Saturday 30 January 2016

Lost and Found : Kelly Armour

I have been prohibited from contributing to any Kelly discussions on the Iron Outlaw Facebook Page, and the Ned Kelly Forum Facebook Page, but I check them out at intervals to see if anything interesting is happening on either of them. Usually I am disappointed : this week for example on Ironoutlaw they are “liking” a new book that recycles the absurd conspiracy theory about Dan and Steve surviving the fire at the Glenrowan Inn. This perfectly illustrates the gullibiity of so many sympathisers, and how little they are interested in critical thought or rational analysis. Ian Jones must despair at times at the intellectual quality of the rabble who follow his Kelly mythology, and who use his name to try to legitimise the rubbish they put in print.

Another item that caught my eye on Facebook recently was a claim made on the Facebook Page of the Ned Kelly Forum that a piece of Ned Kellys armour has gone missing. Because I am unable to contribute there I will comment here, on my Blog – and maybe people like Bill and Peter among other interested and knowledgeable readers might be able to contribute their thoughts as well, and progress the discussion a bit further because it didn’t get anywhere on the Facebook Page.

This  Facebook Post was headlined “Breaking News” which seems a bit hysterical as the topic was something that happened in 1955. The author of this Post, ‘SJ’, watched a DVD which included a short film called ‘A Message to Kelly’, made in 1955, and he noticed a steel component of the armour hanging off the bottom of the back of the armour like the front one does. SJ called it a back lappet plate. Now I don’t know about anyone else but I have never seen an image anywhere  other than on this movie of any suit of the Gangs armour with a ‘back lappet plate’. But, according to SJ that ‘back lappet’ though having never been seen before or after that movie was made, is ‘missing' and “SJ” claims the NKF are working with the State Library of Victoria to try and find it. 

He also claims that in the movie, the director Rupert Kathner “inspects Ned Kelly's COMPLETE set of armour”  a statement that’s simply not true, because as you will see in the movie and even in the photos supplied on the NKF Facebook Page, the left and right shoulder armour is missing. Now, SJ is not a person I have any faith in as a source of reliable information - he’s the one who rubbished Greg Cormick of “Ned Kelly Under the Microscope” fame on those same FB Pages, and also the one who claimed in 2012 to know exactly where Ned Kellys skull is.  He’s got the same track record as the NKF member who announced he had solved the Lonigan killing mystery over 220 days ago, but has still not fronted up with it. So I read his breathless claims somewhat sceptically I have to say. SJ provides a phone number for the SLV but if you ring it you’ll discover nobody there has ever heard of SJ or the so called ‘missing' armour.  I get the feeling that he’s not so much “working" with the SLV as  ‘pestering’ the SLV and big-noting himself because he sent them an email. 

Of all the various suggestions about the missing armour that followed in the subsequent discussion, the best suggestion was that the ‘back lappet plate’ was actually Neds left shoulder armour, which as I noted, and SJ did not, was not in its usual position. I could easily imagine that if you were assembling the armour and had just one piece left over you might think it must hang off the back to balance the piece hanging off the front. However ‘SJ’s response was “When comparing the unidentified piece with the left shoulder plate currently on display with Ned's armour the two still look as though they are completely different pieces but needless to say, we have sent an email to the SLV to see if they can help confirm this information or not” Two weeks later if they replied SJ hasn’t mentioned it.Maybe they replied and told him to go away...

A still from the movie. The ‘back lappet plate’ is narrow enough to fit between the right side of the breastplate and the Armour stand just visible lower left.
A close-up of my photo : the hexagonal rim of the hole is easily visible as is a small bur on the edge above it, also visible on the Movie frame above

It just so happens that I have quite a nice picture of the left shoulder armour, taken at the Imagining Ned Exhibition last year, and comparing it with the still from the 1955 movie convinces me that the ‘back lappet plate’ is indeed the misplaced left shoulder plate. What I noticed in both photos, apart from the identical 'sugar scoop’ shape of the pieces was the raised almost hexagonal shaped edge to the hole in the top right corner of the plate, and just above it at the superior edge of the plate itself theres a distinct little bur that casts a shadow. The other important thing to notice is that it isn’t wide enough to reach and cover the vertical timber stand in the middle of the armour, so it simply isn’t wide enough to be a 'back lappet plate’ but is the perfect fit for the shoulder piece. You can see the vertical frame that  supports the whole suit of armour just to the left of the bottom of the ‘back lappet plate’ which is attached quite close to the bottom right corner of the front breastplate ( as viewed from behind ).

