Sunday 27 December 2015

The Kelly Vault Can do Better

The Kelly Vault calls itself a History Museum, and is dedicated to the preservation of Kelly history. I was encouraged to see  this quote from the Manager of the Burke Museum on their Facebook Page  We are not a SHRINE. We are a MUSEUM” Also on their Facebook Page there is a reference a to an ABC interview with Doug Morrissey and in another place mention of Doug Morrisseys 2015 publication “Ned Kelly : A lawless Life” – along with a single negative comment about it -  so I thought I could discern a willingness by the people running the Vault to at least attempt some sort of even handedness.I felt quite positive about the Vault.

Not so long ago I visited the Museum. Its housed in an historic  little four room building known as the old “Sub-Treasury building” on Ford St in the Historic and Cultural Precinct of Beechworth.  Its right next door to the Beechworth Courthouse the place where Ned Kelly’s commital hearings took place for the murder of Lonigan.  You can stand in the very dock where Ned stood and remember that well known etching of him standing there, holding his lapel with his left hand, full beard quite neatly trimmed.  But don’t forget Ellen Kelly also stood there once, and Standish, Fitzpatrick, Sir Redmond Barry, Gaunson, McIntyre and a host of other Kelly identities have also stood or sat somewhere in that room which you are free to explore at your leisure. (Incidentally, as you do so, and listen to the broadcast of audio re-enactments of snippets of court activities, see how good your Kelly knowledge is and identify the major factual mistake in one of them – and post it in Comments if you do!!   Frankly I was so surprised when I heard it the first time I couldn’t believe my ears so I had to listen through the entire tape again to make certain. God only knows how many Kelly buffs have heard that tape and missed it!)

The door to the Cell where Harry Power was kept
Straight across the road is the Town Hall, another building that Ned Kelly would have been familiar with, and around the back of it you can enter the Cell that once held Harry Power! And looking up the road you see the grim walls of the Beechworth Gaol. All in all it’s the most concentrated bit of Kellyana anywhere. 

But back to the vault: In the first room there are three posters labelled “Time Line of Key events in the life of Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly”. Whoever wrote them did a great job of sticking to the important facts, and avoiding the temptation to inject value judgements and subliminal messages about Ned being a victim or the Police being corrupt. The basic story is presented in a very fair way, and after reading the Time Line, I was looking forward to viewing the Collection. 

The prize possession of the Vault would have to be the gun called Betty. It’s the one Ned Kelly stole from someone when he held up the Bank at Euroa, and is on prominent display. There’s also a table top supposed to have been rescued from the Ann Jones Inn, an original Ned Kelly death mask, pages from the original manuscripts of Ian Jones Kelly biography and Peter Careys Kelly novel , the Kelly “armour” worn by Mick Jagger, the Sydney Nolan painting that looks like it was done with spray cans a Kelly tragic paid around $170,000 for, other guns, …and so on. Certainly there’s plenty there to keep any Kelly buff engaged for a good while. 

But – and I know you were all expecting this from me - but, yes, there are problems, some of them minor like my disappointment that the man behind the desk knew nothing about one of the other rifles on display – it was unlabeled, lying next to some farming equipment that once belonged to Aaron Sherrit ( I think it was). And I didn’t believe him when I asked if the documents on display, such as the Arrest Warrant for Dan Kelly were the real thing or facsimiles and he said they were all real. (Can someone confirm that?)

But there are major problems as well. 

