Saturday 28 March 2015

Ned Kelly : Violence and Indecency

Ned Kellys first two encounters with the Law ended well for him. The charges relating to his assault and robbery of a Chinaman, and of Highway robbery in company with Harry Power were all dismissed, a result which puts the lie to the modern Kelly myth-makers narrative that the Police and the Judiciary were corrupt and determined to do whatever it took to get the Kellys behind bars.

However, the next time Ned Kelly appeared in Court, less than six months later, he was not so lucky. He was 15 and received a sentence of Three months imprisonment for Violent Assault,  and a £10 fine or three months hard labour for Sending an Indecent Letter. There were also sureties totaling £60 to pay.
This is what happened: the owners of a horse  accused Ned of having taken it, possibly to help pull a wagon out of the mud. The horse was subsequently returned to the owners, the McCormicks, but there was a verbal altercation between them and Ned who denied taking their horse, a denial he repeated in the Jerilderie Letter.  Later that day Ned sent the McCormicks two calves testicles wrapped in a note that, according to Ian Jones suggested Mr McCormick tie these testicles “to his own cock so he might shag her better the next time” This insult was designed to be especially hurtful to the couple as Mrs McCormack was known to be childless. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by doing this – the argument had ended - it was simply provocation from someone looking for a fight.

Naturally, when they were delivered, no doubt as Ned expected,  the McCormicks were incensed and returned to angrily confront him. Once again accused of having taken the horse, Ned reacted by punching Mr McCormick in the face :

“my horse…..jumped forward and my fist came into collision with McCormicks nose and cause him to lose his equilibrium and fall prostrate. I tied up my horse to finish the battle but McCormack got up and ran to the Police camp. Constable Hall asked me what the row was about I told him they accused me and Gould of using their horse and I hit him and I would do the same to him if he challenged me” (Jerilderie Letter)

Peter Fitzsimons calls this entire incident “ a grubby adolescent lark”  - but  it was more than that. It wasn’t just a prank, it was an entirely gratuitous pornographic insult to an infertile woman, and a violent assault on her husband by an ill-mannered youth, a smart  arse looking for an excuse to bash someone.

I think its worth pointing out that the victims of his verbal and physical assaults were not squatters or the wealthy or the powerful but simple hawkers, poor people like the Kellys - his own kind. Also worth pointing out, is that according to Keith Mcmenomy, Gould later admitted that Ned had indeed taken the horse. So Ned was a liar.

Well, you might say, he was just a hotheaded youth, and indeed he was.  He got caught out telling lies and angrily  attacked a man who challenged him. But as an adult 10 years later when he dictated the Jerilderie letter as a mature man has he grown up and developed a more mature view of what happened? The answer is no - in fact in his account in the Jerilderie letter he repeats his lies and there isn’t the slightest hint of remorse, regret, reflection or insight into what happened.

Instead Kellys interest is in excusing himself and blaming others for what happened – it was Goulds idea to send the testicles; Tom Lloyd delivered them not Ned; Mrs McCormick made the horse jump and caused Neds fist collide with Mr McCormicks face; and ten years later he still defiantly repeats his threat to assault the Policeman if he repeated the same accusation. -  he still believes that if someone insults you, you should beat him up. This is incredibly immature behavior from a teenager, and not behavior you would expect a 24-year-old adult or someone writing some sort of Manifesto for a higher political ideology to approve of.  Neither is a smart arse and bully the kind of character you would uphold as an Icon.

And is there anything about this incident which sounds like Police persecution of an innocent struggling selector? I cant see it.

In keeping with the Kelly fanatics habit of airbrushing out unpalatable truths from the Kelly story, this incident is barely mentioned on the Iron Outlaw version of Ned Kellys life – less than one sentence - and Ian Jones calls it “ a silly squabble”. In fact, when you read what happened and think about Ned Kellys involvement in this “silly squabble” you realize that this episode is important because of  the way in which it sheds light on the character of Ned Kelly. It exposes him as a loud mouth and a “smart arse”, a bullying youth who gratuitously involved himself in someone else’s dispute, presumably for the opportunity to show off to his peers, and ended up in gaol at the cost of almost all of his mothers meager savings.  This incident also exposes the nonsense that the Kelly Clan looked after its own : in the end Ned and his mother couldn’t afford the last £10 fine, and even though Uncle Jack had just received the reward of £500 for betraying Harry Power, he didnt help them out and Ned served three additional months in Beechworth Gaol.