I’ll be interested in what others think, but I think SJ can stop panicking about the lost armour and ring the SLV and tell them to stop looking for his missing part because it never actually existed. The so-called 'back lappet’ is the left shoulder plate in the wrong place.  

Tuesday 26 January 2016

The Ned Kelly Republic is a Fairy Story

Iron Outlaws Australia Day message is a lie : “In 1880 Neds dream was a Republic of North East Victoria”

I call it a lie, but it could also be called a fairy story because a lie and a fairy story are both stories that aren’t true. The important difference though is that nobody pretends that fairy stories are actually true.

This great Myth about the Kelly Outbreak was analysed in depth last year. In that discussion last year people asserted they believed it was true and that there were convincing arguments, but not a single scrap of direct evidence was ever produced. Its a great read(here

In regard to Dans alleged survival I recently posted that as long as people keep claiming it, we  will just have to keep  pointing out their mistakes, and its no different with the Republic : as long as people keep asserting it, I will keep on showing it be a hopeful fantasy propped up by Kelly sympathisers who are in denial about the truth of the Kelly outbreak.

Now, exactly a year ago , at the end of the discussions that followed my Post about the Republic, I summarized the debate like this : 

It seems the Kelly Republic discussion has run out of steam! I had a vague hope that someone would come up with something substantial but now I realize that the most remarkable thing about the idea of the Kelly Republic is how very weak the so called “evidence” is that supports it :
*Speculation on a rumor from a journo that a notebook and letters were taken from Neds pocket in 1880(no mention of a Declaration mind you)
*A mention in an Irish Magazine from the 1920s that cant be found
*A mention in passing by Max Brown in 1948
*A recovered memory by another journo of having seen a Declaration in London in 1962, and a claim by some other unnamed person to also have seen it
*Contradictory claims by Mr Lloyd about minute books seen 40 or perhaps 80 years before
*Another unnamed person still alive who also claims to have seen them
*Elaboration of the above by Ian Jones, Molony and everyone since into a full blown exposition of Neds republican Ideology!

In contrast to the speculation that is the foundation of the Republic idea, these facts had to be ignored to do it:
*Ned Kelly never ever mentioned a Republic
*No other member of the Kelly Gang or any of its sympathisers/co-Republicans ever mentioned it
*Ned Kelly specifically stated what his motivations were but the republicans don’t accept them!
*No early author ever mentioned the Republic
*Extensive searches have not found the Document seen by the Journalist in 1962

One of the most interesting new facts that emerged from my own investigations last year was the unreliability of the main source of information about the Republic idea, Mr Thomas Lloyd. He told Ian Jones in 1964 that his father recounted that when he was ‘a boy’ he saw notebooks that contained the minutes of the meetings that Ned and others held to plan the Republic. The problem with that claim is that when those meetings were supposed to have been taking place, Thomas Lloyds father was not “a boy” but a 22 year old man. This means that what he saw as ‘a boy’  - lets say 10 years earlier when he was 12  and Ned was 14 – whatever those meetings were about they were nothing to do with Ned or a republic.  Alternatively, if you want to argue that he was simply mistaken about his age at the time that he saw those books, my reply is that if he cant remember something as fundamental as his age, whether or not he was a boy or a man when he saw something, why would we believe anything else about that memory, except perhaps with a large grain of salt?

There is another problem though. This informant later told a completely different story to John Molony in 1976, contradicting the one he gave to Jones by now saying that the “boy” who saw those books was not his father but he, himself. In a Court, this mans evidence would be dismissed as completely unreliable.

