Tuesday 27 October 2015

Ned Kelly's Words: mightier than Guns and Steel

One of the main reasons Ned Kelly stands apart from all the other bushrangers and outlaws is not just that he wrote letters, but that nine of them have survived to the present day. Just about everything the Gang did – rob banks, take hostages and shout them Beer and dances, pay off their network of supporters, cultivate an image as Gentlemen bushrangers - all these tactics were copied from Bushrangers who had gone before – but making Public statements and writing letters to the Authorities was something new, and was something Ned excelled at.   These letters therefore provide a  remarkable record and insight into the mind and the thinking of the  Outlaw himself. However, even though he was supposed to be devoted to his mother and his family I have never heard mention anything about him writing letters to her when she was in Prison, or at any other time, or to any other family member. If he did I would be most interested to hear about it. No, Ned Kelly’s letters weren’t personal or intimate but were documents written for Public consumption, with a particular purpose in mind and contained the narratives that Ned Kelly wanted everyone to believe was the truth about the many  dramas and controversies he was involved in. Ned Kelly stands out against all the other outlaws, above all as the great self-publicist

The other unique and memorable feature of the Kelly saga was of course the armor, but that innovation was a disastrous flop and a major contributor to the debacle at Glenrowan. The same cant be said of Ned writings however;  in fact they could perhaps be seen as Neds greatest success because I would argue that it is his writings and self promotion, more than anything else that has resulted in the Legend that persists to this day.  The Legend is essentially Ned’s version of his life as told in his writings, of an innocent hard done by farmer forced into a life of crime to defend his family and their honor from corrupt Police, squatters and the legal system. This version of the Kelly story, as we have been revealing Post by Post in this Blog is  frequently at odds with reality and the facts of the situation, but it is, never-the-less Neds view, or at least the view he wants us to believe in, and he’s been remarkably successful in having it accepted.

The most important and well-known of Ned Kellys writings is the Jerilderie Letter, written in early 1879, one truly remarkable documentary piece of Australian history. The letter itself would be worth millions of dollars on the open market, but it is now in the possession of the State Library of Victoria. An earlier version, known as the Cameron Letter was written in December 1878. I discussed the Jerilderie letter in a series of Posts last year, starting here,  but what of Ned Kelly’s 7 other letters? They are not so well known and not often the  subject of discussion or analysis. The following are my thoughts about them.

In January 1879 Kelly wrote a brief letter to The Chief Secretary of Victoria, in which he protested that, in contrast to what “that rascal McIntyre” was saying, the Stringybark killings two months earlier were acts of self defense, and that “we are not the cold blooded murderers that people presume us to be”. He accused the authorities of “committing a grave injustice in imprisoning so many innocent people just because they are supposed to be friendly to us” and he called the Police “cowards, every one of them”. Lastly he warned that “within a week” the Gang will have taken “terrible revenge for the injustice and oppression we have been subjected to. Beware, for we are now desperate men”  The following month, on February 10th the Gang raided the Bank at Jerilderie, which I presume was the threatened “terrible revenge”.

In March 1879,  Ned’s next letter was to Sir Henry Parkes the NSW Premier. This letter was discovered relatively recently in the Mitchell Library in Sydney by a Kelly researcher named John Meredith when looking through  Parkes personal papers. It was published for the first time ever, in 1980,  in “Ned Kelly : After a Century of Acrimony” by John Meredith and Bill Scott, along with the Jerilderie letter and all the other letters written or dictated by Ned. It seems Ned was angered that the Jerilderie Bank Robbery prompted Parkes to offer a £4000 reward for the Gangs capture, and his response to Parkes was to warn him that “the man that takes I, Captain E Kelly will have to be a plucky man for I do not intend to be taken alive”

He goes on to write “I tell you candidly that I intend to rob Bathurst and particularly the Bank” a threat which he didn’t make good on. He also wrote this: “Now Sir Henry I tell you that Highway robbery is only in its infancy for the white population is been driven out of the labour market by an inundation of Mongolians and when the white man is driven to desperation there will be desperate times”

These two letters are typical Ned – menacing, posturing, abusive and self promoting. The racist attitude to “Mongolians” though offensive to modern ears was probably unexceptional for the times.