The first of these is that the professional objective factual approach adopted in “The Time Line” is abandoned in the Explanatory notes that are attached to many of the exhibits, and yes, it’s the old Jones-Kelly Mythology that is injected into the narrative without the slightest hint that the backgrounder information provided might be pure speculation.  Heres  an example : In the Time Line it accurately says of the Fitzpatrick Incident  April 15th 1878  The Fitzpatrick Incident takes place resulting in the arrest of Ned’s mother…”  But elsewhere in the Museum in the explanatory attached to the (real or facsimile?) arrest warrant for Dan, even though all writers seem to disagree on exactly what happened it says  Fitzpatrick made a clumsy advance towards 14 year old Kate Kelly and a brawl erupted” Why pick that description rather than the ones which suggest Kate had no involvement of that kind at all? Remember Ned saying that if Fitzpatrick had molested his sister Victoria wouldn’t have been big enough to hide him? Or instead, why not insert Molony’s allegation that Kate was raped?  The point is, in a museum, unless it’s a Private Museum dedicated to pushing one particular line – such as to Glorify the dear Leader Kim Jong Il - if no one is really sure what happened, the uncertainty should be made clear. Museums are not there to make up stories but to tell us about what is known, and about what is unknown. Where they wish to speculate - and it can be perfectly legitimate to do so - it should be made clear.

Heres another example : of Neds trial, the time line accurately says this:
28-29th October : Neds trial is held at the Supreme Court in Melbourne. Judge Sir Redmond Barry presides. Ned is found guilty of Lonigans murder and is sentenced to death
But elsewhere in the Museum, accompanying that famous engraving of Ned in the Dock in Beechworth (Real or facsimile?) it says this about Neds trial:
Ned was incompetently defended and virtually at the mercy of his Judge, Sir Redmond Barry who wanted to rush the trial through in a single day”.
Now, the statement that Ned was incompetently defended, and at the mercy of the Judge is a matter of opinion, but the claim that Neds trial was rushed is simply wrong. This notion remains popular among Kelly sympathisers who remain determined not to acknowledge that it was refuted as far back as 1967, at the Symposium whose deliberations were published in the book “ Ned Kelly Man and Myth”. But even if they hadn’t read the book, if someone from the Vault had bothered just to go next door to the Courthouse they would have read this  A typical murder trial in Beechworth in those days took from one to two hours!

Heres another example : in keeping with the Timelines adherence to the facts, the Republic of North East Victoria isn’t mentioned. However in the display about Glenrowan it says this:
In June 1880 the Kelly Gang planned a pre-emptive strike against their Police enemies – first step in creating the republic of North East Victoria that would win justice for the Kellys and all the folk of the North East who had supported them.”

And later it says “..they would move on Benalla, rob the Bank of New South Wales and proclaim the Republic”

In the display referencing the Kelly Armour it says this : “In the early months of 1880 as the Kelly outbreak gained momentum into a full blown rebellion the gang and their inner circle were plotting their climactic event – the declaration of a Republic in North East Victoria

In another place, a poster about Ned Kellys Jerilderie Letter says “perhaps most importantly it forshadows his attempt to establish a republic in the colonies north east".

Nowhere in the Kelly Vault could I find even the slightest hint that the notion of a Republic of North east Victoria might be something other than a well established fact. I defy anyone to tell me that an uninformed tourist who visited the Vault, such as the Dutch family who were there when I was, after reading the information displayed would take away anything other than a firm belief that a plan to establish a Republic of North east Victoria was an established part of Australian history. What would they think and how would they feel about the Vault if later they learned  the truth about the Republlic of North East Vicoria, which is that its an idea that’s almost completely without foundation? Nowhere in the Kelly Vault is there anything like an acknowledgement that the Republic of North east Victoria is actually the controversial pet theory developed nearly 50 years ago by the Vaults “Historical Consultant" Mr Ian Jones ,and is an idea which was never mentioned by Ned Kelly? How many people leaving the Vault would believe that The Republic of North East Victoria wasn’t mentioned even once in the numerous speeches Kelly made to Hostages, in any of his many letters,  by any of his supporters, it was not heard about by Police spies who infiltrated the Gang, it was not discussed at Ned Kellys trial, its not supported by any documentation such as the fondly dreamed of but never found ‘Declaration', or the elusive Notebook of Minutes, and is an idea which is contradicted by almost every deed and act and word of Ned Kelly’s during his entire lifetime? 