Gary Dean told me that Kelly sympathisers in Kelly Country resented Ian Jones probing and prying into their history back then, and so they told him ‘tall stories’, whatever they thought he wanted to hear, and kept their secrets to themselves. The trouble with ‘tall stories’ is you have to remember them so you don’t contradict yourself when telling it to someone else later, which seems to have happened when John Molony turned up asking the same things a few years later. I  have no idea if Deans view is true or not but its curious that Thomas Lloyd provided two different stories – they undermine his credibility and the believability of the already flimsy Republican myth.

The truth is this : there is very good evidence for what Ned Kelly had in mind for Glenrowan, both in his actions and in his actual words - it was about family, about retribution, and his hatred of authority and the Police. Nothing at all, in anything he said or did, or in anything the so-called Sympathisers ever said or did , or in anything that has come to light since, provides any support or even the slightest hint that a Republic of North East Victoria was ever in anyones mind. 

Placing Ned Kellys image anywhere near the modern debate about a Republic would be like using Jack the Ripper to promote Safe Houses for women fleeing domestic violence. Revolting.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Strange words

Sorry but this is NOT Ned Kelly....or is it?
‘Mind you die like a Kelly, son’ were Ellen Kellys last words to Ned. They are described by Ian Jones in ‘A Short Life’ (p392 in the 2008 edition, Jane) as ‘strange words from a mother such as Ellen to a son such as Ned’.  So what was strange about them, and what did she really mean?

According to “Ned Kelly Volume 1” available from Amazon as an e-book,  Ellen was really saying  Die AS IF YOU WERE a Kelly’ – because she knew that the man about to be hanged wasn’t her son, he wasn’t a Kelly at all but  a convicted Swedish murderer from NSW, Alfred Engstrom.  He was going to “Die like a Kelly” to maintain the Police secret that Ned had already left the district and was living as Mr J Thompson in Adelaide!
Note the Typo. Big ears? 
This work has a catchy alternatve title “Kelly-Gate: Unmasking the Ned Kelly Conspiracy” and seems to have arisen out of an observation made by the author, when comparing  the size of Neds ears in a photo taken as a young man and in the photo taken the day before he was hanged at Melbourne Gaol. He writes “The man we hanged was not Ned Kelly – he had small ears….while a younger Ned had large ears

I immediately looked at those photos of Ned and sure enough in the prison photo the ears DID seem smaller. Talk about things being hidden in plain sight - there couldn’t possibly be any other explanation for this apparent discrepancy between two photos from the 1800’s. No doubt about it – different sized ears in old photos can only mean one thing : these were two completely different and unrelated men! And, obviously if that’s the case then everything else we thought we knew about the Kelly Outbreak is all completely wrong. All of it. The whole  lot! 

Big ears?
Small ears?

The author of this myth-shattering revelation is  Melboune ‘medicare accredited’, bulk billing Clinical Psychologist, Dr Michael King PhD, PhD (yes twice!) M.App.Sci, M.Ed. He would appear to regard himself as in some way qualified to analyse photographic evidences because he advertises himself as being available for ‘legal and forensic reports’ . He says he completed this book in 1997 but an unnamed Publisher “took actual money for his efforts and merely messed around with it until the writer gave up hope. Then came Amazon Kindle and a couple of friends said “put it out there

Volume 2, still to be published “discusses in forensic detail every known fact and fiction relating to the Kelly story, showing how most of the Glenrowan myth just could not be true”. Well yes, of course! In Volume 3, also still to be published, there is ‘an extensive personality assessment of the man behind the mask’

King writes that he made a study of Ned Kellys personality mainly using  Ned and the others’ a book by Gary Dean and Dagmar Balcarek, and says he ‘emerged as a sociopath’. According to King, Ned was sick of running, he wanted the hunt to end, and in desperation agreed to a diabolical plan devised by Superintendent Hare : Ned would bring the Outbreak to an end by betraying the gang in return for his freedom. Aaron would be the first to die but  Hare insisted no harm was to be done to the Policemen in his hut. A train would be sent from Melbourne to bring a convicted murderer from NSW, Alfred Engstrom, to replace Ned using the Police-made armour as a disguise.  Engstrom, impersonating Ned, would be ‘captured’, and the rest of the gang killed. Later, Engstrom as Ned would be hanged and the Kelly gang consigned to history.  And isn’t that exactly what happened? Remember when Ned left the Inn during the siege and for several hours his whereabouts were unknown? Did he not re-emerge in armour from behind Police lines early in the morning? By then, the substitute had been made – it was Engstrom - and Ned was already galloping to Echuca, a Paddle-steamer down the Murray to Wentworth, and freedom.