The five remaining letters originated from within the confines of the Melbourne Gaol, in 1880, and were dictated rather than hand written, and were signed with an “X” because his wounds prevented him from holding a pen. The first was a request that his sister and his mother be allowed to visit him.

The second, published in the Age newspaper on August 9th 1880  is perhaps his most famous statement, the one all Kelly buffs will recognize that begins:
“I don’t pretend to have lived a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another, but the Public, judging a case like mine should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side, and after the worst has been said against a man, he may, if he is heard, tell a story in his own rough way that will perhaps lead them to mitigate the harshness of their thoughts against him and find as many excuses for him as he would plead for himself”  

It is a remarkably conciliatory and humble but articulate and uplifting statement devoid of the usual Kelly bluster and threats and angry hyperbole so apparent in all his previous statements. This is such a powerful and eloquent piece of oratory, and so different in tone and style from every other of Neds statements and letters that doubts were raised as soon as it was published that the words really are Neds. It was written before his trial and presented to the Age newspaper in the form of an interview with Ned, but the journalist was Ned’s attorney, David Gaunson. The  Ovens and Murray Advertiser said this about it “It was very clumsily managed, that interview business. They put too many big words into Neds mouth. There was too much of the big language used in Parliament in the supposed interview”  In A Short Life, Ian Jones describes the Advertiser as “anti Kelly”, but concedes “there is certainly some paraphrasing by Gaunson”. Ian MacFarlane writes “It is impossible not to conclude that Gaunson had a hand in this, carefully redrafting editing and embellishing Ned’s statements to him, transforming them into a powerful declaration” What all this means of course is that some of Kellys most famous words, words that are quite central to the image of Ned Kelly the icon and hero,  words treasured and remembered by Kelly buffs as if they are scripture, weren’t Neds words at all!

Ian Jones believes that never-the-less they were “a genuine expression of his views” and that may be so. However that doesn’t mean Neds views were accurate or balanced or necessarily believable. Take these well known words from further on in this letter: “If my life teaches the Public that men are made mad by bad treatment and if the Police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away” Here Ned Kelly is adopting the role of the martyr to gain public sympathy, claiming that all his troubles arose from “bad treatment” by the police who persecuted and ill-treated him. But this is simply untrue, as we have  pointed out previously on this Blog. Ned was treated sympathetically by the courts and the police at first, their offers of help were rejected by him early on, he and others of his extended family had close and even intimate relationships with Police, and during the so-called “going straight” years, the Police took no interest in him. It was only when he returned to “wholesale and retail” stock theft that once again the Law became a problem for him. Its  really quite absurd that Ned Kelly boasts about his life of crime and stock theft in the Jerilderie letter, but complains when Police take an interest in him whilst doing their job in response to legitimate complaints from stock owners.  The idea that he was persecuted is nonsense.

Monday 19 October 2015

The Fabrication of Kelly History

Watching and reviewing  'The Last Outlaw' TV miniseries from 1980 was an amazing eye-opener for me. I had often seen the glowing references to it in the Kelly Online world, and I recall reading somewhere that so desperate were Kelly sympathisers  to get their hands on it that they started a Petition to try to get Channel Seven to release it on DVD!  In any event, when I finally got round to viewing it myself I had reasonably high expectations for it.

Having now watched the entire thing, reflecting on it I realised there were three things that I learned that surprised me. Firstly I was surprised at how unbalanced it was. TLO presents a very heavily pro-Kelly story that relies on a highly selective use of the historical record. 

Secondly, it was  more than surprise - in fact it was shock - to recognise the brazen way the producers camouflaged the bias in their production and created an impression it was neutral and objective. This was done by such tactics as claiming that “All …events …are drawn directly from fact” and elsewhere, in the publicity material by making a huge deal of the lengths undertaken to make the sets and props true to the time. Naturally on learning this one would assume they would also go to the same lengths to get the story lines and dialog as accurate and true as possible, but as we know, they didn’t.  There was also the fallacious “argument from authority”  wherein the deserved good reputation of Ian Jones as producer and moviemaker added weight and credibility to the veracity of this, his latest production. These tactics had the intended effect I am sure of encouraging viewers to believe the Miniseries was objectively factual and true to history as it happened. In that sense one would have to say the series proved to be an enormous success, and Ian Jones must have been tremendously satisfied to have got away with it so completely and for so long. But essentially what he did was pull the wool over our eyes! TLO gave a massive  Australia wide boost to the Kelly legend, and made the myth so real that the uninformed Australian public swallowed it hook, line and sinker. They had been well and truly conned.

