • Fanatics in retreat Pointing out their deletions from Facebook and Web pages to cover their tracks when found out making stuff up

Ned Kelly
  • Reflections on the crown jewels Neds juvenile behaviour that he bragged about even as an adult
  • The Making of Ned Kelly and here and here too. A start on trying to understand better the influences that produced Ned Kelly             
  • Self defence I propose  Neds case ought to have been successful, because the "self defence" argument should be based on what he BELIEVED to be true, not on whether or not what he believed was ACTUALLY true ( and it wasn't ) 
  • Psychopath Discussion of the controversial but well supported opinion of a Forensic Psychiatrist, who shows Ned Kellys behaviour fits the pattern of a Psychopath.
  • Liar  Modern writers conceal their knowledge that Ned Kelly was a notorious liar.

Note that at top left of the Home page is a search engine  that will search the blog for  Posts that contain any words you care to enter.

I have heaps of ideas for Posts next year, and am looking forward to continuing the debate, and uncovering and learning more about the history of Ned Kelly and the Kelly story. I am exploring the “Forum” option again, as I think the Blog format is not particularly conducive to open and free flowing debate, and  I am also vaguely wondering about a Book at some time in the future, as suggested in a number of comments.

All in all, after some false starts and disappointments, 2014 has been a good year for the  rollback of myths and for the uncovering of the truth about Ned Kelly. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Xmas Spirit

Ned Kelly Air Freshener (Caramel Scent)

Processing Time: 1 - 2 Days

These Air Fresheners to hang in your Car, a great Xmas Present,  can be bought from 

For a long time Ive been thinking I should write something nice about Ned Kelly. And what better time than Xmas, to write something nice, something positive and kind instead of what I usually do, which is focus on the many distortions, inaccuracies and outright falsities that make up so much of the Kelly story?

The problem with what I usually do, or at least what I have been writing till now, is that it leaves some people thinking that I am “anti-Kelly” that I hate Ned Kelly, that I am “hateful” “deeceitful” and “a troll” trying to rid the world of Ned Kelly and the devotees who venerate his memory.  Ive also been bundled up with anyone else who is not a Kelly fanatic, and who dares mention “The Kelly Gang Unmasked” in other than horror-struck condemnation as in some way an apologist for it, linked to its author and his family and therefore utterly to be condemned.

These tactics are all what is known as “ad hominem” arguments , which is to say they are entirely invalid arguments aimed at  a person rather than the arguments themselves.  The point is, whether I hate Ned Kelly or not, whether I am “dee”ceitful or not, indeed what my identity actually is,  has no impact at all on an argument about, say, what Ned Kellys intentions were at Glenrowan, or whether or not there is any evidence to support the notion that Ned Kelly was Australia’s Robin Hood. I really wish Kelly devotees would get that. I really wish they would concentrate on the arguments rather than descend to personal attack, label anyone who disagrees with them as Trolls, or worse, and set up a Forum designed to exclude such people even READING what is there!

But for the record let me state it plainly: I do not hate Ned Kelly, and never have. I could never hate such an extraordinary and singular young man. Hate is a negative and destructive emotion that springs from ignorance and fear, and the antidote to hate is knowledge and understanding.  Whats more,  I doubt very much that any of the many and various other people who have commented on this Blog in support of me, or Bill, or Mr MacFarlane or the Queensland Psychiatrist hate Ned either.  In fact, I would guess we are all fascinated by Ned Kelly, and by the history of the Kelly outbreak, by the early history of Australia and of Victoria , of colonization, Gold rushes, of Bushranging,  and Eureka. I know I certainly am, and as I warned earlier “exploring the history of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang can become an obsession, such is the complexity and the richness of this extraordinary story”. We are all fascinated and curious and want to understand as much as we can about this historically significant time in the history of Australia, and its central towering figure, the complex and commanding , and ultimately deeply tragic figure of Ned Kelly.

We are all asking the same question : who was he?

