Friday 26 February 2016

The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers

This work is one of the oldest of the classics of the Kelly literature, and the first of its 8 editions was published in 1929. Mr Gerald C Stanley, JP, who wrote the Foreword, believed that until then ‘almost all the books written on the Kelly Gang have borne the impress of crass prejudice and gross libels on the Kellys and their relatives

He goes on to say that the Kellys were ‘grotesquely represented as brutal criminals whose blood lust could be sated only by an almost daily murder; whereas in actuality they differed very little from other young men of their day and their conduct was the very antithesis of bloodthirsty. Subject to continual Police persecution blamed for every petty crime committed in the districe their mother thrown into Gaol for an alleged assault on a police officer subsequently dismissed from the service for misconduct, it is small wonder  that these high spirited youths, nursing a fierce resentment of the injustice they had suffered should, mistaken as they may have been, as a last resort, give battle to their persecutors’

According to the books Author, J J Kenneally all previous books and publications were almost exclusively written at the suggestion of that blind national or local prejudice which displayed unspeakable contempt for the sacred virtues “Truth and Justice”

What follows however is a further display of contempt for truth and justice, a Kelly narrative that makes so little attempt to be even handed or balanced that one instinctively distrusts it. But then, Kenneally says that ‘the information necessary for me to write the Inner History of the Kelly Gang  was willingly supplied  by members of the Kelly family and those relatives who were actively engaged in protecting their kith and kin from being betrayed for ‘blood money’ by their relatives”  So what would one expect to read except revisionism, justification, excuses for the Gangs behavior and condemnation and excoriation of the Police? And remember that this ‘information’ was already at least 50 years old by the time it was remembered for Mr Kenneally.

Take Kenneallys account of the life of Red Kelly: 
He was a man whom the Landlords and their henchmen regarded as a menace to the continuation of the injustices so maliciously inflicted on the people of Ireland. Like other patriots he was charged with an agrarian offence. With Jury packing reduced to a fine art the ruling class in Tipperary had no difficulty in securing his conviction and transportation to Van Diemans Land”  

Needless to say this is a highly prejudiced and contentious view of why Red found himself transported, some would call it a misrepresentation, but its hardly worth the trouble of refuting it. Read what Ian Jones has written about this in ‘A Short Life’ to get a truer and more dependable account.

Kenneally then goes on to describe Reds life in Australia as being hampered by the continual intrusion of Police who without the authority of a search warrant frequently searched his home without success He has Red marrying Ellen AFTER buying a farm at Beveridge,(WRONG)  and AFTER his successful venture to the Goldfields(WRONG). He describes Reds arrest and conviction in regard to stealing and killing a calf as a trumped up affair(WRONG) and says Neds deterioration after the sentence was as a result of his treatment in Gaol: notwithstanding his good health and perfect physique when sentenced, he died shortly after his release”( WRONG and WRONG)

Thanks to much better research by  modern writers like Max Brown and Ian Jones we know that Kenneallys understanding of Reds life was inaccurate to say the least.  As described in my recent Post, Red was NOT hounded by Police after he completed his term as a Convict, he was given what Ian Jones called a ‘generous’ remission of his sentence, and it was Reds alcoholism that caused his families economic collapse and his premature death. At the time of his imprisonment Reds health was already in serious decline.

Kenneally does however provide as an addition to the fourth Edition, a comprehensive refutation of the claim by an ‘imposter’ in Queensland to be Dan Kelly, survivor of the siege at Glenrowan.

A large part of this book consists of argument centered around extracts from the reports of the Royal Commission. Kenneallys arguments are based on so many prejudices about the Police and so many false notions about the Kellys that refuting them one by one would take forever, but in any case its unnecessary. Its unnecessary in the same way as its not necessary to refute the claims we now know to be false in say a Textbook of Geology, or a medical Manual, or a book on powered flight written in 1929 – modern knowledge and scholarship have rendered these texts obsolete, their explanations as flawed, their data bases as limiting. These texts, like JJ Kenneallys work may be quaint and interesting from an historical perspective but can no longer be relied on as sources, except perhaps in documenting the way in which understanding was so limited all those decades ago and how knowledge has advanced since.

In that light, its interesting that Keneally doesn’t mention body straps or a Republic of North east Victoria! It’s a curious book with a crusading moralistic tone that is more like a Political Pamphlet or an Evangelical Tract than something intended to be a serious work of historical writing. His interest is in spinning a story and in sanitizing the reputation of the Kellys. You can read the entire book for free here.