The third revelation that resulted from watching TLO was to realise that modern Kelly sympathisers actually know very little of the facts about the Kelly story. What they are familiar with is the Mythology, the made up version of Ned Kellys life and times as shown in works like Australian Son and the hagiography of people like Kenneally, Clune and Molony. Consequently, because it accorded with their version of the story, they regarded TLO as accurate. Iron Outlaw” described it as “the most accurate and lavishly presented telling of the Kelly story to date"- which says nothing for all the others. But if they really knew the facts, and properly understood the story,  Ian Jones wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over everyones eyes and have them calling the Miniseries “accurate”, or heap praise on it or sign petitions for its release on DVD.  If they  knew and understood the story they  might do more than react to this Blog with personal abuse and instead try to defend it but they never do. Most of them  I think simply don’t know enough. Instead they cite my awful grammar and punctuation, or the occasional strident tone of the debate to excuse themselves and run away.  If they knew and understood the story, and hadn’t swallowed Jones fabrication hook line and sinker they might not rush off to “Like” a Facebook  Page containing a doomed, now abandoned campaign against ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’, a book which brilliantly and clinically exposes the untruths paraded as history in the Kelly myth. If they knew and understood the debate we wouldn’t have now been waiting 123 days for one of them to explain why Neds account of the murder of Lonigan is believable. 

To see what I mean about having the wool pulled over their eyes read the thread named ‘The Last Outlaw’ on the Ned Kelly Forum. You will find almost no actual discussion about content; they accept it as given.  Instead the very limited discussion is mostly about actors and actresses, but with only 11 comments in total there’s really nothing worth reading there: just uncritical agreement about it being “accurate” and no critique. They’re just not up to it.

The popular press is not much better. This is what was said about  The Last Outlaw in The Australian Woman’s Weekly in October 1980, 35 years ago,  just before it went to air:

“Those people who claim that Ned Kelly was nothing more than a roughneck, thief and murderer are going to have a rough time trying to successfully argue their case in the months to come.

The Last Outlaw, the Seven Networks eight hour miniseries about the Kellys is going to convince the vast majority of Australians that there’s a lot of substance to the legend of Ned Kelly as Australia’s bushranger hero.

Ian Jones and Bronwyn Binns who wrote and produced the handsome finely detailed drama, present a persuasive case for a Kelly as a decent hardworking lad who was persecuted goaded and irrevocably driven beyond the Law by an unfairly hostile Police force backed by a repressive establishment”

This article was titled “The Last Outlaw: a loving look at Ned Kelly” indicating that the journalist who wrote it was likely yet another who had been bewitched by Ian Jones.  He let slip that he only actually watched two hours of the series, something he would no doubt have been heavily criticised for by Kelly Sympathisers if his Review had been unfavourable  but as it wasnt, his inadequate assessment was let through. What a disgrace!

Unfortunately to this day the standard of reporting on most Kelly related topics is not much better, Peter Fitzsimons massive regurgitation of the story in his 2013 book being a case in point. He also had the wool pulled over his eyes and he openly admitted that he avoided ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’ because – surprise surprise - Ian Jones didn’t like it! I reckon a decent Journalist with an enquiring mind instead of a desire just to add to his CV would have found Jones' dislike a red flag to something interesting but Fitzsimons was more interested in sucking up. Its really quite remarkable the degree to which Ian Jones has managed to dominate the Kelly scene for the last 40 years, and make his narrative the dominant one, and I am sure the success of TLO had a lot to do with it.