There is of course, a group who think they already have the answers to that question, and they defend their answers with a ferocious zeal that takes no prisoners. They see him as Max Brown did, a persecuted messianic figure ultimately losing his gallant fight against corruption in high places. Others of us disagree – in fact we know for certain, as I have been pointing out on this Blog, that much of the story, as it is popularly understood, is in fact misunderstood. Much of the story, as we are seeing , is mythology rather than historical truth, and its historical truth that’s important to most of us. In fact, in my view  it is disrespectful and dishonoring to Ned Kellys memory to promote and venerate a sanitized and  inaccurate myth rather than the truth about him. So, I am not trying to make Ned Kelly go away, or even to make those who idolize him go away. Instead what I am trying to do is engage with people who are interested, curious, fascinated, horrified, adore or despise Ned Kelly in a debate about him and his times, to maintain some sort of contact with what he truly was rather than see him smothered  and buried under layer upon layer of idolatrous myth.

As far as saying something nice about Ned Kelly is concerned, I am reminded of Politicians who are often asked at election time by journalists, to say something nice about their opponent, and if they do, they only manage it through gritted teeth. However, theres no doubt Ned Kelly was handsome and physically strong, theres no doubt he had a way with words, and no doubt at times, he could be very charming. 

I wish every one of my readers a very Merry Xmas, and all the Best for a prosperous New Year.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Ned Kelly : Australian Son

"Ned Kelly: Australian Son" can be purchased from the worlds greatest Kelly website, where its described  as a “masterpiece”  and “that perfect gift”.  They’ve recently reduced the price from $34.95 to $29.95, with free Australia wide postage ,  but on the Angus and Robertson web page its RRP is $27.45.  I saw an old copy for sale in a second hand bookshop recently for $18 so I snapped it up, and was looking forward to reading it, and reviewing it for the Blog. Given the above, I had high hopes for it.

Craig Cormick, editor of “Ned Kelly Under the Microscope” which was published this year (2014) asked himself at the beginning if there was any point in publishing yet another work about Ned Kelly, and  - self evidently -  decided there was. It surprised me then, that even in 1948, when this book was published, its author was also asking himself the same question : 

“Why, otherwise should I add to the packed shelf of Kellyana?

The author, Max Brown was born in Invercargill, (a place in New Zealand brought to our attention by Sir Anthony Hopkins when he played another man born in Invercargill, Bert Hopkins, in the movie “The worlds fastest Indian” a personal favourite). But Max Brown was educated in Melbourne and lived in Australia from a young age. Ian Jones calls him “Kellys first biographer”, perhaps because he felt Australian Son was the first truly comprehensive retelling of the already frequently told story. Of his own work, “A Short Life” Ian Jones says he wrote it because Kenneallys  1929“Complete Inner History” was not “complete”,  and Chomleys 1900 “True story” was not “true”. The reason Max Brown decided to write his biography of Ned Kelly is explained somewhat obliquely in the Foreword: 

“People are not remembered for nothing; and Kelly, over seventy years dead, his own defence long denied a hearing, will not lie down. Why otherwise would I add to the packed shelf of Kellyana?”

In other words “Australian Son” was intended to be the “long denied” defence of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gangs exploits.What follows is a highly romanticised account that perhaps in 1948 was not so well known, but nowadays is the familiar chronology of  the main events of the Kelly saga. Browns style seems heavily influenced by an attempt at Creative Writing that descends into somewhat purple prose:

“But, dream as I can in the shadow of the Alps where these four young bushmen rode, I shall never savour the tang of their voices, hear them laugh or curse, feel with my hand against their hearts, the impact of the first great disaster – of their summer of triumphs when the telegraph flung their deeds across the world, of the days of waiting and boredom towards the end, and of their final ill-starred attempt to come to terms with the police and officials they never ceased to contend had harried them without just cause”

And in another place:
“But the poor from the Bluff to Cape York talked constantly of Kelly. The barefoot kids ran down to the corner or out to the butter box beside the road to get the paper. And by word of mouth and from Pub to Pub along a thousand roads and rough bush tracks, yellow at noon and purple in the twilight spread and grew the legend of four bush lads who could imagine nothing better than to live and love light-heartedly and die in non-entity along the green plains between their stony hills”

Whew! This is heady stuff!