The Kelly Vaults support and unqualified promotion of the flimsy Jones-Kelly Myth about the Republic of North East Victoria is unprofessional and ought to be damaging to its reputation. Its clear from the fact that Ian Jones was there at the opening of the Vault, that his name is first on the list at the Vault entrance of Acknowledgements offered to supporters of the vault, by the quotes of Ian Jones posted in the Vault itself, and by the content of the display information, that he had a dominating influence on the way in which the Vault tells the Kelly story, just as he influenced the way Peter Fitzsimons told the story in his 2013 book.

Clearly Ian Jones wields enormous power in the Kelly world around Beechworth, and equally clearly, nobody dares challenge it. Further proof of this might be in the fact that in the many bookshops and places in Beechworth where Kelly material is sold, its impossible to find a copy of Ian MacFarlanes book The Kelly Gang Unmasked, or of Doug Morrisseys book, A Lawless Life, but Fitzsimons book is available and of course  at many places you can buy Ian Jones latest, The Kellys and Beechworth.

So here is the challenge for the Kelly Vault and for Matt Shore who appears to be its main promotor : do you want the Kelly Vault to be a worthy Museum that tells the Kelly story without fear or favour, with integrity and respect for honesty and openness? Or are you going to allow it continue to promote the dodgy Jones-Kelly Myths, and be part of Ian Jones determination to silence anyone who dares question him, and become simply another vehicle for the promotion of his private fantasy about Ned Kelly, a virtual Private Museum? If thats what you’re going to do then maybe Ian Jones and his supporters, and maybe Joanne Griffiths and people like Noeleen Lloyd  and the Kelly family should be the ones funding it, not the State Government. Its not the job of the Government to fund private hobbies. 

I am not asking the Vault to tell the story MY way, but its Kelly sympathisers who keep on insisting the  Jury is still out on Ned Kelly.'Man or Myth? Hero or Villain?'  it says right at the entrance to the Vault on a Ned Kelly Adventure Camps poster which describes the Museum as “ Our new museum"! But if thats what they believe why aren’t they putting the other side of the argument to the public as well? In fact, not putting the other side of the argument in the Museum, and heavily promoting the Jones-Kelly myths alone proves what I have been arguing all along, that this "Hero or Villain” argument is not a sincere argument but a tactic of the Kelly Sympathisers. 

At the moment, the Vault is more of a Shrine than a Museum. I am so disappointed.

In Part Two of this post, I will expose another problem at the Vault.

Thursday 24 December 2015

A Kelly Xmas

I wish all the readers of this Blog a very Happy Xmas and a prosperous New Year. While you’re on holiday, I will continue to make Posts so you will have something interesting to read and to think about, and while you have more time on your hands why not take the time to write something for the Blog? My next Post should be ready to go up on Monday  28th. It will be controversial I think so don’t miss it.

Meantime, enjoy the Song. Its an awesome Xmas song, and a good one for a Kelly Blog as its sung  by one of Australias finest songwriters, Paul Kelly and its about a guy in Prison for Xmas. He starts off saying 'Hello Dan!' but the prisoner is Joe not Ned!  Even so, it reminds us that for the young Ned Kelly in  Beechworth Prison, alone in his cell for Xmas in 1871  it must have been tough. Its best listened to LOUD. 

Hello Dan, it's Joe here, I hope you're keeping well

It's the 21st of December

And now they're ringing the last bells

If I get good behavior, I'll be out of here by July

Won't you kiss my kids on Christmas Day
Please don't let 'em cry for me

I guess the brothers are driving down
From Queensland and Stella's flying in from the coast
They say it's gonna be a hundred degrees
Even more maybe, but that won't stop the roast

Who's gonna make the gravy now?
I bet it won't taste the same
Just add flour, salt, a little red wine
And don't forget a dollop of tomato sauce
For sweetness and that extra tang

And give my love to Angus and to Frank and Dolly
Tell 'em all I'm sorry I screwed up this time
And look after Rita, I'll be thinking of her
Early Christmas morning
When I'm standing in line

I hear Mary's got a new boyfriend, I hope he can hold his own
Do you remember the last one? What was his name again?