If anyone still believes that Kenneally was interested in Truth and Justice, consider this remarkable statement from the end of the book (p188):
Judge Barrys unlawful unjust and maliciously threatened sentence of fiteen years on Ned Kelly at Beechworth in October 1878 already referred to, was responsible for the deaths of ten persons. He was responsible fore the shooting of the three Policemen at the Stringybark Creek; he was consequently responsible for the  shooting of Aaron Sherritt; he was further responsible for the  shooting of Martin Cherry and Mrs Jones little son at Glenrowan; he was responsible for the death of four bushrangers

Oh yes, according to Jerome, it was all Barrys fault, nothing to do with Ned at all! This is myth in an almost pure form!

Saturday 20 February 2016

Another Kelly Myth Implodes!

The following is a story that promoters of the Kelly legends wouldn’t want you to read, even though it’s a true story about what happened to a family of poor Irish Catholic migrants to Australia in 1841. The  reason Kelly sympathisers wouldn’t want you to read this story is because it undermines the myth they want you to  believe  about poor Irish Catholics in Victoria at that time, that everything was stacked against them and that their lot was one of Police harassment and persecution, exploitation and poverty. What their myth teaches is that the Kellys were just another God fearing  Irish Catholic pioneer family, struggling not only against the elements,  but something far worse, a British colonial system that was actively prejudiced against all of them and determined to dominate and oppress them.  Heroically of course, Ned Kelly decided to fight back against this injustice  – and if they became ‘criminals’, they were ‘police-made criminals’ -  or so the Kelly’s would have us believe. This story shows otherwise.

So what would a poor Irishman, his wife and eight children, yes, a family of ten have to look forward to when they arrived almost penniless in Melbourne, in the winter of 1841? They had fled the Irish famine which killed a couple of million people, but arrived in Melbourne ‘at a disastrous time. Falling wool prices, a punctured land boom and rampant imports brought a four year depression…businesses crumbled with bankrupts paying as little as a farthing in the pound..”  And of course if we are to accept the Kelly legend, the whole ‘system’ was stacked against them. Had they leapt from the frying pan only to find themselves in the fire?

It simply MUST have been really hard going, to arrive with almost nothing and a large family, and to provide even the barest of the necessities of everyday life from day one. However, our poor Irish immigrant told his young family they had come to Australia to ‘improve their position’ so he set to work and took a job as a Porter. This work would have been poorly paid so perhaps he worked long hours, or had two jobs, but eventually he had enough to rent some land and buy some cows and bullocks. Now, his wife and the older children could help with the work, milking the cows while he carted goods and sold firewood in Melbourne. It seems they all worked incredibly hard so that by 1849 they were able to rent a bigger property 30 miles from Melbourne.

The following year, his eldest son tragically drowned, but in  Melbourne, his second eldest daughter married a man called John, a fellow Irishman with a convict background who had also arrived in Melbourne with nothing, but he knew bush carpentry and how to split logs and do fencing.  He was permitted to build a small dwelling on his father-in-laws property and worked for him in what by now had become a lucrative trade breeding and trading in cattle and horses.  John briefly joined the Gold rush and returned with enough money to leave the farm with his wife and baby daughter and buy land of his own, 41 acres, two miles away, at Beveridge. In 1859 he bought more land totaling 21 acres as well as two half-acre township allotments. He built a house, and things were really looking up.
The house red Built at Beveridge
John was of course  ‘Red’ Kelly, his wife was Ellen by now the mother of Ned, and her father, the Irish immigrant who had arrived penniless in 1841was James Quinn.  In 1856 James’ 15 long years of hard work paid off and he bought 422 acres of his own next to his rented land. Later James Quinn challenged the right of the Roads Board to cut his property in two with a new road, and won compensation, and then in 1864 paid  £2000 for a 20,000 acre lease on the King River, Glenmore Station. Another land owner not far away in the King Valley with a  quite similar story, was James Whitty. He also was an Irish catholic who arrived penniless and by dint of hard work and clever business deals also became a wealthy landowner.

This is the point at which its necessary to take stock, to look at the fortunes of the Quinns and of his daughter and son-in-law Red Kelly,  and of Whitty, and ask where is the tale of oppresson and persecution, of being deliberately kept poor, of harassment and provocation? These people were all poor Irish Catholics, penniless and powerless on their arrival in Melbourne, yet they went on to lead useful and comfortable lives and gained the respect of their communities, with no hint of hindrance or interference by colonial powers. The truth is, that up to this point the story is one of freedom to work, to travel, to buy and sell land, to marry and to come and go in pursuit of ones own dreams, and for people willing to work very hard, of reaping the rewards. Remarkably, James Quinn challenged the Government in the Courts and won compensation – something the Kelly myth would never have predicted was possible in a system they claimed was so loaded against them. This story is most definitely NOT a story of  ‘suffering innocents’ and persecution by a malign Police force and corrupt authorities.