What a charming story. No wonder Iron Outlaw covered it in only ten words! 

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Ned Kellys Charge Sheet

Assault and Robbery with violence
14th October 1869    

Highway Robbery  
Two counts, as an accomplice of BushRanger Harry Power     
5th May 1870                      

Indecent Behviour
30th October 1870
Convicted: 3 months imprisonment

Receiving a horse
16th April 1871
Convicted : 3 years imprisonment

Horse Stealing 
25th January 1876 
Arrest Warrant issued   
Case dismissed

Riding on the footpath, 
Resisting arrest
14th September 1877 
Convicted, Fined £3/1/-

Horse Stealing
15th March  1878 
Arrest Warrants issued

Murder of 3 Irish Policemen, Stringybark Creek 
26th October 1878 
Oulawed on November 1st

Armed Holdup and Robbery of National Bank, Euroa
10th December 1878 

Armed holdup and Robbery Bank of NSW, Jerilderie
8th February 1879

Murder of Aaron Sherritt
27th June 1880 

Armed holdup at Glenrowan, 
29th June 1880
Ned Kelly Captured,

Hanged for Murder :11th November 1880 

Given that there is supposed to be a debate about whether or not Ned Kelly was a criminal or a hero you might have expected to be able to easily find in the Kelly literature a simple List of  all the criminal charges that were leveled at him. After all, there seems to be no end to the parade of authors, commentators, movie makers, tour operators and souvenir sellers who seem to want to perpetuate this notion that  there is some sort of balance between the arguments for and against, and therefore one might expect in the interests of balance  equal time and space might be made for both sides of the argument. In fact, the public discussions are overwhelmingly about the Heroic Ned. It is of course a false dichotomy – a tactic aimed at trying to maintain a space for the Hero myth and at the same time diminish the influence of the historical truth about Ned Kelly, that he was in reality a Villain. 

So, in the interests of balance, I am going to remedy an obvious deficiency in the 20 year history of Ned Kelly online and list for discussion Ned Kellys Charge sheet, point by point.  Sympathizers will says its “anti Kelly” and that this is because I am a “hater”. But my interest is in historical truth, and unless Kelly sympathizers want to abandon their over used tactic of saying the argument is still unfinished they will have to agree that these discussions are a legitimate part of the debate.

Todays Post will be about the first two charges : Assault and Robbery with violence, and Highway Robbery, both of which were dismissed.

The first relates to an altercation between Ned Kelly and a Chinese Hawker named Ah Fook.  Following Ah Fooks complaint  that he had been beaten and robbed the Constabulary arrived the following day to arrest Ned, but he bolted out the back door and headed for the bush, as any innocent person would! However he was chased down and arrested. In court, one of the witnesses was Annie a sister of Ned, another was a man who later married  Maggie, another  sister of Ned, and the third witness was an employee of Ellen Kelly! One can hardly have expected these witnesses not to back Neds version of events but because they all contradicted  Ah Fooks version the charge was dismissed, but understandably 
“ with apparent reluctance", according to Ian Jones. 