So, I suppose its no wonder some Australians still believe the legend of Ned Kelly was an historical reality. I wonder what would have happened to the Kelly Legend if that lazy excuse for a  journalist had bothered to watch ALL of TLO in 1980 and watch it critically, and ask the searching questions of Jones about why he omitted all the unpalatable stuff, played up the sentimental and inserted stuff for which there is not the least evidence? Perhaps if he had, Ned Kellys place in the Public mind might be more in keeping with his actual status as a criminal. But the journalist didnt  bother with the hard stuff - if he had maybe today we wouldn’t have the ugly spectacle of a Police killer, bank robber and thief being promoted  as some sort of icon. The Woman's Weekly writer at least might be let off as an ignorant Journalist, but what of the  self proclaimed experts, the Kelly Buffs who fell for it as well, and even now don’t seem to have noticed the deep problems with TLO?  Whats their excuse? About the best they could do I think would be to plead ignorance.

Thursday 15 October 2015

The end of The Last Outlaw

John Jarratt in Wolf Creek : was he closer to the real Ned in this role than when he played him in TLO?
Ive now watched the rest of The Last Outlaw, Episodes 3 and 4, which detail what happened after the Police murders at SBC, shown at the end of Episode 2, and ending of course with Neds hanging. Seen purely as entertainment, I would give it a pass mark as Soap Opera, which according to one definition I found is "A drama, typically performed as a serial on daytime television or radio,characterized by stock characters and situations, sentimentality, and melodrama" Its also typified by characters who are one dimensional goodies – the Kellys and their allies – or baddies – the Police and the Squatters.  So we have a jolly scene of the Outlaws returning home for  a happy Xmas reunion, romantic interludes among the Eucalypts between Kate Lloyd and Ned, hostages dancing merrily at the Ann Jones Inn and beautiful shots of horses and riders galloping exuberantly across the picturesque countryside. On the other hand Police are portrayed as universally unattractive and devious;  one couldn’t create a more evil  and less believable Police Commissioner than Standish – but real people are not like that even if they are corrupt or incompetent.

Also typical of Soap is camerawork that lingers long on extreme close-ups of faces that fill the entire screen, and background music that tells us what we are supposed to be feeling – sadness or empathy for the Kellys, contempt and disdain, and a sense of something malevolent for the Traps, amusement  and delight at the antics of the gang when taking women and children hostage and robbing Banks.

But as I have already pointed out, what we are being shown is not the truth but the Mythology of Ned Kelly, a private version of history  created by Ian Jones who has said he believed if Ned was not a villain he was almost an “un-beatified saint”.  Its obvious Jones prefers the latter possibility and tries hard to prove it. As Ive already noted Jones suggests from the beginning that the ideas that took Ned down the pathway to criminality were never his own : George King introduced him to horse stealing and sowed the seeds of resentment towards the Squatters and the Police, and in Episode 4 Tom Lloyd is the one who erodes Neds faith in Aaron Sherritt and encourages his murder. 

Neds own ideas are expressed in statements like “Not a word about us calling it quits if they would free our mother” and “ We’ve tried to get Justice and to lead our own lives”. These are made up bits of dialog, but for obvious reasons Jones never has Ned uttering any of the words he actually used in the Jerilderie Letter, hate-filled bloodthirsty language of torture and vicious threats of cruel punishments and death to anyone who would dare oppose him or in any way help the Police.  Such talk would ruin Jones carefully crafted image so he ignores it. Jones actually claimed in a Radio interview that much of this rhetoric is from Joe Byrne, once again attempting to keep Neds image squeaky clean at the expense of someone else in the story.

Where in this miniseries is the “wholesale and retail” stock theft that was such a large part of Neds adult life, the forging of Sales documents, the slaughter of horses to conceal evidence, the gambling, and the hooning about town with the Greta Mob?  Where are the fights and disputes that occurred between  various members of the Quinn and Kelly clans? Where are the other lovers that Mrs Kelly took after Red died?  Nothing is  mentioned about the sly-grogging and other dubious activities said to be taking place around the Kelly homestead. All trace of the intimidation and terrorising of hostages at the Bank robberies and at Glenrowan is wiped from the record. These unattractive “Facts” about Ned Kelly, like his language in the Jerilderie Letter are not drawn on by Ian Jones because they disturb his myth. Instead he has the preposterous image of Ned bouncing a child on his knee in the middle of a hostage crisis, and shows him cheerfully clearing the table and emptying a bath for the pregnant Mrs Devine – but no re-enactments of him warning the Policeman that harm might come to his wife and children unless he does exactly as he’s told, or vision of Ned shoving the barrel of a loaded revolver down the throat of an old man who dared challenge him! Why are these facts ignored? And why, when there are NO facts to draw from at all does he create a scene where a meeting takes place to draw up a Charter for the Republic of North East Victoria? Why? Because Jones is selling a myth, his private fantasy about Ned Kelly, and being a skillful movie maker, I have to say he does a damn good job.