Unfortunately for the author of this convoluted explanation for what happened at Glenrowan, it is a spectacular failure of the test of Occams razor, and for that reason alone can be dismissed. It fails a whole lot of tests, but the one that’s fatal to this mad conspiracy theory is the one provided by Science: when the bones of the ‘fake’ Ned were examined, they contained scientific proof  in the form of DNA evidence that whoever it was that was hanged, it wasn’t a Swede but a direct descendant of Ellen Kelly. Not a fake at all. Who else but Ned? Explain that Mr King!- actually no, don’t bother - It will just be another chapter of insane conspiracy, and I’m getting tired of them.But I have to say, I just love science - the way it cuts through bullshit is spectacular!

The only reason anyone ought to read this mad nonsense is if they’re interested in seeing a conspiracy theorist at work. 

Thursday 21 January 2016

Well, yes, actually you WERE burnt to a cinder...

Dan or Steve? Imagine how intense the heat of the fire must have been to do this 
The other claimants to be  Dan or Steve had less to say for themselves and are harder to research. But there is a broader point that needs to be made here about people who wish to assert something extraordinary, a new hypothesis perhaps, something thats contrary to the accepted wisdom, a claim to have survived a raging inferno : the responsibility of proof rests with the claimant. This argument for example, on the James Ryan Memorial in Queensland, is a fallacy : “Hundreds of historians from all over the country and even those who had associations with the Kellys could not disprove that James Ryan was not Dan Kelly”  Who cares if nobody can DISprove something - no-one is under any obligation to do so - its up to the person making the claim to provide their proof. And if the only evidence they provide, such as the stories of James Ryan, is demonstrably wrong or untestable then proof has not been provided and the claim can be dismissed. Come back with proof when you think you have it, but don’t turn logic on its head and claim its MY job to disprove your claim.

The other debating point I wish to make is that this subject is a perfect illustration of the value of Occams Razor, that the simplest explanation is usually the best. In this case by rejecting the simplest explanation - which is that Father Gibney and the police correctly identified Dan and Steve as already being dead and it was their bodies that were raked from the ashes - one is left with a huge list of conundrums to be solved, beginning with the reasons the priest and the Policeman were wrong, the actual identity of the corpses, an explanation of why nobody ever mentioned the vagrants, the absence of evidence of a cellar, the mechanism of survival in a cellar and escape from the middle of a crowded crime scene, and an explanation of the subsequent behaviour of the survivors. 

So instead of adopting the illogical approach of trying to disprove the extraordinary claims of various people to be or to have met Dan or Steve long after they were supposed to have been incinerated at Glenrowan, I decided a fresh approach was needed. Thinking about the scars many of these claimants alleged were received in the fire at Glenrowan I embarked on an academic exercise that was a lot of fun, and very revealing: was survival even physically possible? The answer presents an insurmountable obstacle to anyone claiming they did.

Gary Dean is recorded in Paul Terry’s book saying there’s  ‘family lore’ telling of a cellar  ‘three foot by three foot by four’ with a heavy steel lid. To me this seemed like rather a small ‘cellar’, more like a pit, but I decided to investigate the feasibility of two men being able to survive the incineration of the Inn by squeezing themselves into it and pulling the steel lid across to close it. Ive had to read up on the physical conditions created by burning houses and the physiology of human survival and death in fires.