As is so typical of stories involving Ned Kelly, the truth is hidden under a confusion of differing descriptions, suspicion of collusion between the witnesses, and by inconsistencies between Neds protestations of innocence and his actual behaviour. Ian Jones as he so often does, recounts the truths that sometimes must hurt him to report, but quotes Beechworths “Advertiser” which wrote 

“ It is impossible to avoid coming to any other conclusion that the charge of robbery has been trumped up by the Chinaman to be revenged on Ned Kelly, who had evidently assaulted him” 
Jones than adds 
“That may well have been true though it means that the Kelly witnesses also lied”

Jones also quotes the Benalla Ensign: 

“The cunning of Ned and his mates got him off”

So what does this tell us about Ned and the Kelly story? This is clearly NOT a story of police corruption, of persecution  and harassment of the poor and innocent selector, of  a harsh Judiciary oppressing the  rights of hardworking farmers - A chinaman complained he had been assaulted and robbed, the Police did their job, the Courts did theirs and the case was dismissed. If Ian Jones is right it is in fact a story of a youth who has a problem with self control, a person who later bragged about how he liked to use his fists, who assaulted a disgruntled Chinaman, and of a family ready to lie to protect him. Can someone please show me whats Iconic or admirable or a role model in any of this? I hope Kelly supporters  don’t believe that family values includes lying to protect violent offenders.

Looking for the IO discussion on this important topic, Ned Kellys first appearance on a serious charge in Court, all I could find were  two inaccurate sentences - the magistrates name was not Wyatt but Willis, and he was arrested for assault and robbery with violence - but this is all they wrote:

At the age of fourteen, in 1869, Ned was arrested for assaulting a Chinaman. He was kept in the Benalla lockup for 10 days and then reluctantly released when the magistrate, Alfred Wyatt, dismissed the charge." 

I have talked before about the airbrushing of history that pro- Kelly writers are so fond of doing - this is a perfect example - a disgraceful episode in the life of a 14 year old Ned Kelly that  they want to forget about, and so, in their narrative it hardly rates a mention! In contrast to that, the same IO article devotes 5 times as many words to the heroic story of Ned at the age of 10, rescuing Dick Shelton from a flooded creek. Puberty had certainly wrought some nasty transformations in the mind of this former hero.

So what of the next charge on his Sheet, two counts of Highway Robbery in the company of Harry Power? Power was an escaped prisoner who became known as a Gentleman Bushranger, and Ned became his accomplice in mid 1869 for a short time, and then again for a few months at the beginning of 1870. His first spell as Harrys assistance ended in humiliation for Ned when they were discovered and shot at, and as a result of Ned panicking, they were nearly caught. A clue to why Ned accompanied Harry in the first place, and why despite the humiliation he returned a few months later is provided by Ian Jones who says that after the first episode  Ned “returned empty handed to the winter world of boggy tracks and swampy paddocks and the day-to-day drudgery of 88 acres”

In truth working a selection was a long, difficult back-breaking slog, there was no glamour or excitement in it, and it was almost impossible to make a living from it, especially in the early years. By contrast, Bushranging had too much to offer - a glamorous wild life on horseback, easy money, short hours, travel...

In the end, after only a few months Ned gave it away for the second time because Harry was too difficult a person to live with. But when he returned to his mothers place, the police were ready for him and he was arrested in a dawn raid. By then, there was a reward offered for information leading to the capture of Power of 500 Pounds, the equivalent of 10 years labourers wages. It seems that in their eagerness to get Power, the charges against Ned were serially dropped as he provided them with information and assistance in their hunt for Harry. Later, they lent him money to pay for hotel accommodation and expenses and though he promised to repay it, he never did. According to Ian Jones an offer was made to help Ned resettle out of the district and away from the criminal environment of his extended family, but in the end he returned to them, complaining that everyone believed it was he who had betrayed Harry Power, and so regarded him as “a black snake” In fact Jack Lloyd led Police to Harry, but the reward went to Jimmy Quinn, one of Neds uncles. The family were obviously prepared to work with Police when there was something in it for them!

So were these charges against Ned trumped up charges against an innocent downtrodden selector trying to look after his mother and her poor farm? Was this a case of an innocent person being persecuted by corrupt authorities, as the Kelly myth makers would have us imagine were the real basis for Neds unfortunate interactions with the Police? Clearly, the answer again is NO, emphatically NO.
Neds life was poor, but nobody forced him to become the associate of a wanted criminal did they? Isn’t it rather a case of a young man wanting to escape the drudgery and the hard yards of selector life, preferring the money and the glamour, the “ flashness” and the thrill of the life of a bushranger in the company of the admired Harry Power? It was nothing to do with Politics or the Republic or social injustice - it was simply an attempt that is motivated like most criminality, by a desire to find a short cut out of a hard life. The Law caught up with him and treated him leniently.