As entertainment its well done and it works - I confess I had a lump in my own throat as Ellen embraced Ned in his cell the night before his execution, and a tear in my eye when he was hanged and all the sympathisers wept and wailed at the Prison Gate. Less well informed people watching this  series uncritically would easily be persuaded it could be the truth, not least because of the disingenuous claim at the beginning of each episode that “All events…are drawn directly from fact” Moreover, in publicity supporting the Miniseries, much is made of the desire of the Producers to make the sets and the props and  even the minor detail as accurate as possible. I noted that when Ned fired a test shot into the armor, it was into the inside of the breast plate – a trivial but true detail. I read that the Police uniforms were exact replicas, with five buttons rather than the four found on the uniforms of Police from NSW. All this attention to detail, to the physical setting adds further to the feeling that this is really what happened.

The truth is Ian Jones  did such a brilliant job that everyone was convinced. I am amazed that nowhere on the internet can I find a single critical word about this series – it seems to have been universally acclaimed and yet where were the Kelly buffs and the actual historians who could have challenged this skewed version of history, added some notes of caution, pointed out how the unpalatable parts of the Kelly story were left untold, how “facts” were invented, or ignored or misrepresented? Perhaps, because Ian Jones was already an acclaimed and respected producer nobody even thought to question his approach, or the Story he wanted to tell? So he got away with it for 35 years - but not any more.

So, in answer to Comments made to the previous TLO Posts of mine, yes, I am critical of Mr Jones. In particular I am critical of his failure to recognise his own loss of objectivity regarding the history of the Outbreak and the life of Ned Kelly and as a result claim to be presenting an objective account when in reality he provides a very partisan view carefully created out of whichever selected facts suited his purpose.  The truth is that Mr Jones has had an enormous impact on one of the great Australian stories, and is in no small way directly responsible for the misapprehension by many of us that Ned Kelly was a hero worthy of inclusion in the history books alongside other great Australians like Burke and Wills, or John Monash or Leichardt, Batman and Lalor. He was not. 

In my opinion, The Last Outlaw is really best regarded as Ian Jones fantasy of how he wished Ned Kellys life would have been. If it had been like that, as Ian Jones presented it,  then Neds  status as Icon and Hero might be reasonable. Instead what Ian Jones has given us is not historical truth but a great and clever rendition of the Kelly Myth. Believe it or not!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

TLO Part Two : the Vilification of George King

The “poverty stricken" Kellys and George King
I described Part one of this 4 part 1980 TV Miniseries on the life of Ned Kelly as “choloform on film” because it was so slow and it portrayed Ned Kelly to be a gormless goody–goody, an obvious misrepresentation of the truth of who he really was, even in his younger days. Part Two covers the events of 1875 to 1878, the period from the days when Ned was supposedly going straight, through to the “Fitzpatrick Incident” and ends with the police Killings at Stringybark Creek. Thankfully, as entertainment, the second episode is much more interesting, but as with the first Episode it is far from being reliable as historical truth. Nevertheless I can start to see why Bill says TLO was “the viewing highlight of the week” back in 1980!

In this episode Ned at last starts to come to life, the first signs of passion appearing when at the races he angrily confronts Mr Whitty, a wealthy land-owner . Ned demands an apology from him for claiming that Ned stole a bull,  something Ned says “I never done”.  Whitty refuses to apologise and dismisses the Kellys as “thieves larrikins and a blight on the district”. This dialog is of course entirely fictional, and framed to suit Ian Jones purpose of portraying squatters as arrogant bullies and the selectors as innocent and hard done by. As readers of this Blog will know, James Whitty was  not at all the ogre that Ian Jones and the Kelly myth need him to be to sustain their “poor Ned” sob story, (read here) but a man who had worked his way up from nothing, gave a lot back to the community and  had good cause to regard the Kellys as a blight. Ned Kelly was intensely envious of  Whittys success and carried a deep personal grudge against him. In the Jerilderie Letter  Ned  complained that it was  Whittys fault that he became a criminal, but in the Last Outlaw this decision is prompted by the subtle corrupting influence of George King.