The rest of the story unfortunately fails to live up to the promise of the early years, John Kelly dying in poverty only seven years after he bought his second property at Beveridge. However his tragic decline wasn’t a result of Police persecution; it was a direct result of his fondness for alcohol, and the effect this had on his farming ventures, and his ability to survive through a drought. The farms failed and as a result he sold up at a loss and moved even further north, to Avenel. He drifted deeper into poverty, and only then was there any involvement of the Law in his life, when he stole a calf and killed it for food in mid 1865. Here, rather than observing an example of what the Kelly myth would predict - harsh and unfair treatment by Police and the Judiciary -  we observe lenience as he was convicted of the lesser charge of being illegally in possession of a cow hide. The sentence was a fine of £25, or, if unable to pay the fine, six months in Gaol, which is where he went.  Ian Jones writes “he was probably released in the first week of October with a generous remission of more than two months” – that ‘generous remission’ once again disproving the Kelly myth of poor Irish Catholics, and the Kellys in particular as always being mistreated and discriminated against by the Authorities. In December he was fined 5 shillings for being drunk and disorderly, but that was the last time the law took any interest in him. In 1866 “Red fought a losing battle with the farm and with booze. His liver and heart suffered.  As the year rotted away Ned helplessly watched his father destroy himself” (Ian Jones A short Life 2008 Edition p30) He died on December 27th aged 45, a terribly sad and tragic end to a life that came so close to breaking the shackles of a convict past. But lets be very clear about this : Red Kellys demise, and the poverty and deprivation that Ellen Kelly found herself in by 1866 when Ned was 11, was NOT a result of Police persecution or harassment by authorities with a prejudice against Irish selectors : it was a result of Red Kellys alcoholism. - nothing to do with the Police, nothing to do with the Law , nothing to do with ’the system’.  The truth is that no matter how fervently Kelly sympathisers might want to look elsewhere and for someone else to blame for this tragedy, its the Kellys themselves that were responsible.  How different the history of North East Victoria might have been if he had beaten the drink and been there to provide a positive role-model for Ned and Dan as they grew up, and teach them the values of hard work and patience, and respect for law and order? We will never know.

James Quinn on the other hand continued to prosper, and wasn’t victimized by the Police, or brought before the Courts, but even though he set a fine example of the value of determination and hard work it seems these lessons were lost on some of his children. In 1856 his 15 year old son Jimmy (James Jnr) was charged with possession of stolen cattle but was discharged. In 1860 he was jailed for six weeks following a conviction for Assault, but on another assault charge and one of Horse stealing he received the benefit of the doubt and wasn’t convicted. The Kelly myths would have you believe the Police were picking on him; but as Ian Jones says (p18) ‘If this is true he also received the benefit of the doubt three times out of four – as he would in another Horse stealing  case almost as soon as he was released from Prison. Less lucky on a charge of Illegally using a Horse he served a four month sentence. Tall darkly good looking young Jimmy had begun a long career of crime, most of it generated by a volcanic temper that led him into a succession of brawls and sometime murderous assaults, punctuated by a few stock thefts. Cause and effect can be debated but he emerged as a dangerous unpredictable ratbag of a man, rarely out of trouble’ 

Some years later, another insight into the dark character of this man is provided by his readiness to assist the Kellys supposed  enemies, the Police to catch Harry Power. Working with Jack Lloyd, another of Neds uncles, he received a share of the Police reward of £500, but shortly after, when Ned was a meager £10 short of meeting the fines he was ordered to pay after his convictions in relation to the McCormick affair, neither of those two men was prepared to help him out. As a result Ned served an extra three months hard labour - so much for the Kelly clan solidarity!

Its interesting to compare Jimmy with his older brother Jack , who also seems to have flirted with a life of crime. In 1860 Jack was charged with Horse stealing and later in the year for cattle stealing, and the following year with Robbery under Arms but on every occasion he escaped a conviction. Many years later he was named as a sympathizer but wasn’t ever again before the Courts. Again we see another scenario that doesn’t match the Kelly myth of  Police-made-criminals, of oppression and unfair treatment in the Courts. Instead what actually happened was that the Law treated Jack Quinn correctly and even though there may have been smoke Police couldn’t find a fire and he was discharged every time. If  Jacks involvement with the Law was a result of a corrupt system and Police harassment, why was he never convicted of anything and why was he left alone from 1861?