(Just a little too much cologne)

And Roger, you know I'm even gonna miss Roger

'Cause there's sure as hell no one in here I want to fight

Oh praise the Baby Jesus, have a Merry Christmas
I'm really gonna miss it, all the treasure and the trash
And later in the evening, I can just imagine
You'll put on junior Murvin and push the tables back
And you'll dance with Rita, I know you really like her

Just don't hold her too close
Oh brother please don't stab me in the back
I didn't mean to say that, it's just my mind it plays up
Multiplies each matter, turns imagination into fact
You know I love her badly, she's the one to save me

I'm gonna make some gravy, I'm gonna taste the fat
Tell her that I'm sorry, yeah I love her badly
Tell 'em all I'm sorry
And kiss the sleepy children for me
You know one of these days, I'll be making gravy
I'll be making plenty, I'm gonna pay 'em all back

Friday 18 December 2015

Outlawed: The Real Ned Kelly

 The documentary  “Outlawed: The real Ned Kelly” was first broadcast on ABC TV in 2003. A year ago, on December 18th 2014.,  it became available on You Tube and since then has been viewed 14,930 times and attracted 36 comments. You can watch it here

Its worth watching, even if only to see what a few of the modern Kelly identities look like – Ive already mentioned David Griffiths, but there’s also Noeleen Lloyd, Judith Douthie, Michael Kennedy, Christopher Bantick and Professor John McQuilton, the author of one of the landmark Kelly books “The Kelly Outbreak”.

It’s a very slick production with highly professional but brief re-enactments of various scenes from the Kelly story, some quite romantic photography of the beautiful Kelly country bush, horses and farms interspersed with “talking heads” like McQuilton and Bantick, as well as a “CIB Trained Crime Profiler”, Steve Longford who provides an intriguing assessment of Neds personality. The rich baritone of Jack Thompson recites a compelling narrative, and overall, as entertainment, its quite brilliant. As History though…well as all Kelly buffs on all sides of the debate know, nobody ever gets it right! 

As seems to be usual with people wanting to tell the Kelly story, it starts with the inevitable largely rhetorical question “Is this man Australia’s greatest rebel Hero, or simply a murderous thug?” 

As I have stated time and time again, reducing the entire complex Kelly outbreak to this absurd dichotomy is merely a debating trick, a ploy designed to confuse the issues and maintain the view that Ned Kelly was a hero. It’s as stupid as asking if Pol Pot or Stalin was a visionary leader and revolutionary icon, or mass murderer. The reason those comparisons seem absurd is because we are all agreed on the facts about these people and there is no need to keep asking ourselves if they are heroes or villains – its been settled long ago. The same should also be true of Ned Kelly.

The trick here is to suggest a choice has to be made between a possible truth – that Ned  could have been a rebel Hero – and an impossible one – that Ned was ‘simply’ a murderous thug, when its clear to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Ned Kelly, that there was nothing ‘simple’ about him or about the Kelly outbreak.   Who writes phrases like “a parcel of  big ugly fat necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw footed sons of Irish Bailiffs”? Who designs and builds crazy body armour and takes on a train-load of Police? Who announces that he fears death ‘as little as to drink a cup of tea’ and says “Such is life” before he’s hanged? A simple murderous thug? Of course not! So, as no other choice is offered he must be Australia’s greatest Rebel Hero! 

Inevitably therefore, the overall tone of the Documentary is that Ned Kelly was  indeed Australias greatest Rebel Hero, notwithstanding the attempts to provide ‘balance’ by having a Police point of view, the opinion of the Crime Profiler and the comments of Christopher Bantick. Whereas the believable McQuilton is seen out on site at Glenrowan, Griffiths is shown picking at the dry dusty soil and leaning on a rustic fence and  Noeleen Lloyd sitting under a eucalypt out on the selection, Bantick, in beige trousers pontificates from a comfortable lounge room, and the Crime Profiler is in a high rise overlooking the Melbourne CBD – what would these ivory tower arm-chair academics know?