But the account is  not just romanticized, it is also very partisan, as advertised in the Foreword, with almost nothing in the way of analysis or reflection or a critique of anything the Kellys did, and almost unrelentingly negative portrayal of Police, Squatters and Authority in general. For example, throughout the book, Brown quotes bush ballads of the time – these universally idolize the  Kellys and make fun of the police

           “The Kellys are having a very fine time
             In the ranges not far away
             And we on their tracks think it mighty fine fun
             To be doing nothing all day”

And this is typical of Browns assessment of the Police:

“So the battle drifted as spinelessly as any before or since – Dan and Steve relishing neither escape or surrender, fearing that Ned as well as Joe had been killed and the Police still awed by the fabulous name of Kelly, waiting for daylight, the arrival of new reinforcements or some plan from their leaders”

and later

"If a full dress finale were needed to illustrate the slovenliness of two years of police pursuit perhaps Glenrowan might claim some distinction. The only moment  of the whole sprawling Kelly drama in which the Police could claim achievement ,had been made suspect by the very callousness the outlaws contended had driven them into opposition - the wanton killing of Johnny Jones George Metcalf and Martin Cherry and the wounding of several women and children by the very force which should have been their protectors.”

Of Detective Ward
“…well known in the district where his affairs with servant girls were common gossip and whose waxed moustache gave the lie to his many disguises”

Of Judge Redmond Barry
“Barrys family in fact had been oppressors of the welsh and the irish since the time of William the Conqueror”

In relation to selector crimes, on the other hand, Max  Brown provides  more than excuses – he elevates their activities almost to the level of a patriots duty :

“It was little wonder that he (the selector ) sometimes entered the rich mans fence at night and killed a ewe for meat”

“…their (selector) “lawlessness” was a necessary part in the development of Australia from a giant sheep paddock into a nation…” 

In relation to the terror of being held hostage at Euroa, he relates this conversation without reflection :
“Oh mother are we all to be shot?” he said
“Don’t be silly George, we are all right”
But then a thought flashed through her mind and she looked wildly at her husband who put his hand on her arm and said
“Don’t get nervous now Susy; it will be alright in the end”

and at the end of the chapter quotes Mrs Scott

“ There was a great deal of personality about Ned Kelly and he knew how to control men and circumstances. His management of the Euroa affair was good, he seemed to consider everything and knew exactly what to do for the best. He would have made a magnificent general…”

The impression is created that the entire Euroa event was a campaign characterized by  gallantry and military style precision, whereas , as recent events in Sydney remind us, and is hinted at perhaps in the conversation with the frightened child, hostage taking and violent threats at gunpoint terrify and traumatise its victims and often leave lifelong scars. But there is no hint of this in “Australian Son” It is completely lacking in self criticism and honest reflection.

At the end of the book for some reason that’s not explained, the full text of the Cameron and Jerilderie letters are appended, and like the book  itself there is no attempt at analysis or reflection or commentary on what it all means.  There is also an Index but no bibliography, so none of Browns sources can be checked independently, which is something modern readers have come to expect from writers of history and biography, a deficiency which in my view significantly reduces the value of this book as a resource.

I can well understand why modern day sympathisers would enjoy “Australian Son” as its dominant themes are the veneration of Ned and the Gang, and a denigration of authority, and of the Police. One should not be surprised at this, given that the author makes his intentions plain at the outset, but I tired of being forced to look at things from such a skewed perspective, and having to wonder if I am really reading history, or historical romance.  I still think the best biography by far is Ian Jones “A Short Life”. Ian Jones is at least as much a sympathiser as Max Brown, but a Short Life is a much better read. “Australian Son” I am afraid is not a masterpiece but hagiography, and only true believers would really enjoy it.

As Margaret and David would say "I'm giving it two stars."