Ironoutlaws account of this episode makes light of it, and makes no mention of the support Ned received from the Police. But what Ned was involved in was robbery of innocent and terrified travellers at gunpoint. Again I ask can someone please show me whats Iconic or admirable or a role model in any of this?

Saturday 14 March 2015

IronOutlaw started 20 years ago Today!

Fourteen days ago on the Iron Outlaw Facebook Page it was announced that the IO Website would be 20 years old in “exactly two weeks” – which is Today! Its a remarkable achievement  for any Internet site to have lasted that long – and it has become an extensive and useful repository -  some might suggest suppository -  of Kelly-related information, links, discussion and commentary. An enormous amount of work and time has been invested in it. I wonder how the Kelly fanatics would feel if I was able to have it removed from Cyberspace for ever? – they might like to think about that when they wonder what it is that motivates me – but thats an aside.

Brads celebratory note on their FB Page includes a plea for more people to contribute but all they have managed so far is the usual lazy Facebook “Likes” from 74 people and a meager total of 18  who were prepared to do more than just click their Mouse and actually Congratulate him.  If I were him, after all that effort I would be pretty pissed off if that’s all my “Supporters” could manage: 18 die hard Kelly Fanatics out of 22 million people for whom Kelly is supposed to be a National Icon! That’s an awful lot fewer than were claimed for Ned when he was alive so the trend is ominous! And I am more than happy that it continue, though I suspect they are down to the irreducible hard core.

The IO site owner Bradley Webb says hes looking forward to the next 20 years, but clearly, what we should be celebrating right now is the Death of the Legend, the death of Kelly fanaticism and the end of the Kelly Myth, because that’s whats evidently happening, if Internet interest in Ned Kelly is anything to go by:

  •      In the last three months there have been ZERO letters published on IO : either none are complementary enough for Brad to risk publishing them, or else there are none.
  •       The madman with the Anti book Facebook Page last posted that when he had new information to post about those Letters, he would put it up but that was two months ago. NOTHING at all has happened.
  •       The NKF seems to have had one new member join, but NOBODY wants to talk to him about Peter Fitzsimons Kelly book, or about anything else, so that Forum is dead.
  •     NONE of  them can be bothered defending their Kelly beliefs on this Blog – and I think Ive given them plenty to respond to. 

The irony of the demise of IO Website, and Kelly Fanaticism generally is that the thing that made IO possible, the World Wide Web, is also turning out to be its undoing, in the form of the pernicious Facebook. By giving the uninformed  out there the option of just clicking and Liking , and looking at selfies and links, they think they are participating and learning but its an illusion- they are reducing the whole Kelly thing to a flim-flam of superficial back-slapping and ignorant remarks that couldn’t even be described as Comment.

And yet, in the last couple of years there have been some really important developments in the Kelly story, publications especially, that ought to have created huge interest and discussion. Instead the lightweights and the sympathisers in the Kelly Fanatic Fraternity have dismissed them as “anti-Kelly”, censored any attempts to debate them and instead concentrated on media reports of trivia like a Ned Kelly Musical, or a coin with a Kelly helmet on it.

Brad also discussed what he calls “Haters”, a term like “Anti-Kelly” which is used to characterize and dismiss inconvenient people and ideas rather than debate and discuss them. These terms and tactics are often found in the Comments and Posts of Kelly Fanatics, though their preferred response to alternative opinion is to delete censor ban and block such voices wherever possible – hence their destruction of numerous Forums, - two of which were mine - banning of members they took a dislike to, deletion of comments and banning from Facebook Pages, - but it isn’t always possible to do this - so then they resort to the mature tactic of name calling: “haters” and “anti-kelly” among others. 