I am going to assume that the space is airtight, because a fire consumes all the oxygen in the air around it and would have sucked it out of the Cellar if it hadn’t been airtight, leaving anyone in there to asphyxiate almost immediately. The likelihood of a Cellar being airtight is not great, so thats a serious problem right there but lets just forget that for now and think about the air in that space, which is just a little more than one cubic meter. I will also assume that the two men have no volume and the entire cubic meter is air they can breathe. 

Air is 21% oxygen, but in a sealed space the concentration falls as Oxygen is used up, and once its fallen below 17.5% a person becomes disorientated, irrational and has trouble controlling their muscles.This is one of the reasons why people get trapped and die in burning houses - the reduced oxygen level quickly leaves them confused disorientated and unable to  walk properly. I quickly found on Google  information about oxygen metabolism and a formula for working out how much oxygen there would be in that ‘cellar’  (210 liters), how much oxygen a person at rest consumes per minute (0.38l/min) and from that how long Oxygen could be extracted by two people before the Oxygen concentration fell below 17.5%: it was about 47 minutes.  In fact survival time in that space would be very much less than 47 minutes because in a state of anxiety and terror rather than at rest, Oxygen consumption is a lot higher.

More interesting than this was the discovery that in a sealed space people don’t die because they run out of Oxygen but because of the build-up of Carbon Dioxide, which we produce and emit as we breathe out. Running this calculation reduced survival time to less than 20 minutes. 

Lastly I considered the effect of heat.(HERE) I found a table that suggested in dry heat at 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius), human survival would be only a matter of minutes. I also found that in a typical house fire, the temperature reaches a massive 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. A steel lid would have been almost white hot, and even if the temperature in the Cellar only reached a quarter of what it was in the middle of the fire, it would have been impossible to survive more than a few minutes. Forget the carbon dioxide toxicity, forget the oxygen depletion – the heat would have killed anyone in that cellar within a few minutes. This is undeniable undisputable scientific fact. Anyone interested to dispute this should first look at the grisly photos of the fire ravaged corpses that were retrieved by Police from the ashes of the Inn, or go HERE and read some quite graphic descriptions of how people died by suffocation and by roasting in buildings consumed in the firestorms of WWII, and in caves swept by Flamethrowers. 

The suggestion that Dan and Steve could have survived the fire by hiding in a cellar and then shortly after it had burnt itself out emerge unseen by the crowd of press, police and public onlookers surrounding the site and disappear into the bush is absurd in the extreme; it is simply impossible. Whats more, nobody EVER reported finding a cellar in the ruins of the Ann Jones Inn, but even if they had, and even if it was ten feet deep, no human would have been able to survive the heat the fire would have exposed them to, steel lid or not. 

As far as I am aware, nobody else has ever attempted to apply science to the claims that Ned and Steve survived, and determine if its even humanly physically possible. The result of this analysis is unequivocal : it is not. The reality would seem to be if they had attempted to avoid the inferno by hiding in a cellar, it wouldn’t  have been airtight and they would have suffocated quickly as the fire sucked all the oxygen out of the air, and then ...well it hardly bears thinking about. Considering the desperation of their circumstances at the time, their decision to commit suicide was about the most rational thing they did all day.  But what a horrible place for these young men to have ended up in...

Paul Tully needs to remove that stupid sign in the Ipswich Cemetery, a sign that is testimony to the gullibility of Publicity seekers that would no doubt have James Ryan chuckling in his grave. No doubt its also an offence to the Kelly descendants, to have what effectively amounts to promotion of a Kelly imposter and an implication that Dan turned his back on the struggles of his bereft and grieving mother, and the rest of the family who wept over a body and a grave that belonged to a vagrant. If Gary Dean  reads this Blog my message to him would be that he should make better use of his newly acquired degree in Archaeology than wasting it digging up the bones of old shysters and conmen. He is very welcome to send in his responses for unedited publication here.

The ‘beardless boys’ Father Gibney and Constable Dwyer reported seeing in the burning inn with armour laid out beside them were not two mysterious drunk swagmen that nobody ever remembered seeing, they were Dan and Steve whose horribly burned bodies were later buried in nearby cemeteries. They never made it to Queensland.