As for Jimmy, which Kelly sympathizer then or now would be so foolish as to suggest that poverty and deprivation and a system biased against Irish Catholics was to blame for what he became, that Jimmy was a ‘police made criminal’?  The Kelly sympathisers own ‘doyen’, Ian Jones says Jimmy Quinns problem was his personality, his volcanic temper. Jones obviously doubts the "we were picked on” refrain of the Kellys and their supporters. 

What I am showing here, from historical facts and not  the conjecture and ‘family tradition’ which make up the Kelly myths, is that there was NOT widespread victimisation by the Police and by the Authorities generally, of poor irish immigrants.  In fact the evidence largely supports the exact opposite of the Kelly myth. This myth is an invention of the Kelly believers, an old trick of habitual criminals  world wide hoping to elicit sympathy and support by disingenuously claiming  they’re innocent and being picked on, singled out for no particular reason, other than prejudice and suspicion of anyone poor and Irish. 

The reality is that when the Police took an interest in the Kellys, it was for legitimate purposes related to maintaining Law and Order. That was one of the main findings of the 'Royal Commission of enquiry into the Circumstances of the Kelly Outbreak’ 1881, an enquiry Sympathisers like to selectively quote from, but this finding, an answer to the first of the listed purposes of the Commissions Inquiry, is another thing they wouldn’t want you to read!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

More on that book...

I began a reply to Sharons comment under the previous Post, Peter Newmans excellent review of “Ned - Knight in Aussie Armour”  by Eugenie Navarre, but it got so long I decided to make an entire Post out of it!

Regarding the alleged suggestions that Father (later Bishop) Gibney had sympathy for the cause, just what were those suggestions? Were they backed up with anything concrete other than him being a fellow Irishman? Gibney was quoted in Sir John Kirwan's autobiography as saying of the Kellys - "They were a wild, reckless, lawless lot, and the wonder is they had so many sympathisers even amongst those who ought to have known better."
He went on to say a few more choice things, but the gist was that he disapproved heartily.
I feel, or would like to think, that Gibney was more than likely only concerned with the saving of their souls, not with their political leanings.

Sharon, as usual you’ve hit the nail on the head, in asking for something ‘concrete’ to back up this suggestion in Eugenie Navarres book that Father Gibney had sympathy ‘for the cause’, a suggestion which contradicts recorded actual quotes from Father Gibney himself. What you’ve done is expose the almost complete ignorance of this author, and of many of the old-timers she quotes of what is ACTUALLY already known of the Kelly saga.

I’ve had an opportunity to look at this book now, and I have to tell you Peter Newman was far too kind in his assessment of it, generously calling it a ‘worthwhile contribution’ even though he concedes it contains numerous errors, inaccuracies and false assumptions, is misleading and jumps to false conclusions! I wonder how bad a  Kelly book would have to be before Peter would reject it as worthless!

But it’s a whole lot worse than Peter lets on!

Part of the problem is that the Author is confused about what she is actually trying to do with this book. She claims to merely be recording oral history and passing on what old-timers have told her of their families traditions and shared memories of the Kelly gang and the outbreak. She writes “Every effort  was made to be factual however these are personal statements and recollections often of historical data and no responsibility can be taken for inaccuracies or personal ideas expressed”  

If that’s all she did the book would simply be a weird collection of tales and third hand reminiscences – and some nice photos. Peter Newman puts great store by oral traditions but in my view gives them far too much credibility. But in any case, family stories are what they are, just stories that can be accepted as colourful enriching fun family traditions that may contain a greater or lesser degree of historical truth within them. No harm in recording them.

Unfortunately this Author doesn’t stick to the objective of simply recording family recollections, and she confuses this activity with something altogether different, which is social history research, claiming at other places in the book that this is what she is doing. 

“The Kelly record is finally set straight, due to genuine grassroots information”

"We attempted to ‘crack the kelly code’ and get to the essence and truth lost in secrecy and time for over 135 years. But have we got to the truth after this deep rooted quest? Probably, as best possible”

Actually, the ‘information’ Navarre obtained was the BELIEFS of her interviewees, and the only way she could use these beliefs to go on and set the record straight would be to take those beliefs and do the hard work of  genuine research to find out what actual truths they might contain. It is well known that there are innumerable family traditions of forbears who fought in wars or were heroes of one sort or another which on close scrutiny turn out to be completely wrong - one that springs to mind is of the Australian war hero Sir John Monash who believed he himself - not his great great grandfather but he himself had met Ned Kelly and held his horse for him when he was in the midst of the Jerilderie robbery. Scrutiny of the records show that he was at Boarding school in Melbourne when this happened so his memory was wrong! There have been several people claiming to be Dan Kelly and Steve Hart - all of them are wrong - except maybe ONE if you believe the impossible happened! But the point is word of mouth claims, oral traditions and family stories simply CANNOT be accepted as ‘information’ - they have to be subjected to proper scrutiny and research.