And after the Police are murdered at Stringybark, the voice-over is a quote from the Jerilderie letter, spoken with an irish accent intended to be Ned expressing regret saying  I cannot have felt more sorry for them – this cannot be called willful murder; those men came into the bush with the intention of scattering pieces of me and my brother all over the bush”.  This quote is typical Ned Kelly blarney from the Jerilderie Letter – crocodile tears for Police shortly before he began preparing to massacre many more of them at Glenrowan. 

Whats worse than this subtle undermining of the contrary arguments are the overt misrepresentations and falsehoods presented as fact. We have already remarked on David Griffiths solemn description of how the Police killed the Kelly cows and horses by poisoning their dam, an item of his  familys oral history based on a lie told by Ned Kelly.  It didn’t happen! Worse still is the sequence immediately after reconstructing the Police murders at Stringybark Creek in which McQuilton dramatically lifts a covering on a Police pack horse to reveal the infamous “body straps” and four guns McQuilton describes as “State of the Art”  Martini-Henri rifles.  He explains that the Police possession of these articles supports Neds later claim that the Police had come armed to the teeth and with every intention of killing him on sight, and therefore Ned was justified in killing them in self defence. However as we now know, the body straps are a modern addition to the story, and as McQuilton ought to have known the Police only had two rifles,  and only one of them was “state of the art”. It was a Spencer rifle borrowed by the Police from a Gold Escort guard the day before the Police left Mansfield. Apparently the Policemen didn’t actually know how to use it. The other rifle they had was a “fowling piece” used to kill here, the case against the Police is created out of gross misrepresentation.

There are also huge errors of omission in this attempt to define the “real” Ned Kelly. There isn’t a single mention of the criminal background of the entire Kelly clan, of the feuds and fights between various factions within it, of Neds fathers alcoholism, of Neds earlier criminal charges for violence, obscenity, highway robbery and horse theft. Aaron Sherrit, an intimate associate of the Gang killed in cold blood by them, is described as “a local man they suspected of being a Police informant” – a deliberate concealment of the truth about the coldblooded killing Kelly authorised, using a friends murder to lure the Police into a trap, the massacre he planned for them at Glenrowan.

How can an attempt to present the ‘real’ Ned Kelly be genuine when so much of relevance to the story is ignored or misrepresented?

In fact the story is very much presented as poor and desperate selectors forced by the oppression of the Squatters and the corrupt Police into lives of crime in order to merely survive :
The squatters, always greedy for more, were ready to pounce” says the voice-over.
This relentless persecution of the family undeniably primed Ned to start his own personal war against the Police” These are awful misrepresentations of the historical truth. Kelly was of interest to the Police because of his criminal activity, and when he wasn’t engaged in it, he was left alone. This lie about relentless persecution is nowhere made more obvious than in Neds so called “quiet years” when he was supposed to be earning an honest living. There is no record or complaint by anyone of Police harassment or persecution over that time. Later, when by his own admission he returned to a life of crime, inevitably Police responded not by “persecution” but by carrying out their sworn duty to uphold the Law. Criminals when they are caught almost universally complain they’ve been picked on, persecuted - Ned was no different.

Hey we need to have a go, this is OUR country. We’ve come out of a place of oppression, we’re going to make this OUR country and if its not right, well then we can fight for it” says Noeleen Lloyd of what she believes Ned stood for. 

And later she says  I have a vision of Ned and the boys as being ‘naughty’, you know, real larrikins”  and later “ I don’t believe Ned and the boys were monsters” I need hardly remind readers these Gangsters were not “boys” they were grown men, adults.