Brad Webb promised to “list the best of the worst hate sites below, for you to view at your leisure”. This got my hopes up, thinking he might mention this Blog, but he didn’t so maybe he doesn’t regard this as a Hate Site; more likely hes terrified of providing a Link to it! In the end he listed only one so called Hate Site, a place I had visited months ago that is well worth a visit, because it perfectly illustrates the fondness Kelly Fanatics have for bullying and for suppression of alternative points of view, something of which I too have first hand experience.

This so called Hate site is called “Ned Kelly Australian Ironoutlaw .com”.  It’s a few posts made in 2011 and nothing more, its Author it would seem sensibly got on with his life and forgot about Ned Kelly and the bullies on IO. But now, four years later the issues are just the same : the bullying, censorship and personal attacks by Brad Webb and other Kelly Fanatics. Another favourite of theirs, which they persist with despite repeated embarrassing failures that leave them with egg all over their faces time and again, is to publicly expose my "true identity" : at the moment Brad Webb says I am Bills daughter and another nutter says these Posts are all written by Ian and I post them for him.  I have no idea why they cant simply accept the truth that I have explained numerous times to them, which is that I am just another person all-together writing my own Blog and protecting my identity from bullies and nut jobs on the Internet.  These fanatics will do anything but discuss serious issues.

Frankly I hope they keep it up because as long as they continue with their mad  behaviour, to be so publically intolerant of other points of view and so dismissive of genuine enthusiasts like Bill, serious published Authors like Ian MacFarlane and Craig Cormick – both of whom Brad Webb described as “clowns” - and at the same time so approving of bullying - even within their own ranks - of censorship, and of abusive anti-Police sentiment,  the accelerating loss of interest in Kelly fanaticism by the Australian public will also continue. This decline has been greatly boosted and reinforced by Ian MacFarlanes book The Kelly Gang Unmasked, and the more recent Morrissey book Ned Kelly A Lawless Life, as well as by Greg Cormicks one. Nowdays when the curious investigate the truth about Ned Kelly these resources which were not available till recently, now expose the nonsense of the Kelly Fanatics like Brad Webb, and the myths and untruths they peddle. Couple that with their on-line behaviours and the demise of Kelly sympathy is  too easy to predict unless something changes radically. But nothing will. Curiously, Brad says he is looking forward  to the next 20 years : well so am I, and I expect by then Kelly fanaticism, which already has one foot in the grave will be “dead buried and cremated.” Australia will have grown up and moved on. 

Tuesday 10 March 2015

More Uncritical Kelly Rubbish

When I saw the image of Ned Kelly on the cover of a glossy magazine prominently displayed at the Newsagent the other day, I picked it up thinking to myself  “Oh no, here we go again, more nonsense about Ned Kelly”. The Magazine was titled “Australia The story of Us” and is apparently being issued in conjunction with a TV series of the same name on commercial TV. This was issue two of the Magazine which highlights “The extraordinary people places and events that shaped us” and  proclaims itself to be a description of “How our ancient land became a Modern nation”.

Inside there are lots of illustrations and photographs, and 25 short chapters, each purporting to be  a story about a significant moment of Australian History. In keeping with its commercial TV origins, the magazine is actually a disgraceful unbalanced and superficial pretense at History telling that for many will be swallowed as “Educational” but in fact its more like Propaganda for a sanitized and white liberal view of Australia. Reading it makes my skin crawl. Its appalling that garbage like this is published and beamed into Australian living rooms and consumed as “information”. If you try to watch the programmes on the website, advertisments  constantly intrude and make it unbearable.

For a document and TV series that thinks its telling “The Story of Us” why are there four pages devoted to a hyperbolic story about Keith Murdoch – Ruperts father, six to Dame Nelly Melba, six to Ned Kelly but only one to the Stolen Generations, one to Womens Suffrage, and two to the White Australia policy? Norman Lindsay gets two pages – but in keeping with the prim and proper ethic of this piece of nausea, none of the photos are of his half naked women, the feature of his work that is most well known! One in five articles is about war and Gallipoli, and I suspect the main purpose of the entire production is about further manufacturing  and mythmaking of the ANZAC legends.