The Last Outlaw portrays the Police as schemers and corrupt, and none more so than Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, the Policeman Kelly sympathisers so love to hate.  By contrast the Kellys  and their friends and acquaintances  are unfailingly presented as decent  honest caring country folk, and as victims  - it all gets rather emotive and sickly sentimental, but I suppose thats what TV audiences want. To my surprise, even though Ned Kelly claimed in the Jerilderie Letter not to have been at home when the “Fitzpatrick Incident” took place, this pivotal event in the Kelly story is re-enacted with Ned making an appearance. Virtually every Kelly scholar would agree with this depiction, because virtually every Kelly scholar accepts that Neds claim not to have been there was a lie – but THIS fact about Ned Kelly, that he was a known liar is never revealed in The Last Outlaw…or remarked upon anywhere else in the Kelly world for that matter.

It becomes very clear in episode Two that what we are watching is not history but the mythology about Ned Kelly that Ian Jones wants us to believe was history. He portrays Ned as a na├»ve and trusting country boy with a strong commitment to family values and a sense of right and wrong, an impressionable  impetuous young man who is easily influenced by those around him: at one point, after Ellen had been arrested Ned decided to give himself up but is dissuaded from doing so by Dan; on another occasion, getting all worked up about his mother again he wants to  rush out and take the Police on directly but this time Thomas Lloyd stops him.

But in Ian Jones mind the greatest influence on innocent Ned comes from the shady and smooth talking Machiavellian figure of George King. He is shown altering horse brands and painting their feet, smoking and drinking and lounging about in Bars and gambling dens, planting subversive ideas  into Neds unwitting head and craftily molding Neds innocent character to his own ends. King introduces Ned to the idea of taking action against his perceived enemies, introduces him to horse stealing, and even to the idea of a Republic, but in the end he proves to be a coward and liar who abandons Ellen when things become difficult. But by then, in Ian Jones narrative, the damage has been done - Ned has been converted from a naive trusting farmer into an angry and scheming  activist and budding gang leader. King is not portrayed as someone inspiring Ned to great moral deeds but a manipulator who uses Neds concern for his family and his growing resentment towards Police and Squatters to motivate him towards seeking revenge.

King is described by Ned in the Jerilderie Letter as being a great horse thief, but given the unreliability of this letter, indeed the lies contained within it, there is a legitimate question mark over Neds claim. In fact, as I understand it, almost nothing is known about George King, other than his name. I would be very pleased if anyone can point me in the direction of some facts about George  Kings life, but I haven’t come across any of significance. Its possible that Ned was using King as a convenient scape goat, someone to shift blame onto because by the time he made these allegations George had mysteriously disappeared and was not around to defend himself. Ned was free to say whatever he liked about George. It’s been suggested he may have been killed, he may have fled the district or even the country but why and how he vanished is a complete unknown. In spite of this great mystery Jones doesn’t hesitate to make George King central to the making of Ned Kelly and of the Outbreak. 

Episode two ends with the Police killings at Stringybark Creek.  This time it seems to suit Ian Jones to follow rather than dismiss Neds account, and the invented dialog recycles the now discredited ideas that the Police purchased specially made body straps to bring corpses out of the bush, that they  were disguised in plain clothes and were heavily armed, and had the intention to shoot first and ask questions later. Lonigan’s death is enacted as Ned Kelly claimed in the Jerilderie Letter, with Lonigan being killed by a single shot as he lifted his head from behind a log to take aim at Ned. As readers of this Blog know, that account is clearly another of Neds lies, as it is contradicted by the forensic facts about the Policeman’s demise, and neither does it square with McIntyres recollection of what happened. (read here) In fact  Lonigan was shot four times,  and though he ran for the log he had no time to get to it, let alone to draw his gun and aim at Ned. 