And she has the last word as well “  He believed in loyalty he believed in mateship, standing by your mates no matter what (channeling John Williamson here I think) and believing if I started it I will finish it. And that’s about Australia isn’t it? That’s what we hold. Neds struggle wasn’t just about his family, it was about everybody ” 

Noble sentiments Noeleen, but no, that wasn’t Ned Kelly! Theres nothing special about someone believing in loyalty, standing by your mates and believing in finishing something once started, but Naughty? Shooting Kennedy after chasing him through the forest half a mile?  And then stealing his watch? Sticking a gun down an old mans throat? Planning to slaughter 30 policemen in a train wreck? Naughty? Really? And if you think Ned was struggling for everybody,what makes you think “everybody” wanted him to be stealing, lying robbing and murdering on their behalf? Certainly not me. The idea that Ned was struggling for “everybody” is sentimental nonsense. He killed one of his own friends for Gods sake!

This film does at least make some attempt to present an alternative view of Ned Kelly but there is no doubt its sympathies lie with Ned Kelly. But it wasn’t staunch enough for Ian Jones, who I noted, wasn’t involved in the Production of this one: 
The documentary really upset me. This is the third miss in succession. The Heath Ledger film missed showing us anything significant about Ned Kelly. Greg Miller’s documentary missed. It was a slap-dash exercise. The re-enactments were so hokey. Then this comes along. I had high hopes for it. It’ll be years before you can justify doing another major Kelly film/television project. That is the saddest thing of all.

“Anything that wasn’t convenient was left out. It was erratic. There were some pro-Kelly things included. I suppose you couldn’t make it totally anti-Kelly. But the whole thrust of the thing was to produce this image of Ned Kelly as an overrated thug.

In fact,  here you can read Ian Jones’ long and  very angry dismissal of this film  as “a surpsingly incompetent treatment of history” . He is clearly awfully offended that an Englishmen dared to challenge some of his cherished beliefs about Ned, particularly his precious ‘Republic’ which the director Mark Lewis described as “a myth”, and he is intensely irritated by errors of minor detail.

Jones dismisses Christopher Bantick as “ a ‘Melbourne writer’ who’s only qualification to appear in the program is a very, very bad case of anti-Kelly dementia. This is the fellow who has leapt into print a couple of times raving against Ned Kelly, once with the absolutely immortal pronouncement that what Ned Kelly attempted at Glenrowan was on a par with the exploits of the Bali bombers.  Actually, I think that’s not an entirely unfair comparison, and worthy of some debate, but Jones haughtily rejects the idea out of hand, and ridicules Bantick quite disgracefully because  long ago Ian Jones pronounced that Glenrowan was about the Republic. It couldn’t have been an act of terror!

In rejecting the crime Profilers analysis Jones repeats a trick he’s used before, deflecting criticism  or analysis of Ned based on his words in the Jerilderie Letter by saying this was a joint composition between Ned and Joe, and therefore its impossible to derive anything meaningful from it.  In fact, as Alex McDermott once pointed out, the language  of the Jerilderie Letter is the same  rhetoric used by Ned Kelly to harangue and lecture his hostages at Euroa, Jerilderie and Glenrowan – the Jerilderie Letter is pure Ned I am afraid Mr Jones! Not only that, says the indignant  Ian Jones in full flight, in the film the Kelly house was constructed of crossed logs when everyone knows it was a bark and slab hut, the Gang is shown riding up a hill when leaving  Jerilderie when everyone knows its ‘flat as a pancake’ out there, and Curnow uses a lantern instead of a candle! OMG!

And he says this, with no hint of irony :

“If you tell the story accurately, everything falls into place. People will understand what it’s all about. You don’t have to have people ranting and raving against Ned or for Ned. Just give the facts.

This is from the author of the Republic myth, an idea elaborated by Jones which was never mentioned by Ned Kelly in the numerous speeches he made to Hostages, not mentioned in any of his many letters, never mentioned by any of his supporters, not heard about by Police spies who infiltrated the Gang, not discussed at his trial, not supported by any documentation or the fondly dreamed of but never found ‘Declaration', and an idea which is contradicted by almost every deed and act and word of Ned Kelly’s during his entire lifetime. So where exactly are the facts Ian?