So what of Ned Kelly?  Well only the topic of Federation took up more space in the magazine, and Ned was displayed on the cover alongside an obvious ANZAC soldier, and a woman, perhaps Melba, shrunk to occupy less space than Ned Kellys head. But really, to have Ned Kellys image posted alongside the ANZAC on the front cover, and  for his exploits to be given more attention than Nurses, Federation or the Overland telegraph is to vastly and ridiculously over value even the greatest Kelly fanatics delusions about what he achieved.  The most the Fanatics ever come up with is some minor Police reforms and some further improvement of the Legislation governing ownership of land, a process that was already in train and in constant evolution long before the Outbreak. In truth apart from boosting movie making and the Tourism and Souvenir industries of the north East, Ned Kellys actual contribution to “The Story of Us” is almost non-existent.

As I expected the article perpetuates the Kelly Myth by repeating the tired old “hero or villain” party trick, and as usual ignores his criminal record of violence and stock theft, and gets fundamentals of the story plain wrong. It repeats Neds lie that he was hundreds of miles away from home at the time of the Fitzpatrick incident; it says the first Trooper killed was Kennedy; it says Neds last words were “Such is Life” ; theres a photo of a document said to be the Jerilderie Letter : its not; theres a photo said to be of a man holding Ned Kellys skull in 1969 – he wasn’t!

Unfortunately the magazine doesn’t identify who wrote this piece of rubbish, or any of the other pieces in the Magazine. However given the standard of the Kelly article there would be no reason not to believe the other articles, and the TV program itself  will be riddled with mistakes and historical untruths, and amount to  nothing more than cheap commercial mangling of Australian history.

This Magazine and story about Ned Kelly is mentioned on the NKF Facebook page, and “Liked” by 10 members. They would either have to be deeply ignorant – which is entirely possible – or else have not actually read this article – which is more likely -  to have “Liked” it. I have been banned from posting to Ned Kelly Forums Facebook Page, so cant comment about it there but it doesn’t really matter because they all visit this Blog regularly and when next they do will learn something useful about “The Story of Us”. Maybe then they will go back and “Un-Like” it – that’s what I would do!

Thursday 5 March 2015

Ned Kelly was not a Prophet

Another piece of Kelly mythology that needs to be put to bed is the idea that the trial Judges death not very many days after he had sentenced Ned Kelly to death, was the result of some sort of curse or a kind of Prophesy made by Ned Kelly.

In fact, there is a little uncertainty about exactly what Ned Kelly is supposed to have said in response to Barry finishing his sentencing of Kelly with the words “And may God have mercy on your soul” 

It was either 
Yes, I will MEET you there” (The Age, Oct 30th 1880) or, 
I will go a little further than that, and say I will SEE you there where I go” (The Argus)

Either way, there is nothing in those phrases that sounds like a curse or a prophesy to me, but rather I believe Ned was making the point that wherever he ended up after death, that’s where the Judge was going to end up as well. Ned was quite disrespectfully – some might say bravely – or perhaps arrogantly – telling the Judge “Youre no better than me” an idea which I am sure sympathisers both then and now would have agreed with. 

It is of course an unfortunate irony of history that a criminal stock thief, bank robber and murder, a psychopath with a charismatic way is remembered and feted as some sort of hero – thankfully by a diminishing , and now insignificant number, whereas one of the genuine leading lights and pioneering founders of Melbourne and of Victoria is almost forgotten.

One of these days I might write a more complete Post about Sir Redmond Barry, but if you go HERE you can watch this interesting little Video clip commenting on the relationship between Ned Kelly and Sir Redmond Barry. At the very end it says something I hadn’t known, and which reveals something quite wonderful about the Judge: when he died, there was almost nothing in his estate – he had given it away to the Poor. Kelly, by contrast, who trumpeted his concern for the poor, did nothing for the poor unless there was something in it for himself, protection, sympathy, food and shelter. Kellys concern for the poor was a pretence, but Barry was the real deal.