In conclusion, I return to Ian Jones  claim that in this miniseries “All…events..are drawn directly from fact”. However as I have pointed out, in many places such as in the case of George King, in the absence of facts Ian Jones invents them, but who would know? In the case of the death of Lonigan, the known forensic facts are ignored. But who would know? The claim by Ian Jones that ALL events are drawn directly from fact creates an impression that as far as possible the series is accurate and reliable as historical truth, and imparts an authority to the series that it otherwise wouldn’t have - indeed that is the point of making that claim, but as we have seen it is utterly illegitimate - the claim  is simply not true - so should I call it a lie?

Thursday 1 October 2015

Kelly Fanatics are on the Nose even in Beechworth

A couple of weeks  ago the  Beechworth  Historical Re-enactment Group announced they were looking for a new “Ned”. The person who grew a big bushy beard and played this central role in the recent Ned Kelly Weekend had decided he didn't want to do it again, so they were advertising for a new volunteer to step forward. 

And then to my complete surprise, after their AGM last Monday they announced, as in a death notice that  - “with much sadness” -  they’ve abandoned plans to hold the Ned Kelly Weekend in 2016. This ends  a 13 year-long run of the annual event, and though they say they are just having a break for a year,  its pretty obvious they are fed up with doing Ned Kelly re-enactments and want to get on and do other stuff. 

“Its time too get get back to our roots and reenact all aspects of the 1880’s and not just the Kelly story which has dominated our group for the past few years”

This is really quite a significant change and shows that interest in Ned Kelly Mythology is shrinking even in Kelly country. One presumes the visitor numbers are down - because if the thing was booming everyone would be happy - and clearly theirs having a real struggle finding anyone interested enough in the Kelly myth to  donate the time and effort to help them run the NKW.

On the NKF and IronOutlaw Facebook pages comments on the decision reveal that there have been “shitfights” going on among the organisers and wanna-be organisers, and a feeling that in recent years the whole thing has been a bit lacklustre. This is what the Ned Kelly Forum key master wrote about it

“yes people this is the politics of our Ned Kelly world at its worst. This is a disgrace and those individuals who were a part in doing this ought to be ashamed of themselves and all will be made public very soon"

I hope he is feeling ashamed of his own role in this - last year  the NKF offended the NKW organisers by putting on a show of their own on the same weekend and just up the road, so they could take advantage of the hard work the NKW people had done in organising their event and attracting the crowds. This year it was announced on the IO Faceboook page that they were all “back in love” having somehow patched up the relationship between the two groups but I suspect its all gone sour again. Given what I have seen of the way Kelly Fanatics behave towards people who have different opinions to their own, I am not surprised the NKW people have decided to abandon the whole thing. They are probably trying to rid themselves of kelly bullies who tried to dominate their organisation and compel it to present Kelly as a hero and a saint. 

So this is a step in the right direction, a step away from re-enacting myth and pretending its history, perhaps towards a more honest presentation of Kelly country history in the future, one that acknowledges other views of Ned Kelly.  Ive noted that the Ned Kelly Vault pointedly states at the very top of its Facebook page “We are not a shrine we are a museum” 

It will be interesting to see if the NKF Keymaster makes good on his claim that “all will be made public very soon”. - in other words he wants to air all the dirty linen. In my experience the loud mouths on NKF are all talk and no action.

I wish the Beechworth Historical re-enactment Group all the best for the future and congratulate them on this bold move, putting the Kelly fanatics in their place.

The tide has clearly turned and is now running out on Kelly Mythology.

APOLOGY TO NKF : the announcement about being “back in Love” was made on the IronOutlaw Facebook Page, not the NKF Facebook Page as I originally mistakenly wrote. I was informed of this in an anonymous comment which I won’t publish but I apologise to the NKF for this error. I do note however that the person they described as “matchmaker” was a prominent NKF Member, the self described “Neducator” whose talk created all the acrimony when the NKF promoted it in competition with the NKW. 

And, incidentally I couldnt help noticing tonight that the NKF Key Master has quietly deleted from yesterdays  Post his claim that “all will be made Public very soon”  This was what I predicted yesterday from the kelly loud mouths - all talk and no action. I wonder who told him to pull his head in?