I think this response of Ian Jones reveals his anger at having someone challenge his previously undisputed reign as the Chief Midwife and High Priest of the Kelly Legends, Australias go-to Kelly expert and defender of the republic of North East Victoria. Why else would he react so volcanically to a documentary which is essentially Pro Ned, but which includes a few token challenges to some of the Jones-Kelly mythology, his precious Kelly Republic and errors of minor irrelevant historical detail? How dare they?

So I suggest everyone watch the film, read Ians Review, and mine, and tell us all what your thoughts are.

Monday 14 December 2015

The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection: Part II

Peter wanted to add this as a further Comment  to the ongoing discussion following what I have to call Part I, but it exceeded Bloggers allowable maximum size for Comments. Therefore I have added it as a separate Post, called Part II. I apologise if it disrupts the flow of the discussion from Part I.

I have also met Edna several times (once with Bill).  I agree with Bill that, despite her age, Edna is clear of mind and very much with it.  I find it interesting she has put all this to paper (since 1991), particularly given there has been no profit in it for her.  Whilst I have my doubts about the veracity of a lot of what she has written, I have no doubt Edna believes she has faithfully (re)told the stories as they had been told to her.  Edna is also at a stage in her life where she doesn’t care if people believe her or not.
There is some fascinating material in Edna’s book and I have made copious notes chapter by chapter.  I know many have dismissed what she has to say (I note Sharon’s “whack-a-mole” comment and Brian McDonald’s reference to her books being “delightful stories”).  I know a great deal of what she has written can’t be true, but Edna’s position is simply that she has documented what she knows and what was told to her.  So, like Bill, I believe there is truth in at least some of what she has to say, as I don’t think she could have made it up.  In any event, so much of what she has said could these days be easily proved one way or the other. 
As an example, I thought I might follow up on Edna’s reference (pp. 68-69, Vol. 1) to a badly injured young Ned Kelly being transported by Old Ned Griffiths, Ned Lloyd & Young Ned Griffiths (all these Neds, it does get confusing!) to the place she describes as "The House before Monnington - in the place that was The Griffiths' Family Home there then".  On page 185 of Vol. 1 Edna has included a photo of Monnington, but this was not built until 1886.  But according to Edna, the injured Ned Kelly was transported to the Griffiths’ family home that preceded Monnington. 
So what does an internet search of “Monnington” bring up?  Well, we find that Monnington is located at 15 Adeney Avenue, Kew (a Melbourne suburb).  It does not itself have a heritage citation, but is referenced in a heritage citation (dated 2012) for another property at 29-31 Park Hill Road, Kew.  Some key points in this citation are:

  •   29-31 Park Hill Road was first purchased by someone named Walter Hart, who sold it to prominent Kew residents and tea merchants James Griffiths and John Moore Griffiths.  
  • James Griffith’s built 'Monnington' as his residence at 15 Park Street (later to become 15 Adeney Avenue) in 1886.
  • The property at 29-31 Park Hill Road (to which the citation relates) was constructed about 1890 by the Griffiths brothers as rental properties.  Tenants after 1891 included a Robert Miller.  

Aren’t there a lot of coincidences here?  A simple internet search brings up Information that I don’t think would have been that easy for Edna to come by.  Maybe the Griffiths (at Glenrowan) did have family connections in Melbourne at this time who might well (as suggested by Edna) have felt a bit "put out" when their country relatives dragged in a young boy/man like Ned Kelly in the hope of getting him some care, legal and medical treatment.  Could Edna have made this up?

So where do you go with this type of information?  Who was Walter Hart and can it be established if he had connections with the Harts in Wangaratta?  Did the Griffiths brothers (tea merchants) have connections with the Griffiths in Glenrowan?  Could the tenant Robert Miller have been the Robert Miller from Glenrowan?  I could look further into this, but maybe someone else knows the answers already?  Sharon?