Such research is a rigorous academic discipline wherein these family traditions are not merely recorded but scrutinized and analysed for the possible historical truths they might contain. This is actually the sort of thing that Peter Newman likes to do, but it is hard work that requires hours of tedious examination of official records, of the existing literature, of journals and archives, it may require original field work and  careful cross-referencing and intelligent piecing together of all the relevant information. Eugenie Navarre may be passionate and she may be sincere but that’s not enough to be a competent researcher – in this work she is nowhere near the required standard, and does almost none of the necessary hard work. Instead she extracts a word from this person, another from that, a quote from Gary Dean and a rehash of some old rumours and tries to make out that she’s doing research. She isn’t. 

Take at random, Chapter 15. It is titled “Mystery Women : Who Stole the Bushrangers Heart?. Navarre writes “Neds sister Annie had an affair with a married Policeman and died soon after giving birth to his child. This culminated in the Kate Kelly/Fitzpatrick fiasco, which was to spark the Kelly Outbreak” 

Firstly, why no mention that Neds sister was also married? (this from an author who constantly complains about the truth being suppressed !)  And how exactly did this “culminate” in the Kate Kelly/Fitzpatrick fiasco? What exactly is the link she is trying to make here? If she is alleging one she ought to state it, if not, then she is merely confusing rather than clarifying the discussion. Navarre then continues to discuss the convoluted family traditions that link various women to Ned Kelly, and lists a total of seven. As well as the usual suspects she lists a woman known only as Madela, who was named by a Police informant as having claimed to be married to Ned Kelly before he was a bushranger. According to Navarre, Madela might have been a woman called Ernestina Diebert, because she was once married to John McCandless and “When one removes the ‘cc’ and the ‘ss’ from the surname McCandless, what remains is MANDLE, easily misconstrued with Madela especially when handed down orally”   

Well quite frankly this is not just drawing a long bow – its fanciful and ridiculous nonsense that anyone claiming to be conducting research, and hoping to be taken seriously ought to be embarrassed and ashamed of. But does she come to any conclusions about which one or ones really was Ned Kellys sweetheart, or which of the many Steves or Dans was the real one, if any of them were? According to Navarre ‘history now indicates there were many more than four suits of armour’ but she makes no attempt to back up this assertion with anything so trivial as a fact. This book is an almost endless stream of this sort of absurdity.

This really highlights much that’s wrong with so-called ‘Kelly research’ – its conducted by people who simply have no idea what research actually is, of how reason works or what objectivity is, and who have no understanding of what constitutes rational and logical argument. Furthermore, as highlighted by Sharons question above they are not up-to-date and fully informed about what is ALREADY known. Consequently they produce stuff like this book, rambling disjointed irrational and inaccurate, riddled with conspiracy theory, unsupported claims and unprovable assertions. And of course when REAL research is done, they rubbish it unless it supports their preconceived notions about the heroism of Ned Kelly.

Navarre provides  a list of what she curiously calls “References Sources” – again, the ‘usual suspects’ of pro-Kelly books, but the list is very short and has important  absences, notably ‘The Kelly Gang Unmasked’ by Ian MacFarlane,  and no references to any of Morrisseys work. These absences further undermine this Authors claim to being any kind of serious Kelly researcher because she is either ignorant of or has deliberately chosen to ignore landmark modern Kelly research. On the other hand she relies heavily on Gary Dean a profound conspiracy theorist whose beliefs about many things verge on absurdity. How else can one describe the view that the Australian military possess technology thats so secret that even the Prime Minister doesn’t have the necessary Security Clearances to be allowed to know about it? But Gary does! I am not verballing Gary Dean - he told me this himself.

I’m  also told that on an Internet Forum that I cannot join they’ve copied Peter Newmans review from this Blog and there is a post attacking it, claiming Peter missed the point and saying that this book ‘succeeds’. Its written by someone praised at length in the book, and who sells it, so that’s hardly surprising! But this makes my point perfectly – a publication that merely recycles the old myths, fables and conspiracy theories, adds almost nothing new to the debate other than the confusing  third-hand recollections of aged Kelly country sympathisers, and exhibits a complete failure to understand the significance and the use and abuse of oral history is regarded as a success by uncritical Kelly sympathisers.

This book is like the tailings from a mine - there might still be some tiny traces of mineral in there somewhere but they are so few and far between it simply isn’t worth the effort of sifting through a mountain of rubbish to find it.