Fact is often stranger than fiction isn’t it?  If the Griffiths family are connected with the Griffiths tea merchants in Melbourne, then maybe the Glenrowan Griffiths did seek medical attention for a badly injured Ned Kelly who had been bashed by an enforcer.  And in turn maybe Ned Kelly did seek retribution against that enforcer who Edna believes went by the name of Borrin.  And with Ned at fifteen, if the killing of Borrin unfolded in the way Edna tells it and at the location she describes, then maybe his bones could be found?  Would this enhance Kelly’s reputation as someone who was prepared to stand up to a local stand over man?  Or would it damage his reputation by adding to his list of victims?  After 135 years would it matter?

Friday 11 December 2015

The Ned Kelly Center and the Griffith Connection : Part I

Here is another thought provoking contribution by Blog supporter Peter Newman. I urge others of you to follow Peters lead and make use of this opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas about the Kelly story. You cant do this anywhere else in the Kelly World.

“Joanne Griffiths, Ned's great-grand-niece, recently launched a campaign to establish the Ned Kelly Centre, a warts-and-all museum dedicated to telling the story of Ned Kelly and his many misdeeds…”
It is interesting to hear about this proposal and I suppose the “warts and all” presentation she is dedicated to telling must be the stories told in the book ‘Glenrowan’ by her relative Edna Griffiths.  This is a book I have been trying to read for some time, but it’s not an easy read because of the way it rambles and goes off at tangents.  But it is worth persevering because Edna’s stories are just incredible.  I imagine many would choose to disbelieve some of these stories, but the interesting thing is that she lived next door to Jim Kelly when she was young and her book is basically her recollection of stories she was told by the “old people” of the district including her own family and of course Jim Kelly.  

We need to be careful about dismissing oral history like this.  Maybe it’s not all true, but a fair bit of it probably is.  It is interesting that at the start of her book Edna says the story she tells is different to that told by those purporting to be historians on the matter.  And as we all know, historians often get it wrong as has been so glaringly the case with Ned Kelly.  That is only now becoming clear with the new information coming out on this website and in the books by the likes of Morrissey and MacFarlane.  The reality is that Edna is about as close to the source as you can get, and hopefully the proposed museum will help to get this information out there.  

What I find interesting is that, whilst Ned Kelly is an important part of Edna’s story (particularly the story about his killing of a local enforcer named Borrin), her book ‘Glenrowan’ is not all about Ned.  As Edna tells it, the Kellys and many other families in the district were part of a crime syndicate she refers to as the Conglomerate (and sometimes as the Empire), which was apparently controlled by James Quinn who was based at Glenmore in the King Valley.  Many of these families were comprised of “Lost Children” (i.e. illegitimate children who were fostered out and didn’t know their true parents).  

Of interest as far as the Kelly family is concerned is Edna’s claim that Ellen Kelly was known locally as Minnie-Ella and that only Kate and Dan were her children.  Edna says Jim Kelly, Grace Kelly and Maggie Kelly were all “arranged” into the family.  I’m not entirely sure if Edna is suggesting that Ned was also arranged into the family.  Certainly he had some kind of an overseer role according to Edna.  As Edna tells it however, Ned in some way upset the conglomerate’s plans, with the battle he fought at Glenrowan being as much against the conglomerate as it was against the authorities.  According to Edna, the conglomerate retaliated by conducting a 20 year “war” against Maggie and her family in which people were killed and wounded trying to defend her.  Interesting!

If Edna’s stories are true, then the Greta district was rife with crime (prostitution, cattle and horse rustling, you name it) and the Kelly family and a number of others were in the thick of it.  Quinn was the godfather it seems, and Ellen Kelly (Minnie-Ella) some kind of a brothel madam.  Edna expresses surprise that this is something that is not well known, and points out that there was no other way for women on these small lots to have made a living.

I don’t know quite what to think about all this, except that it would be great if Joanne Griffith could get her museum up and running so that she could tell us more about her very interesting family history as documented by Edna and so we could get an understanding of the Kelly Outbreak from their viewpoint.

Have any others readers of this website read Edna Griffiths’ books.  She has published about 7 volumes and I have only got through the first.  The information above is only a fraction of the interesting material covered by that first volume.  I’d be interested to know what others think of this.